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Saturday, July 30, 2005

IE: Microsoft's dirty shame

This is a perfect example of why Microsoft need to get their act together.

Internet Explorer
Firefox

The top image shows a portion of my site displayed in Internet Explorer. The bottom image shows it in Firefox, which is how it should look.

This is a relatively minor example, but it is indicative of Microsoft's incompetence. Their browser is a shambles: a slick shambles, but a shambles nonetheless. Look, this isn't hard: the Google Search element is meant to span the width of the column. In Firefox, it does. In IE, for some reason best known to Microsoft's programmers, it fills about two-thirds of the required space. This isn't exactly rocket science, folks: 100% is 100%, end of story.

It's a shame, because in my opinion Internet Explorer is a far nicer browser than Firefox, but until they fix it, I won't be using it.

Update, 11:22 on Sunday, July 31, 2005: I managed to "fix" the problem for IE viewers by playing around with the sizes of the fields and the Google .gif. Of course, the font sizes and spacing throughout the site are still wrong, but what can you do? Not a damn thing, until Microsoft wake up and smell the coffee.

Batman Begins in HD

Batman Begins Batman Begins Batman Begins

(Note: click the above links to see them at their full size.)

Look! It's the trailer for Batman Begins in high definition 1080p resolution! Doesn't it look incredible? Of course it does. Want to watch it like that on your computer when the inevitable HD-DVD comes out? Guess what, sucker, you'll be buying yourself a new monitor, and quite possibly a new video card too. Ain't Hollywood swell?

IE7 beta released. Is rubbish.

Beta 1 for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 was recently released for developer testing, and as luck would have it, it fell into the wrong hands: my hands. I'm not going to bother telling you where to get it, because quite apart from it being highly illegal to go to ISOHunt and search for "Internet Explorer 7", then download the torrent and run it through BitLord, I just don't see the point. Nothing has been fixed. Their CSS implementation is still broken, the new skin is a mess, and I can see no reason to upgrade a dud browser with another dud browser. I'd have taken screenshots, but I was too busy running a System Restore to get the damned thing out of my box.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Blu-Ray and why piracy is good for business

I believe that piracy is good for business. How so? Allow me to divulge.

Blu-RayI started thinking about this the other day when Lyris mentioned that the next generation of home video formats, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, will require completely new display hardware to be played, in order for the new methods of copy protection to be enforced (display devices will require inputs that support this newfangled copy protection technology). This, of course, stems from the movie studios' paranoia regarding privacy. In my opinion, this will be a huge stumbling block in the uptake of either format. Already, many people are saying that they can't be bothered upgrading to a new format when they've only just finished replacing their VHS libraries with DVDs. When you consider the number of people that hold that opinion, imagine how many people will baulk at the prospect of having to buy a new TV or PC monitor!

The way I see it, a format requires the proliferation of illegal copying and file-sharing in order for it to take off. The same can be said of audio tapes, music CDs and copies of Microsoft Windows: the reason that they eventually became successful stems from the fact that more people started using them than would have been the case if it was impossible to copy them. When you look at formats that cannot be duplicated at an amateur level then you see nothing but a string of commercial failures: LaserDisc, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CD, GameCube... All these formats failed, in my opinion, not because they were bad ideas, but because that necessary stepping-stone, the proliferation of unlicensed pirate copies, was not present.

My advice (like anyone would actually listen to it!) is for the developers to think very carefully about imposing such stringest copy protection methods. The debut of two rival formats, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, at roughly the same time, is already going to take a huge chunk out of the revenue pie. The various companies involved should be doing everything in their power to make these systems available to as many people as possible rather than restricting them even further. Not long ago, I was very much looking forward to adding a Blu-Ray drive to my PC. Now, the news that I will quite possibly have to replace my monitor (god forbid that I actually buy one of the current crop of crappy TFTs) and indeed my operating system (if Lyris' hunch that the new formats will only work on Windows Vista is correct) is making me shudder. Guys, I'm one of the people that is always looking for the best possible image quality. If I'm having second thoughts, imagine how Joe Bloggs with his 14" fishbowl TV is going to react.

Update, 21:22: One user at AVS Forum suspects that PC users might be required to buy new graphics cards with the requisite copy protection built into them. I sincerely hope not. I just upgraded my card, ya fuckasses!

Zambolo

It's Zambolo! The crazy little jungle man is back!

Zambolo

Those of you who have been visiting this site for a while may remember that Zambolo was once a permanent fixture here. In a previous incarnation, his drooling visage adorned the bottom of every page, frightening old ladies and small children. It's been ages since I last drew him, but this afternoon I got out the old pen and paper and decided to see if I could still remember what he looked like.

Zambolo

At one point, Zambolo was going to be the protagonist a 2D sidescroller. Along with his trusty elephant Ganesha, he would rampage through the Big City on his way back home to the jungle. Alas, it was not to be, since although I animated an entire library of different walk cycles, run cycles, jump cycles, fall cycles and death cycles for him, I never got very good at animation, and was even worse at designing backgrounds. Add to that the fact that the only way I had of actually putting the whole thing together was a rickety "make your own game" affair called The Games Factory, and you can probably surmise that the project was doomed to failure.

Zambolo

Perhaps the time has come for Zambolo to resurface, maybe in the form of a picture book or a comic. I think he's a pretty cool creation, when all said and done, and he's fun to draw. Unfortunately I feel I have a bit of a Spumco influence going on, which is all well and good in small doses, but when you consider that (a) it seems to be the only influence and (b) I'll never be even a fraction as good as these guys, I think it's fair to say that I need to broaden my horizons a bit and work in some ideas from elsewhere. Watch this space: perhaps I will have more Zambolo drawings for you soon.

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

I pre-ordered the R2 UK releases of Spooks: Season Three and Sin City, from Play.com.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci CodeI finished The Da Vinci Code this morning. As Rik said, it improves a lot at around page 115 and actually manages to be quite gripping, although with a few caveats. First of all, I spotted a number of the plot twists a mile away. The identity of "The Teacher" became obvious around 200 pages before he was officially revealed, as did the secret ancestry of another character that I won't reveal here for fear of spoiling it for others. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you haven't already done so, and I would also encourage readers to stick with it even if the first 100 or so pages seem pretty uninvolving.

I might check out some of Dan Brown's other work - for all his failings as a writer of prose, he seems to know how to spin an involving yarn.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Speed Demos

Diablo II in two hours? Quake II in 20 minutes? Don't think it's possible? Then check out the Speed Demos Archive, which features downloadable videos of various games being completed in record amounts of time. The Super Mario Bros. files, especially, have to be seen to be believed.

Doom trailer blows donkey balls

IGN has uploaded the trailer for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the infamous computer game Doom. Whatever (slim) hopes I had of this actually being a half-decent video game to movie adaptation have just evaporated. This is just yet more of the usual garbage involving sweaty musclebound commandos running around in the dark and getting chewed apart by bad CGI monsters - all a little too homoerotic for my tastes, but that's just me. A movie that is a clone of a game is bad enough, but a movie that is a clone of a game that is a clone of a movie must be ten times worse.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rubbish games

Me and Lyris were talking about computer games, and we came to the conclusion that games right now are a hell of a lot worse than they were a few years ago. Part of it, I think, is the over-reliance on movie references. The film business, or to be precise, Hollywood, has developed a whole shorthand for specific emotions and concepts - this is an epic scene, this is a sad scene, etc. - and game developers seem content to just copy these stereotypes. If games are to be taken seriously, they seriously need to stop copying everything the film industry does. I mean, seriously, would the movie business suddenly decide, from now on, that it was going to copy everything from comic books? Of course not. I'm all for cross-format ideas, but games need to have their own voice rather than just trying to work out what was successful in The Lord of the Rings or Terminator.

MarioRemember Mario? He used to be neat, and he didn't rip off famous movies. The early games didn't owe anything to other media, because they were actually centred around original ideas and because the developers had limited resources and technology to work with. Somewhere along the line, something went wrong. Personally, I think Duke Nukem was the first example of this. In Duke Nukem 3D, one of the most boring, depressing and overrated games of all time, the developers thought it would be funny to rip off a bunch of lines from Bruce Campbell's movies and make them come out of the Duke's mouth. How inspired! Suddenly Duke Nukem isn't just a character you play, he's a fucking mile-a-minute wise-crackin' asshole who says things like "I am going to cut off your head and poo in your neck" because they sound cool. Yawn.

Look, don't get me wrong. I think that attempts to use the stylistic techniques of other formats can, at times, be successful. Planescape: Torment, one of my favourite games of all time, owes more to the storytelling format of a novel than any game. Likewise, Michel Ancel came up with some very interesting ways of making his most recent game, Beyond Good and Evil, feel like an interactive movie. There's a time and a place for it. But I am sick to death of, in every single new game I play, being able to pinpoint every single character, line of dialogue, plot twist, shot or piece of music and state which film they came from. Look, it's great that Id Software can rip off Ridley Scott's Alien for Doom III. Fabulous work, guys. Now go create something of your own.

A Very Long Engagement

DVD
A Very Long Engagement is not as perfect (or near-perfect) as Amélie, and indeed the more cynical viewers will doubtless tear it apart for brazenly manipulating the audience's emotions, but end product is one that should appeal to anyone who enjoyed Amélie. This is a film that firmly places the audience in the passenger's seat throughout and prohibits any detours from its director's route plan, but sometimes there is nothing wrong with that.

I've reviewed the recent R1 release of A Very Long Engagement, the latest film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet which finds him on familiar ground, reteaming him with Amélie's Audrey Tautou. Warner's 2-disc release is feature-packed but has a slightly disappointing transfer.

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

I ordered Gangs of New York (R1 USA) and American Psycho (R1 USA - the new uncut Collector's Edition) from DVD Pacific. I rented Gangs of New York from Blockbuster (the horrible, over-compressed UK version by our friends at Entertainment In Video, that is), watched it yesterday, and really enjoyed it, despite the mixed reviews it received. It's got problems, don't get me wrong, but overall I think it's a great movie.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Permanent links

Entries in the Movie Checklist now have permanent links attached to them. I can't think why I didn't notice this oversight before.

R&S Ultimate cover painting

Over at the Motlos forum, you can now see a detailed version of part of the cover art for the upcoming Ren & Stimpy Ultimate Thrill Package DVD release.

DVD debacle

DVDI ordered the R2 Italian release of Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) from DVDLand.it. I already have the US version, which has an ugly PAL to NTSC standards-converted transfer, and although the Italian release has no English audio options, I suspect I'll try to fudge my own version by adding the US release's audio tracks to this one. In any event, I would much rather watch my films without blurriness and ghosting all over the place.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Open Your Eyes

DVD
Open Your Eyes is masterful storytelling, pure and simple: a emotionally driven psychological horror movie that beats the pants off virtually any other similar movie, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I've reviewed the R1 US release of Open Your Eyes, a wonderful psychological horror movie by Alejandro Amenábar. This review also compares the film with its inferior Hollywood remake, Vanilla Sky.

Idiot lawyer gets panties in twist

Jack ThompsonSource: Gamespot

Gamers in the know may well have heard of Jack Thompson before. He's the raving loon of a Miami attorney whose unfaltering persecution of various video games, including Rockstar's overrated Grand Theft Auto line-up, has caused much mirth and some degree of worry in the gaming community. His latest target is The Sims 2, the dull sequel to the equally dull The Sims, a "life simulator" that includes, among other things, such activities as the making of babies. Because players are in control of every aspect of the Sims' lives, unsurprisingly there are times when they appear in the nude. To prevent bashful prudes across the USA from crying blue murder, a special filter has been included which obscures the bits the good lord didn't intend people to see. Of course, tricksers that they are, many players have discovered hacks that can be used to remove the digital blurring.

And here's where our friend Jack-Jack is getting into quite a tiff. According to him, this allows gamers to experience the horror of "nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair". If that wasn't bad enough, he claims that this applies to child characters as well as adults, which apparently will allow "pedophiles around the globe [to] rehearse, in virtual reality, for their abuse". Um, right.

Luckily, egg has been firmly slapped on the face of this clueless nitwit, since EA have pointed out that, underneath the digital blurring, there are no sex organs: the Sims are as dickless as Barbie's boyfriend Ken. According to Jack-Jack, however, this is still unacceptable.

"Only in America" is a popular saying in this part of the world. In this case, I have no choice but to agree. In any other country, this man would be laughed out of the court. In the US, the legal system is actually giving this fruitcake the time of day.

In the dreamtime

I've often been told, by people who have sat their finals and got on with their lives, that for many years afterwards they have had recurring dreams of having to sit them again. So far, this hasn't happened to me (although I did have a very odd dream about my Phonetics exam the night before I actually sat it). Last night, though, I had a bizarre dream/nightmare involving a Phonetics oral presentation.

First, to put things into their proper context, throughout the course of Honours, we had to give a number of presentations. Most of these were in Sociolinguistics, but because Sociolinguistics was taught by one particular Phonetics lecturer, much of the content tended to be phonetically inclined. Anyway, in my dream, the entire class was called up and told that we had to come back to do another Phonetics presentation. For some reason, I prepared a very lavish story reel (a filmed storyboard with timing and temp audio) for a cartoon I had been working on, only to realize, upon arriving at the university, that this didn't actually have anything to do with Phonetics. Worse still, I couldn't remember anything about Phonetics (truthfully, I can't). My friends all told me I should just go ahead and wing it, and that if I didn't go up on the platform and give a presentation, the lecturers wouldn't be able to write me a reference. (Ironically, this was actually something that this particular lecturer threatened us with when several students were planning on not preparing presentations, because they occurred just before our Finals.)

I don't dream often (or, more accurately, I don't often remember my dreams), but this was a surprisingly vivid one and not one that I would particularly like to repeat. Then again, it beats my recurring dream of leaving the house with no shoes on.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Questions for John K?

I've done an itsy-bitsy preview of the upcoming Ren & Stimpy DVD cover art at DVD Times. Nothing major, but it does direct you to the thread on Motlos, where you can view larger versions of the artwork and leave your comments. John K has also asked me to interview him, which will hopefully be going ahead at some point soon. I have a bunch of questions that I plan on asking him, but if you have any suggestions post them here.

HDTV and the world of tomorrow

I was at Braehead Shopping Centre this afternoon, buying a mobile phone among other things. I won't bother going into the ridiculous carry-on I had to go through just to get the damn thing (why can't you just say "I want this phone" and hand over the money?), because the really interesting part of the trip was seeing a plasma display showing high definition footage. In the past, many people online, who have problem never seen HD, have made idiotic claims about there being little to no difference between high definition and standard definition (my favourite being some fool's claim that a good quality PAL source looks "just as good"). Having now seen HD for myself, I can state that these people are talking out of their anuses. The difference between SD and HD is night and day. Literally. Once you've seen HD, there's no going back. The crispness, the smoothness, the god-damn detail, is just phenomenal. BluRay can't come quickly enough.

Music mania

CD CD CD

My three Ennio Morricone CDs arrived this morning. Unfortunately, Mondo Morricone Revisited and So Sweet So Sensual were both copy protected. When I tried to rip them, the Creative MediaSource Organizer told me "This CD has copying disabled - try using the record function", which struck me as pretty funny. Oddly enough, though, they ripped just fine when I put the CD in my DVD burner instead of the DVD-ROM drive. Score one to the good guys! Eat that, copy protection goons!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Google Search

I've added a Google Search option to the site. This will allow you to search for keywords within the site, just like Google. Note that data on pages that have not yet been indexed by Google will not appear.

Ren & Stimpy cover art

The Motlos forum has some sneak peeks at the cover art, designed by John K himself along with his Flash animation co-creator Annmarie McCarty, for the upcoming Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes and Ultimate Ren & Stimpy Thrill Package releases. This is some wacky stuff, and I'd be very pleased, but more than a little surprised, if it actually makes it to store shelves in this form.

So check out the covers, and post about them. Spread the word! Ren & Stimpy need you!

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset arrived this morning. Unlike what I had expected, what I received was the two stand-alone releases wrapped together in cellophane rather an a box set. I'm also a bit annoyed that Before Sunrise features a double-sided disc with the widescreen version on one side and the hack-and-scam version on the other. Oh, and it comes in a snapper case while Before Sunset is packaged in an amaray. Love ya, Warner, really.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Music mania

CDA big-ass load of music insanity today. First of all, A Very Long Engagement arrived this morning. This is an amazing score, and seems to be something of a change of direction for Angelo Badalamenti, at least compared with the handful of scores of his I've heard: more theme-based, rather than the more "background noise" nature of, for example, Mulholland Dr. Good stuff, good stuff.

CD CD CD

I went on to Movie Grooves, the finest source of European horror and cult cinema soundtracks known to man, and ordered three scores by Ennio Morricone: two compilations - Mondo Morricone Revisited and Erotica Morricone: So Sweet So Sensual - as well as the score for Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet. It strikes me as pretty ridiculous that the film's soundtrack can be bought but not the film itself.

The Omen remake on its way

Oh just fuck off.

New DVD image comparison

DVD DVD DVD

I've added a new DVD image comparison, looking at three different releases of Dario Argento's Trauma: the R2 French special edition, the R2 Italian release, and the new R2 UK release by Optimum.

The Roald Dahl Syndrome

Willy WonkaTodd S. Gallows' review of Tim Burton's film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got me thinking again about the books of Roald Dahl. When I was younger, he was probably my favourite author at that point, along with Enid Blyton, whose blatant class elitism, racism and blissful ignorance of reality was apparent to me even then, making her books unintentionally very funny. Dahl, on the other hand, very much did grasp what real life was all about and had an amazing ability to write from a child's perspective without sounding patronizing. Almost all of his books deal with extremely bright children rebelling against demonic adults (which sort of makes me wonder why Steven Spielberg has never adapted one of his works), and he does a wonderful job of portraying just how completely callous and stupid human beings can be. Mr. Gallows' review of Charlie and the Cholocate Factory is surprisingly glowing, and while I don't personally hold particularly high hopes for it - probably because my vision of Dahl's world has been coloured by Quentin Blake's twisted scribble illustrations, which depict all his characters as ugly, big-nosed loons with arms and legs that wouldn't look out of place in a 1930s rubber-hose cartoon - I will certainly be going to see it.

This weekend, to celebrate the opening of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in UK cinemas, Channel 5, once known as the porn channel and now trying to clean up their act, are showing a whole bunch of Roald Dahl movie adaptations, starting with Danny, the Champion of the World on Saturday. I hadn't realized this book had been made into a film, and I'm not particularly interested in seeing it, although I'll grant you the idea of a man teaching his small son to kill a wealthy land-owner's prize pheasants and doing a convincing job of rationalizing it is pretty amusing.

The WitchesNext up is The Witches, an adaptation which Roald Dahl apparently hated, because the American studio changed the ending to the happy fairytale type without his permission. I haven't seen this film in years - probably because the image of the Grand High Witch, mid-transformation, as some sort of giant hairless rat, traumatized me irreversibly as a small child - and am curious to see it again. As I remember, it is a curious mixture of genuine creepiness (a combination of director Nicolas Roeg's photography and the masterfully-handled opening scenes in Norway) and hideous, cutesy Hollywood fare (turning the young boy protagonist into stereotypical spectacled American brat, and the insertion of Rowan Atkinson as the hotel manager), but it's a curious product to say the least.

Sunday follows with James and the Giant Peach, Henry Selick and Tim Burton's follow-up to their collaboration on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and one that contains a rather odd combination of live action and stop motion animation. I don't remember much of this film except that I desperately wanted to leave the cinema when the goody-goody kid in the title role started singing.

Then, later in the evening, we have Mel Stuart's sugar-coated adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, here called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a bizarre piece of Hollywood flim-flam adapted by Dahl himself (who later disowned it after the studio and director apparently made a mess of it) which, if you can get past the sickeningly sweet first act, has some semi-interesting moments - the most disturbing being the image of a chicken being beheaded that suddenly appears behind Gene Wilder's grinning mug.

There is also a documentary on Dahl's work, which should be interesting to say the least.

Ren & Stimpy Season 5 official announcement

Whoa! No updates yesterday! No updates at all! I think that's the first time this has happened since I redesigned my site. I must be getting rusty in my old age. Anyway...

DVDWe've known about this release for a while now, but Paramount have now made an official announcement about the release of The Ren & Stimpy Show: Seasons Five & Some More of Four, which you can read in full at DVD Times. Basically, the DVD will feature 17 half-hours of cartoon fun (and I use the term loosely, given the depths the show had sunk to by the time they pulled the plug on it), along with commentaries on 11 episodes. These commentaries, and the fact that it includes the excellent Ren's Brain (a hold-over from the Spumco days - no surprise there), are the only reason I will be buying this set. I can't wait to hear what Games background painter/director Bill Wray has to say on these tracks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

FAQ question added

I've added a new question to the FAQ:

  • Why doesn't your blog have more anecdotes about all the wacky adventures you have?
    Well, first of all, my life isn't really very interesting. I don't travel around the world in a hot air balloon like Phileas Fogg, and I don't go out on Saturday nights to get sloshed like Nathan Barley. I suppose I could regale you with the wildness of my day to day activities, but somehow I don't think "I walked down to the shops and bumped into Sally McNally - we talked about the weather" would interest too many people. If I post something on my site, it usually relates to one of my major interests - cartoons, DVDs, computer games, and so on - and is something that I think might interest other people as well. My blog is really less of a personal journal and more of an information source with a personal slant, in my opinion.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci CodeI'm reading The Da Vinci Code right now. That's right, I finally got around to it once it had become old hat to everyone else. It's pretty decent, I guess, but in my opinion it's not the page-turner that so many people have described. Also, I don't exactly class myself as much of an expert, given that the prose I pen tends to be stupifyingly stilted, but I don't think it's well written at all.

I notice that IMDB lists a film adaptation due out in 2006, with Ron Howard in the reins. He's certainly a solid enough choice for the director, but the news that Tom Hanks of all people will play the lead role sends a shiver down my spine. Look, I have nothing against the guy, but he seems totally wrong for this role. But who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Blog format

I've changed the number of days of news posts to be shown on the main page from 7 to 14, much like the previous design.

A Very Long Engagement

CDI ordered the soundtrack CD of A Very Long Engagement. A steal at £4.99 from Play.com, and an excellent piece of work - probably my favourite Angelo Badalamenti score so far.

The film, by the way, which I watched today, is also great. Obviously, it is very close to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's previous film, the wonderful Amélie, and thus breaks no new ground, but if you enjoyed that film I suspect you will enjoy this one. It's shamelessly manipulative, invoking dreamy photography, a heart-rending score, the plight of a poor girl stricken with polio and, of course, Audrey Tautou's big brown eyes, in order to carefully stage-manage the audience's emotions, but all this trickery is handled with such skill that it seems unfair to hold this against the film. If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to check it out.

Giallo Collection 2 is no more

Source: 10K Bullets Forum

At this year's San Diego Comic Con, Blue Underground have stated that there will no longer be a "Giallo Collection Volume 2", but that they will instead be releasing around seven giallo titles separately. Exactly when they will hit the shelves is unclear, as is whether or not they will all be released at the same time, but the Future Releases section of their web site lists the following gialli:

  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
  • The Fifth Cord
  • Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
  • The Pyjama Girl Case
  • Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye
  • Strip Nude for your Killer
That's six out of seven. I wonder what the seventh will be. Could it be the much-delayed Four Flies on Grey Velvet?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Lego lunacy

Lego actually sent me the two pieces I was missing from my pirate ship - for free, no less. I consider that extremely impressive! Of course, after I received them yesterday, it came to my attention that I was missing another piece. Ah well - no skin off my nose - I'll just fill out another replacement form.

DVD debacle

DVD DVD DVD

I ordered two DVDs this afternoon: first, La Tarantola dal Ventre Nero (a.k.a. The Black Belly of the Tarantula), which is getting an R2 Italian release on August 30th. Secondly, the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset double pack (R1 Canada). I rented both these films from Blockbuster a few days ago and watched them recently, after hearing a lot of positive buzz about them. I was surprised: they're not the sort of films I normally like, and on the surface it seems to have very little going for it: a man and a woman meet by chance and spend a night together in Vienna, having conversations about various facets of life. And yet for some reason I couldn't look away. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are both fantastic, and the simplicity of both the concept and the way in which it is shot is what makes it work. I definitely recommend seeing these films if you haven't already. Both, in my opinion, are of an equally high standard.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Spumco blogs

Spumco artists Fred Osmond and Katie Rice have both started up blogs showcasing some of their amazing wacky drawings. I'll certainly be bookmarking these:

Cartoons and Caricatures (Fred Osmond)
Funny Cute (Katie Rice)

Alone in the Dark

DVD
Don't laugh, but I think the world needs more filmmakers like Uwe Boll. Not for the quality of the films themselves, as Alone in the Dark is so bad it fails to even classify as being "so bad it's good", but because of his own sense of self-importance and complete inability to see just how truly awful his work is. In a day and age when even the worst Hollywood schlock is competently made, it makes something of a change to see a movie that is completely terrible in all aspects of its production, and it is nice to be reminded that, yes, films this bad do exist. Not that I recommend you inflict this monstrosity on yourself or your loved ones, mind.

I foolishly venture into the world of Alone in the Dark. Arguably the worst video game to film adaptation ever (and that's saying something), Lions Gate have presented this attrocity on an excellent R1 DVD. Full review at DVD Times.

Friday, July 15, 2005

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

I pre-ordered the upcoming Anchor Bay US edition of The Card Player. I'll be getting a review copy of Trauma through DVD Times, but since I've already reviewed The Card Player twice (once for the GFT theatrical presentation, and then again for the Czech DVD), I didn't think I could stretch to a third round, so I decided just to buy it myself. I also ordered Michele Soavi's Stagefright (a.k.a. Deliria, a.k.a. Aquarius) along with it, which, when it arrives, will mean that I have Soavi's entire theatrical catalogue on DVD.

Anchor Bay Trauma cover art

DVDSource: Dark Dreams

Anchor Bay have finally revealed the cover art for their upcoming release of Dario Argento's Trauma.

I notice that they're still listing the aspect ratio as 1.85:1 rather than its correct 2.35:1. I seriously hope that this is just a typo.

Spooks Season 3 announced

DVDSource: DVD Times

Contender Entertainment have announced the UK Region 2 DVD release of Spooks - Complete Series 3 for 5th September 2005 priced at £39.99. The groundbreaking, BAFTA Award winning spy series "Spooks" continues on DVD with the September 2005 release of SPOOKS SERIES 3. This five-disc special edition release features all ten episodes of the highly acclaimed third series and comes complete with ten hours of audio commentaries and over three-and-a-half hours of extra features including exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Features include audio commentaries for all ten episodes, cast and crew interviews, behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, preview of Spooks Series 4, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, DVD-ROM content featuring scripts, wallpapers and image gallery.

The release of SPOOKS SERIES 3 on DVD will coincide with the show's return to TV screens for a fourth series, scheduled for broadcast on BBC1 and BBC3 in September 2005.

Sounds good to me. Although the third season was a bit disappointing compared to the first two (probably to do with cast members leaving right, left and centre), it still had some great moments and was pretty enjoyable overall.

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

This morning, I received a copy of Optimum's new UK release of Dario Argento's Trauma (thanks, Anthony!) as well as a review copy of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement (Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles, R1 Canada).

I must say, I'm impressed with Optimum's work on Trauma. It's not perfect, admittedly, and the upcoming Anchor Bay special edition is obviously going to be a massive improvement on it, at least in terms of bonus materials, but it has a decent transfer, better than any other release I've seen before. The colours still look a bit washed out, but I now suspect that they're meant to look like this and that the Italian DVD was unnaturally boosted. Screenshots (and comparison between it, the French and Italian releases) coming soon, when I get the chance.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

FAQ questions added

A couple of questions have been added to the FAQ:

  • What wallpaper and WinAmp skin do you use?
    I used to have pages showing my desktop wallpaper and WinAmp skins, but I no longer have them because (a) I change my wallpaper constantly, so it was a pain in the neck to keep up to date, and (b) I hardly ever use WinAmp these days.

  • What do you think of Microsoft?
    I think that they have some dubious business practices, and that their continued refusal to make Internet Explorer standards compliant is inappropriate, but overall I think they provide a good service. As you can probably tell, I'm a Windows user, and in my opinion you won't find an alternative to Windows XP that offers the same amount of compatibility, software support, convenience and stability. Yes, Unix-based systems are supposedly very stable, and yes, MacOS X looks mighty pretty (or so I'm told - personally I consider it an eyesore), but neither of them are even remotely viable as alternatives to the Microsoft juggernaut. Perhaps if you work in the American movie business, where the fat-cats seem to be attached to their iMacs by their umbilical cords, then a Mac is the answer, but in the real world they are nothing more than an overpriced, useless fashion accessory that no-one in their right mind would touch with a 10-foot rudder.

Rain!

It's finally raining! Whee! After the last few days of intense sun (although yesterday was better, admittedly) this is an extremely welcome change in the weather. Hopefully this is the proverbial "end of Summer".

Lego lunacy

Lego

A large box arrived direct from Lego.com this morning, containing my brand new castle, which goes by the rather silly name of Vladek's Dark Fortress. This is certainly a much better piece of work than their previous one, the Castle of Morcia. For one thing, it actually took me the better part of two hours to build, which is always a good thing. It has more pieces than any previous Lego set (although I believe the newly-released Viking fortress one-ups it by a couple of hundred bricks), and once the thing's fully built, you can see they weren't kidding when they called it "the biggest Lego castle ever". Design-wise, it's also a step up, although I dislike the inclusion of the silly rainbow-coloured knights and the rather odd-looking siege weapons (at least one of which is so unbalanced that it will tip over unless placed on a complete flat, hard surface). I'm also a bit annoyed that, like so many of Lego's sets recently, it has no back to it - it's like they ran out of time or bricks and couldn't be bothered to make a complete building.

Nonetheless, this is definitely a step in the right direction after a number of years of lacklustre sets, especially in the Castle department. I'm impressed with the speed of delivery too - I'll definitely use the Lego store for when the time comes to order that Viking fortress.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sawdust Village

Hooray! I finally found it! After months of wondering what this wacky site I found back in 2002 was called, and where it was located, I finally stumbled upon the weird and wonderful world of Sawdust Village once again. Don't ask me to explain it - just go visit it. It's a site by Robyn Byrd, who did Flash animation for Spumco for some time, and was the brains behind the hilarious Spumco Walkems. If you've seen them, you'll get the idea of this site. It hasn't been updated since 2002, but it remains a treasure trove of whimsy.

Of course, I had to add it to the Links page.

When Warner comes a-knockin'

Source: DVD Times

Warner have announced two DVD box sets of classic cartoons for release on October 25th: Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Vol. 2 and Looney Tunes Movie Collection Vol. 3. The optimist in me would like to think that they will make up for their past crimes by releasing these cartoons uncut (in the case of Tom and Jerry) and non-DVNR'd (in the case of both), but the pessimist in me knows that Warner have blown it so many times now that there seems little point in assuming that they've suddenly forsaken their wicked ways. Put it this way: I'm not touching either of these sets with a barge-pole until others have tested the waters.

Ren & Stimpy: thoughts and impressions

(Note: This is just a brief overview of the three new episodes. I'll detail my opinions in a much larger article coming soon to DVD Times.)

I've now watched all three of the unaired Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon episodes and formulated some opinions on them. Overall, I liked them very much, and the average standard struck me as being much higher than that of the three episodes that actually aired (although I don't think that any of them are quite as good as Ren Seeks Help, which I consider the best of the APC episodes).

Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party CartoonNaked Beach Frenzy
Naked Beach Frenzy was actually produced at the same time as the three episodes that did make the air-waves, but was pulled at the last minute by the SpikeTV brass due to America's fear of female breasts. There was some talk of it eventually airing in a censored form, but ultimately this came to nothing. Yessir, it's Man's Best Friend all over again! It's another gag cartoon, with a fairly loose plot that allows Ren and Stimpy to get into all sorts of wacky predicaments, involving thongs, hairy lifeguards, crabs and naked women. While it will hardly go down in history as a ground-breaking moment for the show (unless in terms of content), and the relative lack of plot means that at 23 minutes the cartoon feels a bit over-long, there are some truly hilarious gags and some amusing call-backs to classic moments in the show's first two seasons. 7/10

Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party CartoonAltruists
This will go down in history as the longest episode of Ren & Stimpy to date. Clocking in at a whopping 35 minutes, Altruists was to be aired over the course of two weeks, and the copy I have seems to be slightly incomplete (missing animation at the start of the second part). However, this is the gag cartoon to end all other gag cartoons, running with the "Three Stooges" framework that was applied to so many of the classic episodes written and storyboarded by Vincent Waller (who, unsurprisingly, contributed the lion's share of the story and artwork for this one). In a sudden streak of generosity, Ren and Stimpy decide to help a penniless widow and her headless son, first by stealing food and money for them, and later by building them a house. Cue a vast number of inane gags and a meandering plot that, despite a tendency to go off at odd tangents, never feels over-long. Great to see Old Man Hunger (in the guise of Old Man Winter) again, as well as the "Husband" and "Wife" characters. 9/10

Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party CartoonStimpy's Pregnant
This 29 minute cartoon is, in many ways, the crowning achievement of the APC crew. The latest episode to be finished, it shows the new team really coming to grips with the material after a slightly shaky start in Onward and Upward and Fire Dogs 2. The posing, the animation, the voice acting are some of the best that has ever been seen, either in the original R&S or in APC. Looking at the fluid movement and the number of unique poses (virtually every drawing seems to be a keyframe), it's hard to believe that this was animated in Korea. The premiere R&S animation studio, Carbunkle Cartoons, did not work on this episode at all (whereas they had at least some degree of involvement in all the other APC shows), which I assume was due to budgetary reasons, but the quality of animation in this is the sort that would make Disney's animators green with envy. This could so easily have been shown in theatres. The show itself is an odd mix of a gag cartoon and a drama, and as a result combines many elements that have previously only been seen individually. A couple of elements don't quite gel (the cooking scene is a bit too drawn out, the voices of the secondary characters are quite poor, and the monologue before the opening credits comes across as over-long and unneccessary), but overall I really enjoyed myself with this episode. Oh, and the revelation of Stimpy's child is absolutely hilarious. 8.5/10

These episodes, in my opinion, are proof that the naysayers were wrong and that the old magic that made the first one and a half seasons of Ren & Stimpy great were not merely lightning in a bottle. It's true, these new episodes don't hit the grand heights of Stimpy's Invention or Man's Best Friend, but when one considers that the new crew was comprised largely of inexperienced newcomers, Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon represents a phenomenal achievement in animation history. No other made for TV cartoon features animation this fluid, drawings this unique, or gags this wild. It is a criminal shame that these three episodes never aired on TV, and even moreso that the team behind them was forced to disband due to SpikeTV's inactivity, but one can only hope that their arrival on DVD later this year will lead to further new episodes. Three years ago, if you'd told me that John K would one day be making Ren & Stimpy cartoons again, I would have laughed in your face. Now, I only hope that he gets a chance to make more and to continue making them for years to come.

DVD debacle

DVDI pre-ordered the upcoming UK release of The Machinist (due out on August 1). Great film, and one I really want to see again. The UK release also comes with an exclusive interview with the director - something that Tartan seem to be really good at securing, as many of their releases have director interviews not found on any other release. It's quite interesting to see how this company has gone from being one of the worst DVD producers to a very respectable one in the short space of a couple of years.

Sennheiser slowcoaches

Sennheiser finally got back to me, nearly three weeks after I requested an RMA for my headphones. Maybe I'll wait three weeks before telling them their services are no longer required.

The Jacket

DVD
The Jacket will surely not appeal to those looking for an edge-of-the-seat experience, which unfortunately seems to be the audience towards which Warner have chosen to market it. Nonetheless, it is at least a reasonably satisfying piece of work with impressive performances and well-realised characters. Ultimately it shoots itself in the foot by attempting to be a thinking man's movie that fails to actually stand up to close scrutiny, but for those praying for a break from the steady diet of PG-13 slashers, The Jacket should be worth a look.

I've reviewed the R1 US release of The Jacket, a clever but lethargic supernatural thriller starring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley. Warner's DVD has a somewhat disappointing transfer and limited extras but benefits from a well-mixed audio track.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Heat Redux

Jesus H. Christ, it's hot! I've got a giant fan next to me right now going at full strength, but it's not doing much good. I actually gave up on my computer in the evening yesterday because both the room and the CPU were so hot. The forecast does seem a bit better for tomorrow, so hopefully this'll be the last day of really intense heat for this year.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Lego lunacy

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon digging through my big crate o' Lego, trying to find all the pieces to build the Black Seas Barracuda, the first ever Lego pirate ship and one that I haven't built for more than a 15 years. I got to the second-last page before discovering that I was two pieces short. The two 4x1 clips required to hold up the final sail were nowhere to be seen. Damn! I've emailed Lego, who have a brick replacement system, to see if they can send me replacements, but they do state that they may not be able to source pieces more than five years old. I did have one victory this evening, though, in that I managed to find the final piece for one of my favourite castles, the King's Mountain Fortress, that had been missing for something in the region of a decade.

Vladek's Dark FortressIn other brick-related news, I discovered that, although it is not released in stores until August 10th, the Lego online store is already selling the latest castle, Vladek's Dark Fortress. Of course, I had to order it. I've also got my eye on another new release, a fortress that is part of a new Viking range. I might buy it later this summer. Right now I'm glad I returned my TFT monitor, so I can afford all these expensive lumps of plastic (and more besides).

Heat

Urgh! It's too hot. I hate this weather. The sky is completely cloudless and the weather forecast is quoting 30° Celsius as the hottest temperature for Glasgow today. I can't wait for the temperature to drop. I can't understand how anyone can enjoy this sort of weather.

Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon

As a result of the work Lyris has been doing for the upcoming Ren & Stimpy Ultimate DVD Set, John K has sent copies of the three unaired Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon shows: Naked Beach Frenzy, Altruists and Stimpy's Pregnant. Full thoughts and impressions are coming soon, but in the meantime, I thought I'd tempt you with some tasty screengrabs.

Naked Beach Frenzy
Naked Beach Frenzy Naked Beach Frenzy

Altruists
Altruists Altruists

Stimpy's Pregnant
Stimpy's Pregnant Stimpy's Pregnant

These three cartoons, plus the three that actually aired (Onward and Upward, Ren Seeks Help and Fire Dogs 2) will be included in their entirety on The Ren & Stimpy Show: The Lost Episodes, coming to DVD later in the year.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Argento dissertation

An excellent and thorough dissertation on the films of Dario Argento, by Keith Hennessey Brown, focusing specifically on Profondo Rosso and Suspiria, has been posted at Dark Dreams. It's a pretty massive undertaking, and I haven't had a chance to read much of it yet, but it looks to be of a very high standard.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Ren & Stimpy Season 5 cover art

DVDSource: MOTLOS Forum

The cover art for the upcoming The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Five and Some More of Four DVD has been released. Hmmm... Well, it's a step up from the cover art for the Season Three and a Half-ish set. The airbrushing effect still bugs me, and it's kind of sloppily applied, but at least the drawing itself looks significantly less wonky. I still think the Season 1/2 set had the best cover.

Go for the Gold

Go for the GoldThis morning a large package arrived for me from Lulu.com, a US online book store that operates on a print on demand basis. The book in question is Go for the Gold, a collection of sketchbook drawings by 31 different artists, including the likes of John Kricfalusi, Ralph Bakshi and Katie Rice.

The highlight, undoubtedly, is seeing John K's brand new layouts for a scene from Wilderness Adventure, an unproduced Ren & Stimpy cartoon that will be shown in story reel form on the upcoming Ultimate Edition Ren & Stimpy DVD set that my brother is involved with. However, that's not to say that there isn't a whole load of great stuff on offer. Unsurprisingly, the drawings by the various Spumco alumni, including Katie Rice, Wil Branca and Robert Cory are my favourites, but there is a great deal on offer besides. The drawings by SpongeBob SquarePants artist Paul Tibbitt are hilarious, and Chad Coyle, Celia Bullwinkel and P. Williams have all manner of wacky stuff on offer.

I understand that only a few copies of this book have been produced and that production has now wound down due to technical difficulties, so I don't know if you'll have an opportunity to buy a copy of your own. In the meantime, though, let me taunt you with a couple of photos I took: from left to right, Wilderness Adventure layouts by John K, and scribbles by Robert Cory (click images for larger versions).

Click for larger image Click for larger image

Friday, July 08, 2005

Zen

My replacement Zen arrived this afternoon. At first I had a slight panic as I discovered that the firmware on it was more recent than what is available online, which would have meant that I would have been unable to replace the volume-restricted European firmware with non-restricted American firmware. To my relief, however, I quickly found that the firmware loaded was already of the American variety, for some strange reason.

It's good to be back. I've now realized that I can never go back to CDs: an MP3 player is infinitely more convenient.

At least 50 dead in London

Source: BBC News

Tragic, but still, although it's no small comfort to those who know someone who died, the number is mercifully low when you think about how it could have turned out. The transport services seem to be more or less back to normal today too.

The Card Player US cover art

DVDSource: 10K Bullets Forum

Fangoria has released an image of the cover art for Anchor Bay's upcoming special edition release of Dario Argento's The Card Player. The actual artwork itself is pretty neat - a slightly different iteration on what was used for the Italian posters and DVD cover. Still no word on the bonus features, though, except that it will feature a commentary by Alan Jones.

Music mania

CD CD CD

Three packages arrived from Play.com today, each containing a separate CD. Why they did this instead of just putting them all in one box is anyone's guess, but at least the shipping's free, so I'm not complaining.

First up is the score for Sin City which, as I somewhat suspected, doesn't work as well in isolation as it did in the context of the film itself. It's a pretty cool noir affair with lots of overcranked saxophones and the like, but without the film to give it structure, is feels as if it has no real direction to it. I didn't realize, until buying this, that each of the three composers (director Robert Rodriguez, and John Debney and Graeme Revell) concentrated on a single storyline and worked separately. An interesting idea, and if I was more musically inclined I would probably be able to spot the differences between them, but that sort of thing really isn't my forte.

I also got In Blue (Special Edition). I now have all of the Corrs' CDs, and I purposefully left this one till the last due to the fact that I knew beforehand that this would be their worst release, a nasty little dalliance with the gloopy world of mainstream pop, removing all of their signature style and replacing it with a completely interchangeable sound (the hideous cover is also a pretty good indicator). There are a couple of good tracks on here, it's true, but most of it sounds pretty awful, and the title track, Breathless, more or less sets the tone for what follows (bland, syrupy and over-produced). The saving grace of the Special Edition release is a bonus disc containing seven tracks, four of which are accoustic, one of which is live and two of which are previously unreleased songs dating back to their earlier period. The quality of this stuff is miles ahead of what's on the "main" disc, and makes this release a worthwhile purchase, in my opinion.

Finally, Oyster, Heather Nova's second album and, it would seem, her best, in the opinion of many people. I haven't listened to it yet - I'll save it for one of those nights when insomnia kicks in. (PS. On her web site it says that she has a new album, Redbird, coming out in Europe in August. Like the last one, Storm, it sounds as if it won't be coming out in America.)

Zen

According to the online tracker, my Zen is in the Glasgow depot at the moment, so hopefully it will arrive today. That's good, because some CDs I ordered from Play arrived today (more on them later), and I'm itching to rip them. Speaking of which, it has just occurred to me that Sennheiser never got back to me when I emailed them thinking that it was my headphones that were faulty. This, to me, speaks volumes about the quality of their customer services, and as such, I don't think that they are at all deserving of my money. These will probably be the last pair of Sennheiser heaphones I buy.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hall of Fame

I've added Panic Room (R2/4 UK) to the DVD Transfer Hall of Fame.

LaserDisc madness

Inferno LaserDiscThis morning I received a large, flat package in the mail, containing the UK LaserDisc of Dario Argento's Inferno (thanks, Sandy!). I already own the American Anchor Bay DVD, which is pretty much the best (in fact, probably only) presentation of the film on DVD, and its image quality of course blows that of the LD out of the water, but still, I wanted to own this for curiosity value. Looking at the LD transfer, I get the impression that the DVD may be slightly too pink in terms of hue, as the LD's colours look much closer to those in Suspiria, Inferno's forerunner. All in all, a nice catch for a rabid Argento collector like myself. It's a shame the UK release is cut, though.

Kaboom in London town

Source: BBC News

At least two people have been killed and scores injured after three blasts on the Underground network and another on a double-decker bus in London.

Sad, sad news, and my condolences to all those who have been affected. I suppose we should just be glad that the attacks weren't more wide-scale. Given all the media frenzy, it's easy to get carried away and lose perspective, but when you compare it with attrocities that have taken place in the past, even minor ones like 9/11, you can see just how lucky we were that it wasn't much bigger. The current confirmed death toll is only two people, and although I'm sure it will rise before the day is out, it really is remarkably low.

What's really sad about these situations, in my opinion, is that far beyond the loss of life or the momentary chaos that is caused, the terrorists cause far more damage to the day to day life of the inhabitants of the affected country. Situations like these allow all sorts of Orwellian laws to be pushed through (house arrests, detainment with out trial, etc.) that under any other circumstances would never have been allowed. When you think about 9/11, for example, in terms of the loss of life it is little more than a minor footnote (sorry if that sounds callous, but it's completely true when you look at how many people die every day in the world), but it had a greater knock-on effect on civil liberties and what governments can get away with. Tony Blair was on TV not long ago saying that the terrorists would not be allowed to change our way of life. Sorry, but they accomplished that long ago.

Thanks a bunch, Tony. This is your fault anyway.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Trauma image gallery

DVD Beaver has added an image review of the recent R2 UK release of Trauma by Optimum. I must say that these shots look very nice, and if not for the fact that Anchor Bay is releasing a full-blown special edition less than a month later, I would pick this up in a flash. Who knows, if the AB transfer is a disappointment (although I doubt that will be the case) I may still buy this version.

George W. Bush takes a tumble

I was out to dinner tonight with various members of my family celebrating my granny's 91st birthday. While there, I heard from my uncle that my cousin Arlene, a pharmacist, who was deployed at Gleneagles today for the G8 summit, was involved in treating George W. Bush after the silly man banged into a policeman and took a tumble off his bicycle. Why she didn't take the opportunity to kick him while he was down is anyone's guess, but now I can proudly (or not) state that a member of my family has come into contact with the most hated man in the world, and to bandage his poor grazed elbow no less! Everybody say "aaaaaw!"

Replacement Zen shipped

I just got an email from Creative to say that my replacement Zen Micro has finally been shipped. Hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow - I'm really missing the convenience of having all my music in a single, easy to carry box.

A grand night out

(The exciting sequel to A grand day out)

I went out to dinner last night with some friends from university (Marc, Fiona and Callum) as something of a mishmash of celebrating the end of university, that graduation thing, my birthday this week and Fiona's next week. We went to the China Buffet King - always a sure hit - and indulged in some rather bizarre conversations involving alcohol and Sunset Beach (not necessarily both at once, although I have been told that the former is a prerequisite for enjoying the latter). Yes, a good night was had.

Feedback from John K.

DVDThis is going to sound like either outrageous bragging of sycophantic hero worship, but what the hell. John Kricfalusi (John K.), creator of the Ren & Stimpy Show, has commented on my reviews of the first two DVD sets of the show (see here and here) at the Members of the Loyal Order of Stupids board:

Hey folks,

This guy reviews the first two DVD sets that came out. He's pretty sharp. His history is great and his opinions well thought out.

He has one fact wrong-someone has come up with the theory that I cut scenes from Big Baby Scam and Haunted House. I didn't. Those cartoons were started at Spumco, finished at Games then remangled at Nickelodeon later.

You might want to put links of these reviews at other animation sites too.

It's good to know that the people responsible for what's being reviewed do sometimes read what people have to say about them. The best news, however, follows:

BTW,

APC [Adult Party Cartoon] will be coming out late this year under the title "The Lost Episodes". It's full of cartoons we wrote way back in 1990 and '91 in response to fan requests. Plus Naked Beach Frenzy and many extras of course!

They are starting to talk about doing all new episodes for straight to DVD so if you keep consuming the DVDs it should happen! I have a million more stories planned.

However bad the Games cartoons are, I for one will be buying the next DVD set both to hear the commentaries and to help increase the chance of new episodes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Complaints about bad words at Live8

Source: Melon Farmers

More than 350 people complained to the BBC about the use of pre-watershed strong language used by Live8 performers. The BBC yesterday apologised to anyone who was offended by the bad language but blamed it on the performers and organisers. A spokesman said: We had no editorial say... However, all the artists were made aware that it was being broadcast live and were asked to be mindful of their language.

That's absolutely pathetic. A concert is organized to raise awareness of serious things like the fact that millions of people are dying in Africa, and a bunch of low-life sad sacks complain about language? Some people seriously need to get their priorities into gear.

I need a new mousemat

The incredible bending mousemat The incredible bending mousemat

Behold the incredible bending mousemat! As we all know, the whole point of a mousemat is to have a flat and clean surface to facilitate smooth and accurate mouse movements. When one side of it starts to turn into a curve, well, that little idea is somewhat shattered. The same thing happened to my previous Everglide at around this time last year. I think the time has come to buy a new one again.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Hide and Seek

DVD
Hide and Seek brings nothing new to the horror genre, but it is slickly-made, with a well-constructed plot, and certainly enjoyable. The big plot twist explaining the identity of "Charlie" becomes pretty obvious a good 20 minutes before it is finally revealed, but at least it makes reasonable sense and is given a satisfying conclusion. While not the sort of film that encourages a 1,000-word review, it gets my recommendation.

I've reviewed the R2 UK release of Hide and Seek, an unoriginal but enjoyable horror movie starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning and Famke Janssen. 20th Century Fox has presented the film on an impressive DVD with some interesting extras..

Lego lunacy

Lego

My Lego castle arrived this morning, in time for my birthday. Built the thing in less than an hour, but enjoyed it quite a bit more than the previous set I bought. This is part of an interesting Ninja line-up that I believe was only available for a couple of years, which is something of a shame, as the design is pretty impressive and there are some interesting custom pieces that haven't appeared in any of the other ranges. Like the castle I bought a couple of weeks ago, this one also doesn't have a back to it, making it a little one-sided, but it looks much more impressive and, thankfully, all the pieces actually connect properly rather than the various turrets simply sitting there, ready to be knocked over. I ran into a small setback by virtue of the fact that one of the pieces was missing (something that's never happened to me before), but luckily I was able to replace it with the same item from the Big Crate O' Lego in my room.

The next set I get will probably be Vladek's Dark Fortress, which doesn't come out in the UK till August 10th. However, it's been out in the US for a while now (despite Lego being a Danish company), and someone gave it a pretty extensive "Photo Review" on the EuroBricks forum. It looks like yet another impressively-designed set. It has occurred to me, though, that I'm going to have to start dismantling some sets, as I don't have any more room for another.

It's my birthday

Woo.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A grand day out

Sin CityToday me and Lyris went into town with my friend Graham to celebrate my birthday. We started by returning my TFT to John Lewis, which was surprisingly straightforward: they didn't even look at the monitor or ask why I didn't want it. We then went to the cinema to see Sin City, which I really enjoyed, although Lyris didn't seem to like it at all. It was pretty disjointed and occasionally a bit hard to follow, but the visuals were superb and I really enjoyed the over the top film noir feel. I wish more filmmakers would deliver such a visual feast and not feel that they have to come up with clever plots that make "sense" all the time. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with a bit of style. I'll definitely be buying this on DVD.

By the way, given that the film was shot digitally rather than on film, I was expecting it to look pretty crappy. Indeed, many people who saw digital projections of the film have criticized it for looking pixellated and TV-like. However, watching it on a proper film print at the cinema, I was very impressed with its look. There was a superb amount of detail present in every shot, and because it had been transferred to film it didn't look video-like in the slightest. I have a feeling the DVD will be a bit of a let-down in that respect.

The Ren & Stimpy Show: Seasons Three and a Half-ish

DVD
In the short space of a few years, Ren & Stimpy went from being the modern-day heir to the Looney Tunes mantle to an embarrassing mess waiting to be put out of its misery. By the third season, its best material was long gone and the decline from then on was pretty steady. Still, fans of the show will want to pick up this set both to witness its long and painful death, and for the extremely informative audio commentaries.

Ren and Stimpy's adventures continue on DVD with The Ren & Stimpy Show: Season Three and a Half-ish, a 3-disc R1 set by Paramount featuring 29 episodes charting the show's slow decline. Full review at DVD Times.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My trip into town with most unexpected results

I decided to move my birthday to today, rather than wait till Monday. Saturdays are better days for birthdays than Mondays, after all. Of course, I didn't really get much, considering that my main present, as it were, was my computer upgrade, which I got nearly two months back (and let me tell you, it's been well worth it, considering that the machine hasn't crashed once and runs absolutely great). I did, however, get the R2 French release of the Indiana Jones trilogy box set, and this morning I enjoyed watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, finally able to appreciate it on a good quality widescreen DVD rather than the blurry, washed-out pan & scan print doing the rounds on BBC1 at least once every year.

This afternoon, I got into my head the ridiculous idea of spending some of the money my dad gave me last night in honour of my graduation on a TFT monitor. You probably remember that I performed a similar experiment at around this time last year, with rather unfortunate results. This time round, however, I managed to convince myself that Sony, makers of some very high quality equipment, would could to my rescue. Specifically, I discovered the SDM-HS95P, which, in addition to promising an exceptional contrast ratio of 1000:1, with pure blacks, also claimed to feature an extremely fast response time of 12ms. So off to town we went, and I picked up the brute for £400 and lugged it home on the bus. Big mistake.

At first, all seemed well, with a nicely crisp image and reasonable (although not CRT-like) blacks. Underworld, one of my favourite test discs, performed well, and I began to think that I had finally found a TFT monitor I could live with. Then I switched on Unreal Tournament 2004 and beheld the hideous mess that was the Screen Of Trails. As soon as I started moving around, the whole thing disintegrated into a juddery, smeary mess of ghosting. I then tried out Treasure Planet, the film that had shown up the ghosting mess on my Iiyama monitor last year, and everything looked just as bad. Really, really disappointing. The monitor is now packaged away and sitting in the corner, and I will be returning it "unused" as an "unwanted gift". At least I bought it from John Lewis, a store of high repute, rather than the scummy little gits at Overclockers UK.

Lessons learned:
1. The response time quoted in the technical specs is meaningless. This TFT has the lowest quoted response time I have ever seen, and it ghosts like hell. In comparison, my Philips TFT (which I use with the computer in my bedroom) has a higher response time and ghosts significantly less.
2. I now think that it is pointless for me to try to get into the TFT market, until severe changes are made to the technology. The current setups simply aren't going to offer me what I want, i.e. solid blacks and low ghosting. Yes, the perfect detail and geometry are a huge bonus, but in my opinion aren't worth it if the whole thing looks grey and smears like diarrhoea.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures!

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Simpsons Season 6 (R1) in August

Source: DVD Times

Urgh. Don't like the new cover style at all.

Watership Down SE in August

Source: DVD Times

Warner Home Video have announced the UK Region 2 DVD release of Watership Down (Special Edition) for 29th August 2005 priced at £15.99. Directed by Martin Rosen and featuring the instantly recognisable vocal talents of an array of British stars including John Hurt (Nineteen Eight-Four, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone) Richard Briers (The Good Life, Hamlet) and Hannah Gordon (Upstairs Downstairs, Taggart) this animated masterpiece delves into the surprisingly violent world of a warren of rabbits who venture away from the evils of man in search of a new and better place to live.

The special edition is packed full of revealing and insightful, never-before-seen footage including A Conversation with the Film Makers and a featurette entitled Defining a Style which showcases exclusive commentary from the production team and cast members. Storyboard Comparisons including the opening sequence, Hazel and Fiver Sneak into Nuthanger Farm, Bigwig Leads Escape from Efrafa and Hazel is Injured also feature on the disc.

Damn! I'm going to have to pick up yet another copy of this film. The Australian release, with commentary by Martin Rosen and critic Chris Gore, is great, but the new extras on this release sound extremely interesting too.

My Graduation

(or An Induction Into The Cult Of Pretentious Twats)

Foreword: This post is not meant to make light of the achievements of anyone who graduated today or at any other point. To get through all those years of work is something to be applauded. It's just that I seriously dislike the way in which this was carried out.

As far as I'm concerned, I got my results on the 9th of June, when they were published online. That was my degree. Today's little ritual was nothing more than a pointless display of hocus-pocus jiggery-pokery that I only went to in order to keep my parents quiet and/or happy (see - I'm not such a selfish old cunt after all). Had it been up to me I would have graduated in absentia (that's the fancy phrase they use to mean that you decided you couldn't be bothered with the nonsense).

The ritual itself started at 4pm, but in actual fact I had to show up at 1.30pm for a completely pointless affair that involved picking up the most ridiculous cloak known to man, and then standing around waiting for something to happen. I got my photograph taken too, and I am of no doubt that it will soon be adorning my granny's living room in an obnoxious and extremely obvious place, so that I will be forced to look at it every time I pay her a visit. I sincerely hope my parents aren't narcissistic enough to display a copy in our house, though. To me, there's something completely obscene about that kind of behaviour.

The same goes for the ceremony itself. Conducted partially in Latin, it sums up everything I dislike about the university establishment: a series of outmoded, pointless, pretentious, cliquish rituals performed for no reason other than the fact that they did exactly the same thing last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before... What made it infinitely worse, in my opinion, was the religious content, specifically, Christian content. Personally, I have no problem with Christian rituals, provided they don't sacrifice any goats or small children, but they have absolutely no place in an institute of learning. The affair concluded with a speech mentioning the university's multi-cultural aspect, and its cooperation with other institutes around the world. This struck me as incredibly hypocritical considering that, when bestowing a degree, a whole bunch of superstitious mumbo-jumbo is uttered, all relating to a single religion that, last time I checked, only a small number of students adhere to in any serious way. (The distinct lack of a responding "Amen" at the end of the opening incantation was quite telling and, to me at least, most refreshing.)

So, graduation, huh? A whole lot of crap, in my opinion. Those who don't go to theirs' are missing nothing other than a chance to ritually embarrass themselves. Myself, I can think of an number of infinitely more interesting and worthwhile ways of killing five hours.

Diablo II: fifth anniversary

Last night, I started a new full clear of Diablo II with a character I've never attempted before: a Throwing Barb (a Barbarian who uses throwing weapons instead of engaging melee combat). Coincidentally, today is the game's fifth anniversary (I just noticed this just now when visiting Blizzard.com). Wow! Time really does fly. It really doesn't seem that long ago, and yet back then I was still at school. I'll shut up now, as I risk sounding like an old fart.