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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Feeling blu

We’ve been researching Blu-ray a lot this week. As a relatively young format it’s been through a lot – the initial (and ultimately victorious) battle with Toshiba’s HD-DVD, widespread consumer confusion and the threat of digital downloads.

But now the tide seems to be turning. Increasing adoption of HD programming from the likes of Sky, Virgin and Freesat is getting the message through to consumers that their shiny new HDTVs are only really HD when a proper source is plugged in. Prices of Blu-ray players and the discs themselves are falling, they’re becoming more visible in stores, and adverts which would previously have DVD as the main format are now leading with the Blu-ray version.

The technology is also evolving. Interactive content through the BD Live service is being realised, moving away from simple web pages with more trailers to real dynamic content that isn’t available anywhere else. A good example is last year’s The Dark Knight, which featured a live, community commentary with the director. A new development this year will be seen with the release of Watchmen, where a special edition will also include a PS3 game, taking advantage of that format’s shared userbase.

So, what do you all think of Blu-ray? Have you seen it going and do you think it lives up to the hype?

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Ahoy me hearties. I’ve raised the Jolly Roger and taken over the Chivalry House ship.

I’m late to the party on this, but pirates are back in a big way. For much of last month barely a day went by without another reported attack off the coast of Somalia, then the Pirate Bay founders finally appeared in court (and lost – although an appeal may yet save them). Next was Wolverine, whose famous healing powers were tested when his big budget movie launch was trumped by an early copy popping up online, and then, best of all, Facebook became infinitely more fun and interesting than it has in years with the pirate language option (yes, I am that easily pleased).

The traditional, seabound pirate variety got a lot of traction last month and it was pretty scary stuff. One of the more exciting twists was when the media brought Obama in on the act. What must have been a challenging, yet routine mission to rescue a US captain was reported more like an episode of 24, with the President personally giving the snipers the green light to shoot – almost as if surveying the scene from afar with binoculars before calling in Jack Bauer and giving the order.

I’m more interested, though, in the repercussions of the Pirate Bay trial on movie piracy and online distribution. I won’t deny ever using sites like The Pirate Bay, particularly during my uni days. That was the golden age, if you will, of Internet piracy – broadband was a still relatively new thing and practically every film, CD, software or even book appeared online, often before official release. Agree or disagree, you can see the appeal to a poor student. With less time and more money these days, I don’t go there anymore – but I know many still do.

The challenge for the movie studios now is to adapt and evolve to meet the demands of an 21st century, net-savvy audience. Personally I don’t think Hollywood can ever beat the geeks at their own game. While they may manage to close The Pirate Bay, a hundred more will spring up in its place. There have been some overtures to drag film distribution forward: US Lovefilm-alike NetFlix allows members to stream directly over the web, YouTube has recently announced plans to stream entire films and services like iPlayer and Hulu are improving and growing in popularity all the time.

But as yet, there is no Spotify moment on the horizon. I mention that service specifically because it’s truly a watershed in how music reaches its audience – and all who see it, young and old alike, immediately understand it and get started. I have heard friends say they went home and introduced the service to their mum or dad only to find that they started using it weeks ago – when was the last time that happened!?

The film industry needs to get its act together, and refocus its efforts from prevention and prosecution to finding new methods of online distribution. My personal belief, albeit one that is not shared by many, is that online file-sharing of music and films has only a negligible effect on sales – a viewpoint backed up somewhat by record box-office takings this year and a recent survey on music buying habits. What it demonstrates is that people want a new, convenient, cheap way to access content. Give us that, and although sites like The Pirate Bay will survive, they won’t ever prosper like before.

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Working for a technology PR company and writing on this technacious blog, I wanted to my first blog post to cover an old-school institution that’s still managing to buck the downturn: cinema.

Trawl through any culture-vulture publication on the web and you can find stats showing that trips to the local multiplex have benefited massively from the recession. Look at the sales of The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia. This is big business and the outlook is only getting bigger. Another dimension bigger.

The BFI IMAX has already offered people the chance to view films on screens nearing the height of five double-decker buses and 3D is quickly becoming a staple supplement to our effects and explosion cravings (Bolt 3D is worthy of all your pocket, lunch and milk money).

The culmination of this could well prove to be James Cameron’s Avatar. The movie is being shot with revolutionary 3D cameras that the director designed himself – and the project was apparently put on hold for years while cinema technology caught up with his ambitions. In an interview with The Independent (via Total Film) the man describes the project as:

“a futuristic tale set on a planet 200 years hence. It’s an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience . . . The film requires me to create an entirely new alien culture and language, and for that I want ‘photo-real’ CGI characters. Sophisticated enough performance-capture animation technology is only coming on stream now. I’ve spent the last 14 months doing performance-capture work – the actor performs the character and then we animate it.”

Rumours abide that he who brought us Titanic (officially the highest grossing movie ever) can truly revolutionise and usher in a new format of 3D and IMAX cinema.

Now I’m all for this. Cameron is a genius and I’ll be strapping on whatever funky goggles or inappropriate headwear I need to marvel at Avatar in all its glory. BUT there’s something tobe said for those cinemas that stick to what they know, that take pleasure in looking back on what has been so great about movies from before…

The Prince Charles Cinema in London offers a £10 yearly membership with £1.50 for subsequent visits. It has none of the sheen or shine of its Leicester Square stablemates but does have retro posters from the 70’s covering the walls around its basement screen. I stared at a domineering Travis Bickle as I bought my popcorn before watching Die Hard there one evening. Yes, that’s right – the Prince Charles screens old movies from Top Gun to Point Break, to Vertigo and Rear Window. It even has High School Musical the ‘sing-a-long’ version.

I watched Die Hard on the big screen mere weeks ago – complete in its grubby 35mm Technicolor with little-to-no after effects; the film had blotches, botched sound, missing scenes and fleeting moments of focus. Yet this was a cinema experience to remember – the best I’ve had in my 22 years. The people that watch these films are not there for the gimmicks, they don’t care about the new Toffee Crisp popcorn or the largest number of pixels you can squeeze into a transforming toaster. The audience I witnessed was one that revelled in the low-tech, simple pleasure of watching an iconic movie on the big screen. We cheered when Bruce Willis first enters the frame. We booed when Alan Rickman and his cronies step out of that elevator. And we raised the roof when those immortal words “yippee ki yay….” were uttered by our blue collar hero in our blue collar multiplex.

To top it off? It’s Quentin Tarantino’s favourite cinema in London. Grindhouse indeed.

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