Friday, September 25, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Last night I was one of the lucky few (although standing in line for three hours maybe lucky is too strong a word) to see the new film Paranormal Activity. It's a cross between 'The Blair Witch Project' and 'The Changeling'. It's about a young couple who is plagued by a spirit that is after the girl. The whole film is done by the point of view of the camera the couple uses to document these happenings. Although it is all  footage based it never falls into the shaky cam area. Even when the camera is being carried around loosely it's never dizzying or nauseating. It does fall into some of the same issues I had with 'The Blair Witch Project' which was when it wasn't night time and they're standing around talking you do wonder why the camera is on and why we can't move on with the story. Luckily though this isn't through the whole thing. Mainly the first half to help set up the characters.

The film reminded me a lot of those Unsolved Mysteries segments on ghosts. They used to freak me out. And by used to I mean they still do. But they were always about the simpler things. A creaking door. A knocking sound. A shadow across the wall. That is what happens in 'Paranormal Activity'. A lot of it is odd sounds and quick shadows. While CGI was used it's not for big special effects. In a few shots it appears (and I'm only assuming as I don't know for sure) to have been used to just remove the person that would cause the shadow. It's not noticable but my guess is it was used to help eliminate certain elements for the simple effect to work. By going the simpler route the film works. Once you see the wide shot of the couple sleeping in bed and an ominous low end bass you know something is about to happen. By the fourth night the audience would tense up which was great.

Hopefully the film will see a wider release. Although I think the film will work at home. It was great seeing an audience reaction but I think if I saw this for the first time at home by myself in a dark room I would have soiled myself. For some reason I was distracted everytime someone went to the washroom. Which seemed to happen every 2 minutes. I guess because I was sitting near the door I noticed it more. I did feel the ending needed just one more scene. I felt just as it got to the moment when you thought all hell was about to break loose that it then got to it and it ended. Just for my own sake I would have liked just one more moment before that. Although that might just be me and something that may not be an issue with future viewings.

This film has a long life and one that I think will survive for a long time. Although rated R there is nothing in it that is really hard R. It's more a few F bombs than anything. I think if they had dropped a few of them (no pun intended) and let it be more of a PG-13 then it might get a broader audience. Trust me, if this film was PG it would still be effective. Sometimes a creaking door is all you need.

Here is the film's official site and the trailer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Want My Cake!!!

Out today is the Blu-ray of George Romero's 'Creepshow'. One of my all time favorite films. I can't wait to dive in and see it in HD. I hope the transfer is good. The DVD of it was decent but had some shaky frames and a lot of dirt. Granted with some of the processed shots with the animation and whatnot there will be dirt because of how it was done and outside of a major (and expensive) restoration will always be there. In some of the other scenes though there was a lot of it. Hopefully it's been cleaned up a bit. Although I hope it doesn't have any unnecessary digital enhancements such as edge enhancement. I'll take the dirt over that. 
Unfortunately it doesn't come with any  extras outside of the trailer. I love having the trailer. It's amazing how some discs, which claim to be special editions, never have the trailer on there. Unless there is some rights issues (like with music) then please always include the trailer(s). 
That being said the lack of extras is amazing. Especially considering the incredible extras that Red Shirt Pictures did for the 2 disc special edition Region 2 DVD. Not only did it have a commentary track featuring George Romero and Tom Savini but also a great documentary. It's a shame none of this is on there as I'm sure it could have been included. Looks like I won't be tossing out that DVD just yet. For those of you that can play R2 discs then by all means get a copy of it. It's worth it.

I'll be back once I watch it with how it looks. At the very least I hope they did a good job with the transfer.

UPDATE: Having watched it I will say the transfer is pretty decent. It's very clean and some of it has some greater detail. I noticed it most with 'Something To Tide You Over' and 'The Crate'.  Other parts looked a little soft. Not sure if it's how it was shot or not. Depending on what lens you use on the camera that can make an overall softer picture. So I can't say for sure if that is just the way it is. I'd say outside of a full on restoration though this is about as good as the film will look. At least for right now. The audio hasn't been remixed for 5.1. It's the same as it is on the DVD. A basic 2.0 surround mix. And of course the missing extras. And I do say missing because they do exist. Too bad they couldn't have been included. If you love the movie though I'm sure you'll pick it up like I did.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gladiator Blu-ray - That Bad?

As I mentioned in a previous post about the controversy (is that too strong a word?) regarding the transfer on the new Sapphire Series Blu-ray from Paramount of 'Gladiator' where the old 2000 HD transfer was used as the master instead of making a new one. 'Gladiator' is one of my all time favorite movies so I was eager to watch it again no matter what. I did watch the extended version and the extended scenes (which I believe were mastered in 2005) do look a lot better.

The film itself holds up so well. I've seen the film so many times and it's just as effective as it was the first time I saw it. So five minutes into the movie the transfer is really not that big of an issue. At least with me. The main issue is the edge enhancement. It is never (or should never be) used on current transfers because of the digital artifacting that can come from it. It provides a false level of detail. Like you had your sharpness turned up too high. If it is turned up too high then turn it down by the way. This is noticeable from the start. Again, a few minutes in I was just watching the movie. The color rendition is great. The transfer isn't bad. It's not like other discs I've seen ('Donnie Darko' and 'Dog Soldiers' for example) where it looks like the DVD. It looks better than DVD but not on par with other current HD transfers. I hope Paramount rectifies this but it does not, in the end, take away from the movie itself.


2000 was a major year for me. Coming out of 1999 I felt like I was left a bit beaten. Was going through a bad time and was very depressed. I hadn't done anything creative in over two years and life in general was getting to me. New Year's Eve while I watched alone on TV the world celebrate the coming of the new millennium I realized I needed to turn my life around. Within three months I was able to and started pursuing my dreams again. Got in contact with old friends. Got involved in creative projects. Jumped back in although it did mean I took a hit financially. However, that summer was just incredible. And having it start with a movie like 'Gladiator' made it all the more special. It was the first film I had seen in awhile that really hit me and got me excited about movies. It was a nice marriage of my creative life and my film geek life. So the film will always hold a special place for me.


This was also Oliver Reed's last film. He died towards the end of shooting which resulted in his last scene in the movie being done using outtakes of footage from other scenes being digitally altered to match and a double. It is quite amazing. I still can't tell. Such a powerful performance and a very underrated actor. Many people thought this film would have kicked off a resurgence for him. But it's nice to know he went out on a high note.


Should you buy the Blu-ray? Not sure. If you honestly can look at a transfer and know off the bat the faults with it and are preoccupied with it then no. If you sort of notice things like that but overall the movie will eventually take over your interest then I think you'll be fine. If Paramount does offer a replacement at some point then all of this is a mute point. In the meantime, if you love the movie and want to watch it in the best form available (and it is despite its flaws) then by all means get it. Afterall, are you not entertained?


*NOTE: The above screen shots are NOT from the Blu-ray. They are from the the DVD. Their only purpose is to show off the movie and it makes posts more interesting if you have pictures.

UPDATE: has a review of the disc. They do great reviews especially when it comes to the technical aspects so by all means this is a great resource to make your decision on. Click Here

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sapphire Off To A Shaky But Promising Start?

Today sees the release on Blu-ray of two amazing films. Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator' and Mel Gibson's 'Braveheart'. Two titles that have been desired by fans of the format. I rank among the fans that include both films among my favorites. In fact, when I do my "best of the decade" list at the end of the year I can tell you that 'Gladiator' will be on it. Paramount is releasing both titles under their new Sapphire Series. Unfortunately it's off to a shaky start.

'Gladiator' contains much of the great features from the 3 disc DVD set from a few years ago. However the transfer has some problems. The high definition transfer is approved by Ridley Scott. One problem - it's the transfer he approved back in 2000 for its original DVD release. I have not seen the Blu-ray yet but I have seen it on cable. It looks good but not up to par with more recent transfers that are meant for Blu-ray. The HD transfer while good for 2000 suffers from the technical problems that were utilized at the time to make DVD's pop. A lot of digital enhancing to bring out detail. Something not needed for more current HD transfers. Unfortunate to say the least as I have been looking forward to this release. has some info on the issue with the 'Gladiator' disc.

However flawed, the disc does represent an upgrade from the previous DVD release. The audio quality benefits greatly from the lossless encoding, and viewers will definitely notice increase fidelity and clarity. Even the video represents an upgrade, though not on the scale usually seen on Blu-ray releases. So while you may hesitate to pick up a copy today, you can make a purchase with the knowledge that the Blu-ray release represents the best home video presentation of ‘Gladiator'. Hopefully, Paramount will soon come out with an official statement announcing a trade-in program for owners, but that may take some time as they first have to figure out what went wrong.

I hope so too as the film deserves better. Plus it will put Paramount in good light with the fans and not have their Sapphire Series be marred by this. You don't want people saying about future releases,"Is it really going to be good or just another 'Gladiator' release?"

That being said it does look like the Sapphire Series has a winner in the new 'Braveheart release. Outside of not having some extras available on older DVD copies I have heard it is a great edition with an outstanding transfer. Though almost 15 years old this film still holds up. Much has been said about Gibson's personal life but dammit the man knows how to make movies. And this is just one of the best films in the last 20 years. I've seen it so many times yet I still get emotional at the end.

I'm excited to watch both of these again. I have caught them in HD in the last year on cable. While it was nice I know that cable HD is not as good as Blu-ray HD. Both films hold up so well and it'll be nice to watch them in the format. I only hope the 'Gladiator' situation can be fixed. Still looking forward to watching it though. Transfer flaws and all. Are you not entertained?

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