The 20 Best Blu-ray Movies 2011-2012
The first thing to say is that it is impossible to pick out the best entertainment on blu-ray this year without including the TV series. It doesn't matter how you slice it, TV has come of age and Hollywood movies are not always best in class.
Hollywood still delivers on the huge blockbusters. HBO is not going to outshine Christopher Nolan with a Batman trilogy. At the same time, if you want a thriller, 'The Killing' takes some beating. 'Justified' has been the best Western of recent years and 'Breaking Bad' makes crime sagas interesting again.
So, this is a page for movies. But I don't forget the TV series.
Special effects are nothing without great acting. So here are the movies that entertain on the human level and make your eyes pop when the action hots up.
Marvel's The Avengers
Robert Downey jr. just about owns the best fun action adventure movies of the last few years. Here he is Iron Man again. His humor and individuality balance the city shattering destruction of the bad guys and transform it from teen fodder to fun for all.
He gets great help from the beautiful Scarlett Johansson in femme fatale mode.
The unknown Tom Hiddleston makes the the arch villain Loki, watchable, if not especially scary. You want his dastardly deeds to be foiled but not too quickly.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
In the old days, Sherlock was a sort of God of Reason who never put a foot wrong. Dr Watson was just a dull-witted foil
Sherlock explained things to patiently (so the audience, at least, understood what was happening).
Recently, movies (and TV) have made Sherlock brilliant but erratic and vulnerable. Dr Watson has become a kind of touchstone of practical, everyday virtue. This has opened up the personal dynamics enormously. Robert Downey jr and Jude Law have plenty of room here to work up a good buddy movie.
And, of course, there are all the special effects that you could wish for in a big-set Victorian England with chases on trains, on foot and horseback.
The Germans get to display some very big guns. The ladies get to show some well turned ankles. We get a satisfying ride to the Gothic conclusion.
Did Sherlock really plunge into the icy waters of the Reichenbach Falls? Hollywood time will tell.
The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan is a great director. Batman is a fascinating subject. The actors are wonderful.
I watched it without fidgeting through to the last frame.
But you have to say this is bleak stuff. In The Dark Knight Rises, Joe Average is a degenerate who probably wants to kill you. Only brooding super heroes can keep you safe. Given that they are in short supply, I hope that this is simply not true.
The Hunger Games
Teens from poverty fight to the death for the entertainment of the rich.
It is the individual against the world with the more thoughtful combatants trying to keep their dignity and beliefs in the face of the overwhelming forces of a totalitarian future.
Jennifer Lawrence, as the heroine, is a good enough actress to make the human element appealing.
The fight sequences (call them melees) churn some adrenaline.
Hollywood is lagging when it comes to engrossing thrillers and crime dramas, so TV wins here. .
Saying good things about Justified is just too easy. For one thing, this is a classic Western with a quick draw lawman who who always does the right thing. I love Westerns.
It is also an exploration of the oddities of the Appalacian way of life where moonshine comes in jars and the local cops are are all related to the local crooks.
It is relaxed but never dull, funny without trying too hard and has fabulous dialogue (some of it courtesy of Elmore Leonard),
Timothy Olyphant is a sheriff figure to rival all the James Stewarts and John Waynes of times gone by.
This is the TV series that brings large scale meth amphetamine manufacture into the lives of a very ordinary middle class family.
The central character is a Chemistry teacher who discovering that he has cancer decides to provide for his family by any means at his disposal. He begins as a hapless criminal cooking meth in the desert amd gradually morphs into a figure of terror to his wife, friends and underworld rivals.
Has Ridley Scott ever made a bad movie? Bladerunner, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, and all the others, deliver. He takes you deep into worlds you will never experience yourself.
This is what makes Prometheus special. You are not watching a team of scientists explore another world and then fight for their lives. You are along for the ride, sitting on their shoulders.
Game of Thrones
It is the scope of this saga that enthralls. One moment you are in the frozen North with wildlings and the undead. The next moment you are in a paradise of sun splashed seas and orange trees.
The variety of characters is equally impressive. You will find stalwart and loyal, despicably devious. bold and innocent, too worldly to live and every other kind of mind and manner.
The beasts are pretty impressive too. Who wouldn't have wanted a Direwolf for a pet as a kid?
Apocalypse Now (Three-Disc Edition)
Apocalypse Now, from Francis Ford Coppola, is widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made. It follows a US soldier travelling up the Mekong river during the Vietnam War. The movie contains some of the most extraordinary scenes ever filmed and many have burnt themselves into the America physche. The documentary produced by Coppola's wife shows just what was involved in the making the movie and what it cost in human terms. That documentary and the hi def version of the movie (first on disc) make this a great buy even without all the many extras.
America Lost and Found: The Criterion Collection
What was America Cinema up to in the seventies? How was the US doing back then? The 6 movies in this collection give as good an answer as you will find anywhere.
Don't expect ultra fast cutting or a story that is falling over itself to get ahead. Do expect fine acting, plenty of irony, thought provoking propositions and a few tears as some of the greatest actors of all time are given the space to show what they can do.
Pale, interesting, doomed, haunted by doubts but unable to resist their appetites for love and 'life'- the Twilight Set provide perfect teen entertainment.
Classy variation on the werewolf theme with Antony Hopkins bringing his special quiet intensity and some scary woods to get lost in.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic
If Joss Weeden could draw. this is how Buffy would have looked. All those monsters, demons and girls with perfect teeth were made for the graphic novel.
It is surprising just how dark a heart this TV series can have at times and how funny it can be at others. It always looked like safe TV but was one of those most adventurous shows around. How many times have you seen an entire cast robbed of their voices throughout one episode (Hush) and forced to sing every line in another (The Lord of the Dance)?
Best Kids' Movies on Blu-ray
Toy Story Triology
Sometimes it takes a kid's animation to renew your faith in Hollywood. These are real true stories of the human heart wrapped in wonderfully rendered animations that rivals Disney Classics. The characters are better rounded and more believable than those found in most dramas with the best actors.
If you don't identify with the plight of the lost toys or laugh at Ms Barbie and the sadly out of touch Ken in Toy Story 3 you are a stone!
I watched this with a 5 year old girl and she loved it. It doesn't have the whole family appeal of the Toy Story series but it does have the classic hooks of the best Fairy Tales. There is a beautiful, fresh young woman, a handsome suitor and enough baddies standing in their way to draw the hisses.
The action sequences will keep younger boys quiet, too.
Beauty and the Beast
It is almost a sin to say it but the recent Christmas special version does put the original slightly in the shade.
Even so, it remains a great treat for younger kids and a real life saver on rainy days for Moms who need a break.
Supervillains compete for the title of 'baddest' in a fun comedy with a good heart.
The army of evil henchmen trying to shrink the moon are a hoot.
Pixar Ultimate Blu-ray Collection
If you are behind in your Pixar movie collecting or only got Blu-ray recently, a good way to catch up, is this collection of popular titles.
It includes A Bugs Life, Cars, Pixar Shorts Vol. 1, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Monsters, Inc. The collection doesn't offer much of a saving on buying the titles individually but it comes in an attractivle movie library style box with each movie separately packaged. For kids, it will make a special gift.
David Attenborough keeps finding those shots of the natural world which take your breath away. This is as riveting as 'Blue Planet' but explores life on land as well as in water.
WW II in HD
One of the biggest stories to be told and told in full HD color for the first time. The war that made our world is fully explored in one of the very best documentaries ever made.