The Marvel-ous Collection: A Beginning

I’m a pretty big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it felt a bit ridiculous when I was given Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 for Christmas. To be clear, the gift wasn’t ridiculous; it’s a fantastic film and one I’ve been excited to rewatch since seeing it in the cinema. The ridiculous part was that this officially marked the start of my Marvel Bluray collection. That’s right, I might be a huge fan of the franchise and own a fairly sizeable solid-media movie collection, but I’m almost entirely absent the MCU!

I say almost, because in truth I do own both Guardians of the Galaxy (now Volume 1, I guess) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier on DVD, but for a 17 film franchise (at time of writing) that’s pretty meagre. Part of that reason is the Bluray dilemma: ultimately, I don’t care that much about the increased resolution for most films, but I definitely care about the extra features. As Bluray has become the de facto release location for collector’s editions and special features, I was increasingly left behind, waiting for both an excuse to buy a Bluray player and then, later, for prices to drop back to the realms of sanity.

Luckily, 2017 saw both goals achieved. Whilst Blurays remain expensive (Marvel’s particularly so), they’re now at an acceptable premium above the respective DVD release, so with bonus featurettes, content and a better picture quality they feel somehow more worthwhile. At the same time, Marvel finally released a collected set for both Phase One and Phase Two, something I find bizarre has taken half a decade. I mean, what other purpose does the marking of “phases” serve then to artificially create film sets? At any rate, the result was a sudden galvanisation to fill in the blanks and finally own some of my favourite superhero films.

Unfortunately, a quick look at the contents of the collected sets left me a little cold. Yes, there are new bonus scenes, animatics and fun Agent Coulson introductions for each of the films, but they also lack a number of key special features from previous releases, especially the big documentaries. As a result, I’ve thrown in the towel! If Marvel/Disney can’t get their act together and release a definitive edition of the MCU then I’ll just create one myself.

The first hurdle was finding out what variations existed, what the actual differences were and then weighing up the pros and cons. Luckily, Reddit came to my aid (after Google summarily failed) with a raft of suggestions for comparison websites geared towards just this kind of task.

Since then, I’ve been slowly going through the films, one by one, narrowing down my options until I’ve found the exact version that most intrigues me. So far, the few I have settled on have been “out of print”, but luckily a robust second hand market appears to exist, keeping resell prices low. It’s slow going, but honestly I’m finding it quite fun. I’m also tracking my decisions and aim to release a full list, and break down of why I chose each film’s specific version, once I’m done.

For now, I figured it would be worth a quick round-up of the websites I’ve found most useful, so without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top five film hunting locations:

1. DVD Double Dip
Not the prettiest site, nor the most complete in terms of information, but what it does have is extremely easy to read, compare and review. Probably the best starting point I’ve found but take the accuracy with a pinch of salt.

2. DVD Compare
Very accurate, particularly when it comes to extra features, and great for comparing regional differences in films. Take particular note of the “Cuts” and “Overall” sections at the bottom of a search page to see if the film is actively censored anywhere in the world. I wish you could compare films side-by-side, but still easily my favourite comparison site.

3. Blu-Ray.com
Probably the most complete database of film releases on this list but a bit of a pig to search accurately. There’s no way to easily compare film versions without opening multiple tabs, but you can filter by country directly on the search bar and the user reviews are solid, often clearing up any confusion over oddly phrased features.

4. Filmogs
Another very complete database without easy comparison methods. Easier to navigate than Blu-Ray.com but the search is less intelligent (e.g. “Avengers” fails to pull back any collected sets). Again, useful for getting more information, plus acts as a competitively priced marketplace.

5. /r/DVDCollection
If all else fails, ask here and someone will probably either know the answer or own the film and be able to tell you. Really helpful bunch!

Of course, once you’ve narrowed down your options and decided which version is just right, you still need to buy the darn thing. Obviously if you’re looking at buying new then all the normal locations apply, but for second hand movies I’m having most success at the following:

1. Music Magpie – though be wary, several times I’ve spent a while looking at a film, come back later and found the price has shot up. Leave it a few days and it seems to drop back down again.
2. eBay
3. CEX
4. Amazon Marketplace

Happy hunting!

Logitech Z4 Speakers and The Weird-Ass Problem

So I’ve owned a set of Logitech z4 2.1 desk speakers for about five years now, ever since a good friend of mine effectively gave them to me because they couldn’t fit in his car. They remain one of the best speaker sets I’ve ever had the pleasure to own or use. The sound clarity is exceptional, especially considering how thin and tiny the actual uprights are; the bass can be a little dull, but fits my music tastes pretty damn well and can fill a room. Basically, I’ve been very lucky and I couldn’t imagine how I would ever replace them. So when, just after Christmas, it seemed the connector for the right upright suddenly blew, it was at a loss. I couldn’t quite pin down what was wrong, but basically no (or very little) sound would come out the right speaker; swap over the outputs and it would be the left that wasn’t working. Seems like a connection issue, right?

Since then I’ve “made do”. Even one speaker down, the sound quality remained better than most other options in my house, albeit a little flat. Listening to new music, however, was becoming increasingly frustrating. Highs felt dampened, lows never quite hit and no matter how I positioned the one “good” speaker the end result remained painfully mono. In exasperation I had started looking for either a replacement or, as it became increasingly apparent that the Z4’s were even more special for their price range than I had realised, a means of repair.

So I was clutching at straws last night when I came across this archived forum conversation which appeared to show that I wasn’t alone in my troubles and presented a highly dubious solution. What possible logic could infer that turning off the volume controller, rotating its various knobs and dials a few times and (I quote) “tap[ping] the knob” after each full revolution would result in fixing a connection issue? But still, a handful of people had stated that it worked for them so why not? A couple of twiddles and taps later, everything plugged back in and, somehow, I’m now the proud owner of two fully functioning speakers! I still have no idea what I did (indeed, I don’t think the person who originally shared this piece of arcane knowledge understood it either) but it worked, so I guess if you’re having similar issues then give it a shot – it might just work for you too.