By Eric Podolsky, 10/10/12
As the 3D Blu-ray market grows larger with every passing year, we’re finding it harder and harder to sift through the plethora of mediocre 3D films to find ones that are truly worthy of our home theater. It’s certainly true that there is a discrepancy between what constitutes a good film and a good 3D film -- eye-popping 3D visuals will often make up for the lack of a good plot when it comes to 3D Blu-rays. Conversely, while there are plenty of fantastic movies that have been released on 3D Blu-ray, most of the time 3D just doesn’t add much to the overall film experience, and you’d probably be better off just getting the 2D Blu-ray (see: every Pixar film).
With that in mind, here’s a list of some of AVS’ favorite 3D Blu-rays: these discs all boast breathtaking 3D effects that truly enhance the cinematic experience without feeling like an added, unneeded distraction to the story - the visuals serve and enhance the story properly, which is what 3D should do (though it fails in this much of the time). For succeeding in that goal, these films should all be worthy of a permanent place in your Blu-ray collection.
A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventure
This fun animated Belgium film is a 50 year story of a sea turtle, following the effects that global warming have on his life. Though it isn’t even currently available in the U.S., this film’s seriously popping 3D effects have garnered it enough attention on AVS Forum to make it the current reigning champion of 3D Blu-rays. Though the movie’s somewhat cheesy plot is aimed at kids, this its incredible depth and pop-out factor is arguably the most extreme of any 3D Blu-ray on the market, and certainly more extreme than any 3D film Hollywood has produced.
As AVS member buonforte says, “the movie takes place out of the screen and in your living room. Whatever method they used to achieve this doesn't matter to me, the results are stellar. A truly outstanding reference quality that has (at this point in time) no equal.” g_bartman added that “It did not cause any extreme eye fatigue; you could literally reach out and touch objects in some scenes.” If you’re looking for a definitive demo disc for your 3D system, Sammy’s Adventure is well worth the effort in tracking down an overseas copy -- its extreme effects are really that good.
At times, this admittedly silly, non-stop visual spectacle of a film feels more like a Disneyland ride than a movie, but that’s the whole point. Journey 2 (as well as the slightly lesser first film) was made to showcase the 3D format, and it unabashedly succeeds in this better than any film thus far. It’s true -- it would be utterly pointless to see this film in 2D, but in 3D, it shines like none other. Member TonyDP has no problem in getting behind some good, gimmicky entertainment every now and then: “Yes, the movie is dumb, goofy, improbable and often preposterous...But in terms of 3D it really doesn't get much better than this release. Depth into the screen is constant and always very strong...The movie peppers you with scene after scene of stuff popping out at you: berries bouncing off The Rock's pecs, giant bees, giant centipedes, electric eels, and an electrified spear that goes right thru your eye...
“The movie's cinematography also smartly manages extreme contrast ranges so you get a picture that is pretty much free of ghosting on any type of 3D display, no matter how old it is. The digital image is razor sharp, ultra colorful and perfectly clear (film grain fans need not bother with this one)...While ‘serious’ 3D movies like Avatar and Hugo are fine, every now and then you want to check your brain at the door and just spend 90 minutes ducking and weaving as stuff is virtually hurled at you. Journey 2 has that need covered, and for that reason alone should probably be checked out at least once by every 3D fan.” ‘Nuff said!
What can be said at this point about Avatar that hasn’t been said yet? This one’s clearly a no-brainer -- the film practically ushered in the new era of 3D cinema when it was released, and now that it is finally seeing a widespread 3D Blu-ray release on 10/16, anyone can experience James Cameron’s painstakingly rendered, immaculately gorgeous world of the Na’vi. Though the breathtaking 3D moments are too numerous to mention, my favorites have to be any scene with the dragon-like Toruks, and the glow-in-the-dark nighttime forest scenes. The detail and depth in every frame are a wonder to behold.
Though its 3D effects aren’t as in-your-face as other films, Hugo features maybe the best use of stunning 3D visuals to compliment its excellent story. 3D more often than not is used as an entertaining gimmick that’s inessential to the actual story, but Martin Scorsese’s tasteful use of 3D in Hugo brings it to life, driving the plot forward with its natural use of depth and movement. As the camera pans, swoops and glides around the turn-of-the-century train station, diving into the gears and sprockets of the station’s elaborate clock tower, it’s hard not to get lost in Scorsese’s beautiful mechanized world. alexuts2oo4 agrees: “I was really impressed...The 3D is very well used, the picture is very crisp, detail is amazing, colors are vibrant and the picture is bright. And there is little to no crosstalk...I'm very glad I purchased it, because now it's my favorite 3D live-action film, and the new demo for overall 3D quality.” Though this is a great film even in 2D, Hugo truly has to be seen in 3D to experience the full, deeply immersive effect that Scorsese has achieved.
Tangled is another film that succeeds on its own as a great 2D movie, but watch it in 3D, and you’ll be amazed at how much the story is enhanced by the added depth. Tangled is Disney’s first non-Pixar CGI film, and they definitely nailed it -- the film seamlessly combines the smoothness of traditional Disney animation with the immaculate detail of modern CGI. The animation is lush and fluid, and the 3D adds just enough realism to the story, keeping you mesmerised without being distracted. One notable 3D scene of remarkable beauty occurs when the characters are in a canoe on a lake, and glowing lanterns float into the night sky -- it’s gorgeous scenes like these that make a home 3D setup all worth it. nickels55 concurs: “Just watched Tangled 3D with the kids. WOW! That is some of the best use of 3D that I've seen on my set to date. The lantern scene towards the end should be the go-to scene in stores selling 3D equipment. Unreal depth and lots of pop-out.” This is one 3D Blu-ray kids and adults alike can get behind.
When it comes to 3D Blu-rays, Harold & Kumar is a definite sleeper. This raunchy comedy pulls no punches in using the 3D format to mess with the audience -- there are surprising, well-executed pop-outs at every turn, and though they are mostly gimmicks, the film is very entertaining as a result. Just listen to wnielsenbb: “I've found the ultimate live action 3D effect movie...Wow, that movie goes out of its way to throw stuff in your face. Well, and to offend everyone. If you aren't easily offended, it is a great demo. Actually, you don't have to be too easy to offend...H&K 3D is clearly the king of pop-out.”
This film’s off-the-wall antics (particularly Neil Patrick Harris’) combined with its blatant, unapologetic use of 3D put it near the top of its class when it comes to live-action 3D Blu-rays. But as bnr32jason mentions, it hasn’t really gotten much recognition: “Wow, I'm really surprised that more people aren’t raving about Harold & Kumar 3D. I've watched 30 or 40 3D Blu-ray movies now and this one is by far the best. Of course it's all subjective opinion, but I don't understand why more people aren't talking about this movie yet.” This may be because it’s a Christmas film -- perhaps it will get more traction this holiday season.
This underwater documentary boasts incredible 3D footage of sea creatures, and is narrated by Jim Carrey. What more could you want? There are many amazing IMAX documentaries that look incredible on 3D Blu-ray, but the consensus seems to be that Under the Sea is the best of them all. tonyjd40 backs this up: “The best 3D Blu-ray ever, and I have watched tons...When the eel is swimming slowly towards you, it really looks as if it is hovering right in front of you. I couldn’t believe how awesome that was...my daughter loved it. best 3D effect ever, no doubt!”
But the real reason for Under the Sea’s popularity has to be because of the most famous potato cod in history -- this big guy has been blowing everyone away with his show-stealing, extreme pop-out scene. avswilier describes it: “The single most incredible 3D effect has to be from Under the Sea, 21 minutes in...Heard a lot of talk about the potato cod...When you see it for yourself it's breathtaking...Absolutely convincing...I could not resist trying to touch it, it was sooooooo far out of the screen! Amazing!!!” Av8tr agrees: “Just another vote for IMAX Under the Sea and the potato cod. It was the first 3D movie I bought almost a year ago, and I have since been using it to show off the 3D to any visitors that come over.” The potato cod: helping home theater owners demo their 3D systems since 2010!