As we in MN descend into a week of extreme cold (COLD EXTREME!!!!), it seems like a good time to talk about DVDs/BDs.
I'm still glad I bought into Blu-Ray, even if my friends question my wisdom in doing it (or sanity?). I'm still watching them on a projector (XGA) that doesn't really take full advantage of the HD video this format puts out, but BD does look better on a large screen. And when I manage to upgrade this projector, it will look fantastic. I'm still annoyed that moving into BD means a tradeoff regarding portability, but I have to assume that simple solutions for ripping BDs will come at some point. Here are a few discs I've watched lately:
Sleeping Beauty (1959) Here's a movie I really hadn't seen since I was a kid. I can't say that it's one my favorite Disney films, but I have a new respect for it now. The characters and story/dialogue aren't up to the very best, but they work well. There are some sweet and amusing moments in the movie, just not up to what Disney managed with the real classics. The standout here is the look of the animation. More specifically, the background art in this film is just gorgeous. Some times I just ended up looking at the backgrounds and not following the animation, it was that good. I also liked the way the Tchaikovsky music was integrated into the film. Very appropriate.
This film was one of the few Disney animated films produced in a large film format, Technirama. For a very good overview of how this was done, I highly recommend this piece by restorer Robert Harris, found here. Needless to say, they did a great job presenting this film on BD. The colors are lush and you can really make out all the detail in the animation. The sound was very clear and didn't sound over-processed. I really hope Disney does this well with its other animated classics.
The Duchess Some friends brought this one over the other night on DVD. I thought this was pretty good, on the whole. Another look at the "good" old days of 18th Century England. The pacing was slightly uneven at times, but the performances were good and the costumes, quite the essential part of a costume drama, really looked (at least to me) great. Keira Knightley carries the lead part well and Ralph Fiennes, in a pretty thankless role, steps up with a nuanced performance. The character is often so unsympathetic and dour that the when the time comes for him to show a glimmer of humanity, it's a big deal. Fiennes plays it at a good simmer throughout, making the character more interesting. It would certainly be a temptation to play this part as a huge jerk with many leers and nasty/overacted looks. This would have made the part not work at all. The DVD looked OK to me, though I couldn't help but wonder how much better all that great outdoor English scenery would have looked on BD.
High Noon (1952) A discussion with Rob and a recent DVD Savant review, which can be found here, got me thinking about this one again so I dug up my old DVD and took another look. The movie is a genuine classic, no doubt, but the ideas expressed in the film get pretty muddled. I don't know that the review is exactly on, regarding the politics, but there are some confusing ideas contained in the film. One thing I agree with him on is the dismissal of the supposed "liberal" read of the film. It has such a negative view of "common people" that I just don't buy it. The production and performances are great, however, and the flow of the film is very tight. I also really enjoyed the Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado) character. She's one of the strongest characters in the film. I have the old DVD which is just so-so. The print isn't too bad, but it looks washed out and constrasty at times. If they do a decent HD version, I might have to double dip.
Okay, on to this week's new DVDs/BDs:
'Til Death: Season 2
Appaloosa (2008) Also on BD.
Breakfast At Tiffany's - Paramount Centennial Collection Yet another re-do of the Hepburn classic. This kind of title will most certainly make it to BD in the not-too-distant future, so waiting is good.
Captains and the Kings (1976, TV Series)
Dallas: Season 10 Season 10!
Funny Face - Paramount Centennial Collection Another Hepburn re-do. DVD Savant has a review of this one here.
Matlock: Season 2
Mirrors (2008) Also on BD.
My Best Friend's Girl (2008) Also on BD.
Swing Vote (2008) Also on BD.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Also on BD.