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Oct 312009

Well the story is fine, the cinematography as good as you would expect from a large budget show (although there’s a little too much digital noise in some of the darker scenes), the sound excellent. What’s not to like ?

The formatting of the BD disks themselves of course. Whilst the actual content is pretty good, the way that it has been put together sucks. You can tell those putting it together tried pretty hard to make the blueray experience feature filled, but they forgot the one real reason why people buy boxed sets. They buy them to watch the show.

And too much gets in the way of that :-

  • There’s an especially irritating piracy warning. If I dare to pirate the disks, the FBI will apparently use extraordinary rendition to kidnap me from the UK and fine me $250,000! If there is anything more irritating than those pointless anti-piracy messages, then it is an anti-piracy message that has not been “localised” – people get more than a little annoyed by US-orientated messages.
  • We get an annoying little message from the director about how good the disks are. This would be bad enough if it only appeared without our requesting it once, but it seems to show up every time you change the disc for the next one!
  • Similarly when you start playing an episode on a new disc, you get an annoying pop-up warning you that certain features will only work if you have a recent blueray player. It is the wrong place! If certain features won’t work it will be noticeable more in the menu than in the playback!
Nov 262008

Format: Blueray

IMDB entry: here

The story of a woman who first encounters criminal violence with her boyfriend; she is beaten and he is killed. During her recovery, she encounters more criminal violence which she deals with using an unlicensed gun. The later might make this a pro/anti gun control issue film, but that does not interest me.

This could be a film that would be one of those run of the mill things that just does not make an impression, but Jodie Foster’s acting adds enough that you connect with the character and have an interest in her journey. Perhaps not a great film but definitely a good film.

Nov 152008

Format: Blueray

IMDB Entry here

Now this is what I call an action movie. A bunch of mercs are hired to get a case off somebody, and are gradually whittled down by casualties, and betrayal until it becomes about something other than just the job. Not only are the action scenes interesting and believable (too many modern films have action scenes that require the existence of superhumans), but include some of the best car chases anyone has ever seen.

It also has a lot of depth with a surprisingly complex and twisting story. Tons of mystery; not least of which, what was in the case ? Nobody knows.

Definitely worth a watch.

Nov 012008

Format: Blueray

IMDB entry: here.

On the surface this seems to be a simplistic story about a man who stumbles on a drug trade gone wrong, picks up some money, and finds himself pursued by those who want it back at any cost. But there is a far more complex story going on hidden beneath the violence having to do with the thoughts and feelings of an old sherif who follows on behind trying to pick up the pieces.

The added complexity adds interest and makes this interesting than a typical action film. It keeps your interest during a lazy rainy afternoon and is worth the time.

Oct 262008

Format: Blueray

IMDB Link: here

A re-make of Les Liasons Dangereuses with a pathetic Hollywood gloss. The core story could have been quite amusing if they had had the sense to portray the characters as properly dissipated young people. The characters in Cruel Intentions are schoolchildren which makes their actions somewhat unbelievable. This is not the fault of the actors; simply the age of the characters. The original story portrays a level of dissipation far beyond what is revealed here; making the theme of redemption through love considerably less powerful.

Don’t waste your time; try one of the film adaptations closer to the original.

Oct 252008

Format: Blueray

IMDB Entry: here

Now this one is a treat I have seen several times. The story itself is somewhat simplistic (although I believe that owes something to the studios wanting to exorcise the anarchist themes of the original comic book) being the old story of an attempt to overthrow a repressive regime. But as we learn more about the history of this regime, we begin to see parallels with what is happening in our current society.

Now being thwacked around the head with a serious political message is not usually considered to be an entertaining experience, which is why films like V need to gloss up the message in a story. And the story whilst simplistic does have enough twists to keep one interested.

The main message is that we need to be wary of sacrificing our civil liberties in the name of security.

Jul 282007

Format: Blueray

IMDB Entry: here

A mildly entertaining hack and slash movie between the creatures from Alien combating the creatures from Predator with us humans getting caught in the middle. Whilst nowhere near as entertaining as the original “Alien” (or even “Predator”) because of the lack of psychological horror, it does at least work ok as an end of the night movie.

Humans discover an ancient pyramid buried underneath Antarctic ice and investigate the remains only to discover that it is a remnant of an ancient entertainment where the Predators would breed Aliens for hunting using humans as “hosts” to breed Aliens, and the Predators haven’t forgotten …

Jul 242007

Format: Blueray

IMDB entry: here

An old film, but a good one. I had previously only ever seen this on TV broadcasts, so whilst the story (a civil war veteran returns to his family only to find them killed except for two neices in an Indian raid and pursues the Indians for years) is old, the cinematography is resurrected by the format and it makes the film watching for that alone. Not that the story is not worth it on its own, but you probably already know the story.

May 312007

Sony have recently upgraded the firmware available for PlayStation 3s; one of the features is for “upscaling” DVDs to HD resolution. Not exactly the same thing as blue ray, but definitely worth having especially given my situation. However Sony will only upscale DVDs over an HDMI connection to the TV; if you are limited to a component connection for some reason, you are out of luck.

Now this is not solely Sony’s fault as there is an agreement in place to not release equipment to upscale over any kind of TV connection that does not support anti-piracy measures such as HDCP(?). That rules out component cables.

So what is the reason for this ? To prevent piracy, but who is going to pirate “upscaled” DVDs which will offer quality less than blue ray disks and won’t play on DVD players ? Seems a little unlikely to me, or at least it is unlikely to be a serious commercial threat.

The media companies are yet again inconveniencing the legitimate consumer in the name of preventing piracy despite the evidence that pirates can get around the restrictions anyway.

Apr 282007

I am one of those weird people who have bought the PS3 primarily as a film player … to play DVDs and BD-ROMs (Blue-Ray). Oh, I will play the occasional game, but I’ve rarely found a game that is worth spending hours on … not that I have a problem with games or anything, it is just I’m too busy to dedicate that much time to them. This little piece is about the experience of using PS3s to play movies; it could be called a review, but I am not being that formal.

Firstly the experience of setting up the PS3 to talk to an HD TV is not pleasant. This is probably not solely Sony’s fault, but when using the HDMI cable my TV shows no picture. This is probably due to my TV not supporting 576p and the PS3 defaulting to this resolution whilst asking what resolution to use. Resorting to a component cable works fine. However this is hardly plug and play!

Playing back DVDs using the included SCART lead produces a picture that stomps my ancient Toshiba into the ground. Playing back DVDs over the component cables is not quite so good probably because the necessary upscaling is done by my TV which does not do a great job. Overall, good enough that the Toshiba is being retired.

Playing back BD-ROMs is as good as I expected … a big improvement over DVD although not quite as noticeable as the improvement from VHS to DVD.

Lastly there have been quite a few PS3 reviews that have criticised the use of the game controller to control film playback. The common theme is that the controls are somewhat inconvenient to access all the features. Well, I find it perfectly adequate … if all you generally do is hit “Play” and “Pause” (as I suspect most people do) then the controller works perfectly well. Just hit the big X button to do both. Now those who want to playback films upside down at 1/16th the original speed may find the controller inconvenient, but they can buy a more conventional controller.

Using Bluetooth as the protocol for the remote instantly struck me as a bit of an issue … I won’t be able to use my Phillips Pronto to control the PS3. Howvere whilst I would still like that, on using it, Bluetooth strikes me as much better than Infrared. Ever waved a remote at the TV only to find that some component on the floor is blocked and is not listening ? Bluetooth ends that.

Overall the PS3 is a pretty good film player although putting DVD upscaling into the PS3 would be beneficial (this is rumoured to be coming in a firmware update) and adding a USB dongle to allow infrared remote control would be a bonus.

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