The Blu-ray market was made for reissues, but not all reissues are created equal. With that in mind, here are four recent Blu-ray sets that bring some hit films of the past into the hi-def era. Which ones take advantage of the technology’s expanded storage limits? Which ones were put together with the fans in mind? Read on to find out:
American Beauty is the latest addition to Paramount’s Sapphire Series collection, and in terms of critical stature and awards, it fits right in alongside previous Sapphire titles such as Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, and The Godfather. Sadly, Beauty also fits in in terms of missed opportunities; Sapphire titles have started to gain a reputation for being problem-plagued (Private Ryan’s audio errors) or just plain uninspired (the straight Godfather repackages), and this one is no different.
First, the good stuff: Beauty’s 1080p AVC encode does all right by cinematographer Conrad L. Hall’s gorgeous work, giving the film’s rich colors a noticeable boost over the ‘99 DVD release. It isn’t perfect — various bits of speckles and noise appear here and there, and I suspect the overall quality is more indicative of the movie’s recent vintage than any real investment in the transfer — but if you aren’t watching simply to pick it apart, the picture’s fine.
Likewise the DTS HD Master Audio track, which puts Thomas Newman’s haunting score front and center where it belongs. Alan Ball’s script is sharp and darkly humorous, and the acting is uniformly solid — particularly from Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, and the always-excellent Chris Cooper — but quite a bit of the film’s emotional resonance stems from Newman’s work, and it really surrounds you here.