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Now this is more like it

HD DVD

Last night, Lyris and I watched his recently-acquired HD DVD of the Director’s Cut of Zodiac. Like Crank (see here), it was shot entirely in the digital realm, but unlike Crank, it didn’t have a bunch of chimpanzees fiddling with the image control knobs. Zodiac continues Paramount’s winning streak for new releases, with a virtually flawless transfer that makes the standard definition release appear even more embarrassing than it did already. If you look very closely, you can see a teeny tiny bit of sharpening, which I suspect was added during post production (the on-screen text, such as credits and location type, are unaffected), but otherwise this is one of the absolute best presentations of a movie I’ve ever seen (at least in a technical sense - I’m personally not a fan at all of the completely grain-free look).

Zodiac: Director’s Cut
(Paramount, USA, AVC, 24 GB)

Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac Zodiac

 
Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 3:40 PM | Comments: 9 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

What edge enhancement is and why not to use it

Blu-ray

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, which is why I’m going to keep this post brief. The screen captures below are taken from Lions Gate’s Blu-ray release of Crank, a disc that has been praised by many reviewers but gives me a headache every time I look at it for more than a few minutes. Why? Because it is riddled with edge enhancement, and I suspect that seeing this sort of ringing at a resolution of 1920x1080 will give you some idea of why I am so against this practice.

The weirdest part is that this video vandalism appears to have been intentional, added during the film’s post production phase, presumably as a means of adding “intensity” to the scenes that have been affected. A number of shots and even some entire sequences are unmolested, a good example of which can be found in the sixth screen capture below. In this scene, a split-screen effect has been employed, with the shot of Jason Statham manipulated to buggery but the shot of Amy Smart seemingly unmolested. It really beggars belief.

Crank
(Lions Gate, USA, MPEG-2, 19.8 GB)

Crank Crank Crank Crank Crank Crank

 
Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 3:24 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

The Giallo Project #10: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

DVD

Alternative titles: Lo Strano vizio della Signora Wardh; Next!; Blade of the Ripper; Director: Sergio Martino; Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Conchita Airoldi, Ivan Rassimov, Alberto de Mendoza; Music: Nora Orlandi; Italian theatrical release date: January 15th, 1971

Note: this review contains a number of major spoilers.

No, you haven’t gone crazy. I have indeed just skipped over several films, leaping from 1969’s The Frightened Woman all the way to 1971’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, leaving out a whole lot of interesting title along the way (not least The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, arguably the single most crucial film in the giallo movement after Blood and Black Lace). I fully intend to go back and cover these films at a later date, but since, at the moment, I’m writing (or trying to write) a piece comparing the portrayal and treatment of the heroines in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks at Midnight, I thought it made sense to treat you to my thought process as I went through these two films. (Ergo, the next Giallo Project will cover Death Walks at Midnight.)

Mrs. Wardh is a film that I think people tend to overrate… although, of course, that’s just my opinion, and I suspect many people will feel that I underrate it. In historical terms, it’s noteworthy for being the first giallo to be directed by the prolific Sergio Martino (although he only actually directed four further gialli) and to star Edwige Fenech, considered by many to be to the giallo what Jamie Lee Curtis is to the American slasher. It’s very much a giallo in the “harangued woman” format that we might say got its kick-start with The Sweet Body of Deborah (covered here), on which many of Mrs. Wardh’s key players on both sides of the camera worked. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your taste in gialli), this means that the voluptuous Ms. Fenech spends the duration of the film running from one man to another, often fainting into their arms or begging them to protect her. For some viewers, this is part and parcel of what makes gialli so enjoyable; personally, I prefer my heroines to have a bit more pluck - think Nora in The Girl Who Knew Too Much or Valentina in Death Walks at Midnight. Barring the pansexual seductress she played in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, Fenech’s giallo roles tend to be comprised exclusively of complete drips who wouldn’t seem entirely out of place in a Victorian romance novel.

The amusing part is that this appears at least partly to be intentional. The rest of the women in the film are considerably less highly strung, and, while most of them meet a bloody end screaming their lungs out, they seem to have noticed that the year is 1971, not 1871, and that women are no longer the property of men. While Julie Wardh (Fenech) is married to her dry-faced dolt of a husband, Neil (Alberto de Mendoza), her best friend Carol (Conchita Airoldi) enjoys living it up, espousing a motto of “When it’s good, I enjoy it. When it’s bad, I don’t think about it.” A bit of an airhead, yes, but she’s considerably better company than the humourless Julie, even if her notion of being liberated doesn’t extend much beyond having lots of sex with lots of men, and seems to be in the fortunate position of having ample money at her disposal despite not appearing to have a job or anyone else to provide for her. La dolce vita indeed!

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

Julie, too, has far too much free time on her hands, but she spends it fretting and running into the arms of one man after another, hoping they’ll protect her. I said before that there’s a common theme in the “harangued woman” gialli, of the heroine (a term I’m using very loosely here) hoping the Good Man will protect her from the Bad Men, with the former invariably turning out to be the latter. Here, all three men in Julie’s life - Neil, the thuggish Jean (Ivan Rassimov), the roguish George (George Hilton) - are involved in a plot to do poor Julie in and collect the proceeds of her life insurance, so in a sense you can’t really blame her for running around like a headless chicken practicing her wide-eyed look of horror at every opportunity. The three conspirators’ scheme has to rank as one of the most nonsensical in any giallo (and that’s saying something), but I’ll get on to that later. In the meantime, it’s quite fascinating to see the three archetypes so clearly established: the boring, safe (who is of course anything but) older man who seems to be something of a surrogate father; the dangerous, sinister rascal who enjoys leering at the heroine and subjecting her to various forms of sexualised torture; the rakish playboy whose happy-go-lucky nature really can’t be anything but an act. That all three are planning to do Julie in is further evidence of how misanthropic these films tend to be: Julie may be a complete and utter nervous wreck, but if the entire world appears to be populated by bastards, can you really blame her? Actually, I think you probably can: in Death Walks at Midnight, Valentina’s response to an attempted sex attack is to knee the perpretrator in the balls; Julie tends to to swoon and let them get on with it. Okay, so I’m not expecting every giallo heroine to be a gung-ho action woman, but it’s kind of disheartening to watch one who is such a pushover.

As for the aforementioned plot devised by the three men, it’s one of those traditional giallo schemes that superficially seems to make sense - having three killers, after all, means that you avoid any unfortunate problems of having someone be in two places at once - but, once you start to pick it apart, promptly falls to pieces. Now, you might say, if I’m paying too much attention to the plot, I’m not really getting into the spirit of things, but I like my pizza to have some dough in it rather than just a mountain of toppings, and the same goes for my gialli: the photography, sex and violence is all very well, but if there isn’t a plot holding it together, I find it harder to care. Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Massimo Dallamano and Aldo Lado (probably my favourite four) all seemed to understand this, and were able to ground their stylistic set-pieces within interesting plots; here, the killers’ motives and their actions seem almost to have been an afterthought.

Essentially, the plan is that, if Julie dies, Neil will inherit a substantial amount of money. Now, he could bump her off himself, but he needs an alibi, so he enlists his associate, George, who would like Neil to do him a favour and do away with his cousin Carol, so he can come into some money of his own. All well and good, and the fact that a maniac is currently terrorising Neil and Julie’s native Vienna, slicing and dicing young women with a razor, gives the pair the perfect opportunity to make it look like the demises of Julie and Carol are the work of this individual. Killing Carol is straightforward enough - they lure her to a deserted park on the pretext of meeting someone who is blackmailing Julie (though how they could be sure Carol would go in Julie’s place is anyone’s guess). With Julie, however, they complicate things by, for seemingly no reason, involving her old flame Jean, and then going on a gratuitous trip to Spain, where they chloroform her, turn on the gas and attempt to pass her death off as suicide. All well and good, but why bother going to Spain to do it? Why not just do this in Vienna, or better let keep things simple and stick a knife in her in a dark alley? The most obvious answer is that this was a Spanish co-production, and the script needed to include an excuse to do some filming in that country. Another theory, of course, is that writer Ernesto Gastaldi was making it up as he went along, which is one of the reasons why I’ve always found his assertion that Dario Argento’s scripts are nonsensical quite bizarre.

Is this enough to make or break the film? Not really, but, for me, it does introduce one distraction too many in a film that was already struggling to hold my attention. While a couple of the set-pieces are quite effective (the best being the death of Carol, which anticipates a similar park murder in Argento’s later Four Flies on Grey Velvet), Emilio Foriscot’s photography is flatly lit and overly contrasty, while, as already mentioned, Julie is a completely insipid protagonist. As far as Martino’s work goes, I find myself drawn more to All the Colours of the Dark, which features nearly all the same flaws but makes up for them by being completely crazy and off the wall. Mrs. Wardh is… well, it’s not a dead loss by any means, and I do quite like the atmosphere of casual decadence that Martino creates, but it’s one of those films that I always have to force myself to go back to, and never enjoy as much as everyone else seems to.

Next time, I’ll be looking at Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks at Midnight, one of my guilty pleasures.

 
Posted: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 2:27 PM
Categories: Cinema | Gialli | Reviews | The Giallo Project
 

DVD review: The Plague Dogs

DVD
The Plague Dogs is a film that I can honestly say I don’t ever want to watch again, and I mean that in the best possible way.

I’ve reviewed Optimum Home Entertainment’s recent release of The Plague Dogs, Martin Rosen’s second and final animated feature and a spiritual successor to the earlier Watership Down. Optimum’s DVD includes both the shorter theatrical cut and the much longer director’s edition.
 

 
Posted: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 12:03 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

There’s life in this old Bolshevik yet

HD DVD

Well, the news of Warner’s switch to Blu-ray’s exclusivity and expected demise of HD DVD may have stolen the headlines, but the format certainly isn’t going to vanish overnight. Before Universal and Paramount move over to Blu-ray as well, hammering the final nail into HD DVD’s coffin, I will continue to buy new releases that are exclusive to the format.

One of these is Eastern Promises, which arrived this morning. I wasn’t too taken by David Cronenberg’s previous two films, Spider and A History of Violence, but this one, while very much a companion piece to them, for some reason appealed to me much more. Maybe it’s the excellent cast, including Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Sinéad Cusack and Vincent Cassel, but the other two films had stellar talent in front of the camera as well (including Mortensen, in the case of A History of Violence). Maybe it’s the fact that the London location resonates with me more than Violence’s small-town America - but then again, Spider was also set in London. It’s not even the subject matter, since gangster movies generally irritate me. (Not that this is a typical gangster movie in any sense: for one thing, the gangsters in this film don’t say “fuck” in every sentence and call each other “faggots” every five minutes. For another, it’s not shot in near-black and white, headache-inducing shakeycam.) I don’t know why, but this one really clicked for me, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to see it before the end of 2007, because, if I had, it would have garnered a pretty high position in my annual Top 10.

Oh, and the HD DVD transfer is also solid, proving once again that Universal’s standard for DI-sourced material is among the best (the less said about their track record for catalogue releases, though, the better). It looks to have been slightly degrained, and it isn’t as razor sharp as something like Resident Evil: Extinction or The Bourne Ultimatum, but it is a pleasant, rich, detailed image with no visible compression problems. And Naomi Watts doesn’t look half bad occupying 130” of my wall.

Eastern Promises
(Universal, USA, VC-1. 15.7 GB)

Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises Eastern Promises

 
Posted: Wednesday, January 09, 2008 at 9:47 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

New Line in the deep Blu sea

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

In a move that is sure to have surprised precisely no people, New Line Cinema have announced their plans to follow parent company Warner and support Blu-ray exclusively. Charitably described as a “transition” by High-Def Digest, this move is more of the “jump cut” variety, as the move is effective immediately, making the studio’s first HD DVD release, Pan’s Labyrinth, also its last. New Line’s stance towards HD DVD was always more lukewarm than Warner’s, with its non-catalogue releases Hairspray and Rush Hour 3 delayed on HD DVD due to cited concerns over the format’s lack of region coding. Therefore, despite announcing that these titles would be arriving on the red format at a later date, this will no longer be the case. Good things, it would seem, don’t always come to those who wait. Or bad things, in the case of Rush Hour 3.

In other news, Paramount and Universal are remaining tight-lipped about the situation, with the usually garrulous Universal declining to comment, while Paramount, despite reaffirming its support for HD DVD, has decided to make no new release announcements at the present time, stating that the titles they had planned to unveil at CES are now “up in the air”.

 
Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 at 10:37 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

Them zombies is bustin’ through the screen, ma!

Blu-ray

Yesterday evening, Lyris and I ransacked our self-dignity by watching the Blu-ray release of Resident Evil: Extinction. This franchise is probably our joint favourite cinematic guilty pleasure, and, while I can’t respond to criticisms that the scripts are guff, the acting often dreadful and direction somewhere between frenetic and incompetent with anything other than a nod of my head, these films have given me hours of pleasure and haven’t bored me for a second. This third (and, it would seem, final) outing isn’t as good as the first, but is definitely better than the second, and is highly entertaining for its sprightly 95-minute duration. No, Milla Jovovich can’t really act and yes, the characters are dumber than dog-do, but if you’re critiquing these aspects, I suspect you’re not really getting into the spirit of it. The film is unabashedly stupid, loud and bloody, and in all honesty, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that.

I want to leave the film itself by the wayside now and talk about the transfer, which is a thing of beauty. Certain ill-informed (or just plain vision-impaired) reviewers have predictably been underrating it and complaining about non-existent flaws, but rest assured that this is as close to a flawless transfer as you are going to get with lossy compression, and one of the absolute finest presentations I’ve ever seen of a film. Detail is impeccable, grain is lovingly reproduced and compression is handled expertly. It sticks in my craw that reviewers who don’t seem to know what they’re talking about criticise marvellous efforts like these while lavishing praise over second rate offerings, but I suppose I should be used to it by now.

Don’t take my word for it, though: take a look at the screen captures below.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
(Sony Pictures, USA, AVC)

Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction Resident Evil: Extinction

 
Posted: Monday, January 07, 2008 at 7:45 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology
 

The Warner shopping list

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

With Warner’s HD DVD support on the way out, it no doubt stands to reason that the titles they have already released on at format will now only be on store shelves for a limited time. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to put together this little post together, cataloguing Warner titles that are either not (yet) available on Blu-ray, or are available on Blu-ray in inferior versions, therefore giving people the opportunity to pick up any titles they want before it’s too late.

Please note that this list is not complete by any means, so if you spot any missing titles, or title that are there but shouldn’t be, then please leave me a comment and I’ll make the necessary changes.

Titles which feature superior audio on HD DVD:

- The Ant Bully (TrueHD)
- Happy Feet (TrueHD)
- Lady in the Water (TrueHD)
- Nip/Tuck: The Complete Fourth Season (1.5 Mbps on HD DVD, 640 Kbps on BD)
- The Phantom of the Opera (TrueHD)
- Superman Returns (TrueHD)
- Training Day (TrueHD)
- The Wicker Man [remake] (TrueHD)

Titles which feature VC-1 encodes on HD DVD but MPEG-2 on BD:

- The Fugitive
- Good Night, and Good Luck
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
- Rumor Has It
- Space Cowboys
- Training Day

Titles which are limited to 1080i output on BD:

- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (replacement programme expected)

Titles which feature more extras on HD DVD:

- 300
- Blood Diamond
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Pan’s Labyrinth (New Line)
- Troy: Director’s Cut

Titles which are currently only available on HD DVD:

- The Adventures of Robin Hood
- Batman Begins
- Caddyshack
- Casablanca
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Constantine
- The Dukes of Hazzard
- Excalibur
- Forbidden Planet
- Grand Prix
- The Matrix Trilogy
- Mutiny on the Bounty
- The Perfect Storm
- Poseidon
- Troy (theatrical cut)
- V for Vendetta
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It stands to reason that, with PiP now working on Profile 1.1 Blu-ray players, Warner will begin to release titles originally delayed on Blu-ray because the functionality wasn’t there, including Batman Begins and The Matrix Trilogy. Older catalogue titles such as Casablanca and Mutiny on the Bounty reportedly sold poorly on HD DVD, and have no technological reason not to have been released on Blu-ray, so it may be that Warner will simply write them off as expensive mistakes until high definition media has a larger market hold.

Update, January 7th, 2007 02:25 PM: Added Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which on BD is limited to 1080i output rather than full 1080p (thanks to Jayson for pointing this one out).

Update, January 7th, 2007 08:01 PM: Added Training Day to the audio section and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to the “not available on BD” section. Thanks again, Jayson.

Update, January 10th, 2007 06:51 PM: Removed Million Dollar Baby from the “Titles which feature VC-1 encodes on HD DVD but MPEG-2 on BD” section, as it is in fact a VC-1 encode on both formats (thanks, Anthony).

Update, January 11th, 2007 08:59 AM: Added various titles to the audio section (thanks, Anthony).

 
Posted: Monday, January 07, 2008 at 9:15 AM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

DVD debacle

DVD DVD DVD DVD

It’s funny, all this hoo-ha over the Warner Blu-ray announcement, and what did I end up doing yesterday? I went out during my lunch break and bought some standard definition DVDs. In my defence, they were practically giving them away, with the bulk of them £3.99 and several included in a “Buy two, get a third free” deal. I ended up with Y Tu Mamá También, Little Children, Munich and Factory Girl, with these titles chosen for a combination of reasons, ranging from “I’ve wanted to see this but never had the opportunity” to “People said this one was good” to “I can’t think of another title to get, so I’ll pick one at random.” Care to guess which was which?

 
Posted: Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 10:37 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD
 

The Giallo Project #9: The Frightened Woman

DVD

Alternative titles: Femina ridens; The Laughing Woman; Director: Piero Schivazappa; Starring: Philippe Leroy, Dagmar Lassander; Music: Stelvio Cipriani; Italian theatrical release date: August 24th, 1969

Note: this review contains a number of major spoilers.

“From an aesthetic point of view, your position is perfect. You form a long, supple, curving line against a series of upright lines. You’re feminine like that!” - Dr. Sayer

Well, nearly five months after my last entry, I finally decided to stop prolonging the inevitable and get this project started again. A can only apologise for the extended delay, and hopefully future updates will be a lot more frequent than they have been so far.

Initially, I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this film in the Giallo Project, given that its affiliation with the form can only really be described as loose. However, I think that it does share many elements with the “woman in peril” domestic thrillers that Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi were known for during the early days of the movement, so in a sense it would be wrong to ignore it just because it doesn’t fit the template of the typical giallo. The plot essentially concerns Maria (Dagmar Lassander), a reporter, who accepts an invitation from the enigmatic Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy) to visit his apartment on the pretext of giving her some files for a paper she is writing. Maria discovers too late that Sayer is in fact a lunatic who believes that women will take over the world and render men redundant unless something is done to curb their emancipation.

The Frightened Woman

One of the elements that continues to fascinate me with films such as these, and indeed was one of the driving forces in my decision to undertake a PhD on the subject, its their strange air of ambivalence towards violence, modernity and sexuality, to name but a few. After 87 minutes of Dr. Sayer berating women for their desire to be “socially and sexually self-sufficient” and lamenting the possibility of a future in which such a state should come to pass, I’m still not sure where writer/director Piero Schivazappa stands on the issue. The film came along at the height of the women’s liberation movement, and as such it’s tempting to see this as the knee-jerk reaction of a filmmaker who, like many men in the 60s and 70s, was growing increasingly paranoid as a result of women’s burgeoning independence. Obviously, Dr. Sayer is completely insane and unstable, but it wouldn’t be the first time a director used a lunatic to convey his message. The matter is also muddied considerably by a plot twist in the final act which turns the tables, presenting Sayer as the victim of an entrapment scheme cooked up by Maria and another woman. Still, it does conclude with what seems to be a completely sincere call to arms for women not to take any crap from men, so frankly I have no idea!

Whatever Schivazappa intended, the film is clearly an exploration of control. The majority of gialli that feature a female protagonist can be broken down into simple stories of a helpless woman falling into the arms of her handsome rescuer: it’s the ultimate male fantasy of the Good Man saving the damsel in distress from the Bad Man. The difference, here, is that there is no Good Man, only one man and one woman, with the roles of victim and aggressor becoming increasingly blurred as the film progresses. At one point, Maria asks Sayer why he is holding her against her will when he could have all the women he wants. The answer is that he isn’t interested in a woman who is with him by her own choosing: he has to break her will, to give her no choice. This is why Sayer reacts with such horror to Maria’s suicide attempt: his desire for control over her is so strong that he can’t bear the thought of her dying on her terms rather than his. In the shifting power dynamic between the two characters, meanwhile, there seems to be an implication that man wants to enslave woman but is ultimately utterly dependent on her. Sayer is obsessed with his own virility, continually exercising, checking for grey hairs, and so on. Of course, the ageing process is something that can’t be stopped, so perhaps Schivazappa is saying that any attempt to resist the tide of change is ultimately futile. I don’t know, and that’s part of why I find this film so interesting.

Woman's path curves while man's is straight and regimented?

Above: Woman’s path curves while man’s is straight and regimented?

Whether all this theorising and analysis interests you is beside the point, because there is plenty of visual aural and eye candy to satisfy even the most ardent theoryphobe (did I just coin a new term there?). It’s beautifully shot - that much is clear even on the horribly faded and blurred copy I watched, where every shade of colour seemed to be a muddy brown - and incredibly late 60s in its styling. The characters seem to live inside a surrealist painting, one populated with art deco architecture and furniture, and even a fascinating vagina dentata contraption, one large enough for a man to step inside and be swallowed by. There is a fascinating contrast between the classical paintings that adorn Sayer’s workplace and the anarchic, tripped-out world of his bachelor pad. Likewise, I’m intrigued by the manner in which Sayer is continually associated with rigid, straight lines while Maria is shown in the context of smooth, flowing curves. Intriguingly, this aesthetic is also used to highlight the shifting balance of power. At the start, while Maria is Sayer’s prisoner, she is frequently framed within or partially blocked by horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, whereas later, as the nature of the captor/captive relationship is altered, the framing and architecture become more freeform.

I’m ultimately not entirely sure how I feel about The Frightened Woman. It’s a visually arresting and often thematically interesting piece of work, but it does strike a few bum notes, among them Maria’s readiness to forgive Sayer for locking her up and abusing her mentally and physically when she discovers that this is the first time he has ever done this to a woman (although even this is muddied by the late revelation that she was actually the one who set out to ensnare him). Likewise, after the reconciliation between the two characters, there is a lengthy stretch in which the film more or less collapses until the final climactic twist is unveiled. Still, it’s an interesting, unique piece of work, and Lassander and Leroy do well to carry it across the finishing line between them. This is probably one for repeat viewings, and is definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it before.

Next time, I’ll be looking at another fringe case, Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.

 
Posted: Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 5:49 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Gialli | PhD | Reviews | The Giallo Project
 

Run Blu-ray run

Blu-ray

I’m a bit behind with reporting this, but, as the saying goes, “better late than never”. Run Lola Run, one of my favourite films, is to get the high definition treatment courtesy of Sony Pictures’ Blu-ray release on February 19th. As High-Def Digest reports, it will come on a single layer BD-25 disc with an AVC encode, German (and English, pfff) Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio and the main extras from the standard definition DVD, including the excellent commentary by Tom Tykwer and Franka Potente. It also features the hilariously bad tag-line of “Fast cash, crazy fate & true love”… although, given the recent hilarity of the blurb on the Resident Evil: The High Definition Trilogy box set, which Lyris received yesterday, I’m now more convinced than ever that someone at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s marketing department is taking the piss.

Consider this, one of the few HD discs announced so far this year that I’m actually interested in, pre-ordered.

 
Posted: Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology
 

Setting the record straight: The Psychic

DVD

A week ago, I wrote a post on Severin Films’ release of Lucio Fulci’s DVD of The Psychic, criticising its image quality based on flaws which I believed indicated a PAL to NTSC video standards conversion. The truth is actually more complicated than that, and I would like to apologise for misleading anyone in any way.

However, rather than asking you to take my word for it, I thought it would be better if I let someone else explain it - someone who knows more about this subject matter than me and has had first hand experience with video encoding.

David Mackenzie says:

Michael has given me this disc for my input. It’s a very strange one and sadly, I have to say that it is definitely a poor disc. The opening shot of the car driving clearly shows a lot of motion judder and also some interpolated frames (strange for a Progressive disc). The frame rate is 29.970fps, and not the correct (for telecine’d film) 23.976fps.

For those that would like to get into technicalities, this is not a video standards conversion in the typical sense. I can understand why it would be mistaken for one because of the aforementioned doubled frames in the opening shot, but it’s different. It is actually worse than a traditional standards conversion. With typical PAL 50i->NTSC 60i conversions, better Deinterlacing hardware (in high-end TVs, projectors, DVD players, video processors etc) can attempt to recover much of the original resolution, albeit with the caveats that standards conversions bring to the table (slight motion blur).

However, this disc is a badly done Progressive one. That means that no matter how good your video processing hardware is, it’s never going to look much better than this. The video for this film has not been handled correctly. The entire film has a lot of aliasing (which is probably why it was mistaken for a 50i->60i standards conversion in the first place) which appears to be the result of it being run through a crude Deinterlacing process. This creates jaggies and causes a loss of resolution. On the up-side, there’s no motion blur for most of the film.

Mike also showed me the French R2 PAL release. It’s MUCH better (despite having some more film damage). It doesn’t have the jagged lines, and there’s no motion blur on any scene.

I realise that companies releasing “cult” foreign material on DVD have enough problems to worry about - rights issues, tracking down good masters, etc., and I realise that not everyone is a video enthusiast, so smaller labels won’t necessarily know what to do in every case. That said, proper conversion between the formats is not at all difficult 99% of the time, so it’s a problem everyone could do without.

With that in mind, if anyone at Severin would like to contact me, I’d be more than willing to explain how to convert a PAL master tape into NTSC Film (23.976fps progressive) using the correct method.

- David Mackenzie
Hardware Reviewer and DVD author

 
Posted: Saturday, January 05, 2008 at 7:26 PM | Comments: 10 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli | Technology
 

Ultimate quality

HD DVD

Tomorrow, I will be sending my review disc of The Bourne Ultimatum back for a replacement. The reason? It’s the first high definition disc I’ve received, on either format, that suffers from severe playback issues. By “severe”, I mean “half the time, the disc won’t even start”. HD DVD/DVD combo discs like this do, apparently, have a higher fail rate than single-sided discs, so I’m pretty surprised that it’s taken till now for me to end up with one. Before packaging up the disc, however, I did manage to take some screen captures - mostly from the first half of the film, as I got a whole bunch of read errors during the second. Enjoy.

The Bourne Ultimatum
(Universal, USA, VC-1)

The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum The Bourne Ultimatum

 
Posted: Friday, January 04, 2008 at 4:41 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

Feature: Top 10 HD Transfers of 2007

HD DVD and Blu-ray

In years gone by, I’ve done articles, either for DVD Times or for this site, to celebrate the best (and sometimes worst) DVD releases of the year. For reasons too complex to get into (translation: I can’t remember them), I didn’t do one last year, but I decided that I couldn’t repeat this oversight again. So, with that in mind, I’ve taken a break from complaining about edge enhancement, filtering and dodgy standards conversions to say nothing but nice things. Be amazed at my coverage of the Top 10 HD Transfers of 2007.

 
Posted: Friday, January 04, 2008 at 3:54 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

A $75 million turkey

HD DVD

My first two optical discs of 2008 arrived this morning, and I’m sorry to say that neither one turned out to be particularly impressive, albeit for different reasons. The first, The Simpsons Movie on Blu-ray, I’ll discuss in a minute, but for the moment, I want to take a moment to discuss Cat People on HD DVD (the Paul Schrader remake, not the Val Lewton original), which features, hands down, the worst high definition transfer I’ve ever paid money to see. Okay, so Traffic and Spartacus (both also from Universal, as it happens) both look worse, but I didn’t pay to see these.

From start to finish Cat People has been attacked, and I mean attacked, with the edge enhancement and noise reduction filters, to the extent that every high contrast edge is surrounded by a large white outline, and every time the camera moves the screen turns to mush, while every texture, from skin to fabric to hair, looks like wax. Even more infuriatingly, the clips that play behind the main menu look nothing like this. They are alive with unmolested film grain and, beyond the still-visible edge enhancement, generally look pretty tolerable. Now don’t get me wrong: I suspect that the master used was less than stellar to start with, as is true of many catalogue titles from Universal and other studios. However, I also suspect that, had the image simply been left alone, it would have looked no worse than the likes of Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation, which fall way below my standards of acceptability but are at least watchable. Cat People is just… ugh.

Blu-ray

Now, on to the main point of this post (no, I’m not done ranting): The Simpsons Movie. I’ll probably be doing a full review for this at some point, so I’ll withhold my comments about the transfer until then, save to say that the ringing that some people have pointed out is indeed present from beginning to end, and you’ll no doubt be able to see the evidence on my brother’s site when he does his own post on the subject very soon. (Incidentally, it really sticks in my craw when people don’t themselves see problems that have been identified with transfers, and illustrated through solid evidence, and have the audacity to claim that those who do see them either have faulty equipment or have somehow got “a bad copy” of the disc in question. If you have even the slightest comprehension of how digital replication works, then you’ll know how ridiculous the latter is.)

No, my blithering will primarily be restricted to the film itself and what a tragic waste of time it is.

I like The Simpsons, I really do. The first five seasons are almost consistently hilarious, and, for all their bland animation and shoddy timing, they are pretty hard to fault. However, I think it’s fair to say that the show has not been at its prime for some time now, and the only thing worse than a has-been show is one that is unceremoniously hauled on to the big screen, where the flaws become even more readily apparent.

I saw The Simpsons Movie late last summer and was thoroughly underwhelmed by it. Foolishly, I thought that a second viewing might improve my appreciation of it, so I decided to pick up a copy of the Blu-ray release. Besides, we’re somewhat starved for high definition traditional animation, so, as the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately, I now find myself wishing I hadn’t bothered. The simple reason for this is that, second time round, I already knew the story, so there was nothing, and I mean nothing, left to engage me. Had this, the result of the toiling of fifteen writers, god knows how many animators and a gaggle of overpaid actors who sound like they’ve never taken voice direction in their lives (that’s $75 million to you and me), been broadcast as part of the regular series, it would have been the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen (bearing in mind that I stopped watching regularly at around Season 11). As it stands, it’s three times longer than the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen, which means that it’s actually three times worse than the worst episode of The Simpsons I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen the one where Homer gets raped by a panda.

I don’t often say “Can I have an hour and a half of my life back?” after watching a film, no matter how bad, but I’m going to say it this time. I honestly can’t understand how anyone could have a positive word to say about it. The sad part is that it isn’t even awful. It’s just empty, bland, insincere and ultimately pointless. It’s not even funny - I laughed at it perhaps three times: once at Bart’s “doodle”, once at the gag where Bart defaces the Wanted picture of his family (itself a retread of a gag used at least twice before in the show), and then at the one genuinely funny line in the entire film: “You just bought another load of crap from the world’s fattest fertiliser salesman!” Which, oddly enough, is exactly how I felt when I remembered I’d given 20th Century Fox my money for this film.

So can I have an hour and a half of my life back, please?

Update, January 3rd, 2008 09:52 PM: Lyris’ post, with pictures, can now be found here.

 
Posted: Thursday, January 03, 2008 at 8:58 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology
 

Unleashed unleashed

Blu-ray

Courtesy of the goons at Blu-ray.com comes the news that the HD DVD exclusive (in the US) Unleashed is being released on Blu-ray in Japan on February 22nd, under its original title of Danny the Dog. I already have the US HD DVD, but the fact that it is being released under the title that seems to be reserved for the slightly longer, more character-oriented French cut of the film, has sparked my interest in this version. I’ve no idea which cut of the film was released in Japan, but the title, along with the fact that both China and Hong Kong got the French cut, means that, by my estimation, chances are pretty high that this Blu-ray release will be the same.

Given the extortionate prices of Japanese optical disc media, I’m going to wait till I know for sure which version will appear on this disc, but it would be nice to replace (or supplement) the in my opinion inferior American version. Additionally, given that the HD DVD transfer was somewhat filtered, it would please me greatly if this version looked better.

 
Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 at 11:09 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD
 

It’s sweepstakes time!

Film

Top 10 films of 2007:

1. Black Book (Netherlands/Germany/Belgium: Paul Verhoeven)
2. Zodiac (USA: David Fincher)
3. The Lives of Others (Germany, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
4. Planet Terror (USA: Robert Rodriguez)
5. Sicko (USA: Michael Moore)
6. Hot Fuzz (UK/France: Edgar Wright)
7. Ratatouille (USA: Brad Bird)
8. Death Proof (USA: Quentin Tarantino)
9. Black Snake Moan (USA: Craig Brewer)
10. Mother of Tears (Italy/USA: Dario Argento)

(Also posted at DVD Times)
 

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD

Top 10 optical disc releases of 2007:

Black Book (Blu-ray, Sony Pictures, USA)
Blade Runner: 5-disc Complete Collector’s Edition (HD DVD, Warner, USA)
Cars (Blu-ray, Disney, USA)
Casino Royale (Blu-ray, Sony Pictures, Finland)
Children of Men (HD DVD, Universal, USA)
Hot Fuzz (HD DVD, Universal, UK)
Mulholland Drive (HD DVD, Studio Canal, France)
Ratatouille (Blu-ray, Disney, USA)
Silent Hill (HD DVD, Concorde, Germany)
Les Triplettes de Belleville (HD DVD, France Télévisions Éditions, France)

(Also posted at DVD Times)

 
Notes: These lists are based solely on what I myself have seen of the films and discs released in 2007. I make no claims as to them being all-inclusive. Some of the films listed were still playing in UK cinemas in 2007 despite being released in 2006. The top optical disc releases were chosen from a combination of the quality of the films themselves, the audio/visual presentation and the extras.

 
Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2008 at 7:35 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | HD DVD
 

The Year in Review, 2007

Well, another year has been and gone. We’re all a year older, but probably not much wiser. As usual, I’m going to do a brief run-down of various events and issues that I’ve touched on in my news posts over the year. It’s generally not my style to comment on current affairs, so I won’t be saying anything about the murder of Benazir Bhutto, Tony Blair’s departure from office or anything like that. This year, I’ve decided to split things into several sections.

 
Life Itself

Life™ was somewhat different for me this year. The biggest change was, fairly obviously, that, at the end of March, I landed myself a full-time job, working for the NHS on their Smoking Cessation programme. I spent four and a half months working thirty-seven and a half hours a week in an office, entering data and phoning people to ask them whether they had managed to successfully stop smoking, and, while I’m not about to claim that this was the most unpleasant way anyone could ever spend four and a half months, I won’t deny that I was extremely relieved to see the back of the place in August, at which point I went into a part-time Library Assistant position at the Gallery of Modern Art. To say that I find this job vastly preferable to my previous one would be the understatement of the year, and that’s not just because I work fewer hours.

On a not entirely unrelated note, my application for funding for my PhD was unsuccessful, but my four and a half months of back-breaking (I kid) labour with the NHS was enough to pay for my first year of part-time study, and more besides. I started the PhD, on portrayals of gender in the giallo (following on from my MLitt dissertation on the same area), at the end of September and, while illness in November prevented me from making as much headway as I would have liked, the work that I’ve done so far has certainly gone a long way towards getting me back into the swing of things, academically speaking, and I look forward to properly delving into my subject of choice over the next twelve months.

 
Zeros and Ones

HD DVD and Blu-ray

The big technological issue of 2007 was the ongoing battle between the two rival high definition home video formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray, and the perpetual game of teeter-totter in which each format continued to vie for supremacy, engaging in a conflict of words as much as sales. A war in which what your opposition doesn’t have is every bit as important as what you do have, the biggest surprise was undoubtedly Paramount’s shock decision, in August, to ditch Blu-ray entirely and concentrate on HD DVD. With no end to the format war in sight any time soon, 2008 looks set to be another interesting year.

For me, my most significant purchase was that of a Japanese Playstation 3, reneging on my single format stance and embracing neutrality. Personally speaking, the balance continues to lie firmly in favour of HD DVD in terms of exclusive titles (a fact only compounded by the aforementioned Paramount decision), but I can’t deny that it’s nice to be able to own and watch high definition copies of Casino Royale, The Descent and Ratatouille.

I also bought three additional pieces of hardware: a new desktop PC in May, an Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive in July (to replace my clunky and oversized stand-alone HD-A1 player), and a Blu-ray enabled laptop in October. In the case of the latter, my original intention was to use it primarily for PhD work, although, in reality, I’ve got just as much, if not more, use out of it as a convenient means of taking screen captures from Blu-ray discs.

 
At the Pictures

HD DVD

Perhaps largely due to my period of full-time employment, I watched somewhat fewer films this year than in the previous two years. By my calculation, I watched a total of 164 films, 77 of which were ones that I hadn’t seen before, down from 216 (99 new) in 2006. Still, I did manage to see several significant films, including the great - 2001: A Space Odyssey, Babel, Black Book, Black Sabbath, the Final Cut of Blade Runner, Blood Diamond, Children of Men, Full Metal Jacket, Grindhouse, Hot Fuzz, Inside Man, Life of Brian, The Lives of Others, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ratatouille, Sicko, This Film is Not Yet Rated, Zodiac - the reasonably good - 1408, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Brokeback Mountain, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Bourne Ultimatum, Chicago, Crank, The Game, Hard Candy, Idiocracy, Mission Impossible, Mission Impossible III, Mother of Tears, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Red Road, Syriana, Tideland, Transformers - and the guff - Aeon Flux, Fantastic Four, The Fountain, Futurama: Bender’s Big Score!, Hostel, House of the Dead, The Matrix Revolutions, Mission Impossible II, Norbit, Paprika, A Scanner Darkly, The Simpsons Movie and the remakes of Poseidon and The Wicker Man.

Best new film I saw in the year? Either Black Book or Children of Men. Worst? Without a shadow of a doubt, Norbit.

I bought or otherwise received 118 films on disc, 42 of which were HD DVDs, 31 Blu-ray discs and 45 standard definition DVDs. I wrote 44 reviews for DVD Times, down from last year’s 66. Of these, 16 were for HD DVDs, 12 for Blu-ray discs and 16 for standard definition DVDs.

 
Bibliothèque

The Historian

I read the following books: Legion by William Peter Blatty, The Naked Drinking Club by Rhona Cameron, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File by Frederick Forsythe, Carrie by Stephen King, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, The Red Dahlia by Lynda La Plante, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli, The Dead Hour by Denise Mina, The Mephisto Waltz by Fred Mustard Stewart, Odette by Jerrard Tickell, Mercy Alexander by George Tiffin, and The Devil Rides Out, Gateway to Hell, Strange Conflict and To the Devil - a Daughter by Dennis Wheatley. Which, now that I think about it, is a heck of a lot more than I’d expected.

 
Song and Dance

CD

I snagged the following CDs: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Ennio Morricone), Blood Diamond (James Newton Howard), Cars (Randy Newman), The Descent (David Julyan), Grindhouse: Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez/John Debney/Graeme Revell), The Iron Giant (Michael Kamen), Kingdom of Heaven (Harry Gregson-Williams), Mother of Tears (Claudio Simonetti), The Professional (Eric Serra), The Secret of NIMH (Jerry Goldsmith), Serenity (David Newman), This is the Life (Amy MacDonald), V for Vendetta (Dario Marianelli), Veronica Guerin (Harry Gregson-Williams), Why Bother? (Peter Cook and Chris Morris).

 
Well, all in all, I think that’s it for another year. Look back on it, it reads a bit like a shopping list with the occasional personal titbit, but I suppose that’s the way of things in our evil capitalist society. Anyway, here’s to a great 2008 and yet more wanton spending.

 
Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2008 at 4:26 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Books | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | General | Gialli | HD DVD | Music | PhD | Reviews | TV | Technology | Web
 

Ave Satani indeed…

Omen IV: The Awakening is my first film of the new year. Unfortunately, I can’t say we’re off to a great start…

The Omen is one of my all-time favourite films. Its script may not be a masterpiece, but its tight execution by Richard Donner, stellar cast, including Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw and David Warner, not to mention masterful score by Jerry Goldsmith, conspire to make it a first-rate exercise in horror. Its two sequels, Damien: Omen II and The Final Conflict, demonstrate the law of diminishing returns and, barring a handful of set-piece sequences, are generally not worth bothering with. Still, their flaws pale in comparison to this third sequel, one of the worst and unintentionally funniest films I have ever had the (dis)honour of seeing.

Omen IV: The Awakening eventually made its debut on television in 1991. However, I suspect that it was originally intended for a big screen release, a theory compounded by the fact that the DVD comes with a theatrical trailer, not to mention that the film itself is in a ratio of 1.85:1, which would have been unheard of for American TV in the early 90s. Presumably, the powers that be at 20th Century Fox actually realised that they had, in all likelihood, commissioned a train wreck and opted to let it rot on the small screen rather than risk the end of Western civilisation by subjecting it to moviegoers around the world. And these are the people that deemed Glitter to be releasable.

Can you guess the plot? A married couple (Faye Grant and Michael Woods) adopt an orphaned child from a convent, only for it to emerge fairly quickly that the hapless couple have in fact been lumbered with the spawn of Satan (literally). The child, this time round, is not Damien but Delia (Asia Vieira), but, barring this change of gender, it’s business as usual.

Things begin to go horribly wrong right from the start. “Wait till you see her,” declares a beaming nun, talking on the phone to Delia’s parents-to-be. “She’s a tiny miracle.” Jump cut to a shot of storm clouds accompanied by a thunderclap, then back to the ladies of the cloth, while Mother Superior intones dramatically that “Clouds sweep away the colour. Leaves everything like a black and white photograph.” I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the heebie-jeebies already.

Scene after ridiculous scene unfolds before us. During Delia’s baptism, the child begins to scream and bawl, prompting looks of horror from all and sundry. (I’m not sure why they find this so strange: every baptism I’ve attended has resulted in the victim howling his or her head off. And naturally, for the crime of attempting to indoctrinate the child, Satan strikes the guilty priest down with the sudden onset of a heart attack.) Later, a nanny is pursued by a Rottweiler and then falls backwards through an upper storey window in slow motion. A crowd of carol singers in bad goth make-up lip sync to the “Jesus Christus, Ave Satani” lyrics of the soundtrack. We even have a fervent get-together for born again Christians, in which one of the aforementioned nuns, now welcomed into the bosom of this cult and inexplicably, out of nowhere saddled with a strident Southern accent, hands out snakes to members of the congregation (no, I’m not kidding) and tells them they’ve “got the joy”. Eventually, she predictably ends up being bitten when the snakes turn on her, although the prosthetics work is so bad that it looks as if they are attacking a doll’s legs.

Aaargh! Not the choirboys!

Aaargh! Not the choirboys!

These are actually the high points of the film. The rest of it is so risible that I actually found myself missing The Final Conflict’s hapless assassin priests and their Keystone Kops antics. The absolute worst moment comes about a third of the way in, when Delia gets her revenge on a school bully. In the original film, Damien drove his nanny to suicide with a mere glance. Here, Delia’s ultimate punishment is to cause her tormenter to piss his pants, complete with a tasteful close-up of the urine seeping through his trousers. For a very strange moment, I thought that Delia had somehow wandered on to the set of Problem Child. And I’m not even going to give away the twist ending, which, even though I knew it was coming, had me howling with laughter. Special attention must be given to the phenomenally hammy acting, with Faye Grant taking the prize in the role of the harangued mother. Asia Vieira, meanwhile, has only one tone of delivery - bratty - leaving us convinced that, if she really is the child of the Devil, then Satan really needs to work on his parenting skills and exercise a little discipline.

Of course, given that this is a 90s film, the writer has to throw in nods to non-mainstream “spirituality” in case anyone was feeling a little left out (there’s nothing for the atheists among us, though, I hasten to note). And here’s my problem with this approach: if you’re going to tell a story that presents religion and the supernatural as real, then please do so consistently instead of throwing in this wishy-washy “everyone is spiritual” nonsense. The Omen films ostensibly present Christian doctrine as reality, so why, pray tell, would Delia react with such horror to a “healing crystal” worn around her nanny’s neck, and why would a gaggle of New Age mystics and assorted crackpots, upon seeing her, collectively go wide-eyed and begin opening and closing their mouths like fish out of water? (Incidentally, the healing crystal leads to one of the most hilariously awful moments in the entire film: the nanny reacts in horror as she discovers that the crystal around her neck has turned black, and, hurrying to the bedroom drawer in which she keeps various other trinkets, all of which have turned the same colour. Just in case we don’t understand what has happened, the filmmakers treat us to her exclaiming in voiceover: “They’re all black!” You couldn’t make this stuff up. Still, this is nothing compared to a mystic declaring that Delia’s aura is like “mud and molasses and swirls of red paint”.)

What’s worse, this is effectively little more than a remake of the original film. Barring a handful of minor deviations, the plot is virtually identical, right down to the details. In The Omen, various zoo animals went wild when confronted with Damien; here, Delia drives a crowd of horses to madness. In both films, the mother character ends up pregnant and becomes convinced that Damien/Delia will do everything in his/her power to prevent the child’s birth. We even get photographs of doom, a kooky nanny and a phenomenally badly staged repeat of the iconic decapitation accident. Even the film’s one good element is pilfered: Jonathan Sheffer’s insipid music is augmented by the liberal borrowing of Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for The Omen and The Final Conflict. And, of course, at the end, we’re effectively back where we started, with another Antichrist in the world and the potential for any number of sequels. Thankfully, the decision-makers opted to nip this in the bud rather than let things continue.

I suspect there’s a reason this film was omitted from the initial UK Omen box set, and that’s that, even in comparison with the first two sequels, it’s tragically awful. It is, however, very funny (unintentionally, of course), considerably more entertaining than that dire 2006 remake of the original film, so, oddly enough, I find myself in the position of giving a stronger recommendation to what is, technically, the worse of the two.

 
Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2008 at 1:16 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews | TV
 

DVDs I bought or received in the month of December

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD
  • 28 Weeks Later (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Blade Runner: 5-disc Complete Collector’s Edition (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Four Flies on Grey Velvet (R0 Germany, DVD)
  • Halloween: Unrated Director’s Cut (R1 USA, DVD)
  • Inside Man (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Jackass Number 2 (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 5 (R1 USA, DVD)
  • Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 3 (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 4 (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • The Psychic (R1 USA, DVD)
  • Running Scared (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
  • Sicko (R1 USA, DVD)
  • Tekkonkinkreet (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Tideland (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
  • Veronica Guerin (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Wolf Creek (R0 UK, HD DVD)

A pretty shockingly large line-up to send off 2007. I guess I should count myself lucky that several of these were either free or Christmas presents.

 
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2007 at 11:59 PM
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | TV
 
 

 
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