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Corpse Bride - Warner finally hits a home run


My review copy of the recently released HD DVD of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride arrived today. You can read my overall opinions of it in the post I made when I rented the standard definition DVD back in February, and they haven’t changed all that much (although I did find myself appreciating the art direction slightly more this time round), but of all the various blockbuster releases that I was offered by DVD Times, it struck me as being one of the more interesting.

Anyway, I’ve been a little critical of Warner’s HD DVDs in the past. Million Dollar Baby and Constantine were both edge enhanced and slightly noise reduced, while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looked noticeably diffuse (a flaw also affecting the HD broadcast master) and suffered from a few instances of compression artefacts, so I was a little apprehensive about Corpse Bride. Luckily, the results are considerably better than I was expecting - indeed, this is one of the best HD DVDs I’ve seen so far, beaten only by the majestic Serenity and the flawless Unleashed in terms of visual pizzazz. Edge enhancement is non-existent, contrast is spot-on, colours (in the saturated “Land of the Dead” sequences) are a joy to behold. This is so close to being a perfect transfer, and is marred only by a few mild instances of digital banding in the colours in the background. I feel slightly bad about knocking a mark off the score for these minor problems, but, with my high definition reviews, I want a 10/10-rated transfer to really mean absolute perfection.

Oh yeah, and I pre-ordered the HD DVD of Wolf Creek from DVD Pacific. It’s due out on December 5th.

Posted: Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 6:16 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology

The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition

The 25th Anniversary Edition of The Fox and the Hound is comfortably the worst release Disney have put out in a long time, with the state of the film itself and the paltry extras suggesting that more thought was put into designing the packaging than the contents of the disc itself. As such, I can think of no reason for anyone to purchase this sorry excuse for a special edition - you’d be just as well waiting for it to show up on TV again, as it generally does every Christmas or Easter.

I’ve reviewed Disney’s recent 25th Anniversary Edition release of The Fox and the Hound, an often ignored 1981 offering from the studio based on the book by Daniel P. Mannix. How does this new release match up against its disappointing predecessors?

Posted: Saturday, October 21, 2006 at 1:31 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Reviews

New Lizard in a Woman’s Skin DVD from Media Blasters

Source: 10K Bullets Forum

Media Blasters, it would seem, are working on a new release of Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. As many of you probably know, they hopelessly bungled their previous release of the film a couple of years ago, failing to secure an uncut print and as a result offering only a choice between a widescreen cut version and a VHS-sourced, pan and scan version, which contained considerably more material than the cut version, but was still missing a couple of segments due to Italian censorship. At the time, Media Blasters claimed that an uncut print of the film didn’t exist.

Egg was on their faces, however, when Federal Video in Italy released a DVD earlier this year which contained an almost-uncut version of the film. This version, it would seem, will be used as the source for the new Media Blasters release, which, according to 10K Bullets editor Mike Den Boer,

will include the region 2 cut of the film and the extras from the region 2. All with English subtitles.

A Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Apparently, they will be syncing the superior English dub up with the transfer wherever possible, but there are still a number of issues to consider. First, will this be a proper native NTSC transfer, or will they simply do a half-assed PAL to NTSC standards conversion of the Italian DVD? Secondly, will they make any attempt to reinsert the material that is missing from the Italian DVD? There are three specific instances: (1) around 15-20 seconds of sapphic canoodling near the start of the film; (2) a few seconds of Anita Strindberg’s ass as she approaches a man lying prostrate on the floor during one of her sexy parties; (3) a dream sequence which misses a few more seconds of fondling, and is partially overlaid with a “ripple” effect. For the composite version of the film that I made for my own personal use back during summer this year, I was able to fix the first two but couldn’t do anything about the third. The discrepancy on the Italian release came about because they used two different sources for their version - the cut American print and a slightly poorer quality but less cut Italian print. The American print includes the “ripple” effect and is partially censored, but for some reason whoever was in charge of combining the two didn’t notice this, and as a result the Italian DVD features a botched version of the dream sequence. The uncut version presumably exists on the Italian print, so if Media Blasters are able to access it, they could, with a little effort, create the definitive version of this film. Unfortunately, knowing their track record, I somehow doubt that they are going to go the extra mile.

Oh, and I’m still waiting for Media Blasters boss John Sirabella to make good on the promise he made back when the previous version was released, that, should an uncut print emerge, he would ship replacement copies of it free of charge to everyone who got gypped in the first place.

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2006 at 1:17 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli

Mother of Tears cast news and shooting date

Variety has a piece on Dario Argento’s upcoming Mother of Tears. The article, written in Variety’s usual bastardisation of the English language, states that

Shooting is set to start Oct. 30 in Rome, with plans to move after one week to Turin, where the Piedmont Film Commission is providing location and accommodation incentives.

Additionally, two more cast members are announced: Massimo Sarchielli and Philippe Leroy (no word on who they’ll be playing, though).

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 6:00 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema

Real-life Suspiria locations

Source: Mobius

Ever wondered what some of the locations from Dario Argento’s Suspiria look like without the crazy Technicolor lighting? This guy has visited some of them and taken a few photos, which are interesting to say the least. The text is in Italian, but the pictures speak for themselves.

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 5:51 PM
Categories: Cinema | Web

Universal announces initial slate of UK HD DVD releases


Source: DVD Times

Looks like the first batch is nothing that we haven’t already seen from the US. Still, the cover art of certain titles, especially Serenity and The Bourne Supremacy, looks considerably better than their American counterparts, and this announcement, as well as the November 13th release date, should please those that don’t like the thought of importing.

In other news, Warner has announced the release of an HD DVD version of Casablanca for November 14th. Not to be outdone, though, the Blu-ray camp has responded by announcing another equally lauded World War 2 classic for December 5th… that Michael Bay meisterwerk, Pearl Harbor.

Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 1:49 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

Delivery deluge

Today has been quite a day for deliveries, with the HD DVD releases of The Machinist and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the latter a review copy) and the DVD of the 25th Anniversary edition of The Fox and the Hound (again, for review) all arriving.


I’m going to discuss The Machinist first because it’s definitely the most noteworthy of the three arrivals. It constitutes several first for me: my first non-US HD DVD (it’s Japanese), my first HD DVD from a distributor other than one of the major Hollywood studios (it’s a Toshiba release), and my first HD DVD using MPEG4/AVC/H.264 as its compression format rather than VC1.

I was a little wary regarding this release given the mixed reports that have come through so far regarding Toshiba’s Japanese releases, all of which have used MPEG4 rather than VC1. Essentially, MPEG4 has been characterised as an inferior format, and I was expecting to be a bit let down by The Machinist. I needn’t have worried: it looks excellent, and in places is up there with Serenity in terms of detail. For the most part, the image is razor-sharp, and the grain, too, looks excellent. The Machinist is stylistically a very harsh film, with heavily desaturated colours and very pronounced contrasts. All of this is maintained with aplomb on the HD DVD.

Unfortunately, it is slightly marred by a few instances of unsightly edge enhancement. I should point out, however, that this was actually present when I saw the film at the cinema. It was the first time I’d ever seen edge enhancement on a projected film print, and it’s indicative of the move towards using digital intermediates as opposed to conventional chemical colour timing in a laboratory. The fact that the entire film is stored on a computer gives technicians free reign to monkey with the image until their hearts content, and it does seem that they have gone way overboard with the artificial sharpening in some shots here. These are exactly the same shots that were affected when I saw it at the cinema, so it is the filmmakers themselves who deserve the blame for this rather than Toshiba.

The film comes with English and Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 audio tracks and Japanese subtitles, which can be disabled either on the fly using the remote control function or via the menu. A handful of extras are included - a documentary, deleted scenes, two trailers and some filmographies. For these, the subtitles unfortunately can’t be disabled. Oh yeah, and, oddly enough, this HD DVD comes in a standard amaray case, which is most annoying given that it’s a completely different size from the rest of my collection:

The Machnist


Meanwhile, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, comparatively speaking, a disappointment. I’m not exactly sold on the film itself (I think Johnny Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka is cringe-worthily awful, the musical numbers are atrocious, and the subplot involving Christopher Lee as Wonka’s father one of the worst additions I’ve ever seen in a book-to-film adaptation), and the HD DVD’s transfer is a real let-down. Reviewers and laymen alike have been raving over it - “Best HD DVD yet!” “10/10!” and so on. Unfortunately, this is actually the worst-looking HD DVD I’ve seen so far. Like the other two Warner releases I’ve seen so far, it’s slightly edge enhanced, but, unlike Million Dollar Baby and Constantine, it’s also quite soft. Some of this is intentional - as with The Machinist, it was digitally colour timed, and Tim Burton, it would seem, took the opportunity to add a further touch of artificiality to the movie by cranking up the automated spot remover beyond what most people would consider a reasonable level. A lot of the time, the actors’ faces, even in close-up, look like those of porcelain dolls, and in some scenes, such as the early flashback to when Grandpa Joe worked at the factory, they look waxy and smeared.

These are not, however, the fault of the HD DVD. What is, however, is the overall diffuse look of the film. Throughout, it looks ill-defined and almost outright blurry, but for one occasion: the first Oompa-Loompa musical number after Augustus Gloop has been sucked into the pipes of the chocolate river. Suddenly, the softening disappears and, for a few brief moments, it becomes a 10/10 transfer. The grain that was sorely missing comes back, the individual blades of grass stop being merely a swathe of poorly-defined green, and it all seems much more three-dimensional. It doesn’t last, though, and, almost as soon as the song has finished, it goes back to its murky, diffuse look, which remains for the rest of the film.

Also problematic is the encoding. This is the first time that I’ve seen noticeable compression problems on an HD DVD, but they are here for all to see. I don’t have the specific time code references to hand (I’ll make sure to note these down when I come to do my official DVD Times review), but on at least three occasions, parts of the screen disintegrate into mushy macroblocks. One occasion involves swirling melted chocolate, while the other takes place in the midst of a series of explosions as Charlie, Wonka and Grandpa Joe right the Great Glass Elevator. These can’t have been easy scenes to compress, but this is the first time I’ve seen an HD DVD encode slip up so badly, and I genuinely hope it’s not the start of a trend. Although, given the rave reviews the transfer has been getting, even from so-called experts, I have my fears.


Finally, The Fox and the Hound, and it’s the least impressive of today’s deliveries by far. Actually, it’s a downright disgrace. Despite being promoted and packaged as some sort of 25th anniversary special edition, Disney have done a really crummy job with it. In terms of extras, there seems to be nothing here that wasn’t already present in the underwhelming line-up for the previously-released UK version of the film - we’re talking a rudimentary behind-the-scenes featurette, a couple of bonus shorts, a sing-along and a narrated “storybook”.

Of course, what really counts is the audio-visual presentation, and I’m sorry to report that it’s a complete disaster. First, the original mono mix of the film is nowhere to be seen. In its place is a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, which sounds weak and clumsy, and very clearly wrong. Worse still is the transfer, which is nothing more than a recycle of the pan and scan LaserDisc master used for the previous DVD. That Disney would put out something so shoddy in this day and age is an absolute joke, and I am very strongly recommending that anyone thinking about picking up a copy of this seriously reconsider before plonking down a wad of cash for this lazy botch-job. This is 0/10 for video, 0/10 for audio - who are they trying to kid?

Update, October 17, 2006 03:55 PM: Regular Disney DVD reviewer Dave Boulet, whose comments about The Little Mermaid’s transfer were right on the money, has given The Fox and the Hound’s DVD an absolute savaging at DVD File - and, for once, I actually find myself nodding my head in agreement as I read a review.

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 3:12 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology

The Omen (remake)

Fox have served up an acceptable enough disc for their remake of The Omen, but, given how utterly shoddy the film itself is, there’s really nothing to recommend here at all. I would strongly advise anyone contemplating picking up a copy of this remake to instead seek out the infinitely superior original, now available in an excellent 2-disc Collector’s Edition set.

Haven’t we seen this film before? I’ve reviewed the 2006 remake of The Omen, a lazy piece of filmmaking that seems to exist for no reason other than its 6/6/06 release date. Fox’s R2 UK DVD is serviceable enough, but the old adage applies: you can’t polish a turd.

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006 at 6:33 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews

Blu-ray: Lyris goes undercover


No, we didn’t buy a Blu-ray player - how daft do you think we are? A store in town did, however, and this afternoon, armed with the copy of Underworld: Evolution I so rashly purchased before the Blu-ray scandal broke, Lyris headed out to give Samsung’s BDP-1000 the once-over. It’s not exactly the most scientific investigation of the century, but it is a reliable report from someone who knows what they’re talking about having viewed what is supposedly one of the better Blu-ray releases on properly set up equipment. The word of the day, it would seem, is “meh”.

Posted: Monday, October 16, 2006 at 5:47 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

Dial M for Masterpiece


Most people have a favourite Hitchcock film. If you have any interest in cinema - hell, provided you own a television - you cannot have failed to come into contact with several of his masterpieces. Ask anyone which is their favourite Hitchcock film, and chances are they’ll name one of the following: Rebecca, Notorious, North by Northwest, Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo. Broadly speaking, I like all of these films, and would consider a number of them to be among the best ever created. My personal favourite Hitchcock, however, is a little unusual, in that it’s one of Hitchcock’s least Hitchcockian efforts: Dial M for Murder.

I first came into contact with this film as part of the Media Studies class I took in my final year at school. When it started, I initially thought “Oh no, not a crummy 1950s drama” (I was rather set in my ways regarding movie-watching preferences back then). But, as the minutes ticked by, I found myself getting drawn into the narrative in a way that really hadn’t happened to me before. More than anything else, I was struck by the intelligence of the script as Ray Milland, in the most wonderful gleeful bastard mode, reeled the hapless Anthony Dawson into his diabolically twisted plan. The script is ingenious: a backwards whodunit in which we are told verbally, in extreme detail, precisely how a murder is going to be committed, before showing it happening and going horribly wrong, despite the fact that its instigator thinks he’s covered every possible angle.

Dial M for Murder

Hitchcock isn’t really doing anything hugely revolutionary with the camera here, although the film is noteworthy for being designed to be projected in 3D, a choice made all the more bizarre by the very static, stage-confined nature of the script (based on a play). As such, this film doesn’t cry out for attention in the manner of Vertigo or The Birds, both of which featured major technical innovations. Instead, it’s quietly confident and decidedly dependent on the writing and acting, both of which are top-notch.

One of these days, I’m going to write a full-blown review of this film. Until then, I just want to reiterate how great I think this film is. No, it doesn’t really stretch any boundaries, and I can’t really imagine it having been much of a stretch for Hitchcock to direct. But I’ve probably watched it more than any of his other films and, despite having seen it so many times, I still enjoy it just as much every time I dig it out and watch it again as I did when I first saw it back in 2000. Excellent stuff.

Posted: Sunday, October 15, 2006 at 8:13 PM | Comments: 6 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews

The Do-It-Yourself Giallo Generator

A Yellow Parrot in a Darkened Room

Directed by Carlo Plagiarino

A frantic young woman is found dead with her head and hands cut off on stage, in front of an audience which doesn’t understand what’s going on. Her brother is unsatisfied with the official explanation of the killing. After discovering an old painting, he discovers that he himself is actually responsible; his own lover is forced to kill him before he can kill again.

I posted this link before a couple of years back, but it’s so damn neat it bears repeating. The Do-It-Yourself Giallo Generator perfectly captures everything that makes the wackiest gialli so wacky, from the ridiculous animal-themed titles with no relation to anything in the film, to the convoluted and/or nonsensical plots. Anyone who is a fan of the genre should get a kick out of this well-observed send-up.

Posted: Saturday, October 14, 2006 at 11:51 AM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Gialli | Web

Missed opportunities

Crap! I’ve just realised that yesterday was Friday the 13th, and I didn’t even take the opportunity to go on a scary movie binge. The closest I got was Hammer’s To the Devil a Daughter, the only remotely scary aspect of which is how far it departs from the Dennis Wheatley novel on which it purports to be based. I’ll have to make this year’s Halloween an extra-special horror-filled extravaganza to compensate.

Posted: Saturday, October 14, 2006 at 11:39 AM
Categories: Cinema | General | Halloween

V for Vendetta and Miami Vice specs unveiled


The cover art and full specs for the upcoming HD DVD releases of V for Vendetta (October 31st) and Miami Vice (December 5th) have been unveiled (see here and here respectively).

V for Vendetta:

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1
  • Dolby Digital-Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1
  • English, French and Spanish subtitles
  • In-Movie Experience - Director’s Notebook: Reimagining a Cult Classic for the 21st Century - Director James McTeigue (joined by stars Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving and other creative team members) traces in detail the V saga from graphic novel origin through the movie’s execution.
  • Designing the Near Future
  • Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot
  • England Prevails: V For Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics
  • Freedom! Forever!: Making V For Vendetta
  • Saturday Night Live Digital Short
  • Cat Power Montage
  • Theatrical Trailer

Miami Vice:

HD DVD side (HD30):

  • 1080P 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1
  • Dolby Digital-Plus: English 5.1
  • English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles
  • Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Mann
  • Miami Vice Undercover
  • Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location
  • Visualizing Miami Vice
  • Behind the Scenes Featurettes

DVD side (DVD9):

  • 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English, French & Spanish DD5.1 Surround
  • English DVS DD2.0 Stereo
  • English SDH, French & Spanish subtitles
  • Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Mann
  • Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location
  • Miami Vice Undercover

Additionally, it should be pointed out that the HD DVD side contains the unrated director’s cut of the film, whereas the DVD side features the R-rated theatrical cut.

Looks as if both are going to be fantastic packages. In the case of Miami Vice, I’ve no idea whether or not the extras themeselves will be in high definition on the HD DVD side (similar to the recent Blu-ray release of Click), but either way, having all the extras on the HD side (and indeed, more than there are on the standard definition side) is indeed convenient. This, and the inclusion of a Dolby TrueHD track, shows the major benefit of having been able to get dual-layer HD DVD/dual-layer DVD combo discs working.

I’m looking forward to seeing this film, by the way. I’ve never seen the TV series on which it’s based, and the only Michael Mann films I’ve come into contact with are Manhunter and The Last of the Mohicans, but I’ve heard so much about Miami Vice, both good and bad, that I’m itching to make up my own mind about it.

Update, December 19, 2006 05:47 PM: Fixed dead link.

Posted: Friday, October 13, 2006 at 7:14 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV | Technology

Mother of Tears production begins soon

Source: Dark Discussion

Dario Argento : effettuati i sopralluoghi a Torino nell’ultima settimana di agosto, partiranno il 23 ottobre, e proseguiranno per sei settimane, le riprese del suo nuovo film, La terza madre , protagonista Asia Argento; cast tecnico locale: 30 unità.
Produzione Opera Film tel. 06/80691277

Hi everybody

it seems the locations in Turin were surveyed at the end of August and a tunnel for the final horrific scene was chosen. The shooting will start on October 23rd with a local crew of 30 people and it’ll last for six weeks.

Even though Turin has always proved visually magnificent in Argento’s films, I still hope the movie will be partly set in the Italian capital. Just imagine Dario’s visionary flair in the catacombs of Ancient Rome…


This is most excellent news, although the news that the production is to take place in Turin rather than Rome (which I believe I read before) is rather surprising. Given that we know from Inferno that Mater Lachrymarum holds rule over Rome, I’m assuming Turin will be standing in for the capital city in much the same way that it did in Profondo Rosso. Still, I’m slightly disappointed that we won’t be seeing any of the landmarks - I’d love to have seen the exterior of the library from Inferno again, for example. Ah well, perhaps there will be some location shooting.

Update, October 12, 2006 10:36 PM: Fangoria has a piece on the news as well. Apparently Udo Kier will be playing “a priest/exorcist”.

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 6:54 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento

Halloween: what can you expect?


As I’m sure won’t have escaped your notice, Halloween 2006 is only slightly over two weeks away. DVD Times always does a special round-up of scary reviews to coincide with the special event, and in the past I’ve always made a point of contributing as many as I can. This year will be no exception, and I’ve got several titles in the pipeline that I intend to cover.

This year, I’m going to make a point of reviewing as much HD DVD material as possible. Unfortunately, high definition horror films are a little scarce at the moment, but I’ve been able to come up with a few:

  • Constantine
  • Land of the Dead
  • The Machinist
  • Sleepy Hollow

In addition to those, I’ll be covering some standard definition releases as well:

  • The Beyond: Limited Edition (R0 USA)
  • Death Laid an Egg (R2 Japan)
  • Plot of Fear (R0 Italy)
  • Seven Notes in Black: Collector’s Edition (R2 France)

Obviously, I can’t guarantee that every single one of these will be finished in time, but I wrote Plot of Fear’s review today, so it at least should be going up.

Update, November 04, 2006 10:43 AM: I’m disabling commenting on this entry because it seems to be attracting an inordinate amount of spam.

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 5:39 PM | Comments: 5 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Halloween | Reviews

So who’s really in Mother of Tears?

There’s been a lot of speculation regarding the cast of Dario Argento’s upcoming conclusion to the Three Mothers trilogy, Mother of Tears. Back when it was originally announced, an Italian film news site ran a bogus story featuring a made-up synopsis and attaching several actors who, as it turns out, have nothing to do with the film. The real story has since emerged (and been pulled, presumably because US producer Myriad Pictures doesn’t want people to look forward to the movie), and several actors have come forward to confirm that they are appearing in it. Therefore, without further ado, the full list of attached names and whether or not they’re really attached:

  • Asia Argento - Yes
  • Chiara Caselli - No
  • Ennio Fantastichini - No
  • Valeria Golino - No
  • Udo Kier - Yes
  • Sienna Miller - No
  • Daria Nicolodi - Yes
  • Giordano Petri* - No
  • Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni - Yes
  • Max von Sydow - No

There you go. The cast of Non Ho Sonno ain’t in this one, people, so I strongly recommend ignoring anything in the film’s IMDB profile, as some fool keeps adding those erroneous names to it almost as quickly as I can delete them.

* This person doesn’t even seem to exist, given that Mother of Tears is the only film in his IMDB profile.

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 10:09 AM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Web

V for Vendetta coming to HD DVD


Source: High-Def Digest

Against my better judgement, I bought the standard definition release of V for Vendetta back when it was released in August, knowing full well that an HD DVD version, probably with an exclusive In-Movie Experience feature, would be coming out shortly. And it turns out I was right: Warner has announced that they will be releasing it on October 31, with “an In-Movie Experience interactive video commentary track, plus the exclusive ‘Director’s Notebook: Reimagining a Cult Classic for the 21st Century’ featurette”, in addition to all the extras of the 2-disc standard definition release. Naturally, I’ll have to pick it up. The film is flawed but definitely interesting, and rather unique for a Hollywood product.

Under Siege and Excalibur are also hitting shelves on the same day. I may pick up Excalibur too, as it’s a film I’ve been curious to see for a while.

Update, October 12, 2006 09:30 PM: Front and back cover art now available at The Man Room.

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 10:56 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

Warner becoming more selective about Blu-ray?


Well, it seems as if Sony have finally made good one one of their blustering promises: after considerable delay, the first 50 GB dual-layer Blu-ray title has arrived: the, er, classic Adam Sandler vehicle Click. Yep, looks like they picked a winner to launch their high-capacity media.

It’s not all fun and games at camp Blu-ray, though. Warner and Universal have announced their initial slate of HD DVD titles for release in France, among them some high-profile titles like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. These are the same titles that are already available, or will soon be available, in the US, so nothing on the list is particularly surprising. What is insteresting, however, is that a number of major Warner titles, including Harry Potter and Batman Begins, are listed as being HD DVD exclusives.

Warner is, as you probably already know, a format-neutral studio, along with Paramount, both of whom so far have a decent record of releasing material of similar quality on both formats. The suggestion that Warner are going to become more picky regarding which titles they port to Blu-ray, however, is pretty noteworthy. Warner recently announced that it was lowering its high definition software sales forecast from $500 million to $150 million. The reason? It’s speculation, but the theory is that its Blu-ray sales have been a fraction of what they had been expecting. That they now seem to be withholding some of their most prized titles from Sony’s format would seem to suggest a considerable shift in their faith in it. Another theory, of course, is that, as the titles marked as HD DVD exclusives are all fairly long and/or feature significant bonus materials, Warner don’t want to have to pay for the more expensive (and currently in short supply) dual-layer discs.

Time will tell how this pans out, of course, but on the face of things, this would seem to be major news for a studio that, not long ago, was espousing the merits of complete format neutrality.

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 6:48 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I must confess that, ultimately, I’m undecided on how I feel about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are times when it annoys me so much that I want to put a brick through my television, and yet at the same time it holds a perverse fascination for me. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say I like it, but it’s certainly unique among films: an amoral, anarchic binge of a movie that, despite its cast of Hollywood A-listers, could never truly be described as mainstream. As such, it’s very much one of those titles that everyone has to experience for themselves. Unashamedly a work of style over substance (which is no bad thing), I’m sure everyone’s reaction to it will be different. Who knows? You may like it a lot more than me. Or a lot less.

A surprise candidate for an HD DVD release, Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas arrives in high definition courtesy of Universal, whose R0 US release constitutes a massive improvement in image quality over its standard definition releases, but disappoints in terms of extras. Review at DVD Times.

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2006 at 8:14 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews

Spread the hate


What is it about Disney and reviews that brings the slavering fanboys out of the woodwork? First I was attacked by “Jens” for my less than favourable review of the direct to video nightmare Mulan II, and again for a throwaway comment in my review of Bambi pertaining to the preview for its own shoddy-looking cheapquel. Now it’s happening again, this time because I’ve had the audacity to suggest that the transfer for the new Platinum Edition of The Little Mermaid is not as good as it could have been.

According to the poster by the name of “Dingbats”,

If you want to see reasoned comments from people who actually care about this movie you ought to go to and ignore this biased reviewer who clearly hasn’t got a clue what he is talking about, and seems only able to make sounds from his rectum.

Well, it’s good to know that my reviews are so appreciated. You know, when it comes to video-related matters, if people could just say “Well, I don’t see the problems you’re referring to,” it wouldn’t be half as bad, but the fact that some people actually feel the need to tell me I’m wrong and don’t know what I’m talking about really irks me. Do they think my eyesight is defective and adding artefacts that aren’t actually there? No, many of them are just too blindly loyal to Disney to believe that the studio could possibly be in the wrong. What’s even more annoying is the assertion that, because I criticised the transfer, I don’t “care about this movie”. If anything, the opposite is true: I’m voicing my concerns precisely because I think the film deserves better. Read the whole review, moron.

Luckily, people in the know like Home Theater Forum reviewer David Boulet and film restoration expert Robert A. Harris concur with my opinions, which is not particularly surprising to me, but is certainly nice, as it means I’m not the lone voice of dissent. By all means go and read the Ultimate Disney review if you want a sycophantic love letter to Disney written by someone who praised the likes of the grubby, non-anamorphic The Black Cauldron and Hercules releases. But, without getting too full of myself, I like to think that I’m offering a somewhat more objective service.

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2006 at 6:12 PM | Comments: 12 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | DVD | Reviews | Technology

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