Today is a day many of us in the cinephile community have been eagerly awaiting: Criterion has finally launched their streaming replacement for FilmStruck, better known as The Criterion Channel.

It officially launched this morning with apps on AppleTV, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS and Android. You can also view it via web browser.

The good news is, the launch seems to have gone nearly flawlessly. I checked for the Roku download shortly after midnight. Finding it not yet available, I figured it was more likely to launch early AM on the East Coast, where Criterion’s offices are located. So I went to bed and checked again when I woke up here in California. [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

Attention all readers of The Digital Bits. This is just a quick announcement to remind you all that The Criterion Channel officially launches in the U.S. and Canada on Monday (4/8).

That means you only have ONE WEEK left to become a Charter Subscriber of the service. Benefits include an extended 30-day free trial (starting April 8), reduced fees for the life of your subscription (for as long as you maintain it), and more.

Specifically, charter subscribers (who sign up before 4/8) will pay just $9.99 for a monthly plan or $89.99 for a yearly plan, following the trial period. After 4/8, the prices will rise to $10.99 for monthly or $99.99 for yearly.

Content includes the complete Janus Films library, plus curated and original content, with special features to supplement it.

You can watch on your desktop right now, and the official app is expected to go live for download on Monday for Apple TV 4 and newer, Amazon Fire, Roku, iOS, and Android devices. [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

We’ve got a quick Friday post for you guys today...

First up, we have a new review for you. Tim has checked out Arrow Video’s Blood Hunger: The Films of José Larraz – Limited Edition Blu-ray box set. It includes Whirlpool (1970), Vampyres (1974), and The Coming of Sin (1978). Enjoy!

We’re going to be back on Monday with more reviews, as well as a new History, Legacy & Showmanship column from our own Michael Coate, celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Wachowski’s The Matrix. So be sure to check back for that.

By the way, we’ve updated our 4K Ultra HD Release List here at The Bits to reflect the fact that Ridley Scott’s Alien: 40th Anniversary Edition is FINALLY available for pre-order on Amazon.com (and–holy shit–for just $15!). [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

All right, we’ve got more reviews for you to enjoy today, including...

My take on James Wan’s Aquaman in 4K Ultra HD from Warner.

Dennis’ review of Dan Bush’s The Vault on Blu-ray from FilmRise.

And Chase’s look at Robert Zemeckis’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand on Blu-ray from Criterion.

More reviews are in the works for tomorrow and Friday, so be sure to check back for them.

Meanwhile, we have some new title news and announcements to report today as well...

We’ve now confirmed the 4/23 release of Captain America: Civil War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier on 4K Ultra HD from Disney. [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

Boy, we’ve got a nice little bit of news for you all today...

Just a few days ago, I raved about the experience of seeing Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace on the big screen. (You can read my thoughts on the experience here.) Well now, Criterion has just officially announced that it will highlight their June Blu-ray and DVD release slate!

The complete wave of titles includes a BD upgrade of A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence – Cat #209-211 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/4, George Stevens’ Swing Time (Cat #979 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/11, Bruno Dumont’s L’humanité (Cat #981 – Blu-ray and DVD) and La vie de Jésus (Cat #980 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/18, John Cameron Mitchell punk musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Cat #982 – Blu-ray and DVD) and – yes – Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (Cat #983 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 6/25! [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

We’ve got a bunch of news for you today, including both Blu-ray and 4K. But we’re going to start with some new reviews.

First of all, yesterday I posted my thoughts on Sony’s 4K Ultra HD release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The title streets on 3/19, and I’ll tell you... it may be my all-time favorite superhero film, period. That’s saying a lot, but it’s just really fresh, honest, and ingenious in the way it presents the comic book genre on the big screen with groundbreaking animation. It’s a pretty nice 4K release too, so do give it a look.

Also today, Tim has delivered a review of Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet on regular Blu-ray and Dennis has taken a look at Universal’s Mary Queen of Scots as well. Enjoy!

Now then... a couple items before we get to the release news... [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

All right, let’s get right down to it. I’ve been reluctant to talk about the prospects of James Cameron’s The Abyss and True Lies arriving on Blu-ray (and dare we hope 4K) in 2019 because we’ve had SO many solid reports that these films were finally coming only to see them evaporate. And when I’ve tried to find out why, Fox always pointed at Cameron and Cameron always pointed back at Fox. What I finally figured out is that Cameron has just been too distracted with other projects to approve new transfers of these films, first with diving to the bottom of the ocean and more recently with his Avatar prequels.

As longtime Bits readers will be well aware, both films were expected for their last major anniversaries in 2014. We know for a fact that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment had even prepared new Blu-ray releases (most recently rumored for release in 2017), but Cameron never got around to approving the new transfers, so the Blu-ray releases never happened. The transfers were quietly released to the pay cable movie channels only.

Well, now it’s five years later. 2019 officially marks the 30th anniversary of The Abyss and the 25th of True Lies. Naturally, that means Bits readers have been asking me for weeks about the prospects of finally seeing these films released on Blu-ray (and, again, dare we hope 4K). I’ve even spoken to studio sources about this recently. And again, what I learned was that the ball was still in James Cameron’s court. [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

(As I am writing this month’s column, word spread that the world had lost Nick Redman, a man of incomparable vision and love of classic films. He was a friend of mine and this entire website. I’ll write more next time.)

Maybe it was the mustache. Or the unscripted quips. Or the genteel Southern manner.

Or just maybe it was that laugh, a bombastic cackle delivered by one comfortable in his own skin – inviting his audience gut bust with him, as though they were all in a private joke.

That’s our Burt. And he’s, unbelievably, gone. [Read on here...]

There’s some new release news to report today, and then we’re going to return to the topic of physical media in the wake of the news about Samsung on Friday.

But first, late on Friday afternoon, Criterion announced their May Blu-ray release slate, which is set to include William Wyler’s The Heiress (Cat #974 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 5/7, an updating of David Mamet’s House of Games (Cat #399 – Blu-ray and DVD) and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (Cat #975 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 5/14, Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In (Cat #976 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 5/21, and Agnès Varda’s One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (Cat #978 – Blu-ray and DVD) and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (Cat #977 – Blu-ray and DVD) on 5/28. We’ve updated our Criterion Spines Project page here at The Bits to include these titles and you can read more about them here.

Speaking of Criterion, we also learned on Friday that the Russian film studio Mosfilm has completed a new 2K restoration of Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic 1966-67 film adaptation of War and Peace. The 7-hour/4-part series is legendary in cinema history as the biggest production ever mounted, besting even David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia by having an essentially unlimited budget, a bottomless supply of props and costumes from the country’s state museums, and a cast of thousands. The film was shot on Russian Sovscope 70mm film stock, but unfortunately it’s suffered from preservation issues over the years. That’s meant the only good options available for viewing in recent years have been DVD versions of modest quality. [Read on here...]

Published in My Two Cents

The Hidden Fortress is an irresistible blend of grand comic adventure with Kurosawa’s emblematic humanism and innovative craftsmanship.” — Stuart Galbraith, author of The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 60th anniversary of the release of The Hidden Fortress, Akira Kurosawa’s influential jidai-geki and starring long-time Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo).

The popular Kurosawa film turns sixty this year, and for the occasion, The Bits features a Q&A with film historian and Japanese cinema authority Stuart Galbraith. [Read on here...]

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