Category Archives: DVD

You Can’t Burn a Bridge if They’ve Already Taken it Up

Rinse the blood off my aluminum… or, the year in DVDs.

Now, obviously this list is going to be somewhat incomplete, as I wasn’t on the hardcore DVD beat for the full calendar year. And come to think of it, I suppose I should address the whole Starweek thing — it’s certainly the biggest DVD story of the year, as far as I’m concerned.

First things first: I did not leave. I was dumped.

Second things second: I was dumped because some idiot at the Toronto Star believes the paper should do everything the Globe and Mail does, and when the Globe shrank its Broadcast Week magazine in the spring, reducing the page count — and cutting costs! — the Star quickly followed suit.

That meant cutting the book in half, though not reducing the size of the damnable thing, with which readers have been justly annoyed for five years now. Instead, the page count was reduced, just like Broadcast Week’s, and all the columns were being halved so that nothing substantial would change.

Since the column would now be so much shorter, it’d just make so much more financial sense to “bring it inside” — to let a staffer write it, instead of paying me as a freelancer — and that would be that. Thanks for your service, you’ve got two columns left, you’re done at the end of May.

I wanted to be pragmatic about it. The Star’s made stupid decisions before, and reversed them; after all, hadn’t Starweek dropped my column in 2001, when it jumped to the bigger format, only to resurrect it after five weeks? (Of course, things were different then; the paper was flooded with e-mails and faxes, and I had an editor who fought like the devil to keep me.)

And after the first few weeks of the “inside” column, I was sure they’d come back to me; it was just sad, it was. But, no. I forgot the most important thing about newspaper work: What’s on the page doesn’t matter, so long as the page is filled. And the back page of Starweek is indeed filled … though it seems inevitable that the paper will scrap the whole book, now that the Globe has folded the Broadcast Week listings into its Friday entertainment section.

Anyhow. Seven months after my unceremonious dismissal — which, if you’re looking for irony, was delivered by phone while I was bedridden with food poisoning, leading me to wonder whether I’d hallucinated the whole thing — I’m still without a reg’lar DVD gig. Which does pain me somewhat, because I do think I’m rather good at it.

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining. I still have my Metro gig, and I’m still writing reviews for UR and Canadian Smart Living, and it’s not like being dumped by the Star was the worst thing that happened this year. But I built a reputation and a readership over my fifteen years in those Starweek’s pages, and it does frustrate me to no longer have that outlet.

So. Anybody hiring?

Best DVDs of 2006, after the jump … because you deserve ’em.
Continue reading You Can’t Burn a Bridge if They’ve Already Taken it Up

Blu-ray Crisis Post #11,372

Please stop hurting meEngadget posts a link to a survey it says suggests Sony’s proprietary contender is being dissed mightily in the high-def format war, but the spin is kind of weird, with the author apparently relaying the idea that gamers are upset at being “forced” to buy a Blu-ray drive in their PlayStation 3s.

I have to wonder: Are gamers really complaining about that? Or was the question in the survey designed to generate that response?

“The Xbox 360’s HD-DVD drive is an external option; would you have preferred to save $200 by purchasing a PS3 without a Blu-ray drive?”

Look, I’m the first to say that Sony’s technological developments have been endlessly undermined by its business administration, but this seems like a bit of a stretch. And Darren Murph’s contention in the Engadget piece that Sony’s previous innovations have failed to catch on is an outright misrepresentation: Betamax and MiniDisc didn’t break through to consumers, but they’re still essential tools for broadcast journalists.

The ATRAC codec, though, that just sucked. And let’s not even talk about UMD.

Topical Depression

Back in the shell gameTrying to come up with something to blog about today, but the weather — along with the movie I saw this afternoon — has ground me down to a fine paste.

This is cool, though; I even hadn’t realized the Gamera franchise was coming back. Apparently the producers are taking the character back to kid-friendliness, which is a little disappointing after the intensity of the previous Gamera pictures. (Have you seen “Revenge of Iris”? Seriously, it takes some huge balls to crucify a giant turtle.)

And speaking of giant monsters, that DVD of “The Host” I mentioned yesterday is indeed legit — the official Korean disc was released this week, and is starting to turn up in Toronto’s Chinatown. There might be pirated versions around, though, so make sure to patronize a trusted retailer.

A Moral Dilemma

Oh, this is not goodBong Joon-Ho’s “The Host” is one of the year’s best movies — not just the Godzilla movie we’ve been waiting for all our lives, but a slashing social comedy and a gripping family drama besides.

Of course, it won’t make it onto my ten-best list, since that list is composed exclusively of films that managed to open theatrically in the calendar year. There was some buzz about a late-fall release when Magnolia picked up the North American rights … but now they’re just sitting on it, as far as I know.

So what am I to do about this, which is on sale just a couple of blocks from my house?

Sometimes, life is hard.

Still Dreaming of That Combo Player

There can be only oneEngadget reports that Sony’s set-top Blu-ray player is finally shipping. Not bad, really; after all, the thing was only supposed to be available six months ago.

Of course, the $1299.99 pricetag is a bit annoying, when one considers that a PlayStation 3 lists for about half that … but good luck trying to find a PS3. Especially since the early availability estimate of 400,000 units for North America turned out to be kind of, well, overstated.

Still. The player’s finally available, claiming its rightful space on the shelf alongside Blu-ray units from Samsung, Panasonic, Philips and Pioneer. Which is encouraging, I guess, given that HD-DVD is still a single-manufacturer format … and that single manufacturer is having a little trouble with its second-generation players.

Did you know the Philips player was available exclusively at Wal-Mart, by the way? I didn’t. But then, nobody tells me anything.

Highly Defined Complications

Are We Blu?For the last few months, the HD-DVD format has enjoyed higher visibility and a wide selection of titles … while its competitor, Blu-ray, has mostly been discussed as a triumph of self-destructing marketing.

Today, though, the tide could start to turn.

Timed to coincide with Sony’s launch of the Blu-ray equipped PlayStation 3, Fox is entering the high-definition market with its first brace of titles: “X-Men: The Last Stand”, “Fantastic Four”, “Speed”, “The Transporter”, “Kiss of the Dragon”, the remakes of “Flight of the Phoenix” (hey, House is in it!) and “The Omen”, the expanded edition of “Kingdom of Heaven” and, um, “Behind Enemy Lines” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.

Now, Fox is decidedly not supporting HD-DVD, meaning that these titles will be available exclusively in the Blu-ray realm. And most of them are genuine blockbusters, rather than the bet-hedging mix of catalogue titles and middling releases that Disney used as its entry into the format (“Dinosaur”? “The Brothers Grimm”? Really? That’s your strongest suit?)

The fine folks at Engadget HD have been keeping a running tally of high-def DVD releases, week by week; according to their latest update, the balance now stands at 114 HD-DVD titles and 97 Blu-ray titles. Some of them are duplicates — Warner’s getting really good at covering both formats, and Paramount now plans to release its major titles on both formats as a matter of course — but most of them are exclusives. The question, in the coming months, is which of those exclusives will pull people towards one format or another?

Say what one will about “X-Men: The Final Stand” — and I’ve said my piece — it’s been a huge seller on standard DVD. Fox’ decision to put it at the forefront of its first Blu-ray wave, along with a selection of other genuine blockbusters, looks like a real commitment to the format.

Of course, some of us are still holding out for that increasingly less mythical combo player … after all, Universal’s titles remain exclusive to HD-DVD, and I really, really want to include “King Kong” in my library.

Shiny Happy Football

Look how shiny I am!I haven’t had much to say about the high-def DVD wars lately, partly because I’ve been distracted with family stuff and partly because there’s just been nothing to say about them for the last little while. Sony’s readying the PlayStation 3 launch, Microsoft’s prepping the Xbox 360’s HD-DVD external drive, and the studios are trickling out titles to both formats.

But here’s something. With its second wave of Blu-ray discs newly in stores, Disney has announced the format’s first day-and-date release will be “Invincible“, on December 14th. Smart choice: The movie was popular and heavily advertised, and its football content practically guarantees it’ll be used as a demo disc in every Best Buy in North America, just in time to push those big-ticket Christmas purchases.

And hey, by December 14th, we might even be seeing Sony’s oft-delayed Blu-ray player on the shelves.

(Yes, yes, I know Disney’s also releasing a Blu-ray edition of “Pearl Harbor” on the same day, which negates any positive mojo from “Invincible”. But take heart: At least it doesn’t appear to be a port of the four-disc SE, which has the capacity to destroy people’s lives.)


Look at us, all noble and shinyThe Digital Bits reports that Warner Home Video has announced the full specs for its two-disc special edition of “The Green Mile”:

The disc will include the six-part Miracles and Mystery: Creating ‘The Green Mile’, a new interview with star Tom Hanks, audio commentary by writer-director Frank Darabont, additional scenes, makeup and screen tests, and the “Walking the Mile” documentary from the original DVD release.

I could understand the huge demand for extras on “The Shawshank Redemption” … but for this? Really?

And doesn’t that artwork kind of … suck?