Posted on January 31st, 2019
This morning before heading off to work I decided to dust off my entertainment center. It's a futile endeavor with two cats, because everything will go back to being covered in hair within seconds. As I was dodging in and out of the many crevasses with my Swiffer duster, I made my way to the fancy Blu-Ray player I had bought and couldn't recall the last time I used it. Probably to watch one of those rare movies I love that never made its way to digital.
This is more than a little depressing because the thing was top-of-the-line back in the day and cost me a small fortune. At the time it seemed like a wise investment because it could play both 3D and 4K Blu-ray discs. Little did I know that 3D would be a stupid feature because the special glasses eat batteries like crazy... and all the discs are glitchy.* As for 4K? Apple started releasing most new movies in 4K digitally (no Blu-Ray required) within months of my hooking up the player.
And so the pricey but useless piece of tech just sits there collecting more dust and hair until I want to watch Undercover Blues or True Lies or The Abyss or Strange Days again. WHICH JUST HAPPEN TO BE FOUR OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME...
The rumor mill has been going on for years that James Cameron is working on bringing True Lies and The Abyss to Blu-Ray and (hopefully) digital. I have no idea what the holdup is with Kathryn Bigelow & James Cameron releasing Strange Days (which is oddly more relevant now than it was when it was released 20 years ago). And then there's Undercover Blues. This movie is 100% awesome, and it seems impossible that nobody has released it digitally since it actually has a Blu-Ray release (albeit not a great one).
So many television shows and movies that have been lost to time. It seems... weird... somehow, that everything released within the past 25 years isn't out there for digital purchase. Though I should count myself lucky. At least these movies have DVD releases. Entirely too many of my favorite television shows (like Jeremy Piven's Cupid and Alan Ball's Oh Grow Up!) do not.
Which has me wondering how long it will be before they won't be making DVD/Blu-Ray players any more. These things always seem to happen sooner than you think.
*Seriously, I have yet to find a 3D Blu-Ray which will play properly all the way through. Their quality is for shit.
Posted on April 26th, 2016
Okay... my new Blu-Ray player can play 3D movies... and my TV can display 3D movies... but I've never bothered to watch a 3D movie because I don't like them much in the theater. They're dark. They're blurry. They're most-often not filmed in actual 3D so the separation sucks. All told, it's just a miserable experience. The sole exception being Avatar, which was something I could really plug my hair into because the 3D was so well done. And because it featured giant blue kitty people...
Anyway... I bought the Blu-Ray 3D version of Avatar when it was on sale a while back, and I finally decided to dig out the 3D glasses this weekend and take a look. The 3D was absolutely spectacular... better even than the movie theater! Sure, it looked like a video game, but it was... different. So now I'm anxious to try more 3D films at home, but I don't want the 2D to 3D conversion crap that looks terrible. So I'm trying to track down films that were actually filmed in 3D with 3D cameras. And there just so happens to be a terrific website for that called Real 3D or Fake 3D!
Now it's just a matter of which movie to watch next. A lot of Pixar movies look promising. And I'm happy to see that Dredd was shot in actual 3D... so I guess that's a start.
And now for a quick look at my Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra-HD 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player...
I bought this player not for the 3D... there are plenty of cheaper options for that... I bought it for the HDR Ultra-HD picture to match up with my HDR-capable Ultra-HD television. To anybody familiar with this blog, the fact that I would buy into another shitty DRM-infested physical format may come as a surprise, but there's really no other way to get this kind of picture digitally, so I bit the bullet.
The UBD-K8500 player itself buys into the dopey "curve" aesthetic that has been plaguing Samsung as of late (I still don't understand the appeal of their curved TVs), which looks silly in your media center, but oh well. It's what the thing can do that I cared about, and there's actually two parts to that...
With four times the resolution of 1080p, the new 4K format is a sight to behold... if you have a television that can display it! If you don't, this player is good for future-proofing and not much else. Otherwise? Well, it depends. First of all, you need a big TV. Second of all, you need to sit close enough to the television that you can actually appreciate the picture quality. Have too small a display or sit too far back, and you might as well stick with the much cheaper 1080p options out there. I have a 65-inch screen and sit approximately 9 feet away. This is the outer fringe of what's recommended to get any benefit out of the increased resolution but, when running a comparison between 1080p and 4K there is a definite difference you will notice. I sure did. It's not vastly huge since my television upscales the lower resolution quite nicely, but enough to make me want to purchase Movies That Matter in the Ultra-HD 4K format. To truly get the best bang for my buck, I move some furniture and sit 6 feet away from the screen. That's when the Ultra-HD really shines, and the extra money suddenly becomes worth the cost.
If there were a "killer feature" to the UBD-K8500, it's the ability to send a High Dynamic Range picture to a compatible television. I have such a television, and can say with no hyperbole whatsoever that it's stunning. The expanded color gamut looks great when viewed alone... but it looks jaw-dropping stupendous when compared to a standard HD source. As I switched from 1080p to 4K HDR sources for The Martian and Kingsmen: The Secret Service it was like a hazy veil was being pulled from in front of my eyes, even though the image didn't look as bright. The color fidelity was just fantastic. Everything looks deep, rich, defined, and saturated... all without looking fake and bleeding all over the place. In a dark room on a high-quality display, I dare say that the image you get from the Samsung UBD-K8500 is better than any theater.
So... great picture quality. But what about the many, many, many pitfalls that plague Blu-Ray players of the past? Especially when it comes to speed? Blu-Ray players have historically been absurdly slow to respond... especially through the klutzy menu systems. Is the UBD-K8500 any different? Yes. And no. Yes, it's much faster than my previous 1st generation and 3rd generation Blu-Ray players, but it can still be infuriating when attempting to navigate through long menus or while attempting to jump around the disc. A lot of this undoubtedly has to do with the shitty DRM encoding (which punishes paying customers instead of the criminals seeking to steal content), but it's not like you can expect movie studios to give a shit.
The only real down-sides to my purchase were A] The price ($350!), B] The remote (once again Samsung shows that they have no clue what they're doing), and C] The lack of Ultra-HD HDR titles (no Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, alas). Other than that, I'd recommend the thing if you've got the television/set-up to take advantage of it.
Posted on December 18th, 2009
It's a blue bleu blu bloo kind of day.
Blue is my favorite color. I don't find it depressing like some people claim, but I do find it calming. Blue skies, blue water, and blue ice all make me happy. I am disappointed that there's not more blue foods to eat.
Yesterday I brought up Jean-Pierre Jeunet after seeing his Chanel No. 5 commercial. This resulted in all kinds of discussion about French cinema and eventually came 'round to another brilliant French writer/director... Luc Besson. His body of work is such genius that it is difficult for me to decide on a favorite. The Fifth Element? Genius! Leon? Genius! Nikita? Genius! It goes on and on. But it's one of his earliest works that I love most... Le Grand Bleu. Now, here in the USA, the film was retitled The Big Blue and butchered to the point of incomprehension. First they lost the achingly beautiful score by Eric Sera. Then they chopped it to pieces. Then they slapped on a stupid happy ending on it that destroyed the entire point of the film. HOWEVER, if you ignore the shitty US version, the original film is... as one would expect... genius. On the surface, it's a film about free-diving competition. Going deeper, the film is so much more. And while I'm willing to accept that it's not going to be everybody's cup of tea... I think humans would have a much better understanding of living if it was.
Assuming you can ignore the misstep in casting Rosanna Arquette as the love interest.
What surprises me... but not really... is reading all the reviews on NetFlix from the many people who liked the butchered American crap, but hated the restored "Director's Cut" with a passion usually reserved for serial killers (Dexter not withstanding). Apparently, if a story doesn't move at a break-neck pace and gets all tied up with a happy ending, Americans just don't "get" it. Not that this is a bad thing... it just speaks volumes as to the cultural differences that make this world such a fascinating place.
Remember the good ol' days when you bought a fucking DVD. You took it back to your fucking house. Then you put it in the fucking DVD player. Then you pressed the fucking "play" button. THEN YOU WATCHED THE FUCKING MOVIE? Now-a-days? Not so much. Now there's Blu-Ray. Sure it has amazing picture and fantastic sound... but you pay a price for it. You pay with time.
This morning my copy of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds arrived on Blu-Ray, and I spent my entire day dying to run home and watch it. Finally, 5:00 arrived and I rush home to find... that it wouldn't play. Thanks to the idiotic copy protection bullshit that plagues the Blu-Ray format, I had to upgrade my P.O.S. player to accommodate whatever new "protection" crap Macrovision has dreamed up. It took 50 minutes. So I wait. Then, because the player has to boot up like a computer to decode all the copy protection shit, I wait. Then, because everything takes forever with a Blu-Ray player, I press the button to open the drawer, and I wait. Then I put in the disc, and I wait. Then I press the "play" button, and I wait. Then you have to wait for the disc to load... the menus to load... the button presses to be acknowledged... it's waiting on top of waiting on top of waiting to see if the disc will even play. It sucks. Hard.
What good is the superior picture and sound if you can't play the disc? How much of a wait is worth it? I struggle with these questions every time I go to play a Blu-Ray disc. Bigger, more expensive, slower... is progress?
Because nothing blue could be complete without Bloo!