Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blinkbox Pt 2: The Revenge

It's been awhile since my last blog post that wasn't a top 10 list (the good folks at Best For Film enjoy em), so, on the eve of my shooting another flick, I might as well word vomit for 1000 words or so.

A few months ago, I discovered a video on demand site called blinkbox (lower case is right, I believe), where you can rent or buy videos and stream or download your purchases. I've used the site for awhile now and can round out my original thoughts on it.

Essentially, I dig the site. They have a decent selection of films, the downloads are quick, and they have some free flicks you can check. Essentially, what you'd want from online video. The big advantages of a site like this, as I've stressed before, is that it is an easy and inoffensive way to download films legally for a price that typically doesn't make you feel ripped off. It's difficult to put a value on digital downloads, since you're not actually getting  a physical product, but that niggling feeling that you know you SHOULD be paying for a film you stream or download will always be there. The folks at this site seem decent (now, obviously they're a business, but fuck it, roll with this) and not like they are trying to squeeze every last penny out of you. They are halfway between the standard distribution model and the new one that still needs to be perfected. Bless their cotton socks, they will change and they will be the future of our legal home entertainment!

One of my biggest criticisms of the site is their price for some new releases (and some titles in general) are in line with physical releases, and I just cannot justify the idea that they are worth the same. I thought for awhile would it be worth it if the site tried to add special features to some downloads, but this ended up coming up as extraneousness in the end. Special features will remain (for the moment) the domain of physical media, whereas digital media should be more focused on moving their films on the idea of being cheaper and just pushing the film. Though I personally would love the idea of being able to download mp3 audio commentaries, but I'm just a big nerd!

I have purchased and downloaded a few films and have had no problems with them. The quality is great, they downloaded quick, and, I'll be damned, there were some films that were decent surprises! The video is protected with DRM, which means you must enter your password for your blinkbox account and can only use it with Windows Media Player (no downloads for Mac, I'm afraid). This is a bone of contention to me, as I, like a more vocal majority, feel that if I have paid for something, I should have control over how I use it. I know that this will be an area that will change for sites like this in the future, but the limitations are what make some people uncomfortable and keeps the 'pirates' in business, particularly when there are complicated ways to get around DRM (oh those tech-whizz-kids!). Oh, for those who are interested, I am unaware of any way to download the free videos from the site. I'll hazard a guess there's a way, as there seems to be for everything.

For the free films, there are ads inserted. Most of the time, these glitch up on me, but I've always been more of a downloader than a streamer. As annoying as those ads on Youtube and Megavideo are, they may be a better idea than TV style ads, though I maintain it may be better to have the same amount of ads but fewer blocks of ads in which they are shown. It is certainly less intrusive.

Rentals are also obsolete. I know it is probably still a big market with a lot of people and the prices are a LOT cheaper than your local video store, but I just cannot bring myself to pay to rent something digital. Hypothetically, it is so easy to permanently get something these sites offer for a limited time. Now, I could write a whole other 1000 words on piracy (I've only written 100 words so far, right?), so to keep on topic, I will reiterate, blinkbox is the stepping stone between what consumers want and what they are being offered. I'm keeping an eye on the site, gladly using it. I know what price range I'm willing to spend in, and I do think eventually things will fall in line with my expectations. This is not because I am saying it, but because I am just echoing the feelings of thousands of people who want nothing more than to enjoy films in an easy way.

You're not there yet, blinkbox, but someday you will. For your efforts to get there, I salute you!

For those who want a little blinkbox experience, you can now watch the fantastically awful Italian horror film Demons in all its glory for free on the site, under free movies. Here's a trailer so you can see what you're in for:

Friday, 4 March 2011

Top 10 Horror Remakes

If there is one thing we all hate, it is remakes. Why remake a film that got it right the first time, or else was so bad it didn’t deserve a second chance? Well, I am about to show you why not all remakes are so bad and, in some cases, so of them are actually pretty damn good.

10. THE RING (2002)
Kicking off the J-horror remake trend, Pirate of the Caribbean’s Gore Verbinski delivers a stylish, slick and modern western interpretation of eastern hit, Ringu. Following a mother (played by Naomi Watts) who must solve the mystery of a videotape that causes people to die horrible deaths seven days after viewing, the film is suspenseful and tense, bring a Hollywood attitude to a simple (but brilliant) Japanese film. It owes much to its source while being a fantastic film on its own. For similar American reimaginings of Japanese horror, see The Grudge.

Wes Craven’s 1977 film is considered a classic, but it’s hard to argue that it has dated horribly. French filmmaker Alexandre Aja’s retelling stays close to its roots while adding in a modern style and playing up a larger, more deformed mutant clan than the original. Points go for amazing visuals and good acting. The opening montage and nuclear town are highlights.

I fully expected to hate this film, having seen the trailer and figuring it to be a standard killer-in-the-house flick, but little did I know that was part of its charm. The original film is nothing to write home about, but this one delights in giving you characters you can actually some way care about before putting them in peril at the hands of a killer, whose motives are intriguing. It’s never going to win an award, but the film delivers what it is supposed to. Sit back, chill, and watch the body count rise!

7. THE CRAZIES (2010)
Most people were unfamiliar with George ‘Dawn of the Dead’ Romero’s smaller 1973 film about the military trying to contain a virus outbreak that causes madness in a rural town, but this modern day action flick finally gives it credence. Essentially eliminating the military storyline, this one focuses on a group of people’s attempts to stay alive and not become one of the crazies. Just a purely enjoyable flick, it bares little resemblance to its predecessor.

This entry had critics and audiences divided, but it seems to mainly be because of the choice of Ryan Reynolds as leading man. I have no beef with the guy and think he actually gives a very good job as a husband and stepfather going through a mental breakdown while his family are subjected to terrorising hauntings. Scary and well made, almost a modern day The Shining, this is one remake that blows the (overrated) original away.

5. HALLOWEEN (2007)
Another one to split opinions, Rob Zombie’s take on John Carpenter’s 1978 seminal horror classic about a masked psychopath murdering teenagers focuses more on the killer’s childhood. Some people didn’t like blaming his acts on an abusive childhood (preferring that he is just pure evil), but whether you like it or not, it is well done and a great watch. The film changes completely halfway through, following the original more closely, but the prequel-like first half is what sets this apart. See Malcolm McDowell steal every scene!

4. PIRANHA 3D (2010)
First off, I am a massive Joe Dante fan, but this is another case of the remake outshining the original. Stupid and it knows it, the film is set around prehistoric piranha attacking tourists on spring break, but pulls out all the stops with Jerry O’Connell as a Girls Gone Wild-esque filmmaker, a load of boobs, cult filmmaker Eli Roth playing an annoying character who gets his comeuppance, some of the most outlandish gore this side of Hershell Lewis, and, the cherry on top, Christopher ‘Doc Brown’ Lloyd as an eccentric scientist. Film nights were made for films like this.

3. DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)
Remaking George A. Romero’s 1978 classic was always going to be risky and had more chance for failure than success, but director Zack Snyder, in his debut feature, took the risk and it paid off big time. With little more than passing references and fanboy nods to the original, this modern take of survivors in a mall during a zombie apocalypse is action packed with zombies that run and aims for mainstream audiences. Though a bit light on character development, this is an example of a remake that is unique and doesn’t desecrate the originals good name. See The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake for similar results.

2. THE THING (1982)
A film so genre-defining it is getting its own remake/prequel, John Carpenter’s take on the alien intruder in the Antarctic is as far from the fun B-movie fare of the original. Bleak, depressing and oodling with atmosphere, this is not a popcorn film. Nightmarish monsters and paranoia among our heroes (which includes the awesome Kurt Russell), the film is now considered a classic, and deservingly so. This is also easily one of the best horror films of the eighties.

1. THE FLY (1986)
I said The Thing was ONE of the best horrors of the eighties. David Cronenberg didn’t just remake the 1958 Vincent Price classic, he reinvented it. Jeff Goldblum stars as an eccentric scientist who begins to transform into a human fly after an accident with a matter transporter (oh, those silly eccentric scientists). Sickening to watch, but impossible to look away from, the film is intelligent and terrifying. The original was in essence a monster movie, but this is all about the horror of an uncontrollable transformation. There are rumours that this remake will be remade, which makes you wonder, when will we leave well enough alone!?

I now have some articles being published with the good folks over at Best For Film.  Articles I post there will make their way here after a few days, but do check out their site. There are some decent articles by writers who are probably better than me!