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Tartan slaps on the woad

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Source: DVD Times

In a move that certainly surprised me and, I suspect, will have surprised a lot of others as well, UK independent DVD studio Tartan Video has announced support for Blu-ray, and will be debuting high definition editions of Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (also due out in the US from Sony a month later) and Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal on August 27th, with Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy to follow on September 24th. Expect AVC encodes, DTS-HD Master Audio and, it would seem, some but not all of the extras from the standard definition variants. The RRP for each, by the way, is a rather bloated £29.99, seemingly because Tartan intends to package the standard definition version on a separate disc in the same case.

I hate to say it, but the pessimist in me suspects that this may be the beginning of the end for HD DVD. This time last year, I never in a million years dreamed that any of the independents would back Sony’s format, but with this, and the announcement of Starz/Anchor Bay’s decision to launch a Blu-ray line via MGM, suggests that one of HD DVD’s key advantages - cheaper manufacturing and licensing costs - really isn’t enough to entice the little guys. All I can say is that Sony must be offering some major incentives to these smaller studios (one commenter suggests that they may be supplying free authoring services) to get them on the bandwagon. I’d still like to think that HD DVD can get its act together and reclaim some of the momentum that it lost in its disastrous decision to basically sit back and do nothing at the beginning of the year, but I’m beginning to have serious doubts… especially as, for me, the news of support by Tartan and Anchor Bay is worth a thousand 20th Century Foxes.

Posted: Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 2:06 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

Blurry Blu-ray


My copy of the French Blu-ray release of Paprika arrived today from FNAC. Time didn’t permit me to actually sit down and watch the whole thing, but I have a few preliminary observations to make.

First of all, this disc features no less than nine audio tracks (Japanese PCM, and Japanese, French, English, German, Czech, Italian, Spanish and Polish Dolby Digital) and 24 subtitle tracks. This, combined with the fact that the disc is multi-region and displays an FBI logo if your player’s default language is set to English, strongly suggests that Sony is planning to release the same disc throughout much of the world.

Second, for the first full-length 2D animated HD title I’ve picked up, the transfer is decidedly underwhelming. It’s an MPEG2 encode, and, while compression problems don’t appear to be too apparent based on my viewing of the opening 15 minutes, the image looks rather soft and filtered, lacking the crispness that I would have hoped for from an animated film produced entirely in the digital domain. Like many of the Studio Ghibli releases, it’s also windowboxed, needlessly throwing away several lines of resolution. I’m not sure why this practice seems to be so widespread with anime films, but it’s a very annoying one and I wish the companies wouldn’t do it.

As for the film - let’s just say it hasn’t grabbed me yet. I’m going to sit down with it at some point this weekend and give it my full concentration, but my initial impressions suggest that my various esteemed commenters were right.

Oh yeah, and Sony has announced a few new Blu-ray titles for release in the US on September 25th, including Black Book and the extended cut of Underworld. I’ve already got the German HD DVD release of Underworld, due out on September 3rd, pre-ordered, and that will remain the case, since the early bird catches the worm, but I’m all over Black Book, which, in addition to being an extremely engaging film, looked a little underwhelming in its UK DVD release from Tartan.

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007 at 10:13 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

Fox, king of lies


Guess it’s full steam ahead for Phase Hydra.

It may have escaped your notice, but a brand new web site geared around marketing Blu-ray, entitled Hollywood In Hi-Def, was recently launched. The idea, presumably, is similar to the HD DVD Promotion Group’s The Look and Sound of Perfect, with the only differences being a URL that’s easier to remember, and the fact that Hollwood In Hi-Def doesn’t make its Blu-ray bias explicit. It’s fairly obvious (the next-to-zero mention of HD DVD and the blue colour scheme are dead giveaways), but it’s underhand tactics like these that cause me to view the Blu-ray camp with a great deal of suspicion. Don’t get me wrong: I know that both sides are, at the end of the day, out to make money by any means necessary, but I always feel that there’s something slightly more honest about the way the HD DVD camp conducts itself.

Nowhere is the Blu-ray Disc Association’s willingness to lie, in spite of how blatantly transparent their porkies are, than in a recent article regarding the lack of titles from 20th Century Fox so far this year. Fox, as you may or may not be aware, haven’t released a single Blu-ray disc since Night at the Museum on April 24th. Recently, however, the forums became abuzz with the news that several new titles had been announced for release in various European countries, including France and Germany. Not so, according to Fox themselves:

There have been reports of Fox releasing on Blu-ray internationally while still on hold in the U.S.

A Fox executive told us and some late-night commenters at High-Def Digest that it isn’t true. Fox has made no Blu-ray announcements in Europe, Asia or the U.S. since its last Blu-ray title, “Night at the Museum,” on April 24.


Oh really?

Is that so?

Wait a minute…

Do Fox seriously think their US customers are so isolated from the rest of the world that they will somehow fail to notice the various sites not only listing the various titles announced for release on the other side of the Atlantic, but also their cover art, technical specs and bonus content? That would appear to be the case, as a comment posted to the article in question, featuring links to announcements for various German releases, was mysteriously deleted as I was typing this entry. Based on the evidence, I’d have to say that Fox really do think we’re as stupid as they are.

Update, July 12th, 2007 08:31 PM: Looks like the links were not deleted after all. By default, the site only displays the four most recent comments.

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007 at 8:07 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Web

But it’s just cartoons, innit?

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Generally speaking, Japanese animation doesn’t do a whole lot for me, unless it’s by Hayao Miyazaki, and even then I tend to be a bit picky. Back when I was doing my MLitt, however, we had a lecture on anime, during which we were shown Tokyo Godfathers, which, in addition to having an incredibly witty and involving narrative, boasted the most outrageous posing and facial expressions I’ve ever seen outside of Warner Brothers and Spumco - a far cry from the usual static faces with only the mouths opening and closing favoured by anime directors. The director of this film was Satoshi Kon, whose greatest claim to fame appears to be Perfect Blue, described by some as the closest thing in existence to an anime giallo.


Anyway, his latest film, Paprika, was recently released on Blu-ray in certain territories, including Japan and France. Judging by the trailers and stills that I’ve seen, its animation eschews the flamboyance of Tokyo Godfathers in favour of the more static, conservative look usually associated with anime, but, given the complete and utter dearth of 2D animation on either of the HD formats (barring the three Looney Tunes cartoons included on The Adventures of Robin Hood HD DVD), I’m willing to take what I can get, and in any event I’m hoping that Paprika demonstrates the same quality of storytelling seen in Tokyo Godfathers. Anyway, I’ve ordered a copy of the French release, which DVDRAMA tells me is region-free and includes English subtitles.


Speaking of 2D high definition animation in France, according to FilmTalk, Sylvain Chomet’s Les Triplettes de Belleville (or Belleville Rendez-vous, or The Triplets of Belleville, depending on where you are in the world) is to get an HD DVD release (from Warner, presumably, as they released the standard definition version) on October 31st 2007. Given that it is almost completely dialogue-free, English subtitles (or lack thereof) should not be an issue. Needless to say, I’ll definitely be picking this one up too.

Posted: Monday, July 09, 2007 at 8:24 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | Gialli | HD DVD

When the Starz go Blu

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Source: High-Def Digest

Hot on the heels of the news that Starz Home Entertainment (formerly Anchor Bay) had tossed its hat into the high definition ring with the announcement that the first season of Masters of Horror would be coming to Blu-ray, the company has now provided specs for this release (a set of four BD50s, 1080p transfers, PCM 5.1 audio, and “comparable extras” to the standard definition counterparts), as well as the news that Halloween, plus entries in the Evil Dead and George A. Romero’s original zombie trilogy will be showing up in October (the article states that we’ll be seeing “three to four” titles, so exactly what will be released seems to still be up in the air).

I have to say I think it’s really good that Starz are debuting with some of their big guns. I’m not sure how long it’ll be before we see some gialli in high definition (I’m hoping for those long-promised special editions of Tenebre and Phenomena), but things do finally seem to be on the move for fans of the more obscure side of cinema.

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007 at 11:03 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV

The return of Captain Whiggles

I’m back, and I’m a whole day older. I have now walked this blighted earth for 24 wholes years and a day (give or take a couple of hours), although, believe it or not, I don’t feel a whole lot different. Actually, since I turned 18 and could legally do pretty much anything I might want to do, my actual age has ceased to be much of a concern for me, to the extent that, when people ask me how old I am, I often actually have to stop and think about it.

Anyway, I had a pretty good day, albeit with a couple of minor monkey-wrenches thrown in. I had a bunch of parcels waiting for me when I got up yesterday morning:

Birthday presents 1

The big box at the back is, as you can probably gather, the Lego Café Corner set I ordered a couple of weeks back. I finally finished putting it together this morning, and, while I can’t exactly claim it to have been a challenge, it took me a decent enough amount of time, and the level of detail present in the finished building is commendably higher than what you get in most of the sets aimed at a younger audience. Now, if only Lego would do something featuring a similar level of detail for a castle or a pirate ship…


In front of the Lego box, from left to right, we have: The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season and The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, Black Snake Moan on HD DVD, and Crank on Blu-ray. And yes, that hideous Homer head for The Simpsons’ sixth season really is as bad as everyone says. The plastic outer “cover” was dented out of shape when it arrived (unavoidable, given its flimsy construction, and I don’t hold DVD Pacific, the US Postal Service, Royal Mail or anyone else responsible for this - the blame lies solely with 20th Century Fox), and the tray housing the four discs that resides inside the cover is a pain, filled with bits of paper (advertisements, episode booklet) that fall out as soon as you open it. It’s very frustrating that the standard cardboard box was never released to buy in the US, as it was elsewhere, because ordering the replacement is, for someone without a North American postal address, a bit of a challenge. By the way, I’ve taken a look at some of the episodes from both Seasons 6 and 7, and, while there are still some visible DVNR artefacts, they are nothing like as bad as the ones affecting the PAL version.


Me and Lyris also watched Crank last night. First, the bad news: the film looks like ass. It was shot in 1080p, so ideally this should have been a pixel-to-pixel reproduction of the source materials (barring compression, of course). Unfortunately, someone took it upon themselves to add a tonne of edge enhancement, making the picture look harsh and ugly. Strangely enough, the edge enhancement is is inconsistent, with some scenes (basically those in which the protagonist doesn’t appear) being less affected, and the two of us both came to the conclusion that the filmmakers intentionally decide to over-sharpen the image as a stylistic choice, presumably to make it appear “harsh” and “raw”. Whoever is to blame, though, they should be severely chastised for their decision.

Luckily, it’s an enjoyable film. I hesitate to call it “good”, because, to be honest, it was pretty much a complete load of garbage, but it continually kept us entertained, and was, on several occasions, laugh out loud hilarious. Jason Statham’s hard man shtick gets a little old after a while (I’m still not sure why they got a Brit to play this part), but the characters surrounding him help keep him in check, and Amy Smart plays the greatest blonde ditz I’ve seen in a film since Anna Faris in Lost in Translation: “Don’t talk to him like that! My boyfriend kills people!” Oddly enough, the most similar film I can think of to this is not Speed, as most people seem to suggest, but Run Lola Run. Obviously, it’s less high-brow, but it has the same sort of energy and the same basic plot - if “person runs around the city for 90 minutes” counts as a plot.

Oh, and Black Snake Moan has a really impressive transfer, at least judging by the brief glance I had at the first couple of scenes. Paramount has really come a long way in the last few months.

Birthday presents 2

Anyway, I also went to Braehead Shopping Centre for lunch and shopping. Luckily, I didn’t see any shifty types looking to ram burning vehicles into buildings (Braehead is just down the road from Glasgow Airport), so I was able to make my purchases in peace. I actually ended up buying a hell of a lot more than I intended, not least an Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on. You may remember that I bought one earlier this year and ended up selling it on to a friend, because it didn’t meet my needs. Luckily, the situation has now changed. For one thing, Lyris now has an Xbox 360, so we both decided that this would be the perfect moment to dispose of our large, clunky Toshiba HD-A1 player and replace it was something faster and less space-hungry. In addition, HD decryption software has progressed considerably in the last six months, which makes it much easier now to rip discs to my hard drive and take screen captures for review purposes (the add-on connects to either the Xbox 360 or a PC via USB, so it only takes a couple of seconds to plug it into the required device).

I also picked up two HD DVDs and one Blu-ray disc, all of them blind buys: La Haine, Syriana and Layer Cake. I know next to nothing about any of them, but it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, the goons at HMV not only forgot to take the security tabs out of La Haine and Layer Cake, meaning I couldn’t actually open them to get the discs out (most store-bought UK DVD and high definition cases feature a plastic tab which seals it shut and can only be removed using a special machine in the store), the case for La Haine was also quite badly smashed (okay, so it’s partially my fault for not noticing until I got home). Luckily, my dad was able to run me back in to get the tabs removed and the case for La Haine replaced.

I’m not done yet, though! I also bought the soundtracks to Serenity and Cars, and picked up the games Empire Earth II and Quake 4 in a “2 for £15” deal at GAME.

So yeah, all in all a good day was had, although my wallet is no longer speaking to me.

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007 at 3:47 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Games | General | HD DVD | Music | Technology

The double-dipping element

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

The upcoming Blu-ray re-release of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, due out on July 17th, will, it would seem, be struck from a completely new master. According to a post by Sony Pictures insider “Paidgeek”, we can expect to see “a marked improvement over any previous release” - good news for sure, given that I was slightly suspicious that we would simply get a new encode sourced from the same master, with added DVNR, edge enhancement or filtering.


I can’t say that this is my favourite Luc Besson film - I consider Léon to be his masterpiece - but I do find it quite enjoyable if I switch my brain into second gear and plug my ears whenever Chris Tucker appears on screen, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to replace my standard definition Superbit copy. I held off on last year’s lacklustre Blu-ray release because I knew that an improved edition was on the way, so I’ve now ordered myself a copy from DVD Pacific. For those who got burned on the earlier release, Sony have set up a replacement programme, although presumably it will only be open to North American customers. The new disc, by the way, is very much intended as a replacement in the most literal sense of the world, featuring the same cover art and with the original version already having been discontinued. Sony, it would seem, would prefer to sneak this improved version out under the radar rather than making a bit song and dance about how they have, fittingly, become the first high definition studio to play the double-dipping game.

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007 at 9:07 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology

Spooks and spectres in high definition


Source: AV Science Forum

The cover art for the upcoming German HD DVD releases of Silent Hill, Underworld: Extended Cut, 12 Monkeys and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has been unveiled… and I don’t know about you, but personally I think that this Silent Hill artwork is streets ahead of what was used for the American Blu-ray and DVD releases. Of course, better cover art is not, for me, an adequate reason for double-dipping, but I’ve pre-ordered a copy of it (and Underworld) all the same, given that I’m hoping for a superior encode to the Blu-ray release, which crammed an MPEG2 copy of the film on to a single-layer 25 GB disc. The new release date, by the way, is September 3rd, a few days later than the originally announced August 31st.

Update, July 1st, 2007 04:23 PM: As Jayson pointed out in the comments selection, this release of Underworld is to be the extended cut.

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007 at 3:53 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

DVDs I bought or received in the month of June

  • Black Book (R0 UK, DVD)
  • Brotherhood of the Wolf (R0 France, HD DVD)
  • Lost in Translation (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Mulholland Drive (R0 France, HD DVD)
  • The Odessa File (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Problem Child Triple (R2 UK, DVD)
  • The Rock (R0 France, Blu-ray)
  • The Skeleton Key (R0 USA, HD DVD)

Not a bad month as far as the quantity of HD content is concerned, although the quality has been rather mixed, to say the least.

Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 11:59 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

Y’all like HD clowns, doncha?


Source: High-Def Digest

When Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects was released on Blu-ray last year, it was a pretty safe bet that its predecessor, the inferior but still enjoyable House of 1000 Corpses would be hot on its heels. Lions Gate has finally announced it with a release date of September 18th, more than a year later. Sporting a 1080p AVC transfer, PCM 7.1 (!!!) and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio, plus all of the extras from the standard definition release, this is another definite upgrade for me, even if only for the opening pre-credits sequence. Yes, I think it’s that funny. “Fuck yo’ mama! Fuck yo’ sister! Fuck yo’ grandma! … And most of all, fuck you!” Delightful!

Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 10:44 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD

High definition geology


The French Blu-ray release of The Rock (or Rock, as it is simply titled in France) reached me today. As previously reported, it is indeed encoded for all regions (A, B, C), so I had no trouble playing it in my Japanese Playstation 3. It also includes all of the extras from the Criterion Collection release, barring the audio commentary - a shame, because it was a good one. I suspect that the commentary may be presented when this film eventually surfaces on Blu-ray in the US, given that the two Pirates of the Caribbean titles also had their commentaries dropped for their European releases, but were present on the American editions.

Anyway, you probably want to know about what really counts: the image quality. Well, the good news is that it’s a pretty nice-looking disc. I nearly had a heart attack when the opening Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions logo appeared, as it was so ill-defined that it looked like standard definition, but things picked up immediately after that. I suspect that the master used here is the same one from which Criterion sourced their standard definition transfer, which is a good thing in my book, because it is pleasingly unmangled, with only some light temporal noise reduction artefacts visible on occasions… and edge enhancement. Yes, the halos around high contrast edges are quite noticeable at times (look at the soldiers’ hats in the opening credits sequence, or the massive glow around Nicolas Cage as he stands against the sunset after Sean Connery leaves at the end), and, as with the Criterion, the footage during the opening and closing credits, plus any shot with location type, appears to have been taken from a softer source than the rest of the film.

Basically, this is a low- to mid-range 8/10 transfer in my book. Whereas the Criterion is in the upper echelon of standard definition DVDs, the master doesn’t quite cut the mustard as a contender against the best that the HD arena has to offer.

Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 10:27 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology

Beauteous Blu-ray


High-Def Digest is reporting that Sleeping Beauty is to see the light of day on Blu-ray in 2008, according to a press release from Disney. No specific release date of specifications have been given as of yet, but this is excellent news indeed, because there has been a complete dearth of 2D animation in high definition so far (the three Looney Tunes titles included with The Adventures of Robin Hood HD DVD being the only high-def cartoons I own). Sleeping Beauty isn’t my favourite Disney feature by a long shot, but I’m going to take what I can get at this stage. Let’s just hope that the likes of Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp and Lilo & Stitch (my personal preferences) aren’t too far off.

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 9:43 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

High definition is rockin’!


I was really looking forward to the release of The Rock on Blu-ray - not because it’s one of my favourite films (I certainly like it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s no classic), but because Criterion’s standard definition DVD was one of the best ever released, so I was eager to see how it would stack up in high definition. Unfortunately, Disney’s US wing recently indefinitely postponed both it and Pixar’s Cars, which were, let’s face it, two of my main reasons for ending my HD DVD exclusivity. Luckily, France has come to the rescue once again: both The Rock and Crimson Tide, another Jerry Bruckheimer explosionfest culled by Disney in the US, are currently available in the land of baguettes and fine wine, and I’ve ordered my copy of the former from Fnac. It’s also coming out in the UK on July 2nd, but, as you probably know by now, I’m not the sort of person who likes to wait. In any event, I want to be sure it arrives before my birthday (July 4th).

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the French release has been confirmed as region-free and with removable subtitles. Apparently it’s also “a little grainy”, which, in conjunction with a BD50 and an AVC encode, would seem to bode well as far as image quality is concerned. It also seems to have all of the extras from the European special edition, which, by my reckoning, means everything that was included on the Criterion - unless the poster is referring to a different continental special edition that I’m not aware of.

Oh yeah, and I’ve also pre-ordered the French HD DVD release of Hannibal, due out from Universal on August 1st, from Amazon.

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 9:24 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

Anchor Bay goes Blu


Source: High-Def Digest

Well, colour me surprised, excited and disappointed in equal measure? Starz Home Entertainment, the DVD company formerly known as Anchor Bay, have added their name to the still-small list of independents producing high definition content. The good news? We may soon get to see Dawn of the Dead (the original, not the remake), Halloween, The Evil Dead et al in HD. The bad news? They have tossed their hat exclusively into the Blu-ray ring (I was sure they would go with HD DVD, if anything), and their only announced release so far is the first season of Masters of Horror. Oh, and MGM is handling the distribution, which, given their track record with their own titles so far, is slightly worrying.

I must say I never thought the first Dario Argento title to get an HD release would be Jenifer. That’s just… wrong. Still, looking on the bright side, I’m now hopeful that those HD-mastered special editions of Tenebre and Phenomena will eventually emerge, on both DVD and Blu-ray. That’s what I’m hoping at any rate. Those, coupled with an HD DVD of Suspiria from The Weinstein Company, would put me in HD heaven. It’s just too bad so many of the other Argento films are owned by the HD-phobic Blue Underground.

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 5:57 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD

Have some cake


My birthday is looming on the horizon - just over three weeks away, in fact, and I’ve set about deciding what sort of goodies I want. It’s been quite hard this year: somewhat unusually for me, there were no major purchases that I wanted to make (having already bought my new computer only recently). Eventually, I decided that DVDs never let me down when it comes to birthday fun, so I decided to order Seasons 6 and 7 of The Simpsons from DVD Pacific. Personally, I think that the last truly great season of that show was Season 5, but I was watching some episodes from Seasons 6 through 8 (or thereabouts) on Channel 4 recently, and came to the conclusion that there was still much to enjoy, even if the slide into mediocrity had already started. You may remember that, in 2005, I ended up with a review copy of the viciously mangled UK release of Season 6, which I promptly passed on to the first person that would take it off my hands, but I’m fairly confident that the US version won’t be affected by such heinous vandalism… and if it is, well, at least it won’t be a nasty NTSC to PAL standards conversion.

My only regret is that the Region 1 release of Season 6 is only available in that hideous plastic Homer head variant, with the mail-in replacement scheme for a standard cardboard version not being open to those outside North America (schadenfreudes).

Blu-ray HD DVD

Not letting the high definition side down, I also ordered Crank on Blu-ray and Black Snake Moan on HD DVD. I know next to nothing about either of these films, but surprises can be fun, if they turn out to be pleasant ones, and in any event, Crank sounds like it could be the new Shitty Movie™. If nothing else it should, as a digital-to-digital transfer, serve as useful demo material (we’re getting a bit sick of dragging out Corpse Bride every time).

Lego Café Corner

Oh, and because I like a challenge while I’m whiling away the days (I’ve booked a week’s holiday from work to coincide with my birthday), I decided to also order my first new Lego set since Christmas 2005: the recently released Café Corner. With 2,056 pieces and a recommended age bracket of 16 and over, this should hopefully occupy me for a good few hours while offering something slightly different from my collection of medieval castles and pirate ships. If nothing else, it should offer a bit of fun.

Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 8:13 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | General | HD DVD | TV

Germany to the rescue

HD DVD/Blu-ray

Source: Area-HD

This time last year, I was planning on being Blu-ray exclusive. Less than a month later, I was HD DVD exclusive. As someone who is now format neutral, I don’t have to worry about whether a title is released on HD DVD, Blu-ray or both, because, unless a Blu-ray title comes out with region coding in a non-Region A territory only, I’m guaranteed to be able to play it. If you’re currently HD DVD only, though, you’ll be pleased to know that some films that are Blu-ray exclusives in the US - Underworld (extended cut), Silent Hill, Fantastic Four, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse - are coming to HD DVD in Germany courtesy of Concorde.

The Blu-ray release of Resident Evil: Apocalypse is basically good enough for it not to be worth double-dipping, but the Blu-ray Silent Hill could use some improvement in the compression department (it’s a stellar disc in every other respect, though), and Fantastic Four on Blu-ray is not only a weak film but one saddled with an equally weak transfer. This is good news from a diversity standpoint if nothing else, and I will more than likely be picking up Underworld (due out on August 31st) and Resident Evil (which currently has no release date) when they become available. Lyris is making rumblings about double-dipping on Silent Hill, although we’re both suspicious that we may end up trading compression artefacts for filtering and/or noise reduction. Watch this space.

Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 7:00 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

You win some, you lose some


I got home today today to find that the HD DVDs of Mulholland Drive and Brotherhood of the Wolf had both arrived from, and I’m happy to report that Mulholland Drive looks really nice. It’s not the most amazing transfer you’ll ever see, but it seems to basically be faithful to the look of the film, which is slightly diffuse. I did notice some signs of noise reduction in some of the later scenes, which is odd, because the earlier scenes that I looked at appeared to be unaffected. I’ll give the transfer a more thorough appraisal when I actually sit down to watch it from beginning to end, which I’ll be doing prior to putting together a review for DVD Times. For now, I’m just glad to have one of my five favourite films in high definition, with a transfer that isn’t a complete embarrassment.


That complete embarrassment would be Brotherhood of the Wolf, whose transfer is so weak that I don’t know why Studio Canal even bothered releasing it in HD (oh right, to make money - of course). Detail is weak, and heavy ringing is constantly in evidence: take a look at Lyris’ post for some shots of the mediocrity. If American Psycho is the worst-looking Blu-ray disc I own, then Brotherhood of the Wolf is definitely my worst-looking HD DVD. Then again, I don’t own Traffic, so perhaps I should be thankful for small mercies. Needless to say, if I’m not sufficiently impressed by the film itself, I’ll be offloading the HD DVD post-haste.

Posted: Friday, June 08, 2007 at 11:56 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

High definition navel-gazing


I’ve inherited a copy of the recently released HD DVD of Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s rather good if somewhat depressing film about incredibly self-absorbed people loitering in Tokyo. Lyris picked it up from DVD Pacific, but decided to sell it on when he saw that the transfer was nothing to write home about. I, however, while still discerning when it comes to image quality, am more likely to hang on to an HD title so long as it provides an improvement over its standard definition counterpart (and, to be fair, barring Traffic, it seems that they all do). For the not unreasonable sum of £10, I took it off my hands and now have something which, while hopelessly middle of the road as far as high definition transfers are concerned (think Brokeback Mountain or Enemy of the State rather than Serenity or Casino Royale), certainly means I can now punt my standard definition DVD.

Shuttle P2 3900G

Speaking of flogging, I sold my Shuttle SD37P2 on eBay for £247 - not really too bad, considering that I paid £317.84 for it now. At the very least, it could have been a lot worse - the money I’ve lost will hopefully serve as a reminder to be more careful with my purchases in future (note: I cannot live without a PCI slot). It’s getting picked up tomorrow by Parcel2Go, and the money is on its way to my bank account - which is good, because my last credit card bill made me come out in a cold sweat.


Oh yeah, and my HD DVD of The Skeleton Key arrived this morning from Amazon. Given the mediocre titles I’ve been receiving from Universal of late (Lost in Translation, The Game, Brokeback Mountain), I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed… and it’s true that this transfer isn’t going to win any awards. Detail levels are strong without being exemplary, and there are some obvious signs of temporal noise reduction, but it basically looks pleasing to the eye and finds itself in fairly good company, slotted between Red Dragon and Land of the Dead (also from Universal) in my HD image quality rankings list (which is long overdue for an update).

What I’m really looking forward to now is the arrival of the Studio Canal HD DVDs of Mulholland Dr. and Brotherhood of the Wolf, particularly the former, which is one of my all-time favourite films. Lyris also has the Blu-ray release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean on the way, and, while it’s not a film I’m particularly fond of (actually, I would happily burn everything but the Johnny Depp scenes), I’m certainly eager to see how it fares in high definition, particularly given how shite the standard definition DVD was.

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 at 9:07 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

So it looks better, this high definition thing?


A few routine high definition updates for you, just to make you aware of what’s going on in the land of 1080p. I’ve pre-ordered the upcoming HD DVD of The Bourne Identity, due out on July 24th. As per DVD Times, the standard definition DVD being released at the same time will feature an extended cut, and, while the HD DVD will apparently replicate the bonus content from this release, it’s unclear whether or not it will also feature this longer cut. I’d hazard a guess that it will, although whether this is something to be celebrated or decried depends on whether or not director Doug Liman was involved. Simply put, I’m aware, after the likes of the Gladiator fiasco, many of these extended cuts are merely the result of studio executives demanding that a few minutes be added to the running time in order to justify selling a new copy of the same film.


Universal has also announced a bunch of titles, including the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, for August 28th, while Sony will be releasing Arlington Road on Blu-ray on August 7th (sans commentary, a move that High-Def Digest rather generously refers to as “streamlin[ing]”). Both of these titles are shoe-ins for me - Arlington Road is a cracking if far-fetched thriller, and the Dawn of the Dead remake, while a pale shadow of the original, has a number of things going for it, in particularly the ever-impressive Sarah Polley and an appropriate dose of black humour. It should also be good HD demo material, if that makes any difference… as will Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, making its debut on Blu-ray on the same day as Arlington Road. I won’t, however, be picking up this particular title - the BD could look like a million bucks and I still wouldn’t have any desire to subject myself to that tedious dry-heave of a movie again.

David Fincher’s Zodiac, meanwhile, is coming to both formats on September 18th, a couple of months after their standard definition counterpart’s street date of July 24th. Lyris, who saw it at the cinema last week, came back raving about it, and I’m certainly game for anything from David Fincher. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen Fight Club yet. How about it, Fox? That’s if you eventually get off your asses and release anything in HD.

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:18 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

Blu-ray review: Casino Royale

Despite the lack of decent bonus material on this release, I suspect that most people will be more than happy with the sumptuous image quality and solid audio. For Bond’s first high definition outing, Sony have certainly come up trumps, and I only hope that future releases in the series will be able to come close to matching this quality. Provided you import an uncut copy, and don’t consider in-depth extras to be an essential part of the viewing process, it’s hard to go wrong with Casino Royale on Blu-ray.

James Bond gets his first ever high definition outing with Casino Royale. I’ve reviewed the recent Finnish Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures.

Posted: Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 4:39 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews

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