Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warner Brothers DVD2BLU

Warner Brothers has been running a promotion to upgrade certain Warner DVD titles to Blu-ray editions.  What you do, is send them the DVD version (from a select list of titles) along with five bucks (per movie) and they in turn, will send you the Blu-ray version of the movie.  I went through the whole process a while ago and everything went smoothly.  I received my Blu-rays within a couple of weeks.  Recently, Warner Brothers has been accepting ANY DVD in exchange for ANY Blu-ray from their selection.  Having experienced good results the previous time, I had to get in on this deal... and here the saga begins.

I placed an order for 8 Blu-rays back on November 5th.  When you complete the online form, you enter an email address where they will send a pre-paid shipping label.  You need this label in order to send your DVDs to them.  I patiently waited until November 15th before contacting them because I had not received the shipping label.  They promptly replied the next day.  Do you remember the part where you give them an email address to send the pre-paid label to?  Warner Brothers seems to not read what you enter here.  They sent the pre-paid shipping label to an email address that was not mine.  After calling them that same day, they sorted everything out and I received my pre-paid shipping label the next day, November 17th.

The next step is to send your DVDs to Warner Brothers using the pre-paid shipping label.  On this label, and here is where Warner Brothers hurts themselves, is a tracking number.  By using the United States Postal Service Website, you can see how long it takes for your DVDs to arrive at the processing facility.  I mailed my DVDs on November 19th and it reached Warners on November 24th at 9:52 am.

According to the instructions provided by Warner Brothers, they will send you an email when they receive your DVDs.  This is not the case.  I heard nothing from them.  So I waited, and waited and then waited some more.  After all, it was over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I sent them another email on December 2nd asking for an update. I pointed out that they failed to notify me when my DVDs were received.  By using the tracking number I was able to inform them that my DVDs reached their processing facility.  I awaited a reply, but heard nothing.

It is now December 27th.  While checking my credit card statement online, I noticed that they had finally charged me for the Blu-rays.  And yet, I heard nothing from Warner Brothers.  I received an email from them yesterday apologizing for the delay, but at least my Blu-rays have made it to the shipping department.

Guess what I got in the mail today?  Yes, that's correct.  My Blu-rays arrived 54 days after I placed the order.  The Customer Service Department at Warner Brothers DVD2BLU program is, oh I don't know, laughable... pathetic... a shambles... non-existent?  It is a good deal to turn your DVD into a Blu-ray for only five bucks, but be prepared for a long wait in silence.  Rest assured, the horror stories you have heard about the Warner Brothers DVD2BLU Program are, in fact, true.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Latest Acquisitions - December

After returning some Christmas presents I purchased for a certain someone, I was able to pay off my computer and even had a little left over to buy myself some presents.  All of the Black Friday blu-rays arrived this month as well, so we have quite the lengthy update.

Blu-ray Update

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, Lea Thompson
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Special Features: The special features are listed by movie below:

Back to the Future
Deleted Scenes
Tales From The Future Documentary Parts 1-3
3 Archival Featurettes
Michael J. Fox Q&A
4 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
5 Photo Galleries
"The Power of Love" Music Video
Teaser Trailer
Join Team Fox
Q&A Commentary with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
Commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Back to the Future Part II
Deleted Scenes
Tales From The Future Documentary Part 4
The Physics of Back to the Future
3 Archival Featurettes
7 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
5 Photo Galleries
Theatrical Trailer
Q&A Commentary with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
Commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Back to the Future Part III
Deleted Scenes
Tales From The Future Documentary Parts 5&6
3 Archival Featurettes
3 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
5 Photo Galleries
"Doubleback" Music Video
FAQs about the Trilogy
Theatrical Trailer
Back to the Future: The Ride
Q&A Commentary with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
Commentary with Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Starring: Michael Fassbender,
Paul Freeman, Olga Kurylenko
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Music by: Ilan Eshkeri
Special Features: Behind the Scenes Documentary, Deleted Scenes with Commentary, Outtakes, Cast & Crew Interviews, Behind the Scenes Footage, Photo Galleries, Commentary with Neil Marshall and Crew

AD 117. The Roman Empire stretches from Egypt to Spain, and East as far as the Black Sea. But in northern Britain, the relentless onslaught of conquest has ground to a halt in face of the guerrilla tactics of an elusive enemy: the savage and terrifying Picts. Quintus Dias, sole survivor of the Pictish raid on a Roman frontier fort, marches north with General Virilus' legendary Ninth Legion, under orders to wipe the Picts from the face of the earth. However, when the legion is ambushed and Virilus is taken captive, Quintus faces a desperate struggle to keep his small platoon alive behind enemy lines. Enduring the harsh terrain and evading their remorseless Pict pursuers, the band of soldiers race to rescue their general and to reach the safety of the Roman frontier.

Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Music by: Max Steiner
Special Features: Over 8 hours including more than 3 hours of new material for this collection, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year Documentary, The Legend Lives on Featurette, Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara War starring Tony Curtis, MGM: When The Lion Roars 6 hour Documentary

Starring: Todd Armstrong, Honor Blackman
Directed by: Don Chaffey
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Special Features: Commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, Commentary with Peter Jackson and Randall William Cook, Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards, The Harryhausen Legacy Documentary, Ray Harryhausen Interviewed by John Landis, The Harryhausen Chronicles Documentary, Theatrical Trailers

Fantastic special effects by Ray Harryhausen and exciting mythological adventures make this a film that is fun for everyone. It's the story of Jason, a fearless sailor and explorer who returns to the kingdom of Thessaly after a 20 year voyage to make his rightful claim to the throne. But to do so, Jason must first find the magical Golden Fleece. He selects a crew and with the help of Hera, Queen of the Gods, sets sail in search of the fleece. Jason and his crew must overcome incredible obstacles including a 100 foot bronze giant, the venomous Hydra, a huge creature with the heads of seven snakes, and a spectacular battle with an army of skeletons.

Starring: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan, Paul Freeman
Directed by: John Mackenzie
Music by: Francis Monkman
Special Feature: Theatrical Trailer

Mob boss Harold Shand runs an underworld empire, but he dreams of a lucrative deal that will transform him into a legitimate businessman. Together with his partner in crime, the sexy, sophisticated Victoria, he aspires to use American mafia money to develop the barren docklands of London for the upcoming Olympics. However, their perfect plan begins to unravel when a string of deadly bombings leads Shand to a stunning realization and forces him into an explosive showdown in this taut, riveting thriller.

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet
Directed by: John Huston
Music by: Adolph Deutsch
Special Features: Commentary with Eric Lax, One Magnificent Bird Featurette, Breakdowns of 1941 Blooper Reel, Makeup Tests, Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, Warner Night at the Movies 1941 Short Subjects Gallery, 2 Maltese Falcon Radio Shows

A gallery of high-living lowlifes will stop at nothing to get heir sweaty hands on a jewel-encrusted falcon. Detective Sam Spade wants to find out why - and who'll take the fall for his partner's murder. An all star cast joins Bogart in this crackling mystery masterwork written for the screen (from Dashiell Hammett's novel) and directed by John Huston. This nominee for 3 Academy Awards - Best Picture, Supporting Actor and Screenplay - catapulted Bogart to stardom and launched Huston's directorial career.

Salt (steelbook only at Best Buy)
Starring: Angelina Jolie
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Music by: James Newton Howard
Special Features: Commentary with Phillip Noyce, 5 Featurettes, Making of Documentary, Radio Interview with Phillip Noyce

Evelyn Salt, a trusted and loyal CIA operative, goes on the run when a Russian defector convinces her superiors that she's a double agent sent to assassinate the President of the United States. As the intense manhunt heats up, Salt uses all her skills as a covert operative to elude capture and uncovers a secret so powerful it could change the course of world history.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music By: John Williams
Special Features: Introduction with Steven Spielberg, 8 featurettes, Shooting War Documentary, Theatrical Trailer, Re-Release Trailer

Seen through the eyes of a squad of American soldiers, the story begins with World War II's historic D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders: Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer - and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and respect.

Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Music Supervision by: Robbie Robertson
Special Features: 2 Featurettes

Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese once again teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio in this spine-chilling thriller. When U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels arrives at the asylum for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, what starts as a routine investigation quickly takes a sinister turn. As the investigation unfolds and Teddy uncovers more shocking and terrifying truths about the island, he learns there are some places that never let you go.

Starring: Andy Whitfield, John Hannah, Lucy Lawless
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Special Features: Extended Episodes, Commentary, 9 Featurettes

Betrayed by the Romans, forced into slavery, reborn as a gladiator. The classic tale of the Republic's most infamous rebel comes alive in the graphic and visceral new series.  Torn from his homeland and the woman he loves, Spartacus is condemned to the brutal world of the arena where blood and death are primetime entertainment. But not all battles are fought upon the sands. Treachery, corruption, and the allure of the sensual pleasures will constantly test Spartacus. To survive, he must become more than a man, more than a gladiator. He must become a legend.

Starring: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall,
Dennis Hopper
Directed by: Henry Hathaway
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Special Features: Commentary with Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Boze Bell and J. Stuart Rosebrook, 4 Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer

The cantankerous Rooster Cogburn is hired by a headstrong young girl to find the man who murdered her father and fled with the family savings. When Rooster's employer insists on accompanying the old gunfighter, sparks fly. And the situation goes from troubled to disastrous when an inexperienced Texas Ranger joins the party. Laughter and tears punctuate the wild action in this extraordinary western.

Starring: Adrienne Corri
Directed by: Robert Young
Music by: David Whitaker
Special Features: Making of Documentary, 2 Featurettes, Motion Comic Book, Still and Poster Gallery, Theatrical Trailer

A little girl is brutally slain by a vampire in a tiny 19th century Austrian village. Seeking revenge, the townspeople invade the foreboding castle of Count Mitterhaus and kill him for the crime. As the Count dies, he curses the villagers and vows their children will all die so that he may someday return to life. Fifteen years later, as the village is ravaged by the plague, a traveling circus comes to town and distracts the villagers from their hardships. Little do they know that their troubles are only beginning! The circus is actually a troupe of shape-shifting vampires and, as the local children start disappearing, they realize the prophecy of the long dead Count is coming true.

DVD Update

Grindhouse Experience Volume 1
20 Film Feature Collection

Women's Camp 119
Tortured Angels
Savage Man/Savage Beast
Raw Force
Confessions of a Police Captain
Executioner 2
Poseidon Explosion
Earthquake 7.9
Violent Professionals
Frank and Tony
Kung Fu Punch of Death
Return of the Tiger
Go Kill and Come Back
Bounty Man
Three Tough Guys
The Children
Demon Witch Child
High School Hitch Hikers
Carry On Emmannuelle

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Giulian Gemma
Directed by: Michelle Lupo
Music by: Ennio Morricone

Wallace is an aging thief past his prime who wants to pull off one final robbery. Fresh out of jail, Wallace immediately begins to hammer out plans for the big heist. The only problem? Wallace's wife, not wanting to see her husband go back to the big house - possibly for good - is dead set against it. But Wallace is determined that he's come up with the perfect plan for his target of one million dollars, housed in the safe of all safes in Germany. he's got a gymnast on his side and an airtight alibi to boot. But even the best-laid plans have their flaws and sometimes even the best career criminals get caught.

Starring: Jeffrey Byron, Kelly Preston
Directed by: Charles Band
Music by: Richard Band

MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.  A miner and his daughter Dhyana fall prey to the evil dictator Jared-Syn's reign of terror. Dogen, the brave peacekeeping ranger, must save Dhyana and the rest of her planet from the forces of Jared-Syn, his son, Baal, and the hideous cyclopean warlord, Hurok. If Dogen does not find Dhyana in time she will be sacrificed to Jared-Syn's strange live-giving crystal.

Starring: Julian Sands, Asia Argento
Directed by: Dario Argento
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Special Features: Interview with Julian Sands, Behind the Scenes Footage, Fangoria Article, Photo Galleries, Trailers

Mysteriously, a series of terrifying accidents and brutal murders leaves a bloody body trail in the subterranean caverns of an opera house basement. Born into the murky sewer waters below the theater stalks a man/monster raised by creatures of the underworld. This Phantom's dark and grotesque life is shattered when he becomes obsessed with a beautiful young singer, seducing her with his chilling but exotic presence.

Starring: Edwige Fenech, Richard Conte
Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by: Luciano Michelini
Special Features: Interviews with Giulino Carnimeo, Edwige Fenech, Ernesto Gastaldi, Poster and Still Gallery, Theatrical Trailer

International sex symbol Edwige Fenech stars as Anna, a beautiful but naive small town sales girl, who quickly falls into an abusive relationship with sadistic mobster Guido. He soon forces Anna deep into the abyss of depravity, violence and prostitution and, looking to start a new life, she escapes from Guido with their son and finally finds happiness in the arms of Lorenzo, a sensitive doctor. But before long, Guido finds her and wants revenge on the woman whose life he has so ruthlessly controlled for so long, leaving Anna no choice but to face her tormentor and confront her greatest fear.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 1

Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 1:
Cowboys, Crooks and Charmers Named Trinity

Like them or not, VideoAsia has been putting out collections of many films that probably would never see a DVD release.  Most of the movies are sourced from old VHS tapes and vary greatly in quality.  When looking at these titles online, it can be difficult to decide if it's worth a purchase.  The listing doesn't make mention of what films are contained in the collection, let alone what the quality is like.  In the months to come, I'll be going through all the VideoAsia titles that I own and giving a rundown of what is included in each set.  So, without further adieu, let's take a look at the Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 1.

Disc 1 - Side 1 - Film 1
Tedeum (1972)
Starring Jack Palance, Eduardo Fajardo
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Music by Guido & Mauruzio De Angelis

Jack Palance plays Father Jackleg, who along with his companions, is trying to find someone to buy their worthless gold mine.  After getting themselves involved with some scheming ladies, they find that the gold mine isn't so worthless.  All along the way, they are being chased by an increasing group of people they have cheated in the past.  The film is presented in widescreen with a total run time of 92 minutes.

Disc 1 - Side 1 - Film 2
The Revenge of Trinity (1971)
Starring Terence Hill, Fernandeo Rey
Directed by Mario Camus
Music by Augusto Martelli

While in Texas, one of Trinity's plans goes sour and he is forced to flea to Mexico where he finds himself in the middle of the Mexican Revolution.  The beginning of this widescreen video is complete with tracking issues, tape rolls and sound issues which eventually work their way out.  The film does have hard coded subtitles and also clocks in at 92 minutes.

Disc 1 - Side 2 - Film 1
Viva Django (1968)
Starring Terence Hill, Horst Frank, George Eastman
Directed by Ferdinando Baldi
Music by Gianfranco Reverberi

Django's wife has been murdered by Frank Horst and his gang of outlaws.  Seeking revenge, Django sets out as a traveling hangman who secretly saves the lives of the falsely accused men if they agree to help him get his vengeance.  Side 2 of disc 1 has the best looking prints out of the entire set, these films are most likely taken from a DVD master instead of a VHS tape.  Widescreen, 98 minutes.

Disc 1 - Side 2 - Film 2
Blackie the Pirate (1971)
Starring Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, George Martin
Directed by Lorenzo Gicca Palli
Music by Gino Peguri

Here is the first non-spaghetti western title in this spaghetti western collection, at least it's something that I'll watch one day.  Widescreen, 97 minutes.

Disc 2 - Side 1 - Film 1
They Call Him Bulldozer (1978)
Starring Bud Spencer
Directed by Michele Lupo
Music by Guido & Mauruzio De Angelis

From the back of the case, "Bud Spencer is a one man football team."  Not a bad quality Pan & Scan print, but obviously not a spaghetti western.  110 minutes.

Disc 2 - Side 1 - Film 2
Jesse & Lester (1972)
Starring Richard Harrison, Donald O'Brien
Directed by Renzo Genta & Richard Harrison
Music by Carlo Savina

Jesse and Lester are two brothers who inherit a load of cash.  Jesse (Richard Harrison) wants to spend it by building a whorehouse.  Lester (Donald O'Brien) is a Mormon preacher who wants to spend it by building a church.  Before they can spend the money, they must get it back from the group of bandits who stole it.  This is the worst looking print in the collection.  It is slightly letterboxed, window-boxed and has a running time of 93 minutes.

Disc 2 - Side 2 - Film 1
Kid Stuff (1976)
Starring Paul Smith, Michael Coby
Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by Guido & Mauruzio De Angelis

Paul Smith and Michael Coby are Terence Hill and Bud Spencer lookalikes in this non-spaghetti western entry.  Pan & Scan, 93 minutes.

Disc 2 - Side 2 - Film 2
Diamond Pedlars (1976)
Starring Paul Smith, Michael Coby
Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by Guido & Mauruzio De Angelis

This side of the disc (and disc three) is pretty worthless with two Terence Hill / Bud Spencer rip-offs.  The second screenshot is not representative of the entire film, but is an example of how poor some of the scenes look.  Pan & Scan, 94 minutes.

Disc 3 - Film 1
Trinity Goes East (1998)
Starring Steve Tartalia, Roberto Lopez
Directed by Robert Tai
Music by Alessandro Alessandroni

Widescreen, 97 minutes.

Disc 3 - Film 2
Trinity and Bambino (1995)
Starring Heath Kizzier, Keith Neubert
Directed by Enzo Barboni
Music by Stefano Mainetti

Widescreen, 94 minutes.

Out of the ten movies in the Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 1, only four of them are spaghetti westerns.  That is a pretty poor ratio for a collection of spaghetti westerns.  This is the only US release of Viva Django and Blackie the Pirate that I am aware of, and they are both very good quality prints.  Having read this article before purchasing the title, would I still buy it?  I think I would.  The two movies that I am most interested in are the two in the best quality.