Tag Archives: Blu-ray Disc

New Xbox – no Xbox?

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Ruh-oh.

Edge Online is reporting that Microsoft’s next Xbox console may require users to have a permanent internet connection, virtually ensuring the end of the second-hand games business.

You’ll still be able to buy a physical copy of a game (which will ship with a one-use unlock code, tied to your Gamertag), but Microsoft’s overarching strategy for the next-gen is download-based.  Great if you live in a major city with serious broadband infrastructure, but not so brilliant for everybody else.  Can’t afford a decent download speed?  On a monthly plan which caps your downloads?  Sucks for you.

This is, to say the least, a bloody risky gambit and one designed to lock out a great many gamers who can’t afford to buy a $60/£45 game every month  – I find it hard to believe that Microsoft, of all companies, would view providing a download version as an opportunity to pass on cost savings to the consumer.  Their ‘on-demand’ store on Xbox Live currently charges hilarious prices for games – and I would suspect that controlling the method of delivery to gamers will only make that worse.

Of course, Microsoft don’t comment on rumours and speculation ahead of one of their major product announcements, but if this method comes to pass, I don’t see myself persisting with Xbox gaming – after a while, you begin to get the message that Microsoft are akin to the neighbourhood kid who took their football home when the game wasn’t going their way.

There’s no word on whether Sony are looking to carry out similar measures with their PS4 – and a gambling man would suggest that where Microsoft choose to go, the Japanese company might look to distinguish themselves to consumers by offering a different system which doesn’t seek to marginalize and alienate potential consumers.  Just an idea, mind you.

I’ve given up Xbox live this year and felt no ill-effect from doing so.  If Microsoft are going to treat gamers like this, it might be time for me to jettison any thought of adopting their future platforms.  I mean, as I’m European, it’s not as if Microsoft gives a toss about me anyway, is it?

 

 

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“Predator” on Blu-Ray – Hi-Def Halloween Horror

If it’s reference quality video you want…look elsewhere?

It’s a fact little disputed amongst serious scholars of bone-crunching, gore-spattered, pectoral-pumping, 1980’s cinema that John McTiernan‘s action/sci-fi/horror mash-up “Predator” is a pivotal movie of the decade and ranks as some of iconic star Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s best on-screen work.

Shorn of many of the reactionary politics which accompanied many action-thrillers of the decade and focussing instead on creating one of the best variations on “The Most Dangerous Game” that we’ve seen on-screen, “Predator” doesn’t waste a second of its 107 minute running time and lives longer in the memory because of it – it would take a real bonehead to mess up this premise and the taut script by Jim and John Thomas thankfully provides director McTiernan with an opportunity to stage tense, violent and genuinely thrilling set-pieces which still resonate 25 years later.

25 years since this film opened?  Oy vey.

The set-up is simplicity itself – an elite team of covert military extraction specialists led by Major Dutch Schaefer (Alan Alda…Schwarzenegger) take on the job of entering a South American conflict zone to retrieve lost government personnel and instead find themselves on the wrong end of a terrifying big game hunt waged by an alien big game hunter whose dental bills must be crippling.

METAL!

It’s to the Thomas’ credit that they find ways to subvert expectations and misdirect the audience until the runaway train of the main plot kicks in and never lets up for the remainder of the running time.  Sparing as it is, there is at least some attempt to lend Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and the various tree-trunk necked cast passing character development amidst the shoot-outs, last-gasp escapes and deliriously homoerotic bro-bonding elsewhere in the film.

Things that McTiernan’s direction gets abundantly right are demonstrated by the action sequences – each one is shot in what would come to be recognized as the director’s signature style, which marries frenetic bouts of mayhem with always easy to understand spatial staging and razor-sharp editing.  The tension is always palpable and the gore is done with something approaching restraint – limbs are lopped, unfortunate soldiers are skinned and somehow none of it seems aggressively horrible or leeringly adolescent.

“Take that, nature!”

What’s honestly pleasing about this film is the way that it gets to have its cake and consume it greedily – whilst we get to enjoy early scenes of Dutch and crew laying waste to all comers with an array of absurdly fetishized military hardware (culminating in the scene captured above), it rapidly becomes clear that all of the mini-guns, grenade launcher attachments and over-developed biceps in the world are precisely no use whatsoever against the alien protagonist of the title when it starts hunting them in earnest.  There is always, as Uncle George Lucas would later remind us in Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace“, a bigger fish.

The mano-a-alien showdown at the end still thrills, wisely devoting a significant amount of on-screen time to beating the living crap out of the otherwise impervious Austrian Oak and making the certainty of his ultimate triumph rather more of a contest than it had been to this point – it’s also fun to see Dutch’s character pushed to rely less on his undisputed muscles and more on his adaptive, intellectual abilities to best the universe’s premier big-game hunter, deploying a valley’s worth of improvised traps and tricks to slow down old crab-face before the two can finally face each other down.

You can see why the sequels, spin-offs and remakes resulted from this utterly enjoyable original flick – but it’s telling that few of them (arguably Nimrod Antal‘s “Predators” being the best) have ever approached the seamless blend of horror beats, action gags and sci-fi coolness that McTiernan’s film has to spare.

The Blu-Ray, by the way, is fine – save for some utterly misguided digital makeover techniques being applied to the print, which result in all the cast’s craggy faces being uniformly de-lined and as feature-free as a Vogue cover model – and has much to recommend it.  If you can get past the layer of virtual polyfilla being applied to the actors, the picture itself is fine if devoid of the kind of film grain which you would expect to see in a film of this vintage.

The sound mix is pretty good – guns boom, explosions shake your subwoofer and Alan Silvestri‘s magnificent score jockey for aural position betwixt your speakers and don’t step on each other’s shoes too often.   Extras are reasonably generous – there’s a making-of, some deleted scenes and trailers, a McTiernan commentary and a text commentary by a film historian (it’s a living, I guess…).

If you’ve ever thought about buying the movie, this is fairly definitive stuff and it looks and sounds as good as it ever will, shy of what a hypothetical director-supervised edition for the thirtieth anniversary edition might offer up.  Not one for purists, but certainly a disc that fans should enjoy.

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Alternate “Avengers” Awesomeness Amazes?

“And this is the bit where more amazeballs awesomosity is going to go…”

In the spirit of global collaboration and nerd-sharing, it behoves me to direct you towards io9.com, who currently have an alternate opening sequence for “The Avengers” posted on their site.  It’s a really interesting choice and I can absolutely see why it went the way of all flesh – I can’t imagine many fans digging the ‘unreliable narrator‘/alternate perspective direction that this opening implies, intriguing as it might have been…

If I know Marvel (and their dark corporate over-Mice, Walt Disney) this won’t be up for long but you will be able to peruse it at your leisure in a few weeks when Joss Whedon‘s superhero opus is out on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download and can settle the question once and for all – how did this film and “The Dark Knight Rises” both manage to independently construct endings which pivot on wide-ranging moral choices selflessly enacted by rakish billionaires who moonlight as technologically advanced fighters of crime.

And no, h8t0rz, that doesn’t mean that Hollywood has no ideas.  Just not that many.

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Tarja – “Act One” artwork online

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Former Nightwish vocalist and High Priestess of Rock drama, Tarja Turunen, has posted the artwork for her upcoming “Act 1” live album and DVD/Blu-Ray – the cover of the HD version is above, because that’s how I roll.  Pretty, isn’t it?

Currently scheduled for an August 24th release, the album comes in 2 CD, 2 DVD and Blu-Ray configurations and has a tracklisting which looks something like this:

Act I CD Track Listing:


CD 1
01. Anteroom Of Death
02. My Little Phoenix
03. Dark Star
04. Naiad
05. Falling Awake
06. I Walk Alone
07. Little Lies
08. Into The Sun (previously unreleased)
09. Nemo (Nightwish)
10. Never Enough (previously unreleased)
11. Still Of The Night (Whitesnake)
12. In For A Kill

CD 2

01. Boy And The Ghost
02. Lost Northern Star
03. Ciaran‘s Well
04. Tired Of Being Alone (written with Schiller)
05. Where Were You Last Night / Heaven Is A Place On Earth / Livin’ On A Prayer
(Medley)
06. Underneath
07. Oasis / The Archive Of Lost Dreams
08. Crimson Deep
09. The Phantom Of The Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
10. Die Alive
11. Until My Last Breath
12. Over The Hills And Far Away (Gary Moore)

Yes, copy and paste is very much my friend.

If you’re expecting there to be slight, collector-baiting differences in track listing between the CD and DVD versions, you’d be correct (the Blu-Ray is the same as the DVD, only shinier and prettier) – got to maximize that geeky fan desire to catch all of those formats.

I will, of course, be picking this up but I’m having a Dickens of a time pre-ordering the record on my online retailer of choice – it’s almost as though the niche pop culture pursuits of nerds don’t mean a serving of Pannukakku to Jeff Bezos’ happy shopping cyber-elves…

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Boxing Hawkeye

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Ugly art, Disney! Must try harder…

Disney will be getting a fresh influx of much-needed, “John Carter” offsetting cash on September 25th when they release “The Avengers” on Blu-Ray (in the two flavours presented above) and in a two-disc DVD set if you’re representing old-school digital media.

It need hardly be said that this flick will be selling like the proverbial warm baked goods.  What needs to be established, for anally retentive, hopeless old collector geeks like me is whether we’ll be getting a nifty Steelbook set too, to go with the four (count ’em!) copies of “Serenity” which we own in various DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-Ray and nifty collector’s tin editions on our shelves.

It’s only financial prudence which has stopped me from chasing down the previous Marvel movies in textbook form – financial prudence which will be merrily cast asunder once this film hits Blu-Ray.

Hmm…I sure could do with a Hammer right about now…

Hurrah for Joss Whedon-fixated nerdery! And imminent bankruptcy!

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