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Watching: Charlie Wilson's War

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The wife and I have a problem. We just don't like the same kind of films. I like a good Mafia film such as Casino and Goodfellas as they tend to be based on true events, have some brutal moments without being over the top on gore like in a horror, and they hold a level of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat while you wait to see who's next for getting plugged in the back of the head.

The wife however likes a chick-flick rom-com and cannot tolerate any level of suspense or violence. Herein lies the dilemma as neither of us can generally abide being in the same room while the other watches their film of choice.


Needless to say, this rules out going to the Cinema much. The last film I saw there was Wallace and Gromit with daughter #1 and before that it was the Blair Witch Project with a mate of mine. Before that it was Alien Resurrection (with the same mate) and before that it was Men in Black (with the wife). So that's four Cinema trips in the last decade which is fine by me as the Cinema is generally overpriced, uncomfortable and full of gobshites who prefer to talk through a film while I'm trying to watch it and...

...sorry, I digress....

... so last night we popped into Blockbuster with the intention of buying a DVD for our evening's entertainment. We didn't rent because there's no point having a rental account with Blockbuster when we can't agree on which films we are prepared to watch together.

Seeing as I have a PS3 and my new HD TV I took a look at the Blu-Ray selection for about five seconds before the £25 price tags made me walk away with a single raised eyebrow. The movie studios must assume I'm a fekkin' moron if they think I'm going to fork out that kind of money for something that will entertain me for just a couple of hours. After all, they're the same people who were convincing the world to switch from VHS to DVD ten years ago because DVD was superior and wouldn't degrade over time so you could keep your DVD films for life. So now they're saying DVD is crap and they think I'm going to blow a quarter of a ton on each Blu-Ray title? In ten years from now something like HD-DVD+ or Blu-Ray2 will appear and they'll tell us Blu-Ray is crap and we all need to spend £35 updating each film to another new format. Besides, most of the DVD films I buy these days cost from £3 if you know which bargain bins to look in so they can shove their....

...sorry, I digress....

I searched high and low for something decent but the shelves were packed with (seemingly) the same 25 films all starring Adam Sandler and sporting suspect five star ratings and out-of-context quotes printed on the covers. My local Blockbuster also has a bizarre layout and pricing structure with games and DVDs scattered everywhere and with some pre-owned titles labelled with a higher price tag than the same title brand new. If you want a game for your Nintendo DS for example, there are four locations within the store where DS games are sold. They have the chart section, the preowned section, the budget/sale section and a feux-alphabetical section where you can see some order was once applied before bored shelf stackers started sticking games in random locations. All of these sections are littered within the store so if you're after a particular title you have to know that all these sections exist and where to find them which is just nuts...

...sorry, I digress....

The only film that came to my mind as something we may agree on watching was Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as we haven't seen that yet and I've heard it's good. It's also been out for a while which made me hope it would carry a knock-down price tag or be in the preowned section. Unfortunately it wasn't to be found anywhere - not even in the stupidly priced and, like the DS games, geographically diverse Blu-Ray aisles. Maybe it's because Adam Sandler isn't in it. Anyway, the wife picked up several dull looking romantic movies and political thrillers which I dissuaded her from buying before she found Charlie Wilson's War. I'd kind of heard of that and as I couldn't find anything better I ran with it.

So we got home and loaded it into the DVD player.

Then my vocal DVD rant started. It happens every time we load up a DVD.

DVD's aren't a bad thing - I like the quality of the audio and video, especially compared to the (decreasing) occasions when we watch a film off VHS. I also like the slimmer DVD packaging and format. What I hate though is being locked out of being able to start watching the bloody film once the DVD is inserted into the player. You have to sit through the copyright warnings because you can't skip them. You have to sit through the branding of the movie studios and distributors. You have to put up with that stupid THX animation with it's horrible wailing noise. You have to sit through some long winded animated introduction to the menu and, even worse, you get a load of anti-piracy waffle.

I'm not a prirate - I've just bought the frikkin' DVD so why do I have to have a lecture on how DVD piracy is bad?? Besides which, if I had got a dodgy copy all this shite would have been cut out and the moment I loaded the DVD into the drive I would have been presented with the 'Play Film' option which is ALL I ACTUALLY WANT TO SEE when I load the thing. I also hate it when they put on trailers to other films. Disney are especially troublesome when it comes to this and we have ancient Disney VHS films where you have to wind through ten minutes of crap where some nauseating American bloke drones on about the next animated feature which will "premiere in theatres in the fall of 1995". Okay, first off, it's called 'Autumn'. I know it looks like a funny word but if you're going to peddle your wares in the international market then have the decency to re-record the voiceover using the correct term. Secondly, theatres are not cinemas (see last point re international markets). Thirdly, I just want to watch the film I've paid for, not trailers of other films I have no interest in with release dates that are now years in the past JUST START PLAYING THE BLOODY' FILM...

...sorry, I digress....

...because there was something much worse with this DVD. A new and worrying feature that I hope doesn't start spreading to other DVD's. All the above is just the crap that comes associated with any legitimate DVD and although it is annoying it is out of the way eventually as most of it (apart from copyright notices and corporate branding) can be skipped.

This new feature couldn't be skipped. It was Uma Thurman (at least, I think it was Uma Thurman - watching so few films means I don't often tend to know who many mainstream actors and actresses are by sight), but anyway, she was delivering a message in poetry form, about how awful AIDS in Africa is. It went on for over three minutes and my skip/fast forward buttons were disabled throughout.

Now, I know AIDS is a terrible disease but I'll be honest with you, I don't have it, know of nobody else with it and I don't intend to do anything about it. It's not that I don't care that AIDS exists, it's just that it isn't in my life and so isn't on my radar. Cancer however is different. I know of people who have suffered and died from that including my father-in-law in 1989 and more recently my father who passed away because of it just over two months ago but I'm not about to interrupt anyone's movie viewing by reciting poetry on the subject.

While I acknowledge AIDS is an important issue, I don't see why I have to listen to some rich A-list Hollywood actress knocking out a poem about it for over three minutes when I just want to watch the film I've paid good money for. I mean, who decides I'm not allowed to skip through Uma's monotone discourse? Some Californian working at Universal Studios says "Hey Man, this is like a reeeally important message Man so we'll, like, force them to watch it".

Well I watched it, I 'got' it but I'm still not going to do anything about it. I just wanna watch my legitimate paid-for film with my beer and popcorn without having to sit through the corporate logos or charitible speeches. Oh, and Universal - I'm not paying your Blu-Ray prices and if you're going to force me to sit through extra adverts or public information messages on my DVD's without a skip option then I'll stop buying those too. After all, the pirates do offer a hassle free alternative....

...sorry, I digress....

... Charlie Wilson's War is a good film and both the wife and I enjoyed it.