Coming Soon to a (Home) Theater Near You

So far, this has been a pretty good year for moviegoers. The Hollywood dream machine has cranked out a steady stream of big-budget movies with colossal production values. If you enjoy getting your eyeballs fried by flying fireballs or your ears rocked by rampaging robots, the multiplex has been very, very good to you. But how will these screen gems look from your Lay-Z-Boy? After our reviews of the theatrical releases, I asked colleague Leslie Shapiro (our Grace Notes blogger) to join me in eagerly anticipating their Blu-ray releases.

Ken: Pop quiz! Oblivion, Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, World War Z, Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Riddick—which one really lights up the visuals on the screen?

Leslie: Whew! Tough choice. I can’t wait to revisit the fantastic landscapes and vistas created for Oblivion and Riddick. Those were hi-def treats, as were the train wrecks in the Lone Ranger. How about you?

Ken: The sight of the swarming, chomping WWZ zombies scaling the walls of Jerusalem was tasty. Also, the computer display holograms in Iron Man made me wanna buy 4K. And, the orbiting Elysum space station was as glorious looking as the earth scenes were inglorious.

Leslie: Speaking of space, I’m clamoring to see Star Trek on Blu-ray (just released!), especially the gratuitous bimbo underwear shot. But seriously, it will be great at home where I can indulge in the official J.J. Abrams lens-flare drinking game.

Ken: I know you’re not a big fan of 3D, but did anything pop out at you?

Leslie: Pacific Rim definitely had the best 3D of the bunch. Director Guillermo del Toro supervised every 3D frame, and it really showcases the technology. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates to the small screen.

Ken: Okay, let’s put on our ears. The WWZ zombie shrieks gave it a sizzling soundtrack. I bet they spent weeks and weeks auditioning shriek sound effects, and they nailed it.

Leslie: The sound design in Riddick was absolutely first class. Students studying to become a film mixer should analyze every scene. Personally, I’d dial it back a little, but the first half hour without dialogue (voice-over only) was just wonderful.

Ken: Agreed. Also, its use of surrounds was excellent. The sound of the monsters crawling all around the metal outpost was terrific. And the sound of the flying motorcycles was a perfect blend of Harleys and Jetsons.

Leslie: I can’t wait to hear FF6 again. The sonic boom when a parking garage gets pancaked will be a great test for my subwoofer. And I hope my house holds up better than the garage.

Ken: Do you have concrete block, or wood frame? I guarantee you’ll hear the monsters and robots in Pacific Rim stomping all over the subwoofer demo booths at CES. Oh, and Star Trek’s warp sounds will set your speakers to stun.

Leslie: The destruction of Tony Stark’s home in IM3 will bring down the house.

Ken: Ha! Let’s give a special shoutout to Oblivion. We saw that in a Dolby Atmos theater, and the immersion of the surround sound was spectacular. I only wish my home theater had overhead speakers.

Leslie: I loved how each Iron Man suit makes subtly different sounds. But, movie sound is more than FX. We heard some amazing scores too....

Ken: Well, nothing beats Star Trek for a good, old-fashioned emotional score. But I really liked the Pacific Rim score; the blending of guitar riffs and symphonic material created a terrific monster mashup. And, IM3’s spatially-mixed score will light up your surrounds.

Leslie: Playing Gliere’s Russian Sailor’s Dance every time we see the Russian robots was a brilliant, yet subtle touch. Leitmotifs rule! And FF6’s editing of film to score was pure genius.

Ken: Of course, the Lone Ranger’s William Tell Overture is the most rousing piece of music ever written. Further proof that if your mains can’t produce high-quality music playback, you’re missing out. A lot. Hmm, big thumbs down for Elysium for repeatedly playing classical music when greedy, evil people are onscreen. Does the clueless director know, or care, that Mozart died poor and was buried in a common grave? I was insulted by that musical decision.

Leslie: Agreed 100%! Okay - bottom line - which Blu-ray release will have you camping out at the Wal-mart?

Ken: The Lone Ranger makes me want to camp out in Monument Valley, but I wouldn’t pay a plugged nickel for it. WWZ wasn’t perfect, but the zombie sound effects were delicious and the CGI visuals were epic. I’d buy it.

Leslie: I’m revved up for FF6, just for the score alone. I already bought the soundtrack CD which sounds great in my home theater, and car. Plus, seeing Riddick reminded me how much I adore Vin Diesel.

Ken: So, I’ll see you in the balcony?

Leslie: I’ll buy the popcorn.

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