Film / TV

New To Blu-Ray – November

We let you know all about this month's titles so you can know exactly which ones to pick up on black friday!

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

For a movie as dark and gray as the last Harry Potter is, this Blu-ray holds up nicely. The picture remains clear, where some of the other Potter films developed a lot of digital noise. It gives the picture a grit a gravitas for the final battle.

Of course you still see all the detail in the sets of Hogwarts, Gringotts and Diagon Alley. Any scene involving fire adds a nice source of light to the festivities. The afterlife sequence provides a smooth, polished alternative to the gritty real world for one sequence. Finally, the 19 Years Later epilogue reflects a little bit more of what the Harry Potter world looked like in the innocent beginning, though still somewhat gritty with all the actors in age makeup.

Super 8

Well, I didn’t like this movie and the Blu-ray isn’t very mint anyway. It’s full of digital noise throughout. There are a few scenes that look like a normal Blu-ray, clear and detailed, if it’s broad daylight but how much of the movie is that? I’ve seen worse. The noise here is limited to a soft haze over any blue-lit night sequence (90% of the film), but there’s no excuse for that. It should be perfect.

The Nutcracker: The Untold Story

This Christmas fiasco came out theatrically last year. Financed with 90 million independently invested dollars, the post-apocalyptic Nutcracker looks great on Blu-ray. Perhaps its 3D theatrical presentation kept all the elements looking sharp and clear. Certainly the visuals weren’t the problem with the film.

I think the CGI holds up with any mainstream studio sci-fi. Some of it looks more realistic, and the stuff that looks animated is sort of supposed to. There’s lots of detail in the dark sets and bright color in the happy Christmas-y scenes.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

George Clooney’s directorial debut, and still his best film as director I think, always had an interesting look. There were mixed stocks, or at least effects that made it look like different film stocks between nostalgic flashbacks, “real life,” Chuck Barris’s fantasies and interviews.

The Blu-ray preserves all of those looks, completely blowing out some of them. The more blown out the footage, the more you’re likely to see grain or digital noise. I can’t even tell which, but you could always say it’s part of the surreal look of the footage. The interviews are totally blown out, with nostalgia and spy fantasy in between. The Gong Show scenes look fantastic and all the scenes have solid bright color, whether they’re clear or peppered with saturated grain.


Remember when Stallone was going to make smaller character movies instead of action blockbusters? Yeah, this was the one. The new Liosngate Blu-ray of the Miramax title looks solid. When it’s clear you can see all the gritty detail in the city and small town streets, and the weathered cop faces.

Most of the film takes place in broad daylight in Garrison and that looks perfect. It gets a little hazy with digital noise at night and if you go into New York. A few of the daytime shots haze up like that too so it’s mixed but more good transfer than bad. You’ll definitely notice the bump up from DVD.

Quigley Down Under

This was always one of my favorite movies growing up, just a fun old fashioned adventure. I actually didn’t think it was popular enough to warrant a Blu-ray but at least MGM deemed it worthy of a catalog push. As such, it’s not a priority reissue necessarily but it’s got some advantages.

Reality check is there is a lot of digital noise. That’s about 50/50. However there are some beautiful western vistas and costume period shots. I noticed some detail in the texture of Quigley’s chaps and spurs. The film grain is okay because that’s authentic and it still brings out a lot of nice detail. I’d say this Blu-ray remains more cinematic than a TNT Western with the obvious problems of a low priority transfer.


Evil Dead II

I’m a big fan of the Anchor Bay Blu-ray of Evil Dead II and if it ain’t broke… So Lionsgate went back and restored it again and I guess it does look a little better in this version. I had to swap the discs back and forth several times to come to that conclusion though.

I suppose the sort of digital smoothness of the Anchor Bay release has been eliminated because they bumped up the original source, so that’s a bit more authentic. The HD picture on Anchor Bay’s seems to be created by digitally filling in the gaps while the new Lionsgate finds every detail of the original film.

On the downside, there’s tons of digital noise where it was more minimal in the Anchor Bay version. It’s still in the same spots though so those must just be problem areas with the film. Those scenes are more hazy and speckled with white dots on the new disc. Not that they were clear before but on the Anchor Bay edition, that haze was less pronounced.

Blue Velvet

This has a better transfer than most of the MGM catalog Blu-rays. It’s probably a premium title. You’ll still see some digital haze flare up, especially on nighttime strolls but also sometimes during the day. You’ll also see specks of dirt pop on and off the film, perhaps the best existing print from which to make a transfer.

However the film looks good more of the time than it doesn’t. The colors are vibrant and you’ll see a lot of detail in close-ups, both scenery detail and texture of skin and makeup on actors. The edges of the frame remain soft which creates an even more distinct effect on a Blu-ray than even on projected film.

Crazy Stupid Love

Yeah, I’ll review a rom-com. This is not a chick flick, it’s a mature exploration of relationships that’s every bit as attentive to the male dilemma, perhaps even more so thanks to Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell. This is a modern day big studio new release that looks perfect on Blu-ray.

There is a hint of grain that suggests saturated film stocks, but really only visible if you’re sitting close. It’s a clear picture with bright colors and a golden lighting in suburban settings and the flamboyant bar scene. The ripples and veins in Gosling’s six pack will depress you even more than they did on the big screen. Emma Stone’s hair shines beautifully.

Larry Crowne

Tom Hanks’ return to straight up comedy is another polished big studio affair. Larry Crowne is perhaps a bit glossier than even Crazy, Stupid Love. I don’t notice the grain as much. The settings are comparable in suburbia, and I guess classrooms instead of trendy bars.

The presentation here is not saturated or gritty. It’s just smooth and glossy. You see the picture clearly, all the stars look pretty, everyone’s well lit. The colors pop with Cedric the Entertainer’s yard sale, Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s storage collection and the big bright Wal-Mart clone that fired Larry.

The Change Up

The third of this month’s polished studio comedies holds up with the above. Again, it’s saturated for some extra color and crisply clear. All the actors are well lit and pretty, from the detail of Jason Bateman’s freckles to the glossy skin of Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann.

The notable details in this comedy are the fake nude scenes. The prosthetics on the porno stars and pregnant hookup make them look rough, especially with the latex texture. The CGI on Mann’s pregnant boobs and Wilde’s side boobs hold up and look totally real.

Three Amigos

This may be a respectable upgrade of the ‘80s comedy but let’s be realistic about it. It’s not a real restoration to full glory for Three Amigos. The picture is soft, so you won’t get any new detail out of it. There is a lot of digital noise struggling just to hold the picture together in HD.

On the plus side, the source is clean. Any problems are technology, not the original print. You do get some nice colors peppering the brown dirt desert and pueblos. It’s just got telltale signs of age and technological incompatibility.

Infernal Affairs

Remember when we were all complaining that Miramax bought up all the Hong Kong movies, but then never did anything with them so we couldn’t even get decent Asian imports? It’s finally paying off. While Lionsgate is releasing the Miramax catalog on Blu-ray, they’re getting to some of those Hong Kong movies.

Given the state of Hong Kong celluloid, here’s what the HD version of Infernal Affairs looks like. It’s grainy, and the grains sometimes get bigger in rougher scenes. However it always looks like a film. It never looks like a bad transfer. They’ve preserved the cleanest possible state of the film, witch is scratch/dirt free (not always possible in pre-‘90s HK films). It’s not clear enough to see new details and the general polluted air of Hong Kong keeps the colors muted, but it looks like Infernal Affairs preserved on Blu-ray.

A Better Tomorrow

I didn’t even know they had remade the John Woo movie. I thought I was getting the original but Woo produced this. Now this is a modern day high definition Blu-ray produced with standards comparable to Hollywood, or at least the Korean film industry put out on Blu-ray.

You’ll see the clear crisp pictures and gritty detail. There is a hint of hazy digital noise that must just be a product of Asian shooting. It doesn’t obscure the picture though, it’s just hints. Forests and rivers look majestic and gunfights spray with detailed debris and bloodshed.

Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series

BBC continues to put out stellar Blu-rays of their new crop of shows. The latest season of Doctor Who shows off the surreal clarity of modern television. Any time they’re in an actual location, you see vibrant color like the golden wheat fields that open “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Karen Gillen’s hair glows the most gorgeous red you’ve ever seen on a human. All the prosthetic creature work shows off the detailed texture of the aliens. Amy’s baby has lovely newborn texture in closeup.

Now there are occasions where Doctor Who looks like other TV on Blu-rays. Mainly it seems whenever there is green screen work, the whole picture gets a digital haze. It could just be that the green screen scenes I sampled were darker moments, but it could be that the layers of that effect don’t reproduce well on Blu-ray. I’m just always surprised, you never see that haze when you watch HDTV on cable, so shouldn’t that be the minimum quality of the Blu-ray? But oh well, there’s some haze, and the rest of the season looks great.

Band of Brothers / The Pacific

HBO released their two Spielberg/Hanks World War II miniseries on Blu-ray in a beautiful package with a double sized booklet format. Both look fantastic in HD with more detail than you’d see through your cable or satellite provider.

Even as the older miniseries, Band of Brothers just looks stunning. The picture is perfectly clear on the battlefield and in the interviews. You see all the detail of Germany on the fields or inside. Even the interviews that open the episodes have a pure black background and stark detail in the veterans sharing stories. Digital noise is rare, popping up occasionally as you’d expect in a TV Blu-ray, but far less than many other transfers.

The Pacific is just as stunning, all the detail of the muddy island in stark HD clarity. This one has a warmer, glossier look than the sepia tint of Band, so it’s distinct as a portrait of war and a separate movie. Digital noise is even more rare so as the newer production, The Pacific makes a smoother transition to the HD format.

Robot Chicken: Season 5

I figured Robot Chicken would look good on Blu-ray because it’s animation, but I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing it looks. The picture is perfectly clear. There are no digital noise errors like in a lot of TV shows on Blu-ray. So you’re getting such a clear look at the miniature sets, it’s surreal to see blown up to life size on a 54” TV.

The detail is what’s really stunning. I’ve just got to use that word again because it is. You see all the texture in the dolls, be their original creations or repurposed action figures. Chips of paint add to the reality of these moving toys. Whether it’s Castle Greyskull or Smurf village, the settings look like real places. The colors are bright and vibrant too with cartoonish prime tones bursting out in HD.

Farscape: The Complete Series

So we’ve got a loving transfer of a syndicated sci-fi series. It looks really clean, the best possible presentation of Farscape. It’s not super surreal clarity like those Star Trek or Twilight Zone Blu-rays but it looks better than it probably did on cable. We’re probably looking at the master source here.

The picture is clear and you don’t see any damage or dirt. You can see the detail in the Henson puppets and prosthetic makeup, but not super gritty detail. The late ‘90s CGI holds up really well, and deep space remains clear. That’s something even Battlestar Galactica on Blu-ray couldn’t achieve with their digital haze. I’d say it’s like we’re seeing perfect DVD quality, but without upscaling. So it’s not HD but HD keeps the show from looking like it’s being digitally manipulated, if you can imagine what I mean.