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Friday, 05 April 2013 10:13

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

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

Published in My Two Cents

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

Published in My Two Cents

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

Published in My Two Cents

Afternoon, folks!  Hope you guys all had an enjoyable and relaxing weekend.

Sarah and I actually spent our day Sunday in Palm Springs, CA, visiting with a vacationing Sue Maxwell… the wife of our dear friend Barrie Maxwell, the longtime Bits columnist who passed away last year.  I’ll tell you… it was really great spending time catching up, reminiscing and of course talking about Barrie.  Sue is doing well and mentioned to us again how much she appreciated it when so many of you guys sent kind e-mails and messages of support about Barrie’s passing.  It meant everything to her and to Barrie’s whole family.  Sue’s been staying in California for a few weeks visiting with family and friends – a trip she and Barrie had planned to make together at one point.  So it was sure great to see her.

Here at The Bits today, our own Russell Hammond has updated the Release Dates and 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 everything you order from Amazon after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at the site and we sure do appreciate it.

In announcement news today, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has revealed that it will be releasing the Netflix original series House of Cards on Blu-ray and DVD on 6/11 (SRP $65.99 and $55.99).  The series stars Kevin Spacey.  We’ll post details on extras, if any, as they come in.

Meanwhile, Universal has set Identity Thief and Mental for Blu-ray and DVD release on 6/4.  The studio has also set Covert Affairs: Season Three and Suits: Season Two for DVD only release on 5/28.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has set Burn Notice: Season Six for release on DVD on 6/11, followed by Wilfred: Season Two on both Blu-ray and DVD on 6/18.

Image Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment are releasing Sony’s Peggy Sue Got Married on Blu-ray Disc for the first time on 7/30, along with BD re-issues of Arlington Road on 7/16 and Gattaca on 7/9.

New Video has set Absence for release on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on 8/6.

A company called Section 23 will release Patlabor TV: Collection 1 on Blu-ray on 7/16.

And Wolfe Video and Sundance are releasing Mosquita y Mari on DVD only on 6/4.

Finally today, we must take a moment – sadly, to be sure – to acknowledge the passing of the legendary and prolific Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco, who help pioneer the low-budget cult/horror genre (fighting censorship every step of the way due his signature use of gore, violence and sex), with such classics as Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Vampyros Lesbos, Necronomicon, Oasis of the Zombies and Count Dracula.  He died in Malaga, Spain, after suffering a stroke.  The bit of silver lining in all this is that many of his best films are now available (or are coming soon) to Blu-ray and DVD from the folks at Kino Lorber, so they can be enjoyed for years to come.  Franco was 82.  Rest in peace.

We’ll leave you with a look at the BD art for Fox’s Wilfred: Season Two, as well as Sony’s Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season (due 6/4) and Parker (5/7)…

Wilfred: Season Two (Blu-ray Disc)    Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season (Blu-ray Disc)    Parker (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents

All right, not much going on this April Fool’s Day, but we do have a couple of bits of announcement news for you.  Rest assured, no foolin’ here.

First, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has set AMC’s Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season for Blu-ray and DVD release on 6/4 (SRP $65.99 and $55.99).  The 2-disc BD and 3-disc DVD will each include 8 episodes, plus a ton of extra features including Inside Breaking Bad “making of” featurettes for every episode, audio commentaries on every episode with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, outtakes and 12 additional featurettes (The Master Cleaner: John Banks as Mike, Scene by Scene: Directors Discuss Memorable Moments, Making the Train Robbery, Gallery 1988 Art Show, Jesse Plemons Audition Footage, Laura Fraser Audition Footage, Writers’ Room Timelapse, Prison Stabbing Scene Rehearsal, Chicks ‘N’ Guns: Behind the Scenes, Chicks ‘n’ Guns Exclusive Scene: Chicks ‘n’ Guns, Chris Hardwick’s All-Star Celebrity Bowling and The Writers of Breaking Bad).

Sony has also set Absolute Deception and Beverly Lewis’ The Confession for release on DVD on 6/11.

Meanwhile CBS has set CSI: NY – The Ninth Season for DVD release on 6/25.

Twilight Time is taking pre-orders for Major Dundee (1965) on Blu-ray (street date TBA – SRP $34.95 – limited to 3,000 copies).  The film stars Charlton Heston and Richard Harris.  The 2-disc set will include both the theatrical and extended cuts, plus an isolated score track, silent extended outtakes, an excerpt from the exhibitor promo reel, an extended scene, and incomplete deleted scene and the original theatrical trailer.

And Disney has set Private Practice: The Complete Sixth and Final Season for DVD release on 5/7, followed by Perception: The Complete First Season on DVD on 5/21 and Red Widow: The Complete First Season on DVD on 5/28.  The studio has also set Body of Proof: The Complete Third Season for DVD only release on 6/18.

Finally, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of British actor Richard Griffiths, best known to American audiences as Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films.  He passed away on Friday at the age of 65.

Back tomorrow with more.  Stay tuned…

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents

Slow news day, but we do have a couple of title announcements for you…

First, Warner Home Video has announced that it’s about to begin production on a new documentary called Necessary Evil: The Villains of DC Comics.  Presumably, this will all tie into the forthcoming release of Man of Steel, etc.

Meanwhile, Shout! Factory has announced a new DVD collection from the golden age of Japanese animation – Gaiking: The Movie Collection, which will include a trio of feature length movies edited from the original series, plus a brand new English language audio track.  Watch for it in stores on 5/21.

And 20th Century Fox has announced LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out for Blu-ray/DVD combo release on 3/26.  The set will come packaged with a little mini LEGO Darth Vader figure.

By the way, Fox has also set Via Zapata for BD release on 5/7 in addition to One Hour Photo, Brubaker and Verdict.

Finally, any Universal Monsters fans out there?  Amazon currently has an Italian import version of the Universal Classic Monsters Collection on Blu-ray (from Ais) that comes packaged in a coffin box, with a book and poster art cards for each of the films.  Amazon claims it’s all region.  Just $99 – pretty cool.  Here’s a picture…

Universal Classic Monsters Collection (Italian Blu-ray)

Anyway, we’ll leave you today with a look at the cover artwork for Universal’s Phantom of the Opera (1943) BD single (due 6/4), Fox’s LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out and Universal’s Mama (5/7)…

Phantom of the Opera (1943 - Blu-ray Disc)    LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (BD/DVD)    Mama (Blu-ray Disc)

Don’t forget that HBO’s Game of Thrones returns this weekend for its third season.  Also, there’s WonderCon in Anaheim today through Sunday – I may drop by and I know Dr. Jahnke plans to roam the show on Saturday.  And a very Happy Easter to those who celebrate it too.

Stay tuned!

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents

Super-slow news day today, but we do have a new review from Dr. Jahnke for you all to enjoy this afternoon: John Carpenter’s Christine: Limited Edition, now on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a super-limited and already sold out run of 3,000 copies.

Universal has set Curious George: The Complete Sixth Season for DVD only release on 6/4.  Universal has also set Open Road for release on Blu-ray and DVD on 5/21.

20th Century Fox has set Brubaker and Verdict for release on Blu-ray on 5/7.

IFC has How to Survive a Plague due on Blu-ray on 6/11.

Millennium will release Upside Down on Blu-ray 3D Combo and DVD on 6/18, as well as Brave New World (1998) on 5/14.

Kino Lorber has set Of Human Bondage: Kino Classics Remastered Edition for BD release on 6/18.

Severin Films will release House on Straw Hill and The House of Seven Corpses on Blu-ray Combo on 6/11.

Magnolia has This Girl is Badass for BD and DVD release on 5/21.

Full Moon will release the Subspecies: The Blu-ray Collection – Volume 1 on 5/21, including Subspecies, Bloodstone: Subspecies II and Bloodlust: Subspecies III.

And Eagle Rock Entertainment has set The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane for BD and DVD on 5/21.

Stay tuned…

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents

We’ve got a bunch more announcement news for you today…

First, 20th Century Fox has set the CG-animated Koala Kid for DVD release on 4/30 exclusively at Walmart.  Fox has also The Oranges for Blu-ray Combo and DVD release on 5/7.

Fox and MGM are releasing a 3-disc Daniel Craig 007 Collection on Blu-ray Disc on 6/4, due to include Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.  From what we can tell, these will be the same single-disc editions released previously.

Lionsgate will release Ice Road Truckers: Season 6 and Mountain Men: Season 1 on 6/4 (in addition to Warm Bodies, announced yesterday), followed by After People, Betty and Coretta, Ninja Masters and Power Rangers Super Samurai: Secret of the Red Ranger – Volume 4 on 6/11, and American Idiots and Summoned on 6/18.  It’s also worth noting that the studio is releasing a title called Mighty Messes as a digital-only release on 6/11.

Universal is releasing a W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection on DVD only on 6/4, including International House, Man on the Flying Trapeze, My Little Chickadee, It’s a Gift, Poppy, The Bank Dick, You’re Telling Me!, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break and The Old Fashioned Way.

Universal is also releasing some of the Classic Monsters titles (released last year in a box set) as Blu-ray singles on 6/4, including Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Mummy (1932) and Phantom of the Opera (1943).  Creature will include both 2D and 3D as in the box set.  Otherwise, all extras will be the same.  Note that this is simply Wave 1.  Presumably the remaining titles will be released as singles later in 2013.

And Universal has set an Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection for Blu-ray release on 6/4 that includes Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds.  This is just a stripped down version of last year’s Hitchcock box set with only five of the films.

Speaking of Universal and Hitchcock, the studio will release BD singles of Rope on 5/7, Shadow of a Doubt on 6/4 and The Trouble with Harry on 7/2.

Also, Sony has set Parker for Blu-ray Combo and DVD release on 5/7 (SRP $35.99 and $26.99).  The film stars Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.

Warner and Cartoon Network have set Regular Show: The Complete First & Second Seasons for Blu-ray and DVD release on 7/16.

And New Video will release Wild Bill on Blu-ray and DVD on 7/16 as well.

Finally, on the TV front, Amazon.com has just listed Showtime’s Homeland: The Complete Second Season for Blu-ray and DVD release on 9/10, and Sony’s Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season and TNT’s Falling Skies: The Complete Second Season each for Blu-ray and DVD release on 6/4.  Those last three titles haven’t been officially announced yet (to our knowledge) so the dates are subject to change.

Here’s a look at temp artwork for three of Universal’s Classic Monsters BD singles – all are available for pre-order on Amazon.com by clicking on the covers…

The Mummy (1932 - Blu-ray Disc)    The Invisible Man (Blu-ray Disc)    Creature from the Black Lagoon (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents

All right, we’re pleased to offer you all a brand new View from the Cheap Seats column from our own Bud Elder.  In this installment, Bud remembers a dear friend recently lost – veteran Western actor Dale Robertson, who passed away last month.  It’s a great column so do give it a read.

We’ve also posted Russell Hammond’s 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 Amazon after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we really do appreciate it.

Now then… we’ve got a bunch of new announcements to report this afternoon…

First up, 20th Century Fox has set A Good Day to Die Hard for Blu-ray and DVD release on 5/14.  The 2-disc Blu-ray will include both the theatrical cut and an extended cut of the film, audio commentary with director John Moore and first assistant director Mark Cotone, 7 deleted scenes (Jack Scopes Out Courthouse, Collins Gets Approval to Move, John McClane Original Introduction, Russian Girls on Plane, Safe House Intrusion, Gun Store and Fight with Anton), the 15-part Making it Hard to Die documentary (includes Introduction, Stunts, Helicopters and Aerial, Special Effects, Motion Base, Armoury, Russia and Budapest, The Look of the Movie, Chernobyl, Camera Work, Editorial Los Angeles, Color Grading, Visual Effects, Film Scoring and Wrap Up), 3 Pre-Viz clips, 5 additional featurettes (Maximum McClane, Anatomy of a Car Chase, Two of a Kind, Back in Action and The New Face of Evil), VFX Sequences, 2 image galleries and theatrical trailer, plus a DVD and Digital Copy disc.  See the cover artwork below.

Meanwhile, Summit Entertainment has set the “zombie-reversal romance/comedy” Warm Bodies for Blu-ray and DVD release on 6/4 (SRP $39.99 and $29.95).  Extras include audio commentary with director Jonathon Levine and actors Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, 9 featurettes (Boy Meets, ER, Doesn’t Eat Girl, R&J, A Little Less Dead, Extreme Zombie Make-Over!, A Wreck in Progress, Bustin’ Caps, Beware of The Boneys, Whimsical Sweetness: Teresa Palmer’s Warm Bodies Home Movies and Zombie Acting Tips with Rob Corddry), plus deleted scenes with optional director's commentary and the Shrug and Groan gag reel.

Paramount will release Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters on Blu-ray Combo and DVD on 6/11.  The Blu-ray will include the film in an unrated edition, along with 3 featurettes (Reinventing Hansel & Gretel, The Witching Hours and Meet Edward the Troll).  The DVD will include the theatrical version of the film.

And Warner Home Video has set Shane and The Odd Couple for Blu-ray Disc release on 6/4.  SRP is $19.98 each.  You’ll find cover artwork for those below as well.

In other release news, Dark Sky Films will release Manborg on DVD only on 4/30.

Virgil Films will release Future Weather on DVD on 4/16.

PBS Distribution has set Frontline: Cliffhanger for DVD release on 4/30.

And Well Go USA Entertainment has set Back to 1942 for Blu-ray and DVD release on 5/14 (SRP $29.98 and $24.98), followed by Nightfall on both formats on 5/2114 (SRP $29.98 and $24.98).

Here’s a look at the Blu-ray cover art for A Good Day to Die Hard, Summit’s Warm Bodies, Paramount’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Warner’s Shane and The Odd Couple, and Criterion’s Things to Come (due 6/18)…

A Good Day to Die Hard (Blu-ray Disc)    Warm Bodies (Blu-ray Disc)    Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Blu-ray Disc)

Shane (Blu-ray Disc)    The Odd Couple (Blu-ray Disc)    Things to Come (Criterion Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

- Bill Hunt

Published in My Two Cents
Tuesday, 26 March 2013 13:47

Oklahoma Cowboy Rides into the Sunset

A few weeks ago, the AP wire and even Entertainment Weekly made the simple announcement that Dale Robertson, age 89, had died in southern California.  And while the world had lost their western hero Jim Hardie and the state of Oklahoma, where he was born and would always remain faithful, had lost a favorite son, I lost a dear mentor, friend and brother.

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