Respectably Devious

19.59.29 - Mark

Last night I sat down to watch Scott Pilgrim Vs The World on DVD though Netflix. An enjoyable visual overload with a good bit of humor, and as it finished I'm glad I received it on DVD, because after all DVDs come with Extra Features and with a movie like this, I was anxious to see what treasures this DVD came with. After the credits ran (no I didn't skip the credits) and the standard DVD Publisher logo (in this case Deluxe Digital Studios) aired it moved right into the Extra Features menu.

As I clicked into the Deleted Scenes I was delighted that this standard DVD came backed with extras, rather than the somewhat common practice of "Deluxe" editions where all these extras were burned onto a separate DVD. With Netflix, it's easy enough to rent out both discs, but for the right movies you don't want to wait or gamble on the value of those assorted extras.

So as I turned off the commentary and moved onto "Play All." I clicked, but video did not play. In it's place a notice that said that as a Rental DVD, all the extras were disabled, and to access them I would need to buy a DVD or Blu-Ray copy. A second attempt produced the same result. The first though I had was another strike against the consumers the producers depend on.

I've felt for a long time that DVD productions tend to treat the honest consumers, buyers and renters, as criminals-to-be with Region Codes, forced viewings of FBI Anti-Piracy Warnings, or even MPAA's own Anti-Piracy ads. Things so easily bypassed you never see on stolen versions, only the legal copies. I understand the threat the corporations are attempting to prevent, but as an honest consumer we hope for at least a little trust and respect. While these has been an issue since VHS cassettes were the Big New Thing, to the way it's dealt with on DVDs, Blu-Ray, or the next generation of physical media for video distribution we'll probably see in 10 years, it's going to get worse, not better.

After further thought however, I came around. In this case, I'm not being treated as a criminal, yes the FBI warning as usual, but none of the MPAA anti-piracy ads. Upon taking a second look they were not secretive about the rental status. Well labeled on the disc, and on loading made it clear that those extra features were disabled. In the pre-movie trailers the distributer, Universal Pictures, placed an ad about the benefits of the different medias, even covered the ways you can get those extras from the different technologies. While it remained a bit of a slap in the face, it's actually rather good marketing.

They show us the menu, give an idea of what we'd receive. It's no different than receiving the desert menus after finishing dinner at a decent restaurant. The balanced combination makes it all pretty clever, and I'll admit I'll a bit tempted to buy it rather than rent it again. While I may not enjoy the well advertised movie deserts if I pay for the privileges, I think in the end it's a respectable tactic. Don't label consumers as threats, respect the consumer's choices but offer rewards for moving to a higher tier. If the content is valuable enough, the companies get to charge multiple times with no (or at least minimal) bad feelings.

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23.29.38 - Mark

There aren't that many movies that I want to see in theaters anymore, too many horror movies trying to induce involuntary bowel movements, tired parodies of those horror films, and cheesy comedies that while they might not be bad, they're not $10 price of admission good either, however I really wanted to see Grindhouse in theaters. Unfortunately for me the local cinema axed it after a week and I couldn't quite bring myself to driving around 3 hours to see a movie that was 3 hours.

Time passes and movies come to DVD, and yesterday Netflix provided me with a copy of disc 1 of Grindhouse Presents, Death Proof. I liked it, it was fun with everything that was promised - well at least promised by Death Proof fast cars, good explosions, weird plot ideas, classic B movie turn off your brain and enjoy entertainment.

Too bad that the enjoyment of the movie is cut off by all the stuff the distributors left out. While I liked watching the movie, I was interested in Grindhouse because it was offing a whole package. Two movies, cheesy fake trailers, everything. They're trying to screw up this release in every way possible from the near non-existent theatrical release, splitting the damned thing, doing that annoying as hell "exclusively at blockbuster" deal, and overall trying to get customers to pay upwards of $100 to get the movie as originally intended ($25 for Death Proof, $25 for Planet Terror, and probably ~50 for super special un-retarded, trailers and everything edition you know they're planning on releasing). It's almost enough to make me want to go and DL a pirated copy of the theatrical version.

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Thank you Al Gore

09.08.09 - Mark

AMC is showing Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea right now, and its one of those movies I had vague memories of but couldn't remember the title. It's an old Scifi flick, and I picked up the movie halfway though, but I've been wanting to see it for a while now, and I was a little disappointed when I saw Netflix didn't have it. turns out that there's only been one DVD release of it and that was a double billing with Fantastic Voyage in 2000. However there's a new version coming out this week, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (Global Warming Edition) comes out June 5th.

I realize the movie deals with a radical global warming, but why on earth would they release any DVD (other than maybe An Inconvenient Truth) as a "Global Warming Edition"? I don't even see anything that remotely resembles mini documentaries on global warming in the otherwise impresive list of special features. I blame the Cult of Al Gore.

Hopefully netflix will buy their share of copies and I can sink my teeth into it.

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Laughtracks suck

00.10.17 - Mark

I'm working my way though Sports Night on DVD due in part to the cancellation of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I'm getting a harsh reminder of how much laugh tracks suck ass. I think it's more or less a dead practice, but any network executive, or even a producer who doubts the ability of their audience to know a joke when it comes by, probably shouldn't be in showbiz. Also, they should remove the damned things when releasing shows on DVD.

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00.33.22 - Mark

I wish I had this...
Anti-anti-piracy poster
...when I posted this a couple weeks ago.

via WWdN/Boing Boing (you try chasing down the original sources)

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Six steps to a better DVD

20.11.47 - Mark

Having been watching a bunch of movies recently, most of them on DVD, I'm finding myself annoyed by the same few "features" of the DVD's I've been watching.

1) Kill off the cheesy anti-piracy propaganda
First off, I really don't want to be reminded that piracy is illegal, when I've legally acquired the DVD I'm viewing it on. You really have to wonder what the MPAA's logic is in including their anti-piracy videos on legal media. You never see them pirated material, so they're beating honest customers over the head with propaganda.

2) I've been warned, can I watch my film now?
To be fair, the FBI and Interpol copyright warnings are somewhat excusable, in that by forcing everyone to view them for 10 to 20 seconds takes out any reasonable claim of ignorance. However, do you really need to force me to view them every single time I put the DVD in? Either make it something I can skip, or put it somewhere where it doesn't feel like I'm getting browbeaten with it.

3) Intrusive Marketing. Part One
Then there is the various branding and trailers that used to plague VHS tapes. I think its fine if you want to include some in the special features, however sticking in half a dozen trailers - often on top of the various piracy warnings - is pretty damned annoying. More so in a few months (or years) when I come back wanting to watch a movie and am forced to watch trailers for movies where I've long since forgotten and had no interest in to begin with.

4) Intrusive Marketing. Part Two
Don't feel obligated to loudly pronounce who you are before showing me the film either. I honestly don't care is the DVD I'm watching came from United Artists, Fox, Paramount, or the struggling artist down the street. I just want to see the movie

5) More than a movie
There's only one real reason I buy movies, rather than watch them on TV or add them to my Netflix queue, and that's special features. It should be a crime to release a DVD without any special features, and yet they keep doing it. By far the worst offender I've seen has been the DVD release of eXistenZ which is a spiritual brother to Dark City and The Matrix (the first one) in that the movie totally fucks with your mind by questioning how we perceive reality. It's one of the few movies where I have really, really wanted to watch it again with some form of commentary, but for some bizarre reason the DVD has a total lack of special features. (Just for reference, Dark City, The Matrix, and eXistenZ were all released in 1999. Dark City - despite its relative obscurity - and The Matrix both had feature packed DVD releases)

6) More does not mean "anything"
While I really want to see special features on any DVD I pick up, that does not mean I want to see steaming piles of crap. Short documentaries, production sketches, commentary (director's, actor's, or even a critic's or a fan's) all add to a film. However, some things should be left to die. Many deleted and alternate scenes were left on the cutting room floor for a reason, usually good ones. Simply adding them back in to flesh out a special features menu can be a waste of space (and almost always a bad idea if the deleted scenes don't come with commentary), and anyone who so much as proposes putting cast and crew biographies into the special features should have their eyes pried open and forced to moderate flame wars on IMDB

Compared to actually making a movie, putting together a decent DVD release should not be that hard. For the cost of a few beers you can get fans to create audio commentary (look at what podcasting has done already) and a little common sence should make it easy to create clean intuitive DVD interfaces that don't bombard viewers with MPAA/RIAA propaganda and other Hollywood marketing BS, or at least you would think.

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Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

23.03.15 - Mark

I've been chewing though a lot of media in the past few weeks, but far the most time has been dedicated to good old fashioned nostalgia watching Pinky and the Brain Volume 1 and Volume 2, with the occasional episode of Animaniacs. Even at 14 years old they're still as hilarious as they were when I was a kid, maybe even more so now. The writing is well crafted and the episodes contain tons of references and spoofs of all sorts of stuff, from 1990's politics to classic movies lots of material that I would have never appreciated when they were first being aired. In a way it really reminds me of Pixar's work. Some of the value is in the animation and story, but there are so many easter eggs planted into the writing that it keeps adding value for older audiences. It's great that I'm able to watch these shows on DVD, but now I'm craving a bunch of shows that unfortunately aren't available on DVD

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