Blu-ray Highlights for 10/19/10: The ‘Apocalypse’ Is Here

Before I get to this week’s new Blu-ray releases, allow me to rectify one oversight. It seems that in last week’s Highlights reel, I neglected to mention that Dreamworks Animation’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon‘ would be released on Friday the 15th. Although it’s weird for video releases to street on a Friday, that’s a pretty major title to overlook. Sorry about that. Now then, let’s take a look at what this week offers.

Here’s the list:

Perhaps unusually, the biggest discs of the week are catalog titles, not new day-and-date releases. Among them are at least three bona fide masterpieces.

Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now‘ finally arrives on Blu-ray in your choice of either a 2-disc Special Edition or a 3-disc Full Disclosure Edition. No matter which you buy, you’ll get both the original 1979 theatrical cut and the 2001 Redux version. (I believe they’re seamlessly branched.) The best part of all this is that the movie has finally been restored to its full 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video. Previous releases from Laserdisc to DVD have all been cropped to 2.0:1 due to interference by the nutjob cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who has a habit of desecrating his older movies.

As if that’s not enough in itself, the Criterion Collection gives us Akria Kurosawa’s legendary ‘Seven Samurai‘, while Universal brings us Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho‘. I can’t wait to watch both of these in high definition.

Of course, there are some new titles coming out this week too. Drew here at the blog loved ‘Predators‘ when he reviewed the theatrical release. Some of my other friends have been less enthusiastic about it, however. I might be willing to give it a chance. It’s got to be better than those wretched ‘Alien vs. Predator‘ movies, right? Perhaps a rental for me.

On a completely different end of the spectrum is ‘Please Give‘, the latest film from director Nicole Holofcener (‘Lovely and Amazing’, ‘Friends with Money’). I’ve heard a few mixed things about this one, but the general reaction has been favorable.

Back to catalog titles: The third and forth ‘Harry Potter‘ pictures have been expanded to new “Ultimate Edition” versions, in keeping with the first two in the series. Expect the rest to follow.

Personally, I’m no fan of Baz Luhrmann. His ‘Moulin Rouge!‘ (note the exclamation point) made me physically ill after about 30 seconds of spastic insanity. But the director has a devoted audience, and he certainly has a strong visual style that I’m sure someone will appreciate in high definition. Both ‘Rouge!’ and his earlier ‘Romeo + Juliet‘ (the latter two entries in his so-called “Red Curtain Trilogy”) hit Blu-ray simultaneously. No word on an American release of ‘Strictly Ballroom’ to my knowledge, but that one is already available on Blu-ray in the UK.

And, finally, if those Luhrmann pictures aren’t campy enough for you, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show‘ should certainly take up the slack. Let’s do the Time Warp again!


  1. BostonMA

    couldn’t wait on one of Hitch’s true masterpieces and pre-ordered Psycho at the beginning of September and since AMZ is awesome with their PRIME shipping that i have at my disposal free for a year, i received my copy yesterday afternoon and then watched it several hours later when i had the first two hours of free time available.

    i’m very happy with the transfer, though not fully satisfied as it seems that Universal didn’t go the complete full length in presenting as perfect of a picture as possible but overall, it’s still extremely great and worth every penny of it’s affordable and appreciative price.

    AK, like Hitch, is one of my favorite directors, so Seven Samurai will be the #1 title i’ll be foaming at the mouth to get when the next B&N sale comes along and like virtually everyone else, i’m really looking forward to seeing Coppola’s masterpiece(s) again, as i fully embraced the genius of his epic when i watched the theatrical cut last summer.

    a terrific week for releases.

  2. Shayne

    Will be buying Psycho, Moulin Rouge!, Romeo & Juliet and Rocky Horror (for the I don’t even fucking knowth time) but they’ll have to wait a little bit. All of my money is going towards my Halloween party, thank god I already paid for the Alien Anthology & BTTF. I haven’t seen Predators, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl or the ill-advised Night of the Demons remake yet but they’re set atop my netflix queue.

    • Shayne Blakeley

      Snap! Apparently, my Alien and BTTF sets are coming in tomorrow! Unfortunately I have no idea when I’ll get a chance to watch them, this weekend is pretty packed.

  3. At home sick today, and to my disappointment, UPS is later than normal delivering my Amazon Prime orders. The tracking info does say they are out for delivery.

    This is where I start going broke with preorders, and actually had to cancel a few and move them to my Christmas Wish list. I am getting at least one movie a week from here till the end of November. Today I am expecting Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge, two of the three movies i was most looking forward to on Blu-Ray (the third, Sound of Music, comes out in a couple of weeks). I do plan to watch both today, with hopefully no roommate interuptions.

    I LOVED the first two Harry Potter Ultimate Editions, so have these two on my wish list. If they came out at any other time, I would have preordered, but, as I said, many movies coming in this month and next, and I already own the first six movies on Blu-Ray, and the first, a UK import, on HD-DVD as well (yes, right now, I got two Blu-Rays and an HD-DVD of the first movie.)

    I’ll have to put Rocky Horror in my Netflix Que – believe it or not, I have never seen it. I do not even know what its about.

    • Shayne Blakeley

      Make that the TOP of your queue. Favorite movie of all time. My mom forced me and my friend to watch it on halloween the first year trick or treating would have been passe. Wise beyond her years that one, bought my first of many copies (vhs) the next day. Fun fact: The second copy (dvd) was my easter present from her.

      • The Blu-Ray is not available on Netflix yet, but it is in the Stream, so I may watch a bit of it here tonight – got my other movies in, plus a load of Netflix discs to watch (Percy Jackson, Ah My Goddess and two others).

        I am 20 minutes into Romeo + Juliet. It hasn’t been reviewed here yet, so here is my quick impressions. Its a 50GB disc. Video is encoded in AVC @20Mbps (info from the case) and has an aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Audio is 5.1 DTS-MA

        Audio first. If its been a while since you have seen this movie, you may have forgotten that action scenes are LOUD – especially the begining of the movie. May not want to set your system as loud as you do most movies – I nearly blew my ear drums. The rock music at the begining of the movie blairs to the point of distortion, but that was always the case, and I think its intentional. Dialouge is crisp and clear, even over the loud action scenes. Just keep your hands on your remote – the entire first 20 minutes of the movie I was constantly turning the volume down a couple more notches. By comparisson, on my reciever, for Dolby TrueHD, I normally set volume between 67-71, for Broadcast HD, between 63-67, and for DTS MA discs, usually between 61-67. Right now, I have backed down to 59, and its still TOO LOUD! And I like my movies loud!

        Other than the overall Loudness, the audio is pretty darn good, and pretty much what you would expect from this movie, with its explosions, rock music, and people yelling at each other.

        As for video, it looks pretty darn good. Colors are unbelievably vibrant, and satuation is off the chart, but this movie is supposed to look like that. It is absolutely beautiful. Film grain is confusing me, and I am not quite sure what is up with it, if its the film stock or a product of DNR. Closeup scenes seem to have a very fine film grain, but there seems to be some colored “noise” or something in the grain. I don’t think that is a product of the encode, though, i see same “colored noise” in many of my old photographs that I took on film. However, in wide shots, in many instances, film grain seems to disappear. It actually seems that closeups and wide angles were shot on two different kinds of film stock – and its REALLY noticable in HD. Also, at the begining, there are a couple of scenes in the movie where they do a freeze frame and introduce the characters. In these instances, the entire frame – including the grain, freezes in the spot on the screen. Maybe someone with a projector can better tell if this is intentional or a product of DNR – my screen just isn’t big enough to really study that.

        Overall, I am fairly pleased with this, and the extras look like they are going to be exciting.

        Will let you know about Moulin Rouge in a few hours.

        • Shayne Blakeley

          Not sure if it’s the kind of movie where you are going to care if it’s blu ray quality or not unless you’re already a fan. If it’s up streaming, go for it.

        • On Romeo + Juliet, the disc comes with a slipcase, with the disc housed in an eco-friendly case. It films flimsy – be careful how you hold the case, you don’t want to damage the artwork.

          When you stick the disc in, you are presented with a brief warning about firmware updates, followed by the distributor’s logo (about 3 seconds), then taken straight to the menu – which is REALLY nice. There are zero previews on the disc. Playing the movie shows you a brief (about 3 seconds) FBI warning, followed by the movie. I wish all studios would release their discs like this.

          Unfortunately, if you are a fan of extras, be ready to scream bloody murder. ALL of the stand-alone video suppliments are presented in SD. This usually does not bother me, except ALL of the extras (except for the trailer) is presented in what I am assuming is a 720×480 WINDOW with a static image background filling the rest of the screen. I felt like I was watching a multimedia CD-Rom from the early ’90s here. Its really sad – I was looking SO forward to seeing these extras, then they presented them in a format that is absolutely unwatchable.

        • Moulin Rouge Impressions:

          Packaging – The case comes in a slip-case, which is necessary as the disc is housed in an eco-friendly case. Not only is it flimsey, but I am afraid I already put a small indention in the case artwork. 🙁

          The disc starts with the standard firmware warning message, followed by a 3 second long distributor logo, then are taken straight to the menu. There are no previews on the disc. Starting the movie shows the FBI warning logo for 3 seconds and then goes straight to the movie. I REALLY appreciate this – thank you Fox!

          The video is absolutely incredible! I always knew it was going to be a demo-material disc, and it lived up to all of my expectations! It is encoded in AVC@20Mbps, 2.4:1 aspect ratio, and DTS MA 5.1 Colors are bright and vivid, and details pop out of the picture! You can see the incredible amount of work that was put into the elaborate costumes for this movie. The director, in the extras, stated that he worked with the technicians on the Blu-Ray encode to make sure that colors came across accurately.

          The movie appears to have been shot with an EXTREAMELY fine film-grain, probably to exaggerate the parts of the movie where they switch to black and white with the heavy film grain. As such, it appears that no DNR was applied to the movie, giving us this beautiful film-like appearence (if you have been reading my posts for a while, you may know that I am not a huge fan of film-grain, so this is a HUGE compliment). I just cannot go on enough about how GOOD the grain looks and adds to the feel of the movie!

          In certain shots, there does seem to be a slight green-shadow around the actors’ faces. As it seems to be limited to faces, I think this is a product of green-screen, and not from edge enhancement.

          This is a HUGE upgrade from the video on the DVD, and the DVD looked pretty darn good.

          As for the audio, the original DVD had a DTS soundtrack on it, and sounded terrific. If you have seen it in DTS, the DTS-MA soundtrack is going to sound very similar. I only noticed slightly clearer low-frequency sounds, and a few very subtle noises off in the background that I hadn’t noticed before. If you have never seen this movie before, the soundtrack should impress you, and completely envelopes you with sound coming from all 5 speakers. If you own it on DVD, don’t expect a HUGE difference.

          Like Romeo+Juliet, the disc falls apart when it comes to the bonus features. With the exception of a couple of brief interviews with the director made for the Blu-Ray release, all the rest of the bonus features are presented in these postage-stamp sized windows in the middle of the screen. This includes the trailers. The windows are surrounded by a static background. This renders the extras practically unwatchable, which is a pitty, cause there is some interesting stuff in there.

          All in all, this is a must-have disc, if simply for the reason of showing off the video!

          • Shayne Blakeley

            “In certain shots, there does seem to be a slight green-shadow around the actors’ faces. As it seems to be limited to faces, I think this is a product of green-screen, and not from edge enhancement.”

            Or absinthe.

  4. Tim


    I’m sure you can give me a quick answer to this question: Do you think the US version of Wallander will have any tone issues? I ask this because the UK version is, apparently, 1080i 50. Will conversion to 1080p 60 cause any issues? Just wondering which version I should get. Thanks in advance.

    • I know I am not Josh, but I am going to give you a two fold answer.

      The movie was made by BBC. If it was made for television and shot on tape, then the encode on the 1080i50 should be better. Framerate conversions cause weirdness, and you either have to deal with speeding up / slowing down the movie, interpolating frames, or doing some weird thing where you double / throw away certain frames. All have their advantages and drawbacks. So, on the surface, I would say to always watch a movie / show in its original framerate.

      That being said, very few North American TVs support 50Hz natively. Your display is probably already doing a conversion to 60Hz, through one of the methods I listed above.

      So, in answer to your question, with all things being the same (same transfer, similar encoding parameters), on a display in North America, you will probably see little difference between the 1080i50 and the 1080i60 version.

    • Josh Zyber

      I can’t say definitively. This depends on whether the show was originally shot at 24 fps or 25 fps. Unfortunately, it could go either way.

      If the series was shot at 25 fps, then the PAL broadcasts and 1080i50 Blu-rays in Europe would be presented at the proper speed. Conversion to 1080p24 or 1080i60 would involve slowing down the speed of the program, and thus lowering the pitch.

      However, if the series was shot at 24 fps (and many European TV series are, for export considerations), then the PAL broadcasts and 1080i50 Blu-rays would be sped up and have increased pitch. The American Blu-ray would then return to the original photographic speed.

      Generally speaking, a slight decrease in pitch is less noticeable or distracting than an increase. Our ears are more attuned to the high pitch frequencies.

  5. Tim

    Thanks guys.

    I’m going to assume it was shot at 1080i 50, because it’s a British production aired on British TV.

    • Josh Zyber

      A primetime drama wouldn’t be shot at 1080i these days. If it was an HD video production, it would have been shot at either 1080p24 or 1080p25. If a film production, then shot at either 24 fps or 25 fps and mastered at those other resolutions.

      In either case, the show would then have been converted to 1080i50 for broadcast and Blu-ray (because Blu-ray doesn’t support 1080p25).

      It really could go either way. Some British shows are shot at 24 fps so that they’ll be easier to license out to the American market.

  6. Quick google search returned tons of torrents encoded at 25fps, and a couple at 24 and 30. The best I could find was this:

    Under technical specs, it states 25fps. If you expand it, then it also states that it was shot with a Red One Camera (so… 4k?. That being said, this was the ONLY official page I could find alluding to the framerate. IMDB is usually right on this stuff, though.

    • Josh Zyber

      The RED camera isn’t automatically 4k. There are versions that are only 2k. I can’t imagine anyone shooting a TV series at 4k.

      That IMDb link is not the same show. That’s the original Swedish series. The one we’re referring to is the British version starring Kenneth Branagh.

      The show may very well have been shot at 25 fps. I don’t have specifics. All I’m saying is that *some* British TV series are shot at 24 fps. It’s not unheard of.

  7. I doubt Apocalypse Now uses seamless braching, Josh. From memory Redux was re-edited top to bottom from original negatives, so it represents a completely separate movie. Supposedly some shots that appear in both films even used different takes from the original cut.

    • Josh Zyber

      The “Complete Dossier” DVD was seamlessly branched (annoyingly so — it had a disc break intermission even in the middle of the theatrical cut). An early Blu-ray review from Digital Bits confirms: “Both versions of the film are included on Disc One of the new Lionsgate set (via seamless branching).”