2017 Selection Pt.7

2017gWell, after a  year of some success regards curbing my disc-buying, everything went out the window towards the end of the year. I mean, just look at that haul above, which dates from around Sept onwards I think. This 2017 selection update is clearly way overdue, and with so many additions I almost gave up on it, but I suppose that would have defeated the point of all those preceding posts so here we are.

So a quick run-through seems in order. The sales caught up with me with The Walk and Nocturnal Animals. You can’t go wrong at about £4 each. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was my favourite cinema experience up until BR2049 swept me away- I may be in the minority, but I do think Galaxy 2 is superior to the original. Wonder Woman didn’t particularly fill me with wonder but it was still cheaper than a cinema visit and I’ll inevitably rewatch it sometime.

While I quite enjoyed Alien:Covenant at the cinema, it fared less well on disc, but I chiefly bought it for the Ridley Scott commentary, which unfortunately I haven’t heard yet (come on Ridley, explain it to me, what’s going on with the Alien franchise?).  The Vikings, meanwhile, is a great catalogue release- it’s a brilliant film brought to HD with a beautiful picture quality and worthwhile extras. Brilliant. Then of course we come to one of  the releases of the year- the simply gorgeous Arrow edition of The Thing, here in its LE variant- a lovely matt-finish hard box with the Amaray slipped inside with a book and artcards and poster. Regardless of the package, it’s the remaster of the film that is the big draw- it’s perfect. I almost dread the inevitable proper 4K release one day- I’ve really brought this film too many damn times already.

Then Indicator’s Hammer box (the first of four, I believe) heralded the Autumn of big releases coming up. I just cannot resist Hammer, and while the Sony Hammers that Indicator have access to are not exactly the Premier league of Hammer their treatment is exemplary and I really rather enjoyed them all. Some nice surprises in this set.

So here we come to the start of the spending madness.2017h

In My Mind was an impulse purchase, a great documentary about The Prisoner, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Season three of The Leftovers was another import due to there being no HD release here, which was followed by the exact opposite- a release that tempted me with one too many HD options. HBOs Westworld really impressed me when aired and was a disc release that I was looking forward to all year, and it turned out to be my first dual-HD format purchase, as I bought the tin with both 4K and blu-ray discs. Of course, I don’t have a 4K telly yet and have no idea when my current perfectly-fine Bravia will fail and cause any 4K replacement. Months? Years? It feels a bit silly but already future-proofing is on my mind. That slick packaging likely swung it.

La La Land was another sale purchase, and I really enjoyed it- I only hope I won’t regret not waiting for the 4K edition to come down in price. The Farthest is a simply brilliant doc about the Voyager space mission and Captain Scarlett in HD needs no explanation for anyone like me who grew up on a diet of Gerry Anderson magic.  Then of course two blockbusters I didn’t see at the cinema- Spiderman Homecoming and War For the Planet of the Apes, both great movies. They look great in HD but again, should I have stretched out to the 4K editions? I have a feeling that question will be a routine one going forward.

2017g (2)So then we come into Decembers offerings. Two more tv series boxsets follow- season 7 of GOT and the sublime wonder that is the Twin Peaks series three set. When in the world I will actually get to watch them I don’t know (the last three sets of GOT have sat on the shelf waiting for the past few years- I love the show and having only seen them on Sky Atlantic over the in-laws are surely ripe for proper viewing without breaks etc but somehow it never happens). A few more sale buys follow- 4K/Blu-ray of the notorious marmite flick Valerian that might prove to be a disastrous purchase (haven’t seen it yet) and two anime titles from a Christmas sale at All the Anime; the tv series Terror in Resonance (actually in a deluxe set in a huge box that’s hardly shelf material) and the twin set of Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond, two rather curio films that I have been interested in for years but never seen.

Finally, last weeks Arrow release of The Apartment, one of my top ten fave films in a lovely set with some new extras and a book, and the extended 4K/Blu-ray release of The Martian. The latter has been on my radar for ages but was in one of those flash-sales at Amazon last week (I bought it whilst surfing on a break at work, and the price had already gone up again by the time I got back home later in the day). Bit daft really, I wanted it mostly for the commentary and addl extras but figured if I was double-dipping I might as well go the 4K route whilst doing it.

Christmas presents/festive sales may yet add to the selection and require another post. But clearly I already have my work cut out for me regards the to-watch pile. Breaking the barrier into 4K purchases is a troubling event that may prove to be a trend next year (I already have the 4K BR2049 pre-ordered) which frankly feels a bit silly knowing a 4K telly and Ultra HD player may yet be over a year away. But double-dipping is so frustrating maybe it’s the only solution. Will 2018 be the year I buy discs I can’t even watch yet? Shudder.

 

 

 

 

Time of Eve (2010)

time22016.44: Time of Eve (Blu-ray)

One of the saddest things about anime is that the majority of people, certainly here in the West, are utterly ignorant of it, either because of the general impression that it is all giant robots and violent teenage fantasies, or that they are simply very strange Japanese cartoons as opposed to the more familiar animated features from Pixar or Disney. Its a great pity, as the best anime can actually be quite sophisticated, and challenge viewers perceptions of the world, or suggest unlikely possibilities, and even rank against traditional live-action for quality drama. Time of Eve is one such anime. It doesn’t have giant robots or any guns or violence- rather it is a fascinating character piece that gently raises some very interesting questions about identity and freedom.

Its the near future, and androids are widespread, functioning as servants in general society, as taken for granted as owning a family car. They look quite human, like the Replicants in Blade Runner, but are easily identified as they each have digital hologram rings floating above their head. Some owners treat their androids like slaves, while others become quite attached to them, treating them like friends or even lovers, which causes some consternation in society. Are the androids indeed just objects, appliances, or are they capable of something more, can they be almost human, with their own thoughts and needs, or is it just a case of owners anthropomorphising them, projecting their own failings and needs and even hate onto them?

One day a young man, Rikuo, notices that the family android, Sammy, has been acting strangely, disappearing for periods whilst it is out shopping. No-one else in the family pays the android any heed as long as its tasks are done. Curious, Rikuo finds a strange phrase recorded in Sammy’s activity log- “Are you enjoying the time of eve?”. He enlists the help of his friend Masaki, and traces Sammy’s footsteps to an unusual basement café hidden down a back alley.

This café is called ‘Time of Eve’ which has a rule that humans and androids cannot discriminate one another. With their digital holograms switched off, it is quite impossible to distinguish who is human, who is android. Regular visitors include Akiko, a bold young extrovert girl, a couple named Koji and Rina, an old man and his foster child, and Setoro, a loner who comes in to read. And of course Rikuo’s family android Sammy. The café has to remain a secret, as androids are not normally allowed to disable their digital identifiers and mix with humans as if they were human themselves.

time1Fascinated by the place and its clientele, Rikuo repeatedly visits the café, and gets to know the bar lady Nagi and each of the regular visitors, learning their stories and deciding who is human and who is android, and whether the distinction even matters. He begins to get a particular insight regarding the androids and their place in society, and that perhaps the Time of Eve café might indicate the possibility for a better future. The film has an episodic format as Rikuo chats to each customer over succeeding visits and slowly builds to an emotional and satisfying conclusion (this episodic format is inevitable as the film is an expansion of a six-part OVA available online, but it doesn’t hurt the flow of the proceedings at all).

There is a lovely sense of place in Time of Eve; schoolrooms or city streets or family apartments are all lovingly painted and animated and the café in particular is cleverly designed, usually animated as a 3D CG background to the character animation. It’s all very clean and sharp, the design of the characters establishing their personalities well.

It is all very subtle and impressive really, and particularly in HD it is a beautiful-looking anime, but what really rewards are the intriguing concepts going on. Its really thought-provoking as it postulates the possibility of artificial sentience and Philip K Dick’s frequent examination of what it is to be human, or what that even means. With affectionate nods to genre predecessors like Blade Runner and THX:1138, as well as Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics its a fascinating little film with a few rewarding twists along the way. This anime is certainly much more successful than the Channel Four tv series Humans that aired here last year, which shares suspiciously similar themes- it’s unfortunate that the success of that tv show will likely forever leave Time of Eve hidden away largely unnoticed here in the West.

An anime to savour then, and at the very least it is worth checking out the original OVA (easily available with English sub on Youtube).

Cowboy Bebop UK Blu-ray packaging

100_5486The mighty Cowboy Bebop has finally arrived on Blu-ray here in the UK and I’ve just three words for those of you who have the previous DVDs and are on the fence regards the new HD version- Buy! Buy! Buy!

As you can see from these quick snaps I’ve taken, its a fine-looking set and packaging-wise much better than we here in the UK usually get. The main box is heavy cardboard with both an art-booklet and a smaller case that holds the two discs. This inner case/digipack is designed to look like a VHS tape. Very retro (and if I recall correctly its a clever in-joke referring to something in an episode that will appear in the second set). It even follows through to the other side of the case too, as you can see from the picture on the right.100_5487 Its a neat touch that betrays some of the TLC this show has received by this new label (All the Anime).

I also just managed to watch the first episode when I got home from work. As the show dates from 1998 and before widescreen became the norm, it is displayed in its correct 4:3 ratio with a wonderfully sharp and defined HD image. In 5.1 the soundstage is wonderfully wide and the music has a real hefty kick to it. I originally bought Bebop in its first R1 edition, so never saw the ‘remix’ DVD that came later. I must say I’m very impressed with how the show looks and sounds in HD, its really something of a revelation to me (if I recall correctly that first DVD edition had the show in basic 2.0 stereo).

Needless to say having not seen the show for some years I’m really looking forward to watching this, but will have to delay watching anything beyond episode one as I’m midway through the first volume of the wonderfully odd and enigmatic Steins;Gate, a show that I’m really enjoying. You wait years for a decent anime series and they all come along at once…