Superman Motion Picture Anthology
Many of us already have Superman: The Movie, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut and Superman Returns on Blu-ray, so I’ll focus on the films that are new to the format in this collection. Yes, that means even Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
The theatrical cuts of Superman I and II look like their extended and alternate cut counterparts. You’ll see some grain, but still a crisp picture with bright colors, not only the Superman suit but the ‘70s lit locations. I do think some of the Richard Lester scenes in II, the Eiffel tower and magic kiss, look better, maybe because they were shot more recently, or maybe even just used different film stock. Still, the original footage with Lex Luthor and the big city fight look amazing.
Superman III validates that theory, because it all looks a bit crisper and clearer, with a little more detail showing. Of course, we’re dealing with ‘80s footage now so it could just be that. There are still some wonderful scenes worth seeing in Superman III – the factory fire, the evil Superman with a day’s stubble and his fight with Clark Kent – with fabulous detail, especially the wrecking yard in that fight.
Superman IV was the cheap Cannon films knockoff, yet it actually looks pretty great. Especially the deep space scenes, and the streets of Metropolis, are clear and crisp HD. Of course the inferior flying effects are noticeable, but the footage itself is restored beautifully. Even the deleted scenes, with their scratches and grease pencil, look like authentic ‘80s dailies, so you can see the ridiculous alternate nuclear man gloriously.
Stanley Kubrick Collection
The Blu-ray collection of Kubrick’s masterpieces includes the 40th anniversary edition of A Clockwork Orange, and new to Blu-ray titles Lolita and Barry Lyndon. We expect signature classic titles to look great, if bearing some relics of their age, but man, these remind you why you’re upgrading to the HD format.
A Clockwork Orange is that amazing combination of supernatural clarity while maintaining the look of the original film. The picture is mostly smooth, and if there’s any grain it’s authentic. You’re seeing gritty detail wherever the Droogs rampage, yet the surreal ‘70s colors maintain the look of the Clockwork Orange you remember.
In black and white, Lolita has pure shades of gray and a crisp, clear picture. Some of the transitions grain up but remain smooth, and most of the 2 ½ hours are in stunning clarity. Barry Lyndon is gloriously colorful with scenes ranging from battlefields to palaces. There’s occasional grain, and some scenes glossed over by candle light, but all looks fantastic.
Classic Adam Sandler comes to Blu-ray and it looks fantastic. Billy Madison is totally clear with a crisp picture, like 1995 was just filmed today. The colors in this are really bright, from Billy’s lavish mansion to the grade school classrooms.
Perhaps the most famous Sandler movie, this also looks great on Blu-ray. The golf course settings just look beautiful with lush greens. You’ll see some extra detail in Billy’s apartment too, but it’s mainly the outdoor light and colors.
Just Go With It
New Adam Sandler isn’t quite as big a deal as the classics, but this is a perfect new release transfer. Brooklyn Decker and Jennifer Aniston looks fantastic in total HD in their bikinis. Hawaii looks beautiful too.
This is actually my favorite movie of the year and it looks perfect on Blu-ray. The picture is flawlessly clear. You can see every little detail of the brightly lit desert setting, and all of Robert’s wear and tear. The picture holds up when he goes inside too so you’re always seeing the stark detail and bright picture of this meta comedy masterpiece.
Josh Radnor’s directorial debut holds up really well on Blu-ray too. The picture remains clear and you don’t see any grain or transfer flaws. The city looks great in HD clarity and you see lots of detail around the lower middle class apartments. Even the shots with lower lighting stay clear.
Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen
The latest Donnie Yen movie, a Bruce Lee sequel, looks great on Blu-ray. Scenes of WWII era Shanghai look stunning, whether CGI recreations or golden lit nightclub interiors. You can see all the detail of the fighting, from Yen’s fast movements in the rain to close-ups of bare feet.
Unfortunately, like many of the Well Go releases, there are some inconsistencies. Even some of the awesome fight scenes haze up, and some shots just don’t hold up at all. Disappointingly, the WWII prologue gets grainy and hazy. It’s still watchable and more good than bad, but I have to be honest.
Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex
Three animes in the cyberpunk series come to Blu-ray and they look fantastic. The picture is perfectly clear so you can see all the color and detail in the animation. Backgrounds are shaded and peppered with subtleties. Characters present smooth shapes and subtle colors so they’re not totally bright and in your face.
I’m not even an anime guy. I usually think they all look the same but even I can tell these are high quality transfers. The qualities that make anime uniquely Japanese are highlighted, so imagine if you notice even further distinctions, you’ll see them all in the Blu-rays of Individuals Eleven, Solid State Society and The Laughing Man.
One good thing about the 3D movement is that it makes movies look great on good old fashioned 2D Blu-ray. The picture is totally clear and in such crisp focus that you see all the gritty detail in the hardcore action. That’s Nicolas Cage’s stubbly swagger, tough pavement, kill shots and more.
The roadside scenery looks gorgeous and even the seedy dive bars and cult hideouts have a certain beauty with their trashy detail. The formerly 3D effects look much more natural when they stay behind the 2D plane, but you can tell the coin was flipping out of the screen and Cage was handing a skull to you. Now it’s just a clear picture, not a gimmicky effect.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
The latest DC animation video looks great on Blu-ray. The picture is totally clear throughout so you see all the artwork perfectly. You can focus on the detail in the backgrounds or marvel at the bright colors of the green constructs and character outlines. There’s a nice mix of complex settings and simple shapes to highlight the artists’ craft in HD.
Since this footage all comes from Jackass 3D, the Blu-ray looks the same. The scenes shot with the full Phantom camera are perfect and show all the detail in the crazy stunts and naked genitalia. When they use more hidden cameras of course the footage is fuzzier, and the new intro for 3.5 is shot intentionally grainy and saturated. Flaming Gauntlet looks stunning though and the new behind the scenes interviews are as HD as the big stunts.
I got a copy of Elephant White too and I think it looks fantastic. Bangkok glows in the neon night lights, and the ornate temples look beautiful. The picture remains crisp and clear throughout, so you can see all the detail of the elephant skin, sweaty heads and the run down hovel of Djimon Honsou’s hideout/sniper perch.
Kill the Irishman
This mob movie has a near perfect Blu-ray transfer. The whole movie pretty much looks totally clear so you can see all the detail of the action, the bright orange of explosions and the detail of the period settings and gritty streets. I saw one scene in a bar haze up, but that’s it. It really makes watching these limited theatrical releases more appealing on video, since you know the Blu-ray is going to look fantastic.
The Big Bang
This has a bit more of a stylized look, so the issue isn’t total picture clarity. A lot of the film is grainy in a heightened saturated way, so you see that but it remains consistent. The picture is still HD and crisp, only with a sort of grizzled noir tone. They do some things with colored light tinting the picture that are cool to see on Blu-ray too.
Blue Crush 2
Well, if they’re going to make a straight to video sequel to a movie no one really cares as about, at least it’s got hot bikini beach babes. The surfing footage looks stunning, like a blue wave of HD. In fact, all the locations in South Africa look fantastic. Some of the less showy scenes haze up as they tend to do in quickie productions, but at least the important shots look great.
Roger Deakins’ cinematography looks great on this Blu-ray. The western towns and planes are perfectly clear and gritty, as the title promises. The light is never golden like the fanciful old westerns. It’s more dry and cold, giving a sense of reality. You see all the grit in the gritty gunslinger’s faces and the detail in their period wardrobe. Day or night, campfire lit or moonlight, the picture remains clear, detailed and beautiful.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Clint Eastwood’s classic western has some true grit to it too. The Blu-ray transfer is excellent keeping most of the picture perfectly clear. It grains up at times so you see the authentic ‘70s filming process.
Plenty of detail in the Civil War camps, uniforms and desert mountains. Some of the dirt gets a golden hue, but just as often it’s a stark vista where you just notice the grains of sand and debris littering the field.
When It Was A Game
HBO’s baseball documentary looks pretty good on Blu-ray considering it’s all made up of 8 and 16mm film. So some of the footage looks blurry, but it’s all authentic and it holds up well in HD. All of the clips maintain the look of old film with scratches and grain in parts, but the HD picture remains consistent. You can tell it’s Blu-ray because it keeps the images solid without hazing up.
HBO’s made for TV Roger Maris/Micky Mantle movie looks great on Blu-ray too. When they’re on the diamond, the picture is totally clear and you see all the bright colors and gritty detail of the mound and the dugout. It hazes up a little when they go into nightclubs and hotel rooms, but still not bad for a TV movie.
Oliver Stone’s definitive Vietnam movie doesn’t look great on Blu-ray. It’s hazy and muted, like a mediocre transfer of a less than well preserved source. Most of the picture looks fuzzy, and dark even in bright daylight scenes. If the picture ever clears up to make the jungles look lush and bright, it’s not for long. You’ll see some of the harsh detail but not enough to make it look like a Blu-ray.
A much more recent war film, Tigerland also looks rough and muted. In this case it might be slightly more intentional, as the 16mm film shows off grain. But the grain is okay and that remains consistent. It’s the digital haze that seems sloppy, and even on 16mm, I believe there were more bright colors. Oh well.