HTF UMD REVIEW: Kill Bill Volume 1

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by David Galindo, May 20, 2005.

  1. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

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    [c]Kill Bill Volume 1 (UMD)
    Region 1 • R • Subtitles: English • Available Now

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    Kill Bill was one of the first PSP UMD titles available, which gives us a glimpse into what the PSP’s movie quality might look like far down the road. Thankfully, the Kill Bill UMD delivers the goods and brings a solid title worth your time.

    Thoughts on the Movie

    Kill Bill was actually the very first Tarantino movie I saw. That said, I went into the movie cold, not knowing how QT likes to chop up his movies, reorganize, and basically flesh out characters for the next 25 minutes before killing them. I was hooked to the director’s style instantly, and began to work my way backwards all the way thru Pulp Fiction (didn’t bother with Reservoir Dogs).

    Well, I really liked this movie. I liked how Tarantino basically throws the action first, then pays it off later. How he is able to make genuinely interesting dialogue out of absolutely nothing (such as going into a bar and ordering Sake before getting down to business). How the music fits so well with the movie (thanks to RZA). This movie is not quite as good as Volume Two, but it’s one of my favorites anyways. Great stuff.


    Video Quality

    The whole movie has been kept in it’s original 2:35 ratio, which is a very rare format for UMD to preserve (as many movies like to zoom to a 1:78 format to fill up the PSP screen). I’d say it was likely a contractual agreement with Tarantino, since some of the other UMD titles Buena Vista released was formatted and cropped.

    The movie looks very sharp. I could actually pause and count the number of snowflakes on Sophie’s trunk at one point. Very, very sharp transfer. The animated sequence looks almost like your watching the actual cels frame by frame! (yeah, I know they don’t use cel anymore, but still…) It was incredible.

    Unfortunately, the movie has a high brightness that slightly washes out the darker blacks. At first I thought it was my PSP backlight, but I noticed the Kill Bill menu had darker, more solid blacks than the actual movie. Sure enough, I popped in my UMD sampler disc and tried some 2:35 encoded trailers, and the black levels were solid. Spider-Man 2 also had better black levels. It’s the only thing from keeping this movie from getting a higher rating, because there are many moments in the film that change to a black and white palette, and they aren’t quite as effective as they should have been. It’s a real shame, because the rest of the movie looks fantastic. But it’s a problem that bugged me from start to finish.

    3.5/5
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    Audio Quality

    Since we’re so early in the UMD Movie lifespan, it’s hard to judge how good UMDs can sound. Spider-Man 2 sounded OK, and since it was coming from Sony, I thought it was about as good as it was going to get.

    But Kill Bill shattered my expectations. I listened to half the movie using the standard Sony headphones that came with the PSP, and the other half with my own earbuds. This movie sounds great…really, really great. I love the way the sound is so dynamic, like when the Bride sees her enemy and the sirens sound off…it’s louder than anything else up to that point. The clinging and clanging of the swords sound sharp and crisp, and the audio loves to utilize both speakers to it’s maximum by trying some great directional panning and “faking” some right-behind-you sounds. The music also comes thru very nicely, sometimes coming in so soft you have to turn your volume up and pay attention, or you’ll miss it. This is purposely done, of course, but it’s nice to see it work so well with the PSP.

    This is a serious improvement over Spider-Man 2’s sounds, where the shotguns and the entire train wreck sound about the same. Kill Bill sets the standard pretty high for future UMDs, and I’m excited to see what next gen movies bring to the table.

    On a side note, don’t even think about using the PSP speakers to listen to the movie. They are way too quiet and bassless. Once you plug some external speakers or headphones, press the “note” key to select different equalizers. I suggest the Unique option. Also, note that you can increase the UMD Movie volume by 2+ by going to your PSP control panel.

    5/5
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    Extras

    UMDs have a holding capacity of 1.8 GB, which is far less than a standard DVD (but then again, UMD movies do not need to be in a very high resolution.) So the room for extras seems pretty limited.

    Thankfully, Buena Vista managed to include almost all of the DVD extras onto this UMD release. You get The Making of Kill Bill, which runs about 20 minutes. It’s a pretty detailed look at the making of Volume 1, but Vol. 2 is not really discussed in this featurette, even though clips from the movie were shown. You can also use your PSP control panel and select from Normal, Zoom, and Fullscreen. I recommend the Zoom to get the full experience, since it was encoded in 4:3 (and the clips from the movie are still in 2:35, so you can imagine how small they are).

    Next up are two performances by the 5 6 7 8s, the band playing in the House of Blue Leaves. Nice to have, nothing special.

    The trailers that were on the DVD of Kill Bill are not on the UMD however. The trailers were for Kill Bill, plus a bootleg trailer of Vol. 2. Not sure why they didn’t throw these 3 trailers on the UMD; perhaps they’ll be in the Vol. 2 UMD?

    The menus for Kill Bill are mostly the same from the DVD, although they are a bit more animated. There is a chapter select & subtitle menu. Interesting thing about the chapter selection menu: you scroll thru each chapter title on the menu (such as “Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves”) and the UMD loads a pretty big preview in a window with some blood on it. The movie is actually running in real time, and you could seemingly watch the entire movie from this menu. Even the subtitles are displayed. Just an interesting thing to note.

    All in all, what little was on the DVD is mostly on the UMD, and that’s all I really wanted anyways…not a chance we’ll see some exclusive UMD bonus material until way in the future, if then. Oh, and they included an insert in the case similar to the DVD insert, but without the 2 page write-up on the making of KB…just chapter names.

    4/5
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    Overall…

    I feel that this movie is perfect for the PSP, since the movie has different “chapters” within different time frames, it’s easy to pick your favorite, watch, and put it away for later. The PSP will remember your place where you last stopped the movie, even if you throw in a game and come back to the movie later. Nice. (If you insert another UMD movie though, your place will be erased).

    This is one fantastic UMD. Aside from the brightness problem, this is what all future UMDs should follow: good picture, great sounds, and some good extras. You can find it for about $20 at Amazon.com, but stay away from game-only stores, as they price UMDs as high as $30!

    Great UMD, and definitely worth owning.

    4.5/5
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    (FYI: Kill Bill Volume 2 for UMD comes out July 19th…lets hope the black levels are fixed in that one!)
     
  2. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. PerryD

    PerryD Supporting Actor

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    Please go see Reservoir Dogs! And True Romance also if you haven't see that one either. I was lucky to have followed Tarantino's movies in chronological order, caught RD on video, but the rest on opening day in the theaters.

    BTW, Kill Bill Vol 2 on UMD has been announced for July 19th.

    The amount of support for UMD movies has blown me away. Every time I check the
    UMD Movie list at DVD Empire there are more and more movies announced, geez, even Monty Python and the Holy Grail on UMD!?
     
  4. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

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    I probably will check out Reservoir Dogs sometime this summer, though I heard a lot of negative reaction to it. Guess Ive been asking the wrong people. [​IMG]

    UMD support is really flowing strong, no? Universal announced their support a couple days ago...its gonna be a great future for PSPs!
     
  5. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    Yes and no. Yes from the perspective of so early in the lifecycle of the PSP and such a niche product. But no in that it's clearly an opportunity for the studios to be part of a pretty progressive portable market, and likely pretty cheap to boot. They already have the video - just run them through the UMD encoder and burn to the proprietary discs. Hell, Sony probably does that for them on a loss-leader basis. Then they can all turn around and sell the product for roughly the same price as a full-fledged DVD. It's all gravy.
     
  6. David Galindo

    David Galindo Screenwriter

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    I wish I knew how expensive UMDs are to produce. I thought they were pretty pricey until the official Playstation magazine announced a free UMD demo disc with each magazine.
     

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