My Two Cents
Wednesday, 24 March 2021 19:14

Judas and the Black Messiah, a big Warner 4K update, new Imprint titles & remembering a longtime friend of The Bits: Ronnee Sass

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We’re picking things up here at The Bits today with more new disc reviews...

I’ve recently posted my thoughts on Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) in 4K from Warner Bros., Pete Docter’s Soul in 4K from Pixar, Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs in Blu-ray and 4K from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, and Paul Greengrass’ News of the World in 4K from Universal.

Meanwhile, Tim has just posted a look at Alex de la Iglesia’s The Day of the Beast (1995) in 4K from Severin Films.

And Dennis has turned in his review of George Sidney’s Show Boat (1951) on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection.

In announcement news today, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has officially set Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 5/4 (SRP $35.99 and $28.98), with the Digital release expected on 4/27, and PVOD available on 4/2. Extras on the disc-based versions will include 2 featurettes (Fred Hampton for the People and Unexpected Betrayal). [Read on here...]

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While we’re talking Warner Bros, I’ve now learned from multiple industry sources the rough release schedule for many of the studio’s 2021 4K catalog titles. The Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: 50th Anniversary Edition is tentatively set for release in 4K on 6/29. The Space Jam: 25th Anniversary Edition is set to follow on 4K in July. And The Shawshank Redemption and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange: 50th Anniversary Edition are both tentatively due to arrive on 4K in September. Finally, expected to arrive on the format in late 2021 are Gravity, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Don’t forget that The Middle Earth Collection is still set for release in 4K this summer as well. We will, of course, post updates on all of these titles as we have them. We’ve updated our 4K UHD Release List here at The Bits accordingly.

While I’ve got their attention: Hey Warner Bros... please consider releasing The Wachowskis’ Speed Racer (2008) in 4K with a proper lossless (Atmos) sound mix. I think you will be very surprised at how many copies you sell. And how about The Right Stuff (1983) and Barry Lyndon (1975) in 4K too? Thx!

One last Warner Bros. note: Zavvi is now taking pre-orders for Zack Snyder’s Justice League on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD (and we expect other retailers to begin doing so soon as well). We don’t have an official street date yet, but our sources are suggesting late May (5/18 or 5/25). Meanwhile, you can pre-order the 4K here on Zavvi US and here on Zavvi UK. Our information is that this will be a 4-disc set, containing 2 4K discs and 2 Blu-rays.

Zack Snyder's Justice League (4K Ultra HD)

In other release news, Imprint Films has revealed their next two waves of catalog Blu-ray titles, including several more from the Paramount library. They include Let It Ride (1989), Regarding Henry (1991), Scarface (1932), Timeline (2003), The Mothman Prophecies (2002), and The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (1979) on 4/28, followed by Alfie (1966), The President’s Analyst (1967), The Chalk Garden (1964), The Face Behind the Mask (1941), Essential Film Noir: Collection 2 (featuring Hollywood Story (1951), City That Never Sleeps (1953), Plunder of the Sun (1953), and Private Hell 36 (1954) in one box), and The Gambler (1974) on 5/26.

Meanwhile, our friends at Vinegar Syndrome are holding a Flash Pre-Order sale this Friday through Sunday on their website, during which two new Vinegar Syndrome box sets, a standalone Blu-ray title, and a new Vinegar Syndrome Ultra 4K title will be announced. And apparently, there are still two more surprise titles coming in May that will still be TBA even after this weekend. So be sure to check their website starting on Friday.

In general industry news today, it appears that Best Buy is slowly reducing the footprint of physical media shelf space in their retail stores nationwide. We’ve now heard from more than a dozen Best Buy employees that at least some currently-available titles are being boxed up in order to downsize the disc sections in the store locations where they work. Given the pandemic of the last year, some of this makes sense. But it’s also yet another sign of the larger decline of physical media in general.

Also today, don’t forget that you have until April 9 to submit your votes in Media Play News’ annual Home Entertainment Awards. Everyone is eligible to vote, so be sure to visit this website to make your selections and let your feelings be known.

We would be remiss this afternoon if we didn’t take a moment to acknowledge the passing yesterday of stage and screen actor George Segal, following complications from surgery. Segal appeared in many films over the years, including Ship of Fools (1965), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Flirting with Disaster (1996), The Cable Guy (1996), and 2012 (2009). He also appeared frequently on TV on such shows as Just Shoot Me! (1997–2003) and The Goldbergs (2013–2021), among others. Segal was 87.

Ronnee SassFinally today, I need to personally take a few minutes to recognize the passing of a very dear friend of mine, Ronnee Sass, the longtime publicist for Warner Bros. and later the VP of publicity and promotion for theatrical catalog at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Ronnee was one of the very first people I ever met in the home entertainment industry after I started The Digital Bits website back in 1997. Less than a month after launching the site, I was working in my office on a news post one afternoon when Ronnee rang me up on the phone. After explaining who she was, she proceeded to say that, “Warren is a big fan of your website and he would like to invite you to come up to the studio to talk about our plans for DVD.” Of course, it took me a moment to realize exactly who it was that she was talking about: Warren Lieberfarb, then the president of Warner Home Video and the man widely regarded today as the “Godfather” of the DVD format. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, and ended up spending an entire afternoon at the studio—the first of many such visits over the years—learning about the format, Warren’s vision for it, the work being done to restore the studio’s classic films for the format, and much more.

A few months later, while covering the annual Video Software Dealers Association trade show in Las Vegas (aka VSDA), I got another call from Ronnee. It turned out that Warner Home Video was hosting a private meeting at the show featuring all of the key industry leaders who were behind the DVD format. “We’re only inviting a very small handful of press, but Warren asked me to be sure that you were coming.” I could hear the smile in her voice when she added that, “He asked me to bump Variety to include you, so please join us if you possibly can!” How could I say no?

What followed was one of the most meaningful relationships I’ve had in this industry. Ronnee was among the most vocal and enthusiastic supporters of The Digital Bits in the years that followed, making sure to include me in all of their big studio promotional events and screenings, to extend rare opportunities to see film remastering and disc authoring work being done, to grant me access to the decision-makers at the studio, to introduce me to a who’s-who of industry leaders and insiders, many of whom are still friends today. She frequently asked for my opinion on various DVD and Blu-ray projects she was involved in (including allowing me access to the production of such titles as Ben-Hur in 2001 and the Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Ultimate Five-Disc Collector’s Edition in 2007). Ronnee went out of her way on many occasions to help me as I worked to grow the scope and reputation of The Bits, to improve the quality and depth of our coverage of DVD and Blu-ray, and to gain the trust not just of our readers but also the key players within the industry.

And the real joy of it all was knowing first-hand how passionate Ronnee was about these films and how excited she was to share them with all of you on disc. As our friend Charles de Lauzirika said of Ronnee upon learning of her passing this week, she was “a fierce fighter in all the good fights.” It’s no exaggeration to say that if you’ve enjoyed any of Warner’s biggest and best Blu-ray and DVD titles, from the dawn of DVD itself until she finally left the studio in 2014, Ronnee had a hand in nearly all of them.

Ronnee was also, I must add, one of the kindest, finest human beings I’ve ever met in my 25 years working in this industry. She lit up every room the moment she walked into it. She was warm, welcoming, and caring. She was, quite simply, a force of nature. And though I have tears in my eyes as I type all of this, I really wanted all of you to know how important she’s been to all of us, not just here at The Bits and in this industry, but to this passion for movie discs that we all share together.

I know that I’m not alone this week in saying that I loved Ronnee and will miss her dearly. She died on March 20th after a long battle with leukemia at the age 72. I will never forget her. You can read more about Ronnee here from my friend TK Arnold over at Media Play News.

Thank you all for listening.

Stay tuned...

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)


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