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Writer, director, musician, and multimedia junkie. www.felixemartinez.com © 2008-2009 F.E.M.

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    Friday, March 28, 2008

    50% Off HD-DVDs At Circuit City

    Looks like they're having a liquidation starting Sunday 3/30. Might be a good way to pick up a few cheap titles to keep the player running in your home a bit longer...or...maybe not! Thanks to Patrick Sun at HomeTheaterForum (a great place to hang) for uncovering this.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Return To Sender

    Looks like Best Buy has begun returning all HD-DVD product, so if you have some BB gift certificates and/or want to drop by a store to pick up some titles in that format, it appears that it's now or never.

    While it was not entirely a surprise that the Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war was going to end soon, I am rather shocked at how quick and final the coda is. Corporate heads are rolling, product is being returned, retailers are offering refunds. Wow. And it's not even the end of the first quarter.

    The good news is that Blu-ray seems to be taking off now that there's no war. And thank goodness, because I'm more excited about home theater than ever before. It's now possible to completely eclipse the quality of your local cinema with a decent home theater system. While this was previously (and sadly) possible with DVD, now it's just no contest. There. Is. No. Reason. To. Spend. $10. A. Ticket. And. Put. Up. With. Chain. Theater. "Quality." Ever. Again.

    There's nothing like a proper theatrical presentation, but I've just given up on the theater chains. Good thing that's not my problem.

    Happy Blu Viewing!

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Blu-ray Blasts Off!

    Remarkable info...1/3 of ALL Blu-ray disc sales occurred in the last 11 weeks. Talk about momentum!

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Blu-ray Blowout at J&R

    J&R is having a "blowout sale" of Blu-ray discs - prices range from $7.99-$13.99. Limit 2 per customer on some titles, which include Terminator 2, Total Recall, Stargate, The Devil's Rejects, all 4 Saw films, First Blood, Reservoir Dogs, Basic Instinct, and others. Check it out.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    BD+ Blu-ray Copy Protection Cracked?

    Can it be...?

    Wonder what would have happened if this had leaked prior to the end of the format war...

    In any case, I sincerely hope this does not put the brakes on the studios' Blu-ray releases. Let's face it - no matter how much "copy protection" you put on something, it will eventually be cracked. Better to focus on getting these tasty, shiny HD treats in the hands of the public (i.e. Marketing with a capital "M"!) than worry about a group of pirating technogeeks. Make Blu-ray titles affordable and easy to buy and folks simply won't bother with the hassle of cracking/ripping/burning, etc.

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Hi-Res Surround Music, I Miss Ya! (Part 2)

    This is Part 2 of my cherry pics of those hi-res surround music titles still available, for what it's worth. Get 'em while you can.

    Here's Part 1, along with the lowdown about why I'm doing this.

    And now, here's F-J:
    • Donald Fagen: Morph The Cat (DVD-Audio+CD, Warner). Here's my review.
    • Bryan Ferry: Boys and Girls (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Virgin/EMI). Another stellar 5.1 re-mix by Bob Clearmountain, and the release is almost as good as Roxy Music's Avalon. My only beef with Boys and Girls is that it's mastered about 3-4db louder than Avalon, and the loss of that dynamic range is unfortunate for such an atmospheric, subtle, and layered work. Nevertheless, the 5.1 hi-res surround mix in this release is IMHO the definitive version of the album - the tracks simply sound claustraphobic in their original stereo incarnation.
    • The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (DVD-Audio+CD, Warner). Here's my interview with Steve Drozd. The Lips are a hard band to describe to those unfamiliar with their oeuvre. I can say that they sometimes sound like Neil Young in outer space, or at times they're a bit like Pink Floyd performing in the Theater of the Absurd. And I would be wrong. Yoshimi is a bizarre, whimsical album with a diverse palette of sounds and styles. This is on my recommended list because of its audacity in content and groundbreaking DVD-Audio implementation. My big beef with the audio quality is that it's been aggressively dynamically limited, and there's quite a bit of sibilance in the high-end. Their previous release, "The Soft Bulletin," is also fantastic, musically, but is even more dynamically compressed. "At War With The Mystics" is their follow-up to Yoshimi, and it's also a head-spinning disc; highly recommended. These folks push the surround envelope!
    • Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On (DVD-Audio, Motown, also available as SACD). Man, when the first wah-wah guitar notes of the title track materialize between the the front-left and rear-left channels, I just knew I was gonna dig this title. The 5.1 mix by Jeff Glixman maintains the mood of the stereo mix, and opens up the back vox and string arrangements for a nice 360 degree musical experience. One for the library! Also includes the original stereo mix in whopping 192kHz/24-bit resolution (surround is at a very healthy 96/24).
    • The Film Music Of Jerry Goldsmith (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Telarc). Amazing film film music written by and conducted by the Maestro and recorded/mixed in hi-res surround. Here's my review.
    • Elton John: Elton John (SACD, Island). See below for the others. Trust me - just buy all of 'em if you can find 'em. They're that good. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that listening to these surround versions was my first exposure to these classic albums. Better late than never, huh? But what a way to hear them! The surround mixes by Greg Penny are astonishing in their clarity and use of the surround sound space. The music and lyrics are exquisite. The performances sublime. I can't recommend these discs more highly.
    • Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (SACD, Island). This is one of his most obscure albums, but it's altogether satisfying and one of my faves. The bonus track of the original, early recording of "Madman Across The Water" is worth the price of admission alone.
    • Elton John: Madman Across The Water (SACD, Island). "Tiny Dancer" is heavenly. Sounds like it was recorded yesterday.
    • Elton John: Honky Chateau (SACD, Island). "Rocket Man" is something to behold in surround.
    • Elton John: Captain Fantastic (SACD, Island). Bonus tracks include "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," "One Day At A Time," and "Philadelphia Freedom."
    • Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (DVD-Audio, Island). Arguably EJ's greatest masterpiece. Also available as an SACD; however, here I would recommend the DVD-Audio set, which includes a one hour documentary on the making of the album. I think it's also cheaper. Go figure.
    • Jaco Pastorius Big Band: The Word Is Out (Hybrid Stereo/Multichannel SACD, Heads Up). Here's the scoop behind the Telarc JPBB titles. All I can say is: wow! This sophomore release from the JPBB is arguably more satisfying than their award-winning, hot-selling debut. Maybe it's because some of the compositions are a bit more obscure...maybe it's the variety of guest instrumentalists like Israel “Cachao” L√≥pez, Jr., Mark Egan, Will Lee, Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Hiram Bullock, Mike Stern, Ed Calle, Bob Mintzer, Toots Thielmans, and others...or maybe it's because the mix is much more polished and immersive (the debut release was recorded "live," and mixed "on the fly," according to Heads Up founder, Dave Love). Regardless, it's definitely one for your shelf. And did I forget to mention that Jaco plays on "Beaver Patrol" via the wonders of technology (a la Natalie/Nat King Cole)?
    • Laurence Juber: Guitar Noir (DVD-Audio, AIX). If I had to pick the best-sounding recording in the entire "All-Spin Zone," this is it. Here's my review.
    Part 3 coming soon. Stay tuned...

    Target Buy 1 Get 1 Free Blu-ray Sale

    In this week's ad flyer - check it out Blu-ray fans (price matching with other stores may be possible):

    "Buy 1 Blu-ray Disc, get 1 free!

    Choose from titles shown: Casino Royale Blu-ray Disc, Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray Disc, Live Free or Die Hard Blu-ray Disc, Ocean's Thirteen Blu-ray Disc, 300 Blu-ray Disc, Saw IV Unrated Director's Cut Blu-ray Disc, 3:10 to Yuma Blu-ray Disc, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Blu-ray Disc, The Simpsons Movie Blu-ray Disc, The Game Plan Blu-ray Disc, and Ratatouille Blu-ray Disc.

    Quantities limited; no rain checks."

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Amazon Blu-ray Sale - Up To 55% Off

    Ok, Blu-ray bargain hunters, time to go shopping!

    Select Blu-ray titles at Amazon are up to 55% off. I'm not sure when it expires, so check it out asap.

    Here's the link to the sale.

    Dirty Harry Blu-ray Box Set Specs

    Sure looks like a tasty set. All five films in the box have commentaries, featurettes, trailer galleries, and more. A sixth bonus disc will include the feature length documentary, "Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows," a 40-page hardcover book, lobby poster cards, and additional goodies.

    Here are the full specs, courtesy www.Blu-ray.com.

    The Dirty Harry Blu-ray box set will hit shelves on June 3.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Rambo Blu-ray Release Includes iTunes Version

    Lionsgate's upcoming Rambo Blu-ray release will include a digital copy of the film in iTunes format - so says Blu-ray.com. While it's cool to have the convenience of a digital copy included for use on a portable device, I have two observations:

    1) Everyone that has a Blu-ray drive in their computer raise their hands. Thought so. So how are we to transfer the digital copy to our computer? Maybe I'm misreading this and Lionsgate is somehow providing the digital download gratis via iTunes. Otherwise, this feature is way too ahead of its time.

    2) Films on cell phones and other portable devices - once you get past the convenience and novelty - downright looks like shit. Sorry. I know mpeg-4 is a great codec and all, but feature films simply do not communicate well from the palm of your hand. I guess if you're on a plane or something, or in a waiting room with sick folk coughing all over you it might be worthwhile to have, just to pass the time. This little spoof - which makes use of director David Lynch's thoughts on the matter - pretty much sums up my feelings about the whole thing...

    Peace. Out.

    Friday, March 7, 2008

    ID4's Blu-ray Special Features Revealed

    Special Features producer, Van Ling, takes us via YouTube through the bonus features of the upcoming Blu-ray release of Independence Day:

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

    Special thanks to Scott Hettrick and Hollywood In Hi-Def. ID4 arrives on Blu-ray March 11.

    © 2008 Felix E. Martinez