VAN HELSING on HD DVD, Samsung announces new firmware. (Mania.com)
Date: Sunday, September 17, 2006
Disney Announces More Blu-ray Titles: FLIGHTPLAN, SKY HIGH, and THE WILD are all scheduled to be released as Blu-ray discs on November 21st. With most of the current HD DVD and Blu-ray discs being action and adventure films, it appears that Disney is hoping Dad will want to bring home some family fare for his new toy. Other Disney titles set to be released the same day include ANNAPOLIS, CASANOVA and GOAL: THE DREAM BEGINS.
New Double-sided HD DVD Disc From Toshiba: Currently HD DVD hybrid discs are limited to 4.7 GB of data on the standard definition side and 15 GB on the HD DVD side. Toshiba has taken a large step forward by announcing a three layered HD DVD capable of having a 30 GB of HD DVD data as well as a 4.7 GB SD DVD layer. This could be a big boon to HD DVD especially if dual format discs become more prevalent.
Samsung Finally Admits There's a Problem: Several web sites are reporting that Samsung is getting ready to release a firmware upgrade for the BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player at last. Mercilessly hammered by critics for its poor performance and soft look, Samsung's new firmware will fix the much maligned noise-reduction circuit problem as well as enabling the player to handle the Java-based content that some discs will be carrying starting this winter. The upgrade will be available for download from Samsung's web site at the end of October.
Spotlight of the week:
VAN HELSING on HD DVD:
To create this movie, writer/director Stephen Sommers (THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY RETURNS) took Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and the Werewolf, added a dose of Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman for good measure and then stirred in a vat of CGI effects. The result? One of the more disappointing monster movies of recent memory: VAN HELSING.
A young Dr. Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is sent to Transylvania to investigate some odd occurrences. There he meets Anna, (Kate Beckinsale) a kick-ass-and-take-names sort of gal who has set her sights on killing Dracula in order to save her family from a curse...or something like that. Then Dracula wants to kidnap Frankenstein's Monster and use him and the Werewolf to take over the world, and a carriage gets attacked and almost falls off a CGI cliff, and then a bunch of things happen, most of which are loud.
Okay, this wasn't the greatest movie ever. It was a case of too much eye candy and not enough thought. The plot was so convoluted and nonsensical that it was absurd. What's worse is that after half an hour I no longer cared if it made sense or not. Throwing in all of the old Universal monsters and then recreating their legends just didn't work at all. It made the movie bloated and confusing rather than fun and exciting.
Sommers spent $160 million on this monstrosity (pun intended) and a lot of that cash was spent on CGI special effects. They really went overboard with it too. Just about every scene has some CGI applied to it, and that really harms the film. Pretty soon viewers start to try to see what in the frame is actually real rather than just enjoying the movie. Seeing a CGI werewolf attacking a mostly CGI Dracula inside a CGI castle while CGI snow falls outside doesn't make a movie seem real. It's more of a video game than a live action film.
"Okay," I hear you ask "if you dislike the movie so much, why bother reviewing it here? Just want to jump on the bandwagon with other critics who savaged the film when it was first released?" No. I mention the movie in this column because it really looks great on HD DVD. If you're looking for a film to impress visually, then, as much as I hate to admit it, this is it. The HD transfer is excellent, and just about all of the scenes have a three dimensional look to them. Things really pop off the screen and the level of detail is astounding. The colors are all rich and bright while the blacks are solid and deep.
It is for the image quality that this disc displays that I bothered to get a HD set up in the first place. It's just too bad that the movie is so awful. If you happened to enjoy this film, you should run out and get the HD DVD version. You'll be impressed.
Upcoming High Definition Discs:
September 19, 2006
THE BIG HIT
THE GREAT RAID
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK
A KNIGHT'S TALE
TEARS OF THE SUN
September 26, 2006
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)
DAZED & CONFUSED
THE DIRTY DOZEN
END OF DAYS
FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
THE LAKE HOUSE
LAND OF THE DEAD
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES
2 FAST 2 FURIOUS
HOUSE OF WAX (2005)
THE LAKE HOUSE
LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER
LEATHAL WEAPON 2
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE
October 3, 2006
THE PAT METHENY GROUP: THE WAY UP HD DVD and Blu-ray
October 10, 2006
ARMY OF DARKNESS
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
THE POLAR EXPRESS
THE ITALIAN JOB
U2: RATTLE AND HUM
October 17, 2006
THE BROTHERS GRIMM
GONE IN 60 SECONDS