March 2009


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BDs and DVDs I bought or received in the month of March

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • March 4, 2009: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 7, 2009: Bolt (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 12, 2009: Pinocchio (Region A/1 USA, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy)
  • March 13, 2009: Quantum of Solace (Region A USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 19, 2009: Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Region 0 USA, DVD) [review copy]
  • March 19, 2009: Weeds: Season One (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • March 20, 2009: Rebus (Region 0 UK, DVD)
  • March 20, 2009: Suspiria (Region B Italy, Blu-ray)
  • March 23, 2009: Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:39 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV

April fools!


This year’s April Fools’ Day surprise for you is that there is no April Fools’ Day surprise.

This came about as a result of two problems. The first is that I’ve been inordinately busy and simply haven’t had the time to invest the time and effort required to make a half-decent parody - something worthy of being added to the Fake Whimsy roster. The second is that much of Scotland suffered a power cut yesterday afternoon and, when the electricity finally came back on again, my Internet access had gone kablooey. I’m not sure quite what happened, but it took over twenty-four hours for Virgin Media to restore access. Given that, by its very nature, a parody page requires you to be able to actually access the sites your attempting to mock, you could say I was up Shit Creek without a paddle.

If I get time later on, I might spring a surprise Fake Whimsy page on you, but I thought I should let you know in advance that there won’t be any fun and games tomorrow, just in case you were waiting on tenterhooks to see what I’d come up with. (In which case, there may very well be something wrong with you.)

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:28 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: General | Web

BD review: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

As far as the transfer goes, this BD release of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a superb example of how to properly treat a catalogue title. In terms of audio however, the lack of the original mono mixes is a grave oversight and one that sullies this release considerably. It’s a delight to see Dario Argento’s landmark first film released in high definition and looking this good, but without it’s original sound this release can never hope to be considered definitive.

Dario Argento’s landmark first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, arrives on BD courtesy of Blue Underground. I crack the case over at DVD Times.

Posted: Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 5:51 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | Reviews

DVD review: Four Flies on Grey Velvet

While the very fact that we finally have an authorised copy of the film with reasonably good image quality is a cause for celebration, Four Flies on Grey Velvet’s official DVD debut is, alas, far from the unmitigated triumph for which many of us were hoping. On the one hand, it’s probably a minor miracle that the film is available and looks as good as it does. The missing footage and audio problems, however, are significant enough for me to suggest that Mya should strongly consider a recall to correct, at the very least, the sound pitch. This disc gets a relatively tepid recommendation from me: it is, on balance, the best release of the film to date, but it is my firm hope that either Mya or another company revisits this title in the future and does it proper justice.

Pigs take to the skies and Satan ice skates to work as Dario Argento’s long-lost third film, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, finally gets an authorised DVD release, courtesy of Mya Communication.

Review at DVD Times.

Posted: Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Reviews

Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)


So, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, huh? I was going to post about the new DVD from Mya some time ago, but to be honest, every time I was about to actually write something, it seemed as if some new scrap of information emerged. The latest, of course, is that an upcoming Italian DVD release from 01 Distribution has been halted, because the Argentos have cried foul and are taking legal action against the perpetrators. Going by a Google translation of a statement issued by close Argento associate Luigi Cozzi, an “unidentified foreign company” sold the film’s rights to RAI, but Dario and Claudio Argento claimed that these rights were not theirs to sell. Obviously, this is going to take some time to sort out, and in the meantime the question has arisen as to exactly how legitimate the Mya release is. The Argentos claim to own the film’s rights in every territory except the US, where they are held by Paramount, but there can be little doubt that the Mya DVD was put together without any input from Paramount, which in turn raises the possibility that Mya’s release is on ground every bit as shaky as the postponed Italian release. For the time being, I’m going to assume that the Mya is legit, but my advice would be to pick up a copy of it immediately if you want it. You never know - tomorrow we could wake up to find that all remaining copies have been yanked from the shelves.

So, let’s get all this legal farragho out of the way and discuss what really matters: the disc itself. So, the “lost” Argento film that fans have been clamouring for, for the better part of four decades. Presumably, then, Mya pulled out all the stops to make the definitive release of this elusive gem? Well… no, not really. In actual fact, Mya have screwed up this release pretty royally, on two counts:

1. The English audio track is a disaster.

2. Approximately 40 seconds’ worth of material is missing. No, really.

[Continue reading "Four Flies on Shaky Ground (long post)"...]

Posted: Friday, March 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV | Technology | Web

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death BD impressions


First of all, be warned that this BD is a 1080i/50Hz affair, given that the film itself was made for British television, which, infuriatingly, uses that format as its standard. As such, those with Region A players are out of luck, so it’s at times like these that I’m glad I have a BD-compatible BD and can therefore output content at 50Hz.

With that technical hurdle out of the way, this is a terrific-looking disc. The film itself runs for less than half an hour, and was shot digitally in HD, so there would be something very wrong indeed if it looked less than stellar. There is a very small amount of ringing around certain high contrast edges, which might be indicative of slight filtering or could have been caused by something else. Either way, it’s an exceptionally minor concern and is the only black mark against this otherwise stunning transfer. 9.5/10

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death
studio: 2 Entertain; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 6.34 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 30.98 Mbit/sec

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Oh, and just for fun, here are some shots taken from my Windows Media Center recording of the standard definition broadcast from BBC1 on Christmas Day, upscaled to 1920x1080:

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 5:45 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | TV | Technology

Suspiria BD (final) impressions


This is a little later in coming than I would have liked, but I’ve been fighting off the effects of a less than pleasant cold over the last couple of days and have only just got round to catching up on the various matters needing my attention. (A post on the new Four Flies on Grey Velvet DVD from Mya is also in the pipeline.) We watched the BD release of Suspiria on the big screen on Tuesday night, and it proved to be a rather frustrating experience, on two fronts. First of all, because our attempts to synchronise the BD video with the English audio from the Image Entertainment LaserDisc weren’t entirely successful. Secondly, because of the aforementioned video unpleasantness.

Looking through the disc again today, I noticed several other problems with the master, seemingly stemming from the digital noise reduction (DNR) that was applied during the extensive restoration. Well, perhaps “extensive” is the wrong word to use, since, while the budget clearly allowed for scanning the negative, performing an automated dirt and scratch removal pass, and goosing the brightness, contrast and colour values something rotten, it evidently didn’t stretch to decent quality control. I noticed several instances of the DNR machine screwing up during the thunderstorm at the start of the film, this image showing one of the worst affected frames. Gaffes like these serve to highlight how essential it is that, if making use of automated NR tools, you carefully check the output before signing off on it.

I also came across a strange effect whereby, at the start of each new shot, the first frame is perfectly crisp, retaining all of its inherent grain. Thereafter, the second frame has had more or less all of its grain completely eroded and as a result looks like wax. By the third frame, the grain has returned again. See, for example, this instance: (Frame 1), (Frame 2), (Frame 3). Something similar generally happens at the end of each shot too, with the last two frames seeming unnaturally blurry. This process is repeated without fail throughout the entire film, and I suspect it points to yet further careless misuse of the video restoration system.

Finally, we also have that age-old favourite, the DNR machine attempting to repair a damaged frame by taking material from another frame and making matters worse in the process, usually by selecting the wrong piece of visual information. This shot shows a particularly horrific example, where information from the same or a previous frame somehow ends up on the letterboxing at the bottom of the frame. Was anyone actually checking this stuff at all or did someone just his the “Go” button and head off for a leak?

All this has only soured my attitude towards this restoration of Suspiria even more. It has its strengths, don’t get me wrong. Detail is very good indeed, at least until the swimming pool sequence, at which point the film suddenly and inexplicably drops to a lower resolution for the remainder of its duration. Furthermore, barring the almost imperceptible gaffes at the beginning and end of each shot, the grain is well maintained. However, the film has not only been screwed up something rotten by having its values knocked out of whack, it has also clearly been subjected to a botched DNR process. This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a landmark film, but the way it has been treated is utterly indefensible and beggars belief. In my opinion nothing short of a brand new scan of the negative (or access to the initial scan prior to any digital manipulation being performed) and an intensive restoration process supervised by someone who actually knows what they’re doing will suffice. 4/10

studio: CDE; country: Italy; region code: B; codec: VC-1;
file size: 27 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 18.8 Mbit/sec

Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria Suspiria

Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:06 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | Technology

Revenge, fumetti-style


One thing I genuinely admire about UK-based distributor of Italian cult films on DVD, Shameless Screen Entertainment, is their willingness to involve the directors of the films they release. Last year, they put out a copy of Piero Schivazappa’s The Frightened Woman, which reassembled the film into a full length cut which the director then went on to approve. This April 27th, they’ll be doing the same again on an even grander scale with their release of Corrado Farina’s Baba Yaga.

This film had a particularly unfortunate history, having been re-edited by its producers behind Farina’s back while he took a few days off after locking the film. When he returned from his holiday, he found that his film had been butchered with the missing elements having seemingly been destroyed, and he had no choice but to attempt to salvage what remained. It was this version that was ultimately released on DVD in the US by Blue Underground in 2003, with the deleted materials presented in poor quality video dupe form as a bonus feature. Now, however, Shameless has gone one step further and it has been (as per the press release) “restored, re-graded, re-edited and re-imagined” by Farrina himself. Time will tell just how significantly different this new cut will be, and whether or not a better quality source has been obtained than what we saw on the Blue Underground DVD, but I suspect I’ll be holding on to that earlier release for posterity purposes.

The specs certainly sound good, offering both English and Italian audio with optional English subtitles (a significant step up from the BU DVD’s English-only presentation), and an array of extras including a new introduction and interview with Farrina, two short films he directed, and a “Shameless Fact Track” by the knowledgeable Wilson Bros. And, on top of all that, you’ve got to love the quote from Farrina on the front cover:

Finally, after 35 years, you can see my film as it was before the producers hacked it to pieces.

The press release also mentions that another little-seen Italian 70s gem, Luigi Bazzoni’s Footprints, will also be coming to DVD courtesy of Shameless.

Source: DVD Times

Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 at 2:08 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Web

Just arrived…


Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Blu-ray, 2 Entertain, Region ABC, UK)

A word of warning to those living in the old NTSC territories: this is a 1080i/50Hz disc, which isn’t entirely surprising given that it was made for UK TV.

Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 at 12:45 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | TV | Technology

BD review: Bolt

The lightweight nature of the extras and the elevated price resulting from the inclusion of two additional throwaway discs aside, this BD release of Bolt is impressive. While I would have liked to see a little more meat in terms of bonus content, the audio-visual presentation can’t be faulted in any way, and the film itself, although occupying the middle ground in terms of the quality of Disney’s animated features, certainly hits all the right spots as far as humour and emotion are concerned.

I review Disney’s Region A Blu-ray Disc release of Bolt, which hits shelves today, just ahead of its standard definition DVD counterpart. Has this film relit the Disney flame, or is it another damp squib? Read on and find out!

Review at DVD Times.

Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 5:01 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews

Vandalism (long post)


Here is more painful evidence of how much the new BD release of Suspiria and its 2007 Italian and French DVD counterparts have deviated from previous DVD releases of the film in terms of visuals. Below are, in descending order, (1) the US Anchor Bay DVD from 2001, (2) the Italian Eagle Pictures DVD from 2001, and (3) the Italian CDE BD from 2009. Please note that I am not attempting to claim that any one of these releases looks 100% “right” and that the others look 100% “wrong”. I am well aware that a degree of deviation is to be expected from one master to the next, whether in terms of framing, brightness, contrast, overall colour balance, or any number of other potential variables. However, the new release is “off” by such a wide margin that it’s simply not possible for both it and the two previous releases (which, slight differences aside, are quite similar to one another) to be “right”.

If cinematographer Luciano Tovoli did indeed approve the master used for the new BD release, then I can only conclude that either something went seriously wrong somewhere down the line after he had passed off on it, or he has lost his marbles. It’s not simply a case of this new release looking different: it actually looks downright unpleasant in places and is headache-inducing to look at. (This is especially the case with the first shot, where Daniel is shown approaching the school the morning after the “maggot” incident. Oddly enough, a similar shot far earlier in the film - the morning after the opening double murder - is comparatively less unmolested.) Sadly, this sort of contrast boosting is all too prevalent in newer releases of older films, with technicians working under the ignorant belief that “hotting up” the contrast makes them look somehow “better”. Generally speaking, though, the results are far less destructive than the ones you see here:

[Continue reading "Vandalism (long post)"...]

Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Comments: 10 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology

Suspiria BD (initial) impressions (long post)

Aaaaargh! Curse you, Beelzebub!


[Continue reading "Suspiria BD (initial) impressions (long post)"...]

Posted: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Comments: 22 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Technology

Just arrived…


Rebus (DVD, Delta, Region 0, UK)

I was pleasantly surprised to spot this in Fopp today, where I was killing time while waiting before my meeting with my supervisors. The previous DVD release (by Universal) of this series starring John Hannah as the eponymous DI Rebus was missing the fourth and final episode, which would have aired on September 11th 2001 had a nice man called Osama Bin Laden not kicked up a bit of a stink, sending the TV schedules to halfway to hell. That episode ultimately disappeared into the ether and I believe aired a couple of times on one of ITV’s cable channels. It’s present and correct on this new edition. I can’t say I’ve ever been particularly gripped by Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, but I liked this TV adaptation of them, considerably more so than the dour Ken Stott interpretation that came along later.


Suspiria (Blu-ray, CDE, Region B, Italy)

Oh boy…

Posted: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 1:47 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | PhD | TV

I’ve been busy


This evening, in advance of tomorrow’s meeting with my supervisors to discuss the recently completed Chapter 3 of my PhD thesis, I tackled the dreaded Six-Monthly Research Progress Review Report, a self-assessment form (on progress so date as well as what you intend to spend the next few months doing) which all Glasgow University research students carry out every (you guessed it) six months. The last time I did one of these, it was like pulling teeth and had to go through a good few drafts before either myself or my supervisors were satisfied with it. This time, however, it was an altogether more painless activity, which I suspect bodes well for my PhD on the whole, because it suggests that I’m now far clearer about what I want to do and how I intend to do it. Looking back at my previous report, I’ve actually achieved more in the last six months than I actually set out to, which means another feather in my cap.

Over the last couple of days I’ve taken the opportunity to turn my attention to matters of a considerably less academic variety, mainly the performing of a veritable blitzkrieg on my bedroom, which had become so untidy that simply walking from one end to the other was, frankly, a safety hazard. I’m not by nature a particularly tidy person, preferring to dump things on the nearest possible surface or, failing that, the middle of the floor. I wish I’d taken a “before picture”, but I didn’t have the presence of mind at the time. Instead, here’s the result of a good couple of days on my hands and knees, inhaling enough dust to last me several lifetimes. It will probably last oh, a week or two before once again resembling a bomb site.

You know, this actually scares me.

My other achievement this week, a considerably less pleasing one, was getting my first midge bite of 2009. Summer is, alas, definitely on the way. Can I go and hibernate until autumn, please?

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 7:27 PM
Categories: General | PhD

Just arrived…


Four Flies on Grey Velvet (DVD, Mya, Region 0, USA)

What, you thought I was going to sit this one out?


Weeds: Season One (Blu-ray, Lions Gate, Region ABC, USA)

A steal at $12. It occurred to me that I didn’t actually own any television series in high definition, so I decided to take a chance on this one, about which I’ve heard positive things.

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | TV

So near and yet so far


I reached a significant milestone in my PhD thesis today: the completion of the initial draft of my first actual analysis chapter. Prior to that, I’d written an Introduction (Chapter 1) and more drafts of the Literature Review (Chapter 2) than I care to remember. As a result, actually sitting down and writing about the films themselves came as something of a relief after nearly a year and a half of wading through the swamps of purely theoretical thinking.

This piece, which will be either Chapter 3 or Chapter 4 in the finished thesis (depending on where the chapter I’m going to work on next ends up fitting in), examines the male protagonists of gialli like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Short Night of the Glass Dolls - apparently “liberated” middle-class artists indulging in bohemian lifestyles in major European cities - and the issues of power and powerlessness that emerge from the films. Crucial to this chapter is my overriding theory that the characters in these gialli, which I have dubbed ‘masculine nightmare’ films, are embroiled in an ongoing power struggle, whether the aggressor is a serial killer, a duplicitous wife or society itself. From my conclusion to the chapter (warning: spoilers below):

Central to these portrayals of the roving male protagonist as a perpetual victim of suppression is an underlying fear of the loss of liberty: regardless of the situations in which they find themselves, characters such as Sam Dalmas, Andrea Bild, George Dumurrier and Greg Moore ultimately find themselves destabilised, trapped and powerless. All too often, they find out that the world is not exactly what they thought it was, whether it turns out that the apparently helpless victim is in fact the aggressor (in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), that a supposedly dead wife is in fact very much alive (in One on Top of the Other), or that “the average man” cannot in fact “survive and keep individualism alive” (in Short Night of the Glass Dolls). Ultimately, they are left trapped, isolated and unable to trust even their own eyes; in short, they are denied agency.

The fact that these ‘masculine nightmare’ gialli materialised during a period of significant social reform and considerable advancement for, among others, the women’s liberation movements of Italy, Europe and the world at large seems, to point to a fear of the loss of power and control afforded to men in conventional patriarchal society that extends far beyond the conventional ‘boogie (wo)man’ stories portrayed in these films. Put simply, while a giallo such as Short Night of the Glass Dolls centres on the prevalent worst nightmare of being buried alive, it is actually addressing a far broader fear of a loss of power, control and authority in general…

If all that didn’t sound too esoteric for your tastes, and you’re interested in taking a look let me know (ideally, by emailing me at whiggles[at]ntlworld[dot]com) and I can send you a copy.

Foucault, by the way, turned out to be very useful in conceptualising this notion of “power”. Or rather, Sarah Mills’ explanation of what Foucault was actually on about. If you’re struggling to make head or tail of the man’s writing, I heartily recommend her book, part of the Routledge “Critical Thinkers” series.

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009 at 2:55 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Gialli | PhD

Quantum of Solace BD impressions


Now this is frustrating. A number of people, whose opinions I value highly, have praised Quantum of Solace, but I must confess that, as I watched it, I kept thinking “Am I missing something?” I should, I suspect, say up front that I’m not a James Bond fan. I’ve only seen a handful of the films, and Casino Royale is the only other one I own a copy of. I found that particular film to be a very impressive reboot of a series that, from what I could see, had become very formulaic and rooted in fantasy. It toned down the over-the-top set-pieces and brought characterisation to the forefront, giving Bond a distinctive personality, something he never really had for me in any of the other films I’d seen. I had high hopes for Quantum of Solace, but was ultimately very disappointed. The basic plot itself isn’t the problem. I rather like it, in fact, and the thematic elements, particularly the recurring motifs of betrayal and trust, could have made for some meaty material. For me, it comes down to a combination of the script, which is muddled and unfocused, and the direction, which is confusing at best and staggeringly inept at worst, especially in terms of the action sequences. Newcomer Marc Forster appears to hail from the “shakeycam” school of direction and the “blunt scissors” college of editing, and as a result the film has too much in common with the Bourne franchise for its own good. Scarcely a minute went by when I didn’t find myself wishing Martin Campbell and his editor, Stuart Baird, had stuck around after Casino Royale and handled this one too. Casino Royale was genuinely well-made and its stylistic restraint was greatly appreciated in an age where every action film director seems to think making things as incomprehensible as possible is the way to go. Some striking images aside (Bond and Camille wandering through the desert is a particular stand-out), this just looks and feels like a generic action movie.

Daniel Craig is good in the title role, but he doesn’t have anything like as much to work with here as he did in the previous film, beyond the vague notion of him being hell-bent on revenge. Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton, meanwhile, do their best, but they don’t fare well on the heels of Casino’s Eva Green, who to be fair is, alongside Emily Blunt, possibly the most charismatic actress of her generation. The performance I enjoyed the most was that of Giancarlo Giannini, whom I’ve enjoyed in everything from The Black Belly of the Tarantula to Hannibal, and who manages to give the character of Mathis some real humanity.

For a more favourable take on the film, by the way, Baron Scarpia is your man.

Casino Royale’s BD release was handled by Sony Pictures, and a superb job they did of it too: it got my coveted “10/10” rating on the Discerning Viewer’s Ranking List, and to this day is almost always the first disc we reach for when testing new hardware. With Quantum of Solace, the home video rights have shifted back to MGM, who through their distribution partner 20th Century Fox have put out a very good disc. Detail is very impressive when the camera stays still for more than a second, and the compression is superbly handled from beginning to end. I suspect that a minute amount of filtering may have been applied - either that or I’m seeing the results of downscaling from the 4K master. What I’m referring to is a small amount of ringing around high frequency edges: check the location type in Example 1 and the subtitles in Example 16 to see it at its most obvious (and even then it’s pretty subtle). It’s the only black mark I can possibly give to this otherwise stellar presentation. 9.5/10

By the way, check out the extremely obvious selective airbrushing that has sporadically been applied to Judi Dench’s forehead. Always good for a laugh, and even better for taking you out of the film with its distractingness. Don’t you just love it?

Quantum of Solace
studio: 20th Century Fox/MGM; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 27 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 36.43 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Comments: 12 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Gialli | Technology

Just arrived…


Quantum of Solace (Blu-ray, 20th Century Fox/MGM, Region A, USA)

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 at 12:30 PM | Comments: 9 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema

Pinocchio BD impressions


Pinocchio is one of my all-time favourite Disney features. I’m not sure whether or not I’d call it the best, but it’s definitely in the running. I watched the new BD release tonight - it’s high definition debut - and am largely pretty pleased with how it looks. Like every Disney feature to get a new master since the Masterpiece Edition DVD of Alice in Wonderland in 2004, Pinocchio has essentially been completely scrubbed of grain, a process which, oddly enough, many enthusiasts don’t have a problem with, despite the resoundingly negative reactions whenever the same is done to live action titles like Patton or Dark City. I can understand why this is: given the comparative simplicity of even the lushest animation when compared to live action, the results of grain removal being applied to this medium is considerably less destructive than when applied to the complex textures of real people’s faces, fabric and so on. However, it’s safe to say that Pinocchio on BD looks nothing like how it originally did in cinemas, and I personally have severe problems with this. The image tends to look unnaturally static, with held shots in particularly taking on the feel of having been freeze-framed. Grain is aesthetically pleasing and is part of the character of these films, and in my opinion the sooner Disney realise this the better. There is one instance, where a bolt of lightning illuminates the screen, which briefly shows what the film could have looked like had its natural grain structure been left intact (see Example 11, which feels like a tantalising glimpse into something altogether more organic.)

Having accepted that the film now looks more like a product of 2009 than of 1940, we ultimately have a very nice presentation. It’s not as crisp-looking as the BD of Sleeping Beauty, and we can only speculate as to why this is. Less inherent detail to begin with? More grain being scrubbed out and taking detail away with it? Either way, it’s pleasing to look at provided you don’t mind the overly static appearance. Additionally, whereas Sleeping Beauty features some occasional nasty-looking digital screw-ups, I could detect nothing of the sort on Pinocchio. (Prior to viewing the disc for myself, I did see in some captures that had appeared online what looked like DVNR artefacts, but in actual fact these turned out simply to be the result of the underwater effect applied to the film’s third act; see Example 15.) There’s the occasional bit of weirdness where the colours are concerned, though: for example, during Stromboli’s puppet show, for a number of shots Pinocchio’s shirt inexplicably turns white instead of yellow, despite this not occurring on the previous DVD release (the 2003 UK special edition):

Pinocchio (2003 UK DVD) Pinocchio (2009 US DVD)

Otherwise, though, I tend to lean towards the feeling that the colours of this new master are more authentic than those of the previous release. I’m well aware that Disney now routinely refer to the original cels in order to determine the colour timing for their HD masters (a process that, as I previously outlined, is not as good an idea in practice as it is in theory), so I would suggest that there’s still a strong chance that the colours on this release are not a good match for those of the original theatrical exhibitions, but even so I would take these over the yellowy-looking 2003 DVD any day. I’m ultimately not disappointed by how the disc looks, although I maintain that, had Disney treated the film with more respect towards maintaining its integrity, it would have been considerably better. 8/10

studio: Buena Vista; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 22.2 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 36.31 Mbit/sec

Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio

Oh, and a big “thank you” to Chuck for pointing out that there is a missing vocal effect on both the 7.1 remix and the supposedly “original theatrical soundtrack” (restored mono): Jiminy Cricket’s “Right!” just before “Take the straight and narrow path/And if you start to slide” is completely absent. Additionally, when watching the disc tonight, my brother also immediately noticed that Jiminy’s line “Look out, Pinoke!” at the end of the song, as Pinocchio falls over, has also disappeared into the ether. Both these lines were present and correct on the previous DVD, and on the earlier Gold Collection release. Quite how this happened is a mystery to me, and, while these two omissions don’t ultimately ruin the experience, it’s a disappointing degree of sloppiness on what Disney quite rightly considers one of its flagship titles.

At the end of the day, I’m giving this disc my recommendation, but it definitely falls a couple of notches shy of perfection. Oh well, there’s always the 80th anniversary in ten years’ time…

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 10:24 PM | Comments: 11 (view)
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology

Just arrived…


Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Blu-ray, Buena Vista, Region A, USA)

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 2:35 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema



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