I got my mouse mat and my memory stick today.
Unfortunately, I was attacked by a wasp yesterday and the little finger on my left hand has inflated to around twice its size, which is making typing quite difficult. Probably not much in the way of updates today then.
Hall of Fame updated
The DVD Transfer Hall of Fame
has been updated once again, this time to add Thirteen
(R2 UK, Universal). This is probably the single best reproduction of 16mm film I've seen on DVD.
Hall of Fame updated
The DVD Transfer Hall of Fame
has been updated. I've added Naked Lunch
(R0 USA, Criterion) and removed Toy Story 2
(R1 USA, Buena Vista). After seeing Toy Story 2
on a 26" LCD screen, I no longer think that is as good as it could be: there is visible edge enhancement, and the whole thing has a sheen of softness that suggests blanket low-pass filtering.
I ordered the new R2 German release of What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
, as well as the R2 German release of Maurizio Pradeaux's 1972 giallo Death Carries a Cane
from Xploited Cinema
I ordered the R2 UK release of Garden State
. I rented it from Blockbuster after hearing good things about it, plus the news that Professor Zach Braff, star of the whimsical television show Scrubs
, not only wrote and directed by also played the lead role in it, and was duly impressed. An instant classic? No, it certainly had it's share of flaws, but it was very entertaining and both Braff and Natalie Portman were excellent in it. I decided to go with the UK release since I trust Disney's US wing to deliver a decent transfer about as much as I'd trust a convicted dog rapist to not rape a dog.
Update on Trauma issue
Well, over the last few days, more and more people have been heading online to register their disgust at the mess Anchor Bay made of its release of Trauma
. It's heartening to hear that, in an age when "it's good enough for me so I don't care" seems to be the mantra of the day, there are some people who are actually seeing these flaws and drawing attention to them. Indeed, a number of people have now reacted even more strongly than me, going so far as to label it "unwatchable".
Compounding the issue is this post
at Dark Discussion by Profondo Rossi, who has some information regarding the plethora of different iterations of Trauma
's cinematography that should be of interest to anyone who is at all into the film:
The very bluish tinted scenes that occur a couple of times in the film (one is Aura being driven home by the Fairdale ordinates, another the anorexic girls on the streets that Chris Rydell sees on his nocturnal drive) have been color-corrected as to appear "normal". See example 2 in Michael's comparison. Michael, you write: "The colours and contrast levels in the Italian transfer are much richer than the other three, and while this makes it look extremely good at some points (see Example 3), there are also a number of scenes that are much too dark (see Example 2)." Well, that's the way it's supposed to look, I'm afraid. Don't expect me to explain the rationale behind it but it IS a conscience choice. I saw a 35 mm pristine print of the English version when Trauma was just released and this is the way Raffaele Mertes has timed the scene(s)...sort of the whole Tenebre flashback-tinting debate in reverse! This being the case, all but the Italian Checchi Gori DVD release are faulty and do not live up to the artistic intentions of Dario Argento and his cinematographer. And that's the real tragedy behind this mess of transfers.
This really does change everything. If the much darker (but richer and more detailed) Cecchi Gori release represents how the film is meant to look, then every other release is categorically wrong
, which just twists the proverbial knife further into Anchor Bay. I'd totally forgotten about the blue-tinted shot of the various anorexic women, and looking back at it now I can see that the colour levels on the Cecchi Gori DVD are totally different in this scene. The news that this is how it looked when you saw it projected theatrically is an absolutele bombshell. I'm going to go back and redo my comparison, I think, and re-assess the situation with the assumption that the Cecchi Gori DVD represents the correct version of the film.
Asterix UK box set
I've just had word that Optimum Home Entertainment is releasing
a box set containing the first six Asterix
films on DVD in the UK on November 14th. The UK has not had a good track record with these titles, generally releasing only pan and scan dubbed versions, but the news that Optimum, who are generally pretty good with world cinema releases, is in charge, is interesting. At the very least I'm going to try and get a hold of a review copy, and if it turns out to be a crap release, then I'll still have the French release of the last three films plus bonus features (provided it ever sees the light of day, that is).
Computer component conundrum
I've ordered a new mouse mat (Double Sided Steelpad 4D) and a memory stick (256mb USB2.0 Tiny Disk Pen) from Kustom PCs
. I posted
a while back that I needed a new mouse mat, and for £18.72, a 256MB memory stick sounded like a good buy. It'll be useful too, considering that I have two non-networked computers and am forever carting reviews and the like between them via floppy disks.
New Asterix in October
The 33rd Asterix
book is now listed at Amazon.fr
with a release date of October 14th. The last couple of books have been decidedly low-par (the series never really did survive the death of René Goscinny), but the artwork is almost always great, and a new Asterix
book is such a rarity that it's always cause for a celebration, regardless of the actual quality of the story.
Coincidentally, the long-delayed DVD set featuring Asterix vs. Caesar
, Asterix in Britain
and Asterix and the Big Fight
, is now listed, again at Amazon.fr
, as coming out on the same day. It would certainly make sense for them to release both at the same time, so I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that it's actually going to finally see the light of day this time.Update, 16:41:
I pre-ordered the UK release of the book from Amazon.co.uk
Well, not quite, but I've got a few titles I want you to take off my hands. Head over and get bidding on:
- Alone in the Dark
- Gangs of New York
- Problem Child
Anchor Bay's DVD of Trauma is a classic case of sheer laziness, and while it is by far the most feature-packed release of the film to date, its transfer is extremely disappointing and the fact that the studio has failed to live up to its original promise to include as much of the cut footage as possible is represensible. By all means buy this DVD for is extras (it is, after all, relatively inexpensive and will no doubt drop in price fairly soon), but don't expect the image quality for which Anchor Bay has become known.
the recent Region 1 release of Dario Argento's Trauma
. As interesting as the bonus materials are, Anchor Bay have ultimately provided a disappointing release that suffers from poor image quality and fails to reinstate any of the material missing from the English-language prints (despite claims to the contrary on the cover).
Whiggles.com spreads the word
My Trauma comparison
has been mentioned and linked to in DVD Talk's review
of the film. Pretty cool, though I say it myself.
What's in a name?
What's your prison name? Go here
to find out!
(Tubby Bitch at your service, by the way.)
Sin City R3 - another interlaced mess
(R3 Hong Kong) arrived on my doorstep this morning. I've not had much success with DVDs from the Far East, especially Hong Kong (I think I've had one progressive scan transfer out of four), but I had thought that, with a major release like this, and a generally reliable distributor like Buena Vista, everything would be okay. Furthermore, certain individuals on a certain forum had promised that it was a progressive transfer. "I turned off deinterlacing and it looked fine," declared one individual. Great, I thought. That pretty much settles it. Everything will be okay.
I was wrong. In Hong Kong, Sin City
is distributed by a company called Panorama Distributions, a company that doesn't exactly have the best track record
when it comes to delivering progressive transfers. As soon as I hit the Play button on the main menu, it was clear that something was amiss: combing, ghosting and jittering up the wazzoo, and predictably none of the "amazing HD-like detail" that everyone was promising (the latter wasn't a huge surprise, since people said the same about the blurry-vision Lord of the Rings
transfers)... although to be fair, the detail is fairly impressive given some of the DVDs that have been coming out lately. But I'm sorry - I really don't want to have to put up with field-jumping, combing and trailing when I watch my DVD, particularly with a film as visually impressive as this.
I don't know why I bother sometimes. I guess I'll punt the DVD on eBay and hang on to the free notebook and postcards. I'm going to wait till I receive a review copy of the UK release before deciding which version to replace it with.
DVD player for sale
I'm finally selling my Pioneer DV-668 DVD player. After lying in the corner unused for months, I've finally got a box and a sufficient amount of bubble-wrap for it, and it should soon trouble these lands never again. Lyris has listed it
on the AV Forums.
Giving it one last look before I packed it away, it occurred to me what an impressive piece of hardware it is. Unlike your average slim-line DVD player, it actually looks like a powerful beast... and it is. The range of options it has, and the image quality it produces, are excellent. My beef with this player can be summed up with two simple words: chroma bug
That's right. This top of the range player has an infuriating bug that has, to the best of my knowledge, affected all Pioneer DVD players since the beginning of time. As most tech-heads will know, the MPEG2 format used by DVD stores colour at half resolution, meaning that it has to be scaled up when it is being played back. On a decent player, the scaling will deliver an image that is smooth and crisp. On a player with the chroma bug, the effect will be blocky, like when you resize an image in MS Paint or use the "pixel resize" option in a graphics package. Around 75% of the time, the effect is not readily visible, but on a DVD with lots of primary colours (think many animated movies, or something like Suspiria
), the effect becomes quite pronounced and is very distracting on a progressive scan display, where the jagged upsampling is visible for all to see.
But hey, it's a great player otherwise. It's just a shame that a low-to-mid range machine without the chroma bug outperforms it in terms of image output.
Below are two images, shamelessly stolen from Lyris' web site
, showing an image suffering from the chroma bug (on the left), and one without (on the right):
You can read up on the chroma bug here
Catalyst 5.8 released
ATI have released their latest set of drivers
, Catalyst 5.8. The release notes
list a bunch of improvements, but this strikes me as being the most major addition:
The latest Catalyst™ software suite provides support for COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocol) which is available in both Windows XP Service Pack 2 and the latest version of Windows Media Center 2005 (available through Microsoft Windows Update). COPP support will allow users to view high definition analog and digital content (to be released in the future) on select digital and analog displays
This is all pretty vague, and I'm not sure whether or not this will have anything to do with the HDCP system used to prevent paying customers from viewing Blu-Ray and HD-DVD titles
, but it's an interesting development nonetheless.
URL should now get you to the site a little quicker than before. Previously, it was pointing to a separate file on the Landofwhimsy server (redirect.html) and then redirecting to the main page (I can't actually remember why I originally did this - probably to do with people's caches still containing data from a previous design of the site). In any event, Whiggles.com
will now send you directly to the main page, so no more waiting around for it to redirect.
My new toners arrived this morning - heavy buggers, and the printer was grinding away for ages after I installed them, doing something or other best known to itself. I get the impression I'll be forking out for a new black toner soon as well - it's two-thirds empty.
Excellent service from Inkmasters
, by the way. All told, the time between ordering and delivery was less than 48 hours.
New DVD image comparison
I've updated my DVD image comparison
, which now includes the Region 1 US, Region 2 French, Region 2 Italian and Region 2 UK releases. The US DVD is officially released today, so if you're planning on buying it you might want to take a look at this comparison first.
DVD Times on the good side
Following the recent scandal
involving DVD Soon
, I am happy to report that they are no longer DVD Times' Region 1 DVD supplier. We now have a deal with DVD Pacific
who, coincidentally, are my US-based DVD supplier of choice.
I cancelled my order for the Region 2 UK release of Sin City
and ordered the R3 (Hong Kong?) version, which is out now and also comes with some cool goodies, including a special digipack cover, four postcards and a notebook.
Site feed added
I've re-enabled the XML-based site feed option, which has been disabled since I moved servers. I'm not sure if anyone is actually using it, but I figured I might has well have it turned on just in case.
Incidentally, the FTP support on this server is absolutely abysmal, which is odd, since Lyris has no problems. It took me something like 20 attempts just to get it to stay connected for long enough to rebuild the News pages to add XML support (Blogger uploads via FTP). If that wasn't bad enough, it still takes a ridiculous amount of time just to log in. I've contacted Fuitadnet about this and I'll see if they can do anything to fix it, but at the moment I'm really not impressed by them anything like as much as I thought I'd be.
If you're interested in the Anchor Bay Trauma
DVD debacle, there are some interesting discussions you might want to check up on:
- Dark Discussion
- DVD Maniacs
(also covers The Card Player
I finally caved in and ordered new colour toners for my printer: £179.70 total from Inkmasters
. I can't believe how expensive they are. Perhaps a colour laser printer was a bad investment after all.
My LaserDisc player broke recently. It wouldn't eject. That in itself was something of a problem, but compounding the issue was the fact that it got stuck with my rare Inferno
LD inside it. Eventually, we had to take the whole thing apart just to get the disc out, and are now stuck with a dead, useless LD player, for which I paid upwards of £100. Time to seek out another, methinks.
In related news, the cyan colour toner in my printer has run out. Of course, Epson's software is so
intuitive and user-friendly that it won't let me print anything, even black and white, until I replace it. As you can probably imagine, toners for high-end colour laser printers aren't exactly cheap.
I ordered Heather Nova's latest CD, Redbird
, from Play
. It's currently listed out of stock, I believe because it doesn't have a distribution deal for the UK yet, so it's anyone's guess how long it will take to appear.
I also note that the Corrs have a new album coming out on September 26th, Home
, which is something of a surprise to me, given the unusually long four-year gap between their last two releases. Since Borrowed Heaven
was such an improvement over the unpleasant In Blue
, I can only hope that this new CD one-ups it again.
Screw you, Anchor Bay
My review copy of Anchor Bay's new R1 DVD of Trauma
arrived this morning. I'm afraid I have nothing but bad news to report all around.
Like The Card Player
, this is an interlaced transfer, but unlike The Card Player
, it borders on unwatchable on my computer (I haven't been able to try this on an interlaced set). It looks unfocused, there is ghosting and strobing everywhere... Essentially, this only looks a tiny bit better than the dreaded Tartan DVD. If you want to see this film with good quality, get the new UK release by Optimum instead.
As was expected, the cut provided here has not been extended in any way, despite Anchor Bay's earlier promises - this is just the same standard English-language cut that has appeared on every DVD release except the Italian one.
The deleted scenes: the only scenes included are the ones that were present on the Italian DVD - i.e. no alternate introduction for Aura, David and Grace, and no extended gore. These scenes are presented in Italian with burned-in subtitles (aside from the odd establishing lines in English), and they look like they were taken from a VHS tape. No context is given to the scenes - they are just provided in one long (or rather, short) reel, one after the other.
Having looked through the other extras, including the Alan Jones commentary, the Argento interview, and the Tom Savini home video, I can report that they are very good, but words cannot express how angry I am with Anchor Bay. This release is nothing but a disappointment. They managed to screw up not once but twice, taking two highly sought-after Argento titles and running them through the grinder. For Trauma
, the situation is all the more infuriating, because you can clearly see all the shortcuts made. I hate to say it, but I've lost an awful lot of respect for this DVD company.
By the way, I just noticed that the back cover says the film is "fully restored and totally uncut for the first time ever in America". I know Anchor Bay are overly fond of that phrase, but surely this has got to count as false advertising? This is exactly the same cut that has been doing the rounds in the US since it first appeared in 1993.
World of Warcraft
I'm playing World of Warcraft
again. That's right, in the boredom that ensued after my site went down and then didn't come back up again for 24 hours and then went down again, I resubscribed to the dreaded thing (-$15 on the old credit card) and started a new character, a Night Elf Rogue. When all said and done, the game isn't bad, but it has some serious problems, which are all the more apparent to me after playing Guild Wars
so intensively (Guild Wars
was created primarily by ex-Blizzard employees, one of whom, Jeff Strain, was World of Warcraft
's original team lead).
First of all, the minimap is hopelessly ineffective. In Guild Wars
, enemies show up on the minimap as red dots. In WoW
? Nada. Zilch. Just your character (and I believe allies as well). Not very convenient. I also consider it a serious oversight that the map screen doesn't show the location of quests you need to complete. One of Guild Wars
' best features is that you always know exactly where and who to go to in order to complete a quest or receive your reward. In WoW
... well... the location to which you need to go to receive a reward shows up on the minimap when you're relatively nearby, but that's not exactly convenient.
Second, the combat system, and movement itself, are desperately slow. WoW
would be much more fun, I think, if they doubled or even tripled the pace. I also wish they had implemented the Guild Wars
idea of being able to get to the town or settlement you wish to visit instantaneously, simply by bringing up the map and double-clicking on it. That certainly took away the annoying grind of having to wander across miles of landscape that all looks exactly the same.
Oh, and a click-movement system (like in a strategy game) would go down a treat in WoW
. One of Guild Wars
' nicest touches is that, if you want, you can just click on an area of ground and watch your character run over to it, whereas in WoW
, you really do have to hold your character's hand the whole way, manoeuvring from one place to the next rather than letting the game engine handle the more mundane aspects of travel.
There are a lot of things WoW
has in its favour over Guild Wars
. The characters, both players and enemies, are infinitely more varied, the universe is more interesting, and the colour work and location design show more flare. But ultimately Guild Wars
is the more solid beast in my opinion. Yes, it has its share of flaws, but its fundamental mechanics work a hell of a lot better.
My DNS records still haven't been updated, by the looks of it, so I'm still unable to access this site through its proper address. Can anyone who is able to see it please add a comment to this post, so that I know whether or not anyone else is getting access to the site? (I receive an email whenever someone adds a comment.) Thanks.Update, 15:01:
Never mind, I'm up and running now.
DVD Soon down the pan
Sources: DVD Times
, The DVD Forums
I had a feeling something was going to happen sooner or later, and as a result I haven't ordered anything from them in months. A good thing too, it would seem, as the shit would appear to have hit the proverbial fan. Essentially, DVD Soon have fallen upon hard times, unable to source copies of DVDs that have been ordered (on a wide scale, not just the odd back-ordered copy of an out of print title) and unable to cough up the cash to refund customers. Instead, they have implemented a system whereby all orders have been cancelled in exchange for store credit (like anyone with half a brain would actually consider ordering from them after this debacle). However, only 25% of a new order can be paid by store credit, so in order for customers to recoup their lost cash, they would actually have to order goods worth four times what they originally paid.
Personally I have no outstanding orders with these brigands (thankfully), but I urge anyone who is being gypped by them to get on to their credit card companies post-haste. Truly a sorry state of affairs, this.
More from McKee
Hot of the press from Fangoria
is the news that Lucky McKee, the rascal responsible for May
, easily the best horror movie to come out of America in the last five years (at least in my opinion), has some very interesting projects in the pipeline. First of all, he will be contributing an episode to the Masters of Horror
series that the likes of John Carpenter and Dario Argento are also involved with. Entitled Sick Girl
, it features Angela Bettis (May) and Erin Brown (better known to the pervs of the world as Misty Mundae, star of several hilariously bad soft-core porn parody movies) and sounds like a real treat. His latest feature film, The Woods
is also due for release in September, and Roman
, a sort of unoffical companion piece to May
which sees him and Angela Bettis switching places behind and in front of the camera, which is currently in the post-production phase. McKee is definitely one of the most interesting horror movie directors of today and I personally can't wait to get my hands on these goodies.
Guild Wars - my favourite game in ages
The Guild Wars
continued on Wednesday night as I spent nearly two hours online, completing a particularly hair-raising mission - that's probably the longest sitting I've ever spent on a single game, and I'm sure it completely flies in the face of all these anti-epilepsy warnings you find in game manuals these days (not that I have epilepsy, or if I do, the seizures are so intense that I have no memory of them). I finally finished off my adventures in the scorched desert where I've spent most of my time, and have now found myself up a nice snowy mountain surrounded by goats.
This is probably my favourite game since Warcraft III
in 2003. It's so much fun, and unlike World of Warcraft
, which, to me, was just boring, Guild Wars
is immensely satisfying. All the little touches, from the feel of the combat to the sound effects, seems right. Additionally, the mission-based structure gives you definite goals to aim for, something that I found sadly lacking in WoW
, with its somewhat open-ended world.
Incidentally, it's amazing how much of a difference a couple of degrees in temperature I can make. Guild Wars
is easily the most CPU-intensive game I own, and on marginally hot days half an hour or so of playing tends to kick the CPU fan into overdrive. Yesterday, however, I happily spent nearly two hours in the game and the fan never rose above 2636 RPM (its usual "idle" speed is 2596 RPM)... and this was with the side of the case on, something I've been tending to avoid over the last month or so due to the heat. This is a perfect example of why I prefer cold weather. We also had some nice rain yesterday, which we haven't seen nearly enough of recently.
IllusionFXNet killed to bits
Welcome to the new and improved Whiggles.com, now hosted on Fuitadnet
On Thursday morning, I woke up to find that my web site had vanished, greeted only by a friendly little error message in Firefox, telling me that "whiggles.landofwhimsy.com could not be found". Siteuptime
is reporting that the domain is still active, so this is not simply the case of one of the silly little twats that run IllusionFXNet
forgetting to reboot the server after they were browsing for donkey porn and Netscape Navigator crashed the system. It seems far more probable that the actual data itself has disappeared, while the physical hardware remains operational. Good thing I backed up my data beforehand, and good thing Blogger.com stores the data required for my news items and various archives on its own server, or I'd be stapling the hairless scrotums of these nincompoops to treetrunks. Of course, I can't find out what's going on, because their forum
is also SNAFU'd. Interestingly, their main site is still active, meaning that gullible customers can still sign up to their broken service, so take from that what you will.
Anyway, it took a hell of a long time for Fuitadnet to get me set up - in fact, they didn't bother sending me my login details or finalizing my account until I emailed them to ask what was going on, so my first impression of them has been less than positive. Still, I'm going to wipe the slate clean and judge them based on the quality of their service now that it's up and running.Edit: since I wrote this, it has emerged that they in fact decided to move servers, changing the DNS records in the process. Thanks for the warning, fuckers.
If you're seeing this message, that means that your ISP's DNS records have been updated, so you are now being properly redirected to the new server at Fuitadnet
. If so, then you're considerably ahead of me as I'm typing this, since I can't currently access my own site. There are currently some teething issues, due mainly to the fact that Fuitadnet's FTP service is shockingly slow and unreliable for me, but hopefully we'll be able to get to the bottom of this before too long.
Sorry about yesterday's downtime. The situation was out of my hands and was the result of the idiot children that run IllusionFXNet. Yesterday was very much the final straw. More info soon.
This child is a problem!
The Problem Child Tantrum Pack
(R1 USA) arrived today. What fun! Two of the worst (in a good way) movies of all time, on one disc! Of course, both of them are in full frame rather than in their original widescreen aspect ratio, so I have no choice but to disqualify this release. Not to worry, though - I'm sure Criterion can be counted on to give these two modern masterpieces the full-scale special edition treatment...
I'm considering opening a new section to Whiggles.com, focusing on the phenomenon that I like to call the Schitty Movie
, which refers to the situation whereby a film is so bad that it becomes enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. Believe it or not, I have something of a love for such movies, and the phenomenon itself is quite compelling. It doesn't always work - for example, Alone in the Dark
is a notorious example of a film that's so bad it's just plain bad
rather than so bad it's good - but when it does, the results can be quite magical.
Review panel added
I've added a panel to the sidebar of the News page featuring my latest review.
Fire and Ice
I decided to cancel my order for Blue Underground's upcoming Limited Edition release of Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice
. Based on the review at DVD Maniacs
, and the artwork on display at Blue Underground's web site
, it doesn't look like my cup of tea at all.
Run MacOSX on your PC
Source: Wired News
Imagine if your next Mac cost you only $300, and ran faster than any G4 or G5 you've ever used.
They said it could never be done, but some crafty hacker's gone and done it. The above quote says it all: it's now possible to run MacOSX on your PC in an emulated form, and it runs faster than it does on its native Mac hardware to boot. Apple must seriously be wringing their hands right now, as it completely blows apart all their nonsense propaganda about Macs being more powerful than equivalent PCs, and
shows that it is possible to run the software without shelling out for the overpriced hardware.
Personally, I can think of no reason to actually run that horrid operating system at all, let alone go out of your way to make the thing work on a perfectly good PC, but whatever floats your boat, I guess, and I must say that I find this situation pretty damn funny. It's like when Nvidia's infamous "Dawn" demo, which their speilbots proclaimed was too intensive for anything other than an Nvidia video card to handle, was hacked and ended up running better on ATI-based cards... only about ten times more extreme.
FAQ question added
I've added a new question to the FAQ
- Is it true that you've been quoted on DVD covers?
To date, quotes from reviews I've written have appeared on two DVD covers: the UK release of The Stendhal Syndrome by Arrow Films and the US release of The Card Player by Anchor Bay. My actual name wasn't given, just "DVD Times". In both cases, I wasn't actually reviewing the discs in question but rather other, earlier releases. I'm not very happy about my review being used to sell the UK version of The Stendhal Syndrome, because that particular release is of a very poor standard. In the case of The Card Player, the quote in question was taken out of context, to the extent that it was made to look like my praise of one set-piece scene was actually proclaiming the entire film to be some sort of tremendous tour de force. Still, it seems kind of neat to see words I wrote on the covers of DVDs.
The Card Player
Anchor Bay's release of The Card Player had the chance to be the best version of the lot, but sadly it disappoints on the visual front. While viewers with standard interlaced TVs will have little to complain about, those with progressive scan equipment are advised to go for the Czech release instead, unless they are restricted to Region 1 territory or absolutely must see the extras.
A world-exclusive special! Appearing at Whiggles.com before anywhere else in the world, I've reviewed
the upcoming Region 1 US DVD of Dario Argento's The Card Player
, which provides bountiful extras but is a let-down in terms of image quality.
(R0 USA) and The Card Player
(R1 USA) arrived this morning.
Right now I'm listening to the Alan Jones commentary on The Card Player
, which is pretty good, although at times he does lapse into just describing what's happening. He gives a lot of great detail on the actors and the circumstances surrounding the making of the film, though, so people who want to learn more about the film are definitely going to want to pick up a copy of this release.
However, I am sad to report that the transfer is interlaced. It doesn't look like a standards conversion to me - in particular because the music sounds as if it's running at its correct speed rather than sped up 4% like PAL transfers - but there is quite a lot of visible ghosting and shimmering on on the various window blinds in the police station. This is really disappointing in my opinion, given Anchor Bay's good track record. I'm now concerned that the upcoming Trauma
release will be the same.
Basically, if you just want to see the film with the best quality possible, get the Czech release. If you're interested in getting some good background on the film, get this one. It's cheap enough that, if you like it enough, it's probably not unreasonable to get both.
PS. I just noticed that I'm quoted on the back cover of this release, although they've taken what I said out of context, making it look like I was describing the entire film as "Argento outdoes himself", when in fact I was only referring to the scene in Anna's apartment when she is menaced by the killer.
I've been playing Guild Wars
again over the last couple of days, and have been getting into it a lot more than I did last time round. Most importantly, I found a town where I could hire computer controlled party members, which means that the various monsters can actually now be defeated, without the hassle of having to play with actual people. In the picture opposite you can see my trusty Ranger/Elementalist, a stalwart young lady by the name of Speedly Thunderbolt, and her intrepid companions, a Fighter, a Mage and a Healer. There we are, going about our business dashing across the charred landscape, looking for maidens to save and demons to slay...
...and then I walk down a dead end, with my loyal followers close behind. Unlike World of Warcraft
and Diablo II
, you can't just walk through party members: they have to actually move out of the way. Of course, try telling that to a computer-controlled character. My only option is to quit and start the mission all over again. There are times when even the best games (and I am beginning to believe that this is one - way more fun than World of Warcraft
) can try anyone's patience.
Big Brother - c'est fini
Well, it finally ended, and for the first time since the show started six years ago, I didn't bother watching the finale. I just didn't give a rat's ass, and as luck would have it, the winner turned out to be the most boring winner in the show's history - a perfect example of the celebration of mediocrity. In the past, winners have always had at least one identifiable character trait, even if it wasn't a particularly pleasant one, or at the very least an intriguing quirk that made them different from the other contestants, even superficially, but this year's winner, Anthony the 70s dancer, was so jaw-droppingly bland that I can only assume he made it through to the final by keeping his head down and not getting noticed, thereby ensuring that he won not because people liked him, but because everyone else was so hated.
Come on, guys. This year could have been so good if it had been played properly. It had arguably the most colourful set of characters ever - the crazy witch, the black gay Tory, the "bi-gay" Muslim cross-dresser, hell, I'll even give the rapper from "da Ghetto" points for entertainment. Alas, the gullible British public showed again and again that they would rather keep in the arseholes and the non-entities than the interesting ones. Right at the start, I warned that if Craig, the self-loathing, whining, backstabbing, homophobic gay man was not disposed of in the first week, when the public had a chance to vote him out, he would be there till the end. And who was right? Captain Whiggles of the HMS Whimsy, of course! The dimwitted voters elected to boot out the witch instead, and the self-important little brat with the lilting, nasal voice and what looked like a dead rat on his head remained until the middle of the final week, ending up in fifth place. (I didn't watch anything beyond the third week, I'm just going by what Digital Spy
Fuck Big Brother. Fuck reality TV. I've had it with this shit. I'm not going to watch any more of this crap.
Ultimately, it's hard to recommend this film to anybody, since it has nothing particularly insightful to reveal to the viewer, whether or not they have experienced depression or known a sufferer. When films are delayed for as long as this, it's all too easy to become convinced that what is being held back is some sort of misunderstood gem or a groundbreaking masterpiece that has given the studio cold feet, but in this case the attention simply is not deserved. As such, Prozac Nation is perhaps worth seeing for Christina Ricci's impressive and dedicated performance, but it fails to entertain or be emotionally satisfying.
Delayed for four years, Erik Skjoldbjærg's Prozac Nation
has finally made it to DVD. Sadly, Christina Ricci's ambitious and powerful performance is one of the few bright spots in this otherwise unsatisfying and self-occupied plod through depression. Buena Vista's R1 DVD is reasonable on the audio-visual front but is essentially bare-bones.
Review at DVD Times
A trip into town and an extra-large DVD debacle
Today's whimsy started off with the arrival of review discs of the new extended edition of Gladiator
(R2 UK). I'm personally not as wild about the film as some people are (I think it's a pretty good movie, but far from Ridley Scott's best work), but I'm curious to see what this new cut adds, especially given Ridley Scott's repeated assertions that the director's cut is the version released in cinemas. At the very least I've got a whole load of extras to work through in this 3-disc set.
I then went into ye merrie olde Glasgow towne to have lunch with some of my good friends from university. Whilst there, I got to hear about alcohol-induced vomiting, misunderstandings in public toilets, the virtues of childbirth (no thank ye), and the jaw-dropping thick-headedness of a certain mutual acquaintance who was (thankfully) absent from the gathering. Yes, all in all, I had an entertaining day out. I also took the opportunity to partake of Virgin Megastore's "3 for £20" deal and pick up the R2 UK DVD releases of Gangs of New York
(eBay beckons for the R1), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
and Bubba Ho-Tep
Some miscellaneous Dario Argento news for you today:Upcoming US "Bird" DVD
- Source: Dark Discussion
. Bloody Disgusting
has posted a news item on the upcoming The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
special edition from Blue Underground, which should put to rest the fears that the transfer, supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, would be cropped down to 2:1 as he often insists - it will be presented in its full 2.35:1 glory. Not sure about the cover art, though, which looks pretty lazy.Jenifer
- Source: Dark Discussion
. Asia Argento says that Jenifer
, Argento's entry into Anchor Bay's "Masters of Horror" series, which will appear on Showtime in time for Halloween, is the best work her father has done in ages. I can't wait to see it. At the very least it should be distinctly different from his previous work.The Third Mother
- Source: Dark Discussion
. The Third Mother
is back on! According to an interview with Corriere Della Sera
, he's off to northern Europe to work on it. Not sure whether that means he's writing it or if he's actually moving on to location scouts, etc., but it's great that he's still planning on doing it - something that wasn't looking too likely recently.
Director's Cut arrived this morning.
I've not watched much of it yet, beyond flicking through a few scenes, but I can see that this is a standards conversion or, at the very least, interlaced. Why, EDKO, why? Surely it's not that difficult to obtain progressive scan masters? People actually do care about this sort of thing, you know. In this day and age, there's absolutely no excuse for it. Looks like I'll be hanging on to my Japanese DVD of the theatrical cut after all.
A perfect example of why I'm leaving IllusionFXNet
I really don't think a caption is necessary.
Well, that's it. I've had enough of you stupid children and your crappy servers that go up and down like yo-yos. I've now signed up with Fuitadnet
, the same people that Lyris
is with. The transfer should be reasonably smooth, since the domain name will remain the same and won't redirect to the new server until all the data is in place at its new location. So, IllusionFXNet
, goodnight and fuck off.
Occhi di Cristallo
Occhi di Cristallo is an engaging piece of work that is both well shot and acted. It's great to see another Italian director attempt a modern-day giallo, and to be honest, Puglielli's effort is actually a couple of steps above even the mighty Argento's recent output. To me, this proves that, contrary to popular belief, the genre is not dead at all and is simply in hibernation, waiting for a new visionary to lead it into the modern era. Judging by Occhi di Cristallo, Puglielli could be the man for the job.
The giallo genre is alive and well with Occhi di Cristallo
, a masterful effort from Eros Puglielli that updates the classic 70s framework for the 21st century. 01 Distribution's R2 Italian DVD gives the film a decent audio-visual presentation but sadly lacks English language options.
Review at DVD Times
Hero in HD
Browsing through DVD Profiler last night, I discovered that, in Italy, a DVD has been released featuring Hero
in high definition Windows Media 9 format for playback on PCs (see DVDLand.it
for more details). Seems the Italian distributors have decided to jump the gun and start releasing HD content before the launch of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD later in the year (although the fact that it can only be played back on a PC is something of a limiter) - other titles, including Monster
, Profondo Rosso
and Exorcist: The Beginning
, among others, have also been released or will be released in the near future. I was all for picking up a copy of Hero
, but then I discovered via DVD Profiler that the only audio option offered is Italian, with no subtitles. Hero was shot in Mandarin, so that's not much use. I'm guessing that this was either because of limitations with the WM9 format (I'm guessing it doesn't allow multiple audio streams to be attached to the same file), or because of regional copyright restrictions, or both. Either way, it's a shame. I wish some of the companies in other countries would follow the Italian distributors' initiative and do something similar, since I'd love to be able to get a sneak peek at what's to come with the next generation formats beyond 60-second trailers and footage of dolphins swimming.
New "Daughters" DVD
Sources: Dark Discussion
, 10K Bullets Forum
Koch Media in Germany have released a new DVD of Massimo Dallamano's What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
(his unofficial follow-up to the superb What Have You Done to Solange?
). I currently have the disappointing and long out of print UK release from Salvation/Redemption Films, and these screenshots
of the German release, under the title of Der Tod Trägt Schwarzes Leder
, show just what an improvement it is when compared to the washed-out, non-anamorphic, artefact-ridden British version. Once Xploited
gets copies of this in stock I'll definitely be placing an order.
DVD Pacific first across the line
are playing the early shipping game and have mailed off my copy of Anchor Bay's US release of The Card Player
too, which was also part of my order). I can't wait to get my hands on this, primarily to hear the Alan Jones audio commentary.
Hey, this just occurred to me: with not a single other review of the DVD having materialized (did Anchor Bay forget to send out review copies or something?), perhaps we can have ourselves a Whiggles.com exclusive!
(R1 USA) arrived this morning. So far, it's not very good, but I'll refrain from passing judgement on it until I've seen it through.Update, 16:26:
It didn't improve. Christina Ricci's performance is the best thing about this laboured piece of humdrum which is nothing like as insightful as it would like to think it is.
Hero director's cut
Source: DVD Answers
Looks like a decent version of the extended cut of Zhang Yimou's Hero
has finally arrived, courtesy of EDKO in Hong Kong. Take a gander at this comparison
of the new release versus the shameful Chinese edition from Guang Dong. I'll probably pick this up at some point - a beautiful movie and one that I would happily sit through again in a longer incarnation.Update, 22:17:
Just ordered it - £8.99 at CDWow
I pre-ordered the upcoming R0 Italian version of Mario Bava's Lisa e il Diavolo/La Casa dell'Esorcismo
(Lisa and the Devil/The House of Exorcism
) from DVDLand.it
. Due out on August 22nd, this 2-disc set contains both the Italian and American cuts of the film (corresponding to the two different titles respectively), much like the now out-of-print US release by Image. I'd meant to buy the American release, but when it disappeared I never got round to tracking down a copy. Besides, according to this review
at DVD Maniacs, the new Italian version looks better.
I decided to shell out the $20 for Fate
after all. I figured "why not?" - it's not exactly a fortune and it's so rare that I come across a new game I actually want to play that I might as well indulge myself while I'm on my holidays. This game is hardly going to set anyone's world on fire, but it's enjoyable enough in small doses (despite the heavy Diablo II
influence, it doesn't carry over that game's infuriating save system, so you don't have to worry about completing a quest or reaching the next waypoint before quitting) and has a level of innocence to it that's all too uncommon in RPGs.
PowerDVD adware nightmare
At the moment, when I go into the options panel in PowerDVD, I'm getting Amazon.com ads, asking me to purchase The Simpsons Season 6
. At what point was this ever appropriate for software that has actually been paid for? Okay, so I didn't pay for it, I got a free review copy, but the point remains that what I am using is a completely legitimate retail version, not some shareware pap.
I've been playing the demo for a curious little game called Fate
. Essentially, this is Diablo
from a more childlike perspective. You control a kid character and, along with your trusty dog or cat, you venture into a labyrinthine dungeon. The interface and game mechanics are almost identical to those of Diablo
, and while I doubt I would want to fork out the $20 required for the full version, the demo
lets you play three levels and gives a taster of what's in store.
That said, the US dollar ain't worth buttons at the moment (cheers, George!), so I doubt it would leave too much of a hole in my savings. I still have a large amount of money that my dad gave my after I graduated (and, for once in my life, I didn't rush to spend it!), so I might consider it. We'll see.
Ren & Stimpy reviews added
During today's downtime (which looks set to continue at frequent interviews judging by the server's behaviour today), I finally got off my duffer and did some actual writing. I've now reviewed all of the Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon
episodes right here at Whiggles.com. Head over to the Cartoons
section and take a gander, or follow these direct links:
Enjoy them before the site goes down again!
Captain Whiggles is watching you
The following is a message for the little boys that run IllusionFXNet
, the server on which I'm hosted: I'm watching you. If you don't step up your act, I will certainly be leaving for pastures new. I've now implemented a site monitoring service courtesy of SiteUpTime.com
, which will ping the site every half-hour to make sure that it's online. So come on, children, surprise me: give my a service actually worth my shiny pennies.
(PS. The site went down again after I signed up to SiteUpTime at 4pm and came back over an hour later.)
Seems we had a few hours of downtime chez
Whiggles.com this morning. No doubt one of the pre-pubescent little gnats that runs the server my crap is hosted on accidentally unplugged his computer before going to beddy-byes last night. At the moment I'm considering whether or not to stay with them when the Landofwhimsy.com subscription is up for renewal in December.
It has come to my attention that the Assassin class in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
is grossly imbalanced. Never before have I been able to breeze through the game with so little effort. I decided to concentrate on investing my skill points into Traps and, thanks to the synergies system introduced in one of the more recent patches, whereby sinking points into one skill boosts the abilities of other similar skills, I'm doing ridiculous amounts of damage very quickly and for relatively little mana. Add to that the Shadow Master ability, which allows you to summon another Assassin that has even better stats than yourself, as well as access to the full array of abilities, and you have in your hands a lean, mean killing machine. Currently I've just started on Act II of Nightmare difficulty and, at character level 49, am ploughing through hordes of enemies within seconds. This just illustrates how weak melee fighters are and how powerful ranged spellcasters are - and I get the impression that, right now, the Traps Assassin is the most powerful of the bunch.
New DVD image comparison
I've added a new DVD image comparison, looking at the R1 USA and R2 UK releases of Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York
. Both releases are very disappointing, although the UK disc is slightly better.
I pre-ordered Blue Underground's upcoming R0 USA limited edition release of Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice
. I've never seen the film, but I'm curious about it, and am hoping Blue Underground gives it decent treatment. Bakshi seems to be a somewhat frustrating artist. While I wasn't keen on Wizards
at all, his vision of The Lord of the Rings
is a combination of wonderful moments and absolute crap. In that sense, it's significantly more interesting than Peter Jackson's bland interpretation, but perhaps less satisfying overall. Fire and Ice
seems to be his take on the fantasy action sub-genre, so it should be interesting to say the least.
Alias: Season 3
Alias is a show that is never going to stand up to close scrutiny. It is entertainment for the masses, and for all its attempts to make the audience invest emotionally in its characters, it is still a complete work of fantasy and one that is difficult to take seriously. Still, as far as popcorn entertainment goes, Alias is very satisfying and incredibly addictive. It is the sort of show where it is possible to watch a dozen episodes in one go and still be ready for more, which in my opinion is the best way to experience it. Thankfully, now that Season 3 is available on DVD without the disruptions of adverts and having to wait till next week to see whether or not Sydney will escape from almost certain death (gee, what do you think?), viewers can do just that.
Sydney Bristow's adventures continue in Alias: The Complete Third Season
, which sees the intrepid spy on a quest to discover how she came to lose two years of her life. Buena Vista's recent R2 UK release is a lavish affair, with excellent image quality and some interesting extras, spread across six discs.
Review at DVD Times
Anchor Bay to release Hitchcock
Source: IMDB reference
Anchor Bay will be releasing Dario Argento's Do You Like Hitchcock?
on DVD in the US at some point next year. This is great news - I was beginning to wonder if a DVD release was actually going to come about, given that it was made for Italian TV.
Gangs of New York
(R1 USA) and American Pyscho
(R1 USA) arrived this morning.
I put in Gangs of New York
and, frankly, I'm appalled. Disney have really scored a hat trick this time: the transfer is even worse than the EIV one, and that's saying something. Giant halos, extremely heavy noise reduction, completely crushed details, people's faces look like they've melted... the is the sort of definition I would expect from a frigging VHS, not a DVD (okay, so I'm exaggerating, but not by much). I have a feeling I'll be selling this on as soon as possible. Perhaps one of the mainland European releases would give better results. This
review of the French 4-disc release, for example, gives the transfer a rating of 8/10. Then again, we all know that the majority of reviewers can't be trusted, especially when you consider that the following quotes refer to the hideous US release:
The picture looks and sounds fantastic [...] beyond some very minor edge enhancement.
- Home Theater Forum
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer here is striking, even if it isn't quite as good as it should be. Most surprising is that the source material is not in pristine shape. I noticed quite a bit of dirt and grime on the print in a number of instances. Otherwise, this is a very good transfer in almost all other respects. Colors are marvelous, with an eye-popping richness and very clean reproduction. Blacks and contrast are excellent, resulting in often extraordinary detail - shadow delineation is well above average and the transfer often has a very three-dimensional appearance. Given the high bitrate, compression artifacts aren't a problem and I noticed no real edge enhancement.
- DVD File
The video presentation for Gangs of New York is simply superb [...] I saw no evidence of artifacting or any edge enhancement at all. In fact, I even went back and re-watched some of the darker scenes so that I could look for anything that might be considered any type of flaw.
- DVD "Authority"
Sometimes I just feel like giving up. Look, guys, I'm sorry, but the phrases "fantastic", "striking" and "extraordinary detail" may apply to some discs
, but they sure as hell don't apply to this
Image acquires Home Vision
Source: 10K Bullets Forum
Image Entertainment has acquired Home Vision Entertainment, in the process becoming the distributor for all current and future titles in the Criterion Collection. Who knows? Maybe this could mean lower prices for these tempting yet expensive treasures. There are a lot of Criterions that I'm quite interested in, but at their usual retail prices I don't feel that blind buys are really a good idea.
I ordered a double pack containing the terrible movies Problem Child
and Problem Child 2
(R1 USA) last night. I enjoy these pieces of crap so shut up.
I also ordered Prozac Nation
(R1 USA), which I feel less guilty about. I was going to get a review copy of this, but it couldn't be sourced from anywhere, so I just decided to get it myself.
Blue Underground giallo announcements
Source: 10K Bullets Forum
Blue Underground has finally announced the titles and release dates of some of its upcoming giallo releases. Three films will be released on October 25 2005: Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye
(Antonio Margheriti), Strip Nude For Your Killer
(Andrea Bianchi) and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
(Dario Argento). I will, of course, be buying all three. The most exciting news pertains to the latter, where it is stated that this new release contains "recently discovered never-before-seen footage of explicit violence". I'd always assumed that the currently available US and Italian DVDs of this film were completely uncut, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing an unexpurgated version.
My spies inform me that the site got a record number of 133 hits
yesterday. Heavens above! I can't believe that many people actually care about what I have to say. I haven't had figures this good since last year, when I provided screen captures and a summary of the infamous fight that broke out inside the Big Brother house.* Switching to the Blogger format seems to have been a good move, as many of my visitor seem to be arriving from Google - something that rarely, if ever, happened when I was using Movable Type.
* I haven't watched that putrid show, by the way, since Sam was evicted to a crowd of jeering boos and fat fishwives throwing piss. Frankly I don't miss it. I've taken a quick peek at the latest "news" on Digital Spy
every now and then, and although it would seem that I lost the opportunity to see Maxwell the racist chav being utterly destroyed in his post-eviction interview, I can honestly say that I don't feel that my quality of life would be any better if I was still watching it.
Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh
(R0 Italy) arrived this morning. Immediately, I popped it into my computer, and unsurprisingly the image quality is vastly improved over the US standards-converted release. I set about ripping the two releases so I could create my own version using the audio from the US release and the video from the Italian one (the Italian version doesn't have any English audio options or subtitles), but unfortunately came up against a brick wall when I discovered that the US version was 13 seconds longer. Where these extraneous seconds come from is anyone's guess, so I suppose I'm going to have to play the two versions side by side and see when they go out of sync. It's always possible that the two versions are simply running at slightly different speeds, in which case it would simply be a case of electronically speeding the English audio up to compensate, but experience has taught me that the solutions to these problems are never straightforward.
Diablo II v1.11 released
Blizzard has released patch v1.11 for the venerable Diablo II
. Changes include the addition of new Runewords, changes to hirelings, and some hidden goodies that seem to involve the various Act Bosses. Connect to Battle.net to download, or go here
for the release notes.
On a side note, Blizzard have seen fit to use this new patch as a distraction while they surreptitiously announced
that what is left of the game's developer, Blizzard North, has been uprooted from the Northern California hide-out and relocated to their Southern California headquarters. For a while now I've been suspecting that Blizzard has been plotting to "kill off" Blizzard North, which to some extent has existed as a separate entity. After most of their main crew left to form Flagship Studios
, they ended up denuded of their president and vice presidents, none of whom were replaced. Now, my best guess is that Blizzard North as an entity will officially cease to exist. A shame.
John K interview
In case anyone's wondering, the John K interview is still coming. Lyris conducted part of it yesterday via AIM, but had to cut it short because John had other commitments. The rest of the piece, which is actually closer to a chat than a formal interview, should be done soon, and I look forward to unveiling it at DVD Times. Hopefully you'll enjoy it: so far it's a great read, very informative and extremely funny.
Occhi di Cristallo
(R2 Italy) and The Machinist
(R0 UK) arrived this morning.
Despite being in Italian without any English subtitles, I thoroughly enjoyed Eros Puglielli's Occhi di Cristallo
. In fact, this could be the best giallo since Opera
. It's great to see another Italian director attempt a modern-day giallo, and to be honest, Puglielli's effort is actually a couple of steps above even Argento's recent output. To me, this proves that, contrary to popular belief, the genre is not dead at all and is simply in hibernation, waiting for a new visionary to lead it into the modern era. Judging by Occhi di Cristallo
, Puglielli could be the man for the job. Look for a full review of it soon.
PS. I believe it gets a UK release later this year, with English subs.