Black Sheep DVD

I finally got around to seeing 'Black Sheep' last night. What a fun film! Killer attack sheep, threatening the New Zealand countryside! What's not to like?

My favourite sequence of the film involved a truck and an attempt to getaway from the sheep...

It's not high art - it's not really even scary - but it is fun.

(Note, the film's website has much sound)

Desired Online Application - DVD and CD library

I've been looking for a decent application to manage a DVD collection. Korenwolf did mention something a while back (I forget the name - and I haven't got around to asking) - but if memory serves it ran on a particular computer. This is what I'd like to see:

  • Secure login for multiple users
  • Enter ISBN, things like DVD cover, actors, title, genre and so on are pulled from online sources and autofilled.
  • The info should be user editable.
  • There should be options to make each entry 'public', 'friends only', 'private'. This should be over-rideable on a case by case basis
  • Each user should have a public facing webpage, generated automatically, showing entries with the appropriate privacy level (e.g. public only to un-logged in users)
  • It should be possible to tie two or more user accounts together, who see entries made in the other account as their own - unless that entry is marked as 'do not share'. This'd allow a user to record DVDs that are in the house, as well as DVDs that might be elsewhere (e.g. at work).
  • There should be a field for where the item is usually stored. This would be from an editable list and selected with a mouseclick (i.e. prepare a list that says 'on shelf under TV, on bookshelf in front room, whatever' and then just click)
  • There should be a field detailing if the item is loaned out, and when it was loaned
  • There should be a 'comment-like' section for recording impressions if the DVD is watched.
  • Only the people with partner or private webpage should see these fields
  • The webpage should be 'clean', uncluttered, and configurable. There should be several modules which could be moved around on a per-user basis, e.g. a module which shows the last DVD watched, a module which shows who has the DVD, a module that keeps track of unwatched DVDs (minus any loaned DVDs), a straightforward list sorted by title, by genre, a module that lists loaned out DVDs (by date of loan), a module that lists DVDs that are in the 'to watch' queue and so on
  • There should be two ratings fields, one for user rating, one for public rating (e.g. pulled from imdb)
  • There should be text based feeds, i.e. click for a brief list, alphabetically sorted, of all DVD, DVDs sorted by genre, DVDs in a particular genre, DVDs on loan, DVD sorted by storage location and so on.
  • Ideally, it should be a pretty standard server app, utilising php/mysql or similar

Essentially, a decent application for managing DVDs (and/or CD, and/or books), not only managing WHAT those resources are, but keeping track of WHERE they are. This'd be really useful for me as quite often I'll see a DVD on offer and thing 'do I have that, or did I just plan on getting that?' - sometimes I see this when away from home, but not away from a computer - this'd allow a quick check.

Does such a thing exist? (There is dvdspot.com - but there I'd be committing data to a 3rd party, and having the ability to make backups is a good thing)

Does anyone with the skills feel like creating the sourceforge project to make this happen? (fx: hopeful grin)

Edit: Okay, I've succumbed to DVDspot - but I'd still prefer an 'own install' for various reasons. So, let's add to the above list 'will accept import and export data in DVDspot format'

DVD Annoyances

This morning, whilst having my breakfast, I thought 'I know, I'll put an episode of Stargate on in the background'. I've a DVD boxed set of season 8 waiting to be watched. In went disc 1.

Several minutes of adverts, which couldn't be broken into, to buy DVDs of.... Stargate.

Arrrgh! Recursive Dilemma, Batman!

I can't stand those ads on DVDs, they do nothing but annoy. If they must go on the disc, then make them skippable, please... or better still, something selected from a menu option. I just hope that they're not on every disc in the set. I fear they will be.

Still, the episode began and the annoyance was overlooked, until next time...

Season 8 of SG1 and Season 1 of Atlantis go together, and can be watched separately or in parallel. We watched the first episode of SG1. It's quality stuff, for me the episode really finds its stride about the time when Jackson and Weir start discussing Lord Yu ("don't... every pun has been done to death"), and Carter and Teal'c start talking to Thor ("That's understandable.."... "For Some")

Stargate really is quality stuff.

Flatland: The Movie

The classic 19th century novella, which discusses the mysteries of the mythic 'third dimension' to a two dimensional viewer, Flatland, has been made into a movie. This is something I'd like to see, but it requires transatlantic shipping. If only I'd have spotted it a couple of weeks ago!

A trailer showing A. Square discovering the Third Dimension is on the website, as is an assassination from Flatland's history.

Ian Stewart wrote a sequel to Flatland, called Flatterland. In which we learn that A. Square was called Albert. Albert's descendant, Victoria Line, meets up with another creature who shows her the wonders of more than just the third dimension....

It has arrived!

The West Wing - Complete Season 7 The completist freak side of me is slightly satiated for a time, though there is a mild disappointment that only one version of the 'live debate' episode is on the discs (they could have done something nice there, options to play the two versions side by side, for example).

Where else can I go for a fix of political drama now?

If I was starting from not having the DVDs at all, I'd get this.

The Complete West Wing - Seasons 1-7 Box Set

Battle of Britain

The Battle Of Britain (2 Disc Special Edition) [1969] Last night we sat down to watch 'The Battle of Britain' (which is, in my opinion, one of the last truly great British WW2 films). If buying this it is worth getting hold of the 2 disc special edition DVD as the second disc comes packed with documentaries about the difficulty of filming the thing (which were vast), as well as interviews with people who were in the battle. The film has a huge big name cast, it's on a par with 'The Longest Day' and 'A Bridge too Far' for the number of 'A list' people in there. From a different era, but the 'Ocean's 11' and Ocean's 12' films pails in comparison when it comes to the cast.

Ice Cold In Alex [1958]It has Harry Andrews (of Ice Cold in Alex, possibly my favourite film), Michael Caine, Trevor Howard (from among other things, Brief Encounter), Curd Jürgens (who would later be in 'The Spy who Loved Me'), Ian 'Lovejoy/Deadwood' McShane, Kenneth 'Bader' More and Laurence Olivier. It had Robert Shaw (Jaws), Christopher Plummer (recently in Syriana, as well as providing a voice for San Andreas), Susannah York and Edward Fox . All the actors appeared for a flat day rate, as they really wanted to do this film.

The difficulties in the film were legion, they had their own fleet of spitfires, hurricanes, messerschmidts and the like, and filming a squadron of spitfires isn't easy. They used models from time to time when a plane blew up, or when planes no llonger existed (e.g. the Stukas). The film was made at a time where film technology allowed some tricks (a shot of the germans preparing for operation Sea Lion in a north French port, this was a matte painting), but it didn't allow too many, so what we're looking at is the 'real thing', or as near as can be done. In addition, there were still places which had not been repaired since World War 2, so the shots of London after a bombing actually showed London (they got in just before the area was bulldozed).

It had finance from Hollywood. Amusingly, this was acquired before the Hollywood execs realised that the Battle of Britain took place before the Americans joined the war - and this caused some difficulties!

If this film were made now, it'd be with computer graphics instead of real planes, and it would lose something for it, even as good as the graphics are now, there would be an unreality about it - a temptation to do impossible shots (e.g. going from a wide panorama in a dogfight down to a tight zoom on the eye of an actor) - and it would be the worse for it.

I've got a bad feeling about this...

I was just flicking through 'Empire' (Oct 2006) and ... how can I put this? Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) [1980]Star Wars Episode VI:Return Of The Jedi (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version)Han shoots first!

Contrary to what was said a few years back (that the original cuts of 'Star Wars' no longer exist), on the 11th next month there will be a new release of the films on DVD (Ep 4, 5, and 6).

Each film will be a two disc set, the first disc will be the new and 'improved' versions. These are the versions with the mismatched special effects, redundant scenes with Jabba, daft numbers of Storm Troopers and Greedo getting what's coming to him.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) [1977]The second disc, the 'bonus' disc, will be the original versions, unaltered, dated but consistant special effects, Jabba saved for later, no batallion of storm troopers in the corridor for Han to run into, and Greedo being pre-empted by a smuggler.

I think they may have got the numbering of the discs back to front, as far as I'm concerned the 'bonus' is the only reason to get this.

I'm not at all impressed with all the reissues and upgrades, it got 'over fussy', and the mix of technologies used in making the 'upgrade' felt patchy.

However, the original films on DVD.... tempting.

The RRP of the discs is a touch under 23 quid each. A little on the steep side, especially when all I'd want is the 'bonus' disc. Unfortunately it'll be a letterbox edition and not an anamorphic version (i.e. better quality). Maybe that's for a later release (based on past evidence, not an unreasonable assumption).

As for the future I'm not in any great rush to go to HD, primarily as DVD is 'pretty damned good', and my eyes won't see any further improvement!

Amazon have them at more realistic prices right now, as I write a touch under 14 quid.

From Wikipedia:

There has been great controversy surrounding this release, however, since it has been revealed that the DVDs will feature non-anamorphic versions of the original, unaltered films based on laserdisc releases from 1993 (as opposed to newly-remastered, film-based transfers). Since non-anamorphic transfers fail to make full use of the resolution available on widescreen sets, many fans were upset over this choice.

In response to fan outcry over the perceived mis-treament of the original cuts, Lucasfilm representatives stated that new, anamorphic transfers of the original cuts cannot be made because the original negatives of the theatrical cuts (from which the anamorphic transfers would typically be made) no longer exist. This created further anger when fans worldwide discovered that George Lucas himself had during the 1990s ordered that as many of the existing 35 millimeter copies of the film as could be found be destroyed

In a May 2006 posting, the editor of The Digital Bits, a DVD enthusiast website, noted that one of the supposedly lost 35 millimeter copies is owned by Robert A. Harris, one of the world's renowned film archivists and the owner of Film Preserve, a highly lauded company specializing in the digital transfer and restoration of 35 millimeter film stock. Harris, who is a contributor to the site, submitted a letter stating that he is positive that anamorphic, high definition transfers of the films can be made along with a "master" presentation negative from which new 35 millimeter reels can be made. The letter (a copy of which was sent directly to Lucasfilm) has gone unanswered

There is a piece regarding the quality of the release, on 'The Digital Bits'.

It's been reported previously that when Lucas went back to the original negatives of the Star Wars films in the mid 1990s, they were found to be in bad shape. Such bad shape, in fact, that had they not been restored immediately, the films could have been lost forever. So restoration is exactly what Lucas had done. Except that when he was creating the new 1997 Special Edition versions of the films... he cut the original negatives. So the original negatives of the theatrical versions no longer exist. Okay, we knew that. But what's the big deal? What about the original interpositive prints? What about high-quality release prints? Why can't Lucasfilm just use either of those elements to do a new transfer for DVD?

Well... at the same time as he was preparing the 1997 versions, Lucas apparently went on a little tear and recalled every release print of the theatrical versions that he could get his hands on, and he had them all destroyed. Which means that when Lucas said back in 1997 that the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars films no longer existed, he was serious. He apparently tried hard to make sure of it.

Nonetheless (and thankfully), we know for a FACT that beautiful dye transfer prints of the original versions of the films still exist in private hands, and that additional copies are preserved in a number of film archives around the world. What's more, Lucas would have been foolhardy if he didn't keep the original interpositives carefully stored in a climate-controlled vault for preservation's sake. Come on... of course he did. No one is THAT stupid that they'd just trash all the original elements of the films that made them rich beyond the dreams of avarice.


Bottom line: This notion that Lucasfilm is doing the fans a favor by finally giving them the original versions on DVD in 2006... but in 1993 laserdisc quality... is baloney. In fact, it's unacceptable. Even though most of them probably don't even know what anamorphic means on DVD, or why they should care about it, the fact remains that the fans are getting bilked. We hate to say it, because we've known many of the folks at Lucasfilm for years now. But someone HAS to say it. It needs to be said. Lucasfilm can and should do better. Who knows? Maybe they're already planning to do better for the 30th Anniversary of the original Star Wars next year... and this is just one more bite at the pie in the meantime

I'm thinking '30th anniversary' would be the time when good quality negatives/prints are 'discovered'. Wait much longer and Lucas won't be around to see it... or maybe he dislikes the originals so much that he doesn't want to be around when they get a decent release?

The dilemma... wait for a good transfer (which may never come) or get this inferior transfer?

'Serenity' cheap at Amazon

Serenity [2005]Firefly - The Complete Series [2003]The excellent 'Serenity', a feature film based on the equally excellent 'Firefly', is available quite cheaply at Amazon right now. As I write it is below the six quid mark. I thought 'Serenity' was a great film, it was written to both please people familiar with 'Firefly', as well as introducing new viewers to the world.

It didn't get the recognition it deserved at the time, which was a shame, but it's well worth picking up on DVD.

Given the choice, I'd recommend that people watch 'Firefly' before 'Serenity', as the latter ties up some loose ends in the former.

Hamm and DVD weakness

I've just done the 'Which Toy are you' quiz on the Toy Story 2 DVD. It was with worrying inevitability that I was classed as 'Hamm' (that's the moneybox voiced by John Ratzenberger) I'm not sure what is more worrying, the fact that the result was Hamm, or that I saw it coming.

Or that I did the quiz in the first place. Or commented on it here.

I was a bit extravagent with DVDs today, the local HMV had a load on offer. I got some Pixar, Spartacus, Kill Bill (vols 1 and 2), and some classic movies such as Ice Cold in Alex, A Bridge too Far, The Desert Fox, The Desert Rats and so forth (there was a boxed set of such films, I grabbed it).

I love some of those old films, I recently acquired a few others like 'Reach for the Sky', and 'Above us the Waves' and 'The Longest Day'. The really great thing is that though I can recall some of these without prompt ('Ice Cold in Alex' has long been a favourite film, and I'm so pleased to have it on DVD), for a lot of these half forgotten titles discovering the DVD is like seeing the film afresh - almost as new. I'm holding back the John Mills and Sylvia Sims goodness that is Ice Cold in Alex for a hot day, when I know I've a cold beer (probably not Carlsberg) waiting for me in the fridge.

I'll drink the beer with John Mills at the end. It'll be worth the wait.

West Wing Season 7

The excellent West Wing Season 7 is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The West Wing is a fantastic series (if a bit sentimental at times), and I can highly recommend it, it's well worth watching from the start due to ongoing threads - but with the magic of 'previously on... ' one can pick it up at any point.

Things to note: Don't expect to have to follow all the details, the bit plot arcs are the key thing - I like all the details though!

Babylon 5

I've just been really naughty, and have ordered Babylon 5: The Complete Universe Anyone want to make an offer on the VHS versions? They're pretty good... the Films, all five seasons of B5 itself and Crusade...?

B5 was a five season story, with 'arc', i.e. seeds were laid in season 1 that looked innocent at the time, but bore fruit in season 4. Indeed, season 1 looked fairly 'traditional' SciFi. However, as the show went on it grew, covering all sorts of themes - and characters were not drawn in simple black and white terms.

Oh, and the French woman from 'Lost' is in it (Mira Furlan).

Serenity on DVD

Serenity is released on DVD today. Serenity is an excellent, if little known film, from the mind of Joss Whedon (of Buffy fame). It is based on the wonderful series Firefly. Both Serenity and Firefly are well worth checking out.

I ordered my copy of Serenity a few months ago. It should be with me in very short order, but not immediately as I've also ordered 'Night Watch', a Russian film released on DVD next month.

The Serenity DVD is available at Amazon UK and also at Amazon USA.

I aim to misbehave

I have seen Serenity. Sufficed to say that this film lived up to my expectations, and surpassed them. It did bring in the uninitiated whilst not repeating things for those familiar with Firefly.

It's a barnstormer of a film, and wraps up the series nicely, whilst at the same time leaves things open for more.

I kept myself spoiler free for this film, and if you know Firefly I suggest you do too. Sufficed to say that Joss Whedon caused my jaw to hit floor in a couple of places, there was one place in particular where I couldn't believe what had just happened (soon after an emergency landing) in the second half of the film.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough how good this film is.

See it in the cinema (you're too late - but it's now on DVD)

See it soon. You don't need to have seen Firefly, but chances are that you will want to afterwards!

Oh, and Kaylee fans should watch for a line soon after Mal checks his gun into storage as our guys enter a bar....


Joss Whedon's Firefly has finally arrived on Region 2 DVD. More than that, my copy has arrived!

Firefly is Joss Whedon's Successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7) and Angel (S1, S2, S3, S4). Both are excellent series, and were very popular. Firefly is less well known, mainly due to the fact that Fox messed it around in the schedules, as a result decided that nobody liked it, and then cancelled it.

This was a profound error. Firefly is a wonderful show. Indeed, a deal has been done to turn it into a film, so Serenity will rise again. Firefly is set in the future, mankind has colonised other worlds. As with frontiers in the past, life on the frontier is basic. It therefore shows a mixture of the high tech with the low tech but established technology - Firefly is a western, with spaceships.

I realise that if you've never seen it, your eyes will have gone to the heavens. However, it works. It really does. With the series coming out on DVD this week, my copy of Firefly was on order back in 2003.