New To Blu-ray – February 2012

We take a look at this month's Blu-ray releases of Tower Heist, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, The Human Centipede 2 and more!

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


I’m trying a new format for my monthly Blu-ray roundups. Hope you like it.


New Release of the MonthTake Shelter

The Oscar snub didn’t stop Sony from creating a stellar transfer of the acclaimed drama. The picture is clear and glowing in the sunlight. You see all the gritty detail on the farm and every subtle dramatic expression on the actors’ faces. Grain fades in every now and then to remind you it’s a film but the HD version handles it well so it always looks organic from scene to scene.


Straight to Video of the Month – Honey 2

To be fair, I didn’t compare this to any other DTV movies this month, but it’s amazingly clear. Even the dark strobing dance clubs hold clear. Of course the dancers all wear flashy outfits full of bright colors. The only fuzzy shots are New York establishing shots. Maybe stock footage. Also, I’m not saying it’s like Step Up 3D or anything, but the dance moves are awesome. Great vehicle for dancers.


HD Babe of the Month – Seychelle Gabriel in Honey 2

All the dancers, including star Katerina Graham, look shiny in the clear HD, but as the antagonist Tina, Gabriel commanded my attention in every ensemble dance. Runner up goes to Amber Heard in The Rum Diary. The lighting and makeup make her look like an angel. That’s probably all real, but Blu-ray shows every beautiful detail.


Animation of the Month – A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Even in 2D you can see all the texture of the miniature New York and stop motion puppets in the claymation sequence in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. I’m surprised we get this so soon. They didn’t wait a whole year to cash in on Christmas sales. It’s a Christmas miracle. Honorable mention to Beavis and Butt-Head: Volume 4. The new animation pops in HD but they do reuse a lot of old standard def. clips.


Grossest of the Month – The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence

I didn’t do a side by side comparison of other releases but seeing the sandpaper, barbed wire and placenta in clear HD is too much. Just looking at Lawrence R. Harvey in HD is too much. It’s strikingly clear HD too, even in black and white. I know the B&W was a post effect so it’s really just HD, as clear as Tom Six intended.


Classic of the Month – The Apartment

Occasionally some light digital noise scatters about but mostly this is a sharp, crisp portrait of light and dark shapes. Plus it’s in 2.35:1 widescreen so that adds another level of beauty to the classic frames. You can see detail in the title apartment, which seems way too lavish for a New York office grunt, and the office is deep with rows of employees like no modern day company could afford to employ.


Restoration of the Month – All Quiet on the Western Front

The promised restoration earns its 100th anniversary (of Universal Studios) place. The picture totally preserves the look of a classic film. You’ll see some digital pixels but they’re working to simulate the original elements. A few light scratches preserve some authentic wear and tear, but a stunning clear picture and full of detail you’d never see on film or TV airings.


Most Long-Awaited of the Month – Annie Hall

Classic Woody Allen on Blu-ray finally. This film looks stunning in HD. You see some grain but it looks like a ‘70s film, and a crisp, sharp reproduction of one. There are some stunning clear shots of New York in there but any effect on the film is appreciable. The colors particularly pop, not in a modern pastel kind of way, but stand out in that unique ‘70s air of a color pallet.


Black and White of the Month – Manhattan

You see there’s a lot of competition from classic releases this month, but I’m going to give this to Manhattan. Woody Allen’s ode to New York offers the sharpest use of black and white, with the deepest black shadows of any of the above reviewed releases. The transfer flickers a little but usually stays pretty consistent and the shades hold throughout. 


TV Blu-ray of the Month – Nurse Jackie: Season Three

I’ve never seen a TV show look like this, even the best ones. Totally clear and crisp with no grain or noise. Maybe it’s the sterile hospital set that preserves this image but it’s perfect. Runner up could be Beavis and Butt-Head again. The new segments look great and the TV clips hold up well, though bumped down to standard. The bonus clips are full HD.


Foreign Blu-ray of the Month – Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

The cinematography of Brazil is captured in all its glory. You can really see the sweat of Rio de Janeiro, the colors and all the gritty detail even with fast moving cameras. Close runner up goes to Yakuza Weapon. Well Go does a fine job preserving Asian films in HD. Even with that green tint all Japanese films seem to have, it remains clear and detailed.


Indie of the Month – The Son of No One

Anchor Bay does fantastic transfers of their little films, and this Dito Montiel passion project looks like a studio blockbuster. And I saw this on film where it looked grainier than usual film, being a gritty indie and all. The HD transfer holds it together so it looks like a solid cop drama at home.


Travelogue of the Month – The Rum Diary

When they’re out on the beach or the coastline of Puerto Rico you get a totally clear picture. The stunning clarity accentuates the bright colors of the blue sky. The picture gets a bit grainy when they go indoors, but still looking like a high quality high definition film. Some digital noise creeps in at night or some of the dimmest nightclubs.


Cinematography of the Month – Tower Heist

No joke. Dante Spinotti can shoot New York City and it helps when the tower of the title is basically made out of gold. Lots of gold throughout the film and the crisp, clear transfer focuses on the shine reflecting off it. A rich man’s transfer of a rich man’s film.


Bad Transfer of the Month – Alfred Hitchcock

Unfortunately the trio of Hitchcock movies Fox just released are rough. Spellbound is the strongest but Rebecca starts to show a lot of digital noise and just plain fuzz. Then Notorious is just too light for a black and white film. You definitely see all the grain and there are more white spots in the picture. The short bonus feature on the restoration of Notorious would seem to indicate the original elements weren’t as strong. They did clean up some of the dirt but the overall picture isn’t noticeably improved. As bad Blu-rays go, these aren’t unacceptable. The good frames are still nice, but for A-list catalog titles they can do better.