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page updated: 2/22/08



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 2/20/08 - 2/8/08)


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2/20/08

Okay, 20th Century Fox has just announced that the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Juno are due on 4/15. The single-disc DVD (SRP $29.98) will include audio commentary by director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, 11 deleted scenes, a gag reel, a "gag take", screen tests and a "cast & crew jam". The 2-disc DVD special edition ($34.98) will include all of the above, along with Digital Copy and 4 featurettes (Way Beyond “Our” Maturity Level: Juno - Leah - Bleeker, Diablo Cody Is Totally Boss, Jason Reitman for Shizz and Honest to Blog! Creating Juno). The 50GB Blu-ray Disc ($39.98) will also include Digital Copy and all of the above, along with the Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere - Juno and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session - Juno featurettes. The Blu-ray video will be AVC with English 5.1 DTS HD Lossless Master Audio.

Also newly announced by Fox is The Savages, due on DVD on 4/22.

Meanwhile this morning, Warner has set Sublime: Uncut (Raw Feed) and Thieves and Liars (Lightyear) for release on 4/22, with Inside the Vietnam War (National Geographic) following on 4/29, Botched: Uncut on 5/13, Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything and The Buddha of Suburbia (both BBC) due on 5/27, CHiPs: The Complete Second Season due 6/3, Sea Monsters (National Geographic) and The Dukes of Hazzard TV Double Feature (includes The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! and The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood) due 6/10, and finally Ganges (BBC - Blu-ray and DVD) on 7/1.

Speaking of Warner, our very own Barrie Maxwell chimes in today with this little gem of a news nugget for you classic film fans:

Warner Bros. has Quo Vadis in the lab now and a 2008 release is planned, most likely in the fourth quarter. Raintree County is less certain as to timing as the studio is intent on releasing the road show version. To that end, it has involved dealing with a collector's print and marrying various portions to Warners' master. The studio continues to look for even better elements, so at this time it is impossible to gage the release date. A BD release for these titles cannot yet be confirmed, but it is Warners' intention to release as many special editions day and date SD and BD as possible.

Both of these titles are examples of the imprecise timeline that bringing classic titles to market is subject to. Warners has tried to be candid about their release plans and sometimes it's been to the studio's detriment as classic enthusiasts get wedded to a specific release year or quarter that the studio has mentioned in a chat and then are upset when a particular title doesn't appear. Such changes are due to any number of things including legal issues, imprecise restoration and remastering timelines, element surprises/availability, market opportunities, and so on. Classic fans should be aware that the studio is intent in bringing the many classic titles that they are looking for to the market as quickly as it can and in a condition that fans will be happy with.

Warners has also confirmed that they are working on This Is the Army right at this time. Quite a bit of work is needed, however, so release timing is not possible to tell at present.

Thanks, Barrie! We get a lot of questions about these titles, so it's good to know what's happening.

In other release news today, Sony has set Hero Wanted for DVD on 4/29.

And Universal has set Big Rig for DVD on 6/3.

By the way, Paramount has now pulled those Indiana Jones: Special Editions we mentioned yesterday from their online press website (due 5/13), along with Jericho: The Second Season (6/10), so we're guessing the studio wasn't ready for the news to leak yet. Oh well. You know they're coming. We'll keep you updated as official details are released.

Here's some new cover art for you to check out... Fox's single and 2-Disc versions of Juno, Genius Products/The Weinstein Company's The Mist: 2-Disc Collector's Edition (3/25), Buena Vista's The Muppet Show: Season Three (5/20), Fox's Lars and the Real Girl (4/15) and Paramount's 2-Disc Sweeney Todd: Special Edition (4/1)...

JunoJuno: Special EditionThe Mist: 2-Disc Collector's Edition

The Muppet Show: Season ThreeLars and the Real GirlSweeney Todd: Special Edition

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

We've got just a few things to report this morning on the high-def front...

First, Nikkei is reporting (registration required) that Onkyo is following Toshiba's lead and will no longer produce HD-DVD players. They're expected to announce as much in the next few days.

Nikkei is also reporting that the falling price of HD-DVD recorders and failing Hollywood studio support are what led Toshiba to pull the plug on the format. From the piece:

The U.S. movie industry wished to end the format war as soon as possible. DVD software accounted for 44% of movie-related income at six major studios in 2006. But the following year, the proportion of next-generation DVD software came to just 1% as consumers stayed on the sidelines to see how the format war played out.

Nevertheless, the Sony camp will continue to face downward pressure on prices even after the end of the format war, which has set the stage for next-generation DVDs to gain momentum. In this sense, the Hollywood studios appear to be the real victors.


The Blu-ray Disc camp DEFINITELY needs to keep prices going down on both players and software in order to get mainstream consumers to jump in with the format. Ideally, there should be at least a few entry level players priced at $299 or better by Christmas. And profile 2.0 support needs to become mandatory and industry wide to end profile/feature confusion. Wouldn't hurt for studios to lower the SRP of movie software $5 either.

In other high-def news, HDScape is holding a blow-out sale on all of their existing HD-DVD titles - they're now just $6.95 each (or you can get all 7 for $29.95).

As you might have guessed, there's still no official word yet from Paramount about Blu-ray and HD-DVD, but then they're probably talking to DreamWorks and CBS and whatnot, so these things take time.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/19/08 - 1:30 PM PST)

Video Business now has a report up on the Toshiba/Universal news today, and there's a couple new bits of information.

First, Warner has said that there are currently no changes planned in its release schedule as a result of Toshiba's decision. The studio will continue releasing HD-DVD titles until May.

Also, Toshiba has said that it will continue to provide "ongoing product support and after sales service" for those with HD-DVD players via this phone number: 1-888-MY HDDVD (1-888-694-3383).

Finally, the Blu-ray camp has issued a number of statements today. Here's the BDA's comment:

"We in the Blu-ray Disc Association are very happy that this long format war is officially over. Now the task ahead for our member companies is to promote the Blu-ray Disc format as the best way to bring premier quality high-definition content into consumers’ lives." - Andy Parsons, Blu-ray Disc Association U.S. Promotions Committee chairman and Pioneer Electronics senior VP

Here is Sony's official statement:

"Overwhelming support from all the relevant industries, including Hollywood studios, consumer electronics and IT companies, retailers and video rental stores, is clear proof that consumers have chosen Blu-ray as the next-generation optical disc format. We believe that a single format will benefit both consumers and the industry and will accelerate the expansion of the market."

And here's the Entertainment Merchants Association statement:

"Now that consumer confusion concerning dueling formats has ended, it is time for suppliers and retailers to redouble their efforts to bring home the message that Blu-ray discs deliver the finest viewing experience for the world's best entertainment. It is critically important for all content companies to deliver their best new releases and their rich catalog slates to the market in Blu-ray strategically. We believe there is pent up demand for high-definition optical discs in thousands of applications." - Bo Andersen, EMA president

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/19/08 - 11:30 AM PST)

We interrupt our end of the format war coverage for some DVD news for you good standard-definition folk. And very patient folk today too, we might add.

Genius Product and The Weinstein Company have announced the DVD release of a The Mist: 2-Disc Collector's Edition for release on 3/25.

Buena Vista has set The Muppet Show: Season Three for release on 5/20 as a 4-disc set. Look for Fozzie Bear on the cover.

In what may be the fastest theatrical run ever, Liberation has revealed that Paris Hilton's The Hottie and the Nottie will hit DVD on 5/6. Look for Fozzie Bear on the cover. No, just kidding. That's an insult to Fozzie.

MGM has set Lars and the Real Girl for release on DVD on 4/15. Extras will include 2 featurettes and a deleted scene.

Sony has set Loch Ness Terror for DVD release on 4/14, with Hero Wanted following on 4/29.

Warner has just announced that their first Raw Feed title to arrive in high-def streets on 4/22 on Blu-ray and 5/13 on HD-DVD... Sublime: Uncut Version. FYI, we've asked Warner if Toshiba's announcement will impact their plans to continue releasing HD-DVD titles until the end of May. We'll let you know when they get back to us on it.

And Paramount has also just announced Sweeney Todd for release on single-disc DVD, 2-disc DVD and 2-disc HD-DVD on 4/1, followed by There Will Be Blood also on single-disc DVD, 2-disc DVD and 2-disc HD-DVD on 4/8. The studio has also set American Gangster: The Complete Second Season, Mannix: The First Season and My Three Sons: Season One, Volume One for DVD release on 6/3, followed by Boys in the Band, Comedy Central's Home Grown, Comedy Central's TV Funhouse, Jericho: The Second Season, The Fugitive: Season Two, Volume One and The Odd Couple: The Fourth Season on 6/10. Paramount has also announced the Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark: Special Edition, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Special Edition and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Special Edition for DVD release on 5/13.

It also remains to be seen how Toshiba's announcement will affect Paramount's HD-DVD title plans. We do expect some kind of Blu-ray announcement very soon from Paramount, so be sure to check back later today.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/19/08 - 10:30 AM PST)

Well... now there's only ONE major Hollywood studio left uncommitted to Blu-ray Disc. And the surprise is, it ISN'T Universal. That's because Universal has just announced that they've already begun preparing Blu-ray Disc releases. Uni's Craig Kornblau has this to say this morning, according to Home Media:

“While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray,” said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Kornblau continues:

“The path for widespread adoption of the next-generation platform has finally become clear,” Kornblau said. ”Universal will continue its aggressive efforts to broaden awareness for high-def's unparalleled offerings in interactivity and connectivity, at an increasingly affordable price. The emergence of a single, high-definition format is cause for consumers, as well as the entire entertainment industry, to celebrate."

Amen, brother. Glad you've seen the light.

Okay, Paramount. Your turn.

One other note this morning: Our own Russell Hammond has, per usual, updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover art, as well as Amazon pre-order links. We expect there may be a few HD-DVD deals in there as well. As always, when you order anything through our links, it goes to support our efforts here at The Bits and we certainly appreciate it.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/19/08 - 12:01 AM PST)

It's official. It's over. At a press conference with reporters just moments ago at the company's Tokyo office, Toshiba president Atsutoshi Nishida waved the white flag, confirming that his company is shutting down its HD-DVD operations. Here's the official press release (also available here):

Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses

Company Remains Focused on Championing Consumer Access to High Definition Content

TOKYO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.

“We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality.”

Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

This decision will not impact on Toshiba’s commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries.

Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.


---

We'll have additional details as they come in.

Interestingly, it's being reported by Nikkei this morning (registration required) that some Toshiba executives actually considered suing Warner last month in response to what they considered the studio's betrayal. However (according to the article text):

But the firm realized that such action was impossible "without preparing for the worst, considering Hollywood's overwhelming influence on the U.S. industry," said one executive. America is Toshiba's main market for core operations like computer chips and nuclear power. A misstep there could easily cost a huge amount of business.

The piece also confirmed that as early as February 4th, Paramount was still willing to stick with Toshiba and HD-DVD, but a "sense of crisis grew" at Toshiba nonetheless. From the text:

In visits to U.S. firms in the HD-DVD camp and listening to what was being said between the lines, the executive sensed that things had changed.

Not surprisingly, the position now being adopted by at least one company executive is that "The new generation of DVD will be short-lived. There will be no winner." We imagine that said exec would be singing a slightly different tune were Toshiba in Sony's position this morning. In any case, now that HD-DVD is done, one would expect that Paramount, DreamWorks and Universal will announce their official changes of heart soon.

Oh, by the way... Fidel Castro also just resigned as president of Cuba. No, seriously. I'm not kidding. Busy day.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/18/08 - 4 PM PST)

Japanese news site Nikkei.net has just announced that Toshiba's plan is to immediately stop manufacturing all HD-DVD products (both players and recorders), and to stop selling them at end of March. The official announcement will happen at the press conference set for 5 PM Tokyo time. We'll be back with Toshiba's official statement as soon as it comes in.

Thanks to Keiko S. for the translation and links. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/18/08 - 3:30 PM PST)

Okay... things are moving very fast now. Industry sources are telling us that Toshiba has a press event scheduled for tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday 5 PM Tokyo time), at which they're expected to make the announcement that they're quitting the HD-DVD format. That's just 8 1/2 hours from now. Rumor is that hardware and software sales will be discontinued in early March, but we expect official details soon. We'll post more on this as it comes in.

Also, we haven't confirmed this with the studio yet, but it seems likely: Format War Central is reporting that a Technicolor insider has informed them that work has stopped on CBS and Paramount's Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered - Season Two HD-DVD release. They're saying that Toshiba was financing the production as part of an exclusive arrangement to have the title on HD-DVD only, and they've now pulled the plug.

We expect that Paramount and Universal may have official comments of their own as early as tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, be sure to check back with us this evening for Toshiba's official press release as soon as it hits the wires. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/18/08 - 11:45 AM PST)

As promised, we're back this morning with a brand new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell. In this latest installment, Barrie reviews a number of classic titles, including 20th Century Fox's Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 4, MGM's The Apartment: Collector's Edition and In the Heat of the Night: 40th Anniversary Edition, Paramount's Pioneers of Television, Universal's Imitation of Life: Two-Movie Special Edition and VCI's Junior G-Men of the Air. He also reviews a trio of new western titles, including Warner's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Sony's September Dawn and Comanche Moon. Barrie runs down the latest classic release announcement as well, and he's updated both the classics and western release databases too. There's something for everyone, so do check it out. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, Reuters has posted a few more stories on Toshiba's impending exit of HD-DVD over the last few hours (click here, here, here and here). The BBC has a new story up as well on the positive financial industry reaction to Toshiba's plans. Video Business and Home Media are now also covering the story (both pieces feature a bit of Microsoft reaction to the news, specifically how the fallout might affect their Xbox 360 sales... or not).

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/18/08 - 12:01 AM PST)

Okay... here's an early morning update with the latest news, and there are a few new pieces of information.

First, Forbes is now reporting 1) that the publication has confirmed today (Monday) with Toshiba that they're considering bowing out of the next-generation videodisc business, and that 2) the news has "met with approval from analysts and investors". And in what may be a bit of a silver lining in all this, Toshiba shares have apparently surged 5.9% on the news so far in afternoon trading today in Tokyo. From the text:

Cutting its losses on HD DVD could boost Toshiba's operating profit by 20% in the next fiscal year, Nikko Citigroup analyst Hiroyuki Masuko said Monday. He raised his rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral."

Also, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the announcement will likely happen "early this week." Here's a key new piece of information found in the WSJ article:

If Toshiba withdraws from the HD DVD business, Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures and General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures, both of which support the format exclusively, would be immediately released from their commitments, one of the people familiar with the situation said. Warner Bros., which is obligated to sell HD DVD movies through May under its contract, would also be freed from those terms. All three studios couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

We do, however, expect some kind of official statement from these studios in the next few days. Also reported in the WSJ piece:

Toshiba will likely continue to provide customer support for HD DVD players that it has sold, but it had no compensation plans in mind for consumers who have already purchased them.

The folks over at ars technica have some interesting new information on this today as well, including word that Toshiba's decision to bring an end to HD-DVD was in the works BEFORE the Netflix, Best Buy and Wal-Mart announcements last week, and that those companies were aware of the plans when they made their announcements.

Obviously, this is going to be the major topic of discussion in the industry over the next few days, so we ask your patience as we (and assuredly many others) follow new developments as they unfold.

We'll be back later this morning with any additional breaking news, as well as Barrie's new column. Stay tuned...

2/17/08

Just a quick update... CNBC is now confirming NHK's story (from yesterday morning) that Toshiba is planning to pull out of the HD-DVD business. Here's the relevant text:

A source at Toshiba confirmed an earlier report by public broadcaster NHK that it was getting ready to pull the plug. "We have entered the final stage of planning to make our exit from the next generation DVD business," said the source, who asked not to be identified. He added that an official announcement could come as early as next week.

Additional reporting in the Japanese media suggests that Toshiba management is considering three options this week: 1) Continue selling HD-DVD players but stop manufacturing recorders, 2) Abandon the U.S. and Japanese markets and concentrate on Europe, and 3) Pull the plug on HD-DVD completely in all markets. Multiple industry sources are now telling The Bits that the third option is almost certainly the one Toshiba will take in order to cut their losses. An official press conference is expected likely within a week.

Reaction around the Net from enthusiasts is about what you'd expect. We've gotten a lot of e-mails over the last couple of days, and most people seem as glad as we are that the format war is finally over. A couple people (who one can only assume didn't heed our advice on the matter) e-mailed the usual knee-jerk "F--k you! Your site sucks!" One of them less than politely suggested that we'd "obviously sold our journalistic integrity to Sony." Given how many pay-offs HAVE happened in this format war, I suppose one shouldn't be surprised that some see such things everywhere they look.

As it happens, here's what integrity means according to Merriam Webster: "Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values." And here's a code that's of particular importance to us here at The Bits: We have always sought to stand up for what we believe are the best interests of the majority of our readers.

Hey... this format war was forced on us all by the CE industry. We said from the very start that it was going to divide enthusiasts and really be all around generally unpleasant. But make no mistake... the result of it was ALWAYS going to be that one of these formats would eventually fold like a cheap suit, or they both would. It was just a matter of time. Once both of these formats launched and were proven to deliver basically an equally good quality A/V experience, we here at The Bits wanted to make sure that our readers weren't going to get stuck with the new Betamax. So we carefully considered all the facts, and called things the way we saw them. We advised people to sit on the sidelines until it was all over, but also said that Blu-ray was ultimately the better bet in our opinion. Eventually, when things started to get silly, we just finally backed Blu-ray officially. You can be sure that those Bits readers who listened to us are today very glad they did. And for those who purchased HD-DVD instead, well... you can't say we didn't warn you. We certainly did our best. We really honestly did.

Has it been irritating and tiresome at times? Absolutely. Have we been a little overbearing on occasion? Yeah, probably. Not on purpose, but when you believe in something strongly as we do, it can happen. And we certainly believe in trying to watch out for our readers. The simple fact is, we've now called not one but TWO format wars right on behalf of our readers, and we did so not at the 11th hour but early on, even when it wasn't always a popular thing to do. We examined all the facts, logically weighed the case for both sides, and ultimately used our best judgement to make the call. Then we stood by it, continuing to monitor and assess all the facts, staking our own good name and reputation on it. Turns out we were right. Both times. That's two for two.

So if a few people think we "suck" for giving our best advice in this format war to our readers, well... that's a shame, but I think we can live with it. I suspect our readers can certainly live with it. What's that they say? The proof of the pudding is in the eating? Well, the waiters are bringing it around to your tables now. You decide.

Tell you what WOULD really suck - having to go three for three. Let's hope Hollywood and the CE industry have learned their lessons from this thing. One format war per decade is more than enough, thank you very much. Thankfully, we can all very soon get back to just talking about great movies on DVD and now, obviously, on Blu-ray. 'Cause we're as sick of this format war as you are, believe me. You have no idea. So hang in there... shouldn't be much longer now.

Back tomorrow morning with Barrie's new Classic Coming Attractions column... and yeah, I suspect a little more breaking news too. Stay tuned...

2/16/08 (ORIGINALLY POSTED 11:30 AM PST - UPDATED 1:30 PM PST)

There's MAJOR breaking news today in the high-def format war: Japanese broadcaster NHK is reporting that Toshiba has decided to exit the HD-DVD business. The company has apparently stopped further HD-DVD development and will close its factories in Aomori Prefecture, in northern Japan. Reuters has picked up this story as well, and you'll find it here at Yahoo news and elsewhere. It was also being widely reported in the evening news across Japan last night.

According what we've been able to gather from various stories in the Japanese press (here, here, here and here), Toshiba management was meeting very soon anyway (probably next week) to officially pull the plug, but the timetable may have been moved up given last week's retailer announcements. Someone at Toshiba HQ apparently leaked the information to the Japanese media Saturday afternoon (Tokyo time) and the thought is that leaking it early will make it easier for the company to make an official announcement, possibly as soon as Monday (thanks to Keiko S. for the links and information).

All that's left now IS for Toshiba to make an official statement, followed (or perhaps preceded) by long-awaited announcements of Blu-ray Disc support from Universal and Paramount, which we now expect very soon. Word is that Paramount will be able to quickly shift gears back to Blu-ray, as they already have experience working with the format (and some unreleased BD titles have already been replicated - think the titles that were cancelled last year at the last minute when the studio abandoned Blu-ray - or at least have finished masters ready for replication). Universal on the other hand, will take longer to ramp up, as they're at least two years behind the other Hollywood studios in working with the format (though one would expect the BDA to provide them help in getting up to speed as quickly as possible).

On that note, we've suddenly begun hearing from multiple retail sources that new Paramount Blu-ray titles have just begin appearing in their inventory software as "on order" or "available for pre-order," including Blades of Glory and (apparently) Transformers. Yes, you read that right. We have yet to officially confirm this, but we're working to get more information on it. For the record, I was unable to get a response from Paramount on Friday (they seem to be in a bit of a media "lockdown" mode at the moment - which is probably no surprise given last week's events).

By the way, The New York Times has a new story up on last week's news, but it was written BEFORE today's breaking news.

This is it folks. This thing was messy and costly and, in many of the online enthusiast forums, at times mean-spirited and downright bloody. But it's OVER. And as far as we're concerned here at The Bits... IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME!!!

IT'S OVER!

Pardon the French (and the pun), but damn. TWO YEARS of this bulls--t!

We'll bring you more as it comes in. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/15/08 - 3 PM PST)

Here's a pair of new DVD reviews for you: Peter Schorn has checked in with his thoughts on Warner's Michael Clayton and The Invasion. Enjoy!

Also today, we've kicked off THREE new Giveaways, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Fox's The Darjeeling Limited, Lake Placid 2: Unrated and The Comebacks: Unrated on DVD, along with THQ's Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed videogame for the Nintendo Wii! Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, February 24th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Here Be High-Def You Know What...

We've got just a few more high-def notes today, unless there's still more breaking news...

First, TWICE is reporting that J.D. Power and Associates and Market Force Information have recently completed a secret shopper survey of retail salespeople across the country, and found that 9 out of 10 of them are strongly recommending Blu-ray to their customers over HD-DVD. We had a feeling after the Warner announcement that retailers would start calling this format war for Blu-ray (click here and here for our comments on the subject at the time), but we didn't expect it to happen quite so quickly. Nevertheless, it's clearly happening.

On that note, more media reports on the Wal-Mart news are coming in, including MSNBC, Wired, engadget, CBS News, Fox News, Content Agenda and Deadline Hollywood Daily.

And here's something that's perhaps even more telling in terms of what Toshiba is planning: It seems that the company may have started denying fulfillment of their "five free disc" offers. Bits reader Greg M., who has purchased players on both high-def formats, sent us this e-mail this afternoon:

"I received a letter back from the Toshiba fulfillment house denying my five free discs. They stated that my invoice was not within the time period of the offer. My invoice from Amazon.com was dated Dec 9th, 2007, clearly within the Oct 1, 2007 to Feb 28, 2008 range they gave on their offer flyer. What is more insidious is the invoice I sent them and they sent back to me was marked up with a ballpoint pen to cross out the date. When I called them at 800-405-7520 to try to get some understanding of why my five free disc offer was rejected... I was informed that I would have to resubmit it. I told them to go &*%$ *%$ I do not have time for their petty games."

Oh my. Finally, to top it all off this week, the Blu-ray Disc Association has just issued this statement:

"Retailers have a tremendous impact on consumer preferences, and as the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart's reach and leadership are unparalleled. Their decision to support only Blu-ray, particularly in light of the string of similar announcements from the content and retail communities over the last six weeks, seems to us to be a very clear statement that Blu-ray Disc has emerged as the format of choice for high definition home entertainment." - Andy Parsons, chairman, Blu-ray Disc Association US Promotions Committee.

It's been quite a week. The simple fact is, this format war is over. It doesn't matter what Toshiba does now, Blu-ray has been chosen by mainstream retailers as THE next-generation high-def disc format. It's almost unprecedented - I can't remember the last time the retail community weighed in this publicly on a format war, in so short a span of time. I don't even recall retailer reaction being this swift back when standard DVD banished Divx a decade ago. What this means is that Paramount and Universal now have no choice but to make Blu-ray Disc support announcements of their own and soon, as they're currently backing a format that retailers will no longer carry. As such, you can expect those announcements VERY soon, almost certainly in the next few weeks. Frankly, we'd be surprised if the final scene of this messy opus took longer than the end of March to play out. Will anyone out there be as glad as we'll be to stop talking about this silly format war? Good grief. Almost there, folks...

Anyway, we'll be back on Monday with a new column from Barrie Maxwell. Until then, stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/15/08 - 12:45 PM PST)

Okay... now that this format war mess is nearly done, let's get back to the business of posting reviews and covering release news.

Release news first... Sony has just set First Knight for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 4/29 (SRP $28.95 for the Blu-ray, $19.94 for DVD). The discs will include audio commentary with director Jerry Zucker and producer Hunt Lowry, a second Arthurian Legend commentary track and 3 featurettes (The Quest for Camelot, In Shining Armor and The Creation of a Kingdom), along with deleted scenes and outtakes.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate's April release slate has just been announced. Look for Christie's Revenge and My Training Methods: Alex Kovalev on 4/1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 6 on 4/6, Retribution, The Backwoods and The Minus Man on 4/15, Séance and Starting Out in the Evening on 4/22, and Knock Knock, Angelique: The Complete 5-Film Collection (includes Angelique, Angelique: Road to Versailles, Angelique and the King, Untamable Angelique and Angelique and the Sultan), Dead Man's Bounty, Harlequin Triple Feature: Volume Three (includes A Change of Place, The Waiting Game and Diamond Girl) and Harlequin Triple Feature: Volume Four (includes The Awakening, Broken Lullaby and Loving Evangeline) on 4/29. Blu-ray titles are TBA.

Universal has delayed the DVD release of Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, which had been set for 5/13. A new street date has not been confirmed.

And finally, BCI Entertainment will release ABC's Day Break on DVD on 3/11 (SRP $39.98). The 4-disc set will include all 13 episodes (only 6 of which were aired originally) as well as cast and crew commentaries and interviews.

Here's a little bit more new cover art... Sony's The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep on DVD and Blu-ray (due 4/8), and MGM's The Pink Panther and Friends: Classic Cartoon Collection, Volume 6 - The Inspector (3/4)...

The Water HorseThe Water Horse (Blu-ray Disc)The Pink Panther and Friends: Classic Cartoon Collection, Volume 6 - The Inspector

Back with reviews in a bit. Stay tuned...

(STILL EARLY UPDATE - 2/15/08 - 11:30 AM PST)

Here's Wal-Mart's press release:

Wal-Mart Moving Exclusively Toward Blu-ray Format Movies and Players

Bentonville, Ark., Feb. 15, 2008 - Wal-Mart Stores, U.S. today announces that its 4,000 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores will move forward this year with one hi-definition movie and hardware format: Blu-ray. The change will take place quickly over the next several months whereby the retailer will phase out HD DVD offerings and reorganize shelf space. By June, Wal-Mart stores, Sam's Clubs, www.walmart.com and www.samsclub.com will offer only Blu-ray movies and hardware machines, as well as standard definition movies and DVD players, and up converts.

"We've listened to our customers, who are showing a clear preference toward Blu-ray products and movies with their purchases," said Gary Severson, senior vice president, Home Entertainment, Wal-Mart, U.S. "With the customers best interest in all we do, we wanted to share our decision and timeline with them as soon as possible, knowing it will help simplify their purchase decision, increase selection, and increase adoption long term. We anticipate enhancing our selection with continued great values in hi-definition Blu-ray products, so our customers can further enhance their entertainment experience at home."

Wal-Mart will continue to sell through remaining HD DVD product, but in less than 30 days customers will see a more predominant move toward Blu-ray in stores, clubs and online. As the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart thoughtfully reviewed all areas and impact in making its decision, and is excited to move forward with one format and share its future plans with customers.


---

You can find the original text here on Wal-Mart's Facts site. And the reaction from the media is exactly as you'd expect. See Silicon Alley Insider, CNet News, Digital Media Wire, USA Today (who commented even BEFORE the Wal-Mart news broke) and you can expect hundreds more like them over the next few days.

Here's our reaction...
It's over.

To quote Forrest Gump: "That's all I have to say about that."

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/15/08 - 11 AM PST)

Well, folks... here's the last piece of the retail puzzle for high-def discs: According to CNN Money, Wal-Mart has today announced that they're only going to be carrying Blu-ray Disc in all their stores, and will gradually phase out all HD-DVD product over the next several months. Combined with the loss of Best Buy, that's the shooting match right there. From CNN's piece:

"We've listened to our customers, who are showing a clear preference toward Blu-ray products and movies with their purchases," said Gary Severson, Wal-Mart's Senior Vice President of Home Entertainment in a statement.

We'll post the press release as soon as we have it. Bottom line: Now matter how you slice it, this thing is over. All that's left is Toshiba waving the white flag, and Paramount and Universal announcing their Blu-ray plans. I'm betting those things happen sooner rather than later, given the rapid pace at which events are now moving.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/14/08 - 5:30 PM PST)

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

Here's some late-breaking news for you, and this is ALL high-def related: The Hollywood Reporter is indicating that "reliable industry sources" say Toshiba is getting ready to drop the HD-DVD format. According to the story, Toshiba's Jodi Sally wouldn't confirm but "hinted that something's in the air" given recent developments. It seems that the retail defections have, predictably, taken their toll. From the text:

"An announcement is coming soon," said one source close to the HD DVD camp. "It could be a matter of weeks."

The story is by T.K. Arnold and Erik Gruenwedel, and can also be found at Home Media. Calls to Microsoft's Kevin Collins and Universal's Ken Graffeo (also co-president of the North American HD-DVD Promotional Group) for the piece were apparently not returned.

For what it's worth, our own sources have been telling us recently that Paramount could make an announcement relating to a return to Blu-ray support as soon as late March or early April, though that was before this new report broke. Both Paramount and Universal have denied any change in their high-def support in recent weeks, or simply declined to comment. It's worth noting, however, that Universal hasn't announced any new HD-DVD titles since American Gangster, and it cancelled two titles (Dazed & Confused and Land of the Dead) that were previously released as DVD/HD-DVD combo discs and were going to be re-issued as HD-DVD only titles on 3/11.

There have been additional (though COMPLETELY unconfirmed) reports in the last few days that Toshiba may be preparing their own Blu-ray Disc player models. You can read more on that here at 1080 Living. It would certainly make sense. With over 90% of all high-def format sales in Japan Blu-ray, Toshiba needs to do something there or risk being left completely behind in their own backyard. Again, though, we have yet to hear anything like this from our own sources, so season this particular rumor liberally with salt.

Regardless... hang tight, folks. This thing could soon be officially over. Either way, it's certainly getting interesting (as if it wasn't already fascinating enough). Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/14/08 - 1:45 PM PST)

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! So I presume you all saw the Indiana Jones 4 trailer this morning? If not, you'll find it here. Looks pretty good to me - certainly gets the blood pumping.

Here at the site this this afternoon, our very own Adam Jahnke has turned in a new edition of The Bottom Shelf, featuring DVD reviews of a trio of very good films a bit off the beaten path. Included are 20th Century Fox's Once and Waitress, as well as New Line's The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Two columns in as many days from Jahnke?! I think something must have gotten into the Doctor's Kool-Aid. Enjoy!

In release news today, Fox has just announced the DVD and Blu-ray debut of Alien vs. Predator: Requiem on 4/15. The Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem - Extreme Unrated Special Edition will be available on 2-disc DVD (SRP $34.98) in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by directors Colin and Greg Strause and producer John Davis, a second commentary with creature effects designers Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, 5 featurettes (Prepare for War: The Making of AVP-R, Fight to the Finish: The Making of AVP-R, AVP-R: The Nightmare Returns - Creating the Aliens, Crossbreed: The PredAlien and Building the Predator Homeworld), 7 still galleries (Designing the Predator, Designing the Alien, Designing the PredAlien, On Set: The Rooftop, On Set: The Sewer, On Set: The Hive and On Set: Cast & Crew), the film's theatrical trailers (including the "redband" trailer) and a Digital Copy version of the film. Single-disc R-rated and Unrated DVD editions will also be available, with only the commentaries (SRP $29.98 each). The Blu-ray Disc version (SRP $39.98), will include all of the DVD extras along with both the theatrical and unrated versions in AVC 1080p video via seamless branching, the PiP Weyland-Yutani Archives BD-Java feature and audio in DTS 5.1 HD.

Meanwhile, Warner will release Bernard and Doris on DVD on 4/29 for HBO, along with The Buddha of Suburbia, Daphne, Stonewall and Tchaikovsky all on 5/27 for the BBC. Warner has also changed the street date for The Song Remains the Same in high-def. The Blu-ray Disc is due on 2/26, and the HD-DVD will follow on 3/18.

Sony has also changed the street date for Final Season on DVD to 4/15.

Here's a look at the cover art for Fox's The Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem - Extreme Unrated Special Edition DVD and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Blu-ray (May), Criterion's Blast of Silence DVD (4/15), Sony's Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story on DVD and Blu-ray (4/8) and Paramount's The Kite Runner DVD (3/25)...

The Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem - Extreme Unrated Special EditionButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Blu-ray Disc)Blast of Silence (Criterion)

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox StoryWalk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Blu-ray Disc)The Kite Runner

Back with more new reviews tomorrow, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/13/08 - 4:30 PM PST)

Okay, let's have a news round-up...

First up, there's been some question as to the release status of ThinkFilm's In the Shadow of the Moon, which was supposed to street yesterday on DVD (distributed by Image). The studio's PR agency tells me that there is no change in the street date. There may have been a slight delay getting product to stores, but it should be available shortly everywhere. Amazon has apparently listed the street date as 3/15 just to play it safe, but you should soon find the disc widely available. And it's pretty great. I'll be reviewing it in the next couple days.

Meanwhile today, Paramount has announced the DVD and HD-DVD release of The Kite Runner on 3/25 (SRP $29.99 for DVD, $39.99 for HD). Extras will include audio commentary with director Marc Forster, screenwriter David Benioff and author Khaled Hosseini, along with a variety of featurettes. Paramount is also about to announce the 4/1 DVD and HD-DVD release of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. Watch for details soon.

And 20th Century Fox is preparing a Blu-ray Disc version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for release in May, along with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and other catalog titles.

Around the Net this afternoon, our friend Dave over at TV Shows on DVD has learned more about the future plans for Battlestar Galactica - both SciFi's final season broadcast and its eventual release on DVD from Universal. Get ready for Season 4.0 and Season 4.5. It's a good read, so do check it out.

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

So here's a pisser... Universal's new DVD/HD-DVD combo format release of Ridley Scott's American Gangster contains both the 158-minute theatrical cut AND the 177-minute extended cut, right? But here's what sucks... the extended cut is only on the DVD side, and the theatrical version on the HD side only has Dolby Digital Plus audio. What's more, overcompression is an issue on both sides, obviously due to lack of disc space. Ugh. Just think, Universal could put BOTH versions in high-def on a 50GB Blu-ray with seamless branching. Hhhmmm...

Also today, director Michael Bay is speaking out again about the format war and his preference for Blu-ray. It's pretty amusing - you can read more here at Home Media. Among the interesting tidbits is word that Armageddon is going to require a new high-def transfer for Blu-ray, as the previous digital master was damaged by a fire. For the record, Buena Vista tells me that it's definitely coming, but it's going to take some time.

And TG Daily has a new opinion piece on the format war that's worth reading today, along with word that retailer Wal-Mart has begun phasing out the RCA HDV5000 and Venturer SHD7000 HD-DVD players in all their stores, though it will continue to stock the Toshiba HD-A3 for “at least 4 months” more. Fascinating.

Don't forget about the Indy 4 teaser trailer's debut tomorrow morning on ABC's Good Morning America. We'll be back later tomorrow with some new disc reviews and a new column as well.

'Til then... stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/13/08 - 12:01 AM PST)

We'll be back with more later today, but we wanted to check in early this morning to let you all know that our very own Dr. Adam Jahnke has just posted a new update of The Electric Theatre, featuring his thoughts on the recent passing of actors Heath Ledger and Roy Scheider, as well as comic book writer Steve Gerber. We hope you all enjoy what he has to say. The Doctor is most assuredly in.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/12/08 - 12:15 PM PST)

Okay... we've got a little more release news for you this afternoon.

First, Universal has set The Eddie Murphy Comedy Collection for DVD on 5/27 (SRP $19.98). The 2-disc set will include The Nutty Professor, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Bowfinger and Life.

Also, Warner has set the BBC's Cranford (2007) and The Elizabeth Gaskell Collection (Cranford, Wives & Daughters and North & South) for release on 5/20, both for the BBC.

Around the Net today, Lucasfilm and Paramount have confirmed that the first teaser trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will debut on Good Morning America on Thursday morning (2/14 - between 8 and 9 AM), and it will be available on Indiana Jones.com shortly thereafter. Gotta tell you, I'm really looking forward to this movie. Just thinking about it is enough to put a smile on your face.

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

And on the high-def front this afternoon, ABC News, MSNBC, Internet News, Twice and other sites have picked up the Best Buy story from yesterday.

Also, EGM posted a story yesterday that some took to mean that Universal is about to go Blu-ray. We do expect Universal to announce support for Blu-ray some time later in 2008, but not for a while yet. For the record, when we contacted the studio about this story, this was their reply: "USHE has not commented on such rumors or speculation and did not speak to EGM for this piece." So take that as you will.

Meanwhile, it seems that Samsung is being sued over their early Blu-ray players - including the BDP-1200. I had the BDP-1000 myself, which was their first player, and it was a bit of a mess. I had similar problems with Toshiba's original HD-A1 early on. Both were very buggy when they first launched. Unfortunately, Samsung hasn't been quick with necessary firmware updates. Anyway, you can read more here at ars technica. Such are the problems faced by early adopters of new formats.

By the way, if you're interested in Blu-ray and you're looking for a recommendation of Blu-ray players, we heartily recommend Panasonic's new BD-30, which is profile 1.1 ready. We've had it for a while now, and it's rock solid, just as their BD-10 was before it. Also, Panasonic's new BD-50 will be out later this year (around May or June) which will be profile 2.0 compatible.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/12/08 - 12:01 AM PST)

We've got a few new announcements to report today. But first, we wanted to acknowledge the passing of another person whose work you may know fondly: artist John Alvin (click here for details from The New York Times). Alvin painted some 153 movie posters over a 35-year career in the industry. You'll know his iconic images in the posters for such films as Blade Runner, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Young Frankenstein, The Lion King and more. He was 59. You can visit his website here.

Also this morning, here at the site, Russell Hammond has updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section for this week with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon pre-order links. As always, there's lots of great new titles to see, so do check it out.

Now for those announcements: First up, Fox has set In the Name of the King for DVD release on 4/15 (SRP $27.98). Uwe Boll's quick-through-theatres Dungeon Siege Tale will be presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include deleted/extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, trailers and more. No Blu-ray Disc version has yet been announced.

Meanwhile, Sony has set The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 4/8. The 2-disc DVD (SRP $28.96) will contain both full frame and anamorphic widescreen video, along with deleted scenes and 6 featurettes (Creating Crusoe, Myths and Legends, Setting the Scene, The Characters, The Story and Water Work: Creating the Water Horse). The Blu-ray version (SRP $38.96) will include all of the above, along with the Water Horse: Virtual Crusoe game.

Anchor Bay will release the unrated Tripping the Rift: The Movie on DVD on 3/25 (SRP $26.97), including a "making of" featurette.

And Warner will release Party of Five: The Complete Third Season as a 5-disc set on 2/25 (SRP $39.95). All 25 episodes will be included, along with 2 "minisodes" episodes of other series (Silver Spoons: Boys Will Be Boys and The Facts of Life: And Into the Frying Pan). Warner has also announced the DVD release of Bet Your Life on 5/13 (for Polychrome), The Bill Engvall Show: The Complete First Season on 5/20, and If Love Hadn't Left Me Lonely on 5/27 (also for Polychrome).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/11/08 - 1 PM PST)

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

Well, folks... we've been saying that a retailer move like this was coming for weeks now, and here it is: Best Buy has just announced that, starting in early March, they're going to start officially recommending Blu-ray to their customers as "the Customer’s Digital Format Choice" and will emphasize the format prominently in all their stores. They're not going to stop carrying HD-DVD immediately, but the sales push in their retail locations will be all Blu. Here's the full text of their press release...

Best Buy to Recommend Blu-ray as the Customer’s Digital Format Choice

MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY) is taking a step forward in addressing consumer confusion about high-definition formats. Beginning in early March, the leading consumer electronics retailer will prominently showcase Blu-ray hardware and software products in its Best Buy retail and online channels in the United States.

“Consumers have told us that they want us to help lead the way. We've listened to our customers, and we are responding. Best Buy will recommend Blu-ray as the preferred format,” said Brian Dunn, Best Buy's president and chief operating officer. “Our decision to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray Disc players and other Blu-ray products is a strong signal to our customers that we believe Blu-ray is the right format choice for them."

Dunn continued, “Best Buy has always believed that the customer will benefit from a widely-accepted single format that would offer advantages such as product compatibility and expanded content choices. Because we believe that Blu-ray is fast emerging as that single format, we have decided to focus on Blu-ray products."

“With the explosion of HDTVs, customers are hungry for quality, high definition content. We believe our move to feature Blu-ray should help consumers feel confident in their hi-def content choices,” said Mike Vitelli, Best Buy's senior vice president, Home Solutions. “Best Buy is excited by the next generation of digital products and we know our customers are too. We are excited about helping customers find the right mix of products and services to make the next generation of high definition entertainment technology come alive for them. We believe that Blu-ray is the right solution for consumers."

Best Buy currently carries a wide array of Blu-ray hardware and software products. The company noted that it will continue to carry an assortment of HD-DVD products for customers who desire to purchase these products.

---


So why a preference recommendation for Blu-ray rather than simply dropping HD-DVD? There's a couple reasons this makes sense. First, they've been selling HD-DVD players for a while, so they have an existing customer base for that format that they don't want to completely alienate. The more important reason though is that they have a long-standing business relationship with Toshiba that they want to preserve. Framing their preference this way (along with participating in the recent 50% off sales of HD-DVD players) helps Toshiba save face. However, given that Best Buy is arguably the leading retailer of consumer electronics equipment in North America, they don't make such format support decisions lightly. As such, this announcement tells you everything you need to know about the viability of HD-DVD going forward. Watch for Circuit City and other retailers to follow Best Buy's lead, either with public announcements or simple in-store support emphasis, in the weeks ahead.

This news also comes in the wake of Netflix's announcement this morning that they're dropping HD-DVD support. Netflix's move is particularly telling, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last year joined the board at Microsoft (click here for more on that), and there's a close relationship between the two companies. Just a few weeks ago, prior to CES, one could easily have imagined Microsoft working hard to change Netflix's mind. Now it seems they've lost interest in the format war and are focusing instead on their Yahoo plans.

One quick bit of site business this afternoon: The Bits will be down for a few hours tonight for routine server upgrade/maintenance work. Just so you know.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/11/08 - 11 AM PST)

Well... obviously there's some good news and some sad news to report from over the weekend.

The good news first: It looks like the writers strike IS finally over, which means that some show runners could head back to work as early as today. You can read more here and here via Daily Variety. Regardless, a few shows are down for the count (Bionic Woman) and a few more (like 24) probably won't be back until 2009. But hey, at least Ron Moore and the gang can get back to work on the last season of Battlestar Galactica (which officially begins on SciFi on 4/4, with catch-up specials on 3/28 - more here at TV Guide). You "nutters" out there will no doubt already be aware that Jericho comes back tomorrow night to begin its new season on CBS. And at least Friday Night Lights is still going, which is easily one of the best shows on TV. Seriously, those of you who haven't seen it should give it a shot (you can watch free episodes here online). It's got a great cast, outstanding writing, and it also offers one of the best depictions of a married couple in any drama. It's arguably the best show you AREN'T watching, so do give it a chance.

Now for the sad news... actor Roy Scheider has died at the age of 75 (more from CNN here). You'll no doubt remember him from such films and TV series as The French Connection, Blue Thunder, 2010, RKO 281, All That Jazz, SeaQuest DSV, Romeo Is Bleeding, Sorcerer and Marathon Man. But obviously it's for his starring role in Steven Spielberg's Jaws that he'll best be remembered.

Another actor has passed away recently as well: Barry Morse (click here to visit his official website). He appeared in tons of TV and theater projects over the years in Canada, the U.K. and here in the States, including The Martian Chronicles, The Winds of War and The Fugitive. I'll remember him fondly from Space: 1999.

And while we're at it, former ABC News reporter John McWethy has died (click here for the details). For anyone my age, who watches a lot of news, the words "This is John McWethy at the State Department" were all too common over the years. There are very few really good old-school journalists left these days, and John was one of the them.

All will be missed.

Now then... let's have some DVD and high-def release news...

First up, Sony has just announced that the DVD release of Steep will happen on 3/18, but the Blu-ray Disc will arrive a few days later on 3/25. Meanwhile, the studio has set Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story for DVD and Blu-ray release on 4/8. And Impulse will follow on DVD only on 4/15. Walk Hard will be available on DVD in 2 versions - a single-disc R-rated version (96 minutes) and a 2-disc unrated edition (120 minutes). Extras on the unrated edition will include audio commentary with Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly and Lew Morton, deleted and extended scenes, Line-O-Rama, song performances, song demos, 8 featurettes (The Music of Walk Hard, The Real Dewey Cox, The Making of Walk Hard, The Last Word with John Hodgman, Tyler Nilson: A Cockumentary, Bull on the Loose, A Christmas Song from Dewey Cox and Dewey Cox's Last Interview), as well as Cox Sausage Commercials with outtakes and more. The Blu-ray (SRP $43.95) will include all of the 2-disc unrated extras.

By the way, Warner has revealed that Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same concert film will be released on Blu-ray and HD-DVD on 2/26 (SRP $28.99 each). It will also be available in 2 DVD versions: a Two-Disc Special Edition (SRP $20.97) and a Collector's Edition (SRP $44.98). From the press release: "The Collector's Edition includes a T-shirt, news articles, concert reviews, reproductions of original premiere invitations, collectible lobby cards and free poster offer."

And Lionsgate will release Bella on DVD on 5/6 (SRP $27.98).

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

In news from the front lines of the format war, Twice is reporting that the latest NPD Group hardware sales numbers (for the week ending 1/26) show that Blu-ray continues to dominate HD-DVD in unit sales by a 65% to 28% margin (the missing percentage is combo players). The piece features all kind of quotes (especially from Toshiba marketing VP Jodi Sally: "I feel it's important to point out...") cautioning everyone from rushing to judgement.

Apparently Netflix didn't get the memo. The company has just announced that it's no longer going to carry the format, opting instead to focus on Blu-ray Disc. From the press release: "With the industry now having picked a winner in the face-off between the two competing high-definition DVD formats, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), the world's largest online movie rental service, today said that it will move toward stocking high-def DVDs exclusively in the Blu-ray format." You can read more here at The New York Times, as well as the company's press release here.

Stay tuned...

2/8/08

Okay, we've got some interesting new announcements for you today. First up, Universal has set The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection: Volumes 1 & 2 for release on DVD on 5/13 (SRP $59.98). The set will feature 10 films on 6 discs, including Tarantula, The Mole People, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Monolith Monsters, Monster on the Campus, Dr. Cyclops, Cult of the Cobra, The Land Unknown, The Deadly Mantis and The Leech Woman. All will be in their original aspect ratios, and the widescreen films will be anamorphic.

Meanwhile, Fox has announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Alvin and the Chipmunks on 4/1, followed by the DVD release of Music Within on 4/8.

Warner will release Studio: Hip-Hop Task Force, Volume II (4/29 - for Lightyear), Waiting for God: Season Three (5/6 - for the BBC), Bet Your Life (5/13 - for Polychrome), If Love Hadn't Left Me Lonely (5/27 - also Polychrome) and Doctor Who: Beneath the Surface (6/3 - also BBC).

And Criterion has announced that the 10th entry in their Eclipse series will be Silent Ozu: Three Family Comedies (including I Was Born, But..., Passing Fancy and Tokyo Chorus).

In news around the Net today, Image Entertainment has called off their planned merger with BTP. You can read more here at Home Media.

Here Be High-Def Dragons...

On the high-def front this morning, word is Microsoft has cut the price of the Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on drive (click here).

Scott Hettrick has contributed a new piece to Home Media, revealing that even with the format war, high-def discs are already double the size of the downloading market. Hettrick has also reported on the Warner 85th Anniversary press event at the Blu-ray backed Hollywood in High-Def site, and included this interesting tidbit:

"Word working its way around the Warner Bros. 85th anniversary event on the studio lot Tuesday night was that some electronics retailers are being flooded with returns of HD DVD players. In fact, so many are being returned that some retailers are in possession of more returned HD DVD players than new stock. I won't tell you who said what or which retailers we're talking about, but I will tell you that execs from Amazon.com and Best Buy were in attendance."

It's true, this was indeed buzzing around the event among members of the press and other attendees. This also corroborates the many similar reports we've been getting from our own retail sources over the last few weeks.

Finally today, the Nielsen VideoScan software sales numbers for the week ending 2/3 are now in. Here's they are...

Nielsen/VideoScan data

One last note today: Special thanks to Bits reader Matt S., who sold me his used Ace Combat 6 flight stick set for a nice price. I've had the throttle open wide ever since. Thanks, Matt!

And that's all for now. Have a great weekend, folks. See you Monday...


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