Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Act II: Richard III

When THX first started approving video transfers, it was a watchdog process that only applied to laserdiscs. THX transfers were the crème de la crème, the very limit of what the NTSC format could offer at the time. VHS didn't get to use the designation because the delivery system didn't support the kind of quality that THX was assuring. Eventually, however, the term became prominent enough that somebody had the idea of taking slapping the THX logo on the '96 issues of the Star Wars videocassettes (the last time the original versions of the trilogy were to be available) to make people think that they had been remastered from the previous issue when they had not. The THX logo soon began to crop up all over the place, and eventually its meaning became diluted to the point where it became meaningless.

Well, that is starting to happen with IMAX now. Not all screens that claim to be IMAX are projecting in 70 millimeter on a screen measuring over 70 feet across; IMAX Digital has appeared and is a lower-resolution format that is being projected onto screens measuring less than 60 feet across. Before spending the premium IMAX ticket prices, verify that the theater you're going to is indeed 70 millimeter IMAX at the IMAX vs. IMAX Digital at Google Maps and please report any changes to Destroy Fake IMAX. I'm not quite as militant about IMAX Digital from a conceptual perspective, but I don't like the fact that the lack of product differentiation allows theater owners to charge extra for an IMAX presentation based upon audience expectations of a 70 millimeter presentation.

Locally, the Regal Cinemas Deer Park Stadium 16 and the AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street are listed as IMAX Digital whereas Loews Lincoln Square Theater and the IMAX Theater at Palisades Center Mall are the real deal (and, of course, the Museum of Natural History).

Of all of the films included in the Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection, the one that is the real gem of the bunch is, of course, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is the only one that has undergone a new 4K transfer. While the film in no way looks bad, I do have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed with what it looks like, especially in context of the other five films in the set, which all look amazing.

Now, the reasons why Wrath of Khan doesn't look as good as the other films isn't the transfer. It's because the original negative was much darker (and a bit more grainy, but I didn't find that too distracting) and so the film doesn't quite 'pop' the way the others do. The film seems to match the original theatrical print I saw, but I saw it in 1982 and so my memory can easily be faulty, especially considering that I've seen this film on just about every other video format that it was released on between then and now. This means that I can say with authority that if nothing else, it is absolutely the best that this film has ever looked on home video.

Annoyingly, the film that looks the best in high def is the odious Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but while the version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the badly-paced and impersonal theatrical edit, the high definition format returns much of the jaw-dropping grandeur of the otherwise interminably long special effects sequences. And Super 35-lensed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (theatrical cut again) is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio for the first time ever on home video.

While one might have a point if one was to complain that this set came out prematurely as only the theatrical versions of the films are being included, especially in light of such releases that present multiple versions of the same film as Dark City, Paramount's own Star Trek Season 1 collection, or, most notably, Blade Runner (perhaps the single greatest special edition package created for home video?) the bevy of special features gives this box set quite a bit of added value. It's certainly worth having for a Star Trek fan provided they can get a good price on it (I managed to get mine for a little over $60, which is pretty damn good for a feature-packed 7 disc set).

I can take or leave the "Scooby-Doo" ending of The Undiscovered Country (and I don't like the MTV 'flashes' during the mind meld sequence that appeared on the "Director's Edition" at all), but I definitely foresee double-dipping with respect to the first film (the superior if still imperfect "Director's Edition" cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is constantly mentioned during the commentary track with Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman; apparently the revised visual effects were rendered at 480, thus requiring more work before it could be released at the unforgiving 1080p) and the second (the additions to that film's "Director's Edition" are not earth-shattering, but round out the characters without slowing the pace, but this set was a good place to start, and a nice companion piece to the Season 1 set, making possible a high-def Khan double feature with the original "Space Seed" episode and Wrath of Khan.

So. There is a remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three coming out. I'm not particularly enthusiastic about it because I don't see how you can really improve on the tone, performances, pace or downright New York-itude of the 1974 original. The new film also won't have David Shire's brilliant twelve-tone funk score, and without that, you don't really have an adventure on the 6 train, do you?

Seriously, part of the attraction of the original film is that it is a gritty snapshot of New York at a particular time and place. Granted, New York just isn't like that anymore, but footage I've seen from the film's trailer look exceedingly glossy and formal as one might expect from a Tony Scott film which can work gangbusters with some material (The Hunger, True Romance, Crimson Tide, etc.) but runs against the grain of the original film and novel, and it is a foregone conclusion that it won't have that "screw you" New York mentality going on. I'm not saying that they shouldn't have made the film, it just isn't a remake that is particularly attractive to me. On the other hand, there is a a chance that we might see a Blu-ray release of the original film to promote the new one, which I am all for, especially as the current DVD is a straight non-anamorphic port over of the widescreen laserdisc transfer, and looks rather blocky on a large television.

On the other hand, I still get a little excited every time I'm browsing Blu-rays and see Sleuth, only to find it's the Caine/Branagh remake and not the Olivier/Caine original.

Speaking of New York, on several occasions recently I have had the opportunity to marvel anew at the beauty that is the Manhattan skyline. Yes, I know I've grown up with it, but it is a sight that for some reason has never managed to enthrall me. There is a majesty to seeing it in person that can never be reproduced, not even with the best large format camera.

Tags: audio, cinema, david shire, high def, memes, new york, star trek, star wars
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