New to Blu: December 14-20

Yahoo! The sci-fi shoot-‘em-up, Cowboys & Aliens, is a wild blue yonder sensation on Blu-ray.

The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is near-reference quality, “filling the entire screen with tons of beautiful panoramic shots of New Mexico.

“Part of this rich, distinct clarity comes from a pitch-perfect contrast balance, extending visibility into the far distance … Taken as a whole, Jon Favreau’s sci-fi western is spectacular on Blu-ray.”

Indeed, “colours are rich and accurately saturated, skintones are gorgeous (or grizzled when called on), contrast is dark but perfectly suited to the genre-mashing action that unfurls, and black levels are dead on”.

There’s also a “terrific audio track [that] nears perfection. It is technically sound, but it falls just short of giving that awe feeling all the way through.

“There is some great surround usage during the alien/cowboy battles. The effects are precise and nicely prioritised. The music score is subtle but remains clear. Dialogue is intelligible throughout, but can be a bit spotty here or there. The directionality and panning is spot on. The soundfield is coherent. The LFE channel is full and powerful, though not quite as much so as the recent Conan the Barbarian release.”

Conan’s also out this week, on a 2D/3D disc that’s “full of vivid, gory excitement and tons of blood-soaked eye candy”, while Priest was crucified for its 3D conversion but hailed for its 2D presentation.

“The best sequence of the film is the opening credits montage; this was a three dimensional comic book brought to life to tell the back-story of this particular world, and it works really well – but this just highlights how flat the rest of the film is in 3D. Which is devastating because the rest of the picture is absolutely stunning.”

Meanwhile, “shot using the Arri Alexa digital motion picture camera — Arri’s new answer to the popular Red One — Mr Popper’s Penguins glides effortlessly onto Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC encode that’s sharp, clean, and vibrant”.

In fact, “detail is amazing in just about every scene, with eye-popping clarity and strong edge delineation”.

Underbelly: Razor bows on Blu-ray with exclusive extras — a Creating the Past short, deleted scenes and photo gallery — while Renny Harlin’s 5 Days of Warlooks solid, especially for a comparatively low-budget action film” and “captures an insane amount of detail, made possible particularly thanks to the image’s unbeatable clarity”.

Also new are the romcom, Something Borrowed, the direct-to-disc Catch .44 and Daydream Nation, and the back-catalogue classics and curiosities Charge of the Light Brigade, The Hills Run Red, Hour of the Gun, King and Four Queens, The Honey Pot, Electra Glide in Blue, Wizards, Tales From the CryptNed Kelly and Videodrome.

Glee – The 3D Concert and Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Edition are the key music releases while on the ‘toon front are Oakie’s Outback Adventure and Angel Beats! Complete Series.

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