When this format came out, I was one of the loudest voices for a couple of years that it was unnecessary, too expensive, and studios still had no idea what the fuck they were doing with it, which only ever results in wasted money. Nowadays? Well, that third part still ends up being true a lot of the time, and at least once a month, a disc will come out with some brand new gimmick that does nothing to enhance the film and really just raises my blood pressure. Oh yes, I’m talking about you, U-Control. This list, however, is a solid 25 instances of the system working, of perfect marriages of format, of information, of clarity, and just plain love of the medium. These are the things the HD era of watching films at home needed to bring to the table. More than just an image upgrade, it needed to deliver something, anything, DVD couldn’t.
I imagine there’s gonna be complaints about such a recent set landing at the top of the heap, while their HD horse of choice got passed up, and believe me, I wasn’t the only vote on this list, and there’s a good 10 I can rattle off the top of my head that would’ve made it in given my druthers* However, the Alien Anthology represents a genuine landmark for this format, not just the ones studios keep coming out with in terms of how many sold, or what percentage of the purchases were for the film in HD. The Quadrilogy was already a gargantuan undertaking, and if you’re stuck with standard def, there’s no excuse not to have that thing sitting on your shelf right now. The fact that the Anthology trumps the shit out of it in every single way should send a goddamn elephantine shudder up your spine. Not just for A/V Quality, though these films have never looked better, but the new footage for the documentaries, the way a film’s true intent has been brought to life using the new technology, MU-TH-UR Mode giving the viewer control over the information in ways DVD has only been able to hint at before, the ability to flow the experience across multiple discs in a completely seamless manner, and, really, just sheer quantity of material for the price tag. They want $140, MSRP. The Alien Anthology offers a $140 experience. That is a rare, amazing thing these days. This is the bar for this format. This is what hardware developers look for and hope for when they push the envelope a bit further. This is a killer app. It’s a reason for owning a Blu Ray player: For an experience like this one.
I’ve been a supporter for Blu-Ray since its initial launch. I can remember long arguments with several online writers about how SONY has picked the winner this time. But, when you argue like that…you leave yourself open to the armies of Aspergers rattling off stats at you. Well, stats and history lost this round. Now, I’ve got to listen to those same critics espouse the death of the disc and the rise of the Media On Demand Network. Well, that shit might as well be the flying car at this point. Network infrastructure is shaky at best, while excessive traffic demands vs. potential price increases kill that idea in this economy.
Almost four years after launch, we’ve got thousands of releases and very few top tier titles. Sure, home video gets the shaft from the major players. Everyone waits to see what’s going to be the defining point in that entertainment generation before they dip a toe in the waters. Universal is currently gearing up Jaws, Paramount has Raiders of the Lost Ark in development and Lucasfilm has spent the past year building up excitement for the Star Wars Saga to hit Blu-Ray. While the Alien Anthology is currently the best marker for where Blu-Ray can go, we’ve only reached that halfway point in the first High Definition Home Entertainment generation.
New developments for the BD-Java applications are helping to extend movie-viewing and BD-Live internet components to new heights. Pandora, Netflix and other streaming devices are turning these players into multi-faceted home entertainment hubs that will be ready to march into the future. It’s a period of excitement and it’s one that I’m glad to have celebrated with you this month. Sure, the current economic climate might put a damper on the home theater enthusiast’s purchases. What matters now is making those purchases count, as we show the studios what we want and expect in this new age.
*–Surely, this discussion will blow up on the message boards a few hours after this posts, but for anyone wondering about our personal list of scorned favorites, here’s 5 each, in no order.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection
The Godfather Trilogy
Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence
The Thin Red Line
North by Northwest
Lost: The Complete Collection
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story