Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Inglourious Basterds on Blu-ray

Tarantino's First Blu Treatment

I managed to get my grubby paws on the Inglourious Basterds Blu-ray a day in advance of its release so I thought it made sense to delay my post for the week until now to be able to give my little review on it on its release date. I'm so glad I got Amazon Prime.

This is the first new release from directorial giant Quentin Tarantino that is released on Blu-ray and DVD simultaneously. His previous films on Blu-ray were just adapted for the format and so they don't take advantage of Blu-ray's additional benefits (other than great picture and sound quality) or have high definition special features. It seems like each Blu-ray I buy gets better and better in terms of overall presentation and navigation and picture quality (not counting Harry Potters 3-5, which I didn't get on their release dates, anyway), and Inglourious Basterds takes very little exception to that rule.

I've already gone into great detail about the movie itself back in August so I don't want to get into too much of it here. However, it's a tour de force in cultivating situations around people who are plotting against Hitler and the dialogue surrounding these situations. Not every work spoken is necessary but every sentence is definitely carefully crafted and in the end feels very satisfying even though 30 minutes probably could've been cut from the film without significantly damaging the plot. The experience of that 30 minutes though is well worth it though. The acting is exceptional all around. I understand that there's definitely some contention over whether Brad Pitt did well in his role, which I feel is surprising because his caricature in this movie is one of my favorite things about it. It goes without saying that the Academy would be insane to not nominate Cristoph Waltz for an Oscar and as I watched through my favorite scenes with him again I just re-discovered while I loved to hate his character all over again. Tarantino is no stranger to ensemble casts and I think he really struck it out of the park with this one. While I didn't see a ton of movies this year I did see quite a few and this was definitely my favorite. It may not have technically been the best movie to come out, but I was totally blown away by it and am still surprised that it has already stuck with me to a similar degree that Pulp Fiction has over the year.

I think the overall picture quality of this Blu-ray may actually just barely surpass even Star Trek, but both look so good that it's honestly hard to judge. I don't think I've ever paused a Blu-ray before and had a hard time finding artifacts up close. They're usually not that bad and not noticeable while actually watching the film, but the fact that this movie looks just as crisp and clear when you pause as while you're watching it really speaks for the detail in every frame. Part of why I'm emphasizing pausing the film is that there are some really great shots that are wonderful portraits of an emotion or a plot device that I have to pause to get the full effect of, sometimes. Anyway, the colors always feel true and the detail in faces and objects and settings is unmistakeably meticulous. I didn't realize that my living room could be lit up so much by a movie set in World War II. To put it simply, this is the way a Tarantino film was meant to be enjoyed outside of a movie theater. Without a surround sound setup I'd feel weird to talk much to sound, but everything sounded great on my TV. It comes with subtitles and audio tracks in English, French, and Spanish, by the way.

For a Blu-ray presented so well I was definitely surprised by the lack of attractive features. First off, I liked the case right off the bat and its reflective quality in the light. When I put in the disc I was very happy that Universal didn't decide to barrage me with trailers and other junk like my WB Blu-rays do without fail. It's sad that it's become so prevalent that starting a disc with the main menu or feature film is something worth calling out. Anyway, it's cool that if you have a BD Live enabled player you get a ticker off to the right side with news that you can easily turn off and menu sound effects are optional (and default to being off). This is actually my first movie to take advantage of the 4 colored buttons on my remote: you can use them during the movie to help mark clips of the movie you like for easy reference and sending to friends (who I beleive must also have the disco watch your favorite scenes, which seems a bit silly but I can definitely understand why the studios would want it. Anyway, these options actually show up while your pause or seek during the movie, or if you hit 'down'.

As I alluded to, the special features are definitely lacking. I knew there was something to be concerned about when I realized that a 2-disc edition meant that one had to be a digital copy, which expires if you don't remember/have the time to use it before then. Anyway, only a few of the extras are in 1080p with the rest being in 720i (the box claims 1080i, but it didn't look it) or 480p. The best extras are the trailers, the posters, and the round table with Tarantino and Brad Pitt. The other stuff is surprising unexciting. There are a couple of fun things, like a behind-the-scenes look at Nation's Pride (that film itself is also included, but less than 10 minutes long) and greetings to the editor during takes, and then a couple of serious pieces, like a discussion of the posters in the movie and some interviews and behind-the-scenes looks with the creator of the original Inglorious Bastards and one of its stars, but that's about it. The 3 extended scenes included aren't very exciting and there's still a scene in the trailers that I haven't seen in its entirety so Universal is definitely holding back on us. There's also a trivia game and some BD Live features like live chat, streaming previews of other films, and sending clips to friends, but these are also just little things. If they had just included a commentary track I think it would've helped a lot. But alas, there are a still a few scenes that I'd like to know the original intentions of and I'll never know the intentions of, now.

Despite the failings of the special features, I think the picture quality of the feature film alone is enough to sell it. This is a movie with really great replay value, in my opinion, and that looks good enough that you'll really want to keep putting it in. I highly recommend it.

The Normal Stuff

I am actually way to absolutely exhaused to continue with my normal dose of tech news, but I will try to make up for it in next week's post. Besides, the biggest thing to happen was that Apple acquired Lala and we still don't quite know what the means.

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