Sunday, April 12, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire on Blu-ray

Slumdog Millionaire

I promised last week that I'd review the Slumdog Millionaire Blu-ray I got and now that I've watched it and gone through the special features and everything I feel like it'll be a more fair evaluation.

I don't want to talk too much about the movie itself since I already wrote a review of it. At this point, the hype for it is way more than it was before, but I want to say that even if it wasn't necessarily the best movie that came out last year it's still a very good movie. It's not the best movie ever, but I felt like it broke the mold in a lot of ways and was a really creative suspense and love story. It's the kind of love story I like to watch rather than what a lot of romance movies are nowadays. It really keeps you engaged for its two hour running time and the acting all around is definitely better than you'd expect from no-name actors and actresses. They did the three stages in the lives of the three main characters surprisingly well and it made the movie feel very cohesive as you flashback into the lives of these slumdogs and how one of them ends up going very high in the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Let me start of with a couple of things that I didn't like about the Blu-ray presentation. I was really pissed when I put in the disk and after the usual long Blu-ray load time was forced to watch 4 trailers about movies I don't care about. You can skip through them, granted, but you shouldn't have to. If it was a lesser movie I probably would've returned it. It's just appalling after paying $26 for something to have to watch ads like that. Anyway, the other concern I had may not be a concern for everyone. I felt like in the theater the visuals were incredible and the color really jumped out at me, but I didn't feel that way watching it on Blu-ray. It could've been that I just remembered incorrectly. The movie definitely doesn't look bad on Blu-ray, but I felt like the colors were sometimes washed out and I didn't have the sharpness I hoped for. It's definitely my worst looking Blu-ray. However, it still looks great. People who hate the vivid colors in high definition because they feel it's so real that it seems fake will really like this. One thing you definitely get is the dirt in the air in Mumbai - I thought that was kind of cool. There was definitely no fuzziness around edges though, and the picture was definitely quite clear. It's on par with Blu-ray, it's just nothing that'll blow you away. I've heard that the DVD video transfer isn't bad so you could try out DVD, but some of the special features were in standard definition and if they're any indication of the DVD quality then Blu-ray is really the way to go.

Audio sounds great. Definitely no complaints there. The soundtrack sounds just as wonderful as it did in theaters, but it wasn't really a movie with heavy sound mixing or effects like The Dark Knight was. As far as special features, there were a handful of things: several deleted scenes, two commentary tracks, a 20-minute behind the scenes documentary, a short look at how they did the scene at the outhouses, a compilation of scenes set to "Jai Ho", a compilation of scenes set to "Liquid Dance", and the European and American trailers. All of them were in terrible video quality except for the "Jai Ho" video and the American trailer, which were in high definition. Still, I thought it was a respectable set of special features. I think some people were expecting a lot of stuff and think they're going to double dip, but it felt like they gave us all they had. The deleted scenes aren't bad and include a 10th question that was cut. Some of the deleted scenes do make sense of scenes that made the final cut but where it felt like the transition was odd, but it's obvious that they were cut for time. The commentary track that has Danny Boyle and Dev Patel was really cool, I thought. It was fun to listen to and you get a lot of random facts from it, like that the chase in the train station was filmed in the middle of the day while the station was in operation, so the people actually at the station thought they were crazy and kept offering Frieda Pinto help. Oh, and you also get a digital copy, which is a nice touch. Granted, it's a single download and it'll probably expire if you don't use it in a year or some period of time, but I don't think it really added to the cost of the Blu-ray.

Overall, I'm definitely pleased with the Blu-ray edition. I'm not as impressed as I hoped I'd be, but there's no doubt that it looks nice and I actually thought the pop-up menu was really cool. It feels very fluid and simple and, unlike for my other movies, doesn't shrink the running movie for the sake of showing you the menu. If you have a Blu-ray player and you loved this film, I'd say go for the Blu-ray. If you liked it and just want to see it again, it doesn't hurt to get it on DVD. The gain from DVD probably isn't as big as with some other films, but it's only a few bucks more.

Time Warner Still Sucks

Time Warner is still suffering the fallout from the revelation that a few cities will soon have tiered broadband services ending at a ridiculous 40 GB for $50. A lot of articles came out last week about it and the New York Times had one mentioning that the fastest broadband provider in the world only had to invest $20 per home in its network to upgrade to 160 megabits-per-second. Granted, Japan is more densely populated than we are, but it certainly doesn't sound like upgrading their networks would cost what Time Warner is trying to charge some of its customers. Verizon spends something like $800 per home for FiOs, but even that's no terrible for 50 megabits-per-second Internet when amortized over the long run. The problem with the cable providers jumping in on this is that it cannibalizes their antiquated cable television market, which they're hanging on to for dear life even though it's clearly not sustainable in the face of the Internet and online video. It's ridiculous for any of them to think they can honestly stop it.

Ars Technica did some math and found out that most people with Comcast who have to deal with their 250 GB cap pay about $0.17 per GB of bandwidth, whereas Time Warner is proposing to charge people $1.38 per GB, which is literally 8 times as much for the exact same service. They pretend this is necessary to cover the costs of upgrading their network to DOCSIS 3.0, but this is simply not true - they're price gouging.

Time Warner is fighting back by saying that the press is telling the story wrong, but they can't dispute the fact that their operating costs for their network went down last year while revenues went up. They claim that Internet usage will outpace capacity, which is a theory that has never been substantiated. They should just be honest: they're trying to squeeze money out of people in a bad economy to help promote cable television and discourage online innovation since that doesn't really drive more money to them it just gives more power and more jobs to hardworking citizens. It's one thing to think like a corporation, and a totally different thing to become an evil monopoly. I really hope they don't get away with all this garbage.

YouTube Dabbles In Ads

Well, YouTube has technically been dabbling in ads for a while now, but they've recently started testing out pre- and post-rolls. This has not gone well. As you can imagine, having to watch a 30-second ad before a 3 minute video of a guy falling off his skateboard isn't a great user experience. It's ok on Hulu because watching 10 minutes of a TV show usually comes with ads on TV anyway, but it hinders browsing the shortform video you see on YouTube if they're polluted with this kind of advertising. In my opinion, these kinds of ads should only be on longform content and it should be clear when it's going to happen like it is on YouTube. The lower 1/3s they do are already kind of annoying, but having ads to the left of shorter videos I think works better. It'll be interesting to see how far they go with pre-rolls and post-rolls before they realize how many people get pissed off by it.

CompUSA Returns

CompUSA probably isn't a store you've heard about in quite a while since they went bankrupt not too long ago, but they're now trying to make a comeback. So if they failed before why wouldn't they fail now? They're trying to embrace the Internet by connecting each screen in the store to it so that they can use online sources to help them make informed buying decisions live in the store. They claim the access is unrestricted, but I somehow doubt that. They've also re-organized their stores to provide a better customer experience. It's an interesting concept overall, but I think the big flaw is that people will probably test our products in the store, look at them online from these Internet-enabled machines at competitor stores, and then just go elsewhere or order them online. In fact, in this age of smartphones it's likely that people are doing this already. What they need to focus on is the organizational aspects they've already discovered is an issue and providing live quality customer service. It's the only possible advantage they can have over online retailers.

Securing Your Computer

I like to promote good practices for using your computer securely as much as I can, so I was glad to see this article from TechRadar with 10 ways to boost your online security. I think the most valuable pieces of advice are to check out the websites with in-browser features before you go to them and to not click on everything you get in your inbox.

While we're on security, a 17 year-old twerp created a Twitter worm that's basically a glorified XSS exploit. It's nothing fancy, it just did what we knew Twitter could be used for and I find it repulsive. Just because you can exploit something doesn't mean you should.

The Other Stuff

There's a lot of pretty quick news so let me just breeze through them so I can get to bed.

Coding Horror has a fun post about the 8 Levels of Programmers based on a concept you may remember from PSY 301. I'd like to think that I'm the Working Programmer.

iTunes started variable pricing, which means that some of their top selling MP3s are now $1.29 whereas they're $1 or less on I knew that Apple would cave eventually.

Intel has started providing star ratings for their chips, which I think is just their way to get people out of the megahertz stigma. It's actually not a terrible idea if they handle it right.

You now insert images directly in your GMail e-mails!

Google's App Engine now supports Java applications, which I think is a pretty big step forward since Java has become almost an industry standard now whereas Python is often a hobby language or for writing quick scripts where efficiency isn't an issue.

The newspaper industry is still not happy with sites like Google News showing snippets from their articles, which is a sign that they're still not up with the times. This is another industry (like cable television) on the brink of extinction because they're stuck to the old ways of the thinking. Blaming Google isn't going to help them.

I hope everyone had a great Easter and has a good week!


J. Nguyen said...

Hey buddy,

Just wanted to say hello! I was looking through pictures the other day and saw us in our old broom ball days. I hope everything is going well over on West Coast. Missing you here.

J. Nguyen said... are the best :). I really do miss you too! I miss our Paddock nights as well.

And yes, new blog and new dog! Quite a lot of new developments :). I'll give you a call soon. We need to catch up on things. You're the best! I'm so glad you still keep up with the blog. It's always nice to hear what you have to say on things.

J. Nguyen said...

I promise you Elton, I'm not that much of a soldier. I'm pretty new to the entire dating scene and given my previous experience, am NOT a prime role model.

A lot of it is more of an attempt at self-actualization than crap that I actually really believe in. You know, if you say it out loud or put it down on some space then maybe it makes it more real. Dating isn't easy. Especially for those of us over-thinkers.