Time, Under Fire, apparently

I have a weak spot for two-dollar DVDs. The more ambitious the plotline, and the more the cover looks like it's been designed in Paint Shop Pro, the more likely I'll buy it, and the more likely I'll enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. To wit: “Time Under Fire”

Starring: Jeff Fahey, Richard Tyson, and absolutely no one else of any significance.

Nuclear submarine.

Plot: A nuclear submarine cruising around the Bermuda Triangle is inexplicably drawn into a luminescent undersea vagina --

That can't be good, surely.

-- that throws it into the future. In this bizarre alternate timeline, the captain of the submarine encounters himself as a militant rebel leader, and must fight his way through a thoroughly confusing series of events involving another, bigger, and spectacularly unexplained submarine, Richard Tyson with no neck performing the worst Jimmy Stewart impression since Jimmy Stewart, and Emperor Palpatine if he was from Alabama.

There's no possible way this character could have been inspired by Star Wars.

Worth watching for: Some of the worst split-screening actor duplication ever, and easily the most horrific sex scene since Titanic.

Just because you can split-screen, doesn't mean you should split-screen.

Also, random goo-oozing robots.

At least he can't bleed on the sofa.

Overall: It’s extremely shit, but that was to be expected. It appears to have been filmed on a budget of about sixty cents and a licorice strap, and the plot is so thoroughly confusing even the most basic elements of it fail to make any sense. The special effects are decent. However, it would have been an adequate movie if more time had been spent ironing out the spectacularly convoluted storyline, rather than spent trying to find a way to crow-bar in some exploding cloned robots with green paint on.

Also, if anyone can explain to me how the evil submarine can at one moment be randomly hovering in a vacuous black space inside a warehouse, and the next moment be submerged at the deepest depths of the ocean, you’ve won yourself a gold star.

Oh, of course, it's in the submarine warehouse.

Yarr: Pirated Star Trek: TNG DVDs

I bought these because they were cheap. I bought these because I thought they were official. I mean, lots of stuff is officially released in Asia. However, I discovered once I’d bid on this item on Ebay that Star Trek: The Next Generation was never released officially in Asia. So these are not for real. Which is readily apparent when you examine them. I write this article not for sympathy, and certainly not to promote these DVDs. I write this article to warn others away from Asian import DVDs, particularly when Star Trek is concerned.

Here are the signs that will pretty much guarantee what you buy of Ebay will disappoint you:

1. Item is described as having “Asian text on discs and some menus”. In the case of ST:TNG DVDs, there’s no Asian text on the menus. The discs and boxes are loaded with it. I don’t have a problem with Asian text on the boxes or menus, however we must remember that Paramount has never licensed Asian releases of Star Trek on DVD.

2. Auction item claims DVDs will be shipped out specific to your region. Actually, they’ll be shipped out with no region encoding whatsoever, and will play on any DVD player on the planet. Due to the formalities and realities of international trade, virtually all official DVDs are region encoded.

3. No photo of the item is provided on the auction. This is because the Asian knock-off DVDs ship in hideous cardboard boxes and look so blatantly fake you’d never buy them otherwise. (And we’ve already established I’m an idiot for buying these DVDs.)

So, what’s all the fuss about, anyway? Lets examine the booty! Yarr!

The box.

This is the absolutely gorgeous box that ST:TNG Season Five comes in! I bought all seven seasons, and they progress through vile primary colours as the series spans out (pink, purple, green, blue, turquoise, brown and orange if you’re curious). I’ve only opened season five as I own official copies of seasons one to four already. I may not open any more of them, as they have an unpleasant stench of that weird glue elaborate Asian cardboard packaging is always sealed with. It’s worth noting the text looks absolutely nothing like the real ST:TNG logo. Hmm.

The box, open.

We’ve established the boxes are cardboard. For some reason, every single thing ever made in Asia always seems to be packaged in an over-the-top cardboard case, usually complete with metal hinges and clips, or a magnetic seal, and often some kind of canvassy fabric covering it. To be honest, I don’t mind these types of boxes. I think they’re classy, in a weird way. The boxes the ST:TNG DVDs are shipped in are not so classy, though.

The inside is covered with gold paper, and the lip of the case is held closed with magnets set behind the paper. The DVDs live in a recess in the box.

Inside. Be glad this is not smell-o-internet.

The discs themselves are packaged in incredibly cheap plastic pouches. Season five is arranged with two sets of three discs in individual thin pouches which are then wedged tightly into a third, thicker pouch. A third thick pouch houses the remaining disc. There is no booklet containing the episode names for the season, as per the official DVD sets. The inside of the cover has a crappy black and white picture of the Trek crew that has most of their faces cut off.

Gene Roddenbery (sic) would not be pleased!

One of the discs, note blobby disfiguration at 11 o’clock.

I suppose you could forgive the packaging if the discs were of decent quality, right? Well, not this time. The discs themselves have several flaws. Worst of all of these are the extremely obvious malformations around the edges (inside and out) of the discs. These look like a result of either heat damage (unlikely) or the use of extremely cheap, poor quality discs (ka-ching!).

I keep using the phrase “you could forgive these things if“, but it all comes down to this, really: You could forgive all of these things IF….the DVDs worked properly.

Do they? What do you reckon? Place your bets!

Of course they don’t!

Copyright notice. How thorough.

Episode menu for season 5, disc 7. Works great until..

You select the last episode, and the menus for it vanish!

Selecting the last episode of the last disc, which is the disc with only two episodes and a bunch of special features, presents an issue. There’re no menu items visible. The DVD arrow thing (shown as a red semi-circle hovering to the far left of “mission logs” in the third picture above) cruises around the screen, but you have no idea what you’re selecting. Which is incredibly convenient. This is obviously a flaw in the DVD duplication process, where they’ve evidently used the same software from the other four episode discs for the last disc. The copyright notice is included, but the language selection screen is absent.

So that’s about it, really.


There’s one other minor issue.

It’s not really that important, I suppose.

But it annoys me ever-so-slightly.

Wanna know what it is?

Oh, alright.


No biggie.

DVD special features

These things irritate me. Why? Because they're all the same. They were fun to begin with. "Oooh! It shows how they made the boat sink!", "Oooh! An interview with the director!". But that's exactly what you get on every single DVD. I just watched The Emperor's New Groove. The movie's great. Possibly Disney's best. But the special features on the bonus DVD...stink. Sure, I'd love to see how they made the movie, and look at a bunch of preproduction designs and whatnot. It's fascinating stuff. But I don't want to see it narrated by two fecal goitres dressed in costumes rejected by The Wiggles claiming by means of subtitled nametags to be producers or directors or somesuch of the film itself. Sweet Jesus, these guys look like they'd have a hard time negotiating traffic on a one-way backstreet.

What further annoys me, particularly with the more average DVD (i.e. the ones without a bonus disc or whatever), is that the special features usually amount to being nothing more than clips from the movie interspersed with random interview dialog with the actors, telling you things you already knew. Example? Mel Gibson's Payback. Right. You've just watched the film. Unless your eyeballs are in backwards, you know fairly well by the end of it that Mr. Gibson's character is a bit of a moral enigma. He makes his own rules, and generally obeys them. He has a goal and intends to pursue it. So what do you get on the "special" features? Random out-of-time clips of Mel leaping about like a gibbon on speed with the voice-over from the interview, "My character makes his own rules, and generally obeys them. He has a goal and intends to pursue it..", et al. Give me a break.


Conclusion? "Special" features are for "special" people.