Monday, December 28, 2009

Sir Critic converts to Blu-Ray - partly

Regular readers of mine will know I have expressed considerable doubts about the longevity and viability of Blu-Ray. Only a month or so ago, I was railing against Disney/Pixar for including so many extras on the Blu-Ray and so few on the DVD.

Well, now I find myself in the curious position of owning Up on Blu-Ray - and, so it must follow, owning a Blu-Ray player. (You can never own too many copies of a movie that good).

What made me change my mind? Christmas. Or, more specifically, my mom. When I made my initial list, I apparently didn't check it twice because my mom asked me if I wanted any "big ticket" items. "No electronics? Blu-Ray player?" she asked.

And I thought, "Well, why the hell not?" At the very least, it would be a way for me to know what I was criticizing RE: Blu-Ray, and I could finally get some of those Pixar extras I had been sorely missing. I selected the LG BD370, because it got really good reviews, was very reasonably priced, and could connect to the Internet so I could stream Netflix movies to my TV. Very handy feature, that.

I also received the following Blu-Ray titles: District 9, Star Trek (2009), Enchanted, Cars, Ratatouille, and Up. You may notice those are all the Pixar titles of the Blu-Ray age, save WALL-E. That DVD was pretty well stocked with extras, unlike the DVDs for the other movies. I'll be renting that Blu-Ray from Netflix to see if the Blu-Ray-exclusive  extras are worth the coin.)

So am I now convinced that Blu-Ray is the wave of the future, and can my friends look forward to me giving away my old DVDs as I replace them with Blu-Rays?

No, and for the most part, no. When I do end up with duplicates I will approach potentially interested parties and let them know. ;)

There is no doubt Blu-Rays look and sound better than DVD. A lot of people talk about the improved picture, but I find the audio to be punchier as well. Even so, my impression is that you can't truly appreciate the difference unless you have a super-duper home theater setup. Mine is merely super. I have not yet added the duper part of getting a flat-screen 16:9 TV, although I hope to do so before 2010 is out. For now, I DO have an HDTV, but it's a 4:3 CRT model with a 27-inch screen. Not exactly breathtaking CinemaScope, but it'll do while I scrimp and save.

However, am I now convinced that Blu-Rays are a worthwhile buy if you're a movie nut?


The extras on Blu-Ray are simply too cool for me to resist. The way they're laid out on the Pixar DVDs is especially cool. They use what the call the Cine-Explore option, in which you can not only hear the filmmakers talk on an audio track, but you can see pictures of concept art and photographs of Pixar's research road trips as the movie is playing. You may also program the Blu-Ray to jump to a mini-documentary about the scene you're watching.  With Cars, I saw footage of Pixar's visits to Route 66 destinations. And thanks to Blu-Ray I learned that Dug from Up  made a very fleeting appearance in Ratatouille - two years before we actually knew of him.

And the coolness is not limited to Pixar. The Enchanted DVD has a nifty trivia game that asks you questions about the many Disney films Enchanted references. And if you get the question right, you're treated to a vintage clip of the scene in question. For instance, when Giselle sings "The Happy Working Song" and her image is refelected in soap bubbles, the Blu-Ray can show you the scene from Cinderella that gave rise to that image.

All that said, I do still find it unfair of Disney and other companies to make certain extras Blu-Ray exclusive when they could very easily go on a DVD. The Enchanted trivia game is understandable, but there was no good reason not to include at least a commentary on the Ratatouille DVD.

So will I buy Blu-Rays or DVDs from this point forward? That all depends. For certain filmmakers (Scorsese) and fimmaking companies (Pixar), Blu-Ray will be automatic now. Otherwise it will depend on the price and the extras. Thankfully, Blu-Ray discs are finally starting to come down in price, so the primary pivot for me will be the extras, especially if I already own a regular ol' DVD of the title.

And there was one other factor that made me take the hi-def plunge. The best movie channel in the whole wide world, TCM, just added a hi-def channel. I was waiting for that particular event to happen before I fast-tracked an HDTV, and with that now in motion, I figured I might as well go whole hog.  

Besides, any format that makes Amy Adams look that glorious has got to be worthwhile, right?


Allison Dickson said...

I definitely have no intention of replacing my existing movie collection with Blu-Ray discs, but I have a feeling I will have my arm twisted sooner than later into buying a Blu-Ray player because of what Disney and other studios have done making even basic features Blu-Ray exclusive. I guess for as long as we're all still watching movies on discs (which probably won't be more than a few years), that will end up being the standard, whether we want it to be or not. Great if you don't collect movies, but a real pain in the ass for folks like us who have already made the investment of several hundred (or thousand) standard def discs. The only advantage is it isn't as bad as the switch from VHS to DVD in that case since at least the Blu-Ray players will play and upconvert standard DVDs.

Scott Copeland said...

Too expensive. There is zero chance I am giving up more of my money for Blu-Ray.