April 2009


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

DVD/Blu-ray/HD DVD
  • April 2, 2009: Baba Yaga: The Final Cut (Region 0 UK, DVD) [review copy]
  • April 6, 2009: Two Evil Eyes (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 11, 2009: Twilight (Region ABC UK, Blu-ray)
  • April 14, 2009: Lewis: Series Three (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 16, 2009: Final Destination (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Let the Right One In (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 16, 2009: Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 20, 2009: Mean Girls (Region ABC USA, Blu-ray)
  • April 25, 2009: The Red Riding Trilogy (Region 2 UK, DVD)
  • April 29, 2009: Australia (Region B UK, Blu-ray) [review copy]
Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 11:07 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV

Bits and bobs


Apologies once again for the sporadic nature of the updates to this site. I’ve been a little pre-occupied wrangling with my computer. No major calamities, but I’ve been fairly busy with it of late. I decided to reinstall Windows over the weekend and made the leap to the 64-bit version of Vista so I could access all four gigabytes of my RAM (32-bit versions can only access up to 3.5 GB). So far I can’t say I’ve noticed the system running either faster or slower in comparison with my previous 32-bit install, but I certainly haven’t run into any problems as a result of this change.

Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:08 PM
Categories: Technology | Web

Just arrived…


Australia (BD, 20th Century Fox, Region B, UK) - review copy

And what a complete bugger it was to get it working on my computer, thanks to Fox’s inclusion of the latest strain of the malodorous BD+ scumware. Luckily, our boys at SlySoft were even quicker off the mark than usual and released an update for their wondrous AnyDVD HD software. Even so, I couldn’t get the disc to play at all in the latest version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD, PowerDVD 9, and had to revert back to the previous version in order to get anything other than a black screen.

Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Final Destination BD impressions


On the back cover of Final Destination’s BD release, Roger Ebert describes the film as “smarter and more original than most Dead Teenager Movies”. Given the average quality of these films, that doesn’t exactly set the bar particularly high, but this one does, for the most part, hold up quite well a decade after it was originally released. This was before Final Destination 2 came along, basically admitting that the premise was absurd and running with it, which is both a good thing and a bad thing - good because a film that takes itself seriously makes it easier for the audience to do the same; bad because, in comparison with the ludicrous “accidents” and over the top gore of the sequel, this one seems pretty tame. The concept for these movies is, after all, inherently silly. Still, this one is pretty effective for the most part, and I attribute this to it willingness to play things largely straight at a time when most of the competition was trying to out-wink Scream.

On to the image quality of this release, and it’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that, unlike a number of New Line’s catalogue titles, this one hasn’t been completely slathered in Dark City-style DNR. The bad news is that it’s still a fairly underwhelming-looking image all round, as far as I can tell taken from the same master as the 2000 DVD release. The grain often looks unnatural and clumpy, and smears quite noticeably… although this does seem to vary on a shot by shot basis. Detail is fairly mediocre and shadow detail is weak, but the extent to which both of these problems can be blamed on the original photography is unclear. I didn’t really expect Final Destination to become my new demo disc of choice, and to be fair it’s not unwatachable, but it’s never anything more than passable. 6/10

Final Destination
studio: Warner/New Line; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 18.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 27.62 Mbit/sec

Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination Final Destination

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:59 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Just arrived…


The Red Riding Trilogy (DVD, Optimum, Region 2, UK)

I missed this trilogy of made-for-TV films when they aired on Channel 4 last month, but decided to pick up the DVD after reading an excellent review of it written by my fellow DVD Times reviewer, Mike Sutton.

Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2009 at 6:13 PM
Categories: DVD | Reviews | TV | Web

Poltergeist BD impressions


A couple of nights back, I watched Warner’s BD release of Poltergeist, which believe it or not was the first time I’d ever seen this horror classic right through (having previously caught the end of it on TV several years back). The debate will, I’m sure, continue to rage over whether Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg was the movie’s actual director, but whoever was responsible certainly did a bang-up job. The more obviously Spielbergian elements - a lot of the domestic “wackiness” early on - did grate on me somewhat, and I can’t help feeling that the ending (i.e. everything after the “exorcism” of the house) was tacked on at a later stage, but beyond that it’s a bona fide masterpiece of the genre.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the transfer. This is a really great-looking catalogue title that exceeded my expectations as far as image quality were concerned. It’s not so much that I had any reason to expect it to look bad (beyond the knowledge that an awful lot of Warner titles look decidedly mediocre), but I was relieved to discover that the grain had largely been left alone and that detail levels didn’t suffer beyond the usual aberrations one tends to find with anamorphic lenses. There are some places where I feel it could have been improved, particularly with regard to the compression, which often lets the side down on Warner’s BDs, but overall I’m extremely satisfied with the look of this disc. It certainly compares very favourably to 20th Century Fox’s work on The Omen, a title of similar vintage (give or take a few years), shot using the same cinematographic process and with a comparable overall look. 9/10

studio: Warner; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 18.5 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 23.23 Mbit/sec

Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist Poltergeist

Posted: Friday, April 24, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Changeling BD impressions


Finally watched this film the other night. It’s fantastic. Go and watch it.

The film was shot with anamorphic lenses and has that slightly diffuse, hazy look that is often associated with this process - I don’t think any deliberate detail reduction has been done. However, a degraining pass appears to have been applied, probably at the digital intermediate stage. Grain seems unnaturally static and there are some mild DVNR artefacts - patterns and textures “dragging”, a bit of ghosting, and so on. In addition, there’s some incredibly nasty artefacting going on in the shadows early on (check Example 6 for a particularly noxious instance), not helped by the elevated blacks, but this is less of a problem later on. It’s not a spectacular-looking disc, but pretty damn good all the same, and would probably have netted a low “9” were it not for the artefacting. 8/10

studio: Universal; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 31.3 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 31.58 Mbit/sec

Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling Changeling

Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:46 PM
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Coming soon to a DVD player near you

Mondo Vision

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while coming, but a release date has finally been announced for Mondo Vision’s second DVD title, Andrzej Zulawksi’s L’important c’est d’aimer. Both the Special Edition Digipak and Premium Signature Edition box set (limited to 2,000 copies) are due out on June 16th and are available now to pre-order from Amazon.

Also in the pipeline are L’amour braque and, as per pro-bassoonist at the DVD Talk forum, even more Zulawski treats:

  • Trzecia Czesc Nocy (The Third Part Of The Night), 1971
  • Diabel (The Devil), 1972
  • Na Srebrnym Globie (The Silver Globe), 1977/1987
  • Possession, 1981
  • La Note Bleue (The Blue Note), 1992
  • Szamanka (Shaman Woman), 1996

No release dates have been confirmed for any of these yet, but I’d imagine many people will be very pleased to hear that Possession is finally being re-released, Anchor Bay’s considerably less than stellar-looking edition having been out of print for some time.

Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 8:01 PM | Comments: 11 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | Web

Weeds: Season One BD impressions


This was definitely $13 well spent: I knew next to nothing about Weeds before I picked it up as an impulse buy, other than that it was a comedy series about a woman dealing marijuana in an upmarket Californian suburb. I was slightly surprised by just how witty it is, often in an extremely twisted, blackly comic way that I tend not to associate with US television.

Unfortunately, the presentation leaves a little to be desired. All ten half-hour episodes were crammed on to a single BD-50, and there’s a hell of a lot of artefacting on display. It’s unclear how much of this is down to the encoding and how much is down to the source: Weeds was shot on high definition video and a lot of the mush afflicting the screen looks like the sort of noise you typically get with such material. Blacks seem elevated, and detail varies from shot to shot and scene to scene. The look is inconsistent, but overall is not particularly pleasant. 5/10

Weeds: Season One
studio: Lions Gate; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: MPEG-2;
file size: 42.9 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 21.67 Mbit/sec

Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One Weeds: Season One

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 8:46 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | TV | Technology

Mean Girls BD impressions


I was pleasantly surprised by the image quality of this release. I wasn’t expecting it to look like a million bucks, and it’s true, it’s not exactly eye-popping, but it’s pleasant to look at, with a decent level of detail and film grain that looks pretty natural. The movie was colour timed photochemically rather than with a DI, and optical shots do suffer somewhat from increased softness (see, for example, Example 8), but overall I’m very pleased with how this disc looks.

In addition, comparing it with the 2004 UK DVD, the colour palette here looks a good deal more natural here. I don’t want to claim to know for definite how it was supposed to look, but the DVD looks incredibly orange in retrospect and not particularly pleasant. By the way, purists should note that the film features a handful of subtitles for non-English dialogue, and rather than retaining the original burned-in typeface, they are reproduced here as generic player-generated subtitles. This was also true of the DVD, and I have to say that they look considerably less ugly here than they did on that earlier release. 8/10

Mean Girls
studio: Paramount; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 28.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 42.65 Mbit/sec

Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls Mean Girls

Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 11:30 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

BD reviews: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum

Blu-ray Blu-ray Blu-ray

A little while back, Universal sent me check discs for their recent UK Blu-ray Disc releases of the three Jason Bourne movies, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. They seem to want the discs back but neglected to provide me with a return address, and in any event, they’ve been available on store shelves for long enough for me to suspect that there’s not much point in them having them returned.

That’s what I’m hoping at any rate, because the image quality of all three films have been improved over their HD DVD counterparts, and it would suit me very well to be able to hang on to them. The Bourne Supremacy sees the biggest improvement and The Bourne Ultimatum the least, with The Bourne Identity lying somewhere in the middle. In each case, the improvement seems to have come from the improved disc capacity and bandwidth of Blu-ray over HD DVD, resulting in fewer compression artefacts and a more natural reproduction of the film grain. The Bourne Identity is still the weakest-looking overall and The Bourne Ultimatum the best, but all three are a testament to the improvements that can be made when a studio harnesses improved technical specifications to provide the audience with a better viewing experience. (Warner, take note.)

The first two films also gain a lossless audio track each (The Bourne Ultimatum’s HD DVD had a lossless track to begin with), and while I couldn’t discern any difference between the lossy HD DVD and lossless BD tracks for The Bourne Supremacy (despite several blind tests), The Bourne Identity seems to get a little moore “oomph” in the bass. It’s extremely difficult to objectively compare sound, but as you probably know, I’m more than a little suspicious of those who claim that the difference between lossy and lossless audio is “night and day”, believing that it’s far more important to get yourself a decent sound system (well, okay, I have my brother and his meaty speakers to thank for that). I’m not saying I don’t think lossless audio should be used whenever possible - just that I think some people have a tendency to claim they hear a difference when there isn’t one there.

Anyway, check out the links below to read about each disc in more depth.

Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 6:00 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews

Just arrived…


Mean Girls (BD, Paramount, Region ABC, USA)

By the way, apologies for the lack of news posts. Things are pretty hectic at the moment, wrapping up the redrafting of the third chapter of my thesis. In addition, I spent most of yesterday helping out with a rewrite of a script my brother will be shooting before too long, and today I’ve just concluded a marathon key-bashing session, reviewing check discs of the recent BD releases of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 2:48 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | PhD

Just arrived…


Final Destination (BD, New Line/Warner, Region ABC, USA)


Let the Right One In (BD, Magnolia, Region ABC, USA)


Inspector Morse: The Complete Case Files (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

The latter was something of an impulse buy, although one that I feel is somewhat justified by the fact that I’ve been wanting to pick up the Inspector Morse episodes for some time and happened to come across them by chance on Amazon.co.uk at a very impressive discount. I paid just under £55 for all 33 episodes - a bargain when you consider that the RRP is 200 smackers.

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:52 PM | Comments: 13 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | TV | Web

Just arrived…


Lewis: Series Three (DVD, ITV, Region 2, UK)

There’s a bit of a story behind this, actually. A few weeks back, on the day that this series was due to begin airing, I discovered that ITV’s Scottish counterpart, STV, had opted not to pick up the show, instead opting to air a documentary about the Highlands. In addition, the network stated an intention to “pull out of the national ITV1 schedule more frequently to offer a service more relevant to Scottish viewers”.

Well, bollocks to that. Lewis is just about the only respectable programme ITV airs, and for STV to ditch it in favour of some tawdry documentary and yet another rerun of Gregory’s Girl (which was a shit film back in 1981 and is just as shit in 2009) is simply the height of idiocy. All that actions like these achieve is to ensure that, instead of tuning into the channel perhaps four times a year, I won’t tune in at all, and will instead just pick up the DVDs, which in this case were released just days after the final episode aired.

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 10:07 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | TV

Twilight BD impressions


Having already written perhaps more than was necessary about Twilight, let’s try to ignore the film itself and discuss the BD transfer. This is the UK release from E1 Entertainment, and I can’t be 100% whether or not it came from the same master as the more widely seen US release from Summit Entertainment, but I’m assuming it is, given how similar my captures look to those provided by Xylon at the AVS Forum. In any event, I haven’t got a single complaint to make about this UK release - it’s exactly the sort of image quality I hope for (and wish I could expect) whenever I pop a BD into my player. Detail is top notch, grain reproduction is stellar, and I couldn’t spot anything in the way of compression artefacts. If, three or four years back, you’d told me we’ve one day have images that look this good on a home video format, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. 10/10

studio: E1 Entertainment; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 29.6 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 34.88 Mbit/sec

Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight Twilight

Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 at 3:02 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Film review: Twilight (long post)


Note: I was originally planning this to be a review for DVD Times. As it progressed, however, it became clear that its tone wasn’t entirely appropriate for that site given that it’s less a critical review and more an uncontrolled rant.

I should state upfront that I haven’t read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books. I gather they are quite the sensation, particularly among the teenage girl demographic. I am neither a teenager nor a girl, which some might suggest ought to preclude me from appreciating them. Personally, I don’t go in for that sort of compartmentalisation, and have enjoyed a great many books and films that are supposedly aimed at people who don’t possess the same set of genitalia as me. That said, I’ve never felt particularly compelled to delve into Meyer’s four-book saga. I picked up the first volume one day at the library and gave it a quick flick-through, but came to the conclusion that the material was too trivial to justify its length, and that its length was too great to justify my time.

However, something about the media phenomenon surrounding the book and its big screen adaptation piqued my interest, coupled with the widely differing reactions to it. On the one hand, you’ve got the legions of adoring fans who swoon at the very mention of its title. (If you want some idea of just how scary these people can be, head over to the movie’s IMDB board.) On the other, you have unprecedented levels of vitriol being hurled in its direction, mainly from people who consider it nothing more than a self-infatuated author’s overblown wank fantasy, and one with a very dubious moral at that. More often than not with such cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I wanted to know more and swiftly came to the conclusion that it would be easier to do this by watching a two hour movie than by reading a 500-page book.

[Continue reading "Film review: Twilight (long post)"...]

Posted: Monday, April 13, 2009 at 1:44 PM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Cinema | Reviews | TV

Two Evil Eyes BD impressions


Rewatching the Dario Argento/George A. Romero collaboration Two Evil Eyes again tonight for the first time in a few years, I was struck by two things. First, Edgar Allan Poe had a tendency to repeat himself. Secondly, the Romero segment isn’t as plodding as I’d remembered. True, the Argento half is still the better by a considerable margin, but I’m slowly coming round to the notion that Romero’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar has been unfairly maligned. Actually, at the same time, I’d even be tempted to suggest that Argento’s The Black Cat has been slightly overrated by some. I’ll hopefully be putting together a full review before too long.

As far as the transfer goes, I’d suggest that this is one of those rare instances where the screenshots shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an entirely truthful representation of how the disc looks in motion. Quite a few of them look rather “smudgy”, but in actual fact during playback it looks extremely crisp and film-like. Of all the Argento films released in HD so far, this is by far the best-looking - although, as far as Romero is concerned, I’d edge towards Optimum’s Region B Night of the Living Dead looking slightly better. I was extremely satisfied with how this disc looked on the whole, with only the optical shots (which aren’t exactly numerous) showing reduced detail. 9/10

Two Evil Eyes
studio: Blue Underground; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 39 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 46.66 Mbit/sec

Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes Two Evil Eyes

Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 11:49 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | Reviews | Technology

Just arrived…


Twilight (Blu-ray, E1 Entertainment, Region ABC, UK)

My curiosity got the better of me. So much vitriol has been hurled in the direction of this film and the book upon which is is based that I eventually caved in and decided to see it for myself.

Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 6:29 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Books | Cinema

EA “dumps DRM” for The Sims 3


Once again it seems that I’m reporting on a story only once it’s become old hat, but in case you missed the article, Electronic Arts, the champion of draconian digital rights management, have announced that it will not be enforcing mandatory online activation and limited installations for its upcoming juggernaut, The Sims 3.

It may not sound like much, but in my opinion this is huge. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve seen the back of over-intrusive DRM on EA products for good, but I take the fact that the company is omitting it from what will surely be their biggest PC release of the year as a tacit admission that such anti-consumer strategies don’t work. The DRM-infected Spore did, after all, notoriously become the most pirated game of all time, with cracked copies appearing on torrent sites before it had even hit store shelves, and the overall effect was simply to infuriate customers, leading to online smear campaigns, 1-star rating tag-teaming on Amazon and organised boycotts of EA products. So, if you contributed to any of these activities, wrote EA an angry letter or email, or did anything to publicly voice your displeasure at their noxious behaviour, give yourself a pat on the back, because this is a significant victory, and you made it possible.

Note: the image above was created by Alfredo Daniel Rezinovsky and is available under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 Argentina License.

Posted: Thursday, April 09, 2009 at 7:55 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: DRM | Games | Technology | Web

Dollhouse on the chopping block?


It seems that Monday’s post about the rosy future facing Dollhouse may have been a little premature. Reports are now circulating suggesting that Fox have opted to only air the first twelve episodes, omitting the season finale, which in turn has led many to speculate that this means the network decided to not renew the show beyond its first season. There has been no official cancellation notice as of yet, but dropping a season’s all-important finale is never a good sign.

In the meantime, the specifications and release date for the upcoming BD release have been confirmed. Containing all 13 episodes and the unaired pilot, in addition to a variety of bonus features, the 3-disc set will hit store shelves on July 28th. As one Blu-ray.com commenter pointed out, the fact that the package is being released as “Season One” rather than “The Complete Series” (or something similar) can potentially be interpreted as a hopeful sign, but to be brutally honest this could easily be a case of one department not talking to the other. Either way, I’m sure we’ll know soon enough what the show’s future holds, if anything.

Posted: Thursday, April 09, 2009 at 7:46 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | TV | Web



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