April 2007

 
 

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DVDs I bought or received in the month of April

  • Casino Royale (R0 Finland, Blu-ray)
  • Dragon’s Lair (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • The Game (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • King Arthur (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • The Mario Bava Collection Volume 1 (R1 USA, DVD)
  • A Scanner Darkly (R0 USA, HD DVD)

Somewhat slim pickings this month, and I note that the decline in my purchasing of standard definition titles continues, with only one actual DVD being bought. I wasn’t sure whether or not to include Dragon’s Lair, as it’s technically a game rather than a film, but I suppose it’s a borderline case, and, given the mechanics of how it operates and the inclusion of DVD-style bonus content, it ultimately makes the grade.

 
Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007 at 10:14 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Gialli | HD DVD
 

Can’t we all just be friends?

A rather strange and annoying situation has arisen regarding a little program called DVD Profiler which many people use to keep online and offline catalogues of their DVD collections. DVD Profiler was created by an LLC company called InterVocative Software, and, until recently, everything was fairly straightforward. Then, things got a bit more complicated. One of the company’s founders, Ken Cole, left to form a new company, Invelos. The parting was at the time believed to have been amicable, with InterVocative retaining the rights to the current iteration of DVD Profiler, version 2.x, while Cole was allowed to release and continue to support the new DVD Profiler 3 through Invelos. I, like many existing DVD Profiler customers, upgraded to version 3 for free and found it to be a major improvement on its predecessor.

Then, a few days ago, disaster struck. The Invelos servers went down without warning, taking with them the ability to update offline DVD collections with newly released titles, as well as the ability to upload and view collections online. As it turns out, InterVocative has sued Invelos. The details of the case or when it is scheduled to be heard are, as far as I can gather, unknown, but, as a result of this action, the Invelos server has been taken offline, royalling fudging things up for DVD Profiler 3 users. One popular theory seems to be that InterVocative suddenly found themselves losing a whole lot of customers to Invelos, and decided to throw their toys out of the pram. That said, the legality of Invelos’ actions must be open to dispute if InterVocative are managing to take them to court. One thing’s for sure, I hope this gets resolved swiftly. I like my DVD Profiler!

 
Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007 at 9:31 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: DVD | Web
 

Blu-ray review: Dragon’s Lair

Blu-ray
How much you get out of Dragon’s Lair on Blu-ray will unsurprisingly depend on how fond your memories are of the arcade original. This is undeniably the best it has ever looked (although pointless “restoration” techniques incompetently applied prevent it from reaching its full potential), and the bonus features are uniformly excellent. However, I personally struggle to find a single kind word to say about the game itself, while there is no guarantee that the disc will work correctly or at all if you do not own one of the small number of players on which it was tested prior to release, thanks to the blasé attitude of the Blu-ray Disc Association regarding the format’s interactive functionality. Caveat emptor, as the saying goes.

For DVD Times’ first ever review of interactive HD content, I dig up some 80s nostalgia for a review of the Blu-ray adaptation of the popular arcade hit Dragon’s Lair.

 
Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2007 at 6:01 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Games | Reviews
 

A-shopping we will go

Shuttle P2 3900G

Deep breath, and…

It’s ordered.

This afternoon, I successfully won an auction for a second hand Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX USB sound card on eBay, and decided that the time was ripe for acquiring the various components required for my new small form factor computer system from Shuttle. ShuttleUK, with their handy system builder, seemed like the ideal place to start, and I set about putting together something that will hopefully satisfy my computing urges for at least the next couple of years:

  • SD37P2: Because Shuttle’s cases as so small, they design their own built-in motherboards, which have a considerably more compressed layout and array of chipsets than most ATX motherboards. The SD37P2 includes the case, a 400W power supply and a Core 2 Duo compatible motherboard based around the Intel 975X Express chipset. It supports up to three SATA hard drives (I only need two) and has two PCIe slots (although, because my video card’s fan will get in the way of the second slot, only one will effectively be usable).

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Socket 775 2.4 GHz: I did consider going for the absolute fastest available CPU, the Core 2 Duo 2.67 GHz, but quickly realised that, for a fairly measly extra 270 MHz, I’d end up spending another £140 I don’t have. Besides, 2.4 GHz should be plenty for my gaming and other assorted needs.

  • Kingston 1GB Kit 667 MHz DDR2 x2: Fast RAM and plenty of it. Windows Vista eats memory for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I want to make sure it doesn’t go hungry.

  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 80GB S300: I went for the smallest, cheapest hard drive I could find, which in this case turned out to be an 80 GB affair: more than enough for the operating system and required program files. I intend to initially partition only half of the drive, so that, in the event that I discover the need to set up a dual boot with Windows XP, I won’t have to reformat the Vista partition too and restart from scratch. I’ll also be plugging in my current (400 GB) hard disk as a secondary drive, on which to store data, games, music and so on.

  • Asus DVD Burner DRW-1814BLT: In my current system, I have two optical drives: an aged Pioneer DVD-ROM drive (region-free) and a slightly less aged Pioneer DVD burner. However, because the Shuttle case only has room for a single optical drive, I’m junking (well, pawning) both of these in favour of an all-purpose model, which also has the added benefit of being able to write dual-layer discs. Mindful of the fact that it will be region-locked, I’m now extremely glad that I paid for a copy of DVD Region+CSS Free a few years back.

  • Asus EN8800GTS/HTDP/320M: And, last but not least, we have a right heifer of a video card. As with the processor, I did contemplate going the whole hog and picking up the most powerful model available - which, in this case, would have been a 768 MB 8800GTX - but again I was held back by the increased price. Not only that, but the 8800GTX is absolutely massive and apparently runs incredibly hot. It’s also a power hog, and, despite the fact that Shuttle’s system builder doesn’t red-flag any potential problems, I’m not convinced that a 400W power supply would be enough to run it stably. The 320 MB 8800GTS will hopefully be more than sufficient, and, if it’s not, I suppose the option to upgrade in the future is there.

Well, that’s that. I shall be weeping once my credit card bill arrives.

 
Posted: Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 4:04 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Technology
 

To Vista or not to Vista?

Windows Vista

Well, I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to take active steps towards procuring a Shuttle computer system, as soon as I’ve managed to get my hands on a USB sound card via eBay. A major question on my mind now is whether or not to go down the Windows Vista route. A few months ago, the answer would have been a definite “no”, but, recently, a few things have caused me to reconsider. The first is the fact that I want to be able to make full use of my new DirectX 10-enabled video card (either a GeForce 8800 GTX or 8800 GTS, depending on how much cash I can justify frittering away come pay-day) - games like the upcoming Hellgate: London, which I most assuredly intend to play, will support advanced graphical effects via DirectX 10, and Vista is required for this.

Secondly, last night, Lyris installed Vista on his new system, and was pleasantly surprised by it. The language emanating from his corner of the room was colourful, to put it mildly, as he ran into all manner of the usual hurdles and annoyances that are part and parcel when exploring a new operating system (the worst seeming to be the fact that the hard disk was constantly grinding away, until a bunch of seemingly pointless indexing and archival Services were disabled), but the interface does look really nice, and, more importantly, it did seem to be genuinely faster than the exact same hardware running under Windows XP, which is an accomplishment to say the least given how bloated each subsequent generation of Windows tends to be.

Knowing me, I’ll probably end up setting up a dual boot so I can switch between both XP and Vista, at least until I get the hang of things. Despite my obsession with having the latest technology, I’m actually very much a Luddite when it comes to software. I didn’t completely abandon MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 until late 1997, and I stuck doggedly to Windows 98 Second Edition long after the more stable and powerful Windows XP was readily available. I still refuse to call directories “folders”; my desktop, My Computer and directory display options have been customised to mimic those of Windows 95; and I have rigged Windows Explorer up to emulate Windows 3.11’s File Manager as closely as possible. With Vista having only been released commercially on January 31st 2007, this will be the quickest I’ve ever embraced a new operating system… if I go ahead with this.

 
Posted: Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 10:08 AM
Categories: Games | Technology
 

The end of Jack Valenti

Source: BBC News

Well, let’s just say he left his mark on the industry.

 
Posted: Friday, April 27, 2007 at 10:06 PM
Categories: Cinema | General
 

The Third Mother will be uncut, says Argento

Following the rumours that the upcoming The Third Mother would be cut by distributor Medusa Film before its theatrical release, director Dario Argento has himself weighed in on the issue, and here is what he has to say:

According to Dario, “La Terza Madre” won’t be cut and there will be only one version for the theaters and the DVD. “These days, people are used to a cinema that’s a bit stronger and more vivid, I don’t think there will be any problems. It will be rated, but it’s normal.” In fact he says “I wasn’t asked to do any cuts.” So I hope this will stay this way and that nobody will ask him to cut anything.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this remains the case.

 
Posted: Friday, April 27, 2007 at 8:11 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Gladiator and others coming to HD DVD

HD DVD/Blu-ray

Source: AV Science Forum

A potentially major piece of news has surfaced courtesy of French DVD site DVDRama, where it has been stated that Universal plans to release 60 HD DVDs in France this year, one of which will be Gladiator. The relevant passage is quoted below, using AVS Forum member bboisvert’s extremely rough English translation for convenience:

Whereas Universal right now announced more than 100 titles available by the end of the year to the United States, a recent interview of the director marketing of Universal France has just confirmed the exit in our beautiful country of more than 60 titles by the end of the year 2007. Without giving precise calendar on the dates and films concerned, the few evoked titles have what to give the tournis.

Among the titles headlights of the catalogue of the studio, one will find this year in HD-DVD of the films such as Gladiator, Scarface, or even Ray, one of best “the biopic” left to the cinema these last years. One will also find, at the time of the nearest arrival of revenge in the skin (The Bourne Ultimatum) on our screens, a republication even more thorough technically of died in the skin and the memory in the skin (like what, even for such a recent support, one proposes already republications to us). For the innovations, films like The Holiday, the sons of man or The Kingdom are also announced, and will be at exit simultaneous with the DVD.

Although it’s not my absolute favourite film ever, this is definitely major news. With Gladiator’s US distributor, DreamWorks, currently dragging its feet with regard to high definition output, I’d say that a stateside release of the film is fairly unlikely this year, so this French release will no doubt become a hot commodity. Either way, it’s the sort of blockbuster release the format needs in order to increase its user base. It’s also an HD DVD exclusive in Europe, since the distribution rights outside North America lie solely with Universal rather than the format-neutral DreamWorks.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 10:10 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD
 

Who or what am I?

Today at work, we all had to fill out Equal Opportunities Monitoring Forms, for which we each received a Cadbury’s chocolate mini-roll and a brand new pencil as a reward. In addition to the usual ethnicity, disability and sexuality questions, there was a section on religious beliefs, offering the choice of a variety of mainstream cults, as well as “other” and “none”. In the past, when filling out these monitoring forms for job applications, I’ve always ticked “none”, which is perfectly true. However, today’s form came with a handy “Frequently Asked Questions” page, which offered atheism as an example of the “other” option in the religion section. This strikes me as fundamentally absurd. Atheism is a lack of belief, not a belief in itself - this is not a difficult concept, surely. Others might feel differently, though. Where do you folks stand as regards this debate?

In the end, I ticked both and wrote “atheist” under the “other” heading (although the lack of a blank space suggests that those responsible for putting together the survey are content to class anyone who isn’t Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or agnostic as part of a nebulous, unidentified mass).

 
Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 8:55 PM | Comments: 10 (view)
Categories: General
 

Chasing the dragon

Blu-ray

I’m well aware that a deliciously derisive review of the monumental suckfest that is Dragon’s Lair on Blu-ray should have been forthcoming by now, and I really hope to get it done before the weekend, but the fact is that I’ve been feeling a little down in the dumps since Friday with a rather bad cold. The thing laid me low to the extent that I actually called in sick on Monday and Tuesday (not that I minded not having to go into that sweltering office and sit in front of a flickery monitor), and I’m still feeling a bit zapped of energy and motivation. I’ll give the thing one more try before putting pen to paper, but I have to honestly say that this is going to be one of those rare 1/10 reviews. It’s a failure as a game and an even bigger failure if you try to class it as a movie, so I’m not sure there’s anything nice I can say about it at all. Sometimes genuinely scathing reviews can be fun to write, but in this case, I suspect that it’s going to be little more than a chore.

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9:56 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Games | Reviews
 

Mythos enters beta phase

Today I received an email from the Mythos team announcing that the alpha phase of game testing is now officially complete, and that, in the next few weeks, the closed beta will begin (the same message is also available on the Mythos web site. Essentially, as far as the current build is concerned,

First, we are going to keep the current build up as much as we can, but there is no guarantee that it will always be up. There will be no, or very few, content additions or balance tweaks, even though we are fully aware of existing imbalance which will be addressed in the upcoming Closed Beta build. Instead, it will be a playground for the network programmers to perfect their technologies. You are welcome and encouraged to continue playing at your leisure, though we may ask that everyone come in from time to time.

In addition, everyone who participated in the alpha will automatically be invited to the closed beta. For me, this is pretty exciting, since this is the first time I’ve ever been involved in an alpha or beta test for a game (I’m not convinced that the Diablo II stress test, which was open to approximately 100,000 players, really counts). Anyway, I’m looking immensely forward to seeing what sort of changes are implemented for the beta, and I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you in the dungeons.

By the way, I have another free invitation to give out, so let me know if you want it.

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9:46 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Games
 

Compact computer conundrum

As I posted yesterday, I am considering a small form factor Shuttle PC for my next computer makeover. The problem, as I pointed out, is one of space, essentially boiling down to whether you want a powerful video card taking up two expansion slots, coupled with less than stellar on-board audio, or a less powerful, single-slot video card and a dedicated sound card. Unwilling to compromise on either graphics or sound, I have been scouring the web for alternatives, and may finally have found a solution - namely the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX, an external sound card which connects to your computer via USB, and offers all the features of an internal Audigy 2 (my current card is an old first-generation Audigy, so this would constitute a slight upgrade). The only problem is that this card is no longer manufactured, and Creative don’t seem to have replaced it with anything remotely similar. As a result, I’m keeping my eye on various eBay auctions for used models, although I’m one of those people who has a thing about buying pre-owned computer components (especially if they’re of the “I haven’t used it for over a year, but I’m assuming it still works” variety).

Anyway, once I get paid, I’m going to look at my finances and decide exactly how much I can afford to spend on this upgrade, and exactly which components I’ll buy. Of course, I can probably rely on making back a reasonable amount of money when I sell the contents of my current rig, which are, after all, only two years old, and are probably more than fast enough for most users. Still, it pays to be prudent, and I won’t be making any rash moves until I can be sure that I’ll be getting something I’ll be happy with. Essentially, a Core 2 Duo processor is a must, as well as 2 GB of RAM and a decent video card - I may end up going down the nVidia route again so I can get a DirectX 10 model (ATI have yet to announce any). I’d also quite like to buy a small hard drive to use as my boot device, and convert my current (400 GB) disc into a secondary data drive, but, if I need to save the cash, I might not bother. I’ll probably also pick up a new DVD burner, since I’ll only have room for one optical device, and my current burner doesn’t read discs as well as it writes them. Stay tuned!

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9:29 PM
Categories: Technology
 

Suffer the little computers to come unto me

Shuttle P2 3900G

As you will already know if you read my brother’s site, he recently put together a new computer system using a small form factor bare-bones system from Shuttle, a company specialising in attractive and space-saving PC designs. Having now seen just how much can be crammed into one of these little aluminium cubes, and, perhaps more importantly from my perspective, how quiet it is, I’ve now decided that ditching my giant ATX tower and moving to the world of the mini-PC would be a good idea. Therefore, for my next computer system (which I will probably put together at some point before this summer, to mark the two-year anniversary of my current system), I am strongly considering a Shuttle.

Of course, there are some issues to consider amid all this downsizing. The biggest concern, as you can probably guess, is how much you can fit into a case this small. Shuttle use their own custom motherboards (primarily using Intel chipsets, thankfully), designed with fewer peripheral ports than you would normally expect. For Lyris’ SD32G2 system, this means a single PCI-Express and a single PCI slot, meaning just enough for a single-slot video card and an additional PCI card (in his case, a sound card). Other systems, aimed at hard-core gamers, feature dual PCI-Express slots, ruling out any PCI expansion. This means that, unless I can get my hands on a decent video card that only takes up a single slot (and this also discounts cards with oversized fans that “spill” into neighbouring slots, like my current Radeon X1950XT), I would have to make do with the motherboard’s on-board audio - and, having sampled this on Lyris’ machine, I’m not sure that this is something I can live with. (Thankfully, he has enough room for a dedicated PCI sound card, and uses that.) Unfortunately, fast video cards tend to require decent cooling, which translates into large fans. Therefore, if I want a Shuttle PC, I’m going to have to sacrifice either graphics performance or audio quality. What to do, what to do?

 
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 7:27 PM
Categories: Technology
 

The most annoying Mario level ever

Super Mario Bros.

Lyris pointed me to this rather hilarious video featuring the most nightmarishly difficult level of Super Mario Bros. anyone has ever seen. It’s obviously something put together by a fan who has managed to reverse-engineer the game, and I personally wouldn’t have been able to even attempt to get past the first puzzle, but the fellow playing in this video gives it a pretty good go.

What makes the video so funny, though, is that it has been overdubbed by infuriated comments by a fellow with what sound to my uninformed ears like a Brooklyn accent and a slight speech impediment. He’s not actually the person who’s playing it, but I wouldn’t have guessed this if I hadn’t read the description attached to the video. Essentially, he offers audio feedback to everything happening on-screen, letting out a torrent of obscenities every time Mario dies (which is with alarming frequency). A few choice observations:

This is worse than an episode of Family Guy!

This is worse than Ann Coulter!

This is worse than The Da Vinci Code - both the novel by Dan Brown and the film! That’s how bad this is!

I’m not sure if it’s the lines themselves or his voice that makes them so funny, but this video is definitely worth watching if you have a sadistic and/or puerile sense of humour. And you thought The Lost Levels was challenging…

 
Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 7:21 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Games
 

More Mythos thoughts

Mythos

We had another round of Mythos alpha testing yesterday evening (6 PM British Summer Time onwards), and, as of now, the servers are still live. Whether this is to make up for the failure of last weekend’s push, or part of a change of policy for the testing of the game (having the servers up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week would be great, although I’m not sure quite how feasible), is unclear, but it allowed me to play for much longer than before, and in fact complete all the available quests that have been implemented at this stage.

As before, all our characters had been wiped in order to facilitate a bunch of balance adjustments and other miscellaneous changes. Having to start from scratch again, I decided this time to try a Bloodletter rather than a Pyromancer (there are only two character classes in the current build, and I’ve been almost exclusively a Pyromancer so far). The difference between the two classes is much the same as the difference between the Warrior and Sorcerer in Diablo: the Bloodletter is the melee-oriented fighter sort, charging headlong into battle and possessing a variety of skills that can, for example, make him move faster, stun nearby enemies, convert damage done to regained hit points, and so on; the Pyromancer, meanwhile, possesses a variety of ranged attack spells, most of the fire-oriented variety, in addition to a handful of generic buffs such as mana regeneration. It’s all fairly generic, but it’s quite effective.

Mythos

Anyway, I found the Bloodletter to be slightly more challenging to play, given that, most of the time, he’s right in the thick of things and therefore more open to attack. I had to quaff rather a lot of health potions, and ended up dying several times. The death penalty is at the moment pretty much non-existent, merely returning you to the surface area and leaving you with a lower chance of finding items for five minutes. As such, dying at the moment is more of an inconvenience than an actual “punishment” - you simply have to trek back down to where you left off, or pay a nearby guide 200 gold pieces to be transported to the entrance of the level on which you died. It’s not even like Diablo II, where you lose some experience and your items remain on your corpse until you reclaim them (or quit the game and, in doing so, lose your progress by resetting all the monsters).

If I were to describe the game in a single word at this stage, it would be “haphazard”. It’s fun, but, as I suggested in my previous outpouring of opinions on the game, there’s no real sense of progress. Instead of going deeper and deeper into a labyrinth (like in Diablo) or slowly traversing a large continent (as in Diablo II, Icewind Dale, Sacred and so on), you dot about all over a large map using a series of portals, which means that you never feel like you’re progressing in any particular direction. This may be the feeling the developers are going for - it certainly lets you feel like you can just dip in and out for a quick, casual dungeon crawl - but I hope the final game has more cohesion. I also get the feeling that the skill trees for both characters are rather arbitrary at the moment, lacking the logical layout and sense of progression of those in Diablo II. The trees seem to change with each build, however, so presumably they’re still just fine-tuning them at this early stage.

I hope we get some actual new content in the next build, because I’m beginning to feel that what is currently available is getting a bit stale. Fingers crossed for some new quests, or perhaps even a new character class. Please?

 
Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 5:56 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Games
 

A double dose of underwhelming HD

HD DVD

My copy of The Game on HD DVD arrived from Amazon.com this morning. Just yesterday, I read Peter M. “I can’t tell the difference between standard definition and high definition” Bracke’s review of it, and was a little alarmed to discover that he had awarded the transfer a 4/10 rating. Given that he gave the 480i upconverted Traffic an 8/10, I was beginning to panic. Thankfully, The Game doesn’t look that bad, which just serves to underscore the fact that these incompetent reviewers are essentially dishing out numerical ratings at random. The Game looks rather diffuse, and is certainly not what I’d call the best example of what the HD formats are capable of, but it’s watchable enough and looks largely natural, with the occasional impressive moment of detail. I’m going to have to give it a more thorough going-over before awarding a rating of my own, but so far my diagnosis would be “definitely above average”.

Blu-ray

I also received a review copy of Dragon’s Lair on Blu-ray - something which Dave over at DVD Times asked me if I’d be interested in covering the other day. For those who don’t know, Dragon’s Lair is an arcade game released in 1983, featuring cel animation supervised by Don Bluth, whose greatest claim to fame is staging a mass walk-out of the Walt Disney studio in 1979, due to a growing belief that Disney had lost sense of its very essence. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Bluth and co produced a series of saccharine and badly-written animated talking animal movies, including The Secret of N.I.M.H., An American Tail and The Land Before Time. He hasn’t managed to get anything off the ground since 2000’s horrendous Titan A.E., and, for some reason, Dragon’s Lair remains one of his most popular efforts.

I can’t think why, though. The animation has that naff 80s look, and the whole thing is let down by rubbish game design. It’s basically built around a process of trial and error: wait for the game to become interactive, and then guess which of the five buttons you need to press in order to get to the next area; memorise and repeat ad nauseam. On the Blu-ray version, this becomes even worse as, when you fail a certain section, instead of being made to repeat it, you are simply moved on to the next area. This not only makes the game more or less pointless, it also renders it completely incomprehensible as the whole thing essentially becomes a series of brief clips of animation that fail to link together in anything approaching a coherent manner.

What’s worse, during development of the Blu-ray version, the programmers apparently didn’t have access to the BD-Java specification (see this article), meaning that compatability problems are rife. One user failed to get it to work at all on his Philips player, while it has been confirmed that the only devices on which this release was actually tested are the Samsung BD-P1000, Panasonic DMP-BD10, Sony BDP-S1 and the PlayStation 3, in addition to PowerDVD BD for Windows. If my experience with the PS3 version constitutes an accurate representation of how the game was intended to be played, then I shudder to think what it would be like when it was playing incorrectly. Small wonder the manual accompanying the disc carries the following disclaimer:

Although Digital Leisure Inc. believes this program performs the functions described in this guide, the program is provided ‘as is’ without performance warranties of any kind, either expressed or implied, including but not limited, [sic] the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of this program is with you.

Translation: it might not work, so don’t come crying to us if this is the case. Even the menus don’t work properly - the background artwork flashes up for a fraction of a second and then disappears - while the diamond icon that the manual claims will pop up when you are supposed to issue a command doesn’t actually appear (at least not on the Playstation 3).

Dragon’s Lair is a charmless, shambolic mess of a game. I can only hope that the arcade original was somewhat better, and that the total shoddiness of the gameplay is due to the buggy implementation of the game on Blu-ray. According to an interview with the programmer responsible for porting it over, he basically had to bend over backwards due to the rough state of the development tools and lack of access to the source code, so I suppose it’s a wonder it works at all. Regardless of whose “fault” it is, though, the fact remains that it’s a completely unplayable mess and one that I’m glad I didn’t pay for.

Oh, and if you want some thoughts on the shoddy digital “restoration” performed on it by dunderhead technicians who haven’t got a clue how to use the tools at their disposal, check out Lyris’ post on the matter.

 
Posted: Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 6:47 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | Games | HD DVD | Technology
 

I’m in the money

Got a web site? Want to earn £10 for more or less nothing, plus a further £5 every month? Then why not sign up to Bucks 4 Banners? By simply adding an unobtrusive banner advertisement to three pages on your web site, you can become rich! I’ve added banners to three of my DVD Image Comparisons (see if you can spot which ones), and am eagerly awaiting my first payment.

I’m really not sure how Bucks 4 Banners can possibly hope to make any money out of this, but I’m certainly not complaining.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 10:24 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Web
 

It’s a royal flush!

Blu-ray

Wrong game, I know, but I don’t know anything about cards. The point is, my copy of the Finnish release of Casino Royale on Blu-ray arrived today.

(Coincidentally, Lyris also received the free copy of the UK release which, as Playstation 3 owners, we were able to sign up for. I had a look at the torture scene on this copy, and found the manner in which it was edited quite curious. Gone is Le Chiffre placing the rope on Bond’s shoulder, and his line, “Such a waste.” Some of the sound effects and Bond’s screams also seemed to have been toned down slightly, although, without doing a side by side comparison, it was impossible to be sure, so don’t quote me on this. Either way, Bond’s balls still get a bloody good walloping, and I remain incredibly disturbed by the notion that the BBFC found elements of this scene to be sexualised.)

Anyway, on to the matter at hand - the Finnish disc. I can confirm that it is indeed region free, and that it is indeed completely uncut… although I had a rather hare-raising moment at first, because, in my eagerness to take a look-see at my new disc, I accidentally put the American disc in by mistake! Put that down to having four copies of the same film, each with almost identical covers, in the same room. Thankfully, I had enough sense to rectify this mistake before I went blustering on to the Internet to verbally abuse those who had told me the Finnish release was uncut. The disc label, incidentally, also has an Australian OLFC certificate on it, lending credence to the theory that the exact same disc was released down under, which should please those who prefer enormous ratings stickers on their front covers to non-English text. Furthermore, although I will be doing some careful inspections of the various releases before offering my final judgement, an initial glance at this disc suggests that it has identical image quality to the US/Korean version.

Now that I have a copy of Casino Royale that I’m happy with, I can finally get on with my long-delayed review.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 10:10 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews
 

HD DVD celebrates first birthday with 100,000 sales

HD DVD/Blu-ray

HD DVD turns a year old today (the official release date for the initial line-up of titles was April 18th 2006, although a few retailers started selling them early on the 15th, hence last Sunday’s buyathon). With the format having made major gains in the charts recently, now seems like the perfect time to convey more good news: HD DVD has now passed a major milestone, having sold (not shipped, sold) 100,000 stand-alone players since launch. Note that this figure does not include the number of Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drives sold.

In addition, Planet Earth on HD DVD became the first title on either format to reach a sales rank of 4 in the DVD sales charts (covering DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray and the, ahem, special interest formats like UMD), ousting the previous king, Casino Royale on Blu-ray, with a high of 7, from its throne. Now that the disc drought of early 2007 seems to be at an end, HD DVD seems to slowly but surely be clawing its way back to its previous position. Clearly, the gap between the two HD formats is going to be a lot narrower than it was in the glory days of mid to late 2006, and I expect that both formats will overtake each other at various points throughout the coming months, but I must say that those who poo-pooed HD DVD and predicted its demise spoke rather too hastily. One thing’s for sure, 2007 is going to continue to be very interesting.

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 10:02 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV
 

Drive me crazy

Maxtor Basics Personal Storage 3200

I’ve always been a big believer in having two hard disks in your system - and I don’t just mean partitioning a single disk into two, but actually having two separate physical drives. I’ve been in the habit of storing all of my important data on a secondary drive for years now, and not only because it minimises the disruption if and when the time comes to reformat the main drive (something that can easily be achieved through partitioning anyway), but because it means that, if something physical goes wrong with the main drive, all the data can still be safe on the secondary drive. Boot drives take a fairly heavy beating, because the brunt of the data transfer takes place on them, whereas secondary drives don’t get such a rigorous work-out, so they generally have a longer life expectancy. (Having said that, I’ve only ever had one primary drive fail on me, and that was a fairly lengthy process that allowed me to salvage anything important before it went completely belly-up. Still, you can never be too careful.)

When I built my current machine back in May 2005, I switched from my old dual-IDE disk configuration to a single SATA drive, which I split into three partitions for convenience. I always told myself that I’d pick up a second drive at some point, to be on the safe side, but I never got round to it… until now. I finally got paid for my first week of sessional work with the NHS a few days back, and I decided to invest some of my hard-earned moolah in a backup device. Rather than picking up an internal SATA drive, I decided to plump for a 400 GB Maxtor Basics Professional Storage 3200 external USB device (£74.99 at Maplin Electronics). It’s not quite as fast as an internal drive, but it’s more convenient due to its portability, and it also means that, if for some reason my computer were to explode in a cloud of blue smoke, the drive itself would be safely out of the way.

Anyway, it arrived today while I was at work, and I set it up as soon as I got home - a very straightforward procedure, simply involving plugging it into the mains and connecting it to my computer via USB. It even came pre-formatted, so I was able to start transferring data within seconds. Très cool.

 
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 10:45 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Technology
 
 

 
 
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