The Best Blu-rays of 2012

Movies reviewer Cas Harlow lists his Best Blu-rays of 2012.

by Casimir Harlow Jan 3, 2013 at 8:50 PM

  • Movies Article


    The Best Blu-rays of 2012
    Every Top 10 list is subjective, but I have attempted to cull together some of the best-rated releases covered by our review team during the year.
    Whilst I’m sure there are plenty that people would have liked to have seen make the cut – and plenty more that they feel should have been bumped up a notch or two – it’s worth remembering that, whilst this is a list of Top Blu-rays, the first and foremost element on any Blu-ray package is the movie itself, followed by the video and audio presentations, and lastly taking into consideration the extras. As such, we’ve afforded only a select few titles 10s in any category, let alone two or more categories, and this list attempts to reflect that scoring to a degree. Click on any of the respective titles to take you through to the relevant review.
    10. Prometheus 3D
    Visually stunning but fundamentally flawed, Sir. Ridley Scott’s return to the universe of his classic 1979 Alien left many impressed by the spectacle, but just as many frustrated by the incomplete, somewhat illogical, and often incomprehensible narrative, which comes complete with jerky stop-start pacing and editing issues that left the end product one of the most tragically disappointing must-see movies of all time. Still, despite the film’s problems – much like Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo – the Blu-ray release offered up the ultimate package: demo quality video and audio as well as all of the extras you could have possibly hoped for (well, apart from that rumoured director’s cut that we may never see). As Matt noted on his review of the disc, it is one of the best 3D movies available today; technically, this is a real reference disc both visually and sonically. Whatever your reservations over the movie, you should have no reservations over the release.
    9. The Dark Knight Rises
    The end to the greatest comic-book film series of all time – although far from perfect – this is still a grand, fitting climax to a stunning trilogy which has single-handedly defined, re-defined and simply transcended the limitations of its genre. The Region Free UK Blu-ray provides a very good package which offers exceptional IMAX footage that somewhat alleviates the other, arguably less significant issues on the video presentation, along with a grandstanding audio track that will shake your house right down to its foundations. Although light on extras, this is still likely a keen source of demo material, and easily makes it into our must-have list of Blu-rays. Complete your collection of the magnificent Nolan Batman trilogy with this impressive conclusion.
    With a fantastic picture and great sound, Avengers Assemble is going to give your system the workout it deserves.
    8. Avengers Assemble
    Did you really ever think that we were actually going to get a big budget blockbuster movie which brought together Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor et al? Well it finally happened, with this year’s Ultimate Summer Blockbuster, Avengers, a film which banded together a bunch of our favourite superheroes for a smackdown of truly epic proportions. Director Joss Whedon gave us an action-packed ensemble outing with just enough heart and more than a little bit of laugh-out-loud humour – and that’s before we even get to the Hulk’s ultimate scene-stealing, show-stopping ass-kickage. As Alan noted in his review, although the 3D is a conversion and should absolutely be avoided, this Blu-ray package is a veritable shelf smasher, and is simply a must own. With a fantastic picture and great sound delivered in gloriously uncompressed 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio, it's going to give your system the workout it deserves. Not exactly light, but hardly heavy on the extras, what's there is short lived but satiates some of our additional content desires. Go buy it immediately, then watch it repeatedly.
    7. Heaven's Gate - Criterion Collection
    Criterion hit the Top 10 with the first of just two entries. There were plenty that could have made the cut, but only a couple survived to the final list. Heaven’s Gate is a milestone in the history of cinema; it was the turning-point after which directorial control over movies was forever shifted in favour of Studios – directors like Apocalypse Now’sFrancis Ford Coppola and Heaven’s Gate’s Michael Cimino could no longer spend seemingly infinite amounts of time and money putting together these masterpieces; their visions would have to be reined in and tempered by budgetary constraint and producer interference. And it all started here. See what all the fuss is about as Criterion pull out all the stops to provide us with the undeniably epic full 217-minute director’s cut in a superb package with newly-restored video and audio, both to die for, as well as a whole second disc of excellent extras. Cult classic or flawed failure? The years have been kind to this underrated masterwork and it gets the highest recommendation.
    With Lawrence of Arabia you get one of the most astonishing and beautiful of AV transfers.
    6. Lawrence of Arabia
    As Chris wrote in his epic review: Lawrence of Arabia, a film as elliptical and off-kilter as the depiction of its titular character, is an unparalleled masterpiece of Cinema. It deserves, nay demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, though it is fair to say that Peter O’ Toole’s truly iconic, once-in-a-lifetime performance would shine like burnished gold from out of any viewing platform. You get one of the greatest films ever made in this glorious 50th Anniversary package, and you get it with one of the most astonishing and beautiful of AV transfers too, along with impressive sound and extras accompaniment to boot. Pick yourself up a copy.
    5. Indiana Jones - The Complete Adventures
    As Chris noted, these films are absolutely perfect entertainment through and through and, whilst the Ark, the Sankara Stones and the Grail are peerless milestones in the annals of action cinema, we can argue about the worth of Crystal Skull until the end of time, but the first three films are justifiably legendary and will doubtless last forever as the truest embodiment of thrilling adventure. The lavish UK boxset is stellar in terms of its AV presentation, with meticulous restoration-work done on Raiders, and the other entries looking and sounding wonderful too, as well as some great extras which provide the background to each yarn. The entire set is nigh-on essential for anyone with a Blu-ray player.
    4. Jaws
    As Alan celebrated: Jaws is one of the best films that you will likely ever see, and the kind of movie that you could just watch again and again. It’s another one of those still relatively rare all-time classics, up there as one of the greatest movies ever made. From the direction to the cast; from the characters to the performances; a simple tale and simple effects made classic through a superb confluence of perfectly balanced ingredients. It was arguably the first big summer blockbuster, which is all the more shocking when you realise just what an improvisational affair the production was. Obviously this was one of the most anticipated releases of the year and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Bringing the film to life with a fresh and absolutely fantastic restoration and a superb 7.1 remix, as well as a boat-load of excellent extras, is this really not in your Top 10 must-have purchases of 2012?
    3. Bond 50
    Fifty years of Bond, culminating in one of the best Blu-ray sets ever released, collecting the first 22 films in this timeless series, and even leaving a spot for 2012’s excellent addition, Skyfall. We all have our favourite Bonds and our favourite Bond films – from frequent Connery favourite Goldfinger to Lazenby’s underdog contender OHMSS; from Moore’s peak of excess Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me to Dalton’s maverick ahead-of-its-time Licence to Kill, not forgetting Craig’s superb reboot, Casino Royale – and this release delivers them all, in a sumptuous hardback-book package which takes up surprisingly little space and comes at a shockingly affordable price. Although the video and audio presentations vary somewhat, they mostly showcase the movies better than ever before, and overall it is a fantastic set, well deserving of a place in everybody’s collection.
    The Last Temptation of Christ - Criterion Collection
    One of my most anticipated back-catalogue releases of the year, Martin Scorsese’s breathtaking The Last Temptation of Christ is a film that simply everybody should see. Enshrouded in controversy, its notoriety is unjustified – the film is far more respectful and far more powerfully religious than its critics would care to admit, often because those who condemn the movie (and its source novel) haven’t even seen it. It is, in actual fact, one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking films ever made; a study of faith, humanity, and existential inner conflict, all rolled-up in an epic tale of the struggles between the flesh and the spirit; between good and evil. Reason alone for justifying picking up a Region-A capable player, Criterion have once again produced a stunning Blu-ray package which boasts excellent video and audio as well as a superb set of extras. A masterpiece amidst masterpieces, and one of the best releases of the year.
    Drive was the best film I saw in 2011 and, despite some strong offerings, this 2012 Blu-ray release graduates to the number 1 slot.
    1. Drive
    Without a doubt the absolute best film I saw in 2011, despite some strong offerings, this early 2012 Blu-ray release also graduates to the number 1 slot on the 2012 top 10 Blu-rays. A relatively small indie production, it boasts true heart and soul; an ostensibly low-key B-movie made unique by unpredictable plot development, multi-layered characterisation, powerhouse against-type performances, stunning visual imagery and rich symbolism, capped off with an outstanding retro score which will take your experience to the next level. Effortlessly cool, remarkably tense and surprisingly tragic, this film deserves a place in everybody’s collection and with impressive video and outstanding audio, as well as a smattering of extras, the Region B-locked UK release is a blind buy. Pick it up immediately, if you haven’t already done so. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

    Well that’s it for another year. I’m sure there are plenty of titles fans would have liked to have seen make the list – Criterion alone released the likes of The Game and Traffic, both with excellent packages, and came so closer to securing even more entries in this short roundup – and with excellent releases for everything from Hugo 3D to ET,Cinderella to Fincher’s unnecessary remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, compiling a Top 10 was not an easy task. Perhaps the hardest omission was arguably the year’s best movie (or at least joint-best, opposite Skyfall), the fantastic sci-fi actioner Dredd 3D. Unfortunately, despite Chris getting an early review out of the box, the title isn’t actually out until 2013 but, at least for those with 3D capabilities, looks to be an impressive release.

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