Best in Show: High-Def DVDs
A quick list of the best Blu-ray and HD DVD titles to inaugurate (or augment) your high-def library.
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
Lost: The Complete Third Season- The Unexplored Experience Lost is all about discovery, and once the episodes have been viewed, it’s time to move on to the features, behind-the-scenes looks and commentaries in order to further your knowledge of the show. Rather than just placing these tidbits before the viewer in the form of passive features, interactivity is taken to the nth degree through a BD-Java enabled control panel. Video and audio flick and flitter on screen, and the task is to decipher secrets and hidden truths to unlock the mysteries. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Blu-ray Disc, $96.
Best Integration of Live Action and CGI
Underdog - There’s no need to fear: a talking pooch is here! A plethora of hysterical effects are done so well, they seem almost pedestrian. The combination of canines with CGI effects seamlessly balances together. Underdog flies, lifts couches and blasts through skyscraper walls with the greatest of ease, always remembering to grab a snack along the way. Watch this, and you’ll believe a dog can fly! Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Blu-ray Disc, $34. Read Review.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Fantasy movies are filled with imaginary beings and amazing effects that only CGI can provide. But to ensure they blend in with the real world, they mustn’t look like cartoon cutouts. This is always true in Harry Potter’s world, where flying on winged horse–like creatures or interacting with elves seems so natural. Even wizards in battle maintain their humanity amid sizzling beams of light and blasts of smoke: all rendered with the sharp detail of high definition. Warner Home Video, HD DVD Combo and Blu-ray, $35. Read Review.
Best Video Presentation
Spider-Man 3 - Bright and vivid colors, breathtaking cinematography, excellent integration of computer and live action: All these combine to form a sharply detailed panoramic view that keeps your eye riveted to the screen. Our favorite wall crawler has never looked so good swinging from buildings at blazing speed. And details abound, be it Sandman disintegrating or Venom enveloping his prey or even the mundane city streets. It’s like being there. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Blu-ray Disc, $43. Read Review.
Transformers: Two-Disc Special Edition - Want to know more about Transformers? Just do a download to see new videos and update information on the movie and actors. Or select to enhance a GPS display to provide a running account of the robots and their weapons and strengths as the movie plays. Plus, updates on Transformers 2 will be coming your way long before it hits the screen. Paramount Home Entertainment, HD DVD, $39. Read Review.
Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear your favorite hi-def dvd’s and why. Comment below!
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