The Gate Is Awesome (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

This is a release I almost passed on, but I'm so glad I didn't.  I've owned The Gate a couple times before; it's a great film.  But the last version was a pretty neat special edition from Lions Gate (yes, there was actually a handful of catalog titles they didn't completely neglect), and I was thinking, you know, maybe the DVD was good enough; I could be content with that.  But when I looked up the specs online, I couldn't resist the siren call of all those extras.  And now that I've got it here at home, zero regrets.
The Gate is the story of a kid who finds out he has a hole that leads directly to Hell in his backyard, and this film is everything you'd want from that premise.  It's a blast, with a great cast of essentially all unknowns (Stephen Dorff grew up to be pretty famous; but you'd never recognize him here as a little kid in his first role), smart writing, really impressive special effects and a bevy of surprises.  It's just one cool, imaginative scene after another; and I'd honestly put it up there with the great horror movies of the 80s, right alongside the Nightmare On Elm Streets, Poltergeists, and anything else you'd hold up as an essential classic.
I kinda wish I'd held onto my old Gate DVDs just for this comparison, but it doesn't really matter.  You get it: the old ones were worse.  Originally, there was a really awful, fullscreen US DVD from a company called Platinum.  Other regions had comparable crap until Dutch Film Works put out an anamorphic widescreen DVD that was actually at least watchable (I think there might've been one in Germany, too).  But finally, eventually, Lions Gate heard fans' pleas for a proper special edition and delivered one in 2009.  That one I do still have, and like I said, almost decided was good enough.  But now they've issued it in HD as part of their Vestron line, and even though the master might look a little old and flat, it's a big improvement.
2009 DVD on top; 2017 blu-ray beneath.
2009 DVD left; 2017 blu-ray right.
This isn't a really impressive transfer where the colors pop and detail is super crisp.  But it still leaves the DVD well in the dust.  The colors are thankfully corrected, dialing down the excessive red to an attractive, lifelike image; and all that ugly compression is cleared away.  The dark scenes (and there are a lot of them in this movie) look a little low contrast and light on detail; but the daylight scenes look super (check out the close-up a little further down the page).  It's a solid, HD transfer that holds up to the scrutiny of a giant-sized TV, unlike the DVD, which looks like a washed out mess in comparison.  The blu is slightly matted to 1.85:1, but finds more horizontal information than it loses vertically, as opposed to curiously 1.79:1 DVD that only has a thin matte line along the top.

Both versions have stereo 2.0 mixes, but of course the blu has it in DTS-HD.  As ever, Vestron reliably includes optional English subtitles, but to be fair, the DVD had them, too.
So like I said, the DVD was already a special edition and had some great stuff.  There's a terrific audio commentary by director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin and effects artist Randall William Cook, plus two great featurettes by Red Shirt (yes, they did the old DVD back then, too): one on the special effects and one on the writing and development of the film.  They're full of great anecdotes and shouldn't be missed.  They also threw in a trailer and a slipcover with that cheesy art that features a kid who almost passes for Stephen Dorff but clearly isn't. And the good news is, the new Vestron blu includes all of that content from the DVD, but they've also come up with so much more.
There's an all new commentary that focuses more on the effects with Randall William Cook, Craig Reardon, Frank Carere, and matte artist Bill Taylor, and another of those score tracks where the first half is an interview with the composers (in this case: Michael Hoenig and J. Peter Robinson) and the second half is the soundtrack album.  Then there's a new half hour conversation between Takacs and Cook, and a new on-camera interview with Reardon.  What's great about these is that Red Shirt was clearly conscious of the fact that they were making new interviews with the same people, and managed to get a ton of new anecdotes and insights out of them without repeating any of what they said in the older interviews.  So that made all these interviews worthwhile, where on other special editions they'd tend to get repetitive.  Like on The Crazies DVD, Lynn Lowry repeated pretty much every anecdote word-for-word on each feature.  That's not the case here.  They also interview new people, including the film's producer Andras Hamori and effects man Carl Kraines.  And there's a great featurette where they pull together a whole batch of people we hadn't heard from before, including the assistant director, the actor who played the father, the stuntman who played one of the minions, and several more.  This disc really covers all the bases.  And they dug up a vintage 'making of' feature, where we get to hear from the filmmakers back during the time of production.  There are also two stills galleries, two trailers and a TV spot.  And of course it comes in a nice, shiny slipcover.
This blu-ray transfer may not be one for the showroom floor, but it's a big step up from what we've had before.  And in terms of special features, this could be Red Shirt's greatest release to date.  So it may be tempting to pass this one over - I almost did - but it really deserves a place on your shelf.

Controversial Blus: Is Arrow's Creepshow 2 Another Hellraiser 3? (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

So, Arrow recently licensed and released a new, limited special edition of Creepshow 2 in the US.  It's pretty sweet; and we'll delve into every detail.  But there also seems to be something a little amiss.  Something that will be familiar to owners of Arrow's Scarlet Box.  Yes, like Hellraiser 3, it not only reveals new picture information, but what looks to be too much picture information.  Now, I'm not the first to notice this.  I saw it brought up by user JohnCarpenterFan in the blu-ray forums back in October, but it seemed to get shot down fairly quickly.  Well, I hate to re-stir a calmed pot, but I've finally had a chance to sit down with my copy, and the "amateur sleuths" there seemed to have a legitimate point.

Update 5/9/17: This post isn't just about the framing issue, however.  And to that end, I've enriched it a little by including another older edition - Anchor Bay's original, 2001 DVD - for additional PQ comparison.
Creepshow 2 isn't quite up to Creepshow, but hey, it's no Creepshow 3.  Gone are George Romero's stylish comic book scrims and lighting effects, leaving us with a more generic looking horror anthology.  There are only three stories this time around, and the first one's a bit of an old fashioned clunker (though charming enough), but the second two still pack a nice little punch.  It's not a great film, but still a fine, enjoyable time for more dedicated horror lovers.  We get plenty of cool effects, an animated wrap-around, a less impressive but still respectable cast including George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour and cameos by Tom Savini and Stephen King himself.  For the longest time, this film had been relegated to barebones DVDs until Anchor Bay finally gave it a nice special edition in the UK only [Whoops!  They released it in the US, too.  See the comments].  That opened the doors for a blu-ray from 88 Films in the UK, and this new, ultimate edition from Arrow in late 2016.  You tell me, which one looks incorrect to you?
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Okay, to be fair, I just cherry-picked the very worst shot I could find.  But yeah, that's a big floating sea of random black space on the left-hand side of the Arrow blu.  It's a quick shot (just a couple seconds), so maybe whoever was doing Quality Control blinked.  Hey, it happens.  But you can't tell me (or the poor guys trying to bring this up in the blu-ray forums) that it's supposed to look like that.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Forget what the bullies are going to do to him, his face is disappearing!  See, for their new edition, Arrow made a new 2k scan from the original negatives.  And their version pulls in a lot of picture (most notably on the left, but really on all four sides), which sounds great.  Except, as with Hellraiser 3, they seem to have included a part of the frame that was intended by the filmmakers to be cropped out.  Sometimes it looks fine.  People and reviews have been saying it looks more centered and appealing.  But clearly they've gone at least a little too far.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Now there's some lighting equipment in shot.  And maybe you'd argue that the characters ran a shop full of all kinds of stuff, so maybe they'd have a big light standing in front of their door, but then it's not in other shots.
...Maybe the characters just moved it because they realized it didn't make sense to have a big light blocking their entrance.  There are plenty of shots where, if you stretch, you could argue a justification for the random stuff that was never visible before the Arrow release.
2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
Maybe that orange safety stuff is supposed to be there.  Maybe the characters are driving past some road work, but it was only visible in the very left of frame in that one shot.  I really don't think so; but I'll concede it's open to interpretation.  The unfinished animation stuff is a lot harder to argue.
And sometimes it's on the right side, too.
Can anyone honestly say they think we're supposed to see where the animators stopped drawing the characters?  And there are so many examples throughout the whole film.  Sometimes it's much subtler cell lines in the animations where the colors don't match (you can see it in a bit on the left-hand side of that shot above with the boot and the unfinished tire), or just floating bits of negative space, like this:

2001 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2010 Anchor Bay mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
To be fair, you could catch a fleeting glimpse of the crewman's hand even in the older editions, so go ahead and blame the original filmmakers on that one.  But only now can you really get a look at it and tell what it is, as opposed to a quick flash of what you'd just assume is the actress's knee or something.
This one might look okay as a still frame, but in motion, that out of focus white business on the left of the frame is clearly attached to the camera (my guess: a lens hood) and tracks with the actors through the whole moving shot.  Absolutely no way it's meant to be there.  But anyway, it has to be said, that this isn't just like Arrow's Hellraiser 3 in that the framing is a bit off (or that Arrow coincidentally got both from Lakeshore Entertainment).  It's also like it in the sense that, even despite that issue, it's the best, most definitive release of the film we've ever had.  Despite the adjusted framing, both the newer DVD and blu are framed to exactly 1.85:1 (the 2001 DVD is more like 1.81:1, with a little less on the left and a little more on the bottom).  The fresh 2k scan though is so much clearer, with stronger detail and light but authentic grain.  The colors look much more natural, and actually a bit closer to the old DVD.  The framing definitely doesn't ruin the film.  Casual viewers could watch the whole film and not notice any of it.  In fact, it appears that's exactly what most people are doing.  It's just an unfortunate flaw.

Arrow really loads up the lossless audio options, too; giving us the mono track and a stereo mix both in LPCM, plus a 5.1 in DTS-HD.  Optional English subtitles are included, too.
And special features?  Yes sir!  The 2001 DVD just had the trailer and a stills gallery, but the 2010 Anchor Bay DVD had a engaging audio commentary by director Michael Gornick, who really lays the story of this film down in an excellent, direct manner.  In addition, there's a great featurette with Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger on the crazy, behind the scenes stories of this film's effects (they're not afraid to dish on who got fired, etc), plus a brief bonus featurette about Berger's friendship with Rick Baker, two trailers, and a nice, 4-page insert with notes by Adam Rockoff.
Thankfully, Arrow carried all of that over (except the insert).  When 88 Films released their blu-ray in the UK, they recorded two new interviews: one with George Romero and one with Tom Savini, including some extra behind-the-scenes footage of his as The Creep.  Arrow carried all of that over, too.  So it's got "all legacy extras," as Sony would say.  And they've got two new, on-camera interviews, with actors Daniel Beer and Tom Wright.  These new interviews are by Red Shirt and up to their top of the line quality.  The limited edition comes in a nice, hardbox sleeve in either red or purple (for the US and Canadian editions, respectively), has reversible cover art, a 20-page booklet with notes by Michael Blythe, and a really exciting additional comic book.  The comic is really substantial, has a square spine, and it gives you the complete lost "Pinfall" story that was supposed to be filmed for Creepshow 2 but got cut out for budgetary purposes.  I have to admit, I just quickly flipped through the comics Arrow included with Society and Bride of Re-Animator, but as this is the lost story from the film, it was a must-read for me, and a strong reason to spring for the limited edition instead of waiting for a standard release.
Look, I opened big with the framing issue and took so many screenshots because people are denying it and I felt a case had to be made.  But it's not really such a big deal that you should miss out on everything that's great about this release.  Terrific picture quality of a fun film with the ultimate set of extras.  Would another label's blu, like 88's, be preferable to avoid this framing issue?  I don't know; that'll have to be your call.  But there's a lot to recommend this set and I'm glad I got it myself.  Would a replacement disc from Arrow be ideal?  Certainly, then there'd be no question which is the completely definitive, perfect release.  But Arrow is just now re-issuing their mis-framed Hellraiser 3 in a second box for the US market, so I really don't see them recalling any of these Lakeshore framings.

The Hateful Eight: Target Exclusive (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Quentin Tarantino's Academy Award winning The Hateful Eight on DVD and Blu-ray.  This is it?  There's just the one, practically barebones edition of the shorter, theatrical cut out there?  Even internationally?  Where's the fancy, six-disc, boxed in an authentic, working stagecoach edition?  There's got to be something out there, some smarter buy, some fancy collector's edition.  Well, there is the Target exclusive edition with its own bonus disc; that's a little bit better.
If you slept through 2015, The Hateful Eight is Tarantino's latest and supposedly eighth film.  I mean, lord knows how you'd come to all of that.  Even assuming we only mean his films as director, as opposed to writer, producer and/or actor (sorry, Destiny Turns On the Radio), so no True Romance or From Dusk Till Dawn, it still leaves a lot of questions.  Do Four Rooms or Sin City count?  Or not, because they're only partially directed by him?  If partials don't count, what about Grindhouse?  He only directed half (less if you count the fake trailers) of that one, but maybe Death Proof counts on its own?  And it's probably safe to assume pre-Reservoir Dogs juvenilia doesn't count, but how about Kill Bill?  Is that one or two?  I feel like the books had to be cooked a little to arrive at this cutesy Eight is eighth heading; it was a little more straight-forward in Fellini's case, but let's just let him have it.
Anyway, The Hateful Eight has some of Tarantino's usual depictions of excessive violence (thanks to Greg Nicotero), but for the most part it's a light, Western whodunit.  Kurt Russell is a bounty hunter escorting his convict, Jennifer Jason Leigh, to the hangman.  But he gets waylaid at a small in during a massive blizzard with a colorful rogues gallery, some or all of whom might secretly be there to take his prisoner.  As a light entertainment, it's pretty long and self-indulgent, but that's Tarantino for you.  Anyway, it's masterfully done enough that it keeps you hanging on to every second.  Beautiful, 70mm photography, a fantastic cast full of Tarantino regulars like Samuel Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth, and a score by Ennio Morricone.
If you've been following this film, then you should know there's an alternate, even longer cut of this film, called The Roadshow version - so called because Tarantino was touring with a 70mm print of this film.  The film as released, and the one that played in most theaters across the country, is almost three hours, but the Roadshow version is over three.  Now, a large chunk of that time came be accounted for by an overture and intermission in the Roadshow version, but there are also extended and exclusive scenes in that cut.  So where's that version on home video?  Nowhere.
And seeing as this film went to great expense to film on 70mm, it's surprising there's no 4k UltraHD disc.  Plus, with only two tiny featurettes for extras, is this a release to skip?  Is it like Nymphomaniac, where the full, director's cut would follow it up just a few months later?  Or like The Hobbit movies, where they hold onto the extended cuts with all the better extras for half a year, after letting all the suckers by the theatrical versions first?  Is a Criterion edition just around the corner?  Well, maybe; but it's been a while now and there haven't been any signs yet.  Tarantino might want to preserve the exclusive nature of his theatrical prints forever, and this might just be the best edition we'll ever get.  Maybe.  Who knows with Tarantino.  Let's just see what's available now.
Anchor Bay 2015 DVD on top, and their blu-ray below.
You can buy the DVD by itself, but the blu is a combo-pack, so you're going to wind up with the standard definition version anyway you slice it.  At least that gives me an easy comparison.  This film is super wide, framed at 2.75:1.  Having been shot in 70mm gives it the capacity for detail and image quality very few other films have the potential to achieve, and the cinematography wisely exploits that throughout the film.  In HD, detail is super crisp and sharp.  If you're looking for a blu-ray to test your set-up, The Hateful Eight would be a great choice.  That increased resolution really makes a difference, which you see when you get in close to the DVD.
Anchor Bay 2015 blu-ray on top, and their DVD below.
So much information is just washed away in SD.  In close-up, it looks like I'm comparing the blu to some old, non-anamorphic DVD from the 90s.  The blu-ray really makes a difference here, especially if you have the screen size to appreciate it.  Again, it makes you wonder how it could look in true 4k.

Audio-wise, the film is mixed in 5.1 and featured in DTS-HD.  There's also a Spanish dub and optional subtitles in both languages.
So, let's talk extras.  On most versions, there are just two short featurettes: one making of that runs seven and a half minutes long, and one about the 70mm format that's under five.  And about half of that second one is really a shameless advertisement for the roadshow.  They're not terrible, fans should give them a watch, but it's a pittance.  However, the Target exclusive version has a bonus DVD with a roughly thirty-minute long documentary that is at least distinctly better.  First of all, though, I have to point out that it's essentially an extended version of what's on the first disc.  Or, more accurately, the two short featurettes are cut out of this original, longer feature.  All of the footage in those two featurettes (except a little of the blatantly commercial talk in the second one) is contained in the bonus disc one.  But that one also has extended interviews with the cast, a behind-the-scenes look at scoring the film, and more on the 70mm stuff.  So it's definitely better.  And if you get it, there's absolutely zero reason to watch the short extras on disc 1.  Skip 'em; they're completely redundant.
content only on the bonus disc.
But I don't want to overhype it.  Even this bonus disc documentary isn't exactly Burden of Dreams.  It's still pretty short and not the special edition you'd expect for a film like this.  But it is a worthwhile improvement that feels more substantive than what everyone else gets.  The Target version also comes with a cool, lenticular slipcover.  The standard version comes in a slipcover, too, but not with that holographic-style front.  ...And, it should be pointed out, that Best Buy has an exclusive steelbook case, but no bonus disc.  Just in terms of content, the Target version is the only one that makes an improvement.
If you're a fan of this film, you don't have a lot of options.  The difference between the blu and the DVD is definitely noticeable, though.  And the Target exclusive isn't exactly amazing, but it gives you more than any other release, and as of this writing, can still be ordered new direct from their website.  So that's definitely what I'd recommend, unless you're going to hold out hope for a stellar Roadshow Edition a few more years down the pike.