Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lion's Gate and the Maw of Rejected Bullshit

Seriously... this whole format war crap has made me hate Blu-Ray.

In theory it sounds awesome. 50 gigs on a dual layer disk, support of every major Hollywood studio but Universal (so far), the PS3... and of course, the fact that some films that I adore, from Devil's Rejects to Kill Bill and Kung Fu Hustle were all due on the format.

Then the players and disks actually came out. Sure, the Blu-Ray players are capable of a much nicer picture than DVD players... but using only single layer disks (25 gigs - versus DVD's 8.5), the old standby codec MPEG-2, and with the majority of the extras once present on the DVD's now missing in the name of better video (which doesn't hold a candle to HD-DVD's current codec, VC-1)... well, the releases are unimpressive at best, and total bullshit at worst.

The upsides are few and far between; for one thing, there's generally less compression than sattelite or cable HD feeds - which are pretty damned unimpressive, I think - and best of all, Sony's first releases have tried in vain to make up for the sub HD-DVD video quality and general lack of extras by filling the disks with uncompressed LPCM 5.1 audio (which supposedly has dropouts... wtf?!). LPCM is badass stuff, to be sure, but is it worth sacrificing extras for? I say no. Others who have spent more on their home theatres than I have my car or rent for the past 5 years would bitch-slap me for it. Whatever. I know what I like.

But Lion's Gate... oh, Lion's Gate, what the fuck? First off, the majority of the films they're releasing now I could give a rat's ass about. Crash, bah! Wait, is that Cronengerg's crash or Racism for Dummies Crash? The latter? Fuck it then. Lord of War... nah, I'm good. Terminator 2... maybe. But lacking the wealth of extras that were on the previous DVD-18 edition, and the "Extreme" cut from the budget minded 2 disk set... nah'. Not now, anyway. I like T2, but not at the expense of cool shit to go with it. (Plus the Extreme Edition has a 1080i HD video file as an extra on disk 2... ha.) There are others... but I'll bring up the two relevant films.

First is SAW. I didn't buy SAW when it first came out, knowing the uncut version was also available internationally, and instead of springing for the German or UK DVD's I waited for the R1 "Special Uncut Edition", which featured more footage, less lame numetal, and a shit load of new extras. (Not to say the original was a total slouch in the extras department; we did get commentaries and a short documentary, which is better than nothing.) The 2 disk edition has a bunch of crap, including the short film the director and writer sent in to Lion's Gate to prove they weren't just a pair of chumps, psuedo-documentaries that lead in to the suprisingly fun SAW 2, a feature length making-of, and even a nifty little DVD-ROM game where you can build an evil puppet. What can I say, they gave us everything there was, and a few things that probably shouldn't have. This, dear friends, is how you do a special edition. Plus the first run was packaged in a giant CD jewel case with a blood bag inside that you can poke. How cool is that?

So, what's the Blu-Ray for SAW feature? The film, R-rated cut only. Chapter stops. DTS and Dolby 6.1/5.1 tracks. That's it.

Wait... huh?

And now Devil's Rejects, probably my favorite film of 2005 in it's entirety, is getting a Blu-Ray release. The DVD that was released was something of a beauty, including the unrated version of the film (extended only slightly, much like HOSTEL), 2 commentaries with Rob Zombie and the titular characters' actors Sherri Moon, Bill Mosley and Sid Haig (yay!), several deleted scenes, a TV commercial featured in the film itself, a TV show that's in the film itself, a vintage country music video that was - you guessed it, totall relavant for once, some interesting make-up tests (including the cut-from-the-film Doctor Satan proethstetics), and finally, one of the best extras compiled for any DVD of any film, ever: 30 DAYS IN HELL, a 2 and a half hour documentary about the creation of the film. That's right, 2 and a half motherfucking HOURS. It's longer than the film by a wide margin, and in some respects is arguably even more interesting - but that's always the way, isn't it?

I can't remember any other documentary that's this down and dirty, partly because of the shoestring budget and harsh conditions the movie was created in. Devil's Rejects has much more in common with the 70's grindhouse films of yore, and a big part of that is the film was shot with nothing but creativity and freedom, which is exactly why 70's horror films - and action films and westerns, which this film actually has more in common - were the unpolished masterpieces and misfires they were. They were rarely perfect, but they were never compromised... and this documentary is the perfect way to show that fact off. 30 DAYS IN HELL is the sort of making-of that could have been sold on it's own at full price and I'd still recommend people buy it. It's honestly that interesting, and shows how bright a man who's made a living wearing Devilman pants and playing blood-filled guitars actually is. Zombie's a very smart man, and he could have Hollywood on it's ass if he ever decided he was bored with genre films... lucky for me, I think he likes them too much to just up and give them up like Raimi and Jackson did so long ago.

So, what's the Blu-Ray have? The 2 commentaries, and deleted scenes. Yeah, couldn't even be bothered to chuck on an original trailer for fuck's sake.

So while my original plan was basically "buy Blu-Ray, down-convert to standard definition, profit" (minus the last part)... Blu-Ray can officially go fuck itself until it seriously gets it's act in gear. The transfers CAN be excellent (and theoretically will be once they get the codec issues worked out... maybe), the audio glorious (if your reciever can do anything with it. Mine can't.), and while everyone who's bought the same movie more than once for a prettier picture or a beefed up audio track (yo!) says "that's what really matters"... at what cost? I agree that the presentation of a film is the most important aspect you can get on home video, but if we're getting badly compressed MPEG-2 video, the same DTS tracks on the current DVD, and the R-rated version of a film we can buy unrated on DVD... where's the reason to upgrade? For a long time I've hoped that home theatre was really there to experience films the way they were meant to be seen, uncompromised and larger than life, the same way the directors' indended. More and more I'm seeing it's a way for studios to eek out a few bucks and for douchebags who don't have to worry about buying food the next day to show off where all their disosable income has gone. I'm not saying gorgeous picture and amazing sound is a bad thing.... I'm just saying that if Blu-Ray can't do what DVD can do in terms of presenting a film, why the fuck should I care?

If it were JUST Lion's Gate, maybe I'd let it go. But it's not. Sony has deleted some of the extras from the Terminator DVD to make the new Blu-Ray fit. They've deleted all the suppliments from disks like House of Flying Daggers and XXX - which has 2 totally DIFFERENT sets of extras! Granted I own the R1 of Kung Fu Hustle (with subtitled commentary and all), and the Blu-Ray release will be edited (as the R1 is)... so once more, I look at all of these studio suit jackoffs and wonder. Should I give a fuck? Yes, 1080p is the tits and should make the movies I watch come ALIVE and once we get dual layer Blu-Ray working (which won't happen for a year or better... PS3 games don't need more than 25 gigs worth of space.) and once we switch to the codec's that HD-DVD so horribly beat us to and...

etc., lather rinse, repeat. Same old story, Same old song and dance.

Lion's Gate was the only studio with a lot on BD that I really had an interest in, so if they're not going to deliver on some of my favorite films (Haute Tension in HD? HELL YES!), then I'm not going to buy them, simple as that. And as far as the whole format war crap goes, it's pretty simple; Blu-Ray is twice as expensive as HD-DVD. It doesn't look as good as HD-DVD, and the difference is sound will be negligible by the time I can get to it. Really, much as I wanted Blu-Ray to be the next wave of what I spent all of my nonexistant money on, I've just given up. Oh, and the fact that you can't down-convert over S-Video? Great job there, guys. Not that I have a grand for a massive first gen player anyway, but if I was interested you pretty much just killed it right there. (HD-DVD downconverts just fine. Of course.) Even if I had a damned HDTV, this is bullshit, and something I'd rather not support with the money I could use to buy DVD's at half the cost of their extra-less BD cousins. Backwards compatable my ass.

Now, don't get me wrong... someday, I'll own a PS3. I've said it before, Microsoft has Halo, Sony has Final Fantasy. 1337 gamers can bitch back and fourth over which of these systems is more powerful, more convienant, more fun... it doesn't fucking matter. The fact that they each have a stake in two of the largest video game franchises alone guarantees that they'll both sell, and sell well. Period. I want the new Final Fantasy Player 3 as much as every other loser who's spent weekends at home leveling up and unlocking hidden players instead of getting layed or getting drunk or curing cancer or whatever, and if I have a box that plays Blu-Ray, hell, I'm sure I'd theoretically buy Devil's Rejects again to see how spiffy it looks on it. (If the PS2's performance as a DVD player is any indicator, it'll look like shit regardless of how perfectly encoded the Blu-Ray is.)

But I gotta' tell you... sticking with normal DVD's is sounding better and better. At least HD-DVD is backwards compatable with SDTV's, and that very fact might just convince me to finally buy Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, which is exactly the sort of reason these scary players exist in the first place.

So this will be the last time (for now...DUN DUN DUN!) that I bitch about Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD. At this point I've said all there is to say; Blu-Ray looked like it was gonna' be a champ, but it's not delivering, and until it does I'll stick with normal DVD 'till an HD-DVD player is under $300. After that I see no reason to go with the HD version, even if it's an extra $5 or so. Even on my cheesy Wal-Mart TV less noise reduction and edge enhancement on the HD version would look better.

...I'm still not buying FULL METAL JACKET on HD-DVD though. I need to stick to some basic scruple.


And on an unrelated note, the IVTC for Vampire Hunter D seems to be fixeed. Viva la progressive!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What necessary words... super, a brilliant idea