Movies That Deserve a Blu-ray Release
It was only about 4 years ago that I joined the cult known as Blu-ray Purists. Or at least that’s what I like to call it. Most people call them cinephiles. It’s a group of people who are so affixed on the natural quality of film grain detail, and the authentic visual appearance of movies, that they won’t watch anything on a DVD ever again if they can get it on Blu-ray. Some people, I’m sure, don’t even dare watch anything at all unless they can get it in HD.
In my case, I adored the idea of blu-rays, because it was a chance to see cleaner images, brighter colors, crisper detail, and a proper aspect ratio every single time, no matter whether the film was originally shot in 4:3 or in Cinemascope. I still buy films on DVD and even on VHS, if that’s the cheapest, or even the only way you can get them. But any time a Blu-ray is readily available, I won’t hesitate. And there is NO going back now.
So once I finally got myself a PS3, I was hooked for life. And I’ve been buying up Blu-rays ever since. And because there were so many great films that I owned that I felt could greatly benefit from a Blu-ray update, I decided to find a website that would allow me to keep up with all of the new blu-ray releases. Enter Blu-ray.com, a safe haven for all blu-ray enthusiasts who want to keep in the know, up to date, and on the cusp of every new film being remastered in HD, or even just getting re-released on DVD and I-Tunes.
Back when I started looking through this website, I was curious to find out whether or not certain films were in fact on the fast track to getting blu-rays. So I took to the search bar, looked up a few, and found that yes, indeed there were listings for these films. However, they were just listings. There was no synopsis, nor cast and crew details, even though the film already existed. There were no details of special features. And there was no projected release date. All that it had was a box off to the right side that said, “Email me when this title is available for pre-order.” So you know what I did? I went to every single listing for films I liked that had no release date, and I signed up to get a notice for every single one of them.
Now at the time, there was no guarantee that ANY of these films were going to be released on Blu-ray, despite having these listings on the site. They were so niche market and many were only cult classics, that I didn’t think it possible anyone was going to take the time anytime soon to produce the new transfer. I mean, it does take some amount of effort to pull out the film reels, or hopefully an original negative, send it through the scanning process, and produce a brand-new Blu-ray disk of the film. Best case scenario, the production company who owns the film will hire a team of conservationists in order to restore the film, both physically and digitally, to produce a final image that is even better than it’s original theatrical appearance. 5.1 Surround Sound and all. So I just had to wait and hope that someday these films would get their dues.
And as I’ve watched over the past 4 years, to my sheer surprise and delight, the majority of these listings have been released. And I now own quite a few of them. Some that I never guessed would even get a Blu-ray, sometimes just popped up on my radar a month or two before their projected date. And so I snatched those up as well. Which has prompted me to now believe that if any film shows up with a listing on Blu-ray.com, it most certainly is in the pipe-line for an HD release sometime within the next 2-4 years. So far, it has not failed.
So what were these odd little films?
Well just to name a few, there was:
So if you don’t quite get what my point is, all of these films were just a fleeting possibility about 4-5 years ago. Maybe not even that. They felt more like Pipe-dreams to me, especially Little Nemo and Ferngully there. Because really, who in the world would care enough to put these through the gauntlet to a Blu-ray disk? I have no idea. But thankfully these are now out there and available for purchase. I actually have the Amazon Exclusive Cowboy Bebop set pre-ordered and ready to arrive this week. And the rest of these films that I don’t already own are still on my priorities list.
So I thought today, I would make up a list of 10 other films that I have been waiting a long time to see on blu-ray. All of which do have a Blu-ray.com listing as of this writing. And brother, there are some very surprising titles on the horizon. There’s even a listing for the lost Japanese Mario movie on the US page. What?
I also chose mostly animated films, because animated films are some of the best looking on blu-ray, especially when they’re 2D animated. So here we go.
For a film this amazing and this passionately emotional, it’s a true shame that it doesn’t get more recognition among movie fanatics. It’s a shockingly heartfelt and inspirational sleeper hit from 1987, and the people who have seen it have all said the same thing: it is dark, it is brutal, but it’s a damn good film. And not a “kids film,” but just “a film.”
Problem is, the version we’ve all come to love has always been in bad shape. I’m sure many of you who’ve seen this know full well that the film is horribly wobbly all the way through, and its especially visible during the opening credits. This is true for both the VHS as well as the DVD. It’s apparently due to the film having been transfered to those mediums from the exact same film print, which at the time had been overused and had begun to become terribly warped from being shipped around and played so much at festivals and other venues. Seems odd though that they couldn’t have bothered to get out a clean and unused copy to transfer the film with. But because of that, everyone now cannot imagine this film without that wobble. And in fact I actually would argue it has become an integral part of why the film is as emotionally charged as it is. The wobbly screen actually adds another layer to the tense and chilling atmosphere of the quiet and intense moments.
But, if this film were to get a proper blu-ray release, is there a chance someone would step up and actually transfer a clean copy, or even go through the trouble of stabilizing the footage? Perhaps. And if not, I’m sure a lone fan would be greatly willing to do that work for free, and it would certainly benefit us all. Because even if the wobble may potentially add to the film’s atmosphere, it still doesn’t take away the fact that that was never the intention of director Jerry Rees. And we owe it to such a daring a visionary director of this 80s classic to see his film as it was intended.
2. Cats Don’t Dance (1997)
I know I have yet to get to talking about this film, and the film just below this. But for now what I can say is this, THIS a fun movie. It is perhaps the ONLY film from Warner Brother’s history that is actually a fully animated, Looney Tunes styled feature-length movie, and not one of their half original half stock footage compilation films like The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie or Daffy Ducks Quack Busters.
It’s a musical romp with perhaps some of the best and most catchy songs of Randy Newman’s career. And it features a very spirited and lovable performance by Quantum Leap star, Scott Bacula, as Danny. I used to sing Danny’s opening number all the time when I was a pre-teen. And despite some of the darker or more awkward moments in this film involving the loathsome Darla Dimple, the rest of the movie is a loving homage to old Hollywood and spirit of making musicals. This was even the last film that Gene Kelly was involved with, as he served as a minor consultant on the tap-dancing moves that Danny and Sawyer performed. The film is even dedicated to him in the ending credits.
The main reason why I want to see this film on Blu-ray is simple, it deserves a Blu-ray. It’s better than Osmosis Jones, and its better than most other animated films were at the time, because this was just after Hunchback, but before Tarzan, and it was arguably better than Hercules. It was also a heck of a lot better than Swan Princess 2, Anastasia, Beauty and the Beast the Enchanted Christmas, and whatever Land Before Time sequel was out at the time. It’s a big favorite of mine, and I cannot wait to see this in HD.
3. A Goofy Movie (1995)
The goof movie holds a special place in my heart for being both an indicative and yet a subtle portrait of what the 1990s was like. At least I assume so, I never really fully experienced the 90s. So considering many 90s films often overblew the coolness and the vibe of the 90s, as the previous decade had done, this felt a lot more grounded in some form of reality to an extent. There were more honest emotions and honest problems here than most 90s films with pop culture icons and music and such. And so along with its captivating soundtrack, the lovable performance by Bill Farmer as Goofy, and the quirky 90s world of Max Goof, this has always been a go-to favorite for animated films.
I especially think this deserves a blu-ray, very likely in a two pack along with its sequel, because it is extremely well animated by then new-comer DisneyToon studios. The grit and detail that is so apparent in this film and the way that the actual film itself appears with its own subtle wobble and (very likely) still hand-painted cels, it’s a unique specimen among Disney films. And if The Rescuers Down Under can get a Blu-ray, and The Little Mermaid 2 and Ariel’s Beginning can get their own blu-ray pack, then I see no reason why this shouldn’t get one either.
4. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
For being created by a then BRAND-NEW studio just starting out, this was one hell of a way to begin. Forgetting for a moment that Shrek would come out only a few years later, The Prince of Egypt is a startlingly grand a powerfully epic retelling of the Moses story, now in animated form. In many ways it rivals and even surpasses the still famous Cecil B. Demille film due to its visual design, its emotional weight, and its more three-dimensional characters and character dynamics. It’s a masterpiece amongst the sea of non-Disney films, and it needs an HD release just as much as Shrek had gotten, if not more.
And I will also say the same for Road to El Dorado, even if that was a tad awkward step down. Spirit: Stalleon of the Cimeron got a blu-ray! So why isn’t this one out already. People didn’t even like Spririt all that much. THIS was the film they should have put out immediately. Not waste their time with Spirit. But hey, here’s hoping we’ll see it come around in the new year.
5. The Iron Giant (1999)
Now I was never personally a fan of this movie. I watched it a fair amount of times when I was a kid, don’t get me wrong. But I think because the emotions of this film are so high near the third act, I can’t stand to watch it these days, even though I feel like I ought to be. But even if I’m not emotionally prepared to sit down to it again, I do think it deserves a blu-ray more than any of the previous listings I’ve mentioned simply because it is a true underrated classic. This movie is very well-known among animation fans, and very often talked about as a modern classic. Brad Bird really proved himself with this, and its no wonder Pixar picked him up for the Incredibles. And so I’m very excited to see what he’ll be doing with Tomorrowland this coming May.
I don’t think this film needs any reason not to be on Blu-ray. But I’ve talked at great length about it in my review if you’d like to know my reasons.
It and the first two American Tail films are the only movies of Don Bluth’s not to be put on blu-ray by his direct distributors: Universal had been keeping a hold on these three for quite some time not doing anything with them. But An American Tail (1) is now on Blu-ray, in my collection. So it should only be a matter of time before this finds its way there as well. In fact I think An American Tail 2 is available in HD on I-tunes now, or at least in it’s proper aspect ratio. Which again, is something blu-rays can easily fix, because they’re sure as hell not going to put out new DVDs for Toaster, Goofy, Balto or anything else still suck in 4:3. So blu-ray or I-tunes is my only chance to watch them properly. And I’d rather take Blu-ray for now.
7. Balto (1995)
I’ve already talked about the quality of this movie at length in my joint review with An American Tail 2, but because An American Tail 2 doesn’t have a blu-ray listing yet, I have less cause to believe it will be on its way yet. This however, it a beautiful animated production. Far better than its predecessor, We’re Back!: A Dinosaur’s Story, which was in fact made by the same people and one of the same directors, Simon Wells. And was made after An American Tail 2. So if you watch all three of those films, you can see how their skills and their sensibilities developed. And this is by far their best looking and most consistent piece of work. Utilizing a solid story, a great cast, subtle and rather realistic but captivating visuals. And just all around a very respectable feature, when at the time, animated films were starting to take a down turn into what they would become in the early 2000s. And we all know how that turned out.
8. Bicentennial Man (1999)
I would like to give my sincerest apologies to those of you who felt a great loss after Robin Williams’ death, for the fact that I did not immediately purchase this film and review it as a way of honoring his legacy. Because to me, Bicentennial Man is not only what I consider to be one of Robin Williams’ most impressive and moving performances, but it is one of the only films I have ever seen that made me cry in the end. It was, and still is an emotionally provocative story, and a very philosophical one: considering the possibilities of what it might be like for a robot to fully convert himself into a human, and the experiences he would go through during that process. It also considers the great question of, “would God grant a robot a soul?”
And so while I eagerly await the long overdue US release of Aladdin on Blu-ray, and greatly enjoy the classic excitement of Hook, this is a film I have long waited to see on Blu-ray. And it cannot come soon enough.
9. Chicken Run (2000)
Chicken Run has been on my mind for the better part of 10 years now, because I think the last time I popped it in the player was 10 years ago. Not even joking. It was very likely the first major stop-motion production I had ever seen, and it sent me on my trail to learn animation, and eventually to my field of filmmaking and film journalism. So it is in fact a very seminal film in my life. And pretty much any film that is important to me, I’d like to own in it’s best looking and best presented version. No exceptions.
10. Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie (1996)
Perhaps the weirdest listing I’ve seen in a long while, this is the one I’m most skeptical, and yet hopeful about. Because while the Sonic Movie has never been a symbol of good quality filmmaking, it’s such an odd anomaly amongst the sea of Sonic media made over the last 15-20 years that it’s always interesting to look back at. It’s pretty much the same looking animation that you see during the opening credits of the Sonic CD, and the musical score is extremely unique and memorable, despite what little there is.
Yes the voice acting may be hokey and sometimes irritating, the character of Sonic may be too much of a dick, and the story may be generic and convoluted, but its oddity I feel far outweighs its issues in terms of whether or not its worth picking up. I’ve actually been wanting to own this movie for ages just so I could properly talk about it. And now that there’s a chance it could wind up on Blu-ray, well I might just pick it up if it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg like the DVD currently does.
By the way, there’s been talk as recently as August of this year (2014), that the original, unaltered cuts of Star Wars are on the horizon for a 4K blu-ray release by 2017. But just about everybody who gives it some thought and weighs this possibility in their hands quickly rationalizes what would need to happen for that to occur. First, a 4K transfer would have to be made, which would cost about $1 million dollars to accomplish. Well as it turns out, that’s already been taken care of by Reliance Media Works. And what little footage they’ve shown in their demo videos looks gorgeous. And the other problem is that 20th Century Fox actually owns the rights to all 6 current Star Wars films until 2020, and will forever own the distribution rights to A New Hope. So Disney and Fox would have to make an agreement before this unaltered and original cut can be released.
However, the possibility is looking more and more plausible, and more and more small things are coming to light that may mean this really is on the horizon. And guess what I’ve seen pop up in just the last few months? Brand-new listings for the original Star Wars films, with classic artwork cover images, on Blu-ray.com.
And based on all that I’ve said, and all of the films that have made it into reality after being listed so many years ago, my money is on these listings being legit, and the best evidence that there is to confirm these films are coming. Don’t think it could really be true? Well lets just wait and see.