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High definition navel-gazing

HD DVD

I’ve inherited a copy of the recently released HD DVD of Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s rather good if somewhat depressing film about incredibly self-absorbed people loitering in Tokyo. Lyris picked it up from DVD Pacific, but decided to sell it on when he saw that the transfer was nothing to write home about. I, however, while still discerning when it comes to image quality, am more likely to hang on to an HD title so long as it provides an improvement over its standard definition counterpart (and, to be fair, barring Traffic, it seems that they all do). For the not unreasonable sum of £10, I took it off my hands and now have something which, while hopelessly middle of the road as far as high definition transfers are concerned (think Brokeback Mountain or Enemy of the State rather than Serenity or Casino Royale), certainly means I can now punt my standard definition DVD.

Shuttle P2 3900G

Speaking of flogging, I sold my Shuttle SD37P2 on eBay for £247 - not really too bad, considering that I paid £317.84 for it now. At the very least, it could have been a lot worse - the money I’ve lost will hopefully serve as a reminder to be more careful with my purchases in future (note: I cannot live without a PCI slot). It’s getting picked up tomorrow by Parcel2Go, and the money is on its way to my bank account - which is good, because my last credit card bill made me come out in a cold sweat.

HD DVD

Oh yeah, and my HD DVD of The Skeleton Key arrived this morning from Amazon. Given the mediocre titles I’ve been receiving from Universal of late (Lost in Translation, The Game, Brokeback Mountain), I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed… and it’s true that this transfer isn’t going to win any awards. Detail levels are strong without being exemplary, and there are some obvious signs of temporal noise reduction, but it basically looks pleasing to the eye and finds itself in fairly good company, slotted between Red Dragon and Land of the Dead (also from Universal) in my HD image quality rankings list (which is long overdue for an update).

What I’m really looking forward to now is the arrival of the Studio Canal HD DVDs of Mulholland Dr. and Brotherhood of the Wolf, particularly the former, which is one of my all-time favourite films. Lyris also has the Blu-ray release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean on the way, and, while it’s not a film I’m particularly fond of (actually, I would happily burn everything but the Johnny Depp scenes), I’m certainly eager to see how it fares in high definition, particularly given how shite the standard definition DVD was.

 
Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 at 9:07 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD
 

HD DVD review: The Fountain

HD DVD
The Fountain gets a decidedly mediocre HD release that doesn’t do its lush visuals justice by any stretch of the imagine. Still, even if it had been graced with the most impressive transfer ever, I would still find it rather difficult to recommend this infuriatingly nonsensical ramble even as demo material. If you like the film, you may find some of the additional bonus materials interesting, but if, like me, you thought it was a pompous load of odd cobblers, there’s really nothing here worth bothering about.

I unsuccessfully try to work out what on earth is going on in my review of Warner’s HD DVD/DVD combo release of The Fountain.

 
Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2007 at 2:04 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews
 

A day in at the movies

DVD

The Problem Child 3-pack and Black Book both arrived today from Play. After checking the first two films and verifying that they were indeed in widescreen and that Problem Child 2 was uncut (they are, and it is - 1.85:1 nunchuk action ahoy!), me and Lyris steeled ourselves and popped in Problem Child 3, as prepared as was humanly possible for the horrors that this made for TV sequel, with the key roles recast, could inflict on us. And it was… surprisingly bearable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a load of crap (not that the first two Problem Child films were ever going to win anything, of course - not even a Razzie), but it made us laugh, and the shift in tone wasn’t as dramatic as in, say, a Disney cheapquel. It’s a hell of a lot more surreal, even going so far as to include a couple of physical gags that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Tex Avery cartoon, and the guy playing Ben Healy (William Katt - who was in Carrie, by some coincidence) is about as poor a match for John Ritter as you could ever hope to find, but the scenes with the three returning cast members - Jack Warden, Gilbert Gottfried and Eric Edwards - provide much merriment. There is also some rather sly humour, some of it surprisingly twisted by network TV standards. Am I suggesting that everybody rushes out to see it? No - like I said, the film (if you can even call it that) is garbage by anyone’s standards, but it was a painless enough way to kill an hour and a half.

DVD

I also finally sat down and watched Pan’s Labyrinth, and I’m exceedingly glad I did, as it’s probably the best new horror movie I’ve seen since The Descent… although perhaps “horror” isn’t the best way to describe it as, contrary to what the marketing campaign would have you believe, only small portions of it take place in the world of make-believe. The rest of it is all unsettlingly real, taking place in Spain in 1944, with the country under the grip of General Franco’s fascists, and the military stopping at nothing to root out and destroy the resistance forces. The film is absolutely beautiful to behold, and the designs and effects work on the various creatures that the protagonist meets are astounding. In some ways, it reminded me of a twisted live action Spirited Away: a dark fairytale for adults.

Now I’m seriously considering picking up the French HD DVD, due for release on July 4th (my birthday!), even though it doesn’t have any English subtitles (I suspect the film can be enjoyed without the intrusion of translation anyway). Annoyingly, though, it will only be available in a 5-disc box set, packaged with the standard definition release and the score, rather than as a stand-alone HD DVD. It will also be the first HD DVD title to be THX-certified, which means… bugger all, of course.

PS. Black Book is my 600th DVD.

 
Posted: Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 10:43 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV | Technology
 

Carrie

Carrie

Confession time: this is the first time I’ve read a Stephen King novel. No, really. That’s quite an accomplishment, given my interest in horror and the sheer number of horror novels King has written, but I suppose we’ve all got to start somewhere.

Generally speaking, when I read a book that has been made into a film, in instances where I’ve seen the film first, I tend to come away with the impression that the book is the better version, with too much having been lost in the adaptation process. Not so with Carrie: I genuinely think that Brian De Palma improved the story in his iconic 1976 film. Carrie is a scant 200 pages (plus, in my copy, a new introduction by King in which he talks, at some length, about its origins), and I read it in dribs and drabs over the course of a week (that’s pretty fast by my standards). It definitely gripped me considerably more than the last book I read, The Historian, but I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece by any means. King uses an interesting technique (abandoned by De Palma in his film version) in which he intercuts the narrative with extracts from various publications - academic journals, courtroom transcripts, the written testimony of survivors of the fateful prom night - giving the read insight into the minds of people other than just poor Carrie White. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s just a distraction that gets in the way of the plot.

Unfortunately, I suspect that my having seen the film beforehand coloured my reading of the book. King refers to Carrie on numerous occasions as large and “bovine”, which Sissy Spacek most assuredly is not. He describes Margaret White in a similar way, which again clashes with the appearance of Piper Laurie in the film. It’s odd that the image of Carrie as a frail, slight girl seems to have been adopted so unanimously, as just about every piece of cover artwork that I’ve seen for the book, whether explicitly based on Spacek’s appearance in the film or not, bears more resemblance to the character from the film than to the one described on the page. That’s not, of course, a problem with the book itself but rather the way its image has been altered by the film’s influence.

As with The Exorcist (and I’ll get back to reading Legion very soon, Lee, I promise!), what struck me most about Carrie was the film’s faithfulness to its source material. Entire scenes and conversations have been lifted from page to celluloid, although, like I mentioned before, the film dispensed with the fictitious “secondary sources” used in the book. Some key changes were also made to the final act, probably due to budgetary constraints, and a plot involving a telepathic link between Carrie and Sue Snell (through whose eyes we see many of the events in the book) was also dropped.

So yeah, my first Stephen King, and probably not my last. I enjoyed it for sure, but it didn’t offer any startling revelations that I would have missed by just watching the film.

 
Posted: Saturday, June 02, 2007 at 1:13 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Books | Cinema | Reviews
 

DVDs I bought or received in the month of May

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Fountain (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • HDScape: Antarctica Dreaming (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • HDScape: Visions of the Sea (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth: Platinum Edition (R1 USA, DVD)
  • The Ultimate Matrix Collection (R0 USA, HD DVD)

So, HDScape. Exciting, huh?

 
Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 11:59 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD
 

So it looks better, this high definition thing?

HD DVD

A few routine high definition updates for you, just to make you aware of what’s going on in the land of 1080p. I’ve pre-ordered the upcoming HD DVD of The Bourne Identity, due out on July 24th. As per DVD Times, the standard definition DVD being released at the same time will feature an extended cut, and, while the HD DVD will apparently replicate the bonus content from this release, it’s unclear whether or not it will also feature this longer cut. I’d hazard a guess that it will, although whether this is something to be celebrated or decried depends on whether or not director Doug Liman was involved. Simply put, I’m aware, after the likes of the Gladiator fiasco, many of these extended cuts are merely the result of studio executives demanding that a few minutes be added to the running time in order to justify selling a new copy of the same film.

HD DVD

Universal has also announced a bunch of titles, including the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, for August 28th, while Sony will be releasing Arlington Road on Blu-ray on August 7th (sans commentary, a move that High-Def Digest rather generously refers to as “streamlin[ing]”). Both of these titles are shoe-ins for me - Arlington Road is a cracking if far-fetched thriller, and the Dawn of the Dead remake, while a pale shadow of the original, has a number of things going for it, in particularly the ever-impressive Sarah Polley and an appropriate dose of black humour. It should also be good HD demo material, if that makes any difference… as will Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, making its debut on Blu-ray on the same day as Arlington Road. I won’t, however, be picking up this particular title - the BD could look like a million bucks and I still wouldn’t have any desire to subject myself to that tedious dry-heave of a movie again.

David Fincher’s Zodiac, meanwhile, is coming to both formats on September 18th, a couple of months after their standard definition counterpart’s street date of July 24th. Lyris, who saw it at the cinema last week, came back raving about it, and I’m certainly game for anything from David Fincher. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen Fight Club yet. How about it, Fox? That’s if you eventually get off your asses and release anything in HD.

 
Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 10:18 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Animation | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD
 

“Ya rotten kids, ya should be locked in cages!”

DVD

After many years of shoddy treatment at the hands of its distributor, Problem Child, one of my favourite bad movies ever, has finally been released properly!

This film, and its sequel, the imaginatively named Problem Child 2, have, for some time, only been available on DVD in 4x3 full frame format. Obviously, these aren’t the most prestigious titles Universal has ever released, and you won’t see them being added to the studio’s HD DVD line-up any time soon (then again, considering some of the junk they’ve released in high definition, you’d think they might be well at home there), but no movie, not even Voodoo Academy, deserved to be butchered in such a way. Thankfully, Universal’s European distribution wing have come to the rescue, releasing the two original “classics”, and an apparently embarrassing made-for-TV sequel, on April 3rd, in a 3-disc box set, named, like its two-film US counterpart, the Problem Child Tantrum Pack. Recognising the important place that these films hold in the history of cinema, the BBFC have also agreed to waive the cuts they originally demanded to Problem Child 2 (the film was unlucky enough to be released at the height of the board’s nunchuk obsession).

DVD

Naturally, I’ve ordered myself a copy, from Play. I also took the opportunity to order a copy of Black Book (Zwartboek in its native Dutch), a film I originally intended to go to see at the cinema (yeah, yeah, how many times have I said that and not gone through with it?). It’s a Paul Verhoeven film, so chances are it’s laughably bad, shamelessly tasteless, or both, but it got some pretty good write-ups at the time of its theatrical release, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Oh yeah, and hope to get my reviews of both The Fountain (boo, hiss) and Pan’s Labyrinth (which I still haven’t got round to watching) before the end of the weekend.

 
Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 9:28 PM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews
 

Oooooh yes!

Mother of Tears

Source: Shock Till You Drop

I guess Mother of Tears is the official US title, then, rather than The Third Mother. Too bad Myriad didn’t employ better proofreaders - that spelling error is a pretty damning mistake to make!

Credit for discovering the poster goes to Misery at Dark Discussion.

 
Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007 at 5:43 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Mulholland Dr. HD DVD confirmed as English-friendly

HD DVD

Delayed from its original release date of March 5th, Mulholland Dr. was finally released on HD DVD in France on May 21st. I originally cancelled my pre-order due to fears that French subtitles would be forced when English audio was selected, and opted instead to wait for the UK release from Optimum. With that release postponed indefinitely, however, I made up my mind to pick up the French release, forced subtitles or not. Luckily, AV Science Forum member tteich has picked up several of the recent Studio Canal HD DVD releases, and has provided a rundown of the language options available for each. The bad news is that French subtitles are forced when English audio is selected if it’s a copy of Three Days of the Condor you’re looking for, or the theatrical cut of Terminator 2 (the director’s cut is unaffected); additionally, Army of Shadows has no support at all for English speakers. Thankfully, however, many of this month’s releases, including Mulholland Dr., can be watched in English without subtitles (or, if applicable, in their native non-English language with English subtitles). Needless to say, I’ve placed an order at Amazon.fr.

HD DVD

I also ordered a copy of Christophe Gans’ Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf), released on the same day (and due for release in the UK at some point between now and doomsday). I’ve not seen the film, but I was really impressed by Gans’ most recent film, Silent Hill, so I figure it’s worth a look. The HD DVD features the original French audio track plus optional English subtitles. I also have a two-year-old email from a reader urging me to look into the Region 1 DVD as a contender for the DVD Transfer Hall of Fame (now acquisitioned by Lyris). After so long, I feel like a bit of a heel for not checking it out, so let’s hope the HD DVD looks decent!

 
Posted: Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 10:47 PM | Comments: 12 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD
 

Blu-ray review: Casino Royale

Blu-ray
Despite the lack of decent bonus material on this release, I suspect that most people will be more than happy with the sumptuous image quality and solid audio. For Bond’s first high definition outing, Sony have certainly come up trumps, and I only hope that future releases in the series will be able to come close to matching this quality. Provided you import an uncut copy, and don’t consider in-depth extras to be an essential part of the viewing process, it’s hard to go wrong with Casino Royale on Blu-ray.

James Bond gets his first ever high definition outing with Casino Royale. I’ve reviewed the recent Finnish Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures.

 
Posted: Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 4:39 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews
 

Suspiria in HD?

DVD

Source: Mobius Home Video Forum

One film that I’d give my eye-teeth in order to see released in high definition is Suspiria… and now, it seems that this may be a distinct possibility. Earlier this month, I reported that a new, restored version of Suspiria was to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival along with a preview of The Third Mother. Now, according to Fangoria, The Weinstein Company has established a new sub-label, Dimension Extreme, which…

…will specialize in horror and other genre fare. The first title to go out under that brand will be a restored version of Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (which, as we told you here, also has a remake in the works); other movies coming under the Extreme banner are Greg (WOLF CREEK) McLean’s killer-crocodile pic ROGUE (pictured) and - ugh - PULSE 2.

Well, all I can say is that I never thought I’d see a film entitled Suspiria released under the Dimension label and actually consider it a good thing. As a pretty prestigious title, and the first in their line-up, my guess is that it will be a strong contender for release on HD DVD (The Weinstein Company is one of the few independent labels to have embraced high definition home entertainment). I’m definitely crossing my fingers that I’ll be seeing one of my favourite films in HD soon, particularly given that, if any film deserves to be appreciated in full 1080p, it’s Suspiria.

 
Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 8:10 PM
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | HD DVD
 

Get it right first time in future, Sony

HD DVD/Blu-ray

Source: DVD Times

The Fifth Element, Blu-ray’s poster child disgrace, is to get a re-release this July, with the current substandard release going out of print come June 13th. Little information has been provided for the new edition, but the online buzz suggests that we’ll get an AVC encode on a dual-layer BD50 disc, as well as both PCM and Dolby TrueHD audio (either 20-bit or 24-bit). If Sony had any decency, they’d offer a free replacement to anyone who bought the initial pressing, but hey, since when did the words “Sony” and “decency” go together?

I may end up picking up this new release to replace my standard definition Superbit DVD, although part of me wants to hold out for the HD DVD release that Pathé seemingly intends to release in Europe at some point in the near future.

 
Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007 at 10:12 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

I know, I’ve been slacking

DVD

I’ve been slacking with my reviews, and I know it. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I now work for 37 and a half hours a week - something which, unsurprisingly, has had an impact on the amount of free time I’ve actually had available to devote to movie-watching (when glancing at my Movie Checklist the other day, I was shocked to discover that I didn’t actually watch anything this month till the 13th) and reviewing. Basically, I suspect that I’m going to have to impose a certain degree of self-discipline, because, a lot of the time, time that I should have spent writing has simply been spent lounging around.

At the moment, I’m doing my best to put together a dual review for the two HDScape titles I was sent, and I’ve got to admit that it’s damn hard to review something that was essentially intended to act as a screensaver! I’ve also got The Fountain to do for DVD Times, as well as Casino Royale, which I’ve been promising for more than long enough now. The 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD of Pan’s Labyrinth also arrived for review earlier this week (Wednesday), so it will also have to be added to the “watch and review” pile. I have to say that this last title is one that I’m very interested to see: I had been planning on waiting for the HD DVD release, but the only one currently in the offering seems to be Spanish, and given that the film itself is in Spanish, I suspect that English subtitles are unlikely. If the film turns out to be decent, and becomes available in an English-friendly high definition release, I’ll definitely pick it up, but until then, fuzzy old standard definition will have to do.

Stay tuned for more ramblings (hopefully)!

 
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2007 at 11:40 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD
 

Like trying to drown a cat

Just over a year ago, I reported that the projected remake of Suspiria had been canned. Unfortunately, it seems that this little project is as durable as Mater Suspiriorum herself, for it has once again reared its ugly head, as per an article at Dread Central.

Variety is reporting that upstart production house First Sun has acquired the rights to remake Dario Argento’s classic 1977 headfuck Suspiria for modern audiences. First Sun is a conglomeration of director Luca Guadagnino, fashion designer (!) Silvia Venturini and a slew of producers.

Suspiria has a unique style that we want to reinvent for today’s generation,” director Guadagnino told the trade. “We intend to create a concept that will encompass cinema, videogames, fashion and music and that revives the original for those who did not experience it. The Gothic resurgence is very strong around the world at the moment … and we feel that a new version of Suspiria will fit very well.”

Christ, what is with people? I could say so many nasty things, but I frankly don’t have the energy, so I’ll just shake my head sadly and direct you to some more positive news regarding The Third Mother, straight from the pen of Alan Jones.

 
Posted: Friday, May 18, 2007 at 6:33 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Everything that has a beginning has an end… thankfully, in this case

HD DVD

Four years late, I’ve finally seen The Matrix Revolutions. And what a turkey it was.

Lyris and myself were so repulsed by The Matrix Reloaded and how mind-numbingly awful it was that we didn’t even both seeing the third instalment in the trilogy when it came out in cinemas and on DVD. I always suspected that I’d end up watching it one of these days, though, and, tonight, we decided to bite the bullet and actually load it up on HD DVD. We had the presence of mind to set the microphone up and record our thoughts as we experienced the film for the first time, and we’re currently deciding whether or not our 129 minutes of mindless blethering can be salvaged into an audio commentary that people in their right mind would actually want to listen to. Certainly, it’s something of an eye-opener, as our initial surprise at getting something half-watchable rapidly degenerates into complete and utter frustration, following by unbridled hostility as the events on screen become sillier and more incomprehensible by the minute. Seriously, I think the phrase “So what’s actually happening?” must be uttered at least every ten minutes, and there is a point in the middle, during the 30-minute explosion reel - sorry, epic battle sequence - where we simply give up even trying to think of anything to say.

Seriously, this film, especially the first 45 minutes, was a definite step up from The Matrix Reloaded, but it quickly degenerated into yet more mindless drivel that was obtuse for the sake of it and didn’t make a blind bit of sense, perhaps even in the minds of its directors. Throw in some truly ham-fisted and unnecessary biblical imagery, a whole lot of pointless characters we don’t care about, and some truly awful dialogue about “choice” and “destiny”, and you have a film that, despite making up for some of the indignities inflicted upon us with the second instalment, only serves to intensify my belief that they should have stopped after the first one.

 
Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2007 at 9:33 PM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD
 

Interesting promotional tactics

https://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=64873

Given the number of negative reviews this film has received, I’m surprised they picked a quote that could so easily be misinterpreted.

 
Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 10:21 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

As synthetic as the Matrix itself

HD DVD

I got home from work today to find The Ultimate Matrix Collection on HD DVD waiting for me, direct from the good people at Movietyme. Given that I found The Matrix Reloaded so laughably bad that I didn’t even bother with The Matrix Revolutions (I’ve got that delight waiting for me one of those nights), you might wonder why I picked up the set at all. The answer is that I wanted the original The Matrix, and it’s not available separately (not yet, at any rate). I don’t think it’s the masterpiece some people claim it to be, but it’s enjoyable enough, and it holds some sentimental value for me, as it was the first standard definition DVD I ever owned.

First of all, I must point out that I really like what Warner has done with the packaging. A laminated cardboard slip case houses four individual standard HD DVD cases: one for each film and one for a double-sided standard definition DVD housing various extras, entitled The Matrix Experience. Each film disc is also double-sided, with the reverse side, a DVD-9, featuring bonus content specific to the film in question.

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

Now, on to the contents. I’ve only had a cursory glance at each disc, but I’m sorry to report that there are major problems with all three films. The original Matrix comes off looking the strongest, which is probably a good thing, as it’s the only one of the three films I genuinely wanted (although, once again, I must stress that I haven’t seen Revolutions yet, so that opinion may change). It shows noticeable edge enhancement, and has clearly been filtered, but it basically looks pleasant for the most part, and I’d put it on par with other Warner releases like Constantine and Million Dollar Baby. Unfortunately, the disc does, however, get a major black mark against it by virtue of the fact that the audio, on all the available tracks, is noticeably desynchronised from the video. Just watch the moment in the first sequence when the truck mashes the phone box Trinity was inside: the sound of the collision lags noticeably behind the visuals, and, whenever someone speaks quickly, you can see them mouthing words before you can actually hear them. Others have reported this fault, and some have suggested that it is unique to the Xbox 360 add-on, but this HD-A1 user can confirm that it is a problem on that particular stand-alone player as well.

The other two films look somewhat more underwhelming than the first one, losing some (although not all) of the edge enhancement but appearing noticeably softer and more noise reduced; no audio problems that I could discern from my brief inspection, though. Ultimately, I must say that I’m a little disappointed with this whole affair. Given that this was pretty much supposed to be the flagship title for Warner, and indeed the HD DVD format as a whole, I think it could have done with a little more quality control. Then again, maybe that’s just the problem: I can just imagine the technicians sitting around a workstation, rubbing their hands with glee as they cranked the edge enhancement dial up. “Guys, we need to make this title as detailed as possible!” Cripes!

By the way, I’m not making any promises, but you might be seeing a new audio commentary from me soon, albeit somewhat different to the ones I did for Suspiria and Profondo Rosso. This evening, on a whim, I decided to switch on my microphone and hit record while myself and Lyris were giving The Matrix the once-over. The result is half an hour of sarcasm, lewd jokes and immature jibes (we stopped at the 30-minute mark, because it’s hard to stay on a roll for any longer, but we’ll probably continue the exercise tomorrow evening). As such, it probably won’t appeal to those who consider The Matrix sacred, or indeed those who like their humour a little more high-brow, but we enjoyed recording our little commentating duet, and are of the opinion that this is a film that desperately needs the wind taken out of its sails a little. Stay tuned for further information.

 
Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 10:32 PM | Comments: 9 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

A fountain of garbage

HD DVD

Isn’t it funny when you have something or order but completely forget about it, only to come home to find it waiting for you? That’s how it was for me today when I got back from work to find the HD DVD/DVD combo release of The Fountain, which I requested for review from DVD Times last month, on my desk. I haven’t seen Darren Aronofsky’s first film, Pi, but I did see Requiem for a Dream twice and was rather impressed by it. This, in conjunction with the rather nice publicity artwork I saw for it, convinced me that it would be worth giving a go. I now sorely regret this. The Fountain, to quote Philip French in his review, “puts the ‘awe’ into awful”.

You know, I’m actually dreading the actual review-writing process, because right now I’m struggling to put into words exactly why I found it so poor. I suspect it has something to do with the sheer pretentiousness of it, the feeling that nothing is coming together and that the director is simply being oblique for the sake of it, believing that he can sucker the audience into confusing his nonsensical ramblings with profundity. Apparently, at the Cannes Film Festival, it was booed mercilessly and the audience threw things at the screen, and frankly I’m not surprised. The film has its fans, as I’m well aware, and I can only surmise that they’re seeing something I’m not. I just found the whole thing self-indulgent, tedious and, by the end, utterly ridiculous (seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen flowers sprouting out of Hugh Jackman’ mouth).

A very disappointing transfer, too, with rampant DVNR that ruins the definition, freezes the grain and causes all sorts of ugly smearing. I sincerely hope that Warner’s flagship HD release, The Ultimate Matrix Collection (on its way to me right now from Movietyme), is not similarly affected, because I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that the people encoding these discs haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.

I’ve also been sent two HDScape HD DVD titles for review: Visions of the Sea and Antarctica Dreaming. I’ve taken a brief look at both and, judging by the rampant edge enhancement and poor encoding on display, they are next to useless in their intended function of providing eye candy and persuading potential customers to make the leap to HD.

 
Posted: Monday, May 14, 2007 at 9:56 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

Mother of Variety

Variety Cannes Film Festival 2007 issue

Dario Argento’s The Third Mother is clearly set to receive considerably more publicity than I had originally expected, certainly more than his last few films, as it is the featured title on the cover of the Cannes Film Festival 2007 issue of Variety. I’ve never bought Variety before (the bizarre abbreviations and grammatical oddities used in the publication’s articles drive me up the wall, actually), but I’m definitely going to look into getting hold of a copy of this issue. Does anyone know of any online stores that are selling it?

As reported at Asia Argento fan site Ode to Azia, a three-minute preview of the film will be shown at Cannes on May 20th, along with a brand new print of Suspiria.

Credit for discovering this goes to Mannfan at Dark Discussion.

Update, May 14th, 2007 07:32 AM: Apparently, despite its prominent position on the cover, there’s nothing about the film inside the actual magazine.

 
Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2007 at 11:14 AM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Books | Cinema | Dario Argento
 

High definition cannibalism

HD DVD/Blu-ray

Ridley Scott’s Hannibal (his best film, in my opinion, although I’m well aware that I’m distinctly in the minority in this regard) was all prepped for a Blu-ray release from MGM/Fox in the US on April 3rd, until, only a couple of weeks from the launch date, Fox yanked almost its entire high definition line-up from the schedule, postponing several titles indefinitely. There is currently no new release date for either Hannibal or the host of other titles in the same position, and, if this continues throughout the summer, then it looks like Universal may beat MGM at their own game. Universal, you see, hold the rights to Hannibal in all territories outside North America, and, as per a post at the AV Science Forum, they intend to release it (and Hannibal Rising) in France on August 1st. Provided it doesn’t have forced subtitles when English audio is selected (a possibility, I admit), I’m all over this one. As a bonus, it will almost certainly be VC1-encoded rather than using the dated MPEG2 codec favoured by MGM.

Oh yeah, and, while New Line continues to drag its feet in terms of hopping aboard the HD bandwagon, Wild Side are planning on releasing it in France on July 4th. Of course, I suspect it’s unlikely that it will include English subtitles, but hopefully, with an HD master readily available, Optimum in the UK will step up to the plate.

“Ta-ta - H.”

 
Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2007 at 8:39 AM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD
 
 

 
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