Never Say Die

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Posts tagged films

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iTunes film rentals - Three Kings

In case you hadn’t noticed, every week Apple do a “Film of the Week”, where the rental is set to 99c for their chosen film in the iTunes store. Worth keeping an eye on, handy way to grab the odd thing cheaply.

I’ve been renting films pretty regular from iTunes for a while now, works well - just pay up (rental is usually €3/4, which ain’t bad), and it downloads straight away (typical film is a gig and a half or so, takes me around an hour on this broadband). After that, you have 30 days to start watching it, after which you can watch it (as often as you want) over 48 hours. Once time’s up, it self-destructs and disappears. Quality is around standard DVD level, though it’s a different kind of compression, so the video looks a bit different. All in all, a handy way of catching films cheaply that you aren’t bothered buying for repeat viewing (their purchase prices aren’t much better than regular DVD prices on places like, and personally I tend to go for either Blu-Ray or bargain DVDs for anything worth keeping).

This week it’s the very well received Three Kings (Rotten Tomatoes reviews), an entertaining and pretty funny film (with a bit more depth than it first appears) set in the first Gulf War. Get it here (as Apple apparently haven’t bothered with a web version of their film store, for reasons best known to themselves, this link will launch directly into iTunes). Definitely worth a go.

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Is Blu-ray worth it?

Further to the theme of that last post - in case you’re wondering is Blu-ray actually worth the hassle and expense? Yeah, it really is. I play Blu-ray films on the PC (never tried them with a PS3 or TV player). I moved to a 24” monitor a while back (another great upgrade, btw), and being as it was native resolution for proper HD films (1920x1200), decided to add a Blu-ray drive along with it.

The quality difference between DVDs and Blu-rays really stands out - in fact, after getting used to Blu-ray, DVDs look distinctly blurry, low-res and generally unappealing. Blu-ray is just much much sharper. I find it especially effective in either closeups/medium shots of characters - you see far more detail on actors’ faces, costumes, etc - eg the raised texture on a dress shirt in a recent James Bond film, etc. Sweeping landscape shots also do very well in HD - I’ve watched a few modern westerns that way for instance, and it really does them proud. Special effects can look great when they’re well done, though cheap and cheerful ones unfortunately don’t stand up well under the extra detail - that’s one of the downsides of HD, it ups the demands on the production considerably. Another example I came across recently, in a Chinese action epic - you can pretty clearly see the backing tape on the fake moustaches and goatees the actors are wearing. With that kind of thing in mind, it tends to be new, modern films that benefit most from HD, more so than older material. A few films that particularly stand out as benefiting from Blu-ray would be the recent James Bond films - very crisp indeed, or The Dark Knight - those sweeping Imax-shot cityscapes in particular look amazing. I only listen to these things on headphones anyway, but also worth bearing in mind Blu-rays have much higher sound quality too, if you’re into such things.

Quickest summary I’d make is that moving from DVD to Blu-ray is at least as big a jump in quality as moving from 700mb DivX’s to DVDs.

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Blu-ray patches

(You can assume there was a post before this one; the usual intro, hopes and dreams, yadda yadda - you know, the one folks post 3 or 4 posts before they never post again).

Random tip; if you’re having trouble playing newer Blu-rays on a PC-based player, make sure it’s patched. Either find updates, or let it update itself. This appears to be very necessary - for example, I picked up a Robin Hood Blu-ray recently, just after it came out. It couldn’t get past the first few seconds in PowerDVD - it would seize up on a black screen, shortly after the initial loading screen. I was on the point of returning it when the player updated itself a couple days later, after which it played just fine. So, patch your player software.

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