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Mother of Tears sails into the Bay

Mother of Tears

Source: Bloody Disgusting

It is being reported that the North American distribution rights for Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears are to be jointly picked up by Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company. What this means in terms of the film’s chances of getting a theatrical release are anyone’s guess, but let’s just say that they’re somewhat higher than they were previously. It’s also unclear how any potential high definition home video release would work out, given that Anchor Bay is Blu-ray exclusive while the Weinsteins are HD DVD exclusive. Oh, and, naturally, the usual fears have arisen that, given the Weinstein brothers’ track record of butchering foreign titles, the film will eventually show up in America in a form decidedly unrepresentative of Argento’s artistic intentions.

Whatever happens, though, let’s look on the bright side: a semi-major has got involved, which gives the film a better chance of some form of theatrical exhibition than any of Argento’s other projects since Opera.

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | HD DVD

HD DVD debacle


We now have a new HD DVD to add to the HD Image Quality rankings list. Conversely, it’s probably the worst film I’ve ever watched in high definition. It’s Aeon Flux, which Lyris bought from DVD Pacific. While we marvelled at the sumptuous transfer, I was first baffled, then downright infuriated, by this shoddy excuse for a movie. Ironically, the end result of watching this live action travesty was that we both decided that Peter Chung’s original animated series looked vastly more interesting and that we had to see it at once. Result: Lyris ordered the DVD release of Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection from eBay. There - who ever said that paying money for a dreadful film was always a bad thing?

Then again, I’m one to talk, as I recently indulged in a bit of “buying for the sake of image quality” myself, picking up a copy of the HD DVD/DVD combo release of 300 from Amazon.com. It arrived yesterday, and a cursory glance suggests another magnificent transfer. However, I’d be lying if I said this was normally my sort of thing - I generally don’t go in for comic book adaptations, and certainly not ones featuring bare-chested men doing a lot of yelling and fighting each other. There’s only so much testosterone I can take. Still, I’ll be sitting down to watch it before too long, and we’ll see whether or not my initial impressions were correct.

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 10:39 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | HD DVD

HD DVD review: Silent Hill

Constituting a distinct improvement over the earlier Sony Pictures release in terms of image quality, Concorde Home Entertainment’s release of Silent Hill features an amazing transfer and impressive audio. Despite being bare-bones, I highly recommend that fans of the film, or those who are just dying to add another magnificent-looking disc to their HD collections, get their order in immediately.

Just over a year after launching on Blu-ray and receiving much criticism for its image quality, Silent Hill shows up on HD DVD courtesy of German distributor Concorde Home Entertainment. I investigate how this new VC-1 encode compares to Sony’s older MPEG-2 release.

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:35 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews

It’s “we love Germany” day in the Land of Whimsy…


…well, not exactly, but everything I have to say in this post relates to Germany in some way.

First up, yesterday, I received a copy of The Lives of Others on Blu-ray from DVD Pacific. This German film, which won the Best Foreign Language film at the 2006 Academy Awards, is one of the few films I’ve picked up in high definition as a blind buy (so far, most of the HD DVD and Blu-ray releases I’ve received without having seen the films themselves beforehand have been free review copies), so I’m hoping the positive word of mouth doesn’t turn out to have been hot air.

I’ve had a brief look at the transfer, and it seems to be good without being exception. It’s AVC-encoded and comes on a BD-50, but, while detail is generally pretty good, there is some rather harsh edge enhancement on display, and also the tell-tale signs of noise reduction in the form of sluggish grain patterns. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means a bad transfer, but it certainly disproves the myth doing the rounds in certain circles that everything Sony is putting out these days is solid gold.


Luckily, I am considerably more impressed by the transfers of the German HD DVD releases of Silent Hill and the extended cut of Underworld, both of which arrived from Amazon.de today (huzzah for the Germans and their reputation for efficiency!). Actually, “more impressed” is putting it lightly because, pending a more thorough investigating during the process of watching both titles from beginning to end, both of these should be ending up in the “10/10” category on my HD Image Quality Rankings list (the most recent iteration of which can be viewed here).

Both films are VC1-encoded, and in both cases it turns out that the final releases were extremely accurately represented by the Concorde Home Entertainment promo disc that Lyris brought back from the IFA convention in Berlin. Silent Hill especially is just draw-dropping, having been minted from the same magnificent master that was used for Sony Pictures’ 2006 Blu-ray release, but, thanks to the increased efficiency of VC1 over MPEG2, exhibits none of the severe compression artefacts that plagued that release. Lyris has put up a couple of snapshots illustrating just how improved the compression is in the most problematic scenes, and, suffice to say, I urge anyone contemplating picking up this film in HD to abandon any thought of buying Sony’s version. Concorde are releasing their titles on both formats, so this improved version is also available to those restricted to Blu-ray.

Finally, Sony comes to HD DVD!

Finally, Sony comes to HD DVD!

Underworld, meanwhile, doesn’t look quite as good, but that, I suspect, has more to do with the look of the film itself than the quality of the master or the encoding. Certainly, I can see no flaws at all that should prevent it from also attaining “10/10” status, and there are some moments in which the details are so pronounced, particularly in close-ups, that they practically leap off the screen. Oh, and I know it’s silly, but I did get a kick out of seeing the words “A Sony Pictures Entertainment Company” appearing on an HD DVD title, underneath the Screen Gems logo at the beginning of the film.

Audio-wise, German and English tracks are offered, the German variant in DTS-HD Master Audio, and the English in the lower bit rate DTS-HD Hi-Resoltion format (on Silent Hill, the German track is 6.1 discrete while the English track is plain old 5.1, while on Underworld, both tracks are 5.1). While it’s a little disappointing to see preferential treatment given to dubbed versions, it’s somewhat moot at the moment given the lack of hardware that can decode the high definition content of the DTS-HD audio codec (instead, current hardware falls back on a legacy DTS 1.5 Mbps stream). In any event, the English tracks on both films sound magnificent, although I’ll have to do a comparison between the Dolby Digital track on the Sony Pictures BD of Silent Hill and the DTS-HD variant on the Concorde HD DVD to see just how much of a difference there is. (It’s a real shame I don’t currently have the means to play the PCM 5.1 track on the BD, thanks to my PS3’s lack of analogue outputs and my audio receiver’s lack of HDMI support.)

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

As with Warner’s HD DVDs and BDs, these titles go straight to the film itself after playing the company logo and the usual copyright warnings. They default to German audio with no subtitles, but a quick press of the Menu button brings up the main menu, allowing you to switch to English audio. Doing so automatically turns on German subtitles, but worry not, for they can easily be disabled via the menu or using the Subtitles button on your remote.

As has been reported elsewhere, there are no extras on either title. In the case of Silent Hill, the same was true of Sony’s release, so this can’t exactly be considered a downgrade, but for Underworld, Sony’s standard definition DVD of the extended edition, plus their upcoming Blu-ray release, are quite feature-packed. Myself, I’m not too bothered as I’ll be hanging on to my standard definition copy anyway for the included comic and concept art booklet, but for others not in this situation, the Sony Blu-ray version will probably be a more attractive choice for those who can play it

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 4:16 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

LA Times: “Warner’s next”

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Source: Film Talk

I don’t make a habit of reporting on every rumour that crops up in the high definition format war, because, frankly, the vast majority of it is complete nonsense. However, this particular article, which comes from the Los Angeles Times, caught my eye, as it quotes “Hollywood insiders” as saying that

[t]he brinkmanship is intensifying. Another major studio, Warner Bros., is being courted by both camps and believed to be mulling over a lucrative offer that could bring such popular titles as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” into the HD DVD camp, according to Hollywood insiders who requested anonymity because the talks were confidential.

(Full article here.)

Mr. Moneybags

Were this to come to pass, it would be huge. It should be no secret that both sides are likely to be actively courting the studios and making very lucrative offers in exchange for exclusivity deals - it’s a business, after all - so it stands to reason that there is a hint of truth in the article, whatever its source. After Paramount’s shock decision to support only HD DVD, both sides will have upped their game substantially. If Warner is actually actively considering renouncing their neutrality, then I honestly believe the writing could be on the wall for Blu-ray: as one forum poster put it, Warner, despite their neutrality, are basically Blu-ray’s biggest supporter. True, many of their releases are HD DVD-only, but they have given a massive number of titles to the Blu camp, and their back catalogue is arguably the most impressive of all the majors.

The gloves are well and truly off. The next few months are going to be very interesting.

PS. Have a look at how the Blu-ray die-hards (or “Smurfs”, as they are coming to be known with increasing regularity), are coping with these latest rumours, in this handy collation of posts over at High Def Forum.

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 12:34 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

HD DVD now bigger than Blu-ray


Source: AV Science Forum

In addition to having the lion’s share of studio support (something which now seems rather dubious given Paramount’s recent decision), the Blu-ray camp’s main reason to cheer has long been the higher capacity of their discs (50 GB for a dual-layer BD versus 30 GB for a dual-layer HD DVD). Well, as of now, that would appear to have changed, as the DVD Forum have just approved triple-layer 51 GB HD DVDs as part of the format’s spec. These new discs, which are believed to be fully compatible with current hardware, have effectively negated (and more besides - but who’s counting a gigabyte?) one of Blu-ray’s main selling points.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether any studios begin using them commercially (Paramount, at least, seem to be happy with 30 GB discs, at least judging by CTO Alan Bell’s recent comments on the issue), but the good news is that the technology are now there. I wonder how Disney, who helped develop the format’s HDi technology, only to jump ship in favour of Blu-ray because its increased capacity allowed them to cram more “Virtual Magic Carpet Tour”-type games on each disc, are now feeling.

Thanks to Lyris for drawing this to my attention.

Posted: Sunday, September 09, 2007 at 4:41 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | HD DVD | Technology

Soon on this screen…


The good news is that the HD DVD releases of Silent Hill and Underworld are now shipping from Amazon.de… at least for some of us. My copies went out just before midday, but the official word from Concorde Home Entertainment is that Friday is the target date for availability.

It would also appear that there will be no extras on either of these discs. Supposedly, if they sell well, future titles from Concorde will include bonus materials. For Silent Hill, which was bare-bones in its Blu-ray incarnation too, this isn’t that much of a big deal, but Underworld in its standard definition incarnation (and, presumably, the US Blu-ray version due to be released on September 25th as well) was quite feature-packed, so that’s a bit of a shame. Oh well - provided the image quality is excellent, I won’t be complaining too much.

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2007 at 10:18 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

HD DVD review: Dawn of the Dead (remake)

The HD DVD release of Dawn of the Dead is a definite improvement over the standard definition release, maintaining all of the original bonus features and boasting a solid transfer and audio mixes. Of course, the upcoming release of Romero’s superior original version on Blu-ray is likely to put this release in the shade, at least in terms of the quality of the film itself, but those who enjoyed Snyder’s reimagining are highly recommended to trade their DVD copies for this new release.

Halloween comes early this year as I review Universal’s recent HD DVD release of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2007 at 6:22 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews

The latest HD image quality rankings

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

I have a new favourite HD demo disc: it’s Sony’s Blu-ray release of Open Season. Sony gave Lyris a stack of free Blu-ray discs when he went to make his reportings on their format in Berlin last week, and this was one of them (one of the others, unfortunately, was Black Hawk Down, which looks horrendous). While the film itself is doing my tits in, it’s hard to deny that the visual presentation is absolutely stellar - the sort of quality you can get when you feed a pristine source into an advanced codec like AVC.

I’ve taken the opportunity to update my HD image quality rankings chart, and have also included the codecs used for each release.


  • Open Season (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Corpse Bride (Warner, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • King Kong (Universal, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Casino Royale (Sony Pictures, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • The Descent (Lions Gate, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Serenity (Universal, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Serenity (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Black Snake Moan (Paramount, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC


  • Babel (Paramount, USA, HD DVD) - AVC
  • Looney Tunes: Rabbit Hood (Warner, USA, HD DVD)* - VC1
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Mr. Bean’s Holiday (Universal, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Children of Men (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Bourne Supremacy (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner, USA) - VC1
  • Miami Vice (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Sony Pictures, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Layer Cake (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Dawn of the Dead (remake) (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Blood Diamond (Warner, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • Reign Over Me (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Casablanca (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner, UK, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • A Scanner Darkly (Universal, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1


  • Silent Hill (Sony Pictures, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • The Bourne Identity (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Mulholland Drive (Studio Canal, France, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Constantine (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Matrix (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Paramount, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Matrix Revolutions (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Matrix Reloaded (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Devil’s Rejects (Lions Gate, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Unleashed (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Red Dragon (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Looney Tunes: Robin Hood Daffy (Warner, USA, HD DVD)* - VC1
  • The Skeleton Key (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Land of the Dead (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Syriana (Warner, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • V for Vendetta (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Machinist (Toshiba, Japan, HD DVD) - AVC
  • Sleepy Hollow (Paramount, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Million Dollar Baby (Warner, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • Flightplan (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - VC1
  • Batman Begins (Warner, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Van Helsing (Universal, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Wolf Creek (The Weinstein Company, USA, HD DVD) - AVC


  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Arlington Road (Sony Pictures, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Tears of the Sun (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Mummy Returns (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • King Arthur (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Paprika (Sony Pictures, France, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Constantin Film, Germany, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Fifth Element (remastered) (Sony Pictures, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC


  • Chicago (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - AVC
  • Enemy of the State (Buena Vista, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Lost in Translation (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Paramount, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Hostel (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • The Fountain (Warner, USA, HD DVD/Blu-ray) - VC1
  • An American Werewolf in London (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Troy (Warner, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Being John Malkovich (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Brokeback Mountain (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • The Game (Universal, USA, HD DVD) - VC1
  • Basic Instinct (Studio Canal, France, HD DVD) - VC1


  • District B13 (Magnolia, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Crank (Lions Gate, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2
  • Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures, UK, Blu-ray) - MPEG2


  • Brotherhood of the Wolf (Studio Canal, France, HD DVD) - VC1
  • La Haine (Studio Canal, UK, HD DVD) - VC1
  • American Psycho (Lions Gate, USA, Blu-ray) - MPEG2

* Found on the The Adventures of Robin Hood HD DVD.

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 at 10:54 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Sprinting zombies look even more ridiculous in HD


My copy of the remake of Dawn of the Dead on HD DVD arrived from DVD Pacific this morning.

The DVD always stood out to me as being one of the better standard definition releases, so my hopes were high for its high definition debut. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed, as this is a very nice-looking transfer. Not perfect, but towards the higher end of the quality spectrum all the same. It has a very contrasty look, with the highlights often ending up being blown out and shadow detail rather limited, but this replicates the look of the film when I saw it at the cinema, not to mention the DVD, which seems to have come from the same master, as evinced by the slight increase in ringing and print damage during scenes that have been spliced in for the director’s cut.

Rewatching the film for (if my memory serves me correctly) the third time also allowed me to warm to it a little more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still in the shadow of the original, but it’s enjoyable enough and has some genuinely funny moments. It is inconsistent, though, seeming quite well-made in places and then somewhat shoddy in others, while the characters, with the exception of the asshole mall cop CJ, are all incredibly one-dimensional, and the writer’s attempts to give them pathos fall incredibly short. Some moments are so ridiculous that I can’t help wondering if the filmmakers were being tongue-in-cheek - I’m thinking particularly of the sacrifice made by Michael who, knowing that he has been infected, stands heroically on the pier watching his friends sail off into the sunset - cue swelling music and Ving Rhames with the Stars and Stripes emblazoned behind him. I’m just amazed he didn’t salute.

Posted: Tuesday, September 04, 2007 at 10:34 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD

Ach ja! HD DVD ist wunderbar!


Tomorrow sees the release of the HD DVD versions of Silent Hill and Underworld in Germany, and I have extremely high expectations.

These two are fairly high-profile Sony-owned films, and as such are Blu-ray exclusives in the US, but, thanks to the magic of no region coding, viewers from around the world can enjoy these titles, owned in Germany by Concorde Home Entertainment, on HD DVD. Silent Hill was one of the earliest films to be released on Blu-ray in the US, and while it clearly came from an impeccable master, demonstrating eye-popping detail and unmolested film grain, the combination of MPEG2 encoding and a single-layer BD-25 proved to be too much for it to handle, resulting in noticeable compression artefacts in several scenes.

Lyris, returning from the IFA 2007 consumer electronics show, brought back a promotional disc featuring excerpts from several Concorde releases, including these two, and let’s just say that, unless something goes seriously wrong, they could both be 10/10 discs. In particular, Silent Hill appears to be from the same master as the Blu-ray release, demonstrating comparable detail and the same quality of grain reproduction, but, with the added benefit of more efficient VC-1 encoding, should blow away its Sony counterpart. Underworld looks equally incredible, although, not having seen the soon-to-released US Blu-ray version, I’ve no idea how it compares. Luckily, both versions will feature the extended unrated cut.

When Lyris bought the Blu-ray release of Silent Hill earlier this year, we both agreed that, with improved encoding, it would basically have been a perfect transfer. Now, fingers crossed, we’re actually going to get that perfect transfer. Cue cries of “It’s so grainy! I thought this was supposed to be HD!”

Silent Hill
Silent Hill

Click the images above for larger versions.

Update, September 4th, 2007 10:43 PM: It looks as if these titles may have been delayed. Amazon is now saying that they will be dispatched within “1 to 3 weeks”, while an AV Science Forum member living in Germany is reporting that none of the electronic stores seem to have copies yet.

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2007 at 5:03 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

DVDs I bought or received in the month of August

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD
  • Angel-A (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Arlington Road (R0 USA, Blu-ray)
  • Mr. Bean’s Holiday (R0 UK, HD DVD)
  • Red Road (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Spooks: Season 5 (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Trafico de Menores (R2 Spain, DVD)

A relatively quiet month, but I did get a free DVD out of it, and another for the price of a review.

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2007 at 11:59 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Gialli | HD DVD | TV

Today Berlin, tomorrow the world

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Lyris is currently in Berlin to report on the ongoing IFA 2007 consumer electronics show. The Blu-ray Disc Association paid for him to be flown out there and put him in an exclusive suite in a swanky hotel, all expenses covered, so he could be indoctrinated… erm, I mean, so he could report on their format. DVD Times has ongoing, up to the minute coverage of the show, including a summary of this afternoon’s BDA Press Conference, which he blogged live for the benefit of the rest of us who didn’t get to go and pow-wow with executives from Sony, Fox, Disney and Warner.

At the end of the conferences, a question and answer session was held, and the most interesting part in fact turned out to be a non-answer: namely, the refusal of everyone present to confirm or deny, even when asked repeatedly, whether or not they had been given any (how shall I put this?) incentives to back Blu-ray exclusively. Now, personally I don’t see what the big deal is about one company paying another for brand loyalty - it’s a business, after all. This is rather funny, though, in light of all the mud-slinging that has gone on following Paramount and DreamWorks’ decision to abandon Blu-ray and support HD DVD exclusively, with many Blu-ray (how shall I put this?) aficionados berating the HD DVD camp for effectively buying the studios’ exclusivity. It comes as no surprise, but it’s rather amusing to see the competition effectively admitting to doing exactly what they have had their mouthpieces attack the HD DVD Promotion Group for (allegedly) doing. (What, you think they would have said “No comment” if the answer had been “No”?)

Question to BDA: it’s about Paramount/Dreamworks. People speculated that Paramount were given ‘sweeteners”. The person asking wants a Yes or No answer from all of the studios - have you been ‘sweetened’ to stick exclusively with Blu-ray?

Answer: (Nobody wants to answer this).

The FOX exec is given the mic: “We were given very good content protection” (smiles).

(They continue passing the mic around).

Question to BDA: The guy who originally asked the question wants a definite confirmation that NO studio has received any sweetener to stay with Blu-ray.

Answer from Buena Vista: “That’s not what I said. I said no comment”.

Anyway, you can visit Lyris’ site for some pictures of the incentives that have been sent his way by the BDA. Now, obviously I’m sure Disney and Fox got slightly more in exchange for their exclusivity, but this is turning out to be into an interesting exposé into how the BDA does business, nonetheless. Not that I’m accusing anyone of trying to encourage the press to give them favourable coverage, heavens no!

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 10:41 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | General | HD DVD | Technology

Cat People slinks off


Source: AV Science Forum

Proving to be as elusive as the felines themselves, it would seem that Cat People, due out on HD DVD on September 25th, has been removed from Universal’s schedule.

While I can’t say that I’m about to slit my wrists over this news (unlike certain Blu-ray fans over the recent Paramount announcement), I’m a bit disappointed nonetheless, as I was hoping to upgrade my rather underwhelming-looking standard definition copy. Then again, it may well have been cancelled or postponed (it’s unclear which) as a result of a poor master - if they were planning on using the same source as the DVD, they were probably wise to yank it. I’m sure the last thing Universal wants is another Traffic, and I’d rather they took their time releasing quality discs than merely shovelling them out, as they have been somewhat guilty of recently.

Posted: Sunday, August 26, 2007 at 7:17 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

DVD debacle


I got my hands on a few DVDs over the last couple of days. First of all, I received check discs of Spooks Season 5 for my upcoming review of the soon-to-be-released set for DVD Times. The only problem was that the public relations company responsible for supplying review samples neglected to send me a copy of Disc 1, instead providing an apology note to the tune that they didn’t have any left. All well and good, but unfortunately it’s rather difficult to review only part of the package and still feel that you’re providing readers with something approaching an authoritative perspective. Luckily, though, Disc 1 did turn up on Thursday, putting me somewhat behind schedule but thankfully now in a position to get the review done.

I also inherited a copy of Red Road, the Glasgow-based feature directing debut from Oscar-winning short director Andrea Arnold. I know next to nothing about the film, other than that the plot makes heavy use of CCTV, and that, when I saw a preview for it last year on Film 2006 (or a similar cinema television series), I thought it looked quite interesting. So, I’m looking forward to sitting down and watching it.


Oh, and, yesterday, while I was on my lunch break (I work Saturdays, remember), I decided to kill some time by wandering around Borders and looking at their overpriced books and DVDs. In addition to the discovery that they have a Blu-ray section (£24.99 per disc - as if!) but no HD DVDs, I came across the rather more reasonably-priced DVD release of Angel-A, which, when released in 2005, was the first film Luc Besson had directed in over seven years (after the debacle of The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc in 1999 he, somewhat wisely, some people might say, decided to concentrate on writing and producing). I’d been meaning to pick it up for some time but never got round to it.


Anyway, I’m exceedingly glad I did, because I watched it last night and enjoyed it immensely. I originally only popped it in to get some idea of how the transfer measured up (reasonably good, as it happens, although I’m increasingly finding it difficult to say anything positive about standard definition transfers unless I lower my expectations tremendously), but after watching the first five minutes, I found myself completely hooked. The plot, which involves a leggy angel (Ria Rasmussen) descending on high to help a hapless immigrant living in Paris (Jamel Debbouze of Amelie) overcome his debts and insecurities, is a bit hokey, but the whole thing is beautifully shot in breathtaking black and white (stylistically, this is a major departure for Besson), and it manages to be both funny and touching in its portrayal of this decidedly unconventional “odd couple”. It may be a little too obviously influenced by Patrice Leconte’s excellent La Fille sur le Pont (another French-language love story shot in black and white with an attempted suicide on a Parisian bridge as its inciting incident), but originality is overrated these days, and in any event the execution is hard to criticise. Highly recommended.

Posted: Sunday, August 26, 2007 at 1:56 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Books | Cinema | DVD | General | HD DVD | TV

Can a leopard change its spots?

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Following Paramount’s shock decision to back HD DVD exclusively, the web is abuzz with speculation as to what will be the next major development in high definition land. Undoubtedly, the entire landscape has been reshaped in the last few days, but I very much doubt that this is the end of the story. The biggest rumblings surround the news that Warner Home Video’s Steve Nickerson is to exit his position as senior vice president of the division. Nickerson was the key architect for Warner’s high definition programme, including the decision to back both formats instead of just HD DVD, as well as the development of the now-delayed TotalHD dual format. His departure has prompted a whole lot of theorising, and what this news means depends on who you ask.

Many desperate Blu-ray owners, still reeling from the kick in the balls that was the loss of Paramount, hope that the departure of this “pro-HD DVD” executive means that Warner could be going exclusive to Blu-ray… which I personally think is highly unlikely, given Warner’s stake in the HD DVD format, not to mention the fact that they already seem to favour it over Blu-ray, with many exclusive titles such as Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

By the same token, many HD DVD owners, gloating over the Paramount scoop and with morale higher than it has been at any other point in 2007 so far, will tell you that the departure of one of the main individuals responsible for Warner becoming involved with Blu-ray in the first place could be a good omen for them pulling a Paramount.

I personally think the second is the more likely of these two scenarios, and, if you were to ask me to make a prediction, I’d say that Warner will eventually go HD DVD-only. Not necessarily within the next few days as some have suggested, but at some point in the not too distant future. If this happens, then HD DVD, by my reckoning, will have the upper hand in terms of content. No other studio has made as much money from HD sales as Warner, and their back catalogue is by far the most impressive in terms of sheer number of titles. If it comes to an all-out battle with Universal, Warner and Paramount on one side and Sony, Disney and Fox on the other (as would have been the case had Warner and Paramount not decided to back both formats at the last minute), then my gut reaction is that the Universal/Warner/Paramount triumvirate (which, let’s not forget, also includes subsidiaries New Line and Dreamworks) would wipe the floor with the boys in Blu.

But that’s all rather academic at the moment. The other possibility is simply that nothing will change at all. Universal and Paramount will continue to shack up with HD DVD; Sony, Disney and Fox will stay wed to Blu-ray; and Warner will continue to play the bigamy game. In my view, that already makes the situation considerably more positive for HD DVD than it was as recently as last Sunday, and has ensured the format’s survival for the foreseeable future.

What’s needed now is for the HD DVD Promotion Group to make Lions Gate and Anchor Bay an offer they can’t refuse. Lions Gate is already bleeding money due to their decision to back Blu-ray, and a nice deal with the HD DVD gang could soften that blow (as well as allow them to hawk their wares to more customers).

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2007 at 7:40 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Michael Bay: “Now I love HD DVD”


Source: High-Def Digest

This just gets funnier and funnier. After going off on a rant about how he wouldn’t direct Transformers 2 because Paramount had ditched Blu-ray, he has suddenly had an epiphany, deleted his original post, and come out in full favour of HD DVD:

As a director, I’m all about people seeing films in the best quality possible, and I saw and heard firsthand people upset about a corporate decision.

So today I saw 300 on HD, it rocks!

So I think I might be back on to do Transformers 2!

This guy flip-flops like a fish out of water! Who wants to bet Paramount executives woke up to find his words being bandied all over the web and had a quiet word with him?

Oh, and Paramount CTO Alan Bell has submitted to an extremely interesting interview with PC World, where he discusses his company’s reasons for switching to HD DVD exclusively in a commendably candid way:

Bell: Paramount has been getting experience with publishing titles in both formats for the last year. We’ve had a hands-on ability to see how these formats work in practice. And after some hands-on analysis, we decided that HD DVD was the format we wanted to support.

PCW: Why was that?

Bell: For one thing, the lower prices of the players: It’s good for consumers, it’s good for our customer base.

For another thing, HD DVD came out of the DVD Forum. The DVD Forum is very experienced at developing and managing specs. [HD DVD] was launched in a very stable way, with stable specifications, and they had specified a reference player model, so all players had to be compatible with the HDi interactivity layer, and all players had to be capable of the interactivity. So when we publish titles in the future that have interactivity, we can be assured that every HD DVD player will be able to handle this content.

Oh, and he reiterates that the current situation represents an “indefinite commitment”.

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at 8:04 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology | Web

A suggestion to Michael Bay: stop your whining


Until today, I didn’t realise that Michael Bay, director of such, er, delights as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor (and The Rock, but I wasn’t going to mention it as I actually like that film), had his own web site. Turns out he does, though, and he has been using his forum to mouth off about Paramount’s decision to drop support for Blu-ray, which affects his most recent film, Transformers:

I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For them to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks! They were progressive by having two formats. No Transformers 2 for me!

So, Mr. Bay, where were you when Disney elected not to release The Rock and Pearl Harbor on HD DVD? It works both ways, you know. I must admit, it’s quite amusing watching a big-shot Hollywood moviemaker (albeit not a very good one) throwing a tantrum because one of his films isn’t coming out on what is fairly obviously his preferred format. Not to worry, though - I’m sure he’ll still have a promising career producing limp horror remakes once he’s finished burning his bridges with the major studios.

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 10:51 AM | Comments: 15 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Web

Fox: “Don’t worry, we’ll still release our overpriced crap on Blu-ray”

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Source: AV Science Forum

The news that Paramount and Dreamworks have dropped Blu-ray has clearly caused a bit of a stir among their former cohorts, as 20th Century Fox, notorious for having announced a slew of titles for the format at CES ‘07 and then released absolutely nothing since March, swiftly released a press release confirming their support for the format with “an aggressive global Blu-ray Disc release strategy including 29 new release and ‘must-have’ catalog titles that runs through the end of the 2007 calendar year”. Well, I hate to rain on their parade, but if, as most people suspect, this was specifically designed to counteract the loss of a major studio and its subsidiaries, then it looks a little tragic:

Master & Commander - October 2nd
The Day After Tomorrow - October 2nd
From Hell - October 9th
The Fly (1986) - October 9th
Edward Scissorhands - October 9th
28 Days Later (shot on standard definition DVCAM!) - October 9th
Robocop - October 9th
Amityville Horror (1979) - October 9th
Battle of Britain - November 6th
A Bridge Too Far - November 6th
I, Robot - November 13th
Die Hard - November
Die Hard 2: Die Harder - November
Die Hard with a Vengeance - November
Red Dawn - November
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - December 4th
Independence Day - December 4th
Cast Away - December 4th
Ronin - December 4th

So what d’you want to bet? MPEG2, BD25, no extras, $40 MSRP? With the first titles due out on October 2nd, by my reckoning that gives Fox just under six weeks to start cancelling these releases. I mean, why break with tradition?

Update, August 20th, 2007 10:33 PM: As per DVD Times’ coverage, we can expect AVC encodes.

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2007 at 10:26 PM | Comments: 0 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

Blu-ray: “We’ve just lost Paramount”

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Sources: Viacom; Lyris Lite

The underdog fights back! After fighting a losing battle against Blu-ray for the better part of the year, the HD DVD camp have just launched a massive salvo against the rival format by securing the exclusive support of Paramount Pictures. Paramount, and all studios whose movies are distributed by them, including DreamWorks Animation SKG, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, will release their films exclusively on HD DVD as of August 28th, when Blades of Glory will become their first title not to be available on Blu-ray.

The only exception to this new state of affairs will be Steven Spielberg-directed films (those he merely produced will still be exclusive), which, to quote the press release, “are not exclusive to either format”.

All I can say is that this is really, really going to hurt certain people when the likes of Shrek, Transformers, Titanic and Braveheart are released.

Update, August 20th, 2007 06:51 PM: I’m currently camping on the Blu-ray.com announcement thread. It’s a laugh riot.

Posted: Monday, August 20, 2007 at 5:45 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

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