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28 Days Later: Limited Edition Steelbook
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Many reviewers give 28 Days Later a bad review on Blu-ray, for the simple reason that the image quality is barely any better than the DVD. The reason for that is because the film was shot in Standard Definition - not HD and not film, therefore it's impossible for this to look any more detailed really. What you will find is a more robust lossless audio track, accurate frame rate, reduced video artefacting. Oh, and a great film too.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man / Tetsuo II: Body Hammer
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This package is a bit of a collector's dream - it consists of both of the Tetsuo films newly remastered in HD, supervised by the director, in their original aspect ratios of 1.37 to 1 - I believe they were shot in 16mm - the first in Black and White, the second in colour. Language is Japanese with English subtitles provided. The films themselves will drive your mind into overload of insanity - the imagination on display is quite astonishing. For fans of horror - fairly f***ed up horror that is! - and Eastern cinema, and anyone with an open mind. The set also contains the director's 45 minute short Denchu Kozo, plus there's an interview with the director, new and old trailers. Third Window Films have released a fantastic Blu-ray here, and at a very reasonable price considering what you're getting for your money. The fact that this is only available, at time of writing, in the UK is quite awesome.
Paul - The Grim Cellar at Blogspot
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Just for the record there are two editions available of Coraline on Blu-ray - one has '3D' in a bubble on the leftmost side of the package and states that glasses is included, and is the anaglyph 3D version (i.e. a poor substitute for real 3D). THIS one (the one with 3D written in a bubble on the right side of the package and with 'Blu'ray 3D + Blu-ray' at the top of the front cover consists of the Real 3D version (i.e. you need proper 3D TV with compatible glasses, 3D Blu-ray player, and v1.4 HDMI cable) AND it contains the conventional 2D version which plays on any Blu-ray player, plus extras in 2D. Therefore if you're going to buy Coraline this is the version to get - you can watch 2D now and legitimate 3D when you buy appropriate equipment later on.
The image quality is stunning and highlights the beautiful details of the models used for the film (this is stop motion for the record), plus there's about an hour worth of extras. Great disc of a highly imaginative film that is okay for kids but features a few darker moments that may exclude it from the pleasure of much younger viewers. As an adult I enjoyed the film. Henry Selick (the director of this and Nightmare Before Christmas) is a truly talented person with fine understanding of animation.
Paul (The Grim Cellar)
Twelve Monkeys (12)
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Twelve Monkeys is a quirky Terry Gilliam-directed science fiction thriller that takes the ramblings of a madman and questions whether they may actually be prophetic. Bruce Willis plays a criminal who is sent from the future to find an antedote to the virus that wipes out most of mankind at the end of the twentieth century. It features fantastic central performances from Willis, Madeleine Stowe as the psychologist he hooks up with, and Brad Pitt as an incarcerated looney who poses a real threat once released back into the care of his affluent father. An unusual film even today, it holds up well and proves to have a strong emotional and philosophical core.
The Blu-ray presents the film in full HD with a DTS surround track - cinematography is deliberately soft-focused and hazy in places and this is obviously reflected on the disc. It's still a step up in terms of detail, colour and contrast from DVD, just not quite the jump people may expect after watching some of today's glossy big budgeters - basically the transfer is an accurate representation of what the film should look like. Most welcome is an audio commentary from Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, plus the indispensable feature length documentary The Hamster Factor - pretty much worth the price of admission by itself as it focuses on the film-making process along with some of the troubles the director has been through. There is also a large image archive and theatrical trailer. Overall an interesting film on a very decent Blu-ray.
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Greg McLean's Wolf Creek, without wishing to give away too much, is a pretty accomplished piece of work detailing the (purportedly true) story of three 20-somethings heading out on a road trip of tourism and partying across the foreboding Australian outback, only to run into a situation of sheer terror along the way. It's a well constructed and very tense ride that will have you squirming in places, and clutching the chair in others. Thankfully the more gruesome side has some degree of restraint, unlike many of today's 'torture-porn' outings, but rest assured this is not for squeamish viewers.
Shot on HD this Blu-ray is fundamentally a pixel-for-pixel representation of what was filmed - basically the darker scenes don't fair as well as they would have had they been shot on 35mm or higher spec digital cameras, but the lighter scenes and landscape photography is stunning and showcased well on Blu-ray - contrary to what one of the other reviewers here thought, there is much on this disc to use as demonstration material. McLean has a keen eye for a beautiful composition and this is used wisely as a contrasting device for the horrors to come.
Audio has some clout, though only encoded as Dolby Digital 5.1 (albeit with a reasonable bitrate) - there's also a stereo option for those without surround equipment. You also get a commentary, deleted scenes, a 50 minute documentary, plus some other stuff.
Basically for the image quality alone I'd advise picking this one up on Blu-ray - you'll be sucked into the world portrayed and all the more convinced by the onscreen onslaught that follows the cheery set-up.
Bathory - CD
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As everyone knows, Bathory pretty much created the Viking Metal sub-genre with the powerhouse Hammerheart album (foreshadowed with Blood Fire Death), further developing the music with Twilight of the Gods spinner, which has dated slightly more but still contains some amazing pieces. What followed was a wayward period where Quorthon released a couple of respectable (but undesirable from the real hardcore fan's perspective) solo albums, some aggressive thrash outings, the slightly underwhelming Blood on Ice album, plus some of the worst material the man had ever put out (most of Destroyer of Worlds springs to mind). But the wait was worth it.
Nordland returns to the style of Hammerheart and Twilight with a variety of approaches to the whole Viking Metal idea, encapsulating such themes in its lyrics and presenting some of the best music Quorthon ever put on disc. After a fairly average intro (not up there with Oden's Ride Over Nordland, or Rider at the Gate of Dawn) Nordland (the song itself) is a plodding metal piece with a number of good riffs. This track bored me into not wishing to listen to it for a number of years but recently after a revisit it's actually grown on me. Vinterblot sounds like a group of vikings singing some chant during a dragonboat sail, with a driving metal rhythm to back it - an enjoyable track. Dragon's Breath is the low point of the album - a great riff is spoiled by some messy vocals (something that afflicted a number of Bathory tracks from album 5/6 onwards, which is strange given the fact that other tracks were incredibly well sung), and a track I rarely listen to. Ring of Gold is a nicely played acoustic track that steps into Song to Hall Up High territory.
Then comes the album's crowning achievement (in my opinion): Foreverdark Woods. Beginning with a nice litte reference to One Rode to Asa Bay, this features some incredible intertwining of acoustic instrument and metal guitars, with a great distant vocal style to boot. What a fantastic track! Broken Sword kicks your butt into gear with a fast paced driving beat and anthemic singing, sandwhiched with the contrast of relaxing acoustics. Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother features, surprisingly, a near Black Metal sounding guitar, giving us an epic track with brilliant vocal delivery, taking you off into a strange world. Mother Earth Father Thunder is a powerful, noisy and strong finale to the album's sung tracks, yielding to the outro that is the wonderfully stirring Heimfard.
Whilst there's not much here to remind one of the first four Bathory albums, this one was a real return to form (though I don't particularly favour adopting that over-used term) and remains a great listen nearly ten years later. Some of this success was repeated with Nordland 2, but this album remains the last great Bathory album and an important part of any metal fan's collection (well at least those who love Bathory and/or Viking/Epic/Power Metal anyway).
That Kind Of Girl
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The film itself takes on the kind of Saturday Night Sunday Morning approach whereby we're introduced to 60s Britain where there's a new feeling of freedom coupled with optimism in the early stages, turning slightly sour later on as people realise the consequences of their hedonistic actions. That Kind of Girl is really good as sex educational material actually because promiscuity is rewarded with sexually transmitted disease and all sorts of associated troubles. The acting varies from pretty good to a bit wooden whilst the dialogue is quite enjoyable and the story captivating enough, making for a pretty entertaining kitchen sink drama that snapshots 60s Britain quite nicely.
BFI have done an amazing job with this transfer - captured accurately at 1.33:1 the B&W is striking in contrast and detail, it actually makes the film more enjoyable to watch. This is Criterion level stuff really. There's only so much to be done with a monoaural soundtrack from this period but it's presented well enough without hiss. There are a number of short films making up the extras, combined with a beautiful and informative booklet to give a great package to an obscure and worthwhile film.
The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut (2 Discs)
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What you get here is both versions of The Exorcist (original theatrical cut and the later 'extended' cut) in one very reasonably priced package, both with high definition picture (1080p of course) and audio. There are loads of extras including what I believe is the full version (which is feature length itself) of the Fear of God documentary (not as good on repeat viewings as its reputation suggests but still a very worthy inclusion) - note that this is in standard definition - plus a new 40 minute making-of documentary, audio commentaries as well as a few other featurettes. Very well rounded in terms of extras.
Some people complain about the grain as if it's been deliberately added or something, but the grain is only part of the film itself and was not so evident on DVD due to that format's lower resolution. You can probably use Digital Noise Reduction techniques to bring this down quite a bit, the consequence being people looking like wax dummies (a'la Predator) - I prefer the naturalistic appearance of what we get here. Yes, there is grain here on the Blu-ray, but I rarely found it particularly intrusive. Perhaps it's more so intrusive in a few of the darker shots but generally I feel the advantage of seeing more detail outweighs the issue of also seeing some more grain. The best looking shots are the Iraq sequences, which look fantastic, and outdoor daylight shots. The incredible audio mix of this film probably sounds as good as it ever will here - not demo in comparison to new films but well rendered for what is possible. Overall a commendable transfer in terms of video and audio quality, and as a package I can't see me needing to buy The Exorcist ever again (after owning it on DVD, VHS, and seeing it twice in cinemas in the 90s) - this is pretty much definitive on Blu-ray.
True Romance: Director's Cut
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This movie, scripted by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Ridley's brother, is the sharply scripted, periodically funny, violent, and slightly romantic adventure of a comic store assistant and his hooker girlfriend as they accidentally acquire a case full of cocaine and subsequently try to offload it for enough money to relax with for a few years. It's a great film, possibly with an excess of bad language (but what do you expect from 90s Tarantino?), plenty of superbly memorable moments (Dennis Hopper's 'death scene' is a personal favourite of mine), and a plethora of cool performances throughout.
Contrary to what a couple of previous reviewers have said I can see no difference in the film between this UK Blu-ray and the US 'Director's cut' that I acquired on DVD 10 years ago. I think the misunderstanding occurs because this is the same cut that's been available in the UK for some time, therefore people assume this disc is not the director's cut. It's the full 121 minute version of the film and not the 113 minute re-edited monstrosity that we were forced to endure when it first appeared on home video in the 90s.
The Blu-ray transfer is not on par with modern films, however it does come across as film-like, frequently very colourful, and quite a bit more detailed than how it was represented on DVD. The darker scenes are murkier than I would like but I suspect this is a product of the source, not the transfer. The Dolby True HD track is much more alive than that of the DVD, although (as can be expected for a film of this vintage) there is not a massive amount going on in the surrounds. The disc looks and sounds very nice.
Three audio commentaries come from Tony Scott, Tarantino and others. The Tarantino track sounds very interesting from the portion I sampled so I'll be listening to that as soon as possible. There are plenty of deleted scenes and alternative endings too, generally with commentaries as options, plus a featurette - the disc is well padded with extras.
Overall I was very pleased to upgrade my old R1 DVD for this superior Blu-ray, especially at the very decent price it's currently available.
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Pandorum is a well executed sci-fi horror movie that explores some intriguing ideas about long distance space travel and a possible future of mankind. There are elements of the Alien films along with Event Horizon but I think there is enough here to grant Pandorum its own personality.
The Blu-ray Disc presents the film in 1080p at 2.39:1 and looks very good, though there are quite a few darker scenes that exhibit some grain - this is purely reflective of the film itself and unlikely to be a flaw with the transfer. Generally I was very pleased with the appearance of the film. The Dolby True HD surround track will scare the living daylights out of you on a good surround system, and with the ship's power malfunctioning there are plenty of opportunities for room-rumbling effects. Extras are modest but the 14 minute featurette on the making of the film proved to be better than I expected, giving some insight into the motivations for making the film and the director's approach. There's also a commentary and some deleted scenes.
Overall, a very worthwhile addition to my growing Blu-ray collection.