Well I am back again with another blog posting, if you will. Much is on my mind this time so let's get to it. For starters I want to talk about "Tron", "Tron: Legacy" and the power that these movies have of pulling you into their world.
With "Tron" this was my first time ever having to see this film, and I must say that it was a most interesting film. The cinematic styles were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The visuals were definitely a sight to see, especially in full Blu-ray quality HD. I must say that as never having seen this film I knew little of it other than that it had a huge cult following and was one of Jeff Bridges' earlier films. In this film he looks nothing like he does today but he was instantly recognizable even if he didn't have the beard he does today. I won't bore you with the details of what the film is about because if you've already seen it, then I need not repeat it for you, and if you haven't seen it, then well I highly suggest you do so.
I won't say that this movie spun literary gold or was stylistically a masterpiece, but in the end the film did challenge me to think a little. I hate to say this but if we aren't careful our future could one day be run by an all-powerful computer, and all those who would oppose this power could run the risk of being "derezzed." You have to learn that we as users are ultimately the greatest power, but we are also our own greatest threat. After be blown away by this cult classic admits the storm that brewed outside, I refueled myself and prepared to dive into the sequel, "Tron: Legacy". Thankfully I didn't have to wait 20+ years to see this.
Before tuning into the movie I have to admit I was really pumped to see it. I say that because this film falls on a VERY short list of films that feature a full 7.1 theater made soundtrack.
Now let me take a moment to expand on that statement. Yes you will find a nice long list of movies that claim to offer 7.1 surround sound tracks but here is the catch. When the movies were originally created and brought to theaters they only ever offered a 5.1 track at best. With the advent of Blu-ray and 7.1 technologies what is happening is these 5.1 surround sound tracks are being up-converted or re-mastered in 7.1. When Disney/Pixar created Toy Story 3 they worked with Dolby Labs to create the first full 7.1 theatrical mix ever to be offered with a movie.
With this in mind you may be saying, "Big deal! Who has a 7.1 sound system anyways?" Well while I won't preach my system to be the best (better than most I know in my area) partially because I can't lay it out as I would prefer, but I do in fact have a 7.1 sound system and have had it since it first gained ground in 2004.
Anyways back to "Tron: Legacy". Firstly, this movie looks drastically different than its predecessor. It looks much more modern and like a real film. Watching this film on Blu-ray and a 46" HDTV really allowed me to envelope myself into the "grid" and boy was it a sight to see or what? I can only imagine what this would have looked like in 3D. I have the 3D Blu-ray; I just don't have a 3DTV, yet! I must say that although many may have had to wait a long time to see this film it was well worth the wait.
I have read other reviews and I know the criticisms. Of note is the fact that the storyline isn't the greatest. True the storyline may draw parallels with its predecessor but that doesn't take away from the fact that I felt it was a good one.
If may though I will sidebar with my opinion by stating that like the previous film this one also challenges you to think. Yes the notions that computers could one day be our masters were there but another notion was there as well, and that is, in my opinion, the definition of perfection. Think of it like this anyone, you, me, or anyone can sit here and pontificate on what would make for a perfect world. Sure you could take the easy road and say that heaven is perfection. Ok then; let me fire back with asking you what will heaven be like if it is so perfect? Anyways here is my point, one person can think to themselves what is perfect, but that's it. I mean can two people think up what is perfect for everyone? How about three or four or even more? I mean how do you decide what is perfect if everyone can't agree on it. Think of these two similar yet not exactly the same questions; "If it is perfect, is everyone happy/satisfied?" and "If everyone is happy/satisfied, is it perfect?" These are some tough questions that make you think. May be this isn't what the movie is about per say, but it is what I thought about. Given everything that we have been exposed to as humans here on earth, can there existed a world (heaven or otherwise) created by one person (or many people), god or otherwise that everyone could say that they want to spend eternity in?
Ponder that one as I move on. In addition to the movie and its storyline there was one more element to this movie, probably the biggest element, that helped pull it into greatness and that was the awesome soundtrack mixed by Daft Punk. The music scores in this film were easily some of the best heard in a good long while. If you want a nice sample simply Google "derezzed" by Daft Punk. If you don't have both "Tron" and "Tron: Legacy" on Blu-ray, do yourself a favor and go get it, right now! If you need tips on the best prices just let me know. P.S. Olivia Wilde did a great job acting in "Tron: Legacy" and looked the part beautifully, as opposed to say Megan Fox in Transformers.
If I may add, these movies really pulled me into their world simply because it wasn't until after the movies were over and I hopped on Facebook that I found out that Tornado like winds, if not full blown tornados themselves, touched down in my area. At one moment I did think that if my power goes out then I will really start worrying, but I wasn't about to stop the movie and check the weather reports simply because I was enjoying them all too much. Which isn't a bad thing, if you understand? I was definitely getting my money's worth. I guess it's just good to know I was at home, in peace, rather than out in this mess worrying about it.
Now, this past Tuesday as you may already know, "The Incredibles" came out on Blu-ray and if I do say so myself, it is easily one of the best Blu-rays ever to be released, to date. To keep this one short, "The Incredibles" is an animated superhero movie that has plenty of action, humor, and otherwise. Basically, it has everything that makes a Pixar film great. This film is easily demo-worthy material in that it is one you will want to show off to all your friends. I mean when they ask, "What's so great about Blu-ray and having a nice sound system?" This movie will easily set them straight.
When I came home this past Tuesday I instantly popped this movie in and enjoyed, and enjoyed I did. This was my second time seeing this movie and it had been years since I saw it the first time. I must say though this film was as incredible (no pun intended) as it was the first time. I would definitely rate this as one of the best Pixar AND Disney films ever released. Yes you will have a large population that won't enjoy this movie as much, and that is because that population is largely females who gravitate more towards the Disney princesses, especially if they grew up with them. Even so though, that is not a knock against the film. Everyone could enjoy it is just that it may not rank as high on some people's lists. I would easily give a film of this caliber one of my highest recommendations. Simply put, if you do not have "The Incredibles" on Blu-ray (which includes a DVD copy as well given it's a combo pack, by the way) in your collection, then your collection is incomplete and you are clearly missing out on some of the greatest that Blu-ray and by a larger extent film in general has to offer.
Now I've mentioned a bit of technology so far, and I want to transition away from movies and talk a little bit more about technology for a moment. I want to talk about the digital copies that movies include and how I feel they are rapidly becoming extinct. For those of you who don't know a digital copy is a copy of a movie that can be downloaded onto a portable device; be it an iPod, iPhone, iPad, android enabled device, smart phone in general, or even a laptop. Typically these digital copies only include the movie, no extras and are a one-time sort of operation. You load the disc, punch in a code, and after that the disc serves little purpose.
Now why do I say these are becoming extinct well I will tell you. Firstly, digital copies are most commonly offered with Blu-rays in the form of a combo pack. Typically, though, if a person is choosing to buy the Blu-ray version of a movie over the DVD version, it is not because it includes a digital copy, it is because they know the Blu-ray copy offers superior video and sound as compared to DVD. Sometimes, yes, in the case of Disney movies especially a person will buy the Blu-ray version not because they want the better quality but because it is a combo pack, and it is cheaper than the regular DVD version because a coupon is offered for the film during its release week. So what's all that mean, well people want quality. People basically buy Blu-ray for its superior quality. With a digital copy you don't get that.
With a digital copy all you get is DVD quality video and I would assume 2 channel audio. Well see here is the thing with the advent of tablets like the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the Motorola Xoom we are seeing an increased demand for better quality. I mean quality weren't such a demanding factor then Apple wouldn't have developed the retina display for their iPhones/iTouches nor would the Motorola Xoom tout the fact that its tablet has an HD display with a resolution of 1280x800 which means it is perfectly capable of displaying 720p HD content. The key here is that with more and more products be released like the Xoom that offer higher resolution displays, these digital copies will start to look less and less impressive. Sure a DVD quality video may work fine on an iPhone where on such a small screen the human eye may not be able to distinguish enough difference between DVD quality and, even 720p, HD video to say that it is worth having. It's not there yet but very soon consumer devices will become available that by standard will offer displays that at the very least have 720p displays with the costlier models offering full 1080p displays. Eventually the shortcomings of DVD quality on a digital copy will become quite clear and just as Blu-ray improved upon DVDs something will have to come along to do the same for digital copies.
Is this possible, though? Well let me address that one. By and large a digital copy is essentially a DVD only that it just contains the movie and no extras. Although companies do not like the idea of you taking the contents of a DVD and copying it to your PC, it is extremely easy to do. Now-a-days anybody can pop a DVD in their computer push a few buttons and *poof* they can have their own digital copy to enjoy anywhere they please. Plus in this case if a person wants to they can include any extras they may find interesting. So what I am saying here is that even though studios may not like the idea, they should just ditch the digital copy and just give you a DVD of the film instead to act as your digital copy.
I get though, ok, studios think that if you have two separate portable devices an iPad and an iPhone that you would then need to digital copies in order to put the same movie on both devices. With consumers this becomes a gray area as they argue that having paid for the movie they should be able to do whatever they want with it (other than illegal share it and create illegal copies for profit) and I agree with them. If I buy a movie I should be able to place it on as many portable devices, THAT I OWN, as I would like.
So what's the alternative? Couldn't you just give everyone a digital copy on a Blu-ray disc then? No, unfortunately, because unlike DVD drives not everyone has a Blu-ray drive built into their computer which could read a Blu-ray. Besides to do that anyway would then lead me to make the same argument I just did. Why give people a digital copy on Blu-ray when you could just give them the movie on Blu-ray.
Ok, so I know what you are thinking. What if we lower the quality and make the resultant video file small enough that it could fit on a DVD? That may not work out so well and let me sidebar here by saying why. Along with including HD displays more and more devices are offering HDMI outputs which allow you to connect your mobile device to an HDTV and playback videos in HD. Now true at this point the best current technology can really do in this regard is 720p video with 2 channel audio. However if you "Google" "Nvidia Tegra 3" you will find out that this upcoming graphics technology has the power to drive full Blu-ray movies on a mobile device. I might even go so far as to say 3D Blu-rays. So my point is eventually we will go from 720p video/2 channel audio being outputted to full 1080p 3D video/7.1 lossless audio.
Well here is the thing, if I use the single disc edition of Avatar on Blu-ray as an example for a moment. The movie itself which features a lossless 5.1 audio track weighs in at a size of 44GB. That is absolutely crazy, but in a good way. Even if you factor in the usage of a DVD9 or Dual-layer DVD disc there is no way you can shrink that file down small enough that it could fit on that DVD without making a few sacrifices. Firstly the video bit-rate would have to be dialed WAY down, and the audio would have to be down-converted to a lossy (probably Dolby Digital) 5.1 audio track. Basically in doing so you cut out all the things that make a Blu-ray what it is.
So what then? What options are there? Well not many at this point unfortunately. One option would be is to include a code with the movie that the user could redeem allowing them to download a Blu-ray quality copy of the film onto to their computer for transference onto a portable device. Problem with this option is the files would be large, and large in the sense it would take a long while for someone to download. Plus what if a person has no internet at all? One could say put the movie on a USB drive and include it with every copy. No good, as studios would never really go for this sort of thing in mass market kind of way, because it would be easier to illegal share rather than a disc. Plus again you would need to include a fair-sized USB drive and that could get expensive real quick that and what if the user accidentally deletes the movie? The only real option and probably least liked option by studios would be is to simply let users pop their Blu-ray movie into their computer and make a digital back-up without any hassles. I say maybe offer up some kind of program that would enable the end user to make any back up they choose; be it a full .iso rip, a .mkv rip of just the movie, or otherwise. That's my preferred option because modern media boxes like those offered from HDI or the WDTV Live support .iso rips of Blu-rays. With .iso rips you get to keep the movie without any losses. Sure one might argue that .iso rips would create really large file sizes, but with the way hard drives keep coming down in price I just say, build a tablet that can support a hard drive; be it mechanical or an SSD.
Perhaps there is no real good answer, but consumers will eventually wise up and realize that these so called digital copies aren't going to look so great on their modern portable devices. Now that I have giving my short spiel I want to talk about a new game coming out next week: Portal 2. Portal 2 is the sequel to the first Portal, which was included in the Orange Box which was a collection of games sold in one nice little box. The first Portal was a truly ingenious and inventive game with its new, never before seen style of gameplay. In this game you are a test subject who must use what is known as a Portal gun to accomplish a series of tests. The Portal gun allows the user to shoots portals or gateways if you will that allow you travel between points like its nothing. The game really becomes interesting once you realize there is more to it than just solving a few tests.
Well Portal 2 takes everything that made Portal awesome, and makes it even better. With the first Portal you had portals, cubes, buttons, talking turrets with guns, orbs, force fields, and otherwise. This time around you will have all of that, plus, excursion funnels, faith plates, thermal discouragement beams, pneumatic diversity vents, repulsion gel, propulsion gel, a twice as long single-player mode, a nice co-op mode, steam integration on the PS3 via the Steamworks platform allowing for cross-platform gameplay between PS3 and PC/Mac users. I have nothing really to say on this game in terms of story, but I will say that based upon the videos I have seen so far this game promises to be an extremely worthy successor and I know easily what I will doing Tuesday when my copy arrives. By the way I am picking up the PS3 version for the fact that when you purchase the PS3 version it includes a code that allows you to (via the Steamworks platform) play the game on your PC as well. I only hope that this Wednesday I do not have any tests in my class as I may have a hard time doing well simply because my mind will be stuck in wanting to keep playing this new game. Oh and if anyone questions my hype then I need only tell you one thing about this game; Valve made it. There, enough said.
Now I have two more things I want to talk about this time around and I should be good. Next I want to talk about Eminem's new album from last year, "Recovery". I must say that having listened to it numerous times now, it is easily a great album and probably one of the best of 2010. Yes this album does carry a strong parental advisory simply for the nature of the language used throughout Eminem's lyrics. Now I won't sit here and necessarily call his music bad or foul or anything like that. I, personally, don't object to the language used, partially because it's not overdone and used in a well manner. Please don't ask me to elaborate on that though, let's just leave it at that. Also I say personally, because it doesn't bother me, but it might bother more traditional or conservative parents, and until my children would reach a certain age I wouldn't let them listen to it. I mean I don't know that I would let a 14 year old necessarily listen to it.
Anyways, though, this album is great because it is classic Eminem as he was known for from the old days with Slim Shady and the great song "Lose Yourself." What I love about this album, and it is true is that Eminem honestly admits that he previous two albums before this one clearly did not live up to his standards. I would honestly have to say that if you were a fan of hip-hop/rap music but had yet to hear this album then you should go do so, ASAP.
Now the last thing I wish to speak of is the Cherry Blossoms in D.C. I have heard of them many times but never actually witnessed them first hand. However two Saturdays ago I had the opportunity to see them first hand and I got to take some beautiful pictures. Sadly, during my excursion with my family we ran into some rain when we first got down to D.C., but that eventually cleared up and allowed the sun to come out. From what I was able to see the blossoms were absolutely beautiful and after I got home and examined the pictures I took, I was even more impressed with their beauty. I highly recommend that you check out the pictures I took as I have posted a few.
I want to add, that if there is ever time that anyone should see the Cherry Blossoms you will want to make it a point to go see them next year as next year (2012) marks the 100th anniversary of the year in which we received the gift of 3000 Cherry Blossoms from Japan.
Ok now that I've said way more than I usually do, I shall wrap this up in the following way, by giving you the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) version.
1. "Tron"/"Tron: Legacy"/"The Incredibles" are all amazing on Blu-ray
2. With tablets and other portable device becoming increasingly more powerful and slowly offering bigger displays with larger more HD resolutions consumers are going to demand better quality digital copies.
3. Portal 2 is going to be epic.
4. Eminem's latest album, Recovery, is one of the best rap albums in recent history, much like his older work
5. The Cherry Blossoms in D.C. are easily one of America's most beautiful gifts.
Thank you, and until next time