The Shelf Space Awards: October 2013
A lot of scary movies came out on Blu-ray this month for your potential Halloween movie marathons, and some that oddly won’t be out until November but I reviewed ‘em anyway. Plus all the usual new releases and classic titles gave me plenty of Shelf Space Awards to give. Any of the below movies would be worthy of space on your crowded Blu-ray shelves, in addition to the ones we review in full.
Franchise Fred Award
Of all the sequels released this year, who would have expected my favorite would be the talky arthouse indie romantic drama? Well, I would, dammit! You guys don’t know me at all.
Even though the dialogue is the centerpiece, Before Midnight looks damn fabulous on Blu-ray. The locations around Greece are picaresque in sharp detail and bright light, so that when you get locked in that hotel room with Jesse and Celine it’s all the more stark and brutal.
Pretty Scary Award
Pixar’s latest Blu-ray, the prequel Monsters University, maintains their high standards of animation excellence. The picture is not only flawless, but enhanced with all the background textures and bright colors of the world of Monsters. This movie has more green than we usually see, because about half the characters are green. The sequence at Scare Can Design School is a striking contrast but still a sight to behold. It should also be noted that the short The Blue Umbrella is stunning as well, with perfectly clear real world scenes (all animated, but comparable to live-action even in HD scrutiny) and bright, “cartoony” umbrellas.
Fistful of Blu-ray Award
I hadn’t seen High Plains Drifter in HD until this 40th anniversary edition. The film looks great, sharp and clear although you can see a bit of digital work holding the picture together. The menu scenes are in considerably higher quality.
If only they could have remastered the whole film the way they did the menus, but unless you’re looking for nitpicks, the film looks good.
The Good, The Bad and the Blu-ray Award
See what I did there? The video premiere Dead in Tombstone may not be an all time western classic, but it sure looks like a western on Blu-ray. Shot on modern day Red cameras, the western sets and landscapes are perfectly clear, and stark. This isn’t the old Hollywood pretty western, this is the gritty western that looks stinky. The grizzled antiheroes are rugged. The DTV nature of the film is only given away by the lack of extras in any backgrounds. It’s a bare bones production, but hey, this could be the western they shot after all the townies went to bed.
I loved the independent horror movie Resolution when I saw it at Screamfest last year, and I’m happy I can now own it in outstanding quality. What begins as a detox drama becomes a sort of reverse found footage movie, but we’re never in the point of view of the low quality camera. We only get sharp, bright images of the campsite where the detox is taking place.
Man, those Red cameras are good.
Disturbing Detail Award
The remake of Maniac hit Blu-ray this month and Blu-ray really feeds into the new film’s aesthetic.
Shot entirely from the first person point of view of the maniac (Elijah Wood), the clarity of Blu-ray makes his vision effectively ugly. When he kills, the gory details are palpable in the otherwise mundane frame.
Flow Like Water Award
Shout! Factory flowed like water and adjusted the transfers on the Bruce Lee Legacy Collection, so I will follow the footsteps of the master and re-award this Blu-ray collection too. The new transfers are a palpable improvement, sharper, clearer and just plain cleaner prints of the three revised films. Now the films look like you’re seeing Bruce Lee today.
Except for Game of Death. There’s no fixing that.
Family Values Award
Byzantium is about the sibling rivalry between two young vampire girls who’ve been living together for hundreds of years. We call them sisters but one is technically the mother, given how vampires are sired.
Anyway, Neil Jordan’s vampire film looks great throughout but has some especially striking HD images: Gemma Arterton bathing in blood cliffs, Gemma Arterton sprayed with the blood of her latest victim, and the costume drama flashbacks.
Lights Out Award
I popped in the horror movie Static, which I’d never seen before, just to check it out and I was impressed by its 2D Blu-ray (I don’t have 3D to check out the 3D version). The home invasion thriller is pretty much all at night, and the whole movie holds up under dark light, preserving the sharp detail of Blu-ray.
I can only imagine the slivers of dark detail you see in 3D.
Blu-ray can be a boon for films shot on location. See Before Midnight above. Perhaps even more exotic than walking around Greece is taking a trip into the deep jungle of Africa.
Oka! tells a true story of a New Jersey music researcher who traveled into Central Africa to record Bayaka Pygmy music. Now we get to go with him, and the clear HD images of Africa are exquisite. There are a few rough shots that haze up with digital noise, but the travelogue shots are all stunning.