Just under two months ago, I was asked to take part in the Blu-ray Elite program. It was a beta program from Warner Home Video wherein they sent me free Blu-rays to watch, review, and enjoy at my own leisure. That program is coming to a close very soon. It was a great experience for me because it dragged me into the world of high definition. I was a neophyte with Blu-ray. In fact, I purchased a Blu-ray player simply so I could take part in this program. I have some observations, both about the films and about the Blu-ray experience.
First, a complete list of the films that I received from Warner Brothers can be found in the graphic to the right. I don’t think I’m forgetting anything. I certainly hope I’m not because I’m very grateful for the selections. As you can see, there’s a lot of variety on that list. There are comedies, classics, biopics, documentaries, kids movies, blockbusters, and superhero movies. There was something for everyone. I tried to keep track of what the other participants were watching and what they enjoyed. It was fascinating to see the varied tastes amongst the participants. Note: After I threw away the .psd file, I realized that the Hubble blu-ray isn’t 3D. It’s listed incorrectly in the graphic.
For me, there were six huge highlights. Despite my distaste for the film itself, the Blu-ray transfer on Gone With the Wind was a total eye-opener for me. It was one of the first Blu-rays I watched. I had seen bits and pieces of that movie over the years in various formats- on TV, on DVD, and on VHS. The picture quality on the Blu was nothing short of amazing. The second highlight was Casablanca, which is simply one of the best movies ever made. Owning a copy on Blu is a real treat for movie geeks like me. The third highlight was Citizen Kane. Like Casablanca, Kane is also one of the best movies ever made. That alone would’ve made me very happy. But the copy we received was the 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The bonus features that come with the movie are endless. Seemingly the only thing missing is Orson Welles’ infamous ad for frozen peas. Malcolm X was my fourth highlight because the bonus documentary that came with it was excellent, and acquiring it on Blu made me fall in love with it again for the first time in 15 years. The fifth highlight was The Wizard of Oz– another film that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. The re-watch reminded me of how great it is, and the transfer was flawless. And last but not least, the BBC: Planet Earth documentary was wonderful. I bet I said “wow” 100 times or so when I watched it. It was beautiful and highly informative.
There’s a small list of films that I didn’t have a chance to watch. That list includes Crazy, Stupid, Love; Journey 2: The Mysterious Island; Happy Feet Two; Project X; Hubble; Born to be Wild; and Dolphin Tale. I have to confess, at least some of those were a result of a lack of interest. This is no fault of the program. In other cases, I just didn’t have the time. I plan on watching a few of those when I have the chance. It just won’t be under the Blu-ray Elite umbrella.
There are two specific selections off of the list that I highly recommend, if you’re into such things- the 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Citizen Kane, and BBC: Planet Earth. I got a lot of joy out of the movies on the complete list, but those two in particular were the most special. They had the most added value, for me, either via bonus features or the transfer.
That brings me to my final point. I know a lot of people who are on the fence with Blu-ray and whether or not they want to make the jump from DVD. The first thing I would say is that if you can afford it, do it. The visual value is there. I’d also say that if you’re a hardcore movie geek- and odds are good that you are if you’re reading this- then you owe it to yourself to make the jump to Blu, if you can afford it at all. If you’re not a hardcore movie geek, and you have better things to spend your money on, then it’d be completely understandable to stick with DVD. Personally, I think it’s one of the better purchases I’ve made in recent years.
That wraps it up, 24 films and several reviews and infographics later. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say thank you one more time to the folks who ran the program for asking me to participate. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when it started. The cynical part of me feared what kind of movies I’d receive, but they impressed me every step of the way. The value and quality of those 24 films exceeded my wildest expectations, and I’m very appreciative of that fact.