Archive for February, 2008

Confirmed: Toshiba have stopped HD DVD production

Toshiba have now confirmed they are ceasing all HD DVD production.

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Reports are starting to come in that Toshiba have announced they are suspending all HD DVD hardware production. Japanese news channel NHK have run the story today that Toshiba will cease hardware production, but are going to continue selling remaining stocks and supporting the players that are already on the market.

If these rumours prove to be true (and it is looking likely), this will be the end of HD DVD. Toshiba account for almost all HD DVD hardware sales and other than the X-Box 360 HD DVD drive, they are the main hardware driving force in the market. With no new hardware in production, it can only be a matter of days or weeks before we see Universal and Paramount making similar announcements.

Posted on 16th February 2008
Under: HD DVD, HD Format War | 1 Comment »

Stardust - US HD DVD

stardust.jpgMatthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is a joy to behold. One of the best films of 2007, it was practically ignored on its theatrical release - but the reasons why are hard to grasp. It has a very strong cast - DeNiro, Pfieffer, Danes and a plethora of well known UK comic actors, it is a fantastic feel good fantasy and feels like a modern ‘Princess Bride’. It’s well directed, well acted and very funny, but on both it’s UK and US releases it sunk without a trace… It does seem that a modern fantasy that’s not filmed in New Zealand is doomed to fail from the start. A real shame.

Tristan (Charlie Cox) is so determined to take Victoria’s (Sienna Miller) hand in marriage that when they see a falling star he promises her that he will find it and bring it to her within a week. However, the fallen star turns out to be a beautiful woman named Yvaite (Claire Danes) and during their journey back to the village of Wall, Tristan finds himself falling in love with her. Unfortunately, Tristan isn’t the only person seeking Yvaite; the heart of a fallen star can give the person who takes it eternal life and three witch sisters led by Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer) are determined to do whatever it takes to capture and kill her; she also also hunted by some princes who must retrieve the ruby Yvaite holds to determine which of them will become king…

stardust_070921105550882_wideweb__300x445.jpgWith perfect casting, a touching screenplay, sypathetic direction and a wonderful story, Stardust certainly ticks all of the boxes. Shot mostly in the UK and Iceland, it makes use of the best that these countries can offer with some truly stunning scenery that offers just as much as any New Zealand backdrop. The biggest surprise is just how adept the director, Matthew Vaughn, is with the fantasy genre - it is a far cry from his usual work, but he seems to be able to hold his own.

The US HD DVD is a nice all-round package with excellent picture and sound quality, backed up by a decent making-of, outtakes, deleted scenes and theatrical trailer. It’s not a package that will set the world alight, but offers enough to justify a purchase.

Stardust HD DVD is available on Amazon.com for $19.99 at the time of writing, that’s around £10 at current exchange rates. The standard definition DVD is available for $17.99.

Film: 9/10, HD DVD: 7/10

Posted on 16th February 2008
Under: Fantasy, HD DVD | 1 Comment »

Premonition - Blu-Ray (Region A)

Sandra Bullock and Jullian McMahon star in this confusing, plodding, supernatural thriller from director, Mennan Yapo.

Housewife Linda Hanson (Bullock) learns of the death of her husband, Jim (McMahon), in a nasty car accident on the previous day; only to wake to discover he is still alive. The film then jumps forwards and backwards to events before and after the so-called accident as Linda has premonitions of what is to come. Premonition is a difficult film to judge - the performances are all there, and it’s not your usual ‘everything ends well’ piece of cinema. In fact it is a very downbeat film that closely mirrors Linda’s on-screen depression. Unfortunately this makes it a chore to watch and the eventual twist is one that is expected and doesn’t do anything to lighten the tone.

However, this downbeat feel isn’t the film’s biggest mistake - the real problem is that we really don’t care about the characters. There is no attempt to make Linda a likeable person - she is depressed from the start and we don’t get to know her or her husband in any way before we learn of his death. While this could be forgiveable if the subsequent scenes build on their relationship, they don’t - all we learn is that their marriage is in trouble and he’s thinking of having an affair (although bizarrely, all seems forgiven when he changes his mind about shagging his boss in a hotel). Coupled with some glaring continuity issues, which in all honesty should really be ironed out in a film that is inherently going to be a disjointed experience, there isn’t really a lot to like here.

Yes, it tries to be a bit different and there isn’t any kind of ‘reset button’ ending, but that isn’t enough to make me want to recommend this film…

The Blu-Ray release is good with a decent picture and sound quality. I did notice some flickering in the backgrounds that at times was a little irritating to my eyes, but other than that it was still an obvious step up from SD.

There are plenty of special features, but in all honesty after sitting down to watch the film I was in no mood to go through them all afterwards. Maybe I’ll revisit them in the coming days, but I somehow doubt it! As such, the rating below currenly only takes into account the picture and sound quality…

Film: 3/10, Blu-Ray: 6/10

Posted on 16th February 2008
Under: Science Fiction, Supernatural, Blu-Ray | No Comments »

Toshiba ‘No Comment’ on dropping HD DVD rumours

Toshiba UK are refusing to comment on rumours that their support of HD DVD is coming to an end. Recent industry reports and speculation, and rumours that Toshiba are developing a Blu-Ray player have cast significant doubt on the future of HD DVD, and Toshiba’s reluctance to make any statement to refute these rumours is damning. I predict that the coming days and weeks will see some significant changes to the HD playing field - this is happening far more quickly than anyone (including myself) had predicted.

Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing for Toshiba America Consumer Products says, “Based on its technological advancements, we continue to believe HD DVD is the best format for consumers, given the value and consistent quality inherent in our player offerings”. This is as non-commital as we’ve come to expect from the company and does nothing to quell rumours and continues a trend of an obvious lack of confidence and support that has plagued the format since its inception. This is most obvious from the total lack of good marketing allowing Blu-Ray to surge into the lead despite the advantages HD DVD had to offer the consumer.

I would no longer be surprised if Toshiba, Universal and Paramount all throw their weight behind the dominant format within the next few months…

Posted on 15th February 2008
Under: HD DVD, Blu-Ray, HD Format War | No Comments »

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

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Movie Poster

My mixed feelings on the fourth Indiana Jones installment are beginning to err on the side of caution now. There are many things I like about reports on the new film; the Mayan setting, the fact that Indy is back for one last adventure and even the enthusiasm of the cast and crew. However, there are things that are causing me concern - George Lucas for one, whether Ford is too old for the role now and the lastly the gastly rumoured ’sci-fi’ elements.

For those that aren’t ‘in the know’, the Crystal Skulls of the title are supposedly based on some hotly debated artefacts, the most famous of which was allegedly discovered in 1926 by Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges. There are many rumours regarding the authenticity of the ‘Mitchell-Hedges’ skull, but it is still somewhat of a mystery. The ‘real’ skulls are anatomically correct copies of the human skull made out of solid crystal - anyone would think this enough to write an exciting Indy adventure. Alas, it seems that instead these fascinating skulls have been shelved and instead we have a very ‘alien’ looking crystal skull in it’s place. While legal threats have seen images of the film skull taken off the ‘net, the poster above shows this so called skull in the background.

Indy has always been on far-fetched adventures, but they have always been resolutely grounded on Earth with our own legends and stories providing the back story. I just don’t like the idea of aliens (even dead ones) making it into the mix…

Posted on 15th February 2008
Under: Cult, Upcoming Films, Theatrical | 3 Comments »

Toshiba Blu-Ray on the way?

Today I heard a rumour that Toshiba may be looking to release their own Blu-Ray players this year. Even more surprising is the suggestion that they have actually been working on two machines for a while, with a September release in mind. Sources are suggesting that this release schedule has been brought forward with a July date now more likely due to the shifts in allegiances in the HD marketplace.

Toshiba, along with Universal, are the two biggest proponents of the HD DVD format. If either one of them shows any sign of switching to the rival Blu-Ray, that will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin. We’ve heard suggestions that Universal’s exclusivity agreement has come to an end, but that has been flatly denied so far and now rumours of Toshiba moving some eggs out of the HD DVD basket are very interesting indeed.

Even if these are just rumours, they are now out there. With both sides grasping at anything to boost their chosen format’s reputation, any rumour could be enough to prevent take up of either one of the formats. Denials often just give the company involved the chance to make announcements in their own time. HD DVD’s days are numbered, and the quieter the HD DVD camp are, the more speculation there will be that one or more of the big supporters is looking to break away.

The big question isn’t whether Toshiba will release a Blu-Ray player, but when? and what other formats will it support? Could they be looking to boost HD DVDs chances by producing a dual-format player?

Posted on 15th February 2008
Under: HD DVD, Blu-Ray, HD Format War | 1 Comment »

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