New to Blu Ray is our monthly look at the latest Blu Ray releases. This month we look at some new action, comedy, horror and cable TV releases.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
I enjoyed the Blu Ray presentation of South Park’s latest season of episode, but the movie really takes it to the next level on Blu Ray. You really see each nodule of construction paper, all the patterns embedded into the original material out of which they cut characters and backgrounds.
It’s like they put the camera right up to the construction paper, and now they’ve restored it to the inch away that didn’t come across when you were sitting
The colors are bright and solid with some pastels and Kyle’s mom’s bright red hair. You can see the texture of burned Kenny and the hell demons, as well as the depth of the background of Hell.
Trey and Matt are one of the only filmmakers I even listen to their commentaries (the other is Kevin Smith). I find their thoughts and ramblings fascinating, and they don’t disappoint on their magnum opus, even though they struggle to even remember it.
Their perspective on the George Lucas redux is thoughtful, and they recall the atmosphere of their careers when they made the film. It’s a real insight into Hollywood from their perspective, which is honest and scathing, satirical even. They are unpretentious great artists.
There’s a little context for the current South Park, memories of Oscar night, J-Lo and other celebrity bashing. They are self critical, and scene unspecific. They actually refer back to things an hour later because they finally remembered it.
On Blu Ray, Year One provides a window into the pseudo biblical world. It’s brand new film and takes place over different settings and light, certainly a more lavish production than most slacker comedies.
The caveman forest pops green. The desert glows gold. The moonlit canyons at night reflect a crisp blue. You see all the detail in the constructed sets, costumes, even the wigs. There seems to be a constant golden light on everyone’s hair, and the ladies’ eyes really shine.
There are a few dark, fire lit interiors that speckle a little. It’s not annoying, just the reality of shooting conditions and the HD format. These are high class problems when you get to watch a movie on Blu Ray.
You can even compare it to the unretouched footage from the alternate ending and deleted scenes. That’s what the set actually looked like, still in HD detail but not the super bright colors.
On Blu Ray, Dance Flick looks like all the movies it’s spoofing. There’s the gritty You Got Served template; the bright, soft Save the Last Dance/High School Musical mode, and the hybrid world of Step Up that tries to have it both ways.
Where appropriate in the spoof, you see the glossy, polished schoolrooms and halls. The lighting inside dance clubs holds up. You see detail on the street, in the scuffs on the ballet floor, the basketball court.
There are some bright colors, especially in Suge’s lair but also the basketball jerseys and dance costumes. Some of the visual effects are shiny, but they’re supposed to look silly. I mean, there’s a guy head sliding down the street!
The Quick and the Dead
I’m glad to see one of my personal underdog favorites come to Blu Ray and I’m happy to see it’s a clear and clean print. Sam Raimi’s western is bright with the reddish gold of a high noon town on the frontier. It doesn’t seem like it was restored at all but it holds up well.
Particularly, close-ups on the grizzled faces of all the western characters show all their grit. Raimi likes to push the camera in right on their faces so you get to enjoy this a lot. An extreme close-up on Sharon Stone’s eyes is glorious.
As for the scenery, it depends on the shot. Sometimes you’ll see the texture of the dirt and sand, sometimes not. The closer in the camera gets, the more the Blu Ray brings out the details in wood, leather, fabric, etc. Further out, it just looks like a clear solid movie. I will give them that you can see dust mists faintly, which probably was never visible on film or video.
Fire lit interiors, really only the bar at night and the dining room, offer a different sort of lighting look. The town square at night gets a little hazy but I can forgive that. Most of the movie is daylight and it’s so bright. You can tell where the set ends and the painted backdrop begins, adding that classic Hollywood feel to the genre.
Silverado may be slightly more restored than The Quick and the Dead. There’s still a little speckle in dark hiding spots or jail cells, but there is sharper detail in the sunlit debris of gunfights, the old wood, dirt roads. A shot of the underside of a saddle is an ode to the prop master.
Show with a wider frame, Silverado has more vistas to look great on Blu Ray. You can still tell where there are backdrops, but there are less of them and they are a little more convincing. The exteriors look great.
The colors remain authentic to the original film. It’s not reality or a heightened world, but it’s a clear look at the vision of the film. Yellow paint is faded as it would be out in the desert, although a green poker table pops. Overall, it looks more crisp than The Quick and the Dead’s heat. The metal guns shine.
The quality cuts in and out but it’s mostly good. They probably could have settled on a consistently mediocre transfer, but I’ll take this one to enjoy the good parts and forgive the weaker ones.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Here’s your standard super Hollywood Blu Ray. Even at night the shots are clear and shiny. Logan’s Canadian getaway looks like a Discovery Channel vista of the Canadian Rockies. So does the farmland where he takes refuge. If a few shots show a little grain, it passes for gritty.
There isn’t much detail. Maybe the stubble but the heightened gloss of the film shifts the focus to color and clarity. You may see some detail in the farmhouse wood but they go to some rough locations and it still looks glossy. This is Hollywood’s New Orleans and Africa, despite Gavin Hood’s best intentions. There’s a lot of debris in the fights but it’s just not the kind of film where you pick up all the details. Just enjoy the color and clarity. I’m spoiled by the detail in other Blu Rays anyway.
Colors pop particularly in the saturated carnival sequence and the New Orleans clubs and back alleys. You really see the shoddy CG, especially the bathroom claws, but basically it’s all a big light show. That includes the shiny, sweaty Wolvy rage.
Some deleted scenes might interest critics of the X-Men prequel. There’s an alternate explanation for Logan’s memory loss that makes a lot more sense than the headshot (which he survived in X2 with no such side effects), but man, it’s so boring, I think they chose the lesser of two evils. There’s a good cameo if you’re into the easter eggs and they possibly explain why Sabretooth would act like he doesn’t know Logan when they meet in X-Men 1.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2
Ah, my poor Sarah Connor Chronicles. At least I get two sets of nice Blu Rays to cuddle with when I feel lonely. The season two set holds up even better than Season One. I saw a few flaws in some of Season 1’s landmark episodes like Dungeons and Dragons. The key episodes of season two look solid here.
It’s totally clear, crisp, sharp and bright. You see some detail in the charred rubble of robot fights. Downtown L.A. appears in all its grit and graffiti for action scenes. The basic locations are full of grit and detail: parking garages, hallways, jail cells are shiny and crusty, and that’s where the robots do most of their fighting. The rubble of the future holds up well in blue light that makes it look just like the movies.
The terminator effects hold up with metal protruding from faces. The detail sells the prosthetics. When you notice a little wear later on, that just means they’ve worked it. There can be some softness on the actors’ faces but that might just be the quick TV lighting. Other times they’re gritty.
There a bright colors throughout the scenes, from the church to the shelter to the green jungles and forests with tropical birds. They went to a lot of places to make this show feel epic. It might not quite look like James Cameron, but it’s at least as good as Heroes. I saw speckles a few times but nothing to get upset about.
My Name Is Earl: Season Four
NBC must be doing something right because their shows hold up really well on Blu Ray. Heroes, The Office and now Earl offer crisp and clear looks at their familiar locations, far superior to HDTV broadcasts.
Now you can tour Camden in all its glory. You’ll see the trashy grit around run down homes, trailers, dumps, the crusty motel. You can even see fingerprints on a pay phone. The Crab Shack is colorful inside. There may be a bit of grain because of the light but nothing that takes you out of the scene.
There are a few pretty areas like the park, and despite its condition, Earl’s car is a nice shiny red mobile. The town even distinguishes its present from its flashbacks by going bright in the present and cool in the past.
Star Trek – The Original Series: Season 2
You all remember the awesome restoration job they did to make The Original Series’ first season look spectacular, timed to the release of the new Star Trek film. Unfortunately, it looks like Season 2 was a rush job. It’s not nearly as sharp or gritty. The softness obscures too much of the detail in the lavish sets or character makeups.
You want to see the individual hairs on the tribbles, but a screen full of them actually causes the whole frame to go fuzzy. You’re even missing all the grit we’ve come to know on the Enterprise, so you can really compare side by side. It’s still smooth and bright, but that just harkens back to ‘60s TV broadcasts. We know they have the ability to bring it up to HD standards.
The extra tribbles episodes included are mixed. Though both appear in standard definition, the Deep Space 9 episode looks like a standard DVD upconvert. We’ll hope they give those complete seasons more detailed treatment when the time comes. The animated series episode however holds up with solid color, shapes and sharp lines. You see white spots but that’s authentic to the quick TV animation where they didn’t finish coloring the background. If they do a redux on that it can look awesome.