Saturday, September 22, 2012

Night of the Limited Dead

Twilight Time put up pre-orders for their limited-to-3000-units run of Tom Savini's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake 9 or 10 days ago. I didn't mention it since... well, I've been busy and it slipped my mind. That happens a lot, no harm and no foul.

It turns out we're less than two weeks in and that "3,000" number is down to less than a hundred copies. Hell, by the time you read this it's probably already long gone! Even more noteworthy is that when the release got down to a total of 500 copies they switched it to a limit of 2 copies per customer, specifically to avoid the potential horrors of scalpers picking up the lions share of the run and putting them up on eBay for $125 a pop, as was the case with the similar FRIGHT NIGHT release from last year... and yet they're still moving at the rate of over 200 copies a day.

Thanks for playing, we'll see all of you who missed it on eBay.

Twilight Time cheesed me off slightly by not including the 25 minute "Behind the Scenes" feature from the DVD. Not that I absolutely need every second of Tom Savini ever shot, but the documentary includes several gore scenes cut by the MPAA for an R-Rating, and as it stands fans of NOTLD '90 (which exist, evidently!) will have to keep their SD release for some of that sweet workprint footage...

Or whatever, just watch it on YouTube.

Meanwhile, ENEMY MINE has moved less than 1,000 units total. Not sure what that says in the long run, but it's... interesting. Maybe that hilariously Bromantic cover had something to do with it?

Romero officially bleeds celluloud.

While we're on the subject of super-limited "...of the Dead" movies, Synapse Films have also announced THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD DVD + BLU-RAY SET. You get a brand new, up-to-date version of Roy Frumkes' documentary that covers Romero's career from the start all the way to Survival of the Dead, and you also get an HD version of the original 66 minute rough cut sourced from the original 16mm negatives. Some of the footage used in previous releases of DOCUMENT were shot on video, and as such a "complete" HD version of this just wasn't in the cards without some serious compromises. As such, I think Synapse has come up with the most sensible and interesting solution to fans who care enough about a behind-the-scenes documentary to want it on Blu-ray.

Also, notice that that the " Exclusive" banner doesn't look even remotely like the Twilight Time silver-banner motif, or the fact that Synapse is releasing this limited-to-1500-units and put pre-orders up literally the day before Twilight Time started taking orders for this:

Don't get me wrong, I personally don't CARE at this point who's knocking off who, I just find the blatantly reactionary connection between the two kind of hilarious. Still, I wish Don and Jerry the best on this, and will pre-order a copy myself... as soon as Twilight Time's done with my wallet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


So... why does the 2012 version of ROBOCOP look like Femto from Berserk?

They Bleed Pixelation

As much as I abhorrer all forms of censorship and cowardice in the pursuit of the all mighty dollar, Steam's online gaming service (or more specifically, the "Greenlit" indie spotlight portion thereof) making nerd-culture headlines last month for banning the borderline pornographic Seduce Me left me with little more than a sigh and a shrug. Yes, any service that takes money from a stranger's credit card should assume that the card holder is 18, and thus independantly capable of deciding that a dialog-driven strategy game about sport fucking is the right use of their disposable income. Then I remind myself that it was essentially a Jersey Shore Dating Simulator that looked like this...

You can almost taste the herpes.

So, clearly, nothing of value was lost. It has every right to exist, and it's not as if the developers can't publish it themselves in some other, less assuredly high-profile manner, but I mostly feel that Steam has every right to tell them to shove their porn game without being especially hypocritical. Yeah, yeah, everyone and their retarded potbellied pig has bitched that Witcher 2 and Mass Effect 3 are available via Steam, softcore hump-scenes included, but the isolated images in a hundred hours of melee grinding RPG is a bit like comparing the brief penetration found in I Stand Alone or Short Bus to Jenna Jameson's Wicked and The Best Of Blackzilla. It really isn't the same thing, and I can understand why a service would be into one and not the other, even if, at the end of the day, they all feature genitals mashing into other genitals.

That said, Steam has my attention once more:

The H.P. Lovecraft themed side-strolling murder simulator THEY BLEED PIXELS looks ridiculously awesome. It's the latest brain-leavings of Spooky Squid Games, a cottage industry focused on Eldritch Fun for the whole doomed family!

Movies will be eating up my next couple paychecks, but the game with soundtrack costing less than fifteen bucks sounds like way too good a deal to pass up. Can't speak for the gameplay yet, but it's a goddamn side-scrolling Lovecraftian version of Mad World... how can this not be awesome?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gettin' My Green On

Let's make this official: Going forward, under no circumstances will I talk, at length anyway, about a Blu-ray disc I don't have in front of me so that I can reference it. It's not fair to me only getting glimpses of the product I'm so eager to dig my teeth into, and it's not fair to the producers behind it for me to get a potentially fragmented impression of their work. It's just bad all 'round for everyone, so I'm going to try and be good and not talk about the transfers and audio mixes until I've got myself a copy. Mind you, if a release is cut, framed completely wrong or unquestionably FUCKED UP, I'll let you guys know without a moment's notice (like THE DEADLY SPAWN last time), but bitching about a transfer before I can do a proper dissection? Nah, I'm done with that shit.

So! About that Image BD release of RE-ANIMATOR...

 Where the fuck is this amazing art from, anyway?

Yes, I've now officially bought a copy of Image's new Blu-ray... much to my initial chagrin. Apparently the film was shown on MONSTERS HD, a now-defunct satellite station around 2005. I was never in a position to get dish up until very recently, so my overall interest in 1080i broadcasts was marginal at best, and this particular snippet of info had gone below my radar completely. With this in mind, why Anchor Bay chose to recycle the Millennium Edition SD materials for the "Anchor Bay Collection" DVD in 2007 when Brian Yuzna already had a newer HD master is a confusing turn of events indeed, but the fact that they didn't lean towards using a new source is a big part of why I assumed there hadn't even been a new source since Elite pulled the film out of the vault for their 16:9 master in 2002... seriously, who the fuck goes back to a Digibeta when you have an HDCAM SR tape right there at your fingertips?

I guess all I can do is take this one on the chin; Re-Animator was, according to sources who have spoken directly with Brian Yuzna in the past year, sourced from a "real" HD master. No upscaling here, despite my initial bitterness. I should have waited to flip my shit until I could dissect the whole disc, and yes, perhaps if I had done that, I may not have come to that conclusion to start with.

That said, Image Entertainment's Blu-ray press materials claimed that this was "A BRAND NEW 1080p TRANSFER APPROVED BY PRODUCER BRIAN YUZNA." As we've established, this master was first shown at least seven years ago. I don't think there's a statute of limitations as to how old a video source can be before calling it "New" is strictly bullshit, but I'm pretty sure this one's expired harder than year old milk.

Having finally seen the disc itself, I'll relent and say that is is marginally better than screenshots would suggest, with a fairly consistent coating of grain on lighter areas and improved close-up details, particularly those of David Gale's dreamy mile-long stares:



Does it look better than the 10 year old DVD? Absolutely. Am I glad I can give my DVD away and not feel the slightest pang of hesitation? You bet! Does it look as good as I expected when being promised a "New, Producer Approved HD Master"? Not for a goddamn second. I'm going out of my damned way to find a static shot of an extreme close-up to give the Blu-ray every chance it can possibly have of clobbering the DVD, and in the end all I can do is shrug and nod that, yeah, I see the difference... it's not anything to get excited about, but after being reminded of what The Average Fuck-Upscale looks like, sure, I'll take this in a heartbeat.

That said, a modest increase in resolution and more natural flesh tones are about all there is to get excited about. For one thing, the entire disc has obvious halos along horizontal planes, which makes me think it's been the victim of some pretty harsh low-pass filtering, something I thought we had generally moved well past as a species:

"WATCH OUT! Those bags are all equipped
with edge-detecting forcefields!"

For another, grain looks natural enough on brightly lit scenes, but has an uncomfortably noisy look during the darker scenes. This is likely the result of an older, CRT based film scan, and while I know some people like the coarser, "grainier" look that this produces I can't say I'm one of them. Still, I'll begrudgingly take this over the same master plus some DVNR smearing...

Well, it's still not as bad as DJANGO.

There's also rampant black and white spots that vary in both size and intensity from start to finish. You can't find a single minute that doesn't have some sort of film artifact. Unlike the other two complaints above, I'm not entirely sold on this one way or another; obviously the fix for this can go very, horribly wrong, and I don't mind some of that "sparkle" (and Spielberg loves to call it) peeking through, but if nothing else it proves that Image did absolutely zero work on the source they were given.  At first I thought that the Blu-ray actually had more dirt than the Elite DVD, but having compared the two side-by-side, I think that the general boost in clarity and lack of obvious DVNR on the HD masters just makes the gnarliness of the IP that much more obvious.

The scratches are coming, Barbara...

The Anchor Bay Collection DVD from 2006 actually incorporated some automated digital scratch repair, and while not perfect, it means that this is NOT, technically, the cleanest presentation the film has ever had on home video... and that's kinda fucked up.

So hey, I was wrong: RE-ANIMATOR is no upscale, and the Blu-ray is worth the $12 you should actually pay for it, particularly if - like me! - you didn't have the Anchor Bay retrospective already. That said, it's barely the "new and improved" master Image was promising, and it's nowhere near as good as this fantastic cult movie actually deserves. The negative hasn't been touched in over a decade now, and while I have little doubt that a film made in 1985 for less than a million dollars will always look pretty rough around the edges, we've still got a good long way to go before anyone who actually respects this film is going to treat it right... assuming they ever do, of course.

Don May was angling to make this a Synapse release, but for whatever reason, Brian Yuzna took his business elsewhere. I'm sure he didn't make that decision lightly, but even so... Brian, just in case you're listening, please, reconsider Don's offer next time? You got my cash for this one and God knows you'll get it each and every time you release another Gordon picture, but I'll be more apt to suggest friends buy their own copies if you do a good job instead of just giving them my old hand-me-downs.

Hopefully I'll be able to tell y'all how TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 looks soon. 'Till then!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Deadly Pawn

Remember how the so-called "Millennium Edition" Blu-ray release of THE DEADLY SPAWN that came out back in February was The Worst Fucking Cult Blu-ray Release Ever? Without a hint of possible exaggeration, it was literally a 1080i upscale with sloppy DVNR of the SD Digibeta master that Synapse Films created for the film's 2004 DVD release.

Shortly thereafter, the film's producer Ted Bahus appeared under the screen name "spxted" on the forum, initially arguing that his product had made plenty of fans of the film happy, but changed his tune a few weeks later promising "big news" regarding the title.

Screenshots were posted, and working "from the negative" was spoken of. Bahus promised that this time shall be different! An exchange program was held, and yet, somehow, we got ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME GODDAMN THING. Mind you it's a less processed, mostly-progressive upscale this time, but... that's kind of like getting a giant turd in your sandwich, asking that they make you a new one, and getting the same sandwich with the turd having been wiped off with a napkin. You're still eating a turd sandwich. There's just slightly less turd involved the second time around.

He's defended this borderline hilarious rape of fan dollars, and as far as I'm concerned Mr. Bahus can eat a big ol' bag of dick. If he'd been honest and said "Uh, I'm poor. Take an upscale or leave it." I'd shrug it off and think he was an inconsequential asshole, but to publicly lie about doing a new transfer for a silly film that people love the crap out of? That's not cool, man. That's not cool at all.

If you still want to own this movie, buy the Synapse DVD, for crying out loud...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Lone Wolf and Fuck-Ups

Rock! Shock! Pop!'s forum - once again, that all-important source of the piss and vinegar I need to get through life - has done a few side by side COMPARISONS between the original "SHOGUN ASSASSINS" Blu-ray fron AnimEigo, and their brand-spankin' new LONE WOLF AND CUB/子連れ狼 Blu-ray set due later this month.

Now I admit, I may have lost my shit over a release I don't actually have yet... and, yeah, in the scheme of things, that's a little unfair. That's not to say that a 1:1 screenshot isn't a perfectly valid and useful tool in discussing what a particular transfer may (or may not) have done right or that it can help viewers make an informed judgment on whether or not they want to support a release due to whatever materials and encoding methods have been used, just that until you've watched that disc from end to end... well, you're basically taking a couple random moments in time that may or may not tell the whole story. Screenshots aren't invalid as a medium for exploring this sort of thing, but they're just a single moment in time, and there may be more than you can see with just a small sampling of them.

To that end, I probably should have taken a goddamn chill pill over Re-Animator. Oh yes, I still think the caps look like garbage, and it'll be with gritted teeth and lowered as hell expectations that I pick that up later in the week.

All that said, I'm not going to talk about the new Lone Wolf and Cub set until I've gotten my hands on it. In the meantime, however, this is what those comparisons have wrought:



*Deep, calming breaths and a slow sip of camomille tea with lemon. Mmm, I taste honey...*

AnimEigo themselves bragged about how long the DVNR process was going to take for their Lone Wolf and Cub transfers, so I don't think it's unfair t say that the above image is exactly what we should expect from the actual release, which unceremoniously crammed about 4.5 hours on each disc. I'll give Synapse a pass for that nonsense when they're doing 80 beat-up trailers or whatever, but this kind of bullshi-

Nope. Not going to talk shit about a release I don't have. Not this week. Let's all just read Ian's lovely, LESS THAN POSITIVE REVIEW and then... I don't even fucking know. "Commit seppuku" seems a little over the top, but, you understand my current sentiments I'm sure.

Monday, September 03, 2012

DVNR and Cartoons: I'm Just Sayin'...



Because it was relevant to a recent conversation (and because I've had these caps sitting on my desktop, like... forever) I decided I'd show off just how insanely... different, the un-processed "raw" HD scan of The Aristocats was before Disney performed any de-graining processing on it.

Now I get the seemingly sound concept behind why Disney has decided to remove anything resembling grain from their classic cartoons; they've argued, at length, that the original drawings of the animators were what was important, not the analog medium they were captured to, and to that end I suppose they've done an impressive job cleaning up the debris and color inconsistencies from frame to frame on pretty much every transfer they've ever done. Disney was also the first (as far as I know) to implement edge-detecting DVNR, a process which "traces" the outlines and tries to re-create solid colors between frames by, essentially, subtracting a vector traced duplicate image from the film negative. From a geeky tech standpoint, that's fucking awesome... but it's also why every single Disney classic has that funky "look". Some people love it, and I guess I understand why. I'm just not one of them.

That said, The Aristocats clearly didn't get the Four Fingered White Glove Treatment; this is some ass-ugly DVNR in my opinion, and sums up precisely why I wish it was avoided completely, on animation as well as live action. What's especially weird is that Disney actually didn't use ANY obvious degraining on The Fox and The Hound, and the results were pretty goddamn impressive compared to their usual output. I can understand them not wanting to spend a fortune on what's clearly the second-tier material in their catalog, but still...

Not that I give two shits about The Aristocats, honestly. Mrs. Kentai loves it because, y'know, kittens are awesome. But my love for shitty swingin' musical numbers just isn't what it used to be. Fox and the Hound I'd happily give a re-watch to, though. Not only does it look great, but it's easily the most pro-racism film Disney's ever done... and that's fucked up. No, seriously. Change it to the slightly less subtle "The Raccoon and The Hound" and it would have been banished ten times harder than Song of the South ever was.

Dear God Yes!

I don't get a dime for posting this, I just want the whole world to know:


How the fuck did I not know this existed?! Not the film itself  - THE TRAILER for this Grindhouse throwback extravaganza had me at "Bloodthirsty Bigfoot" - but the fact that there was an actual Blu-ray release kicking around?

Apparently there was a "Limited to 250 Copies" run on Blu-ray starting back in April using the "original" group-shot poster art, but the stock has been depleted completely since The above release appears to be the mass-manufactured DVD, plus a second run of BD-R copies. Just like the prior Limited Edition each and every copy was signed and numbered by director James Brickert, which makes the fact that you're paying roughly an extra ten bucks to watch the film in High Definition a goddamn bargain if you ask me. And yes, for reasons I won't get into, yes, I can confirm that the movie was shot on Super16 and mastered in High Definition, though all of the battered reel changes are digital fakes.

There's also a bunch of retro VHS releases - like, actual NTSC tapes - but don't buy those. Please? I mean fine, if you want a VHS and a Blu-ray, I get it, but just let tapes die already...