2010: The Year They Finally Got Blu-ray Right

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Ronald Epstein, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I think this year is going to be fondly remembered as the pivotal moment in Blu-ray where most all the studios raised the bar and finally brought the format up to its full potential.

    That's not to say the studios have been a lousy job up to this point. I don't think there's any argument that Warner Brothers, Sony, Disney and Paramount have been putting out spectacular Blu-ray transfers over recent years. However going back a year ago there seemed to be a significant disconnect between film fans on forums like these and the studios. What I remember dominating discussion on this forum was the topics of the studios holding back on catalog favorites and putting out titles that were plagued with digital noise reduction in an attempt to make them as "synthetically" pleasing as possible to those who have no idea the value of grain to film.


    This year is different. For the first time everything is coming up roses for Blu-ray. It's as if almost all the studios were in competition to release the best catalog Blu-ray product they possibly could, showing off their miraculous transfers and daring the others to do better. In the meantime, members of Home Theater Forum have congregated together to create a "buzz" that has been absent for quite some time. Until the studios were willing to put titles and transfers out there worth praising, there really wasn't much to talk about.





    If I was asked to give the crown to one single studio this year it would be Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. You really need to understand how far this studio has come in the past two years to appreciate what they have done in 2010. It was just two years ago that Fox fell under heavy criticism for its release of Patton and The Longest Day which made DNR a household name. Having personally seen Patton, I thought it looked like a Pixar film rather than something representative of the period. I think the studio learned from its mistakes with those initial releases and it's my hope that one day they are remastered and re-released.


    But Fox Home Entertainment has done a bit of restructuring over the past two years and there are good people in place who have taken a keen interest in this

    forum and the opinions of its membership. Perhaps you have already interacted with one of their executives. It seems as if they are listening.....


    Within the span of a few short weeks the studio unleashed The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Moulin Rouge, The Sound of Music, Aliens Anthology and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If you were going to pick catalog powerhouses to release all these titles would be worthy. Suddenly the format went from famine to feast in the period of two months. To give you an idea of how flooded the Blu-ray market suddenly became, many of us had to pick and choose how much we were willing to spend on all these releases. I ended buying all the Fox titles and was forced to delay purchases of Back To The Future, Dr. Zhivago, Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Bridge on the River Kwai. And I apologize for not being able to comment on those titles as I am certain I would be commending them as well. Reading feedback from HTF members, I see the struggle they are having picking and choosing what to purchase themselves. This is a tough economy to be able purchase everything we want.


    I put so much emphasis on this one studio because they didn't fart around (and fart is not the "F" word I wanted to use). They not only put out prime catalog product but each with transfers that were amazingly stunning. I tip my hat to Schawn Belston who is one of the most renowned film restorationists in the business today. What he and his team have done with these catalog titles is unbelievably awesome. It has been a long time since I have opened dialogue within this forum about current product releases, but over the past weeks I have been praising one Blu-ray after another (see links above). Funny how I promised myself I would not repurchase titles I already owned on DVD and now I can't wait to see how much better they now look.





    I also need to give special mention to American Zoetrope. I'll admit that when I initially heard that the Lionsgate would be handling the release of Apocalypse Now I was skeptical about how much care they would put into the transfer. However, what I did not originally realize is that American Zoetrope handled the remaster, and now knowing that, it all makes perfect sense. I would not hesitate to say that what we got was the most impressive transfer I have seen this year. If you click on the linked title above I think you will have a better understanding of just how much I was affected by this film's pristine transfer.



    WHAT DO YOU THINK?


    I would very much enjoy reading what all of you think of the Blu-ray titles released over the course of the year. Which title(s) do you feel deserve the most praise? What studio(s) do you think are putting the most care into their product and which ones still haven't figured it out?
     
  2. Anthony Neilson

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    I'd second your praise of Fox but, for me, it's Criterion that have really excelled this year. Perhaps because we automatically expect quality from them, they get overlooked in favour of the big studios, to whom we want to express some gratitude for finally having some integrity about their product.


    As you've mentioned most of these big releases were fairly safe choices (and none the worse for that) but look at the breadth of Criterion's output this year - new International releases like HUNGER, CHE, ANTICHRIST and REVANCHE; classic Hollywood titles like CHARADE, STAGECOACH, PATHS OF GLORY and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER; classic arthouse titles like M, THE SEVEN SAMURAI, YOJIMBO and A BOUT DE SOUFFLE; Modern American classics like DAYS OF HEAVEN, THE THIN RED LINE and the upcoming AMERICA LOST AND FOUND set; and many more besides - all of them presented in loving editions, packed withe xtras and sporting restored prints.


    Ok, perhaps not the most obscure selection by Criterion standards, but these are the kind of catalogue classics that the majors are still too timid to release, and there's no sign that they'll slow the pace next year.


    The BFI and MOC companies in the UK have also been doing good work. And, despite various rumblings, I've also been relatively pleased with the output of Studio Canal. Warners have been great, if not spectacular, keeping up a steady stream of workmanlike re-releases, albeit bringing little new to the table and occasionally indulging in some rather blatant double-dipping.


    I agree with you that we're entering one last Golden Age of physical disc media. I'm amazed by just how many of the titles I wanted most have already appeared and I can only hope that the catalogue releases continue to flow. I do worry, though, about the intimations of Blu-ray MOD; not simply because, as a UK resident, they'll be inaccessible to me; but because I'd hate to see relatively viable titles denied comprehensive releases.
     
  3. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Ron, you're right in that 2010 has proven to be a breakout year for the BD format in terms of both the number of significant catalog releases and the quality level of these releases in terms of both importance and overall presentation. However, I would submit to you that 2011 will be even more significant in these respects, given that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have yet to release the core titles of their film catalogs on blu-ray. When "Star Wars", "Schindler's List", "Jurassic Park" and "Jaws" receive the BD treatment, we'll see an even larger turnover ratio from the DVD format to true HD physical format!
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    You know what? I owe an apology to Criterion.


    I don't own a single Criterion title though Seven Samurai

    is on my wish list. Another one of those titles I had to
    pass on.


    But getting back to my apology...


    Criterion has always been the staple of excellence.

    I don't think anything has changed as far as the

    exceptional care they have put into their transfers.

    However, you are most correct in praising them for

    the amount of quality catalog product they have released.

    I get the press releases every month and they really

    rushed to the gate to put out some stellar titles.
     
  5. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Criterion's output has been phenomenal this year. Truly top notch in every possible respect.


    Sadly, Disney is the major studio with the most slack to pick up. Yes, what they have released has been great, and I personally can't wait for Fantasia, but the sheer number of catalog releases is depressingly low. Even with Disney's smaller catalog (especially now that they've sold off the Miramax films). Where's the live action classics like Mary Poppins or Treasure Island? Where's the "second-tier" animated films like Hercules or The Emperor's New Groove, which I would understand not getting the deluxe treatment of their Diamond Collection? In terms of catalog, one can practically count their 2010 output on two hands.
     
  6. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    I have to agree with Ron and give the nod to FOX. They really made a big splash this quarter Sound of Music, Moulin Rogue, Rocky Horror and CCBB (the rest of the year was pretty bad though! I don't think there was one FOX release I purchased prior to October this year)


    SONY does fine work (Tommy, Bridge on the River Kwai - but their catalog titles have been few and far between)


    So far Chitty Chitty Bang Bang blows the competetion away (and the competition is extremely high this quarter) but then again CCBB was filmed in 70MM most of the others were not


    Apocaplyse Now looks great also and Universal did a fine job with Psycho (Let's see what they do with "To Kill a Mockingbird")


    I'm a little disapointed in Warners who hasn't released much of interest this year (though they did an outstanding job with "Doctor Zhivago" and "treasure of the Seirra Madre" ) but so many classics are just waiting to be released (sorry we didn't get 1962's "Mutiny on the Bounty")


    Paramount and Disney - well they have a long away to go (and Paramount was so promising last year)
     
  7. Brandon Conway

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    We may have to disagree on this point. In addition to Doctor Zhivago and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, we got/are getting:


    King Kong (1933)

    The Maltese Falcon

    The Green Berets

    Magnolia

    The Music Man

    Clash of the Titans

    The Neverending Story

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

    Kelly's Heroes

    Where Eagles Dare

    Caddyshack

    A Star Is Born (1954)

    National Lampoon's Vacation

    What's Up Doc?

    Forbidden Planet

    The Player

    THX 1138

    Seven

    The Exorcist

    The Mission

    Ocean's 11 (1960)

    The Goonies

    Three Kings

    Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


    That's not all their releases, either.


    Not everything is to my taste, but that's quite the selection.




    In other news, you CAN count Disney's ENTIRE catalog output in 2010 on your hands:


    10 Things I Hate About You

    Gangs of New York (Remastered)

    Toy Story

    Toy Story 2

    Armageddon

    Tombstone

    James and the Giant Peach

    Beauty and the Beast (1991)

    Fantasia

    Fantasia 2000


    10 titles.
     
  8. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    I forgot about "The Music Man" - glad I picked that one up. Except for "Caddyshack" most of the others weren't high on my list.



    Disney still beat Paramount - how many catalog titles this year? - 1 "White Christmas"
     
  9. Brandon Conway

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    By my count Paramount had/will have the following catalog releases this year (counting their distribution of DreamWorks catalog):


    The African Queen

    Collateral

    Minority Report

    Escape from L.A.

    K-19: The Widowmaker

    Saving Private Ryan

    War of the Worlds (2005)

    Gladiator (Remastered)

    Road to Perdition

    Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy

    The Score

    Stardust

    American Beauty

    The Peacemaker

    White Christmas

    Shrek

    Shrek 2

    True Grit (1969)


    So, 18. Disney wins the war of attrition....
     
  10. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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  11. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

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    I really can't argue with anything posted here (other than it's been a great year for Warners - there are so many of their BDs I want to buy that I can't swing them all).


    Before I read this thread, I would have given the nod to Disney (due to the consistent high quality any movie outside of the 1999-2000 time frame), but 10 releases is way too low. They need to step it up in 2011.


    I can't help but think that Ron is right. We are in a golden age never to be seen again. My fear is that BD will fade away over time and, other than our collection of previously released discs, we'll be stuck with low quality downloads. Again, that's just a fear of mine, and is not based on any facts (aside from Steve Jobs's statements...).


    -R
     
  12. cineMANIAC

    cineMANIAC Cinematographer
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    I agree that the studios are doing a better job overall in 2010. As for the ones that "don't get it":


    MGM (thru Fox). Its encouraging that CCBB has gotten good reviews and I hope that the upcoming Dances With Wolves will get treated properly but all those recent combo packs have been anything but stellar. Escape From New York, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc, have all been "just OK" and that's simply just not good enough. These movies deserve better. I was able to snag a used copy of the Robocop Trilogy for about $20, which is what this set is actually worth since the first movie is the same lackluster disc that's been available forever and the sequels don't look a whole lot better than the DVDs. My hope is that with MGM's financial troubles sort of resolved that they'll put a bit more effort into at least good transfers for their A-list titles.


    Lionsgate. Apocalypse Now looks great but its actually American Zoetrope, Coppola's company, that deserves credit for the restoration work - Lionsgate is just the distributor. I don't know if Lionsgate is ever going to win any awards for their own films for picture quality and it's a shame because they've got a good number of films that would look great in hi-def if properly mastered.
     
  13. GMpasqua

    GMpasqua Screenwriter

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    Not saying Warners isn't doing a great job, Warner has relased a lot this year - just nothing much of interest to me


    As for Paramount I'm speaking of pre-1970 catalog titles (I forgot about Africian Queen) True Grit is coming (of course it's just to cash in on the remake) so that brings the total to 3
     
  14. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Well, catalog titles in general and pre-70s catalog titles are different beasts altogether.
     
  15. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    well if we go past a 2 year old film as a catalog title, then Kino is playing with the big boys this year and keeping the standard at almost Criterion Level


    2 Keaton's with possibly Our Hospitality on the Way!

    Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

    Metropolis

    The Sun

    Battleship Potemkin

    The Black Pirate


    Compaired to the major studios, the smaller boutiques are the ones doing the catalogs and getting them right, mostly the first time, as for Paramount, 2 titles this year, African Queen and White Christmas, makes me wish they would readdress It's A Wonderful Life
     
  16. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    There's catalog and there's new release. Catalog is catalog, whether the film is 2 years old or 100.


    But, yes, the boutique labels are doing great. It should be noted that some of that is due to major studio licensing though, especially in the case of Criterion in regards to Fox, Paramount, Sony and Universal.
     
  17. Paul_Scott

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    From my perspective, EFNY and IOTBS are two of the catalog titles that have been MOST satisfying to me- Unlike some 'big' titles like Apocolypse Now or Last Of The Mohicans, or even the first two Alien movies, to a certain extent.

    The former two titles may be lacking extravagant special features and BD-live nonsense, but they also offer what to my eyes look like visuals that are entirely faithful to their original theatrical appearances. Nothing is tarted up or re-colored and revised to "pop" for a 2010 audience or because an aging auteur is indulging in a new whim. THANK GOD.

    I don't dispute the massive improvements made to titles like Sound Of Music or Bridge on The River Kwai- both of which I'm thrilled to own- but for me 2010 has been saved by the smaller companies putting out more esoteric stuff in fully reverential presentations (like Shout! with the Roger Corman titles, and Dark Sky with Magic). It's probably fortunate that these companies lack the resources to 'improve' the look of the films which is why they seem as faithful as they do.
     
  18. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Yeah, I had no problem with Escape From New York disc either. I'm sure the movie could look better but being realistic, I don't know how much better it will look.
     
  19. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    I agree. To me, a perfect catalogue disc is one that looks like a clean 35mm print on opening night.
     
  20. Jeff Newcomb

    Jeff Newcomb Second Unit

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    Does Lionsgate really deserve any credit for the Apocalypse Now transfer? It was my understanding that Zoetrope handled the transfer and all of the production of the set themselves, at their own state-of-the-art post facilities, and Lionsgate just served as the hired-gun distributor. That's like giving Image credit for Criterion's amazing work.
     

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