2005: King Kong
Another entry for Peter Jackson, this time for his epic King Kong remake that pushed CG imagery and motion-capture technology to the point where we all believed a giant gorilla could scale the Empire State Building. More importantly, it caused AV fans to go ape over HD DVD the following year when it was released exclusively in hi-def on the Blu-ray rival – and bundled with the Xbox 360 add-on HD DVD drive.
2006: Casino Royale
Bond reborn? You better believe it. With Casino Royale, out went Pierce Brosnan, invisible cars and lame jokes, and in came Daniel Craig, parkour stunts and brutal violence. And for many home theatre owners, Bond 21 was the first Blu-ray title they felt they had to own, rocking a sublime AVC encode that showed the format at its best
Director Zack Snyder gave the swords-n-sandals genre a 21st-century makeover with this ultra-stylish retelling of the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, based on the historical fantasy comic book series by fan-favourite Frank Miller.
The cool part? Snyder’s movie looked exactly like a graphic novel come to life, the result of painstaking bluescreen work and devotion to the source material. The year’s tenth-highest grossing film, 300 then went on to become one of the flag bearers for HD DVD, thanks largely to its ‘Bluescreen Picture-in-Picture’ viewing mode – a feature that didn’t see the light of day on Blu-ray until the US release of 300: The Complete Experience some two years later.
2008: The Dark Knight
The second Bat-flick from Christopher Nolan mixed hardboiled crime drama with the stunts and action set-pieces we had by then come to expect from Summer blockbusters – kinda like Heat on steroids. Add in Heath Ledger’s phenomenal take on the Joker and you had a movie perfect for regular repeat viewings. In fact, whenever we ask you what your favourite Blu-ray is, The Dark Knight is the most popular answer!
Do we really need to explain this one? James Cameron’s sci-fi culture clash wasn’t just the box office hit of the year (and still the biggest movie of all time), it also kick-started the current era in 3D filmmaking and the 3D TV boom. The irony is that it was only widely available on 2D Blu-ray for some time. Luckily, it looked spectacular ‘flat’, too.
2010: How to Train your Dragon
DreamWorks Animation had been battling Pixar since the release of Antz in 1998, producing hits but never quite topping the work of the House of Mouse’s CG off -shoot. That changed with 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon, a razor-sharp comedy that matched its spectacular visual panache with an involving, original story.
Scenes of dragons swooping through the skies provided some of the most convincing use of 3D to date when Paramount’s good-looking Blu-ray landed in shops – once it had broken free of an exclusivity deal with Samsung, of course.
2011: Fast Five
This OTT sequel features cars towing a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, smashing through buildings on the way. It’s the sort of stunt that even a James Bond writer in the ’90s would have deemed silly, but Fast Five gets away with it. This was big, loud, dumb fun. Bet those who bought the Fast & Furious 1-5 BD boxset feel a bit silly now though..
2012: Avengers Assemble
The seeds of the shared ‘cinematic universe’ that Marvel Studios had been sowing throughout its early run of movies finally bore fruit with this team effort amassing Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
Directed by geek icon Joss Whedon, Avengers Assemble re-invented franchise filmmaking, earned over £1bn at the box office and became the most anticipated Blu-ray of 2012. Upon release it set new sales records. Just steer clear of the censored UK version
Alfonso Cuaron’s space-bound thriller cut a swathe through cinemas courtesy of its tech-savvy production and groundbreaking Dolby Atmos soundmix – the fi lm would go on to scoop three Academy Awards for its audio alone.
Gravity still stands proud as one of the most accomplished science-fiction movies of the last fifty years, featuring a tight plot, absorbing 3D imagery, how-do-they-do-that visual effects and ceaselessly inventive sonics that put you right next to Sandra Bullock’s death-defying astronaut. The eventual Blu-ray release remains one of our go-to demo platters – and Dolby Atmos adopters are advised to pick up the Diamond Luxe edition for extra surround sound panache.
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction
The Transformers movies have become a byword for spectacular scenes of metallic destruction and thunderous LFE, put together under the watchful, manic eye of Michael Bay. This fourth entry in the battlin’ bot series was no exception and on Blu-ray it brought new levels of carnage to your cinema room, being the fi rst disc release to off er a next-gen Dolby Atmos mix. A six-week gap between US and UK versions had AV-holics rushing to import ■