The return of Captain Whiggles
I’m back, and I’m a whole day older. I have now walked this blighted earth for 24 wholes years and a day (give or take a couple of hours), although, believe it or not, I don’t feel a whole lot different. Actually, since I turned 18 and could legally do pretty much anything I might want to do, my actual age has ceased to be much of a concern for me, to the extent that, when people ask me how old I am, I often actually have to stop and think about it.
Anyway, I had a pretty good day, albeit with a couple of minor monkey-wrenches thrown in. I had a bunch of parcels waiting for me when I got up yesterday morning:
The big box at the back is, as you can probably gather, the Lego Café Corner set I ordered a couple of weeks back. I finally finished putting it together this morning, and, while I can’t exactly claim it to have been a challenge, it took me a decent enough amount of time, and the level of detail present in the finished building is commendably higher than what you get in most of the sets aimed at a younger audience. Now, if only Lego would do something featuring a similar level of detail for a castle or a pirate ship…
In front of the Lego box, from left to right, we have: The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season and The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, Black Snake Moan on HD DVD, and Crank on Blu-ray. And yes, that hideous Homer head for The Simpsons’ sixth season really is as bad as everyone says. The plastic outer “cover” was dented out of shape when it arrived (unavoidable, given its flimsy construction, and I don’t hold DVD Pacific, the US Postal Service, Royal Mail or anyone else responsible for this - the blame lies solely with 20th Century Fox), and the tray housing the four discs that resides inside the cover is a pain, filled with bits of paper (advertisements, episode booklet) that fall out as soon as you open it. It’s very frustrating that the standard cardboard box was never released to buy in the US, as it was elsewhere, because ordering the replacement is, for someone without a North American postal address, a bit of a challenge. By the way, I’ve taken a look at some of the episodes from both Seasons 6 and 7, and, while there are still some visible DVNR artefacts, they are nothing like as bad as the ones affecting the PAL version.
Me and Lyris also watched Crank last night. First, the bad news: the film looks like ass. It was shot in 1080p, so ideally this should have been a pixel-to-pixel reproduction of the source materials (barring compression, of course). Unfortunately, someone took it upon themselves to add a tonne of edge enhancement, making the picture look harsh and ugly. Strangely enough, the edge enhancement is is inconsistent, with some scenes (basically those in which the protagonist doesn’t appear) being less affected, and the two of us both came to the conclusion that the filmmakers intentionally decide to over-sharpen the image as a stylistic choice, presumably to make it appear “harsh” and “raw”. Whoever is to blame, though, they should be severely chastised for their decision.
Luckily, it’s an enjoyable film. I hesitate to call it “good”, because, to be honest, it was pretty much a complete load of garbage, but it continually kept us entertained, and was, on several occasions, laugh out loud hilarious. Jason Statham’s hard man shtick gets a little old after a while (I’m still not sure why they got a Brit to play this part), but the characters surrounding him help keep him in check, and Amy Smart plays the greatest blonde ditz I’ve seen in a film since Anna Faris in Lost in Translation: “Don’t talk to him like that! My boyfriend kills people!” Oddly enough, the most similar film I can think of to this is not Speed, as most people seem to suggest, but Run Lola Run. Obviously, it’s less high-brow, but it has the same sort of energy and the same basic plot - if “person runs around the city for 90 minutes” counts as a plot.
Oh, and Black Snake Moan has a really impressive transfer, at least judging by the brief glance I had at the first couple of scenes. Paramount has really come a long way in the last few months.
Anyway, I also went to Braehead Shopping Centre for lunch and shopping. Luckily, I didn’t see any shifty types looking to ram burning vehicles into buildings (Braehead is just down the road from Glasgow Airport), so I was able to make my purchases in peace. I actually ended up buying a hell of a lot more than I intended, not least an Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on. You may remember that I bought one earlier this year and ended up selling it on to a friend, because it didn’t meet my needs. Luckily, the situation has now changed. For one thing, Lyris now has an Xbox 360, so we both decided that this would be the perfect moment to dispose of our large, clunky Toshiba HD-A1 player and replace it was something faster and less space-hungry. In addition, HD decryption software has progressed considerably in the last six months, which makes it much easier now to rip discs to my hard drive and take screen captures for review purposes (the add-on connects to either the Xbox 360 or a PC via USB, so it only takes a couple of seconds to plug it into the required device).
I also picked up two HD DVDs and one Blu-ray disc, all of them blind buys: La Haine, Syriana and Layer Cake. I know next to nothing about any of them, but it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, the goons at HMV not only forgot to take the security tabs out of La Haine and Layer Cake, meaning I couldn’t actually open them to get the discs out (most store-bought UK DVD and high definition cases feature a plastic tab which seals it shut and can only be removed using a special machine in the store), the case for La Haine was also quite badly smashed (okay, so it’s partially my fault for not noticing until I got home). Luckily, my dad was able to run me back in to get the tabs removed and the case for La Haine replaced.
I’m not done yet, though! I also bought the soundtracks to Serenity and Cars, and picked up the games Empire Earth II and Quake 4 in a “2 for £15” deal at GAME.
So yeah, all in all a good day was had, although my wallet is no longer speaking to me.