The end of 2009 has come, ushering in the need to make a list for everything. Whether it be your favorite vacations of the year, your most hated gadgets released this year, or your top 5 breakfasts of the year; everyone enjoys looking back in reflection and relegating just about every aspect of their life to a list of some sort. In keeping with this traditional fashion, here are my picks (in no particular order) of the top 9 blu-ray releases of this past year. They were picked based on the quality of the blu-ray release itself and not necessarily on the movie. Enjoy!
The Bourne Trilogy – All three of these movies jumped back and forth between beautiful scenery across Europe and the U.S. that really helped to show off any high definition home theater setup. The high level of detail in the blu-ray release kept the many high speed action of the fight scenes and tense car chases crisp and clear. This feature has to be one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with blu-ray. I hated trying to watch a nice action movie in standard definition only to miss half the movie to blurry action scenes! This blu-ray collection does a nice justice to an already amazing trilogy.
Righteous Kill – Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are, hands down, quite possibly two of the greatest actors of our time and putting them alongside each other in the same film was a brilliant idea! While this movie was decent in itself, the duo’s acting really helps drag along a rather sluggish story. Although not overly suspenseful, this blu-ray has an insane amount of video quality that impressively shows off the detail in the hair and skin of the actors. Scenes outdoors are amplified with clear reflections off windows and water which really shows off benefits of high definition. The amazing video quality helps make up for the lacking audio in this release. Like a lot of movies, they can’t seem to figure out the concept behind balancing dialogue with the rest of the audio track. This is one of those movies that you will either deafen yourself from volume of cars, gun shots, etc just to be able to hear what is being said, or you will be stuck playing pong with the volume to go back and forth between the low dialogue and loud….everything else.
Max Payne – This movie was all-around great! Not too close of an adaptation of game that it slacked as a movie and not too much of a movie that it strayed too far from the game. Granted it is a game turned movie so it won’t be winning any Oscar’s, but the visual and auditory experience of this blu-ray is magnificent. The video has great depth to the picture with clean crisp edges to everything and maintains a nice dark and gloomy sort of overcast throughout the entire film, which really helps preserve the feel from the game. The studios were spot on with the audio on this release. Great job! The sounds remained crisp and clear with all tracks being well balanced. Dialogue was audible at decent volumes so you can easily hear the mental asides of Wahlberg’s character without blowing out your neighbors’ ears.
Quantum of Solace – This movie is another typical Bond movie; lots of over-the-top action, excessive explosions, and the obligatory starlet. Regardless of the lackluster story line, the action-packed scenes tweaked full of blu-ray’s high definition detail makes this movie a wonderfully enjoyable watch. Despite the intentional grain, Quantum of Solace keeps a vibrant and gratifying picture. From the opening scenes to end of the credits, this release continually tries push the limits of your home theater’s audio system. Thankfully though, the deep bass and pounding explosions are not enough to drown out the dialogue which maintains a clear and balanced level ’till the end.
The Matrix – Another classic movie. I’m sure everyone knows the story behind this one so I won’t bother diminishing its value. The lobby scene toward the end and the helicopter unloading 30mm rounds into the side of the building Morpheus is being held captive in are both amazing on DVD. And they are only that much better on blu-ray. The fire sprinklers raining down and the sound of empty brass flying from the 30mm minigun are wonderful examples of this movie’s audio and visual superiority.
The Proposal – This one is a bit of a “chick flick,” but still manages to be comical. Even more so, it does one of the best jobs showing off the beauty of blu-ray technology. The Alaskan scenery looks absolutely stunning in high definition. The Proposal is another movie that doesn’t seem to have any issues balancing their audio tracks to allow for easily understanding the dialogue without blowing you out of your seat in the very next scene. If you haven’t noticed, this is a major pet peeve of mine that really ruins the entire experience for me. So many films can get this right, that it really annoys me when a studio doesn’t take the time to ensure quality sound levels.
Up – Pixar continues their reputation for beautiful looking movies with their latest release of Up. Although it wasn’t in the full 3D experience, the blu-ray version still amazes. I think I enjoy watching these animated films because, having done some animation work in the past, I can fully appreciate just how much work goes into creating such extravagantly detailed models and vast landscapes. As a bonus hint if you’re looking for a quick and easy calibration for your nice shiny new HDTV, just about every Pixar release includes a decent calibration tool in the special features section.
Star Trek – Sylar makes a come back in an alternate time line for this latest Star Trek rendition. The video on this blu-ray looks just as spectacular as anyone would imagine for a Star Trek film. As if the fan base would allow anything short of absolutely stunning. Nonetheless, the team over at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) did an amazing job to help keep the picture sharp and clear throughout the entire film and even threw in a little surprise for you. The colors remain truly vibrant and the environment of space was done very well. The way they handled the space craft in space and the concept that there is no “up” in space lent to a much more enjoyable viewing experience for those picky “nerds” (me included) amongst us. Additionally, the audio was handled very well for this release. The blu-ray sports a nice transfer to Dolby TrueHD for an amazing auditory experience from start to finish. The audio tracks were well mixed with an enjoyable balance between explosions, character dialogue, and even subtle effects such as doors sliding opening or ambient sounds of the bridge. This release is great for enjoyment by both Trekkie and non-Trekkie alike.
Transformers: Revenge of the Falling – This movie rocked, hands down! Sure it didn’t have an enthralling storyline, but come on. It was a Michael Bay film. How much are you expecting? They’re a bit like porn in that you don’t see them for the plot. You see them because they leave you walking away with your heart pounding, partially deaf, and slightly aroused! The picture quality on this release is crystal clear and so smooth that at times it can seem like you are even right there watching them film. The IMAX scenes work out great since they manage to avoid the annoying format change that The Dark Knight suffered from. The bottom line is that this movie is jam packed full of action, explosions, and Meagan Fox to entertain any man for many hours.
So there you have it. My top 9 of ’09! Did you find yourself agreeing with most of them; or none at all? Let me know which blu-ray releases you enjoyed most this past year and are looking forward to the most in 2010!