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page updated: 11/19/08



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 11/10/08 - 10/8/08)


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(LATE UPDATE - 11/10/09 - 12:30 PM PST)

Okay, we promised you a big Rumor Mill update on upcoming Blu-ray releases for 2009, and we've got it for you this afternoon. There's word in there on the earlier Batman films, the Trek films and more, so you definitely don't want to miss it.

Also, Universal has officially set Joss Whedon's Serenity for release on Blu-ray Disc on 12/30. We'll have official details later this afternoon.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/10/09 - 10:30 AM PST)

Hey Guys... no, we have not disappeared for good. Sorry about the lack of a post on Thursday and Friday. A few major and unexpected somethings came up in recent days that have kept us pretty busy. But we're mostly back to business as usual. If you've been trying to reach us for the last few days however, just be aware that it's going to take us a little time to get back to you.

Reviews are the current order of business around here, and we'll be back in a couple hours with the first of several this week. We'll also check in later this afternoon with a news update... and we might even have a Rumor Mill update for you as well, with word on some cool upcoming titles. So check back a little later for all that.

I just wanted to jump in early this morning to let you know that we haven't fallen off the face of the Earth. Judging by the e-mails we've been getting the last couple days, it's clear that some of you were getting a little worried. We appreciate the concern.

See you in a little while. Stay tuned...

11/5/08

Wow... what an amazing last 24 hours. You'll have to forgive me, but I'm having a little trouble focusing this afternoon. Some of us were out a little late last night. And the phone has been ringing a LOT today.

Anyway, just a quick news update and then it's back to work. First, Universal has just announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of the revamped Death Race on 12/23 (SRP $29.98 and $39.98). [Sorry - there was a typo in the street date that said 10/23. It's actually 12/23. Plan accordingly.] Both versions will apparently include theatrical and unrated versions of the film, along with filmmaker commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Also today, 20th Century Fox has set Babylon A.D. for DVD and Blu-ray release on 1/6/09. Available will be a single-disc DVD (SRP $29.98), a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD with Digital Copy ($34.98) and a Blu-ray Disc with Digital Copy ($39.99). All three will include both the theatrical cut and a new uncut version. Extras on the single-disc DVD will include 2 featurettes (Babylon Babies and Arctic Escape). The 2-Disc Special Edition will add 2 more featurettes (Fit for the Screen and Flight of the Hummers), along with the Genesis of Aurora graphic novel prequel and a still gallery. The Blu-ray will include all of that, along with a BonusView Scene Evolution viewing mode with 17 additional PiP featurettes.

Meanwhile, Warner will release ER: The Complete Tenth Season on DVD on 3/3/09. Also newly announced by the studio for DVD release on 1/20 is Simon Schama's Rough Crossings. Following on 2/10 is the Sam Elliot Westerns Collection (includes Rough Riders, You Know My Name and The Desperate Trail). And due on 2/17 are The Helen Morgan Story, The Outrage, The Silver Chalice and When Time Ran Out.

Finally today (speaking of E.R.), we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of author Michael Crichton, who died yesterday after a fight with cancer. Crichton's work over the years included such novels as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and Timeline, all of which were adapted into feature films. He also directed such films as Westworld, Coma and The Great Train Robbery, and was a co-creator of the TV series E.R. with Steven Spielberg. He was 66, and will be missed.

Now then.... We've tried to keep our political leanings out of the way this week, and I hope that - by and large - we've succeeded. But given the historic nature of the day, we're going to let slip just this once, as I think this video sums up a lot of our collective feelings around here today. And it's pretty funny too. So thanks for indulging us.



Whatever your political persuasion, we hope you have a great day. See you back here tomorrow. Stay tuned...

11/4/08

Afternoon, folks! I hope this post finds you all well on this Election Day, and that you've had the chance to get out there and pull the lever for your candidate of choice.

Things are a little crazy here today. I'm working to finish these Blu-ray reviews I've promised, but the process has been complicated by the fact that Fox's complete Planet of the Apes: 40-Year Evolution BD set just showed up, so I'm going to try to get the whole box reviewed as quickly as possible. Man, there's just not enough hours in the day! I'll tell you though, this set is really very cool. It comes in a nice sturdy slipcase, from which you slide out a hardback binder that folds open to reveal an Apes timeline, a disc-by-disc list of the special features, all the discs themselves and a gorgeous book packed with amazing artwork, photographs and liner notes. The book itself is removable from the binder. And the front of the slipcase features the spaceship from the first film embossed on the cover. It's a pretty damn impressive piece of work. The set streets today for $159.98 SRP, but Amazon has it available for just $91.95. We'll get the review posted as soon as possible.

Anyway, there's not much news today due to the election, but Video Business is now reporting that Paramount's Iron Man has just become the highest selling Blu-ray title of all time, though the studio has yet to release the actual unit sales numbers for the format.

Also today, there's word from Home Media that Wal-Mart is replacing CD titles at select stores with Blu-ray titles. The magazine is also reporting that Panasonic's DMP-BD35K Blu-ray player has just debuted with a retail price of $299.95 - lower than expected and the lowest priced BD-Live/profile 2.0 player currently available (Amazon has it for $271.85).

Here at the site this afternoon, our very own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. Keep in mind, a portion of ANYTHING you order through our Amazon links helps to support our work here at The Bits, and we really appreciate it!

Speaking of work, it's back to those Blu-ray reviews for me. Stay tuned... ;)

11/3/08

Afternoon, folks! Okay... there's obviously a LOT going on today news-wise. This is going to be a chaotic next couple of days, what with the election and all. But let's just put one foot in front of the other...

First of all today, I wanted to tell you about a DVD release that SOMEHOW slipped under my radar but that - when it showed up this morning in the mail for review, absolutely blew my mind with excitement. On 11/18, A&E Home Video is releasing THE definitive box set for Monty Python fans - the 21-disc The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: Collector's Edition! Here's what's great about the set. For $159.95 (just $104 on Amazon), you get EVERY episode of the series - all 14 discs that were contained on the previous 16-Ton Megaset, plus a guide booklet to the series and all the contents in the set (a similar book was included as a Best Buy exclusive with the 16-Ton Megaset in early pressings). Then you get both discs from the Monty Python Live! release, containing Live at the Hollywood Bowl, the Live at Aspen comedy special, the Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Python special and the German Episode #1. Then you get all SIX of the Personal Best specials, each of which was released separately on DVD previous to this. Finally, the set includes two NEW documentaries never-before-released in the U.S. - Before Flying Circus and Monty Python Conquers America. The only thing you DON'T get in this set is the content in the previous The Life of Python 2-disc box set, which includes more specials and tributes, as well as the German Episode #2. I'm not sure why it wasn't included, but don't get rid of those discs if you want everything. Obviously, this set also doesn't include any of the Python movies. If you've got any or all of this content already, or you're only a casual fan, upgrading to this box set probably doesn't make much sense. But if you're a serious fan, or you've been thinking of dipping into Python on DVD and haven't yet done so, this box is simply awesome. Better still, it frees up about TWO FEET of storage space on your DVD shelf, if you sell the previous DVD editions. Anyway, like I said, this set is not for everyone, but this box and a can of SPAM makes me a very happy boy.

In terms of announcement news today, Paramount has just set a Friday the 13th Uncut: Deluxe Edition for release on Blu-ray Disc on 2/3. The release will also be available on DVD. Also coming on DVD that day are Deluxe Editions of Friday the 13th, Part II and Friday the 13th, Part II 3-D (we're working to determine whether there will be Blu-rays of those as well). Dave's World: The Second Season will also street on DVD on 2/3.

Speaking of Paramount, industry sources have given us a hint of some of what to expect from the studio on DVD and particularly Blu-ray in 2009, and the list includes some very cool titles. Check The Rumor Mill for that today.

And in other news, Sony has set Center Stage: Turn it Up for DVD and Blu-ray release on 1/20/09. Also coming on DVD only on 1/13 are Til Death: The Complete Second Season, Brick Lane and Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach.

Now then, I'm working to post our reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Planet of the Apes on Blu-ray tonight for tomorrow morning. I'd hoped to have them up for this afternoon, but it didn't happen and there's a good reason why...

On Saturday night, Sarah and I headed up to L.A. for a very special party. A lot of you have been asking in recent weeks how our friend Paul Prischman is doing. As many of you will recall, Paul's been fighting an aggressive brain tumor in recent months. The answer, we're pleased to say, is that he's doing well. But Paul and his wife Cristin are originally from Chicago, and given the challenges they're facing right now, they've decided to move back to Chicago to be closer to their families. So some 50 or 60 of their friends, including nearly the entire Brain Trust and many, many others, gathered in Glendale on Saturday night for a big going away party. It was a fun, amazing and emotional night for everyone. We'll likely be posting an update on the actual Brain Trust site in the next week or two with more pictures, but I just wanted to share this with you in the meantime: A photo that Sarah took during the evening.

Pictured are (top row, L to R) Damon Houx, Francisco Rodriguez, Christopher Drake, Jeremy "Mr. Beaks" Smith, (bottom row) Charles de Lauzirika, Paul Prischman and (yours truly) Bill Hunt. You can't see it, but Paul's wearing a Speed Racer cap... ;)

Paul's Going Away Party - (top row, L to R) Damon Houx, Francisco Rodriguez, Christopher Drake, Jeremy Smith, (bottom row) Charles de Lauzirika, Paul Prischman and (yours truly) Bill Hunt

Paul and Cristin... we love you and we'll miss you. Safe trip home and we all hope to see you soon!

Okay, guys... back in the morning with those reviews. Stay tuned.

(LATE UPDATE - 10/31/08 - 3:45 PM PDT)

First things first this afternoon... a number of Bits readers have informed us today that Sony has just posted a new firmware update for the S300 Blu-ray player (the update is v4.30). This corrects the playback problems some of you have been having with the James Bond Blu-ray Discs. These readers (including Michael B. - thanks much!) say the discs now work just fine. Other manufacturers are updating their firmware as well, so keep checking here for the latest updates if you're having difficulties.

In release news today, 20th Century Fox has set Mirrors for debut on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 1/13/09 (SRP $29.98 and $39.99). Extras will include an unrated cut of the film, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and multiple featurettes. The Blu-ray will also include PiP commentary with the filmmakers, a PiP storyboard comparison, an animated storyboard sequence and a Digital Copy version of the film.

I'm not sure if we've mentioned this before, but Universal has set Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fourth Season for release on 12/2.

By the way, we've learned that Warner Home Video's Blu-ray Disc release of Amadeus (due 2/10) will include the director's cut only (not the theatrical cut as well, as has been rumored elsewhere), as well as the film's soundtrack on CD. Packaging is Digibook. The really good news is that the audio will be Dolby TrueHD. We've confirmed this with the studio this afternoon, so it should be accurate.

In other Warner news, look for the studio to release the horror double feature discs Chamber of Horrors/Brides of Fu Manchu and The Shuttered Room/It! on 12/9, The Sidney Poitier Collection (containing Edge of the City, Something of Value, A Warm December and A Patch of Blue) on 1/27/09, National Geographic's The Real George Washington, The Hunt for Lincoln's Assassin, Giant Crystal Cave and Darwin's Secret Notebooks, and NBA Kevin Garnett: KG all on 2/10, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest: The Complete First Season on 2/17, and finally the BBC's Doctor Who: The Key to Time - Special Edition box set on 3/3, which includes episodes 98, 99, 100, 101, 102 and 103 (also available separately).

And here's something that made me happy today: MTV and VH1 are offering Police fans a sneak peek at the new Certifiable live DVD and Blu-ray concert release, available exclusively at Best Buy on 11/11 (and widely elsewhere around the world starting on 11/10). Click the links to see the band perform Message in a Bottle from the concert. Pretty damn cool. I'm gonna have to take the afternoon off the day this baby comes out.

A number of you have asked what Matt and I thought of that Swedish film, Let the Right One In, that we saw the other day. I'll tell you, we both really liked it a lot. The film centers around a 12-year old boy, Oskar, who's living alone in an apartment building with his single mother. He's shy with few friends, and is a regular target of bullies in his class. One day, a 12-year old girl named Eli and her guardian move into the apartment next door. She's shy too, with no friends, and she's a bit odd. Both are obviously lonely, and they forge a gradual friendship. But as a series of murders happens in the community, Oskar eventually realizes that Eli is a vampire. This is all handled with a real maturity of storytelling and sensibility. The film isn't particularly gratuitous, nor is it ever really scary - not in the traditional sense at least. Few of the usual Hollywood genre clichés are in evidence. In fact, you never once see fangs. Rather, this film focuses on the two kids and how they relate to one another. What's particularly interesting is how the girl is portrayed. Imagine becoming vampire at age 12, and you're stuck at that age forever. In a Hollywood film, you'd see a wise, ancient intellect in a child's body. But here, Eli is emotionally and intellectually frozen at that age, so even though she's probably hundreds of years old, she sees and deals with things as a child. She kills (and her guardian kills for her) because she must, but she's not portrayed as evil. She's just a little girl who happens to be a vampire, trying to understand the world and her place in it. Oskar accepts her for what she is, and their story is absolutely fascinating to watch play out on screen. There are a couple of scenes that are less effective than the whole, and so actually pull you out of the story, specifically a subplot about a woman Eli infects during an attack who starts becoming a vampire herself. It's just a bit too obvious and occasionally even silly. But there are other moments so unexpectedly creepy and genuine, they'll leave you smiling. Let the Right One In is refreshing and well worth your time, especially if you're interested in a unique take on the genre. It's equal parts charming and chilly, a deft and delicate brand of horror the likes of which Hollywood is utterly incapable of nurturing. I should note that it's based on a book, which I haven't read. (If any of you have, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.) If I were grading the film, I'd give it a good solid B+. I'm definitely looking forward to the eventual DVD and/or Blu-ray release.

Okay, here's some new cover art... Sony's CG-animated Resident Evil: Degeneration on DVD and Blu-ray (due 12/30), Buena Vista's Lost: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu (12/9), Fox's The X-Files Blu-ray 2-Pack (containing both feature films, due 12/2) and Universal's Burn After Reading on both DVD and Blu-ray (12/23)...

Resident Evil: Degeneration (Blu-ray Disc)Resident Evil: DegenerationLost: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray Disc)

The X-Files Blu-ray 2-Pack (Blu-ray Disc)Burn After ReadingBurn After Reading (Blu-ray Disc)

One last thing: For those of you who are planning to vote in the presidential election on Tuesday, we'd recommend trying to take advantage of early voting if you can. Lines are going to be brutal on Election day (actually, they're already bad now in many places), so save yourself an entire afternoon's wait in line by voting early if you can.

Have a great weekend everyone, and have a fun and safe Halloween evening! Be sure to check back with us on Monday for our reviews of the original Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Blu-ray Disc.

BOO!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/31/08 - 12:01 AM PDT)

All right... we'll be back with a news update later this afternoon, but we just had to jump in with a quick early update for you on this particularly spooky morning.

We proudly present you with Jahnke's very last Hell Plaza Oktoberfest review for 2008, and it's none other than Disney's new Blu-ray release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas! See? That's what we call a twofer. You get a spooky movie, and one that looks ahead to the next holiday too. Naturally, we have to give the good Doctor a hearty round of applause for his impressive efforts this year. Reviewing a disc a day for an entire month isn't easy folks, but Adam's done it two years in a row. He's definitely got the right stuff in our book. Now we're gonna go unchain him from the closet, wipe the drool off his chin, give him a good hosing down, and reward him with a nice plate of last year's candy corn. You've earned it, Adam! Well done, sir! When you get the chance, drop Jahnke a line and let him know you've enjoyed his work this time around.

Also this morning, if you missed it when we posted it late yesterday, you might want to check out my latest Blu-ray rant (below). Judging by the amount of e-mails we've gotten, a lot of you really seem to have enjoyed it. All except one reader who's clearly still sore about the whole HD-DVD thing. Dude, I TRIED to tell you. Just like the old days. ;)

Back later. Stay spooky...

10/30/08

First things first this afternoon: We're pleased as punch to present Adam's penultimate Hell Plaza Oktoberfest review for this year: A little ditty from Mondo Macabro called The Watcher in the Attic. And be sure to tune in tomorrow for the piece de resistance of Jahnke's Halloween-y review efforts.

Okay... now then... I promised you guys a rant about the Blu-ray Disc format, didn't I? Well, here it is. Lock the doors and batten down the hatches...

As you may know, there have been a couple of recent reports online that the Blu-ray format is D.O.A. or otherwise doomed to failure. The most recent such proclamation is an alarmist piece by ZDNet's Robin Harris, that has resulted in a small flood of e-mails from readers today, some concerned, many skeptical and all curious as to our reaction.

Look, folks... let's have a little perspective here. People have been predicting the death of Blu-ray Disc for more than two years now. And many of those doing so were either staunch HD-DVD supporters previously or simply NEVER saw much of a future for Blu-ray or high-definition discs. Harris, it seems to me, falls into the latter category. He's a fine guy, I'm sure, but from what I've read of his work, he's never really been much of a videophile. He's a storage guy. Hard drives. It says so right there in his bio: "Robin Harris has been selling and marketing data storage for over 20 years in companies large and small." There's nothing wrong with that, and more power to him. But I don't expect him to be any kind of advocate for a home video format, other than one based around a downloading model. And he's hardly the person to best judge the future of what is, at its very essence, a HOME VIDEO FORMAT.

That's not to say that Harris doesn't make some valid points. The BDA's licensing fees are too high, and there are still too many barriers (not the least of which is cost) to smaller content producers adopting the format. I'll give you a few more obstacles the format faces: Blu-ray Disc player and movie prices are still too high. Studios should cut software prices across the board by $5 to $10. Profile 2.0 players should become standard and cheap, and fast. The need to continually update player firmware for title after title has been very frustrating, most recently with the James Bond Blu-rays. That's not a big deal if you have a PS3, but if you have a profile 1.0 or 1.1 player, it means either downloading and burning a firmware update disc, or calling the manufacturer's tech support line and requesting one be sent to you by mail. That's a pain in the ass, and the industry needs to figure out a way to make it easier. The economic slowdown and the lengthy format war haven't helped either. I do think the industry should take a look at Harris' recommendations for what a more "forward looking strategy" for the Blu-ray format ought to look like. I actually agree with a couple of them.

But let's get real here. Blu-ray is NOT dead. It's not close to death. It's not even remotely sick or ailing. Saying otherwise is simply a clever ploy to get a LOT of people to read your columns. Look folks, Blu-ray is still essentially a NEW format to most people. This is the format's FIRST YEAR of unopposed exposure to consumers - the first year it hasn't been embroiled in a bitter format dispute with HD-DVD. The standard DVD format didn't begin to really take off until well over a year after its Divx pay-per-view nemesis finally died. It's worth noting that my prediction has ALWAYS been that Blu-ray and DVD would co-exist for many years, and that Blu-ray would gradually increase its market share over time. If I had to guess, I think the mix a few years from now is going to be 50% DVD, 30-40% Blu-ray and some smaller percentage of downloading. Blu-ray isn't going to replace DVD, the single most successful format in the history of consumer electronics, and anyone who thinks otherwise is out to lunch. But Blu-ray's future is plenty bright, folks.

Let's look at this from another perspective. One month ago, Paramount's Iron Man became the first Blu-ray Disc release to sell 500,000 units in its first week of release. Industry sources tell me that the title has CONTINUED to sell well and is closing in on 1 million units sold. If Iron Man doesn't get there first, Warner's mega-smash hit The Dark Knight is on deck for release on Blu-ray Disc on 12/9. Does anyone think it isn't going to fly off the shelves too? Either way, by the end of the year (almost certainly by the end of January), one of these two titles - and quite possibly BOTH - could hit 1 million units sold. That milestone will have been reached just a little more than two years after the Blu-ray format was launched. Do you know how long it took DVD to have its first million selling title? Just under THREE years - The Matrix, which debuted on the format in late 1999. Seems like Blu-ray's right on track to me.

The format's got LOTS more going for it too. First, player prices are finally dipping below $250, right on track with the pace in the early days of DVD. Best Buy has its Insignia brand BD player priced at $249, and a Samsung player on sale for $229. Multiple retailers are expected to be selling Blu-ray players for LESS than $200 on Black Friday and for the holiday season. According to Video Business, Sears will be selling Sony's BDP-S350 for just $179.99 and Samsung's BD-P1500 for $199.99, both profile 2.0/BD-Live ready players. Look for other BD player deals at select retailers to follow, some as low as $149.

Second, look at all the great titles available! You know, earlier this year many of the studios were telling me that big titles were coming for the holidays, and that the floodgates were really going to open in 2009, but I STILL didn't expect the torrent of great titles we're seeing now. Consider the new releases alone... Transformers, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight, Cloverfield, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hancock, Wall-E, Sex and the City, Tropic Thunder, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Rambo, There Will Be Blood, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Kung Fu Panda, Casino Royale and many, many others.

Now consider the AMAZING catalog titles that have been (or will soon be) released on Blu-ray... SIX vintage James Bond films, ALL of the Austin Powers films, Sleeping Beauty, Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Godfather Collection, ALL of the Terminator films, Starship Troopers, all of the Planet of the Apes films, all of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Casablanca, How the West Was Won, L.A. Confidential, JFK, all of The Matrix films, FIVE Stanley Kubrick films including 2001, The Nightmare Before Christmas, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Omen films, Bonnie and Clyde, the Die Hard films, ID4, the Mission: Impossible films, Dawn of the Dead, the Dirty Harry films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Superman and the Superman II: Director's Cut, the Spider-Man films and on, and on, and on.

In his piece, Harris claims there are few quirky indie films on the format. Has he not seen Transsiberian, Sukiyaki Western Django, Mongol, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Persepolis, Shinobi or any of the MANY such titles now available or coming soon? What about the documentary titles? Baraka, Planet Earth? The TV titles? Heroes, Lost, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Torchwood, Pushing Daisies, Band of Brothers?

You think all of those titles are impressive? Look at the tip of the iceberg of what's coming next year: The Star Trek films, Braveheart, Pinocchio, The Lord of the Rings films, King Kong (1933), The Wizard of Oz, Ben Hur, North by Northwest, the Ghostbusters films, Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, the Rush Hour films, The French Connection, Napoleon Dynamite, Office Space, Raging Bull, Ronin, the new Battlestar Galactica TV series and HUNDREDS of others. That's just scratching the surface. There are titles that I KNOW FOR A FACT are in the works for release on Blu-ray in 2009 that will blow your minds, but I can't mention them by name yet. MAJOR catalog releases. For god's sake, folks... The Final Countdown is on Blu-ray! Are you kidding me?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

The question isn't, "Is Harris right?" The question is, "Is Harris even PAYING ATTENTION?" Of course not. He's fine guy... but he's A DATA STORAGE GUY. He's not a film guy. He's not a home video industry expert. Make no mistake, the Hollywood studios are 110% behind the Blu-ray Disc format, folks. So are the hardware manufacturers, and so are all the major retailers. They're going to blow the doors off this format in 2009 in terms of amazing releases. And watch for prices on hardware and software to get even more affordable in the coming year. Blu-ray is going to be around for quite a long while, I don't care what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Robin Harris tell you. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE A MOVIE FAN. PERIOD.

Blu-ray is dead?! Yeah, right! And I've got a bridge in Alaska to sell you.

As Charlie Brown might say, "Good grief..."

10/29/08

You know... it's been quite a while since I've gone on a good Blu-ray Disc related rant, but I think I feel one coming on. So check back tomorrow morning, when I'll dust off the old soap box and let fly with some opinion and perspective on the state of the format, going into the holiday season.

Today though, we have Jahnke's Oktoberfest review of the day for you, and it's another Ghost House Underground title from Lionsgate... No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker. There's just TWO MORE REVIEWS LEFT, so be sure to check back tomorrow and Friday for them!

We've also got some brief new release news to report today... Warner Home Video has set officially set Amadeus: Director's Cut and New Line's A History of Violence for release on Blu-ray Disc on 2/10/09. As a reminder, Warner has also set Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday for Blu-ray release on 1/27, as well as New Line's The Wedding Crashers: Uncorked on 12/16. According to Warner's press site, both Warner titles are BD-50s, while the New Line titles are BD-25s. We'll post additional details as they come in. Here's some cover artwork...

A History of Violence (Blu-ray Disc)Any Given Sunday (Blu-ray Disc)Drumline (Blu-ray Disc)

Amadeus: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

Also, Universal has set the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 12/23. Extras are typically Coen light, but will include a trio of featurettes, along with BD-Live enhancement on the Blu-ray.

And this is Rumor Mill-worthy, so salt accordingly: Multiple retail sources are telling us this afternoon that Fox and MGM have an impressive slate of Blu-ray Disc releases on tap for early 2009, including Drumline (pictured above - just announced for 1/27/09) and Ronin (as we've reported previously), as well as the likes of The Pink Panther, Raging Bull, Office Space, The Passion of the Christ, Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, Napoleon Dynamite, The French Connection and The French Connection 2. That's a pretty cool line-up, any way you slice it. As always, none of these titles are to be considered official until they're actually announced by the studios.

Okay... Matt and I are off to catch a late afternoon screening of the Swedish vampire flick, Let the Right One In. We hear it's pretty amazing. I'll let you know tomorrow.

And don't forget: Be sure to check back in the morning for my two cents on the state of the Blu-ray format. Trust me, it'll be a good rant. Stay tuned!

10/28/08

Okay... it's a few hours later than expected, but we're back today with a bunch of new content for you to enjoy... yes, including the latest edition Barrie Maxwell's much-loved Classic Coming Attractions column! In this edition, Barrie reviews some 21 recent classic DVD releases, featuring 27 titles in all. Included are Universal's Vertigo: 2-Disc Special Edition, Psycho: 2-Disc Special Edition, Rear Window: 2-Disc Special Edition, The Mummy: 2-Disc Special Edition, Touch of Evil: 50th Anniversary Edition and Holiday Inn: 3-Disc Collector's Edition, MGM's Casino Royale: Collector's Edition, Lionsgate's Capricorn One: Special Edition and Arch of Triumph, Criterion's The Thief of Bagdad and The Earrings of Madame De…, Warner's An American in Paris: 2-Disc Special Edition, Gigi: 2-Disc Special Edition and Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection: Volume 4, Fox's Road House, Boomerang and Fox Horror Classics: Volume 2, Sony's The Garment Jungle, Affair in Trinidad and The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Four, and finally Restored Serials Super Restoration Corporation's The Man from Beyond. As always, Barrie also runs down the latest classic release announcement news. Enjoy!

Also today, we have a Tuesday installment of Dr. Adam Jahnke's Hell Plaza Oktoberfest 2008, featuring a review of Synapse's Patrick: Special Edition. Enjoy that too!

Finally, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order from Amazon through our links goes to help support our work here at The Digital Bits, and we surely appreciate it.

We'll see you back here tomorrow with the latest release news updates! Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/27/08 - 4:15 PM PDT)

Just a quick last update today: We're almost done formatting Barrie's new Classic Coming Attractions column here at The Bits, but the phone's been ringing off the hook here today, so it's taking a little longer than expected to get it all ready. Therefore, we're going to hold the column until early tomorrow morning. Barrie's got some 27 new classic DVD reviews for you, though, plus an update on all the latest classic title announcements. The column will be well worth the wait, as always.

So stay tuned and we'll see you back here in the morning. Thanks for your patience!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/27/08 - 11:45 PM PDT)

Afternoon, folks! We've got a new column from Barrie Maxwell coming later this afternoon, but first up there's this...

We've just posted the first of Jahnke's final week of Halloween-themed Hell Plaza Oktoberfest reviews for this year, and it's none other than Anchor Bay's Brutal Massacre: A Comedy. It's... you know... brutal. Check it out.

Also today, we've got some release news to report...

Warner has just officially set New Line's The Wedding Crashers: Uncorked for release on Blu-ray Disc on 12/26. They've also just set Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday for Blu-ray release on 1/27/09.

Speaking of Warner, if you've happened to purchase their recent Classic Christmas Favorites boxed set (which streeted on 10/7), you might want to check out the copy of The Year Without a Santa Claus included inside. It's supposed to be the animated Rankin-Bass version, but some sets have the 2006 live-action remake starring John Goodman instead. If you have the wrong disc, call Warner Customer Support at 800-553-6937 and let them know, and they'll send you the correct version.

Meanwhile, Fox has announced Elephant Tales for release on DVD on 12/9, with Reba: Season 5 following on 1/13/09 and The Girls Next Door: Season 4 due on 1/27/09.

Sony has set Pineapple Express for release as a single disc Unrated DVD, a 2-disc Unrated Special Edition and an Unrated Blu-ray Disc all on 1/6/09, along with The Wackness on DVD and Blu-ray and a Michael Powell Double Feature (which includes Age of Consent and Stairway to Heaven) on DVD.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment will release an Oliver & Company: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD on 2/3/09.

Finally, Universal has set Hamlet 2 for DVD only release on 12/23.

Okay, be sure to check back later this afternoon for Barrie's column. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/24/08 - 7 PM PDT)

Okay... we're back with one last post, as promised. Now available for your reading enjoyment are in-depth reviews of MPI's Baraka and Blue Underground's The Final Countdown, both of which are due to be released on Blu-ray Disc next Tuesday. The Final Countdown is one of our favorite B-movies, period, so we'd happily recommend it just because. (Thankfully, the Blu-ray doesn't disappoint.) As for Baraka, well... just go buy the disc. Seriously, it's arguably THE best looking live-action film to be released on the format yet, sporting an 8K-mastered digital transfer of the original 70mm Todd-AO elements. The word 'stunning' doesn't do it justice. Trust us, it's a MUST-have release.

One other quick note: A number of readers have e-mailed us to report that Sony has informed them that a firmware update will be issued some time next week correct the Bond Blu-ray playback problems reported earlier. We suspect other manufacturers will follow suit, so stay tuned.

So there you go, folks. That's all for now. Have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/24/08 - 2:15 PM PDT)

Afternoon, folks! This is the first of two posts coming today, so be sure to check back later for the second one.

First up now, we've got Dr. Jahnke's Oktoberfest review DVD review for the day... a look at Synapse's Thirst. There's just one more week of the Fest to go, but Adam still has great DVD and Blu-ray reviews coming next week. So enjoy!

In news today, we're getting reports from readers that some of you are having trouble playing all of MGM and Fox's new James Bond Blu-ray Discs. Problems are being reported so far on Panasonic, Sony, Pioneer and Samsung units, but there's no real pattern emerging yet that we can see. Now, we have Panasonic's BD10, BD30 and BD50 players here at The Bits, and we're not having problems on any of them, however we've been very careful to make sure that the firmware on each is up to date. So the first thing I would suggest, if you're having troubles, is that you update your firmware. (Visit this web page which will guide you to the latest downloadable updates available for your model. You can also contact your manufacturer for update discs by mail if you're more comfortable with that, and those of you with profile 2.0 players connected to the Internet should be able to update your firmware via your player's menus.) That should take care of some of the problems. A few people are still reporting problems even after having updated their firmware, so I suspect that a couple manufacturers are going to have to issue new firmware updates to deal with the issue. Be sure to contact your manufacturer's Blu-ray tech support people right away if you're having a problem, so they can quickly address it for everyone. We'll post updates here as we learn more.

Also, Buena Vista has just lowered the price of Lost: The Complete Fourth Season on Blu-ray Disc from $99.99 to $69.99 (the DVD SRP is expected to be lowered as well). The title streets on 12/9. Amazon already has the Blu-ray version discounted down to $49.95.

Now then... I had the good fortune of spending the morning yesterday with some old friends from The Home Theater Forum, who have been in town all week for their annual Hollywood meet, visiting various studios and attending Blu-ray demos. I try to join them every year when they come out, and have done so for more than a decade, going all the way back to the early days of DVD and the much-missed Studio Day meets at Dave Video: The Laser Place. This year, I joined Ron Epstein and some 50 other HTF members at Paramount in Hollywood for breakfast, a studio backlot tour and the first ever screening of the new Tropic Thunder: Director's Cut, personally introduced by director Ben Stiller. The new cut is VERY funny, I'm pleased to report, and you'll all get to enjoy it on Blu-ray and DVD when Paramount releases it on 11/18. Over the course of the morning, I also enjoyed seeing some longtime industry friends who work on DVD and Blu-ray at Paramount, as well as another person I'm pleased to call a friend... Microsoft's Kevin Collins. As many of you will no doubt recall, Kevin and I were on decidedly opposite sites of the high-def format war, but I've always quite liked him personally. So getting the chance to hang out with him a little, to relax, catch up and enjoy a good movie together - WITHOUT the tension of the format war - was really nice. As it happens, there's actually a very funny gag about the HD format war in Tropic Thunder, and we all had a pretty great laugh over it. So today I want to send out my warmest regards to Ron, Kevin, Adam Gregorich, Robert Fowkes, Sam Posten, Patrick Sun, Ron Stimpson from SVS Subs and all the rest of the HTF crew too numerous to mention. It was great to see all of you guys again! Special thanks also to Paramount's Brenda Ciccone, Meagan Burrows, Ron Smith, Jeff Radoycis, Bob Buchi and Chris Saitoas, well as Ben Stiller, Martin Blythe and many others at the studio. My best to all of you and thanks for a great time!

Finally, I've got a trio of new video clips to share with you - two of them campaign related but non-partisan - that should give you all a good laugh. The first was brought to may attention by our friend Charles de Lauzirika: It's a very funny and well done virtual "dance-off" between Barack Obama and John McCain. Someone REALLY put a lot of effort into the effects for this one, and my hats off to them. Next up: It's comedian Fred Armisen riffing on CNN's "magic election map" on last night's Weekend Update. Take that, John King! But if you think that's good, I've saved the best for last: Behold the splendor of a chimpanzee riding a Segway! You've got to give it to the Japanese. They really know how to make entertaining TV.

Okay, I'll be back later this afternoon with those reviews of The Final Countdown and Baraka on Blu-ray Disc, so check back later for that. And have a great weekend!

Stay tuned!

10/23/08

This morning's post is going to be a quickie, as I'm working to finish those two Blu-ray Disc reviews I've been promising. They are, for the record, Blue Underground's The Final Countdown and MPI's Baraka. And yes, a look at Disney's Sleeping Beauty is still coming as well. There's only so many hours in the day. ;)

In the meantime, we give you Dr. Jahnke's Oktoberfest review for the day... Lionsgate's Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat on DVD. We did promise you vampires, didn't we? Enjoy!

And stay tuned...

10/22/08

First things first today... we've kicked off FOUR new Giveaways, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Anchor Bay's Dead Space: Downfall on Blu-ray Disc, Disney's Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray, City Light's Kiss of the Spider Woman on DVD and a Run Fatboy Run package including the DVD, a jacket, shorts and even a sweatband, all from Warner. Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, November 2nd. Click on the links to enter and good luck!

Now then... as promised, our own Dr. Adam Jahnke has checked in with his Oktoberfest DVD review of the day, which is a look the Lionsgate/Ghost House Underground title Brotherhood of Blood. Enjoy!

And here's a quick bit of Blu-ray news... Best Buy is now selling one of its Insignia brand Blu-ray Disc players for just $199, after a $30 in-store discount. That's more than $40 off the SRP. It's Profile 1.1 compatible, so you'll get to access all the BonusView features on the latest discs, though it isn't compatible with BD-Live/Internet connection. You can read more here at Home Media, and here's Best Buy's online store page for the unit.

In announcement news, 20th Century Fox will release Boondock Saints on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 1/13/09. All the extras from the DVD will be included, along with DTS-HD audio. Also coming to Blu-ray on 1/13 from the studio is Stargate: The Ark of Truth. SRP for each is $34.99.

Paramount will release American Teen on DVD on 12/21. Last Holiday will follow on Blu-ray Disc on 12/30.

Sony has set Resident Evil: Degeneration for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 12/30 (SRP $27.96 and $39.95 respectively). The DVD will include The Generation of Degeneration featurette, character profiles, "voice" bloopers, a Faux Leon interview, trailers (for the film, the Tokyo Game Show and Resident Evil 5) and special game footage from Resident Evil 5. To this, the Blu-ray will add a Picture-in-Picture viewing option and a pop-up trivia track. Also streeting on DVD on 12/30 from Sony are 10 Items or Less: The Complete First and Second Seasons and Baghead.

Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have announced more Blu-ray Disc releases, including Hell Ride (10/28), Awake and Lucky # Slevin (11/18), and The Longshots (12/2).

Image Entertainment has also announced more Blu-ray releases including the Discovery Channel's Sunrise Earth: Seasside Collection (11/4 - includes the episodes Island First Light, The Great Barrier Reef, Society Island Sunrise, Sunrise Seal Colony, Mediterranean Port, Ninagiak Island, Playa Grande Moonset and Argentine Seal Pups), IMAX's Dolphins, Coral Reef Adventure and The Living Sea (both 11/11), Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World, Jeff Dunham: Spark of Insanity and Jeff Dunham: Very Special Christmas Special (we've mentioned these previously) and The Who: Kilburn: 1977 (all street on 11/18), the Caligula: Imperial Edition (delayed from 11/4) and Ping Pong Playa (both 1/6/09), XPW Wrestling: Cold Day in Hell (1/13/09), k.d. lang: Live in London with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Jeff Dunham: Arguing with Myself (2/3/09), and IMAX's Super Speedway, Hurricane on the Bayou and Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk (2/12/09). The Absolute Best of Ghost Hunters is also coming (street date TBA).

And Warner has announced a number of new DVD titles as well, including Bakugan Volume 1: Battle Brawlers (12/2), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (2008, for the BBC - 1/13/09), a Hot Wheels Double Feature (includes Hot Wheels AcceleRacers Vol. 1 Ignition and Hot Wheels AcceleRacers Vol. 2 The Speed of Silence), The Wiggles Double Feature (includes The Wiggles: Splish Splash Big Red Boat and The Wiggles: Sailing Around the World), the Tom and Jerry Double Feature (includes Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry and Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars) and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Season 2 (all due 2/10/09), Oliver Twist (2007, for the BBC - due 2/24/09) and The Life & Times of Tim (for HBO - 3/24/09). Warner has also just announced a Sex and the City: The Movie - The Wedding Collection - Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD box set (for New Line - due 12/9), which includes the movie on DVD along with a hardcover book and more. As far as we know right now, this is only available on DVD. Here's a picture of the contents...

Sex and the City: The Movie - The Wedding Collection - Ultimate Collector's Edition

Here's some new cover artwork for Universal's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, including the 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD, the Deluxe Edition Blu-ray and The Mummy Trilogy on Blu-ray Disc (all due 12/16)...

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: 2-Disc Deluxe EditionThe Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Blu-ray Disc)The Mummy Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)

We'll be back later, or first thing in the morning, with those two additional Blu-ray Disc reviews we mentioned yesterday. Stay tuned...

10/21/08

Okay... today's going to be another quick update, as we're working on still more Blu-ray Disc reviews.

First up today, Adam's next Oktoberfest review entry is a look at the Bloodsucking Cinema documentary on DVD from the folks at Starz and Anchor Bay. Enjoy!

Also today, as promised we've delivered reviews of the remaining James Bond Blu-ray Disc releases, in stores today, including Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Die Another Day. All of these Blu-rays, we should note, are WELL worth your time and money if you're fans of the franchise. 007 looks mighty good in HD, we'll tell you. Get 'em on sale (Amazon has both 3-packs - all 6 Blu-rays - available here for just $112, nearly $70 off the retail price) and you'll be a happy double-0.

As usual, we've also updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section today with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order through our links helps to support our work here at The Bits and we thank you for it!

On the news front today, our friends over at the excellent Galactica Sitrep site have a good update on what fans of Battlestar Galactica can look forward to over the next few months, including the return of the series for its final half-season on Sci-Fi in January, the release of Season 4.0 on DVD also in January, the status of Caprica and the new direct-to-DVD movie The Plan, news that more webisodes are on the way and... well, more. It's definitely worth checking out.

Finally, we're sorry today to have to report the passing of actor Rudy Ray Moore. No $*!t, baby. Here's Doogan with a few words...

"Rudy Ray Moore, known as Dolemite by his fans... rappiní and danciní were at the top of his plans. But the baddest emmin'-effin' 81 year-old died Sunday night. Complications from diabetes (claimed his brother) was his plight. He helped shape rap and blue comedy, bringing the pimp persona for all to see. His films weren't art, but they were fun as hell. To give him his wings, I'ma ring this bell. Rest in peace you bad ass mutha, we hope your life past before your ass hit the grass. Please take a moment to remember someone who gave us so much for so little."

Okay, we'll be back tomorrow to update you on the latest release news, and we'll have another Oktoberfest DVD review from Adam too, not to mention a couple more Blu-ray Disc reviews. Whew!

Stay tuned...

10/20/08

We'll be back with a news and announcement update tomorrow, but today's all about disc reviews, so let's get to it...

First up this afternoon, Jahnke's turned in his Oktoberfest review for the day, and it's one last visit with The Tall Man on DVD in the form of Anchor Bay's Phantasm: OblIVion. Coming tomorrow: Vampires!

And as promised, we have a look today at both new and classic James Bond adventures on Blu-ray Disc, with reviews of Sony's upgraded Casino Royale: Collector's Edition, as well as MGM's Thunderball, Live and Let Die and For Your Eyes Only. All of these great discs hit stores tomorrow. Speaking of which, we'll be back tomorrow afternoon with reviews of the remaining Bond Blu-rays from MGM, including From Russia with Love, Dr. No and Die Another Day.

Stay tuned!

10/17/08

All right... it's time for your daily Oktoberfest fix. Who better to close out any "Week of the Dead" than the Master of all things Dead, the legendary George Romero, right? So the good Doctor is happy to oblige with a review of his Land of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut on Blu-ray Disc from Universal. And having satisfied your zombie cravings, Adam will turn next week to the vampire milieu, so be sure to check back then.

In terms of new announcements, the really big news today is that Disney has just officially set the Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition for release on 2-disc DVD and 2-disc Blu-ray on 3/10/09. The DVD (SRP $29.99) will include audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg and J. B. Kaufman, song selection, a Pinocchio's Matter of Facts trivia text track, 2 deleted scenes and an alternate ending, deleted songs, the No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio documentary, live action reference footage, art galleries, The Sweat Box featurette and the Pinocchio Puzzles interactive game. The Blu-ray Disc (SRP $35.99) will add the Cine-Explore option, BD-Live features (Movie Chat, Movie Mail, Movie Challenge and Disney Movie Rewards Live) and the Pinocchio Knows Trivia Challenge game. The Blu-ray will also include a bonus version of the film on standard DVD. Great news indeed! Personally, we can't wait for The Lion King and The Jungle Book on Blu, but it'll probably be a few years.

Here's temp artwork for Pinocchio [the actual art is coming soon], along with a look at Fox's Jingle all the Way and Home Alone on Blu (due 12/2). ALL THREE titles are now available for pre-order at Amazon.com...

Pinocchio (Blu-ray Disc)Jingle All the Way (Blu-ray Disc)Home Alone (Blu-ray Disc)

Also today, Warner Home Video has set The Mask and Dumb and Dumber: Unrated for release on Blu-ray Disc on 12/9 (for New Line - SRP $28.99 each). Meanwhile, Bam Margera Presents: Where the #$&% is Santa? is due on Blu on 12/2.

And Criterion has announced a few new titles as well: In December, look for Samuel Fuller's White Dog (cat# 455) and Lars Von Trier's Europa (#454) on DVD. Following in January are Roberto Rossellini's The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (#456), Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession (#457) and Gregory Nava's El Norte (#458). All but White Dog and The Taking of Power by Louis XIV will be 2-disc sets. El Norte will also be available on Blu-ray Disc. In addition to its regular line-up, Criterion has announced the 14th installment of its Eclipse series too - Rossellini's History Films Renaissance and Enlightenment, a 4-disc box set that will include Roberto Rossellini's Blaise Pascal, the 3-part The Age of the Medici and Cartesius. Street date is TBA.

In other news from around the Net this afternoon... it looks like the Blu-ray Disc format officially has a fan in the form of film critic Roger Ebert. His new review of the 1992 visual stunner Baraka on Blu-ray is well worth a read. The disc was actually restored and remastered from the original 65mm Todd-AO print in 8K digital resolution. I'll be reviewing the disc soon myself, but in the meantime, here's what Roger has to say: "Baraka by itself is sufficient reason to acquire a Blu-ray player." Sing it loud, brother.

In other news today, Home Media's got a good story up on that Blu-ray event at Pixar yesterday. You might recall, we mentioned the event last week, and a number of our readers were on hand. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

We've got a little bit more new cover art for you. Here's the Blu-ray version of Fox's The Day the Earth Stood Still (12/2), as well as the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Warner's Being There (2/3/09)...

Day the Earth Stood Still (Blu-ray Disc)Being There: Deluxe EditionBeing There (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, that little red circle on the Being There Blu-ray says: "Includes new deleted scenes and an alternate ending." In case you were wondering.

Finally today, here's something that we think is pretty amusing. It's political, but not the way you think. Last night in New York City, at the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner for Catholic charities, Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama each gave very funny speeches where they basically roasted themselves and each other. After all the mud-slinging and partisan nastiness of late, not to mention stress over the economy, it's pretty damn cool that the two of them could sit together at a table and share a few good-spirited laughs. Click on these YouTube links to see each of their speeches and be prepared to enjoy a few chuckles. (McCain's speech is here and his closing is here, while Obama's speech is here and his closing is here) Best lines - McCain: "Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me. I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary." Obama: "Contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-El, to save the planet Earth." It's all good stuff and it should put a smile on your face. ;)

All right, everybody. You guys have a great weekend. I'm going to try to check in on Monday with some more of those Blu-ray reviews I've been talking about. We'll have more news too, and the good Doctor will serve up some more Oktoberfest-y goodness for you as well. Enjoy the weekend and we'll see you then!

10/16/08

Today's update is a big one, folks. There lots of news and lots of art, so let's get to it...

Okay, first things first: Adam's Oktoberfest "Dead" review for the day is none other than Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, available on DVD from Anchor Bay. It's a fun and surprisingly worthy sequel to the original Phantasm, so do check it out.

Also today, before we start getting into the news, I wanted to remind all of you Blu-ray users to regularly check to make sure that your player's firmware is up to date. So many new features are being released on Blu-ray these days, that manufacturers are frequently updating their firmware to add new capabilities and to correct disc compatibility issues. So if you're having trouble with a Blu-ray title, that's the first thing you should check. You can visit your specific player manufacturer's tech support website, or better yet go to this page on the official Blu-ray site to check for the latest updates. Just select your language, your manufacturer and your player model to be taken to a list of the latest updates available for download. Obviously, those of you with profile 2.0/Internet connected players should be able to update your firmware right from the player's menu online.

Now then... we have a number of DVD and Blu-ray announcements to report today...

First up, Universal has officially set The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for release on both formats on 12/16. Available that day will be a single-disc DVD (SRP $29.98), a 2-Disc DVD Deluxe Edition (SRP $34.98) and a Blu-ray Disc version (SRP $39.98). DVD and Blu-ray Mummy Trilogy box sets will also be available (SRP $59.98 and $94.98). The 2-Disc DVD and Blu-ray will both include audio commentary with director Rob Cohen, deleted and extended scenes, 7 featurettes (Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li, The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy, From City to Desert, Legacy of the Terra Cotta, Creating New and Supernatural Worlds and A Call to Action: The Casting Process) and a Digital Copy version of the film. To this, the Blu-ray Disc will add U-Control features (Know Your Mummy in-film facts and graphics, Picture-in-Picture, a visual version of the commentary and The Dragon Emperor's Challenge game) and BD-Live online features (My Scenes Sharing and downloadable content).

Next, Lionsgate has announced their November release slate as follows: On 11/4, look for Monster's Ball (Blu-Ray), Universal Soldier (Blu-Ray), The Persuaders Triple Feature (includes Sporting Chance, Mission: Monte Carlo and London Conspiracy), Chill, Confessions of a Pit Fighter, The Fraggle Rock: Complete Series Collection, The Christmas Toy, Hit Favorites: Snow Days, a re-issue of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, the Little House on the Prairie: The Complete Television Series box set and Reaper: Season One. Following on 11/11 are The Devil's Curse, Beer for My Horses, Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage, the UFC Classics Collection Gift Set, Volume 2, The Director's Series: Rossellini 2-Disc Collector's Edition (includes Era Notte a Roma a.k.a. Escape by Night and Dov’e la liberta? a.k.a. Where is Freedom?), Western, Shaun the Sheep, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa and People. And on 11/25, watch for Kemper, Two Tigers and Brian McNamara's Dead of Winter.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Super Troopers for Blu-ray release on 12/9, followed by Home Alone and Jingle All the Way on 12/2. Industry sources are also telling us to expect The Pink Panther and Ronin to arrive on Blu-ray from MGM (distributed by Fox) early in 2009.

Warner Home Video has announced a new DVD edition of Brainstorm for release on 2/3/09. Also coming on that day are the Natalie Wood Signature Collection (containing Splendor in the Grass, Sex and the Single Girl, Inside Daisy Clover, the Gypsy: Deluxe Edition, Bombers B-52 and Cash McCall), a Being There: Deluxe Edition and a Being There Blu-ray Disc. Following on 2/10 is Ode to Billy Joe. And Don Cherry's Hard Hitting Hockey streets on DVD on 12/2.

Not done yet... Sony has set Tenacious D: The Complete Masterworks 2 for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 11/4. The DVD will be a 2-disc set. Both will include a 22-song, 2007 live concert shot in HD at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, an hour-long "rocumentary" on the band, additional live performances by The D on SNL, Late Night with Conan O'Brian and the 2006 MTV Movie Awards, and music videos for Time Fixers and Classico.

Also, City Lights Entertainment will finally bring its new Kiss of the Spider Woman: Special Collector's Edition to stores on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 10/21. Previously, both versions had been Amazon.com exclusive releases (starting in June). After next Tuesday, you'll now find them widely available.

A couple more to go... Somerville House and Critical Mass have announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Bob Clark's holiday horror classic Black Christmas on 11/11 (SRP $29.98). The disc will include 2 original scenes with a new vocal soundtrack, The 12 Days of Black Christmas documentary (featuring new interviews with Art Hindle, Doug McGrath, Lynne Griffin and more), separate interview segments with Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder, and video of a midnight screening Q&A session with John Saxon, Bob Clark and Carl Zittrer.

Also coming to both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 11/25 is George Carlin's final HBO special, It's Bad for Ya (SRP $19.98 and $24.98). In addition to the special, recorded in March of 2008, you'll also get the Too Hip for the Room featurette, which is "a wonderfully candid interview conducted by The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's Archive of American Television program where Carlin speaks about his early influences, philosophy, comedic style, major career milestones, and his legacy."

Finally today, Anchor Bay has just announced the DVD only release of the Hellbound: Hellraiser II - 20th Anniversary Edition on 12/20 (SRP $19.97). Extras will include audio commentary with director Tony Randel, screenwriter Peter Atkins and actor Ashley Laurence, 5 featurettes (The Soul Patrol, Outside the Box, The Doctor is In, Under the Skin and Lost in the Labyrinth), trailers and TV spots, on-set interviews with producer Clive Barker along with the cast and crew, and a poster and stills gallery. The initial run of the DVD will also include a reproduction of the film's original theatrical poster.

And in other news this afternoon, Home Media Retailing is reporting that Paramount's Iron Man has sold a whopping 500,000 copies on Blu-ray in its first six days of availability. Word is the title could be the first Blu-ray release to sell 1 million units.

Okay, we'll leave you with a TON of new DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover art. Here's Universal's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor single-disc DVD, Sony's Tenacious D: The Complete Masterworks 2 DVD and Blu-ray, and Paramount's Dexter: The First Season (for Showtime, due 1/6/09), Ghost, The Truman Show, Days of Thunder, Event Horizon (all due 12/30) and Tommy Boy (12/16) on Blu-ray....

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor single-disc DVDTenacious D: The Complete Masterworks 2 DVDTenacious D: The Complete Masterworks 2 (Blu-ray Disc)

Dexter: The First SeasonGhost (Blu-ray Disc)The Truman Show (Blu-ray Disc)

Days of Thunder (Blu-ray Disc)Event Horizon (Blu-ray Disc)Tommy Boy (Blu-ray Disc)

Now I'm off to start working on more new Blu-ray reviews... Sleeping Beauty, the new Bond releases and more. As usual, there's no rest for the weary! Stay tuned...

10/15/08

Today's been a hectic one for us here at The Bits. Todd and I had to deliver our column for the December issue of Geek Monthly, so you know... there are not enough hours in the day. Speaking of which, the GeekBits column for the current issue (November - it should be arriving on newsstands now, featuring a timely election theme) has been lovingly crafted by our very own Dr. Adam Jahnke, who muses upon some of the great fictional Presidents on TV and film. Don't miss it!

While we're talking Jahnke, his Thursday "Week of the Dead" Oktoberfest entry is none other than Brian Singleton's Forest of the Dead, from Elite Entertainment. There's two more "Dead" titles to go, and lots more creepiness and gore on disc to come!

In news from around the Net today, Home Media Retailing has announced the winners of this year's TV DVD Awards (you can find them here). The official announcements were made last night, at an appropriately schwanky awards dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. I served as one of several judges for the awards again this year to select the best entries in each category, and readers of Home Media, TVShowsonDVD.com and The Digital Bits voted online to pick the final winners. Congratulations to all of them (and thanks to all of you who participated)!

Finally today, you Trek fans are going to really dig this: The first images from J.J. Abrams' long-awaited Star Trek feature film have been released today, and I've got to tell you, I am now official intrigued. You can check them out here at the MTV Movie Blog, which has an exclusive shot of the cast on the new Bridge (and also has links to all the other sites around the Net with exclusive images as well). The film is due to hit theatres next summer, and the first trailer is expected to arrive with Sony's Quantum of Solace next month.

Back with lots more tomorrow. Stay tuned!

10/14/08

Afternoon, everyone!

First up, Adam's Hell Plaza Oktoberfest "Week of the Dead" entry for today is Dance of the Dead on DVD from Lionsgate's Ghost House Underground line. Boo!

Now then... we've been hearing reports for months now, from folks connected to various Blu-ray associated companies, that you'll probably be seeing some pretty great deals on Blu-ray Disc hardware in time for the holidays - especially on Black Friday, the infamous day after Thanksgiving Day shopping fest. Now come the first early reports of just what one of those deals might look like: Gizmodo is reporting that Samsung and retailer Ultimate Electronics will be offering the BD-P1500 for just $149 on Black Friday - some $350 off its regular retail price. The deal has yet to be official confirmed, but we bet it's right on, and that you'll be seeing a number of other such manufacturer/retailer offerings that day as well.

There's another big new announcement to report: DreamWorks and Paramount have set Tropic Thunder for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 11/18. Available will be a single-disc DVD (SRP $19.99), a 2-disc DVD Unrated Director's Cut ($24.99) and an Unrated Director's Cut Blu-ray ($29.99). Extras will include filmmaker commentary with Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Stuart Cornfeld, Jeff Mann, John Toll and Greg Hayden, a cast commentary with Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr., 5 production featurettes (Before the Thunder, The Hot LZ, Blowing Shit Up, Designing the Thunder and Rain of Madness), 7 The Cast of Tropic Thunder featurettes (Stiller, Black, Downey Jr., Baruchel, McBride, Jackson and Nolte), 11 Dispatches from the Edge of Madness (The Journey Begins, Misinformed, Viet-Wham!, Hallowed Ground, Good-bye, Gladys, Perception, Slaughterhouse Live, Clean & Sober, Location Scouts, Historically Accurate and P.P.S.D.), 2 deleted scenes, 2 extended sequences and an alternate ending, the MTV Movie Awards spoof, 4 Full Mags featurettes (Cody at Bar, Portnoy Tied to Tree, Choose a Dude and Laz at Campfire) and video rehearsal footage. Here's a look at the cover art...

Tropic Thunder DVDTropic Thunder: 2-Disc Director's CutTropic Thunder: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

Also today, Paramount and Showtime will release The Tudors: The Complete Second Season on DVD on 12/30.

And Universal has set Wanted for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 12/2, followed by Beethoven's Big Break on DVD only on 12/30. Wanted will be available as a single-disc DVD (SRP $29.98), a 2-disc DVD Special Edition (SRP $34.98), a Blu-ray Disc (SRP $39.98), and special Collector's Sets in both DVD ($64.98) and Blu-ray ($69.98) formats. The 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray will include an extended scene, 8 featurettes (Cast and Characters, Stunts on the L Train, Special Effects: The Art of the Impossible, Groundbreaking Visual Effects: From Imagination to Execution, The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life, The Origins of Wanted: Bringing the Graphic Novel to Life, Through the Eyes of Visionary Director Timur Bekmambetov and The Making of Wanted: The Game), as well as Wanted: Motion Comics and The Little Things: Music Video Mash-Up (only available in standard-def). To this, the Blu-ray Disc also adds an alternate opening, U-Control features (Wanted: Motion Comics, a Scene Explorer, Assassins Profile and Picture-in-Picture video) and BD-Live online features (My Chat, My Wanted Commentary and My Scenes Sharing). The Collector's Sets will also include a photo book of assassins, collectible postcards, an acrylic frame motion 3-D film cell and special "bullet-pierced" packaging. Here's a look at the cover artwork and contents...

Wanted: 2-Disc Special EditionWanted (Blu-ray Disc)

Wanted Blu-ray Collector's Set

Stay tuned!

10/13/08

Afternoon, folks! We've got a couple of good things for you to check out today...

First of all, our own Adam Jahnke has kicked off his big "Week of the Dead" in the Hell Plaza Oktoberfest with a review of director Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut, recently released on Blu-ray by Universal.

Also this afternoon, we've got a new Yellow Layer Failure column from Robert A. Harris as expected, featuring a great interview with Theo Gluck, Director of Library Restoration and Preservation for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, about the restoration of Sleeping Beauty featured on the new Blu-ray Disc. I think you'll find it very interesting, so do check it out.

I'd promised a review of the actual Blu-ray as well for today, and it's coming, but a little something came up overnight that's kept me from finishing it in time to post this afternoon. We've had pretty strong Santa Ana winds here in Orange County overnight, and I woke up this morning to find that they'd knocked over a tree in our backyard! These winds are really something, I'll tell you. Anyway, the review IS coming, but it's going to take a little longer to get up.

Meanwhile today, our own Russell Hammond has finished the weekly update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section, complete with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover art, as well as Amazon pre-order links. As usual, a portion of anything you order through those links helps to support our work here at The Bits and we appreciate it!

In announcement news today, Image Entertainment has just set Werner Herzog's critically-acclaimed documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, for release on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 11/18 (SRP $27.98 and $35.98). The DVD will be a 2-disc set. Both versions will include audio commentary with Herzog, producer Henry Kaiser and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, as well as 4 featurettes (including Under the Ice, Over the Ice, Dive Locker Interview: Werner Herzog Talks with Rob Robbins and Henry Kaiser, South Pole Exorcism and Seals and Men and Jonathan Demme Interviews Werner Herzog).

Meanwhile, CBS and Paramount have set Cheers: The Final Season for DVD release on 1/27/09, along with The Invaders: The Second Season and The Invaders: The Complete Series. They've also announced Becker: The Second Season for DVD release on 2/3/09.

Sony has set The House Bunny for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 12/23.

And Warner Home Video has set Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Season 1, Volume 1 for release on DVD on 1/27. The studio has also announced The Notebook: Limited Edition Giftset for release on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 1/20 (for New Line).

Finally today, here's a look at some new cover artwork... Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 (due on 1/6/09 - the art was originally posted on UGO over the weekend), as well as Sony's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and Stranger Than Fiction: Special Edition on Blu-ray (both due on 12/2)...

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (Blu-ray Disc)Stranger Than Fiction: Special Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

10/10/08

Afternoon, folks! Hope the day finds you well.

Adam Jahnke closes out the week for us this afternoon, by going to a dark and absolutely fascinating place... The Mindscape of Alan Moore, as found on DVD from the folks at Disinformation. Just so you know, Adam's going to be continuing his Halloween-themed Oktoberfest next week, with an entire "Week of the Dead!" So be sure to check back then.

Don't forget too, that I'll be back on Monday with a review of Disney's new Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray Disc. We'll also have Robert Harris' new Yellow Layer column on the restoration of Sleeping Beauty too.

Have a great weekend!

10/9/08

Afternoon, folks! Okay... I've just finished my review of Warner's new Blu-ray Disc version of The Ultimate Matrix Collection. The box set streets next week, on 10/14, and it's definitely worth checking out - especially for the HD versions of The Animatrix films.

I should also let you know that I've had the chance to sample Disney's new Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray Disc, which streeted on Tuesday. I have to say, it looks just about as close to perfect as I think any hand-drawn animated film could. It's absolutely gorgeous. I'll have more to say on it on Monday, when I'll be posting my full review. I'll also be posting a new Yellow Layer column from our very own Robert A. Harris, featuring an in-depth interview on the film's restoration. So be sure to check back on Monday for that.

Also this afternoon, we've got the Doctor's Oktoberfest review for the day... none other than Anchor Bay's Phantasm. Beware shinny silver spheres...

In release news today, our friends at Rounder Records, in association with ZoŽ Vision and Anthem Entertainment, have announced a new live disc from Canadian rockers Rush, set to debut on 11/25. Rush: Snakes & Arrows Live will be available on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc, each as a 3-disc set. The concert was recorded over two nights in October 2007, at the Netherlands' Ahoy Rotterdam arena. Look for the complete show, along with substantial bonus material. The DVD will feature anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital and PCM 5.1 audio. We're awaiting more specifics on the Blu-ray specs. Here's what the DVD cover art looks like...

Rush: Snakes & Arrows LiveTranssiberian (Blu-ray Disc)Sukiyaki Western Django (Blu-ray Disc)

As you can see, we've also included Blu-ray artwork for two more titles. First Look has just announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Transsiberian on 11/4, followed by Sukiyaki Western Django on both formats on 11/11. Transsiberian (SRP $28.98 and $34.98) will be a movie-only release. Sukiyaki Western Django (same SRPs) will include deleted scenes. The DVD will also have a making of featurette, while the Blu-ray will feature BD-Live access to a site to view the featurette online. The Blu-ray will also feature a Digital Copy version of the film.

Finally today, there's good news for the Blu-ray format... at least in terms of the latest forecast for hardware sales. Dallas-based Parks Associates is predicting that total sales of set-top Blu-ray players for the year should hit 5 million units globally. Those sales are predicted to jump "eightfold" within four years, expected to reach some 40 million. You can read more here at Video Business.

Stay tuned...

10/8/08

Afternoon folks! Thanks to all of you who e-mailed in kind birthday wishes. Very much appreciated. ;)

Okay... first up today, we've got the Doctor's latest Oktoberfest review for you... Something Beneath from Genius Products. Mmmmmm... tentacles...

In announcement news today, Paramount has set Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 1/13, along with new Paramount Centennial Collection DVD editions of Breakfast at Tiffany's and Funny Face. The studio has also officially announced the Zødiac: Director's Cut for release on Blu-ray on 1/27.

Also today, Warner Home Video has set National Geographic's Strange Days Gift Set on 1/6, followed by National Geographic's Fight Science on 1/13, the MGM: When the Lion Roars documentary on 1/20, the All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One, Volume Two, the John Grisham Courtroom Collection 4-pack (includes The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill and Runaway Jury), Cannery Row, Far from the Madding Crowd, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), Waterloo Bridge, The Yellow Rolls Royce and the Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection (includes Palm Springs Weekend, Parrish, Rome Adventure and Susan Slade) on 1/27, and Night Court: The Complete Second Season and Tom and Jerry Tales: Volume 6 on 2/3.

In other news today, it looks like Paramount's Iron Man is moving very well on Blu-ray. Sales of the title are running an average of 20% on Blu-ray, and as high as 50% at some retailers. You can read more here at Video Business.

And we have word of an interesting Blu-ray event that you San Francisco-area readers might want to check out. Sponsored by the Producers Guild of America, Blu-ray Gets Connected: Creative Possibilities for BD-Live will be held next Wednesday night, 10/15. It's a live, 'interactive' panel discussion with representatives from various Hollywood studios and support companies involved in BD-Live production. It will be help at Pixar Animation Studios (1200 Park Avenue, Emeryville, CA 94608), from 7 to 9 PM (Pacific). The event is open to anyone interested in attending, but you MUST RSVP via e-mail (to: sfpgaevent@yahoo.com) in order to attend, and space is limited. Here's the description:

"What are the interactive possibilities when Blu-ray players can connect to the Internet for dynamic content updates? At the last CES, we saw the first hints of what the new BD-Live service can offer in terms of highly interactive entertainment in conjunction with Blu-ray movies such as integrated games and social networking features. Now that BD-Live is actually launching, both CE companies and the movie studios have kicked into high gear. This panel will demonstrate the best of what's out there today and describe the opportunities for creators to develop for this exciting new platform."

So there you go. If you end up attending, be sure to send us your impressions.

FYI, I'm working on a review of The Matrix Blu-ray box set, but it's going to take some time. There's a LOT of content, and I'm trying to go through the set item by item to make sure that everything that was on the DVD Ultimate box set has been ported over to Blu. Also on tap are Blu reviews of Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Universal's The Incredible Hulk, so stay tuned for those.

We'll leave you today with a look at some new cover artwork. Here's Sony's La Femme Nikita on Blu (due 12/2) and Step Brothers: Unrated on DVD (also 12/2), as well as Paramount's Election, also on Blu (1/20)...

La Femme Nikita (Blu-ray Disc)Step Brothers: UnratedElection (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!


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