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50 GB Blu-ray discs, V FOR VENDETTA announced and TOTAL RECALL on Blu-ray
By John Sinnott
October 15, 2006
HD DVD Outselling Blu-ray 3:1:
: Last week the North American HD DVD Promotional Group, the organization responsible for touting HD DVDs as you could probably guess from the name, issued a press release where they quoted the Nielsen VideoScan DVD sell-through data for August 2006 which shows HD DVD discs outselling Blu-ray media by "nearly three times." Of course HD DVD players have been on the market longer than their Blu-ray competitors, and it is only data from a single month, but it doesn't bode well for the Sony backed format. It's still way too early to call a winner on this, and Sony isn't going to give up on Blu-ray anytime soon, (look at how long Beta tapes were around) but things are looking good for HD DVD right now. 50 Gig Blu-ray Discs Announced:
One of the advantages that Blu-ray has over HD DVD is the fact that the format can hold more data. Blu-ray discs can hold 25 GB of information per layer while HD DVD can only hold 15 GB on a single layer. Up until now BDs haven't taken advantage of this increased capacity because of manufacturing problems. The current BD that have been release have all been 25GB single layer discs while all of the HD DVD discs have been dual layer and held 30 GB. The kinks have apparently been worked out though because last week saw several studios announcing dual layer Blu-ray discs. Lions Gate has stated that their release of THE DESCENT
will be on a 50 GB disc, and Sony, Warner, Fox and Paramount have also announced dual layer titles. The first such disc to be released was CLICK
which came out on October 10th. Hopefully the extra room will enable the studios to include all of the bonus material seen on the standard definition DVDs. V FOR VENDETTA and EXCALIBUR Headed for HD DVD:
Warner continues their support of both next-generation platforms with the scheduling of six new titles. On October 31, the studio with release V FOR VENDETTA
and the King Arthur fantasy EXCALIBUR
on HD DVD. On the same date they will put out 2005 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
, the John Wayne classic THE SEARCHERS
and the Clint Eastwood film UNFORGIVEN
on Blu-ray. Halloween will also see the Steven Segal action flick UNDER SEIGE
arrive on both formats. Spotlight of the Week:TOTAL RECALL on Blu-ray:
Though receiving little popular success during his lifetime, Phillip K. Dick (PKD) was an incredibly talented science fiction author who is now being recognized for his contributions to the field. Several of his works have been turned into movies including Ridley Scott's classic Blade Runner
which was based on his novel DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
and Steven Spielberg's MINORITY REPORT
. In 1990 director Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP
, STARSHIP TROOPERS
) and a cadre of screenwriters turned Dick's short story WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE
into a credible action/thriller staring Arnold Schwarzenegger: TOTAL RECALL
. This film has now been released as a Blu-ray disc and while the extras are lacking, there image quality and sound are very nice.
Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is just an average blue collar worker living in the year 2048. He has a job and a wife, but something isn't right. Every night he dreams of Mars. Not just of visiting the planet, but of having lived there and being close to another woman. After weeks of this Douglas decides to go to Rekall, a company that will implant false memories into your brain for a fee. Quaid wants the Mars package. If all goes well he'll be put to sleep, and when he wakes up he'll remember a two week vacation to Mars that he never took.
Things don't go well however. When they try to implant the memories they discover that his current life is all a set of fake memories, and Quaid starts to remember who he really was, and his old life on Mars. Or maybe it's all a side effect of a botched Rekall implant.
Whatever the case, Quaid soon finds that people are out to kill him, though he's not sure why. Even his wife (Sharon Stone) is part of a secret agency and was sent to keep tabs on him. Quaid isn't sure what is going on in his mind or who he really is, but he knows that the key to the mystery lies on Mars. He travels to the red planet where he finds himself in the middle of a battle between some rebels and the leader of the planet Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). Is Quaid really the rebel leader Hauser? Or is that all a false memory too? It's hard to know what to believe when you can't even trust your own memory.
I enjoyed this movie when I first saw it over 15 years ago, and it spurred me to track down the original story, which is much superior to the movie. (No surprise there, the books almost always are.) While this film only uses the short story as a building block, taking some of the ideas and running off in directions that the story never imagined, some of PKD's most prevalent themes are still present and you can see his contribution to the completed work. I won't go into the many differences, but suffice to say that PKD's story had all of the perplexing "what is reality" questions wrapped up in a much tighter package with a vastly superior ending too.
Schwarzenegger does a fine job in his role as a man who doesn't know what is real. Never a great actor, Arnold is fine in this role. Though he doesn't bring any subtlety or nuance to the role he is convincing as he goes through the motions. One of Schwarzenegger's advantages is he's so physically imposing that it's easy for viewers to translate that into being politically powerful or important, which helps this movie in particular.
The film does have a lot of violence, much of which doesn't work as well as it should. Seeing people's heads bulging and their eyes exploding when exposed to the vacuum of space is a bit over the top nowadays (and it wouldn't happen either. You might get the bends, but your face wouldn't explode) and many of the action scenes feel a bit too contrived and excessive. That's the only thing that really dates the movie.
As far as the presentation goes, the 1.85:1 widescreen image looks very good on this disc. It seems that companies are finally getting the hang of mastering a film for Blu-ray release. The picture has a good feel of depth throughout the film and there are many scenes that pop off the screen. Even some of the more sedate moments like when Quaid is talking to his wife over breakfast at the beginning is very three dimensional. The level of detail is very good and the colors are strong. At some points the colors seem a bit too strong and almost cartoon-like but this was probably what the director was going for to add to the unreality of the situation. Black levels were nice and solid too.
The only problem was that some of the scenes were just a tad soft, mainly the later scenes on Mars. This wasn't a big deal, but I was surprised when some of the more impressive images didn't look quite as good as some of the more ordinary scenes. Even with that slight defect I was very pleased with the overall look of the picture.
When all is said and done this is an entertaining, though a little violent, Schwarzenegger action flick. While they manage to capture only part of the mystery and charm that the original story had, the film does successfully port over some of Phillip K. Dick's themes which is very nice to see. The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds pretty good, leaving me with little to complain about in either department. Upcoming High Definition Discs:
October 17, 2006 HD DVD THE BREAK-UP Blu-ray THE BROTHERS GRIMM
GONE IN 60 SECONDS
October 24, 2006 HD DVD 12 MONKEYS
OUT OF SIGHT
(1982) Blu-ray THE ITALIAN JOB (2003)
October 30, 2006 HD DVD
and Blu-ray MISSION IMPOSSIBLE ULTIMATE MISSIONS COLLECTION
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III
October 31, 2006 HD DVD EXCALIBUR
V FOR VENDETTA
UNDER SEIGE Blu-ray THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERATHE SEARCHERSUNDER SEIGEUNFORGIVEN
November 07, 2006 HD DVD REDS Blu-ray LITTLE MAN