Archive for March, 2009

Inferior Subtitles Plague LET THE RIGHT ONE IN On DVD/Blu-ray

Posted in Blu-Ray, Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2009 by halmasonberg

blurightbIt seems that there’s been quite a buzz through the online community of DVD and Blu-ray fans over the English subtitles used for the home release of the popular Swedish vampire flick, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. It seems the film’s distributor, MAGNET, chose to use a different translation other than the one which appeared in the popular theatrical release. According to Icons Of Fright

The subtitles had been drastically changed since the last time I saw it, and dare I say… had been completely dumbed down? Sure, the basic gist of what the characters were saying was kind of there, but missing completely was the dark humorsubtleties and character nuances which made the movie so powerful and a favorite amongst audiences last year. I tried to carry on and ignore it, hoping that only a few of the translations were off… but… I was wrong. Just about the intent of every single line of dialogue was completely off and ruined the movie.

The good news is that the folks over at The Digital Bits contacted Magnet about the problem and received this response:

“We’ve been made aware that there are several fans that don’t like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR. We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version.” 

The bad news is, when asked about exchanges for those, like myself, who have already purchased this “inferior” version of the film, Magnet’s response was:

“There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH.” 

This is, to say the least, VERY unfortunate. You see, the film’s biggest fans are the very ones who raced out and purchased it right away. They are also the ones who made Magnet aware of the problem in the first place. All of us are thrilled beyond words that Magnet chose to distribute this film in the States AND release it not just on DVD but on Blu-ray as well. But Magnet made a very poor choice in changing the subtitles and, as is shown below, the difference is truly dramatic. They should take the hit for this poor decision and not lay it on the film’s biggest supporters. I have a feeling they’ll be getting a lot of angry letters these next few weeks. 

Here are some examples of the difference in tone from one set of subs to the next. The following screen captures are courtesy of Icons Of Fright:

Here is a scene from early in the film. These subs are from the theatrical release and clearly show the proper tone and dark humor inherent in the film and in the exchange between these two main characters:

080128_1131-0080128_1131-1080128_1131-2080128_1131-3

 

Now here is the new Magnet DVD/Blu-ray translation of that same exchange:

let_the_right_one_in-0let_the_right_one_in-0

Wow. So much for capturing nuance!

And here’s an example of dumbing down the dialogue by choosing to illustrate something painfully obvious by adding dialogue that was not actually in the film!

Theatrical:

080128_1131-18

DVD/Blu:

let_the_right_one_in-16

To see more startling examples, please visit Icons Of Fright. As you’ll see, each example is more offensive than the last. One wonders what the thought process was behind this. Was it the belief that Americans would be too stupid to get the humor and subtleties? Or maybe it was a money issue as in not wanting to pay for rights to the original translation, as the folks over at Icons Of Fright suggest? The most likely reason to me is simply that the folks at Magnet know that many Americans still don’t like to read subtitles therefore they were simply “reducing” the number of subtitles that needed to be read! And like so many producers I’ve run into and worked with, they don’t seem to understand that it’s not just about getting “information” across to an audience that is important. It is, in fact, the subtleties, nuances and poetry of a piece that make it a great film instead of one that’s just okay. That’s what storytelling is!  

And this last reason also seems quite probable as it should be noted that the DVD/Blu-ray offers the English dubbed version of the film as the play default. You actually have to return to the menu and manually select the original Swedish track in order to see the film in its original language. Not a release tailored to the foreign film-lover, to say the least. 

Oddly enough, the subtitle issue is, in some ways, a moot point for me as I actually speak Swedish and don’t need them. But part of the joy of owning a film is watching it with your friends and turning new people on to it. Well, I had a movie night set up for this very reason. And I was really looking forward to seeing the film again, exposing my friends to it, and engaging in whatever conversation followed. But I’m canceling that little event until the “proper” version is released. AND I can trade in my old copy for the new one. Because really Magnet, do you want me to hold off purchasing any other titles until I know for sure that what I’m purchasing is, in fact, what I think I’m purchasing? However, if I know you stand behind your products AND your customers, then I can buy with confidence. I do hope you change your mind and do the right thing.

Addendum: e-mail Magnet and ask them to reconsider their exchange policy on LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Their e-mail address is: dvd@magpictures.com

New Grateful Dead & Jerry Garcia CDs Abound

Posted in Grateful Dead, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2009 by halmasonberg

roadtrips_2-2_230x205Dead.net is starting the year off right by offering some truly incredible shows from the vaults of both the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band. First off is the first-ever full show release in the now popular “Road Trips” series. From the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco February 14, 1968. As described on Dead.net:

This magnificent show—long admired by Dead Heads (and the band—it’s a Phil Lesh favorite)—captures the Dead at a real turning point in their career: When they tossed out the rock rule book and truly found their own sound. They tried out nearly all their new songs that night, and everyone was amazed at how effortlessly—yet powerfully—one flowed into the next and how their sets ebbed and flowed and exploded and got quiet and covered such an incredible range of textures and emotions. This wasn’t just a good-time dance band. This was serious… and still a good time!

For the complete track list or to order, click HERE. This set also includes recently discovered tracks from January 1968.

5379ef1c-01d2-4e74-8537-3ce409df0cbeAnd after a long absence, the “Pure Jerry” series is back. This time with an all acoustic show featuring Garcia and long-time friend and collaborator, bassist John Kahn from Marin Vet’s on February 28, 1986.

…this was a hometown show—literally—so the air was both relaxed and festive. The twelve songs collected here on a single disc are the complete two-set show from that night, nearly 70 minutes of music; a nice blend of old folk tunes, a Dylan number and Hunter-Garcia classics. Particularly noteworthy in that last category are the epic “Bird Song” and rockin’ “Run for the Roses.” Soundboard copies of this show have not been in circulation before.

To order or to view the track list, click HERE.

3524e0c7-ffb4-4901-9ee3-73e7aced51b7Finally, Dead.net is offering up a stellar show from the Dead’s legendary spring 1977 tour. This was the final show in that run and took place at the Hartford Civic Center on May 28, 1977.

TO TERRAPIN catches the guys at the top of their game, unleashing a slew of new tunes that would “officially” debut two months later as part of TERRAPIN STATION.

…There’s something very special about the energy level here. It stays high from the moment they hit the stage, to clear through the encore. It’s no wonder so many Dead Heads will point to this night in Hartford as one of the “best EVER!”

For a complete track list and order info, click HERE.

Glad to see the new year off to such a great musical start. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.

Keep on dancin’!

An Old Fogey Watches The WATCHMEN. And Mourns…

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2009 by halmasonberg

poster-theatricalI must be getting old because I find myself referring back far too often to my youth and how things “used to be.” Granted, I came of age during Hollywood’s second Golden Era: the 70′s. Actually, to be more accurate, I started living and breathing cinema in the late 60′s and was exposed to first releases of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and BONNIE AND CLYDE among so many others. And for a good decade or more, films were a sight to behold. Daring and edgy while dipping ambiguously into alternate realities and tackling subjects and characters with an inner desire to strip away the outer layers and look closely at what lies beneath, all the while pushing the boundaries of the medium in a way unseen to date. 

So in my old-age, I have to shake my head slightly when I hear directors like Zack Snyder hailed as “groundbreaking” and “visionary.” Now I have nothing against Zack Snyder personally, but I have yet to witness any real visionary storytelling in his films. I haven’t found any of them downright “bad”, but they have sadly left me feeling rather empty. DAWN OF THE DEAD stripped away the social commentary that made the original so damn effective. And 300 looked really cool, but was ultimately lacking in character or depth. At least for my tastes. WATCHMEN isn’t a horrible film by any stretch and there are some interesting themes and moments, but at the end of the day, I was bored through a good portion of the film and almost walked out in the first half hour. I found myself slightly more involved as the film continued, but only slightly. And as for the visuals, as with 300, the images were ultimately empty, though at times striking. These films left me with very little to hold on to after the end credits rolled. I never felt challenged or stimulated or moved. These films never got past my first layer of skin, no less into my gut. 

The world of special effects these days has dulled something in film for me. When used sparingly, it can be a wonderful tool. However, when a film is allowed to ride on its effects budget alone, the results are often artistically disastrous, regardless of box office intake. 

The STAR WARS prequels were vapid. Yes, even REVENGE OF THE SITH which, despite the claims of those desperate to find something of value there, was a lesson in non-storytelling. It was a wonderful display of effects devoid of performance or script. 

The other side of the coin could be, say, the recent Swedish vampire flick LET THE RIGHT ONE IN which used its effects sparingly with the result being that each effect was a part of the story and therefore had far more impact than if the film were an effects extravaganza, as the American version would have been (or will probably be). 

418px-straw_dogs_movie_posterAnd then there are films like STRAW DOGS which I had the pleasure of watching again recently. You know, when all is said and done, STRAW DOGS is a film that could only get made today as an indie. If that. Very few locations, a handful of great actors, a challenging script and theme, and a director with something to say and the talent to say it. It is the powerful and incredible editing in STRAW DOGS that is its greatest “effect.” So you won’t see ANYTHING like STRAW DOGS worming its way through the Hollywood system today. No, not without having its guts removed piece by piece until any trace of humanity, artistry and/or meaning had been thoroughly stripped from it. Sorry to be such a sad sack, but it’s the truth. And, sadly, even the indie world is filled with filmmakers yearning to walk away from the creative goldmine that is indie filmmaking, to pass into the ranks of Hollywood star directors. Just like so many visionary foreign filmmakers who come to Hollywood and never make another film of vision or substance. I take my hat off to the Pedro Almodovars of the world who recognize the glory of their current situations and turn away from the siren’s call of Hollywoodland. 

So it was that when I read Kyle Smith‘s review of WATCHMEN in the New York Post, my head shook uncontrollably with despair:

Director Zack Snyder’s cerebral, scintillating follow-up to “300″ seems, to even a weary filmgoer’s eye, as fresh and magnificent in sound and vision as “2001″ must have seemed in 1968, yet in its eagerness to argue with itself, it resembles “A Clockwork Orange. Like those Stanley Kubrick films – it is also in part a parody of “Dr. Strangelove” – it transforms each moment into a tableau with great, uncompromising concentration. The effect is an almost airless gloom, but the film is also exhilarating in breadth and depth.” 

Really? Comparing Snyder to Kubrick? REALLY? Luckily, my loneliness and horror can be eased by comments like Kenneth Turan‘s in the Los Angeles Times:

Despite being prematurely canonized by the film’s publicity apparatus, Snyder stands revealed here as more of a beginner than a visionary in his uncertain approach to making an on-screen world come alive. 

Now I know my comments here will be met with some hostility from the fans of the above-mentioned films, but like I said, I’m just some old fogey complaining about how things were when I was younger. “Back in the day,” as they say.

So I’ll just shut up and go back to my little home theater to take in another viewing of THE CONVERSATION or MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER or POINT BLANK. And maybe I’ll follow those up with some antiquated old-timer fair like BLACK NARCISSUS or THE BIG PARADE. You know, films that were made before the visionaries came along.

Sad News: Natasha Richardson Passes At 45

Posted in Film with tags , , on March 18, 2009 by halmasonberg

As we feared, the family has announced that Natasha Richardson has passed away after being taken off of life support. This is sad news, indeed. She will be missed and she will not be forgotten. My thoughts go out to her family and friends. She was loved by many. 

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Natasha Taken Off Life Support

Posted in Film with tags , , on March 18, 2009 by halmasonberg

2009_0317_gettyimages_natasharichardson_1_0Liz Smith reports that Natasha Richardson has been taken off life support.

…Word is in at 1:30 PM WEDNESDAY they have taken Natasha off of life support. This is not unexpected. Insiders felt yesterday, on learning they were flying Natasha in to Lenox Hill, that this meant her condition was hopeless and they were just finding a place to be together with her and to say good-bye. As one insider remarked:”Nobody goes to Lenox Hill who is really sick; if she’ d had a chance to live, they’d have found another great brain hospital!” This is all just utterly horrible to write!

Will report more as I find out.

Praying For Natasha Richardson

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , on March 17, 2009 by halmasonberg

From the Huffington Post:

s-natasha-richardson-largeHours after reports that Natasha Richardson suffered a serious brain injury while skiing, Time Out New York, Fox News and the NY Post claim that she is brain dead, which TMZ refutes.

Richardson is currently en route to New York from Canada via private jet, her second hospital transfer in 24 hours. The flight has beenconfirmed by the AP and a hospital spokesman.

Fox claims she is coming home to then be taken off life support and allowed to die:

Sources close to Tony-award winning actress Natasha Richardson tell FOXNews.com that the 45-year-old actress is brain dead, and being transported back to New York City before she is to be taken off life support. 

They had no official confirmation, but at 12:39 TONY wrote that she is brain dead, although alive:

Although public reports have not yet confirmed it, sources close to Richardson’s family and friends say they have already been told the awful news: She will not survive the accident, and is currently brain dead. 

The NY Post reports:

Actress Natasha Richardson is brain dead, after falling in a ski accident in Canada, friends told The Post today. 

The TONY updated their story at 1:58 with a clarification about their initial RIP headline, seen below:

TONY’s sources have clarified the situation: Richardson is brain dead but has not passed away. Sources close to the family indicate that they are treating it as a death. We will update you on this sad story as circumstances warrant. We apologize to the family and to our readers. 

TMZ, however, hears differently:

The hospital tells TMZ Richardson is sedated and suffering from brain swelling — but is not brain dead.

Richardson, 45, is the wife of actor Liam Neeson and the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave.

She and Neeson have two sons.

Addendum: As of 5:45 PST. From cbs.ca:

Lyne Lortie of the Mont Tremblant ski resort said Richardson was conscious and showed no signs of a serious head injury after she fell on a beginner run on Monday while in the company of an experienced instructor.

Though the actress had not been wearing a helmet, she fell “right in the middle of the trail. She didn’t hit anyone or anything. It was a normal fall that you would expect from a ski lesson,” Lortie told CBC News.

“She showed no injuries. She was talking. She seemed all right. But [the ski patrol] have to follow strict procedures so they brought her back to the bottom of the slope,” Lortie said, adding that Monday was a “beautiful sunny day” and that the slope “wasn’t icy at all.”

The patrol accompanied Richardson and her instructor to her hotel room, where the actress was advised to see a doctor. Later, Richardson reported feeling unwell and an ambulance was called.

The actress was first taken to the Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe and later transferred to Sacré-Coeur hospital, the ski resort said.

Neeson, who had been in Toronto filming the Atom Egoyan movie Chloe on Monday, immediately left the Toronto set upon receiving news of his wife’s accident.

The couple’s two pre-teen sons, Michael and Daniel, are reportedly in New York.

“We know that she has had an accident, but we really do not know any more details,” actress Kika Markham, Richardson’s aunt, told BBC Arts correspondent Rebecca Jones in London earlier Tuesday.

“We are very concerned,” said Markham, who is married to Richardson’s uncle, Corin Redgrave.

 

Cheney Claims Bush Administration Not To Blame For Economic Crisis

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2009 by halmasonberg

Former Vice President and Mister Potter look-alike Dick Cheney told John King of CNN’s “State Of The Union” that the Bush Administration is not responsible for the current economic crisis. He claims it’s too easy to blame the “previous administration.”  He then goes on to suggest that it is, in part, actually due to the Democratic Congress that was in place during the final two years of the Bush administration. He then continues to suggest that President Obama’s policies are making Americans less safe. Watch here for yourself: 

Actor Ron Silver Dies

Posted in Film with tags , , , , on March 15, 2009 by halmasonberg

s-ron-silver-largeActor and political activist Ron Silver died today of esophageal cancer. He was 62. 

We will miss you, Ron.

A.I.G. & Their $100 Million Bonuses. How Wrong Is Wrong?

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2009 by halmasonberg

Was1916419American International Group (A.I.G.) is prepping to pay about $100 million in bonuses to execs in the same unit that brought the company to its financial knees last year. All this while taking $170 billion in bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve!

Meanwhile, my friends and I sit on the edge of personal and professional bankruptcy. All directly resulting from the unsavory practices of institutions like A.I.G.

Obama administration Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner called A.I.G.’s government appointed chairman Edward M. Liddy and asked the company to renegotiate those outrageous bonuses. But Liddy insists that A.I.G. is contractually obligated to pay them. According to Liddy:

BUSINESS-US-AIG“Needless to say, in the current circumstances, I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them… 

We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.”

Out of all the financial institutions that have been bailed out using taxpayer dollars, none have received more than A.I.G.

Addendum: It looks like the grand total in bonuses given out by A.I.G. today was $165 million. 

Is Pot The Answer To California’s Economic Woes?

Posted in Los Angeles, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2009 by halmasonberg

74cx3jhnDemocratic State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a legislation last month to legalize pot and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale. According to TIME Magazine:

Pot is, after all, California’s biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state’s second largest agricultural commodity – milk and cream – which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state’s tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget… State revenues would be derived from a $50-per-oz. levy on retail sales of marijuana and sales taxes.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, who supports the legalization of marijuana and believes it would save the state somewhere in the range of $1 billion a year in eliminating the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of marijuana users and sellers, states:

“We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried. Not only do we have those problems, along with glamorizing it by making it illegal, but we also have the crime and corruption that go along with it. Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substances to use, to misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So let’s try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn’t do it worse if we tried.”

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