So I Went Ahead and Took the Blu-ray Plunge…

Thus far, my only wowza! moment courtesy of Hollywood this year has been the drop-dead gorgeous Blu-ray transfer of “The Ten Commandments.” From my review:

What’s most remarkable about the new Blu-ray is that it is easily the most beautiful film I’ve ever screened on television. Though the print I saw in the theatre Thursday night was a full, frame by frame restoration and jaw-dropping all on its own, the Blu-ray is, impossibly, even more beautiful. The VistaVision widescreen Technicolor pops right off the screen in ways I didn’t think possible. The richness of the colors, the stability of the blacks, and the details of everything, including fabrics and architecture, pull you deeper and deeper into the world of the film. The work DeMille put into the look of each frame is detailed in a terrific 75-minute “making of” documentary included only with the Blu-ray gift set, and my guess is that even the director himself never saw his work displayed as beautifully as this Blu-ray.

After watching “The Ten Commandments” at home Sunday afternoon, I made the mistake of screening Errol Flynn’s “Robin Hood.” Suddenly, what was once my favorite-looking film on DVD now looks positively wan in comparison. I’m not happy about that at all.

The thing I wasn’t happy about was the troubling feeling in my gut that this stunning review copy (I never would’ve plunged on my own) was going to end up being a very expensive gatweway drug into yet another home video format. My response to this dilemma was what it’s always been since the creation of VHS: a childish lack of impulse control that resulted in the purchase of nearly 50 Blu-rays discs, all but a few of which are copies of films I already own on standard DVD.

Now, to my credit, I didn’t go completely crazy. Paying retail was out of the question. But I did stalk the aisles of Best Buy like a crack-addict in a bus station in order to snatch up any favorites that dropped below ten bucks. You know, the standards that make life worth living, such as, “Cool Hand Luke,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Enter the Dragon,” “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (original), “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (original), “Bullitt,” “Deliverance,” “Road House,” “Fist of Legend,” “The Searchers,” “The Wild Bunch,” and the “The Resident Evil” Quadrology.

Yes, I’m a simpleton.

At first this replenishment was tremendous fun. Buying movies is fun. Opening movies is fun. Putting fresh-smelling discs into the Blu-ray player is fun. But over time a real problem arose. What was I going to do with all those old DVDs? Some people might look at that growing pile and dismiss it as a relic of the past. But as someone who has earned everything he has, what I saw was five-hundred hard-earned bucks going to waste. Ebay was no help, either. That site’s changed a lot since I last used it in 2003 — it’s gone completely corporate — and what DVDs I did manage to sell sometimes didn’t sell for enough to cover the postage and auction fees. Fact: The suck of losing money on old movies beats the fun of buying new movies.

The final straw came courtesy of James Bond. This past week I’ve been dining out on the whole series and thanks to my recent spending spree I currently own ten Bond Blu-rays to mix in with the others. Moving back and forth between the two formats there’s most certainly a notable picture-quality difference … but not enough of a difference to make throwing out the old collection worthwhile.

Then there’s Netflix Streaming. Streaming is where the future is, not Blu-ray. There’s just no stopping where this technology is headed and that’s to a place where we stream in high-definition pretty much whatever we want whenever we want. And for a remarkably low monthly subscription fee, to boot — a fee lower than the price of a single Blu-ray disc.

The Blu-ray player, however, was a terrific investment. You not only gain access to various streaming outlets but the player itself enhances the quality of your standard DVDs quite a bit. And of course any new films I purchase will most certainly be on Blu-ray. The three dollar difference between a standard copy of “Battle: LA” and the Blu-ray copy is well worth it.

Between music and film, Hollywood has enjoyed decades of profits from the new delivery formats created every few years. From vinyl to tape to disc, etc… This allowed the entertainment industry to sell and re-sell material that had already been produced again and again and again. It looks as though that gravy train is about to come to an end. Digital is not only the Final Frontier, but people aren’t willing to pay a whole lot for it.

I will still review the few Blu-ray screeners sent to me for review purposes. Many of you are interested in upgrading and just because I’m too cheap to go all the way doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the wonders of this new technology.

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