While the archives are still chock full of umpteen films crying out for the high-definition treatment – be it the late HD DVD or its Blu-ray rival – the shelves have nonetheless been shovelled full of this little lot that we’re about to talk about.A quick caveat. Yes: films that aren’t shot in such high definition quality are rarely going to be the best candidates for a HD release, but the older films that have made it across to the assorted formats thus far have shown that real improvements can be made.
Back to the list, though. Which of these would any hi-def enthusiast want or need to see in 1080p? We’re all for having a broad catalogue of films out there, but surely the weighting of HD delights to HD fillers is way, way off right now. After all, it takes a real enthusiast to have sat through the format wars, invested in the technology and paid a premium for the discs. These are some of the titles those enthusiasts have been rewarded with, whose slots could have been taken by more eagerly awaited and appropriate releases…Adam Sandler: We’re not got an anti-Sandler thing going on, and in fact, many of us like his films. Appreciating I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry got through because it was day and date with the DVD release, what the hell are Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison doing on HD DVD? Seriously? Happy Gilmore is a comedy many of us love, but nobody has ever stood in the middle of Currys staring at a 50” TV and wondered what the film would look like on that…
Meet The Spartans: To be fair, this has no place on any film medium whatsoever. A cheap shot, granted.
Tom Shadyac: Inexplicably, one of the least impressive directors working today has managed to sneak the majority of his film work onto high-definition. Evan Almighty gets a pass, again, because of it going day and date with the DVD release, but there’s a HD DVD release of Patch Adams! Patch fecking Adams!
Throw in Nutty Professor, and – yes! – The Klumps: Nutty Professor 2 (the latter of which he was executive producer, rather than director of), along with Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty, and Shadyac is, staggeringly, very well represented in high definition. Why? He’s directed seven cinematic releases, and you can get five of them in HD. Sigh.Rumor Has It: Crappy Costner rom-com gets high-definition release. Quality Costner fare such as Robin Hood, Thirteen Days, Open Range and JFK remains on the shelf.
Norbit: See Meet The Spartans. But on a serious note: Norbit is never going to be a killer HD title, so why not price films like these in line with their DVD counterparts? Interestingly, classic Eddie Murphy comedies such as Trading Places and Coming To America are represented in HD too. No Beverly Hills Cop, though…
Anchorman: I love Anchorman; the film is a work of genius. Yet when DreamWorks (now part of Paramount, of course, with its animation division remaining independent) confirmed its entry into producing HD discs (albeit for HD DVD; Blu-rays no doubt to follow), its debut titles were Shrek 3 (understandably), Anchorman and Old School. We’re back to inappropriate choices again here. The DreamWorks catalogue features Gladiator, Road To Perdition, Cast Away, Collateral and Galaxy Quest. Admittedly there are a lot of co-productions in there, and also I do get that you test the market a little and hold back the odd big release. But what exactly was a HD DVD of Anchorman testing?Basic Instinct 2: Basic Instinct also made it to hi-def, which in itself is puzzling. But the rotten-to-the-core sequel again ate up a slot that could have been taken by a far more worthy high definition candidate.
Kevin Smith: Smith’s work isn’t the natural home of high definition, not least because the releases tend to strip away some of the extras from the feature-packed DVDs. Quite a few of his films have made it, though: Clerks 2, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma and Mallrats are all available.
Men Of Honor: One of those catalogue flicks that seems to exist to be wheeled out by Fox when a new format comes along (see also: Chain Reaction), the galling thing about Men Of Honor is that its Blu-ray transfer is excellent. But why waste all the effort on a film so few people care about? Sitting on the Fox shelves are the Alien movies (AvP and its sequel aside), and surely they should be taking precedence over catalogue shite like this.Goal – The Dream Begins: I remember when this came out, and how it was the start of a trilogy that was costing nine figures to make, or something. What’s more, it’s inched up the Blu-ray release schedules in preparation for the sequels, coming out on the format in the US. But not, hilariously, in Britain, where the film was made, and whose national sport it depicts (the first film is about Newcastle United – bet that goes down a treat in the heart of America). Genius.
Bubble: Steven Soderbergh’s back catalogue hasn’t done too badly in high definition, but why it was felt necessary to give his experimental film – most noted for coming out on DVD and at the flicks on the same weekend – a 1080 spin is bizarre. Magnolia, who put this out, doesn’t have a huge catalogue, but it does have the US rights to Dead Man’s Shoes. Surely that would have been a better bet?
Scary Movie: You can’t get the Scream films in HD, but you can get Scary Movie, and – bizarrely – Scary Movie 4 (2 and 3 are MIA, it seems). How does that work? In fact, horror doesn’t get too good a deal all round on the format, unless you like the lazy remakes/concept genre films of recent years.
Wall Street: A cracking 80s movie, make no mistake about that. Yet Fox has promoted it to the Blu-ray schedules, while leaving – on top of the aforementioned Alien films – the first two X-men films, Fight Club, Minority Report (see the Spielberg bit below, though) and – if you must – Titanic on the shelves.
Arnie: Arnie films in HD – The Terminator trilogy, Predator, Commando, Total Recall,The 6th Day . Arnie films not in HD: True Lies, The Running Man, Eraser, Conan. Not a bad split, but room for improvement. Keep Junior on the shelf though, eh?
The Jerk: I’m going to stop citing the Universal dumping machine that pointlessly threw classic comedies at HD DVD – such as this, Animal House, Fletch et al – in lieu of producing more appropriate releases. Breadth is good to any catalogue, but killer, must-own discs would surely have served HD DVD a lot better. Hardly Universal’s fault, who chucked most of its content of the last decade at the format, but The Jerk and its ilk were never going to persuade someone to pony up a few hundred for a player.
Meanwhile, this lot are nowhere near a HD format…
The Usuals: For this, we throw in the vast bulk of the Spielberg catalogue (including the ones he produced, such as Back To The Future etc), Star Wars, and the assorted other films it felt like we had to beg to get on DVD once upon a time. So take them all as a given. And let’s be clear: we appreciate many of these weren’t filmed in hi-def, but given the super restoration and upgrade work that’s been done on other, older films, there is some merit to revisiting some of the older back catalogue.The Ones We’ve Mentioned: Including X-men 1 & 2, and the Alien movies.
Lord Of The Rings: Now New Line has been fully amalgamated into Warner Bros, and considering that Warner Bros has been the best supporter of hi-def to date, isn’t it time that the most popular film trilogy of recent times made the jump to 1080? They weren’t shy about shifting big releases on us around the time of the films themselves, if memory serves.
Batman: This should be rectified later this year, to tie in with the Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight. As it stands, Batman Begins is a terrific HD disc, and will be heading to Blu-ray later this year as well. Let’s see how Burton’s Batman fares, though.
Sin City: Just how great would this look? Instead, if you want your comic book fix, you’re expected to go out and buy the Fantastic Four movies. Sigh.
Clint: You name ‘em. Dirty Harry is coming, but how about the Spaghetti Westerns? The DVD transfers were good, but if there’s room for even more improvement, we’d sure want to see it.Animation: The best, most consistent stuff we’ve seen in high-def so far has been computer animation. So can we fast track Monsters Inc, the Toy Story flicks and Finding Nemo (the latter of which is confirmed for 2009)? And what about the forgotten DreamWorks flick, Antz? This is, of course, before we get anywhere near the classic Disney titles, not one of which has yet made it to high definition (Sleeping Beauty debuts on Blu-ray later this year).
I could go on. But what was lost in the mud-slinging of the HD format war over the last two years was the oddness of some of the titles that were being dropped on us. The next year or so is clearly going to be crucial for the land of Blu-ray, so let’s see the studios starting to do the decent thing, and get their killer titles out to give the format the best possible chance.
And leave the rest of Tom Shayac’s films in the archives, eh?