I got Star Wars - The Complete Saga when it was first released last year, and watched Star Wars and Empire right away, then got busy doing other things. Over Memorial Day weekend, I pulled the set out again and watched the first five movies in release order (just as I saw them in the theater). I’ll watch Revenge of the Sith this weekend.
First, let me say that I am a Star Wars fanatic. Especially the first movie, which as a 12-year-old, I saw three times theatrically--a record for me. I’ve owned every incarnation of Star Wars on home video, from VHS, to pan&scan laserdisc, to Japanese widescreen laserdisc, to widescreen domestic laserdisc, to the big black box CAV laserdisc set with book, to the “heads” CLV laserdiscs, to the special edition laserdiscs, to the DVD box set, to the DVD tin set.
I did not see Empire until its first theatrical re-release. I saw Return to the Jedi on the day after opening day, getting to the theater hours early with a friend to get good seats. My home video collection is similar for these two movies.
I saw the charity premiere of The Phantom Menace spending an exorbitant sum on tickets. This was at The United Artists theater in Dallas. I also bought a lot of toys (loved those battle droids!) I acquired the Japanese laserdisc of Phantom Menace and the video CD. There was no day/date home video DVD release. But when it came out on DVD, I got that.
Clones and Sith I saw theatrically in DLP at the nice Cinemark Legacy 24 on their lucky screen 13, which at the time was the biggest digital screen with best sound in town. I bought the DVD’s when they were released.
Which leads us to the blu-ray release. First, I like the different versions that you can purchase--the ultimate box set with all six films and three discs of supplements, and two separate sets of the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy if you only like one set of movies, or don’t want the supplements. Of course, I had to have the complete set.
The movies look outstanding. Even Star Wars, filmed in 1976-77 looks like it was made yesterday. Phantom Menace, which was a DNR’s mess on DVD, looks great. In fact, I can’t find fault in any of the video that I’ve seen.
The English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound is a thing to behold. It gave my big rig quite a workout. The audio for the original trilogy was better than I had ever heard it. For the prequel trilogy, the theatrical sound was a notch better, mainly because the theatrical subwoofers were better than mine.
There are copious supplements, including commentary tracks on each feature. I did not have time to get into the supplements, but I will one day.
Never mind that the original versions of the movies were not included. That’s hardly a deal-breaker. If I ever want to see them, I can spin the laserdiscs or the DVD’s that were made from the laserdisc masters. Of course, you have to see the special editions or later to get my favorite line from Star Wars: when the stormtroopers are chasing Han and Chewie in the Death Star, one of them says “Close the blast doors!” As the doors close, Han and Chewie jump through them to the safety of the other side. Then a stormtrooper says “Open the blast doors, open the blast doors!” Trust me on this, the “Close the blast doors” line was missing from every home video version of Star Wars until the Special Edition.
And now you can hear the line on the blu-ray!
In this fascinating thread at Home Theater Forum, industry insider “paidgeek” says that we shouldn’t ignore 4K for resolution issues.
Okay, I’ll ignore it because I bought an HDTV last year, and I expect it to last ten years or more!
I’m not going to invest in 4K after a significant investment in 1080p and blu-ray. Granted, 1080p isn’t even 2K (although it is close). But in my environment, 1080p is good enough for me.
I used to shop exclusively at Amazon. I paid for Amazon Prime, and used their all-you-can-eat 2-day shipping extensively.
But now Amazon is opening up a distribution center in my area, and that means they are going to start charging sales tax. That makes them no better than Best Buy.
The last time I visited a Best Buy store was to pick up some 3D blu-rays. Amazon’s prices were not competitive. Unfortunately, the Best Buy was not well-organized or stocked. I picked up my 3D discs and have not been back.
This week, Amazon is selling True Blood Season 4 for $49.99. Best Buy has it for $39.99, plus shipping, plus tax. You still come out ahead buying it from Best Buy.
So now I’ll be shopping around for the best prices, especially since sales tax has entered the equation.
Update 5/30/2012…but Amazon dropped the price of True Blood to $34.99. I ended up ordering it from them.
I just downloaded the Kindle book of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which I plan to read since I really don’t want to touch/harm my collection of autographed Douglas Adams books. I just listened to the original first series BBC radio shows, and enjoyed them again immensely.
Oh, and I asked Siri a question…she had the appropriate answer!
The DVD is of the documentary “Under African Skies” which has played film festivals, and NYC/LA, and is going to air on A&E starting tomorrow night. There is also a separate blu-ray release of the documentary, but it is ridiculously expensive.
I remember getting this CD back in 1986 and really enjoying the world music vibe. (I also like Peter Gabriel for similar reasons.)
Almost 26 years later, Graceland still holds up.
Tuesday saw the release of Sherlock Season Two on blu-day and DVD, after airing on Masterpiece Mystery over the past three weeks. I started watching this on Masterpiece until I realized that the shows were trimmed by around eight minutes each.
I had the British release from Amazon.co.uk, but it was 1080i/50 and will only play on my Oppo blu-ray player. The U.S. release is converted to 1080i/60 (although the TV shows it at 1080p). The only time I could tell a difference in the video was during the credits roll. On the U.K. release, the credits did not scroll smoothly. On the U.S. release, they did.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock in this modern-day take of the original Holmes stories, set in present-day London. Martin Freeman, soon to be seen in The Hobbit, plays Dr. John Watson. Instead of documenting Sherlock’s exploits for the Strand magazine, he writes them in a blog.
There are three 90-minute episodes per season. Season One ended in a cliffhanger with Jim Moriarty threatening Sherlock and Watson. Season Two, in an episode titled “A Scandal in Belgravia,” takes up where Season One left off.
The other two episodes are titled “The Hounds of Baskerville” and “The Reichenbach Fall.” I watched Baskerville last night, and plan to watch Reichenbach tonight. Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who and Coupling fame) and Mark Gattis (who shares co-creation credit/writing duties and plays Mycroft) have written entertaining takes on the original stories.
Based on a quick scan of the Belgravia episode, there is no editing for time. Also missing is the introduction and logo for Masterpiece that was inserted into each episode for its U.S. broadcast. There is a Masterpiece Mystery logo at the beginning of each disc, along with ads for different BBC product (and the new Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie).
Picture quality is good all around. The conversion from 1080i/50 to 1080i/60 is flawless. Sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448KHz. I listened through TV speakers, so I can’t comment on the quality of the sound beyond that.
Supplements include a 20-minute documentary and two commentary tracks. I listened to the commentary for Belgravia, and it was quite entertaining.
Not to be outdone, CBS is developing a Sherlock Holmes show set in NYC with Lucy Liu playing Watson. I think I’ll stick to the British version.
When I was a kid, I thought “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” was by The Beatles. I guess I was close!
I’ve been collecting the McCartney deluxe editions since the release of Band on the Run, so it stands to reason that I will be getting the deluxe edition of Ram. Now I just need to find shelf space for it!
Of course, never mind the fans who bought the initial releases on blu-ray, and are awaiting a handful of movies to complete their collection. The question I have is how long it will take MGM/Fox to split up this box set into individual discs, because I am certainly not going to buy all those movies over again.
Then last month, I upgraded to the iPhone 4S. I was interested in getting a phone with the 64 gig capacity for more iTunes, and I wanted Siri.
Of course, I’ve had more fun with Siri than actual use. Oh, I do use Siri to set my morning alarm and to check the weather. But mostly, I ask it silly questions.
Here is her eventual response to “Tell me a story.”
You have to be persistent to get her to tell it.
Then I tried:
Then I asked a line from Pulp Fiction:
This is what Samuel Jackson should be saying in his Siri commercial!
Apparently, this will be released as a big box of stuff, and a disc-only version. The release date has yet to be announced, but since the movie just had its 4K digital premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the blu-ray announcement can’t be far behind. Besides, this is the 50th anniversary year, and we all know how anniversaries lead to blu-ray and DVD releases.
I took a day off work in 1989 to see the first showing of the 70mm restoration of Lawrence at the AMC Glen Lakes 8 in Dallas. They had decorated the inside of the theater with sheets to make it look like the inside of a tent, and the workers wore Arabian-style costumes. During the movie, I had a severe flashback to my childhood during the quicksand scene. I realized that I had seen the movie before, in edited form, at the Will Rogers Theater in Tulsa. It was re-released in 1971, which would have made me 6-7 years old at the time.
Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing this again on blu-ray!
I have an aging Denon AVR-5803 AV Receiver, and the aforementioned Oppo BDP-93 3D blu-ray player. While the Denon does not have HDMI, it does have two sets of discrete 7.1 inputs. The Oppo has discrete 7.1 outputs, and handles in-player Dolby TrueHD decoding (and also DTS-HD Master Audio, among others). So I am ready for Advanced 96k up-sampling.
(Thanks to Home Theater Lounge for the story.)
I ordered the disc, and it showed up yesterday. So I popped it in the PS3 and watched it.
Zodiac tells the story of the infamous late 60’s early 70’s California serial killer who taunted the police with letters and ciphers, all while eluding capture. No one is certain as to exactly how many people he killed, since he took credit for murders that might not have been his.
Rather than focus strictly on the whodunit aspects of the story, Zodiac focuses on the people responsible for the investigation, including police detectives and journalists. One of the journalists, a self-professed Eagle Scout, is Robert Graysmith, a political cartoonist who decides that the Zodiac story deserves a book.
David FIncher’s direction is first-rate. Since most of us don’t know the supposed resolution of the story, the twists and turns of the movie are suspenseful and unexpected.
It is worth noting that this is a single-disc edition, whereas the first blu-ray release was a 2-disc edition. This disc also includes a lossy Dolby Digital track at 640kbps. I’m not sure what the first blu-ray disc had sound-wise, since I don’t have it. But the sound was acceptable. The dialogue was easy to understand, and the music soundtrack was fine.
The single 50-gig disc includes over three hours of supplemental documentaries, all in high-definition. There are two commentary tracks. The picture quality of the movie was quite good, the picture shot mostly digitally, and processed to have an older look. The supplements did not look as good as the movie itself, but since they were not the main feature, I was not bothered.
Hopefully, with David Fincher’s stock on the rise after The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we will see Zodiac go back in-print in the United States. Meanwhile, this U.K. edition is a fine substitute.
I played games on it and did some simple programming. Then I sold it and pawned a bass guitar to get a Commodore 64. The C64 got me through college between 1984 and 1986, with a 300 baud modem and an Olivetti Ink Jet printer.
I frequented bulletin boards in the area, and played lots of Infocom text adventures (which you can still play on iDevices thanks to a program called Frotz).
I used the Macs and laser printer in my school’s Computer Resource Center for serious work, like my resume. But that was not nearly as fun as the Commodore products!
So I went on a quest to get one of the Airport Expresses to transmit music to my old iHome iH6 Clock Radio in the bedroom. The iHome has a 1/8 inch stereo line input. The Airport Express has a 1/8 inch stereo line output (that also works with 1/8 inch optical cables, but I did not need optical for this project).
I needed an extension power cord, which you can order from Amazon, but I ended up ordering an iPad power adaptor from Apple, because I needed another one of those and could use the extension power cord from that. I also needed a 1/8 inch stereo patch cable. I’m sure I have one in the house somewhere, but be damned if I could find it! So I ordered one from Amazon.
I got all the cables yesterday and plugged everything in…the Airport flashed green…i selected a song from my iPhone, directed it to the Airport…and it did not work.
Damn. This is Apple. It’s supposed to be simple!
It turns out, the iHome was not plugged in. Once it was, the aging 60 gig iPod in the dock started to charge, and the line input started to work.
The only thing left is controlling the music. That takes a simple “Remote” app that runs on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. The Remote app can control an iTunes library, and direct music to any networked device, like the Airport Express.
So now I have my entire iTunes library available in the bedroom at the touch of a button. I went to bed last night listening to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, streaming from iTunes. Cool!
I started web sites in 1995 with The Power Macintosh Resource Page, back when I had a problematic Power Mac 7500. That site evolved into The DVD Resource Page in 1997, which started when DVD made its debut in the Dallas-area test market. That site continued for three years.
HDTV Resource started after that with the purchase of the domain, and a couple of years later, with content. If I can find it, I will upload it for old time’s sake. At the time, I was into HD-DVD and I wrote several reviews, although they were not much compared to the 300+ reviews I wrote for DVD Resource.
Times have changed, too. There was nothing for me to get angry about with HDTV…that kept me going for the Power Mac and the DVD sites (remember DIVX? Ugh…)
HDTV is not all that controversial. My first HDTV, a behemoth Mitsubishi 65907 purchased in 2000, lasted nearly 11 years, before the convergence went out and the set would no longer power on. In 2006, I bought a smaller DLP Mitsubishi for my downstairs living room. It has not been perfect, but I liked DLP, so when I went to replace the original Mits, I bought a larger (screen-wise) DLP Mits for the upstairs home theater. Of course, the new set only weighs 100 lbs, where the old set weighed 400. I’m just glad the installers were able to get the old set down the stairs without hurting themselves.
My new DLP set is a Mitsubishi 73838. It was 3D-capable out of the box, with the use of DLP link 3D glasses and a software update. With a trusty Oppo BDP-93, I’ve been able to watch great 3D content like Avatar and Hugo, and even listen to my legacy SACD and DVD-Audio collection. (Did you know you can still get SACD’s?)
As for 3D, I’m a fan, but I recognize that not everyone is. For one thing, people complain about having to wear the glasses. I understand that sets not requiring glasses have been in development, but I don’t see them coming to market anytime soon. Instead, we have two types of 3D technologies on the market today, those that use Active Shutter glasses, and those that use the passive glasses (like the ones you get in most movie theaters). The passive glasses are much, much cheaper than the active-shutter glasses. There are advantages and disadvantages to both technologies, as covered by CNET.
Of course, the advantages of the technologies are moot as long as the content on blu-ray is limited. It’s been a good couple of months since I have last acquired a 3D blu-ray. I don’t care as much for 3D conversions (those movies that were not originally filmed in 3D) although I saw The Avengers in 3D and it was pretty good. The only movie filmed in 3D on the horizon that looks any good to me is Prometheus.
So anyway, this is the first of hopefully many posts on a little bit of everything, including HDTV, blu-ray, and all things digital. Enjoy!