Thursday, December 11, 2008

Popculturia: Inside Our Minds

To give you flavor of the minds of Buck & Hooper, the Den presents the following exchange, originally over e-mail, from Nov. 17, 2008.

(And as a bonus, you also get a bit of debate over Blu-Ray DVD and whether it's prudent to buy a player now or just wait. It's more engaging than you think!)

From: "Hooper"
To: "Buck"
Subject: The horror...

Hooper: I read [Steve Niles'] 30 Days of Night and [Mike Mignola's] Hellboy: The Troll Witch & Others. Both considered "horror" in their own ways, but with very different approaches. Of course I enjoyed the next outing of Mignola's big red and the contributions in this volume by P Craig Russell and Richard Corbett (?) on art. The stories are always fun and immersive; I'm even thinking about the archive editions being put out since I only have three of the trades, all purchased used or very discounted.

I understand your opinion on Niles' breakthrough work. How did this spawn so much? you more/less asked. I see it as one small story in a larger world of supernatural (vampire) terror. It's the prologue of a novel. I'll no doubt check out more as I see them. These vampires are almost more akin to zombies (destroy the head) than regular Draculas.

We've been watching Wonderfalls, the criminally cancelled Fox series from 2004. Four episodes aired, in two time slots, a year after they were supposed to debut. Thankfully, that meant we have a half season (13 eps) of a one hour show that form a mini-series, if nothing else. Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, soon-to-be Heroes, I've heard) is one of the main creative forces; the only two people it stars of note are Lee Pace (Ned from Pushing Daisies) and William Sadler (villain from Die Hard: Die Harder, and a Frank Darabont player). It's a great show, full of whimsy and wit. If you don't remember, it follows the exploits of slacker Jaye who, after nearly choking to death, now is talked to by anything with an animal face. She sees them move, hears them talk and they tell her to do things. Sometimes cryptic, but always helpful in the end (even if it takes a while to see how). It feels like a mash-up between Joan of Arcadia and Dead Like Me but that's not a bad thing. I suggest renting it, if you can. Lots of fun.

Speaking of Dead Like Me, a new direct-to-DVD movie is being released in February, "Life After Death." It doesn't have Mandy Patinkin in it (when has he ever stayed with a show past the second season?!), but his head reaper role is filled by a new character played by Henry Ian Cusack (is that right?), Desmond from Lost.

I look forward to Quantum of Solace regardless of bad reviews.

Buck: I know of Wonderfalls without having seen it. Might rent it, as it also involved producer Tim Minear (Angel, Firefly, Whedon's upcoming Dollhouse). Fuller said something in an interview recently that he may try to revisit some Wonderfalls stuff in Pushing Daisies (which probably won't happen now, as it looks like it's going to be cancelled). And he was actually on Heroes during the first season, so it would be a homecoming for him. (Are you glad they axed Loeb from the show?)

We'd gotten behind on House and Numbers lately, so Friday night saw us watching two weeks' worth of Numbers online and taping the new episode (which we'll watch this week) and last night we watched the episode of House where Cuddy almost got her baby, and have last week's taped and ready to watch. Also working our way through Buffy Season 3.

From the Cuddy/baby episode:
House: I need a genetic disease.
Wilson: I'm sure you're carrying a few.

Also, we might be getting a Blue-Ray [sic] player. Really weren't considering it too strongly right now, but Sears has a nice-looking Sharp player for more than half off the sticker price.

Hooper: Blu Ray, really? I hear there a lot of software upgrades needed and with prices what they are.... You know me. Where you had a book of DVDs started our sophomore year, I had somewhere like ten discs, and three of those were Shaka Zulu. It's not that I don't support new tech, but I want to see prices drop. And is the format really all its cracked up to be? Can you tell me, with an example, how this is a Great Leap Forward and not just LaserDisc or DivX come round again?

Buck: From what I've read, many consider it to be the last physical format we'll have until digital download becomes the norm. What do you mean by upgrades? You don't just plug it in? As for prices, I was looking at some movies from earlier this year and last year, that have been out long enough there's no "first week of release" price drop or anything, and for example, on Amazon, Transformers on Blue-Ray [sic] is actually $5 cheaper than the 2-disc standard format. The player itself is only $180, so considering the format it's a hell of a deal, and I imagine we'd get at least a good 5 years out of it. We've had our current player that long.

Again, it's not like we're running out and buying it. We just noticed

Hooper: When I say "upgrade," I mean when I buy a blu-ray release, what benefits (aside from audio/visual which, not having an HD TV, means nothing to me) does it offer over a regular release? You mentioned price, but from recent Best Buy and Target jaunts, they are still pricier. I mean features. Do I get everything from a 2-disc DVD plus more all on one disc? Is that the benefit?

Buck: Sometimes there are Blue-Ray [sic] exclusive features, but I believe all the usual standard features are also on the BD disc. I think many special editions are still 2 discs though.

Another reason for the considertion that I hadn't mentioned is that our current player is a DVD/VCR combo. We really don't use the VCR side of it anymore, and it's just getting a little old in general. So our basic thinking is why not upgrade to the fancy player while it's cheap? For the record, this doesn't mean I would buy exclusively in the Blue-Ray [sic] format. I really don't need to see Tropic Thunder in HD, for example, but stuff like Transformers, Iron Man and the like would look nice in that format (here I refer to the inevitable purchase of the sequels; not planning to double-dip just to get HD).

Hooper: See, that first paragraph is where I have an issue. I don't really care about the sharpness of picture as some people do; DVD video is, in general, great to me. What I look for with DVD is utilization of the format - i.e., taking that extra space and packing it with supplemental features. I think regular DVDs have been getting better and better at this, but I see the promise of a BR disc is two - or maybe three - discs worth of material on one disc.

Consider this. If I remember correctly, DVDs have around 5 GB of memory, but BR approach 45 GB (was HD 50?). Nine times the capacity. Granted, much is taken up with picture and sound, but that's not so much. If you don't film the extra features in the most luxurious definition, basically just a little better than regular DVD, are you telling me you can't get, say, the 3-disc Hellboy (first one) on one disc?

I do think we'll see a more formidable disc format before direct downloads (which I think are a decade off, unless T3 ethernet or fiber optic cables start replicating underground and jacking everyone into a system ten times faster than what we currently have). It's too capitalistic, not enthusiastic. Looking for the buck, not the bang.

Maybe I'm just too idealistic. You know what they say about Republicans: our dreams, like our vampire forefathers, are immortal.

Buck: The last line of your e-mail is going on my Christmas cards this year.

That aside, there's one thing that hadn't occurred to me until a few minutes ago: Originally, we'd planned on upgrading to an LCD television after we moved because the price is going down and many of our local stations are already broadcasting in HD. (We'll probably still do this.) Blu-Ray was something we'd discussed here and there, but hadn't seriously talked about it until Susan saw this sale price this morning. But if we're not upgrading the TV for another 6 months or so, what's the point of upgrading to Blu-Ray and not being able to enjoy it? If we just need a new DVD player, Wal-Mart's got a couple for $35. Or we could just watch it through the Playstation (which we did a couple of days ago when one didn't want to play in the regular player; sound's not as good going through the Playstation though). So yeah...maybe we won't upgrade right now.

Oh, and I think the 3-disc for Hellboy 2 is a 2-disc on Blu-Ray. Just for sake of argument.

Hooper: That's my point. This is next-gen media. Why get it unless you can go whole hog, and that means TV + player? Mandy and I have an all-in-one (TV-VHS-DVD) that is sucking hard and refusing to play DVDs (unless you open and close the tray a number of times), but we're looking to get a new DVD-VHS player to use until BR players drop in price in general, not just outside sales (and the hardware and software loses some of the bugs).

Buck: Good point. I think we'll stick with what we have for now, possibly getting one of those ultra-cheap players at Wal-Mart I mentioned if ours is in fact dying.

Who knows? By next summer they may have an LCD tv with a built-in Blu-Ray player (They already have them with standard players built-in).

[Note from Buck: I quite often send Hooper amusing webcomics I run across in my daily browsings. These sorts of images are a vital part of our e-mail interactions.]

Moving on to new topics, did you read either my Quantum mini review or the War of the Worlds updates?

Hooper: Yes to the first, no to the second. I intend to see QoS, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Is it better than Die Another Day? Then I shall enjoy it.

Buck: If you liked what I did the first time around with WotW, then you'll love the updates.

I like how your litmus test for Bond films is that it only has to be better than what was possibly the worst entry in the franchise. I thought on the way home from the theater about your disdain for that film, and again say that if you start the film with Bond's release from the Korean prison and stop it just before he meets Jinx, it's actually a pretty decent spy story. Of course, then it's only 20 minutes long and has no resolution, but we can't afford to be picky.


Now you know! And knowing? That's right.

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