As we approach the heart of the 2015 holiday-shopping season, the AVS editorial staff will be posting several gift guides in which we identify the products that most impressed us this year. In preparation for my annual article on the best Blu-ray releases of the year, I am assembling my picks for this year's standouts. As a precursor to that, I have put together some great looking and sounding Blu-ray titles that make great stocking stuffers. They are separated into four categories below, although they all share similar quality in other categories.
: This film looks superb on Blu-ray and features exceptional video quality that exhibits high levels of detail, razor sharpness, and exquisite definition that brings out lifelike textures captured by the camera's lens.
Kingsmen: The Secret Service
: The video has incredible depth and dimension that is rarely limited by the camera's perspective.
: Detail rendering is nearly flawless with lucid visual acuity and fine articulation that brings forth lots of subtle detail in the images.
: Low frequency effects are applied with authority and occasionally provide room-shuddering bass capable of potent impact.
: This is an active audio presentation that utilizes the entire system to create a theater-like experience.
: This 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is aggressive and features an active surround mix that has extended dynamic range, which superbly renders the bombastic nature of the elements in the recording.
Mad Max: Fury Road
: The extended chase and race sequences during the first and third acts contain a host of swirling effects, explosions, nearfield pans, weapons fire, and ambience that rotate around the soundstage, shifting overhead, passing by at ear level and coming directly at the listening position.
: There is a sequence during the third act in a crumbling building that is filling with water as debris rains down from above and crashes to the floor. At one point, I actually turned and looked over my shoulder fully expecting to see a chunk of my drywall on the floor behind my seat.
Gravity Diamond Luxe Edition
: The Atmos mix compliments the already top-notch soundtrack and enhances the experience of watching the film at nearly every level.
The Book of Life
: This is a beautifully crafted digital movie that looks amazing in high definition. From start to finish, this presentation is nothing short of mesmerizing in its depiction of the animated images. The engaging audio presentation mates perfectly with the video and source material, and the combination makes for a terrific home-theater experience that is best described as marvelous.
: The video quality is visually arresting in its depiction of the movie's animated subjects. It features a myriad of interplay as the perspective switches between what Riley hears and sees to what Joy and company hear and see through Riley. This is done to excellent effect as voices and effects rotate around the soundstage in perfect synchrony with the onscreen events.
Aladdin Diamond Edition
: The images have excellent visual depth with deep, rich color fidelity and stable contrast that enhances dimension. This is an engaging presentation that features high-level detail in a resplendent blend of dialog, sound effects, bass, and music, with discretely placed effects and atmospherics that utilize the entire sound field.
I hope these recommendations help you make great choices for gifts this holiday-shopping season.