If You Got It, Flaunt It!
The Dark Knight is quite possibly the most overpraised motion picture of all time—which is not to say it’s not an impressive, if often very silly movie. Remember, it’s about a grown man who calls himself “Batman” and talks in a voice that sounds like an angry Nick Nolte after a week-long bender—in other words, Nick Nolte. Still, it offers one of the most absorbing and detailed pictures I’ve ever seen. Some scenes were shot with IMAX cameras, and that extra detail just pops off the screen, to the point that you almost believe a wealthy industrialist wearing a cape and talking in the voice of an angry, drunken Nick Nolte is in your living room. (If Mrs. Nolte is reading this, you could probably skip this one.) Look for any of the daytime outdoor scenes, which are few, or the chase scene that’s shot on lower Wacker Drive in Chicago—they will reveal deep blacks as well as incredible detail.
It goes without saying that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a noisy, horrible nightmare of a film. In fact, it barely qualifies as a film, since it’s more of a series of confusing images that’s punctuated by brief scenes of Shia LaBeouf stammering like an idiot (compared with his performance, Jerry Lewis in The Bellboy is a tower of stoic dignity) and the human blow-up doll that is Megan Fox struggling with her native language (English... I think). That said, the Blu-ray offers a lot of detail (the better to see Ms. Fox suggestively straddling a motorcycle—the only thing she’s good at), and the colors are saturated and impressive, if cartoonish and unnatural. This is Michael Bay, after all. Show your guests the scene of the robots fighting in the forest, and they’ll likely say, “Wow, that looks amazing! Now, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, shut it off!”
Once you’ve regained consciousness, take a few careful steps over to your player (your legs will still feel a little wobbly), put in the Blu-ray of Casablanca, and your belief in the possibility of some tiny shred of hope and light in the world will be restored. The humor, humanity, and immense intelligence of the whole production will be a balm to your soul. Not only that, the picture quality is amazing. It’s truly a revelation that a 68-year-old film offers such detail and sharpness, and the sound isn’t bad either. The whole thing looks great, but I was especially impressed with the sharpness evident during Dooley Wilson’s rendition of “Knock on Wood.”
Taken on its own, Fast & Furious is the cinematic equivalent of being struck, voluntarily and non-lethally, by a juiced-up 1970 Chevy Chevelle. But held up to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it’s an infinitely subtle and delicately structured masterpiece. Although I’ve seen Blurays that look as good, I have yet to see its superior. It is, for better or worse, an example of the state of the art. The detail on Vin Diesel’s huge bestubbled skull is unparalleled, and the soundtrack beautifully captures his waffle-batter-thick mumblings. I’d point you to a particularly noteworthy scene, but this one looks fantastic throughout.
Your theater room will now be dense with exhaust fumes, so I recommend that you clear them with the purifying sweetness of a nice Disney film. Although its recent releases have all been pretty fantastic looking, I was quite impressed with Enchanted, a deft and charming comedy featuring a hugely entertaining performance by Amy Adams. (Yes, let it stand: I, a 45-year-old man of largely sound mind and body, loved Enchanted. I’ll just have to live with that.) I don’t know what magic or secret sauce Disney uses to produce its Blu-rays, but this, Hannah Montana: The Movie, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, and High School Musical 3: Senior Year are all about as good as it gets. (To answer your question, no, I’m not insane. My editors are under the impression that I’m 14 years old and a girl, so they gave me those Blu-rays to review.)
It’s probably best not to choose your movies based on whether or not their stars famously went on secretly taped foul-mouthed rants during their production, but if that’s your criteria and you want demo material, you could do a lot worse than Terminator: Salvation. Aside from the inherent fun of guessing which scene sent Christian Bale into paroxysms of unquenchable rage, it provides a lot of unintentional laughs from its dialogue, which is just a series of grunted action movie clichés. Still, the annihilation of humans in the coming robot apocalypse has never looked or sounded so good.
Fortunately for Blu-ray enthusiasts, new demo-quality material is released nearly every week. But the most important thing to remember when choosing it is this: If anyone asks, it wasn’t me who recommended Enchanted, OK?