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page updated: 8/14/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 8/7/07 - 7/26/07)


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8/7/07

Okay, before we wrap up EMA, let's get some other stuff out of the way...

First, Russell has posted another massive update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section for you, filled with lots of great new DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon pre-order links. Again, anytime you purchase anything through our links it helps to support our work here at The Bits and we thank you for it.

Also today, Adam has posted a new edition of his Electric Theatre. There's no reviews this time, just a remembrance of the life and work of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. It's well worth your time.
Here at the site today, we've kicked off TWO new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, Full House: Season 7, Rock the Bells, The List and IMAX Blue Planet (on HD-DVD), as well as Starz' Roseanne: Season 8. The contests will run for one week, until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, August 12th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

In announcement news today, Fox has set an Angel: Collector's Set for release on 10/30 (SRP $139.98). This will include all five seasons in a single box set, along with a companion booklet and a letter from series creator Joss Whedon.

Sony has set The Company for release on 10/23. Additional details are TBA.

CBS and Paramount have announced a number of new TV titles, including Wings: Season 5 (11/6), Melrose Place: Season 3 and Perry Mason: The Second Season, Volume 2 (both 11/13), Chappelle's Show: The Series Collection, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Seventh Season, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series, Love American Style Season 1, Volume 1, Mission: Impossible - Season 3 and The Wild Wild West: Season 3 (all 11/20), and Happy Days: Season 3, Mork and Mindy: Season 3 and Laverne & Shirley: Season 3 (all 11/27).

Meanwhile, DreamWorks' Shrek the Third DVD (due 11/13) will include a "meet the cast" audio commentary, 3 deleted scenes (The Fauxly Grail, Hot Lunch and Cyrano de Artie), 9 featurettes (including Shrek's Guide to Parenthood, Tech of Shrek 3, Worcestershire Academy Yearbook, Princess Bootcamp, Big Green Goofs, Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball, Get Up and Play PSA, Learn the Donkey Dance and How to be Green), 2 music videos (Donkey Dance and Dancing Babies), trailers for all the Shrek films and DVD-ROM interactive features (Shrek Shmash Ups, Royal Tournament Games, Printables and weblinks). There's no word yet on possible high-def versions.

Warner has announced Everything's Jake on 9/25, Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl (for HBO) on 10/9, Jim Norton: Monster Rain (for HBO), a trio of Return to House on Haunted Hill: Unrated Editions (on DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD) and a Return to House on Haunted Hill: R-rated Edition on 10/16, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq on 10/23, an Everybody Loves Raymond Giftset and Little Rock Central High: 50 Years Later (for HBO) on 10/30, Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series (for BBC), Martin: The Complete Third Season and a Martin: The Complete Seasons 1-3 3-Pack on 11/6, and I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA (for HBO) on 11/20.

Warner has also announced (of all things) a pair of videogames for 9/18... Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal (for the Nintendo DS) and Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck (for the Xbox 360). [Editor's Note: We'd previously listed these as DVD releases, but they are in fact videogames. Go figure.]

And Lionsgate has announced their September DVD and Blu-ray Disc slate. Look for Demons from Her Past, a Delta Farce Blu-ray Disc and Hit the Spot: Ten 5-Minute Target Toners (all 9/5), Pirates of Ghost Island, Away from Her, 3:16 - Stories of Hope and The Case for Christ (all 9/11), Alligator, El Mago, Corazon Marchito and Blu-ray Disc versions of The Condemned and House of 1,000 Corpses (all 9/18), and a Bug: Special Edition, a Cujo: 25th Anniversary Edition, Curse of Alcatraz, Night of the Demons 2, an Alone in the Dark: Director's Cut, Leyendas del Cine Mexicana Vol. 2, Grandes Muralistas and Peppa Pig: Muddy Puddles (all 9/25).

Finally, we're gotten word from our industry sources that Sony is current working on Blu-ray Disc versions of Das Boot and Run Lola Run for release early in 2008. Here's hoping that Leon: The Professional is on the way too.

In other news today, as we first posted last week, Toshiba has officially announced a trio of new, 3rd generation HD-DVD players for release starting in September. These include the HD-A3 (1080i only - $299.99), the HD-A30 (1080p - $399.99) and the HD-A35 (also 1080p - $499.99). You can read more here at Home Media.

Also today, Warner has announced that its 300 has become the fastest and highest selling high-definition release yet, having sold more than 250,000 copies in its first full week of release. Warner unfortunately hasn't released the breakdown of sales by format. Based on the current Amazon "top seller" rankings, the Blu-ray Disc version is currently at #3, while the HD-DVD is #11, so we would guess about a 60/40 or 70/30 split between the two, which is consistent with overall sales between the two formats. It'll be interesting to see if the studio does release the official breakdown. Nonetheless, whichever format you prefer, sales numbers like these do seem to bode well for the overall adoption of high-definition media. You can read more here at Video Business.

Speaking of 300, we've got a little follow up for you regarding the problems with the 300 DVD/HD-DVD Combo version. We've had a number of readers who own Toshiba players say that the latest firmware update has resolved their playback problems with the disc. In addition, one of our readers reported that while he was having problems with the disc, he noticed that there was a thin layer of some kind of oil or grease on the HD-DVD side of the disc - presumably something that hadn't gotten cleaned off during manufacturing. Once he wiped it clean, he had no problems. However, the most problems we're hearing from readers are from Xbox 360 drive users, many of whom have reported to us that they've updated their firmware but are still having difficulties. A couple had better luck after exchanging the disc for a different copy. For the record, our own copy of the HD-DVD isn't causing any problems, and neither are we having any issues with the Blu-ray Disc version.

And elsewhere around the net today, our friends over at TV Shows on DVD have just posted the complete list of all 60 shorts that you'll find on Warner's forthcoming Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 5 (due on 10/30). It's a nice list indeed, but at this rate, it'll be... what... 12 more years before we'll have them all on DVD? That's not a jab at the studio. To Warner's credit, they're doing a helluva great job remastering these shorts and it does take a lot of time and effort to do so. We just hope they don't stop until all 1,100+ of the shorts have been released.

Stay tuned...

8/6/07

Hope you guys all had a great weekend, as always. We're just jumping in here, a little later than expected but we're here nonetheless, to bring you Todd's accounting of Day Four of our EMA weekend. Remember EMA, way back prior to all the Comic-Con business from last week? Admittedly there's not much in Todd's tale that's DVD or high-def related, but if you like our charming personalities and you enjoy a good road trip story, we've got a dandy for you. Todd spins a good yarn. I'll be just like you were there in the car with us. Best of all, everything you're about to read is true. No kidding.

We'll be back with our Day Three report tomorrow (all about Universal's HD-DVD panel, which will wrap up our EMA coverage), along with some new contests, a new Upcoming DVD Cover Art update, all the latest release news and more. And don't forget... we've got lots of goodness from our own Barrie Maxwell coming later in the week.

Until tomorrow, remember folks... always keep it level!

(LATE UPDATE - 8/3/07 - 2 PM PDT)

Okay... we've got a little bit more news for you, starting with some follow-up on the high-def versions of Blade Runner. We've confirmed with Warner that both the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD editions will feature ALL FIVE VERSIONS of the film in actual 1080p video, but the extras (the documentary, deleted scenes, etc) will all be in standard definition. The reason for this has nothing to do with disc space on either format, but rather timing. Work is still ongoing on some of the extras (it's a big job as you can imagine from the list of specs). Given that, I'm told that even if high-def compression were to start today on the all the extras, there'd be no way to get the high-def versions of the set completed in time to street this year, which is the film's anniversary. That said, even though the extras will be standard def, they're going to be compressed at a very high bitrate and, with upscaling, they should look plenty good. So that's that.

Now then... on the 300 HD-DVD issue, if you're having a playback problem with the disc in any way, make sure you've updated your player with the very latest firmware, and then try again. If you're still having problems after that, please drop us an e-mail and we'll follow up with Warner and Toshiba.

In one other bit of HD-DVD news, retailers have apparently revealed that Toshiba will release its 3rd generation players in October, including the HD-A3 ($299), the HD-A30 ($399) and the HD-A35 ($499). Toshiba is expected to officially announce the new units at CEDIA next month. You can read more here at Video Business.

Finally, on the standard DVD front, Sony has set a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: 40th Anniversary Edition and a 6-disc Stanley Kramer Box Set (includes Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, The Wild One, The Member of the Wedding and Ship of Fools, along with an exclusive bonus disc) for release on 10/9.

Okay, we'll wrap-up EMA next week and we'll have more from Barrie Maxwell for you too. Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 8/3/07 - 6:15 AM PDT)

Weren't we just talking about how many big announcements there's been in the last few days? Here's a couple more.

First up, Sony has just officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Spider-Man 3 for 10/30. All three films will also be released in a trilogy Blu-ray set that day as well. Here's the breakdown: The Spider-Man 3 single-disc DVD (SLP $28.97) will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary (with director Sam Raimi and cast members Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace and Bryce Dallas Howard), a second commentary (with producers Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad and Grant Curtis, editor Bob Murawski and special effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk), a blooper reel, photo galleries and a Snow Patrol music video.

The Spider-Man 3: 2-Disc Special Edition (SLP $36.95) will include all of the above, plus 11 featurettes (Grains of Sand: Building Sandman, Re-Imagining the Goblin, Covered in Black: Creating Venom, Hanging On... Gwen Stacy and the Collapsing Floor, Fighting, Flying & Driving: The Stunts, Tangled Web: The Love Triangles of Spider-Man 3, Wall of Water, On Location: Cleveland - The Chase on Euclid Avenue, On Location: New York - From Rooftops to Backstreets, The Science of Sound and Inside the Editing Room) along with TV spots from around the world.

The 2-disc Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray edition (SLP $49.95) will include all of the above with video in 1080p (we're uncertain if the video extras will be high-def as well, but we'll try to find out), along with 5.1 audio in Dolby TrueHD and Uncompressed PCM.

Finally, according to the studio's press release, the 4-disc Spider-Man: The High-Definition Trilogy Blu-ray box set (SLP $98.95), will include Spider-Man (Disc One), Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 2.5 (Disc Two) and Spider-Man 3 (Discs Three and Four). We presume this means all the extras from the previous DVDs will be included as well, but again we'll try to confirm that. You'll find cover artwork for all four versions below.

The other big announcement this morning we've already been talking about for a couple of days. Warner has just officially revealed the details on its upcoming Stanley Kubrick special editions, which are due on 10/23. The Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick box set (SRP $79.92) is a 6-film, 10-disc set that includes new special editions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining, along with a Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition and the previously released documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. All of these films will be available separately on Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD (save for the documentary) for $28.99 each. DVD versions will also be available for $26.99 each. All of these films have been newly remastered and are approved by the Kubrick estate. In addition, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket are all debuting in anamorphic widescreen format.

The 2-disc 2001: A Space Odyssey - Special Edition will include audio commentary with stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, an audio-only interview with Kubrick, the Channel 4 documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth, 5 featurettes (Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001, Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001, 2001: A Space Odyssey - A Look Behind the Future, 2001: FX and Early Conceptual Artwork and Look: Stanley Kubrick!) and the film's theatrical trailer.

The 2-disc A Clockwork Orange: Special Edition will include audio commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman, the Channel 4 documentary Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange, the Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange and O Lucky Malcolm! featurettes, and the film's theatrical trailer.

The 2-disc Eyes Wide Shut: Special Edition will feature both the R and Unrated versions of the film, along with scene specific audio commentary by Sydney Pollack and historian Peter Loewenberg, the Channel 4 documentary The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut, the Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick featurette, Kubrick's 1998 DGA D.W. Griffith Award acceptance speech, an interview gallery featuring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Steven Spielberg, the film's theatrical trailer and TV spots.

The 2-disc The Shining: Special Edition will offer audio commentary by Garrett Brown and John Baxter, The Making of the Shining documentary with optional commentary by Vivian Kubrick, 3 featurettes (View from the Overlook: Crafting the Shining, The Visions of Stanley Kubrick and Wendy Carlos, Composer) and the film's theatrical trailer.

Finally, the single-disc Full Metal Jacket: Deluxe Edition will include audio commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey and Jay Cocks, the Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil featurette and the film's theatrical trailer. It's already available on both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats.

Warner is also re-releasing the previous DVD editions of Lolita and Barry Lyndon, but there's no word yet on high-def versions.

One other note this morning: We've confirmed with studio sources that Buena Vista is getting ready to announce the Blu-ray Disc release of Lost: Season 3 on 12/11. Additional details are still TBA, but the title is definitely coming.

Okay... we already posted some of the Kubrick cover art the other day, but here's Sony's Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man 3: 2-Disc Special Edition, Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray and Spider-Man: The High-Definition Trilogy on Blu-ray (all 10/30), along with Surf's Up on both DVD and Blu-ray (10/9)...

Spider-Man 3Spider-Man 3: 2-Disc Special EditionSpider-Man 3 (Blu-ray Disc)

The Spider-Man Trilogy (Blu-ray)Surf's Up: Special EditionSurf's Up (Blu-ray)

Okay... we should have the EMA wrap-up on Monday, plus (probably) more big announcements of some kind or other. In the meantime, go see The Bourne Ultimatum this weekend. It's pretty damn good. See ya!

8/2/07

Boy... just when you think you're getting caught up on things, there's a flood of new announcements to chase down. And there's a big one today.

CBS and Paramount have just officially announced the DVD release of a title we previewed at our Comic-Con panel last week... the Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition. The 10-disc set will street on 10/30 (SRP $108.99). It will include both versions of the pilot episode (including the international version) and all 29 episodes from seasons one and two. You'll also get Log Lady introductions for each episode, never-before-seen deleted scenes, production documents, the 4-part Secrets from Another Place: Creating Twin Peaks documentary (includes Northwest Passage: Creating the Pilot, Freshly Squeezed: Creating Season 1, Where We’re From: Creating the Music and Into the Night: Creating Season 2), the A Slice of Lynch retrospective roundtable discussion video, the Return to Twin Peaks featurette, 13 TV spots, 3 image galleries (The Richard Beymer Gallery, Unit Photography and Twin Peaks Trading Cards), 3 Georgia Coffee commercials, Julee Cruise's Falling music video, 8 interactive maps and Kyle MacLachlan's monologue and Twin Peaks sketch from Saturday Night Live. The episodes have all been remastered from the original negatives (a process personally supervised by Lynch) and will be presented in the original full frame aspect ratio with audio in both newly-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 and the original 2.0. That is one damn fine slice of cherry pie! You'll find the final cover artwork below.

Also today, New Line has set Normal Adolescent Behavior: Havoc 2 for DVD release on 10/16 (SRP $19.97).

And on the high-def front this afternoon, we're getting some reports of people having playback problems with the DVD/HD-DVD Combo version of Warner's 300. It could be the old 'bonding layer too think' issue experienced on select Universal combo titles earlier this year, but it's too soon to say. People are reporting trouble on Toshiba units as well as Microsoft's Xbox 360 drive. It's unknown how extensive the issue is, and not everyone seems to be encountering it. One other 300 issue is being reported today as well... it seems that the Blu-ray version is in short supply, because some retailers didn't order enough stock to meet demand. We'll update you with more on all this as we're able.

Here's more new cover art for you: CBS/Paramount's Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition on DVD, along with Paramount's Top Gun on Blu-ray and HD-DVD (10/2), and Starz/Anchor Bay's Blu-ray Disc editions of Dawn of the Dead (10/2) and Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volumes 1 & 2 (TBA October)...

Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box EditionTop Gun (Blu-ray)Top Gun (HD-DVD)

Dawn of the Dead (Blu-ray)Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 1 (Blu-ray)Masters of Horror: Season 1, Volume 2 (Blu-ray)

Stay tuned...

8/1/07

First things first this afternoon: I'm working on the Day Three EMA report, but I'm taking the time to get it right. Todd wrote most of the Day Four report right before we left for Comic-Con last week, so when I post them I'll have both for you - it'll be the complete EMA wrap-up.

In the meantime, with all of the MAJOR news announcements of the last couple of days, there have been a lot of follow-up questions. So I've been busy calling and e-mailing studio contacts to get answers to as many of them as I can (though after EMA and Comic-Con, many of them are out of the office this week). Chief among these, is will all of the versions of the film and all of the special features on the HD versions of Blade Runner be in actual 1080, or will they be like Warner's Matrix releases... films only in HD and extras in SD. Now, I've been told that at the very least all of the different versions of the film itself will be in 1080. And I know that all of the video extras - the documentary, etc - are being mastered in 1080. The question is whether or not the disc capacities of HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc will allow for everything to be included in 1080 (the Blu-rays at least should have plenty of room, and I would think the HD-DVDs would too) and then whether Warner will actually do it or not. As soon as I know, you will. A lot of this comes up, because Amazon has posted SRPs for both the Blu-ray (5-disc Regular) and HD-DVD (5-disc Regular) versions of the title at just $39.99 each, with a sale price of $27.95 each. And in addition to the regular 5-disc HD versions, you'll also be able to buy both the Blu-ray (5-disc Limited) and HD-DVD (5-disc Limited) versions packed in the cool replica VK briefcase with all the swag. Amazon says those are $99.98 each, on sale for $69.95 (you can click on the links to pre-order them now). Some people think the prices for the regular versions in particular are too low for all the extras to be in full HD. But as soon as Warner gets back to me, I'll let you guys all know what the deal is. Let's all just cross our fingers and hope that Warner won't skimp on the HD extras on this set. Here's what the case looks like closed...

Blade Runner: Limited Collector's Edition (5-disc Blu-ray)

Now then... we've got more new release news for you today. First, we have details and tentative cover art for CBS/Paramount's Star Trek: The Remastered Original Series - Season One (11/20 - SRP $217.99). The 10-disc set will include all season one episodes in both 1080p and standard definition (pillarboxed to retain the original full frame broadcast aspect ratio). Audio will include both Dolby Digital and TrueHD 5.1. Extras on the HD side include Starfleet Access (picture-in-picture) features on 7 episodes (includes video commentaries, comparisons of remastered vs. original effects, encyclopedic information, episode trivia and more), the Spacelift: Transporting Trek into the 21st Century documentary on the new CG effects, Billy Blackburn's original home movies from the set, an interactive tour of the Enterprise and a preview of Perpetual Entertainment's Star Trek Online MMOG game. Extras on the standard DVD side will include the Spacelift documentary, 8 featurettes (many repurposed from the original DVD release, including The Birth of a Timeless Legacy, Reflections on Spock, Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner, To Boldly Go... Season One, Sci-Fi Visionaries, Kiss & Tell: Romance in the 24th Century, Trek Connections and Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier), Billy Blackburn's home movies, episode previews and the game preview. Here's what the packaging should look like...

Star Trek: The Re-mastered Original Series - Season One (DVD/HD-DVD Combo)

In other news, Universal has set CIA: Exiled for DVD release on 11/13 (SRP $24.98).

And Warner has just announced a BUNCH more DVD and high-def releases including The Lost Boys (9/4, we believe on Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD), Alexander Revisited: The Unrated Final Cut (9/18, on Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD), Season One Starter 2-Packs of Babylon 5/La Femme Nikita, Gilmore Girls/Veronica Mars and Smallville/Supernatural (all on 9/18), NBA Champions 2006-2007: Special Edition (10/30), NHL Greatest Games in Pittsburgh Penguins History, NHL Greatest Moments in Stanley Cup History and Spalding Basketball Basic: Learn from the Pros (all 11/6), an IMAX in Space Collection (includes Space Station, Mission to Mir, Blue Planet, Destiny in Space, Cosmic Voyage, L-5: First City in Space, The Dream is Alive and Hail Columbia), an IMAX Into the Wild Collection (includes Deep Sea, Into the Deep, Survival Island, Galapagos, Hidden Dimension, Secret of Life on Earth, China: The Panda Adventure and Mountain Gorilla), an IMAX Ultimate Collection (includes all previously mentioned titles) and an Ultimate Dinosaur Collection (for the BBC, all on 11/13), and The Batman: The Complete Fourth Season, Teen Titans: The Complete Fourth Season, Little Britain Abroad and Little Britain: The Complete Collection (both BBC), and Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same (Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD), a Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same - Deluxe Edition and a Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same - Limited Collector's Edition (all 11/20). Whew!

We'll leave you today with more new standard DVD cover art. Here's Paramount's Next (9/25), Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition,, The Two Jakes: Special Collector's Edition (both 11/6) and Babel: Two-Disc Collector's Edition (9/25), Sony's Bram Stoker's Dracula: Collector's Edition (10/2) and MGM's The Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition (9/11). Again, all of these titles can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com...

NextChinatown: Special Collector's EditionThe Two Jakes: Special Collector's Edition

Babel: Two-Disc Collector's EditionBram Stoker's Dracula: Collector's EditionThe Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition

Not done yet... here's a look at the covers for three of Warner's new Stanley Kubrick DVD special editions too (due 10/23). I really love that 2001 cover...

2001: A Space Odyssey - 2-Disc Special EditionClockwork Orange: 2-Disc Special EditionThe Shining: 2-Disc Special Edition

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 7/31/07 - 5:30 PM PDT)

Oh man... there's ANOTHER death to report on today. Legendary Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni has just died at the age of 94. Antonioni's body of work included such classics as L'Avventura and Blow-Up. Boy... a lot of major film history is passing away before our eyes this week. Wow.

Speaking of that, our own Adam Jahnke has just posted a new edition of his Electric Theatre, in which he recalls the legacy of the now late Ingmar Bergman. He also reviews The Simpsons Movie, which he saw on Thursday night with Todd and myself down at Comic-Con (and let me tell you, it's VERY funny).

While we're talking Jahnke, our man Adam was unfortunately snubbed by the Scribe Awards this weekend. His outstanding Toxic Avenger: The Novel came up short against an adaptation of Superman Returns. To add insult to injury, all of the nominees were given plaques just for being nominees... but there was none for Jahnke! The bastards!! Ah well. He's still tops in our book.

The remainder of the Comic-Con weekend, after our own DVD Sneak Peek 2007 panel and my appearance on the 40 Years of Trek panel, was spent combing the show floor for that perfect geek souvenir, socializing with fellow film and DVD industry geeks, and attending other panels, parties and screenings. When you look at the programming schedule, it was a great convention... on paper. Unfortunately, tickets for the entire weekend were sold out, which meant that the place was just PACKED. And I mean standing room only. Without a handy-dandy press badge, the only way to get into any of the big studio panels over the weekend was to stand in line for hours... and then you were still lucky if you got into the room in time for the panel of your choice. The Con also had Elite security people lined up everywhere, and most of them were rude and treated the attendees like cattle. It's really a shame how out of control the whole event has gotten - it's enough to take a lot of the fun out of the weekend.

The other major panel I attended at the Con was Warner's big 300/Blade Runner event in Hall H on Friday. That was where Ridley Scott, Syd Mead and several cast members from Blade Runner (Sean Young, Joanna Cassidy, etc) appeared as part of the big DVD announcement push. Ridley answered a number of questions from the audience, and even said that he's open to doing a sequel to the film (though I think he was just telling the crowd what he thought they wanted to hear). Much more interesting was word that Ridley is planning to do another science fiction film, as well as an epic western. Charlie mentioned that he'd shown behind-the-scene video on the Zhora reshoot at our DVD Sneak Peek panel the day before, and here he showed the final version of the scene, complete with the finished effects. The crowd response was very enthusiastic to this, and to all of the Blade Runner DVD news. Of the cast on hand, James Hong and Joe Turkel in particular were very entertaining. The guys are a riot by themselves, and together they're even funnier.

The first part of the event was used to promote the DVD and high-def release of 300 (in stores today). What was most interesting about this, was that director Zach Snyder was asked by someone in the audience about the HD-DVD version vs. the Blu-ray version, and if he had a preference between them. Now, I was sitting very close to the reserved studio section, and the moment this question was asked, I heard someone from Warner say, "Uh-oh, here we go..." Seriously, I'm not kidding. Someone from Warner actually said that. You could hear a pin drop among those folks. Snyder was diplomatic as he answered and spoke about the HD-DVD's picture-in-picture feature, but he wasn't exactly gushing either: "I don't know... it's kinda cool. I think. I don't know if the verdict's in..." Then the film's producer, Deborah Snyder (and Zach's wife, who was also on the panel), said that they were working on a more elaborate IME for the Blu-ray, which was going to have storyboards and production artwork in addition to the bluescreen footage. I don't think the Warner people saw THAT coming. I definitely saw a few eyes go wide in shock, let me tell you. I was surprised at the level of nervousness I sensed from the Warner people. This high-def format war definitely has people on edge.

The 300/Blade Runner panel was followed later that evening by a special DVD release party for 300 at neighboring Petco park, where general admission ticketholders had the chance to watch the film on the stadium's JumboTron. Media, studio people and other special guests were invited to a private party on one of the stadium's concourses, with food, drink and other entertainment. A number of celebrities showed up there, including Frank Miller, Zach Snyder, David Arquette, Paul Reubens, J. Michael Straczynski, Sean Young, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong and Joe Turkel. It was quite the interesting group to have gathered in one place.

In other DVD release news from Comic-Con, at a panel featuring the cast of Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica, it was revealed that when the forthcoming Razor tie-in movie (which airs on Sci-Fi on 11/24) arrives on DVD (a few weeks later), it will feature an uncut, stand-alone version of the 2-part episode. Look for Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season Three box set to street around then as well, sometime before the debut of the series' fourth and final season on Sci-Fi in January. By the way, Razor will also feature some familiar characters... original 1970s series Cylons! You can read more here at Home Media.

And from Fox's panel at the Con comes word that a series of four made-for-DVD Futurama movies are on the way, starting with Futurama: Bender's Big Score on 11/27. The other three will hit stores in 2008 (read more here at Video Business). In addition, creator Matt Groening also revealed that when Fox's The Simpsons Movie hits DVD later this year, it will include audio commentary and TONS of deleted scenes (click here for that). More "Spider-Pig" anyone?

Let's see... what else did we do and see? Todd, Adam and I appeared in the Warner booth on the show floor at just the right time on Friday afternoon to score Blade Runner: The Final Cut mini-posters signed by several members of the cast and crew. Todd also managed to get a Watchmen one-sheet signed by director Zach Snyder in the DC booth, while Adam got his copy of The Winston Effect: The Art & History of Stan Winston Studios signed by Stan himself. Other cool swag items were collected throughout the weekend too, including Blade Runner Spinner keychains and show exclusive items, for sale only at the Con, like a talking Dude bobblehead (from The Big Lebowski) for me and a Mezco 'Butters as Professor Chaos' figure from South Park for Todd. Swag is almost the best thing you can find on the show floor at Comic-Con.

One last Comic-Con note: We're pleased to offer you our Comic-Con photo gallery this afternoon, which includes some 19 shots taken by Sarah at our panel and elsewhere around the show. Enjoy!

Now then... we've got still more MAJOR release news for you today. We've learned that Warner Home Video will finally release those long-awaited Stanley Kubrick special editions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD on 10/23! These will include 2001: A Space Odyssey (2.20 - 16x9), A Clockwork Orange (1.66 - 16x9), Eyes Wide Shut (1.78 - 16x9 - we believe this is the uncensored version), Full Metal Jacket (1.78 - 16x9 - already available in high-def) and The Shining (1.78 - 16x9)! Each of these will be a 2-disc set (SRP $26.99 each) except for Full Metal Jacket, which is a single-disc deluxe edition. You'll also be able to buy the DVDs in a new Warner Home Video Director's Series: Stanley Kubrick Collection box set (SRP $79.92) that includes the previously released Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures DVD. The high-def versions will all sell for SRP $28.99 each. 2-disc DVD and high-def versions of Lolita and Barry Lyndon are still TBD. We expect the official press release to be made available in the next couple of days.

Warner has also set Homie Spumoni, a 4-disc Elvis Collection ($54.92, includes Girl Happy, the Jailhouse Rock: Deluxe Edition, Kissin' Cousins and the Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition), a 10-disc Elvis Blue Suade Collection ($127.82, titles TBA) and Twilight Zone: The Movie (DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD) for release on 10/9, an O Lucky Man: Special Edition and Burt Lancaster: The Signature Collection ($49.92, includes Executive Action, The Flame and the Arrow, His Majesty O'Keefe, Jim Thorpe: All American and South Sea Woman - each also available separately) on 10/23, a Barbara Stanwyck Collection ($49.92, includes Annie Oakley, East Side, West Side, Executive Suite, My Reputation and To Please a Lady/Jeopardy (1950/1953) - each also available separately) on 10/30, and finally The O.C.: The Complete Series Collection (SRP $179.92) on 11/27.

By the way, we've confirmed with Warner that the upcoming release of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (due 8/14) will NOT include Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD releases as previously expected, but the studio has also said that they could be released at a later date if demand is there.

Meanwhile, HBO has set the DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD release of The Sopranos: Season 6, Part 2 for 10/23. The DVD will sell for $99.98, with the high-def versions weighing in at $129.95 each.

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has just confirmed that Shrek the Third will arrive on DVD on 11/13 (click here), though there's still no word yet about Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions.

And according to our friends over at TV Shows on DVD, Paramount will be releasing Comedy Central's The Best of The Colbert Report on DVD on 11/6. Now if only they'd just do a Tek Jansen DVD...

Finally today, Scott Hettrick has posted a good editorial over at Hollywood in Hi-Def on the recent flood of Blu-ray Disc news in the last couple of weeks, which would seem to indicate an even bigger gain in momentum for the format in the high-def war against rival HD-DVD. Here's what's we think is most telling... all of this momentum is being gained without new title announcements from Fox and MGM's massive back catalog. Think about that. When they get back in the game (and our industry sources tell us they're planning to do so in a BIG way soon)... watch out.

Okay... we'll leave you today with a bunch of new cover artwork to look at. Here's... Sony's 20 Million Miles to Earth (12/4) and Starz/Anchor Bay's Evil Deal II and Halloween (10/2) all on Blu-ray Disc, and Criterion's Days of Heaven (10/23), Warner's Twilight Zone: The Movie and MGM's Bubba Ho-Tep: Limited Edition (8/7) on DVD...

20 Million Miles to Earth (Blu-ray)Evil Dead II (Blu-ray)Halloween (Blu-ray Disc)

Days of Heaven (Criterion)Twilight Zone: The MovieBubba Ho-Tep: Limited Edition

We'll be back tomorrow to resume our EMA coverage from last week. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/31/07 - 1 PM PDT)

Okay... we've got another quick sad note today before we get started: Longtime TV talk show host Tom Snyder has passed away. As the host of the Tomorrow show, which followed Carson's The Tonight Show back in the 1970s and early 80s, Snyder helped to pioneer the late-night talk format. His interviews with a wide range of guests were always fascinating, and his program featured musical performances by some of the greatest artists of all time. His show had the final televised interview with John Lennon before his death and the first U.S. TV appearance of U2. A number of these performances have been released on DVD by Shout! Factory, and we encourage you to check them out. You can read more on Snyder's death here at CNN.

Also today, I wanted to say a few words about Danny Boyle's new film, Sunshine. Matt and I had managed to slip away yesterday to catch a late matinee screening of the film, and I'll tell you... we were both pretty damn impressed. As a spaceflight junkie, I'm a VERY tough sell when it comes to science fiction. I want the details to be right, the texture, the vehicles, the equipment, the physics. If the reality isn't believable in the story and the production design, you've lost me. That's why, for me, films like 2001, Alien and Blade Runner hold up so well. You believe the reality. All of those things - the ships, the gear - aren't the point of the story, but they feel real enough that it's easy to accept the story that's being told in and around them. So let me tell you... Boyle and his team NAIL those things in Sunshine. They just absolutely nail them. This film is so close to being a perfect little sci-fi gem in all those areas, that it's utterly frustrating when the film ultimately misses the mark. Boyle's direction, his cinematography, his casting, his production and sound design... everything is just pitch perfect. I'll tell you, Fox had better be planning to release this film on Blu-ray Disc, because I can't wait to see it in 1080p.

Unfortunately, when I first saw the trailer, I sort of groaned and rolled my eyes a bit. There are several sci-fi plots that are clichéd, overused and just plain B-movie tired, and Sunshine seems determined to use all of them. Even before I saw this film, I knew exactly what was going to happen and how it was all going to turn out. And aside from one interesting twist, I was correct about everything right down to the end of the film. The dialogue is good, the characters are interesting, but the basic premise is SO pedestrian. And that is absolutely infuriating, because everything else about this film is just a home run. Great science fiction always dares to ask the big questions, and generally leaves the viewer to answer them. Soderbergh's Solaris remake came up short of being great, but at least it dared to really push its high-concept premise and leave you thinking. The script for Sunshine doesn't dare to do anything really but be predictable, and that's just a shame. Because if it HAD, I'd be willing to say right now that Sunshine was the first sci-fi film I've seen in years that deserved to be considered alongside those classics I mentioned earlier. Either way, Boyle has confirmed, for me at least, that he's one of the most interesting directors working today. Trainspotting, Millions, 28 Days Later... those are all great little films. And if he can take an utterly boring and predictable sci-fi plot like the one in Sunshine, and still manage to leave me feeling a bit dazzled, well... that's an achievement. Sunshine comes THIS CLOSE to being a truly great sci-fi film, and for that reason (if for no other) it's worth checking out.

Alright... 'round the site today, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Covert Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover art and Amazon purchase links. Remember that anytime you purchase titles (or anything else for that matter) from our Amazon links, it helps to support our work here at The Bits, which we greatly appreciate.

We've also updated some of the DVD and HD format stats we track (above). Notable is that weekly Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD market share number - a 74/26 split in favor of Blu-ray (a genuine 3 to 1 margin). We'll update more, including the CEA DVD Player Sales stats, as the latest data comes in.

Okay... let's run down some release news, and then we'll post our last Comic-Con report later this afternoon.

First up today, Disney has officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on 12/4. The DVD will be a 2-disc set (SRP $34.99 - a single disc DVD will also be available for just $29.99) and the Blu-ray will also be a 2-disc set (1 50GB and 1 25GB disc - SRP $35.99). Disc One of the set will include the film itself (1080p AVC video, 7.1 48/24 uncompressed audio on the Blu-ray) along with a blooper reel (and the BD-Java Jolly Roger host on the Blu-ray). Disc Two will include 8 featurettes (Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom, Keith & the Captain, Tale of the Multiple Jacks, Hoist the Colors, Inside the Brethren Court, The Pirate Code: Revealed, The World of Chow Yun Fat and The Pirate Maestro: The Music of Hans Zimmer), along with the 5-part Masters of Design documentary (the Blu-ray will also include the exclusive Enter the Maelstrom BD-Java interactive feature, and all the standard DVD content will be presented in high-definition).

Disney has also announced a Pixar Short Films Collection DVD and Blu-ray Disc for release on 11/6 (SRP $29.99, Blu-ray SRP TBA). The disc will include 13 classic CG animated shorts from the company - The Adventures of Andre & Wally B, Luxo Jr., Red's Dream, Tin Toy, Knick Knack, Geri's Game, For the Birds, Mike's New Car, Boundin', Jack-Jack Attack, Mater and the Ghost Light, One Man Band and Lifted - along with a behind-the-scenes featurette, a tribute to Bud Luckey, audio commentary, animation tests and more.

Meanwhile, Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have announced the DVD release of both Grindhouse films. Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof hits DVD on 9/18 (SRP $29.95) as a 2-disc unrated and extended edition, nearly 30 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Extras are set to include 5 featurettes (Finding Quentin's Gals, The Guys of Death Proof, Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, Introducing Zoe Bell and Quentin's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke), along with an international poster gallery and the trailer for Double Dare. Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror will follow on 10/16 (SRP $29.95). Extras are subject to change, but look for a 2-disc unrated and extended edition as well, containing "the missing reel" along with audio commentary by Rodriguez, deleted scenes, The Badass Babes of Planet Terror featurette and more. Industry sources at Comic-Con were also hinting that the company may release the titles in BOTH Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats sometime later this year, which would signal move for the company to an HD format neutral position. We're working to confirm this.

We've got a few more Blu-ray Disc street dates from Sony today... look for Surf's Up and Reign Over Me on 10/9, Starship Troopers and a Hollow Man: Director's Cut on 10/16, and The Company (2-discs), Hostel: Unrated and Hostel II on 10/23. New release titles in this list will street on DVD on these dates as well.

And in other big news on the HD front, both Target and BJ's Wholesale Club have decided to follow Blockbuster's lead in emphasizing only Blu-ray Disc in their retail locations during the upcoming holiday season. BJ's has said that it will drop HD-DVD altogether, carrying only Blu-ray in its 170 stores in the 4th quarter (click here for more from Video Business). Meanwhile, Target is planning to exclusively feature Sony's Blu-ray Disc players in their stores this holiday season, while also expanding their line-up of Blu-ray Disc software. Target will no longer carry HD-DVD players in their stores, although they will carry HD-DVD software and HD-DVD products will continue to be stocked on their online site (click here for more on this as well). Both of these announcements would seem to indicate a significant retail shift towards Blu-ray Disc heading into the 4th quarter. It will be interesting to see if others follow.

Finally, Universal has announced the HD-DVD release of Carlito's Way, Carlito's Way: Rise to Power, Inside Man and Seed of Chucky on 10/23. The studio has also set Miami Vice: The Complete Series for DVD release on 11/13 (SRP $199.98).

Back with more release and Comic-Con news shortly. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/30/07 - 3:45 PM PDT)

Before we continue today, we must absolutely take a moment to acknowledge the death of legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman at the age of 89. Bergman apparently passed away today in his native Sweden (click here for more at CNN). For film fans the world over, the loss is incalculable. Bergman ranked easily among such cinema giants as Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick. Among his more than 50 films are such classics as The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Magic Flute and Fanny and Alexander. Here at The Bits, we feel this deeply indeed. Bergman will sorely be missed.

One other Comic-Con note before we continue with our regular update: Contrary to reports we heard from industry insiders just prior to the show, there was no Lucasfilm DVD announcement made at the Con. Based on these reports, we'd half expected to hear an official announcement of the possible release of the Ultimate Star Wars box set this year, or at least The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. However, neither announcement was made. Gamers will be pleased to learn, however, that Lego Star Wars Saga and Lego Indiana Jones are both on the way (and Wii users will be able to use that cool remote to swing their lightsabers around in the Saga game).

Now then... after our DVD Sneak Peek panel concluded, and after some quick pictures and an impromptu "meet and greet" with readers who attended (and it was really great to meet all of you!), Charlie, Paul and I headed over to CBS/Paramount's Star Trek: The Remastered Original Series panel, where the DVD/HD-DVD Combo release of Season One was announced for 11/20. On hand for the panel were supervising producers from CBS/Paramount as well as the actual content producers from New Wave Entertainment. A pair of special guests joined them, including Rod Roddenberry (son of the late Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and regular Original Series extra Billy Blackburn. They showed a video of some of the extra features you'll get on the ten disc set, including the HDi ability to fly a shuttlecraft around the CG model of the Starship Enterprise, as well as various picture-in-picture and pop-up features that include shot by shot comparisons of the original effects compared to the remastered effects, trivia/data files about various vehicles, equipment, characters and planets, and video interviews with members of the cast and crew (unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if any new interviews were shot with the major cast members - it was all file footage shot for the previous DVD release). The best of the extras on this set is really special: Billy Blackburn's original 8mm and Super-8 footage shot on the set of the series way back in the 1960s. Blackburn was an extra on many, many episodes of the show, and he shot tons of footage behind-the-scenes, including fun footage of the various cast members clowning around on set. THIS is a real gem, and we can't wait to see it. Unfortunately, most of the pop-up stuff seemed awfully gimmicky. One guy behind me even whispered during the presentation, "Why the hell would I want to fly around a bad CG model of the Enterprise?" (and for the record, it wasn't Daren Dochterman!). Personally, I've been pretty open to the idea of TOS Remastered, as long as the original versions of the episodes are also preserved. My own feeling is that the new CG effects are interesting, but have been somewhat uneven. Some have been great, others not so much.

Anyway, it should be noted that, all through this panel, those on stage referred to HD-DVD and "the other format." But they never indicated whether a Blu-ray Disc was being planned, and never actually mentioned Blu-ray by name. Inevitably, someone in the audience finally asked them directly about Blu-ray Disc during the Q&A session that followed (and, interestingly, there was a smattering of cheers and applause from the audience when the question was raised). The panelists admitted that one was currently "under consideration," presumably for 2008. They also revealed that Seasons Two and Three were expected to start production this week. They further revealed that tests had been done for a possible future Star Trek: The Next Generation - Remastered effort. But here's what WASN'T announced during the panel, and I can understand why (because it may have started a riot among the Trek fans in attendance): The price tag for just Season One alone is currently set to be a whopping $217, and there's no separate DVD-only release planned! No, I'm not kidding. $217 for just a single season on ten discs!! And it doesn't include the original versions of the episodes - just DVD and HD versions of the remastered episodes. Are they INSANE?!

Let me put this in further perspective for you. Later on Thursday evening, I participated in another Trek event - the Living Long and Prospering: Celebrating 40 Years of Star Trek panel - along with Mark Altman, Jeff Bond, Robert Meyer Burnett, Anthony Pascale and Daren Dochterman. The $217 price tag, which had been uncovered by Anthony after the CBS panel, was the butt of almost continuous jokes and ribbing the entire hour. At once point, I asked the audience for a show of hands to see how many people would be interested in purchasing the set at that price. Out of the entire 500-strong audience (and keep in mind, these were not just casual Trek fans but major Trek über-fans), just THREE people raised their hands. Just three. CBS/Paramount is going to eat this release if they stick to the $217 price tag. Given that many Trek fans already have mixed feelings about the whole Remastered effort, $217 is just crazy - it'll be a poison pill for this release if it doesn't change between now and November. Ouch!

But if the Trek HD-DVD news was something of a mixed bag, there was a MAJOR Blu-ray Disc announcement from Sony that came as a bit of a surprise. Sony had a strong presence on the Comic-Con show floor, which included a booth dedicated to promoting its forthcoming releases. Without question, the biggest of these, due to hit stores on 10/2, is the very first Steven Spielberg film to debut in either high-definition format... the Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition. The Blu-ray Disc version will be a 2-disc set (SRP $49.95). Disc One will include all three versions of the film on the same disc in full 1080p video via seamless branching: The 1977 theatrical version, the 1980 special edition and the director's cut (originally released on DVD in 2001). The new high-def transfer has been personally approved by Spielberg himself. Disc Two will include a new, never-before-seen interview with Spielberg, The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind retrospective documentary and (exclusive to the Blu-ray version) all-new storyboard-to-scene comparisons, the original 1977 Watch the Skies featurette and the original theatrical trailer. A 2-disc DVD version will also be available (SRP $39.95).

Some of you guys might remember that, earlier this year, there was talk that one or more Spielberg films would be released on HD-DVD format by Universal in 2007, but Universal was forced to issue a statement denying the news. It's hard to deny that the fact that Spielberg would chose (or at least allow) Blu-ray to be the format of his first high-definition release is not insignificant in this format war.

By the way, Sony also announced the first Francis Ford Coppola's film to hit high-definition on Blu-ray Disc... Bram Stoker's Dracula. The film will arrive on 2-disc Collector's Edition on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 10/2 (SLP $24.96 for the DVD and $28.95 for the Blu-ray). Coppola has provided both a video introduction and an audio commentary for this release. Other extras will include deleted scenes, 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Blood is the Life: The Making of Dracula, The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka, In-Camera: The Naïve Visual Effects of Dracula and Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula) and a trailer for Coppola's new forthcoming Youth Without Youth.

Sony also confirmed additional details on its forthcoming classic 20 Million Miles to Earth, due to hit stores on Blu-ray on 12/4 (the 50th Anniversary Edition DVD version has already been announced - it streets tomorrow, on 7/31). The Blu-ray Disc version is expected to include both the original B&W version as well as a new colorized version personally supervised by Ray Harryhausen. Colorization is always controversial, but that fact that Harryhausen was involved at least makes it worth a look in this case. Harryhausen himself appeared in the Sony booth on Friday to sign autographs and promote the release.

I also confirmed with Sony execs while at Comic-Con that all three Spider-Man films and the anime Paprika will be released on Blu-ray Disc before the end of the year, as well Hostel and Hostel, Part II (the latter tentatively set for release on 10/23). Hostel director Eli Roth also appeared in the Sony booth during the Con to sign autographs and promote the BD release.

Okay, that's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow with one more big Comic-Con report, a Comic-Con picture gallery and a general DVD release news catch-up post as well. FYI, our EMA coverage will now resume on Wednesday. As I said, no rest for the weary!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/30/07 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Okay. Comic-Con. There's a lot of ground to cover, so let's take it from the beginning.

First though, a quick correction: The Blade Runner press release which we posted on Thursday contained one error - the running time for The Final Cut should be 117 minutes... not 157 as was shown on the press release. We've corrected our text, but we just wanted to let you know.

Now then... our panel. As we noted earlier, DVD Sneak Peek 2007 was one of the first events on the Con schedule on Thursday morning. As it started just an hour after the convention doors opened, Todd and I were a little worried that we'd have a hard time filling the panel room. Turns out we had no need to worry. The 500-seat room was packed when we started and people kept filing in as the hour progressed. By the end, it was standing room only. And we definitely rewarded those in attendance for their time.

After the usual introductions, the panel started out with DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett talking about his work on New Line's Shoot 'Em Up. Then we surprised the audience with the director of the film himself, Michael Davis, who popped in to say hello and show a funny clip he'd prepared. Davis really got the crowd going. He was very friendly and animated - a great guy (and Michael, if you're reading this, thanks again for dropping by). Robert then talked about another film he's been working on himself, but when we attempted to show the trailer he'd brought, it turned out that there was no audio on the disc. D'oh!

Next up was Javier Soto, who talked a bit about the DVD he's currently working on... Hellboy 2, which director Guillermo del Toro is currently filming in Hungary. Javier spoke about his plans for the DVD and high-def versions, which include the possibility of a short film that will help bridge the gap between the two features and introduce some of the new characters. He also hinted that he's getting ready to start working on an elaborate special edition for the only del Toro film that's yet to receive such deluxe treatment on DVD. He couldn't say what it was specifically, but he gave enough clues for us to guess that it's probably Mimic. So watch for that sometime next year.

Of course, as expected, our panel this year was pretty much set to be the Charles de Lauzirika show. Charlie started by giving the crowd details about the forthcoming Twin Peaks: The Complete Series box set that he's been working on for CBS/Paramount. The set (which will be announced soon for release later this year) will include both seasons of the show as well as both versions of the pilot episode, along with deleted scenes from various episodes and tons of new extras created just for this set. He then gave the crowd the first look at some of the documentary footage he's assembled, which in this case included a few minutes of the cast and crew attempting to answer the question "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" and a bit of a roundtable discussion he put together with David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan and other cast and crew members. The crowd definitely responded with excitement to both the news and the footage.

But by far the biggest response was to what came next: Charlie broke the official news on the long awaited Blade Runner: The Final Cut from Warner. He talked about the FIVE different versions of the film that will be on the release, the different versions of the release itself (2-disc, 4-disc and 5-disc DVDs, along with 5-disc Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions - extras on both high-def versions will be exactly the same - and the elaborate collector's case versions). You can find all the official details and artwork here. He then revealed that over 80 people were interviewed for the set, from Ridley Scott to virtually everyone associated with the production including Harrison Ford and all the major cast members. In terms of footage, he started by showing the Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner trailer (which you can all see for yourselves on Disc Two of Warner's 300 DVD - it streets tomorrow).

Next, Charlie revealed that the set will also include a whopping 47 minutes worth of deleted scenes, not seen in any previous version of the film. He then proceeded to debut an exclusive clip of some of this deleted footage. Now... Todd and I had the chance to preview all 47 minutes of this deleted material on Wednesday night, before our panel, and I can tell you first-hand that you have absolutely NO IDEA just how cool this material is. It's not just 47 minutes worth of deleted material - it's like getting a 5½ th or a 6th version of the film itself. The material is all edited together chronologically, to create an encapsulated version of the story. It starts with a completely new opening credits scene and new special effects shots of the 2019 L.A. cityscape. Then you get scenes you've seen before... but it's all put together using alternate takes, different camera angles and other completely unused footage. There are also a number of true deleted scenes, including a few that no one outside the production even knew existed before. All of this is set to music from the film and newly-looped sound effects... as well as Harrison Ford's voiceover narration. But get this: This narration is a completely different take than what was in the original theatrical version of the film, and it's just totally different. Different lines, different dialogue. We think it's actually BETTER than what was ultimately used in the film!

Let me give you just a couple examples of some of the things you're going to see: Turns out Deckard had a wife, who now lives in one of the off-world colonies - you see a picture of her and Deckard together (except that, if my memory doesn't fail me, the picture is set on the same porch as Rachel's photograph of herself with her mother - consider the implications of that). There's also a brief scene, after Batty has killed Tyrell, where he gets back into the elevator and he's shaking - he's clearly disturbed at what he's just done. The elevator announces the floor in a computerized female voice, and Batty looks up at the speaker and says "Mother?" in this sort of child-like daze. Rutger Hauer's performance is just perfect. There's even two alternate endings, in which Deckard and Rachel have dialogue while driving off in Deckard's car. And this is all just scratching the surface. I'm telling you, this stuff is absolutely amazing. If you think you know everything there is to know about Blade Runner, you are in for a REAL shock. Todd and I were just stunned after we finished watching this stuff. And keep in mind, every bit of this footage was shot by Ridley Scott in his prime... so it's just gorgeous. My head is still spinning over it all.

The final bit of footage that Charlie previewed exclusively for the crowd, was a behind-the-scenes look at the infamous reshoot from earlier this year featuring Joanna Cassidy's character Zhora. Now, when news of this reshoot leaked on the Net, it sparked an outcry from fans who feared that Scott was pulling a George Lucas and drastically altering the film with all new effects or something. Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. The Final Cut of the film itself has been edited a tiny bit, with a couple of new scenes added and a little bit of footage excised. But the new effects tweaks are very minor. For example, in many shots involving the practical, on-set Spinner, you can see the suspension cables holding it in the air. These have been removed. In a couple instances members of the camera crew were accidentally captured on the edges of the frame, so they've been removed. And there's an instance where Harrison Ford's dialogue doesn't match his lip movements on screen (a shot through the glass as he's talking to the snake dealer), so Harrison Ford's son, Ben Ford, was brought in. He was dressed in the costume and was given the same scar on his chin as his father via make-up. His face was then shot (at the correct angle, under matching lighting) reading the same lines, and his mouth and chin were inserted over his father's so the lip-synch now matches. It's absolutely seamless.

But the Zhora reshoot was what triggered the most controversy, so here's what it was about: Back in 1982, actress Joanna Cassidy wasn't allowed to do the stunt where Zhora crashes through the window panes. But if you watch the film closely, especially now in high-definition, it's painfully obvious that it's a stuntwoman in those shots. I mean, it's not even close. The woman has a bad afro-like wig on and it's bouncing around so much in those shots that it looks like Ronald McDonald going through the glass. So Cassidy was brought back in, dressed in her original costume and was given the same snake tattoo on her face. Then she was shot on a greenscreen stage, going through the same movements as the stunt woman. Her face and body angles were matched to the original stunt woman frame by frame, so they're identical. Then, Cassidy's head was digitally inserted over the stunt woman's and it was blended together, color-corrected and matched seamlessly. So now, when you see Zhora crash through the glass, it's actually Zhora all the way through. Charlie showed the behind-the-scenes at our panel, and then at the official Warner panel the next day, he showed the final shot. And again, it's amazing. The first time I saw this finished sequence a few months ago, I was actively looking for the effect... and I completely missed it. That's how good a job the CG team has done on this. It was only after going back and looking at the original shots on DVD that I realized what a big difference there was, and I was just floored.

On the whole, our DVD Sneak Panel was a huge success. We had a few tiny problems with the DVD player that was on hand to show the clips, but fortunately, the Comic-Con people were able to swap a malfunctioning unit out with a good replacement, so we were able to show virtually everything we'd planned to. And the crowd reaction was really terrific. I know that Charlie and his assistant producer, Paul Prischman, were both really pleased with the crowd reaction to the Blade Runner footage they'd brought. They've been working on this release for years now - the project actually first started back in 2000 - and this was the first time they'd gotten to see a public reaction to any of it. And as long as I've known Charlie, Blade Runner has been the one title he's most wanted to tackle as a special edition. I think you guys are going to agree that Charlie, Paul and the rest of their DVD team have really knocked it out of the park. It was really a special hour for all of us. Our thanks again to Robert, Javier, Michael, Charlie, Paul and everyone at Warner, CBS/Paramount and Comic-Con who made the event possible. Here's some cover art...

Blade Runner: Two-Disc Special EditionBlade Runner: Four-Disc Collector's Edition

Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (DVD)

By the way, that amazing Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD box set (with all the badass swag items included in the briefcase) pictured above? You can pre-order it right now on Amazon.com for just $54.99 (discounted from the regular SRP of $78.92)! Just click on the artwork. The Blade Runner: The Final Cut - Two-Disc Special Edition pictured above is also available for just $14.99. You'll be able to pre-order the other DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions soon as well (we'll post links as soon as they're available).

Okay... so that's a report on our panel. I'll be back in a little while with a DVD and high-def rundown from other panels and events over the Comic-Con weekend. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/30/07 - 10 AM PDT)

Well... we're back from another successful Comic-Con folks. It was an amazing weekend. Our DVD Sneak Peek 2007 panel was a big hit - the place was packed standing room only, which is quite the achievement given that our panel was one of the very first events on the show schedule. There was also a TON of DVD and high-def news announced at the convention. Much of it you've no doubt already heard, but we're going to spend the day today recapping everything and providing the added insight that comes from having been in the room when much of this was announced, and having been able to talk directly with the studio reps and directors in person.

There's a lot of ground to cover, so we'll be back in a few hours with our first post, and we'll have additional posts throughout the day. And tomorrow we'll resume posting our EMA show report as well. No rest for the weary!

Back soon. Stay tuned...

7/26/07

It's Day One here at Comic-Con, and we've already got some VERY cool news for you.. news you've been waiting a LONG time for. After all the rumors, all the disappointments, all the leaks and half-truths... Warner has finally, officially unveiled details on their forthcoming Blade Runner: The Final Cut and Blade Runner: The Ultimate Collector's Edition. The film will be available in multiple versions, including both high-def formats day and date with DVD on 12/18. You'll find Warner's press release, with all the relevant details and cover artwork right here at this link at The Bits. Don't forget: We'll be offering the first look at the title during our Comic-Con panel later this morning in San Diego, so we hope to see some of you there. We should also let you know that The Digital Bits is going to be THE place for more details on Blade Runner in the months ahead. We've been given exclusive access by Warner and the production team, which means that every month leading up to the title's street date we'll be posting new behind-the-scenes feature stories on the making of what promises to be THE DVD and high-def release of the year. So stay tuned starting next week for more!

Also today, we should let you know that at Sony's Blu-ray Disc booth here at Comic-Con, the studio is promoting the forthcoming release of all three Spider-Man films, 20 Million Miles to Earth and the first Steven Spielberg film to hit either high-def format... a 3-disc Close Encounters of the Third Kind release (on both DVD and Blu-ray) which is expected to include the original theatrical version of the film, the 1980 special edition version and the more recent collector's edition. All of these titles are expected to be announced soon, and to be released before the end of 2007.

Now then... one other quick note this morning: The midi-chlorians are a-buzz today with word of a possible surprise DVD announcement from Lucasfilm at Comic-Con this weekend. This is certainly Rumor Mill-worthy and it remains to be seen how things will play out, but that's what we're hearing this morning here in San Diego. So keep your eyes and ears peeled for breaking news from the con. Wouldn't it be interesting if, after all the denials, Lucasfilm decided to release that ultimate Star Wars Saga DVD box set this year after all? We'll see...

Stay tuned!


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