New to Blu-ray – January 2012

We take a look at of the January releases including Drive, Archer, 50/50 and more!

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

New to Blu-ray is our monthly look at the titles hitting Blu-ray for the month. Check out all of the cool releases for January below!

 

Drive

New release of the month goes to Nicolas Winding Refn’s ode to Los Angeles and fast cars. It is a perfectly clear picture, maybe a few hints of fine grain but mostly crisp, sharp images. Refn’s camera and the HD transfer makes L.A. look way prettier than it does in real life.

It’s a shiny movie, all the cars slick and the pretty actors glowing. You see plenty of detail, under the hoods at the mechanic’s or rugged tough guys as the deal goes bad. Driving shots remain clear and you can see all the detail. Colors pop and the still frames let you linger on the subtle movements.

 

Real Steel

Aww, now I’m going to feel bad for calling Drive the best looking new release. Real Steal looks great too and it’s a much glossier production. The picture is perfectly clear and has the polish of the big budget special effects. The cinematography actually looks like a Michael Bay movie, which I mean as a compliment in this context.

With that clarity, you see all the detail. Obviously in the robots, from the shiny new Noisy Boy to crusty old Atom in his various stages of duress. Locations range from gritty junkyards and gyms to magic hour landscapes and roadways. All look fantastic in high definition.

 

Killer Elite

Another new release action movie, Killer Elite also looks fantastic on Blu-ray and shows off the strengths of the format. The picture is clear and sharp, so you see all the detail. It’s less colorful than Real Steel or Drive as it’s going for a gritty look but there’s still plenty to show off.

The international adventure shows off lots of beautiful locations: middle eastern beaches and dunes, London cities and fields, South America, Australia. Slick wet streets make for good car chases, and you can’t have an action movie without a gritty old warehouse, right?

 

Abduction

This brand new release Blu-ray looks solid. It’s got a slightly saturated look so you might see a little bit more grain than you might on other new releases. The saturation cranks of the colors too, so you can see Taylor Lautner smolder and glare in heightened high definition.

It’s not perfect. There are a few spots that reveal some digital noise. It seems more like technical sloppiness. I was more disappointed that the movie wasn’t as horrible as everyone promised it was. I mean, it’s silly, but how can you not enjoy watching Lautner try to try not to cry?

 


 

Contagion

Well, that Steven Soderbergh sure knows how to shoot a nice looking film. By film I mean movie because it was shot with Red cameras and you can tell. There’s no particle getting in the way of the picture. It is simply a totally clear, stark look at a world crumbling in an epidemic.

There’s a beautiful travelogue quality with shots of worldwide effects. The color scheme is quite effective in HD as Soderbergh likes to distinctly light rooms with yellow or blue tints. You do see the gruesome detail, even in the human touches of sick funk. It’s art and polished studio filmmaking of the highest degree.

 

Sid and Nancy

This rock n’ roll drama looks a little worn out but it does its best. There are some shots that suffer from digital noise, but never goes full out into a speckled haze so it struggles like the little engine that could and never totally fails. Some other shots look grainy but that’s authentic to film.

Then there are some beautiful high definition restored shots in the film. There are clear shots of ‘80s London dressed and framed as ‘70s London. You can see all the dingy detail of the squalor in run down flats and dive bars. I won’t say you can see every follicle of Gary Oldman’s spiky hair, but you can definitely make out some stray hairs.

 

Moneyball 

This movie has a flickering background throughout the entire run time. That’s odd for a new release movie. Lots of digital noise back there, and flaring up across the whole screen at some points.

It is a sharp picture but really uneven with those consistent noise errors. You can see all the detail in the veteran baseball manager’s faces, and even Brad Pitt looks rugged. There’s just no excuse for the white specks, which are visible no matter how you adjust the brightness settings.

 

Wings

The very first Best Picture Oscar winner looks fantastic on Blu-ray. It’s a perfectly clean full frame picture, tinted sepia or occasionally blue. You see the grain which is authentic, but it’s a sharp picture and you see all the battlefield detail and texture of the costumes.

There’s some amazing aerial footage and old time effects like flames shooting out of engines are lovely. The new score sounds rich and full but totally appropriate to the silent film, compared to the original pipe organ that’s also included.

 


 

Paranormal Activity 3

So we’ve gone from modern consumer cameras to VHS and somehow it still looks great on Blu-ray. You can notice a slight difference when you go from the opening modern day perfectly clear HD video to the ‘80s footage, but it’s not like real VHS. It’s maybe a big dimmer and softer but still totally clear.

The picture holds up during the many classic Paranormal Activity nighttime darkened room shots. You see a bit of fuzz but only in that accurate nightvision way, as in it looked like that theatrically too. The night footage doesn’t suffer from any hazy digital noise like other sloppy Blu-ray transfers. I wouldn’t say you see super HD details, but every room in the house looks clear and preserves the atmosphere for creepy surprises to shock their way into frame.

 

The Thing

This remake/prequel may not hold a flamethrower to the “original” remake (John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing) but it sure looks great on Blu-ray. The shots of Antarctica look like Happy Feet animation only it’s real. The white is vivid and distinct with shades of color.

Inside the station it’s not as pretty, but it’s clear. It leads to some bright orange flames and some gooey gore. It doesn’t flatter some of the CGI, like the ridiculous animated whipping tentacle, but some of the effects show off slimy detail.

 

Shark Night

Maybe the 3D Blu-ray of Shark Night looks better but the regular old 2D version has some issues. The picture is clear with only a little digital noise. The problem seems to be more with the film itself than the transfer. The whole picture seems washed out, just a little too light. Perhaps without dim 3D glasses, the picture’s too bright, but plenty of 3D movies have beautiful 2D Blu rays.

Also the lake isn’t much to look at in HD. The water is dark and dirty looking. The CGI sharks look ridiculous. I mean, like Syfy channel. The sharks in Finding Nemo looked more realistic. The Katharine McPhee side boob looks lovely in HD though. I’ll give ‘em that.

 


 

50/50

This is another top notch new release Blu ray, so if you were hoping to see chemotherapy in all its stunning detail, you’re in for a treat. Don’t worry, the movie isn’t gratuitous on the cancer details, but you can see the subtle detail in the texture of the chair he’s sitting in.

The northwest setting looks stark with a blue tint, especially in the exteriors around Washington state. It’s a real world movie so they don’t exaggerate the look of the city. It’s a crisp, sharp picture and you see some stark detail in Joseph Gordon Levitt’s shaved head and dramatic faces in the serious parts. Perfectly clear.

 

She’s All That

It’s good to see they’re not only releasing the highfalutin Oscar winners in the Miramax catalog. This ‘90s teen comedy looks fantastic on Blu-ray. It’s got a totally clear picture with bright vibrant colors. I don’t remember so many pastels in the ‘90s but they look good in HD.

The picture is consistently clear and sharp. One or two shots near the end get a tad fuzzy, but that’s not a bad track record. You don’t see any film grain so it’s a smooth, glossy picture for 90 glorious ‘90s minutes.

 


Boardwalk Empire

HBO continues to set a standard for TV on Blu-rays. I didn’t notice any problems in any of the episodes I watched. The picture is clear and shows all the detail in high definition, and this show is a doozy to marvel at all the details.

That boardwalk set they built looks like the real deal and the CGI enhancements are seamless. Take things inside to the speakeasys and backrooms and you see a lot of gritty textures. Things get ornate in Nucky’s house or church, and of course all of the texture in the period costumes are on display.

 

Archer

The animation of Archer looks stunning in high definition. All of the backdrops have complex shading that really simulates the texture of a real building interior, city street or exotic location. The artwork is really beautiful for all the ridiculous things going on in the foreground.

The color is intended to mimic skin tones and real world locations, but it’s still bright and vivid. The picture is shiny, like oil paint. That’s what computer animation can look like with consumer programs like Photoshop. The Blu-ray exemplifies the art a lot more than the HDTV cable broadcast.