An explosion of high-definition discs from competing formats Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD is bringing the movie theater experience home - in “Full HD” 1080p resolution and with high-performance multichannel soundtrack formats like Dolby Digital Plus. And let’s remember that Blu-ray and HD DVD leave plenty of room for bonus features, even those enabling Internet access. Regardless of which format you have, there are some titles that stand apart from the rest and command attention. Here are the ones we will deem “Best in Show”.
Best Visual Presentation
Star Trek: The Original Series - The Complete First Season - Kirk and Spock get a makeover that brings out their best close-ups since the Enterprise first went to warp speed. You’ll spend hours watching these classic episodes, now that they’ve been restored with brilliant color and exacting detail, which isn’t limited to the ship and actors but replaces poorly done visuals of starships, phaser blasts and alien landscapes. Paramount Home Entertainment, HD DVD Combo, $194. Read Review.
Ratatouille - Director Brad Bird’s eye for perfection propels this animated film to the forefront of home viewing. It’s a visual feast filled with succulent food, lush scenery and sympathetic characters, all inhabiting a Paris lovingly recreated in high definition. Every detail, from cobblestones to bubbling pots, is distinct and sharply defined. You’ll be hard-pressed not to make a reservation to watch it over and over again. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Blu-ray Disc, $34. Read Review.
Best Audio Presentation
2001: A Space Odyssey - Yes, it’s visually stunning, but audio embraces the audience as well in this classic Kubrick film, making the sound as much of a performer as the visuals. The uncompressed PCM (pulse-code modulation) soundtrack provides a strong focus on dialogue but also delivers a resonating classical score. It makes the chill accompanying the appearance of the Monolith to Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” all the more powerful. Warner Home Video, on Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, $28. Read Review.
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride - How could Dolby Digital Plus not be a driving force in a movie where music plays such a big part? Riotous song blares from the underground pub, miserly tones emit from dingy mansions, and romance and hope swell amid a fairy winterland of frozen snow—all to the accompaniment of a powerful musical score with a presence, surrounding the listener with warm tones and powerful bass. Warner Home Video, HD DVD (also available on Blu-ray), $28. Read Review.
Blade Runner 5-Disc Complete Collector’s Edition - Ridley Scott’s world of the future is a gritty day-to-day of people trying to survive while technology falls apart. With three versions of this classic to watch, expect more extras than you can imagine, ranging from featurettes on people, places and special effects to a new 45-minute documentary. Then dive into audio commentaries by the director, producers, screenwriters and visual effects personnel, as well as audio interviews with sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, whose novel provided the film’s basis. To top it off, add a radically different print of the movie in 1080p resolution, with Dolby Digital Plus surround. Warner Home Video, HD DVD, $39
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