"This is just like television, only you can see much further."
I thought I'd start out with a few viewing updates...
We finally get started watching season 4 of Battlestar. I wanted to wait until the second half of the season was up and running so there wouldn't be a massive gap between the halves. So far, so good: and weird. The story and characters, as usual, have taken on some new twists. It's one of the things I really enjoy about this series. They are always shaking things up to keep the momentum going. I am really looking forward to getting this on Blu-Ray eventually.
We watched Mamma Mia (2008) the other night. I thought it was very amusing in all its cheesy irony-free fun. The plot, such as it is, isn't really worth discussing (but who cares?). The film doesn't try to be something it isn't. It's a cheesy fun musical and that's OK. Meryl Streep is the real standout in this film. She sings well and is, as usual, fun to watch. She totally gets into the spirit of the film and embraces it head-on. The rest of the cast is good, save for poor Pierce Brosnan. The guy has the looks for the role, but can't sing. This is one of those times where some dubbing would have been a good idea, just like the old days. No producer with computers could fix his shitty tracks (with apologies to Ben Folds).
ABBA fans must have been pleased with the film. Musically, it sounds right. The arrangements have the appropriate levels of over-production, but it doesn't sound out of place. The instrumentation is a bit more modern sounding, but gets the style right. It should sound right since a number of the people playing on the film's music track played on the original ABBA albums. I couldn't help but appreciate the great Euro-pop bass playing by Rutger Gunnarsson.
We watched the standard DVD. It looked very good and I can only speculate that the BD must look very nice with all that beautiful Greek scenery. If I really wanted to see it again, I'd go for the HD version.
The Professionals (1966) I am not a huge fan of Westerns, so when I watch one, I want it to be good (and yes, Westerns can be great movies). This isn't a huge paradigm-shifting, genre-shattering epic, but it is a good example of a big budget Hollywood Western at the end of an era This was right before the Sergio Leone films hit and right before The Wild Bunch shook things up.
The cast is excellent and even Jack Palance playing a Mexican works well. The story moves along well with snappy dialogue and action set pieces to spice things up. Not a true "message" Western, but it does flip the "noble cowboys saving the common people" bit of The Magnificent Seven on its ear. A fun and interesting Western that was well worth the rent.
The BD of this movie looks great. The desert photography really snaps on the HD transfer. This is where you really see the picture advantage of good film and hi res video. The sound was decent if unremarkable (fine for 1966). Extras are pretty minimal, but I didn't have to wait all day for Java BS to load either. No complaints here.
OK, on with this week's stuff:
Being There: Deluxe Edition A re-do on DVD and a title that's getting its first BD release. There are a few new bonuses, but nothing that really compels me to re-buy. The film will never look incredible as it is and the old DVD is probably good enough. A great movie, no doubt.
Brainstorm (1983) In interesting film that I used to like many years ago with some reservations. The ideas and effects are really good, but the ending is quite frustrating. It was Natalie Wood's last film and is being reissued this week as part of a bunch of her films on DVD. It would be interesting to see this one in HD (no BD at the moment) if it was done right. This film has an interesting technical background. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia entry on the film:
The "Brainstorm" virtual reality sequences were photographed in Super Panavision 70 at 60 fps with a wide aspect ratio of 2.2:1,but the rest of the film, was shot in 5 perf 70 MM at 24 fps and cropped for standard 35 mm Scope print down with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. In the original 70 mm theatrical release, the brain-scan playback scenes appeared dramatically wider and much sharper than the regular scenes because they were shot at 60 fps, giving them a sense of heightened reality and excitement. Brainstorm was to be Trumbull's introduction of the full Showscan 60 fps 5 perf 70 MM process, but both MGM and Paramount backed out of a commitment to release the experimental picture in the new format after the death of the principal star Natalie Wood fearing the expensive process launch would not be profitable. Unfortunately, the video and DVD versions have Showscan 70 mm sequences letterboxed in their respective aspect ratios, spoiling the intended effect. The laserdisc release, however, presents the movie as it should be seen: the brain-scan playbacks take the full width of the screen (with black bars on the top and bottom since the presentation is letterboxed) and other scenes are narrower, having black bars on the sides as well. In the theatre the curtain would have been opened to show the entire 2.2:1 sized image so brain-scan playbacks would fill the entire screen making quite an impression while other scenes would be narrower. The sound also changed dramatically between brain-scan playback and other scenes with playback scenes having enhanced surround effects and other scenes being predominantly centre-channel only.
Needless to say, BD would be a good way to do this, but since the film is not exactly a blockbuster or a classic, who knows. I have yet to read any reviews of the new DVD, but the old one was bad enough (old analog transfer) that it almost has to be an improvement.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) Also on BD.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) Also on BD and as-seen on college campuses everywhere!
Our Man in Havana (1959)
The Secret Life of Bees (2008) Also on BD.
Space Buddies (2009) Also on BD.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) Also on BD.