Saturday, November 04, 2006

End of the Week Catch-up/DVD Reviews

A whole week off (or maybe not!)

I had the whole of next week booked off as a holiday. A chance to do some studying for exams and also hopefully to get through the 24: Season 5 DVD box set which is officially out on Monday. Alas, I went down with a stinker of a cold on Monday and although better by Thursday it made more sense to just count my "sick" week as the holiday (being self-employed I don't get paid when I'm sick) and go back to work on Monday. No fun! One side-effect of this was that I also missed Hollywoodland as part of the London Film Festival screenings, although thankfully I was better in time for the Thursday night closing gala premiere of Babel.

London Film Festival: Babel

I'm glad I was feeling better by the time Babel came around. It's not an easy watch, but very powerful nonetheless. The cast are uniformly excellent and the three separate stories that are intertwined, albeit with some juxtapositions of time, are powerful, if somewhat self-indulgent in the Japanese scenes. It's a film I'm still thinking about a couple of days later, which is always a good sign :). My friend Brian Sibley who came to the screening with me tells me that the film isn't officially released in the UK until January, which seems a bit far off, but this is one well worth watching out for. The only real downside to the presentation in Leicester Square was the volume of sound. Normally I struggle to hear the sound and I complain that they need to turn the volume up. With Babel I was desperately hoping they'd turn the volume down - way down - it was ridiculously deafening!

From Hi-Def to Very Low Def

I've started buying movies on High Definition DVD (HD-DVD), ready for the arrival of the first HD-DVD players in the UK. On Friday, against the doctor's advice ('stay in bed' had been the advice on Monday) I went to the What Hi-Fi? show to see some hi-def demo's. The show itself was disappointing and not worth the £15 (£13 with pre-booked online tickets) asking price but at least I got to see some of the new display devices and to see Blu-Ray and HD-DVD demonstrations. Neither of them really struck me as THAT much better than the best DVD disks, but since we're starting to see 'day and date' releases of DVD and HD-DVD titles I'm making the switch anyway rather than buying what will eventually become obsolete, inferior resolution formats. Alas on the day that Toshiba announced that the player I've been waiting on is being delayed to January (originally expected mid-November) my main DVD player has started throwing 'Check disk' errors and needs repairing. The new HD-DVD players can play both ordinary DVDs and the new format, but I can't wait until January for a DVD player. My existing player, a Toshiba SD-900E, is not a cheap model and although I have a cheap spare in my study it doesn't have the component output my plasma needs, so I'm reduced to watching DVDs on the plasma through an XBox player which gives a noticeably inferior picture. I decided to pay the no-doubt extortionate repair charge for the Toshiba SD-900E and sounded the nearest repair centre (10 miles away) about an estimate and arranged to take it to them. Except the car wouldn't start. The battery is completely dead and this is the highlight of owning a Mini Cooper S - leave it for more than a week or so and the battery dies - on this occassion it had REALLY died and wouldn't even display any of the electric data when the key was inserted. So no DVD player! The car is now running (thanks David!) but too late to get the DVD player to Toshiba until next Saturday (I wasted four hours today trying to get to them before they closed, but failed thanks to God-awful London traffic).

DVD Reviews On Hold

The DVD reviews are therefore on hold. To be honest I was looking at moving them elsewhere anyway as this blog had subtly changed from being Irascible Ian's Personal Blog to Ian's DVD Reviews and needs to somehow reflect that. I own the domain name but am not sure yet whether to use that domain name for a new HD-DVD blog, to use it for both HD-DVD and DVD reviews or to move reviews to another address. I'll post here when I make up my mind, probably not until the end of the year as software will take a while to write and spare time is one thing I never seem to have :(

Mini DVD Reviews

In the meantime I did get to see Entourage - The Complete Series 1 on DVD (officially out last Monday) and Doctor Who: Invasion (officially out next Monday) before the DVD player died. I was really disappointed with Entourage given the rave critical reviews. I didn't laugh once - I guess I'm just not of an age where I find four American brats talking about "ho's and bitches" funny, no matter how much it sends up Hollywood, or how well written it is. Not a bad show, just one that I feel promotes the sort of lifestyle that makes having any sort of dealing with today's youth a nightmare. Guess I am now officially old! The series is based largely on the experience of Mark Wahlberg, so I shouldn't be surprised. I've always thought him a tosser, probably because of his Marky Mark days where he performed with some homophobic 'Kill the batty boys' rap artist on The Word and refused to condemn or even disagree with his colleague when Mark Lamarr lost his temper with him for encouraging people to kill gays. Enough said! Nothing about Entourage made me think my initial judgement that Wahlberg is a dumb schmuck who just got lucky was in any way wrong, and to see a series glorifying a guy who treats women like shit as 'the nice one' says it all really!

Doctor Who: Invasion was more fun for me, coming from the old black and white Patrick Troughton era. Two of this seven-episode cybermen story are lost for good but the BBC still has sound recordings so they've animated the two missing episodes. I only have very vague memories of the original broadcast, and of course by modern standards, the story is way too slow moving, but far scarier than anything new Who (or even the disappointing Torchwood) is throwing at us. The two animated episodes work very well - in fact I prefer the cartoons to the televised episodes. An interesting curiosity and one, I suspect, that we'll see more of in future releases. The Beeb have a lot of 'lost' episodes, although they often still have the sound recordings, and this clever way of making the episodes releasable on a visual format really worked for me, so I'll be surprised if we don't see more of it in future.

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