Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Welcome To the Dollhouse Finally in HD! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

It's been a long time coming, but we've finally gotten a much-needed upgrade to his middle-school masterpiece Welcome To the Dollhouse.  Sony has just released the film on blu-ray, and it's quite a substantial upgrade over the very old (1999) DVD from Columbia Tri-Star.  Now, early releases in this line of Sony's blus were MOD BDRs, which is to say burnt discs like you can make on your computer as opposed to properly pressed discs, which last longer and don't have the playback issues on some players like BDRs do.  But happily, like Warner Archive, Sony has switched to pressing these blus right, so Welcome To the Dollhouse is a properly pressed disc.

And it looks pretty great - here are a couple comparisons (DVDExotica style...click the screenshots to see them in full size, 100% resolution) between it and the blu.  The original DVD also offered a fullscreen version that really butchered the compositions.  So let's look at all three versions.
1999 DVD (fullscreen) top; 1999 DVD (widescreen) mid; 2018 blu-ray bottom.
Now, I've left the matting on the first set of shots just to make the differences a little clearer.  The fullscreen DVD is framed at an aspect ratio of 1.31:1, and splits the difference between cutting off information along the sides while opening up the mattes to uncover a little more vertical information.  The widescreen DVD is framed at a common but not quite accurate ratio of 1.78:1, with slight matting along the bottom and sides, areas which would've largely been hidden by televisions' overscan area back in the 90s.  Finally, the blu-ray presents the film in its authentic, original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and as you can see, shows even more info along the sides than the previous widescreen DVD.
And of course, the blu is naturally an upgrade over the DVD just by virtue of being high definition over standard definition.  But the DVD really shows its age, with messy, blocky compression, edge enhancement unnatural colors and other flaws that have really been crying out for a new master.  I mean, this close-up highlight speaks for itself.  It's still not quite a cutting edge blu... It's a single layer disc where the film grain appears a little wishy-washy, and fine detail could probably still be a little bit clearer.  But compared to other contemporary blu-ray releases, it would probably rate a solid B, and compared to the old DVD, it's flat-out essential.

Interestingly, the blu-ray replaces the original stereo mix with a 5.1, though I can't say they sound very different.  Of course, the blu-ray bumps the audio up to a lossless DTS-HD track as well.  Both discs also include optional English subtitles, and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, both discs are pretty barebones, only offering the fullscreen theatrical trailer for a special feature.  International fans will be happy to know it's an all-region (ABC) disc.

Now, if we could just get Happiness... that DVD is even more in need of replacing.  It isn't even anamorphic.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Emma and Max, On Stage

Frustratingly, Solondz has three upcoming film projects in the air (though admittedly, two are more like film projects he's contributing portions to), with nary an update as to when any of those might land in our theaters or streaming services.  But if you're in the tri-state area, you'll soon be able to sate your Solondz jones at The Flea Theater in NYC.

Yes, Todd Solondz is both writing and directing an original play entitled Emma and Max, which will run through the month of October in the Sam Theater (Confused?  The Sam Theater is the upstairs theater in the larger Flea Theater building, which houses three theaters in total).  With a cast of five as-yet unannounced Equity actors, the official describes the play as, "a satire of tragic dimensions" that "explores the illusions and delusions, hopes and despair, of the city’s well-off and worn-down."  Other credits include artistic director Niegel Smith, costume designer Andre Lauger and casting director Ann Goulder.  Tickets are already on sale here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another New Solondz Film? The Quarters

Yes, in addition to Love Child and St Petersburg: A Category of Feelings, Todd Solondz is reported to be directing on even another film.  Called, The Quarters, this one seems to have a lot more in common with St. Petersburg, in that it's another collaborative film, where Solondz will just be writing and directing one segment, alongside several other filmmakers.  Also like St. Petersburg, this is another one centered around a particular city, in this case Jerusalem's Old City, with the title The Quarters referring to the city's four "quarters:" Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.

This movie is being filmed in conjunction with the The Jerusalem Film Festival, and the other three directors will be Anna Muylaert, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Arsinee Khanjian (Atom Egoyan's wife, who usually acts in his films; this will be her first time directing).  The JFF's official website lists this as set to film in 2018 and be released in 2019.  Fingers crossed, considering St. Petersburg seems to have gone pretty much off the radar, as did the similar French project, À propos de Nice, la suite, which I've been waiting for since 1995.  But let's not be cynical, and instead look forward to seeing all four movies eventually. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Up Next: Love Child

Every time Solondz mentions his difficulty finding funding, I worry that this is going to be his last film.  But Deadline has just posted a reassuring announcement about a new film, Love Child.  Solondz will be back writing and directing for Killer Films, who previously produced his Happiness, Storytelling and Wiener-Dog.  Penélope Cruz is set to star in the film, along with an actor named Edgar Ramírez.

The plot is described in the Deadline article as, "a dark and hilarious twist on the classic Oedipal theme. Story follows 11-year-old Junior, a delusional aspiring Broadway star with an inappropriate obsession with his mother Immaculada. After orchestrating an accident that nearly kills his abusive father, he encourages Nacho, the handsome man living in the family’s guesthouse, to court his mother and become his new dad. But when the two fall in love, Junior becomes so jealous that he is no longer the subject of his mother’s attention that he hatches a plan to frame Nacho for his father’s murder."  Sounds fun to me; reminds me of the 1972 Robert Klein film, Rivals.  There's already an IMDB page for the film, with a general 2018 release date.

Meanwhile, there's still no news on the Russian Petersburg film, which Solondz presumably wrapped on a couple years ago now.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blu Wiener-Dog

Okay, I guess it exists!  There was just one week's delay, and now Solondz's latest film, Wiener-Dog, is available on both DVD and blu-ray, as MOD DV-Rs and BD-Rs, direct from Amazon.  The blu is a single-layer disc with no special features or anything, but you are given the option of a 5.1 or Stereo mix.  The back of the case lists Closed Captions, too, but they don't seem to actually be on here.  The UPC symbol is also layered over the description, though; so clearly the artwork was a rush job.  But how does it look?  Pretty good!  Wanna see a couple screenshots?
The picture is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1 and looks great in HD.  Unfortunately, as a BD-R, however, the playback was completely borked on my PC's blu-ray drive and even my Seiki.  But it worked alright in my Pioneer player.  Again, region free collectors might want to hold out for a properly pressed disc from another region.  Unfortunately, it's looking like Canada and the UK are only getting DVDs, so Germany's the only blu option so far (of course, more regions may still announce releases in the coming months... I'd be surprised if nothing came out in Australia, for instance).  I've been able to find a release date for that one now, though: November 29.  But for now at least, this is what we get.  And aside from BD-R playback drama, this is pretty satisfying.

Of course, you can also watch it streamed from Amazon now, if that's your bag.  Look at all the 1-star reviews it's getting from people expecting a happy family film about a puppy - yikes!  But hey, it's here.  We've finally got Wiener-Dog.  I haven't even had a chance to watch it yet; my copy just arrived an hour ago, but I can't wait.  =) 

Update 8/31/16: I imagine hearing this from the guy who runs toddsolondz.com carries roughly the same degree of integrity as your mother telling you that you're handsome, but I've just watched Wiener-Dog and thought it was great!

Now, I just wonder what's happening with Petersburg Carousel...