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All right, today’s post is going to be quick, but it’s a good one…

First up, there’s more news regarding The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  As we reported last Thursday, word of the Blu-ray release of the film has begun to leak in Europe and in fact you can now pre-order the theatrical cut Blu-ray 3D Combo, Blu-ray Combo and DVD versions in Germany and France.  Now images of a French retail sell sheet have leaked online, showing your choice of three different Steelbook covers for the 2D version, plus word that the discs will include over two hours worth of extras, including a “making of” featurette and 10 video blogs – presumably an archive of the same video blogs that director Peter Jackson has posted online here. It also appears that the 3D version of the film may be contained on a pair of Blu-rays, while the 2D version will appear on just one disc.  More here at Collider and here at Bleeding Cool.  Here’s the German cover art for the BD3D and DVD versions that we posted last Thursday (originally from Amazon.de) – we’ve added a look at the German BD Steelbook as well…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German Blu-ray 3D)    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German Blu-ray Steelbook)     The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German DVD)

By the way, the French sell sheet makes no mention of the Extended Edition release.  But we do know from our coverage of Warner’s 2013 release slate event that the studio is tentatively planning on releasing it later this year.  And Jackson and company have indicated in various interviews that they’re considering what deleted footage to include in longer cuts of the films.

Also today, we’ve got a follow-up on our CES 2013 coverage of 4K... and it’s definitely of interest to you Blu-ray fans.  Blu-ray Disc Association president Andy Parsons has revealed that the BDA created a task force within its member companies in late 2012 to begin investigating the notion of extending the Blu-ray spec to deliver 4K movie content – presumably to make Blu-ray Hollywood’s preferred medium for distributing 4K Ultra HD content to consumers with 4K displays.  (More here at TechHive.)  What’s interesting about this is that while Blu-ray has disc capacities of 25GB and 50GB (via single and dual-layer media), RED revealed at CES that their 4K streamed movies will have the same data rate as Blu-ray (20Mbps) so you could presumably included a .RED file on a Blu-ray with a file size of 15 to 20GB.  But .RED is obviously a proprietary format, and it’s just one of several being used to deliver films in 4K theatrically.

BDA president Andy Parsons says that the Blu-ray format is technically capable of delivering 4K content, but there are a number of factors that need to be considered.  The first is the cost of doing so: Can existing production and manufacturing pipelines be retooled to accommodate 4K Blu-rays so that discs are reasonably priced, or is it just easier to stream 4K to displays?  And then there’s demand: Sales of 4K displays are going to be extremely limited for the next few years until costs come down, so will demand for 4K discs justify the costs?  Other questions remain as well: Would the new 4K Blu-rays work on existing players?  Could at least some players be made compatible with 4K via firmware updates or would new players be required?  Obviously, 4K video would either require greater compression than Blu-ray currently employs or additional layers would have to be added to the discs – or both.

Finally, there’s an even bigger issue to overcome – rampant concern over piracy in the Hollywood community.  Are the studios even willing to release their best films in 4K?  Think of it this way: If someone pirates a current Blu-ray, they’ve got a great high-definition copy.  If someone pirates a 4K file, they’ve essentially got a duplicate of the studio master – 4K is effectively the equivalent resolution you get from a 35mm film print.  That’s not an appealing proposition for any senior studio executive.

So interesting though the idea of 4K Blu-ray is, there are a lot of hurdles yet to clear.  Nevertheless, we’ll keep you up to date on any new developments as we hear of them.

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

All right, more announcement news today…

The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay have officially announced the Blu-ray Combo and DVD release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master on 2/26 (SRP $39.99 and $29.98).  Extras on the Blu-ray Combo version will include the Back Beyond featurette (outtakes and additional scenes set to music), the Unguided Message short film, John Huston’s 1946 documentary on World War II veterans Let There Be Light plus trailers and teasers.  You’ll find the cover artwork below.

In addition, Criterion has revealed their April Blu-ray and DVD release slate, which is set to include Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III (Cat #213 - BD and DVD - due 4/9), David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (Cat #220 - BD and DVD - due 4/9), Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Gate of Hell (Cat #653 - BD and DVD - due 4/9), Alex Cox’s Repo Man (Cat #654 - BD and DVD - due 4/16) and a Pierre Etaix box set (Cat #655 - BD and DVD - due 4/23 – includes The Suitor, Yoyo, As Long As You’ve Got Your Health, Le Grand Amour and Land of Milk and Honey).  Also coming is Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System on DVD on 4/16 (includes The Thick-Walled Room, I Will Buy You, Black River and The Inheritance).  In other words, it’s yet another great batch of titles from Criterion.

Also today, our own Jeff Kleist has turned in a review of Fox’s Taken 2 on Blu-ray, so enjoy!

Here’s the BD cover art for Weinstein’s The Master and Criterion’s Naked Lunch and Repo Man

The Master (Blu-ray Disc)    Naked Lunch (Criterion)    Repo Man (Criterion)

Have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday morning (following Monday’s MLK Jr. Day holiday).  Stay tuned!

- Bill Hunt

All right, today’s post is brief but we do have a little bit of Hobbit news for you…

Amazon France and Amazon Germany have both begun taking pre-orders for the Blu-ray 3D Combo, Blu-ray Combo and DVD release of Warner’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  This is the theatrical cut.  Amazon France lists a street date of 4/17.  So it seems likely that the U.S. release will A) happen around this same time frame and B) be officially announced very soon, perhaps in the next week or two if not sooner.  Our industry sources still suggest that an Extended Cut version of the film is very possible later this year, but not yet 100% certain.  If it does happen, expect the Extended Cut release of An Unexpected Journey sometime in October or November, as part of the build-up to the theatrical release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on 12/13.  We’ll post more official information as soon as it comes in. In the meantime, here’s a look at the German cover artwork for the Blu-ray 3D Combo and DVD versions…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German Blu-ray 3D)    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German DVD)

Back tomorrow with a new Blu-ray review and more news.  Stay tuned!

- Bill Hunt

All right, some release news today…

Bits readers are reporting that Amazon has just pulled the Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas from pre-order availability.  They had been taking  Blu-ray and DVD pre-orders for a month or so with an expected release date of 2/5.  However, I should note that the studio has never officially announced the title or its street date, so technically this isn’t Warner pulling the release – it’s Amazon that jumped the gun by listing a 2/5 street date.  I’m sure that 2/5 was at one point the tentative release date, but it’s clear that the studio simply hasn’t finalized its release plan yet or we’d already have seen an announcement.  We’ve asked the studio what’s going on with the title and will let you know when we hear back.  Unofficially, we’re hearing that the studio may have plans to return the film to theaters for a brief time.  In any case, we expect WHV to make its official announcement of the title sometime in the next few weeks.

Speaking of Warner Home Video, they’re going to start releasing individual seasons of Friends on Blu-ray on 4/30, starting with the first two.  Season One and Season Two each carry an SRP of $25.98.

Also, Warner and the BBC have set Alice Through the Looking Glass (1973) and Alice in Wonderland (1986) for DVD release on 3/12, presumably taking advantage of the promotional oomph of Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful which hits theatres on 3/8.

Sony has set A Dark Truth for DVD only release on 3/5, followed by The First Time and Mob Doctor: The Complete First Season on 3/12 and Angus Buchan’s Ordinary People on 3/19.

Showtime and Paramount have set The Borgias: The Second Season for Blu-ray and DVD release on 3/26.  The set will include a pair of featurettes, as well as promotional materials for a number of other Showtime series.

And Disney has set Perception: The Complete First Season for DVD only release on 5/21.

Finally, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and our friends over at the Home Theater Forum are allowing you to vote on which deep catalog classic films you’d like to see delivered to Blu-ray in the months ahead.  Click on the links to weigh in.  Titles already expected from Fox on Blu-ray include Laura on 3/2, Panic in the Streets on 3/26, Hello, Dolly! on 4/2 and Viva Zapata! on 5/7.

Stay tuned!

- Bill Hunt

All right, in the wake of CES – not to mention yesterday’s announcement that Schindler’s List is coming to Blu-ray – we’ve got even more new announcement news to cover today…

The big one is that Lionsgate will release The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 on Blu-ray Combo and DVD on 3/2 (SRP $39.99 and $30.98).  Extras will include audio commentary with director Bill Condon, the 7-part Forever: Filming Breaking Dawn Part 2 documentary (includes Rebirth, Renesmee, The Cottage, The Gathering, The Field, The Battle and Forever), an additional Two Movies at Once featurette and Green Day’s The Forgotten music video.  Here’s the cover artwork – both versions are available for pre-order now on Amazon by clicking on the art...

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Blu-ray Disc)    The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (DVD)

Also today, 20th Century Fox has set Chasing Mavericks for Blu-ray and DVD release on 2/26.  Extras will include audio commentary from director Michael Apted and writers Brandon Hooper and Jim Meenaghan, 4 deleted scenes and 4 featurettes (Surf City, Shooting Waves, Live Like Jay and Surfer Zen) plus an UltraViolet version.

And in addition to their 3/12 release of Hitchcock (just announced and covered in yesterday’s post), Fox is also releasing an Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection on Blu-ray the same day that includes their previously released BD singles of Notorious, Rebecca and Spellbound.

MPI Media will release Guillaume Canet’s Little White Lies on Blu-ray and DVD on 2/5 (SRP $29.98 and $24.98).  The films stars Marion Cotillard.

Also today, our friends over at Kino Lorber have sent us hot new Blu-ray Disc cover art for Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake, Jess Franco’s Oasis of the Zombies and Peter Walker’s House of Whipcord, Die Screaming Marianne, Schizo and The Comeback - all Redemption Films titles due in February - as well as Buster Keaton’s College (due 3/5).  Here’s a look at some of them.  All are now available for pre-order on Amazon…

Zombie Lake (Blu-ray Disc)    Oasis of the Zombies (Blu-ray Disc)    House of Whipcord (Blu-ray Disc)

Die Screaming Marianne (Blu-ray Disc)    Schizo (Blu-ray Disc)    College (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

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