Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922) or Dracula's Tale

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens
If you think it would be strange to entitle the first movie about Dracula Nosferatu, you are completely right. Still, the 1922's German film about the famous vampire is called Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror). As one might guess, it has been done for avoidance of legal issues. Yet, this early motion picture has not managed to escape from the plague of a legal finding that all of its copies should be destroyed. Fortunately, a few have survived and they've reached us in a variety of "enhanced" versions so this influential horror classic has not been completely lost despite the wish of Florence Stoker (the widow of Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula novel).

As one should expect from a 1922 movie, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu is a silent film. And as it is obvious from some of the copies in circulation, attempts have been made for enhancement of the movie's sound with "special" effects and music but these do not seem to have been very successful efforts. Concerning the color, Nosferatu is a black and white film but blue, red and other tints are used throughout the movie in order to emphasize that a scene is happening at night, for example. The overall visual quality of the existing copies is not great but it is almost a century old film after all.

You are most probably familiar with the story of count Dracula but anyway, here is an introduction to Nosferatu's plot. The real estate agent Hutter from Wisbourg, Germany is sent by his boss Knock to Transylvania in order to arrange a deal with Count Orlok (Max Schreck) who has expressed interest to purchase a new isolated residence in the German city. Hutter has a wife Ellen who he leaves to live with a couple of his friends in Wisbourg while he is away. As Hutter approaches his destination people become more and more frightened and at the end nobody wants to escort him to the Count's castle. Once he arrives there, Hutter feels troubled at night but during sunlight his inconvenience disappears. He is amazed by the Count's strange habits but still he does not suspect the awful truth. One night, Count Orlok incidentally sees a picture of Ellen and she draws his attention so powerfully that the Count immediately buys the house in Wisbourg. Subsequently, he leaves for Germany while at the same time Hutter, already aware of the Count being a vampire, stays trapped in the castle. But not for long...

There is a lot of stuff in Nosferatu worth mentioning. To start with, the Count's teeth are more similar to a rat's fangs than to the ones of bats or wolves eventually. On the other hand, Nosferatu's face resembles a bat and he has an enormous and menacing nose. Concerning the creatures around him, we see rats, not bats or wolves. It has been said that this movie is the first work presenting sunlight as vampire killer and most likely it is. The movie sports a notable scene with Nosferatu rising from a coffin that is later referenced in plenty of materials. There are lots of special effects, mainly related to better portraying the Count unnatural appearances but also to make some scenes more fearful and mystic. Shadows are under heavy use and they appear to be a great instrument for frightening.

There are scenes in Nosferatu that are not connected to the movie in any way (except probably symbolically) and also some events that are not well or at all explained. A couple of times, a biology professor is shown teaching his students about vampire-like species or he is just incidentally referred in another episode without any significance to the plot. Knock, Hutter's boss, apparently has some strange connection with the Count but there is not even a hint about its origin.

Some people say Nosferatu is their favorite movie, or that Nosferatu is the greatest villain in cinema history, or that there is not other so disturbing film. Honestly, it is difficult to believe all of these. Max Schrek is really wonderful in his performance of the Count but it is hard to say that he is scary in today's terms of horror. In fact, Nosferatu is even funny to an extent when seen through contemporary eyes. The film is also neither so disturbing, nor frightening. Not to mention that Dracula's story is so famous, it hardly could be a scary one nowadays.

But although the movie is not really so impressive today (and to claim the opposite would be a direct lie), it has been a rather influential effort at the time and most probably people have been genuinely afraid of Nosferatu. It has pioneered a lot of film making techniques and special effects as well as introducing some innovative ideas. And if this is not enough, just see how many subsequent Dracula movies have been released since then. If you are interested in the development of cinema or you are just curious how old classic movies have looked like, find a copy of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's Nosferatu, ignore its picture quality and enjoy the rest through the eyes of a person living in the beginning of the former century.

Find more movie reviews in our Review Maze.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Windows Blu-ray Player Software: Introduction to 2011 3D Blu-ray Player Reviews

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CyberLink PowerDVD 11

TotalMedia Theatre 5

Roxio CinePlayer BD with 3D

Nero Multimedia Suite 10
These 2011 reviews are now obsolete. Go to the 2012 version here.


Last year we did a comparison of the available options for BD playback on Windows PC systems. This article updates our previous Blu-ray player software reviews and clarifies the current situation on the Windows market.

Let's start with the obvious question: are there any free options for Windows Blu-ray playback? The short answer is no and it concerns not only the Windows market. The reason is that the bluray patent holders (that happen to be Sony, Panasonic and Philips) require license fees for any software or hardware unit made. For that matter, there are fees applicable to the manufacturing of actual bluray discs too. Some systems equipped with BD drives come with OEM software for playing bluray discs. But OEM versions tend to be stripped of features and are also rarely updated, if ever.

There are 5 commercial packages offering Windows BD playback. These are Cyberlink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II (become PowerDVD 11 as of April, 2011), ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5, Corel's WinDVD 2010 Pro, Roxio's CinePlayer BD with 3D and Nero's Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in. Most of these companies offer their video playing software in various packages with some functionality missing in the low-end versions, but for BD playback you will always need the high-end variant. For brevity, we will often use the shorter brand name, or even abbreviations, and in all cases this will denote the high-end edition of the respective Blu-ray playback software. For example, PowerDVD will be used instead of PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II, CinePlayer instead of Cineplayer BD with 3D, etc. Also note that CinePlayer and Nero's plug-in are covered below for comprehensiveness but not actually thoroughly tested because Roxio and Nero do not offer trial versions.

Common features and limitations of all five Blu-ray player software products

Before starting with the particular Windows Blu-ray player reviews, let's mention some of the common features. All players:
  • Are compatible with Windows 7 and will also run on Windows Vista or Windows XP.
  • Are BD-Live compliant (player profile 2.0).
  • Support Blu-ray 3D. In the last months Blu-ray 3D support has become the norm. (Nero excluded)
  • Have HDMI 1.4 support. This currently requires high-end graphics cards from nVidia and ATI (Radeon 6000 series), but also spells "future-proof" in regard to support for upcoming 3D displays. (Nero excluded)
  • Manage image quality during BD playback that is virtually indistinguishable on a full HD display between the different players. Note that this is not necessarily the case when upscaling lower resolution content to HD.
  • Support AVCHD formatted video. AVCHD is the most common HD video format used by consumer camcorders.
  • Have hardware acceleration support. In other words, they utilize the available Graphics Card to offload calculations from the CPU to the GPU, which makes HD video playback possible on systems with slower or older CPUs. As a side effect, hardware acceleration will render some video processing options unavailable as it relies on the graphics hardware driver.
  • Upscale DVDs and lower resolution video files to full HD.
  • Handle Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio.
  • Support Remote Control.
  • Provide for a limited amount of region setting changes (usually 5) in the software.
  • Have content protection implemented and will disable frame capture from BD movies. The same applies to clip capture if available. Other functionality may also be rendered unavailable for 2D or 3D Blu-ray content.

Our Windows Blu-ray player reviews continue with Cyberlink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II Blu-ray player software.

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Windows Blu-ray Player Software: Cyberlink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II

PowerDVD 10 is now obsolete. Go to the more recent PowerDVD 12 review here.

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CyberLink's PowerDVD was the first Windows Blu-ray player software certified by the Blu-ray Disc Association under the Blu-ray 3D standard. Since our previous Blu-ray player reviews CyberLink have released an update labelled Cyberlink's PowerDVD 10 Mark II. Its main feature was extended 2D to 3D support. (Have in mind that as of April, 2011 CyberLink offer a new major version PowerDVD 11.)

One defining characteristic of the CyberLink's player is the push towards an online experience. And it is becoming a trend that the others are following. A major feature of PowerDVD 10 is the integration with Cyberlink's online service MoovieLive. MoovieLive is a free community site which doubles as a movie database. When your PC is connected to the Internet, PowerDVD can download more info about the movie that's currently playing. It also enables the user to post ratings and reviews that are stored in the online database. The movie library in PowerDVD can also be synced with the linked MoovieLive profile.

PowerDVD 10 image

Another online feature called Live Comments allows you to, well, post live comments on MoovieLive, Twitter and/or Facebook while watching. This may as well be the most appealing way to take advantage of PowerDVD's online functionality as it is quite in the spirit of Twitter and practically allows for live online commentary. A nice touch with some good potential is MoovieLive's global counter, which records how many times a movie has been watched by PowerDVD users. In a way, this makes it a kind of movie popularity meter for PowerDVD users. The list of online features continues with the ability to upload videos on YouTube directly from within PowerDVD. PowerDVD will do any necessary conversions for you but you will still need to fill in some meta-info.

It is worth noting that some users do find all these online features imposing and distracting. Most of them are optional and can be turned off, including LiveComments on disc playback pause and MoovieLive integration for the current movie playing. I've also seen requests for IMDB integration in place of MoovieLive but awesome as it would be I don't think this will happen, both for possible legal reasons and CyberLink's obligation to promote MoovieLive.

CyberLink's Blu-ray player software sports two variants of user interface which can be switched through an icon on the title bar. The first is the classic mode, and the second is called Cinema Mode. It is clean, minimalistic and blue, designed to be remote control friendly and is obviously inspired from Windows Media Center. This is not a coincidence as the Cinema Mode is exactly the way PowerDVD 10 looks like when started from within the Media Center itself. The integration with WMC is seamless and works beautifully. Most features are accessible from Cinema Mode/WMC even stretching to the current movie info from MoovieLive.

CyberLink PowerDVD 10
Under the hood of PowerDVD 10 there are two technologies powering (pun intended) video playback. CyberLink's marketing has them called TrueTheater HD and TrueTheater 3D. The first is the upscaling engine, which is optimized to take advantage of parallel processing and the SIMD instructions of the CPU. TrueTheater HD allows some post-processing effects to be applied to the picture such as sharpening or brightness control. TrueTheater HD is unavailable when hardware acceleration is turned on. TrueTheater 3D is the engine responsible for converting 2D video to 3D and, unlike TrueTheater HD, it is GPU accelerated.

Other features include scene bookmarking and the most extensive external subtitles support amongst all of the Windows Blu-ray player software discussed here (.srt, .sub, .smi and more formats are supported). Also supported are various file formats, including .MKV (with some audio limitations, see the table here), .WTV, and uniquely amongst the competition, .RM and .RMVB, although a RealPlayer installation is required for that. CyberLink's PowerDVD 10 also features tabbed navigation with a robust media files browser for videos and music, which makes it a good choice for a general media player too.

Follow the subsequent link to check if there is a current PowerDVD 10 discount code.

Our Windows Blu-ray player reviews continue with ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5 Blu-ray player software.

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Windows Blu-ray Player Software: ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5

Go to the 2012 updated version of these reviews here.

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ArcSoft have gone the longest way since last year's Blu-ray player reviews with their TotalMedia Theatre. For whatever reason they have skipped version 4 and the current version is numbered 5. Maybe that's their way of pointing to the large amount of new features. ArcSoft have dispensed with the multiple editions (there used to be Standard, Gold and Platinum editions of TMT) and there appears to be a single edition of TotalMedia Theatre 5. Which is a good thing, I guess.

So, what's new in this version of ArcSoft's Windows Blu-ray player software? First and foremost, 3D support that used to be available for TMT 3 through a plug-in (and for OEM licensing only) is now improved and integrated in TotalMedia Theatre 5. The Sim3d engine which is responsible for transforming 2D material (not only movies, but also photos) into 3D has been updated. Added is support for additional file formats (WTV, FLAC and more) which now brings TotalMedia Theatre in the league of PowerDVD 10 and near the abilities of dedicated video file players. Another move in this direction is the improved subtitles support: manual subtitles selection (unlike PowerDVD 10, which only has automatic subtitles and they need to match the video filename), and a cool new feature, which allows for What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get subtitle positioning. The SimHD engine which is ArcSoft's equivalent of Cyberlink's TrueTheater HD (or with other words ArcSoft's upscaling and post-processing engine) has been updated with a few post-processing effects, namely noise reduction and smoothness.

Apparently, ArcSoft have been taking notes of Cyberlink's foray into the online world. So they now have an online venture of their own, albeit in a slightly different direction. They have practically added a simple YouTube video browser and player in TotalMedia Theatre. It allows you to search for particular videos and navigate the Most Popular and Featured channels. You can also connect to your Facebook profile and post status updates linking the currently playing YouTube video.

ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5

The user interface of ArcSoft's Windows Blu-ray player software has been updated. It now feels slicker and more minimalistic, but also more streamlined. A new feature called Magic View (see the screenshot) allows browsing all the video lists through an interactive grid of thumbnails. This view is applicable to all video lists: YouTube, UPnP media servers, the library, any user created playlists. Videos can be previewed directly on the grid. Pretty neat, and also optional: you can switch back to good old lists if this is too extravagant for you. There is also an all-new Smart Menu feature, which simulates the pop-up menu of Blu-ray movies for video files and DVDs. That's where the user can search IMDB for movie info or add bookmarks to scenes in addition to the typical audio, subtitles and chapters options. The user interface improvements also spread over the Windows Media Center integration. It is seamless and feature rich.

Last, but not least, ArcSoft have probably done some optimizations in the playback engine. The player is now faster as can be seen in the comparison table at the end of our Blu-ray player reviews.

Noteworthy features coming from TotalMedia Theatre 3 include Parental Control options, Power Management profiles and the ability to bookmark scenes in videos. And there is still HD DVD support, which might tip the scales towards TotalMedia Theatre 5 if you happen to own HD DVDs from the days of the HD format wars. Another unique feature is BDMV support or, in other words, the ability to play Blu-ray content from folders. This is a handy feature for people who like to store multiple Blu-ray discs on hard drives for backup or easier access. Performing a similar feat with PowerDVD 10 would require manually selecting and playing the .M2TS files forming the BD structure.

One minor gripe I have concerning ArcSoft's Blu-ray player software is the fact Windows needs a reboot in order to complete the installation. Now, this is obviously only done once and is very minor but is still something that belongs to the past and a nuisance you don't experience with neither PowerDVD, nor WinDVD.

Check the following link to see if there is a valid TMT 5 coupon code currently.

Our Windows Blu-ray player reviews continue with Corel's, Roxio's and Nero's Blu-ray player software.

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Windows Blu-ray Player Software: WinDVD, CinePlayer BD with 3D, Nero's Blu-ray Playback Plug-in

All of the reviewed software versions below are obsolete. Check our 2012 reviews instead.

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(...continues from Page 3: ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5 Review)

Corel's WinDVD 2010 Pro

Corel haven't come up with a new version of their Windows Blu-ray player software WinDVD but they have released a free update to WinDVD 2010 Pro which adds Blu-ray 3D support. So there are still two variations of the current WinDVD software: WinDVD 2010 and WinDVD 2010 Pro, the latter being the 2D and 3D Blu-ray enabled version.

WinDVD is quite Spartan in comparison to both PowerDVD 10 and TotalMedia Theatre 5. It does have an upscale and post-processing engine, a feature that has been a must for all players for some time now. 3D support appears to be limited to nVidia and Intel, no ATI currently. At least Corel haven't listed ATI support while they explicitly mention nVidia and Intel graphics. File format support is limited, although QuickTime and typical camcorder formats are supported, as is direct playback from camcorders. There is no Windows Media Center integration although WinDVD can be started from within 7MC.

Notable features include: power management options for battery life control on notebooks, a time-stretch function to make sure you won't miss the end of your movie in time pressure situations, parental control options, Windows 7 Touch support in the UI, scene bookmarking (not available for BD playback).

Corel tend to be slow on updates compared to CyberLink and ArcSoft, which occasionally may lead to problems with newer discs.

Roxio CinePlayer® BD with 3D

Roxio is a relative newcomer on the Blu-ray playback field. Their CinePlayer comes in two editions: Roxio CinePlayer with 3D and Roxio CinePlayer BD with 3D. As the name suggests, the latter is the BD playback enabled edition.

CinePlayer was not tested as Roxio does not offer a trial version of their Blu-ray player software, so the info here is only included for thoroughness. CinePlayer boasts full 3D support including conversion of 2D content to 3D. Roxio have two unique selling points with CinePlayer: it is the cheapest of the bunch (actually you can get even an additional discount of 20% before April 15, 2011) and it has RealD 3D support. The RealD 3D format is gaining popularity (and fast!) and of all the listed players only CinePlayer currently supports it. Cyberlink only recently announced they are working to include RealD support in PowerDVD (source).

Nero's Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in

Nero do not offer a stand-alone BD player. Instead, they have a Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in which is compatible with some of their other applications. The plug-in is included with Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD and Nero Video Premium HD.

The cheapest BD enabled Nero option is Nero Video Premium HD. This is basically Nero Vision Xtra + the BD playback plugin + Nero Creative Collection Pack 1 (a collection of video editing effects). So this is really their video editing software enabled to play BDs. The Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD on the other hand is a collection that includes virtually all of Nero's applications: video editing, disc burning, back-up utilities. One can also upgrade Nero Vision Xtra or Nero Multimedia Suite 10 (i.e. the standard edition of the suite) with the plug-in but this is really only interesting if you happen to already own them. Otherwise Nero Video Premium HD is the best BD playback value for money in Nero's world.

It is worth mentioning that of all Windows Blu-ray player software packages mentioned here Nero's is the only one without Blu-ray 3D support, at least for now. Whether that's a deal breaker is for the reader to decide. Especially for the ones in need of some small-scale video editing, Nero is probably still a viable option.

There are free trials available for Nero products but they explicitly exclude the Blu-ray playback functionality.

Check if there are current Roxio's or Nero's promo codes.

Let's finish our Windows Blu-ray player reviews with BD player software comparison table and conclusion.

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Windows Blu-ray Player Software: Blu-ray Player Reviews Conclusion

The information below has become obsolete. Go to our 2012 reviews here.

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Comparison table of all 5 Windows Blu-ray software players

Performance was tested on the same system we used for our last year's Blu-ray player reviews: Intel i5-430m CPU, 4GB DDR3 memory and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics card, running Windows 7. The new results can't really be compared directly with the results from the previous year as other discs were used for testing. Roxio's CinePlayer and Nero's Video Premium HD have not been performance tested and their feature support listings are based on promotional info.

CPU load17.0%7.3%11.1%??
Loading times27:84s9:43s9:18s??
Blu-ray 3DYesYesYesYesNo
2D to 3DYesYesNoYesNo
Upscale to HDYesYesYesYes??
WMC integrationYesYesNoNo?No
HDMI pass-throughYesYesNo??
Online featuresLotsSomeNo??
Time stretchNoYesYes??
Matroska .mkv supportYes3Yes3NoNoNo
RealD 3D supportIn progressNoNoYesNo
Blu-ray folders (BDMV)NoYesNoNo?No?
Built-in updates checkYesYesYes??
Free trialYesYesYesNoNo

1. Average CPU load during MPEG-4 AVC stream playback.
2. Blu-ray disc loading times averaged over 5 measurements.
3. No HD audio bitsreaming.
4. Listed price; discounts or promotions may apply.

Overall impressions

Performance is pretty good across the board with PowerDVD 10 and TotalMedia Theatre 5 having a slight lead over WinDVD.

In regards of reliability: during testing PowerDVD was the most stable Blu-ray player software for Windows with no crashes or notable problems whatsoever. In the course of testing WinDVD developed a weird problem (it was not initially present) refusing to run in full HD resolution and shutting itself after displaying a request to lower the desktop resolution. TotalMedia Theatre 5, being the most heavily changed recently, manifested some glitches including a crash or two, but nothing really glaring.

While not quite there yet, both PowerDVD 10 and TotalMedia Theatre 5 have once again moved towards convergence with video file players and much closer to general (or, rather, total) media players.

A note on upscaling lower resolution content to HD: when using software upscaling, PowerDVD seems to offer the best picture quality. This is, of course, subjective but it seems PowerDVD does have the edge. With hardware acceleration turned on all of the Blu-ray player software pretty much depend on the graphics card driver and look identical. If hardware acceleration is enabled it is a good idea to disable any post-processing options in the graphics card driver's control panel. Otherwise, picture "improvements" like edge enhancement, plasticky faces or oversharpened image may (and will!) appear. All this translates to a PowerDVD 10 recommendation if you plan to use the player for DVD playback on a system without good GPU acceleration.


Since our previous Blu-ray player reviews, ArcSoft have caught up with CyberLink and it is now a tough call to single out any of these 2 competitors in the field of Windows Blu-ray player software as the best. It is probably most fair to claim it a tie. You really can't go wrong with neither PowerDVD 10, nor TotalMedia Theatre 5. It would be safe to recommend PowerDVD to Facebook/Twitter addicted users because of its Live Comments feature, and TotalMedia Theatre to the purists who may consider PowerDVD's online integration useless or bloated. If you don't fall in one of these two categories then either one will most likely do fine, but better skim through the dedicated paragraphs above again lest you miss a feature that may tip the scales one way or another for you. And if price happens to be the main consideration then probably Roxio's CinePlayer BD with 3D should provide the solution.

Look for other reviews in our Review Maze.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

La Cabina (1972): A Short, Yet Amazing Movie

La Cabina
La cabina (1972). Have you ever heard of this movie? Chances are, for the most part of the moviegoers, the answer will be certainly negative. First, La cabina is a television movie. Second, it is a Spanish movie and it has not been on air in many countries. Third, it has been released back in 1972 when no Internet or other fast spreading way of communication has been available. I don't think there is an official DVD or Blu-ray release either. To be honest, probably, you best bet is to track down the movie through some of the torrent sites. But in spite of its obscurity, La cabina succeeds to be rarely fresh, funny and simultaneously horrific in its short time span.

The movie is about a man who almost accidentally decides to make a phone call from a newly installed public phone booth. He enters it and he does not succeed in making the call. Instead, he's trapped inside the phone booth whose door seems to be stuck. Several different men try to help him but noone gets any luck. At the same time, the trapped man becomes a local attraction - children make laugh of him, the adults are having a good time just standing around and laughing. After even the police and firemen do nothing efficient to free him, the crew that has installed the phone booth appears and gets the cabin away with a truck. I don't want to spoil the whole movie for you so I just say that from this point on La cabina continues to be no less entertaining when simultaneously becoming more and more weird and shocking.

La cabina is almost one-man show. José Luis López Vázquez who plays the leading role does a terrific job. With almost no words he succeeds to portray a vast variety of emotions. It is not a silent movie, yet body language is the main instrument of expression in the film. The music also adds to make the whole picture more convincing and fascinating.

I cannot say that the ending is too surprising but it is still something that not everyone would expect especially at the beginning of La cabina. Throughout the movie the plot progresses in a way that audience begins to wonder whether the movie will end on a funny, sad or horrifying note. While the plot is worthy enough, there are also other qualities of the film that make it works so well.

La cabina depicts the life in Spain and probably the majority of countries at the time (and even today) from one of its not so pleasant perspectives. Presented with a lot of humor we see a picture of alienated society. Noone really cares for the man in the phone booth - the crowd is just having some entertainment in its everyday boring life; some of the helpers think it is just their duty to help; another one wants to show he is a strong man; the police and firemen are just doing their job. Nobody seems to have any real empathy for the trapped man.

In its short continuance, the movie exhibits also several very curious scenes like for example, when a group of practicing circus players gathers to look fixedly in the trapped man although the usual case is the opposite - people stare at circus artists. If you watch the film carefully, you will find a lot more to please you on many levels than only the plot itself.

Despite being fairly unknown, La cabina is a wonderful movie with a great leading performance, a simple but powerful story, a matching musical score, non-obtrusive social elements and intelligent humor. If you see the film for the first time, at the end, you may not be excessively surprised but you'll be most likely wondering how it's happened you haven't seen La cabina before.

Explore the Review Maze to read other movie reviews.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Highest Grossing Movies of All Time - USA vs. Non-USA Charts Comparison

All-Time USA Box office
1 Avatar (2009)  $760,505,847 
2 Titanic (1997)  $600,779,824 
3 The Dark Knight (2008)  $533,316,061 
4 Star Wars (1977)  $460,935,665 
5 Shrek 2 (2004)  $436,471,036 
6 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)  $434,949,459 
7 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)  $431,065,444 
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)  $423,032,628 
9 Toy Story 3 (2010)  $414,984,497 
10 Spider-Man (2002)  $403,706,375 
11 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)  $402,076,689 
12 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)  $380,262,555 
13 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)  $377,019,252 
14 Spider-Man 2 (2004)  $373,377,893 
15 The Passion of the Christ (2004)  $370,270,943 
16 Jurassic Park (1993)  $356,784,000 
17 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)  $340,478,898 
18 Finding Nemo (2003)  $339,714,367 
19 Spider-Man 3 (2007)  $336,530,303 
20 Alice in Wonderland (2010)  $334,185,206 

All-Time Non-USA Box office
1 Avatar (2009) $2,021,000,000
2 Titanic (1997) $1,234,600,000
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)$752,200,000
4 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) $691,200,000
5 Alice in Wonderland (2010) $689,100,000
6 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) $651,100,000
7 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) $649,000,000
8 Toy Story 3 (2010) $648,000,000
9 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) $645,000,000
10 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $642,863,913
11 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) $632,000,000
12 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)$616,000,000
13 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $604,400,000
14 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) $602,200,000
15 2012 (2009/I) $600,700,000
16 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) $583,495,746
17 Jurassic Park (1993) $563,000,000
18 Spider-Man 3 (2007) $548,900,000
19 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of ... (2001) $547,100,000
20 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $546,100,000
If you take a look at the All-Time USA and the All-Time Non-USA Box office charts you'll most probably notice that they have some differences. While the worldwide highest-grossing movies of all time Avatar and Titanic are easily heading both of the charts, the rest of the positions are pretty much occupied by non-identical movie titles. While there could be a variety of reasons for that situation, we'll share mainly direct observations and comment on some of them. The article is based just on the Top 20 parts of the charts as published on IMDb at the date of this writing and most probably some changes will occur in the future although the main picture shouldn't be altered significantly for the time being. The charts are taken from IMDb as being most convenient for the current comparison but the information is pretty much the same at other popular sources like Box Office Mojo or Wikipedia. So, here is what we see...

To start with the most obvious - all of the seven Harry Potter movies are in the Non-USA Top 20 while none of them is in the USA Top 20. This leads us to the first observation - films based on books are more popular outside US which is also confirmed if we look at some of the other highest-grossing movies of all time based on famous books in the lists. The Non-USA chart has all 3 The Lord of the Rings episodes as well as Alice in Wonderland in number 5 spot while the USA chart has 2 of The Lord of the Rings movies on lower positions. The same is valid for Alice in Wonderland being in the last spot of the USA Top 20. One could state that all of these books have been written by non-American authors but on the other hand it could not be said that there are many movies based on American books in the USA Top 20 either so this should not be the main reason. All of these book-based movies are Hollywood films so their country of origin could not be a reason also. It could be argued that non-USA population is still more keen on books and this assumption could be somehow supported having in mind the United States are the most technically advanced nation and thus eventually spending not so much time in reading books as people living in the rest of the world.

Speaking of reading, here is the place to mention another group of movies - the films based on comic books. And now we observe the opposite thing - the comic book movies are found primarily in the USA Top 20 chart. We can see there all 3 Spider-Man movies and a Batman movie (ranked immediately after Avatar and Titanic) while in the Non-USA chart we find only Spider-Man 3 in the Top 20. This observation could be easily attributed to the comic book keener America and most probably it's a good explanation but we have also to mention that Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance and his untimely death have led to an enormous hype about The Dark Knight movie contributing to the monstrous success of the film in the US.

Since all of the aforementioned films based on non-comic books are fantasy movies and all of them have been more successful outside the USA it could be somehow supported that the non-US audience is more interested in the fantasy genre. On the other hand, one could notice that there are more sci-fi movies in the American highest-grossing films Top 20 compared to the non-USA chart - we can see 3 of the 6 Star Wars movies in there plus Avatar, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Jurassic Park. While there are not so many sci-fi films in the Non-USA Top 20 chart (we can see Avatar, 2012 and Jurassic Park and none of the Star Wars movies) it's still not so obvious if the USA has a real big advantage in the sci-fi genre. It could be considered the success of the 2 prequel Star Wars films founded in the chart is based primarily on the hype having in mind the iconic status of the original Star Wars trilogy in the USA. But even if it's not surely clear if the Americans are bigger sci-fi fans, we can say that while 2012 and Transformers are not so much of gems and critically acclaimed, the Non-US public could do better with the original Star Wars movie and E.T..

It could be also noticed that Star Wars and E.T. are pre-1990 movies and there is not a single movie so old in the Non-USA chart. This could be related to the better developed US movie market establishing cinema as a wide-spread accessible attraction much earlier in the 20th century than the rest of the world. The latter enabled for sure some older movies to generate significant revenue (even with ticket-price inflation not being considered).

While observing the rest of the titles on the highest grossing movies of all time charts does not lead to some general conclusions, we may note that there are some films not mentioned until now (and apart from the worldwide highest grossing films Avatar and Titanic) that have been appealing to the both markets. These include Toy Story 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Being entertaining movies without big life-meaning pretensions and the success of their former episodes are probably the keys of their worldwide attractiveness.

Finally, we should congratulate the US audience for appreciating Shrek 2 and Finding Nemo, both of them being widely critically acclaimed with lots of humor and pop culture references.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979): A Simple Movie Worth Watching

Kramer vs. Kramer
If you've just thought by only seeing the title of this film that it is a courtroom drama, you are not completely wrong. It is a drama and it is partially situated in court but the legal aspect of Kramer vs. Kramer is not the dominant theme in the movie. The film sports very good acting including the performance of the debutant Justin Henry, who has been just 7-8 years old at the time and there are a couple of fascinating moments, yet the movie lacks something in order to be a masterpiece.

Kramer vs. Kramer tells the story of Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman), a man devoted mainly to his career and not having enough time for his family. His wife Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) is not happy about her life with Ted and she decides to leave him. But Joanna does not take their young boy Billy (Justin Henry) with her, so Ted now has additional everyday tasks except for his job. He should take care of himself, look after Billy and keep the house. While Ted is learning how to deal with the new responsibilities he has, he jeopardizes his career. To make things worse, Joanna appears after more than a year and wants to take Billy with her. Of course, Ted has become very attached to the boy and he is not ready to give Billy up easily. A legal battle for the custody of their son begins and it is rougher than they expected.

The acting in Kramer vs. Kramer is really good. Dustin Hoffman portrays Billy's father with realism and his transformation from a workaholic to a loving dad is plausible. Throughout the movie his character is constantly straightforward and he does not fully understand the real-life complex games, being either legal or career related, and Hoffman successfully presents Ted's dislike of certain society features. Meryl Streep does not have so much time on the screen but when she's there, you completely believe that she is a confused at first but altogether loving mother. You are almost able to see the ending of the movie coming because of her portrayal of Joanna in the court. Justin Henry plays very spontaneously the role of Billy and it's hard to say he is acting due to his natural behavior. And last but not least, Jane Alexander gives a solid Oscar nominated performance as Kramers' friend Margaret Phelps. Both Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep has received Oscar statuettes for their parts in Kramer vs. Kramer while the film itself has won the Academy Award also in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing. The 8-year-old Justin Henry has been nominated for Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category (he's still the youngest Academy Award nominee in a competitive category) and it's a pity that similarly to many other boys and girls giving great performances at a very early age, he does not shine so brightly in his subsequent roles.

There are 2 great episodes in Kramer vs. Kramer worth mentioning. The first one is the ending which you can foresee during the court scenes. It's a nice ending although not entirely life-like but let's not discuss it in order to avoid spoiling the movie's outcome. The other episode is when Ted is writing a list with pros and cons about having the custody of his son. There is a long list with cons ("no social life", "work affected", "no privacy", etc.) and not a single entry in the pros section. Nevertheless, in the very next moment we see him sure about wanting the custody of Billy.

One possible flaw of Kramer vs. Kramer but nothing really significant could be that the court scenes are not so many and one might expect more legal action because of the movie title. Additionally, the lawsuit is not very convincing and there are some nearly absurd arguments during the trial that in the author's humble opinion will hardly impress any competent judge.

But even if we consider the aforementioned (lack of) legal action an issue and although Kramer vs. Kramer is not a very distinguished movie (possibly due to its everyday narrative) it is still a very nice film to watch and there is plenty to enjoy during its time span.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

3D Blu-ray Movies: Top 5 Essentials List

In the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 Blu-ray 3D is getting up to speed. 3D HDTV's manufacturers are fighting for exclusive releases in order to convert more customers their way. Studios obviously have nothing against the piles of money thrown at them. Sony teamed with Disney and got exclusivity deals for Alice in Wonderland and Bolt. Samsung partnered with Dreamworks and got the Shrek series, How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters vs. Aliens, with Megamind on the way. But Panasonic did top them by securing exclusivity for Avatar 3D Blu-ray.

Obviously fans are the big losers in this contest. If you want to get a particular movie and it happens to be exclusive for a manufacturer competing with the brand of your 3D equipment, then you are pretty much forced to wait for the exclusivity period to end and the movie to get free distribution.

Anyway, here is a list of the Top 5 essential 3D Blu-ray movies so far.


Avatar is what started the 3D craze in the movie industry. Not that 3D wasn't here before that. Zemeckis, for one, was pushing it for years. But James Cameron showed everyone that there is some huge profit to be made on that field. A year later, Avatar is still the benchmark in 3D and the definitive Blu-ray 3D show-off film. The one to get if you want to impress. Striking visuals, deep colors, consistent video quality, possibly the most meticulously perfect transfer of a 3D movie on BD for the time being.

This is surely a must have for all 3D adopters. The catch is in Panasonic's exclusivity deal. Avatar 3D Blu-ray is only sold in a Panasonic bundle. If you happen to own a Panasonic 3D display by all means you should get that bundle. It includes a pair of 3D active shutter glasses and Avatar Blu-ray 3D disc. And if you already own a couple of glasses, a pair more should be a good addition, especially if you want to treat your guests with some 3D experience. If you have a 3D HDTV from another brand you are probably better off waiting for the exclusivity to end, wherever that may be. Unless, of course, you are a die hard fan and willing to spend some extra cash. If that is the case, for your information: Avatar 3D Blu-ray disc itself will work with any Blu-ray 3D set.

A Christmas Carol

The last film (for now) of long time 3D proponent Robert Zemeckis might as well be the most clever in terms of 3D utilization of all the movies on the list. This is a movie doing 3D the way it should be done and not just to blend with the trend. For that matter, one may say A Christmas Carol predates the trend considering it was released before Avatar. This is an easy and wholehearted recommendation: a very good transfer and possibly the smartest 3D imagery created for now.

Also included in the 4-disc pack is the 2D version (unlike most 3D Blu-ray movies, this one cannot be played in 2D), a DVD version and another DVD with extras.


Based on Neil Gaiman's children's book, Coraline is not really a children's movie. It is also something of an oddity here as it is a stop motion animation, an approach uncommon in this age of CGI. And, somewhat surprisingly (or, then again, maybe not, considering stop motion is actually more-'real' than any photorealistic rendered imagery), this style translates to 3D in a breath-taking manner. A delightful movie, a gorgeous and imaginative 3D world and a beautiful transfer to Blu-ray 3D. Lets thank the gods of bluray for setting this former Panasonic exclusive free for everyone to enjoy.

Despicable Me

An obvious tendency to list animated films is forming here and this is easy to explain. Rendering a perfect 3D image is much easier than capturing one in live action. 3D animated films are at the top when quality is judged.

Despicable Me is the children pleaser in the list and probably the only one of the 3D Blu-ray movies here falling in this category. Adults may find it goofy but kids appear to think it is hysterical. Great colors, detailed image, minimal ghosting and other artifacts. Do your kids a favor and get them to see this.

Resident Evil: Afterlife

The latest installment in the Resident Evil series is not really what one would call a good film. It has some redeeming features though. It is shot in 3D unlike some other movies (*cough*, Clash of the Titans *cough*), which are being post-converted just to make them able to join the gold rush. It also does offer some decent over the top action and a good amount of fan service. Although the movie is shot with the latest incarnation of the tech used in Avatar, it doesn't really reach, let alone surpass, Avatar's heights. The 3D is mostly straightforward and betting on visceral effects: stuff coming out of the screen and the like. The image is detailed and crisp, and colors are good.

Honorable mentions

And three honorable mentions (yes, animations again) that have not found a proper place in our Top 5 list of 3D Blu-ray movies:
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
How to Train Your Dragon
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

If instead of a hardware player, you prefer to use your PC for BD playback you'll need 3D Blu-ray player software. And if the list above is not enough to stuff your BD collection, discover other 3D Blu-ray movies for sale at Amazon.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

ACDSee Photo Management Software

You are welcome to read this article but have in mind that ACDSee Pro 5 and ACDSee Photo Manager 14 have been released as of October, 2011. You can find information about the new versions here.

It was more than 10 years ago, when I first used ASDsee software. I still have some good memories of the pleasant experience I've had with it so when I recently saw an advert of ACDSee Pro 3 product, I decided to write a few words about this digital photo management software product and its little brother ACDSee Photo Manager 12.

As "Pro" in its name suggests, ACDSee Pro 3 (ACDSee Pro 4 is available as of April, 2011) is more advanced product compared to ACDSee 12 photo management software and the first offers more features orientated towards professional photographers or photo enthusiasts with more needs. Both products are compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 and both have many characteristics in common. Some of them concerning viewing capabilities include: supporting of over 100 image, video and audio formats; browsing photos at lightning fast speed; full screen viewing; comparison of several images at once; tagging photos for further processing.

In regard to organizing capabilities, there are again some shared features between ACDSee Pro3 and ACDSee 12. You may automatically import, categorize and rename digital photos whenever a storage device or a camera is connected to your PC. You may organize photos using combination of keywords, metadata, file folders, ratings and custom categories. You may create and save various detailed searches by keywords, file names, captions, etc.

Of course, everyone wants to tweak a picture now and then. So, both photo management software products offer again some common basic features in photo editing field. You may easily adjust exposure, edit selected area's saturation and color, apply simple effects like blur or choose among 20 filters to use. You may easily fix flaws as red-eye, unwanted objects or blemishes, reduce noise or convert photos to black and white. At the end you may add a custom border, edge effect or drop shadow.

Apart from the aforementioned, both ACDSee Photo Manager 12 and ACDSee Pro 3 offer some publishing and archiving capabilities like creating screen savers or slide shows of pictures; uploading to FTP managed spaces; various e-mailing and printing features; uploading photos to Facebook, flickr, etc. as well as storing images on ACDSee online website where you may create private and public albums. You may also burn your digital photos to DVD/CD and automatically synchronize your drives with either of these photo management software products.

In addition to all those capabilities, ACDSee Pro 3 has some more to offer (in order to justify its Pro name and higher price). Here is what one gets additionally with it. You may perform high-quality decoding of RAW format images. You may customize and save file sort orders and workspace layouts. You may create your Properties pane to display file information conveniently or edit IPTC info of group of photos. The next are some more substantial features also missing in ACDSee 12 photo management software: processing of RAW pictures with full precision and control; fixing pincushion, barrel, fish-eye lens and perspective distortions; processing images to improve color, exposure, geometry and clarity; real-time preview of made adjustments; adjusting the contrast and brightness of different tone bands; boosting saturation without skin tone affecting; simulating HDR results with a single exposure; adjusting brightness, saturation and hue on a color by color basis; performing up to 13 various edits like rotate, resize, convert file type, etc. on multiple photos simultaneously; using ICC profiles to improve color matching among devices; watermarking photos to protect your intellectual property before sharing them; uploading images to Zenfolio.

So, both ACDSee 12 and ACDSee Pro3 are good digital photo management software products and each of them could be helpful in your photography related work. If you want to buy one of them you may visit their corresponding pages on ACDSee's website: ACDSee Photo Manager 12 / ACDSee Pro 3. There is also over 40% discount of ACDSee Pro 3 price valid through February 18, 2011. And if you are a Mac user, there is an ACDSee Pro for Mac version.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blu-ray Player Software: PowerDVD 10 Discount Code, TotalMedia Theatre 5 Coupon Code, CinePlayer BD with 3D & Nero Vouchers

Follow the links for updated 2012 BD software coupon codes and 2012 Blu-ray player software reviews.

You probably already know that unfortunately there are not any free Blu-ray software players available at the moment. If you're interested what's the reason for this situation you can check this article, where you will also find detailed reviews of all software Blu-ray players currently on the market. So, the only way to get a Blu-ray player cheaper (if not for free) is to use a coupon code in order to get a discount on the regular price of the software. The bad thing is that there is not always a discount code available for the particular software package you intend to purchase and unsurprisingly this is more often valid for our 2 top choices for a Blu-ray software player: PowerDVD 10 (note: PowerDVD 11 is available as of April, 2011) and TotalMedia Theatre 5.

Below is a list with all of 2011 discount codes / coupon codes we are aware of concerning various Blu-ray software players and other software packages coming from the same manufacturers. We cannot guarantee that these promotional codes and links will always work but we'll try to keep them up to date as far as it's possible.

There is still an ongoing promotion for various CyberLink software including CyberLink PowerDVD 11 Ultra. Discounted prices change over time but usually you can get 20%-30% off PowerDVD and often even bigger discounts on some of the other CyberLink's software products by using this link.
There is currently not a big variety of CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II discount codes. It also seems that an old promotion for CyberLink software including CyberLink PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II has been extended beyond its initial date. You'll get 25% off PowerDVD by using this link. It's been also valid for PowerDVD upgrades and for other CyberLink software packages. And last time I checked, a free product Power2Go 7 Deluxe was also included in the offer.

ArcSoft (TMT 5 review)
Currently there is not any ArcSoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 coupon or discount code we are aware of. The same is valid for the rest of ArcSoft's products. You can use this link and check if something recent hasn't popped up in the ArcSoft's Promotions section (sometimes, discounted offers valid for only one day appear). Also here are a couple of coupon codes you can enter after landing on the site - XMAS35ARCCJ giving 35% off should work until December 29, 2011 and ARCCJLINK should work till December 31, 2011 for a 25% discount.

You can use the following link for a 10% off site-wide discount including Roxio CinePlayer BD with 3D (you need the BD edition if you want to be able to play Blu-ray movies). Just be sure to enter the discount coupon 10ROXIOSAVE. It is valid through October 15, 2011.

You can check this link for an almost regular discount on various Nero products including the Blu-ray enabled ones like Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD and Nero Video Premium HD. They include Nero's Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in so you will be able to play Blu-ray movies with it. Note, that unlike the competition, Nero do not have Blu-ray 3D player software yet.

These have been all of the Blu-ray player promotions and voucher codes we are aware of. If the announced validity date for a particular coupon has already passed, you can still check the corresponding link because sometimes the promo period for a given discount code is extended and it may be your lucky day.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

EuroDNS Voucher Codes, Coupons 2011

Hi guys,

For 2012 coupon codes follow the link: EuroDNS voucher code 2012

This is the post that is going to list any known to us 2011 EuroDNS voucher codes. It seems that the domain name registrar EuroDNS is gaining more and more customers so, we hope the list will be of good use for anyone interested in international and primarily European and Asian domain names. In order to get the best available discount code for a particular domain name extension you should go through the whole list because often there is more than one promo code for a certain TLD. And have in mind that the codes are valid for both new domain registrations and renewals. There are not separate renewal voucher codes at EuroDNS.

The latest EuroDNS voucher codes valid as of 20/12/2011 follow below:

Code TLD Type Discount Expires on
DMIN11 IN ANNUALPRICE 50.00 % 21/12/2011
DMIE11 IE ANNUALPRICE 50.00 % 21/12/2011
DMEU11 EU ANNUALPRICE 72.00 % 21/12/2011
DMME11 ME ANNUALPRICE 66.50 % 21/12/2011
DECAT AT ANNUALPRICE 20.00 % 21/12/2011
CHD2011 CH ANNUALPRICE 36.16 % 31/12/2011
IAMME ME ANNUALPRICE 58.35 % 31/12/2011
14CO11 CO ANNUALPRICE 50.00 % 31/12/2011
IAMIM IM ANNUALPRICE 66.65 % 31/12/2011
RUVDNG RU ANNUALPRICE 66.65 % 31/12/2011
JACONZ11 CO.NZ ANNUALPRICE 20.00 % 31/12/2011
NLXMAS11 NL ANNUALPRICE 35.00 % 31/12/2011
DMDE11 DE ANNUALPRICE 62.00 % 31/12/2011
RENEWIT11 IT ANNUALPRICE 60.00 % 31/12/2011
COMDEC COM ANNUALPRICE 40.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11BE BE ANNUALPRICE 80.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11FR FR ANNUALPRICE 73.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11DE DE ANNUALPRICE 80.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11COM COM ANNUALPRICE 65.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11EU EU ANNUALPRICE 75.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11IT IT ANNUALPRICE 80.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11ES ES ANNUALPRICE 75.00 % 31/12/2011
XMAS11XXX XXX ANNUALPRICE 35.00 % 31/12/2011

If for some reason you still do not have any domain names at EuroDNS you can make an account here. To use a particular voucher code from the list above, enter it in the section "Voucher Codes" after you've created your account or use the coupon directly at the time when you register a chosen domain name. If you are not familiar with EuroDNS, by following the subsequent link you may read more about registering international domain names at EuroDNS.

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