If the solution of a long standing and niggling problem isn’t cause for a celebration and a return to my long ignored personal blogs then I don’t know what is.
For years now, I’ve been dismayed and disappointed when reading online material by Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News reviewing DVD releases Stateside that just don’t make it here to the European market. Regional coding is the pain in the ass of movie historians and collectors. Region 2 which serves Europe seems to be the red haired bastard stepchild of DVD releasing. The UK moreso. There are R2 discs out there in other European countries which never see the light of day here. Take for instance the fact that a box set of Edward D. Wood films that I had to import from Denmark, or complete series of Beauty & The Beast, (the old Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton series) that had to come all the way from Holland.
What’s even more frustrating is Warners’ eccentric release pattern. A few years ago, they released the first four seasons of The Adventures of Superman, the classic live action series from the fifties starring the late George Reeves in the UK.
A welcome opportunity to see a landmark piece of TV history. What Warners DIDN’T bother doing was releasing the final box in the set, containing seasons five and six. This isn’t an isolated problem. They released the first two seasons of Batman - The Animated Series, but not the third and fourth. A few sporadic discs here and there of the animated series of Superman and Justice League but not the actual seasons. None of Batman Beyond ever saw the light of day on disc here - that’s been overlooked since the days of a handful of episodes on VHS back in the day.
Need I go on? Okay - where’s the R2 release of the coolest spy series of the sixties, The Man from U.N.C.L.E? That came in a nice attaché case style box with a load of extras.... but not to the UK.
Here’s something I discovered though - Warners SAY these discs are region coded - but they’re not. Trust me on this, as I say categorically that you can buy ALL the box sets I mentioned above, marked Region 1 for the U.S market and they will certainly play on your R2 player. How do I know - well, they’re all in my collection and they played on my DVD player. Unhacked or unmodified in any way.
But, I noticed that Warners have started to plug this little gap on their latest releases so it was time for an upgrade. So when I went looking on Amazon and found a nicely priced multi region player - it was time to invest.
This is the one - and from what I’ve been watching over the past couple of days, it’s money well spent.
It’s an upscaling player meaning the picture is optimised to near HD quality without having to shell out for a Bluray. (And for those of you curious why I haven’t gone the Bluray route - the answer is simple. I don’t want the trauma and expense of having to upgrade my collection again. I know the first Blu purchase would be the Star Wars films..... then the floodgates would open. I’d much rather have a means of seeking out previously unobtainable gaps in my collection than find a stupid reason to re-buy my existing library which stands close to 2500 titles. Instead I chose to open whole new floodgates.)
It’s simple to set up, plug it in - for the benefit of upscaling, us a HDMI cable rather than SCART and you’ll be amazed at the crispness of the picture. I always try new equipment out with the opening of Star Wars and damn if I didn’t see some detail I hadn’t seen before even after all these decades of watching it. And that’s without adjusting any settings on my TV. This isn’t the first upscaling Toshiba DVD player I’ve bought, but it is certainly the best.
Another major factor is the incredibly cheap prices of R1 discs. You know I’m a KISS fan -right? (If you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time, it’s pretty glaringly apparent.) I’ve been anxious to get hold of Gene Simmons’ reality series since it was first broadcast on the Biography Channel. Normally, for a three disc set, I’d be paying £15-£20. Try £6 - £7.
It’s actually cheaper in most cases to import R1 discs from the USA than it is to run down to my local supermarket and buy a DVD off the shelf. So, I have complete series runs of Gene Simmons Family Jewels on their way, a box of classic Godzilla movies and a whole lot more to keep me going over the next several weeks. Those of you waiting for additions to Cult Corner are going to be happy.
The first R1 coded disc I watched was Justice League: Doom. This is the latest DC Animated feature and is a standalone, not a part of the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated series, which I’m also working my way through at the moment.
The plot is both simple and ingenious. Batman is the master strategist of the Justice League, and he’s the only one (other than Green Arrow) without any super powers. So, being the paranoid psycho he is, Batman has detailed plans to take out any or all members of the Justice League in case they even went rogue. These plans fall into the hands of a group of super villains who go about shutting down the heroes.
This is exactly the film that the Justice League movie should be in 2015. The structure is ideal - the characters are introduced, their weaknesses are exploited and they each suffer a humiliating defeat which allows us to better understand the characters (which won’t have been introduced in their solo movies as yet) and the individuals need to team up to win the day. It’s all there. Hey, Warners - go make a Justice League: Doom live-action movie.
Still on the subject of DC animated features, I’ve also watched All-Star Superman and again, was blown away.
This is based on the graphic novel of the same name by deservedly acclaimed UK writer Grant Morrison and concerns the last days of Superman, who is dying as a result of solar radiation poisoning and only has a couple of weeks to live. As you may know, I saw Man of Steel on its opening weekend a couple of weeks ago and was, say... eighty five percent happy with what I saw. (Incidentally here’s a link to comments by comic book writer Mark Waid, but beware if you haven’t seen the film, there’s a major spoiler there.)
As I was watching the animated feature, again it struck me that THIS was the film Man of Steel should have been. It’s all there. The powers, the back story, the struggle, an all-out battle, the noble sacrifice. It’s safe to assume that anybody with an interest in watching a Superman movie knows who Superman is, so why bother retelling the story and taking up a sizeable portion of the movie to retell us something we already know? All-Star Superman does it all much more elegantly and is probably the best Superman move ever committed to a little silver coaster sized disc. And that includes the Christopher Reeve movies - which is something I never thought I’d type.
Okay - speaking of big ass movies, has anybody noticed just how huge a year 2015 is becoming for blockbusters? We have Avengers 2 with Downey Junior confirmed as Iron Man. We can look forward to the so-far untitled new Star Wars movie with (reportedly) Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher being ordered to lose some weight before filming starts. Schwarzenegger’s return to the Terminator role has been confirmed by the Austrian Oak himself and will be released in ‘15. There’s a Fantastic Four reboot (though I was happy with the existing two) Independence Day 2 (will they call it "July 5"?) Ant-Man makes it to the screen as Marvel’s Phase 2 gathers momentum... or is that Phase 3? Pirates of the Caribbean 5 sets sail, and of course the still planned Justice League movie. The latest I hear about the DC live-action movies is that Man of Steel 2 is being fast tracked for a summer 2014 release, which means they need to be moving on that right now. MoS 2 is said to lead directly into the Justice League film. Whether the planned Batman reboot (also due in ‘15) is set before or after the JL movie is unknown, but please guys - please not another Batman origin story - please?
Okay - that’s it for this time, keep watching the site for my World War Z review - I’m seeing that this week.
As ever feel free to discuss on the site's Facebook page, and don't forget to stay low, stay sharp, stay safe
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