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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
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season Four (BD, Lions Gate, Region A, USA)

More wackiness with Nancy Botwin and family in this terrific US series about a drug-dealing soccer mom.

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 6:27 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | TV
 

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
 

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…

DVD

The Red Riding Trilogy (DVD, Optimum, Region 2, UK)

I missed this trilogy of made-for-TV films when they aired on Channel 4 last month, but decided to pick up the DVD after reading an excellent review of it written by my fellow DVD Times reviewer, Mike Sutton.

 
Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 6:13 PM
Categories: DVD | Reviews | TV | Web
 

Weeds: Season One BD impressions

Blu-ray

This was definitely $13 well spent: I knew next to nothing about Weeds before I picked it up as an impulse buy, other than that it was a comedy series about a woman dealing marijuana in an upmarket Californian suburb. I was slightly surprised by just how witty it is, often in an extremely twisted, blackly comic way that I tend not to associate with US television.

Unfortunately, the presentation leaves a little to be desired. All ten half-hour episodes were crammed on to a single BD-50, and there’s a hell of a lot of artefacting on display. It’s unclear how much of this is down to the encoding and how much is down to the source: Weeds was shot on high definition video and a lot of the mush afflicting the screen looks like the sort of noise you typically get with such material. Blacks seem elevated, and detail varies from shot to shot and scene to scene. The look is inconsistent, but overall is not particularly pleasant. 5/10

Weeds: Season One
studio: Lions Gate; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: MPEG-2;
file size: 42.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 21.67 Mbit/sec

Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One

 
Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 8:46 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | TV | Technology
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Final Destination (BD, New Line/Warner, Region ABC, USA)

Blu-ray

Let the Right One In (BD, Magnolia, Region ABC, USA)

DVD

Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

The latter was something of an impulse buy, although one that I feel is somewhat justified by the fact that I’ve been wanting to pick up the Inspector Morse episodes for some time and happened to come across them by chance on Amazon.co.uk at a very impressive discount. I paid just under £55 for all 33 episodes - a bargain when you consider that the RRP is 200 smackers.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:52 PM | Comments: 13 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV | Web
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Lewis: Series Three (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

There’s a bit of a story behind this, actually. A few weeks back, on the day that this series was due to begin airing, I discovered that ITV’s Scottish counterpart, STV, had opted not to pick up the show, instead opting to air a documentary about the Highlands. In addition, the network stated an intention to “pull out of the national ITV1 schedule more frequently to offer a service more relevant to Scottish viewers”.

Well, bollocks to that. Lewis is just about the only respectable programme ITV airs, and for STV to ditch it in favour of some tawdry documentary and yet another rerun of Gregory’s Girl (which was a shit film back in 1981 and is just as shit in 2009) is simply the height of idiocy. All that actions like these achieve is to ensure that, instead of tuning into the channel perhaps four times a year, I won’t tune in at all, and will instead just pick up the DVDs, which in this case were released just days after the final episode aired.

 
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:07 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | TV
 

Film review: Twilight (long post)

Blu-ray

Note: I was originally planning this to be a review for DVD Times. As it progressed, however, it became clear that its tone wasn’t entirely appropriate for that site given that it’s less a critical review and more an uncontrolled rant.

I should state upfront that I haven’t read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books. I gather they are quite the sensation, particularly among the teenage girl demographic. I am neither a teenager nor a girl, which some might suggest ought to preclude me from appreciating them. Personally, I don’t go in for that sort of compartmentalisation, and have enjoyed a great many books and films that are supposedly aimed at people who don’t possess the same set of genitalia as me. That said, I’ve never felt particularly compelled to delve into Meyer’s four-book saga. I picked up the first volume one day at the library and gave it a quick flick-through, but came to the conclusion that the material was too trivial to justify its length, and that its length was too great to justify my time.

However, something about the media phenomenon surrounding the book and its big screen adaptation piqued my interest, coupled with the widely differing reactions to it. On the one hand, you’ve got the legions of adoring fans who swoon at the very mention of its title. (If you want some idea of just how scary these people can be, head over to the movie’s IMDB board.) On the other, you have unprecedented levels of vitriol being hurled in its direction, mainly from people who consider it nothing more than a self-infatuated author’s overblown wank fantasy, and one with a very dubious moral at that. More often than not with such cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I wanted to know more and swiftly came to the conclusion that it would be easier to do this by watching a two hour movie than by reading a 500-page book.

[Continue reading "Film review: Twilight (long post)"...]

 
Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 at 1:44 PM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Cinema | Reviews | TV
 

Dollhouse on the chopping block?

Dollhouse

It seems that Monday’s post about the rosy future facing Dollhouse may have been a little premature. Reports are now circulating suggesting that Fox have opted to only air the first twelve episodes, omitting the season finale, which in turn has led many to speculate that this means the network decided to not renew the show beyond its first season. There has been no official cancellation notice as of yet, but dropping a season’s all-important finale is never a good sign.

In the meantime, the specifications and release date for the upcoming BD release have been confirmed. Containing all 13 episodes and the unaired pilot, in addition to a variety of bonus features, the 3-disc set will hit store shelves on July 28th. As one Blu-ray.com commenter pointed out, the fact that the package is being released as “Season One” rather than “The Complete Series” (or something similar) can potentially be interpreted as a hopeful sign, but to be brutally honest this could easily be a case of one department not talking to the other. Either way, I’m sure we’ll know soon enough what the show’s future holds, if anything.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 09, 2009 at 7:46 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | TV | Web
 

Hello, Dolly!

Dollhouse

I may have gone silent on the issue of Dollhouse, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up watching it. On the contrary, I’m continuing to keep track of it on a weekly basis, although the news that Fox is readying a BD release does mean that I may consider sitting the rest of the season out ‘til I can enjoy it in all its HD glory. Once I’ve made my way to the end of the season (episode 8 of 13 was the most recent to air), I’ll put together a full review. For the time being, however, to summarise: Yes, it’s got better. No, it’s still not fully “clicking” with me. I felt it really began to find its feet, so to speak, with Episode 6, which was the first one for me to really feel like a Joss Whedon show (which, depending on how you feel about the man’s style, is either a good thing or a bad thing).

It’s therefore promising that, despite less than stellar viewing figures, the signs are pointing towards Fox renewing the show for a second season. Obviously, it’s all still up in the air at the moment, but the rumours look promising. Ever the pessimist, I was actually expecting it to be yanked before the first season reached the half-way mark, but the evidence suggests that someone at the network genuinely likes the show. In any event, I’m crossing my fingers for it following in the footsteps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had an uneven first year before finding its feet at some point during Season 2.

 
Posted: Monday, April 06, 2009 at 4:57 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | TV
 

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

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • March 4, 2009: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 7, 2009: Bolt (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 12, 2009: Pinocchio (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 13, 2009: Quantum of Solace (Region A USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 19, 2009: Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Region 0 USA, DVD) [review copy]
  • March 19, 2009: Weeds: Season One (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 20, 2009: Rebus (Region 0 UK, DVD)
  • March 20, 2009: Suspiria (Region B Italy, Blu-ray)
  • March 23, 2009: Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
 
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:39 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)

DVD

So, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, huh? I was going to post about the new DVD from Mya some time ago, but to be honest, every time I was about to actually write something, it seemed as if some new scrap of information emerged. The latest, of course, is that an upcoming Italian DVD release from 01 Distribution has been halted, because the Argentos have cried foul and are taking legal action against the perpetrators. Going by a Google translation of a statement issued by close Argento associate Luigi Cozzi, an “unidentified foreign company” sold the film’s rights to RAI, but Dario and Claudio Argento claimed that these rights were not theirs to sell. Obviously, this is going to take some time to sort out, and in the meantime the question has arisen as to exactly how legitimate the Mya release is. The Argentos claim to own the film’s rights in every territory except the US, where they are held by Paramount, but there can be little doubt that the Mya DVD was put together without any input from Paramount, which in turn raises the possibility that Mya’s release is on ground every bit as shaky as the postponed Italian release. For the time being, I’m going to assume that the Mya is legit, but my advice would be to pick up a copy of it immediately if you want it. You never know - tomorrow we could wake up to find that all remaining copies have been yanked from the shelves.

So, let’s get all this legal farragho out of the way and discuss what really matters: the disc itself. So, the “lost” Argento film that fans have been clamouring for, for the better part of four decades. Presumably, then, Mya pulled out all the stops to make the definitive release of this elusive gem? Well… no, not really. In actual fact, Mya have screwed up this release pretty royally, on two counts:

1. The English audio track is a disaster.

2. Approximately 40 seconds’ worth of material is missing. No, really.

[Continue reading "Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)"...]

 
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV | Technology | Web
 

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death BD impressions

Blu-ray

First of all, be warned that this BD is a 1080i/50Hz affair, given that the film itself was made for British television, which, infuriatingly, uses that format as its standard. As such, those with Region A players are out of luck, so it’s at times like these that I’m glad I have a BD-compatible BD and can therefore output content at 50Hz.

With that technical hurdle out of the way, this is a terrific-looking disc. The film itself runs for less than half an hour, and was shot digitally in HD, so there would be something very wrong indeed if it looked less than stellar. There is a very small amount of ringing around certain high contrast edges, which might be indicative of slight filtering or could have been caused by something else. Either way, it’s an exceptionally minor concern and is the only black mark against this otherwise stunning transfer. 9.5/10

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death
studio: 2 Entertain; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 6.34 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 30.98 Mbit/sec

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Oh, and just for fun, here are some shots taken from my Windows Media Center recording of the standard definition broadcast from BBC1 on Christmas Day, upscaled to 1920x1080:

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

 
Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 5:45 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | TV | Technology
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Blu-ray, 2 Entertain, Region ABC, UK)

A word of warning to those living in the old NTSC territories: this is a 1080i/50Hz disc, which isn’t entirely surprising given that it was made for UK TV.

 
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 at 12:45 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | TV | Technology
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Rebus (DVD, Delta, Region 0, UK)

I was pleasantly surprised to spot this in Fopp today, where I was killing time while waiting before my meeting with my supervisors. The previous DVD release (by Universal) of this series starring John Hannah as the eponymous DI Rebus was missing the fourth and final episode, which would have aired on September 11th 2001 had a nice man called Osama Bin Laden not kicked up a bit of a stink, sending the TV schedules to halfway to hell. That episode ultimately disappeared into the ether and I believe aired a couple of times on one of ITV’s cable channels. It’s present and correct on this new edition. I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly gripped by Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, but I liked this TV adaptation of them, considerably more so than the dour Ken Stott interpretation that came along later.

Blu-ray

Suspiria (Blu-ray, CDE, Region B, Italy)

Oh boy…

 
Posted: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 1:47 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | PhD | TV
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (DVD, Mya, Region 0, USA)

What, you thought I was going to sit this one out?

Blu-ray

Weeds: Season One (Blu-ray, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

A steal at $12. It occurred to me that I didn’t actually own any television series in high definition, so I decided to take a chance on this one, about which I’ve heard positive things.

 
Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

When the hunter becomes the hunted

Dollhouse

I watched the second episode of Dollhouse, The Target, this evening, and have come to the conclusion that it showed a marked improvement over the series premiere. Yes, the majority of the supporting cast are still as bland as they were in the pilot, but I felt that this one had more of a drive to it, the central storyline doing a better job of holding my attention and providing Echo with a personality more suited to Eliza Dushku’s acting and looks (sorry, but I just couldn’t buy her as a prim, strait-laced hostage negotiator last week). I detected a definite Deliverance vibe in this one, and it helped that Echo found herself facing off against a decidedly nasty antagonist this week - an outdoorsman who, tired of hunting defenceless animals, decided to move on to humans. The dialogue this week also struck me as a little more Whedonesque, although this episode was in fact written and directed by his old Buffy and Angel colleague, Steven S. DeKnight.

Incidentally, this episode provided a number of flashbacks which filled in some of the questions left unanswered in the pilot - such as what exactly happened to Amy Acker’s face? For the most part, they helped add a bit of background and texture to the world the series inhabits, but I personally hope this gimmick isn’t going to run throughout the series, Lost-style. A few expository flashbacks can be welcome, but pepper the entire series with them and I tend to find myself beginning to zone out.

 
Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 7:22 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Cinema | TV
 

The dead will continue to waken

Waking the Dead

For various reasons, one of which is the total sense of apathy I’m feeling after completing Series 6, my Waking the Dead project has stalled. I intend to get back to it before too long, but for the time being I direct you to the web site of my good friend the Baron, who offers his take on the pilot episode and Series 1.

By the way, once I’ve finished the Waking the Dead project (or, I should say, taken it as far as it can currently go, given that Series 8 is at this very moment in production), I’ll be turning my attention back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and attempting to write a proper review of the series as a whole. I won’t be watching all 144 episodes again (I think that would be enough to finish me off completely), but rather providing a summary of my thoughts on the show aimed at those who haven’t necessarily watched it themselves - a definite failing in my Buffy project from a few years back.

 
Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 11:26 AM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Reviews | TV | Waking the Dead | Web
 

The Simpsonzzzzzz…

Television

This Sunday, The Simpsons will be making its jump from standard definition to high definition, and in doing so will be losing its only element that remains remotely cartoony. I’m talking, of course, about the opening title sequence, directed by David Silverman back in 1989 and virtually unchanged in two decades (barring some alterations made at the start of the second season). A copy of the new, re-animated title sequence can be seen on YouTube, and it’s every bit as sterile and lifeless as the animation you now find in the show itself. The Simpsons was always an extremely conservative-looking show, but in earlier years it at least had a bit of life to it, and the intro was always the liveliest part of it, combining fast and at times expressive animation with some humorous sight gags and a memorable theme tune. Yes, it looked crude, but at least it was fun. Watching the new version, it feels almost like listening to a favourite song in slow-play mode. All the energy has gone, and the poses have been evened out (polished, some would say) to the point of indistinction. There’s hardly any snap to the animation now, and the new sight gags are so obvious and poorly timed that it feels like the writers (and I guarantee someone actually sat down and scripted every single one of these gags) are pointing to them and saying “Lookie lookie! See how clever we are, slipping in this subtle joke that you wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t pointed it out?” And, if you think it seems bad after a first viewing, just imagine how you’ll be feeling after seeing the same thing every episode for another twenty seasons.

I understand why they redid the intro. The Simpsons is long overdue in making the leap to HD, and there’s no way the grotty old video-based intro would have held up in 720 or 1080p. However, it just illustrates the extent to which, over the years, the show’s look has stagnated as much as its written humour. I’m not sure why I’m so bothered about this as I don’t actually watch The Simpsons any more, unless it’s a rerun of an earlier episode, but I suppose I just see this as indicative of the state of animation these days.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know if they still use people to draw this show, or do they just have a machine to do it now?

The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)
The Simpsons (1989-2009) The Simpsons (2009-)

Source: Yahoo News

 
Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 5:11 PM | Comments: 12 (view)
Categories: Animation | TV | Web
 
 

 
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