Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sean’s Top Ten Blu-rays of 2011 / Gift Guide

While I posted this last December on Why So Blu, I forgot to post it here so even though it's a couple of months past, these are still my picks for 2011 and you should pick them up if you haven't already!  Making a Top Ten list of Blu-rays is always a difficult thing for me to do.  The fact that there’s so many excellent releases that I haven’t seen yet just makes it even harder because I know a lot of them would be on my list.  So I’ve decided to make a list of the Top 10 Blu-rays that I’ve seen and most likely reviewed, and another list of Blu-rays that I would have included on this list if I had seen them.

For my top ten I’ve decided to rate them based on a variety of reasons including: my affection for them, their audio/video quality, and what kind of special features were offered.  This year, since all of the movies on my list are fairly equal when all of the factors are added up, it came down to simply which movies that I love and will watch the most, which resulted in the following list which would make excellent holiday gifts:

10. Tron Legacy - Both TRON movies used cutting edge special effects to tell a real human story about technology and its place in our lives.  Kevin Flynn focused so much on his electronic world that he ended up trapped within it.  These movies serve as a cautionary tale but also work purely as entertainment.  Disney has once again released an incredible set with perfect picture and sound and fully restored TRON to the glory it deserved.  With every 3D release by them I wonder if that title will be the one to tip the scales enough to encourage people to buy a 3D TV and this one is no different.  If you are looking for an immersive experience, then this is the movie for you.  I highly recommend this set!  End of line.  Read my Blu-ray review here.  You can purchase it here.

9.  Buster Keaton – The Short Films Collection 1920-1923 - Authorized by the Buster Keaton estate and mastered in HD from 35mm archival film elements, The Short Films Collection gathers all of Keaton’s solo silent comedies in one monumental three-disc set.  Widely considered to be among Keaton’s finest work, the nineteen two-reel shorts are loaded with laughs, punctuated by breath-taking stunts, and bursting with raw creativity.  Over the course of this three-year period, Keaton evolved from a successful slapstick comedian into one of cinema’s most inventive visual stylists, and became an enduring icon of American popular culture and my favorite silent comedian.  (See my Blu-ray review here).  You can purchase it here.

8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection - I’m a huge fan of this series, especially of Basil Rathbone’s performance as Sherlock Holmes.  He was perfectly suited to the role and despite my unhappiness with the way Dr. Watson was portrayed by Nigel Bruce, they both had great chemistry together.  It’s just unfortunate that they made Watson such a bumbling old coot.   In any case, this set is a must own for any Sherlock Holmes fan!  These movies will never look or sound better than this so I highly recommend this purchase which you will not regret! It’s elementary! (See my Blu-ray review here).  You can purchase it here.

7. Band of Brothers/The Pacific Special Edition Gift Set - Considered two of the finest depictions of the sweeping panorama of World War II, the HBO Miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific are being offered, for the first time, in one ultimate collector’s edition – just in time for holiday gift giving.  Band of Brothers / The Pacific Special Edition Gift Setis now available in this all-new premium packaging that includes both ten-episode miniseries, all the special features from previous editions, plus the exclusive never-before-seen documentary He Has Seen War featuring surviving veterans of Easy Company and the 1st Marine Division, whose stories are told in Band of Brothers and The Pacific.  (See my Blu-ray review here).  You can purchase it here.

6.  Thor – I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this movie since this was one of the few superhero comics that I didn’t read growing up and the whole idea of bringing in magic into the Marvel universe seemed pretty risky.  But then I started hearing some reassuring news – Kenneth Branagh was going to direct it and Chris Hemsworth who was so good in his brief role as James T. Kirk’s father in Star Trek was going to play the Norse God.  All of my fears were settled once I finally saw the movie and really enjoyed it.  Branagh found the perfect balance and tone for the movie and other than a rushed ending, it turned out great.  The Blu-ray was also a nice surprise with  a very nice picture and an audio mix that brings the thunder!  Read our Blu-ray review here.  You can purchase it here.

5.  Captain America - I was excited to see this and was very happy to be a part of the world premiere audience with Chris Evans introducing the film, along with my fellow reviewer Aaron during Comic-Con.  While my seat placement sucked and I didn’t get a free shirt or the Mondo poster, it was still a lot fun.  I don’t think any other movie has divided the Why So Blu staff more than this one since Aaron and I thought it was a lot of fun, while Brian and Gerard hated it.  Thanks to where I was sitting and because it was in 3D, the actors looked like cucumbers so I’m very happy to finally have this on Blu-ray so I can enjoy this movie properly!  Even though Chris Evans is Johnny Storm, he’s a great choice to play Captain America even though I still think that Ryan McPartlin from “Chuck” would have been the perfect choice.  I also loved seeing the movie’s version of Cap’s classic uniform in this movie, which I think looks a lot better that the Ultimate version in the upcoming Avengers.  You can read our Blu-ray review here.  You can purchase it here.
4.  Toy Story 2 - This is my favorite Toy Story movie so I am little biased in favor of it.  It’s full of action, adventure, humor, and a cold dose of reality that makes the sweeter stuff even sweeter.  The cast does another incredible job in their roles and combined with a fantastic script and direction, this movie really couldn’t lose.  Now that this has been packaged with a new 3D transfer that looks and sounds perfect, this movie is even better and can safely be categorized as a must own title.  Pick this movie up and you won’t be disappointed!  (See my Blu-ray review here).  You can purchase it here.

3.  The Incredibles - For a movie based in such a fantastic superhero environment as this, it was a smart move to make it as grounded as possible with a realistic family dynamic. They may be superheroes but they have the same worries, fights, issues, and loves as the rest of us.  For a family movie from Pixar, there’s a lot of adult themes included in this movie which adds another layer of enjoyment for parents to appreciate while their kids just enjoy the action and humor.  This stellar set offers brilliant video and audio quality and the extensive special features will keep you happy and busy for a long time.  This is a fantastic movie that the whole family will love! (See my Blu-ray review here).  You can purchase it here.

2.  The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Set - There are many reasons why I love this trilogy, but one of them is the attention to detail and the little character touches like Aragorn wearing Baromir’s wrist guards to honor him.  Knowing Aragorn’s resistance to lead his people, the simple fact of him doing that and later wearing the full armor of his kingdom makes me happy.  I also loved the progression of the character’s relationships and it adds quite a bit emotional depth to the end of the movie.  Whether it’s Legolas and Gimli’s goodbyes to each other in the face of certain defeat, or Sam carrying Frodo up Mt. Doom after Frodo cannot go any further, or Gandalf trying to ease Pippen’s fears about dying,  all of them were performed masterfully by the cast and made even more touching by the history we’ve had with the characters.  Make sure you pick up the Extended Edition Box Set since not only are those versions better, but their audio, video, and extras are considerably better than the theatrical editions.  Read my Blu-ray reviews of theatrical versions of The Fellowship of the Ring hereThe Two Towers here, and The Return of the King here.  As a bonus, you can find the trailer for the next amazing journey called The Hobbit right here.  You can purchase the extended set here.

1.  Star Wars: The Complete Saga – My all-encompassing love for the Star Wars universe is well known so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is #1 on my list.  Not only is the greatest franchise finally on Blu-ray, but it was done well especially with Episodes III-VI (Revenge of the Sith thru Return of the Jedi).  I’m one of those people that has bought every single release of these films through time, starting with Beta, VHS, LaserDisc, more VHS releases, the first DVD release, the second DVD release (for the bonus original cut of the movies), and now this.  I know for a fact that there will be another Blu-ray release down the road for the 3D versions and I will be ready with my wallet in hand.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved these movies and they mean a lot to me.  The scores by John Williams are incredible, the movies introduced me to my still favorite actor Harrison Ford, and George Lucas kick-started my imagination.  While I didn’t like everything about the prequels, I still enjoyed them (see my thoughts here), but nothing can touch the original trilogy especially The Empire Strikes Back which is tied for my favorite movie of all time with Raiders of the Lost Ark.  These Blu-rays look and sound amazing, especially the reference quality surround mix.  Add in the deleted scenes from every movie we’ve waited forever to see and a bunch of other goodies and you have yourself the best Blu-ray release of 2011!  I highly recommend that you buy this set right away if you haven’t already.  You can purchase it here.
Here is more of my choices that I wish could have been in my top ten.  If you’d like to purchase any of them, feel free to click on their title.
Movies that probably would have made it on my list if I had seen the Blu-rays: The Jurassic Park Trilogy,  Citizen KaneRise of the Planet of the Apes, pretty much any Criterion Collection movie, and West Side Story.

If you’d like to purchase any of my Top Ten movies please click on the links below!

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