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Must-See/Must-Own Blu-rays

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Last week I received a Blu-ray player. I've wanted one for at least a year, maybe two.

Why?

We all know that "everyone" (placed in quotes, because this is the kind of language I hear in discussions with friends or read about on blogs, etc.) is moving toward online streaming of movies. Why invest in hard-media technology? And Christian, aren't you always saying you have no money, and that you use your local library, which has no Blu-ray titles, as your DVD store?

Yes, yes. I don't have a budget to acquire Blu-ray discs, and these days I don't bother buying movies. The ones I've acquired over the years -- the standard-def DVDs with loads of extras and things that somehow, I told myself, make them worth owning -- sit on a shelf, unwatched more than once, for the most part. I get an itch to buy; I scratch the itch. End of story.

What will I gain with a Blu-ray player?

Well, first, I inherited an HDTV set about 18 months ago, and have always wondered how high-def DVDs would look on it. Also, my new Blu-ray player streams Netflix, so if I ever decide to become a Netflix member, I should theoretically be able to stream movies on my TV. Thing is, I hear such streaming is 400 line of resoultion max, which isn't anywhere near Blu-ray quality. But it's nice to know I have a streaming option if I ever decide to go that route.

My question is, What Blu-ray discs are most worth my investment of time and money? I know a lot of great movies are available on Blu-ray. Some I already own on standard-def DVD. For purposes of this thread, I'm interested in the titles that might qualify as a "revelation" when seen in Blu-ray format -- transfers that are so spectacular they have to be seen to be believed.

(One caveat: I know that Blu-ray is, for many people, a huge upgrade in video sound, but my stereo is a 1990 Sony receiver that's in need of an upgrade -- an upgrade that won't be coming anytime soon. I have no subwoofer, if that helps explain why sound isn't a huge deal for me. I'm interested in Blu-ray almost entirely for picture quality.)

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Posted · Report post

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and THE RED SHOES, for starters.

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I second 2001. Anything by Pixar. WALL-E and Ratatouille and Toy Story 3 look unbelievable. I just ordered the Three Colors trilogy (it's so cheap right now on BN.com) and I have no doubt it's going to be a revelation. And as much as I hate the revisions, Star Wars Episodes IV-VI are astonishing. I can't believe there was that much detail available on the original prints. (I bought it used so I wouldn't give Lucas any money.)

You may find, as I have, that DVDs look much sharper played on your blu-ray player. I watched Fellowship of the Ring the other night, comparing it by switching from player to player, and details were much, much sharper on the blu-ray. It kind of ruined my DVD player for me, realizing that what I thought looked great before is actually more blurry and pixellated than I'd realized.

I'm "suffering" in the sound department too. My Sony "Dream Station" is my main receiver/DVD/CD player, and I have to line my blu-ray player into it. The speakers have connections that are unique to Sony, so they won't attach to my Samsung blu-ray player. Try as I might, I haven't found a way for my blu-ray surround sound to translate through the Sony Dream Station. So I'm stuck with regular stereo, not 5.1. Someday... someday... I'll get speakers that connect to the blu-ray so I'll really be able to appreciate what blu-ray sound can do.

But yeah... we started the same way. We bought the player for Netflix Streaming, and it has been worth every penny. We get excellent quality streaming Netflix now. I often forget I'm not watching a DVD.

Edited by Overstreet

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Yeah, Jeff, agreed about the Blu-Ray player "upgrade" for regular DVDs (provided your Blu-Ray player has the "upgrade" feature, which most do, at this point). My Blu-Ray player does so well at upgrading DVD quality that in most cases there isn't a significant difference between DVD and Blu-Ray quality on my TV (excluding the real "showpiece" Blu-Rays, like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, which is a stunner).

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Oh... two more blu-ray revelations: The Tree of Life and The Secret of Kells. The latter... well, wow. I didn't know colors could look like that on a TV screen. It's like the difference between seeing a poster shop print and an original painting.

Edited by Overstreet

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One of the best Blu-rays I've watched is John Woo's Red Cliff. The movie isn't all that great, but the video quality is amazing.

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Most of the Criterions are good bets, they do a great job on every one I've seen. Kubrick's have all been great, I haven't seen PoG, Barry Lyndon or Eyes Wide Shut (Which is odd, since BL has been my favorite Kubrick for some time now). The two that Ryan mentions are must owns, first and foremost buy these. And all of Malick's are great as well.

Speed Racer is incredible, but there are a lot of people who hate that movie. I can second all the Pixars. Most hand-drawn animation, like Kells, is great as well: Paprika, Illusionist and Princess and the Frog etc.

Blade Runner and Close Encounters are wonderful transfers and have every version of the film imaginable.

Planet Earth and Life are MUST HAVES. If you wait until closer to Christmas, I can all but guarantee that Amazon will have them VERY cheap. Just make SURE to get the Richard Attenborough BBC ones.

Finally, if we're talking image quality and beauty and jaw-dropping, spectacular, superlative work: Baraka is the all I have to say.

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Finally, if we're talking image quality and beauty and jaw-dropping, spectacular, superlative work: Baraka is the all I have to say.

Yeah, BARAKA is a knockout.

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Picked up Seven Samurai last night. Can't wait to check it out. I talked with film critic Sean Axmaker last night at the My Week with Marilyn screening, and he couldn't stop raving about the Three Colors blu-rays. He says White in particular benefits from the treatment.

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I picked up the first three Bond films on Blu-ray when I first bought my player (DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, and GOLDFINGER). All three look fantastic. They did a stellar job on them. I wasn't aware old films could look that good. My wife commented at one point that she could tell that a particular dress was made of silk from the weave. Great detail.

In general, I think old films, especially restorations, benefit greatly from Blu-ray. I'll second the recommendation of anything by Criterion.

Oh, as far as colour perhaps one of biggest standouts is the Criterion Blu-ray of MONSOON WEDDING. Jaw-droppingly beautiful.

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I picked up the first three Bond films on Blu-ray when I first bought my player (DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, and GOLDFINGER). All three look fantastic. They did a stellar job on them. I wasn't aware old films could look that good. My wife commented at one point that she could tell that a particular dress was made of silk from the weave. Great detail.

The newer Bond flicks--CASINO ROYALE/QUANTUM OF SOLACE--also look very, very good.

In general, I think old films, especially restorations, benefit greatly from Blu-ray.

Yep. Even black-and-white films. CITIZEN KANE and PSYCHO look incredible. I'm desperate for VERTIGO to get a Blu-Ray release.

Most films tend to benefit from Blu-Ray. The ones that don't are those that have a kind of grainy/hazy look (the De Palma films of the 1970s, for example, or Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT).

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You know which title I'm most curious about? Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol. I loved that movie. Saw it twice in the theater, in part because the 3D seemed to work well. I can never tell just how well, because I have some vision problems. But I was thinking about this last night watching Hugo, which had 3D at least as good as that in A Christmas Carol.

That said, I'm not interested in watching A Christmas Carol at home in 3D. I'm just curious to know how the 2D Blu-ray looks.

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