Since the advent of high definition media, we as enthusiasts have strived to seek out the titles that would satisfy our insatiable thirst for the type of high quality presentations that give us that special thrill when we see them on our displays at home. As a writer that covers Blu-ray disc releases, I am fortunate in that a large number of movies pass through my players. You would think that having written over a thousand reviews that my thirst for the next thrilling high definition presentation would be diminished. Well, like most of you reading this, it isn’t. When I pop in a Blu-ray disc that sparkles with enriching clarity, vivid, lifelike color and definitively resolvable shadows that are emboldened by inky blacks and stable contrast I still get a little giddy. With that in mind, I decided to offer those who might be looking for a few titles to bring out the best in their displays some recommended Blu-ray titles that I have found to be exceptional at eliciting that “wow” factor. This following list consists of live action films and isn’t meant to be a “top” twenty compilation -- these titles got high marks from me for video quality when I reviewed them, however there are many on the list that scored pretty well on the audio front too. I have included a few comments from my reviews for frame of reference. If you want to read my full reviews, simply click on the film title.
This is a stellar high definition presentation that boasts rich, delineated primary colors, beautifully lush pastels and vibrant hues that are vivid, bold and striking in high definition. The video quality is nothing short of mesmerizing in its depiction of the film’s digitally crafted images. Objects onscreen are exquisitely detailed with a luminous and sparkling clarity that seems infinitely lucid and three dimensional.
I was always impressed with the video quality of Sin City on DVD, but the high definition presentation on Blu-ray is breathtaking. Black and white levels hold dominion over the visual aura, as each offers quality that enhances depth. Blacks are inky and dynamic while contrast is steadfast, boldly applied and stark. Shadows are deep and incredibly dimensional, which enhances the superb visual design’s use of uneven lighting, intentionally blown out whites and splashes of rich vibrant color that look succulent in HD.
Video presentation is an important component in the telling of this wonderful story. A variety of colors are effectively used to help set the tone/setting based upon the mood of the scene and characters within it. The cinematography is beautiful. Images are crisp with well balanced color and definitive resolution that provide a transparent and lustrous quality.
Battle Los Angeles
This is a reference-quality video presentation from Sony that looks superb. Images are visually arresting and have a rich dynamic quality that highlights the film's near flawless rendering of detail. The video has a three dimensional and razor sharp clarity that never left me wanting.
This is a superb looking high quality Blu-ray offering from Universal that appears faithful to the film’s theatrical presentation. Colors are lavish and eye popping with oversaturated primaries and warm tonality that make them pleasing. Flesh tones are natural with appreciable delineation among the varied complexional types in the cast. Strong contrast and consistent black levels provide excellent balance during bright scenes containing mixed content.
Hugo is a stellar high definition presentation that boasts rich primary colors, beautifully lush pastels, and vibrant hues that are vivid, bold, and striking in high definition. The attention to detail in the construction of train stations, clocks, and Paris is truly impressive and can be fully appreciated thanks to the video’s exquisite level of delineation.
Tron Legacy's wide angle 1.78:1 shots of the multifaceted digital realm look stunning. Depth of field in the darkened environs with the defining element being the streams of outlining light makes for an enriching contrast that bolsters dimension. It's as visually impressive as the original was in its time.
The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan's nighttime cityscapes look breathtaking. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally-depicted so that the long drawn skyline and buildings have seemingly infinite depth. Shadow detail is also as good as I have seen. Images are sharp with exquisite definition and bold contrast.
The Sound of Music
This is a flawless and film-like video presentation that delivers exquisite high level detail and rich, deep, image penetrating colors that look gorgeous in high definition. The video has incredible depth and dimension that is rarely limited by the camera’s perspective. The level of resolution present produces imagery that in many cases has a near infinite visual acuity that draws out the finest details in close ups while enhancing the delineation and textural nuance within objects and backgrounds.
The Book of Eli
The Book of Eli utilizes a permeating stylized visual aesthetic that accentuates the storyline. I find the deep, gradational grays, rich contrast, and intriguing use of color enamoring.
I love The Fall. Its two-tiered narrative is presented via distinctly different visuals. In the “fantasy” worlds, bolder use of contrast and bright vivid colors help to propel images to an elevated level of vibrancy and a three dimensional quality. Images are impeccably detailed with fine articulation and visual acuity that seems infinite when looking at long panning shots.
Transformers Dark of the Moon
Say what you will about the film itself, this is reference-quality video presentation that simply looks stunning. Detail perception is nearly flawless, primary colors are striking, blacks are deep and rich, with extended dynamic range, and bold use of contrast enlivens colors without compromise to fidelity.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The wide angle shots of the various geographical locations look marvelous. Close-ups reveal high levels of detail that allow the pores, stubble, peach fuzzy hair, and subtle variations in the complexions of the cast to be quite perceivable. Black levels and contrast are excellent and visible detail within dark backgrounds and shadows are equally as strong. The video has a gratifying and pristine quality.
The Tree of Life
At times, I found the visuals to be breathtaking here. The Tree of Life utilizes a reserved chromatic palate that sets the thematic tone for the 1950’s era familial drama. Clothing, interior design, etc. are kept within the scope of the time frame, which means lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks. Such isn’t the case when director Malick takes us on a journey of the boundless musings of his vision of earth and beyond. The nature-defined colors look terrific as the deep, vivid, reds, succulent blues, and resplendent earth-toned hues leap from the 1.85:1 framed video. The digitally created images of space boast a resplendent array of brilliant color with deep, image-penetrating blacks and spot-on contrast.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop
The video is razor sharp with a slightly edgy but otherwise pristine quality. Detail rendering is nearly flawless with lucid visual acuity and fine articulation that brings forth lots of subtle detail in the images onscreen. The presentation has a filmic quality that mates perfectly with the thematic tone of the story.
First and foremost, this is a dark film (as it should be), and Inception's ability to clearly render its elements under those conditions is essential to getting the most out of it. Well, you can be rest assured that this Blu-ray disc delivers some of the richest, deepest, and velvety-textured blacks that I have seen. The sequences featuring the various city and snow-covered landscapes look superb. Images are gradationally adept and three dimensionally-depicted so that wide angle perspectives, unevenly lit interiors, and shadow-laden environs have a seemingly infinite level of depth.
Lord of the Rings Extended Edition
Across the board, these three epic films share a commonality in that the nature of the photography isn’t lent to high gloss imagery and razor sharpness -- however, there is an enriching and film-like quality that abounds. High definition’s increased resolution is readily apparent, as textural nuance and subtle refinement is apparent, especially during close-ups. Wide angle vista views tend to look gorgeous as the color range is comprised of earth tones, shades of dark blue, brown, gray and black with splashes of crimson red and green/blue hues.
The Star Wars Saga
One of the most (if not THE most) anticipated Blu-ray releases to date, the epic six part saga has never looked better since coming to home video. This just needs to be seen in HD.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Shot digitally, this film looks superb on Blu-ray and features glossy high definition video quality that exhibits high level detail, razor sharpness, and exquisite definition that brings out the lifelike textures captured by the camera’s lens. Dimensional perspective has a near infinite appeal here.
Another stylized and purposeful visual treat, The Immortals rewards with deep inky blacks, spot on contrast, intriguing use of color and excellent high definition resolution.
Now Let's Hear Yours
There you have it -- 20 Blu-ray discs that come highly recommended for your HD display. But this list is by no means supposed to be definitive. I'd love to hear from you what you consider are great showpieces. Please post some suggestions in the comments below, or feel free to create your own list on AVS!
Ralph Potts has been a member of AVS for ten years and has been reviewing audio/video hardware and digital home media for even longer. He has been AVS’ official Blu-ray reviewer for the last four years and has provided over nine hundred Blu-ray reviews for the AVS Community. You can follow Ralph along with AVS’ other official Blu-ray reviewer Lee Weber at AVS' Official Blu-ray Disc Review Forum. Click Here..
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