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BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of May

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • May 2, 2009: Waltz with Bashir (Region ABC UK, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Weeds: Season Two (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Weeds: Season Three (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: Paris, je t’aime (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 7, 2009: L’important c’est d’aimer (Region 0 USA, DVD) [sample copy]
  • May 8, 2009: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 14, 2009: A Bug’s Life (Region A USA, BD)
  • May 26, 2009: Revolutionary Road (Region ABC USA, BD)
  • May 27, 2009: Weeds: Season Four (Region A USA, BD)
 
Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 9:30 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | TV
 

The colours, man… the colours!

DVD

Last night, I went to a special screening of Suspiria at the Glasgow Film Theatre with Nick from DVD Trash, and we both had a blast. This was the first time I’d ever seen an actual print of the film, having only previously been acquainted with its DVD and BD incarnations, and it was quite the experience. The turn-out was surprisingly good, and while we did have to contend with the usual degree of tittering that accompanies any screening of an Argento film, people seemed to really get into the spirit of it. There was even one guy sitting in front of us who kept whistling along to the music and tapping his walking stick in time with it. Sometimes, the laughter seemed at odds with what was happening on the screen - for some reason, people seemed to think Suzy killing the bat near the end was just hilarious - but on other occasions, it was more justified. Seeing it in the company of new viewers and hearing their reactions reminded me of how funny some of Alida Valli’s mannerisms and reactions are - completely intentional, I’d wager.

Just to continue the never-ending debate surrounding the film’s colours (more specifically, the horribly ganked colours on the new HD master from 2007), what the GFT screened was a UK theatrical print from the 70s, complete with the old BBFC “X” card at the start. The deaths of Pat and Daniel were cut to ribbons, of course, and Sara’s murder was all but obliterated… although, in the case of the latter, I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate edit or simply the result of footage being lost to print damage. While, all things considered, the print was in reasonable shape (it must have seen nigh on three decades of use, after all), tramlines were more or less constant, and there was an abundance of splotches and speckles. There were also a handful of noticeable jumps, mainly around reel changes.

The colours were terrific, however, and it gave me a new-found appreciation for the Anchor Bay DVD, which really is very faithful to how the GFT’s print looked. The DVD may be a little undersaturated, but in terms of brightness, contrast etc. it appears to be pretty much spot on. The overall colour temperature also tallied, although the print we saw did seem to be yellowing slightly - as is only to be expected of an Eastman print of this vintage. Certainly, the lovely presentation I saw last night looked nothing at all like the the nasty Italian Blu-ray release from this year or the equally nasty French and Italian DVDs from 2007… which is what I’ve been saying all along, of course. Still, it was nice to see a genuine print with my own eyes, just so I could confirm that the Anchor Bay DVD really is how the film looked back in the 70s.

Update, May 28th, 2009 11:06 PM: I’ve gone back and rewritten the post slightly after realising that it was a semi-incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness babble. Blame that on my writing it first thing before work after a very unsettled night, in which I got about two and a half hours’ sleep!

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 7:21 AM | Comments: 17 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento
 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button BD impressions

Blu-ray

A couple of nights back, we watched the BD release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and I must confess that I found it a real disappointment, considering that I’ve enjoyed everything else David Fincher has signed his name to. This is his first true misfire, a bloated, overlong and fundamentally insincere fictional biopic based on a premise that simply can’t sustain itself for its duration. The film, which was stuck in development hell for years, is based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Eric “Forrest Gump” Roth’s script plods lethargically from scene to scene, failing to give us anything noteworthy beyond the central gimmick that the protagonist ages backwards. I haven’t read Fitzgerald’s short story, but I assume it must have played better in that form, because there’s nothing in the material to justify the film’s running time of almost three hours. At times, it seems more like a tech demo for digital de-ageing technology than anything else. It actually pains me to see a director of Fincher’s calibre wasting his time with a sluggish, maudlin biopic such as this. I know a lot of people felt that Panic Room was beneath him, but at least it was well-paced, engaging and, most importantly, entertaining. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will make you go “Wow, how did they do that?” a couple of times, but that’s about it.

The BD release is a joint venture from Paramount and Criterion, but from what I understand of the matter, Paramount was responsible for the lion’s share of the disc’s content, including the encode and all the extras. (Perusing the reactions to Criterion basically “whoring out” their “C” logo is actually more entertaining than watching the film.) Regardless of who was responsible for the transfer, though, they did a bang-up job. Barring a small number of 35mm-based inserts, Fincher shot the movie digitally, and while you can debate the relative merits of the technology’s aesthetics (personally I find it to be remarkably dead-looking, although this may be partly due to the sheer amount of CG manipulation), there’s no denying that the BD looks spectacular in a technical sense. Whereas Fincher’s previous film, Zodiac (also shot digitally), suffered from some slight edge enhancement in its BD/HD DVD incarnation, you won’t find any of that here - just a pin-sharp image that reproduces every single pore and wrinkle that hasn’t been airbrushed out as part of the de-ageing process. The one overt flaw that I noted in the image was some rather pronounced ringing during the sequence where Brad Bitt and Cate Blanchett cavort in the sea and on the beach (see Example 12). This could be a flaw of the original photography or it could be the result of some form of manipulation, but it distracts for less than a minute. A very solid effort all round. 9.5/10

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
studio: Criterion; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 44.2 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 38.18 Mbit/sec

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 7:46 PM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

Vicky Cristina Barcelona BD impressions

Blu-ray

When the lights came up at the end of Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (a review copy of which I received on Friday), I was very much left with the impression that not a lot had actually transpired in its 96-minute duration. The film is pleasant, but incredibly insubstantial. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work as a comedy, as it’s not particularly funny (“You tried to kill me… with a chair!” notwithstanding), nor as a drama, as there’s no real depth to the characterisation and Allen’s observations about relationships rarely get more complicated than “love’s a bitch”. Penélope Cruz undoubtedly steals the show and, in many respects, saves it from being completely pedestrian. The rest of the cast try valiantly, but something about this film feels amazingly indifferent in its writing and direction. And, let’s face it, when it comes to giving characters distinctive voices, Woody Allen is every bit as bad as Quentin Tarantino.

Optimum’s Region B-coded UK release looks rather pleasing on the whole. Ever the classicist, Allen opted to do his colour timing in the lab rather than processing the film digitally, and, while the image does look rich for the most part, any shots involving opticals do end up taking a hit as far as detail is concerned. Unfortunately, Woody is a little too fond of fades, which means that a fair number of shots are affected in this manner. The whole film has a deliberate orange-yellow glow, which is perhaps a little on the oppressive side but is undoubtedly down to artistic intent rather than any problem with the disc itself. 7/10

Vicky Cristina Barcelona
studio: Optimum; country: UK; region code: B; codec: VC-1;
file size: 18.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 28.03 Mbit/sec

Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona Vicky Cristina Barcelona

 
Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

A Bug’s Life (BD, Buena Vista, Region ABC, USA)

 
Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:45 AM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema
 

Paris, je t’aime BD impressions

Blu-ray

As a love letter to Paris with a romantic theme, Paris, je t’aime, consisting of eighteen short films about the French capital, is very much a mixed bag. Gathering together a variety of top-notch directors and actors from around the globe (ranging from the Coen brothers to Gus Van Sant to Sylvain Chomet and Bob Hoskins to Juliette Binoche to Maggie Gyllenhaal), it lurches from segment to segment with a decidedly uneven quality, transporting the audience from the very good to the spectacularly tedious in a matter of seconds. The most common failing of the weaker shorts is a tendency towards navel-gazing, a criticism often levelled against French cinema as a whole - although it’s worth pointing out that less than half of the filmmakers involved are actually French in origin. This is at its most tedious with the piece by Frédéric Auburtin and Gérard Depardieu, and the one by Richard LaGravenese, both of which languish in the sort of middle-aged cod-philosophising that is almost guaranteed to have me reaching for the fast-forward button.

These scenes of tedium mingle with the obnoxious (Gurinder Chadha’s patronising celebration of the hijab), the bafflingly incompetent (Wes Craven’s poorly written and acted Oscar Wilde piece), and even the sheer what-the-fuckery of Christopher Doyle’s downright batty piece. At the other end of the spectrum, Sylvain Chomet’s Tour Eiffel features more imagination than any of the other shorts put together (and he actually makes it entertaining, something that most of the other directors seemed to forget to do), while Vincenzo Natali’s vampire flick is stylistically and tonally so removed from the rest that I can’t help but love it. Tom Tykwer creates a superb sense of rhythm with his Natalie Portman-starring piece, evoking much of the same feel as his earlier Run Lola Run, while Alexander Payne’s closing piece just about perfectly encapsulates the bitter-sweet “happy-sad” feeling it aims for.

It’s a nice idea, but it ultimately outstays its welcome. The running time could have been tightened up significantly by excising some of the weaker pieces, which would have gone a long way towards improving my overriding impression of the film. There’s some very good stuff in there, but a lot of self-indulgent piffle too, which muddies the waters and ultimately left me feeling rather frustrated. There’s a thread on IMDB where members are listing the shorts in order of preferences, so I thought I’d do one of my own:

  1. 14ème Arrondisement (Alexander Payne)
  2. Tour Eiffel (Sylvain Chomet)
  3. Quartier de la Madeleine (Vincenzo Natali)
  4. Faubourg Saint-Denis (Tom Tykwer)
  5. Tuilieres (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  6. Quartier des Enfants Rouges (Olivier Assayas)
  7. Parc Monceau (Anfonso Cuarón)
  8. Place des Victoires (Nobuhiro Suwa)
  9. Place des Fêtes (Oliver Schmitz)
  10. Loin du 16ème (Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas)
  11. Le Marais (Gus Van Sant)
  12. Bastille (Isabel Coixet)
  13. Montmartre (Bruno Podalydes)
  14. Porte de Choisy (Christopher Doyle)
  15. Père-Lachaise (Wes Craven)
  16. Quais de Seine (Gurinder Chadha)
  17. Quartier Latin (Frédéric Auburtin and Gérard Depardieu)
  18. Pigalle (Richard LaGravenese)

For image quality, the BD is actually pretty nice, albeit hampered somewhat in the detail department by the application of unnecessary filtering. Grain density (moderately heavy) and detail levels (good to very good) remain largely the same across the board, with the notable exception of Wes Craven’s segment (Père-Lachaise), which looks unnaturally soft and underwhelming (see Example 15). Compression artefacts are a non-issue in spite of the use of a single-layer disc, and the image looks pleasingly film-like overall. 8/10

Paris, je t’aime
studio: First Look; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 20.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 24.85 Mbit/sec

Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime Paris, je t'aime

By the way, a word of warning about subtitles on this disc: the film’s dialogue is a mixture of French in English, with the former being the predominant language. For subtitles, however, First Look have only provided an English SDH track, which subtitles everything and includes captions for music and sound effects. As a result, there’s no way of only having the French dialogue subtitled short of switching the subs on and off manually - which is an ineffective solution at best, given that some shorts (Alfonso Cuarón’s, for instance) jump between the two languages, sometimes mid-sentence.

 
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

BD review: Australia

Blu-ray
Those already acquainted with Baz Luhrmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy should know what to expect from Australia, a bold, sweeping epic that tugs shamelessly at the heartstrings and celebrates a type of filmmaking that has long since gone out of fashion. Fox’s BD release may seem a little limited in terms of extras but scores points for its impressive A/V presentation.

Sweeping epic melodrama or over-long sentimental tripe? I head off into the outback with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and review Baz Luhrmann’s Australia at DVD Times.

 
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 4:16 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews
 

Australia BD impressions

Blu-ray

My review of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia will be going live at 6 PM tonight, so I won’t repeat myself here by going into depth about what I thought of the film. Therefore, I’ll just provide you with the short version: I thought it was great.

As far as this BD is concerned, the film looks very good from start to finish, although it doesn’t look quite as crisp as some titles I could mention. While far from unpleasant to look at, a very slight hint of softness lingers throughout, although I’ve no idea whether or not this was digitally induced. There is certainly nothing processed-looking about the image, barring a couple of shots that appear to have been artificially sharpened (for instance, shots of Nullah climbing on the water cooler at 00:04:25 and again at 00:30:12 appear to have been manipulated in this way and as a result suffer from some pronounced ringing), and the grain is nicely rendered throughout. In addition, despite the lengthy running time and fairly average bit rate, compression artefacts are never an issue. It may not reach the dizzy heights of the absolute best the Blu-ray format has to offer, but the image is very nice indeed and is unlikely to cause any significant complaints. 9.5/10

Australia
studio: 20th Century Fox; country: UK; region code: B; codec: AVC;
file size: 33 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 28.57 Mbit/sec

Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia Australia

 
Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 4:13 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews | Technology
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The Criterion Collection (BD, Criterion, Region A, USA)

 
Posted: Friday, May 08, 2009 at 1:18 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season Two (BD, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season Three (BD, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Paris, je t’aime (BD, First Look, Region A, USA)

The above three were part of Amazon’s recent “three Blu-ray Discs for the price of two” deal.

And…

DVD

L’important c’est d’aimer: Special Edition (DVD, Mondo Vision, Region 0, USA) [sample copy]

 
Posted: Thursday, May 07, 2009 at 8:47 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | TV | Web
 

Hooray for Mondo Vision!

Look at the sample copies that just popped through the letterbox:

L'important c'est d'aimer L'important c'est d'aimer

To the left is the standard (single-disc) special edition; to the right is the premium edition, which includes a soundtrack CD and several other collectible goodies. Both are due out on June 16th and are available to pre-order from Amazon:

Here’s the inside of the single-disc edition…

L'important c'est d'aimer

…and the premium edition.

L'important c'est d'aimer

 
Posted: Thursday, May 07, 2009 at 7:41 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision
 

Waltz with Bashir BD impressions

Blu-ray

When it comes to animation, I’m pretty much a snob and I make no apologies for it. I think it’s a marvellous medium and one with almost limitless untapped potential, which is why when I watch films like Waltz with Bashir, hamstrung by the constraints of live action, I always feel a bit let down. For those who don’t know, this film is about an Israeli soldier’s repressed memories of his involvement in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians and Lebanese by Christian militia. That soldier is the writer/director himself, Ari Folman, and the dramatised sections are intercut with actual interviews conducted by Folman of fellow soldiers recounting their own memories of the events. The bulk of the material, therefore, appears to have been live action originally, but everything was ultimately overlaid with Adobe Flash cut-outs (barring some horrific real life news footage at the very end). Although the technique appears to have been slightly different, it looks very similar to Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly in practice. I hated the look in that film and it’s just as grating here. My brother, I think, hit the nail on the head when he described it as “floaty toilet paper”, in that it has no real consistency or weight to it. It reeks of stylisation for stylisation’s sake and, while there are some undeniably arresting images on display, the overall effect is to distance the viewer from the reality of what is being portrayed on screen.

At least Waltz with Bashir is a somewhat better film than A Scanner Darkly, though in my opinion far from the masterpiece some have claimed. It strikes me as being rather too aware of itself as an “issue film” for its own good, leaving this viewer at least with the impression that he was being preached to, while the “animation” style is on the whole an eyesore. It also suffers from a degree of tunnel vision: very few of the on-screen events are set in context. You could argue that this is appropriate given the confusion and mindlessness of the carnage being depicted, but on several occasions I found myself somewhat lost and wishing I had a better idea of what was supposed to be happening.

By the way, Hillel Halkin, who fought in the war himself, has written an extremely interesting account of the events which is in part a response to Waltz with Bashir. I must confess to finding it infinitely more enlightening, and more eloquently expressed, than anything in Ari Folman’s film. I’ll say one thing, though: I admire Folman immensely for having the balls to paint such a damning portrait of his country of origin and its involvement in the horrific events that occurred in Lebanon in 1982. In doing so, it has predictably attracted accusations of anti-Semitism, which I must say I fail to understand… unless you’re of the belief that any criticism of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic, a notion that I find incalculably asinine.

Visually, Artificial Eye have done sterling work for this UK BD release. The image is crisp, and the veneer of artificial grain that was added by the filmmakers shines through with no apparent attempts to reduce or mask it. It’s a little too much for the encoder to handle, and a number of the shots below show artefacting. In motion, it’s rarely an issue, although you can occasionally spot blocking in shots with large washes of the same colour. The disc is a BD-25, and I wonder if switching to a BD-50 would have given better results, as it would have given the compressionist more room to play with. High contrast edges (in other words, the black outlines of the characters) show a slight amount of haloing, though I can only speculate as to the reason for this: Filtering? Edge enhancement? Downconversion from the higher resolution source? In any event, it’s rarely bothersome, but it and the slight compression issues to prevent this disc from attaining full marks. 9.5/10

Waltz with Bashir
studio: Artificial Eye; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 21.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 34.64 Mbit/sec

Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir Waltz with Bashir

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 at 10:35 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Million Dollar Baby HD DVD impressions

HD DVD

The HD DVD of Million Dollar Baby was the first high definition disc I ever purchased, way back in the summer of 2006, and I remember being a little underwhelmed by both the film and the image quality at the time. I watched it again the other night for the first time since then, and while my opinion on the image quality remains largely unchanged, the film definitely went up a couple of notches in my book. I still think that Clint Eastwood’s recent Changeling is a far better display of his directorial talents, but there’s a lot to be said for this understated and rather grubby tale. Mark Kermode calls Eastwood an “unfussy” director, in that he learned the craft working in low budget cinema and has a very workmanlike, “let’s get this done” approach to what he does, which I think works extremely well for films such as this.

Picture-wise, this isn’t exactly an overwhelming-looking disc, and the problems are mainly related to the degree of grain reduction that has been applied. Detail is reasonable but nothing special, and the grain has basically been turned to mush, and there is some pretty noticeable smearing on textures. Take a look at the brick wall of the gym at the start of Chapter 3 - it’s not pleasant. The BD of Changeling was similarly affected, which does give me pause to wonder if Eastwood is a fan of the grain-free look. (I’ll be very interested to see how Gran Torino looks when the BD comes out in June.) Some shots show prominent ringing (see, for instance, Example 4), but I’m tempted to attribute this to the optical process. There seems to be some degree of disagreement as to whether or not the film received a digital intermediate (DI), but regardless the master used for the HD DVD (and presumably BD) came from a print source. There’s also a heck of a lot of artefacting in the shadows, something that becomes very noticeable when watching on a projection setup in a darkened room (VC-1 encoding, I’m told, has come a long way in this respect since the early days). I’m genuinely curious as to how the MPEG-2 BD version compares, and will be renting it for comparative purposes. 7/10

Million Dollar Baby
studio: Warner; country: USA; region code: N/A; codec: VC-1;
file size: 15.3 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 15.76 Mbit/sec

Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby

 
Posted: Monday, May 04, 2009 at 4:23 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Waltz with Bashir (BD, Artificial Eye, Region ABC, UK)

 
Posted: Saturday, May 02, 2009 at 10:12 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema
 

Let the Right One In BD impressions

Blu-ray

It’s probably fair to say that the two main significant vampire films to be released in 2008 were Twilight, based on the inexplicably popular book by Stephenie Meyer, and Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In. Of these, there can be little doubt that the latter is the superior movie. Whereas Twilight was basically an exercise in misogynist navel-gazing featuring pretty people standing around looking vapid, this Swedish effort, itself based on a successful novel, is an altogether more mature and intelligent exploration of the vampire myth - one which manages to avoid clichés for the most part and give a potentially silly subject gravity. It’s not a particularly “fun” movie to watch, due to a combination of its bland visual style (as repetitive in its own way as Twilight’s continually blue-tinged cinematography) and the fact that the subject matter is pretty dark with no real lightening of the mood, and ultimately caters to a completely different crowd from those who lapped up Twilight’s mushy romance. I do have some criticisms - for instance, I’m not sure the decision to set it in the 1980s ultimately lent anything to the proceedings, and I did feel that the pacing flagged a little in the first hour - but I’d rather watch this again a hundred times than view Twilight even once more.

Let the Right One In is an extremely drab-looking film, and this can lead to the image looking a bit underwhelming. It lacks depth, and the rather flat lighting doesn’t help matters. Wide shots lack definition, and ringing around high frequency edges, including the opening credits text, suggests that filtering took place at some stage in the chain. On the plus side, the grain looks decidedly natural. I did, however, note an instance of DVNR artefacts: at around the one-hour mark, when Oskar thumps one of his bullies, the stick he uses goes a bit Gorilla My Dreams (see Example 11). This is the only instance I could spot where anything like this happens, but that’s no guarnatee that it definitely doesn’t occur elsewhere. I can’t say this is a particularly striking presentation, although that’s at least partly attributable to the visual style. 7/10

Let the Right One In
studio: Magnolia; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 22 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 27.59 Mbit/sec

Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In Let the Right One In

 
Posted: Friday, May 01, 2009 at 12:27 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of April

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • April 2, 2009: Baba Yaga: The Final Cut (Region 0 UK, DVD) [review copy]
  • April 6, 2009: Two Evil Eyes (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 11, 2009: Twilight (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
  • April 14, 2009: Lewis: Series Three (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 16, 2009: Final Destination (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Let the Right One In (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 20, 2009: Mean Girls (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 25, 2009: The Red Riding Trilogy (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 29, 2009: Australia (Region B UK, Blu-ray) [review copy]
 
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 11:07 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Australia (BD, 20th Century Fox, Region B, UK) - review copy

And what a complete bugger it was to get it working on my computer, thanks to Fox’s inclusion of the latest strain of the malodorous BD+ scumware. Luckily, our boys at SlySoft were even quicker off the mark than usual and released an update for their wondrous AnyDVD HD software. Even so, I couldn’t get the disc to play at all in the latest version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD, PowerDVD 9, and had to revert back to the previous version in order to get anything other than a black screen.

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Final Destination BD impressions

Blu-ray

On the back cover of Final Destination’s BD release, Roger Ebert describes the film as “smarter and more original than most Dead Teenager Movies”. Given the average quality of these films, that doesn’t exactly set the bar particularly high, but this one does, for the most part, hold up quite well a decade after it was originally released. This was before Final Destination 2 came along, basically admitting that the premise was absurd and running with it, which is both a good thing and a bad thing - good because a film that takes itself seriously makes it easier for the audience to do the same; bad because, in comparison with the ludicrous “accidents” and over the top gore of the sequel, this one seems pretty tame. The concept for these movies is, after all, inherently silly. Still, this one is pretty effective for the most part, and I attribute this to it willingness to play things largely straight at a time when most of the competition was trying to out-wink Scream.

On to the image quality of this release, and it’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that, unlike a number of New Line’s catalogue titles, this one hasn’t been completely slathered in Dark City-style DNR. The bad news is that it’s still a fairly underwhelming-looking image all round, as far as I can tell taken from the same master as the 2000 DVD release. The grain often looks unnatural and clumpy, and smears quite noticeably… although this does seem to vary on a shot by shot basis. Detail is fairly mediocre and shadow detail is weak, but the extent to which both of these problems can be blamed on the original photography is unclear. I didn’t really expect Final Destination to become my new demo disc of choice, and to be fair it’s not unwatachable, but it’s never anything more than passable. 6/10

Final Destination
studio: Warner/New Line; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 18.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 27.62 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:59 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Poltergeist BD impressions

Blu-ray

A couple of nights back, I watched Warner’s BD release of Poltergeist, which believe it or not was the first time I’d ever seen this horror classic right through (having previously caught the end of it on TV several years back). The debate will, I’m sure, continue to rage over whether Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg was the movie’s actual director, but whoever was responsible certainly did a bang-up job. The more obviously Spielbergian elements - a lot of the domestic “wackiness” early on - did grate on me somewhat, and I can’t help feeling that the ending (i.e. everything after the “exorcism” of the house) was tacked on at a later stage, but beyond that it’s a bona fide masterpiece of the genre.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the transfer. This is a really great-looking catalogue title that exceeded my expectations as far as image quality were concerned. It’s not so much that I had any reason to expect it to look bad (beyond the knowledge that an awful lot of Warner titles look decidedly mediocre), but I was relieved to discover that the grain had largely been left alone and that detail levels didn’t suffer beyond the usual aberrations one tends to find with anamorphic lenses. There are some places where I feel it could have been improved, particularly with regard to the compression, which often lets the side down on Warner’s BDs, but overall I’m extremely satisfied with the look of this disc. It certainly compares very favourably to 20th Century Fox’s work on The Omen, a title of similar vintage (give or take a few years), shot using the same cinematographic process and with a comparable overall look. 9/10

Poltergeist
studio: Warner; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 18.5 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 23.23 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Friday, April 24, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

Changeling BD impressions

Blu-ray

Finally watched this film the other night. It’s fantastic. Go and watch it.

The film was shot with anamorphic lenses and has that slightly diffuse, hazy look that is often associated with this process - I don’t think any deliberate detail reduction has been done. However, a degraining pass appears to have been applied, probably at the digital intermediate stage. Grain seems unnaturally static and there are some mild DVNR artefacts - patterns and textures “dragging”, a bit of ghosting, and so on. In addition, there’s some incredibly nasty artefacting going on in the shadows early on (check Example 6 for a particularly noxious instance), not helped by the elevated blacks, but this is less of a problem later on. It’s not a spectacular-looking disc, but pretty damn good all the same, and would probably have netted a low “9” were it not for the artefacting. 8/10

Changeling
studio: Universal; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 31.3 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 31.58 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:46 PM
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 
 

 
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