Tag Archives: DVD

HMV in administration – UK geeks say ‘Meh’…


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If you’ve ever spent any time on a UK high street, you’ll probably be familiar with music retailer HMV and their eye-scorchingly bright black and pink store fronts.  You may also be familiar with their frequently hilarious overpricing, perversely good value offers – “5 Blu-Rays for £30?  Don’t mind if I do!” – and their cheery Terrier mascot, Nipper the Dog.

Like many UK retailers HMV has suffered the slings and arrows of the recession and finally succumbed to the inevitable today, going into administration with the prospect of 239 stores closing and 4000 staff losing their jobs – a statistic which fair chills the blood as I type it.  Of larger effect is the impact that HMV’s closure will have on the retail sector as a whole.

In the last few years, we’ve lost UK retailers like Virgin, their successor Zavvi, Woolworths, Game and we’ve seen the resilient likes of WH Smith drastically cut back on their stock of cds, dvds and games – if you want to buy digital media in those formats, you’ve got a choice between online or taking your chances with the dwindling number of independent stores in the UK offering such products.  And as Play.com just announced plans to segue into an eBay-esque ‘marketplace’ offering, the online stockists selling Blu-Rays isn’t getting any bigger.

I’m ambivalent towards HMV, if truth be told.  Theirs was a store that I headed to if I had a gift card to redeem, but a combination of stiff prices, unwelcoming stores, online competition and stock homogenisation sent me elsewhere for my media kicks.  Younger kids prefer downloads and streaming, older consumers are cannier with their cash and will hunt high and low for a better price for physical discs- the question of whom HMV is for anymore may be the key to their unmaking.

 

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To Stream or not to Stream?

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I have always been a fan of quality.

Now, that’s something which is in the eye of the proverbial beholder – what’s perfectly fine to me might be intolerable to you and the reverse is true, too.   When it comes to things like entertainment, I have always been a fan of the best reproduction that I can get my hands on, even if that means inconveniencing myself slightly – carrying a CD Walkman when many of my peers had moved on to smaller, lighter MP3 players, hankering after a Laserdisc player when everyone I knew was more than happy with VHS.  You get the picture, I suspect.

In recent years, I’ve begun to see the advantage of relaxing my self-imposed high standards just a tad.  I now carry a Sansa Clip Zip Mp3 player armed with a capricious flash card filled with songs and podcasts and I get on fine with it (albeit with my music ripped in Flac format and a funky little FiiO headphone amp to boost the output a little) and I’ve begun to play about with the streaming services available via my Xbox 360, thanks to a slight contretemps with my local branch of Blockbuster Video (I don’t want to verify personal data in a queue every time that I rent films, their bizarre corporate policy apparently insists on it.  Enjoy your soon-come obsolescence, boys).

My findings were mixed.  LoveFilm, arguably the market leader in the UK thanks to the muscle offered by corporate parent Amazon, had a limited selection not assisted by smudgy video quality and frequent buffering issues which rendered films unwatchable (this is on a 60 mb connection, mind you).  Netflix UK was similarly hit-and-miss with video quality and I really can’t get on with the recommendation engine, which works about as well (i.e., not at all) as most recommendation engines seem to do for me.  They’re fine if you’ve somehow only just found out about the existence of films and the cinema, but not really a serious consideration for anybody else.

Microsoft’s own films on demand service is apparently aimed at Russian oligarchs, so is really not for me as I don’t want to pay the cost of a new DVD movie to rent a streamed version.  So, it was to evil corporate overlords Sky that I went for a free trial of their ‘Sky Now’ service – an offer boosted somewhat in my estimation by a tagged-on 800 Microsoft Space Bucks if you watch at least 90 mins of the service in a month.

Do not spill this lady's Chablis.  Seriously.

Do not spill this lady’s Chablis. Seriously.

Having viewed the 2012 McG spy-fi action comedy, “This Means War“, and Steven Soderbergh‘s “Haywire” on the service, I’m now able to suggest that it’s actually…okay?   Not a match for a decent sd DVD transfer, as the sound is resolutely stereo-based, but perfectly watchable quality which should allow you to check out a movie and then double-down on the Blu-Ray, say, if you really like a film.  No buffering whatsover to report, either, which is a nice change – many of the streaming services that I’ve tried have offered image and playback quality so prone to glitches, drop-outs and other annoyances that they become less the experience of watching a film and more akin to glancing at still photographs and listening to a CD skipping in the background.

I don’t know that I would continue to subscribe to the service – the selection is pretty limited, which seems to be true of every such offering available to UK consumers – but it’s certainly worth looking at if you can take up this current Xbox offer in the UK.

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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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Kevin Smith on piracy

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“I try to give away as much as possible. At SModcast.com, we’ve got thousands of hours of my best work, as well as the funniest shit you’ll ever hear: My true life’s work. And we give it away free.”

More over at Techdirt.com.

Fabulously foul-mouthed auteur Kevin Smith’s not wrong – I’m a long-time fan of Smith’s work and I’ve often found episodes of his Smodcast or “Hollywood Babble-On” podcasts far funnier than many a screen comedy that I’ve been expected to pay for (and even Smith’s own work – I couldn’t make it through the ghastly, wholly unfunny section of Cop Out when I rented it).

Hollywood’s preferred model of punishing people who pay to see movies by front-loading movie screenings with adverts, treating regular consumers as potential thieves with anti-piracy ads on DVDs and Blu-Rays and concentrating on reboots, rehashes and tv show adaptations has been biting it in the ass for quite a few years now, so its fun to see that one of its own sons actually gets the fact that changes to the Hollywood model are long overdue and might actually save it from going the same way as the recorded music industry.

The internet isn’t the enemy – it should be a partner or a vital distribution channel, but as long as Hollywood insists on  not doing the work and expecting to reap rewards for its inaction, things are only going to get worse for Big Media…

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