by Michael S. Palmer
Everyone loves a good deal, and with the economy limping along, Blu-rays often have to take a backseat to more important purchases like "food," "electricity," and "rent." Or so we've been told.
Fret not, dear readers, High-Def Digest has you covered with a variety of comedies, thrillers, foreign films, action movies, family films and veritable classics that'll sit pretty in any collection. Oh, and they can all be snagged for less than $10!
So, lets jump in! Here's High-Def Digest's list of The Top Ten Blu-ray Deals Under Ten Bucks (in no particular order, given the multiple genres). While a couple of titles occasionally fluctuate on Amazon, all can be found for less that $10:
It's really exciting to see historical Asian epics competing with the hundred million dollar (and then some) Hollywood blockbusters, and holding their own. 'Mongol,' as its post colon title reveals, is Genghis Kahn's origin story. As someone who went into this one blind, I was really blown away; the cinematography is grand, but the smaller moments work well too.
The original 'Final Destination' works for a number of reasons. First, because I was in high school at the time, it tapped into the phobias surrounding the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster. But more so, it's just a really interesting story that is very well directed. Not only does it feel creepy in a cerebral way, exploring the notions of fate and destiny and how they relate to death, but the set pieces themselves are elongated, edge-of-your-seat sequences of bubbling tension. There's a reason why this spawned a franchise of much crappier sequels.
No one could ever make a movie like this today. Mostly because it would be called 'Western Movie!' and have tangential references to the Kardashians and Charlie Sheen's "Goddesses" for no reason. There's also some fantastic satire, which treads in some always controversial subject matter. 'Blazing Saddles' may be the best spoof ever, and arguably Mel Brooks' best film. It remains as funny and as razor sharp today as it was when it premiered in 1974. Remastered for the 2004 30th Anniversary DVD, it looks pretty great in high definition as well.
As we pointed out a couple weeks ago, every list needs a Tony Scott picture on it. 'Spy Game' isn't perfect, and as a thriller, most of the tension is reduced by the multiple story lines, but the real mystery is figuring out who these two spies (Robert Redford and Brad Pitt) are, and what their friendship means to each other. There's also some good fun to be had in sticking it to the bureaucrats. I also like the way the different eras get different film temperatures, and there's only one director in the world that would film a discussion between two men…on a rooftop…using a circling helicopter as the scene's main camera. Hazzah.
'3:10 to Yuma' proved to the world that we don't have to say goodbye to the western as an exciting and profitable genre. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are fantastic here, but the real winner is the 7.1 channel PCM soundtrack. As Josh Zyber put it in his review, it's "a flat-out stunner." It terms of pure demo material, there's not much better for less than $10.
I'll always remember 'Magnolia' for the summer I spent taking classes at USC in Los Angeles. My roommates were huge Paul Thomas Anderson fans, and were out here to write the next suburban epic. I had no idea what they were talking about, so they dragged me to a second run screening of 'Magnolia'. I was glued to my seat from the first reel. There's nothing really quite like this combination of odd characters, kinetic camerawork, and melodrama. It's all depressing, yet so very engrossing. There's even a musical number and a supernatural event. This really has it all, and at three hours in length, it might be the cheapest film on this list, per minute.
Okay, admit it, you're humming the theme song now. Me too. This is a film I'll always associate with childhood (that and 'N.I.M.H.') because it captured my imagination so fully. Storybook worlds and bullies and monsters and magical heroes, I still love this film today despite its faults. And even though the book's author complained about this adaptation, I recently went back and read the novel, and to be honest, Wolfgang Petersen and his team picked the perfect place to end the movie. Do any of our readers have kids? If so (and if they are old enough to watch this), what do they think about this one? Does it still work, or has the pristine perfection of Pixar ruined older, handmade special effects?
Dark Castle movies (the film's production company, a division of Joel Silver's Silver Pictures) haven't really been breaking box office records and to be honest, some of them haven't been that great. And then came 'Orphan'. I avoided it in the cinemas because it looked like another "evil kid movie." But, after some strong word-of-mouth, I gave it a rent on Blu-ray. This movie is actually tense. Actually scary. And actually has good twists and turns on what should be a very predicable genre. It's also a visually interesting film with a muted color palette accentuated by the occasional popping neon color. File this one under, "I never thought it would work, but damn I enjoyed it."
Steve McQueen is the coolest man that has ever lived. Ever. And here he is in the film with one of the most famous car chase sequences, shot on location in San Franscisco, caught on celluloid. It's almost as exciting to watch the film for the story as it is to be transported through time to the late sixties when muscle cars prowled the streets, burning rubber, and breaking continuity.
Originally filmed in VistaVision, 'The Searchers' is one of Martin Scorsese's go-to demo Blu-rays because this Blu-ray version is the best the film has looked since its original release. This is an example of how well a studio should treat their catalog titles, and how well the Blu-ray format can reproduce an unparalleled film-like experience in the home. In fact, the only way to beat it would be to buy an actual film projector. No one makes them like John Ford use to make them.
Well, there we have it, Dear Readers, The Top Ten Blu-ray Deals. As always, there are certainly more films to mention than what's considered on this list of favorites -- yet remember, we're only considering currently available Blu-ray Discs. What's on your list of cheap films that are must-haves?