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The Blu-rays you must own this month

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MockingjayThere are many amazing films out on Blu-ray this spring, so here is the first of a series of articles telling which ones are worth buying and keeping on your shelves forever.

As the march of online streaming and downloading continues unstoppably to revolutionise the entertainment industry, it is important to remember and celebrate the fact that some films deserve to be collected in a physical format. And regardless of your broadband speeds and TV potential, due to file compression streaming and downloads still cannot rival the amazing image quality Blu-ray has to offer. Next time you are browsing the shelves of the stores or flicking through Amazon, these are the titles you should definitely add to your basket.

The Imitation Game

This Blu-ray demands to be owned and cherished. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is his most effective to date. He truly becomes Turing, at least in the dramatic sense, though how accurate his portrayal is isn’t something I can attest to since there are no recordings or videos of Turing available. The fact that this is a film about working out a mathematical formula gives screenwriter Graham Moore and director Morten Tyldum (the man behind Norwegian drama Headhunters) some difficulties to get over. It is hard to make a story about maths exciting, especially one that ends in the harrowing persecution of the one doing the maths. Depressing perhaps, but exciting is difficult. They manage it beautifully and The Imitation Game is one of the best (though sadly, also one of the most under-rewarded at the BAFTAs and Oscars) films of the past year.

A note on the disc: A sparkling, glorious high definition transfer from the celluloid-captured content.

StudioCanal, 15, Also on DVD & Digital Download.

 

My Old Lady

This sweet, good-natured film is from playwright Israel Horovitz and he deftly manipulates his own material so that is transfers smoothly to the screen. Superb performances from Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristen Scott Thomas makes this an absolute joy to behold. The plot – which concerns an aging depressive inheriting an apartment and being unable to get rid of the old lady living in it – has the potential to be silly and forgettable. Instead, the script digs deeper and goes darker, offering up reflections and twists that pack a punch whilst not ruining the pervading niceness of the whole thing.

A note on the disc: An adequate HD transfer from Artificial Eye, if not exactly up to their typically excellent standards, with some banding and crushed blacks creeping, though some of this might be innate to the digital cinematography.

Artificial Eye/Curzon Film World, 15, Also on DVD & Digital Download.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Less exciting and spectacular than the previous instalments, this film works better when viewed as more or an intimate drama or chamber piece, a linking piece in the series connecting the 2012 and 2013 entries to this Christmas’s finale. Jennifer Lawrence impresses as always but the real scene-stealing turn comes from Julianne Moore as a sort-of leader of the underworld.

A note on the release: An exciting array of extras and behind the scene features. The HD image is stunning, showcasing the Arri Alexa cinematography. This film is the first in the series to be shot with a digital camera and although the change in aesthetic is a little disconcerting at first (the earthy, grainy images are gone) the movie uses its new look well to enhance the storytelling.

Lionsgate, 12, Also on DVD & Digital Download.

 

Mr Turner

The word sumptuous was invented for this film. This may well be Mike Leigh’s masterpiece. The cinematography, courtesy of Oscar-nominated DoP Dick Pope, are astonishing to behold. Timothy Spall’s performance is perfectly nuanced. The leisurely pace envelopes you within its grasp and lets you sink into the world of Turner and his extraordinary paintings. This is something very special.

A note on the disc: Also shot on the Arri Alexa, Pope’s images are very well reproduced on this Blu-ray. Extras aren’t bad but could have been more extensive. Maybe Criterion or the Masters of Cinema series will do a special edition in the future.

 

Entertainment One, 12, Also on DVD and Digital Download.

 




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