Royale with cheese
My copy of the Blu-ray release of Casino Royale arrived this morning from Deep Discount (formerly Deep Discount DVD). Given that this looks set to be the fastest-selling high definition title so far (as of writing, it’s number 9 on the DVD chart at Amazon.com - an incredible number for a niche product), it’s the sort of release that can, in many ways, make or break a format’s reputation (I’m sure it will be many customers’ first ever Blu-ray title, with a number of people even buying into the format especially to see it).
Luckily (or unluckily, if you have a vested interest in Blu-ray’s failure), it has been granted a stunning-looking transfer. Actually, I’m tempted to call it the best I’ve ever seen. Some rather puzzling reviews have predictably materialised, criticising the picture for a handful of supposed defects, ranging from a lack of “realistic skin textures”, to “motion-drag and aliasing” to, “too much digital noise reduction” being applied, to, in the most general case, a statement by one reviewer that he “was expecting just a bit more”. These reviews are wrong. Casino Royale is astounding more or less from start to finish. It’s highly detailed, contrasty and film-like, with no visible compression artefacts: Sony have finally ditched the aged MPEG2 codec in favour of AVC, and the result is their first 10/10 title that I’ve seen. Sony’s European division have made a wise choice in dishing out copies of this title to early Playstation 3 adopters.
Lyris has written some more pleasing words about this disc, and highlighted some of the film’s most hilarious examples of product placement.
I also received a copy of The Devil’s Rejects - a gift from Gary Tooze of the excellent comparison site DVD Beaver for some HD DVD screen captures I supplied for him from Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood. It’s not as good-looking as Casino Royale, but it put a smile on my face all the same. It’s interesting, given the false belief, held by certain individuals, that a film has to actually be shot in HD to look good on an HD disc (a perfect example of the sort of misinformation that is likely to be putting a lot of people off adopting either format), that 16mm material seems to shine so much in high definition, with both this and the Moroccan segments of Babel looking particularly luscious. (Now I really hope Universal UK gives Thirteen a whirl on HD DVD - or Fox on Blu-ray if they promise to tame the rampant DVNR plaguing the DVD release.) Unfortunately, The Devil’s Rejects is an MPEG2 title on a single layer BD25 disc, so there are some noticeable compression artefacts (and a dearth of extras in comparison with the 2-disc DVD), but it’s an impressive presentation all the same - a high 8/10 on my scale.