Judge Dredd 2012 -grrrowl or grrreat?

02/05/2016

Movies based on comics are a big deal nowadays.  So, to show how up-to-the-minute I HATE HATE!!! really is, here’s a review of a 3 years old film!

Back in 2012,  I wrote a post about the then-soon-to-be-released movie Dredd and my thoughts on the concept of a new  Dredd movie, sight unseen.  Although comics producers have far more respect and even control in the movie industry than used to be the case, I still was wary.  The ghost of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 crap Judge Dredd  had to the struggle with the “A new 2000AD movie?  Cool!” components in my brain.  I ended that piece with a note of wary optimism.  And I was right to be happy (yeah yeah, not so happy that it didn’t take 4 YEARS to write this piece here, but what can I say to placate any comics fans out there?  I got a life beyond I HATE HATE!!! and comics-based movies, y’know?  On second thoughts, you probably don’t know.  But anyway.

“There’s ten of us and only two of you.”

One point in the movie’s favour is the fact that Karl Urban. who plays Dredd, doesn’t take his helmet off once.  The uninitiated probably don’t see the significance in this: but it is a big deal.  in the near-to-40 years of 2000AD history, Dredd has hardly ever been seen by readers with no helmet.  I seem to remember from my childhood days that there was once a picture of him taking a shower with his helmet on!  Comics-illiterate Stallone and his handlers have no understanding of the importance of comics tradition.  But someone in the 2012 Dredd production did see the importance – long-time 200AD Judge Dredd artist Carlos Ezquerra was a co-writer, working with SF movie writer Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, Sunshine)  – and Karl kept his hat on throughout.  Yay Dredd!

The female eye-candy, Olivia Thirlby, doesn’t wear her helmet at all, but the film creates a plausible-sounding excuse for revealing her face: she’s a “psi” judge, meaning she has telepathic powers, and a helmet would affect her brain waves or whatever. 2000AD enthusiasts will blow holes through this in a second – her character, Cassandra Anderson, in the comics is far older than the movie Anderson, and there is no way a judge like Dredd would be overseeing a psi cadet’s final assessment anyway.  But this is movieland, not 2000AD, so I feel I can forgive Dredd‘s sins much more easily than the Stallone attempt.  And Thirlby is certainly a pleasant-looking “Anderson” rookie.

olivia-thirlby-as-anderson-1

Instead of creating a colossal event that might destroy Mega City one or even the world unless Dredd manages an edge-of-your-seat mission, the viewer gets a sort of “everyday life of a Judge”.  Dredd goes to pick up a wanted perp and ends up in a life-or-death struggle to fight his way out of the Megablock against the forces of the block Queenpin, Ma-Ma (played by Lena Heady, aka Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones)

.  There’s some corruption involving a few judges, a fun,  over-the-top Ma-Ma (her final scene has a wonderful, dreamlike-yet-visceral feel), a lot of gun-play, but no ominous end-of-life-as-we-know-it threat hanging over our valiant heroes. A proper “this is what judges do” kind of film.  Kind of depressed that other 2000AD movies of a similar vein haven’t been made.  Or have they?  Tell us in Comments if you know of any!

dredd-2012-pic

At the London Film and Comic Con in July 2012, Alex Garland claimed he was planning not only a sequel to Dredd but a trilogy! When I read that I emitted a little “ooh” but then remembered the Matrix Trilogy and cried “Nooo…!” like I was a slo-mo addict taking a tumble from the penthouse of a Megablock.  But never fear: in March 2015, Garland said that a direct sequel would likely not happen in the near future, “at least not with the crew involved in the original film.”  Kind of a shame: a Judge Death-related flick could be good, or one about the pro-democracy terrorists (a contemporary idea that might put some real-life proponents of democracy on the spot).  But sequels can kill good ideas (the bloody Matrix, innit?) so let’s leave Dredd alone.  But Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Slaine… 2000AD is full of wonderful material that any scriptwriter ought to want to kill for.  In fact, once I’ve finished this blog post I may unearth my 2000AD collection and look for the Next Big Thing!

The rottentomatoes.com page for Dredd is at www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dredd/ and is interesting.  Lots of positive comments.  Lovely.  Dredd was also nominated for a few film prizes, and won a few – see here for details.

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How to rip dvds – including “copy-protected disks” – with dvd::rip and vlc

27/03/2016

Disclaimer: I never ever break the law.  Any suggestion that I do so, regularly and in flagrant disregard of conventional norms, is unintended and all I can say in my defence is that you must have misunderstood what I’ve written (I often write fiction – maybe this blog entry is fiction.  Lies, lies; all is lies!).  Anyway, don’t never do wrong!! (was that a double negative?)

I hate buying DVDs.  Bittorrent is beautiful, it takes away all that parting with money nonsense.  But another way to get cool videos is having friends who buy DVDs then lend them out to their friends.  Including you!  Except you don’t watch the thing once then give it back – you riiip it first!

piracy-is-not-a-victimless-crime-resized

Don’t copy DVDs!  Not only is it illegal, it’s not a victimless crime.  Think of the poor movie stars, the directors, the multi-millionaire producers.  And the children!  Won’t somebody please think of the children? [image shamelessly borrowed from the Intellectual Property Rights Center (whoever they are).  Don’t sweat it, IPRCENTER, you can have the image back when we’ve finished using it…]

I like using dvd::rip despite its stupid name.  I mean, what’s up with the double-colons?  They’re invisible to Google as far as I can make out.  Luckily for you, I (the King of stealing shit) found the dvd::rip download page.

Now for the bad news (so far as most of you are concerned – it’s a Linux program!!!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  Linux FTW!!  If you want to learn how to rip DVDs with Windows or Mac, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  But don’t give up the hunt too quickly.  Tenacity is a great quality for a pirate, hacker, oil-field surveyer, just about anyone to have.  And if that doesn’t work out for ya, get yerself a Linux OS.  Ubuntu is my favourite (also my first, so I may be biased) but there are lots of other distros to try.

Okay, so you have Linux (Ubuntu!  Ubuntu!  Choose Ubuntu!) installed.  Now you need a DVD ripping software.  My personal choice is dvd::rip, despite its stupid name.  It’s a stupid name because those dumb double-colons stop you from installing the program via the command line (ie sudo apt-get install application-x).  But the Ubuntu Software Centre will find it easily enough, or the package manager of whatever Linux distro you’ve installed.  Tell it to install, and in a jiffy dvd::rip will be downloaded and installed, stupid double-colons and all  (depending on how fast your internet connection is and how long you consider a jiffy to be).

If, for some reason, your distro installation system doesn’t find dvd::rip, you can find downloads in various formats here.

Okay, you have dvd::rip installed on your system and you have a DVD you want to rip.  We’re nearly there: all you gotta do is to stick in the DVD and rriiiip it.

Insert the DVD, then run dvd::rip.  Under the File menu, click on New Project.  The next screen will want some storage path information.  By default the project is called unnamed.  If you change it in the Project name box, it will automagically change in the other boxes too.  Note that the files created by dvd::rip will appear in a sub-directory of your home directory. Now click on the button labelled +create project. dvd::rip will want to know where to put the *.zip file.  For this example, I’m ripping the DVD of the movie The Departed, so I called the project “departed”.  So dvd::rip wants to know where to put the file departed.rip file.  I generally just stick them in my home directory.  Choose where you want your *.rip file to be stored, then click OK.

Now the program wants some info about the DVD device you’re using.  Generally leave this as it is, unless you’re using an external or non-default DVD device.  You’ll be offered a ripping choice: Copy data from DVD to harddisk before encoding or Encode DVD on the fly.  I choose the first because it is quicker and puts less strain on the DVD devices.  It also enables “interesting features”, but I haven’t explored these yet.

 

dvdrip-save-project-departed

So, you’ve selected the DVD device and ripping mode.  Now click on the greyed-out button RIP Title.  This brings you to a new screen.  There’s a big empty space here which will fill with the DVD’s contents when you click the button Read DVD table of contents. Click it.

A list of the table of contents will be printed to the screen.  In the case of The Departed it’s pretty obvious which particular title you want to rip: there are only 2 options, and one is only 1 second long.  So title 2, all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it, is the one you want.

dvdrip-tableofcontents

 

Sometimes choosing is more difficult.  Generally, the longer item is the one you want.  Sometimes though. a sneaky attempt at “copy protection” (hah!) presents you with a long list of titles of almost identical lengths.  There’s a pretty easy way of working out which title is the one you want to rip.  I will explain how to get past this ridiculous attempt at “copy-protection” later*.  But, to continue with this example, it’s clear which track you want to rip. So high-light it (by clicking on it) then click on Rip selected title(s)/chapter(s) near the bottom of the screen.  The status bar at the bottom of the screen will start turning orange – the more orange you can see, the more of the DVD has been ripped.  So now it’s a waiting game.  Large files can take 45 minutes or more ro rip!  So now’s a good time to make some coffee, maybe watch some TV show you downloaded from the internet, you naughty pirate, you!

When  the ripping is done, the status bar at the bottom of the screen will not be orange any more.  It will  be clear, except for some text telling you how much free space you have left on your hard disk.  Now click on Transcode.  On the Transcoding page, usually the only changes from the default are under Video Bitrate Calculation: by Target media I choose from the drop-down menus One x 850 MB  Then I click on Transcode, and sit back to watch the status bar fill with orange again – or maybe watch some more illegal content while waiting for the transcoding to finish…  By default dvd::rip makes 2 passes transcoding, which can take some time…

At the end of all this transcoding… and waiting… and transcoding… and waiting… that status bar will trn colourless again, with some text saying how much diskspace is left.  The ripping is complete.  Go to ~/dvdrip-data, and in the directory named avi you will find your movie in an avi video file -move it to where you keep your video files .  The sub-directories tmp and vob may as well be deleted, as I haven’t found a use for them yet. The files in the vob directory are especially large – in the case of The Departed, there were 8 .vob files, all but one weighing in at 1.1 GB each!  They may be useful (perhaps for transferring the movie to another video DVD?) but I haven’t looked into that yet.  So I do myself a favour by deleting the contents of the dvdrip-data directory and freeing up the disk space.

*The sneaky yet futile attempt at “copy protecting”.

I told you that I’d get to this nonsense, and so I have.  Some DVDs, when their tables of content are open, list many titles as the one you want to copy.  You can’t tell them apart very easily, as they are all near enough the same length.  But only one of them is the track you want.  The others are a school of red herrings, containing just parts of the movie or other such crap.  What you need is “The 99 Video Titles Fix”.  What you need is vlc.

vlc should be available through the Software Centre or Synaptic (I’m assuming that you’re using Ubuntu. It might be in the package manager of other Linux distros.  If you’re having problems finding it, have a look at the VideoLAN site for possibly useful information. And Google.  Never forget the mantra: Google Is Your Friend.)  If you’re going to rip one of these “copy protected” disks with dvd::rip you are going to need vlc.  Unless you know of another method, in which case please share this other method in Comments below (or if you’re shy, send it to me direct via the Contact Form button at the top of this page.

captain-america-the-first-avenger-resized

This guy is a dick.  Really!  I ended up cheering for the Red Skull, that Captain was so goody-two-shoed.  And a shield?  FFS! [image stolen, I mean borrowed, from amazon.com]

Anyway.  A friend of mine lent me his DVD of Captain America: The First Avenger, and an evil voice in my ear whispered “Rip the DVD and add it to your goodly-sized collection of comics-based movies.”  You see, I collect comics-based movies.  The good voice in my other ear said something like “Mmph! Mmmph!” like it had been gagged or something.  Anyway, I’m easily led, so I set to ripping Captain America.

But those evil guys at Hydra, I mean Marvel Studios, had employed a fool-proof method of copy protection.  I fired up dvd::rip, had it read the table of contents, and look what it showed me!

cappy-table-of-contents

99 tracks in total, 16 of which were about the right size to be the one I wanted.  But only one was the right one.  So what to do?  Rip all 16 possibles?  That would take a bloody long time.  There had to be a quicker way, I thought.  And I was right.  I consulted my good friend Google and it found this for me.

Basically, fire up vlc,  then select Media > Open Disc.

vlc-open-disc

Next select the type of disc you’re about to play (DVD), enter the device name and path (VLC will select the most likely device – or use Browse and click Play to start playback.

vlc-disk-selection

Now start watching the movie – make sure you’ve gone through any menus and the correct movie you want to rip is playing, then click Playback > Title.  In the example below you can see it’s Title 1; but when this so-called “copy protection” is in use the correct Title could be any, from 1 to 99 or however many they’ve decided to put on the disk to dissuade potential pirates.  Bloody idiots: no matter how many layers of armour they embed their precious movie in, there’s always a way through!

vlc-title

So now you know which Title is the one you want, go back to dvd::rip and select that Title.  And Abracadabra!  The movie is yours!  If you’re a wicked pirate, that is, and I would never condone piracy.  I feel I must repeat: this blog post is fictional – I’ve never ripped a DVD in my life – and all th info is strictly for educative, abstract purposes.  They hang pirates, you know?  Seen the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, where cunning Jack Sparrow escapes the hangman’s noose?  Well, that’s fiction.  (If you haven’t seen that movie, you could probably find it via bittorrent; or a friend may have a DVD you could borrow… 😉 )

giffgaff1

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Net piracy puts 1.2 million EU jobs in peril? More industry and government lies

17/03/2010

Have you seen this ridiculous story? Apparently, a study backed by the European Union and the TUC has “found” that “a quarter of a million British jobs in the music, film, TV, software and other creative industries could be lost over the next five years if online piracy continues at its current rate.” It says that in the EU as a whole, as many as 1.2 million jobs are in jeopardy as piracy looks set to strip more than €240bn (£218bn) in revenues from the creative industries by 2015, unless regulators can stem the flow.

This is a lovely little scare-tactic story, designed to scare us all into accepting the UK government’s upcoming Digital Economy Bill, which hopes to introduce draconian powers to cut people off the internet if a film or music industry rights holder alleges that a person has infringed copyright. Anyone accused of copyright infringement will have their internet access disconnected, with no trial and no effective right of appeal.

The diabolical thing about this study is that its figures mean absolutely nothing. The claim is that illegal downloads are causing a financial loss to the entertainment industries of more than €240 billion. How did the study come up with this figure? By asserting that every single illegal download directly deprives the rights holder of the price of that downloaded material. For instance, if I download an album that costs €20 in the shops, that’s €20 I have actually stolen from the record company.

The entertainment industry has been using this formula for a long time now, so they have been able to claim millions of euros in compensation from average joes who share their music and films over peer-to-peer systems like bittorrent. But the formula is utterly ridiculous. Take “my friend” for instance. He has downloaded several rock albums over the years; and yes, if he had bought those albums legitimately he would have paid maybe €300 for them. But the point is this: if he had not been able to download these files for free, he certainly would not have gone out and bought them. Indeed, during this time he has spent a good few hundred euros on other albums. He downloaded many of these albums, to listen to and decide if he liked them – and when he decided he actually did like them, he went down the record shop and bought them on CD. If he likes a record, he wants to reward the artist – by paying for CDs, by going to concerts, by wearing official merchandise… he has absolutely no problem with paying for this stuff. But the albums he hasn’t paid for, he considers are not worth buying. So he hasn’t bought them – he never would have bought them – and the record industry has lost zero sales, and therefore lost zero money.

He likens this system to what we all used to do in the time before bittorrent. I would borrow an album from a friend and listen to it. If I liked it, I would go to the record store and buy myself a legitimate copy. If I wasn’t so keen on a record, I might record it onto a blank audio cassette; but I wasn’t depriving the record company of any money because I had no intention of buying it at all. If I hadn’t been able to copy a friend’s record, I certainly wouldn’t have gone and bought a legitimate copy. I would have gone without it. And I was certainly not alone in this.

At that time, we all saw those ominous posters that said “Home taping is killing music”. But, funnily enough, home taping didn’t kill the music industry. Plenty of legitimate records were bought. And a similar thing happened with video. When consumer VCRs hit the market, the film industry was up in arms. Why would anyone pay to see a movie when they could just get a bootleg copy? was the big question. But, as we all now know, the VCR did not kill the movie industry. Far from it: the video cassette gave the industry a new and lucrative income stream. People bought legitimate videos by the wheelbarrow-full. It’s true that the cinemas took a hit. But that loss was more than made up for by the revenues from video sales and rentals. New technology scared the industry for a while; yet within a very short time, that new technology became the new cash cow.

So, yet again the entertainment industries are worried about the new technology. All they see is doom and gloom. But if they were capable of learning from history, they would soon realise that computers and the internet will soon pour untold riches into the industry coffers. Some companies are already moving into new business models – companies like Netflix are making good money from selling an online streaming service. And in time, more possible solutions will present themselves. The digital revolution is going to be as big and important as the introduction of “talkies”. Why can’t the entertainment industries just get up off their asses and come up with new business models? Why do we all need to suffer, just because the fat slobs are too lazy to do their stinking jobs? New technology always changes the status quo – not always for the better, but very often it’s easy to see the silver lining. Why can’t the movie and recording industry bigwigs see the silver lining here? How in hell did such blind, lazy good-for-nothings ever get to be so successful? Idiots.

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How to download & save Youtube videos with PWNYoutube – UPDATE

21/12/2009

I told you about PWNYoutube here. Well, they’ve changed their interface, so I’ve updated my post on them – check out the update at the same old link.

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UK govt to press ahead with plan to cut off file-sharers’ internet access

19/11/2009

Well it’s official: yesterday (Wednesday) the UK government announced its intention to pass a law that will sever the internet connections of anyone suspected of illegally sharing files.

Through the medium of the “Queen’s Speech” (an archaic tradition by which the Queen announces the government’s legislative plans for the coming year) it was revealed that file-sharers’ broadband links will be disconnected without trial.

As the current government’s term is nearing its end, there’s a chance that they may run out of time before the “Digital Economy” bill is passed. But it doesn’t really matter: the opposition Conservative party supports this proposal too. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise: both the Tories and Labour have long been in love with big business. This proposed law is a sop to the music and film industries, who claim that “copyright theft” costs them hundreds of millions of pounds a year – they claim that they lost £486 million in 2007, and that an estimated 6.5 million Brits illegally downloaded music and films last year. Of course that’s nonsense: their calculations are based on the lie that every album or movie illegally downloaded represents a direct loss of revenue, completely ignoring the fact that most file-sharers would not have bought the records or videos they downloaded. But the industry can’t let the truth get in the way.

The government refuses to admit that innocent people may fall foul of the new law, despite the fact that wireless networks can be used by unauthorized downloaders and that multi-occupancy residences can contain more than one computer using the same IP address. I’m interested to see how the rights-owners or ISPs will be able to identify which downloads are illegal. Peer-to-peer protocols like bittorrent are used extensively for perfectly above-board downloads too. There’s been mention of using “phishing” techniques and “honeypot sites” to detect illegal transactions; hopefully this will all become clearer soon.

Many commentators believe that the film and music industries are just using file-sharers as scapegoats for their falling profits. Content providers need to come up with new business models that accommodate consumers’ changing habits.

Mark Schmid, from TalkTalk, said: “There’s been a real split among content owners when it comes to readjusting to the new digital landscape. Some – such as computer games companies – have been clever and come up with innovative ways to discourage piracy and maintain customer loyalty, for instance through adding extra levels to computer games that you only get if you’ve bought the product. But other content sectors – most notably the music industry – have failed to innovate and have blamed the internet for spoiling their old ways of doing business. We think this is extremely complacent. The internet is now a fact of life and we believe new business models need to be introduced if they want to survive and thrive in the digital world.”

Illegal downloading is not responsible for the film industry’s woes. Today’s widely-available fast broadband connections have made online streaming much more popular. There are legal free services, like BBC iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD service, and the US-based Hulu (set to come to Britain in 2010). And there are a great many ad-supported streaming sites like Youku and Megavideo. The film and TV content providers need to change their business model. But why should they, when governments are willing to make us reward their ineptitude?

Watch out, world: it’s happening in the UK now, and in France; but soon it’ll be in the USA, Australia, the rest of Europe… hell, everywhere. No one’s safe from the internet police.

If you don’t want this crazy plan to become law, you need to act!!  Visit the Open Rights Group web site to learn how you can help campaign against the internet disconnection bill!

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