Monday, 1 September 2008


The Children
Part 1 (of 3)
Surprisingly good drama, considering it's on ITV. It's about a group of separated and re-partnered adult couples, whose selfish actions have horrific effects on their children and new step-children -- actions which will, as we know from dramatic flash forwards (placed just before every ad break, of course), eventually lead to a murder. The thriller aspect works brilliantly, because almost any of the characters could conceivably have done it; plus it's a well-written piece about the problems of parenting, especially when the kids aren't yours and you're a self centred git.

God, the Devil and Bob
1x04 The Devil's Birthday

Merlin Cinema Trailer
This looks like it'll be about as good as Robin Hood, at best. On the other hand, the involvement of Anthony Head, Richard Wilson and John Hurt bodes well, and the dragon CGI looks great. I suspect the BBC still needs to try harder if it wants a Doctor Who stand-in of equal quality though.

5x09 The Criminal
The biggest problem with this episode is that the mystery of who was in charge of the Black Op is a complete non-event: there's only one other guest character, so who the hell do you think it's going to turn out to be?! Elsewhere, the exact circumstances may be different, but Adam has basically followed Tom's "unfit for duty?" storyline... except he gets to stay at the end of it.


The Wizard of Oz (1939)
[#60 in 100 Films in a Year 2008]


BBC to offer "series stacking"
(from the BBC Press Office)
"The BBC is to offer viewers the chance to catch up on every episode of some of their favourite series as 'series stacking' is introduced to BBC iPlayer and programme sites from 13 September 2008. Viewers will be able to enjoy any episode, after it has first been broadcast, for the duration of the entire series." Wonderful news, if you ask me.

The Dark Knight Breaks $500 Million by Chris Hewitt
(from Empire Online)
Yep, that Batman flick just keeps on rolling. "The Dark Knight passed the $500 million mark (that's US domestic, we're talking over $919 million worldwide) on Sunday... it still looks like the superhero phenomenon won’t hit the most-successful-film-of-all-time number one slot presently occupied by James Cameron’s watery epic, which grossed $600 million in the States back in 1997/98. Current estimates are that The Dark Knight will finish around $60 million short of that target... it won't even come close to beating Titanic's $1.8 worldwide haul." Not unexpected, but still a shame.

Film Review: Babylon A.D. by Jonathan Crocker
(from SFX)
"It’s only after some seriously clunky action scenes that it finally hits you: Kassovitz might have directed incendiary cult-fave La Haine... But that was 13 years ago. His last film was Gothika."

Mark Millar Talks Wanted 2 by Glen Ferris
(from Empire Online)
Reassuring, I must say.

Spooks Viewers Give Up the Ghost by Dave Golder
(from SFX)
"Spooks spin-off Code 9 is proving an almighty flop, with episode four having lost nearly two thirds of the viewers who tuned in for episode one. The series debuted on BBC3 with 810,000 viewers, but last Sunday only 288,000 tuned in. That’s fewer than anything that makes it into the top ten on Dave, and they’re all repeats."


Merlin Official Website
Have a nose around the official site for the BBC's forthcoming Merlin (to air on NBC in the US sometime in the future -- oo-ooh!) As the series isn't on for a few weeks there's little there -- just the cinema trailer and some character profiles (good guys only), really -- but later there'll be the now-usual array of episode guides, photos, games and online-only video thingies.

James Bond Ultimate Editions

My geekiness -- or, as some would surely say, sadness -- knows no bounds:

Two years ago -- or, if we're precise, 25.5 months ago -- MGM released the first 20 James Bond films as Ultimate Edition DVDs. These re-releases featured remastered picture and sound, as well as an array of new special features, creating two-disc releases for every film (previously only Die Another Day had been rewarded with one). As well as being released individually, there was a box set -- packaged in a rather stylish Bond-like 007-logo-embossed briefcase -- that housed all 20. I bought this on release. It is rather lovely.

Click to enlarge

The point of all this is that now, 25.5 months on, I've finally finished going through all 40 discs... not watching them, you understand, just having a general look through. And counting up what's on them. And as I've done all that legwork, I'm now going to share some of my findings with you.

The Films

We'll start with the films themselves. Assume that I'm leaving the 21st film (that's Casino Royale, by-the-way) out of things unless I say otherwise.

So there are, as I've said, 20 Bond films, and if you wanted to watch them all back to back from UK DVD it would take you 40 hours, 3 minutes and 27 seconds. Except of course you'd have to change discs and sit through menu load times and what have you -- not to mention sleeping and eating -- so in reality it would take notably longer, but you know what I mean. I specifically say "on UK DVD" because they of course feature PAL speed-up; if you were to watch all 20 from a film print, it would take more like 41 hours, 43 minutes and 36 seconds. But that's just an estimate. (Additionally, throw Casino Royale into the mix -- from the first, slightly cut UK DVD (hopefully the new one will be uncut, but don't bank on it) -- and it'll take you 42 hours 22 mins.)

The longest Bond film is 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, at 2 hours 16 mins. (Casino Royale now pips it by 2 minutes 10 seconds.) The shortest is the first, 1962's Dr. No. Only eight of the films run under 2 hours, and in 1997 Tomorrow Never Dies (1 hour 54 mins) was the shortest Bond for 30 years. And two final pointless statistics: the actor who's got the longest total running time as Bond is Roger Moore (beating Sean Connery by just under 3 hours), while the longest average length belongs to one-time Bond George Lazenby -- entirely logically, if you think about it. (He'll probably keep hold of that too, as reports say Quantum of Solace will be shorter than Casino Royale, thereby keeping Daniel Craig's average down.)

The Commentaries

Moving on to the only first-disc extras for these films: commentaries (apart from two exceptions that I'll mention in a minute). There's no way I'm going to do something crazy like list all of the commentary participants -- while some stick to only using a couple of people (especially the specially-recorded ones on later films), many compile interviews with several people. What I can say is that, across the 20 films, there are a total of 35 commentary tracks. That's just over 70 hours of people yapping away over the top of movies. The additional 15 are provided for as follows:

  • Goldfinger has a "director & cast" track and a "crew" track
  • Thunderball has a "director & others" track and a "crew" track
  • Live and Let Die has three tracks: "director & others", the screenwriters, and Roger Moore solo
  • For Your Eyes Only also gets three: "director & cast", "crew", and Roger Moore solo
  • Timothy Dalton's second (and final) film, Licence to Kill, features "director & cast" and "producer & crew" tracks
  • Tomorrow Never Dies has one from the director and one from the producer & 2nd unit director
  • The World Is Not Enough has one by the director and one by three members of the crew
  • Die Another Day features one with the director & producer, and one with star Pierce Brosnan and sporadic contributions from Bond girl Rosamund Pike
  • And finally, the number is rounded out by an additional five solo Roger Moore commentaries -- that's one for each of his films.

  • I mentioned two exceptions. They are an 'isolated score' track on Tomorrow Never Dies, featuring David Arnold's wonderful score unobscured by sound effects or dialogue (it makes some awkward edits painfully obvious however), and an "MI6 Datastream" on Die Another Day. The latter is a silly name for a trivia track, where random bits of info are displayed in boxes on screen throughout the film. This one also occasionally branches out to featurettes (19 of them), during which the film is minimised to a tiny box while the behind-the-scenes footage plays in a larger one. It makes the film impossible to follow if you're not familiar with it, and also makes the featurettes awkward to find (or quantify the length of) without sitting through the whole thing.

    "007 Mission Control"

    I'll get to the extras proper in a minute, but first I have something stupid to mention. In what seems to be an effort to pad out the content of the second disc, each film contains something called "007 Mission Control". This is merely a selection of clips from the relevant film, divided up into six sections: 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, and Q Branch. It is in every way pointless and just a waste of space, especially on Die Another Day (more on that in a moment).

    The only worthwhile bit of it is a seventh 'category', called Exotic Locations. These are in fact short featurettes (three to five minutes long), narrated by a couple of different actresses from the series, that detail some of the locations featured in their relative films. In total they run 1 hour 19 minutes, which is clearly far from insubstantial... but it doesn't justify the 18 hours total wasted by Mission Control! Bloody stupid idea that was.

    The Extras

    So to the extras themselves. I'm not going to attempt to list all of them -- there are 250+ separate items across the series -- but there are a variety of things included: original documentaries, including specific Inside... 'making of's on each of the first 16 films, as well as broader ones that cover specific elements or contributors; vintage featurettes from the time of the film's release; newly-uncovered behind-the-scenes footage; deleted scenes (though not on Die Another Day, despite various sources having confirmed their existence); storyboards; image galleries; music videos; trailers, for every film (except Die Another Day), and TV and radio spots for many... I think that broadly summarises what's there.

    You'll undoubtedly have noticed me having several jibes at Die Another Day throughout this post. Well, they're with good reason. The first 19 films all receive well-deserved re-releases: the image quality on all of them is immeasurably better than the dirty, standard definition transfers from the old releases; and all have been treated to new extras, as well as retaining everything that was already there. Not so Die Another Day. Apparently the picture quality of the film is improved from the original release -- which, incidentally, was only three years old when this new one appeared -- but the extras have been ransacked! True, there are a handful of new elements that reuse some of the old material... but they only total 40 minutes, and one of the things now missing is the 81 minute Inside Die Another Day feature! Not to mention other bits and bobs, including multi-angle sequences, shorter featurettes and music videos. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the deleted scenes still aren't present and the trailers and TV spots -- surely easily available just three-and-a-half years after release? -- haven't been added to the package.

    It's especially galling because there's clearly room on the disc. Die Another Day's extras total 2 hours 10 mins; with "Mission Control" wasting space, that's 3 hours... but the three other Brosnan films have around 3 hours 45 minutes of material on disc two, as do several of the older films (Thunderball for one). How ludicrous is that? Especially when there's the Ultimate Edition label slapped on it -- all things considered, it's not really as good as the first release, never mind better than it! Of all the Bonds, this is clearly the one to hold out on -- I'd wager that, when it comes time to re-release them on Blu-ray (the first releases, coming soon, will just duplicate these Ultimate Editions), Die Another Day will regain some of that missing documentary material, and maybe even rediscover its deleted scenes (the other three Brosnan films all have deleted scenes that weren't on their original releases).


    Rant over, I'll get to the final point of this thing: the total running times for the extras and the collection as a whole.

    But first... The best film in the extras department is GoldenEye, with 2 hours 59 mins of the stuff. The weakest is For Your Eyes Only, which only scrapes together 1 hour 19 mins. The amount of new material on each release varies wildly, from as little as 18 minutes to as much as 1 hour 40 mins. Several have over an hour of new stuff, and it's only a few that sink below 30 mins.

    But what of that grand total? Well, I can tell you that the running time of all those extras exceeds that of the films themselves, topping out at 43 hours, 4 minutes and 37 seconds!

    So, when you put all of this stuff together, how long would it take you to get through the whole damn lot? You're going to need plenty of time, because the total length of these 20 Ultimate Editions' content is 173 hours, 50 minutes and 18 seconds!

    I'm so never going to watch all of that. It's over seven solid days for crying out loud!

    Casino Royale

    Just to finish up, a note on Casino Royale.

    As I said way back at the start of this post (do you remember that? It must seem a long time ago now...), it's about to be re-released in a three-disc edition bursting with extras. I say "bursting" -- it bloody better be as I'm going to be buying it again. Anyway, the initial release wasn't quite as shoddy as some might suppose: as well as containing a good-looking (and sounding) copy of the film, it also manages 54 minutes of film-specific extras plus a 49 minute documentary on Bond girls. That's not a bad tally really, even though the new edition should easily top it. That considered, I won't be including those numbers in a total here... so expect an update before long.

    Incidentally, if you're an extras fan and want the re-release, but already own the old one, I suggest selling it sharpish -- you've got 49 days til the new edition hits shelves...