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page updated: 5/19/09



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 5/12/09 - 4/14/09)


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5/12/09

Afternoon, folks... okay, I'm going to have our full review of the Star Trek Blu-ray set tomorrow, complete with a look at all the extras.

In the meantime, however, we've got a MAJOR release news update for you this afternoon.

First though, our own Dr. Adam Jahnke has a new installment of The Electric Theatre for you today with his thoughts on... you guessed it... the new Star Trek feature film, as well as a look at Universal's classic western No Name on the Bullet on DVD in Tales from the Queue. Enjoy!

Also today, Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates & Artwork section with all the latest Blu-ray and DVD cover art and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a small portion of ANYTHING you buy from Amazon after clicking to them through our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits, and we greatly appreciate it.

Now then... let's talk new announcements, shall we?

First up, Summit Entertainment has set Knowing for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/7 (SRP $26.98 and $34.98). Extras will include director's commentary and two in-depth, "making of" featurettes. Summit has also set Push for release on DVD and Blu on 7/7 (SRP also $26.98 and $34.98). Extras will include cast and director's commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Meanwhile, MGM has set The Betrayed for release on DVD on 6/30 (via Fox). Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li streets on both DVD and Blu-ray from MGM on 6/9.

Disney's Race to Witch Mountain is set to clock in on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/4. Available will be single-disc and 2-disc DVD editions (the latter will include Disney File Digital Copy) as well as a 3-disc Blu-ray Combo pack (SRP $44.95) that will include the Blu-ray, the single-disc DVD plus a Digital Copy version). Blu-ray extras will include audio commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, the Which Mountain? featurette and BD-Live.

Disney has also set the Disney Animation Collection: Volume 7 - Mickey's Christmas Carol for DVD release on 9/29. And look for Lost: The Complete Fifth Season to street on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 12/8.

Dollhouse: Season One has officially been set for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/28 by Fox, as expected. Extras will include the never-before-seen episode Epitaph One, select episode commentary by Joss Whedon, star Eliza Dushku and the writers, the unaired pilot episode, deleted scenes and 5 featurettes (Making Dollhouse, Coming Back Home, Finding Echo, Designing the Perfect Dollhouse and A Private Engagement).

Fox has also set Big Trouble in Little China and My Cousin Vinny for release on Blu-ray on 8/4, followed by Sons of Anarchy: Season One on 8/18.

Sony has set The Human Contract for release on DVD only on 6/30. Sony also has Midnight Express coming on Blu-ray Disc on 7/21, along with the DVD only release of Charlie's Angels: The Complete Fourth Season and Messengers 2: The Scarecrow.

Here's cool news for you spaceflight fans... Indican Pictures is releasing the Moon flight documentary The Wonder of It All on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in September. More here at Home Media.

Anchor Bay has set the comedy Bart Got a Room for DVD release on 7/28.

Finally, here's the best for last: Warner has just officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Watchmen for 7/21, as we've reported in The Rumor Mill. Available will be single-disc DVD, 2-disc DVD special edition and 2-disc Blu-ray versions (SRP $28.99, $22.95 and $35.99). The single-disc DVD will include just the theatrical cut of the film. The 2-disc DVD will feature a new cut of the film that's 25-minutes longer, along with The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics documentary, 11 "making of" webisodes and My Chemical Romance's Desolation Row music video. You'll also get a Digital Copy version of the film. The Blu-ray will include all of the 2-disc material, along with a BonusView Immersive Maximum Movie Mode of the film hosted by director Zack Snyder, as well as BD-Live features that can be shared with friends on Facebook.

While we're talking Snyder and Warner, the studio is also finally releasing it's long-awaited 300: The Complete Experience on Blu-ray on 7/21 (SRP $39.99 - again, as we've been reporting in The Rumor Mill). Arriving in 40-page Digibook packaging, the BD-50 release will feature 2 hours of exclusive new content, including a Comprehensive Immersion viewing mode with 3 options featuring PiP discussion with Frank Miller and Zack Snyder - Creating a Legend, Bringing the Legend to Life and The History Behind the Myth. You'll also get the Bluescreen PiP viewing mode from the previous HD-DVD release, and all the other extras from the previous DVD releases.

Winding up other Warner release news, look for Sea Monsters 3-D on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/11, along with The Batman: Double Feature (The Batman/Superman Movie and The Batman vs. Dracula) and The Scooby-Doo Double Feature (Scooby-Doo Meets Batman and Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters). National Geographic's Death Valley, Hidden Hawaii and National Parks Collection follow on DVD on 8/18, with Batman: Brave and the Bold - Volume 1 due on 8/25 and Plastic Man: The Complete Collection rounding things out on 9/1.

And in other news from around the Net, director McG has told our friends over at Collider that Warner's Terminator: Salvation will feature 30-40 minutes of deleted scenes when it arrives on DVD and Blu-ray Disc later this year.

We haven't posted as much cover artwork lately, so here's a BUNCH of new covers: Warner's Watchmen: Director's Cut on DVD and Blu-ray, and 300: The Complete Experience on Blu-ray, Disney's Lost: The Complete Fifth Season and Race to Witch Mountain on Blu-ray, Universal's Field of Dreams on Blu (5/26), and Fox's Big Trouble in Little China, The Towering Inferno (7/14) and Dollhouse: Season One on Blu. All covers with links can be pre-ordered now at Amazon...

Watchmen: 2-Disc Special EditionWatchmen: Special Edition (Blu-ray Disc)300: The Complete Experience (Blu-ray Disc)

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray Disc)Race to Witch Mountain (Blu-ray Disc)Field of Dreams (Blu-ray Disc)

Big Trouble in Little China (Blu-ray Disc)The Towering Inferno (Blu-ray Disc)Dollhouse: Season One (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 5/11/09 - 1 PM PDT)

Thanks for your patience, folks. As I mentioned earlier this morning, we've been getting a lot of e-mails from concerned Star Trek fans regarding the image quality of Paramount's new catalog Trek film Blu-rays, which street tomorrow. When I contacted the studio about the issue on Friday, final review product was still unavailable (it should be ready in the next few days), but they were kind enough to send over a set of check discs for me to evaluate the picture and sound quality. Last night, I looked carefully at each film on a 110" projection screen using the Panasonic PT-AE1000U 1080p LCD front projector. Here are my thoughts:

First of all, let me just say that the new Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan restoration looks spectacular. I've seen this film projected in high quality in recent years, and the new presentation captures that experience wonderfully. The film (in fact, nearly ALL the Trek films) have always had a soft look about them, owing to the stock used and the sort of "budget production" approach with which they were shot, but the overall detail is quite good and is very true to the theatrical presentation. There's light, refined grain structure visible, and color and contrast are excellent. The image is very nicely film-like and it's just a wonderful viewing experience. Bottom line: This is exactly how Khan is supposed to look, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. So that's the good news.

Now... here's the flip side: The other films are a somewhat different story, image quality-wise. Here's the thing... when you look at them, they don't look bad per-se. But they're also far from great. Contrast and color is actually outstanding on virtually all of the other films (with the qualified exception of Trek IV, which has somewhat less than optimal contrast). That's not really the issue. The issue is that when these transfers were done, too much Digital Video Noise Reduction was used to reduce visible grain, or some kind of filtering was applied across the board that stripped out too much high-frequency information in the image. Now... the fact is, some noise reduction is applied to EVERY high-def master you see. That's the nature of the business. The problem is, up until recently, how MUCH was applied to Blu-ray was considered a matter of taste in the industry. And as you guys know, from time to time, too much as been applied by various studios for the image to hold up to large screen Blu-ray presentation.

As a result here, with Trek I and Trek III-VI on Blu-ray, a lot of fine detail - the kind of detail that makes an image look film-like or not on large screens - has been scrubbed away. That's not so much a concern if you're watching the films on smaller plasma or CRT HD displays, but if you're someone who likes to squeeze every bit of image quality out of your Blu-rays with display sizes of over 50" and over, you're going to start seeing the problems. And the bigger you view the image, the more it starts to fall apart. I can tell you that at 110", film grain is almost completely gone save for very coarse grain in select effects shots, and that looks rather muddy.

To this point, Paramount has generally been excellent in my opinion in terms of the overall high presentation quality of their Blu-ray releases, both new and catalog. I know for a fact that they really work hard to sweat the details on this stuff. I don't believe that corners were deliberately cut here, I just suspect some of these transfers were done before people had started to realize that excessive noise reduction was a problem on Blu-ray at large screen sizes - one of the major reasons why many studios have had to re-do HD transfers done even a just couple years ago. And as Trek II was the most recently completed, I think it benefited the most from that learning curve, if you will. Unfortunately, that's going to be of little consolation to some of you here, because of the high expectations that film and A/V fans naturally have for the Star Trek films on Blu-ray. These are EXACTLY the kinds of titles high-end Blu-ray and home theatre enthusiasts crave on the format, and many of them are going to buy these discs and (with the exception of Khan) are likely to be a bit disappointed.

As I said, they're not bad. They're definitely better looking than the DVD versions and very watchable, with generally great color and contrast. And the new TrueHD audio mixes are fantastic. But the image quality here isn't great, and it should be great... or at least very good. There are probably going to be calls for the studio to "fix" these discs, and I just don't think that's going to happen until the films are released again on the format in the director's editions at some point down the line. So my advice to all of you (and the whole point of my writing this today, prior to street) is, this is probably a case of buyer beware. Those of you with smaller displays should be fine. Those of you with larger displays... you may wish to think twice.

If I were to rate these discs using the standards we normally apply to Blu-ray picture and sound grading, here's how I would break them down. Keep in mind that on our comparative grading scale (of 1-20), the best looking DVDs would clock in at a 10 and the best looking Blu-rays would be 20:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Video - 17
Audio - 19

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
V - 18.5
A - 17.5

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
V - 16
A - 17.5

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
V - 15.5
A - 17.5

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
V - 16
A - 18

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
V - 16
A - 18

FYI, the extras are quite good. I'll have more to say on that soon. So there you go: You've been advised as best we can. Adjust your buying decisions (or not) as you feel necessary. Thanks again to Paramount for making the check discs available so that we could address this issue for all of you before you make your purchases. They certainly didn't have to do that and we appreciate the fact that they did. Let the discussion begin.

More later. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/11/09 - 3 AM PDT)

Okay... so I've seen Paramount's new Star Trek movie Blu-rays. I'm not going to review the complete set for a couple days, but I know there have been a lot of concerns about the video quality, following the release of the discs in Europe late last month. As such, I've been getting TONS of e-mail from readers with questions about the issue. So in order to be able to advise you all on the matter prior to street date tomorrow (Tuesday), I've been fortunate to obtain preview copies in order to evaluate the video and audio quality. I've looked at all of the films in detail, have made notes and am preparing my thoughts. I'll have them for you here later this morning, or very early this afternoon. I just wanted to jump in here early to let you all know in advance to watch for them.

Back later, so stay tuned...

5/8/09

Afternoon, folks!

As promised, we're pleased to close out the week with a trio of new Blu-ray Disc reviews from Jeff: Paramount's brand new The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (presented via the folks at Criterion), and a pair of catalog Blu-ray upgrades including the Grease: Rockin' Rydell Edition and the Saturday Night Fever: 30th Anniversary Edition. All three streeted on Tuesday and are well worth a look. More reviews are coming soon. Enjoy!

Speaking of Blu-ray and Criterion, our friends over at the Collection are giving each of you the chance to vote (via this page at Amazon.com) on which of the following titles you want to see released next in high-def: Au Revoir Les Enfants, Down by Law, Howard's End, Kwaidan or Picnic at Hanging Rock. Head on over there an vote today, and the winner will be released later in 2009.

That's all for now. Go take the family and see Star Trek this weekend. Trust me, you'll have a great time. See you Monday!

5/7/09

Morning folks! Hope all's well with you today...

In announcement news today, MGM has officially set Pink Panther 2 for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 6/16.

CBS has set The Love Boat: Season Two, Volume Two for release on DVD on 8/4. Early Edition: The Second Season arrives on DVD on 7/28.

Sony has set I Still Know What You Did Last Summer for release on Blu-ray on 7/14, along with Bewitched: The Complete Eighth Season, 12 and Rec on DVD. Also coming that day is a Blu-ray 3-pack including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Curse of the Golden Flower and House of Flying Daggers (SRP $80.95). Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is new to Blu-ray in the States.

Meanwhile, Warner Home Video has set Grey Gardens for release on 7/14 (for HBO), Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season for 8/4 (also HBO), The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle on 8/11 (for the BBC), Doctor Who: Ep. 88 - The Deadly Assassin, Doctor Who: Ep. 94 - Image of the Fendahl and Doctor Who: Ep.150 - Delta and the Bannermen all arrive on 9/1 (also for the BBC), and the Directed by John Ford documentary and the John Ford Film Collection box set (includes The Searchers: SE, The Wings of Eagles, Fort Apache, 3 Godfathers, She Word a Yellow Ribbon and They Were Expendable, along with the Directed by John Ford documentary) street on 9/15. And they finally show us Vikings fans a little love with the DVD release of NFL Minnesota Vikings: 5 Greatest Games on 8/18. Yeah, sure... now that Brett Farve might be coming town. Kidding. We'll take it. ;)

Also today, here's some interesting format news: Blu-ray, even in the midst of recession, is seeing boffo hardware sales. No kidding, format sales for the first quarter of 2009 are up 72% from the same period last year, having moved over 400,000 units. As of March, 90% of consumers surveyed by the NPD Group are aware of the format. Average BD player prices have dropped from $393 in 2008 to $261 so far this year, and the industry expects the so-called magic price point of about $200 to be crossed this fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. You can read more at Video Business, Home Media and Engadget.

There's also word today from another analysis firm, Futuresource, that 3-D is expected to really begin rolling out on Blu-ray in 2011, although we believe you'll see the first titles available next year. More on that at Video Business. I'm still not sure that 3-D is more than just another fad, but Hollywood really seems to be banking on it theatrically, at least for the moment. We'll see.

Here's a little new Blu-ray cover art... Sony's Air Force One (6/2) and Waltz with Bashir (6/23), as well as Universal's The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition (8/4)...

Air Force One (Blu-ray Disc)Waltz with Bashir (Blu-ray Disc)The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

FYI, Paramount's Star Trek Blu-ray movie box set still hasn't shown up yet, but rest assured we'll get it reviewed ASAP when it does, as we know lots of you are interested in it. Also, check back tonight or early tomorrow for a number of new Blu-ray reviews, including Paramount's Grease and Saturday Night Fever, as well as (via Criterion) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Stay tuned...

5/5/09

Okay... first things first: We want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of actor Dom DeLuise today. We'll miss him for a lot of roles, including appearances in Cannonball Run and many of Mel Brooks' films. He was 75.

Around the site today, Adam has just updated his Electric Theatre column with some thoughts on X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He also has more Tales from the Queue, so don't miss it.

Also this afternoon, we've kicked off new Giveaways offering each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Two and Half Men: The Complete Fifth Season and Scooby Doo, Where Are You?: Volume 2 - Bump in the Night, as well as Hip-O's Streisand in Concert on Blu-ray Disc. Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, May 17th. Click on the links to enter and good luck!

We've also just posted Russell Hammond's weekly update of the Release Dates & Artwork section, featuring the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, remember that you can sort the titles in a variety of different ways, and a portion of anything you order from Amazon after clicking to them through our links goes to help support our ongoing work here at The Bits, and we greatly appreciate it.

Now then... I suspect some of you have been waiting for this part. Let me tell you a little something about J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek. (Worry not - I'm not going to spoil anything.) I did, in fact, see the film last night. This is something you're going to be hearing a lot of people saying in the coming days: Star Trek is a BLAST! If you saw the third and final trailer - the one that got even diehard fans excited - know that the film delivers on every bit of that trailer's promise. What's clever about this Star Trek, is that it's both a reboot AND it manages to respect all the Trek continuity that's come before (yes everything, including Enterprise). I'm not going to tell you how - just know that it's very smartly done.

The actors are all spot on as their characters - Pine, Quinto and Urban make you BELIEVE they're the younger Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The other cast members are all good too, especially Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike and Eric Bana as the film's villain, Nero. The production design is spectacular and the special effects are absolutely top-notch. Even Michael Giacchino's score delivers in spades. This is definitely Trek on a scale we've never seen before. There are a couple things you longtime Trek fans will just have to go with... like the fact that it seems to take only ten minutes to warp from Earth to Vulcan, and the Enterprise's engine room looks like a boiler room. But there's so much that's good here - so much that's fun - that you can easily forgive those things. The film is exciting, action packed, occasionally funny, occasionally poignant. The TV spots have been promoting the fact that this is "Not Your Father's Star Trek." That's both true and not. This film definitely FEELS like Star Trek - no doubt about it. It's even very slightly campy, in keeping with the tone of the original series. But as a fan of Trek since the early 1970s, I'll tell you... this film managed to do something that Trek hasn't done in a long time: truly surprise me. Without giving anything away, something happens in this film, about a third of the way in, that would NEVER have happened in old Trek. Not EVER. When it happened, I kept thinking... they didn't just really DO that, did they? And the answer is... yes, they did. After which point, you begin to fully understand what the TV spots mean. This Trek is a whole different ball game. What's even cooler about this is that, because this is a reboot of sorts, many of the events that longtime fans know happen in the Trek universe can still happen AGAIN... but in a whole different way. So somewhere out there, there's a Doomsday Machine destroying planets. Somewhere out in deep space, Khan and his army of genetic supermen lie sleeping in the S.S. Botany Bay, waiting to be discovered again. And THAT possibility has me very excited for what might come next.

Star Trek is just a completely fun movie. Even for you doubters (which, I'll admit, until recently I was one) - I think this film will mostly win you over. It's wall to wall action, right from the opening moments. Best of all, you don't have to be a Trekker to watch this film. ANYONE off the street can go in and thoroughly enjoy themselves. Trek fans will just appreciate it that much more. As you've no doubt seen, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and deservedly so. Star Trek is just a rip-roaring good time at the movies - a classic summer blockbuster that transcends its genre while also managing to honor the franchise. It opens in theatres on Friday, and I'm already planning to see it again this weekend. I can't wait for the Blu-ray. Impossibly, against all odds, Star Trek LIVES!

By the way, the writers of the film have come up with a prequel story that sets up Nero's motivations in the film nicely. You can find it in the form of a graphic novel, called Star Trek: Countdown, that's available here on Amazon.com if you're interested. It's not necessary to understand or enjoy the film in any way, but you Trekkers might appreciate the way it cements the film into the existing continuity even more. Just FYI.

Back tomorrow, so stay tuned...

5/4/09

This is going to be a quick one... we've just uploaded Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Coming Attractions column, featuring more thoughts on Warner's new Archive Collection, as well as classic DVD reviews, the usual announcement news and more. Enjoy!

Back tomorrow with a lot more, so stay tuned...

5/1/09

Yeah, I know... the header was a play on Star Trek too, in addition to the date. Hang on to that thought a moment. First up, we've got a couple more title announcements for you this afternoon...

Anchor Bay Entertainment will release Adam Rifkin's documentary on surveillance, Look, on DVD on 5/5 (SRP $26.97).

Here's a title folks have been waiting a long time for: Shout! Factory is releasing TV's thirtysomething on DVD on 8/25 (SRP $59.99). Word is it will be a 6-disc set (not sure yet if it's the complete series or just the first season), plus extras (including creator interviews), and that it should include all the original broadcast music. Pretty cool. Now that I'm fortysomething, and recall enjoying the show when I was twentysomething, it should be interesting to revisit the series on disc.

Meanwhile, Universal has set The Unborn for release on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/7. Also coming that day on DVD only is Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Tenth Season, and both Monk: Season Seven and Psych: The Complete Third Season follow on DVD on 7/21. Fingers crossed, I'm hoping Universal will release the rest of Baa Baa Black Sheep on DVD this year...

Also, Warner has set the Cartoon Network's Total Drama Island: Complete Season for DVD release on 8/18 (SRP $34.99). Ben 10 Alien Force: Volume Four follows on 9/1.

In other news, this is potentially interesting: There are media reports appearing (ahead of next month's Apple WWDC development conference in San Francisco) that Apple might be about to start including Blu-ray compatibility in its next round of iTunes software. Word is beta versions of iTunes 8.2 mention the format on the "About iTunes" splash screen. If this pans out, it's also possible that the comp-maker might begin introducing BD drives into their iMac and Pro systems. This is only a rumor, so qualify it as such, but you can read more here at Home Media, here at InformationWeek and here at CNet.

Finally today, CBS Home Entertainment has just announced that owners of the new Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 Blu-ray set, and who have BD-Live connected Blu-ray players, will be able to access the first ever BD-Live coverage of a remote event next week. They'll be able to watch near-live reports and updates from Fedcon - Europe's biggest Star Trek convention - via daily downloads from the disc's BD-Live portal, including behind-the-scenes footage and talent interviews. Fedcon happens in Bonn, Germany, from 5/1 to 5/3. Pretty cool.

Okay... speaking of Star Trek, it's definitely going to feel like Trek Week here at The Bits starting this coming Tuesday. I'm seeing the new Abrams feature film on Monday night, so I'll have plenty to say about it the following morning you can be sure. And with a little luck, we should be getting our hands on Paramount's new Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection on Blu-ray next week, so we'll have a full review of that as well. We'll have those new columns from Barrie and Rob early next week too.

So have a great weekend in the meantime! Go enjoy Wolverine. Or X-Men: Origins or whatever it's called. As always, stay tuned...

4/30/09

Afternoon, all. We've got a new review for you today, and some new release news as well, to help keep your minds off all this swine flu business...

First, Jeff's just posted his thoughts on Paramount's new Blu-ray version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (due in stores on 5/5). Great film, and it looks great in HD. Do check it out.

In announcement news, Disney has set the DVD and Blu-ray release of Morning Light for 6/16. They also have Princess Protection Program coming on DVD on 6/30.

Also, 20th Century Fox has set Silent Venom for DVD release on DVD on 6/2. This should be considered Rumor Mill worthy, but Dollhouse: Season 1 is expected to street on both DVD and Blu-ray on 7/28 (SRP $49.98 and $69.99). Extras are expected to include the original unaired pilot, multiple commentary tracks with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, 7 featurettes (Making Dollhouse, Coming Back Home, Finding Echo, Designing the Perfect Dollhouse, Mind Games, An Urban Myth? and A Private Engagement) and more.

Speaking of Fox, they'll also distribute MGM's DVD and Blu-ray release of Pink Panther 2 on 6/23 (SRP $29.98 and $39.99). Each will include the film disc with extras and a bonus disc that is essentially the Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 - Pranks in the Pink. The Blu-ray version will also feature a Digital Copy disc.

And Warner Home Video has set Mr. Troop Mom for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 6/23, followed by NFL Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Greatest Games and the Hunter x Hunter Box Set, Volume 3 on 8/11, Bleach, Vol. 19 and New Line's Final Destination: Triple Feature (reissue) on 8/18, Death Note: L, Change the World, Naruto Uncut Box Set 15: Special Edition, New Tricks: Season 1, Pokemon: All Stars Box Set 2 and Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl Battle Dimension Volumes 2, 3 and 4 on 8/25, and finally the BBC's 1996 Christmas Special "Starbound" / 1997 Christmas Special "Endgame" and One Foot in the Grave: The Complete Series (plus seasons 1-6 singles) on 9/8.

Here's a little more upcoming cover artwork... here's a look at Sony's Dr. Strangelove: 45th Anniversary Special Edition on Blu-ray (6/16) as well as the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Warner's (New Line's) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection (due 8/4)...

Dr. Strangelove: 45th Anniversary Special Edition (Blu-ray Disc)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray Disc)Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection (DVD)

Finally today, a little TV commentary and a plea for fan/network action. Every year it seems, I end up doing a rant about how the TV networks suck. Their ratings are declining and, as far as I'm concerned, it's all their own damn fault. Their shows are generally awful and these days mostly cheap "reality" fare. When on that rare occasion you find a show you actually enjoy, the network shuffles it around on the schedule until you lose it for good. What TV viewer is their right mind wants to deal with that? Well, at least a few million of us tune in anyway each week, for those rare gems actually worth our time. Naturally, 'tis the season when most of them are about to be cancelled. But let me just speak on behalf of one we hope gets saved: NBC's Chuck. Ratings are down for the show, as the are for nearly everything this season, but Chuck remains a delight from week to week. It's cute, funny, surprisingly original and it's that rare show you don't need a Wiki to understand and that you can watch with the whole family. Lots of other people seem to agree, as fans rally around the show (see here, here, here and here - that last one in particular is worth checking out. Think I'm getting a hankering for a Subway...). Hell, even my old friend Weatherman Dave is in agreement. Let's hope NBC gets the message. Geeks unite!

Stay tuned...

4/29/09

Afternoon, folks... sorry for the spotty updates here. We've got a little home/office improvement work going on here this week, which is disrupting our routine a bit. Slow economy = better deals, so you know. Almost done though. Anyway, we've got a little news here for you, and then the next couple days are going to see columns and disc reviews.

First though, we've posted our weekly update of the Release Dates & Cover Art section. Lots of cool new art to see, so do check it out.

Now then... we've got an update for you on Warner's forthcoming release of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Collection on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/4 (for New Line). Per the official press release, both will include all four movies in the series. The DVD set (SRP $39.92) will also come packaged in a collectible tin DVD travel case, with four turtle masks and temporary tattoos. The Blu-ray set ($84.99) will come in retro pizza box packaging, and will include all the stuff we mentioned before - a reproduction comic book, an exclusive original sketch with creator Peter Laird's autograph, collectible character cards and a TMNT beanie hat.

In other news, Lionsgate has announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Mad Men: Season Two on 7/14 (SRP is the same for each - $49.98). Extras will include extensive commentaries and featurettes.

Meanwhile, Genius Products and The Weinstein Company will release the Vikings vs. aliens thriller Outlander on DVD on 5/19 (SRP $19.97). I will admit: I am intrigued.

Also, Image Entertainment has set The Greatest Song, Black Beauty: The Adventures of Black Beauty - Series 2, Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows - The Performances and John Heffron: Middle Class Funny for DVD release on 8/4, followed by I Do... I Did, Alien Tresspass (DVD and Blu-ray), King Eagle and Zorro: Generation Z - Volume 2 on 8/11, The Bridge to Nowhere, the Animated Adventure Pack (includes Robin Hood: Quest for the King, Prince & the Pauper: Double Trouble and The Three Musketeers: Saving the Crown), Ghost Adventures: Season 1, Just for Laughs: Stand-up Volume 5 - Over the Edge, Man vs. Wild: Season 3, One Way Out and Playboy Foursome: Season 2 on 8/18, and Billy Jack (DVD and Blu-ray), The Billy Jack Collection (includes Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack Goes to Washington), Inside Planet Earth, Wreckreaton Nation, Forest of Death, Dark Reprieve, My Name is Bruce and Mum & Dad on 8/25.

And Warner Home Video has set its animated Green Lantern: First Flight for release on single-disc and 2-disc DVD (SRP $19.98 and $24.98) and Blu-ray ($29.99) on 7/28.

Here's some cover art... Universal's Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition on DVD and Blu-ray (6/30), The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition on DVD (8/4) and Children of Men on Blu-ray (5/26), along with Warner's Chuck: The Complete Second Season on Blu-ray (official street date TBA) and Superfriends: The Lost Episodes on DVD (8/11)...

Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary EditionDo the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition

Children of Men (Blu-ray Disc)Chuck: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray Disc)Superfriends: The Lost Episodes

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 4/27/09 - 1:30 PM PDT)

I just wanted to chime in here with a quick late update. A number of Bits readers have e-mailed us links to a New York Times story on a new holographic digital storage breakthrough that allows 500 gigabytes of data to be included on a single disc. That's 10 times what a BD-50 Blu-ray can hold and 100 times the storage of a single-layer DVD disc. Naturally, it's prompted the usual claims online (from the usual people, who are - as usual - inevitably proven wrong) that this is a Blu-ray killer.

Holographic storage is very cool and it's probably the future of physical media. Here's the thing you need to know: This is NOT going to mean the death of DVD or Blu-ray Disc. Not ever. Bottom line: Hollywood and the consumer electronics industries are not going to cannibalize their existing disc-based formats for yet another one. Can you really see Paramount selling every Star Trek film and TV episode on a SINGLE disc for, what, $875? Or for $29.99 for that matter?! Right. The simple fact of the matter is, you just don't NEED 500GB of storage to offer top-of-the-line high-definition video and high-resolution audio quality for viewing movies in the home, as Blu-ray has proven. This kind of breakthrough is far more relevant to the computer/IT world, and those industries that have a serious need to archive and quickly retrieve MASSIVE amounts of data - like medical information, important documents and Library of Congress kind of stuff. The reality is, DVD and Blu-ray are probably going to be around at least another 10 to 15 years, after which time broadband downloading of media content will probably take over. So while this news is very cool from a techie standpoint, I wouldn't start selling your movie discs anytime soon, no matter what Richard Doherty says.

You want a more realistic take on the future of Blu-ray? Here you go. Also, ironically, from the New York Times.

You know, people often ask how we ended up picking both the DVD/Divx and Blu-ray/HD-DVD format wars correctly here at The Bits, very early on in each of those dust-ups. The answer is, it really wasn't all that hard. All it required was talking to everyone, listening to the right people (by which I mean to say KNOWING who was a good, reliable and unbiased source of information and who wasn't), and applying a little good old fashioned common sense. On any complex subject, you simply identify the REAL experts, sort their opinions and commentary out from those with other agendas, and when in doubt you trust your own experience and common sense. That approach doesn't just serve you well in evaluating format wars, it works in real life too. I'm just saying. ;)

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/27/09 - 3 AM PDT)

Morning folks! Thought we'd jump in here early to get a quick start to the new week...

First up today, we want to welcome back our old friend Matt Rowe. As you know, Matt's mom passed away a couple weeks ago, but he's just resumed his regular posts over at MusicTAP and we're certainly glad to have him back. He definitely appreciated all the kind words you guys sent him though, so thank you for doing that.

We also want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Bea Arthur over the weekend. Arthur died of cancer in L.A. at the age of 86. She was an accomplished stage actress, but it was for her work on television that she'll best be remembered, having starred as the title character in Maude in the 1970s and in The Golden Girls in the 1980s - roles for which she won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The geek community will also no doubt recall Arthur from her appearance in the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special. She will surely be missed.

Now then... we have some exciting information in The Rumor Mill this morning - anticipated street dates/release months for a number of key upcoming Paramount, Warner and New Line catalog and TV Blu-ray releases. We're talking MAJOR titles, so do NOT miss it.

In official release news today, Universal has just announced a bunch of great new catalog Blu-ray titles for summer release, including Children of Men, Cinderella Man, Inside Man, Field of Dreams, Seabiscuit and Spy Game on 5/26, followed by Fletch and Bruce Almighty on 6/2, a Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition on 6/30 and The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition on 8/4.

Universal has also announced a number of new standard DVD releases as well, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Ninth Year and We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story on 5/26, a Champions Collection (includes Field of Dreams, Friday Night Lights, Cinderella Man and Seabiscuit) and Quincy, M.E.: Season 3 on 6/2, Spinning into Butter on 6/9, Tommy and the Cool Mule on 6/16, the Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition and Eureka: Season 3.0 on 6/30, Beau Geste, Lonely Are the Brave, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (all three part of the Universal Backlot Series), Coco Chanel, Kath & Kim: Season 1 and Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Tenth Season on 7/7, Monk: Season Seven and Psych: The Complete Third Season on 7/21 and finally The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition on 8/4.

Meanwhile, Paramount has set new Deluxe Edition DVDs of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning and Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives for release on 6/16 (the same day as Friday the 13th, Part 2 and Friday the 13th, Part 3: 3-D arrive on Blu-ray).

Sony has set Waltz with Bashir for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 6/23, followed by The Deep on Blu-ray on 7/7 (the title has already been released on DVD).

And Warner Home Video has officially announced the DVD release of Superfriends: The Lost Episodes on 8/11, followed by Mistresses: Volume 1 (for the BBC) on 9/1. Here's the description for Superfriends: The Lost Episodes from the Warner press site...

"During the 1982-1983 season, ABC continued to run a half-hour long show entitled The Best of the Superfriends. This show consisted of reruns of shows from the previous nine seasons. These episodes were mostly half-hour long episodes (not shorts) featuring the core group of five Superfriends. By the time the 1983-1984 season rolled around, older Superfriends series were well into syndication, and could be viewed on weekday afternoons. Therefore in its ultimate stupidity, ABC decided to drop the Superfriends from the 1983-1984 Saturday morning television line-up. However, during this time Hanna-Barbera continued to produce new episodes of the Superfriends. In fact, 24 of these so-called "Lost Episodes" were animated but not aired in the United States that season. Three of these episodes were aired when the Superfriends returned to Saturday morning ABC television the following year. The remainder of the episodes finally aired in syndication year later as part of the Superman/Batman Adventures."

Sounds pretty cool. FYI, Warner has also officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of New Line's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Film Collection on 8/4. The set will include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time and TMNT, along with a comic book, a sketch signed by co-creator Peter Laird, a beanie hat, 8 character cards and more. We'll post additional information as it comes in.

Finally today, I wanted say a few words about a great film I was fortunate to see on Saturday morning. A couple weeks ago, I got an e-mail from our old friend Roger Nygard, the director of Trekkies and Trekkies II (and producer of Six Days in Roswell). Roger wanted to let me know that he'd recently finished his latest film, The Nature of Existence, and he was going to be showing it at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Sarah and I took him up on the invitation, and are we ever glad we did! I don't know how many of you saw Bill Maher's Religulous, but Roger's film is in the same general vein. The difference is, The Nature of Existence is WAY better. It's the film Religulous WANTED to be. For one thing, while it was occasionally funny, Maher's film had an agenda. Maher thinks religion is bad. Period. And his comments throughout the film get more and more heavy-handed to reflect this. Roger, on the other hand, goes out around the country - and eventually around the world - in a quest to understand faith and religion... because he GENUINELY wants to understand. Like most of us, Roger has a few basic questions: Why are we here? Is there a God? What's the meaning of our lives? So he seeks out people of every faith (and some who don't believe as well) for their ideas and opinions. His list of interviewees includes priests, preachers, shaman, rabbis, clerics, wise men, holy men, medicine men, gurus, academics, scientists, philosophers, writers, directors, waitresses... you name it. The list of names is extraordinary (you'll recognize very many of them), but you'll be just as surprised and engaged by those you don't recognize. In the film, just about everyone Roger wanted to interview was willing to talk with him except the Pope... who is more than happy to speak with you for the nominal "donation" of $20,000. (Roger told me after the screening that the only other person who decided not to speak with him - at the very last minute - was physicist Stephen Hawking, apparently because he was "tired of the God question.") There's truly thoughtful ideas, insights and discussion here, along with plenty of good-natured humor - some really great laughs. The journey is charming and highly entertaining - even hopeful. Roger has a wonderful way of seeking out and finding some of the most interesting people you could imagine, and letting them be themselves on camera, without pre-judging them for his audience. You get the sense that he really likes or at least appreciates everyone he met (even if he didn't end up agreeing with them) and you will too. Roger's taking the film on the road in the coming weeks (including screenings at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, TX on 5/2 and the Pacific Palisades Film Festival in L.A. on 5/15) and then he'll be looking for a theatrical and home video distributor. Be sure to check out the film's official website, where you can watch the trailer and deleted scenes, find a list of upcoming screenings and more. Sarah and I both really enjoyed The Nature of Existence. We highly recommend it. If it finds its way to your neck of the woods, be sure to check it out. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

That's all for now. Stay tuned!

4/24/09

Afternoon, folks! We've got a bunch of announcement news to catch up with today, so let's get to it...

First up today, Anchor Bay has moved the street date for its Children of the Corn Blu-ray Disc from 7/28 to 8/25. Adjust your plans accordingly.

Blue Underground has set Ralph Bakshi's Fire and Ice for release on Blu-ray Disc on 8/25 as well (SRP $34.95). Extras will include audio commentary with Bakshi, 2 featurettes (The Making of Fire and Ice and Bakshi on Frazetta), Sean Hannon's Diary Notes, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, the film's theatrical trailer and D-Box motion control enhancement.

Sony has announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Passengers on 5/12.

BEI and Lionsgate are delivering B.T.K. on 5/1 as well.

North American Motion Pictures is releasing Carnivorous on 5/26, followed by Ghosts of Goldfield on 6/9.

MVD Entertainment is delivering Depeche Mode: The Dark Progression on DVD on 6/16. This is a 97-minute documentary on the history of the band.

And Image Entertainment has announced a large slate of titles for release on both DVD and Blu-ray in July. Coming on 7/7 are Resolved, Moon Machines, Applause for Miss E. and the Animated Family Adventures Triple Feature (includes Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: The Lost Scimitar of Arabia, Alice in Wonderland: What's the Matter with Hatter? and Jungle Book: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi to the Rescue). Due on 7/14 are The Edge of Love (DVD & BD), Anthony Bourdain No Reservations: Collection 4, Zorro: Generation Z - Volume 1, Shark Week: The Great Bites Collection (DVD & BD), Crime Scene University and Kiss and Tail: The Hollywood Jump-Off. The Unknown Woman (La Sconosciuta) streets on 7/21, followed by Everest on 7/28. Image has also announced that Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray in September (street date TBA).

In other news, in addition to the Red2Blu program, Warner has also launched a new Buy 5 Get 1 Free program for their Blu-ray titles. You simply register at the Warner Rewards website, then register each new Warner Blu-ray title you purchase. For every 5 titles you register, you'll be allowed to pick a title to be sent to you free. This program is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents.

Speaking of the Red2Blu program, we've learned from the studio that it's only open to U.S. residents at this time. Rest assured, we're working to encourage the studio to expand the program to Canadian residents as well.

Also today, Home Media has more on Shout! Factory's forthcoming 25th Anniversary DVD release of The Transformers. It looks like you'll be able to buy the complete series sets for Transformers and G.I. Joe exclusively at San Diego Comic-Con in July, and then directly online, prior to the official release in stores.

Finally, we posted yesterday that Amazon has a great 50% off sale price on Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 on Blu-ray Disc. Well... Amazon ALSO has a great 40% off sale price on the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection box set on Blu-ray - just $79.99 down from $139.99. Again, about as good a price as you can find anywhere, so be sure to take advantage while it lasts!

Let's leave you with a look at more new cover art. Here's Sony's The International (6/9) and Paul Blart Mall Cop (5/19) and Lionsgate's Kickboxer (6/16) on Blu-ray, along with all three versions of Warner's Friday the 13th (2009 - due 6/16)...

The International (Blu-ray Disc)Paul Blart Mall Cop (Blu-ray Disc)Kickboxer (Blu-ray Disc)

Friday the 13th (2009)Friday the 13th: Extended (2009)Friday the 13th (2009 - Blu-ray Disc)

Back Monday with lots more. Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 4/23/09 - 6:30 PM PDT)

Evening, folks. Hope all's well.

First things first this evening... Adam has just posted a new update of his Jahnke's Electric Theatre column, in which he acknowledges the passing of Marilyn Chambers and J.G. Ballard. It's well worth a read as always, so don't miss it.

Also, just to give you a sense of what's on tap for the next week or so, we've got more BD reviews from Jeff, as well as new columns from Rob and Barrie. So keep your eyes peeled for those.

In news today, Warner Home Video has expanded the list of catalog titles available in their Warner Archive DVD-on-Demand service. Newly added to the slate are Thousands Cheer, A Woman Rebels, Spitfire, Joy of Living, Luxury Liner, The Mad Miss Manton, Return of the Bad Men, Trail Street, Quality Street, The Little Minister, Meet the People, Having Wonderful Time, Break of Hearts, Christopher Strong and Carson City. If you visit the Warner Archive website, you can also vote on additional titles that will be added in the future. You can read more here at Video Business.

Finally, a few words about Sony's Blu-ray press event yesterday: The event was designed to highlight the company's efforts to expand Blu-ray and specifically BD-Live content. On hand were Sony Electronics' vice president for home audio and video Chris Fawcett, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior executive VP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong and SPHE president David Bishop (pictured left to right below), as well as many members of the studio's BD-Live and Blu-ray technical teams.

Sony's Chris Fawcett, Lexine Wong and David Bishop

Some interesting BD format sales stats mentioned at the event: While DVD sales are down about 2% in 2009 from this time last year, DVD rentals and VOD are up. More importantly, U.S. Blu-ray software sales are up some 316% and Blu-ray hardware sales are up over 400%. According to Sony, some 100,000 unique users access their BD-Live online content each week. The goal is to expand that in the months and years ahead. Currently, there's an estimated 10.5 million BD players in U.S. homes (according to Adams Media Research), while over 70 million homes currently have broadband access. The problem is that fewer than 50% of those have network connections or modems in or near their living rooms.

So Sony has decided to introduce a new Blu-ray player in July, the BDP-S560, which will have a built-in wireless modem like the PS3. Sony has worked closely with Cisco to make connection easy with Linksys Wireless G and N model routers, but the players will obviously work with other brands as well. You simply use the player's remote to activate its network detection mode and then press the 'sync' button on the Linksys router - the connection is made automatically. Here's something else that's cool - the S560 will feature a "six second access" feature that will let you access the extras on your Blu-ray titles much more quickly than ever before. The new player (which will feature all the other video/audio/online features that are now standard on the format) will sell for around $349. (There will also be a lower-priced model, the S360, available for around $300 - it will include the "six second" feature but no wireless.) If consumer response is strong, look for these features to be added on more Sony players down the line. (We've heard that other manufacturers are expected to begin adding wireless modems to their players soon as well.) The goal, of course, is to make accessing BD-Live content so easy it's a no brainer for consumers. Here's what the S560 looks like...

Sony's BDP-S560 Blu-ray player

Sony also held demos of many of the recent BD-Live offerings on their current and upcoming titles, including video editing, in-movie chat, the ability to e-mail music playlists to your friends, download additional content and more. Reportedly on the way are RSS feeds, mobile applications, streaming video for live events and other interesting functionality. Here's a look at the online chat feature for the forthcoming BD release of The Da Vinci Code (due next Tuesday), as well as my old friend Guido Henkel of DVD Review during a demo...

Da Vinci Code BD-Live chat

Guido Henkel checks out BD-Live features

By the way, while I was there, I took the opportunity to let the folks at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment know what many of you have been telling me for months now - namely that you want the studio to start including trailers and TV spots on their Blu-ray discs, as they used to do with DVD (for the movie itself, not just previews of upcoming titles). Rest assured, the right people got the message.

Video Business also has a story up on this eventl, in case you're interested. (We expect one from Home Media as well.)

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

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/23/09 - 10:30 AM PDT)

I'll be back with more later on this afternoon, but first I had to jump in here to let all you guys know about this: Amazon.com currently has CBS's awesome new Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 on Blu-ray available for pre-order for a whopping 50% off the SRP! That makes it just $65, which is the best deal you're likely to find anywhere for this set. If you're a Trek fan, trust me it's well worth the upgrade at THAT amazing price. You can read my full review of the set here, and my sentiments are being echoed by other reviewers all around the Net (including here at Trek Movie). There's no word on how long the price will hold, so act fast if you want it.

Back later. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/22/09 - 10:30 AM PDT)

Just wanted to jump in here this morning to report this, which we think is pretty cool...

Warner Home Video has just launched an online program to help all those of you who many purchased their previously released HD-DVD titles replace them with new Blu-ray versions. All you have to do is go to this website: red2blu.com. You select the titles you wish to exchange (1 per HD-DVD title), then you mail the HD-DVD cover artwork only back to Warner along with $4.95 (per disc) plus shipping and handling. They'll send you back the title in question on Blu-ray within 4-6 weeks. This way, you get to keep the HD-DVD disc, but you also get to upgrade to Blu. Not bad. Universal should do this too.

By the way, it's Earth Day today. Speaking of which, in the last year or so I've gone on a little jag around the house here (also the home office) to improve our energy efficiency. Get this: Just by switching all our lighting to Compact Florescent Lightbulbs and by installing Smart Strips on some of our power outlets (for the various TVs and computers particularly), I've managed to cut our energy use this year by almost 40%. No kidding. Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done. The CFL bulbs early on weren't all that great, but there are tons of different brands and types now - all different qualities of light that are perfect replacements for regular incandescent bulbs. And Smart Strips work like regular power strips - you plug them into the wall outlet, and then you plug all your electronic devices into them. They have three types of outlets in them - control, constant hot and switched. You plug things like cable boxes and DVRs into the constant hot outlet, because they need to have power all the time for recording and communicating with your cable provider. You plug your TV into the control outlet. Then you plug all your other devices, like DVD and Blu-ray players, into the switched outlets. The idea is that when you turn you TV on and off, the Smart Strip detects this and kills power to all those other devices in the switched outlets. You may not realize it, but most of your electronic devices still draw as much as 30-40% power even when they're turned off, which is a huge waste. But when your TV's off, you certainly don't need them on at all. You can also use Smart Strips in your office (having the computer act as a switch for, say, the printer, the monitor, etc). It all adds up, man. All this talk about having to build tons of new power plants in the coming years - if we all just used energy more efficiently, it would make a HUGE difference. What I've done so far in terms of efficiency was easy - just picking the "low hanging fruit" as they say. And I have only just begun to fight! So anyway, the message is that it's easy to do your part. You just have to make the choice. And Earth Day is the perfect day to start.

Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/22/09 - 12:01 AM PDT)

So... I'm off to the Sony Pictures studio lot this afternoon for this whole Blu-ray demo/event-type thing they've got going on. We're probably going to get a look at Ghostbusters and the like. Should be a gas, so I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I figured you guys might like to look at more some new upcoming DVD and Blu-ray artwork. 'Cause everybody likes to look at pretty pictures, right? Anyway, here's Warner's You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (8/4), CBS's The Lucy Show: The Official First Season (7/21), MTV's The State: The Complete Series (7/14) and Sony's The Shield: Season 7 - The Final Act (6/9) on DVD, along with New Line Inkheart (6/23) and Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (10/6) on Blu-ray...

You Must Remember ThisThe Lucy Show: The Official First SeasonThe State: The Complete Series

The Shield: Season 7 - The Final ActInkheart (Blu-ray Disc)Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Blu-ray Disc)

Speaking of The Lucy Show, it looks like this new DVD release is going to be jam-packed with bonus material - on the order of Image's excellent Dick Van Dyke and Twilight Zone sets, or HBO's Get Smart and The Man from Uncle. You can read more here from our friends over at TV Shows on DVD.

Also, while we're posting artwork, here's a peek at what Shout! Factory's new The Transformers: The Complete First Season 25th Anniversary Edition DVD set (due 6/16) will look like when you get it all opened up...

The Transformers: The Complete First Season 25th Anniversary Edition

Very Optimus-ey. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/21/09 - 5:30 PM PDT)

I thought you Battlestar fans might like a better look at the packaging for Universal's newly-announced Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series box set (due 7/28). The studio tells me the packaging is the same for both the DVD and Blu-ray editions. Here's what it looks like...

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Disc)

Looks like the middle is a compartment for that Cylon figure. Additional details are forthcoming. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/21/09 - 3:30 PM PDT)

Before we get started this afternoon, we've got a a pair of new Giveaways running, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of the BBC's Skins: Volume 2 and Anchor Bay's Laid to Rest on DVD. Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, May 3rd.

Also, our own Russell Hammond has posted the weekly update of the Release Dates & Artwork section, featuring all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. There's lots of new titles to check out, so be sure to give it a look!

Naturally, we've got some new release news and a few more title announcements to report today...

First of all, this is unofficial but retail sources are telling me that Universal will release Knowing on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/7. Consider it Rumor Mill-worthy until an official announcement is made.

20th Century Fox will release Yann Arthus-Bertrand's eco-documentary Home on DVD and Blu-ray on 5/6.

Warner has set its You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story - Special Edition documentary for 2-disc DVD release on 8/4.

For you animation fans, Shout! Factory has announced The Transformers: The Complete First Season 25th Anniversary Edition DVD box set for release on 6/16 (SRP $29.99). The set will include all first season episodes with remastered picture and new stereo soundtracks created from the original audio masters. The episodes have been restored to the original broadcast versions. Extras will include the Triple Changer: From Toy to Comic to Screen - The Origins of the Transformers featurette, a rare PSA and a printable script via DVD-ROM. For those who prefer it, however, The Transformers: 25th Anniversary Matrix of Leadership Edition Collector's Set is expected to be announced in the coming weeks for release in July. This will be a complete series box set on 16 DVDs, with tons of extras and a special collectible book. Further details are still TBA.

Finally, Universal has just officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 and Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series on 7/28... just as we've been predicting for a couple months now. Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 (SRP $49.98 on DVD and $69.98 on BD) will include exclusive new episode audio commentaries featuring Ron Moore, David Eick and Edward James Olmos, all of Ron Moore's podcast commentaries, David Eick's Video Blogs, delete scenes, 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (Evolution of a Clue, What the Frak is Going On with Battlestar Galactica?, ...And They Have a Plan and The Journey Ends: The Arrival) and 6 A Look Back featurettes (So Say We All, Manifesto Destiny, Battle-Style Galactica, Martyr to a Cause, The Sins of the Forgiven and Battlestar Revelations). Exclusive to the Blu-ray will be The Musicians Behind Daybreak featurette, the Battlestar Galactica: Ultimate Battle BD-Live game, and 3 BD-Java/U-Control in-program viewing options, including The Oracle (an interactive guide to ships and characters), Battlestar Actual (a glossary of Galactica terminology) and What the Frak Happened to You? (on the history and connections of the various characters). That's all Season 4.5 - the features list for the Complete Series on DVD and Blu-ray has yet to be officially announced. Here's what we DO know for sure: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series on BD (SRP $349.98) will be a 20-disc set (all BD-50s), while the DVD version (SRP $279.98) will be a 25-disc set. Audio for the BD will be DTS-HD MA 5.1, while the DVDs will feature Dolby Digital 5.1. All four of these sets will feature English SDH and Spanish subtitles. I'm personally HOPING that Universal has included ALL of the available deleted scenes for the show in the complete series box sets, including the ones that were left off the DVDs for exclusive use on retailer websites (like Amazon and Best Buy). We'll post more details and artwork as soon as they come in.

Stay tuned...

4/20/09

Afternoon, folks. We've got a little bit of announcement news to report today...

First of all, 20th Century Fox has finally announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Taken on 5/12. As we've reported previously, there will be a single-disc DVD, a 2-disc DVD Extended Cut and a 2-disc Blu-ray Extended Cut (SRP $29.98, $34.98 and $39.99 respectively). The 2-disc sets will each include a Digital Copy version as the second disc.

Also newly announced for DVD release by Fox are Fritz Lang's Man Hunt on 5/19, Family Guy: Volume 7 and Burn Notice: Season 2 on 6/16, and Reba: Season 6 on 6/23. Note that Burn Notice will also be released day and date on Blu-ray Disc.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista has announced the DVD release of ABC's Castle: The Complete First Season on 9/22 (SRP $39.99).

Sony has set Fired Up! for DVD and Blu-ray release on 6/9 (the DVD will be unrated, while the Blu-ray will include both the rated and unrated versions), followed by both Dark Street and The Human Contract on 6/30.

Warner has announced that their 2009 remake of Friday the 13th will be released on both DVD and Blu-ray on 6/16 (SRP $28.98 and $35.99). Also set for release on 6/16 is a 122-minute Friday the 13th: Killer Cut Extended Edition DVD (SRP $28.98). It may be that the Blu-ray includes both versions - we'll look into this and let you know. [Editior's Nots: We've confirmed with studio sources that the Blu-ray WILL include both versions. Just FYI.]

And Paramount has announced a number of new titles for July, including MTV's The State: The Complete Series and Nickelodeon's Ni Hao Kai-Lan: Kai-Lan's Great Trip to China! on 7/14, and Echelon Conspiracy (DVD and Blu-ray) and CBS' Hotel: The First Season and The Lucy Show: The Official First Season on 7/21.

In news around the Net today, market research firm Futuresource Consulting is predicting that nearly 12 million Blu-ray Disc players will ship this year, with particularly strong sales expected in the 4th quarter due to the combination of lower prices (sub $150 and possibly even $100 players) and higher demand. More importantly, these player numbers do NOT include Sony's PlayStation 3 game system. You can read more here at Home Media, along with editor T.K. Arnold's comments on the same subject. Personally, I believe that another MAJOR thing that's going to drive strong format sales in the 4th quarter will be the abundance of big summer titles and abundant, high-profile catalog titles, including such films as Braveheart, Gladiator, Forrest Gump, the Alien films, more Star Trek films, The Wizard of Oz, North by Northwest, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, A Bug's Life, potentially the classic Indiana Jones Trilogy and much, much more. Add on top of this major TV titles like Battlestar Galactica, more classic Star Trek, Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season One, more Lost (etc), and you've got the makings of a potentially big holiday season for the Blu-ray format.

Finally today, another personal note: You might recall last week that our friend Matt Rowe, editor of our MusicTAP.net partner site, had to fly back to Illinois to be with his mother, who'd been hospitalized. I know a lot of you have been asking about Matt, given his absence on TAP these past days. Well... I'm sad to have to report that Matt's mother passed away last week. Her health had been declining in recent months, and so in many ways it's a blessing that she didn't suffer longer. But of course, that's little consolation to Matt and his family in this difficult time. Matt's mom was an original in every sense. In recent years, she would spend the winters out here in Southern California with Matt and his family, and Sarah and I saw her many times. She always had a big hug and a smile for you. She was just a real sweetheart, and we'll miss her. Matt will be back later this week, and I expect he'll resume posting on TAP next week, but if any of you would care to send him a few nice words via e-mail, I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/18/09 - 1 PM PDT)

We had to check back in one last time today to share this with you. Bits reader Michael M. (thanks, Michael!) sent over a link to a story at CNet this morning. It's a column on a new Microsoft TV commercial, featuring a mother and her son laptop shopping at a Best Buy store. They naturally pass over the Macs searching for exactly the right one. When they finally settle on a Sony Vaio that looks promising, they start checking out the features... and both excitedly exclaim, "Blu-ray!" Check it out yourself...



Yeah, baby. That sounds good doesn't it? You just knew that even Microsoft was going to see the light eventually. This isn't one of those "we told you so" moments - that's not why we're posting it today. But it sure as hell does feel like some kind of sweet, sweet validation. "Blu-ray!" MMmmmmm... That just warms our hearts like a nice steaming bowl of Grandma's chicken soup.

Thanks, Microsoft! ;)

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/18/09 - 10 AM PDT)

Just wanted to check in here on a sunny Saturday morning to let you Battlestar fans know that Amazon.com is now officially taking pre-orders for Universal's as-yet-unannounced Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series on Blu-ray Disc (SRP $349.98, but $244.99 on Amazon) and DVD (SRP $279.98, but $195.99 on Amazon), as well as Season 4.5 on DVD (SRP $49.98, but $34.99 on Amazon). Street date is expected to be 7/28, and pricing and other details are subject to change pending Universal's official announcement. It ain't cheap, but then with 4 full seasons plus Razor, the original Miniseries and lots of bonus material, we didn't expect it to be. Fans will no doubt want to get their pre-orders in soon (after having a minor heart attack and an argument with the significant other) to get the better-then-retail price. Thanks to our old friend Dave over at TV Shows on DVD for the heads-up...

Back Monday. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/17/09 - 6 PM PDT)

Here you go, folks... my in-depth review of the OUTSTANDING new Blu-ray Disc release of Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1. Our hats off to everyone at CBS who was involved in creating this first-rate set. We're really impressed, and that doesn't happen often. With quality like this, we can't wait for Seasons 2 and 3 on Blu-ray, not to mention the forthcoming classic Trek films. If you're a Trek fan and you haven't yet made the Blu-ray leap - don't wait. Get yourself a BD-Live player right now and get these discs pre-ordered from Amazon (just $73 on sale - street date 4/28). They've finally gotten classic Trek right on disc!

Have a great weekend, folks! As for me... I'm gonna be watching Trek until the wee hours of Monday morning. ;)

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/17/09 - 11:15 AM PDT)

Morning, everyone! I just wanted to check in early with a little bit of news, and to let you know that I expect to return later this afternoon with a review of CBS's new Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 Remastered on Blu-ray Disc. I haven't cracked the set open, but I like the packaging. It's a thick, 7-disc BD Elite case with a cardboard slipcover. The package is compact and takes up about half the space of the HD-DVD case (or even the original DVD case). Some may not be as impressed with its simplicity, but I sure prefer it. The set streets on 4/28. Check back for the review in a few hours.

The major bit of release news I have for you this morning is this: Criterion has just officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Al Reinert's exceptional NASA moon-flight documentary For All Mankind (cat #54 - due 7/14) and Roman Polanski's Repulsion (#483 - due 7/28). For All Mankind has been released on DVD before, but this is an upgraded reissue that adds a new "making of" documentary. Also coming only on DVD at this time from Criterion are Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition (#480 - 7/14) and director Jean-Luc Godard's Made in U.S.A. (#481 - 7/21) and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (#482 - also 7/21). Man, I just love Criterion's work. The idea of watching For All Mankind in 1080p has my mouth watering already. And just look at this cover art...

Repulsion (Criterion)For All Mankind (Criterion reissue)For All Mankind (Criterion Blu-ray Disc)

Made in U.S.A. (Criterion)2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Criterion reissue)Human Condition (Criterion)

Back later this afternoon. Stay tuned...

4/16/09

Okay... here's my review of Universal's Caprica on DVD, due in stores this coming Tuesday (4/21). Took a little longer than expected to post, what with talking to family and friends back home in the flood zone, but here you go. I've also added a couple more Blu-ray reviews from Jeff... Paramount's Things We Lost in the Fire and Coach Carter, both already available. More reviews are coming, so stay tuned.

Also this afternoon, we have a quick update of The Rumor Mill for you with word on the street date for Watchmen, along with a little bit of information about upcoming Warner and New Line catalog BD titles.

And here's some good news for the Blu-ray Disc format. According to Adams Media Research, U.S. domestic Blu-ray Disc software sales in the first quarter of 2009 were nearly double those for the same period in 2008 - 9 million compared to 4.8 million last year. What's more, this trend appears despite the ongoing recession and the relatively weak title slate early in the year. Overall rollout for the format is slightly behind DVD due to the recession, but ahead of VHS. It will be very interesting to see what the impact of a lot more sub $150 BD players later this year will be, not to mention the dramatically improved title slate expected to be available by the end of the year. Anyway, you can read more at Video Business and Home Media.

Stay tuned...

4/15/09

All right... this post is going to be a quick one, as there's not a lot of news to report. A brief note first though: My Caprica DVD review is coming shortly, so be sure to check back in a little bit for it.

Speaking of Caprica, Universal has offered us copies of the DVD to for Giveaway here at The Bits, so click here to enter. We'll accept entries until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, April 26th.

In terms of announcements, we've confirmed that Universal plans to release Bruce Almighty, Do the Right Thing and Fletch on Blu-ray Disc on 6/2.

Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have set Crossing Over for DVD release on 6/9.

Warner has set Spring Breakdown for DVD and Blu-ray release on 6/2, along with He's Just Not That Into You (also on both formats on 6/2).

We now have a street date for Fox's Dollhouse: Season One on DVD and Blu-ray. It's due on 7/28.

Also, we finally have official word on the extras you can expect on MGM's Fargo and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Blu-rays, due on 5/12. Fargo will include audio commentary with director of photography Roger Deakins, the Minnesota Nice featurette, something called Trivia Nice, an American Cinematographer article on the film, a photo gallery, a TV spot and the theatrical trailer. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly will include audio commentary from film historian Richard Schickel, a second commentary with Sir Christopher Frayling, 6 featurettes (Leone's West, The Leone Style, The Man Who Lost the Civil War, Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, IL Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Part One and IL Maestro: Part Two), deleted scenes, 2 trailers and 4 Easter eggs.

In news around the Net today, Home Media Retailing is reporting a little positive retail news for both DVD and Blu-ray from the NPD Group. Home media spending appears to be only moderately affected by the recession. According to an NPD survey of consumers, some 51% have purchased a DVD or Blu-ray title in the last three months. Sales information for video games and other forms of media is also addressed, so do check it out.

And here's something you might be interested to know about: Amazon.com now has New Line's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy available for pre-order on Blu-ray (the films are the theatrical editions only - SRP is $99.98 but Amazon's price is about $70 for the set). The street date is still TBA, but our sources are telling us to expect a December release. [Editor's Note: Sources close to director Peter Jackson have informed me that he's saving the extended editions of the films for an "ultimate" box set release closer to the debut of the new Hobbit films - that's why these BDs are set to be theatrical only. That's obviously not going to satisify every fan, but it gives them something in the meantime. As was the case with the original DVD release, at least you're now aware in advance that a more elaborate release is coming eventually if you'd prefer to wait for it. For Warner's part, I've officially confirmed with the studio that this initial Blu-ray release is real and it's coming before the end of this year, but I'm told it won't be officially announced for another few months yet. So you should probably still consider this release to be semi-official and subject to change. Just FYI.] Here's the cover art Amazon currently has up for the set...

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)

Finally, I've got another quick personal comment today. I've learned from my parents this morning that a lot of people in my home town of Valley City, North Dakota are having to evacuate due to very severe flooding - the worst they've ever seen. (You may have heard of the recent flooding in Fargo, ND - Valley City is about an hour's drive to the west.) In fact, more than half the town has been asked to leave for fear of the flood water backing up into the sewer system. My dad is an architect in town, and he's actually having to move his entire office today. So I just wanted to send my best to everyone back home. Everybody please stay safe (and hopefully dry).

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

(LATE UPDATE - 4/14/09 - 3 PM PDT)

Well... it's finally at least SEMI-official. Universal's new Caprica DVD (due 4/21) contains a preview for Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, which it says is "coming soon to DVD and Blu-ray Hi-Def." The preview trailer also offers an image of what could be the set's packaging, which appears to include a miniature replica of a Cylon warrior. Here's what it looks like in the promo...

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series promo from Caprica DVD

There's no street date given, and Universal still has yet to officially announce one, but a new Sci-Fi Channel behind-the-scenes clip over on Hulu says it's due on 7/28, which is the date The Bits and Galactica Sitrep first reported back in February. Hopefully, the studio will make an official announcement shortly. We'll definitely have more on this as soon as it comes in.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/14/09 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Morning, folks! Sorry for going missing yesterday. It wasn't exactly planned. We drove up to Lone Pine (a town up in central California, at the base of Mt. Whitney, where TONS of classic Hollywood westerns have been shot over the years) and then over to Death Valley with some of Sarah's family for the weekend, and it ended up taking a little longer than expected to drive back. The trip was a lot of fun though. It's really beautiful up there. Here's a couple of pictures... the Eastern Sierras just outside of Lone Pine (top), and yours truly about to give up the ghost after climbing to the top of a sand dune in Death Valley (bottom). You really begin to understand how people could die out there in that heat...

The Eastern Sierra's outside Lone Pine. CA

Bill in Death Valley

All right, let's get down to business. First up today, our own Russell Hammond has posted his usual weekly update of the Release Dates and Cover Art section, featuring new DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover scans and all the latest Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order from Amazon after clicking to them through our links goes to help support our work here at the site, and we definitely appreciate it.

Also today, Jeff Kleist has turned in another batch of Blu-ray Disc reviews, including Fox's The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, Warner's 2010 and Spears and Munsil's High Definition Benchmark disc. All of them are now available. Enjoy!

In announcement news this morning, Sony has set The International for release on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 6/9 (SRP $28.96 and $39.95). Extras on both will include audio commentary with director Tom Tykwer and writer Eric Singer, an extended scene and 2 featurettes (Making the International and The Architecture of The International). The Blu-ray will also add a CineChat option. Also coming on 6/9 is Fired Up! on both Unrated DVD and a Blu-ray that includes both the R-rated and Unrated versions (SRP $28.96 and $39.95). Extras will include 3 featurettes (This is Not a Cheerleading Movie: The Making of Fired Up!, Double Duty and Fired Up! Press Junket - Hour 12) as well as an unrated gag reel. The Blu-ray will add audio commentary with director Will Gluck, along with Nicholas D'Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen.

Here's good news for you horror fans: As we predicted in The Rumor Mill last month, Paramount has just announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Friday the 13th: Part 2 and Friday the 13th: Part 3... and yes, the latter will be in 3-D! Part 2 will include 4 featurettes (Crystal Lake Memories, Friday's Legacy: Horror Conventions, Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 2 and Jason Forever - all but the last in HD) and the theatrical trailer (HD). Part 3 will also include 4 featurettes (Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror, Legacy of the Mask, Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular and Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part 3 all in HD) and the theatrical trailer (HD). It will also include a couple pairs of 3-D glasses.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts for release on both DVD and Blu-ray on 5/19.

Also, Lionsgate has announced their June slate, set to include Weeds: Season 4 and Razortooth on 6/2, Reaper: Season 2, Care Bears: Tell-Tale Tummies, Shaun the Sheep: Sheep on the Loose and Bob the Builder: Truck Teamwork on 6/9, Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, Tyler Perry's House of Payne: Volume 4, Best of Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, Born, Barney: Sing & Dance with Barney, Thomas & Friends: Hop on Board Songs and Stories, Harder They Fall and Kickboxer (on Blu-ray) all on 6/16, Jesus' Son and Legend of the Bog on 6/23, and finally Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season Two, Octane and Kaidan on 6/30.

In other news around the Net today, our friend John Falcone over at CNet has a report up on his experience with Warner's new Archive DVD program. It's definitely worth a look, and he's got images too. Our own Barrie Maxwell will be reporting on this as well in a future Classic Coming Attractions column, so be sure to watch for that.

And our old friend Anthony over at Trek Movie has posted his (mostly non-spoilery) early review of J.J. Abrams new Star Trek feature film. Sounds like it's as good as we'd all hoped. I'll be seeing it soon myself, so I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it.

We'll leave you this morning with a look at Paramount's Friday the 13th: Parts 2 & 3 on Blu-ray and Sony's The Three Stooges: Volume Six on DVD (due 6/16)...

Friday the 13th: Part 2 (Blu-ray Disc)Friday the 13th: Part 3 - 3-D (Blu-ray Disc)The Three Stooges: Volume Six

A couple last notes: Universal just sent over the DVD of the 2-hour pilot film for Sci-Fi's new Battlestar Galactica prequel series, Caprica (street date: next Tuesday - 4/21). So watch for a full review tomorrow.

Also, on a personal note, I want to take a moment to send some positive thoughts, wishes and prayers to our very own Matt Rowe. As you know, Matt's the editor of our MusicTAP affiliate site and he also happens to be one of my best friends. Matt's Mom is in the hospital back in Illinois, and Matt had to fly back there suddenly yesterday to be with her, so we really want to wish him and his family the best. Hang in there, buddy.

Stay tuned...


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