Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blu Ray

It may come as a surprise to some of you (primarily those from the Boston days), but I finally succumbed and bought a Blu Ray player. It was the amalgamation of needing a new DVD player, having an gift card, and one of Consumer Reports recommended buys being substantially on sale from Amazon that led me in that direction. I intended to purchase an up-converting player, but who's going to shake their head at a $50 dollar Blu Ray player? Not this guy. Not no how.

So the first thing I did for myself was make some rules and a list of movies that I'd like on Blu Ray. The rules mostly entailed only purchasing movies that really benefit from the HD experience (great sound design, great cinematography, stuff that goes "Boom!", that sort of thing) and, with a few exceptions, not buying films I already owned. There are a few exceptions to this latter rule, however. Substandard edition of the standard definition? Upgrade. One of my all-time favorites? Upgrade. Really great deal? We'll see.

One thing I rarely do when purchasing DVDs is spend more than $10. I have Netflix and more than enough movies to hold me over until the price inevitably drops. However, with Blu Ray, prices are a bit higher (though they have dropped a good deal). I made my list (using this website to assist the decision making) and chose four films for my maiden Blu Ray voyage: Sunshine and The Thing (both of which I already owned) and The Road Warrior and Up (the latter of which was as cheap as I paid for any other Pixar film).

Now comes my problem. After a few years of professing that the Blu Ray image isn't much of an improvement over and up-converting player, at least not on a TV less than 50", I'm starting to think to myself, "Wow, this looks pretty great." It probably helps that I've been watching a lot of Netflix Instant View where the image quality lacks, but I'm a bit impressed anyway.

It all came to a head when Hollywood Video was having its liquidation sale and instead of trolling the aisles for golden nuggets of standard def DVDs, I only focused on the cheap Blu Ray and came out with four films that I really didn't need to own in the format: Away We Go, The Brothers Bloom, Ghost Town, and Semi-Pro (I'm sure many would argue that I didn't need to own Semi-Pro at all). I totally tossed one of my two rules out the window! At least they were all $5 each, so it was still cheaper than those editions would have been new, but they had them in standard def, too.

Clearly the problem is I've reluctantly (or not so reluctantly) been lured into the wonders of Blu Ray. I bought more films for over $10 and am having trouble stopping at this point (Cloverfield? Hell yes! District 9? Sign me up! Drag Me to Hell? It's remarkable I didn't have this already! The Wild Bunch? Hey! This one is under $10!). Needless to say, I think my days of buying standard def are over. At the rate my rules are falling, I'll have doubles of everything I own. Speaking of which, I have an extra copy of The Wild Bunch (standard def) should anyone want it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Square

Below be Spoilers!

Recently, the Hollywood Theatre (yes, it's spelled that way) was showing an Australian film called The Square, and Australian thriller directed by stuntman Nash Edgerton. Here is the trailer:

The Square has been almost universally lauded stateside and audiences at the Hollywood were enthralled by it during its entire run, citing the fact that "you never knew what was going to happen next!" I saw it almost two years ago at the Sydney International Film Festival and, along several of my festival going friends, despised the film. I am completely mystified that anyone could watch The Square and not realize how absurd the entire film is (I had a similar experience with Happy-Go-Lucky, shown at the same festival).

I understand that all films (and novels and plays and whatever else tells a story) hinge on coincidence, but The Square's use of coincidence is taken to almost an artfully ridiculous level. It's not enough to toe the line ("Oh no! He forgot his cell phone!" or "Oh no! His house caught fire!"), but they treat the line like the launching point for the long jump ("Wait... he didn't just forget his cell phone. He forgot BOTH of his cell phones!" and "His house isn't just on fire. His house is on fire and HIS MOTHER IS ASLEEP IN THE LIVING ROOM!"). The worst offense is a character going out to "the Square" on a hot. summer day (in Australia!), tooling around, getting caught and winding up in a crazy car chase out of a construction site only to have it revealed that there's a baby in the back seat of his car! Oh, the tension! Forget that he left the child alone in the car with the windows up for at least ten minutes or the maniacal driving with total disregard for the child's well-being.

Anyway, I didn't mean to rant like that. The point is, theater goers love to ask the ticket sellers if the movie is any good. In most cases I can deflect the question saying, "I haven't seen it, but audiences really like it" or "it's been our most popular movie for weeks." But I've seen The Square and I'm not one to lie. So what am I supposed to tell people who are about to put their money down to see the film? I don't want to lower their expectations. Plus, why ask me in the first place? They don't know me. They have no idea what my tastes are.

So, I just tell them, "the critics and audiences love it..." The ellipses usually lead to them asking, "but not you?" and I explain to them that they should pay no head to my opinion based on the above reasoning while silently judging them because, after all, I know they are going to like this abhorrent film.

On the plus side, we are now showing the excellent The Good, the Bad, and the Weird! It's nice to be able to enthusiastically endorse a film for once.

PS -- It's pure coincidence that I wrote this post on Joel Edgerton's birthday (star/co-writer of The Square and Nash Edgerton's brother)