November 2007

 
 

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DVDs I bought or received in the month of November

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • A Clockwork Orange (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Eyes Wide Shut (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Fly (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Full Metal Jacket [remastered edition] (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Mario Bava Collection Volume 2 (R1 USA, DVD)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (R0 UK, HD DVD)
  • Peep Show: Series 4 (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Ratatouille (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • The Shining (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Soldier of Orange (R0 UK, DVD)
  • The Stendhal Syndrome: Special Edition (R0 USA, DVD)
  • Tokyo Godfathers (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Les Triplettes de Belleville (R0 France, HD DVD)

A good month for high definition, this, and another expensive one too.

 
Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007 at 10:19 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | TV
 

Playing the game of integrity

Games

Remember what I said the other day about Gamespot’s reviews being “almost always the most reliable and judicious of the lot”? Well, forget I ever said it. Nothing can be considered 100% conclusive at the moment, but a rather nasty picture of this organisation is beginning to develop, stemming from the revelation that editorial director Jeff Gerstmann, a veteran of the company of more than a decade, was fired without notice, the dismissal coincidentally (or not) coinciding with games publisher Eidos kicking up a stink about having shelled out to Gamespot for them to advertise their new game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, only for Gerstmann to award it a lukewarm score of 6 out of 10.

Now, before jumping to any conclusions, it should be pointed out that Gerstmann has been a rather controversial figure for a while. He is well known for laying into games he doesn’t like mercilessly, particularly in his video reviews, and many people feel that his tone is overly condescending and antagonistic. It seems a little far-fetched to imagine that Gamespot would dismiss a high-ranking and long-term employee simply because one of the site’s sponsors didn’t like one of his reviews, so a more likely explanation is that this was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Neither Gamespot nor Gerstmann seem to be inclined to clarify the specifics of the firing, but if you add to this the unexplained removal of Gerstmann’s video review of the game from the site (see it in all its glory at YouTube), it all starts to look most suspicious.

If the rumours are true and Gerstmann truly did get the boot because Eidos paid for a glowing review and, when they didn’t get it, decided they wanted their money back, then it’s a sad day indeed for gaming journalism. It’s no secret that many of the major movie publications are deep in the pockets of the Hollywood studios, but, given that gaming was, until recently, a comparatively niche medium, many readers put considerably more faith in the principles of sites like Gamespot than, oh, say, Empire. Certainly, Gamespot, who proudly proclaim that “our commitment to our readers is to provide them with unflinchingly honest and thorough appraisals of games”, have a great deal of explaining to do.

 
Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007 at 9:57 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Games | Web
 

I’ve run out of Pan puns

Another day, another HD gallery. This one is for Optimum’s recent UK HD DVD release of Pan’s Labyrinth, a film which looks decent but falls short of brilliance. As I said in my review:

It’s a good transfer, but one with some noticeable flaws, most noticeably a strange “eroded” appearance that appears to be the result of attempting to suck out the film grain. As a result, textures tend to look a bit waxy and “cut-out”, particularly faces, while a lot of the fine detail has been removed from the foliage in the scenes taking place in the woodland. It’s a strange effect, as it means there is a superficial sense of crispness, but not the sort of detail you would expect from an image so sharp.

Pan’s Labyrinth
(Optimum, UK, VC-1)

Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth Pan's Labyrinth

 
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 9:41 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

The emperor’s new clothes

Games

Well, this is a disappointment. Empire Earth III, a real time strategy game that I have been looking forward to for a while (see my initial post on the subject here), appears to be a bit of a dud.

Actually, that’s putting it somewhat likely. So far, it has received a universal drubbing from the critics, who have labelled it sloppy and overly simplistic. Gamespot, whose reviews are almost always the most reliable and judicious of the lot, has given it a rating of 3.5 out of 10 and declared that it has been “dumbed down to the point of irrelevance”, while the other major sites don’t appear to be any more positive. I really can’t disagree with them: I’ve got the demo on my hard drive and have booted it up a handful of times, but each time have found myself exiting and telling myself “It’s okay, it’s just an unfinished demo” or “It’ll get better in later levels.” Looks like it doesn’t.

Empire Earth III

This is a real shame because, based on the early screenshots and previews, I thought it showed a lot of promise. Empire Earth II, although fun, was unwieldy in its complexity, and the prospect of a more streamlined game based around a similar concept sounded like it could only be a good thing. I guess we should be careful what we wish for, as it seems that Empire Earth III has been sanded down so much that it has lost any semblance of form or character. Consider this one most definitely scored off my Christmas wish list.

 
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 6:26 PM
Categories: Games | Web
 

HD DVD review: Pan’s Labyrinth

HD DVD
Optimum’s HD DVD release of Pan’s Labyrinth is a good one, and one which improves substantially on all current DVD releases in terms of image quality. It does have its shortcomings, however, particularly with regard to the problem of audio synchronisation, and looks set to be superseded by New Line’s substantially meatier US release, due out towards the end of the year. If you want your HD fairytale fix now, however, you could do a lot worse than picking up this release.

I’ve reviewed the recent HD DVD of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, released in the UK by Optimum on a feature-packed disc.

 
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 6:07 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews
 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Episode 8: No Future For You, Part Three

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by Georges Jeanty

I suspect this is a failing on the part of Season 7 rather than Season 8, but I really don’t get why Buffy and Faith are at loggerheads once again, after getting on pretty well during the final episodes of the television series. Don’t get me wrong, I was as baffled as anyone by the fact that Buffy and her friends so readily forgave Faith for trying to, y’know, murder them, but even so, given that the writers decided to go down that route, brushing all of Faith’s past indiscretions down the carpet, they should really have carried this through into the comic book realm instead of doing what strikes me as a massive retcon. Now, Buffy, who happily fought alongside Faith in Chosen, comes across her once again and immediately assumes that Faith plans on killing her.

To be fair, Faith is, at that present moment, in the company of one Lady Genevieve Savidge, who most certainly does plan on killing her, but even so, it seems like a bit of a leap in logic. Genevieve, by the way, has some absolutely delicious dialogue (most of it relating to her bored observation that most of her tutors have been “filthy paedos” - Vaughan has done a pretty effective job of capturing the lingo and obsessions of the inhabitants of the British Isles), but it wasn’t enough to distract me from the problematic nature of the Faith/Buffy relationship. I’m also growing increasingly weary of the use of generic fantasy archetypes in these comics: in The Chain we had fairies, whereas, in this episode, we have a little hobgoblin man assisting Giles.

Some nice artwork in this issue, though - quite a bit more dynamic than the previous couple of episodes. Oh, and the final frame immediately reminded me of Gargh Marenghi’s Darkplace. If you read the comic and have seen that particular show, you’ll probably know what I mean.

7/10.

 
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 12:18 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Reviews | TV
 

Two worlds collide

I’ve just discovered that Michael Brandon, who played the protagonist, Roberto Tobias, in Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, has a guest role in this Saturday’s episode of Casualty (source: Yahoo! TV UK). This strikes me as incredibly weird in a quite fascinating way. Now, the question is, will he play a progressive rock drummer who incorrectly believes that he has killed a man who was stalking him,

Highlight below to reveal spoiler text for Four Flies on Grey Velvet:

only to discover that it was in fact all a ruse designed by his mentally ill wife, who was raised as a boy by her domineering father, in order to drive him insane?

Given some of the stories we’ve been getting on Casualty recently, I wouldn’t consider that to be too far-fetched.

 
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 10:27 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

Door into DVD

DVD

Source: DVD Maniacs

After a fairly lengthy period of inactivity, NoShame Films’ US wing is getting up and running again, starting with the February 26th 2008 release of Dario Argento’s 1973 television series Door into Darkness.

Bizarre cover art aside, this is very good news. The series was released in Italy by NoShame earlier this year, but it lacked English subtitles, and I have yet to come across any reviews of its image quality. Currently, the only English-friendly release was a 2-disc set by German company Dragon Entertainment, which, despite having very iffy image quality (see my review for more information), is now something of a collector’s item. Assuming NoShame have access to better quality materials, this new edition should be a must-buy.

 
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 5:41 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV
 

Pan’s pipes

HD DVD

I received a couple of review copies of upcoming high definition releases from Optimum on Friday: Wolf Creek on Blu-ray and Pan’s Labyrinth on HD DVD. Both titles are coming out on both formats (the Blu-ray versions were released on November 19th, whereas the HD DVD versions have been delayed a week, until November 26th), and I’m fairly sure HD DVD versions were requested for both, so I’m not sure why I got a Blu-ray Wolf Creek. In any event, I’m not able to review it, because it is coded for Region B only, and, as you may know, my Blu-ray hardware (Playstation 3) is Region A. As far as I’m concerned, Optimum is merely shooting themselves in the foot here, as they are simply denying themselves sales. It makes particularly little sense when you consider that region coding doesn’t exist for HD DVD, so anyone in the world can play their HD DVD titles, whereas only the privileged few who shelled out for overpriced European Blu-ray players will be able to play their Blu-ray titles.

Anyway, I may not have been able to look at Wolf Creek, but I have given Pan’s Labyrinth a cursory glance. The image quality is a bit uneven, with a strange “eroded” appearance that appears to be the result of attempting to suck out the film grain. As a result, textures tend to look a bit waxy and “cut-out”, particularly faces, while a lot of the fine detail has been removed from the foliage in the scenes taking place in the woodland. It’s a strange effect, as it means there is a superficial sense of crispness, but not the sort of detail you would expect from an image so sharp.

Extras, by the way, seem to mirror Optimum’s UK DVD release, with only the bonus trailers for The Devil’s Backbone and cover art of Cronos missing in action. Of course, the only audio option provided is a Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track, so I suspect many people will prefer to wait until New Line release their own version in the US on December 26th, for its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and PiP visual commentary. More significantly, the picture on this release seems to be lagging slightly behind the audio at all times, resulting in some noticeable lip synchronisation errors (particularly apparent given the rapid-fire Spanish in which most of the characters converse).

Expect a full review at DVD Times in the not too distant future.

 
Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 4:13 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews
 

Poster pleasure

Amélie Japanese poster

Above: Amélie Japanese poster

What’s with Japan almost always getting the best film artwork? Time and time again, they seem to end up with much better posters and DVD covers than the rest of the world. A case in point is the Japanese poster for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, one of my favourite films, whose French poster (the café exterior variant) already adorns my wall.

As much as I like the French art, however, I found that the Japanese version appealed much more to me as soon as I came across it during a random perusal of AllPosters. The poster was no longer available to buy from there, and, at some point during the last couple of days, its entry has been deleted entirely, but I was able to find an auction for it on eBay, and it now adorns the wall behind me, alongside my giant Opera poster.

 
Posted: Sunday, November 25, 2007 at 1:47 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | General | Gialli
 

Musical madre

CD

I received the soundtrack CD to Mother of Tears the other day. I’ve had a chance to sit down and listen to the CD from beginning to end a couple of times now, and broadly speaking, I like it, with some reservations.

This is a very eclectic score, and Simonetti borrows liberally from other compositions, including his own contributions to the Argento universe (lots of shades of Phenomena), as well as Keith Emerson’s work on Inferno, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Omen and some of James Bernard’s work for the old Hammer films - all very worthy references to use, if you ask me. There are probably more, but they passed this relatively non-musical individual’s ears by.

The best track by far is the one that accompanies the opening credits (“The Third Mother (Main Theme)”) - it’s very Hammeresque, and I love that grand gothic sound with lots of brass and menacing chanting. The worst, meanwhile, is that truly awful Demonia/Cradle of Filth song that accompanies the closing credits. It’s essentially a metal remix of the opening title theme, with Dani Filth’s tuneless rasping layered over it - that description alone should give you some idea of how bad it sounds. I can’t believe Argento actually agreed to have it attached to the film - it completely wrecks the tone and is far, far worse than any of the heavy metal pieces he used in Phenomena and Opera.

As for the rest of the score, I like it, but I do find that the electronic elements, which are very much like those in The Card Player, jar with the more orchestral parts. It’s not a patch on the music for either Suspiria or Inferno, but it’s a good, solid gothic horror piece that goes quite well with the visuals I’ve seen for the film so far.

 
Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007 at 6:26 PM
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Music
 

More Hellgate chuckles

Quality journalism continues to flourish after the apocalypse

Above: Quality journalism continues to flourish after the apocalypse

I continue to be impressed by the attention to detail that goes into Hellgate: London. Tonight, while wandering through one of the many tunnels connecting one underground station to another, I happened to glance down at the ground and found myself staring at a copy of the Daily Mirror. Not only is it an extremely accurate replica of that oh-so-respectable publication, they have also placed it in the condition and location in which it is most likely to be found in real life: in a sodden heap on the floor of a dank subway station, probably covered in piss stains.

A new patch was released for the game yesterday, by the way, and I’m happy to report that stability seems to have been improved substantially. I played for several hours this evening, and, while I did get one “Out of memory” error, bumping me back to the desktop, I’ve yet to experience a complete system freeze. Keep it up, guys, and you may have a complete game before too long. The patch notes are available here.

 
Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 11:35 PM
Categories: Games | Technology
 

DVD debacle

DVD DVD

I was out today at university, seeing my MLitt dissertation supervisor for a discussion about my PhD progress, the proceeds of which have left me with plenty of food for thought as regards various avenues that I can explore from now on. While I was waiting for the bus home, I decided to browse the shelves of Fopp, and came away with a couple of books which may or may not prove interesting and/or useful - Best Movies of the 70s by Jürgen Müller and Revolution! - The Explosion of World Cinema in the 60s by Peter Cowie. Oh, and I also picked up a copy of Tokyo Godfathers on DVD - one of the few anime films that I really like. Oh, if only Sony had released it on Blu-ray instead of director Satoshi Kon’s most recent film, the incredibly disappointing Paprika.

When I got home, I discovered a package from DVD Pacific waiting for me, containing The Mario Bava Collection Volume 2. This is an incredibly generous package, containing seven films (the cover lists eight, but I’m not really convinced that Lisa and the Devil and House of Exorcism should truly be counted as two separate titles, particularly given that Rabid Dogs and Kidnapped have been counted as one in the same package).

I’ve taken a brief look at all of the discs, and the best-looking appear to be Lisa and the Devil, Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped and Four Times That Night, while the worst-looking are Bay of Blood and 5 Dolls for an August Moon, with Baron Blood and Roy Colt & Winchester Jack somewhere in the middle. A real patchwork of sources has been used, with the transfers for Bay of Blood and 5 Dolls for an August Moon looking suspiciously like DVNR’d versions of the same transfers used for the old Image Entertainment discs (I haven’t seen the earlier versions of Baron Blood, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack or Four Times That Night, so I can’t comment on them). Lisa and the Devil definitely has a brand new transfer (House of Exorcism looks much poorer, but is anamorphic, unlike the old Image version, so I doubt they are from the same master), while the Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped disc appears to be the same one that Anchor Bay released separately earlier this year.

This is a six-disc set, with Lisa and the Devil/House of Exorcism and Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped sharing a disc each, while, for some bizarre reason, 5 Dolls for an August Moon and Four Times That Night are to be found on either side of a solitary double-sided disc. Weird.

Anyway, looking forward to catching me some Bava, along with some Tim Lucas commentaries.

 
Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 11:06 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Books | Cinema | DVD | General | PhD | Technology
 

I love my diatribes

So far, I really haven’t said much about my PhD work on this site. The main reason for that is that, recently, with me having been feeling under the weather, I really haven’t had the energy or motivation to get cracking on it. Now, however, two things have conspired to change that. First of all, I’m feeling quite a bit better, and can now turn my mind to things other than my constant nausea (which, mercifully, I’ve been clear of for nearly a weak now) and pains (which are now much less severe than they were this time last week). Secondly, the supervisor of my MLitt dissertation, who is currently away on leave, is having a catch-up session on Wednesday and asked me if I would be interested in meeting up with her to discuss my progress. Of course, I said yes, and decided to use the opportunity to get something written so that, when I traipse into the university on Wednesday, we won’t both be staring at a blank sheet of paper.

I always find that I work best when I have a deadline. It’s not that I can’t motivate myself, but I tend to find that I’m at my most lucid when I know I’ve promised to hand in x number of words by y date. The last 24-48 hours before a deadline are often when I get my best work done, and I’m not sure why, as I don’t typically make a habit of leaving everything to the last minute. Still, my current supervisor (the one who isn’t on leave) had suggested to me that I get writing as soon as possible, so that I don’t get into the habit of letting the work pile up and suddenly find myself in my final year of my PhD with nothing down on paper.

At our last meeting, it was agreed that I’d put together a piece of writing explaining (a) what a giallo is and (b) why I think this is a worthwhile field of study. I was originally to discuss it with him last week, but my ill health put paid to that, so it was only this afternoon that I finally completed the assignment. It’s just over 4,200 words long, approximately 3,000 of which were written today (I’m definitely one of those “bang it out quickly” people), and, while I doubt that any of it will be used in my final thesis, and it doesn’t even touch on the issues of gender and identity that I hope to begin to explore in the near future, it has helped me to crystallise some thoughts and, perhaps more importantly, has eased me back into the process of academic writing, which I hadn’t done in over a year. Anyway, I’m reasonably satisfied with what I’ve written, even if I’m still not entirely sure how it fits into the grand scheme of things. I often find that, once I’ve completed a project, whether it’s a review, an essay or whatever, I feel strangely fulfilled, so, right now, I’m feeling light-headed and quite pleased with myself. Come tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be able to find a million things wrong with what I’ve written, but right now, I’m just glad to have made what I feel is a decent enough start at what is going to be a long, long project.

Oh, and I got to use the phrase “academic snobbery” in an academic essay. I wonder how that‘ll go down.

 
Posted: Monday, November 19, 2007 at 11:00 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | General | Gialli | PhD
 

DVD review: The Stendhal Syndrome

DVD
If you already own a copy of the Italian release of The Stendhal Syndrome, then whether you consider this new edition to be a worthwhile purchase will be dependent on whether you feel that the price is worth paying for a slightly improved transfer and new bonus materials. If, however, you only own the poor quality Troma or Dutch Film Works releases, then I would definitely recommend this release.

I’ve reviewed Blue Underground’s recent release of Dario Argento’s The Stendhal Syndrome, presented for this first time uncut in North America in this 2-disc special edition, courtesy of DVD Pacific.

 
Posted: Monday, November 19, 2007 at 1:56 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | Reviews
 

Eyes half shut

Below are some screen captures from Eyes Wide Shut, comparing the old fullscreen DVD release with the new widescreen HD DVD. Which framing looks more accurate to you?

Example 1:

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

 
Example 2:

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

 
Example 3:

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

 
Example 4:

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

 
Posted: Friday, November 16, 2007 at 11:35 AM | Comments: 10 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD
 

Hair of the rat

Blu-ray

If I ever met Pixar’s Rick Sayre, I would shake him warmly by the hand and say “Thank you, sir, for a job well done.” The guy is possibly the best professional encoder in the business - he struck gold with the PAL DVD of The Incredibles, and he’s done so again with Ratatouille. Even the absolute best HD releases generally have mild compression artefacts if you pause and zoom in close enough to inspect them in minute detail. Not so with Ratatouille. The image is, to my eyes, completely flawless. It just doesn’t get better than this.

Ratatouille
(Disney, USA, AVC)

Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille Ratatouille

 
Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2007 at 11:35 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology
 

Yep, it truly is Hell on Earth

Games

While embarking on my daily trawl through the wreckage of the London Underground system in Hellgate: London this evening, I came across a poster advertising a fictitious movie called “Below”. Aware of the amount of detail that Flagship Studios have put into their texture work, I decided to get in close for a look at the film’s credits. The contrasts in the image below have been boosted to make the text more legible.

Below: an Uwe Boll film

From this, we can infer two things. First of all, the rumours were not mere exaggerations: the fact that, in the year 2038, Uwe Boll is still being allowed to make films (and Tara Reid hasn’t topped herself yet) must mean that Hell truly has come to Earth. Not only that, he’s still inexplicably managing to snare some big name actors to star alongside the usual Z-grade drop-outs. Secondly, someone at Flagship obviously has a delicious sense of humour. I wonder how Herr Doktor would feel if he knew that his name was being used in vain? Presumably, Flagship aren’t looking for him to direct Hellgate: The Movie any time soon.

 
Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 10:44 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Games
 

Oh, nausea!

I got through the whole of today without feeling sick once. I put this down to my decision to stop taking the Regulan (which my GP told me was probably a wise move when I suggested it to him), which was emptying my bowels at an impressive rate but leaving me feeling like crap for several hours after each, erm, evacuation. By the way, the GP (a different one from the one who put me on the stuff in the first place) gave me a pretty thorough examination, but could find no obvious explanation as to why I have been experiencing the pains I’ve been feeling. He said there was a possibility that it had been brought on by a varicose vein, which would correct itself in time, but otherwise couldn’t offer any definitive diagnosis, and so has referred me to the hospital for an ultrasound, x-rays and the like. I’m feeling somewhat less worried now, though, because he obviously didn’t consider it to be anything life-threatening, and the pains do seem to have abated somewhat over the last 24 hours, which makes me wonder if they were partly being accentuated by anxiety. I know that, if you constantly worry about something, it’s always going to seem worse. Conversely, I managed to forget my aches and pains at various points throughout the day, which I take to be a good sign.

DVD

Unfortunately, the people responsible for mangling Suspiria (see my previous post on the issue here) seem to be doing their damnedest to make me feel as ill as possible. I got home from work this evening to find screen captures of the upcoming French 3-disc collector’s edition from Wild Side waiting for me, and, judging by them, the new French transfer looks just as bad, if not worse than, the Italian “definitive” DVD. I’ve cancelled my pre-order - if it looks this bad, then all the bonus materials in the world won’t convince me that it’s worth shelling out €30 for.

HD DVD

In more positive news, my HD DVD of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket arrived today from Amazon.com. I haven’t seen the previous 2006 HD DVD release of this film, but apparently it looked like crap, so I’m happy to report that this new remastered edition looks excellent, along the same likes as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining rather than A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. Detail is excellent, and this is definitely one of the best-looking discs Warner have put out, regardless of when the film itself was made (they’ve put out plenty of HD releases of 2006 and 2007 films that look vastly inferior). This is another “major” film that I’ve yet to see, so I’m looking forward to sitting down to watch both it and The Shining at some point in the near future.

 
Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 10:00 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | HD DVD | Technology
 

Cooked to perfection

Blu-ray

My review copy of the Blu-ray release of Ratatouille arrived this morning from DVD Pacific.

It goes without saying that my expectation were very, very high for this release. Pixar have put out some of the best-looking standard definition DVD releases ever, with their UK edition of The Incredibles being one of the few titles that I actually consider to be as close to “as good as it gets”. Okay, so Finding Nemo ain’t so hot in comparison, but they’ve never put out anything that’s less than “very good”.

Anyway, I wasn’t disappointed. If there is a single flaw in Ratatouille’s transfer, I can’t see it. According to writer/director Brad Bird, it was handled by a Pixar technician named Rick Sayre, who also supervised The Incredibles’ DVD transfer, and it looks sublime from start to finish. There is a lot of difficult material here, particularly running water, fur and various spices, but the encoder never seems to slip up once, and, while the visual look of Ratatouille doesn’t quite have the crispness of Sony’s Open Season (it was intentionally given a slightly softer, “warmer” sheen), I know which film I’d rather watch. For those who crave sharpness above all else, Pixar’s Cars, released at the same time as Ratatouille and being delivered to the HMS Whimsy shortly, could easily become the new HD disc of choice (at least judging by the trailer on the Ratatouille DVD, which is a little over-compressed but beyond criticism in terms of detail).

That said, for me, by far the most striking aspect of this BD (barring the “Depending on your player, this disc may take up to three minutes to start” disclaimer at the start) was the trailer that played before the film, showing brief high definition clips of Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Lion King and Pocahontas. Disney, why must you keep us waiting so?

 
Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 10:47 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD
 
 

 
 
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