Monday, March 05, 2007

Blu-ray grabs hold (UPDATED!)

After getting a PS3, my plan was to completely avoid Blu-ray movies becasue the majority of releases in the first year will be fairly bare bones in terms of extra features. More importantly, superior picture and audio mastered versions are sure to follow much later.

Unfortunately that plan didn’t last long. So far, I picked up the Corpse Bride and The Departed. I’ve seen only a few minutes of Bride, but what I saw looked great. The Departed had a lot of buzz regarding the picture quality and it totally lives up to the hype. I already saw it in theaters, but all the twists still hold up. The majority of the audio doesn’t stand out as being much better than a standard DVD, but the gunshots are some of the crispest, realistic sounding I’ve heard. I also borrowed Underworld Evolutions and found it mildly entertaining. The picture and audio were nice, although not enough to make me want to buy it later.

Now I find myself anxious for another truly awesome Blu-ray disc. For the first time since the arrival of the original DVD format, I’m browsing Blu-ray/DVD sites for the latest nuggets of release info and reviews again. Even so, the level of fervor isn't quite at the same level. For one thing, I’m not going on wild buying sprees. In the heyday of DVD, I would pick up at least 2-3 discs every Tue. Heck, I even bought DVDs BEFORE I owned a DVD player. Having always lusted after expensive Laserdisc players and LDs, the affordable and better quality DVD format was like a dream come true.

Today is a vastly different story. I’m weighing each purchase heavily before making a decision. The next for sure pick-up is Casino Royale. Beyond that, I’m not sure. People are excited about Sin City, but I would only want the extended and re-cut version (which I already have). All indications are that it will be the bare bones theatrical version. Of the movies that are currently out, they all have things that give me pause. Black Hawk Down is not the director’s cut and has missing features from the three-disc DVD. Kingdom of Heaven does feature the director’s cut, but has absolutely none of the extras of the DVD set and it’s very expensive ($39.99, maybe $29 if you look real hard, still $10 too much). I’m sure Ice Age 2 looks fantastic, just not sure I’ll enjoy it enough to want to own it. And the list goes on.

There are lots of exciting titles planned for late 2007 release including many Warner Bros. titles and the long awaited Blade Runner super special edition (Blade Runner was the first DVD I bought and was a big motivator into me becoming an early adopter.) I just have to…be patient….gasp.

For some reason, I was really in the mood to watch a western last night. My all-time favorite is Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. I own the first gen DVD released was back in 1997. It was one of the dreaded “flipper discs” meaning the movie was split over both sides of the dvd (dual layer discs were still a year away), had very few special features, and it was not anamorphic widescreen. The quality of the video is just ok and the audio is a bit sub par. Regardless I was sucked in within minutes of popping in the disc. I had to tend to other things, so couldn’t finish watching it all the way through.

Initially, I wanted to update this post with the goal of conveying how great movies can make you forget about picture and audio quality. However, that point was derailed as I learned via a quick online search that early last year a 2-disc special edition finally appeared…nearly 9 YEARS after the initial release. That’s quite a long wait.

Now comes the new dilemma – pick up the special edition now (seems like it can be found for $15-20) or wait for it on Blu-ray and risk buying yet another featureless copy. After some more online digging, The Wild Bunch is not currently planned for release on Blu-ray or HD-DVD this year…yet.

I would like nothing better than to go out and find the movie at lunch today and enjoy a sparkling re-mastered experience as well as soak in the documentary features. Maaaaan…what to do, what to do?

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