New on DVD: 'Transformers' on Blu-ray

From Stacie Hougland: Now that HD DVD is no more, Transformers fans can rejoice (and director Michael Bay can gloat)--summer '07's third-highest grossing film has finally been released on Blu-ray. Bay threatened to to leave the production of Transformers 2 last year when Paramount/Dreamworks made a deal to go exclusively HD DVD after a BD version had already been prepped for release (whoops!), saying, "As a director, my critical eye is that Blu-ray is where my money is."

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And he'd be right. Transformers looks SPEC-TAC-ULAR on Blu-ray. Images virtually leap off the screen in radiant, sharp color. The transfer almost flawlessly handles Bay's CGI-packed action scenes that appear almost 3-D. Combined with top-notch sound quality, the movie might have you ducking as the robots roll and fly at you at lightning speed.

Extras: The 2-disc set that Bay himself calls "the complete high-definition package for fans" includes all the extras on the HD DVD. Disc one contains the movie (available with a surprisingly entertaining director commentary). Disc two offers up 3 high-def featurettes: "Our World" (with a look back at the Hasbro toy line complete with old commercials for the cartoon), "Their War" (creating the robots)and "From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack" plus a still gallery and trailers. The BD has a few new well-produced extras: the picture-in-picture feature with pop-up trivia and animatics, and BD-Live features that allow you to look closer at each of the robots, share scenes with others on the web and play with various widgets as you watch.

Overview: If you want a superior BD to show off your home entertainment system (and quite possibly blow away your neighbors), Transformers is the final word.

A Note on High-Def

Bay's bombastic bot flick is the perfect thing to show off your home theater system, and if you're into movies like I am, high-def is THE way to go. LCD and plasmas are great for Blu-ray, but look for one like Panasonic's TH-50PZ85U that comes equipped with 1080p, at about $2,000. As for bang for your buck, go with a Playstation 3, which you can use to play BDs and BD-Live content, surf the web, upload photo galleries, and of course, play games (alone or with friends online) for about $300.

Picture quality might be the most obvious improvement of Blu-ray over standard-def DVD, but don't overlook improvements in sound as well. DVD lacks the room for HD audio, and even Transformers on HD DVD wasn't able to include the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track now featured on the BD.

If you're converting to a high-def system, you won't just need an HDTV--for full enjoyment of this new tech, you'll want to kick down for some good speakers, too. I tested Transformers out on Cerwin-Vega's CVHD 5.1 system, which includes five satellite speakers, wall mounts and a 48-lb. subwoofer for around $1,000. This specific system is designed to maintain consistent sound levels at different distances, meaning you shouldn't get distortion if they're not perfectly positioned in your room. (In sleek brushed metal, they look pretty cool for a modern setup, too.) And the movie? Earth-shaking--literally. The effects, score, dialogue all reverberate with realism, and the sub booms with the bassy tones that underlie almost every scene. An army jet seamlessly roars from front to back, gunfire bounces from every direction, yet the dialogue never fades into the background, no matter where you are in the room.

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So, HD--pricey? Sure...but worth every penny, in my book. What about yours?
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