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Posts Tagged ‘DVD’

How will we watch films in future? The anti piracy adverts in the cinema suggest that they are worried that cinemas days are numbered as a way of watching films. I don’t see that happening but things are clearly changing. Back in 2010 I streamed a film called Frozen, it is my understanding that it was available online, on DVD and in cinemas at the same time. Is this the future? There could be more to it than that. If I think back to my childhood around 1981 we got our first VCR, this is the moment I got hooked on movies, as I remember it the first film I watched on video was Superman (1978). Before this moment I had only ever seen films on TV, I am sure I must have seen others but the only ones I can remember were Star Wars (1977) and Robin and Marian (1976). Sometime in the mid 80’s we borrowed a Videodisc system. The quality was infinitely better than VHS, unfortunately, we only had a very limited number of films (Rocky (1976) and its first two sequels (1979) and (1982), Hang ‘Em High (1968), Blue Thunder (1983) and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983) including a making of documentary). I watched those movies a lot!

Then at the age of eighteen, I rediscover the oldest format for watching movies, the cinema. Up until that point I can only remember going to the cinema seven times. As a child of my generation I grew up with video, but at the age of eighteen I went to university and met a likeminded group of friends who watched movies at the cinema. The first two films I saw at this time were reissues of movies that at the time had not been given a video release: Reservoir Dogs (1992) and The Exorcist (1973). I now watch at least one hundred films at the cinema each year (making up for lost time?). I still maintain that this is the best way to watch films but understand others think differently. Many people enjoy going to the cinema but for their own reasons, often financial or logistic only go on special occasions or for big event films. Other chose to watch movies at home out of preface. This is made easier by the falling price and improving quality of home entertainment equipment. But what format will people be watching? I still own many VHS videos, I caught on to DVD relatively early on in the late 90’s but have never owned a LaserDisc and am yet to get a Blu-ray player. I also subscribe to a DVD rental company that also offer a streaming service so have a foot in the old and the new camps.

The changes are easy to see, we have already seen the demise of the video store in favour online DVD postal services, then there was a report last year suggesting that Blu-ray Sales will Surpass DVD Sales some time this year. In America, Netflix reported earlier this year that it has nearly twice as many subscribers to their streaming service as the DVD service.  this may have something to do with the fact that they only offer a streaming service here in the UK. This I believe is where things are going. I remember in late 90’s a program on TV looking at the possibility of a Video on demand service via the internet or telephone lines, the conclusion was that it was not going to be feasible and would lose out to “Box Office” type services from satellite and cable TV providers. Look at how far we have come and how wrong they were! It can not be long before it is possible to stream movies the same quality as Blu-ray, Netflix already offer high definition streaming. 

Will there still be a market for owning a version of a movie on a disk/tape or similar? Will streaming take over or will people store them on some sort of hard drive the way they now do with MP3 music files? When we want to watch a movie do we go to our “library” or do we go online? Things have changed at the cinema too, I wrote a few months ago about how I miss celluloid as cinemas move over to digital projection. The greatest benefit of digital projection is the reduced cost in comparison to proving prints, this in theory makes it easier for smaller releases to make their way onto the big screen. It is also resulting in more reissues of older films. This takes us back to the start and the movie Frozen, if a movie is only ever going to exist in a digital state, it makes it easy for a simultaneous multi platform release, but is that where things are going? Some people believe that multi platform release will kill cinema trade, others think it will have no effect on cinemas but will help prevent piracy. Unfortunately it is something we will never know until we try it. On the MILFCAST earlier this month director Blayne Weaver talks about how his movie 6 Month Rule (2012) had a theatrical premier before going onto Video on Demand. Earlier this year Iron Sky (2012), in the UK it was release in cinemas for just one single day. Its popularity led to the cinema release being extended. It has been suggested that in that first day the movie was seen by more people than it would have been if it had been given a standard release for a week or two. It soon became available to rent and buy on DVD.

The simple conclusion is I don’t know what new technology will emerge and who will win the next Betamax v VHS or HD DVD v Blu-ray battle. DVD/Blu-ray will probably suffer more than cinema from internet advances, but people will continue to enjoy movie at home and in cinemas.

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“In space no-one can hear you scream.”

In preparation/anticipation of the release of Prometheus a few weeks ago I watched the first two Alien movies again. I have the directors cut of Aliens, the first sequel directed by James Cameron on DVD however I only have an old VHS copy of Ridley Scott’s original film.

Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on route from Thedus to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of mineral ore and a refinery. Its crew of seven are in stasis until they are awoken when they pick up what they believe to be a distress beacon.

Looking back at Alien, aside from the grainy image of my old VHS copy, the most notable thing about the movie after all this time is not the suspense or the horror, it’s the characters. They are different characters with their own ideas, personality, prospective and their own agenda as you would expect of a the crew of a ship (in space or a regular ship in the real world). In many ways the most significant of these are Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) who give the movie a more relevant and political edge. Kane (John Hurt) has one of the most memorable scenes in film history but within the plot it is the only important thing he does. Ash (Ian Holm) comes to represent “the corporation” this is a defining element of the movie and one that has continued through all the sequels spiff offs and the new prequel Prometheus, it is also like Parker and Brett the thing that gives the movie edge and relevance beyond the genre. As captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is an interesting character, he is more a company man than the rest of the crew but is still his own man never forgetting how far from home he is. Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) could have been there to just make up the numbers, but she does more than that, she helps give the movie balance and prospective. And finally the star, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). It seems hard to believe now but aside from a couple of bit parts Alien was her first movie. The casting was perfect, not only did it define her future career, but it helped elevate the movie beyond its genre origins.

On the surface it is a sci-fi movie but owing far more to the horror and thriller genres. Contemporary space movies of the day like Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) have a bright an hopeful outlook, Alien has more in common with John Carpenter movies Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The basic concept owes a debt to Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” (originally published with a less politically correct title), itself being inspired by the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In comparison to the later films (including the Predator crossovers and the prequel Prometheus) it has a much smaller story and scope, this far from being a problem, it is actually a benefit. Its not that we don’t care where the “space jockey” or the Alien come from, it is that they are not relevant to the survival of the crew. We are focussed in on a very small part of a larger greater universe and know no more, or less than the characters in the film. It is this simplicity and intimacy that helps create a bond between character and viewer making us care what happens to them.

The effects should stand out in a film that is more than thirty years old, but they don’t. The models used to recreate the exteriors and the H.R. Giger designed “space jockey” are fantastic and a relief in this over CGI age. The interiors of the Nostromo look dated just like they do in Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and many Star Trek movies. The important thing though is the Alien also designed by Gieger, I have heard “man in rubber suit criticism”. This really isn’t fair, sticking with the first rule of monster movies, the alien spends most of its time in the shadows, when we do see it, it really stands up. The planet is a dark rain soaked inhospitable place that exists largely in shadow and half-light, the Nostromo is made up of dim corridors, this lends itself perfectly to the movie. The style of the lighter brighter Prometheus would not work in Alien.

Like no other sci-fi or horror movie before Alien redefined two genres and possibly invented there own genre. It has aged surprisingly well and could teach the makers of a few flabby overcomplicated movies a thing or two about suspense and atmosphere. The grainy VHS version seems somehow appropriate for a movie that I first saw on late night television in the 1980’s.

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