High-Def Digest presents a list of Blu-rays to get you through the darkest days of winter.
The Top Ten Blu-rays to Help You Forget Winter
by Michael S. Palmer
Well, dear Readers, here we are, the day before Groundhog Day, in the thick of the blustery, dark days of another long winter…well, except for me. I live in Southern California, and despite an unending bout of pre-Christmas rain, it's been a balmy 70 degrees for weeks. In fact, hold on just a minute, I need to turn on my air conditioner so I'll be more mentally aligned with the rest of North America and Europe…
Ah, brrrrr, nice and chilly now. Man, what a year. I don't know if it's El Nino or La Nina or what is going on, but Canadian cold air and Pacific moisture are clearly making sweet, sweet love, and in the process, causing back-to-back-to-back Blizzards all across the lower 48. And to our European readers, you haven't fared much better this winter season. The good news is that the days are again getting longer (for those in the Northern hemisphere). But the bad news is that we're in for more cold and more storms.
So, in order to combat the cold outside – assuming you still have power – here are ten hot Blu-rays guaranteed to whisk you away from shovels and snow blowers, and drop you into an entertaining inferno of heat, deserts, and tropical jungles:
Akin to a holiday Yule log, our first feature is like curling up on the couch in front of a warm fire. 'Backdraft' features extended sequences inside burning (and lovingly photographed) buildings guaranteed to warm the chill in your spine. Hans Zimmer's score is epically patriotic and the plot, you might say, is quite explosive…. hahahahahaha… hahaha… ha. Ahem, not funny, so sorry. But somewhat more seriously, this movie is so hot you'll need oven mitts just to hold your remote.
'The Road Warrior' is a high-octane adventure set in the vast wastelands of a world gone by. The sunshine, earth tones, and explosions will warm anyone. Yes, there are some campy comedy bits, but the gritty car chases and action sequences will put you on the edge of your seat. Also, the Aussie accents (in the USA at least) make the whole thing feel a bit exotic.
"What's in a name?" the Bard once asked. Well, friends, 'Tropic Thunder' says it all. It's a movie set in the lush jungles of South East Asia, which happens to be a thunderous lambasting of Hollywood and all of its ridiculous excess. Here, with one role, Tom Cruise almost managed to undue years of bad press and awkward shenanigans. And don't get me started on how funny Robert Downey Jr. is as the obsessive white actor who died his skin black to play the role of an African American soldier. If 'Tropic Thunders' locations don't warm you up, laughing for two hours should raise your core temperature.
Okay, this may be the only cheat on the list. Disney Nature's 'Oceans' is a captivating and beautiful documentary about what lives under the waves. There are mammals and fish and all sorts of intriguing creatures to behold, I literally couldn't take my eyes off my TV. This is the type of Blu-ray that sells televisions. But back to the "cheat" element… I must admit there are moments in 'Oceans' where the filmmakers explore frigid, arctic seas. Yet, for whatever reason, I always see the ocean and think warmth (despite having to wear a wet suit nearly year round when surfing). Watching 'Oceans' is like taking a trip to another world, one that sometimes exists within an arms reach. This film is also great for the whole family, so perhaps by huddling everyone together on the sofa, you'll get warm that way.
As a native New Englander, nothing says winter break like a trip to Florida or the Caribbean. 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl' (a title so long, I just got carpal tunnel while typing it) combines both for me: a trip to a Disney world and the clear, blue waters of paradise. 'Pirates' was actually one of my first Blu-ray purchases -- it features a crisp, vibrant HD picture and a ripping uncompressed soundtrack -- and doing scene by scene comparisons with it and the DVD counterpart, I quickly saw how vastly superior Blu-ray is to DVD. From the high seas swashbuckling to buckets of golden treasure to burning down the palm trees on a deserted island, 'Pirates' will take anyone out of the winter doldrums. And frankly, every time you watch it, you'll want to immediately put it back in again and again.
We've spent a lot of time on this list in the jungles, but let's go back to the deserts and dry urban sprawls of Ridley Scott's war actioner. Between sandy beaches and African markets, 'Black Hawk Down' is a trip across the world into a war. The heroic nature of the characters is at once admirable and humbling, and like many of the films on this list, the explosions will help you pretend it's not eleven below outside.
If 'Tropic Thunder' was the spoof, 'Apocalypse Now' is the real thing. It's an explosive journey through war and the mind of a man as he travels up river through the unbearable heat of Vietnam. More jungles, more rivers, and more Napalm are among the many things that will heat up the living room. In fact, people sweat so much in this movie, you can't help but join 'em (sympathy sweating).
Space as a setting might be cold enough to freeze a man in seconds, but 'Sunshine' may be the hottest film on this list. It features a team of scientists and astronauts flying to our dying sun to restart it, and as they get closer, the sun's solar rays threaten to destroy their protective shield and incinerate the ship (and all souls aboard). Many of the film's tense set pieces and character moments are built around this threat and by the final moments, you'll have stripped out of a sweater and pants, and be watching in shorts and a t-shirt. Whew, even writing about 'Sunshine' makes my feel feverish.
Gosh, so many war movies and jungle settings. But none of them are as engrossing as 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'. Alec Guinness portrays one of the finest descents into madness ever captured on film. And the setting… We cross-cut between the resort-like American bases and the burning jungles of Burma where men who disobey their vicious Japanese captors are forced to sweat it out in a metal box. David Lean's film defines the word epic in everyway, and the climax will floor first time viewers.
And now…the number one Blu-ray, or in this case Blu-rays, that will help you forget the endless winter…
Nothing is better than six exciting seasons following castaways trapped on a mysterious, tropical island. Filmed on the lush island of Oahu in Hawaii, there's action, adventure, suspense, crazy plot twists, relationships, love, and some of the best characters ever written for the small screen. Yet, the production values here rival those of many big screen productions. And the best part for newbies -- or those coming back to revisit the series -- is by the time you're finished watching 121 episodes of ground breaking, mind-boggling television, it literally will be the summer.
So there we have it. Another list to debate and discuss. As always, there are certainly more Blu-rays (TV and feature films) to mention than what's considered on this list of my favorites -- please remember, we're only considering currently available Blu-ray Discs -- so I encourage readers to hit up the forums to add titles and/or arrange your own list(s). Cheers.