Get it while it’s hot, the brand new PlayStation Store is upon us, thanks to today’s Firmware 2.30 update. I just downloaded it and kicked the tires a bit. It’s a million times better than the old store. It’s cleaner, slicker and better organized than before. I actually discovered stuff on the store, that I never noticed before because I would go to the old store, gripe about how ugly and non-user friendly it was and not spend anymore time than I had to on it. The new store is colorful, but it feels slower, it took a good minute for the images to show up. And I have a Fios connection so it should definitely be faster. I liked all the new stuff that I discovered in my short perusal. I found the Classics store, and the downloadable games section. In the old environment I just went straight for the demos and that’s it. While the store is definitely improving, it still has an amazing lack of content. There are only about 20 or 30 demos available – compare that to XBox Live’s 300+. A couple of game trailers, access to a limited number of classic titles. It’s embarrassing that after being on the market for over a year they still don’t have much content in their store. Game downloads are painfully slow, it’s taking me literally 5 hours to download one game demo that is less than 800 MB. They still don’t have downloadable entertainment content. Hey Sony, you own a Record Label, Movie and TV Studio. Wake up! Hello? Is anyone listening? The facelift is a great start, now put something there that will make us want to check out the store.
The Classic 1966 Batman movie is coming to Blu-ray, July 1st. But Fox is crazy, they are charging $40 bucks for this. I think my rant about the price of Blu-ray Discs going up and not down has been proven basically true. Since I don’t own this on DVD, I would seriously be tempted to pick it up. It’s one of those films that makes me relive my fondest childhood memories. And this disc is packed to the gills with stuff. For $40 it better be! Check out the press release, it’s pretty nice.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be Bluesday (copyright EM) and we have a tone of interesting news on Sony’s PS3 upcoming firmware upgrade. Not only are we going to get the new Profile 2.0 update which will bring us Blu-ray Live functionality. I saw this at CES earlier this year and it looks really promising. The Internet interfaces that was showcased at the Blu-ray conference looked beautiful and fully like Web 3.0. My fear is it’s going to end up being just as lame as all Internet enabled DVDs in the past. Not only is the new PS3 upgrade bringing us profile 2.0 capabilities, but today rumor has it that you will soon be able to download a copy of your Blu-ray movie directly to your PSP. I recently picked up an 8 Gig SD Duo stick for $80. How cools will it be to be able to drop your movies onto your PSP. It’s nice to see studios finally loosing up on their draconian DRM and helping people take their content with them. The first two movies to support BD- Lve will be Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and The 6th Day. Here’s the full press release on the PS3 Upgrade.
Update (Tuesday, 8am) – Sony saw my post and decided, “Y’know what? Let’s release this update now!” So get it while it’s hot.
Other notable Blu-ray releases this week. Include Fox’s amazing new Hit Man DVD. The DVD includes Fox’s way cool new Digital Copy technology. So not only do you get the Blu-ray disk, but you can also rip a copy of it for your portable digital media player. I honestly haven’t tried this yet, I’ve been busy switching over to a Mac (more on my woes later this week). I’ll give it a try and let you all know how well it works. I love the idea of it though and hope more disks incorporate this tech.
John Woo’s (Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off) first Anime production, Appleseed: Ex Machina, directed by Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed, Bubblegum Crisis) on DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. Based on the popular science fiction manga from renowned creator Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell), Appleseed: Ex Machina follows partners and lovers, Deunan and Briareos.
The fine folks at Fox Home Video (can you tell they sent me a nice little package this weekend) have a block buster Blu-ray Tuesday this week releasing several of their big Sci-fi titles. Including one of my favorite – cheesy films of all time Independence Day. When I first bought my 60 inch HDTV 4 years ago – before there was any HD content available, but DVD was still new enough to wow people. ID4 was my reference disk, I’d put that on, fire up my Dolby Digital surround sound and my guests would be blown away by the beauty of it. Now imagine it on Blu-ray. The disk features 1080P, commentary by the directors, a separate commentary by special effects supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith, Trivia Track, a cheesy Alien Scavenger hunt game, theatrical trailers and D-Box motion support. This is a pretty amazing set, the only thing missing is Picture in Picture. This is a disk all Blu-ray owners need to have. I love the movie and the disk. This package is a solid A.
Final Grade A
EM Review by
The Sci-Fi Classic Gattaca: Special Edition is coming to DVD and Blu-ray this week. Watch some clippage and go out and pick this up. Confidently conceived and brilliantly executed, Gattaca had a somewhat low profile release in 1997, but audiences and critics hailed the film’s originality. It’s since been recognized as one of the most intelligent science fiction films of the 1990s. Writer-director Andrew Niccol, the talented New Zealander who also wrote the acclaimed Jim Carrey vehicle The Truman Show, depicts a near-future society in which one’s personal and professional destiny is determined by one’s genes.
After spending this weekend fighting with my new Macbook (contrary to what the commercials say, it doesn’t “just work.” But I’ll save my tales of Apple woe until later in the week. I decided to download and watch Warner Home Video’s latest direct to video animated fair Justice League: New Frontier. I downloaded it on my X-Box 360. The download took less than an 1/2 hour so I had instant gratification. When the movie first started, it was weird. The animation was literally just some weird drawings, then the camera pulls back and you see it’s an children’s book author telling a story about the end of the world. But what’s more shocking is, the guy puts a gun in his mouth and blows his brains out. So three minutes into this you know this film isn’t for kids.
But in case you missed the point, a few minutes later Air Force pilot Hal Jordan (voiced by David Boreanaz) is shot down over Russia at the end of the war. He puts a gun to some kid’s face and pulls the trigger. We get to see it in it’s gory detail. I would say this definitely isn’t your father’s Superhero film, but it actually is. The conceit of this piece is that everything takes place in the fifties. At the height of the cold war, McCarthyism, the red scare and more. And our Superheroes are stuck in the middle trying to stick to their convictions when the world around them has turned to chaos and against them. Watching all of this as an outsider, trying to do good in his small way is a Martian – J’onn J’onzz / Martian Manhunter (voiced by Miguel Ferrer).The movie packs a lot of oomph into it’s short 77 minute running time. We really get a sense of the time period and all of it’s turmoil.
Director Dave Bullock and the writers Stan Berkowitz and Darwyn Cooke don’t shy away from talking about some of the racial and political problems of the time period. Mentioning the KKK lynching a black hero, or Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) trying to lecture Diana (Lucy Lawless) about letting enslaved Chinese women murder their former captures after she freed them. The movie pretty relentlessly dark, but there was a great line from Batman (Jeremy Sisto) to the Manhunter “I have a $70,000 sliver of rock that will take care of the one in Metropolis, all I need for you is a Penny and a book of matches.”
The film falls apart at the end when the Heroes finally come together to stop the big bad. It’s some lame living Island thing. It felt a little anti-climatic. But this movie isn’t about big Super Hero battles, it truly is a character piece and manages to juggle it’s large cast really well.
I haven’t watched the DVD, but it looks like a packed affair. The animated adventure is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The picture quality is excellent. Its 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is clear with good surround effects. The DVD includes the revealing “Super Heroes United”, “The Legion of Doom” and “Comic Book Commentary” documentaries, two in-depth audio commentaries with filmmakers and comic book writer Darwyn Cooke, three bonus “Justice League Unlimited” episodes (The Dark Heart, Task Force X & To Another Shore), trailers and an exclusive sneak peek of the upcoming “Batman – Gotham Knight”.
Final Grade A
EM Review by
In a move that surprises no one, Microsoft has officially put an end to it’s HD-DVD add-on drive. I actually bought one of these last summer from Gamestop as an impulse buy and immediately regretted my decision but couldn’t take it back because Gamestop draconian return policy. Word of advice – NEVER shop there. So I kept it and it grew on me. I never officially jumped on either bandwagon, preferring to rent from Netflix to starting a new collection. My only regret is I paid $120 for the Harry Potter set on HD instead of Blu. It was my only real HD purchase so I don’t feel too upset over it’s demise. I hope the inevitable Blu-ray add-on (replacement) is smaller, includes a smaller power cable (the one for the HD-DVD is ridiculously large) and includes HDMI with up-conversion. Last week I finally broke down and purchased the 120 gig hard drive and a pleasant surprise side benefit is it cut down the noise on my 360 by almost 90 percent! It’s still loud, but it no longer sounds like a jet airplane. Anyway, here’s the statement.
"As a result of recent decisions made by Toshiba, Hollywood studios, and retailers, Microsoft plans to withdraw from HD DVD. Xbox will no longer manufacture new HD DVD players for the Xbox 360, but we will continue to provide standard product and warranty support for all Xbox 360 HD DVD Players in the market. As we stated earlier, we do not believe this decision will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. HD DVD is one of the several ways we offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies and TV shows directly to their living room, along with playback of the DVD movies they already own."
My favorite movie from last year Juno is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray on March 19. The cool thing is, it’ll include Fox’s cool new Digital Copy thing – that will let you copy the movie to your iPod. Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and featuring an all-star ensemble cast, the Juno DVD is loaded with special features including commentary by Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, 11 deleted scenes, a gag reel, screen tests and more. Additionally, Juno releases as a two-disc DVD and is also available day-and-date in high-def format on Blu-ray Disc, featuring more hilarious extras and Fox’s new Digital Copy, allowing viewers to quickly and easily transfer a digital version of the film to a Mac® or Windows-based PC computer and then to select portable video devices including an iPod® and/or iPhone™.
Toshiba officially threw in the towel today. It’s, there’s nothing left but the crying. I did my rant this weekend about the pending death of HD-DVD. I think the format war has ended too soon, but hey, what can you do? Several people emailed me and said that my post was some anti-Sony screed and that I have buyer’s remorse. Actually, I don’t. I have both formats and never committed to either so it isn’t like I have hundreds of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movies lying around the house. I have exactly 15 HD movies, but I’ll benefit from having a single format because it means all the studios will eventually be able to send me Blu-Ray disks. Not a bad deal for me, I get everything basically free. Except I did buy the Harry Potter set on HD-DVD. Doh! Anyway, I digress, I still believe that – at least in the short term consumers will lose on this because the Blu-Ray group will not come down in price anytime soon. I’m hoping they prove me wrong and start slashing prices now that the war is over and they still have to convince people that the HD format is worthwhile. I like the format, but don’t see HD as much of a leap from a good DVD.