Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Guest Blogger: Ian Smith

And now for someone else who can write up a good DVD vote: Ian Smith.

William

To: wg@williamgallagher.com
From: Ian Smith

Oh this is tough!

Was very tempted to vote for Kubrick's "2001" on HD-DVD (and also Blu-Ray) because the picture is absolutely stunning for a film that's so long in the tooth. One doubts that even those who saw the film on its original theatrical release got to see something as stunning as this. "Reference quality" doesn't even begin to cover how sumptuous this new transfer is.

And then there's "Pan's Labyrinth". On DVD this is far better looking than it was at the NFT screening I saw with the director giving a Q&A, and the film is haunting and powerful. And yet, when I caught up with the director's "The Devils Backbone" I found I slightly preferred that. So "The Guillermo Del Toro Collection" would definitely get the vote, released earlier this year, if not for the fact it included a truly dreadful transfer of "Cronos" and only included the single disc, not the double-disc version of "Pan's Labyrinth".

So I was all set to mention "Days of Glory" (on Blu-Ray disc in a stunning transfer), a moving film that was nominated in the same category as "Pan's Labyrinth" for "Best Foreign Language Film" and a film which actually caused the law in France to be changed (how many films can say that? More info in my review here) and then I remembered "Heroes" on HD-DVD and realised it HAD to get my vote for shiny disc(set) of the year.

"Heroes" is so addictive I wasted two hard-won weekends back in England (I'd been away working in Ireland) watching it. Not since "24" or "Lost" in their first years has a series been so addictive, or delivered such consistently high quality throughout. At last - a "superhero" movie that comic book fans can be proud of and which their non-comic book friends can get equally addicted to. The twists were plentiful but thematically consistent and clearly planned from the start. OK so the ending was a bit of a "we may want to bring the lead villain back if things turn really bad in future seasons" cop-out, but how many shows with 23 episodes don't have the occasional weak moment?

For TV to deliver 23 episodes of such high quality throughout, without recourse to "filler" episodes is unprecedented, even from the likes of the superb "Battlestar Galactica". The cast of unknowns were brilliant, and with guest appearances from Christopher Eccleston and Malcolm McDowell for us Brits what's not to like? Given that "Heroes" is flavour of the month at the moment (it's taken the crown from "Lost" it would seem) it would have been easy for the shiny discs to be a flimsy cash-in affair. But no, the makers gave us the series in a beautifully packaged region-free HD-DVD set packed full of extras. More TV show DVD sets should be like this! A truly outstanding set that delivers on high definition promises, with brilliant writing, superb casting and week after week of cliff-hanger endings which make one grateful that one chose to watch the show on shiny disc instead of terrestrial TV. Warning: Only start watching this DVD set if you have 23 hours free in one go!

Ian

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