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-Newsletter est. 4/15/97-
-Website est. 12/15/97-





page updated: 12/5/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 11/30/07 - 11/9/07)


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(LATE UPDATE - 11/30/07 - 6 PM PST)

This has nothing to do with DVD, but there's a bit of sad news today that we just couldn't let pass unrecognized. The man who jumped the Snake River Canyon and semi trucks and sharks and a whole bunch of other great stuff on live TV back in the 1970s - not to mention the fact that he had his own pinball machine and inspired the greatest damn toys I ever had as a kid - is no more. Evel Knievel has died today at the age of 69. Get a load of this...

Evel Knievel

The balls on that guy. Look at 'em... sitting there in his badass rocket car, staring Death down like it was nothing. I mean, seriously. The guy had a rocket car. And he wore a cape too. Who can pull that off anymore? BALLS, I tell you.

Vaya con Dios, E.

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/30/07 - 1 PM PST)

Okay... let's have some software announcements, shall we?

First up, Universal has finally set The Kingdom for release on full frame and anamorphic widescreen DVD (SRP $29.98) and DVD/HD-DVD Combo version (SRP $39.98) on 12/26. The DVD versions will include feature commentary with director Peter Berg, deleted scenes, a History of The Kingdom interactive timeline and 3 featurettes (Character by Character: The Apartment Shootout, Constructing the Freeway Sequence and Creating The Kingdom). The DVD/HD-DVD version will also add U-Control features like The Mission Dossier: Surveillance and Picture-in-Picture video, along with web enabled features.

Also newly announced by Universal are Reservation Road (1/22) and Lust, Caution (2/10), both on DVD only.

Meanwhile, Think Film has announced the DVD release of its acclaimed In the Shadow of the Moon documentary on 2/12. You'll get anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, an exclusive message from producer Ron Howard, audio commentary (with director David Sington, editor David Fairhead and archive producer Chris Riley), over 60 minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes including additional astronaut interviews and mission footage, the Scoring Apollo: A Short Feature with Composer Philip Sheppard featurette, the film's theatrical trailer and a gallery of additional trailers. This is an amazing film - I've seen it twice now in theaters. I just wish it were being released in high-definition as well.

Finally, Warner has announced a number of new titles including The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (due 2/5/08 - sadly only on DVD and with no extras), an It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition (also includes a bonus episode and the In Full Bloom: The Peanuts at Easter documentary - 2/19), Justice League: The New Frontier, a 2-disc Justice League: The New Frontier - Special Edition and Hooligans (all 2/26), The Other Boleyn Girl (3/4 - for the BBC), NBA Boston Celtics 1985-86 and NHL All-Access 2008 (both 3/25), and Terry Jones: Medieval Lives (4/1 - also for the BBC).

Here at the site today, we've updated some of the DVD and high-def format stats we track (above), including the Blu-ray/HD-DVD market share numbers. Speaking of which, the Blu-ray Disc camp has taken out full page ads in the trades today (click here for the digital edition of next week's Home Media - look on page 35), trumpeting the fact that 7 out of 10 high-def movies sold Thanksgiving week were Blu-ray. The ad further claims a Blu-ray software sales advantage of 7 out of 10 in Europe, and 9 out of 10 in Japan.

In other news today, Sony has announced that it plans to add a high-def Video On Demand service to its PlayStation 3 platform in Japan in 2008. You can read more on that here at Video Business.

And it appears that Onkyo's DV-DH805 HD-DVD player is indeed simply a rebadged Toshiba HD-XA2 (with a few modifications for the high-def market), at least according to a report at Engadget (based on this examination of the Onkyo by German website AreaDVD.de). It also does seem to have been abandoned already in the European market according to AVMagazine.it (see English translation here - thanks to Bits reader Eric E. for the link). Just FYI, we have at least one reader who has reported receiving their Onkyo player today here in the States.

How's about a look at some new cover artwork? It's all DVD today. Here's Think Film's In the Shadow of the Moon, Warner's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition, Universal's Reservation Road, and MGM's The John Frankenheimer Collection (1/22) and When Harry Met Sally: Collector's Edition (1/15)...

In the Shadow of the MoonThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordIt's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition

Reservation RoadThe John Frankenheimer CollectionWhen Harry Met Sally: Collector's Edition

And that's all she wrote for November. Matt, Sarah and I are looking forward to a sneak peek screening of The Golden Compass on Saturday night. Fingers crossed that New Line did the book at least some justice. Should be fun.

We wish you all a fine weekend! Stay tuned...

11/29/07

Variety is reporting today on the home video industry's growing concern at the continuing slowdown of DVD sales this holiday season. Nearly every summer movie DVD release has fallen short of sales expectations so far in the 4th quarter, and overall DVD sales this year are down from 2006, likely reflecting the maturity of the DVD format itself, tightening budgets as a result of a downturn in the economy, and possibly the high-definition format war. The Variety piece has this to say about the format war:

"The industry is still years away from its next cash cow. The battle over high-def formats has grown more entrenched, hindering wide scale adoption of either Blu-ray or HD DVD. And Internet delivery -- a major part of the WGA strike -- is even more Lilliputian than DVD. Analysts believe it will be years before downloads become significant, and even then might only approach 15% of the current DVD biz."

That part about Internet delivery is key, I think. People who might be willing to pay $19.99 or $24.99 for a movie plus extras on a disc are unlikely to ever want to pay the same amount for a download. And the technological barriers involved in connecting to the Internet from the living room (not to mention setting up buying accounts and the problem of digital storage) will likely restrict download viewing to a small portion of the overall consumer home video market for some time to come.

Back on the subject of the HD format war impacting DVD sales, here's a bit of anecdotal evidence: I was speaking with my parents last week about holiday gifts. It seems they were thinking of giving someone DVDs for Christmas, but were concerned that they might be wasting their money if DVDs were going to be obsolete soon. Now, I was pretty surprised to hear this. We continue to get reports from readers who have stopped buying standard DVD releases in the anticipation of purchasing titles on one of the new high-def formats instead... but not until the format war is over and a single format becomes the obvious choice. My folks live in North Dakota and they're pretty casual DVD consumers - they'll buy a few titles here and there, maybe rent a couple times a month. They're not likely ever to be high-def disc buyers. And I've never really spoken to them about either high-def format before - they've just seen the commercials on TV and the in-store displays at places like Best Buy. If they're ALREADY concerned that purchasing DVDs might soon be like buying 8-track tapes (which isn't really true, of course), or at least have that concern in the back of their minds, other people are probably thinking the same thing as well. It's not good news for the home video business.

The overall DVD sales slowdown aside, it seems that Black Friday software sales were brisk. Home Media is reporting that Black Friday DVD sales this year were up 6% from last year. On the high-def front, however, software sales for the Blu-ray Disc format dominated those of HD-DVD on the biggest shopping day of the year. According to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert numbers, for the week of 11/19 to 11/25 (Monday to Sunday), Blu-ray held a commanding 72.6% share of high-def software sales compared to HD-DVD's 27.4% That's very nearly a 3 to 1 margin, and it comes in spite of a strong surge in HD-DVD player sales in the wake of Toshiba's recent discounting. Industry insiders are reporting a surge in Blu-ray Disc player sales as well, however, also in the wake of recent price reductions. Particularly strong are sales of Sony's Blu-ray ready PlayStation 3, which have reportedly increased nearly 300% according to online reports.

Meanwhile, Reuters and Gamespot UK are reporting that Blu-ray's software sales edge has now extended to Europe, in addition to existing leads in the U.S., Japan and Australia. From the Gamespot story: "According to Media Control Gfk International, 73 percent of next-generation movies bought by European consumers were on Blu-ray, and 27 percent on HD DVD."

Lest you think the news is all bad for HD-DVD, the HD-DVD Promotions Group has announced that Black Friday sales have pushed the HD-DVD format past the 750,000 players mark, when Microsoft's Xbox 360 add-on drive is counted in the figures (the actual breakdown is estimated to be something on the order of 450,000 actual stand-alone players plus 300,000 or so Xbox 360 add-on drives). On the other hand, according to recent estimates (released prior to Black Friday, so not including Black Friday sales) there are reportedly some 300,000 stand-alone Blu-ray players in North America, plus another 1.9 million PlayStation 3s, for a total of approximately 2.2 million. Ironically, that's also roughly a 3 to 1 margin. Obviously, not every PS3 owner is watching movies, but the continuing Blu-ray software sales edge (despite fewer stand-alone players sold) would seem to indicate that at least some significant percentage of PS3 owners are watching movies in addition to playing games. Moriarty over at AICN is now among them it seems.

One other format war (hardware) note: There are reports circulating online - which we're working to confirm - that both Onkyo's DV-HD805 and Venturer's SHD7000 are rebadged Toshiba OEM players (the Onkyo is reportedly an HD-XA2 with slight modifications for the enthusiast market, while the Venturer is reportedly an HD-A3). There are additional indications that Onkyo may actually have cancelled its HD-DVD player in favor of releasing a dual-format Blu-ray/HD-DVD player in 2008 instead. Does anyone have further details or confirmation on this? Please let us know.

Ugh. Format wars. Never a dull moment.

As far as software announcements today, they're all standard DVD.

First up, Universal has set The Land Before Time: Adventuring in the Mysterious Beyond and Curious George: Goes to the Doctor and Lends a Helping Hand for DVD release on 2/19 (SRP $16.98 each).

Buena Vista will debut Hannah Montana: One in a Million on DVD on 1/29.

Paramount has set Exalted: The Complete First Season for release on 3/11, along with Comedy Central's Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States - Season One and South Park: The Imaginationland Trilogy. Human Giant: The Complete First Season is also due from Paramount on 3/4.

Finally, MGM has announced new DVD special editions of When Harry Met Sally (1/15) and The Apartment (2/5). The When Harry Met Sally: Collector's Edition will include the film with audio commentary by director Rob Reiner, Nora Ephron and Billy Crystal, 8 deleted scenes, 7 featurettes (including It All Started Like This, Stories of Love, When Rob Met Billy, Billy on Harry, I Love New York, What Harry Meeting Sally Meant and So Can Men And Women Really Be Friends?) and the theatrical trailer. SRP is $19.98. Meanwhile, The Apartment: Collector's Edition will include the film with audio commentary by UCLA film professor Bruce Block, the Inside the Apartment documentary and the Tribute to Jack Lemmon featurette. SRP is also $19.98.

That's all for now. Stay tuned...

11/28/07

Boy... what a busy day! My phone has been ringing off the hook all afternoon, making it tough to get a post up today. But we've got a couple quick things to report for you.

First, 20th Century Fox has sent over a statement about the forthcoming release of Independence Day on Blu-ray Disc. The title had been set for release on 12/4, but has now been pushed back to March 2008. Here's the reason why according to the studio:

"We realize the forums have been whipped into a frenzy, so here are the facts: While putting Independence Day through our regular and rigorous QC process, we detected a minor glitch. Even though 95% of users would likely not know or encounter it, we chose to do the right thing and remaster, which necessitates moving the release date. It is now scheduled for a March release."

So there you have it.

Also today, we have a follow-up for you on one other Blu-ray issue. Some of you may recall that a few months ago, viewers reported a framing problem with a few scenes in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray Disc. Disney has apparently corrected the problem in production, so future copies going into stores will feature the correct framing (we'll try to find out if there's a way to identify corrected copies by the packaging - UPC number variation or something). In the meantime, if you have a copy with the mis-framed footage, you will SOON be able to call the studio's Blu-ray customer service hotline at 1-800-723-4763 (U.S.) or 1-800-877-2843 (Canada) to arrange an exchange. Don't call quite yet - we'll let you know when the fixed discs are ready. Just know that Disney has been working on the problem, and a solution will be available to you all shortly.

One last item: For those of you who may be interested in our current Power Buy deals on Pioneer's new 60" 1080p Elite PRO-150FD Kuro plasma and BDP-95FD HDMI 1.3 Blu-ray player, only limited quantities are left. Be sure to act fast if you want to take advantage. Click here for all the details.

I'll be back with a lot more DVD and high-def news tomorrow, so stay tuned...

11/27/07

Okay... as promised, I've just posted my in-depth review of CBS and Paramount's new Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One Remastered, which is newly available on the DVD/HD-DVD Combo format. It took a while to really go through everything and to gather my thoughts on it all, but I'm finally done. All in all, it's a good... though not great... HD-DVD release. It's worth considering for diehard fans, but the steep price is likely to keep most casual fans away. As for the whole notion of TV series on HD-DVD, I'm much more intrigued by the prospect of Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season One, which is due in stores on 12/4. We'll be reviewing that soon too.

Also today, our own Adam Jahnke has turned in another installment of his Electric Theatre, featuring reviews of Frank Darabont's The Mist which is based on the novella by Steven King (and is now playing at your local cineplex), as well as Sony's new Paprika Blu-ray Disc. I'm curious to see what Adam says about Paprika. I actually watched it with him, and although it's a stunningly beautiful Japanese anime, I'm still not sure I could tell you what the story was about. We both kind of looked at each other when it was done and just laughed. Anyway, enjoy his reviews.

Elsewhere here at the site today, we've kicked off three new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home DVD copies of Warner's Burt Lancaster Signature Collection, Ocean's Thirteen, Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends, Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same and The Gilmore Girls: The Complete Seventh Season (includes a coffee mug!), along with the BBC's Planet Earth and Little Britain: The Complete Collection, and Shout! Factory's Inside the Actor's Studio: Johnny Depp. Each of the contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, December 2nd. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Also, Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with this week's latest DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. Remember, a percentage of everything you order through our Amazon links goes to support our work here at The Bits, and we surely appreciate it.

We'll be back tomorrow with news and more, so stay tuned!

11/26/07

Welcome back, folks! We hope you all had a great long holiday weekend. Sarah spent the week back in Iowa with her family. Meanwhile, Adam and I had a great time over at Casa Rowe on Thursday. We all ate way too much, as usual - lots of turkey, lots of pie. Some football was watched. Matt's clan then decided to take in a screening of Fred Clause, so Adam and I opted for The Mist instead. Let me tell you, the last ten minutes are stunningly effective, although the preceding portions are a bit too overly theatrical and "movie convenient." I think if it had been more subtle early on, The Mist would really have been a home run. As it is, though, it's still a good movie - not great, but good. It's certainly creepy and engrossing, and it's a nice change of pace in the horror genre from all the torture/gore porn crap we've seen recently. I suspect Adam will review it in more detail in a forthcoming edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre. Meanwhile, Todd says the CD dramatization from 1993 (in 3-D sound, no less) is better and more effective.

Okay, we've just updated some of the DVD and high-def format stats we track (above), including the High-Def Market Share percentages, which don't seem to have budged much for the week ending 11/18, in spite of the HD-DVD only release of Shrek the Third. And before a few of you get bent out of shape, that's not a slam against HD-DVD. We're just frankly a little surprised, and wonder what the numbers would have been without Shrek in the mix. Presumably Disney's Blu-ray titles were very strong sellers.

Anyway, we've got a little bit of release news for you this afternoon...

First of all, New Line has set Rendition for release on DVD on 1/15/08, though no high-def versions have yet been revealed. SRP is $28.98.

Warner has set Appleseed Ex Machina for release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD on 3/11. There's a standard DVD version (SRP $24.98), a 2-disc DVD version in a Digipack (SRP $34.98) and the high-def versions (SRP $34.99 each). Details on the extras and specs are TBA.

Also newly announced by Warner is a 2-disc Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition set for release on 1/15 (SRP $19.98). In addition to the Valentine special, you'll also get 2 more specials (You're in Love, Charlie Brown and It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown), along with the Unlucky in Love: An Unrequited Love Story featurette.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced a number of new DVD releases including Feel the Noise (street date 1/29), a Tootsie: 25th Anniversary Edition, a Midnight Express: 30th Anniversary Edition, Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost, The Prince and the Pauper (2007), The Jane Austen Book Club and Across the Universe (all 2/5), and Three Can Play That Game (2/12). Across the Universe will be a 2-disc set. The Jane Austen Book Club is also set for Blu-ray release on 2/5. Additional BD announcements are expected.

And Universal has set Saturday Night Live: Best of 2006-2007 for DVD release on 3/4 (SRP $14.98).

Around the Net today, Home Media has a story (based on a new interview) in which Sony CEO Howard Stringer reiterates his company's support for Blu-ray. It's a follow-up of sorts to the interview text we posted a couple weeks ago.

Here's a little bit of new cover artwork for you: New Line's Rendition DVD, Warner's Appleseed Ex Machina standard DVD and Blu-ray Disc, Warner's Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition DVD and Sony's Resident Evil: Extinction - Special Edition DVD (1/1) and Dragon Wars Blu-ray Disc (1/8)...

RenditionAppleseed Ex MachinaAppleseed Ex Machina (Blu-ray Disc)

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown: Deluxe EditionResident Evil: Extinction - Special EditionDragon Wars (Blu-ray Disc)

Back with reviews later, so stay tuned...

11/21/07

Afternoon, folks! Bits reader Val sent us a link to an interesting video on You Tube today. You may recall a while back that there were claims online that the scratch-resistant coating on Blu-ray Discs could stand up to abuse from a steel wool pad and still work. That's true, but the way. A few weeks ago, I watched as our esteemed friend, Gord Lacey (from TV Shows on DVD), tried to scratch up a BD disc. They're not indestructible, but they definitely hold up well to normal wear and tear, and even to some harsher than normal treatment. Anyway, someone apparently decided to put the claim to the test, and they videotaped the effort. It makes for amusing viewing. Turns out the coating is pretty tough.

There's not much news to report today, other than that the DVD Forum has approved the triple-layer 51GB HD-DVD format. It's a little hard to take that seriously. I get a kick out of the fact that it's 51. Not 50, not 49, not 53, but 51. This format war has gotten so silly, I'll tell you. We'll see if Toshiba can actually make the discs work on existing players.

There's only a couple of title announcements today, all standard def. The first comes from HBO, which has set Pinochet's Last Stand for release on DVD on 2/26 (SRP $26.98).

Criterion has also revealed that their February DVD slate will include Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou as a 2-disc set (Cat #421), Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor as a 4-disc set (#422) and Alex Cox's Walker (#423). In addition, they've also announced Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals, a 4-disc set that will include The Love Parade, Monte Carlo, The Smiling Lieutenant and One Hour with You. Look for that in February as well.

Anyway, what with the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States tomorrow, most of Hollywood is MIA this week. We're giving The Bits staff a few days off as well. We'll be dark tomorrow through Friday, but we've been busy watching discs and writing up reviews these last few days, so we'll try to have some good ones for you on Monday. Dr. Adam Jahnke is gracing us with his esteemed presence here in the old O.C., and we're all going over to Matt's place for a little turkey and football with his family. We'll probably catch a few movies too. Good times, my friends. Good times.

In the meantime, don't forget that a lot of your favorite electronics retailers are doing big Black Friday sales on DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD, so be sure to take advantage if you're interested. Also, don't forget about the debut of Battlestar Galactica: Razor on Sci-Fi on Saturday night.

We'd like to wish all of you a very safe and wonderful holiday... whatever your preferred movie disc format may be! Our best to all of you. See you Monday!

11/20/07

Okay... it's a little later than planned, but as promised we've got a review of Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Razor - Unrated Extended Edition DVD for you today. It's due in stores on 12/4, and the edited TV version will debut on The Sci-Fi Channel this coming Saturday (11/24). I'll tell you, if you're a Battlestar fan, you are REALLY going to enjoy it.

Also this afternoon, our own Russell Hammond has posted his usual weekly update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. Look for lots of new DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon pre-order links.

In terms of news today, 20th Century Fox has announced a John Frankenheimer Collection for release on DVD on 1/22 (SRP $39.98). The 4-disc set will include The Manchurian Candidate, Ronin, The Train and Young Savages.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced that Daddy Day Camp will be released on Blu-ray Disc as well as DVD on 1/29. Also coming that day are Charm School, The Nines and Feel the Noise on DVD, as well as Damages: The Complete First Season on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc (each a 3-disc set).

Universal will release Saturday Night Live Lost & Found: SNL in the 80s on 3/4 (SRP $19.98).

Buena Vista has set Becoming Jane and Gone Baby Gone for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 2/12.

Paramount has announced an Into the Wild: Special Edition for release on DVD and HD-DVD format on 2/12. The film will also be released as a standard edition on DVD.

Finally, Warner has announced A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season for release on DVD on 3/18.

In news around the Net today, Home Media is reporting that Warner has officially placed its previously announced TotalHD combo format on indefinite hold. No surprise there.

And we'd be remiss if we didn't remind you all not squeeze the Charmin today in honor of actor Dick Wilson, TV's original Mr. Whipple himself, who passed away Monday at the ripe old age of 91. You can read more here.

Stay tuned...

11/19/07

Hey, guys! Hope you all had a great weekend.

First, our apologies: Today's post is going to be delayed until tomorrow. What with the Thanksgiving holiday later this week, we've gotten a little caught up in preparations here today - airport trips, errands and the like. But we'll make it up to you tomorrow by adding a review of Universal's new Battlestar Galactica: Razor - Unrated Extended Edition DVD.

In the meantime, our friends over at TV Shows on DVD have learned that CBS is expecting to release Star Trek: Remastered - Season Two on DVD/HD-DVD format on 3/25/08, complete with more of Billy Blackburn's home movies from the set. Our full review of Season One will be up shortly.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced that a Groundhog Day: 15th Anniversary Edition will street on DVD on 1/29, along with Daddy Day Camp and both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Monty Python's Life of Brian: The Immaculate Edition (rescheduled from earlier this year).

Also, it seems that are going to be a number of amazing deals on Black Friday, not the least of which is this: If you buy an 80GB PS3 at Wal-Mart, you'll get 10 free Blu-ray movies instantly, right on the spot in the store. PLUS, you get an offer for 5 more via mail. You can read more here at PSXExtreme. Check with your local retailers' online sites for the details on all the Black Friday deals (for hardware and software on both high-def formats) in your area.

Here at the site today, we've kicked off a new Contest featuring DVD copies of Universal's The Bourne Ultimatum. Don't forget, our contest giveaway for those signed Masters of Horror DVDs continues another week as well. Both contests end on Sunday, November 25th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Finally today, we'll leave you with this: Remember that high-def Earthrise video we mentioned last week? We've found a link where you can view a short bit of it online in near-full resolution. Apparently, Discovery HD in Canada has already shown it. We're waiting to hear back from Discovery here in the States to see when they might air it too. In the meantime, here it is in DivX format. Enjoy!

Thanks again for your patience and stay tuned...

11/16/07

Boy, we seem to have touched a nerve with our comments about how a lot of our readers have stopped buying standard DVDs in anticipation of buying titles in high-def once the format war is over. We've gotten hundreds of e-mails overnight from readers confirming that this is exactly what they're doing... and these are serious movie fans. When some of your most diehard customers have stopped buying DVDs because of the format war, that's a problem Hollywood needs to deal with and soon.

Here at the site today, our own Peter Schorn has checked in with reviews of Warner's Ocean's Thirteen and First Independent Picture's I Trust You to Kill Me on DVD. He liked both films, but found the video quality on Ocean's Thirteen to be somewhat lacking.

In release news today, 20th Century Fox has announced a 2-disc COPS: 20th Anniversary Edition for release on 2/19/08 (SRP $29.98). You'll get the original pilot episode with audio commentary by producer John Langley, the 20th Season Special, 2 "best of" compilation episodes, a lost episode, a featurette on COPS spoofs in the media, segments from the show's first ten and second ten years, behind-the-scenes footage, celebrity fan interviews and more.

Meanwhile, Warner has announced The Beatrix Potter Collection and Tale of Pigling Bland and Other Stories for release on 2/12 (for the BBC). They've also revealed a title we'd expected was coming, Hanna Barbera's The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, for release on 3/18 (2 discs, SRP $26.99).

And Universal has set The Rage for release on DVD on 2/26 (SRP $24.98).

Here's a look at the cover art for Warner's The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, as well as Sony's Dragon Wars (1/8) and Angel-A (11/20)...

The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm ShowDragon WarsAngel-A

We've also got a couple of quick additional notes that might be of interest to some of you this afternoon...

First, we've learned that Universal Music is releasing a 3-disc Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary Soundtrack CD on 12/10. There's no word yet on the SRP and we don't see it available for pre-order anywhere at the moment, but the set will contain the original soundtrack CD remastered, a second CD of previously unreleased soundtrack material from the film, and a third CD of all-new material composed by Vangelis in honor of the film's 25th anniversary. Each disc contains 12 tracks, for a total of 36 in all. You can read more details on this here at the Elsewhere Vangelis fan site. Thanks to Bits reader Justin K. for the heads-up. Here's the cover art...

Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary Soundtrack (3 CDs)U2: The Joshua Tree - Super Deluxe Edition (2 CD/1 DVD)U2: The Joshua Tree - Deluxe Edition (2 CD)

Also, you U2 fans will be pleased to learn that there's a new 3-disc remastered/expanded edition of The Joshua Tree coming out next week (11/29). The Joshua Tree: Super Deluxe Edition includes the original album on CD, a second CD of bonus tracks, a DVD disc that features U2 Live from Paris, filmed at the Hippodrome de Vincennes on July 4th, 1987 during the Joshua Tree tour, and a 56-page book with unreleased photos, liner notes and more. SRP is $59.98. You can also buy a 2-disc CD version (without the DVD disc and the book) for $29.99. The art for both is pictured above.

And that's it for now. Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday with new high-def format reviews. Stay tuned!

11/15/07

Every now and then, we have one of those experiences that reinvigorates our love of film - we see something that reminds us why we do what we do, why we go to all the trouble, and why we care about this stuff so much. Jahnke and I had one of those experiences last night up in L.A. We got to see something in a theatre that was so cool, the sun just seems to be shinning just a little bit brighter this afternoon. Naturally, we're not allowed to say what we saw, but rest assured that it's something all of you will get to see eventually, probably sometime in 2008. Sorry to be a tease, but I just wanted you all to know that you've got a VERY cool cinematic treat coming to you in the not-too-distant future.

Okay... we've got a BUNCH of release news and cover art for you this afternoon, so let's get to it.

First up, Warner has set The Brave One for release on 2/5 on DVD (SRP $28.98), Blu-ray and DVD/HD-DVD Combo format (SRP $35.99) each. Extras will include deleted scenes, the I Walk the City featurette and possibly more TBA. Here's the cover art for both high-def versions, featuring a gun-toting Jodie Foster no less...

The Brave One (HD-DVD)The Brave One (Blu-ray)

Meanwhile, Image Entertainment has set Suburban Girl for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 1/15. The DVD (SRP $27.98) will offer audio commentary with director Marc Klein and the film's theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray (SRP $32.98), will include the DVD extras, plus audio in DTS HD audio.

Also today, Lionsgate has just unveiled an impressive January 2008 release slate, which will include War, 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Days of Darkness, a Cary Grant Collection (includes Indiscreet, Operation Petticoat, The Grass is Greener and That Touch of Mink), Clifford: My Big Red Valentine and Clifford: Playtime with Clifford all on 1/1, Good Luck Chuck on 1/15, When Evil Calls on 1/22 and Right at Your Door, Lardon Que Roba a Ladron? and Trade on 1/19.

Now let's talk specifics. War will be released on both DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD (SRP $29.95) will include audio commentary with director Philip G. Atwell, a second commentary with writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley, 9 The Action of War vignettes, the Scoring War featurette, an audio trivia track, a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes. The Blu-ray (SRP $39.99) will include all that, plus The War Chest on-screen navigation mode (featuring 36 vignettes on the story, style, stunts and sound), Director's Window visual commentary with Atwell, The War Zone audio trivia track, the Yakuza Fighter BD-Java game, "dynamic resizing menus", bookmarks, a "Blu-line Slider" scene selection option and a behind-the-scenes FX Bonus picture-in-picture option (called True PiP in Lionsgate's promotional materials). The Blu-ray extras will all be in high-def. Here's the cover art for both versions...

WarWar (Blu-ray)

3:10 to Yuma will also be released on both DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD (SRP $29.95) will feature audio commentary with director James Mangold, deleted scenes, the Destination Yuma documentary and 2 featurettes (An Epic Explored and Outlaws, Gangs & Posses). The Blu-ray version (SRP $39.99) will include all of the above, along with the Inside Yuma picture-in-picture viewing option, 4 additional featurettes (3:10 to Score, The Guns of Yuma, Sea to Shining Sea and A Conversation with Elmore Leonard) and an interactive Historical Timeline of the West viewing option. Here's the cover art for both versions...

3:10 to Yuma3:10 to Yuma (Blu-ray)

Let's not forget Good Luck Chuck, also available on both R and unrated DVD versions as well as an unrated Blu-ray. The R-rated DVD (SRP $29.95) will feature audio commentary with star Dane Cook, director Mark Helfrich, producer Mike Karz and writer Josh Stolberg, as well as the All About the Penguins featurette. The Unrated DVD (SRP also $29.95) will offer an unrated version of the commentary, 4 Chucked Up featurettes (Polymastia, Kama Sutra, Frank the Penguin Actor and All About the Penguins), a gag reel, ad-libs, deleted and alternate scenes, and something called the Sex Matrix, billed as "16 fierce thrusting positions in an interactive matrix." Okkkaaaaayyy, that sounds like something you need to shower after viewing. I'm not sure what to think. The Blu-ray version (SRP $39.99) will include all of the unrated features above, along with 3 additional featurettes (Good Luck Chuckles, Real Life Chuck and Eleanor Skepple) and a 2-song music video montage featuring Accident Prone by The Honorary Title and I Was Zapped by the Lucky Super Rainbow by The Flaming Lips. All the video-based extras on the Blu-ray will be in full 1080p resolution. Here's the art for both unrated editions of the film...

Good Luck Chuck: Unrated EditionGood Luck Chuck: Unrated Edition (Blu-ray)

Finally, for those of you interested in Right at Your Door, the DVD-only release (SRP $27.98) will include audio commentary from writer/director Chris Gorak, 2 featurettes (Forearm Silver: An Interview with Chris Gorak and Film School: Tips on Making an Independent Film with Chris Gorak) and alternative ending scripts. I missed this film in theaters, but Matt said it was pretty good, so I'm looking forward to catching up with it on disc.

In other news today, Home Media is reporting Nielsen VideoScan First Alert data showing that Disney's Ratatouille is selling big numbers on DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD sales are reportedly as much as 40% than those of Sony's Spider-Man 3 the previous week. Actual sales figures should be available early next week.

There's word this afternoon that Hollywood has lost a reported $1.9 billion on new release titles in 2007, because sagging DVD sales are no longer covering the costs of theatrical production and distribution. The film industry hopes that either high-definition discs or downloads or both will eventually replace the lost DVD sales profits, but that isn't likely anytime soon. Consumers aren't likely ever to want to pay $29.99 or $19.99 for a digital file download, so the best downloads are likely to do in the near future is boost the rental market. Meanwhile, most consumers aren't getting into high-def discs because of the format war and because DVD is good enough for them. What's interesting is that a lot of our readers, who have expressed interesting in high-def discs but who haven't taken the leap yet because they want to see a clear winner emerge first, have told us that they've stopped buying DVDs in the meantime. After all, why buy a title on DVD when you know that you ultimately want to buy it in high-def instead? It's a pickle, and it's one more reason why we think Hollywood needs to end this format war ASAP. Anyway, you can read more here at Home Media and here at Video Business.

Meanwhile, Sony has reportedly set themselves the goal of selling 11 million PS3s worldwide by March 2008. Their recent price cuts have reportedly doubled sales of the console here in the States (as many as 100,000 units sold in the week ending 11/11 alone). But 11 million? We'll see. The new Ratchet & Clank game might help. This might help too: We're hearing that the BD Profile 1.1 firmware update for the PS3 will be released in late December, just in time for the first Blu-ray software titles set to employ it, and the full 2.0 update may not be far behind. Here's another boost: The PS3 is reportedly set to add playback compatibility with the popular DivX codec in a forthcoming firmware update as well.

Let's see... what else. There's a few funny videos online related to the format war today - funny to those of you who aren't so wrapped up in this thing that you can't laugh about it. Dozens of readers have e-mailed these to us, so here you go: There's a Blu-ray promo out there featuring a guy using his HD-DVD player as a drink holder, and another one with a guy retiring his HD-DVD player to the "junk closet". There's also a video showing that the best use for a Blu-ray laser diode is to create a more realistic Star Trek phaser. And the HD-DVD camp has delivered a cute breakdancing analogy to promote HD-DVD playback on the Xbox 360. You just KNEW this format war was gonna go viral at some point...

Anyway, we'll leave you this afternoon with a little more cover art, 'cause why the hell not? Here's Lionsgate's Right at Your Door on DVD, along with both the DVD and HD-DVD versions of Paramount and DreamWorks' Zødiac: 2-Disc Director's Cut (both due out on 1/8)...

Right at Your DoorZ°diac: Director's CutZ°diac: Director's Cut (HD-DVD)

Now we're off to finish more of those disc reviews for you. Everyone have a great day and stay tuned!

11/14/07

Today's update is going to be a quick one, because we've got a lot of material that we're trying to get reviewed for you, including New Line's Hairspray on Blu-ray, Warner's Stanley Kubrick titles on all three formats and CBS's Twin Peaks: The Complete Series on DVD.

To make things even more challenging, CBS/Paramount's Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered - Season One showed up yesterday on HD-DVD. Now... I'm a huge and life-long Trek fan, and I'm not one who's opposed to this whole remastering process. So I've been quite looking forwarding to seeing these episodes in high-def on disc. Given all that, I'm not going to rush this review, because I really want to take the time to go through everything in detail. But I do have some quick initial impressions that I wanted to share with you today.

First, the packaging is a lot smaller than I expected. The discs all slip into this little Digipack affair that's not much bigger around than the discs themselves, and that in turn fits into the clear plastic outer case. Smaller is a good thing in my book, in terms of conserving shelf space (especially since this set doesn't replace the previous TOS: Season 1 DVD set). Unfortunately, upon opening the case, the first sight that greeted me was Disc One of the set all scratched to hell, despite the fact that it was secure in the packaging. Thankfully the disc seems to play okay, but I've only had time to watch one episode on it. So far no combo disc problems - fingers crossed. I must say, I still dislike that these are combo discs though, because there's no disc labeling. That means to find the episode you want to watch, you've got to consult the packaging to see which disc it's on. That gets old quick.

When the disc starts up, you take this little animated trip in a turbolift to the transporter room. Once you get to transporter, things are good, but the trip itself is a little repetitive. Thankfully, while the actual menu interface you select options from is a little confusing at first, once you figure it out (it only takes a minute or two) it's pretty great.

Speaking of extras, the only bonus feature I've looked at so far is the starship fly-around option. It's fairly easy to navigate, but there's not a lot of depth to it, so it gets boring rather quickly (although seeing little tiny crewmen through the ship's windows is a nice touch). The Billy Blackburn archive footage is the real treasure here, and it's definitely what I'm most looking forward to checking out, so more on the extras later.

The one last comment I wanted to make however pertains to the video quality. I was expecting to be blown away by remastered TOS on disc, and at times I was. But I was also expecting the quality to be significantly improved from the high-def broadcasts, given how much better the video bit rates should be on disc, and I wasn't so much. I'm having a hard time coming up with a reason why that would be - because it shouldn't be - other than that the video may have been compressed a little too much to fit these episodes on to the HD-30 portion of the combo discs. Each disc seems to have three episodes plus some extras. The first episode I watched was Where No Man Has Gone Before. And I have to say, I was a little surprised to see what looked like compression artifacting during some of the effects shots. I couldn't help wishing that there was a Blu-ray version on BD-50 discs to compare it with. Now... I don't know how much of a difference that would realistically make, because most of the studios that do or have supported both formats seem to use the same video encode for both formats for cost reasons, which means the video bitrates for Blu-ray are always reduced because of the need to accommodate the disc space available on HD-DVD. In any case, forget Blu-ray - I was still really expecting to be dazzled by the HD-DVD image, and I'm not. Don't get me wrong: This set still seems to be quite good overall. A lot of hard work has obviously gone into it, and as I said I want to really take the time to give it a fair shake. But so far, I'm just a little bit underwhelmed. I'm sure that will be spun like crazy in various quarters online, but so be it. It can't be helped, I suppose. Anyway, I'll keep looking and report in more detail later.

There's just a little bit of additional release news today: 20th Century Fox has announced An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition for release on DVD on 1/8/2008 (SRP $19.98). The 2-disc set includes a new anamorphic widescreen transfer (2.35:1), audio commentary by singer Marni Nixon and film historian Joseph McBride, 5 featurettes (Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr, Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant, Directed by Leo McCarey, A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald and The Look of An Affair to Remember), the AMC Backstory: An Affair to Remember episode, Fox Movietone News: An Affair to Remember Shipboard Premiere Attracts Celebrities, a trailer gallery, a poster gallery and a stills gallery.

And 20th Century Fox has set Blind Dating for DVD release on 2/5, with Dirty Laundry following on 2/12.

Also, Warner has announced a number of additional titles for February and March 2008 release, including A Black Woman's Guide to Getting Married (for Lightyear - 2/5), Simon Schama's Rough Crossings (for the BBC - 2/26), Ben 10: Season 3, a Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks - Special Edition, Doctor Who: Ep.104 - Destiny of the Daleks and a Doctor Who: The Complete Davros Collection (includes Eps. 78, 104, 134, 143, 152 - the Doctor Who titles all for the BBC - all 3/4), National Geographic's Dinosaurs and Tom and Jerry Tales: Volume 4 (both 3/11), and NFL Films Classics: Big Game America, NFL Films Classics: Eyeball to Eyeball, NFL Films Classics: More Than a Game and NFL Films Classics: Legends of Autumn Volumes IV-VI (all 3/18).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/13/07 - 2 PM PST)

Man... we just can't get enough of these high-def images of the Moon and the Earth from the Japanese Space Agency. And here's the best yet. JAXA has just unveiled the one we've all been waiting for... the money shot as it were: A high-definition video recreation of the famous Earthrise photo from Apollo 8.

BEHOLD!

Earthrise in 1080p!

Click on the image for a link to JAXA with a couple more shots, as well a standard-def video clip.

Isn't this completely freaking cool? Seeing something like that is just good for the soul, I think. I'll say it again: Somebody has GOT to release this footage on Blu-ray and HD-DVD. I want to sit back in my home theater and just watch hours of this stuff.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/13/07 - 1 PM PST)

Okay, we're very pleased today to offer you a number of disc reviews. Our own Peter Schorn has turned in his thoughts on Paramount and DreamWorks' Transformers on HD-DVD. He's also offered up a trio of standard DVD reviews, including MGM's Mr. Brooks, Paramount's Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition and Magnolia's The World's Fastest Indian.

Also, Adam Jahnke has returned to his Electric Theatre today with fresh reviews of a number of films now playing at your local cineplex. Included are his thoughts on the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men, Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton and Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, all of which Jahnke says are worthy of your attention.

Elsewhere around the site today, Russell Hammond has added lots of new DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon pre-order links to our Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. There's plenty of new stuff to see, and remember that you can organize the titles into lists based on format and sales. All of the proceeds for anything you order from our links goes to support our work here at The Bits, and we greatly appreciate that.

In announcement news this afternoon, I don't think we've mentioned this yet but 20th Century Fox has released (on 11/6) The Coen Brothers Gift Set, which includes the previous DVD versions of Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Millers Crossing, Barton Fink and Fargo. SRP is $49.98.

Warner has set Introducing the Dwights for release on DVD on 2/12/08 (SRP $27.95).

Sony has set Magic in the Water for DVD release on 12/11. 2-disc sets of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and It Came from Beneath the Sea are also coming from Sony on 1/25/08, but don't get too excited: The sets contain just the original B&W versions along with new colorized versions. Not really our cup of tea.

Meanwhile, Universal has set Coach: The Third Season for 2/19 (SRP $26.98).

And you Captain Stubing fans will be thrilled to learn that CBS and Paramount have set The Love Boat: Season One, Volume One for release on DVD on 3/4/08. Also, look for The Fugitive: The First Season, Volume Two on 2/26, and Walker, Texas Ranger: The Fourth Season on 2/19.

Finally today, the TV DVD Awards were announced in Hollywood last night, sponsored by Home Media Magazine, TV Shows on DVD, the Digital Entertainment Group and The Hollywood Reporter. I had the honor of serving as a judge for the awards. The judging panel selected the top four finalists in each category, and you guys chose the winners in online voting. I must say, you all did a fine job. The winners are as follows:

Best of Show: Get Smart: The Complete Series (Time Life/HBO)
Best 2000s Series: Heroes: Season 1 (Universal)
Best 1990s Series: Seinfeld: Season 8 (Sony Pictures)
Best 1980s Series: Fraggle Rock: Season 3 (20th Century Fox/HIT)
Best 1970s Series: The Muppet Show: Season 2 (Walt Disney Studios)
Best 1960s Series: Get Smart: The Complete Series (Time Life/HBO)
Best 1950s Series: The Adventures of Superman: Seasons 5 & 6 (Warner)
Best Animated Series: The Simpsons: Season 10 (20th Century Fox)
Best Children's Series: The Muppet Show: Season 2 (Walt Disney Studios)
Best Reality Series: Survivor: Vanuatu (CBS DVD/Paramount)
Best Variety Series: The Best of Chappelle's Show (Paramount/Comedy Central)
Best One-Season Wonder: The Dresden Files (Lionsgate)
Best Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie: Roots: 30th Anniversary Edition (Warner)
Best Foreign TV Series: Doctor Who: Series 2 (BBC Video)
Best TV Documentary: Planet Earth (BBC Video)
Best Bonus Materials: Lost: Season 2 (Walt Disney Studios)
Best Complete-Series Set (TIE): M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection (20th Century Fox) / Get Smart: The Complete Series (Time Life/HBO)
Judges’ Special Citation for Best Packaging: The Greatest American Hero: The Complete Series (Starz/Anchor Bay)

I'll tell you, the Get Smart set really is a gem - one of the best TV DVD releases we've seen in a long time (as it happens, it was one of our choices for Best TV DVD in last year's Bitsy Awards as well). It's only available online directly from Time Life at the moment, but we expect it in stores next year timed to promote the theatrical release of Warner's new Get Smart feature film. Anyway, you can read more on the awards here at TV Shows on DVD. Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to all those of you who voted for participating.

We'll be back tomorrow with more, so stay tuned!

11/12/07

Afternoon, folks. We've got a couple of quick news updates for you today.

First, MGM has announced a 2-disc New York, New York: 30th Anniversary Edition for release on 12/4 (SRP $19.98). Look for it to include a new introduction and audio commentary by Martin Scorsese, a second audio commentary by film critic Carrie Rickey, selected scenes commentary by cinematographer László Kovács, alternate takes and deleted scenes, trailers, a photo gallery, the New York, New York Stories documentary and a new interview with star Liza Minnelli.

Meanwhile, Fox has set 2 Days in Paris for DVD release on 2/5.

TLA Releasing has Evil Dead Trap 2 on the way to DVD on 12/11, along with Footsteps and the Rock & Rule: 2-Disc Collector's Edition. Sex Crazy will follow on the revised street date of 12/18.

Sony has set Barney Miller: The Complete Second Season, Missionary Man, Blonde Ambition and Molière (2007) for release on DVD on 1/22. They're also releasing a newly re-mastered edition of Spice World DVD on 11/27, along with First Snow.

And Disney has announced that a Peter Pan in Return to Neverland: Pixie-Powered Edition DVD will be available on 11/27 for a limited time.

Now then... we wanted to say a few words about all the recent brouhaha over Sony CEO Howard Stringer's "stalemate" comment from last week with regard to Blu-ray and HD-DVD. I don't know how many e-mails I've gotten in the last few days on this, either from HD-DVD fans eager to gloat that Stinger was clearly conceding the format war, or Blu-ray fans wondering why Stringer was being so pessimistic. As it turns out, he wasn't. I've done a little digging over the weekend, and have managed to obtain a transcript of his actual comments. Remember how last week, during Blu-ray fest, Warner Home Video's Dan Silverberg's comments were taken out of context by supporters of both high-def camps to suggest that Warner was about to chose sides in the format war? Except that's not what he actually said or meant to imply? This is the same sort of thing... yet another case of much ado about nothing.

The deal is this: Howard Stringer was being interviewed by Business Week's Steven J. Adler about his career at the 92nd Street Y in NYC on Thursday. He was asked a few questions about Blu-ray Disc and the format war, and he spoke about it for maybe 5 minutes out of a 90 minute interview. Here's the actual text of the relevant portion of the interview:

---begin excerpt---

Adler: Of course, one of the big fights right now is Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD for the high definition video market. I mean, the first and most obvious question is: Shouldn't there just be one format? Why should people have to choose between the two? And is there any possibility that we'll be heading there?

Stringer: I should point out that that is not part of the software battle. I mean, that's actually in some ways sort of anachronistic. We're fighting over a packaged goods hardware that will not go on forever, from a classic sense. We have a more expensive version, as Sony tends to, and Toshiba has a cheaper version, which seems to keep getting cheaper. I believe it has slowed down the progress of high definition packaged goods. Oddly, the studios kind of liked it for a while. They were able to leverage one of us against each other. But in the end, it's counterproductive. We have a sort of stalemate at the moment. As you know, they had fewer studios, but then they paid a lot of money for Paramount. So we have four studios and they have two or three studios. It's a difficult... it's a difficult fight. There was a chance to integrate it before I became CEO. This is something I inherited. And I don't know what broke down. I wish I could go back there, because I heard it was all about saving face and losing face, and all the rest of it. But it's not a battle about the digital future. That's what's so strange about it. If it doesn't work out, that doesn't say very much about where we're all going. It's just... it's a scorecard: one-nothing or something. But it doesn't mean as much as all that. PlayStation 3 will still go on playing games. It would have to have a different disk drive. And that's about it really.

Adler: So when a consumer now has to choose between the two, if they want to get into the high definition video, Wal-Mart was selling the Toshiba HD-DVD for $99 last Friday for a couple of days. Usually, it's been $199 there. I think your list price is $499 for Blu-ray. That's an enormously big difference, particularly in a slowing economy. Can you play that game with the difference being that great?

Stringer: Well... we've been selling them as fast as we're making them because the brand -- first of all, we're not the only ones selling them at that price. So is Panasonic, so is Samsung, so is Sharp. And one of the reasons it's more expensive is because it does more. The bandwidth is greater. If you just want a two-hour movie, the Toshiba version is a high definition picture. But we thought that to drive high definition into the customer's imagination, you should future-proof the disks so that you could have director's cuts, which are fairly obvious. We have six to seven hours of bandwidth available. You can have interactivity in three dimensions. We would be prepared to allow the package goods to survive much longer by making it much more innovative. But that does make the player more expensive. Now, they all come down. The race is to bring costs down. It always is in consumer electronics. So it isn't going to stay at $499.

Adler: But are you surprised by how little Toshiba can sell its unit for?

Stringer: No, because -- look, I can sell it for a dollar. I'd lose a lot of money, but if you want to go that route, it's a tough competition, and it seems to be about a lot of things, including face. So if you want to cut the price down and engage us in a price war, that's a different system. We were trying to win on the merits, which we were doing for a while until Paramount changed sides.

Adler: Microsoft seems to have an interesting role in this. They're selling add-on HD-DVD drives for the -- they're taking HD-DVD to the Xbox, and Xbox competes strongly with you. Is Microsoft kind of working in cahoots or in alliance with Toshiba on HD-DVD? Is that a competitive challenge to you?

Stringer: Only the spirits know. [laughs] Yeah... you never know with Microsoft do you? You never know. Xbox versus PS3 is sort of a subplot. What Microsoft's role is in that? I don't know. We're still selling software at a faster level than Toshiba. Obviously, we care about the software side more than the Toshiba does. It doesn't have a studio. It doesn't own a studio. So it's in our interest to -- actually the most significant thing in some ways about Blu-ray, going back to Microsoft... the Blu-ray Disc has a very high security level, which Fox in particular, but also other studios, was most excited about -- wanted to have some protection from instant ripping. So the specs that went into the Blu-ray, which were done in conjunction with many studios, had this security level. That is probably not in Microsoft's interests. The Toshiba disk is certainly far easier to rip. Whether you like that or don't like that depends on your consumer enthusiasm.

---end of excerpt---

That was the extent of it. Naturally, the one comment out of the entire 90 minutes (or even this small portion) that the AP ran with is the stalemate bit. Since then, it's been spun like crazy. We've seen commentary from people who weren't there proclaiming what a "remarkable admission" it is. Some have even gone so far as to claim that Stringer declared Blu-ray a failure and that Sony is about to give up the battle. All of which mischaracterizes what he actually said and meant.

Hey... this kind of thing happens, especially when people let their passions over this stuff get the better of them. We've even occasionally made the mistake of jumping to conclusions in the past ourselves. But here are the facts: Sony and the rest of the BD camp's commitment to Blu-ray Disc hasn't wavered in the slightest, and from everything they've ever told me both on and off the record, that isn't likely to change anytime soon. And while we're at it, Warner supports BOTH HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and from everything they've ever told me both on and off the record, that isn't likely to change anytime soon either. So everybody can relax and take a deep breath. If you're a Blu-ray fan, enjoy all the great Blu-ray titles coming out now. If you're an HD-DVD fan, same thing.

It's just another day in this silly format war, which at this point has been taken to unfortunate extremes by some. As we said last week, it's worth keeping in mind that no kittens will be harmed in this thing, whatever the outcome.

And now for something completely different: Remember that high-def Moon video I mentioned last week? The Japanese Space Agency has just released the first full-resolution still images from the video. Feast your eyes on this...

The Moon in HD!

Cool, no?

By the way, we'd like to send our best wishes out to all you soldiers past and present, and your families too, on this Veteran's Day holiday (technically yesterday, but you get the idea). We appreciate all of you and the sacrifices you make. Stay safe.

Also today, we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of director Delbert Mann and literary icon Norman Mailer. Both will surely be missed.

We'll be back with more high-def reviews tomorrow, including New Line's Hairspray on BD and DreamWorks and Paramount's Transformers on HD-DVD. We'll have a few new standard DVD reviews as well.

Stay tuned...

11/9/07

Okay... let's have some announcement news this morning...

Warner has announced the DVD (SRP $19.95), Blu-ray and HD-DVD (SRP $35.99 each) release of Invasion on 1/8/08. Extras will include the We've Been Snatched Before: Invasion in Media History featurette and more.

Warner has also set No Reservations for release on 2/12 on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate has set War for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 1/1/08. The DVD (SRP $29.95) will include audio commentary with director Philip G. Atwell, a second commentary with the writers, 9 The Action of War vignettes, the Scoring War featurette, an audio trivia track, a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes. The Blu-ray version (SRP $39.99) will include all of the above, along with The War Chest on-screen navigation mode, visual commentary with Atwell, The War Zone trivia mode, the Yakuza Fighter BD-Java game, "dynamic resizing menus", bookmarks, a "Blu-line Slider" scene selection option and a behind-the-scenes FX Bonus picture-in-picture option (called True PiP in Lionsgate's promotional materials).

And here's great news: Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have finally announced the DVD release of Anthony Mann's El Cid on 1/29/08, as part of Weinstein Co's new Miriam Collection label... yes, named after Bob and Harvey's mother. The Miriam Collection is meant to highlight "the best of contemporary and classic cinema." The 2-disc DVD will be issued in two versions - a deluxe edition and collector's edition. The deluxe edition will offer the film digitally remastered and will feature an introduction by Martin Scorsese, 1961 radio interviews with stars Charleton Heston and Sophia Loren, audio commentary by historian Neal M. Rosendorf and Bill Bronston (the son of producer Sam Bronston), a documentary on film preservation/restoration, featurettes on the producer, director and composer, and the Hollywood Conquers Spain documentary. The collector's edition will include all that, plus reproductions of the original 1961 program, a comic book and 6 production stills. Fans have been waiting for the DVD release of this film for a long time. Let's hope that The Fall of the Roman Empire isn't far behind. You can read more on this in next week's digital version of Home Media.

In other news, according to new data from Ralph Tribby's DVD Release Report (tracked here above), Blu-ray Disc has regained the lead in total high-def titles available over HD-DVD, which had been lost when Paramount and DreamWorks pulled their 29 titles as the result of their deal with Toshiba to go HD-DVD only. During the week ending 10/31, Blu-ray had 332 available titles, compared to 328 for HD-DVD. Blu-ray also has more announced titles on the way in the coming months, with 66 compared to 42. You can read more here at Home Media.

Speaking of Blu-ray, studio reps at Fox have indicated to us that MGM's delayed catalog Blu-ray Disc titles were pulled "for marketing reasons" only and have been tentatively rescheduled for release as part of a Father's Day promotion in early 2008. These include The Amityville Horror, Battle of Britain, A Bridge Too Far, Red Dawn, Rescue Dawn and Ronin.

That's all for now. We'll leave you today with some new cover art... here's Fox's Family Guy: Blue Harvest DVD (1/15) and Sunshine Blu-ray (1/8), and Warner's TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection - Volume 2 (3/4)...

Family Guy: Blue HarvestSunshine (Blu-ray)TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Collection - Volume 2

Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday with new reviews and more!

Stay tuned...


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