my two cents 1000

All right, today’s post is a quickie, as there’s a lot of other work going on here at The Bits today… trying to catch up on some things.

BUT… we do have a new Blu-ray Disc review from Todd Doogan this afternoon!  He’s checked in with his thoughts on Quentin Tarantino’s recent Django Unchained, and if you’re a Tarantino fan and/or you haven’t seen the film yet it’s definitely worth reading what Doogan has to say about it.

Also today, Sony has finally re-announced a title that was first slated for Blu-ray release a while back: Ishtar!  The film is now set to arrive on BD on 8/6 (maybe) with a 107-minute director’s cut.  It doesn’t appear that there’s much in the way of extras, but if you’ve been eager to have the film on disc in HD, you’ll (maybe) have your chance in a few more months.  (Though personally, I’ll believe it when I finally see the disc in my hand.)

Warner Home Video has set Political Animals: The Complete Series for DVD only release on 8/6.

And Anchor Bay has set the Syfy original movie Super Storm for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 8/13.

Here’s a look at the Blu-ray cover artwork for Ishtar, along with Warner’s new BD anniversary edition of The Fugitive (due 9/3) and Sony’s House of Cards (6/11)…

Ishtar (Blu-ray Disc)    The Fugitive: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)    House of Cards (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

 

So to start with today, I’ve got a few (non-spoiler-y) words about J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek Into Darkness, which I had the chance to see last night.  Now… I should say up front that I knew pretty much all of the twists and reveals of the plot going in, and have for a while now.  That was my own choice, it’s just how I decided to roll this time.  And yet I still quite enjoyed this film.  Much has been made of the fact that there are “surprises” in the film, but I actually think its strength revolves instead around a set of very strong character performances by Chris Pine, Zach Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch and Bruce Greenwood.  They deliver in a very big way here and their interactions are really the beating heart of the film.  Their performances help carry this sequel through no small amount of mechanical obviousness in the plot and its twists – which will be especially apparent to longtime Trek fans.  If you go into this film looking for flaws, you’ll find them.  And if you go in having memorized your battered old copy of the Starfleet Technical Manual, you’ll probably have an aneurysm.  But like Star Trek (2009), this film is undeniably fun.  The set piece action sequences here are many, surprisingly creative and absolutely relentless.  This Trek is bigger, bolder and much more aggressively paced than the original.  And I actually quite enjoyed it.  More than I expected in fact.  If you let yourself just go with it, Star Trek Into Darkness is a helluva fun ride... and the 3D conversion is actually pretty nice too.  The best thing in my opinion is that, by the end of the film, this “new” Trek franchise is finally where it needs to be.  Much like the latest Bond film, Star Trek Into Darkness clears the decks for new (and hopefully completely original) adventures to come.  With film three, if the filmmakers play their cards right, this Trek universe can finally be about “boldly going” and “seeking out new life and new civilizations” again.  And that would really be something to see.  If I’m grading the film, I’d probably give it a good solid B or B+.  I’m certainly going to see it a few more times on the big screen, so I guess that probably speaks for itself.  By the way, since it’s likely that J.J. Abrams isn’t going to be able to direct the next film (given his involvement in the new Star Wars trilogy), I’d like to submit my suggestion for the ideal director to take his place: Nicholas Meyer anyone?

By the way, for another good and much more in-depth review of the film (though with perhaps a few minor spoilers), I recommend Drew McWeeny’s take on it over at HitFix.  I definitely agree with him – I think he pretty well nails it.

Now then… here at the site today, our own Russell Hammond has posted the weekly update of 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 them after clicking through our links goes to help support our work here at the site and we surely do appreciate it!

On to today’s announcement news…

First up, Universal has just set The Host for Blu-ray/DVD Combo release on 7/9, preceded by a digital-only release on 6/25.  Extras will include deleted scenes, a Seeker PSA and the Bringing The Host to Life featurette.  This is the film based on the Stephanie Meyer book.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced the DVD only release of Damages: The Final Season on 7/16.  Extras will include deleted scenes and outtakes.

Fox will release Wedding Band: Season One on DVD on 6/11.

Inception Media Group has set The Unbroken for DVD release on 6/11.

Lionsgate has set The Definitive Guide to the Mob for DVD only release on 7/16, followed by Blaze You Out on DVD on 7/30.

BBC Home Entertainment has set The Royal Collection box set for DVD release on 5/21 (SRP $24.99), including The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy, Queen Victoria’s Children and How to Be a Prince, plus “a replica of a booklet for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, featuring original photography from the ceremony.”

And our friends over at the Warner Archive have made some great new titles available starting this week on MOD/DVD-R, including the Al Brodax-produced Popeye: The 1960s Classics – Volume 1 (2-discs, 72 episodes), Penrod and Sam (1931), Tenth Avenue Angel (1947), The Secret Garden (1949), Duffy of San Quentin (1954) and Without a Trace: The Complete Sixth Season.

Finally today, we really must take a moment to acknowledge the passing of legendary stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who died early this morning in London at the age of 92.  Inspired by Willis O’Brien’s work on the original King Kong, Harryhausen proceeded – over the course of his long and distinguished career – to take the art of stop-motion to the next level in such films as Mighty Joe Young, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles from Earth, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C. and 1981’s Clash of the Titans.  His final animated work was The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare in 2003.  Or course, that list of titles by no means complete.  Harryhausen’s work inspired the likes of Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis, Nick Park, Dennis Muren, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, Stan Winston and so many others.  For my part, I was fortunate enough to meet him in person on a number of occasions over the years at various appearances and other events.  In fact, I had the great honor of chatting with him for nearly 30 minutes during a lull in a DVD signing at the now closed DVD Planet store in Huntington Beach back in 2003.  Ray was simply one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet and he loved talking about animation, his own work and the works of others he admired.  You just got the sense from him that he loved what he did and was truly humbled and honored by how much it had impacted others.  As it happens, our own Dr. Jahnke interviewed him for The Bits back in 2005 and I highly recommend you give it a read.

Thank you, Ray.  We’ll dearly miss you.

Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

Back tomorrow with more.  Stay tuned…

- Bill Hunt

 

All right, we’re kicking things off today with a brand new post in The Rumor Mill (no kidding!) featuring some cool news for James Cameron and genre TV fans.  Don’t miss it!  [Editor’s Note – 5/7 – Note that there’s a small update to the post for clarification worth reading today.]

Also today, we’ve got a pair of new Blu-ray reviews from our own Joe Marchese including a look at Kino Lorber’s restored White Zombie and Warner’s Grand Hotel, both now available.  We’ve also upgraded another of Tim’s BD reviews from the original Bits website: 20th Century Fox’s Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition.  Enjoy!

And in announcement news this afternoon, we’ve got a couple good items to report for you…

First up, Warner Home Video has just set The Fugitive: 20th Anniversary Edition for Blu-ray release on 9/3 (SRP $19.98).  Extras will include the all-new featurette The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase (featuring director Andrew Davis, stars Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones and more), the vintage On the Run with the Fugitive and Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck featurettes, the pilot for the 2000 WB TV series The Fugitive, an introduction by Davis and Harrison Ford, audio commentary by Davis and Tommy Lee Jones, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Also, weren’t we just mentioning this?  Disney has officially set The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for Blu-ray/DVD Combo and DVD release on 8/27 (SRP $36.99 and $26.99).  Extras will include the all-new Disney Intermission feature (which lets kids pause the movie and play along in “a variety of engaging activities”), the all-new Pooh Play-Along mode (same drill), 5 new Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh shorts (including If I Wasn’t So Small, Piglet’s Drawings, The Expedition, Geniuses and The Honey Song), the original A Day for Eeyore animated short, the vintage The Story Behind the Masterpiece featurette and a Carly Simon music video.

Finally, Sony has set The Call for Blu-ray Combo and DVD release on 6/24.  Extras on the Blu-ray will include 3 featurettes (Emergency Procedure: Making the Film, A Set Tour of The Hive and The Lair and Inside the Stunts), audio commentary with director Brad Anderson and stars Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and Michael Eklund’s audition tape.

We’ll leave you with a look at the newly-unveiled Blu-ray Disc cover art for more great upcoming Shout!/Scream Factory catalog titles, including Swamp Thing, Dark Angel, Q: The Winged Serpent, X-ray/Schizoid and Scanners II: The New Order/Scanners III: The Takeover (street dates TBA).  We’ve also got BD Combo art for Disney’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Only Pooh is currently available for pre-order, but we’ll update the Amazon cover links as the Scream street dates are announced...

Swamp Thing (Blu-ray Disc)    Dark Angel (Blu-ray Disc)    Q: The Winged Serpent (Blu-ray Disc)

X-ray/Schizoid (Blu-ray Disc)    Scanners2/Scanners 3 (Blu-ray Disc)    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Blu-ray Disc)

Have a great weekend!

- Bill Hunt

 

Okay… LOTS to cover today to close out the week.  First up though, I wanted to call attention to Bud Elder’s new View from the Cheap Seats column from yesterday in case you missed it.  It’s another fine read and includes a tribute to the late Jonathan Winters.  Don’t miss it!

Now then… let’s hit some announcement news…

As most of you know Iron Man 3 has just arrived in theaters.  I plan to see it tomorrow sometime.  I’ll admit… while I’ve mostly enjoyed the Marvel movies (especially The Avengers and the first Iron Man), I’m really not a huge superhero film fan.  But the fact that Iron Man 3 was directed and co-written by Shane Black (of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang fame) is more than enough reason to get me into the theater this weekend.  Here’s hoping it’ll be a fun film.  Speaking of which, Iron Man 3 is already available for pre-order on Amazon on Blu-ray/DVD Combo.  No street date is yet available, but you can bet it will be out in time for Thanksgiving.  Click on the link to get your orders in.

Warner has announced that their Blu-ray release of Shane is moving to a new street date: 8/13 (delayed from 6/4).  Before you get bent out of shape, you’ll be very please to know that this is being done in order that the film can be remastered in the proper 1.37 aspect ratio.  Good news indeed!

A number of Bits readers have informed me that Amazon.com is now taking pre-orders for CBS’ Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Four on Blu-ray with a street date of 7/30 (SRP $129.99 but $114.99 on pre-order).  Also coming that day is a new “movie” edit of the episodes Redemption, Parts 1 & 2 (SRP $24.99 but just $19.99 on Amazon).  You can see the cover art for both below.

While we’re talking Star Trek, it’s worth reminding everyone that the new Trek classic movie Blu-rays just released by Paramount are the same discs that were released previously, just in new single-edition packaging.  So don’t expect new cuts of the films or new extras – there aren’t any.

Synapse Films has set Peter Sasdy’s Hands of the Ripper for release on Blu-ray/DVD combo on 7/9 (SRP $29.95) in a restored and uncut edition from the Hammer Films Collection.  Extras will include The Devil’s Bloody Plaything: Possessed by the Hands of the Ripper featurette, 2 “motion” image galleries, the U.S. TV introduction, the original trailer and TV spots and even an isolated music and effects audio track.

Nickelodeon has set the CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Enter Shredder for DVD only release on 7/9 (SRP $14.99).

Shout! Factory has set the 1989 Japanese TV series The Jungle Book: Adventures of Mowgli – Complete Collection for DVD only release on 6/18, including all 52 original episodes.

Hen’s Tooth Video has set Jeffery for DVD only release on 7/9 (SRP $19.95).

Freestyle will release Norman on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on 5/7.

Best Buy has listed Disney’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for Blu-ray and DVD release on 8/27, though this has yet to be officially confirmed by Disney so take it with a grain of salt.

Speaking of Disney, retail sources tell us the studio is gearing up for a 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of their animated Robin Hood.  No street date is yet available, but we’ll let you know when more details are in.

And Kino Lorber have set the following titles to their July release slate, including The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (DVD) and Taika Waititi’s Boy (BD/DVD) on 7/2 from the Kino Lorber label, Hanging for Django (BD/DVD) on 7/23 on the Raro Video USA label, Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath: Standard Edition Remastered (BD/DVD) and Alfredo Leone presents Mario Bava’s Kidnapped: Standard Edition Remastered (BD/DVD) on 7/16 plus Foolish Wives (BD) on 7/30 from the Kino Classics label, and finally Combat Girls (DVD) on 7/9 and Vanishing Waves (DVD) on 7/23 from the Artsploitation label.  You’ll find some of the cover artwork below.

In other news from around the Net today, it seems as if Disney heard your complaints (and probably read my rant from the other day) about the Oz: The Great and Powerful Blu-ray 3D release including no 2D Blu-ray version.  Home Media reports that the studio is offering those who purchase the 3D version a 2D Blu-ray copy for $5.99 (plus shipping and handling) via a special mail-in offer in the package.  For those of you at Disney reading this, we’re still hearing TONS of complaints about this via e-mail from readers, so heads-up.  Here’s the studio’s official statement:

“We strive to give our consumers the best in-home experience and consistently evolve our mix of product offerings.  We know that our 3D consumers enjoy that experience as well as the ease of use and functionality of digital copy.  With Oz the Great and Powerful we’re offering a single, simplified version for their in-home and on-the-go viewing needs.  And, for those desiring a 2D Blu-ray version of the film, there’s an offer included in the package.”

I’m fairly sure that isn’t going to appease Blu-ray 3D fans much, but the studio must be hearing your complaints at least so that’s something.

And speaking of Home Media, they’ve just announced the winners of their recent 2013 Home Media Awards voting so do check it out.

Finally today, I’d like to take a moment to send out a big cheery Digital Bits hello to our very dear friends Bob and Kathy Burns, just because.  I know you’re reading this Bob, so hugs, cheers and best wishes to you both from all of us here at The Bits!

Bob & Kathy Burns with Todd Doogan, Adam Jahnke & Bill Hunt of The Bits

We’ll leave you with a look at art for those two Trek BDs, as well as Kino’s Kidnapped, Black Sabbath, Boy and Hanging for Django.   Just click the cover art to pre-order on Amazon, as always…

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Four (Blu-ray Disc)    Star Trek: The Next Generation - Redemption (Blu-ray Disc)    Boy (Blu-ray Disc)

Black Sabbath (Blu-ray Disc)    Kidnapped (Blu-ray Disc)    Hanging for Django (Blu-ray Disc)

Have a great weekend!

- Bill Hunt

 

That’s right.  Two Rants… and for the price of one.  (Free!)

So here’s Rant #1: Disney has just issued their official press release for Oz: The Great and Powerful.  We’ve now confirmed that there are set to be FOUR physical product SKUs: Blu-ray/DVD Combo with Digital Copy (SRP $44.99), Blu-ray with Digital Copy (SRP $39.99), DVD with Digital Copy (SRP $29.99)… and Blu-ray 3D with Digital Copy (SRP $44.99).  And it does appear that the Blu-ray-3D package contains no 2D Blu-ray Disc.  At a $44.99 price point.  That’s insane.  Now, if you have a Blu-ray 3D player, you CAN apparently choose to watch only 2D (the player simply shows you the picture information intended for only one eye), but we believe this only works on 3D-ready players.  Even if you’re a Blu-ray 3D fan – and I know there are a surprising number of you guys out there because I hear from you – who in the world would want to spend $44.99 to only get a Blu-ray 3D-compatible version?  What if you want to watch the film in another room in the house that doesn’t have 3D?  What kind of value does Disney think they’re giving the Blu-ray consumer?  Hell, a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray Combo with no DVD would have been a smarter option for most Blu-ray fans.  Judging by the reaction we’re already hearing from readers via e-mail and online, this move is about as popular with BD consumers as a lead balloon.

Anyway, for those interested the Oz BDs will come with The Magic of Oz The Great and Powerful Second Screen Experience, 9 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz, The Sounds of Magical Oz, Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater, My Journey in Oz by James Franco, Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions, China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief, Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz, Mila’s Metamorphosis and Walt Disney and the Road to Oz), along with bloopers and a music video by Mariah Carey.

Meanwhile, let’s get this out of the way before I start Rant #2.  Here’s more release news for today…

Lionsgate has announced a few titles for their July slate, including Legends of the Old West and Why We Laugh: Funny Women on DVD on 7/2, Angelina Ballerina: Mousical Medleys and Barney: Imagine with Barney on DVD only and Spring Breakers on BD and DVD on 7/9, and How The States Got Their Shapes: Season 2 and the Robotech: 2-Movie Collection (The Shadow Chronicles and the all-new Love Live Alive) on DVD only on 7/23.

Warner has announced Being Human: Season 5 (BBC) for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 8/20, as well as the animated Taz-Mania: Who Let The Taz Out – Season One, Part Two on DVD only on 8/6, and a pair of additional animated DVD titles on 7/23 including Duck Dodgers: Deep Space Duck – Season Two and Super Friends: A Dangerous Fate – Season 5.

Universal and Syfy have set Warehouse 13: Season Four for release on DVD only on 7/9.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has set Stoker for release on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on 6/18.  Extras include 4 featurettes (An Exclusive Look: A Filmmakers Journey, Mysterious Characters, Designing the Look and Creating the Music), deleted scenes, image galleries, footage of Emily Wells’ red carpet performance of the song Becomes the Color at the film’s premiere and a download version of the song.

RLJ Entertainment/Image have set the crime-actioner Tomorrow You’re Gone for Blu-ray and DVD release on 5/14.

Shout! Factory is releasing The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One! on DVD only on 5/21.

And finally, Entertainment One has set the “live-action dog tale” The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowtown for DVD only release on 5/21.

So there.

Okay, finally we come to Rant #2... some concerns about Hollywood’s “digital streaming” future.  Anyone remember DIVX?  The pay per view disc format that thankfully came and went in the early days of DVD?  Well, if and when physical media finally goes away – say over the next decade or two – the Hollywood studios’ whole motivation behind DIVX will finally be realized.  Consumers will have no option or ability to own or copy films or TV shows.  In fact, the whole concept of “ownership” will disappear as it currently exists.  Your access to movie and TV content will be completely controlled by the studios.  You’ll have pay to access content – either per title or as a monthly subscription – and if one of the studios wants to take away that access, they can do it.  Just like that.  If a studio decides all those old Westerns aren’t popular anymore and they’re just taking up valuable server space “in the cloud”, they can just pull them down and you can’t watch them anymore.  And if you’d like to watch the widest variety of titles from all the different studios, you’re probably going to have to subscribe to more than one – maybe even several – different streaming services.  Each studio could have their own.  That’s about as consumer unfriendly as it gets.

Today, of course, if you want pretty much any film or TV show that’s currently (or formerly) available on a physical disc, you can just one-stop shop on Amazon (or eBay) and the disc is at your house in a few mouse clicks plus a couple of days.  On the music side of things, at least the all-digital music industry is more friendly.  I currently have iTunes installed on my computer’s hard drive filled with thousands of songs in high-quality that I’ve ripped from legally purchased CDs and downloads.  The files exist on my hard drive, and they’re backed up on a second drive and on my iPod.  I control them.  I can listen to them whenever I want.  The record companies can’t take them away from me.  (Film and TV video files downloaded from iTunes are a different issue, as they have DRM.)  But Hollywood doesn’t want to work like that in the future.  Are you an UltraViolet user?  Cool, right?  Your movies are stored in the cloud.  Sure, you can access them from any device you want via the cloud, but the movies aren’t on your hard drive.  You have no real control over them whatsoever.  Whatever you do, be sure to keep those Blu-ray and DVD versions!  Because if you sell the discs, thinking that all you’ll ever need in the future is the UV version online, sooner or later you’re going to lose access to those films.  You’re going to get screwed.

The bottom line is this: In the all-digital future, Hollywood needs to revise their concept of ownership to be more consumer friendly.  Hollywood needs to let you own and keep legal digital movie and TV files on your own drives – files they can’t remotely deactivate or deny you access to by pulling them off the cloud.  But trust me, they don’t want to do that and they’re going to fight doing it tooth and nail.  Hollywood is, right now, building a digital future in which your control over your media that you’ve purchased legally is an illusion.  Now, some of you younger readers are probably thinking, “Yeah, so what?  The cloud is cool!  Discs are for dinosaurs, man!”  Well… if you’re a movie fan, especially someone who has loved building and enjoying a large library collection of your favorite films and TV shows on disc – discs that you can watch whenever and wherever you want – it’s something you’d be smart to think long and hard about.

[Editor’s Note: This rant was originally inspired by a story on ars technica that Netflix had lost more than 1,700 Warner catalog titles, supposedly pulled by the studio to be hosted instead on their Warner Archive Instant service.  However, our sources at Warner Archive tell us:  “The story [on ars technica] currently relating Warner Archive Instant to Netflix title availability is inaccurate. Warner Archive Instant is not involved in Netflix’s business decisions and none of the titles that were pulled from Netflix yesterday are Warner Bros. owned. Further, Warner Archive Instant content is drawn solely from the Warner Bros Entertainment library and we are not streaming Universal, or MGM/ United Artists owned content on this site.”  Given this, I’ve removed the reference to the actual story on ars accordingly, which honestly my rant really wasn’t about anyway.  In any case, my concerns (and comments) about Hollywood’s all-digital future remain every bit as valid and legitimate.]

We’ll be back tomorrow with a great new View from the Cheap Seats column by our own Bud Elder, so be sure to check back in for that in the morning.

Stay tuned…

- Bill Hunt

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