Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

ANCC: No Podcast Tonight

Summer 2016 Movie Mini-Reviews!

I’ve seen a decent number of the 2016 summer season offerings, but I honestly have neither the interest nor the time to write a detailed review of everything I’ve seen. Hence, I’ve decided to compile a few mini-reviews as a site update and a way to express a few opinions. I typically have Wikipedia open during a movie review as a reference, but I’m not going to do that this time. So don’t be surprised to find minor errors throughout this post.

Warcraft

This movie, intended by Universal Pictures and videogame company Blizzard to be the first in a series, is terrible and famously bombed in American theaters (Chinese audiences saved it from being a total disaster). The acting is not the problem here. Travis Fimmel, Ben Foster, and Toby Kebbell are all pretty great in their roles. I really liked Kebbell’s performance as Durotan actually. Duncan Jones’ direction seems weirdly rushed. The whole movie seemed quickly paced, which limited character development and emotional investment from the audience. Outside of the acting, I also appreciated the production design and special effects. The movie looks great in theaters. The big problems, besides the directing, are in the film’s lackluster script and in its worldbuilding. It seems limited, restrained, held back. It should have been epic and it just was not. That being said, I still probably liked it more than most people. It is not typical of a summer movie, and I can appreciate that. It is still not good.

Finding Dory

I’m not a fan of Pixar movies. This movie didn’t change my opinion of them for the better. Yes, it has grossed a metric ton of cash but then again most Pixar films that aren’t about dinosaurs do. I just don’t care for Pixar movies that much. Highlights include Ellen Degeneres’ and Ed O’Neill’s voice acting performances, beautiful computer animation, and a fairly strong script that doesn’t just rehash the first movie. It is still sappy and emotionally manipulative and it still straddles the line between “for kids” and “for adults,” so again it just isn’t for me. I just don’t think I’ll ever like a Pixar movie again and I’m ok with that.

The Shallows

Anyone who has read my writing on here from the beginning knows I’m a huge fan of “man vs. nature” movies. This is a special case as it is woman (Blake Lively) vs. nature, which hasn’t been done that much. I absolutely loved it! I seriously hope Lively gets some awards season attention for her role in this film as she is fantastic. The movie follows Lively as she is menaced by a shark in the Pacific ocean off the coast of Mexico. Too far from shore and with a gaping wound from a bite, Lively must survive against the elements and outwit Mother Nature herself. Well shot, well directed, well acted, well scripted… this low budget thriller has it all, including really decent special effects despite its limited budget. This is the best “(wo)man vs. nature” film since Liam Neeson’s The Grey from 2012.

Tarzan

Though it received overall pretty terrible reviews, I actually really liked this movie. It is gorgeously shot and although paced glacially at times, it never failed to keep my interest. It is colorful throughout, which is a change of pace from typical modern blockbusters. Stellen Skarsgard’s son (Peter I think?) is fine as Tarzan, but Samuel L. Jackson (who I’m usually not a big fan of) steals the show. He’s the most interesting character in the film and is a huge asset here. Christoph Waltz is also fine as the villain, though I would have liked to see him get even crazier. Special effects are excellent (they should be as this film cost 180 million dollars to produce) with special credit going to the gorillas, who look realistic and terrifying throughout. This movie was a huge summer surprise for me and I really enjoyed it.

The Purge: Election Year

I really enjoy The Purge series of films. The first started small, the second greatly expanded on the idea, and the third expands even further on the excellent sequel. Election Year is the best film in the franchise. It is topical without losing its violent, visceral appeal. Bringing Frank Grillo back as ex-cop Leo was an excellent idea, as was adding Elizabeth Mitchell as a Bernie Sanders-esque presidential candidate. These films get better and better with each installment and its nice to see them thrive at the box office as well. I really appreciate films that skimp on the budget but not on the thrills. It helps that The Purge series is built on a fantastic concept and that the filmmakers have expanded that concept so successfully. This may be my favorite film of the summer, give or take a Now You See Me 2.

Ghostbusters

I have the controversial opinion on the new Ghostbusters film: I thought it was just okay. It’s nowhere near as odious as militant fanboys on the internet would have you believe (Overzealous fanboys on the internet? Well, I never!), nor is it as great as obnoxious left-leaning bloggers would want you to think. It is decently funny in places and its characters are well worth spending the time with. I just think the movie could have been so much better. Unfortunately the villain is completely undercooked and I just couldn’t find him particularly interesting. Likewise, I’m about sick of the Hemsworth family and this film is no exception. I never found Chris Hemsworth funny as bumbling secretary Kevin. The good here are in the performances from the four main characters and the special effects. The script could have used a fine-tuning and the direction is lifeless at times, which is detrimental to a comedy. Again, it’s just an okay movie.

Star Trek Beyond

I did not like Star Trek Into Darkness but I loved the initial installment of this reboot series. Beyond thankfully is more of the first movie and less Into Darkness. I still love this new cast and I really like some of the ideas presented in this movie. It was entertaining and crowd pleasing, but just not that special. It’s a very solid summer movie but also very indicative of the 2016 summer season. It unfortunately doesn’t really stand out on its own. Highlights include the aforementioned cast (RIP, Anton Yelchin), the direction (Justin Lin fits in fine here), the production design, and the special effects. The script is ok, with some good ideas, but is mostly perfunctory. It’s a shame though that it just doesn’t feel as special as that first movie. It is a perfectly good summer movie and I certainly enjoyed it more than Into Darkness.

Ghostbusters – The Nick Review

Thanks to some random luck while bumbling around the internet, I was able to score tickets to see an advance screening of the new Ghostbusters movie tonight.  The film has been incredibly controversial since it was originally announced mostly due to the gender-flipped leads and the fact that it is a remake of a classic and beloved film.  In the latter’s case, I can understand the resistance even if I didn’t share it.

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Let me establish this: the 1984 original is my favorite film of all time.  I have seen that so many times, the movie is tattooed in my mind. Ghostbusters 2, while I like for nostalgic purposes, I find to be kinda terrible.  It has its moments, but it is such a lazy retread.  I also watched a lot of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, had a bunch of toys, and drank an unhealthy amount of Ecto-Cooler.  Point being, I grew up with Ghostbusters.  It is part of who I am and, in some small ways, the films informed my development.

With that in mind, how did I find Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters?  I really enjoyed it.  I truly did.  The film is incredibly worthy of bearing the Ghostbusters name.  It is funny throughout and legitimately scary at times.  I found it incredibly refreshing that, beyond some broad strokes, it doesn’t retell the same story from the 1984 original.  It mostly does its own thing.

The writing is to be commended (mostly).  I really got a good sense of balance between the four ghostbusters as they met and developed their friendship throughout the film, which is really what this film is ultimately about.  It provided a good, emotional arc to be invested in, while, at the same time, doing some nice (but not in-your-face) world building.  I guess, what I want to say is that the narrative was balanced very well.

I said mostly above, because there are some inconsistencies within the film, mainly revolving around the  tech.  At some points, the tech just holds the ghosts (as in the original films) and other times it disintegrates them.  I think I understand this seeming inconsistency, but a little bit more explanation would have helped out a lot in this regard to make certain sequences fully work.

I should mention that Ghostbusters is a very different kind of comedy than the original film.  The original’s comedy was very dry, sarcastic, and slow burning.  This one is a little more broad and silly (yet still grounded), but it works to the film’s strength.  And having different styles of comedy is okay.  The original was lightning in a bottle and to try to replicate that in today’s world would have been a horrible misstep.  Feig brought his own directing style to the film and it works to the film’s benefit.

Ghostbusters was very well cast, but Chris Hemsworth as dim-witted Kevin and Kate McKinnon as the eccentric Holtzman steal the show.  They are just so charmingly goofy throughout the film.  I hope McKinnon’s career explodes in the near future, and I would love to see Hemsworth do more straight-up comedy.  Beyond that, the cast just gels very well together.  As characters, you like them and want to see them succeed.

Not everything works in the film.  There are times that the movie is a bit too reverential to the original, particularly in regards to the cameos.  Some of the cameos just took me straight out of the film.  Particularly Bill Murray’s extended, gratuitous cameo just kills the story’s momentum and served no purpose other than to give Bill Murray an extended cameo (see Zombieland for a further example).

And, the less said about the awkward Ozzie Osbourne cameo, the better.

Also, the film’s pace just grinds during the second act.  Not sure what exactly happened during editing, but the film starts and ends strong with things moving quickly, but once the aforementioned Bill Murray cameo comes, it takes a bit before the film finds its footing again.

Is Ghostbusters as good as the original?  No.  I might be biased, but the original is a classic that may never be topped.  Is it a good film on its own merits? Absolutely!  The few problems that I had with the film didn’t sour me on it.  It is a genuinely fun and (more importantly) funny film.   I recommend it.

~N

Ghostbusters: The Return (A Novel Review!)

There will never be a third Ghostbusters film featuring the original characters.  However, there have been many continuations such as in cartoons, video games, and comics.  However, there is one continuation that most people and fans probably never heard of: the 2004 novel Ghostbusters: The Return.

return

Written by Sholly Fisch, The Return picks up a few years after Ghostbusters II.  The team has a more-or-less sustainable business, and the Ghostbusters themselves are fairly popular with the citizens of New York City – mostly due to the implied regularity of major supernatural threats.  Due to their status, a political party recruits Peter to run for the mayor of New York City (with Winston as his deputy mayor).  Peter sees this as a way to the good life despite not knowing anything about politics and since he becomes focused more and more on the election, his ghostbuster duties slack.  Not surprisingly, this puts strain on his friendship with Egon and Ray.  And, of course, a new supernatural threat chooses now to come to New York.

There is a lot of good about The Return.  Even though the book is at a standard 300 pages, it is an incredibly quick read.  The narrative moves and it keeps you invested.  It was also nice to read a new Ghostbusters story – something that I am surprised that the market hasn’t really had to any mainstream effect.

There are a couple of competing story lines such as Peter’s election run, Ray and Egon’s investigation into the supernatural threat, and the villain’s rise.  Some of these work better than others. Peter running for mayor is a brilliant story arc.  I can see this idea play out over the course of a possible Ghostbusters movie.  Of all the characters to go this route, Peter is the one that would.  It proves enough of a comedic idea and pushes the Ghostbusters story into new areas.  It also provides some much needed conflict and drama.

In the films, the Ghostbusters never really have any sort of arcs or character growth.  They are pretty much the same characters at the beginning of the movies and at the end.  I liked how Fisch tried to humanize the characters by giving them conflict.  Peter is looking for a quick buck, essentially, by running for mayor and discovers that he is in over his head.  It’s also causing problems with Ray and Egon because he can’t focus on his ghostbusting duties.  The Return really fleshes out Peter and gives him a fairly good arc as he matures throughout the novel.  It is fairly obvious where everything is going to end up, but you can enjoy the ride.

The villain, on the other hand, is somewhat lackluster and underwritten.  Xanthador is a demon who is trying to get more fear out of people by giving life to urban legends.  This will give him power to do something.  I don’t know.  The book doesn’t really go into it.  It works as a basic threat, but nothing really makes sense of what his motivations are.  The hook with this villain is that he is using urban legends, but I feel Fisch doesn’t really take full advantage of it.  As such, it feels wasted.  But that is really minor.  Ghostbusters are not known for their villainous plots.

Where the book doesn’t work for me is that even though I was reading about what Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston are doing and saying, I could never actually picture the actual characters from the films in this.  Something about the dialogue or inner thoughts just seemed to be somewhat…off.  Peter is the biggest offender in this case.  Peter, in the movies, was always a bit immature and a jerk, but would usually wise up with the situation called for it.  Here, however, he just seems much more goofy and borderline cartoony when he interacts with others.  It felt more like this was the character as featured in the Ghostbusters cartoon from the late 80s.

In fact, the entire book had much more of a cartoony feel to it when compared to the original films (especially the first one).  Overall, I enjoyed The Return, but there was the occasional odd characterization that pulled me out of the book.

If you are a fan of Ghostbusters and you want to read a new Ghostbusters story, then I would recommend Ghostbusters: The Return.  It is a fun, fast read – a good diversion for a plane ride.  At least check it out for some of the obscurity of it.  If you are not a Ghostbusters fan, then this book isn’t for you.

Here is the bad part: the book was released in 2004 in limited copies and is now long out of print.  It is nearly impossible to get a hard copy unless you want to pay insane prices on eBay.  However, if you do some Google-Fu, you might be able to find a PDF of it on a certain SPOOKy and CENTRALized Ghostbusters website ready for download.  Not that I advocate such things.  I’m just pointing out that such things exist.

~N

Ghostbusters, Misogyny, and the General Idiocracy of the Internet

I hate the internet.  So many assholes.  I am anticipating the new Ghostbusters movie.  I love Ghostbusters, and this is my most anticipated film of the year.  So much so, that I was able to score advance screening tickets for Wednesday.  But, damn, the internet sucks.  And everyone is an idiot but me.

Can’t people see what they are doing?  When this film was first announced,  there was a very large sexist backlash because director Paul Feig decided to cast women in the title roles.  Some simply didn’t like the idea of a reboot, but the loudest were complaining about girls being Ghostbusters.

gbmovie

Oh no!  Gender swap!

Now, I know what you are thinking.  They are not being sexist!  They are simply voicing their displeasure of not liking what the movie is doing.  Sure, you can claim that now, but then when nothing was known other than it was going to be female-driven, you can’t make that claim.

People claimed that having women was a gimmick.  I don’t see how, but if it is, so what?  It’s brilliant.  Not only does it do something different, but it sidesteps the potential problem of recasting the iconic roles.  It was a very smart way to go.

People were also complaining on the internet about how a female Ghostbusters movie wouldn’t work to which they couldn’t explain how.  At the same time, they claimed they were not being sexist, but it is hard to believe that when they refer to the movie with some variation of “Ghost bitches”.

People were just nonsensically hostile for every little thing to the point that director Paul Feig snapped back at the trolls.  Perhaps not the most professional thing to do, but I don’t blame him one bit.  One Twitter user robcassidy84 dedicated most, if not all, of his account to bitching about the new movie.  Can anything be sadder?  If I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t dedicate my life to shitting on it.  I have better things to do.

There was also the rumor of a male Ghostbusters movie coming out starring Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt.  Nothing came from this, but people were already championing this saying it was going to be better than the Feig film even though nothing was known about the movie other than the leads were male.  No story, no character description, no sense of what plot.  Nothing.  If that isn’t sexism, I don’t know what is.

So we’ve established that people were acting like sexist assholes and were afraid that girls were going to take away boy things (even though Ghostbusters was never a male-specific movie).  During this time as well, social justice warriors slowly began to crop out to counter the misogynists.

Now is where things get really stupid.

The first trailer hit and was a disappointment.  Even star Melissa McCarthy expressed her dissatisfaction with it.  Audiences were left with a collective “meh” about it.  Any anyone who had a legitimate criticism was faced with a huge smack down by any and all SJW.  Even when the criticism had nothing to do with women being ghostbusters.

For example, the Angry Video Game Nerd’s video critique of his disappointment with a reboot and received an insane the backlash for that.  I disagreed with much of what he said in his video and laugh at his hypocritical stance (he wants people to stop supporting reboots, but then goes to see the new Ninja Turtles movie a few weeks later), but not once did he even mention that the leads are women.

For fuck’s sake.  Do they not know what they are doing?

Since the SJW defense got comically over the top, a backlash happened against them.  People would mock others for minor criticisms.  Slowly, the SJW’s defense began to be more and more dismissed and taken seriously.

Now, you have the sexist assholes hiding underneath this blanket of legit criticism and “ironic sexism”.  And I hate this for so many reasons.  Yes, there are legit criticisms that people can make, but people need to not see that as some sort of sexist attack.  What it does is that it allows the real sexist misogynist to get away with being sexists.

In essence, they can get away with it now.  Why does everything on the internet have to go to such extremes?

This is why we can’t have nice things.  I absolutely hate it that we live in 2016 and casual sexism like this still exists.  Why should it matter if Ghostbusters are women or not?  And, on the other hand, why do we need to live in a knee-jerk society that people will attack you for things you didn’t even say or suggest.

It is really depressing since this is only a movie – a piece of entertainment.  Not a reason to get bent out of shape about.

If the new movie is indeed good, then it will serve as a nice companion piece to the original.  If it is bad, it will fade into the background.  Whatever the case may be, it’s legacy (before release) will always be marred by some really sad sexist people and really sad people attempting to confront the sexist people making things unnecessarily worse in the process.

~N

ANCC: DuPage Mighty Con

Nick and the Gorehound go local this week!  Over the weekend of June 25th, they attended the DuPage Mighty Con in Wheaton, IL!  Now, they are going to talk about the pluses, minuses, and the overall experience!  What did they think of this local comic convention?  Give a listen and find out!  Also, BrickWorld!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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I saw Independence Day: Resurgence

A sequel to Independence Day, the gargantuanly epic 1996 Fox summer blockbuster, was never a good idea, particularly some odd twenty years after the release of the original. It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, as we’ve recounted time and time again on this blog. Independence Day was a huge movie. It ruled the summer box office with an iron fist, becoming the number one film of 1996 far and away. It gave Jeff Goldblum another distinctive summer blockbuster movie role after Jurassic Park to put on his resume. It introduced America to the movie star version of Will Smith. It made Bill Pullman the president of the United States of America, thus putting him front and center in the great Pullman/Paxton war of the 1990s. It was, simply put, a great summer movie. And everything great about it doesn’t exist in its crappy sequel.

Independence-Day-2-poster

To put things bluntly, Independence Day: Resurgence is a terrible film all around. From its title (Resurgence? Ok…) to its cast to its script to its direction, nothing about the film works at all. There’s almost nothing epic about Emmerich’s filmmaking this time around, with the movie feeling instead like the pilot for a bad science fiction television series. Memorable characters from the first film (with one big exception in Brent Spiner) are about as forgettable as can be. I have no idea what happened to the real Jeff Goldblum, but I hope he escapes from the clutches of his apparent evil clone and goes back to having a personality (and a serious movie career) sometime soon. And I’m not sure what happened to Roland Emmerich either, as at least his bad films are usually entertaining. There’s nothing entertaining about ID:R whatsoever.

The biggest offender in all this mess are the awful new main characters, including an aged Will Smith’s kind-of son from the first movie, an aged Bill Pullman’s daughter (no longer played by Ann from Arrested Development unfortunately), a Hemsworth brother (those Hemsworth guys have really outstayed their welcome), a Chinese girl, and a dorky, smart guy. None of these characters are interesting or worth exploring on a deeper level in any meaningful way whatsoever. They all used to be in the air force together or something, but who cares? The journey they take is not compelling, and every time they show up on screen I found myself wanting the film to get back to what characters like Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner were up to. Yes, Goldblum is underwritten and thus underwhelming, but what he’s doing is light years more interesting than most of the other characters in this film.

Anyway, all the younger characters in this movie kind of suck. Hemsworth number 3 (I think) is in love with Bill Pullman’s daughter, but he’s also a smarmy, “charming” would-be rogue who doesn’t cotton to his military leaders’ orders. Yet, he’s still allowed to gallivant around the military free from consequence. Oh, and Hemsworth also has a rivalry with Will Smith’s not-son for reasons that aren’t really important and seem kind of dumb. The aforementioned smart guy is Thor’s kid brother’s sidekick who is always on the lookout for a hot piece of ‘tang. The Chinese girl is unfortunately said ‘tang, serving no other purpose in this film than to be won as a prize by the end (and to apparently appeal to Chinese audiences, which is shamefully becoming more and more common place). Not Mae Whitman is close with her dad, played once again by Bill Pullman, who acts like a mental patient and is treated with all the dignity of an Alzheimer’s patient in a third rate old folks home despite being the heroic ex-president who saved the entire planet. There is literally nothing else interesting about Not Mae Whitman’s character, just as there is nothing else interesting about anyone else in this intrepid group of nobodies.

The plot of the film is ridiculous and nonsensical. Twenty years after the events of the first film (by the way the war continued in Africa for a further ten years, so great job there, United Nations), earth is once again visited by a mysterious spacecraft. Instead of waiting to see what it could be, the Americans decide to shoot first and ask questions later. This is a bad idea because the ship is carrying an intergalactic friendly robot traveller who has the keys to defeating the bad aliens. Keep in mind the bad aliens haven’t show up in twenty years. However, because the script demands it, just after the kindly robot traveller is nearly murdered by the United States, the old aliens show up once again, only this time in a spaceship that is 3,000 miles long and covers like half the earth at once, which makes no sense because the earth is round and the spaceship presumably is not.

Thus, it’s up to Jeff Goldblum, an African Warlord played by a guy who kind of looks like Delroy Lindo but probably isn’t, some presumably British or Australian lady psychologist that Goldblum used to plow, and a tax accountant (seriously) to save the earth. Also, Brent Spiner is still alive only in a coma. He wakes up once the friendly traveller makes an appearance and nearly saves the movie all on his own. He’s brings an energetic and fun presence to the movie which is sorely lacking elsewhere. So Spiner figures out how to operate the friendly traveller, only this attracts the alien queen, who is not at all a rip-off of the alien queen from the Alien movies, no sireebob. Our rather lackluster group of heroes, young and old, must band together and take out the alien queen or all of humanity (and the friendly traveller) will be doomed perhaps.

There’s a reason why none of this sounds epic – it’s because it fucking isn’t. Remember how awesome it was in Independence Day when the spaceships first showed up? People were either legit terrified or acting crazy sauce banana pants over them. Remember how fucking hopeless humanity felt after the first few big cities fell? Remember when Bill Pullman nuked fucking Houston in a last-ditch attempt to destroy the alien ships? There’s nothing like that in this movie at all. This movie follows the most video game logic of any film script I’ve ever seen. There’s a requisite action scene about every ten to fifteen minutes, but none of it matters at all. There’s no sense of scale, no sense of urgency, no sense that our main characters are in any kind of abject terror or danger whatsoever. Again, compare this to the first film. Remember how legit terrifying it was when the alien that Will Smith captured finally woke up and terrorized Brent Spiner? Remember how hopeless and scared people were? This is not the same kind of movie at all.

It almost feels like this is Independence Day: Lite rather than Resurgence. The stakes feel incredibly low, the movie is bafflingly short at just two hours (the first film ran two and a half), characters are barely fleshed out and spoiler alert the film ends on a fucking cliffhanger. Are you kidding me? I want my money back for sure. It’s hard to believe that this was made by the same people that brought us Independence Day. And look, I’m not saying the original film was a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. But it was an important 1990s blockbuster just a tier below Jurassic Park in terms of how it changed the summer movie and how it dominated the landscape for an entire summer. It came out at just the right time before computers and the internet exploded, allowing us to see just how dumb its plot was. Back in 1996 I surely thought a computer virus was a terrible thing that absolutely could bring down a spaceship. Of course now we know better, but at the time that shit made sense. The first film also allowed its characters plenty of time to move and breath, becoming fleshed out in the process. This film gives us absolutely no reason to give a shit about Mr. and Mrs. Hemsworth’s youngest and most special boy.

It is difficult to understate just how much I didn’t enjoy this film. I felt excited and titillated during absolutely no point in it whatsoever. This film was made with the express purpose of giving us more installments in the Independence Day franchise. I would totally be on board with that if this movie were any good. Problem is, it’s fucking terrible. Devlin, Emmerich, and 20th Century Fox should be ashamed of themselves for this mediocre garbage. It is a nostalgia grab that has absolutely blown up in their faces. When adjusted for inflation, the first film would have grossed $594 million dollars, putting it in rarified air, nearly that of films like Avatar, The Avengers, and Jurassic World. Independence Day: Resurgence will barely gross over $100 million, making it a massive disappointment. I’m not surprised audiences have rejected it; it’s a fucking terrible movie. What an embarrassment all around.

-Z-

ANCC: Independence Day

Celebrate ‘Merica’s birthday with the most American’ movie ever: 1996’s Independence Day!  In the wake of it’s recent sequel, the Gorehound and Nick look back at this sci-fi blockbuster classic.  What worked?  What didn’t?  And why is this movie still remembered fondly today?  Welcome to Earf and check out this episode!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image.

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10 Years of Blu-Ray

I came across an article the other day mentioned that Blu-Ray discs were launched this month ten years ago, and it took me by surprise.  While, yes Blu-Rays came out in June 2006, it still feels like the new kid on the block.  I suppose some of my surprise comes from the fact that I didn’t upgrade to Blu-Ray until 2013 after such time where I could afford to upgrade (completing grad work with a string of part-time jobs makes you financially cautious).

In any event, those ten years went by fast.  Where did the time go?  Let’s take a look back.

bluray

I remember back during my undergrad (circa. 2003) and the early talk of the thing to replace DVD was beginning.  I was following the news on this new format pretty closely back then and that there were going to be two competing formats, Blu-Ray and its Microsoft breather HD-DVD.  I was surprised by this considering how a variety of companies forced the makers of DVD to combine and create one format to avoid another format war in the manner of Betamax vs. VHS.  It perplexed me that the same tactic wasn’t being employed again (allegedly there were attempts to avoid a format war, but it didn’t come to any desired result).  It also surprised be because around that time, DVD just became mainstream and universally accepted – why rush a new format on a population that probably isn’t ready for it?

Then again, that’s not how technology works and we were getting high-definition entertainment.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were released to the public within months of each other in 2006.  And both launches were terrific blunders.  Despite of the quality of each format being roughly the same, players were astronomically high priced and none of the released titles really took advantage of the technical improvements the high-def formats promoted.  Eventually, things got better, but it is universally agreed that the formats were rushed to stores and suffered for it.

Shortly after the high def formats came out, I was talking to some of my students (I was a high school teacher at the time) about it.  One of them claimed that he felt the picture looked a little too good.  I can get behind that.  I remember watching a little bit of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies at a Circuit City (remember those, kids?) around that time and almost thinking that it kind of looked like a really clear home video.  That’s how clear the technology looked for me.

Studios started to pick sides of which format to support.  This, of course, was going to be the beginning of the end of the war.  By 2008, Blu-Ray won the format war due to a variety of reasons.   Having Blu-Ray as a built-in component for the then-new Playstation 3 (which had its own blunder-filled launch) was definitely a plus.  HD-DVD tried to get with the X-Box 360, but it was an add-in since the game system was launched a good 3 months before HD-DVD.

The game system element was definitely a big win for Blu-Ray, but HD-DVD’s killing blow was when Warner Bros. (the biggest home video distributor at the time) decided to exclusively side with Blu-Ray in early 2008.  Soon after, Wal-Mart dropped its support for the format.  By February 2008, HD-DVD was done for.

On a personal note, I think that consumers were attracted to Blu-Ray because it sounds better than HD-DVD.  HD-DVD just sounds too technical and not dissimilar enough from its predecessor DVD.  But that’s just my own theory.  I have nothing to back it up with.

Despite the format war (or possibly because of it), consumers were not jumping on the Blu-Ray bandwagon.  Its adoption by the public was slow.  DVD still continued to dominate sales.  Consumers didn’t quite understand the difference between DVD and Blu-Ray and those who did, didn’t see it as that much of an improvement (especially when compared to VHS and DVD).

The economic crisis of 2008 didn’t help as overall video sales were down.  With the higher price of Blu-Ray, if the average consumer were to buy, they would pick lower-costing DVD.  Not helping matters is that studios are still actively releasing DVDs alongside Blu-Rays instead of phasing them out.

Anecdotally, I have noticed this anytime I go into the video section of a Wal-Mart.  They have a ton of DVDs, but relatively few Blu-Rays.  And the ones they do, are mostly contained to newer releases (with its DVD brother next to it).  I suppose studios know that DVDs still sell, and cannot afford to get rid of them yet.  I do notice that DVDs tend to be very bare-bones, leaving the special features solely on the Blu-Ray.  But, I question, do people care about the special features as much as they once did when special features were a new thing?  I would argue that most don’t.

Another factor affecting Blu-Ray are streaming services.  Things like Netflix and Hulu have really taken off.  Why would someone buy a Blu-Ray for $20 when they can spend $8 a month and have access to 100 times more content?  True, it may not look as crisp as physical media, but if it is good enough, why not?  Fortunately for physical media, streaming’s quality hasn’t quite gotten to the point where physical media will disappear.  But in time, it will and people will stop buying stuff.

I suppose the slow adoption rate is what still makes me think that Blu-Ray is relatively new.  But it isn’t.  And a new format is already being released to the public: Ultra HD (also known as 4K Blu-Ray).  Why this is being thrown on consumers when Blu-Ray hasn’t quite caught on, I do not know.  Then again, it seems that Ultra HD hasn’t gotten the same kind of push that Blu-Ray did, so there’s that.  Perhaps this is just how things work.  DVD had a shelf-life of 10 years before Blu-Ray came and now Blu-Ray has the same thing.  I can’t see Ultra HD catching on with consumers anytime soon, but who knows?

Back on point.  Blu-Ray is a decade old!  What are some of your favorite titles released on the format? If I may, I would recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey.  While the movie isn’t for everyone, it looks absolutely gorgeous!  If you need an example of what the format can do, look no further!

~N

ANCC: HBO Sunday Night (Spring 2016 Edition)

The Gorehound and Nick look back at this past season of HBO’s biggest shows – its Sunday night lineup!  We are talking the popular Game of Thrones, Silicone Valley, and Veep.  What did they think about this past season?  The good and the bad!  This is a very fresh episode!  So, watch for spoilers!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

ANCC34

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