Thursday, 11 December 2014

Blu-ray Review: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Movies based on video games have never been, well, any good to be honest. They often miss the point of what make the game likable and sometimes it's simply a case of the game not being the right fit to be a movie. In 1995, New Line Cinema had the brilliant idea of releasing a film based on the fighting game series Mortal Kombat. Mortal Kombat first released in 1992 by arcade specialists Midway and was so controversial, it was responsible for the forming of the North American games rating board, the ESRB. Mortal Kombat is also notable for: spelling things that usually begin with a C with a K, it's violence that led to the ESRB's creation, and also its lack of creativity because it uses "palette swaps", different colour character outfits, and turns them into different characters. Nevertheless, the series is still going to this day, thanks to Warner Bros buying it after Midway went bankrupt in 2009, and there's a new entry, Mortal Kombat X, that launches in 2015.

Anyway, the movie, is it any good? And is the Blu-ray transfer up to scratch? Well, I'll answer that by taking a look at the case that it comes in.

The packaging for Mortal Kombat is as basic as you can get. Expected for a re-release to be honest. It looks nice though, the front cover has the famous Mortal Kombat emblem on it. On the back, it gives you all of the various information. It also includes a spelling mistake as it spells the name of Raiden as "Rayden".

So what about the movie itself? Well, Mortal Kombat, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (who also directed the first and several more Resident Evil movies, so he seems to like adapting games) is a movie about a tournament called Mortal Kombat. This tournament sees kombatants (see what I did there) from Earthworld and Outworld (kind of like a parallel universe) face each other to find a victor. After winning nine times in a row, Outworld ruler Shao Kahn has his lieutenant Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) host the tournament so that he can win the tenth tournament, which would allow Shao Kahn to invade Earthworld and take over. That's a video game premise for you right there.

Anyway, to stop this, Earthworld has to send three fighters to win the tournament and they are: Liu Kang (Robin Shou) who is looking for revenge after Shang Tsung killed his brother, superstar actor Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) and Special Forces agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson, now Wilson-Sampras, as she married Tennis legend Pete Sampras in 2000). They are guided by, who I personally think of as the star of the show, Elder God Raiden (Christopher Lambert). Lambert is brilliant as Raiden but as good as he is, it's slightly disappointing that he doesn't look like the character does in the games, like the Japanese thunder god that he is.

Anyway, each of them, except Raiden since he's a god he can't participate in Mortal Kombat, must fight their way through the tournament. In the tournament, characters from the games are the ones featured, including: Kano, Kitana, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Goro and Reptile. The characters all appear true to their design in the games, except for Reptile, who is made with terrible CGI. I suppose there's nothing that can be done about that, the movie has just aged. The fights in the movie are fine by movie standards but do lack the brutality that the games are known for, for obvious reasons.

Visually the movie has come good looking locations and the designs do take some inspiration from the games, as you'd expect. The High Definition remaster of Mortal Kombat is a competent one as the film is in 16:9 widescreen and the colours and visuals are crisper than in SD. Though there is grain on the movie which is a result of the HD remaster. Nowadays, films aren't used and it's all digital.

Sound-wise, Mortal Kombat supports 5.1 surround sound and it's clear enough. Now, I can't mention anything about this movie without mentioning the fantastic theme song and the remix. It's one of the best theme songs from a movie in my opinion and it's actually a shame that it doesn't get used in the games in some way.

The general plot in Mortal Kombat follows very much the typical action movie of the sort but with the story of the games being used to craft it. There are some differences, I think the biggest is that Scorpion and Sub-Zero and on the side of Shang Tsung. In the games, Sub-Zero is very much against him. Scorpion is neutral and only has one enemy, Sub-Zero.

This storyline is kind of expanded in the special feature that's included with the movie and that is an animated movie called Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins. It follows some of the plot of the movie, but it focuses more on added some information on certain characters' background. It explains characters like Goro, Scorpion, Sub-Zero for example. For these flashback sequences, it uses complete CGI, which is as bad as it sounds coming from 1995. The main story uses CGI backgrounds with hand-drawn characters. Why the difference I don't know. It looks dated and sounds it with the cheesy dialogue and bad voice acting. It was an interesting watch, but it wasn't good. This wasn't remastered either, which is expected. Also included is the theatrical trailer, again in SD.

The Mortal Kombat movie from 1995 is an action movie from the time, it's cheesy, over the top, has aged special effects but endearing in its own way. It's a fun, cheesy movie and surprisingly so a video game adaptation. It's aged, definitely, but that doesn't mean that it can't be enjoyed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Blu-ray Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Welcome to the first in what will most likely be the main type of feature that will appear on Deep Blu-ray Sea. A review is a common concept and shouldn't need to be explained but I will anyway. Basically, I will get a Blu-ray, whether it's a single movie, set of movies or TV show series and maybe games, but I have a different idea for those in mind that I will expand on at a later time when I have a full concept. I also won't be giving a rating or a score in my reviews, simply because of the fact I'd rather not do and prefer it this way. Anyway, the first Blu-ray to be reviewed is a new release, they won't always be, and it is Marvel's latest blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Marvel has seen massive success with their Marvel Cinematic Universe (It's really called that) and since it was acquired by Disney, has gone from strength to strength when many feared the worst after joining the house of mouse back in 2010. Guardians of the Galaxy is another one of from the back catalog of comics and has been adapted in a big-budget bombastic style. The Blu-ray release has now hit and now it's time to look at what's up.

Guardians of the Galaxy's Blu-ray release is standard fare. Not surprising for the standard edition really. However, it's a little disappointment that there isn't more than the minimum expected from Marvel and Disney.

In the images above you can see what you get for your money, pretty much the disc and a case. I wasn't expecting a 200 page art book showcasing all of the designs from the movie but maybe at least something about the next upcoming Marvel movies perhaps. The box does confirm some good things, such as the fact that it is region-free so you can play it on any Blu-ray player, no matter where you are.

Another disappointment is the lack of artwork on the disc. The blue disc looks uninspired and dull. Not really important but it just looks cheap.

So, when it boils down to it, the presentation doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Some care, hardcore collectors, but the majority will just throw the disc into the player and see what's what. Which is perfectly reasonable. The question is, is Guardians of the Galaxy any good?

The answer to that is yes, in short. In longer terms, it's good but it isn't perfect.

The thing about Guardians of the Galaxy, and it's the same for pretty much all of these recent superhero movies, is that there doesn't feel like there's any tension. You just know that the heroes will defeat the bad guys and that's that. No real drama or twist. I know this is not meant to be an intelligent movie with more twists than a Turkey Twizzler but at least have something. 

Guardians of the Galaxy follows the story of Peter Quill and it's 1988, a happy time for young Peter at the beginning as his mother is on her deathbed (that's a joke about it being a happy time). Anyway, Peter's mother (played by Laura Haddock, who plays Will's love interest Alison in The Inbetweeners Movie and Sam in the best UK sitcom no one watched, How Not to Live Your Life) sadly dies and Peter runs off struggling to take it where he is abducted by a space ship, of course.

Years later, older Peter (played by Chris Pratt) finds a mysterious orb which he retrieves and takes to a broker on the planet Xandar, to the annoyance of Yondu (Michael Rooker), who was the one who abducted him. On Xandar, the broker won't take it as Ronan (Lee Pace) has an interest in it. Dejected, Quill sees Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who tries to take the orb for herself but is thwarted by Quill along with Rocket the racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel, weirdly) who want to turn Quill in to Yondu who has placed a bounty on him.

Basically, they get arrested by Rhomann (John C. Reilly) and sent to the Kyln, a giant prison. There, they meet Drex (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista) and decide to work together to escape and sell the orb, no knowing why Ronan wants it. Other characters include Nova Prime (Glenn Close) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).

What works in Guardians of the Galaxy is the humour and the action, like many Marvel movies before it. The production values are top notch. The chemistry between the main cast is what helps enormously because if there wasn't, the whole movie would just be awkward. It's formulaic but it is good fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's unfortunate that the villain Ronan isn't anything special or even memorable, but in the grand scheme of things, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's a minor character. And that's what this is, Guardians of the Galaxy is introducing the team to the masses and setting them up for bigger things. It's a good movie despite it's issues as it achieves what Marvel wanted to do, and that is a summer popcorn flick. Nothing more, nothing less.

In regards to the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is as good as any modern film release. The image quality is nice and clean, the colours pop and have a decent variety, and the sound quality is excellent, there is full 7.1 surround sound support. The fact that the film has a great soundtrack helps, it's full of 80s hits. The Blu-ray also comes with extras, such as deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are interesting because they are unfinished. The scenes show low quality versions of Rocket and Groot for instance, as well as some missing special effects. It's actually cool to see this sort of thing as it goes to show how late in production everything comes together.

Other extras include a director's commentary from James Gunn and an early look look at Avengers: Age of Ultron which releases next year, which I'm sure will be a massive success.

All in all, the Blu-ray the release of Guardians of the Galaxy is a competent, if unspectacular release of a good yet formulaic superhero movie. It doesn't break any grounds but it does what people expect, and it does it well.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Welcome to Deep Blu-ray Sea

The title says it all, well, it doesn't but it does say that you are welcome. So now, what's next? Well, there will be a few questions that should hopefully give you a better understanding of what this whole shebang is.

What is Deep Blu-ray Sea?
Deep Blu-ray Sea is a blog dedicated to the optical media format that is the Blu-ray Disc, also referred to as Blu-ray, BD-ROM or just BD. Though some use BR which isn't the correct initialism. 

Blu-ray? WTF is that?
Unless you have been living in seclusion for a long time, you should know that Blu-ray is a disc format that was first released to the public in 2006. It has a maximum storage capacity of 50GB (so far) and is predominantly used for High Definition media such as movies, TV shows and games. Currently, the highest resolution possible with BD is 1080p, or 1920x1080, which is known as Full HD. In 2015, 4K Blu-ray movies will be released along with new players (no idea if existing players will be able to run them) and 4K is twice the resolution of 1080p not 4x (the 4K moniker refers to 4 million pixels, twice that of 1080p which is around 2 million).

What will Deep Blu-ray Sea be covering?
Deep Blu-ray Sea will be focused on Blu-ray movies and maybe TV box-sets. Games could also be covered as there are three gaming consoles that use Blu-ray: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Wii U does also use Blu-ray but it's not officially licensed so they aren't technically BD. Sorry plumber aficionados.

What will Deep Blu-ray Sea not be covering?
Anything to do with the Twilight series, or the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie. Did you know 50 Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan-fiction? Stephanie Meyer has a lot to answer for.

Well, that just about covers it, so thanks for reading and there should be more to come very soon.