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Peep peep!

DVD

Series 3 of Peep Show arrived this morning. With a new series apparently now not showing up until some point in 2007, rewatching older episodes of this extremely funny comedy is going to have to tide me over.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I thought Series 3 was a step down from its two predecessors, and that feeling was maintained when watching it again today. It just don’t think it consistently hits the high notes as well as the likes of Series 2, although admittedly, when it’s funny, it’s really funny - the third episode, Shrooming, being a particular highlight. Still, I’d say that, on reflection, it was better than I’d remembered it - 7/10 material rather than 6/10, if you will.

Oh yeah, and I cancelled my order for V for Vendetta on HD DVD from DVD Pacific and re-ordered it from Amazon, who actually have it in stock.

Update, December 19, 2006 06:12 PM: Fixed dead link.

 
Posted: Monday, November 06, 2006 at 7:39 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV
 

Remember, remember…

HD DVD

…the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.

I would have liked to be watching V for Vendetta on HD DVD tomorrow night in order to do my bit towards celebrating what is arguably the most famous botched terrorist attack in British history, but, as so often seems to be the case with HD DVD releases, copies are thin on the ground and DVD Pacific are still awaiting stock. I should probably be glad, as it would seem to suggest that demand is so great that there aren’t enough copies available to satisfy it, but I’m a little peeved nonetheless, given that I ordered my copy almost as soon as it was announced.

 
Posted: Saturday, November 04, 2006 at 6:26 PM
Categories: Cinema | General | HD DVD
 

Asterix and the Vikings

DVD

My copy of the recently released R2 French release of Asterix and the Vikings arrived this morning from Amazon.fr. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the French release is unusual in that it caters to English speakers by including not only English audio but also subtitles. Like Asterix Conquers America, the film was animated to an English dialogue track. As is usually the case with the Asterix films in English, all the roles were once again recast, with a selection of A- and B-list actors providing the voices. Asterix is played by Paul Giamatti, Obelix by Brad Garrett, Justforkix by Sean Astin, Abba by Evan Rachel Wood, and Timandahaf by John Di Maggio.

Asterix and the Vikings

Of these, only Garrett and Di Maggio have had any particular experience providing voice-overs for animation, and to be honest it shows. As I said in my review of Corpse Bride yesterday, live action stars generally do not make good voice actors, because providing voice-overs requires a completely different set of abilities (since, naturally, they have to rely on their vocal performance alone instead of also drawing on things like body language and appearance). The voices are generally competent, but none of them really feel like they’re coming organically from the characters, and a number of the actors are guilty of overacting. This is especially true of the individuals playing Vitalstatistix and his brother Doublehelix (the guilty parties aren’t listed on IMDB, and the DVD includes only the French credits, so I’m not sure who’s responsible). It’s bizarre, but the French track, which is dubbed, feels a lot more natural than its English counterpart.

Asterix and the Vikings

As far as the Asterix films go, this is one of the better ones. This is a series that really hasn’t had a particularly rosy history in the cinematic form, mainly because the mood and humour of the comics is so precise that it must be very difficult to convey it adequately in animation (and the less said about the two live action adaptations the better). As such, Asterix and the Vikings may not be perfect, but it’s certainly not a travesty by any means - and it’s definitely better than Asterix Conquers America, which, produced in 1994, was the most recent animated effort before this one. In terms of animation and technical prowess, this is definitely the most attractive of the bunch, although the garish colour palette is a little overdone. Plot-wise, it varies between being extremely faithful to the source material (so close, in fact, that entire pages are literally lifted from the book Asterix and the Normans with only minimal changes), and coming up with completely unique material, including a bunch of new characters and situations. Unfortunately, like Asterix and the Big Fight, the jokes are fairly infrequent, and those that are included aren’t hugely funny. It’s nice to see Asterix back on the screen in an animated form, however, and it blows the live action iterations out of the water.

Asterix and the Vikings

Transfer-wise, this release is a bit of a disappointment. The digitally sourced transfer certainly looks vibrant (too vibrant, in fact, although this is most likely the result of the colour palette itself rather than any additional goosing for the DVD release), but the image has a very harsh look. Noticeably filtered and edge enhanced, lines are rough and jagged rather than smooth, with massive amounts of stair-stepping on display. This gives the image an oddly low resolution appearance, looking a little too much like a poor scaling job for comfort. At least the compression is reasonably competent, though, and the banded gradients that show up so often in digital animation are thankfully kept to a minimum.

Update, December 19, 2006 06:15 PM: Fixed dead link.

 
Posted: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 at 3:10 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Reviews | Technology
 

DVDs I bought or received in the month of October

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Corpse Bride (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Enemy of the State: Special Extended Edition (R1 USA, SD DVD)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition (R1 USA, SD DVD)
  • The Machinist (R0 Japan, HD DVD)
  • Waking the Dead: Series 3 (R2 UK, SD DVD)

Wow! For the first time, the number of HD DVDs coming into the house exceeded the number of standard definition DVDs.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 10:30 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Halloween | TV | Waking the Dead
 

Halloween reviews special: Corpse Bride

HD DVD
Corpse Bride is a title that I suspect I shall come to view more as a demo disc than as something to sit down and watch, since, while the film has its proponents, I can’t help seeing it as incredibly disappointing given the strengths of The Nightmare Before Christmas. In terms of audio-visual quality, however, this disc is close to being as good as it gets, and as such, gets my recommendation for the quality of the presentation, if nothing else.

For this year’s final Halloween review, I’ve reviewed the recently released HD DVD of Corpse Bride, which features a stellar audio-visual presentation of Tim Burton’s latest stop motion animated feature.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 6:05 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews
 

Halloween reviews special: Death Laid an Egg

DVD
Although I would consider Death Laid an Egg absolutely essential viewing for anyone with an interest in gialli, the problematic nature of this DVD’s presentation makes it difficult to recommend, particularly given the high price tag. Unfortunately, it seems to be the best we’re going to get for the time being, since the usual rights issues would appear to be preventing a wider release.

What would you get if David Cronenberg, Jean-Luc Godard and Nicolas Roeg got together to make a giallo? Answer: Death Laid an Egg. I’ve reviewed the R2 Japanese DVD of this bafflingly weird 1968 offering.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 12:35 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli | Halloween | Reviews
 

Halloween reviews special: The Machinist

HD DVD
Toshiba have given The Machinist a decent enough high definition release, with a solid transfer. Unfortunately, the audio problems mar the viewing experience somewhat, while the fact that not all of the extras have been transferred over means that many people will want to hang on to their standard definition releases. Ultimately, though, it’s nice to see a slightly more offbeat film getting released on HD DVD, which makes a nice change from the various blockbusters and romantic comedies that are showing up on the format in the US.

Can there be anything more horrifying than the sight of a 120 pound Christian Bale in full high definition? I find out with my review of the R0 Japanese HD DVD of The Machinist.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 10:22 AM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews
 

Mother of Tears news

Loads of new information has emerged over the last couple of days regarding Dario Argento’s upcoming Mother of Tears, so I’m going to list it in the form of some handy bullet points:

  • The cinematographer is Frederic Fasano (Do You Like Hitchcock?). The film is being shot in Super35 for a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the outrageous colours will be achieved via a digital grade.
  • Contrary to rumours, Myriad Pictures is still involved in the project, and the budget is apparently adequate for everything required by the script.
  • Yesterday was the last day of principal photography in Rome, which now moves to Turin for six weeks.
  • The visual effects, both practical and digital, are being handled by the same people responsible for the effects of the Masters of Horror series.
  • The UK premiere will be at FrightFest 2007, and Dario and Asia Argento will hopefully both be present.

Sources: Mobius and Dark Discussion

 
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 at 7:22 PM
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

Halloween reviews special: Seven Notes in Black

DVD
Had it contained an English audio track as the packaging states, this could probably have been accepted as the definitive version of Seven Notes in Black. As it stands, however, this oversight means that, despite the generally impressive transfer and in-depth extras, this release is seriously flawed. Hopefully, one day, there will be a legitimate English-language release of the film. Until then, however, it’s disappointing that most English speakers can only watch this underrated entry in Fulci’s filmography by means of an illegal bootleg.

Released last year, Neo Publishing’s 2-disc Collector’s Edition of Seven Notes in Black combines an underrated Lucio Fulci film with an exhaustive set of extras. I’ve reviewed the R2 French release, which annoyingly lacks the English audio track listed on the packaging.

 
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 at 6:09 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli | Halloween | Reviews
 

Halloween reviews special: Constantine

HD DVD
Constantine is no masterpiece - Keanu Reeves’ performance is pretty cringe-inducing, and the combination of po-faced religious themes and gung-ho demon-slaying doesn’t exactly work very well - but, as demo material, this disc has a lot to offer. Fans of the film would certainly appreciate the upgrade from standard definition, while audiophiles and casual viewers alike will get a kick out of the superior TrueHD audio.

I’ve reviewed Warner’s HD DVD release of Constantine, pitting Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz against demons from the very depths of Hell. This R0 US disc features an impressive array of extras, a decent if flawed transfer, and a superb TrueHD audio mix.

 
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 at 12:03 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews
 

Halloween reviews special: Plot of Fear

DVD
Plot of Fear may disappoint viewers who like their gialli exotic or camp, and as a straight murder mystery, it’s not perfect. Still, as an example of the genre at its more serious and downtrodden, this is a compelling thriller with a palpable atmosphere of pessimism and distrust. It may lack the grandeur of an Argento or the viscera of a Fulci, but Cavara’s film is a fine addition to the genre and one that can boast to offer something slightly different from the usual run of animal-titled chic slashers.

I return to the world of the giallo with a review of Plot of Fear, a bleak 1976 thriller from Paolo Cavara, starring Corinne Clery. Raro Video’s R0 Italian DVD offers both English and Italian audio but features a disappointing transfer and a lack of extras.

 
Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 at 9:02 AM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli | Halloween | Reviews
 

Halloween: the countdown begins

Halloween

I’ve now finalised the list of reviews that will be going live this Halloween at DVD Times. Unfortunately, I’ve had to cut back a little on my original projected list of titles due to a lack of time and, in some instances, motivation, but you should still be seeing six horror-themed reviews from me (plus a few from other contributors), so you shouldn’t want for lack of reading. The schedule looks like this:

  • October 30th, 6 AM: Plot of Fear (R0 Italy, SD DVD)
  • October 30th, 12 PM: Constantine (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • October 30th, 6 PM: Seven Notes in Black: Collector’s Edition (R2 France, SD DVD)
  • October 31st, 12 AM: Corpse Bride (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • October 31st, 12 PM: The Machinist (R0 Japan, HD DVD)
  • October 31st, 6 PM: Death Laid an Egg (R2 Japan, SD DVD)

Of these, all but Corpse Bride are written and ready to go.

I also intend to watch several horror-themed films over the next few days, including some old favourites, like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Suspiria and Inferno. Time will tell, of course, whether I actually manage to keep to that, but I live in hope. At any rate, the TV schedules look as piss-poor as usual for October 31st, so it looks as if I’m going to have to provide my own playlist, as usual.

 
Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2006 at 2:57 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | HD DVD | Halloween | Reviews | TV
 

My latest little project

Trauma

Trauma

Trauma

Trauma

Trauma

I knocked this one together this evening, once again proving what Anchor Bay could easily have done if they’d invested a little effort, instead of cobbling the missing material together as a bunch of VHS-sourced “deleted scenes”. The Italian print has much nicer colours too, which I’m led to believe are an accurate representation of how the film should look, so that’s a nice bonus.

The results are fine overall, with the film playing in as seamless a manner as possible when taking into account the language switching (I wish I had the work print available so I could get the original English dialogue for the affected material), although I’ve had a lot of trouble fitting this one on a single layer disc without major artefacting. The Italian transfer wasn’t the best compression job in the first place (it too was crammed on to a single layer disc), and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from these projects, it’s that, since the material is effectively going to be encoded twice, you’ll need to give your version a higher bit rate than that of the source file, otherwise you essentially get double the artefacts. One of these days, I’d love to get a dual layer burner - maybe I’ll wait till HD DVD-compatible drives become available and/or affordable.

 
Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2006 at 12:55 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Dario Argento | Gialli | Technology
 

The Exorcist coming to HD DVD

HD DVD

Source: AV Science Forum

It would appear that William Friedkin’s The Exorcist will be making its way to HD DVD at some point. Amazon.com have added it to their catalogue, and they’re generally very cagey about what they include on their site, which suggests that it’s in the pipeline. There’s no release date yet - perhaps this year, perhaps next - and you can’t order it yet, but you can sign up to be notified when it becomes in stock.

As you probably know, I haven’t been this film’s greatest proponent. I’ve seen it three or four times now, and found myself liking it a little better each time, but I’ve never been absolutely wild about it (you can read my most recent throughts on it from back in May 2006), but I’m currently reading William Peter Blatty’s novel upon which the film was based (thanks, Lee!), and two things are quite apparent. One, the film is extremely faithful to the book (I’m not sure whether that’s necessarily a good or a bad thing). Two, it’s a damn good book, and, given the aforementioned faithfulness, I think a fourth (or is that fifth?) rewatch of the film would probably seal the deal for me.

Now, with an HD DVD release seemingly imminent, I’m not going to rush out and by an old-fashioned DVD, but will instead bide my time until the high definition version comes out. Warner have something of a history of not announcing HD DVDs until the very last minute, so it could be mere weeks away… although, of course, it could be much longer. One thing’s for sure: I really hope they release William Friedkin’s original theatrical cut rather than that clumsy monstrosity Blatty hacked together back in 1998, complete with ridiculous CGI “scares” as well as mood- and pace-killing scenes and lines of dialogue that were left out for a good reason. “The Version You’ve Never Seen”? More like “The Version You’ll Wish You’d Never Seen”.

 
Posted: Saturday, October 28, 2006 at 4:48 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews
 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

HD DVD
Warner’s HD DVD release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is pretty good, but disappoints with regard to its transfer and the lacklustre quality of the In-Movie Experience. As such, I’d hestitate to call this a must-buy for those who already own the standard definition 2-disc edition, although it obviously constitutes a considerable improvement in terms of image quality.

I’ve reviewed Warner’s recently released HD DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sporting an exclusive audio commentary and In-Movie Experience, how does it compare to its standard definition predecessor?

 
Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 8:09 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews
 

Mother of Tears: it has begun

Source: Dark Discussion

Apparently, filming of Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, the long-overdue conclusion to the Three Mothers trilogy begun with Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), began yesterday at the Bocca della Verità in the centre of Rome.

And at the moment, that’s all we know. The only other news is that Myriad Pictures, which was to be the production’s USA partner, is no longer involved with the project. The reason, apparently, is disagreements over casting decisions. (My guess? Myriad wanted Sienna Miller to play the lead, Argento wanted Asia Argento.) While I’m personally glad that Argento has stuck to his guns rather than caving into the demands of a studio whose output so far has been comprised of the likes of Jeepers Creepers II and The Good Girl, I can’t help thinking that this must have lowered the budget considerably and scuppered pretty much any chance of an English-language theatrical release. Ah, well.

 
Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 11:46 AM
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento
 

One on Top of the Other in 2007

DVD

Severin Films has just announced that, in early 2007, they will be bringing Lucio Fulci’s long-lost first giallo, One on Top of the Other, to DVD, complete with a new transfer from the original negative. This is fantastic news, since, with the Anchor Bay DVD that was announced ages ago seemingly disappearing without a trace, many people were beginning to wonder if it would ever see the light of day. I’ll certainly be picking this up, and I’ll be glad to throw away my VHS bootleg, which has served me well but is certainly no way to watch such an impressive film. Of course, given that I don’t own any of Severin’s other releases, it’s hard to say what the quality of their output is like, but it’s got to be better than what’s available already.

 
Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 12:13 AM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD
 

Enemy of the State - image comparison

DVD DVD

After absolutely ages, I’ve finally done a new DVD image comparison. Tonight, I take a gander at Enemy of the State, a silly but highly entertaining thriller from the master of cheese and explosions, Jerry Bruckheimer. How does this year’s R1 US Special Extended Edition measure up to the earlier R2 UK “remastered” edition? Find out!

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 11:41 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Technology
 

Asterix and the Vikings… soon

DVD

The French R2 release of the latest Asterix film, Asterix and the Vikings, is due to be released tomorrow. I’ve had it pre-ordered for some time, but, mindful of my horrible experience with Astérix: La Trilogie Gaumont, which was delayed for over a year, I was half-expecting a last-minute postponement. Luckily, my copy is now packing at Amazon.fr, so with any luck I’ll be able to let you know how the disc measures up before too long.

Until then, you might want to check out this review at DVDRama. The text is in French, so I know not everyone who visits this site will be able to follow it, but both the transfer and audio have received very high marks (and this is a site that’s generally very good when it comes to audio-visual reviews), and you can see plenty of screen captures from the menus and extras. Most surprising is the audio setup menu screen, which shows that not only does the disc include English subtitles but also English audio. I was half-expecting this to be left out, given that it’s absent from DVDFr’s spec page for the DVD, and also because French DVD distributors, to be honest, don’t have the best track record when it comes to supporting English speakers. Asterix and the Vikings was animated to an English vocal track, however, so it’s only right and proper that this is included, even if I have a sneaking suspicion that I may end up preferring the French dub, as I did for Asterix Conquers America. Still, you can’t argue with choice, and I’m glad I get the chance to make up my mind for myself. Fingers crossed for the first ever non-problematic Asterix DVD!

Update, October 24, 2006 06:54 PM: As of 6:50 PM, it’s now on it’s way.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 5:46 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Technology | Web
 

Site complete!

As of 5 PM today, Whiggles.com version 9 is officially complete! The final DVD Image Comparison, What Have You Done to Solange?, was converted over to the new layout, meaning that the entire site is now as it should be. This should be good news to those who enjoy looking at the comparisons, because I have a couple of new ones in the pipeline that I was holding off doing until I’d migrated the current ones over to the version 9 layout. In particular, I’d like very much to cover the R2 UK and R1 USA Extended Edition releases of Enemy of the State, and to finally redo the Scream comparison that I took down a few months back because I didn’t think my analysis of it was in-depth enough or the screengrabs used sufficient for illustrating the differences between versions.

 
Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 5:05 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Technology | Web
 
 

 
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