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.