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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
 

Mean Girls BD impressions

Blu-ray

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…

Blu-ray

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…

Blu-ray

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

Blu-ray

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

DVD

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…

DVD

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

Blu-ray

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

Twilight
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)

Blu-ray

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

Blu-ray

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…

Blu-ray

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
 

DVD Trash Roundtable #1

Web

I recently participated in DVD Trash’s first roundtable of 2009 - hopefully the first of many. The question poses was:

When your alone, what is your Wintry Friday Night Evening Wrapped in a Blanket Horror Movie? Basically the genre movie you curl up on the couch with!

You can find my answer, along with those of several other genre fans, here.

 
Posted: Thursday, April 09, 2009 at 7:39 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Web
 

The early bird catches the worm

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

It seems I’m a little late to the party with this news, but I recently discovered that Disney’s upcoming Blu-ray Disc Platinum Edition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be arriving on store shelves a full seven weeks ahead of its DVD counterpart.

This to me is very pleasing news and is the sort of thing I hope to see more and more of in the future. Before anyone accuses me of being mean in denying those still restricted to standard definition DVD the right to experience this classic, let me just say that I’m not. The BD release of Snow White also includes a DVD copy of the film, as was the case with the recent BD releases of Bolt (itself released 48 hours ahead of the standalone DVD version) and Pinocchio, among others. My reasoning behind this is that, by adopting this strategy, Disney is ultimately encouraging (whether intentionally or not) those who have yet to adopt BD to pick up a future-proof package, making the eventual path to BD that bit more painless for them. (“Gee, honey, why not get a BD player? We’ve already got this collection of discs just waiting to be played in it.”)

What I’d ultimately like to see is the abolition of stand-alone DVD releases altogether, in favour of these BD/DVD combos. I’m not sure how feasible this is at the moment, but I suspect it will become more so as BD replication and licensing costs decrease. It seems fairly clear that the general public will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into high definition. I suspect that BD is long past the point of being considered a failure, so its survival in the immediate future is not in any jeopardy. Simply surviving, however, is not enough.

My ultimate dream is to be able to obtain a BD copy of any film of my choosing, and that won’t happen until the format at least achieves parity with DVD. At the moment, it’s simply not worth the time and money for smaller labels to release their niche collections on BD, because not enough people will buy them for them to even begin to recoup the costs. I don’t blame them. If you’re struggling to make a profit when you release a title on DVD, the last thing you want to do is pay the astronomical licensing fees to author, press and distribute a BD version that even fewer people will buy.

Therefore, it’s up to the majors - the ones who can afford it - to lead the way by helping to increase market saturation, and personally I think that these combo releases are theoretically an excellent means of doing that. It can only work, though, if sufficient incentive is given for the average (wo)man on the street to buy the BD/DVD combo rather than the standalone DVD. Until the day comes that standalone DVD releases disappear altogether, “BD first” strategies like the one being demonstrated by Snow White seem like the best solution.

Source: Blu-ray.com

 
Posted: Monday, April 06, 2009 at 11:50 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology | Web
 

Just arrived…

Blu-ray

Two Evil Eyes (Blu-ray, Blue Underground, Region ABC, USA)

 
Posted: Monday, April 06, 2009 at 10:29 AM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento
 

DVD review: Baba Yaga: The Final Cut

DVD
What transpired in 1973 means that any presentation of Baba Yaga was always going to be severely compromised. As such, Shameless are to be commended for taking the time and trouble to involve Corrado Farina and attempt to restore the film to its intended state. The audio-visual shortcomings of this release mean that those who already own the Blue Underground DVD are going to want to hold on to that version, but this new version represents a valiant effort to bring the film closer to how it was originally meant to be seen. As such, and for the insightful new bonus features, this release gets a thumbs up from me.

Originally hacked to bits by its producer, Corrado Farina’s trippy Baba Yaga has been granted a second chance courtesy of Shameless Screen Entertainment. I review the Final Cut at DVD Times.

 
Posted: Sunday, April 05, 2009 at 11:05 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

Mamma Mia! BD impressions

Blu-ray

If you don’t like Mamma Mia!, you’re a miserable git. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Well, okay, I’m not pushing for a law to be passed forbidding any negative criticism of this deliriously-stupid-and-actually-a-bit-crap-but-still-outrageously-entertaining musical, but personally I had a great time, and I’m usually pretty cynical when it comes to stuff like this. For the record, I can’t say I have an opinion on Abba one way or the other, so listening to a bunch of Hollywood A-listers massacring their greatest hits was no skin off my nose. I will say this thing, however: listening to Pierce Brosnan attempting to sing is quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve witnessed so far this year. You have been warned.

On to the BD, and the look of the video can best be described as “inconsistent”. “Processed” is another adjective that springs to mind, as is “baked”, at least as far as the flesh tones are concerned. The film’s look is obviously deliberately stylised, and I suspect that all the flaws are the result of tinkering at the DI stage rather than any foulplay when the BD transfer was created. The look varies wildly on a shot by shot basis, with some looking quite natural indeed, with a nice amount of inherent film grain, and others looking scrubbed beyond the point of recognition. Our old friend the airbrush crops up on several occasions… well, basically every time Meryl Streep appears in close-up (look under her eyes - oh my!). Poor old Meryl is not the only victim, though - the youthful Amanda Seyfried gets the same treatment on occasions, and at times the whole screen appear to have been molested. It’s not exactly The Counterfeiters, is it? 7/10

Mamma Mia!
studio: Universal; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: VC-1;
file size: 29.2 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 38.50 Mbit/sec

Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!

 
Posted: Friday, April 03, 2009 at 10:39 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Music | Technology
 

Just arrived…

DVD

Baba Yaga: The Final Cut (DVD, Shameless Screen Entertainment, Region 0, UK) [review copy]

 
Posted: Thursday, April 02, 2009 at 7:08 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD
 

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
 

BD review: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Blu-ray
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

DVD
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)

DVD

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
 
 

 
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