Pandemic Film Review: “Contagion”, and How Do I Rip Contagion and Other DVDs

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Sanaa Lathan

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 106 minutes

The COVID-19 is raging around the world, which has stimulated people’s interest in pandemic movies. As a result, some pandemic-themed movies, such as “Contagion”, make them back into the top movie charts of iTunes and other streaming services. “Contagion” is a 2011 release directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and it gets a strong cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damonm, Kate Winslet, and more.

Years ago I’ve already watched this film on DVD. Since it offers a parallel to current coronavirus outbreak, our family decides to watch it again. My DVD player cannot function properly, so I digitized my “Contagion” DVD to MP4 with a DVD ripper. I’ve attached the guide on how to rip a movie DVD to digital file after my movie review part, in case someone also needs to rip or backup his/her own DVD collection for fair use. I saved the digital copy to my USB flash drive and then watched it on my TV with my family. 

My review of “Contagion”

In the current context of the noval coronavirus epidemic, “Contagion” is like a documentary. The film depicts a virus called MEV-1, transmitted from bat to pig to human. It spreads around the world and destroys tens of millions of humans in a very short time.

This movie shows multiple story lines, but the main line is clear. The director uses very precise details and deliberate control, and a very restrained lens language to describe a very real end-time scene. Humanity is vulnerable and very real. There are no lone heroes or government conspiracy theories which we always see in American movies. Everyone is an ordinary person. This constitutes a world that is not dramatic, but is also most dramatic and close to the real world.

The film doesn’t make people feel too long. Instead, there are too many parts that are just mentioned briefly yet appropriately, such as the betrayal of the dead wife, the bureaucracy of Chinese officials trying to hide the truth, the game between the U.S. government and the media, the sacrifice of political struggle, the real address of Hong Kong street, and the most popular mobile phone in Japan, etc. The CDC official played by Kate Winslet has no special ups and downs, and dies. The human body is extremely fragile in front of the mysterious nature.

As the story unfolds, the director takes us peeling off both the truths of the virus and human nature. Some people seem to be an apathetic government mouthpiece, but they will become ordinary people with blood and flesh in the face of their families. Some people show up in masks of heroes and are eventually found despicable like villains. All characters in the film are vivid and real.

There are no earth-shattering stories in this movie, no heroes born out of nowhere, no sensational screams, no heartbreaking separation. There is no miracle. There is no compassion. Everything is carried out in order, as indifferent as this plague that it comes with no reason and will eventually leave.

How to Rip a DVD?

First of all, we need to download a piece of DVD ripping software, because it is almost impossible to rip a commercial DVD simply by copying and pasting. There are many choices. After reading so many reviews and comparisons, I choose cost-effective WinX DVD Ripper Platinum and it doesn’t disappoint me.

Why I choose WinX DVD Ripper Platinum?

1. It supports different kinds of video DVDs, including old and new movies, TV shows, fitness videos, and more DVDs. It even helps me handle a scratched DVD successfully.

2. It allows me to make 1:1 DVD backup (DVD to ISO file/DVD folder) as well as movie-only ripping (DVD to MP4, H.264, AVI, WMV, iPhone, iPad, Android device, game console…).

3. It can maintain the original image and audio quality while compressing a few gigabytes data to around 1GB only.

4. It works fast, probably taking a few minutes only to rip a DVD, by taking the advantage of multi-core processors, hardware acceleration, and other technologies.

So my guide is based on WinX DVD Ripper Platinum.  

Step 1. Insert your DVD into DVD drive. After that, open the DVD ripper and click DVD Disc button to import the DVD. I really love the feature that it can detect the correct main movie title automatically, even if there are some fake titles in a 99-title DVD.

Step 2. Choose an output format according to your own needs from the Output Profile panel where over 350 profiles are provided.

Step 3. Hit RUN to begin ripping DVD.

R.I.P. David R. Ellis – Flashback Interview for "Shark Night 3D"

I was very saddened to find out that David R. Ellis has passes away on January 7th, 2013. He was the director of action films like “Shark Night 3D”, “The Final Destination” and “Snakes on the Place”. Here is our interview from August of 2011 with the late director to chat about working on “Shark Night 3D”.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally become attached to “Shark Night 3D”?
David R. Ellis: I had done “The Final Destination”  in 3D which ended up doing really good. Those attached to the “Shark Night” project wanted to make this film in 3D as well. I had been attached to the project for some time prior to the film being made. I was the only person out there that had done a full live action 3D movie. They brought me in to meet with the producers and I pitched to them what my vision for the film was. They immediately attached me to the film and from there they started to pitch the film for funding with my name attached to it.

MG: What can we expect from the film?
DRE: There is a lot of comedy and fun in this film. It’s not a horror but it is a scary. The film is rated PG-13 however we really pushed the envelope with what we could get away with. The film plays like an R rated movie but we just don’t cuss or have boobs in it. We don’t really need that to make a scary movie. I don’t think boobs are that scary. Maybe some are. (Laughs) During our test screenings we made people jump and scared them but they also had a lot of fun with the movie. We spent time developing the characters and we have a great young cast. I like finding young actors and giving them a shot such as Chris Evans who I had in “Cellular”. I think everyone in this film are going to be big stars in their own right and I was very lucky to get them before they broke out.

MG: We have spoke to the whole cast and they have been telling us that you are one of the best directors to work with and you have this unique approach to directing; can you tell us about that approach?
DRE: Well I pay them to say that [laughs].  No seriously, when I cast actors I cast people who have the ability to adopt the part and who can get into the role. I like to then give them free reign in designing that character from what they want to wear and what props they may want to use. Making a movie is not brain surgery so my sets are a lot of fun to work on. I come very prepared and we have fun while getting our work done. At the end of a movie it’s sad because we made a new family and you have to leave that. Keeping everything light is key. Appreciating everyone working on the film for what they contribute and not yelling and or screaming is important as well because at times we were shooting in miserable conditions but by keeping it fun everyone stepped up to the plate and did a great job.

MG: How much of the film features animatronic sharks and how much was CGI?
DRE:  It’s probably 40% animatronics and 60% CGI. We used the animatronic sharks when they had to interact with people. When a scene was really difficult we used the CGI sharks.  The CGI has really come a long way and looked great, especially since I was directed the second unit on “Deep Blue Sea”.  The technology from then to now is amazing. The sharks look great!

MG: How do you “Shark Night 3D” differs from your other 3D film “The Final Destination”?
DRE: This one was more difficult because we were shooting on the water. When you are using 3D cameras you have one camera for the left eye and one for the right. They are very bulky and underwater they are very big so it’s technically tough for the crews. I think 3D films need to be shot in 3D nd not converted in post production, as I feel you don’t get the depth. I call that ‘2 and a half D’. What they have now that we didn’t have for “The Final Destination” are 3D monitors. You get to watch everything in 3D as its being shot. Before you had to shoot then put it into a computer and watch it in a trailer later on.

MG: Can you tell us the story behind the issues with the film’s title?
DRE: The working title of the film was “Shark Night 3D”. We were always hoping that we would come up with something that was catchier. On a weekly basis we had production meetings where I would try and get the crew to suggest different titles. Ultimately when the film was bought after we were done there was some research to change the title but in the end the film is what it is and the title was fitting.

MG: Do you prefer shooting in 3D or do you find it more difficult?
DRE: I love 3D and its depth. I think a lot of films use the really gimmicky type 3D that throws stuff into the audience. We didn’t do that. We used the 3D to put the audience inside the world of the shark and to have the sharks in the audience. The gimmicks work for some movies as 3D is an interactive experience. I think 3D is a great application and it’s going to be around for a long time. It may not be for every film but for the right film if it’s used correctly it’s an awesome experience.