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New To Blu-ray – May

A quick list of the top new releases on Blu-ray this month!

The Green Hornet

This Blu-ray strikes the perfect balance between a gritty hardcore crime fighter movie and a crisp polished HD movie. You see all the gritty detail when Brit and Kato kick ass and blow up the bad guys’ hideouts, and even the Sentinal building. Even the scenes in Reid’s mansion have an edge where it’s not glamorous wealth, it’s just the elaborate stuff he has.

Meanwhile there’s a polish to all the cool toys. Every car in Reid’s garage is shiny, so of course when the Black Beauty hits the streets it shines against the gravel. The outside of the Sentinal is shiny clear glass too, even if the insides are a gritty busy office. I’ve only got the good old fashioned 2D version, but it’s mighty good HD as it is.

 

I Am Number Four

Except for a little bit of digital pixels visible, this is a flawless new release transfer. It definitely looks like it was intended to look, which was hyper polished. The colors are pushed to maximum intensity, which may explain some of the pixels, like a hyper saturated effect on the cinematography.

The picture is consistent throughout the film. There aren’t any hazy or speckled shots, just varying degrees of extreme color, glowing visual effects and polished hero shots. The stars look like they’re lit with gold, even at night, but that’s the kind of movie it is.

 

The Mechanic

This is actually a somewhat rough transfer for a new release. I know they were going for a gritty sort of old school action vibe, but it’s not just showing grain in the mayhem. The goldening of so many shots actually makes it grainier. Even without that, you’ll always notice some rough extra grainy shots peppered into the action scenes.

The picture remains clear, if not totally crisp. You see all the gritty detail of the violence, but even the mechanic’s secluded mansion looks gritty. Maybe it’s like the whole film has stubble like Jason Statham.


Beverly Hills Cop

This is so amazing it may even be artistically intentional. It’s probably not, but it works. The beginning of this movie looks totally rough on Blu-ray. When Axel Foley’s in Detroit, the whole picture is speckled with white dots. It looks awful, like why did they even put this on Blu-ray.

Then as soon as he gets to Beverly Hills, the HD kicks in. The picture clears up and the colors pop. Beverly Hills comes to life. There may still be spots where you see grain, like on the street at night. The Beverly Hills police station still looks rough, because a police station is a police station.

But Beverly Hills brings the clarity and color, and it’s cool to see what this place looked like 30 years ago. It’s probably just a sloppy transfer that ignored a portion of the film, but it happens at the right moment.

 

Fubar: Balls to the Wall

The South by Southwest Film Festival selection actually looks really fantastic on Blu-ray. The picture is totally clear, probably because it was shot with HD cameras for all the improv. It makes the locations and the costumes pop in total clarity.

Whether they’re in a dark, dank strip club or out working the oil pipeline at night, the picture holds up. The Canadian locations even provide some beautiful snowy vistas. The colors in the headbanger flannel, snowsuits and hardhats shine as brightly as Blu-ray does. For Fubar fans, this Blu-ray is

 

No Strings Attached

This is a totally glamorous Hollywood new release. The picture is crisp and clear with a flattering light shining on all the pretty actors. The picture remains solid throughout. You may see faint dancing grains of the HD particles coming together, but it’s consistent. I saw little rough patch on one closeup, but otherwise no errors to notice.

The setting is very upscale so colorful middle class high end parties, homes and sunny days. Oh, and there are lots of bedroom sees where those perfect bodies are on display in HD, even with strategic camera angles and placement of the sheets. Natalie Portman really looks adorable in HD.


Blue Valentine

This raw emotional drama looks perfect on Blu-ray to capture all that pain and feeling. The present day scenes are totally clear so you can really see into the world of this family. Even in the blue light of the honeymoon suite, it all holds up with crisp and clear detail.

The flashbacks are all saturated with a grainier look. It pushes the colors a little bit more and reduces some of the clarity, but the effect is a more raw look at the building blocks that led up to this uncomfortable marriage. Good use of basic film imagery becomes extra apparent in HD.

 

The King’s Speech

The Academy Award winner for best picture actually looks a little bit rougher than I would expect of a lavish costume drama from a prestigious studio. It’s not terrible, but a lot of basic interiors haze up. Not like a screen of fuzz over the picture, but noticeable specks.

There are enough exteriors and ornate castles and halls that look perfectly clear, and you see all the detail in the sets and costumes, particularly the speech therapist’s office. Still, even key scenes like Geoffrey Rush’s motivational speech and even the Colin Firth’s big finish aren’t perfect.

 

Biutiful

Funny story, I put in Biutiful and selected play movie, and it started an hour into it. Even though this is the movie Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu told in chronological order, the Blu-ray was determined to mix it up for me like Babel or 21 Grams.

Inarritu gives Spain a grainy, saturated look which is replicated on Blu-ray. It holds up throughout the film, pushing the colors and obscuring the scene a little bit with grain. The letterboxed bookends are much crisper, although you still see a little grain that somewhat matches the rest of the film. It totally clears up in the winter forest though, which may add to the ambiguous interpretation of the film.


The Manchurian Candidate

This is a decent Blu-ray transfer of the classic thriller. The black and white helps maintain some consistency, and you can tell the crisp blacks from the simple grays. It still ranges from solid shots with pure clarity to rougher shots with the authentic film grain. You see a lot of the gritty detail though and Laurence Harvey’s hair sure is shiny in HD.

 

The Hustler

Funny how the Fox releases of their own classics look so much better than their releases of the MGM catalog. Hmmm. Hey, I shouldn’t judge. Who knows what sort of prints they inherited. Anyway, The Hustler looks stunning in crisp black and white HD. The picture is clear throughout and you see all the gritty detail in the old pool halls.

 

Leaving Las Vegas

This quintessential 90s indie film is just plain rough. It was always a down and dirty indie, it was shot on 16mm and it shows. There’s not a shot that doesn’t have some sort of haze or speckle. Maybe it looks a little better at night with the neon lights, but it never looks HD. I get it, it’s not that kind of movie, but they probably shouldn’t have tried to transfer it to Blu-ray then.

 

Some Like it Hot

Well, at least someone took care of this comedy classic. This black and white film is heat, picture is smooth and detailed. You’ll occasionally see a mild grid of haze pop up. I thought it was because of dissolving scene transitions but then I saw the same flaw after a hard cut, but it’s never that distracting.

 

Hotel Rwanda

At least the recent classic holds up. The picture is totally clear like a polished production. The colors of the African greenery shine brightly and you see all the detail as the luxurious hotel becomes a gritty refugee camp. Most of all, you see the sweat.


True Blood: The Complete Third Season

HBO’s vampire show holds up really nicely on Blu-ray. It’s pretty consistently clear. You may see a little bit of small grain but only what it looks like to process a digital image. It certainly never gets hazy or speckled like a lot of TV on Blu-ray can.

The flashbacks to 1868 look a lot rougher but it seems like that’s intentional. Maybe they were shot differently altogether. You definitely see all the detail as the show is lit clearly. The chipped and crusty hovels and the ornate palaces are totally clear to show off all the production value.

 

The Rite

This polished big studio horror movie looks good on Blu-ray too. Like a lot of films in this month’s column, it has that minorly grainy look, like a studio film in perfect clarity but a small remnant of film. It’s the intentional look and it remains consistent throughout.

The Vatican sure looks pretty in HD and you can see all the detail in the marble columns, as well as the gritty detail in the seedier sections of town. The possession effect holds up well under Blu-ray scrutiny, as do the frogs on the floor.