Nipping, Tucking, and Tweaking

One of the things websites ultimately undergo after a few years of operation is a facelift, or a complete layout overhaul.

When one designs a site, it’s a big undertaking, and during the process there are a few ideas that, when originally conceived, were later omitted or rendered inert because they're found to be impractical or irrelevant. That’s part of a site’s growing process, as well as an editor’s: you figure out what’s working, and reconfigure things to augment the visitor/reader experience. It's just the time factor and how much coffee is at hand that quicken the process.

KQEK.com isn’t going to be massively overhauled – the way things are laid out mandates a great deal of tedium and data entry that’s not possible at present – but there are a few things that should’ve been included in the main page design from day one, but for various reasons, they weren’t.

I always wanted to include news headers as well as news of book, DVD, and soundtrack releases, and while there are plenty of sites with niche or hyper-selective foci, the plan was to have them all under one roof.

So, starting next week there will be some changes to the main page (http://www.kqek.com/Main_Index_Page.htm) and soon after the main index page (http://www.kqek.com/). The main page will have integrated text scrolls for this blog as well as news items gleaned from web and press releases, and there will also be a list tallying what’s new as of each Tuesday, since that’s the day when DVDs as well as books hit the street.

That info will also be available via the main index page in a graphic-free format so it loads fast and easy on small gizmos, permitting site news & collated release info to be accessed very quickly. The RSS feed will integrate some of that soon after.

Coming next: Ewa Aulin in Tinto Brass' Deadly Sweet / Col cuore in gola (1967) from Cult Epics, and Candy (1968) from Anchor Bay.


British Bleakism returns to form

For the love of God: BRING BACK THE SUN !I still think when Michael Reeves made The Conqueror Worm / Witchfinder General, in 1968, he didn’t singularly create British Bleakism, but he compacted all the dour elements that the British do so well in cinema.

Granted there are the kitchen sink dramas of the Free Cinema graduates as well as the emotionally grungy works by documentarians and indie filmmakers with a bent on improv and raw emotions, but in terms of delivering misery within a recognizable genre, Reeves did it exceptionally well in his period horror film. People scream in agony, they die horribly, families are torn apart, and a seething anger or acidic self-loathing affect a group of characters who ultimately lose their minds in the end, with nary a happy ray of sunlight beaming from the sky to stop audiences from feeling like walking off a cliff into some crashing waves.

Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but if one has seen Reeves’ Witchfinder General, then one knows how well the Brits have carved out their own brand of dramas about incestuous human misery where no one walks away unscathed. They’re emotionally mean, and they don’t generally wallow in torture porn moments; maybe flashes of, but not for the sake of making people sick and wanting to run from the theatre as a rule.

Author David Peace’s Red Riding series is a fine member of the Bleak school, at least those three novels of the four that were dramatized into a trilogy for Channel 4. It’s a grim production that was broadcast around March of this year, and while the teleplays haven’t made it to home video yet, keep an eye out for them, because they’re worth a peek.

Each episode is given a date stamp, so 1974 was directed by Julian Jarrod (Kinky Books, Cracker), 1980 by James Marsh (Man on Wire), and 1983 by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie). They’re all good, they all make one want a stiff shot of Fernet Branca to ease the upset, and I’ve reviewed the lot based on the broadcast versions.

Released in tandem with the series is a soundtrack CD from Silva Screen that features decent suites of themes by each teleplay’s composer, and while an appropriately grim album, it’s also bloody good music by relative newcomers Adrian Johnston (Kinky Boots), Dickon Hinchliffe, and veteran Barrington Pheloung (Inspector Morse).

Each composer managers to evoke the period, remain stylistically true to the tone of the other scores, and make listeners feel utterly miserable. One doesn’t have to go as far as having another Fernet, but maybe listening to a happy tune to ease one back into the sunlight helps.

Also uploaded is Angels & Demons, the latest offering from Hans Zimmer and co-composers Atli Orvarsson and Lorne Balfe. The album has some strong moments, but the score has some similarities to a well-known Italian horror score by some iconic prog rockers…


George Pal - Part 1

Hey Colonel! You forgot your toothbrush!Whereas the world of Star Trek is set in a future with existing modes of space travel, the fifties sci-fi dramas of producer/director George Pal either took place in the present day, or jumped ahead to a fuzzy future where things looked contemporary, but somehow we humans managed to put up a big space donut in Earth’s orbit.

Pal’s origins lay in a series Puppetoons shorts before he hedged his bets with director Irving Pichel and made a family film about a squirrel – The Great Rupert – and the 2001: A Space Odyssey of the fifties, Destination Moon. Both were made in 1950, but it’s the space film that ignited a Technicolor interest in what man could do with rocket fuel and the industrial machine at full throttle.

Destination wasn’t as abstract and head-scratching as 2001 – the plot was basically a bunch of guys going rogue and flying off to the moon – but the special effects were revolutionary and still look impressive (at least when you can’t see the studio lights reflected in the helmet visors). Pal’s film also has a unique angle involving the relationship between military and private industry, which makes it more intriguing that your average fifties space exploration drama.

Destination was followed by When Worlds Collide (1951) and the amazing War of the Worlds (1953) – both to be reviewed shortly – and the space quartet more or less ended with Conquest of Space (1955), the lesser of the lot for a number of reasons that include dreadful dialogue, familiar plot points, and a religious zealot you really wish would get socked in the nose and shut up.

These films are very much rooted in the fears and hopes of the fifties, as well as a kind of idealism that’s just not present in contemporary sci-fi, but there is a common view that sometimes we go too far, and the risks may be too great for the spacemen as well as the human race.

Conquest has more sophisticated effects than Destination, and that may be due to the influence of MGM’s own Forbidden Planet (1953), which stretched out craft landings and takeoffs into gorgeous montages. Conquest has some beautiful shots of spinning planets, and there’s an asteroid sequence that must have looked awesome on the big screen.

Destination is in dire need of a real restoration, and the bulk of Pal’s other productions (mostly for Paramount) deserve the same, as was done for War of the Worlds. If Paramount has any foresight, they should use the eventual DVD release of the new Star Trek to exploit their sci-fi catalogue, if not their George Pal films (and that includes the Puppetoons) because in spite of the hokiness and fanciful concepts of the future, the Pal films are landmarks of the genre that deserve to be seen in the best possible state, and worn prints with hazy colours on the current DVDs just don’t do it.

The other major component in the success of these films is the work of Cheseley Bonestell, whose matte paintings (see top of this post) are truly hypnotic. The vivid details and haunting images of desolate planets and moons were integral to the mood of Pal’s films, and Bonestell later produced his own series, Men Into Space (1959-1960) which apparently ran for a season before disappearing from TV. That’s another rarity in need of a proper DVD release.

This is what the home video industry does best: exploit like-minded or similar-styled titles languishing on the shelves when a major hit is in the consciousness of fans and enthusiasts.

Instead of repackaging and reissuing, focus on a bit of restoration and rescuing.

It’s good karma, you know.


Parisian sci-fi

Although one can trace story elements and some concepts to better-known and more elaborately produced sci-fi films, Julien Leclercq's Chrysalis (Anchor Bay/Starz) is still worth a peek for the look to which I'm admittedly biased - clean, lean futuristic architecture that might not look like the kind of building you'd call home, but looks great in widescreen and an icy blue/chilly grey/sterile white colour scheme. You know, like the modern designs showcased in architecture porn magazines.

That isn't meant as a demeaning shot at Chrysalis, because what director Leclercq also accomplishes is making use of and incorporating architecture and set decor as a secondary character. There's nothing worse than seeing glimpses of beautiful sets and buildings without getting a sense of what it's like inside, and perhaps because of the film's modest budget, no corner or pane of glass is wasted.

And the sets are quite stunning for their efficiency, modesty, and clean design, which never come off as pretentious. One can believe these are the kind of edifices that would be built in Paris, while the most beloved old buildings and bridges are left alone.

The only area where perhaps things a bit too far-fetched is an operation scene wherein a doctor (played by Marthe Keller) uses a hologram to guide robots to fix a young child's busted up heart. Maybe this comes from watching too many medical dramas over a decade or two, but like any artisan, even doctors must like feeling real organs, and while non-invasive surgery is the ultimate goal, I'm sure once in a while human hands can do a better job simply because some things involve getting a feel for what's right instead of what look right through a digital peephole.

Minor digression in what's an approving nod to Leclercq. Really.


When the pick-axe falls far from the mark

If only...Patrick Lussier’s My Bloody Valentine should give a reason for all those writers to pause and rethink rebooting/remaking/re-imagining perfectly fine originals and perhaps motivate them to just make their own slasher classic, but there’s something about a brand name that makes a remake more likely to enjoy a green light from the studio than a wholly new idea or derivation.

There’s also the home video aspect where the production studio probably owns the original film (or at least the current video rights), so there’s that tie-in factor using the new film to sell copies of the old on DVD, and the new film on DVD to create interest in the next 3D or similar genre production.

It’s totally natural from a business stance to exploit your most recognizable assets, but when there’s a weak script at the core, it's foolish to rely on special effects and gimmicks to keep viewers glued to the screen.

Lionsgate’s DVD includes both flat and 3D versions of My Bloody Valentine (with 4 pairs of 3D glasses), as well as a second disc of featurettes and deleted material, and while it's a good package, there’s still the issue of the film, which is addressed in the DVD review.

Note: the 3D version is on the B-side of Disc 1 in Maple’s Canadian release, and the Blu-ray edition does not include a standard DVD version of the film – that’s a misprint on the front sticker that’ll be clarified in the next pressing. The movies and extras, though, are fine.


Look / Izzie gonna die?

Just uploaded is a review of Adam Rifkin's Look (2007), a clever drama that follows a handful of characters using surveillance camera footage before everything kind of converges in an elaborate finale.

Rifkin's best-known films include The Chase and Detroit Rock City (as well as the script for Mouse Hunt), but with Look he daringly attempts to tell multiple stories using fixed camera placements and footage mimicking multiple grades of video stock (such as clean digital footage, fuzzy black & white, and grubby 3/4"). Anchor Bay's DVD includes a wealth of deleted scenes and a great commentary track, and is reviewed HERE.

As for Thursday's Grey's Anatomy season finale, it's clear the cliffhanger leaves the door open for characters Izzie and O'Malley to survive, assuming the actors still want to return to a series where their roles are virtually meaningless.


In the last five minutes, Izzie went limp in her hubby's arms, and a facially wrecked O'Malley remained in a downward spiral on the operating table before the end credit slammed this season shut.

Izzie could come back, but then her arc would involve cancer recovery, which robs her of the chance to return quickly as a surgeon, and wouldn't give actress Katherine Heigl much to do beyond being mad/frustrated/enmeshed in marital bickering with her pushy husband Alex Karev when not acting out her character's physical and mental recovery.

O'Malley has a slim chance at returning in a wholly new life, though as a colleague theorized, the character could be recast with a new actor whose face becomes the New O'Malley after major facial reconstruction. During his recuperation, he could befriend the girl whose life he saved, but then his character would mimic the storyline wherein Karev fixed the face of an amnesiac woman with whom he eventually fell in love. Bad idea all around.

Nope. Izzie and George gotta die. They could not be saved by the gang. End of story.

Next up: DVD reviews of My Bloody Valentine 3D, and The Chrysalis.


Izzie Gotta Die

A voluptuous portrait of narrative irrelevanceA bit of a preamble. Somewhere around Tuesday of this week, this blog – an Editor's Blog – was branded as spam by Blogger's word robots, and a warning was posted to respond to the claim within two days or see this entire blog evaporate within 20 days. There was no room to type any reply; just send a request to have the blog evaluated by a human, in case the robots made a “false positive.”

Happily, the deletion order was rescinded, but seriously: spam? Exactly what triggered the word-bots to auto-generate the kill order is a mystery, but it's kind of insulting to be lumped with the binary detritus I block daily in my mailbox. There's never been mention of male emboldening pills, designer watches, diplomas, doomed bank accounts, Nigerian financial crises, or below-the-belt toys in this daily series of blathering, nor misuse of the term boobies, so I don't get it. I'm glad the kill order's been fixed, but there's something eerie about being anonymously threatened prior to human intervention. That ain't the way a webhost should behave.

Nuff said.

This week is season finale time, and Wednesday meant we who follow Lost would learn some needed factoids before the whole mystery is resolved in the 2009-2010 TV season. Was the finale satisfying? Yes. Did it explain the four-toed statue? No, BUT we did learn that Jacob lives in a pseudo-Egyptian foot.

We also learned that everyone has been touched in some way by Jacob prior to the group taking that Oceanic flight to Bermuda Triangle Hell, and that the older interracial couple are still alive and well. One supporting cast member died (although she too could return next year if the big kaboom not only reset time but flipped her back to being a gynecologist somewhere on the continental United States), and another cast mate lay dying because he was largely useless (although it's a good thing his familiarity with military electronica included rigging an atomic bomb to blow on impact).

Lost seems to have gotten rid of some deadwood, although the flashback structure always leaves the door open for a return, given there were two major time portals at play, separated by a thirty year gap. There was also Jack's reasoning for blowing up the shaft (he luv Kate) that seemed kind of feeble, but the finale was a genuinely magnetic event.

What lies ahead for the cast of Grey's Anatomy is something else, because that show is one that has been tumbling into that danger zone because everyone in the cast has affected another in virtual every conceivable way, leaving little innovative storylines left to tackle.

I call it the Dallas Syndrome, because within a few years, every affair, divorce, illegitimate child and double-cross on that show had been done – leaving nothing to experience except retreads or variants via new characters.

The nadir or extreme of the formula actually happens quite often on daytime soaps, but on a prime time level, nothing was better/worse than Dynasty/The Colbys, wherein Fallon Carrington Colby (Pamela Sue Martin) was abducted by aliens in a flying saucer designed by Star War's John Dykstra. That idea, as well as more lost/illegitimate children and affairs and re-affairs, was pulled from the asses of the show's screenwriters who knew there was nothing left for the show's characters to do except get weirder, sleazier, or meet aliens.

Grey's Anatomy ain't there, but it's now in Little Rascals terrain, where the Whole Gang at Seattle Grace are banding together to save a character that became irrelevant two years ago (or was it three?).

She's one of us. She's our own. We have to save her. She's family.


Izzie gotta die because she has no function in the series beyond a few cutaways for minor humorous moments, and contractual fulfillments for actress Katherine Heigl. When Izzie got the millions and established the Denny Duquette clinic, that was the beginning of her demise, because as a caretaker of cuts, bruises and burps of poor folk, there was a lack of sexy trauma. Dragging her into a few emergency procedures (like triaging a deer) were her only career highlights, and the writers, whether due to Heigl's desire to leave the show for big screen ventures or not, decided to give her cancer, and drag back the character of Denny as a ghost who was revealed to be a vision caused by her brain tumor.


So if we trace back a few episodes into this season, Izzy's tumor not only made Denny exist again and perform great sex, but reason within Izzy's brain: see, she kept asking him why he was here, and his response was “I'm here for you,” which she later discovered/reasoned was as an agent of the Angel of Death to tell her something bad's going on inside her physical vessel.

Really? Cancer helps you create an alter-ego in the form of a dead lover with whom you can argue, copulate, and learn you're physically ill?

Having not yet seen how the two-hour finale this Thursday evening will end, I'm still standing by my stance that Izzie gotta die. I liked her character, but she's irrelevant, and has to. More on the finale in tomorrow's blog (unless the bots think I'm an agent of the ABC network).

Tomorrow I'll also post a review of Adam Rifkin's underrated drama Look (2007), but while I'm on the topic of the Idiot Box, I'd like to congratulate CTV for going HD. They've already run a noontime report on how awesome the local news will be with its new anchor set, new backdrop of a bluey T.O. panorama, and widescreen framing for HD sets. The daily bumpers have started in the ad breaks, and we should all be excited the same banal news larded with charity pleas, anchors in tracksuits, insipid 'My Toronto' vignettes and talking head shots of daily news will be wider and clearer.

The question is will it be more relevant in HD? I think not.


Orphan Films: The Dive / Dykket (1989)

Originally released by Virgin on VHS in North America, The Dive/Dykket was another trapped-underwatwer thriller produced to cash-in on the huge publicity around James Cameron's The Abyss.

Unlike George Cosmatos' Leviathan (Alien meets the Thing underwater) or Sean S. Cunningham's Deepstar Six (Alien underwater), Tristan DeVere Cole's The Dive is simple: two men trapped in a diving bell, and time is running out.

The melodrama is minimal, the underwater scenes chilling and suffocating in their loneliness, and the running time is compact and bereft of filler material.

Cole's film is apparently available on DVD in Norway, but this British-Norwegian co-production has yet to make its Region 1 release, and while that day will probably come, whatever label decides to undertake the release should think Special Edition, and include (at the very least) an edited commentary track with material from the director, the screenwriter, the producer, and the cast largely comprised of Nordic stage and screen stars, and Britisher Michael Kitchen, best known as the star of the popular Foyle's War series.

Until then, here's a review of this orphan film.


Bloody Sweet Revenge

Tu n'as rien sur mois et mes colleagues! Va-t'ens!Eighties and nineties international action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was written-off as another casualty of direct-to-video hell, that awful place where once-popular theatrical actors and action stars (Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Burt Reynolds) die slowly on video. I mean, one of his last films literally read 'Van Damme In Hell' and yet along comes JCVD, a clever little suspense drama that integrates the actor playing a persona of himself caught in a bungled bank heist.

The film isn't really a comedy nor action film, but it's a career high for Van Damme. Most of the scenes play quietly, but the man has two standout moments where he reveals genuine acting chops, something I never thought existed when you flash back to guilty-pleasure crapulence like Knock Off (1998).

JCVD (released by Kaboom in Canada / Peace Arch in the U.S.) rocks, and one really hopes Van Damme doesn't squander the opportunity to make more theatrical films. Of course, as the film arrives on DVD, Van Damme and Lundgren have reteamed for Univerdal Soldier 3, but the former is also helming The Eagle Path. Stay away from Hell, JCVD...

Whereas van Damme's revenge is critical - you have to give him some credit for a such a fine film - there's the more viceral revenge in Taken (Fox), the Luc Besson-Robert Mark Kamen scripted thriller released in February of 2008 in Europe, and in early 2009 in North America.

As Kamen states quite openly in the writer commentary track, Besson wanted to be the biggest film producer in France, and he probably is as bigwig of Europacorp, except most of the company's fodder is comrprised of sequels of exponential dullness (Transporter 3, Taxi 3 and 4, Crimson Rivers 2) and an odd collection of action comedies that have yet to be released here (Yamakazi, where art thou?) or films to which American studios hold the English language rights and refuse to allow the originals to exist on DVD. (Case in point: the original Taxi is only available as a French only DVD from Quebec's Crystal, whereas the garbage American remake is available from Fox. Disgraceful, although Besson signed the deal memo, so he's culpable, dammit.)

Taken is mean, and Liam Neeson carries the film as well as most of the stellar action work, and like JCVD, Taken is proof-positive that over-forty actors can deliver more gravitas and adrenaline than a baby-faced newbie with modest biceps and a teen youth following.

Unsurprising that it took a group of French filmakers to prove it to Hollywood.


How to Kill the YoYo

A foul, wretched spawn of Satan!*** Revised May 11/09 ***

You can’t kill it.

It’s too much of a headache, unless one is a supergeek, and that’s not the vast majority of PC users.

The YoYo virus is: an evil thing that corrupts the MBR (Master Book Record) and gums up the NTUSER files so you can’t even login.

What happens: as your computer goes through the boot sequence – you know, where it checks the A drive, then/or the CD-ROM, and then the master hard drive from where it starts to load everything the puter needs to launch – it stops as it attempts to read from the hard drive. Why? Because apparently it can’t find it, and all you see is the letter “Y” followed by the infinity symbol, followed by another “Y” and another infinity symbol.

You can’t bypass it, you can’t get into windows Safe Mode, you can’t do nothin'. Total system fubar, except your data is still safe, in its original file structure.

However, it can be passed on through a saved hard drive image if that image, unbeknownst to thee, has the bug somewhere inside - which is very much possible, because major anti-virus software like AVG nor Avast can see it, which means it sits and waits. You know when it makes itself known because your machine's speed starts to radically slow down, followed by a total system crash, and the only solution is to reboot or kill the power, thus enabling the reboot which won't complete due to the data that was likely being corrupted during that massive slow-down period.

If you have ERD Commander 2005, you can boot from that disc and move data onto another hard drive for safety. Unless you know what you’re looking for, I wouldn’t attempt to muck around with the registry and change anything. I tried a system restore the first time I had the bug (Xmas ’08), and it did nothing. Neither scanning for corrupted files or any crash info yielded results – everything seemed normal – so ERD lets you move data to a safe place, and that’s it.

(If you don’t have ERD, you can still dump data from the affected drive onto another using a second computer.)

I tried using the FIXMBR feature in the Windows XP installation disc (which is bootable), but while it does fix the MBR, the NTUSER files are still corrupted. All that happens – in standard, or in Windows Safe Mode – is as the XP Welcome screen appears, the system hangs because it can’t load the user data, let alone a login.

I had a clean image of the drive taken a month prior to the first assault back in November, and using Powerquest Drive Image 7, even extracting clean NTUSER files onto the corrupted versions using a second puter did nothing.

One post I read said copying/cloning the drive onto another, wiping the old, and copying the files back worked, but that seems to infer YoYo is a software glitch instead of a virus, unless it lives in the drive’s MBR outside of the operating system, and can only be killed through formatting.

The easiest solution (if the above cloning/wiping/copying back option fails), is to to a clean wipe and total reinstall, and create specific backup images that will minimize the wmost time-consuming stage of restoring the hard drive - the installation of Windows, followed by main programs, and then all the little programs that can easily be installed without extensive waves of update patches (as is often the case with Windows and other Bloatware).

Some message boards have affected PC users claiming secondary infections, as well as a theory where the bug is meant to hit at Xmas or New Year’s, although the dates of those posts vary from 2007 and 2008.

One thing is very, very clear now: come Christmas, I’m getting’ a Mac, and live in that strange neverland where an EXE file is as harmful as a gnat.


Cool Docs

With the YoYo bug now gone (see next post as to how it was sent to Hell), here are the promised reviews of two documentaries with Cancon (Canadian Content for the unfamiliar):

- Died Young, Stayed Pretty (Warner Music Canada) – directed by Iranian/Canadian Eileen Yaghoobian, the film’s billed as a portrait of rock poster artists, but it’s so much more. Call it a snapshot of underground, punk, or culture kludge art that rebels against standard commercial campaigns, offends conservative minds, and yet functions as piercing, hyper-focused (dare one say it?) commercial art. Lots of interviews, including Tyler Stout, Art Chantry, Brian Chippendale, and Ron Liberti.

- Blue Gold (Mongrel Media) – based on the best-selling book by Canadian Maude Barlow and co-author Tony Clarke, Sam Bozzo’s doc follows in the footsteps of Flow (another doc about water control), but addresses the commodification of H2O by corporations to ensure revenues for the near future (er, forever). Not a pretty story, and none of the companies involved fare particularly well, including chocolate maker Nestle. It’s hard to call it anti-capitalist propaganda when small town Americans are fighting Nestle for their water rights, but it’s also sad that notice is being paid in the West because the issue of water control has reached our shores when it’s already upset developing countries.


Fear the YoYo / Warner's Archive Collection

Back on May 1st, the main machine was hit with the YoYo virus, a headache bug that cripples the MBR (Master Boot Record) and gums up the NTUSER files to the point where, if ERD Commander is used (I know this is all gobbledeegook for 99.999% of the world, but bear with me), you can retrieve and copy files to another source, but loading into the affected hard drive is impossible during the normal boot-up.

Ergo, a few uploads are a wee bit behind (although when the problem is solved - as it's slowly being solved - I'll post another here's-how-I-solved-another-fine-mess so anyone who encounters YoYo has another set of options before reformatting everything, and spending a fair bit of time re-installing XP and all the little software and preferences you don't remember, because it was ages since you last dealt with them).

Reviews to be uploaded within the next 12 hours include Mongrel Media's great Blue Gold doc on the commodification of water, as well as Warner Canada's Died Young, Stayed Pretty, about underground music poster artists.

That brings me to a small blog on Warner Bros.' Archive Collection, which offers back catalogue titles on DVD. Like Criterion's Eclipse series, Warner's new brand is mean to put into circulation film titles for which the studio doesn't have the time to give a formal DVD release.

Warner's offerings are bare bones DVD-Rs featuring transfers from older video masters, if not the occasional recent transfer. Barrie Maxwell at The Digital Bits just published a good examination of the program, and speicifics on the available titles as culled by Peter York from posts in the Home Theater Forum (HTF).

Before you jump over to Maxwell's piece and check out the 70 titles tallied from the HTF, here's a few quick thoughts:

- in the case of Criterion's Eclipse series, while not cheap, the sets do feature rare films from a very broad spectrum (foreign, documentaries, experimental), and the films are basically new transfers lacking the fine restoration Criterion applies to their formal monthly special editions. Read: new/recent transfers, budget-styled pricing by Criterion standards.

- Warner's pricing starts out at $20 per disc, which is nuts. They're DVD-Rs of older transfers that arguably allow people 'to have' a film on disc even though some of the titles have apeared on TCM. Judging from the HTF comments, the DVD-R transfers are better than the compressed cable TV signals (in Ontario, TCM is still subjected to heavy, visible compression), but for that kind of pricing, I'd rather wait until TCM airs a film again and PVR the thing. I mean, some of the 'scope films aired on TCM aren't anamorphic, but they did air a gorgeous 2.0 Surround print of Boy on a Dolphin, which did not cost $20 + shipping/handling + duties.

My stance is perhaps more accepting of non-digital cable TV resolution simply because I grew up with VHS, Beta, laserdisc, and DVD, and in spite of the clear qualitative differences, there's wanting the best copy of your favourite film for the personal archive, and then there's just wanting to see a film, and sadly I'd settle for a blah cable TV signal because in the current economy, it seems foolish for Warner's to explect collectors are still willing to jump at every release with their VISA card.

- There's also small indie companies like Flicker Alley Films who invest all of their time and funds into creating higher-priced but notable special editions of rare films, and then there's a multinational entertainment behemoth like Warner's who made billions off The Dark Knight film, and can afford to sell old movies to a smaller fan base for true budget pricing. The transfers are extant, one can dub material with minimal real-time supervision, and replication costs with DVD-Rs probably hover around thirty-five cents, so $20 seems greedy.

You've got labels like Alpha Video and Passport dealing with public domain titles (film as well as TV), and releasing either boxed sets or individual films dirt cheap. If Alpha can sell DVDs of shopworn prints for under $5, paying an extra $15 for a studio equivalent is nuts.

Advice to Warners: price the films at $4.95 for standard feature-length movies (90-120 mins.), and $7.95 for 2-disc epics, and pack 'em in slim cases to reduce shiping charges.

If you want to sell more, the prices have to be competitive; if you want collectors to buy more, keeping the cases slim will save shelf space; and if you want more international sales, keeping the price low also saves on custom fees, if not brokerage fees from greedy companies like UPS.

(Canadians should NEVER use UPS for any international purchases - the brokerage fees are exorbitant and non-negotiable.) In Canada, anything valued at $20 U.S. can get slapped with duties; it might be as little as $1.25, but the post office will charge its $5 flat fee for brokering (which is still preferable to UPS' $20+).

The Archive Collection is a great idea, but not at the current price point, nor with the recent time-limited 2-for-one deal. They're old films and old transfers sitting on shelves that deserve lives, but the market is not as wealthy as it once was, and as more old films fall into public domain, Warner's may also find themselves competing against budget releases taken from collector prints whose quality is more than acceptible.

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