2011 was still a great year for the growth of Blu-ray , lots of old classics, odd obscure cult films and a long awaited sci-fi saga made their debut in HD. All of them looking better than ever in 1080p and showing the true latitude in the Blu-ray format solidifying it as simply the best true film experience available at home . Here is my top 13 Blu-rays of 2011, with all the great releases this year it was a struggle to get it down to just 13, enjoy part 1 kids…
13- THE HOLLY MOUNTAIN (1973) Director Alejandro Jodorowsky- This film is direct proof of massive drug use and counter culture taking over in the movie industry in the 70’s. It really is a type of film that just doesn’t get made anymore, filled with esoteric and religious symbolism, incredible psychedelic imagery and breaking every rule they say you should never break when making a film; but it’s a kind of brilliance that doesn’t get nurtured anymore by mainstream culture as it did by the flower power/rock n’ roll culture out of the 60’s into the 70’s. This true original film is unlike any other filled with amazing images that will affect you one way or another for a long while after viewing them. With the amazing job on the print transfer to HD I was blown away at the brilliance of Jodorowsky’s attention to detail and ability to hold your attention with only images and simple score. To say it is a vast improvement over the DVD transfers would be a true understatement. If you are a fan of this and El Topo you owe it to yourself to pick them both up. I truly love what the 70’s brought to the film world, this is one of the jewels.
12- ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) Directors Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske- There’s only a few classic Disney animated films that really resonates with me for some reason, the 1951 Alice In Wonderland is definitely one of them. The colors, crazy characters, psychedelic imagery and great storytelling still hold up so well (kicks the shit out of the latest Burton/Depp shit bomb), It’s hard to believe it’s 61 years old. On Blu-ray these hand drawn films absolutely pop off the screen, the format was made for animation lovers. Pick up a few of these and you will want to own them all, this true classic is looking better than ever.
11- DUMBO (1941) Directors Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen, John Elliotte- Disney continues their superb effort this year with the ever brilliant Dumbo. I forgot how much this one taps into your inner child and upon viewing the bitter, worry ridden adult starts to melt away. No matter how much you don’t feel like watching it, the breath taking imagery done by the first animation masters of their craft will have you finding yourself lost in this film. The reason I love this one so much is the really odd dream montage with the surreal elephants and other experimental animation in the middle. So cool and out of character for Disney these days. Again the treatment of the material to HD is amazing. It’s very hard to believe something looks so good yet so natural made in 1941 and presented in a digital format. Love the Blu-ray.
10- PULP FICTION (1994) Director Quentin Tarantino- This is one of those films I never get tired of and as many times as I’ve seen it, it still has me laughing in all the same places. It’s about as good as mainstream American film making got in the 90’s. It started out a smaller independent film that changed the way things were done once again in the entertainment industry. A lot of people tried to come up with their own versions of what Pulp Fiction did so well, but no one succeeded in the same way as Quentin. Now after watching all his other films, you know no one does it like Tarantino a true American auteur director. Pulp has never looked better than in this release and we also get a “look back” doc that has some great insights from some of the players in the film. I especially like Travolta’s anecdotes about Quentin, very entertaining.
9- CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) Director John Milius- Some movies from when I was a young kid play a lot different on reviewing them 30 years later. A very few hold up to what my interpretation was of “good film making” at 5 to 10 years old, most are so shitty on a production stand point it’s hard to make it through them or even remember why I liked them so much as a youngling. There are those few and far between that hold up and even surpass my original memory. The 1982 “Conan The Barbarian” is one of those film experiences that to me hasn’t been done quite so raw, with dark humor and shot so close to the look of the Frazzetta paintings of the character since maverick American director John Milius went to Spain, with 20 million dollars and a virtually unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger to film the fantasy epic. Since this film was released on VHS video tape and on cable TV in the mid 80’s I must have seen it 25 times minimum and until the Blu-ray release I’ve never really grasped the true beauty of the photography of Conan. In a time before CG, the film to me plays much better than most fantasy adventure films up to the late 90’s. Schwarzenegger really does have a brilliant screen presence that for an actor who was unknown, his choices and physical confidence was unexpected and perfect for the character, and hasn’t been matched to this day. With a great array of classic moments from punching out the camel, drunken Conan and company, to the vicious sword play all the way though, I now remember why this film has stuck in my head for so many years and will continue to make the rounds into my Blu-ray player for many years to come. Arnold really did kick some serious ass in the 80’s, which is a hard act to follow especially if that act is yourself.
8- TRON (1982) Director Steven Lisberger- One of my favorite sci-fi movies of the 80’s and I think it holds up better and makes more sense today, than it did in 1982. The film was a financial bomb as far as Disney was concerned. Even though they did an amazing job with the 17 million dollar budget, the 33 million US theatrical gross wasn’t enough for another Tron film to be considered in the 80’s. With the advent of home video and a growing cult following, Tron had really found an audience and large enough fan base that Disney did a sequel 18 years later in 2010 and a third on its way in the next few years. This means they hit a chord that was so far ahead of its time, it took the rest of the world almost two decades to catch up to what most of my friends knew who saw the film at 6 years old. That shit kicks ass! Tron is absolutely the most brilliant sci-fi story telling which mirrors what is happening in society in the 80’s and more so today. The presentation on the Blu-ray is so amazing and so far ahead of the DVD image quality I can only imagine a 70mm projected version beating this viewing experience out. The documentaries are some of the best I’ve seen and enjoyed. This is a must own for all sci-fi and FX fans, and for you film nerds out there this is the first feature film to use CG imagery for entire sequences on screen. Neat stuff for sure.
Part 2 coming soon…
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned