Gamera vs. Barugon DVD Review

Gamera vs. Barugon
Directed by: Shigeo Tanaka
Written by: Nisan Takahashi
Starring: Koji Fujiyama, Kojiro Hongo, Kyoko Enami, Takuya Fujioka

Barugon is the most grounded monster in the original Showa Gamera series, a beast that shoots ice from the tip of its tongue and a rainbow from its back. That says something for what was to come next.

It’s important that Barugon (not to be confused with rival Toho’s creation Baragon) provides something to look at, something that makes him interesting, because he dominates this film. Despite the title, the infamous flying, flame-spitting terrapin Gamera is physically on-screen for all of about ten minutes the entire movie.

In fact, the opening sequence, detailing Gamera’s escape from the Z-Plan rocket used to remove him from the planet in the original film, is all rather pointless in terms of story and progress, although it is quite a sight. Arriving back on Earth, Gamera begins an assault on the first energy source he can find, Kobe dam. The extensive miniatures are impressive, and the redesigned Gamera suit, now a bit meaner with deeper, smaller eyes, making for an energetic opening until 40+ minutes in when Barugon shows up.

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Paramount Offers Exchange Program for Gladiator Blu-ray

Gladiator (and Braveheart) launched Paramount’s Sapphire Series of Blu-rays, supposedly a higher caliber disc, and an easy way to appreciate some of their biggest catalog titles in hi-def. With Gladiator, that was not the case. The original Blu-ray utilized an outdated, grain-reduced, edge-enhancement riddled transfer, infamous for literally wiping arrows off the screen in the opening battle segment.

Now, 10 months after its release and completely out of the Blu (bad pun firmly intended), the studio is rectifying the situation with a new batch of discs. The story broke courtesy of DigitalBits. Paramount’s hilariously worded press release goes like this:

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Blu-ray Myths: Grain is a Flaw

Through the years of VHS, Laserdisc, Beta, Videodisc, and in most cases, DVD, home video did one thing well: obscure its source. Films, believe it or not, are generally shot on film. That film, in its various formats ranging from 16 mm to 70 mm, has grain.

Due to the various methods of display from those various formats, grain was hidden. Whether that was due to compression, resolution, or something else, home viewers are not used to grain, and instead of educating with Blu-ray (where all of the grain is now visible), the studios are responding in drastic ways.

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Ray Harryhausen Turns 90

This week (June 29th) marked Ray Harryhausen’s 90th birthday. It’s always a day appropriate to remember a Hollywood legend, but Ray Harryhausen is so much more.

It’s difficult to find a way to put this into words. Celebrities pass away all the time, the internet seems to mourn, and we all move on. Personally, I shrug and move on instantly. It is unfortunate, but people die everyday; that’s fact. When the sad time comes, and it’s Harryhausen’s turn, I will be crushed. Seeing him turn 90 is a joyful occasion.

It’s amazing how a little animated puppet can make you feel closer to someone. Harryhausen never just brought his creations to life. He put his personality into those masterfully animated puppets. In a weird way, it is almost like you know the man without having met him by watching a giant vulture prance around the screen.

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Grown Ups Review

Grown Ups
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Steve Buscemi

Grown Ups is 102-minutes long. That is important, because it sets the Hollywood milestone for longest film ever created without a script (not a fact). Oh sure, co-writers Adam Sandler and Fred Wolf probably wrote something down like, “guys go to water park,” or maybe, “guys play basketball.” The rest was purely on the shoulders of the familiar comedic talent, from Sandler himself to Kevin James, all the way down to that guy from The Waterboy who spoke gibberish.

On the set, this stuff was hilarious. Undoubtedly, some of this could have been done live, as when Marcus Higgins (David Spade) is passed out drunk on the couch. Eric (James) and Lenny (Sandler) begin smacking Marcus, pretending to be his mother. Put a bunch of comedians on set together and let the hijinks like that ensue… at least that seems to be the plan. When you do this, you still need something to tie it all together.

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Bringing Silents to Blu-ray: An Interview with Bret Wood

Blu-ray review site DoBlu.com has an interview with Kino’s producer Bret Wood on their upcoming release of the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. In it, Wood discusses the source of the prints used to produce the disc, including an alternate version called the Killiam cut:

“We began the project with only the Killiam 35mm element, which we obtained from Worldview Entertainment, the company that owned the Paul Killiam film collection. We were satisfied with the image quality in comparison with the existing master from our own 1995 release, but were disappointed that it lacked the sharpness, clarity and stability of our recently-upgraded master of The General. Tim Lanza of the Douris Corp. (the company that owns the Keaton library, from whom we have licensed most of the other Keaton titles) volunteered to send me reels from four different elements in their collection, for the sake of comparison.”

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Can the Playstation 3 Push 3-D Into the Mainstream?

Something funny happened on the stage of Sony’s press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year. Kaz Hirai, Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, stood on stage and proclaimed the PlayStation 3 will do for 3D what it did for Blu-ray.

Um, no.

There is a huge difference at the consumer level between Blu-ray and 3D when it comes to the PS3. Notably, anyone with a PS3 can play a Blu-ray. No, you don’t need an expensive HDTV to enjoy the format, although noting any differences between Blu-ray and DVD would be unheard of on this type of set-up.

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A Universal Problem: Blu-ray Classics Gone Wrong

Universal Studios is gaining some presence in the high-def community, but not for the right reasons. The studio’s recent release of the classic Spartacus is a small part of a larger problem, one which sees this studio continually butcher their classic library.

It is certainly odd that the studio takes a lackadaisical approach to their catalog. Universal just seems not to care, releasing their catalog titles with either outdated masters used for DVDs, or going so far as to trash a perfectly reasonable master such as Apollo 13. The latter was released on the defunct HD-DVD format in a decent transfer, one with the original film grain intact and some lush detail. The Blu-ray? Universal hit the digital noise reduction button one too many times, taking all of the detail with it, plus adding an additional level of edge enhancement, a glaring, irritating sharpening tool that creates halos around objects to make them “appear” sharper.

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Blu-ray Myths: Old Movies Do Not Benefit from HD

As a Blu-ray critic and die-hard videophile, there are quirks, annoyances, and yes, myths that exist about Blu-ray in its current state. Some are minor, and some are major. Regardless, they affect the Blu-ray market, what I do on a daily basis, and how well these discs sell. With that in mind, it is time to clear up the misconceptions in simple terms, beginning with the personal pet peeve: “Old movies don’t benefit from Blu-ray.”

This was tweeted to me about a month ago, and despite my best efforts, I could not convince this fellow Tweeter that yes, black and white movies can look great on Blu-ray. In fact, I’d be willing to go one step further: silent movies can look great on Blu-ray. In an era of digital filmmaking, it is probably easy to forget that the majority of mainstream movies are still shot on 35-millimeter film. So were most classics. The processes may have changed (Technicolor replaced by digital intermediates scanned through a computer), but the core of shooting on 35MM film remains just as it did all those years ago.

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Gamera: The Giant Monster DVD Review

Gamera: The Giant Monster
Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa
Written by: Nisan Takahashi
Starring: Yoshiro Uchida, Michiko Sugata, Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi

For all of its crudeness, Gamera is genuinely effective, if only sporadically. For his first appearance on the mainland, Gamera quietly sneaks up on Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida) who is casually lying on a hill. He dips out of view as Toshio turns around, only to appear behind Toshio a few seconds later.

Say what you will about the questionable lack of sound. How a 200-meter tall, radioactive turtle walks around without so much as snapping a twig is anyone’s guess, but the scene’s eerie effectiveness is proof that director Noriaki Yuasa put forth a valiant effort.

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