Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Think I Just Got Pyun'd In The Albert

So... HERE's the original news blurb that the Captain America Director's Cut was a'happening. Notice that despite pimping the new length as 124 minutes versus the original release version's 97 minutes, Albert Pyun describes the additions as "a few scenes". Weird, right? Well, the truth of the matter is the Director's Cut Blu-ray runs 1 hour, 50 minutes, 53 seconds (111 minutes). Yeah, that's better than the 100 minutes or so that compromise the runtime on the commentary DVD - which may just be the theatrical cut, I honestly don't know anymore - but still a pretty damned far cry from what was promised in the initial PR push.

The most embarrassing part is the quality of the actual transfer. First off, the bulk of the transfer honestly looks like the following screenshots. I'm not exaggerating, I'm not photoshopping, and just to be clear that there's no fault on my end I'm uploading totally lossless PNG screenshots. This is actually, honestly, what $34 gets you from Curnan Pictures:

America? FUCK NO!!

Yes my friends, this is actually VHS footage. BOB deinterlaced, cropped to 1.78:1, and then upscaled to Blu-ray. This isn't hyperbole. I'm not exaggerating. This isn't me having a laugh in photoshop. This is fucking VHS footage on a director approved gray-area Blu-ray, and it wasn't even deinterlaced properly.

What's troubling about this is the way in which the news was presented:

According to Pyun, the "director's cut" will be based on "my own 35 mm CA work picture and temp mix [that] I did before I left [the] picture."

There was no mention of anything but 35mm film being involved. Naturally, I expected the entire feature to be sourced from a ratty 35mm workprint, and honestly that's part of why I ordered it - seriously, who wouldn't want an HD presentation of a chewed up B-movie workprint? If a scene or two had looked like this because that's all that was left, eh, I'd probably shrug it off, point out that "some scenes look terrible", and then be all excited about the rest of it. But that's the NORM for this release. The overwhelming majority of the film was sourced from VHS, and it's not something anyone with eyes in their skull could possibly ignore. Seriously, that's the sort of thing you should tell people. Hell, that's the FIRST thing you should tell them: "It's on Blu-ray, but most of it's from a VHS tape. Thought you'd like to know."

But what about the newly inserted footage? The Director's Cut scenes had to be sourced from that mythical 35mm workprint and should look substantially better... right?

Well... it is better, if only by degrees. But it's still BOB fucking deinterlaced, which means half the resolution has been blurred out and any diagonal lines are now aliased to hell and back - just check out the guy's eyes for a prime example. What I can't show you is how choppy the movement has become, since not only have frames been blended together, but some are actually dropped in the process, meaning the entire film looks almost like it's playing back in 0.8x slow motion but keeps the same runtime anyway. No matter how wretched these shots look, trust me when I say that it's EVEN WORSE watching it move.

I'm hearing that this disc has some progressive/interlaced flagging issues that make it impossible to play without losing picture at random due to HDMI handshake issues, but having only spot-checked each chapter of my new copy to make sure it actually PLAYS this time, I can't speak for those issues yet. I'm just far too horrified to sit down and watch the whole thing right now.

Tech specs are MPEG-2/Dolby Digital 5.1 at bitrates of... seriously, who even gives a fuck.  The whole 23.2 GB of the disc is taken up by the feature - no menus, no subtitles, no nothing. As stated earlier the DVD that comes in the case has the commentary on a shorter cut of the film (for whatever reason), so there's no extras here. The compression is the least of this Blur-ray's issues anyway.

Al, come on dude. You seriously have the balls to charge an extra $9 for the "High Definition" version of something that doesn't even look fit for a commercial DVD release? Man, you must walk around in a mumu just to let those bad boys swing around like your torso's a mobile tether-ball pole! I was more than willing to give you a pass on charging $25 for the Director's Cut of CYBORG - I get it, that VHS telecine of a workprint is all that exists now, and you made it clear it wasn't going to be pretty before it came out. But this release only contains a fraction of the added runtime initially promised, and it would actually look better on VHS than it does here because at least it wouldn't be hard-deinterlaced and full of blotchy compression artifacts! This is an American Atrocity, and actually far surpassed even the worst expectations I might have had for it.

As for positives...well, Pyun was willing to sign the cover with "America... Fuck Yeah!"  So if there's one redeeming part of this set, that's probably it. Oh right, it also comes with "Left For Dead: Inferno Version" on a third disc. What is this? Undead senoritas, maybe? I honestly don't know, and I'll deal with it later, but whatever it is it looks fucking great on DVD, which - in the context of this unwatchably awful Captain America release - only makes me want to drink. A lot.

In short, this has got to be the worst $34 I've ever spent on a High Definition anything in my life. And I haven't even watched the movie yet. You think I'm pissed now? Just wait until I've sat down and wasted 111 or so minutes of my fleeting life on this infamous trainwreck! Assuming Pyun doesn't get his massive balls sued right off by MGM come August, do yourself a favor and buy this miserable clusterfuck on DVD - that extra $9 buys you nothing but theoretical Blu-ray bragging rights. Maybe if the 35mm sourced footage looked decent it'd be worth your while, but even that looks awful, and not for any of the reasons a workprint should look awful either.

I'm sorry, Al. You seem like an alright guy and I do so love your cheesy movies every now and again, but this BD-R really blows. I'd probably pay you thirty bucks for a director's cut of Radioactive Dreams on DVD, and have long considered buying Cyborg: Slinger someday solely on principle. Just do us all a favor? Walk the fuck away from BD-R if it's going to look like Captain America. That was a bad idea. Very, very bad. I'd be slightly disappointed if that transfer were a DVD, but to pretend it's ready for Blu-ray is just insulting.

UPDATE: Because I was just that morbidly curious, I got my hands on the German DVD, which sources claim is just a bootleg sourced from a PAL VHS tape... here are the results:

Albert Pyun/Curnan Pictures "CA Director's Cut" Blu-ray


The German DVD is most definitely a vile analog-video sourced pile of shit... yet it's still less fucked up than the Director's Cut Blu-ray? How is that even possible? What the hell is going on here!?

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