Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Arrow To The Eye

I'm going to say three things in a row I honestly can't believe I would ever, in a million years, get the chance to say:

1) I just pre-ordered an Arrow Video Blu-ray,
despite having sworn to never do that again. EVER.

2) It's a brand new scan of the original camera negative,
and absolutely wipes the floor with the previous restoration.


Blu-ray.com is goddamn hit or miss with their reviews, I admit, but I think the following two screenshots are worth a thousand words each and then some:

Blue Underground 2011 2K Restoration
(LVR Video & Post, Rome)

Arrow Video 2012 2K Restoration
(Deluxe Soho, London)

Need more than two not-exact-frame grabs? Gary's got your back. Y'know what, Arrow? I yield: You win. Even without knowing how good the compression on the actual disc is because of any possible JPG shenanigans, it's clear that you did exactly what you promised you'd do, and more importantly, from the looks of it you didn't fuck it up. This looks fucking amazing - I can actually see every single tooth in that bag's zipper, and the pleats on Tisa Farrow's shirt! I had zero doubt that there was detail lurking beneath the CRT scanner noise and sticky, fuzzy DVNR that turned the Blue Underground master into a monstrous, inconsistent mess, and you have exceeded my expectations at least three fold here.

Let's make something as clear as possible: I'm sure everyone at Arrow Video (and at least the vocal  majority of the people who hang out at the Cult Lab Forum) thinks of me as a pesky little bastard just waiting to tear each and every new Arrow transfer a new one, a sort of prose-spewing tick to pluck off and burn the wound closed as quickly and painlessly as possible. I get that; most critics aren't half as OCD as I am, and even some I find quite honest and respectable try to temper their disappointment because, at the end of the day, they're getting free shit and you tend to not keep getting free shit when you say "Wow, this is a big wet sack of ass!"

Understand that when I complain about DEMONS (or whatever I'm on the rag over that month) looking badly compressed or having a borked mono mix or, whatever, it is my panties are in a barbed-wire twist over, it's not because I get off on complaining. Not mostly, at least! It's because I'm legitimately disappointed that you guys just didn't quite stick that landing. I love these movies, and it's clear that you guys do, too. That's when you regurgitate the Blue Underground master with a reversible cover and a new interview all I can do is sigh, shake my head and wish someone would care enough to get this shit done, and properly at that! From the look of it... you've done exactly that. You looked at Blue Underground's previous work, stuck your nose up in the air and said "I think we can do better".

Y'know what, guys? You did do better. 14 Pounds is yours, and since I don't get Amazon kickbacks anyway, the above link's proceeds are instead going straight to the very Blu-ray.com review that convinced me to pony up. I'd recommend everyone else who's Region B capable does just the same. Alternately, for those who have a boner for Arrow's "Quad Box" slipcover designs, it's available from THEIR WEBSITE as a limited edition of 500.

Seriously, Arrow, keep this up and I'll be the happiest, brokest goddamn Yank you'll ever know.

Thanks to Michael at Land of Whimsy for pointing out that it's opposite day in Apocalypseland... and things couldn't be better.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Serial Experiments LAME

So... there's good news and there's bad news about FUNimation's Blu-ray releases of Yoshitoshi ABe's SERIAL EXPERIMENTS LAIN.

GOOD NEWS: Packaging looks stellar, the menus are super cute, the limited edition booklet is out of this world, and... you know, it's motherfucking Serial Experiments Lain.

BAD NEWS: ...y'know what? I'm not even going to discuss this. I've spent all day wanting to punch faces into steaming craters, so I'm going to let the only person capable of topping my own rage handle it; take it away, Mrs. Kentai!

Yo! Little Lady Kentai here, to talk about how pissed I am at FUNimation for their sacrilege to the absolute classic anime title that is Serial Experiments Lain.

Lain is a show that I was immediately attached to. Cute main character? Check. Obsession with computers that rivals my own? Check. Interesting story line? Check. This is one show that I've never heard anyone say a bad word about. The only show, in fact. I'm sure there are people who dislike it, but it's been one of the only shows where everyone seems to find one thing they enjoy about it.

When I heard FUNimation was handling the blu-ray release, my first thoughts were, "YES! FUNimation has the money to back this shit up! I look forward to this interesting, beautiful, perfect reproduction of the Japanese blu-ray set." Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I waited in suspense, credit card already earmarked and pre-order immediately sent into RightStuf.com. 

When the set arrived, a whole weekend earlier than expected, we immediately cracked it open and shoved it into our reliable ol' PS3. Watching the first episode, my heart started to sink. Surely.... surely the Japanese disc didn't look like... this...

The banding. DEAR GOD, THE BANDING. It was eating away at Lain! Her hair was dancing with the tiny shifting blocks caused by compression, or gamma adjusting, or I don't fucking know or care, WHAT THE FUCK DID THEY DO TO LAIN?!?!!

I am not being sarcastic whenever I say that it looks like an xvid file from the early eras of anime downloading. I mean, not RealVideo bad, but pre-H264. I honestly think that the actual H264 files of the Japanese blu-ray, compressed to hell as I'm sure they are, probably have less banding and look better than this disc.

I'm sorry, FUNimation, but how did you do this? This should have been a very simple "take Japanese blu-ray, put FUNi logo on it, sell" sort of disc. Why did you adjust the brightness (or gamma? Like I said, I don't know or care, because it shouldn't have been a thing) and do whatever you did. How did it actually get to the point where this disc was replicated with such a terrible transfer? Didn't someone, at some stage prior to shipping the ugly fuckers, actually watch it? Y' know, to make sure it doesn't look like total fucking shit? If this were my business, I would have.

If they did, I imagine that somehow they managed to skip to the only light colored scenes in the whole show. The issues are pretty much non-existant there, but I'd say that the show is 5% light colored scenes, 95% dark, banding, creepy-crawling blocky hell.

They better do a trade in at some point.

Word, hun.

And for those of you who aren't used to taking the angred word of a femgeek over good old-fashioned Blu-ray grabs, well, JP release will be on top...

So... I basically paid $50 for a nice booklet and a chipboard box.

Just so we have some perspective on this: A goddamn SD upscale of Sora no Otoshimono: Heaven's Lost Property gets a pair of BD50s. A truly seminal work of progressive fine art focused on a deconstruction of man's eternal relationship with machine... doesn't. Lovely. I understand that there's economic realities in pressing a second dual-layer disc. So charge me more. It's fucking Serial Experiments Lain! It could have been another twenty bucks and I don't think anyone would have batted an eye.

If you want to see more of Lady Kentai's musings, reviews and super happy stuff, you can check out Judge Me Not.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Re-Animating My Wildest Fantasies


What you see here are 35mm IPs for the Brian Yuzna produced SOCIETY, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, and against all odds even the original Stuart Gordon helmed RE-ANIMATOR!! German distributor CAPELIGHT posted the recent info on the German-language CINEFACTS web forum, the most interesting tidbit of which - a post by the TELFilms German film lab - has been translated by our awesome pal Gurotaku:

SOCIETY and BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR will be remastered using a 5K Sensor/ 2K data in 16bit, working from the Intermediate Positive

will be remastered using a 5K Sensor / 4K data in 10 / 16bit working from the Intermediate Positive and from the Original Camera Negative. The fact they are working both from the IP and the camera negative is not explained in detail. Apparently this film has "special aspects", which probably means technical issues.

Trailers for all three films will also be transferred from IP elements using a 5K Sensor/ 2K data in 16bit.
Considering the last RE-ANIMATOR master was made in 2004 and the camera negative wasn't involved at any point, this can only be fantastic news for everyone who thought the "US Master" released by Image Entertainment was... y'know, kind of a piece of crap. Evidently the German distributors Capelight saw the HD tape materials and refused to work with them, asking for an actual film source so they could do it right.

TELFilms wasn't done being awesome though... nope, here's the rest of that post, complete with the goodies you're probably waiting for:

Attached are a couple FULL GATE screenshots from SOCIETY, the only film they have completely finished the color timing for. The final BD will be masked in the correct AR. The two screenshots from BRIDE are to be considered works-in-progress.

Ignore the massive, god-awful compression artifacts: These are 1:1 copies of the 2K scans that were posted on the Cinefacts forum, and while they show a clear indicator that they are taking this shit seriously, odds are the grain structure and fine detail will be dramatically improved when it's not been compressed down to nothing so that a handful of German forum posters can quit scoffing and get excited about their local release. No word on bonus features, region locking or "forced" German subtitles, but I can guarantee you that any dedicated fan will be willing to either ignore or work around those problems to finally get the nasty, gore-soaked Brian Yuzna produced HD perfection we've all been waiting for.

Y'see that, Image Entertainment? THAT'S HOW YOU FUCKING DO IT. Capelight is officially my favorite Blu-ray distributor of 2013, and I didn't even know who the fuck they were an hour ago-- oh wait, no that's quite not true, because they also released Beat Kitano's yakuza/gangsta fusion film BROTHER, and I'm damnably close to pulling the trigger on it, despite the lack of any English subtitles for the Japanese-dialog scenes. I'll gladly pay up-to-and-including $50 for each and every goddamn one of these new transfers, what with the way the exchange rate I'm sure that's exactly what it'll set me back. But if those full-frame grabs up above are any indicator, I'd say it'll be worth both the wait and the expense.

Now I'm curious if we'll get the alternate "R-Rated" scenes in HD for RE-ANIMATOR... I always wanted to see a "Complete Version" via seamless branching, and man, wouldn't this just be the absolute perfect time for that?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shout Factory Stabs Deep

Announcements from SHOUT FACTORY! last week have been...
Interesting, to say the least.

THE BURNING: Oh my god, yes!! Can't fucking wait for this one. I actually saw this on 35mm less than a month ago - an absolutely gorgeous and nearly uncut UK print, complete with the signed "X" certificate before the opening logos - so I made a mental note of the color shifts and shadows in a few scenes, hoping to re-watch the streaming version to see how it stacks up to an honest to shit film print. Hopefully my muddy, worm-infested memory can last a couple more months!

This one can't come soon enough, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who hasn't seen it. The film is just so mean, so aware of how unfair it is, so willing to bend the ill-defined notions of heroism and gender symbolism in a sub-genre usually criticized for being so predictable... it's just a fucking great movie. I honestly can't decide if My Bloody Valentine, Maniac or this were the best examples of what minimalist exploitation could bring to the screen, but now that all three are going to be on Blu-ray, one small, dark part of my heart can rest at east.

It'd be almost impossible to fuck this one up... then again, let's never forget that MGM released Death Wish 2 in its Bowdlerized R-rated cut, despite having played the goddamn uncensored version on cable and on-line streaming. Guess we'll see if MGM is playing Russian Roulette with a chain gun on their licenses soon enough.

THE HOWLING: 'Bout goddamn time, I say. With a sequel having come out every five years or so I always figured it was just a matter of time before MGM dumped this out themselves, but I'll take Cliffy Mac and Pals up on any chance to own one of the cornerstones of post-modern 1980s horror films.

Huh, doesn't this (and the next title) already have a decent selection of DVD extras? If we get the lot of them ported to the Blu-ray in SD, I'd be perfectly fine with that.

THE FOG: Not a personal favorite of mine, I'm sad to say. The film isn't bad, don't get me wrong: Carpenter's direction is at his moody best and the score's kind of cool. But come on, it's a movie about Pirate Ghosts. All it's missing is a stoner and a comically oversized dog looking for a sammich, right?

Hey, speaking of goofy concepts that only get goofier when you combine them!

LIFEFORCE: You know, that funky "Space Vampires" movies directed by Tobe Hooper. No, really! Canon Films actually bought the rights to this oddly-similar-to-ALIEN-dime novel published way back in 1976, but to cleverly side-step any finger pointing they then hired Dan O'Bannon to adapt the book to screen. Then Golan and Globus decided "Space Vampires" sounded as stupid as I think it does and renamed the film LIFEFORCE and cut an entire reel out of it, because... why wouldn't they? They were Canon Films for god's sake, the guys who released two Breakin' movies in just one calendar year!

I'd be lying if I said it didn't have some awesome Evil Dead 2-esque puppetry going on, but this is hardly the classic among the Canon Films/Tobe Hooper deal. He also did that weird remake of Invaders from Mars with Canon, for those more well versed on goofy 80s remake than others. I'm almost surprised we didn't get that instead of...

NIGHT OF THE COMET: Like, gag me with a spoon! But seriously, good on Scream Factory for picking this one up, 'cause I can't imagine MGM could give any less of a fuck about a movie that's, essentially, Valley Girls vs The Living Dead. Having had this gact pointed out to me, I might just buy the goddamn thing on principle... and shit, last time I did that was for The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. By comparison, this is kind of like buying champagne wrapped in silk and tits "for the principle".

And then, of course, we get the real wild card in the batch: George A. Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD. No, not"Day of the Dead & Dawn of the Dead", just Day of the Dead. By itself. Weird, right? Those two have been in the same basket for so long I can't even fathom that we'd ever get an announcement for one and not the other. They're marketing this as a Collector's Edition with "new extras" first and foremost, so I'm officially not getting my hopes up for a new 2K scan of the camera negative. I'd argue that Day of the Dead was probably the best looking "Divimax" title in Anchor Bay's canon, even if the transfer was lacking anything resembling grain and had an oddly dull, desaturated look to it, but if they're planning to trot out the 2004 HD master, I'm going to sit this round out.

But it hit me, as I sat there with my delicious egg nog mulling it over... maybe they do have Dawn of the Dead, but are keeping it under wraps until they know what they're going to do with it? Maybe they're just keeping their mouthes shut until they know how much of a pain in the ass it would be to release a truly definitive HD collection - you know, one that includes not only the US Theatrical cut, but also "Zombie" and the extended Cannes print, in High Definition? This is all just me adjusting my Tin Foil Hat here, mind you, but wouldn't that make a ton more sense than buying up DAY and leaving DAWN on the table?

For better or worse, the Euro releases of ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD look like piss-poor upscales - seriously, guys, they're total sacks of crap. As far as I know, all of the extended footage found in the "Extended Cut" that initially premiered at Cannes would need to be re-transferred from 35mm elements, and so far - as far as I'm aware, at any rate - all the actual film transfer work has been handled by the licensors, not Scream Factory. If they're going to start doing the hard work themselves, I say bring it! I don't need "food" or "shelter", I can built a fort out of those little blue cases and eat the DVDs I'll no longer need! Well, at least that's what I tell Mrs. Kentai when I put in my pre-orders...

Oh yeah, they also revealed this "official" new cover artwork for FROM BEYOND. Hate to say it, but Second Sight's upcoming UK steelbook art has really mopped the floor with Shout's efforts. I know people have (perhaps rightfully) thrown a fit over how "sleazy" and "inappropriate" some of the Arrow Video covers were, but I think 9 out of 10 of the covers Rick Melton painted were still goddamn awesome. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Night of the Living OH COME ON!

...waitasec, this is how DP's approve transfers now? They leave the colorist a post-it saying "MAKE IT DARKER" and are never even consulted on the finished results?! Fantastic.

I don't care two bits about this release anymore, but I had to share none the less. I'm too busy drowning in my bitter, bitter laughter.

UPDATE: It gets even better!

Just so we're clear, the director of photography who was "consulted" on this dramatically overhauled HD master, based on screenshot comparisons with the previous transfer he himself was unhappy with, thinks it looks terrible. He also never "approved" of the 2010 transfer because he never actually saw it - still hasn't, from the sound of it!

Allow me to repost Twilight Time's response on the matter, with the relevant bits bolded for emphasis:

As promised, we have discussed NOTLD at the studio and are able to verify via SPE's Mastering Department, that our Blu-ray is indeed the approved transfer from 2010, generated for the film's 20th anniversary, and done in consultation with the film's director of photography. As you will have also seen on this page and elsewhere on the internet, director Tom Savini has now had a chance to view the end product and declared it "fantastic."

Approved by WHO, exactly, is what I'd like to know. Neither Tom Savini nor Frank Prinzi ever saw this master before the Blu-ray itself came out, and while Savini can say it's "fantastic" all he wants, he's wrong. And even his own DP says do.

Then again, who decides what a film's "look" is in the long run? The director, or his director of photography who actually created that look in the first place? And who's right should the two come to butting heads 30 years or so down the road, anyway? I mean, it's not like that's ever happened befo--

...oh. Right.

So, according to THE FRENCH CONNECTION controversy and even William Mother-Fucking Friedkin (if only bi proxy I admit), the Twilight Time Blu-ray release of Tom Savini's 1990 NOTLD sucks. That's about as closed a case as we're probably ever going to get on the matter, and I'm... moderately satisfied with it, I guess.