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page updated: 5/29/08



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 5/14/08 - 4/29/08)


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5/14/08

First up today, there's some good Blu-ray hardware news. EngadgetHD is reporting that Samsung's BD-P1500 Blu-ray Disc player is now on shelves in select Wal-Mart stores. That's not the good news. The player is profile 2.0 BD-Live compatible, and is supposed to bitstream all the advanced audio codecs up to 7.1. That's not the good news either. Here's the good news: It's selling for just $349! That makes it by far the cheapest stand-alone BD-Live ready player available. It's also likely that the BD-P1500 will be on sale later in the year for under $300. Get 'em while you can, because they're likely to go fast.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, Video Business is reporting that the retailer will begin selling the Magnavox NB500MG9 profile 1.1 (Bonus View) Blu-ray player for just $298 on Memorial Day weekend. The player is manufactured by Funai of Japan.

Also, many retailers are reporting a 5/20 street date for Paramount's Cloverfield and There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray Disc. We've spoken with the studio today, and that date is NOT correct. According to the studio, the titles will street on 6/3 as originally planned. The studio will be asking retailers to correct their dates.

Meanwhile, Fox will be releasing Prison Break: Season 3 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 8/26 (SRP $49.98 and $79.98). Audio on the Blu-ray will be DTS 5.1 HD.

Sony has set I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and The Exorcism of Emily Rose for Blu-ray release all on 7/22.

Warner has set the BBC High Definition Natural History Collection for release on Blu-ray on 7/22 (SRP $179.98). The set will include Planet Earth, Wild China, Galapagos and Ganges, all in high-definition on 8 discs.

And Image Entertainment has set Then She Found Me for Blu-ray release on 9/9, followed by the horror title Re-Cycle on 9/23 and Discovery Channel's When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions on 9/30. When We Left Earth (SRP $69.98) will be a 4-disc set including 258 minutes worth of remastered vintage film and high-definition video footage of landmark NASA space missions, along with interviews with many of the participants.

On the standard DVD front, Warner has announced the DVD release Chaos Theory on 6/17, followed by It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on 9/2 and Chuck: The Complete First Season on 9/16. Chuck will be a 4-disc set including all 12 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include Declassified Scenes (deleted scenes), 2 featurettes (Chuck’s World and Chuck on Chuck), the Chuck vs. the Chuckles gag reel, the Chuck’s Online World gallery of web originated mini-featurettes and a playable demo of EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2009 for the Xbox 360.

Lionsgate has set The Dead Zone: The Final Season for DVD release on 6/3. The set will include all 13 episodes, along with behind-the-scenes featurettes and cast and crew audio commentaries.

Genius and The Weinstein Company have announced a pair of new Dragon Dynasty DVD releases for 5/27, including the Shaw Brothers classics Heroes of the East and Come Drink With Me. Genius and Discovery Kids have set Kenny the Shark: Catch a Wave for DVD release on 6/3. Genius has also set the horror film Hybrid for release on 7/8 (SRP $14.95).

Meanwhile, BCI Eclipse will release ‘Til Death Do Us Part on DVD on 7/1 (SRP $29.98). The 3-disc set will include all 13 episodes of the John Waters produced series.

20th Century Fox will release Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna) on DVD on 6/17 (SRP $29.98). Extras will include a pair of featurettes.

Paramount has set Family Ties: The Fourth Season for release on 8/5, followed by The American Mall, Caroline in the City: The First Season, Comedy Central's Kenny Vs. Spenny: Season One - Uncensored, Dave's World: The First Season, PBS' Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami, South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season and The Love Boat: Season One, Volume Two on 8/12, Affinity, College Hill: Atlanta, Dexter: The Complete Second Season, John Oliver: Terrifying Times, Perry Mason: The Third Season - Volume One and Wayside School: Season One on 8/19, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Trick or Treason, The Best of Comedy Central Presents II, Everybody Hates Chris: The Third Season, Go Diego Go!: Diego's Halloween, Max & Ruby: Max & Ruby's Perfect Pumpkin, NCIS: The Fifth Season, PBS' The Presidents Collection Gift Set and The Untouchables: Season Two, Volume Two on 8/26. Looking ahead to September, the studio has Cheers: The Tenth Season and Ghost Whisperer: The Third Season due on 9/2, with This American Life: The First Season following on 9/23.

Universal has announced Las Vegas: Season Five for DVD release on 7/22 (SRP $59.98). The studio has also set The Fletch Collection for DVD release on 8/19 (SRP $19.98 - includes both Fletch and Fletch Lives).

Finally, on the music DVD front, fans of the band Genesis might be pleased to know that Genesis: When in Rome 2007 will be released as a 3-disc DVD on 6/10, exclusively at Wal-Mart stores. The set will include the complete live show, recorded on 7/14/07, with enhanced viewing material, the 2-hour Come Rain or Shine documentary and a 28-page booklet. Word is a Blu-ray release may be in the works as well. In addition, Rhino will be releasing a fourth and final CD/DVD box set this fall, covering the band's early years with Peter Gabriel as lead vocalist. Included will be remastered editions of Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Each album will be a 2-disc set, with a remastered CD and a DVD that will include a 5.1 version of the album along with videos, photo galleries, photographic reproductions of tour programs and interviews with the band members. You'll find more on that at the official Genesis fan club site. Thanks to Bits reader Ed A. for the link.

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 5/13/08 - 5:15 PM PDT)

Okay, we've heard back from Paramount. They tell me officially that the artwork posted on the 1080b website is fake (it looks like someone took the DVD covers and mocked up Blu-ray versions in Photoshop), which we already suspected. They also tell me that they currently have no information regarding the status of these titles being released on Blu-ray... which is something of a non-denial denial. So... where does that leave us?

After hearing back from some of our sources around the industry this afternoon, and now Paramount, what I think is this: It's possible, but not yet officially decided, that we could see these titles on Blu-ray this year. There are discussions, there's some work being done, but the trigger hasn't actually been pulled yet and official announcements have obviously not yet been made. Interestingly, a number of retailers have now e-mailed me to say they've heard the titles may be coming this year. So while there isn't fire yet, there's definitely smoke. If I had to lay odds, I think there's about a 70/30 chance of both the Godfather films and Indy IV coming to Blu-ray later this year, but the rest of the Indy films are still just 50/50. Again, cross your fingers, be patient and hopefully we'll hear more officially one way or the other soon. We will, of course, keep you updated.

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/13/08 - 3:30 PM PDT)

Afternoon, folks! We've got a new DVD review for you today. We figured some of you might have a few questions about this set, so we've gotten our hands on Lucasfilm and Paramount's new Indiana Jones Adventure Collection DVD box set (in stores today), and I've given it a look for you. Is it worth the money or is it just a shameless double-dip? Surprisingly, it's a little of both. It's absolutely a double-dip, but the new material is kind of cool. And the video quality is actually very slightly better than the original DVD release. Check out the review and you'll see what we mean.

In terms of news today, here's something interesting that would normally go in The Rumor Mill (so take it with a MAJOR grain of salt): The Spanish DVD website 1080b is reporting that Paramount will be releasing both The Godfather: The Francis Ford Coppola Restoration and The Indiana Jones Quadrilogy on Blu-ray Disc on 10/29. They've even got cover art for the supposed Spanish versions of the discs, though it looks somewhat fake. Now, it's possible that this is legit, but we don't know how reliable the site is. We've got calls and e-mails out to both our industry sources and the studio, however, so we'll let you know more as soon as we can confirm anything. If it's fake, we would expect Paramount to want to kill the rumor pretty quickly. If it IS true, it would obviously be HUGE news, so rest assured we'll leave no stone unturned.

We'll be back later this evening or tomorrow morning with more announcement news and anything we're able to learn about Godfather and Indy on Blu-ray.

[Editor's Note: A second Spanish DVD website, ZonaDVD, is also now reporting that Paramount (in Europe) has confirmed with them that both Indy and Godfather are coming to Blu-ray in Spain in October, and also that Top Gun and Transformers are due then as well. I expect to hear back from Paramount and/or Lucasfilm here in the States soon. It's worth pointing out that neither has issued an official denial yet, which you'd expect they'd be quick to do if this was completely bogus. So, fingers crossed, there might actually be something to this. We'd expected the Godfather films and probably Indy IV on BD this year, but the complete Indy saga on the format is something of a surprise. Information from our sources has been that Spielberg was pushing for it to happen, but Lucas wanted to wait a couple years. Maybe he's changed his mind. Guess we'll see soon enough. I would expect this to very quickly prompt either official denials, or some kind of confirmation - neither Lucasfilm or Paramount is likely to want false rumors floating around for long. Stay tuned...]

In the meantime, we've got just a quick comment on an unrelated issue. Obviously, there have been some very tragic events around the world of late. We're referring, of course, to the typhoon that hit Myanmar (Burma) last week as well as the terrible earthquake that just hit central China. I know a lot of people's finances are tight these days, but with the high cost of food and gas, relief organizations are having a tough time meeting the needs of those who have been affected by these disasters and others. So if you're feeling able, we'd like to encourage you to make a donation - whatever you can - to help them out. This page at CNN has links to all the major, reputable relief groups here in the States and around the world. And we'd like to send our best wishes out to everyone in the affected regions. We hope that you and your loved ones are all safe and sound.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/12/08 - 4:30 PM PDT)

As promised, we're back today with a new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell! This time around, Barrie reviews 8 classic DVD releases, including Warner's Bette Davis Collection: Volume Three, Fox's The Bette Davis Collection and a number of classic Paramount titles from Legend Films, including Rhubarb, Houdini, Money from Home, Papa’s Delicate Condition, The Skull, and The Busy Body. As always, he runs down the latest classic release announcements as well. Enjoy!

Elsewhere here at The Bits today, Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover art, as well as Amazon pre-order links. Don't forget, you can sort the titles by format and by best-selling status to make things easier to find.

Finally today, we've got a little something cool for you Battlestar Galactica fans. Our old friend Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz e-mailed this over this morning. Mojo is a visual effects designer for the show, and he's created an online blog to offer fans a closer look at some of the series' CG work. In the linked installment, he offers up high-resolution images of the "old school" Cylons the effects team created for Battlestar Galactica: Razor. It's some pretty cool stuff, so be sure to check it out. And thanks again to Mojo and everyone over there at Galactica's FX department for all their great work.

We'll be back tomorrow to catch you all up on the latest release news, and we'll have Robert's next Golden Hollywood column in the next couple of days as well. Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/12/08 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning, everyone! Hope you all had a great Mother's Day weekend.

Well... it looks like Speed Racer didn't fare so well over the weekend. It's a shame. I really love the movie, and think it's a lot better than most critics are giving it credit for. It's hard to figure out what exactly it is that some people are expecting from a movie called Speed Racer by The Wachowski Brothers. As a fan of the original cartoon, it delivered pretty much everything I was looking for. It's interesting... I've heard from a number of Bits readers who saw and enjoyed the film over the weekend, but I've also heard from a few people who were very much of the "Screw the Wachowskis!" opinion. Guess there's still a lot of backlash over the last two Matrix movies? Ah well.

By the way, thanks to those of you who e-mailed download links to Michael Giacchino's complete score for the film over the last couple days. It's very much appreciated.

One other quick note: If you ARE a fan of the film, you might want to drop by your local Target store. They've got an exclusive promo DVD that you can buy right now for just $9.99. It's called Speed Racer: Wonderful World of Racing - The Amazing Racer Family. The disc runs about 30 minutes, and is separated into two programs. The first piece plays like something you'd see on ESPN Classics or the Speed Channel. It features all the major (and even many of the minor) cast members being interviewed in character, as if this were a real documentary profile of Racer Motors. It's illustrated with footage and production artwork from the film. The second piece is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, called Speed Racer: Ramping Up, which covers a bit of the production design and greenscreen work. The DVD also contains a coupon for $7.50 in Movie Money to go see the film, so you basically get a free ticket as well. It's a very cool little disc for fans, so if you're interested, be sure to grab a copy while they last.

We'll be back later with a new Classic Coming Attractions column from Barrie. Stay tuned!

5/9/08

So... a little something tells me The Wachowskis are gonna have the last laugh in this whole Racer-gate business. Man, I haven't seen so many reviewers blow a call in years. 32% on the Tomatometer? That's NUTS! But I'll tell you, I just got back from a Midnight screening of Speed in IMAX, and the place was PACKED. Wall to wall moviegoers turned out for the first taste of fun. There were guys dressed as Speed... gal pals with Trixie bows in their bobs. There were more than a few white helmets in the joint. One guy was even walking around wearing a cardboard Mach V - no kidding. Not little kids mind you, but the high-school and college set. It was off the hook. People laughed and cheered the whole way through, and they were all pretty hyped as they left the theatre. Personally, I enjoyed Speed just as much the second time 'round the track. Though I think if I had to pick between IMAX and DLP Digital (having now seen the film in both formats), I'd go with the latter to get the best effect. I'm gonna be very curious to see what the film's weekend numbers are like on Sunday night, but at the starting gate at least, it looks like they're gonna be pretty solid. This is shaping up to be a pretty crazy summer at the box office, folks.

By the way, if anyone out there managed to record Michael Giacchino's complete 2-hour score for the film that was available for streaming online here a couple weeks ago, please let me know. I'd love a copy of it. I ran out and picked up the CD release yesterday, which is terrific, but of course it's just the highlights.

Anyway, as promised, we've got a trio of new DVD reviews for you to check out this morning. Adam's turned in a new edition of The Bottom Shelf with a review of High School on disc. No, not the musical - the '68 classic from Zipporah Films! Do check it out. Also, Peter Schorn delivers his thoughts on New Line's Blade: The Series - The Completely Complete Series, along with Universal's Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Enjoy!

Okay, any major breaking news aside, that's it for another week. Be sure to treat your own Mom Racer nice this weekend. Mother's Day and all. Buy her some flowers or something. Take her out to the movies.

Have a great one and we'll see you Monday!

5/8/08

Afternoon, folks! We've got a couple interesting things for you today.

First, we have a little follow up on yesterday's Criterion announcement. We've spoken with the folks at Criterion and have learned that they're still working out whether or not their new Blu-ray releases will use a new numbering system of their own (different from the DVD versions). They also haven't yet finalized what the Blu-ray packaging will look like. Rest assured, we'll keep checking back with them and let you know as soon as we hear anything.

Also today, we wanted to let you know that American Cinematographer magazine has just posted a great feature story on the new restoration of The Godfather Trilogy that was recent completed by our very own Robert A. Harris, a longtime regular contributor to The Bits. Robert's Film Preserve has previously been responsible for meticulous restorations of such films as Vertigo and Lawrence of Arabia, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that his work on the Godfather films is nothing short of a marvel. The article is an excellent read, and we recommend you all check it out if you're interested in the subject. According to the story (and our own industry sources), Paramount is planning to release new DVD editions of the films in September here in the States (they're already announced for release in Europe on 6/2 - see the European cover art below). Our sources say there's a decent chance that the films will be released on Blu-ray Disc as well, so cross you fingers. In the meantime, enjoy the article (and know that Robert will be writing on the subject himself in his own Yellow Layer Failure column here at The Bits in the coming weeks).

The Godfather Trilogy: The Coppola Restoration (EUROPEAN VERSION)Jericho: The Complete SeriesVampyr

As you can see, we also included the newly-released artwork for CBS's Jericho: The Complete Series on DVD (due on 6/17) and Criterion's Vampyr DVD (7/22). Jericho: The Complete Series will include all the extras from the Season One and Two DVDs, along with an exclusive bonus disc containing 3 featurettes (Tick Tick Boom, 100 Reasons to Watch Jericho and Cast Members' Memorable Moments), as well as video of a script table reading with the cast, a Behind-the-Scenes "Thank You" to the fans and what looks to be either two expanded action scenes from Season Two or behind-the-scenes looks at the same (the Napalm Action Sequence and the Train Crash Sequence). And of course, both Season Two and The Complete Series DVDs (due on the same day) will feature the unseen alternate ending of the season (the cliffhanger that would have been used had the show been renewed).

Finally today... while we're talking about the possibility of older classic films coming to Blu-ray Disc... there's a very important and related issue I wanted to address today. We've been getting a few e-mails a week (over the last month or so) from readers who are new to Blu-ray, who say they're disappointed in the quality of older catalog titles on the format. They disappointed not so much the selection, but the actual video quality. One person said the colors weren't as vibrant as they were expecting. Another thought the image looked too soft. Several have complained of "noise" on their TV screens when they watched certain older films. It actually took me a while at first to understand what they meant, but now I've figured it out... and as a serious film enthusiast, it's troubling to say the least. That noise some are complaining about? It's film grain! It seems that many people who came to home theater more recently via DVD, and so who may never have seen older films in an actual movie theater before, simply don't understand what film grain is. They don't realize that it's SUPPOSED to be there.

Now, if you're one of those people... look, don't feel bad. It's okay that you didn't know what that so-called 'noise' was, because having grown up seeing older films only on DVD or cable TV, how could you know otherwise? That's why The Bits is here - to fill you in on such things. Here's what you need to understand: Film grain is an inherent part of the texture and character of older movies, which of course were shot on photochemical film stock (see Wikipedia's entry on the subject). The grains are tiny bits of metallic silver that are part of the actual physical structure of a piece of film. The amount of grain you see in the image may be the result of a stylistic choice by the director and cinematographer, as determined by their selection of film stock used during the production, or it's the product of the aging process of the film itself, the chemical composition of which changes over time. Often, it's a little of both. DVD didn't always have enough resolution to render grain properly, but Blu-ray does. So now many people are seeing it for the first time, and those who don't understand the nature of film think it's a defect in the disc! It's not, folks. Just like those black bars are supposed to be there on 2.35 (Scope) films - yes, even on your new widescreen HDTV sets - that grain is part of the film medium itself. Unfortunately, it seems that all too many people are expecting older films on Blu-ray to look like Ratatouille or Star Wars: Episode III. In other words, perfect - super-clean, super-clear, super-vibrant. No 'noise.'

To quote Han Solo, "I've got a BAD feeling about this." I suspect THIS issue is going to be the new anamorphic widescreen, the new black bars. This is the issue that enthusiasts and the studios are going to have to make an effort to explain to consumers who are new to Blu-ray and high-definition in general. Unfortunately, what seems to happening right now is that the studio marketing folks are conducting focus groups with new Blu-ray consumers, who are saying they want perfect pictures every time. As a result, a few of the Hollywood studios are currently A) using excessive Digital Noise Reduction to completely scrub film grain from their Blu-ray releases, or B) not releasing as many older catalog titles as they might otherwise for fear that people will complain about grain. Some studios are even going so far as to scrub the grain out of NEW releases that have been shot on film. Case in point: New Line's Pan's Labyrinth Blu-ray Disc. When I saw this film in the theaters, it was dark and gritty. The grain was a deliberate stylistic choice - part of the artistic character of the film. New Line's Blu-ray, on the other hand, is sparkly and glossy - almost entirely grain-free. So much fine detail has been removed that the faces of characters actually look waxy. Everyone looks like a plastic doll. It's worth noting that the European release doesn't suffer the same fate. One can only assume that there are fewer marketing fingers in the pie over there?

This isn't just a Blu-ray issue, it's going to affect ALL high-definition presentations of older films, if we allow it to. Film enthusiasts (and those at the studios who actually CARE about and respect the integrity of older films) need to really start educating people on this subject - new Blu-ray consumers, friends and family, fellow studio employees. FILM IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE FILM. Older titles on Blu-ray are NOT supposed to look perfect, as if they were shot today on video! The Blu-ray presentation should replicate, as closely as possible, the best original theatrical experience of the film. THAT'S the goal. I'll tell you right now, this is an important issue, just as anamorphic enhancement and presenting films in their original aspect ratios on DVD were before it. As we did with those issues, you better believe it's something the staff here at The Digital Bits will take up as a crusade with the Hollywood studios if it becomes necessary. So you studio folks... let's just say that you'd better get this one right, or you'll definitely be hearing about it from us in the months ahead (and, we suspect, from many others as well).

All right, enough soapboxing for today. Before we close this afternoon, are any of you Bits readers located in France? Our own Todd Doogan wants to hear from you. Drop him an e-mail if you have a moment (he appreciates your help in advance).

We'll be back tomorrow with new disc reviews from Adam and Peter, and currently we're targeting Rob's next Golden Hollywood column for Monday. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 5/7/08 - 5 PM PDT)

There's more significant Blu-ray news to report this afternoon. The Criterion Collection has just officially revealed (in their latest newsletter) that they're going Blu later this year, and that their first dozen or so titles on the format will begin to arrive in stores in October. All will feature new high-def restorations and will include ALL of the extras from the DVD editions. They'll even be priced to match the DVDs. Among the first titles will be the likes of The Third Man, Bottle Rocket, Chungking Express, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Last Emperor (available both as a special edition box set and standalone theatrical version, each on both Blu-ray and DVD), El Norte, The 400 Blows, Gimme Shelter, The Complete Monterey Pop, Contempt, Walkabout (an updated edition, also on both Blu-ray and standard DVD), For All Mankind and The Wages of Fear. Great news indeed!

Criterion Blu-ray Disc

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/7/08 - 12:15 PM PDT)

Okay, let's have a little news...

First up today, Panasonic has just announced their new DMP-BD50 profile 2.0 Blu-ray Disc player, which is due to arrive in stores late this month or early June. It'll have full BD-Live capability with a built-in Ethernet port, along with built-in decoders for both lossless audio formats (Dolby True HD and DTS-HD). Unfortunately, the price is going to put it out of reach of casual consumers. It's set to retail at $699. I'm guessing it's going to drop pretty quickly though, and I'm betting there will be pretty good sale prices on it this fall. I suspect it's going to be THE player all the enthusiasts want, but at that price, it'll probably ensure that Sony's PS3 remains the best selling profile 2.0 Blu-ray player on the market. I'm actually getting a first-hand look at the BD50 on Friday, so I'll have more to say about it next week.

Speaking of player prices, Disney's Bob Iger says it's going to take sub $300 Blu-ray players to really jump start the market for the format, and he's right. Fortunately, there ARE such players coming in time for the holidays. Unfortunately, it's unlikely any will be profile 2.0 compatible until next year, so the PS3 is still going to the best option for many people.

Speaking of Blu-ray, Amazon is having another 3 for 2 sale on Blu-ray software, so do check it out.

In terms of announcement news today, Warner has set IFL Championship 2007 for DVD release on 6/17. The IMAX Into the Wild Collection (SRP $59.98 - includes Deep Sea, Into the Deep, Survival Island, Galapagos, Hidden Dimension, Secret of Life on Earth, China: The Panda Adventure and Mountain Gorilla) and IMAX Journeys in Space Collection (also $59.89 - includes Space Station, Mission to Mir, Blue Planet, Destiny in Space, Cosmic Voyage, L-5: First City in Space, The Dream is Alive and Hail Columbia!) will follow on DVD on 9/2. Finally, Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1977 - Season 4 will round things out on DVD on 9/9.

Also, it looks like musician Neil Young is getting into the Blu-ray game. He apparently just showed off his latest music/multimedia project at the JavaOne conference. I remember a few years ago, Young was one of the most enthusiastic backers of DVD-Audio and SACD, so it's cool to see him embracing Blu-ray. Young is apparently planning to release his legendary archives on Blu-ray this fall, beginning with a 10-disc set from Reprise Records, covering 1963-1972. Nice. You can read more on Young's keynote at JavaOne here at News.com and more on his upcoming BD releases here at Pollstar. Thanks to my friend Matt (from our MusicTAP partner site) for the heads-up on that.

We've got more BD cover art for you to check out today... here's the FINAL art for Paramount's There Will Be Blood (6/3), temp art for Fox's Firefly: The Complete Series (TBA, but you can already pre-order the title on Amazon), New Line's Be Kind, Rewind (6/17), Warner's How the West Was Won (8/26), and Sony's So I Married an Axe Murderer (6/17) and The Other Boleyn Girl (6/10)...

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray Disc)Firefly: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)Be Kind, Rewind (Blu-ray Disc)

How the West Was Won (Blu-ray Disc)So I Married an Axe Murderer (Blu-ray Disc)

And for those of you who missed it when I first posted it late yesterday afternoon, you'll find my in-depth review of the new Speed Racer feature film (which hits theaters this Friday) here. Bottom line: It's fun and I really enjoyed it.

Stay tuned!

5/6/08

All right... so first things first today. Yes, I saw Speed Racer yesterday. And yes, I loved it. I LOVED IT.

The story of Speed Racer will be familiar to anyone whose seen the original 1960s cartoon. Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is a wunderkind driver with the coolest race car in the world, the Mach 5. His father, Pops (John Goodman), is a genius car designer with racing in his blood. He's got a supportive Mom (Susan Sarandon), a fun kid brother (with a pet chimp) and his gal pal Trixie (Christina Ricci) is always at his side. Speed lives in the shadow of his older brother Rex (played here by Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights), who was killed in a car crash years before. Speed's exploits at the local track earn him a lucrative offer from the head of Royalton Industries, who wants Speed to join his World Racing League team - the best of the best. But Speed prefers to stay loyal to his father instead, and soon learns that Royalton and other companies are fixing all the races. His offer refused, Royalton sets out to ruin Pops and make sure Speed never finishes another race. But just when all looks lost, the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox from Lost) and Inspector Detector arrive at the family's doorstep with an offer Speed can't refuse: A chance not only to race, but to bring down Royalton and his cronies once and for all.

I should say right now, up front, that this movie isn't going to be for everyone. Like the original Star Wars back in 1977, high-minded critics are going to pan this as representing everything they've come to hate in the cinema, all flash and no substance. But I'm here to tell you, just as they did back then, most of the critics are getting it wrong. Speed Racer is a gas. This is the most fun I'VE had in a theater so far this year, Iron Man included. Now, don't get me wrong, Iron Man is a better film, certainly in terms of story complexity, character sophistication, etc. But Speed Racer is a helluva lot more fun in my book. Unabashed fun. Over the top, trip you out, goofy, blow your mind fun. The fact is, sometimes as a moviegoer you just want to turn off the Thinkin' Cap, strap in and hold on tight. You want to take the ride, feel the thrill and enjoy it for all its worth, every penny's worth. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that, critics be damned. Don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise. The Wachowski Brothers weren't trying to make Citizen Kane here. They were trying to make the best damn Speed Racer film they possibly could, with all that entails... and they've succeeded brilliantly. On top of that, they've managed to push the visual language of film another big leap forward.

To say that The Wachowski's have done something different here is massive understatement. Nearly every effects house in the business was involved in the making of this film, and it shows - it's two hours of straight eye candy (it's also no coincidence that the DP is David Tattersall, who shot Star Wars: Episodes I-III). Speed Racer is as visually revolutionary as The Matrix films were before it, except this experience is the opposite of The Matrix in almost every other way. Whereas Matrix was dark, gritty, and Byzantine in its complexity, Speed Racer is bright, glossy and unashamedly simple. This is a pure popcorn family film, through and through. In fact, kids are going to go bat-s__t crazy for it. Not just boys who love Hot Wheels cars either, but I think girls will get a charge out of this as well. In terms of suitability, there are two or three curse words (one of which is beeped) and one of the characters flips a bad guy the bird. And that's it. There are a couple of fight scenes, but they're very stylized and no one dies. Even the car crashes (and there are DOZENS) are tame - the drivers all bounce free of the explosions to safety in balls of rubbery "Kwik-Save" foam. This is pretty safe PG material, so don't be afraid to take your kids. They'll have a blast.

Who else is this movie for? Well, if you enjoy The Wachowski's unique cinematic perspective, you'll enjoy this film. If you want to see something truly new, here it is. If you love racing and ever played with Matchbox cars, buy your tickets now. If you're young and/or young at heart, I think you'll dig it. Most importantly, if you loved the original animated Speed Racer, you will LOVE this. The Brothers absolutely nail the tone and spirit of the original. There are SO many little touches right out of the cartoon. All of the family relationships are here, but the great thing is that they've been expanded and fleshed out in a lot more detail. And you believe them - there's real heart here, genuine emotion (decent values are on display here too, like choosing family over fame and fortune, and standing up for what's right, even when it's difficult). Remember the Mammoth Car? It's here - Racer X duels it in the Shooting Star! Remember all those bad guys from the toon - Cruncher Block, Snake Oiler, The Grey Ghost? They're here too. There's even a moment when Speed finishes a race, where he leaps out of the Mach 5 and strikes the classic pose right out of the cartoon's opening credits (the original Bullet Time shot). I'll tell you when the movie got me: For about the first half of the film, I'm sitting there just trying to absorb it all (this film is MASSIVE visual input, almost to the point of overload). Then there's this scene where Ninjas burst into the hotel suite where Speed and his family are staying, hoping to put Speed out of action (and thus out of the race). One of them backs up into Pops, who grabs the guy with his beefy hands. Suddenly, there's this quick shot of the ring on Pop's hand. I'll be damned if it didn't say Westside Grunters and Groaners! Pops picks the guy up and spins him over his head... and that was it for me. I almost fell out of my seat laughing. That's a moment STRAIGHT out of the cartoon, just for the fans, and it's perfect. Even composer Michael Giacchino's score nails the mark, taking dozens of cues from the original show and expanding them into full-blown orchestrations that are a perfect match to the visuals. In a nice nod, the closing portions of the score even include samples not just from the animated show's theme song, but also from the original Japanese theme (so whenever you hear "Mach a-go-go!" you'll know why). By the way, original Speed voice actors Peter Fernandez and Connie Orr do have quick cameos as race announcers in the film, so be sure to watch for them.

The original Speed Racer was goofy, vibrantly-colored, kinetic and wore its heart on its sleeve. This new movie takes those very same things and (respectfully) runs wild with them. As a lifelong fan, I was not disappointed. I can't wait to see it again (in IMAX this time) and I REALLY can't wait for the Blu-ray. I may have to get two copies on Blu, 'cause I'm gonna wear one of them out. If you're looking for Masterpiece Theatre... you're in the WRONG movie, boy. But if you bring the kids, check your higher brain at the door, and go in expecting to be dazzled and entertained... that's exactly what you'll get. This is pure, good-hearted fun.

Now then, a few announcements...

Lionsgate is releasing Mad Men: Season One on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/1.

Sony will bow the Oscar nominated animated film Persepolis on DVD and Blu-ray on 6/24. Extras will include audio commentary with writer/director Marjane Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud, multiple featurettes, graphic novel to film comparisons with commentary, the Cannes Festival Q&A session with the filmmakers and more.

Fox has set It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Three for DVD release on 9/2.

Universal will deliver Turn the River on DVD on 7/22 (SRP $24.98).

Porchlight has announced its first Blu-ray children's title in the form of Animalia (due 9/23, also coming on DVD).

Also, it looks like the BBC (via Warner) is going to be releasing Spaced: The Complete Series on DVD on 7/22 (SRP $49.98). The 3-disc set will include all 14 episodes of the show (from creators/stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes) along with 8 hours of bonus material, not the least of which are commentaries by the likes of (Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Bill Hader, Patton Oswalt and Diablo Cody).

In other news today, we've finally gotten official confirmation of the amount that Paramount was paid by Toshiba for their exclusive support of HD-DVD, in a story about Paramount's (and parent company Viacom's) 1st Qtr financial earnings at Variety. It appears the final settled amount was $29 million. Not that it matters anymore, but there's the final word for completion's sake.

Also, Home Media's Agent DVD site is running an online poll to determine the best-ever film and/or TV franchise. Vote if you have an opinion on such things.

Here at The Bits today, our own Russell Hammond has posted his weekly Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Cover Art update with all the usual new cover scans for upcoming titles, as well as Amazon pre-order links. Remember, you can sort the section by format and by bestselling, etc. And anything you purchase from Amazon via our links supports our work here at the site. Thanks as always for that!

We've got a little more new art to show you today as well. Here's the FINAL covert art for Paramount's Cloverfield (6/3) and The Spiderwick Chronicles (6/24), along with NHK's Kaguya Tsuki Sekai Hiko (6/18 - that's the high-def Earthrise and Moon footage we've been talking about) on Blu-ray, as well as new DVD art for MGM's Stargate: Continuum (7/29), Stargate: Atlantis - Season Four (7/8) and the City Slickers: Collector's Edition (6/3)...

Cloverfield (Blu-ray Disc)The Spiderwick Chronicles (Blu-ray Disc)Kaguya Tsuki Sekai Hiko (Blu-ray Disc)

Stargate: ContinuumStargate: Atlantis - Season FourCity Slickers: Collector's Edition

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned!

5/5/08

So it looks like the summer movie season is off to a great start! Iron Man did a whopping $104 million over the weekend (see this story at Variety). Let me tell you, it's well deserved. My wife and I had the chance to see it yesterday afternoon, and it's a great film. Sarah enjoyed it quite a bit, which is telling you something.

The film is intelligent and completely entertaining from start to finish. I'm guessing Paramount wasn't thrilled at first when director Jon Favreau said he wanted to cast Robert Downey, Jr. in the starring role, but he's so good that I can't possibly imagine the film without him, nor anyone better in the part. He perfectly nails the casual apathy of a billionaire playboy weapons dealer, and yet he also nails the naive way the guy doesn't fully understand that it's not just the good guys that play with his toys (and ultimately, the way he believes he can climb into a high-tech suit of armor and do something about it). Casting across the board is excellent - Gwyneth Paltrow sparkles, giving her liveliest performance in years as Stark's assistant/girlfriend, "Pepper" Potts. She and Downey have a snappy/sweet chemistry that you buy, and that recalls similar onscreen romantic matches going all the way back to His Girl Friday. Jeff Bridges is surprisingly good too as Stark's business partner. Several times throughout the movie, he's sipping a drink and it's like watching The Dude... if The Dude had ditched the whole "Seattle Seven" scene and sold out to the corporate world back in the day. Stan Lee has his usual cameo, and it's a great one. Favreau even appears early in the film as one of Stark's bodyguard/drivers. There are a number of great visual and set-up gags in the film that sneak up on you and pay off better than they seemingly have any right to, which is a credit to the very savvy script and Favreau's direction. More than once I found myself laughing out loud at a gag smarter than I would have expected in a summer superhero film.

My only real criticism is that the film is very straightforward, which is a nice way of saying that it's predictable. This is a classic origin story, with very obvious bad guys, so don't expect a lot of surprising twists and turns. Strangely though, that doesn't really hurt the film at all - the cast and script are just too engaging. And setting the film today, not just post-911 but more importantly 5+ years into the Iraq conflict, is part of why it works so well I think. Never fear, there's no political message here. The film simply takes advantage of the fact that even the Hawks are weary of conflict these days. One of the many reasons you buy a guy like Stark doing what he ultimately does in this film, is because you wish there were someone like that in real life. Another way of putting it: This world needs a Superman. But Iron Man will do nicely in the meanwhile. By the way, if you haven't seen the film yet, make sure you stay all the way through the credits, because there's a brief cameo at the end that offers a little hint of the direction this franchise is going in (you-know-they're coming) sequels. Comic book fanboys will appreciate it more than anyone else. In fact, I don't think casual filmgoers will get it in the slightest. Buy hey - you might as well get your money's worth, right? Bottom line: Iron Man delivers in spades. Can't wait for the Blu-ray.

I'll tell you what... if the rest of the summer movies are even half as good as this one, count me a happy camper. By the way, we saw the new trailers for Indiana Jones, The Incredible Hulk and The Dark Knight. The latter film I'm fully confident will deliver. I'm a little worried about Indy though. Something seems a bit off in the trailers so far. I don't know if it's just the editing, or what, but Indy's comic timing seems a little off the mark. It could also simply be that our expectations for a fourth Indy film are just so high, that no actual film could possibly meet them. My plan is just to try and not think about it much. I'm expecting to be entertained, and I'm confident the film will accomplish that much at least. If it turns out to be a great final chapter in the series, so much the better. Hulk, on the other hand, just looks terrible. Maybe it'll turn out fine, but the CG work in the trailer is awful. Giant green guy vs. giant gill guy. Ugh. If there's one summer flick in serious danger of turning out a dud, it's Hulk. It's got Ed Norton in it, so you never know. I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. We'll see.

Speaking of summer movies, Sarah and I are off to L.A. this afternoon to catch an early screening of Speed Racer, which I've been DYING to see for months now. I'll tell you all about it in tomorrow's post.

In the meantime, some new title announcements...

We mentioned it last week, but Sony has confirmed Vantage Point for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/1. Impact Point streets on DVD only on 7/8, followed by Insanitarium and Roxy Hunter and the Secret of the Shaman on 7/15.

Meanwhile, Universal has announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Doomsday on 7/29. The DVD will be available in unrated full frame and anamorphic widescreen editions (SRP $28.98 each) while the Blu-ray will also be unrated (SRP $39.99). The DVD will include both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film, along with audio commentary with director Neil Marshall and actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden and Les Simpson, and 3 featurettes (Anatomy of Catastrophe: Civilization on the Brink, The Visual Effects and Wizardry of Doomsday and Devices of Death: Guns, Gadgets and Vehicles of Destruction). The Blu-ray will include the commentary, Reaper Files, Tech Specs and a picture-in-picture option. We're not sure, however, if both versions of the film are included on the Blu-ray or just the unrated, or if the featurettes will be included (we're looking into it). Audio on the Blu-ray will be DTS 5.1 MA.

By the way, we HAVE confirmed with Paramount that EVERY title the studio previously released on the Blu-ray format is coming back to stores on 5/20. That's official.

Speaking of which, we've also confirmed details on the extras you can expect on Paramount's Next on Blu-ray (due 5/20). Look for Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English and Spanish) and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (French), subtitles in English (and English SDH), French, Spanish and Portuguese, the film's theatrical trailer (in HD), and 4 featurettes (also in HD, including Making the Best Next Thing, Visualizing the Next Move, The Next "Grand Idea" and Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel).

In other release news, Lionsgate has set Meet the Browns for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 7/1.

Buena Vista has College Road Trip and Step-Up 2: The Streets set for BD release on 7/15.

Image Entertainment is planning to release the western Six Reasons Why on DVD on 7/22.

Anchor Bay has Sex and Death 101 due on DVD and BD on 7/1.

Genius Products and The Weinstein Company are releasing George Romero's Diary of the Dead on DVD on 5/20 (SRP $24.95). Extras will include audio commentary with Romero, director of photography Adam Swica and editor Michael Doherty, 5 featurettes (Character Confessionals, The First Week, The Roots, Familiar Voices and For the Record: The Making of Diary of the Dead) and the top 5 MySpace contest-winning shorts. I believe we've mentioned that before. What we haven't mentioned before is that they're also releasing a Night of the Living Dead: 40th Anniversary Edition that same day (SRP $24.95), which includes a restored and remastered version of the film (supervised by Romero), audio commentary by Romero, producer/actor Karl Hardman, actress Marilyn Eastman and writer John A. Russo, a second commentary by producer Russel W. Streiner, production manager Vince Survinski and actors Judith O’Dea, Bill Hinzman, Kyra Schon and Keith Wayne, 3 featurettes (One for the Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead, Duane Jones' Final Interview and Speak to the Dead), the film's trailer, a still gallery and the original script (via DVD-ROM).

And if that's not enough living dead for you, Cinema Libre will release American Zombie on DVD on 7/7.

Also, Magnolia is readying Michael Radford's Flawless for DVD release on 6/3.

On the music side of things, Eagle Rock has set ZZ Top: Live from Texas for release on DVD on 6/24 (it's also coming on Blu-ray), with Neil Diamond: Live 1976 - The Thank You Australia Concert following on DVD on 7/1.

BCI has set the Thai action/thriller The Tiger Blade for Blu-ray release on 7/29.

Finally, Warner is planning to release a Risky Business: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on DVD and Blu-ray on 9/16. Extras will include audio commentary with star Tom Cruise, director Paul Brickman and producer John Avnet, as well as an alternate ending and The Making of Risky Business documentary. The film will be restored and remastered, as you'd expect. Also coming from Warner is National Geographic's Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure on DVD and Blu-ray on 6/24.

And in other news around the Net, Media Wonk says those pesky Blu-ray equipped Xbox 360 rumors just won't die.

Okay, we're going to have a bunch of new disc reviews this week, and there's a new Golden Hollywood column coming from Rob at some point later this week as well.

Now it's off to see Speed. Have a great day, folks!

5/2/08

Morning, folks. Sorry about the lack of an update yesterday. I'd certainly planned on posting one, but various appointments and the phone ringing off the hook all day threw off my game plan. What are you gonna do?

Anyway, we've got a few things for you today to make it up to you.

First, our own Robert A. Harris has turned in a new installment of his Yellow Layer Failure column here at The Bits. In this edition, Robert calls your attention to a newly-restored, rarely-seen classic film that's about to be released on DVD on Tuesday (5/6) by Flicker Alley. That film is Abel Gance's 1922 gem, La Roue (a.k.a. The Wheel), and we hope you enjoy his thoughts on it.

Also today, your old pal Todd Doogan checks in with his review of Paramount's Cloverfield on DVD (now available in stores). Turns out, the DVD is just as mysterious in its way as the film: Much sound and fury, lacking substance, but still an entertaining enough experience to be worth your time. Do check it out.

Speaking of Cloverfield, we've got a sneak peek at the temp art for Paramount's new Blu-ray version (due 6/3), along with BD art for There Will Be Blood (also 6/3) and The Spiderwick Chronicles (6/24). This is the art that's been released to retailers for use in ad circulars. We'll post the final cover art as soon as it's ready...

Cloverfield (Blu-ray Disc)There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray Disc)The Spiderwick Chronicles (Blu-ray Disc)

Okay... now for some new title announcements: We'll start with Anchor Bay (Starz), which has set a Heathers: 20th High School Reunion Edition for release on DVD on 7/1 (SRP $19.97). The 2-disc set will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary with director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters, 2 documentaries (Return to Westerburg High and Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads), the film's theatrical trailer and a screenplay excerpt featuring the film's original ending (via DVD-ROM).

Also coming on 7/1 from The Bay is an animated Hellboy: Limited Edition 2-Pack (SRP $34.97), which includes both Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood & Iron, along with a 7-inch figure of Hellboy smoking a cigar and wielding a sword from Gentle Giant Studios.

Meanwhile, retail sources are telling us that Fox is planning an Alice Faye Collection: Volume 2 for DVD release in August (SRP $49.98) that will include Four Jills in a Jeep, The Hollywood Cavalcade, Hello, Frisco, Hello, Rose of Washington Square and The Great American Broadcast.

Image Entertainment has set a few new titles for release on Blu-ray, including Discovery Channel's Fearless Planet on 6/3, Discovery Channel's Human Body: Pushing the Limits on 7/29, director Vincent Perez's The Secret on 8/12, a trio of IMAX titles on 9/9 including The Alps, Mystery of the Nile and Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag, and one more IMAX title, Coral Reef Adventure, on 10/14. In terms of standard DVD, interesting upcoming titles from Image include the 1989 Fred Olen Ray film Warlords on 8/12, Orson Welles' Don Quixote on 8/19, and M.A.N.T.I.S.: Season One on 11/4.

MGM has set Stargate: Atlantis - Season Four for release on DVD on 7/8 (SRP $). The 5-disc set includes all 20 episodes along with trailers for Continuum, Ark of Truth and Stargate SG-1: Seasons 1-10, deleted scenes, photo galleries, production design galleries, bloopers, 8 featurettes (Mission Directive: Doppelganger with Robert C. Cooper, A New Leader: Amanda Tapping Joins Atlantis, The Doctor Is In: The Return of Paul McGillion, Mission Directive: This Mortal Coil with Will Waring, Mission Directive: Quarantine with Martin Wood, Mission Directive: Outcast with Andy Mikita, The Making of Trio and A Look Back at Season 4) and audio commentary on 19 episodes with members of the production crew (including various producers, writers, directors and VFX supervisors).

A few of you may be wondering why there's no Blu-ray Disc of Stargate: Atlantis - Season Four. There are a couple reasons. First, it takes time for the market for TV titles to develop on a new format, and as Blu-ray is still fairly new to most people, it isn't quite there yet. Also, as we've mentioned previously, TV sets gobble up a lot of production resources in terms of authoring, QC and replication. Hollywood is working hard to ramp up their Blu-ray capacity, and right now most of those resources are being dedicated to film titles, both new and catalog. So you're probably not going to see a lot of TV titles on Blu-ray until next year. There's definitely a few coming (including some that are not yet announced), but next year you're going to start seeing a lot more.

Finally, Warner Home Video has revealed several new DVD titles today, including Larry King Live: The Greatest Interviews on 6/3, HBO's Joe Louis: America's Hero... Betrayed on 7/29, HBO's Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies on 8/5 (in answer to the question, "Hey, whatever happened to...?"), National Geographic's Aftermath: Population Zero on 8/12, the Warner Home Video Western Classics Collection (SRP $59.92 - includes The Law and Jake Wade, Escape from Fort Bravo, Many Rivers to Cross, Saddle the Wind, Cimarron (1960) and The Stalking Moon, also available separately as we've indicated previously) and Bakugan Chapter 1: Battle Brawlers on 8/26, the BBC's Around the World in 80 Treasures on 9/2, and HBO's In Treatment on 9/9.

And on the Blu-ray front, Warner has set the animated Justice League of America: Season One for release on 8/19 (SRP $59.96 - 3 BD-50 discs), followed by Pale Rider on 8/26 (SRP $28.99).

In news from around the Net today, you might recall that we mentioned a few days ago that Paramount is looking to make Dolby TrueHD lossless audio standard on their Blu-ray releases going forward. The Man Room is reporting that Universal is going a slightly different route with their Blu-ray plans, making DTS-MA Lossless audio standard on their future titles, like 20th Century Fox currently does.

There are also a couple of interesting stories in the mainstream press worth commenting on. First, Fortune is reporting that Time Warner, Fox, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Lionsgate, Image and First Look are all soon going to begin releasing their movies on Apple's iTunes download service day and date with the DVD release. The piece then goes on to conclude that this means "Time Warner is finally ready to start weaning itself from DVD sales, which have been Hollywood’s biggest revenue source for years." and also that "Sony and Toshiba just incinerated a pile of money in a useless DVD format war." Here's what we say about their conclusions: NUTS! What this move is going to impact is EXACTLY what we've been saying downloading would impact years now here at The Bits - the DVD rental market. So who should be afraid of this? Blockbuster and Netflix. As for DVD sales, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes himself offers evidence as to why that market isn't in trouble yet. Here's the relevant text from the article:

According to Time Warner’s Bewkes, the company had been experimenting with “day and date” video on demand (VOD) release for several months and found that DVD rentals only fell by 3 to 5 percent and sales of DVDs actually increased. Since VOD is so much cheaper than printing and distributing discs, it looked like a no-brainer.

“Taking a customer and moving that person over from rental-physical over moving them to VOD day-and-date is like a 60 to 70 percent margin instead of a 20 to 30,” Mr. Bewkes said, according to the New York Times. “So it’s about a three-to-one trade.”


There's something else Fortune is forgetting to mention - most movie consumers DON'T DOWNLOAD. It's still way too complicated for most consumers, particularly a majority of older consumers. It tends to require a level of technical knowledge and set-up effort that older folks just don't want to deal with. And to enjoy a downloaded movie in your living room requires a broadband or wireless connection in your living room, which many don't have. Otherwise, you're stuck watching a download on your PC. That's still not something alot of people do. Sure, there are many younger consumers who think nothing of this. But younger consumers aren't spending massive amounts of money on movies or music these days - they're buying videogames. Middle-aged and older consumers do. As for high-definition, the idea that downloading is going to somehow cannibalize the Blu-ray market is completely absurd. Downloading isn't going to be able to deliver the ease and quality experience of Blu-ray Disc for a very long time, and that doesn't even take into consideration the sheer bandwidth issues. Consider too that many ISPs have caps on the amount of bandwidth you can use each month, especially if you pay less than $100 a month for your Internet access (thanks to Bits reader Marty S. for pointing that out). Downloading lots of movies could raise your bill substantially. Downloading also doesn't serve the movie collector market either - the folks who like the satisfaction of owning a physical product. Where are you going to store your downloads? What happens if you have a hard drive crash? As far as we're concerned, this 'Death of DVD' business is rubbish. DVD's going to be around a long time yet. So, we suspect, will Blu-ray.

Also today, the L.A. Times has posted a couple stories (click here and here) on how Blu-ray sales haven't gone up as a result of the format war ending. The conclusion is that consumers just aren't interested. So naturally, we've had lots of readers e-mail us with concern about the future of Blu-ray. Okay... first of all, anyone who was REALLY motivated to buy a Blu-ray player the moment the format war ended already did so in January, when Warner announced that they were abandoning HD-DVD. Second, people don't tend to buy expensive electronics in the 1st and 2nd quarters. They buy them in the second half of the year, because that's when all the best deals and sales are to be found. Third, the economy has slowed a bit and gas prices have spiked this spring, so people have tightened their budgets. With Blu-ray player and software prices still a bit high, lots of people are waiting until later this year to start really considering it. Fourth, the Blu-ray studios and manufacturers have slowed their marketing efforts since Toshiba threw in the towel, as they gear up for a major holiday push later this year - the format's first without competition from HD-DVD. Finally, there are still a lot of home theater-philes who aren't interested in going with a PlayStation 3 for Blu-ray, but who want to wait for good, affordable profile 2.0/BD-Live compatible players. What all this means is that it's a wee bit premature to start making drastic assumptions.

Here's what we think you're going to see as we move into the latter half of 2008 and beyond. The BDA will begin to dramatically ramp up its marketing and promotion efforts for Blu-ray in the 3rd quarter. Retailers and manufacturers will begin offering TONS of sales and deals, including combo deals where you'll get a Blu-ray player free or cheap with the purchase of a new HDTV display (which, by the way, lots of people are going to be looking at this fall in anticipation of the DTV switch next February). All of the major summer blockbuster films will be coming out on Blu-ray later this year, including The Dark Knight, Speed Racer, Ironman, Wall-E - maybe even Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Indy 4. LOTS of major catalog titles will be released later this year as well, including The Matrix Trilogy, The X-Men Trilogy and more that haven't been announced yet. On top of all that, Blu-ray player prices will again be lower, with some expected to drop into the neighborhood of $250 (a few may even get as low as $225). Moving into next year, EVERY studio I've spoken with says 2009 is when the floodgates will really start to open in terms of A-list catalog titles being released on the format. There are (and will continue to be) lots of sales on Blu-ray software, and I would expect the average price of a disc to drop over the next year or two - the higher price of BD discs is still a big impediment for most consumers, who have gotten used to $10 and $20 DVDs. It's also expected that players will drop below $200 next year. So anyone who thinks they can write off the Blu-ray format now would be wise to sit tight and wait a year to see what happens between now and then. It seems to us that there's a serious lack of perspective apparent in a lot of these predictions.

To offer a little of that perspective ('cause that's what we DO here at The Bits), we refer you to our own CEA DVD Player Sales History chart. Anyone remember the DVD vs. DIVX format war? Well, DIVX threw in the towel in June of 1999. Take a look at the chart. Anyone see a DVD sales spike in the next few months after that? Nope. It wasn't until the holidays that year that DVD sales started to increase modestly, and they really spiked the following year, in 2000. What happened in 2000? LOTS of major titles started coming out on the format, and that's also when DVD player prices started dropping below $200. Just a few things to keep in mind.

All right, that's enough soapboxing. Felt good though. Haven't done it in a while. ;)

Everyone have yourselves a great weekend (don't forget, there's another new Battlestar tonight) and we'll see you back here on Monday. Best wishes until then!

4/30/08

All righty then... we're waiting on additional artwork and details from the studio, but we've learned from our sources in the meantime that all of the newly announced Paramount Blu-ray titles will feature Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio, save for the titles originally authored last year (like Face/Off, Next and Blades of Glory). However, we're told that going forward, Dolby TrueHD audio should become a standard feature on the studio's Blu-ray titles as they're newly authored. Also, most of the new titles will be on BD-50 discs and many of the video extras will be in full HD.

We've also learned that many of Paramount's previously released Blu-ray titles will be officially returning to store shelves in May, including Aeon Flux, Babel, Black Snake Moan, Coming to America, Dreamgirls, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sleepy Hollow, The Untouchables, Trading Places, We Were Soldiers and World Trade Center (all due on 5/20). You might also recall that the Blades of Glory Blu-ray was yanked right before it was set to be released last year. We'll, it's now finally streeting on 5/20 as well. Here's the cover art we have so far for the new titles - Bee Movie, Face/Off, Next and Blades of Glory...

Bee Movie (Blu-ray Disc)Face/Off: Special Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc)Next (Blu-ray Disc)

Blades of Glory (Blu-ray Disc)Top Gun (Blu-ray Disc)The Jack Ryan Collection (Blu-ray Disc)

I should make it clear that Top Gun and The Jack Ryan Collection have NOT been reannounced for Blu-ray release yet, but I've posted the cover artwork this morning anyway. Given that Face/Off, Next and Blades of Glory all HAVE finally been announced, Top Gun and Jack Ryan are the only remaining titles that the studio cancelled last year (when they unwisely ditched Blu-ray for HD-DVD) that haven't yet resurfaced. So let it serve as a little reminder to the powers that be over at Paramount.

Meanwhile, here are more detailed specs for the titles that WERE announced yesterday (note that just because HD is not indicated on some features, that doesn't mean they aren't in HD - these specs from the studio's online press site are incomplete and possibly subject to change)...

Bee Movie - Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French and Spanish), English, French and Spanish subtitles, English SDH, audio commentary with Jerry and the filmmakers, Barry's Trivia Track, 9 deleted scenes and alternate endings (with optional commentary), customizable menus, the Build-a-Bee Avatar game, 6 featurettes (The Animators' Corner, The World of Bees, Inside the Hive: The Cast of Bee Movie HD, Jerry's Flight Over Cannes, Meet Barry B. Benson and Tech of Bee Movie HD), Jerry's NBeeC TV Juniors, DWA Kids, a DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox HD, the We Got the Bee music video HD, trailers for Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar: The Crate Escape and The Spiderwick Chronicles (all in HD)

Blades of Glory - Uncompressed PCM 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 (no TrueHD - this title was originally authored last year), English, French and Spanish subtitles, 7 featurettes (Return to Glory: The Making of Blades HD, Celebrities on Thin Ice HD, Cooler Than Ice: The Super-Sexy Costumes of Skating HD, Arnett and Poehler: A Family Affair HD, 20 Questions with Scott Hamilton HD, Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan HD, Moviephone Unscripted with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and Will Arnett), 5 deleted scenes HD, gag reel HD, alternate takes HD, Bo Bice's Blades of Glory music video, a photo gallery and 3 MTV interstitials

Cloverfield - Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (French and Spanish), English, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles, English SDH, audio commentary by director Matt Reeves, interactive in-film Special Investigation Mode, 4 featurettes (Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield, Cloverfield Visual Effects, I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge! and Clover Fun), 4 deleted scenes, 2 alternate endings with optional commentary), 14 Easter eggs, www.cloverfieldfiles.com (Note that it does NOT appear that T.J. Miller's Video Diary from the Best Buy bonus disc is included)

Face/Off: Special Collector's Edition - DTS 6.1 ES, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (no TrueHD - this title was originally authored last year), English, French and Spanish subtitles, audio commentary by director John Woo, audio commentary by writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, 7 deleted scenes (HD - including an alternate ending, with optional commentary), 2 featurettes (The Light and the Dark: Making Face/Off HD and John Woo: A Life in Pictures HD), and the theatrical trailer HD

Next - Still waiting on final specs

There Will Be Blood: Collector's Edition - Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (French and Spanish), English, French and Spanish subtitles, English SDH, The Story of Petroleum and Dailies Gone Wild featurettes, 3 deleted scenes, 15 Minutes, and the film's teaser and theatrical trailers

The Spiderwick Chronicles - Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French and Spanish), English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, English SDH, Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide interactive feature, 6 featurettes (Spiderwick: It's All True!, It's a Spiderwick World!, Spiderwick: Meet the Clan!, Making Spiderwick!, The Magic of Spiderwick! and A Final Word of Advice!), 4 additional scenes, 9 TV spots and 2 trailers

We'll post more details and artwork as it comes in, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/29/08 - 6:15 PM PDT)

Okay, folks... here's Paramount's official press release...

PARAMOUNT HOME ENTERTAINMENT'S FANTASTICAL HIT THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES LAUNCHES DAY-AND-DATE WORLDWIDE ON BLU-RAY

There Will Be Blood, Cloverfield, Bee Movie, Face/Off and Next Also Released in Time for Memorial Day and Father's Day; Focus Remains On Immersive High-Def Home Entertainment Experiences

LOS ANGELES (April 29, 2008) -- Paramount Home Entertainment (PHE), a division of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), today announced its first day-and-date Blu-ray release, The Spiderwick Chronicles on June 24 and rolling out in key international markets beginning in July. Continuing its commitment to offer the best possible movie experiences for consumers, the studio will deliver the highest quality picture, sound and special features available with these upcoming Blu-ray releases. In the U.S., There Will Be Blood, Cloverfield, Bee Movie, Face/Off and Next will begin arriving May 20 to capitalize on Memorial Day and Father's Day. Internationally, The Spiderwick Chronicles will be followed by Cloverfield and the Academy award-winner for Best Picture, No Country for Old Men beginning in August.

"Paramount Home Entertainment continues to focus on the consumer and to explore avenues that allow fans to get more out of their home entertainment experience," said Kelley Avery, President of Worldwide Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures. "We will have a strong slate of titles for Blu-ray release throughout the year worldwide and are enthusiastic about expanding the format's offerings for a broad consumer audience while delivering an experience that goes beyond what viewers love about DVD."

The Spiderwick Chronicles launches PHE's day-and-date new release strategy. Based on the best-selling series of books, The Spiderwick Chronicles takes viewers on a fantastical journey into the unseen world all around us and the Blu-ray disc will include behind-the-scenes featurettes, an exploration of the Spiderwick world, an exclusive peek inside Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide and much more.

PHE's 2008 Blu-ray titles debut on May 20 in the U.S. with two sensational action-adventures: a Special Collector's Edition of Face/Off , the mind-blowing crime-drama starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, with special features such as multiple commentaries, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, the Making Of Face/Off and more; and the sci-fi thriller Next , which stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel in an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. The Next Blu-ray includes a Making Of featurette, "Visualizing the Next Move," "The Next Grand Idea" and "Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel."

DreamWorks Animation's smash hit Bee Movie also will buzz onto Blu-ray on May 20. The hilarious animated adventure from renowned comedian Jerry Seinfeld took audiences by swarm and earned approximately $287 million in worldwide box office. The Bee Movie Blu-ray features a wealth of bonus materials including "Barry's Trivia Track" with fun pop-up trivia, changeable menus, a Build-A-Bee feature to allow viewers to create their own avatar, lost scenes, alternate endings and much, much more.

Following the initial wave of titles, Producer J.J. Abrams' monster hit, Cloverfield, arrives on Blu-ray on June 3. Earning over $166 million in worldwide box office to date, Cloverfield thrilled critics and audiences alike with its shocking, first-person video account of a horrifying attack on Manhattan by an unknown -- and seemingly unstoppable -- force. The Cloverfield Blu-ray will include an exclusive feature-length "Special Investigation Mode" with added details about the film. Additional features include a director commentary, Making Of featurettes, deleted scenes, alternate endings with commentary and more.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson's critically-acclaimed epic There Will Be Blood also arrives on Blu-ray June 3. The film was named by more than 200 critics as one of the top 10 movies of 2007 and stars Academy Award®, Golden Globe® and SAG Award® winner Daniel Day-Lewis. The Blu-ray features a slideshow of vintage photos selected by the director and set to the unforgettable score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, deleted scenes, a featurette on dailies and more.


--END--

Busy day.

Back tomorrow with all the latest. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/29/08 - 5:30 PM PDT)

Well... it certainly took them long enough, but Paramount has finally pulled the shroud of mystery off their planned return to the Blu-ray Disc fold. The bad news is, the initial slate isn't that surprising... or particularly impressive. The good news, however, is that the titles are coming a lot sooner than most of us expected. The first batch will hit stores on 5/20 - yes, just three weeks from today. It will include Next, Face/Off and DreamWorks Animation's Bee Movie. Cloverfield and There Will Be Blood will follow on 6/3. Then on 6/24, you'll get The Spiderwick Chronicles, day and date with the DVD version. And according to Paramount's worldwide home entertainment president Kelley Avery, that's just for starters: "We will have a strong slate of titles for Blu-ray release throughout the year, worldwide, and are enthusiastic about expanding the format's offerings for a broad consumer audience while delivering an experience that goes beyond what viewers love about DVD." We certainly hope so. You can read more here at The Hollywood Reporter. We'll have more on all this as it comes in.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/29/08 - 3 PM PDT)

Okay... as promised today, we've got more column goodness from our team of crack Bits staffers. We start with a brand new High-Definition Matters from our very own Barrie Maxwell. In this installment, Barrie reviews no less that 14 new and recent Blu-ray Disc titles, including Sony's A Passage to India, The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep, Gattaca and Sleuth, 20th Century Fox's Juno, Independence Day, Commando, Predator and I, Robot, Warner Home Video's That’s Entertainment: The Complete Collection, Bonnie and Clyde, I Am Legend and No Reservations, and Lionsgate's 3:10 to Yuma. He's updated his monthly High-Definition Release Schedule as well. Enjoy!

Also today, Adam has checked in with a long-awaited new edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre. No kidding - he's really back! This time around, Adam offers up his preview of what promises to be one of the biggest summers of blockbuster movie fun in many years. Why... it just might be like the summer of 1982 all over again!

Elsewhere around The Bits today, our own Russell Hammond has updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section per usual with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. As always, when you order ANYTHING through our links, a portion of the sale goes to support our work here at The Bits, and we appreciate it.

We've also kicked off FOUR new Giveaways today, offering each of you the chance to take home copies of One Missed Call, Botched, The Waltons: The Complete Seventh Season, Sense and Sensibility (BBC), Two and a Half Men: The Complete Third Season, P.S. I Love You, The Golden Compass: Platinum Edition, Love's Unfolding Dream and Speed Racer: The Next Generation. We'll accept entries on each of the giveaways until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, May 6th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

In announcement news today, Universal has set Centennial: The Complete Series for release on DVD on 7/29, along with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Seventh Year (SRP $59.98 each).

Also, we have additional word from Warner Home Video on their forthcoming How the West Was Won (due 8/26). There will be a 2-disc Special Edition DVD (SRP $20.97), that includes the film itself, audio commentary with film historians, the original The Making of How the West Was Won featurette, the new feature-length Cinerama Adventure documentary and the film's theatrical trailer. The 2-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD (SRP ($59.92) is basically the Special Edition packed with a 20-page reproduction of the original press book, 10 photo cards, 10 art cards and an exclusive movie poster offer. Finally, the 2-disc Blu-ray edition (BD-50s - SRP $34.99) comes packed in a 32-page "digi-book" and includes all the same disc-based extras as the DVD editions. All versions feature the original 165-minute film, mastered from the original 3-strip Cinerama elements, presented in the original 2.89:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The Blu-ray Disc will also feature the original SmileBox version "which presents the image with a unique curvature that virtually recreates the true Cinerama® experience in a home theater." Here's more from the studio's press release:

"M-G-M and Cinerama®, Inc. spared no expense to give this sprawling Western saga the huge vistas made possible with the original Cinerama® process. After its initial theatrical engagements in theaters equipped with three synchronized projectors for Cinerama® presentation, the film was subsequently presented on traditional theater screens with the three separate Cinerama® panels being optically joined to form a standard 35mm 2.35:1 widescreen image, leaving most subsequent viewers puzzled by the annoying ‘join lines.’

Following several years of careful development, the technicians at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging perfected a technology that could finally eliminate the ‘join lines,’ and unify the images into a superb viewing experience that captures the essence of the production’s initial road show exhibitions, with an aspect ratio of 2.89:1."


Here's a look at the cover art for the UCE DVD and the Blu-ray...

How the West Was Won: Ultimate Collector's EditionHow the West Was Won (Blu-ray Disc)

Finally today, our own Jeff Kleist contacted Best Buy's corporate HQ yesterday with our concerns about their Golden Compass DVD-only bonus disc offer (basically that it screws Blu-ray customers at the very time they need to be courting them instead). Here's his report:

"The representative from Best Buy who returned our call stated that the retailer will be exploring ways to ensure that everyone who makes a qualifying title purchase, be it on Blu-ray or DVD, will enjoy the same in-store exclusives in the future. For example, they could make bonus discs a loose item on the endcap (like with Pirates 3), and then have the disc ring up with a qualifying purchase rather than shrink-wrapping it in the packaging. Keep in mind, it takes time to put things like this into action, so don't expect to see a turnaround right away. However, Best Buy is now aware of the concerns of Blu-ray fans and will take steps to ensure that both DVD and Blu-ray consumers walk out of their doors happy in the future. We can only hope that other retailers will follow suit."

Speaking of which, for those of you interested in the Golden Compass bonus disc, it's packed INSIDE the DVD case (look for a BEST BUY EXCLUSIVE sticker on the front). We've confirmed that it does NOT include deleted scenes, as Best Buy's weekend ad circular first led us to believe. Instead, you'll find 3 additional behind-the-scenes featurettes: Meet the Cast, Stunts and Locations. Again, these featurettes are NOT included on the Blu-ray Disc version.

Stay tuned!



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