my two cents 1000

Happy Tuesday, Bits-ers.  We’ve got some news and whatnot for you today, but first…

Our own Russell Hammond has updated the Release Dates & Artwork section with all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and Video Game cover artwork and Amazon.com pre-order links.  As always, a portion of anything you order from Amazon in the same session (after clicking through to them from our links) goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we really appreciate it!

Now then, Tim has just checked in with a review of Shout! Factory’s new Woochi: The Demon Slayer on Blu-ray.  The disc arrives in stores today and it sounds like it’s pretty fun.  We’ve also updated our review database today with another pair of BD reviews from the original Bits website:  Tim’s take on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (from Warner Home Video) and District 9 (from Sony).  Enjoy!

Speaking of Sony, in announcement news today the studio has revealed their first batch of “4K-Mastered” Blu-ray releases due on 5/14.  Keep in mind, these are NOT actual 4K Blu-rays.  They’re essentially the BD equivalent of Sony’s Superbit DVDs from a few years back – simply mastered from 4K source material with high video data rates, but still just 1080p.  My personal response to these is similar to my reaction to the Superbit DVDs back in the day:  If you can master Blu-rays in better quality, why haven’t you been doing it all along?  Anyway, the specific titles to look for on 5/14 are Ghostbusters, Glory, Taxi Driver, Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, Angels & Demons, The Karate Kid (2010), The Other Guys, Battle: Los Angeles and Total Recall (2012).  At least the SRP is just $19.99 (which makes them just $14.99 on Amazon).  See the cover artwork below.

Meanwhile, Universal has set a number of their catalog BD titles for re-release in “comic book-style” Steelbook packaging on 6/25, including The Big Lebowski, The Chronicles of Riddick, Death Race, Doom, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Hot Fuzz, The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, The Mummy (1999), Paul, Pitch Black, Scarface, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead and Van Helsing.

We should add that Universal has also set An American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky for release on Blu-ray Combo and DVD on 7/2.

Finally, here’s something that’s going to bug some of you guys:  Retail sources are telling us that Disney is getting ready to announce Oz: The Great and Powerful in four SKUs – a single-disc Blu-ray 3D, a single disc Blu-ray, a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo and a single-disc DVD, all with Digital Copy.  Yes, you read that right.  They’re NOT announcing a combo with BOTH Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D in the same package.  Yet they’re STILL charging $44.99 for the Blu-ray 3D.  So same price, less value.  DUMB, DUMB, DUMB… and sure to piss off a lot of fans who might be interested in 3D but also want the 2D copy.

I’m sensing a growing trend happening in the home video industry… and it’s not a good one.  More and more, it seems like the people who make these release decisions at the major Hollywood studios – about which titles and features to release on Blu-ray – are people straight out of business or marketing school who are concerned only with the bottom line and have zero connection to the product, no love of film, no experience with home video/home theater enthusiasts and what they want (and are eager to buy if only the studios would listen to them)… and absolutely no interest in taking the time to find out.  By releasing fewer and fewer catalog titles on Blu-ray, by actively turning down ideas for special edition releases and content (a complaint I’ve heard repeatedly in recent months from special edition producers), and by pushing the industry more and more towards downloads… these people are actively (and unwittingly) bringing about the demise of home video as we know it.  They’re abandoning collectors and film enthusiasts, shrinking the home video market, and essentially putting themselves out of a job.  All at a time when the folks at Warner Archive and some of the smaller indie studios (think Shout! Factory, Criterion, Olive Films, Twilight Time, etc) know that the way to move physical product – that’s discs to you and me – is to cater to enthusiasts by finding the right titles, making them special in a cost effective way and aggressively targeting the collector and enthusiast audience online.  Listen up Hollywood:  There’s still a huge audience of people out there who WANT to buy films on Blu-ray!  They have money ready to spend, but you have to LISTEN TO THEM!  You have to give them the product they want, with real value, at a price that isn’t insulting.

Ugh.  I have a feeling this column is going to resume an old tradition of regular industry rants in the near future…

Anyway, we’ll leave you today with a look at the cover art for three of Sony’s “4K-Mastered” BDs…

Ghostbusters (Mastered in 4K BD)    Glory (Mastered in 4K BD)    Taxi Driver (Mastered in 4K BD)

Stay tuned.

- Bill Hunt

All right, we’re starting out the new week with a quick early update here this morning...

First, we've got a couple more updated Blu-ray reviews for you (carried over from the old Bits website) by Tim Salmons – Sony’s Moon and Criterion’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars, great titles both.  Do check them out.

Around the Net this morning, an edited version of Peter Jackson’s recent Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug live preview event is now available for viewing here on the official website.  You’ll need the special access code from your Blu-ray or DVD, so have it handy – it’s good for three viewings.

And as you may have heard, Disney’s restructuring of the Star Wars empire continues with word that the studio is shutting down LucasArts as an in-house video game development company in favor of an outside licensing business model.  Over 150 employees of the company are being forced into the trash compactor as a result.  Ouch.

Here’s a look at more new BD cover art for Kino’s Hell’s House and Of Human Bondage (both due 6/18), as well as Severin’s The House of Seven Corpses (6/11)…

Hell's House (Blu-ray Disc)    Of Human Bondage (Blu-ray Disc)    The House of Seven Corpses (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

April 05, 2013 - 10:13 am   |   By

No doubt you've all heard the news by now of the passing of veteran Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert yesterday, at the age of 70, due to a return of the cancer he'd been fighting for many years. I had a whole regular news post prepared to go up this morning, but somehow it just didn't seem appropriate anymore.

I think lot of us today - certainly many of us here at The Bits and I'm sure at other movie and DVD/Blu-ray news sites around the Net too - have been a little surprised by how hard the news has hit us, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. So many of us who write about film and videodiscs online have fond memories of meeting Roger in person at film festivals and screenings or talking about our favorite movies and filmmakers with him via e-mail. What a thrill it was to discover that Ebert had Tweeted a link to a post you'd written or mentioned it on his blog! Somewhere in my digital archives are a goodly series of e-mails we shared during two videodisc format wars discussing the future of the medium we both cared about so deeply. When I first learned back in 1998 or 99 that Roger was a Bits reader... well, I'll tell you, I felt like I'd finally arrived. If your thoughts about film mattered to Roger, then they mattered period. I know that many others out there in the online film and videodisc community have felt similarly honored by him over the years.

Roger Ebert was someone who spent his whole life sharing his passion for cinema with others, and that made him one of us - family in real and important way.  Plus he wrote a Russ Meyer film, dammit, and that made him cool.  So I'll simply close today's post, which we dedicate to his life and memory, by saying this:

Thank you, Roger. Thumbs up, from all of us!

- Bill Hunt

We’ve got a little more announcement news for you today, but first…

Our own Tim Salmons has turned in a review of Disney’s new Who Framed Roger Rabbit: 25th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray Disc.  Enjoy!

In announcement news this morning, Warner Home Video has set Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Ninth Season for DVD release on 4/16, followed by a 4 Film Favorites: John Wayne DVD box set (includes The Searchers, The Shootist, El Dorado and The Sons of Katie Elder) on 6/4, Misfits: Season Three, Doctor Who: Ep. 56 – The Mind of Evil, Doctor Who: Inferno – Special Edition and Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited: 1-4 on DVD on 6/11 (all for the BBC), Orphan Black: Season One on Blu-ray and DVD on 7/16 (also for the BBC) and finally Superjail!: Season Three on DVD on 7/23 (for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim).

And Fox and Anchor Bay have set the CG-animated Escape from Planet Earth for Blu-ray and DVD release on 6/4.

Also today, Bits reader Brian T. e-mailed to say that he’s learned that William Friedkin’s restored version of Sorcerer will be screened at the Chicago Film Critics Association’s first annual Chicago Critics Film Festival on 4/14.  Friedkin will attend the event in person and will participate in a Q&A after the film.  Additional details and tickets are available here.

Here’s a look at the BD cover artwork for Lionsgate’s Snitch (due 6/11), First Look’s Upside Down (6/25) and Magnolia’s Into the White (also due 6/25)…

Snitch (Blu-ray Disc)    Upside Down (Blu-ray Disc)    Into the White (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

We’ve got just a couple more quick announcements for you today…

Lionsgate has set Lord of Darkness for DVD only release on 6/25.

Lionsgate has also set the action thriller Snitch (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) on 6/11.  Extras will include the 50-minute Privileged Information: The Making of Snitch multi-part documentary, audio commentary with director Ric Roman Waugh and editor Jonathan Chibnall, and delete scenes.

BBC Home Entertainment will release Spies of Warsaw on Blu-ray and DVD on 4/16.

And Wolfe Video has set the drama A Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951 for DVD only release on 6/4.

Also today, Amazon.com is now taking pre-orders on the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD versions of Paramount’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation, though there’s no street date yet available.

And with the passing of Jess Franco yesterday, I forgot to mention this, but yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the theatrical release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  My old friend Michael Coate has posted a nice history of the initial release of the film over on Cinema Treasures.  Enjoy!

We’ll leave you with a look at the Blu-ray artwork for Paramount’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation, as well as Lionsgate’s Betty & Coretta on DVD (due 6/11)…

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Blu-ray 3D)    G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Blu-ray Disc)    Betty & Coretta (DVD)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

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I just found out this Fargo TV show is set in Bemidji, MN...my birthplace. Guess I've gotta watch it now.

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