In looking back over this year’s Blu-ray releases I would say that 2012 had its share of noteworthy offerings. This includes new films coming to the format as well as catalog titles several of which have received re-mastered video with impressive results. While the year isn’t quite over I wanted to take a look at 25 Blu-ray releases that I found to be special. This isn’t limited solely to discs that received reference marks from me for audio/video although there are many.
I have included the Final Thoughts portion from my review of each along with a link to the review that can be accessed by clicking on the title.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the fourth installment in the popular film series that stars Tom Cruise as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt. As a fan I looked forward to seeing it and am happy to report that it’s an excellent addition not only to the franchise but the genre as well. It’s edgy, fun and contains a couple of defining set pieces that enhance the thrill factor quite nicely. Speaking of thrilling, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol comes to Blu-ray via a solid offering from Paramount Home Entertainment that features reference quality high definition video, rip roaring 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD lossless surround sound and a decent assortment of bonus supplements that look behind the scenes at the making of the film. I had a great time with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol which makes for rewarding popcorn entertainment that comes highly recommended. Enjoy!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a film adaptation of the book by Stieg Larsson. It is a thoroughly engaging albeit dark film that runs the gamut as it takes us on a captivating psychological thrill ride while introducing one of the most intriguing female characters ever. Alongside David Fincher's masterful direction is a terrific cast lead by the superb performance by Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara in the title role. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring excellent high definition video, rewarding lossless sound and four hours of supplemental material that include interviews of the cast/crew, and an in-depth look behind the scenes at the production. The girl with the dragon tattoo is a must see and comes highly recommended.
A Separation comes from the mind of writer/director Asghar Farhadi and is a superbly crafted dramatic film that speaks to the human condition via a densely drawn landscape with morally provocative questions and emotive familial themes that beat to a culturally different but universal drum. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring gratifying high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and insightful supplemental material. I thoroughly enjoyed A separation and give it my highest recommendation.
Cinderella is among the beloved of the Disney Classic animated feature films. Seeing it again after so many years brought back fond childhood memories. Kudos to Disney on a spectacular Blu-ray Disc offering that presents this wonderful family film looking and sounding better than ever. Its complimentary set of bonus materials includes exclusive Blu-ray and interactive features that present fans with a great way to enhance the high definition experience while taking a peek behind the curtain to learn some interesting background on the film. This excellent Blu-ray release will make for a welcomed addition to your Disney Collection and comes highly recommended.
Any expectations that I had for The Avengers were easily met thanks to solid casting, apt writing/direction and big budget production values that added up to the most exciting film experience of the year. This review marked the third time I have seen it and it hasn’t lost any of its luster. It thunders onto Blu-ray in a four disc set that includes 3D/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy (the subject of this review) and a standard Blu-ray/DVD combo set. It features resplendent high definition video quality and bombastic 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio sound. I wasn’t blown away by the 3D presentation but it has its share of involving moments that effectively draws you into the action, especially during the last 45 minutes of the film. The supplemental offering isn’t comprehensive but offers a good mix of content that is worth exploring. If you’re set up for 3D that is the way to go but you can’t miss with either version as this is a must own Blu-ray release that will thrill fans and enthusiasts. Enjoy!
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, The Descendants is moving, funny, wonderfully enacted/directed and simply one of the best films of 2011. It makes its way onto Blu-ray in a solid offering from 20th Century Fox that features excellent high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound quality and a complimentary assortment of bonus features. This one comes highly recommended. Enjoy!
Madagascar 3: Europe’s most wanted is a fun family movie that is reminiscent of the original and rejoins the audience with these lovable characters as well as a few new ones that are sure to bring a smile to your face. Paramount and DreamWorks has brought it to Blu-ray Disc in this three disc package that boasts exemplary high definition audio/video and an entertaining 3D presentation that enhances the experience. Add to that a complimentary assortment of bonus supplements including Blu-ray Disc exclusives and you have a rewarding offering that the whole family can enjoy.
For me Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a timeless, superbly quotable and classic comedy that finds the zany British troupe at the top of the game. It makes its debut on Blu-ray Disc from Sony in an excellent package that features faithful high definition video, complimentary lossless sound and a strong supplemental offering that includes Blu-ray exclusives as well previously released extras. If you're a fan this is a must have plain and simple.
Indiana Jones needs little introduction and has thrilled fans the world over since his introduction in 1981. The creative collaboration of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas treated us to a swashbuckling action/adventure hero that entertained a new generation. There have been varying degrees of devotion to each installment with everyone (including this humble writer) agreeing that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the series crowing achievement. No matter which is your favorite there is no question that we have all impatiently waited for the Indiana Jones films to come to Blu-ray. They have arrived and there's no question that they have never looked better on home video.
I am a bit disappointed in the video quality of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Director Steven Spielberg oversaw its restoration so I guess we will have to assume that what we see is what he intended. I am not sure if that will be consolation to those hoping for reference quality video but truth be told it still looks very good in high definition. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio surround mixes compliment each film with John Williams’ memorable music featured center stage. Paramount has included a great supplemental offering including two brand new behind the scenes documentaries for Raiders. I am thrilled to add Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures to my Blu-ray library and while I’m sure most of you have already it preordered I’ll say it anyway, it comes highly recommended.
Winner of the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Drama Homeland is an engaging, character driven TV drama that features excellent writing that revolves around a post 9/11 narrative that takes audiences on a tautly paced and provocative trip down the rabbit hole. It makes its way to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox via a satisfying offering that features rewarding high definition video quality, crystal clear lossless sound and a middling supplemental package. If you’re a fan or are looking for a worthwhile TV series to check out on Blu-ray Homeland – season one deserves a look.
Prometheus isn’t perfect but it strives to be and is more than the total sum of its parts. Ridley Scott’s vision brought to life is grandiose, engaging and in tune with the quintessence of what made Alien special. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in this spectacular 4 disc package that features superlative 3D video, reference quality 7.1 channel lossless sound and a comprehensive supplemental offering that takes viewers deep inside the world of Prometheus. Prometheus is highly recommended viewing and this terrific Blu-ray release is just the ticket. Enjoy!
Director/co-writer Wes Anderson paints an unconventional and rewardingly quirky portrait of young love in this charming, funny and whimsical comedy/romance. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are terrific as the devoted young lovers and are favorably supported by an excellent cast headed by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment featuring satisfying and faithful high definition video, crystal clear DTS-HD Master Audio sound and a sparse supplemental offering that provides only a glimpse behind the scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom and highly recommend that you check it out on Blu-ray.
Jaws is one of the most popular films of all time and is a classic piece of American Cinema that is beloved by people the world over. This highly anticipated Blu-ray release is a rewarding achievement that revitalizes the film’s original elements. The restored high definition video presents this film in a new light and the lossless 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix aggrandizes the soundtrack without ostentatious display. The assortment of bonus supplements includes Blu-ray Exclusive content, cast/crew interviews, behind the scenes footage and more. Jaws is a cinematic gem and a personal favorite that has finally come to Blu-ray. I am happy to report that Universal Studios has gone the extra mile to provide fans with the opportunity to experience it looking and sounding better than ever. This is a must have Blu-ray offering plain and simple.
Based on the book “The invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, Hugo is a grandiose and rewarding cinematic gem that has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It doesn’t ask but that you sit back, take it in and try to see it in the spirit from which it is intended. Martin Scorsese is such a master craftsman. Hugo comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment in this Limited Edition 3D offering that features superlative high definition audio/video including one of the more entertaining 3D presentations I have seen. The supplemental package isn’t an abundant one however what’s there is well worth watching. Hugo is also available in a two disc standard Blu-ray version for those who aren’t 3D ready. Either way you’re in for a treat.
Singin’ in the Rain is a charming, funny and endearing musical with a contemporary flavor that hasn’t lost its luster 60 years after its release. It makes its Blu-ray debut from Warner Home Video featuring beautifully restored high definition video that is sure to please even discerning videophiles. Fans have a choice of either the 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo release or this 3 Disc 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition that comes housed in an attractive, sturdy, embossed cardboard case with fitted velvet inserts to hold the contents which include a 48-page hard cover book, reproductions of the original theatrical posters from the film’s premier and a full-size commemorative umbrella. Either way you can’t go wrong with this highly recommended and classic film that has found a home in my Blu-ray library.
The War is a seven episode series, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, that examines the myriad of ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America. By telling the stories of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns - Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minnesota - the series portrays this enormous worldwide catastrophe on an intimate, human scale.
This is a powerful, moving and compelling documentary film that astonished me, saddened me, angered me, and made me proud to be an American. The War comes to Blu-ray Disc in this six disc offering that features satisfying high definition video quality, involving lossy surround sound and nearly two hours of bonus material. No matter what you think you know about World War II seeing The War offers a perspective that is sure to enlighten. PBS is offering repeat airings of The War on May 20th and May 27th. If you haven't already seen it, it's well worth your time. For those that would like to own it this Blu-ray offering from Paramount Home Entertainment is the ticket.
Winner of 11 Academy Awards Titanic is a sweeping and memorable epic film that remains among my personal favorites. It makes its debut on Blu-ray in this four disc offering that includes resplendent 3D/2D high definition video, terrific 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound and a comprehensive assortment of bonus supplements that presents fans with an in-depth look behind the scenes and beyond. In addition to this release Titanic is available in a four disc Blu-ray release that contains the 2D version, DVD (parts 1&2), and the separate bonus material disc. Unless you want the DVD or definitively never plan to go the 3D route my recommendation would be to get this release. If you don’t currently have a3D capable system you’ll have the film in 3D should you upgrade in the future. This outstanding Blu-ray package from Paramount Home Entertainment gets my highest recommendation.
Empire of the Sun is based on the autobiographical novel by J.G Ballard. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and is a gripping and emotive coming of age story about the loss of innocence. It is among my favorite films from the nineteen eighties and I am thrilled that it has finally come to high definition. Its debut on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video is a good one that features beautifully restored video, gratifying lossless sound quality, a limited but worthwhile supplemental package and Digibook packaging. This release is a must have for fans and well worth considering for those experiencing Empire of the sun for the first time.
Alfred Hitchcock’s films are timeless. He knows how to tell a story, how to lure the audience in and exactly when to lower the boom. His films aren’t just driven by suspense but are alluring from careful examination of the characters and how they fit into the narrative like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. This 15 disc collection 13 of which are making their high definition debut on Blu-ray, represent some of the finest works from the universally acclaimed Master of Suspense. These captivating landmark films are some the genre's most enduring and spine-tingling classics.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection comes to Blu-ray featuring excellent overall video quality that in all but a few cases appears faithful to the original source, and crystal clear lossless sound. The supplemental package is hit or miss with the more well known films getting the gravy. Regardless this is solid offering from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. I am thrilled to add it to my collection and it comes recommended for fans and film enthusiasts alike.
I liked Brave. It’s not quite as evocative and endearing as some of the more popular films to come from Pixar but it is entertaining and fun just the same. Speaking of entertaining and fun, Brave represents one of the finest animated high definition presentations I have seen on Blu-ray. This is true of both the 3D and 2D experiences. Couple that with reference quality Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless surround sound and a boatload of bonus material and this is a highly recommended and must have release for Pixar fans.
American Horror Story is a compelling, well written and envelope pushing TV Horror/Drama that works on a variety of levels. It successfully ties together a series of storylines that delve deep into the rabbit hole that the Harmon family has fallen into. It makes its way to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox featuring excellent high definition video quality, rewarding lossless sound and a complimentary assortment of bonus supplements that looks behind the scenes while offering insights from the cast/crew. I watched all twelve season one episodes with my wife. We are hooked and eagerly look forward to the premiere of season two on October 17th. If you enjoy a spooky good time, check out American Horror Story on Blu-ray.
For Disney/Pixar fans Finding Nemo is among the most anticipated Blu-ray Disc releases to date. It is a marvelous family film that has an endearing charm and entertaining story that people of all ages can appreciate. I was excited to learn that its high definition debut would include 3D as well as 2D versions. Going into this review of its 3D converted video I kept my expectations in check but am happy to report that the experience was not only excellent but enhanced my enjoyment of the film.
In addition its 2D high definition audio/video are reference quality which fall in line with the type of technically proficient Blu-ray offerings we have come to expect from Disney. This five disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition includes new bonus supplements as well as previously released extras. The new features are worth exploring and contain interactive content along with new insights from the filmmakers. If you have a 3D capable setup this release is a no brainer. If not the standard 2D Blu-ray version is another option. Either way if you’re a Finding Nemo fan, pick it up on Blu-ray.
Based on the novel “The 13 Flowers of War” by Yan Geling, The Flowers of War is a compelling, sometimes disturbing and evocative drama that speaks to the human condition in its portrayal of how people even under the direst of circumstance can rise to the occasion. While it isn’t a perfect film I was drawn in by the engaging nature of the story, strong performances by the young cast, and the excellent production elements. It debuts on Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring rewarding high definition video, superlative 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio sound and a complimentary supplemental package that takes a peek behind the curtain at the making of the film. The Flowers of war is recommended viewing that belongs at the top of your rental queue.
Based on the destructive Hatfield and McCoy feud, Hatfields and McCoys is a gritty, disturbing and powerful miniseries that viscerally portrays the bitter struggle that ensued between these families and the devastation left in its wake. I found it to be an earthy, elucidating and compelling drama that features excellent performances and complimentary direction/production elements. It comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home entertainment featuring exemplary high definition audio/video and a disappointing supplemental offering that consists of a bland making of documentary and music video. This is a poignant and engaging film experience that comes highly recommended.
Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture (1962), Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean’s sweeping and memorable epic is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. Its widely anticipated release in high definition has arrived and the results are spectacular. In honor of its 50th anniversary Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has delivered a faithful and beautiful video restoration on Blu-ray that is accented by an equally wonderful lossless soundtrack. Couple that with a complimentary assortment of bonus features and you have a superb home video offering befitting of the film’s status. This is highly recommended and a must have for fans and film enthusiasts.
The Dark Knight Rises is a grandiose and epic style action film that strikes the genre chords with aplomb. On its own it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it is a solidified and ultimately fitting finale to one of the best movie franchises ever. As one of the year’s most anticipated Blu-ray releases I am pleased to report that the wait was well worth it. This is a terrific offering from Warner Home Video that boasts superlative DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound, reference quality high definition video and a worthy supplemental package that explores the making of the film and its ties to the Batman lore. This is a must have Blu-ray release plain and simple.
Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to review this terrific set I have received numerous queries regarding its absence on this list. Therefore in light of the support it has received from our membership I have added it and thank those that felt it worthy enough to contact me.
There you have it – My picks for this year’s best Blu-ray releases. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well as your own 2012 picks. Stay tuned, in January as we will select our choice for Blu-ray release of the year.
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 a thousand Blu-ray reviews for the AVS Community. You can follow Ralph along with AVS’ other official Blu-ray reviewer Lee Weber HERE).