New to Blu: July 25-31

The only theatrical release debuting on Blu-ray this week is Martha Marcy May Marlene – the rest of the unusually slim slate comprises direct-to-disc titles.

Martha Marcy May Marlene features an interesting visual style, and this transfer seems to offer a solid representation of the director’s intent.

“With that said, intentional or not, I found the elevated black levels to be distracting, resulting in a mostly unimpressive picture.”

“Contrast can appear softer than you might expect for a modern feature. Detail is there and an occasional sense of depth.

“Colours, too, are reasonably passive and reflect a honest vérité style. There is noise in the transfer but I never found it overwhelming.”

The best of the direct-to-disc releases, at least in terms of HD specs, promises to be Steven Soderbergh’s take on action-thrillers, Haywire.

Haywire was shot digitally on the RED ONE camera system using Hawk anamorphic lenses, and it was finished on a 2K DI.

“The results are an unusual – but not unpleasant – looking mix of old and new, with the elliptical bokeh of 35mm anamorphic allied with the raw clarity that a 4.5K digital image brings to the table.”

However, Soderbergh’s shooting style may not be the only reason for “the lack of crystal clarity

“Other regions have the film on a dual layered Blu-ray whereas, for reasons that are not clear, in our region we have a single layered Blu-ray.

“The film is short and it is not uncommon to stick short films, without substantial extras, onto a single layered disc. Further, the quality of a transfer really depends on its authoring and not the pure numbers of the size of the file.

“I’ll let the more knowledgeable debate this but it may be that our region is more compressed that its relatives.”

The Big Year flaps onto Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that’s always better than merely acceptable, but rarely–if ever–stunning.”

“The picture standards for new major studio feature films seem to get better all the time, so it is both odd and noticeable that The Big Year’s Blu-ray falls short of the usual excellence.

“The 2.35:1 picture has quite a bit of grain and not much sizzle, making the film look more like an early 2000s production than a $41 M-budgeted 2011 release.”

Wanderlust on Blu-ray has a 1.85:1 1080p transfer with strong detail, and accurate colour. It’s a solid hi-def presentation for a movie that doesn’t necessarily demand it.”

“The transfer is bright and bold with a warm colour palette, especially during the sunny outdoor scenes. Skin tones are natural and details come through sharply.”

Ironclad brandishes a striking 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that rarely misses the mark. Cinematographer David Eggby deals in mud and blood, and his stormy, stonework palette sets a suitably grim tone.”

As for the audio, “Wow — this is good stuff, folks!

Ironclad receives a punishing DTS-HD MA 5.1 track to complement its pounding and excessively violent visuals.”

The Sitter features a very strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that leaves very little to be desired. It is DNR-free, edge enhancement-free, band-free, aliasing-free, artifact-free, and noise-free.”

Previously released on DVD, Age of Heroes’ re-issue on Blu-ray “suffers from inconsistent contrast which isn’t a big deal when we’re in the various European climes, but which becomes an issue once we’re thrust into the nearly all-white environment of Norway.”

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is “no Saving Private Ryan or Letters From Iwo Jima, but for the sort of film and budget we’re talking about, it is effective.”

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