Michael Mackenzie's Top 10 HD Transfers of 2008

2008 has been quite a year for high definition. In addition to the emergence of Blu-ray as the clear winner of the format war with HD DVD, it has seen the steady growth of HD as a mass market option, with sales becoming increasingly healthy – aided, no doubt, by the release of high profile titles like The Godfather trilogy and The Dark Knight. That the latter shifted some 1.7 million copies in its first week, accounting for 13% of the film’s sales on home video, demonstrates that Blu-ray is well on the way to becoming a format not just for AV and cinema enthusiasts but also for the general public.

That said, I personally am first and foremost an enthusiast, and I aim my writing at other enthusiasts. While plenty of viewers (and that includes “professional” reviewers!) have been overwhelmingly happy with the majority of the format’s output, it has never been my style to sugar-coat or forgive flaws on the grounds that “it looks good enough”. I’ve a tendency to be pretty vocal in my criticism of discs which don’t pass muster, and as a result much of what I write can come across as negative. The current situation with Blu-ray, as far as transfers go, is infinitely better than it ever was with DVD, but at the same time there is a long way still to go. Studios must be discouraged from using invasive detail and grain reduction filters, the results of which have utterly ruined celebrated classics released this year such as Dark City and Patton. Even what was arguably this year’s biggest release, The Dark Knight, was not immune to such tampering, arriving in our homes in a noticeably compromised state. In many cases, the mangled masters that have been created for these films will continue to be used for years to come, so it is imperative that we remain vigilant as to these practices and continue to be vocal in our disapproval as to their use.

However, the main purpose of this article is not to catalogue crimes but to celebrate successes. When all said and done, 2008 was a great year, for both older titles and new releases. Without further ado, therefore, I present you with my personal picks for the ten best HD transfers of the last twelve months, based on the titles I personally had the good fortune to see. Please bear in mind that I didn’t even come close to watching every title releases, so if a transfer you think is particularly good isn’t here, it may be that I simply haven’t seen it. It’s also worth pointing out that there were so many good releases that, in narrowing the list down to a mere ten titles, some sterling efforts have invariably been overlooked.

Click any of the images below to enlarge them to their full resolution.

10. Zodiac
Paramount – AVC

9. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Paramount – AVC

8. How the West was Won
Warner – VC-1

7. The Godfather Part III
Paramount – AVC

6. Doomsday
Universal – VC-1

5. Across the Universe
Sony Pictures – AVC

4. Wall-E
Buena Vista – AVC

3. Enchanted
Buena Vista – AVC

2. Resident Evil: Extinction
Sony Pictures – AVC

1. I, Robot
20th Century Fox – AVC

Honourable mentions (best first): Transformers (Paramount – AVC), Gone Baby Gone (Buena Vista – AVC), Juno (20th Century Fox – AVC), The Life Before Her Eyes (Magnolia – AVC), Persepolis (Sony Pictures – AVC), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Warner – VC-1), La Femme Nikita (Sony Pictures – AVC), The Omen (20th Century Fox – AVC), Night of the Living Dead (Optimum – AVC)

Biggest disappointments (worst first): Escape from New York (Optimum – AVC, standard definition upconvert), Night of the Werewolf/Vengeance of the Zombies (BCI – AVC), Gangs of New York (Buena Vista – VC-1), Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (BFI – AVC), Dark City (New Line – VC-1), Strictly Ballroom (ITV – VC-1)

Feel free to reply with your own personal picks!

Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:17:06

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