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DVDs I bought or received in the month of September
- 300 (R0 USA, HD DVD)
- Black Book (R0 UK, Blu-ray)
- Dawn of the Dead (remake) (R0 USA, HD DVD)
- House of 1000 Corpses (RA USA, Blu-ray)
- The Lives of Others (RA USA, Blu-ray)
- Silent Hill (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
- Underworld (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
- Waking the Dead: Series 5 (R2 UK, DVD)
- Zodiac (R2 UK, DVD)
Another month with high definition content in a dominating position. I’ve essentially stopped buying standard definition material unless it (a) stands no chance of being released in HD or (b) wouldn’t benefit from being in HD (e.g. TV series shot and/or edited in standard definition). Zodiac, the anomaly, was a free review copy.
Death on my mind
Well, I’m back from the research students’ induction meeting - it was essentially just nibbles, drinkies and a blather - and it occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned either of my recent acquisitions.
On Tuesday, I received my copy of the Blu-ray release of House of 1000 Corpses from DVD Pacific. It features a decent but not outstanding transfer, with a VC-1 encode (intriguing, given that all of Lions Gate’s previous releases have been MPEG2 or AVC). Detail is very good, and the compression is well-handled (the disc is a single layer BD25), but there is noticeable edge enhancement, and the image has been quite severely noise reduced. I haven’t noticed any visible smearing, but the frozen grain in the backgrounds looks decidedly unnatural and unfilmlike, making this transfer a 7/10 for me at best. Oh, and, much to my disappointment, they haven’t maintained the hilarious menus from the DVD release, which featured various members of the Firefly family instructing the viewer on menu choices. Obviously, since this material was shot in standard definition, it would have been somewhat problematic to port over, but it’s too bad the footage couldn’t have been incorporated into a standalone reel, because a lot of it really was very funny. “Pick a feature!!!”
I also picked up a copy of the fifth series of Waking the Dead. I was originally hoping to receive a review copy, but BBC’s home video distribution division, 2 Entertain, seem to be rather inconsistent when it comes to sourcing check discs. With Casualty, I was able to get review copies of Series 1 and 3 but not 2, whereas with Waking the Dead, I got copies of Series 2 and 4 but not 1, 3 or 5. Anyway, I’m quite looking forward to seeing this series again, which aired at around this time two years ago (for some reason, there were no episodes in 2006, with the rather disappointing sixth series airing in early 2007). My memory of it is that it takes a while to find its footing, having to cope with the departure of two key cast members, but eventually turns itself around with some very strong episodes in the second half.
Incidentally, this six-disc set, just released this month, has an RRP of £34.99, but I was able to find it at DVD.co.uk for a mere £17.95 - definitely worth considering if you’re planning on picking up this title.
DVD review: Waking the Dead: Series 4
Waking the Dead is one of these shows that can rub people the wrong way. Many viewers dislike the character of Boyd and his temper tantrums, and the manner in which Trevor Eve portrays him (although, in comparison with the most recent series, he is an absolute saint here). Others find it confusing for the sake of being confusing (again, this may be true of later series, but the cases presented here are for the most part, logical). I consider it an excellent series, however, and one which, at least at this stage in its life, could be relied on to deliver solid entertainment week in, week out. It may be resembling CSI more and more with every year that passes (there’s always something slightly painful about an older child aping its younger siblings), but it’s nice to see a home-grown crime series which doesn’t insist on insulting its audience’s intelligence.
With the sixth series of Waking the Dead having recently drawn to a close, I’ve taken a look at the Cold Case Squad’s fourth series, released on DVD by 2 Entertain.
Burying the dead
After some delay, I finally managed to finish making my way through the fourth series of Waking the Dead this evening, a full review of which is forthcoming at DVD Times. As it happens, the sixth series finished airing on TV last Monday, and the difference between the two could not have been more pronounced. I’ve always liked Waking the Dead: its creator, Barbara Machin, is an excellent writer, and one capable of crafting interesting characters with believable foibles. For the first four years, the show focused on the same core five characters, but much changed at the end of the fourth series, with the departure of co-stars Holly Aird and Claire Goose (and executive producer Alexei de Keyser, who died shortly before the final episode of Series 4 was screened). The replacements drafted in to replace them have never quite managed to convince (in fact, Aird’s replacement, Esther Hall, disappeared without any mention after a single series and was herself replaced by Tara FitzGerald), while the notoriously convoluted plots have become baffling in the extreme, with the writers clearly assuming that it doesn’t have to make a blind bit of sense provided you include copious references to DNA and have the character of Boyd have at least three temper tantrums per episode.
Speaking of Boyd, what have they done to this character? He was always an irritable old so-and-so, an egomaniac with a belief that he who shouts the loudest will ultimately get his way, but his behaviour this year has verged on ridiculous. In the past, his outbursts were occasional and often used by the writers to make jokes at the character’s expense, but the sixth series has reduced him to a slavering, screaming moron who behaves like a petulant child. Furthermore, Series 6 was so filled with blithering and moronic, incomprehensible storylines that I actually gave up mid-way through the fifth two-parter (out of six), Double Bind - something I rarely do, and never with a series of which I consider myself a regular follower. Only the final episode, Yahrzeit, which focused on an old case being investigated by Goose’s character, Mel, succeeded in coming even close to matching the quality of the earlier episodes, and even then I found it a little confused as to the adopted Amelia “Mel” Silver, whose birth name was the decidedly Anglican Mary Smith, could have been trying to track down her Jewish ancestors (to be an ancestor, you surely have to be related by blood).
I really am pretty miffed by this turn of events. This show’s decline has been quite staggering - the fifth series wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it did have a couple of solid episodes among the dreck - and, for the first time, I’m not exactly bothered about whether or not another series will be commissioned. (In contrast, the most recent series of ITV’s Trial & Retribution, which aired at the same time on the same nights as this series of Waking the Dead, and which has in the past typically been the more variable of the two shows, was consistently excellent.) Perhaps Barbara Machin needs to come back and write an episode or two, like she did for Casualty during Christmas 2006. Then again, after her two episodes of that show had aired, it promptly went back to its now-customary banality. I don’t know - maybe it’s just time to call it a day.
So much to see, so little time
It looks as if this is going to be quite a busy month for me as far as reviews are concerned. In addition to Brokeback Mountain (HD DVD) and Waking the Dead: Series 4 (DVD), which are hold-overs from January that I still need to complete (and I really should also do a write-up on last year’s Waking the Dead: Series 3, for the sake of completeness), I’ve also put in reservations for this month’s upcoming releases of Lucio Fulci’s Perversion Story (personally, I prefer its more literal translation title of One on Top of the Other), and Dario Argento’s episode for the second season of Masters of Horror, Pelts. Having already seen both, albeit not in the most ideal form, I’m expecting to lavish praise on the former and deliver a more lukewarm appraisal to the latter, although I am looking forward to seeing them both again.
I’ve also managed to snag a chance to review Paramount’s upcoming (February 20th) HD DVD of Babel, the latest film by Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose previous film, 21 Grams, I thought was excellent. Incidentally, it’s nice to see Paramount finally releasing something in high definition, even if its arrival does little more than to highlight how threadbare their slate of titles is: barring this, Failure to Launch and Payback are the only titles they have announced for 2007 so far. Oh, and interestingly enough, for Babel they would appear to have abandoned VC-1 as their HD DVD codec in favour of AVC (the Blu-ray variant is MPEG2, because Sony handles their HD release on the Blu front).
Oh, and I finally got fed up waiting for Amazon.fr to ship my copy of Beatrice Cenci, and ordered it instead from Fnac, who actually have it in stock. In the past, I’ve found Amazon (.fr, .co.uk, .com - you name it) to be irritatingly slow for deliveries. Basically, unless it says “Usually dispatched within 24 hours”, it’s more or less a foregone conclusion that it won’t actually ship for weeks, if at all. The same is true of the recently released Grande Collection edition of Asterix and the Goths, which I also cancelled from Amazon and ordered from Fnac (its partner in the February release schedule, Asterix and Obelix All at Sea, did, however, leave Amazon in a reasonably timely fashion). Amazon.co.uk did, however, dispatch my copy of the score to The Iron Giant, which I ordered last night, in less than 12 hours. Luckily, I should be able to afford all these expenses, given that I punted my Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on to a friend for £130 today.
DVDs I bought or received in the month of January
- Brokeback Mountain (R0 USA, HD DVD/SD DVD combo)
- The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (R0 Germany, SD DVD)
- A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin: Remastered Edition (R1 USA, SD DVD)
- The Mephisto Waltz (R2 Spain, SD DVD)
- Waking the Dead: Series 4 (R2 UK, SD DVD)
DVD and HD DVD purchases this month were somewhat overshadowed by the ordering of a Playstation 3 and some Blu-ray discs to play on it. Look for impressions on these some time in early February.
Digging up missing discs
This morning, I received check discs of the fourth series of Waking the Dead for review from 2 Entertain. Well, to be slightly more accurate, I received check discs last Friday, but, for some reason, the four discs included in the package contained only the first eight (out of a total of twelve) episodes. To make matters doubly baffling, the press release that came with the discs referred to this being a three-disc set…? The problem was rectified this morning, however, with the arrival of another package, this one containing six discs, which means that all the episodes are now accounted for. Presumably this means that the commercially available package will be comprised of three dual-sided DVDs. That’s the only reason I can come up with for this bizarre discrepancy.
Silent night, Holby night…
Many of you probably know that I am something of a fan of the British medical drama series Casualty. These days, the show is sometimes so bad that I wonder why I don’t pack it in, but the two-part Christmas special that ran last night and tonight reminded me why I still tune in every week. These episodes were written by Barbara Machin, the creator of the excellent Waking the Dead and one of the show’s regular writers when it was at its peak, and she managed to deliver something that I’d thought the show was no longer capable of: cutting-edge, intense drama (as opposed to the soap we tend to be served up). It was like stepping into a time machine and going back a decade or so to when the show was of a consistently high standard and something that was unmissable television rather than the schedule-filler it so often seems to be now.
The concept itself is something that I’m sure has been done before in countless other shows, but nonetheless felt fresh and unique. Essentially, it told the same story from the perspective of three different characters, one after the other, with the focus shifting each time it was replayed, allowing the audience to see things that hadn’t been apparent before. Obviously, having every episode play like this would be pointless, which is what what really pleased me was the quality of the drama itself. Characters who had, for months or years, been stuck in the background or were written completely out of character, came to the forefront and seemed like their old selves again. I never expected this show to ever again amaze me and have me absolutely gripped, but I have no happily been proved wrong. This was not just the best episode of Casualty in years but one of the finest television programmes I’ve seen all year. I am, quite literally, stunned.
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!
Category Post Index
- The dead will continue to waken
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 11 and 12: Yahrzeit
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 9 and 10: Double Bind
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 7 and 8: Mask of Sanity
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 5 and 6: The Fall
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 3 and 4: Deus Ex Machina
- Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 1 and 2: Wren Boys
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 11 and 12: Cold Fusion
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 9 and 10: Undertow
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 7 and 8: Straw Dog
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 5 and 6: Subterraneans
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 3 and 4: Black Run
- Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 1 and 2: Towers of Silence
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 11 and 12: Shadowplay
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 9 and 10: The Hardest Word
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 7 and 8: Anger Management
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 5 and 6: Fugue States
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 3 and 4: False Flag
- Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 1 and 2: In Sight of the Lord
- Waking the Dead: Series 3, Episodes 7 and 8: Final Cut
- Waking the Dead: Series 3, Episodes 5 and 6: Breaking Glass
- Waking the Dead: Series 3, Episodes 3 and 4: Walking on Water
- Waking the Dead: Series 3, Episodes 1 and 2: Multistorey
- Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 7 and 8: Thin Air
- Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 5 and 6: Special Relationships
- Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 3 and 4: Deathwatch
- Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 1 and 2: Life Sentence
- Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 7 and 8: Every Breath You Take
- Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 5 and 6: A Simple Sacrifice
- Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 3 and 4: The Blind Beggar
- Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 1 and 2: Burn Out
- Waking the Dead: Pilot
- The Waking the Dead Project
- DVDs I bought or received in the month of May
- Thoughts on Kiss of Death
- Dead rising
- So many discs, so little time
- DVD review: Waking the Dead: Series 5
- Apparently they sell DVDs in shops now
- Mater Lacrimarum revisited
- DVDs I bought or received in the month of September
- Death on my mind
- DVD review: Waking the Dead: Series 4
- Burying the dead
- So much to see, so little time
- DVDs I bought or received in the month of January
- Digging up missing discs
- Silent night, Holby night...
- DVDs I bought or received in the month of October