G-Force Combi Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) [2009]

Actors: Steve Buscemi, Nicolas Cage, Jon Favreau, Bill Nighy, Michael Papajohn
Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Format: Anamorphic, PAL
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Dutch, Hungarian, Arabic
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: 30 Nov 2009
Run Time: 88 minutes



You know you're in trouble when the disc you have just inserted into your Blu-Ray player kicks off with a warning screen informing you that, depending on the "capabilities of your player," you may experience blank screens of between 2-3 minutes while the disc loads and that it is best that you should download a firmware upgrade from the Internet . . .

Welcome to the flipside of the Blu-Ray revolution . . . The stuff they don't tell you about in those ads in which they go on about how much sharper the resolution of Blu-Ray is compared to "ordinary" DVD: impossibly long loading times, buggy special features, discs that won't play at all because they are "region encoded" and downloading software patches from the Internet in addition to other fidgety installation issues.

Yes sirree, they didn't tell you any of this when you purchased that overpriced brand name Blu-Ray player, now did they? And yes, I know you never had to download a software driver to make your "ordinary" bog standard DVD player work either. You just plugged it in and the damned thing played . . .

So when the G-Force Blu-Ray disc lived up to its threat and made me sit through innumerable blank screens and progress meters on my Sony BDP-S300 I was reminded of that old joke about how it would be like if ALL our technology worked like Microsoft Windows and you had to continuously upgrade the OS on your toaster otherwise you'll get burnt toast all the time, etc.

Granted, I have never upgraded the firmware on my Blu-Ray player. Why? Partly because it is a matter of principle. Partly because, even though I have been an Internet and computer user for decades now, I was daunted by the several pages of installation instructions and disclaimers that accompanied the driver I had to download. Partly because I was put off by user comments claiming that installing the latest firmware solved some problems (but not all) while it just created new problems.

But mostly it is because I believe I shouldn't cope with the same shit I do with my four-year-old laptop running Windows XP when I want to watch a movie on my TV. Maybe it's just me, but when it comes to the Blu-Ray "revolution" the huge corporations behind the format took a leaf from Microsoft's book of business standards and decided that users will put up with any old shit if you tell them it's "progress."

Make no mistake about this. Blu-Ray isn't informed by any desire on the part of huge multinational corporations to bring their customers something new and exciting. Instead it is about safeguarding profits and battling piracy (it is more difficult to rip Blu-Ray discs), protecting existing markets (many studios rehashes the old region encoding bullshit about discs you buy in Europe that won't play on your machine back in the States - so much for the free market principle behind capitalism - it's all about monopolies, baby!) and making you buy the same old repackaged crap.

You'd say that my beef is with my Sony BDP-S300 player (see all the great reviews this player got at!) and not with the G-Force disc itself. Is the disc crap or is the player crap? Both actually. But watching those status bars loop endless I was wondering about all the Warner Blu-Ray discs I have in my collection which simply . . . plays. No status bars. No blank screens. No waiting time. The feature just starts playing . . . and that's it.

After sitting through a few trailers, status bar updates and blank screens I finally got to the disc's main menu. And who would have thought it? The main feature actually played! (This is more than I can say of a handful Blu-Ray discs such as Changeling and State of Play, which simply wouldn't play at all! You press Play and boom! The machine reboots! Progress, indeed . . .)

Now one has to wonder whether Blu-Ray will ever find the mainstream acceptance of DVD - or whether it will be the Laserdisc of the 2000s. (Laserdiscs are those LP-sized ?DVDs? you had to turn around halfway through the movie. Laserdisc enthusiasts claim that image and sound quality was actually better than those of DVD, but only about three people on the entire planet ever bothered switching to Laserdisc from VHS.)

If someone who maintains his own website finds the process of upgrading a player's firmware too intimidating then how about your aunt Tilly who just wants to watch Titanic, damn it!

I wish I could tell you a bit more about the special features found on the disc, but I gave up on them after a while when they wouldn't play and, yes, rebooted my player continuously. To be honest the movie may be aimed at small kids, but the special features seemed to be aimed at adults and to be honest I don't know of any adult movie geek out there who actually liked this movie.

Oh, and the movie itself? A piece of live action fluff for small children about cute intelligent CG guinea pigs who are also high-tech spies. It is almost as cynical a piece of film-making as the Blu-Ray format itself and therefore probably ideally suited to the new technology. The net effect of the movie is what would happen if Michael Bay ever decided to direct a children's flick. It has the same ADD film-making techniques with needlessly fast editing, swirling camera movements and generic dum-dum Hans Zimmer-style soundtrack music. Parents will probably find it more fulfilling to go wash the dishes - or post angry missives about their &%*#@&ing Blu-Ray player on the Internet . . .

WORTH IT? No. Your kids will like the movie, but they will probably be even more freaked by the long loading times than you - after all, kids don't know the meaning of the word "patience" now do they?

RECOMMENDATION: This disc is the droppings left behind by those guinea pigs . . .



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