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Topics - Grizzled

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« on: October 07, 2006, 01:28:56 PM »
First review from Emmanuel Levy. He loves it:

Flags of Our Fathers   A

Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" is this year's most socially significant American film, effective as war epic that reconstructs the cruel battle of Iowa Jima, and as a morality drama deconstructs how the battle and the iconic photo it produced were perceived by the military-industrial-political complex, the news media, and the American public at large.

Eastwood is obviously experiencing an artistic height, one that began with "Mystic River" in 2002, continued with the Oscar-winning "Million Dollars Baby" in 2004, and now "Flags of Our Fathers." Three great pictures in a row is an achievement that few filmmakers can claim, particularly directors of Eastwood's age.

Thematically, "Flags of Our Fathers" establishes a direct link to Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winning "Unforgiven," as both movies deconstruct prevalent myths in American history. If the 1992 Western contests and revises the myth of the gunslinger and violence in the Old West, "Flags of Our Fathers" does the same for the myths of war heroes and American history, specifically, how heroes and images are created, fabricated, and sold to the populace.

As such, "Flags of Our Fathers" is not just an honorable companion piece to "Unforgiven," but one that in ambition, scope, and timeliness (allusions to Iraq War are inevitable) surpasses that Western. It's no secret that Eastwood's films have increasingly become darker in vision, and spiritual in nature—sort of uniquely American morality plays that challenge the very foundations of American culture, past and present.

The biggest compliment I can pay "Flags of Our Fathers" is to say that the film is effective as a revisionist WWII film, one that turns John Wayne's 1949 version, "Sands of Iwo Jima," into a naïve agit-prop piece, as well as sharp anatomy of the zeigeist--all segments American society, including the government and homefront--in 1945, during the last year of the War.

Cont at:

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: HD DVDs
« on: May 14, 2006, 08:00:01 PM »
I have to say I'm sceptical for reasons too numerous to mention but this article from The New York Times does a pretty decent job of laying out some of the basics ...

Why the World Doesn't Need Hi-Def DVD's

WHEN did you first become cynical about the electronics industry?

Was it when VHS went out of style, and you had to buy all your movies again on DVD? Was it the time(s) you never got the rebate you mailed away for? Or was it when your computer's 90-day warranty expired, and the thing croaked two days later?

Doesn't matter. As it turns out, you didn't even know the meaning of the word cynical. This month, Toshiba's HD-A1 high-definition DVD player hit store shelves. It's the first marketplace volley in an absurd and pointless format war among the titans of the movie, electronics and computer industries.

Just contemplating the rise of a new DVD format is enough to make you feel played. What's wrong with the original DVD format, anyway? It offers brilliant picture, thundering surround sound and bonus material. The catalog of DVD movies is immense and reasonably priced. And DVD players are so cheap, they practically fall out of magazines; 82 percent of American homes have at least one DVD player.

To electronics executives, all of this can mean only one thing: It's time to junk that format and start over.

Of course, the executives don't explain this decision by saying, "Because we've saturated the market for regular DVD players."

Instead, they talk about video and picture quality. A DVD picture offers much better color and clarity than regular TV, but not as good as high-definition TV. The new discs hold far more information, enough to display Hollywood's masterpieces in true high definition (if you have a high-definition TV, of course).

UNFORTUNATELY, this idea occurred simultaneously to both Sony and Toshiba. Each dreamed up its own format for a high-def DVD. Each then assembled an army of partners. Toshiba's format, called HD-DVD, has attracted Microsoft, Sanyo, NEC and movie studios like New Line and Universal. Sony's format, called Blu-ray, has in its camp Apple, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Pioneer, Dell and movie studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox and Disney. (Some companies, like HP, LG, Warner Brothers and Paramount, intend to create products for both formats.)

The new DVD players will play standard DVD's, but that's as far as the compatibility good news goes. Movies in Toshiba's format won't play in DVD players from Sony's side, and vice versa.

At first, pundits guessed that Sony's Blu-ray format might win, because it had signed up so many more movie studios, its discs have greater capacity, and the PlayStation 3, expected to top best-seller lists this fall, will double as a Blu-ray player.

But Toshiba has two aces up its sleeve. First, its first HD-DVD player is available now, giving it a head start; Blu-ray players aren't expected until the end of June. Second, this new player, the HD-A1, costs $500 — half the price of the cheapest Blu-ray deck.

The HD-A1 is a pretty big box: 17.7 by 13.3 by 4.3 inches, more like an early VCR than a sleek modern DVD player.

The $500 isn't the only price you pay for being an insanely early adopter; this baby is slow — really slow. It takes over a minute just to turn on; menus are sometimes slow to respond; and a newly inserted DVD takes 45 seconds just to get to the F.B.I. warning. (And no, even the brave new DVD format doesn't let you skip over that tiresome warning.)

The remote is a disaster; its buttons are identically shaped and illogically placed. Not only are they not illuminated, but their labels are painted on faintly and in what must be 4-point type. (A sibling model, the HD-XA1, adds minor goodies like a backlit remote — for $300 more.)

Finally, though, the movie begins — and your shield of cynicism begins to waver. As you watch the brilliant colors, super-black blacks and ridiculously sharp detail — up to six times the resolution of a standard DVD — you realize that you've never seen anything quite this cinematic-looking in your home before.

Even high-definition TV doesn't look this good; the amount of information HD-DVD pumps to your screen dwarfs what you get from high-def satellite or cable (36 megabits a second maximum, versus 19 or less).

You need a big screen to benefit from all this picture data, however. The impact of the extra detail begins to evaporate at screen sizes below, say, 35 inches.

Even on a small screen, though, you don't have to interrupt the movie to open the DVD menu (to get access to settings and extras); on a high-def DVD, the menu appears at the bottom or side of the screen as the movie continues to play.

That feature makes it quick and easy to turn on subtitles during a mumbled scene, for example, or to tune in the director's commentary track without losing your place. I watched six beautifully made HD-DVD movies from Warner and Universal, including the gut-churning "Training Day" and a spectacular "Apollo 13." (It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.) I quickly concluded that the new on-screen menu system makes the old DVD-menu system look confusing and crude in comparison.

The new DVD generation is supposed to offer several other sophisticated features. For example, director and actor commentaries can now include video, not just audio (the director appears in a small picture-in-picture window). Similarly, the A1's built-in Ethernet jack is supposed to let you connect to the Internet for interactive features.

No movies in the first wave include any of these goodies, however. (Shades of the Camera Angle feature that was supposed to be available on movies in the original DVD format? You decide.)

On the videophile blogs, you can find several cautionary notes regarding the HD-A1's audio and video signal outputs — details that will cause average people's eyes to glaze over, but may alarm high-end movie buffs.

For example, don't buy this player if you're hoping to future-proof your home theater. As any geek can tell you, HDTV comes in several degrees of resolution: 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Weirdly, the Toshiba can't send out 1080p, which is the holy grail. (To be sure, this standard is still rare among TV sets, but it's the wave of the future.)

You should know, too, that you're guaranteed the sensational high-resolution HD-DVD picture only if your TV set has an HDMI connector (a slim, recently developed, all-digital jack that carries both sound and picture). If you use S-video or component cables instead, you may see only 25 percent of the resolution you're supposed to get — a maddening antipiracy feature that the studios can invoke at their option. (Most studios have said that they won't "down-res" those jacks, at least at first; they can begin doing so at any time, however.)

The fine print also includes cautions that the A1 contains a fan (though it's mercifully quiet), that your TV may require tweaking to tame the more intense HD-DVD colors, and that the DVD extras are not, generally speaking, in high definition.

Over all, though, the A1 does deliver the spectacular picture and sound promised by Toshiba. Should you buy one, then?

Not unless you're an early-adopter masochist with money to burn.

Reason 1: The average person can see the difference in picture quality, but only on a big, high-def screen, preferably side by side with a standard DVD signal. The leap forward is nowhere as great as it was from, say, VHS to DVD.

Reason 2: For a brand-new technology, the A1 is a reasonably priced razor — but it's got a serious blade shortage. Only 20 will be available by the end of this month, priced at $20 to $40, and only a couple of hundred are expected by year's end. (Tens of thousands are available in the traditional DVD format.)

Reason 3 (and this is the big one): You could be placing a very big bet on the wrong horse.

In fact, this might even be a race that neither horse wins; the public may well decide that regular DVD's are just fine as they are. (Remember SACD and DVD-Audio, two rival "high-definition audio" formats that also required new players and new discs? Didn't think so. Both are well on their way to the great eBay in the sky.)

You, and everyone else, have everything to gain by waiting until prices fall, the movie catalog grows and a single standard emerges. After all, how will you feel if you buy a player and a bunch of movies — and the one you picked turns out to be the Betamax of the new millennium?

Probably more cynical than ever.

Questions & Answers / Million Dollar Baby: Stock footage shot?
« on: February 26, 2006, 09:50:19 AM »
I'm not quite sure if this fits under any of the bazillion Million Dollar Baby threads we've already got, so just to annoy KC I've started another one ...  :P

Anyway ...

... You remember that helicopter shot of Big Ben and the Thames when Maggie gets her fight at the River Thames boxing club? Since the budget was pretty low it would seem unlikely that Clint hired a helicopter and crew just to get a single shot lasting all of 5 seconds (especially given Clint's famously frugal approach to filmmaking).

So if the footage came from another source might it be an offcut Warner had lying around in the vaults or possibly something from one of Malpaso's own productions? In which case do you suppose that ariel shot might have come  from unused Firefox footage?

Off-Topic Discussion / Eight Below - opinions?
« on: February 19, 2006, 08:41:14 AM »
I was pleasantly surprised to see this new Disney movie - about Antarctic explorers forced to leave their beloved sled dogs behind and then returning to rescue them - getting generally favourable reviews from viewers and critics.

Even lead actor, Paul Walker, is receiving grudging praise for his performance as the guilt-ridden leader  (he's not quite as good as the huskies apparently, but, hey, he's up there!)  ;)

Anyway, being a soft touch for tales of huskies abandoned in the Antarctic and humans who can't bear to leave them behind (sniff) I think I might have to go and see this if it's as good as they say.

Have any US posters seen it?

Eastwood News / At last!! A European DVD release of 'Bird'?
« on: September 24, 2005, 03:29:15 PM »
Released in Germany on the 18 November apparently:

Encouraging news anyway (and yes I know the a/r is listed as 4:3 but before anyone panics let me just observe that Amazon often lists tech specs inaccurately, sometimes even after release!)

If the Germans are getting it then it will almost certainly turn up here in the UK next year. Maybe even in January as Warner always seem to favour January for back catalogue Eastwood titles.

Off-Topic Discussion / A great old movie I've just seen ...
« on: August 25, 2005, 12:03:39 PM »
I've just had the pleasant experience of watching a terrific British suspense thriller from 1974. I think I saw it as a kid but had completely forgotten all about it until I saw it advertised on DVD. It's about a luxury cruiser - the HMS Brittanic - caught in a storm at sea when a terrorist calling himself Juggernaut announces that he has planted seven bombs on board and demands a ransom in exchange for the passengers lives (the passengers can't take to the lifeboats because of the storm). It's up to bomb disposal expert Fallon (Richard Harris) and his team to get onboard the ship (by parachuting into the sea with their equipment from an RAF plane!) but then negotiations between the terrorist and the police break down. Can Fallon and his men defuse the bombs in time?

Sounds promising, huh? The movie in question is called Juggernaut (aka Terror On The Brittanic) and the cast is amazing. In addition to Harris you've got David Hemmings as Fallon's sidekick, Anthony Hopkins as the policeman whose wife and kid's are trapped onboard the stricken liner, Roy Kinnear (in a scene stealing performance as the ships hapless entertainments officer), Omar Sharif as the ships captain and loads of great British character actors like Freddie Jones (Firefox), Ken Collee (The Empire Strikes Back, Ripping Yarns) and Ken Cope (who played the ghost in Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).

Equally impressive is the production. The actors are actually onboard a real ocean liner in what looks like fairly rough weather (in some of the deck scenes you can actually see the cast sliding back and forth across the deck against grey, choppy seas). There isn't one faked up shot of actors in front of a back projection setup that I could spot and the realism adds a palpable 'you are there'  sense of authenticity to the story.

Juggernaut was directed by Richard Lester and he demonstrates a real eye, not just for building suspense, but for making the personal lives of those trapped on the ship equally watchable. The crew and cast of the Brittanic aren't the laughable cardboard characters of an Irwin Allen epic like The Poseidon Adventure but recognisably human individuals with problems that are sharply observed by Lester with dry, British understatement.  American actress Shirley Knight, in particular, is excellent as the Captain's mistress who wins our sympathy by discovering she has more in common with Kinnear's sensitive loser than Sharif's handsome but heartless Captain. Another typical Lester-ism is the bit where two kids wandering the deck with a book of flags are the only ones to recognise the significance of the red flag that's just been hoisted. 'That means there's explosives onboard' says the child happily, 'Fifteen points to me!'  ;D

The unique setting of an ocean liner is also very well exploited, especially in one edge-of-your-seat sequence where a kid and a steward end up trapped between sealed doors with a bomb about to explode. The dialogue (credited in part to Alan Plater) is consistently sharp as a tack. When the head of the company (Ian Holm) which owns the ship wants to pay Juggernaut's ransom a creepy Govenment rep advises him against it because of the subsidies HMG is paying to the company. When several people get killed even Holm's character can't stomach the callousness of risking several hundred lives for the sake of a Government investment, 'Tell him to go stuff his subsidies!' he yells at the adviser.

Without wanting to turn this into an essay(!) I'll wrap up by saying that Juggernaut is a work of rock solid professionalism with a nail-biting climax. It's a reminder of what suspense thrillers used to be like before the Die Hard's and their successors reinvented the format almost beyond recognition. I enjoyed Juggernaut a lot - I think you will too.  :)

Eastwood News / French 'Bronco Billy' DVD
« on: June 25, 2005, 03:52:19 AM »
There's a French R2  DVD of Bronco Billy available! According to the disc offers an english language track with widescreen on one side and full screen the other. The Amazon tech specs also claim that the movie is in PAL format and not horrible NTSC but I don't know how much faith you can place in that. Has anybody checked this DVD out?

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