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(Archived Posts 12/19/07 - 12/3/07)
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We've got just a few quick announcements for you today...
First up, Warner has announced the 1/9 release of a 4
Film Favorites: Classic Comedy box set (includes Spies
Like Us, National Lampoon's
Vegas Vacation, The Man with
Two Brains and The Man Who
Knew Too Little) and a 4 Film
Favorites: Romantic Comedy box set (includes Summer
Catch, Rock Star,
Home Fries and Addicted
to Love). SRP for each is $19.94. Also newly announced by
the studio are a 28-disc All Creatures
Great & Small Complete Collection (1/15 - for the BBC
- SRP $399.92), as well as Innocent
Voices (4/8) and Ganges (4/22 - also for the BBC -
available on DVD, Blu-ray and HD-DVD).
While we're talking Warner, be aware that a few readers are
reporting that some copies of the 5-disc Blade
Runner set mistakenly include two copies of Disc One
instead of a Disc One and a Disc Five (the Workprint version). Be
sure to check your copies after you purchase them. Readers are also
reporting difficulty locating copies of the Blade
Runner set in various versions at different retailers, we
suspect due to Warner's recent distribution system issues. If you're
having trouble finding, be patient. The discs are coming, and
they're worth the wait.
Meanwhile, Universal has announced the 3/11 HD-DVD release of Fletch,
along with non-combo HD-DVD reissues of Dazed
and Confused and George Romero's Land
of the Dead. What's up with these non-combo reissues
Also today, Universal has moved the street date for The
Kingdom, American Pie
Presents: Beta House, Intimate
Affairs, Eastern Promises,
Galactica 1980: The Complete Series
and the HD-DVD releases of TimeCop
and Cat People from 12/26 to
12/23. The studio has also temporarily postponed its planned 1/22
release of Reservation Road. A
new street date will be announced as soon as possible.
Around the Net today,
Business has a story up on the roll-out of Sony's latest
PS3 firmware, which adds Blu-ray PiP functionality, DivX video codec
compatibility and voice-changing for online chats.
has a piece today on media research firm Screen Digest's
predictions of more 3-D in 2008, along with an end to the high-def
format war. We'll drink to that. Fingers crossed.
(LATE UPDATE -
12/18/07 - 11:30 AM PST)
Yes... you read that right, folks! And no, I'm not kidding. MGM
sent over this official press release just this morning:
ACADEMY AWARD WINNER PETER JACKSON AND NEW
LINE CINEMA JOIN WITH MGM TO PRODUCE THE HOBBIT,
EAGERLY-ANTICIPATED FANTASY ADVENTURE EPIC
NEW LINE AND MGM TO CO-PRODUCE AND SHARE WORLDWIDE DISTRIBUTION
PETER JACKSON AND FRAN WALSH TO EXECUTIVE PRODUCE TWO FILMS BASED
ON THE HOBBIT
Los Angeles, CA (Tuesday, December 18, 2007) Academy Award®-winning
filmmaker Peter Jackson; Harry Sloan, Chairman and CEO,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM); Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne,
Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs of New Line Cinema have jointly announced
today that they have entered into the following series of
* MGM and New Line will co-finance and co-distribute two films, The
Hobbit and a sequel to The Hobbit. New Line will
distribute in North America and MGM will distribute internationally.
* Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will serve as Executive Producers of
two films based on The Hobbit. New Line will manage the
production of the films, which will be shot simultaneously.
* Peter Jackson and New Line have settled all litigation relating
to the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogy.
Said Peter Jackson, Im very pleased that weve
been able to put our differences behind us, so that we may begin a
new chapter with our old friends at New Line. The Lord of the
Rings is a legacy we proudly share with Bob and Michael, and
together, we share that legacy with millions of loyal fans all over
the world. We are delighted to continue our journey through Middle
Earth. I also want to thank Harry Sloan and our new friends at MGM
for helping us find the common ground necessary to continue that
Peter Jackson has proven himself as the filmmaker who can
bring the extraordinary imagination of Tolkien to life and we full
heartedly agree with the fans worldwide who know he should be making
The Hobbit, said Sloan, MGMs Chairman and
CEO. "Now that we are all in agreement on 'The Hobbit,' we can
focus on assembling the production team that will capture this
phenomenal tale on film."
Bob Shaye, New Line Co-Chairman and Co-CEO comments, We are
very pleased we have been able to resolve our differences, and that
Peter and Fran will be actively and creatively involved with The
Hobbit movies. We know they will bring the same passion, care
and talent to these films that they so ably accomplished with The
Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Peter is a visionary filmmaker, and he broke new ground with The
Lord of the Rings, notes Michael Lynne, New Line
Co-Chairman and Co-CEO. Were delighted hes back
for The Hobbit films and that the Tolkien saga will
continue with his imprint. We greatly appreciate the efforts of
Harry Sloan, who has been instrumental in helping us reach our new
The two Hobbit films The Hobbit and
its sequel are scheduled to be shot simultaneously, with
pre-production beginning as soon as possible. Principal photography
is tentatively set for a 2009 start, with the intention of The
Hobbit release slated for 2010 and its sequel the following
year, in 2011.
The Oscar®-winning, critically-acclaimed LOTR Trilogy grossed
nearly $3 billion worldwide at the box-office. In 2003, Return
of the King swept the Academy Awards®, winning all of the
eleven categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture
the first ever Best Picture win for a fantasy film. The
Trilogys production was also unprecedented at the time.
For more information about The Hobbit films, please
How do you like them apples, folks? How hot is that? Very, that's
how. Currently Jackson is just set to produce, but let's hope he
decides to direct too, because the films just wouldn't be the same
I can't think of a better way to start the day than with news like
By the way... Russell Hammond has also updated the
DVD Cover Art section with tons of new DVD, Blu-ray and
HD-DVD cover scans today.
Not bad for one morning. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/18/07 - 12:01 AM PST)
Okay... so you PlayStation 3 owners are going to want to update
your firmware today, because Sony's Blu-ray Disc profile 1.1 update
for the PS3 is now live. Version 2.1 of the firmware adds full 1.1
compatibility (including picture-in-picture). That instantly gives
Blu-ray the largest installed base of Net-connected, PiP capable
devices of either high-def format (over 2.5 million in North America
alone), with a reported upturn in sales since November of some
200,000 units a week. The first profile 1.1 software titles are due
in the next few weeks from Lionsgate and Fox (including War
Also this morning, we wanted to let you all know that Disney has
kicked off their replacement program for those original copies of
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the
Black Pearl on Blu-ray, which had an image framing
problem on a few shots. Call their customer service hotline at
1-800-723-4763 to arrange shipment of a fixed copy (or
1-888-877-2843 for you folks up in Canada).
Finally, it seems that Best Buy is offering buy-one-get-one-free
deals for great movie titles on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD through
Saturday (12/22). You can read more
at Home Media.
Back later... stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE -
12/17/07 - 12:30 PM PST)
This is just a quick update to let you all know that our industry
sources are reporting that Sony's Blu-ray profile 1.1 update for
their PlayStation 3 game system is expected to be released sometime
this week. The update is also expected to add playback support for
the DivX video codec and additional features. We'll let you know
when it goes live.
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/17/07 - 11:15 AM PST)
Morning, folks! Hope all's well in your world today.
A number of readers have e-mailed us over the weekend to confirm
something we suggested was coming last week - specifically,
has officially lowered the retail price of their BDP-S300
Blu-ray Disc player to just $299. Both
Buy are offering the player at that price as well (Best Buy's
price is listed at $399, but you get $100 in "instant savings"),
and other retailers are likely to follow.
In announcement news today, Universal has revealed a pair of new TV
series titles. The Invisible Man: The
Complete First Season and Sliders:
The Fourth Season are both set for DVD release on 3/25.
Buena Vista has set Johnny and the
Sprites: Meet the Sprites for release on DVD on 3/18.
My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Friendly
Tails arrives on 3/4.
Sony has set Jesse Stone: Sea Change
for 2/26 (SRP $24.96). Tom Selleck fans everywhere (including my
mom) will no doubt be thrilled.
Also, we have word on the extras that will be found on Sony's DVD
and Blu-ray version of 30 Days of Night
(due on 2/26). You'll get audio commentary with Josh Hartnett,
Melissa George and producer Rob Tapert, 8 behind-the-scenes
featurettes (all in high-def on the Blu-ray, including Pre-Production,
Building Barrow, The
Look, Blood, Guts and the
Nasty #@$&!, Stunts,
The Vampire, Night
Shoots and Casting)
as well as Blood + Episode 1.
Meanwhile, Criterion has announced three new DVD releases for
March, including Alberto's Mafioso
(cat #424), Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio
Gaudí (#425, a 2-disc set) and Ang Lee's The
Ice Storm (#426, also a 2-disc set). Criterion has also
revealed the release of Eclipse 9: The
Delirious Fictions of William Klein, which will include
Klein's The Model Couple, Mr.
Freedom and Who Are You, Polly
Magoo?. Street dates are TBA.
Finally, New Line has set The Sickhouse
for DVD release on 3/18 (SRP $19.97).
Around the Net this morning, we wanted to direct your attention to
a couple of interesting articles related to the format war. The
first is a
piece at Variety on the concerning situation facing
the home video industry going into 2008, including the erosion of
DVD sales, the stagnant debut of high-def thanks to the format war
and the uncertain future of digital delivery. The piece creates a
good context for some things that we believe are likely to happen in
2008, not the least of which is the resolution of the format war
itself. We'll have more to say on that subject very soon.
Interestingly, some additional context on how this format war got
started in the first place can be found in
old Business Week piece (from October '05) that our
readers seem to have rediscovered over the weekend. If anyone doubts
just how involved Microsoft has been, the piece should put those
doubts to rest once and for all. Egos have been involved in this
thing from the very beginning on BOTH sides, and continue to be
involved to this day. It's certainly fascinating to read this now,
knowing what's happened in the two years since the story was
(LATE UPDATE -
12/14/07 - 6:30 PM PST)
Well... we're back from I Am Legend.
Matt and I caught a late afternoon matinee here in Orange County,
and Doogan did the same in Atlanta. And after some discussion, I
felt compelled to post a quick review. I will say first that I
Am Legend is generally enjoyable as a visceral
experience. The CG effects are a little stock here and there, but
the production value is high. Will Smith is very likable and solid
in his role as the last survivor of a viral apocalypse that's turned
the rest of humanity into zombies-slash-vampires. Yet I haven't felt
so let down intellectually by a movie all year.
I Am Legend is based on the
1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, as were two
previous films: The Last Man on Earth
staring Vincent Price and The Omega Man
staring Charlton Heston. The odd thing about I
Am Legend, is that it nails the tone and spirit of the
book... at least up to a point. The first half of the film - other
than the convenience of Will Smith being a virologist attempting to
save the world from the plague (and Smith is about as convincing a
virologist as Denise Richards was a nuclear physicist) - is near
perfect. Smith convincingly presents a gradual descent into madness
caused by his isolation, loss and despair, and the production
supports him beautifully.
But then the film shifts gears in the second half, and abandons all
of the interesting intellectual twists and payoffs that made the
novel so good in favor of delivering cheap action that's right out
of the script for 28 Days Later.
The zombies here are the characteristic lightning-fast-yet-mindless
variety that have become the new norm in Hollywood. As you'd expect,
we see them being convincingly fast and mindless. And then all of a
sudden we're supposed to believe they're capable of doing smart
things, like learning how to spring an elaborate trap. Yet when we
see them again, they're still pretty dumb, bloodthirsty and
mindless. What's worse, the zombies getting smarter thing never pays
off anyway. Their sudden intelligence is just a plot device to make
Smith's situation progressively more desperate. Sadly, the
conclusion of I Am Legend is
as predictable and pedestrian as they come, and that's a shame
because for a while there this film really had something going. I
Am Legend is entertaining in a basic,
creepy-things-jumping-out-of the-dark kind of way. But don't go in
expecting a worthy adaptation of the novel, or anything
thought-provoking, 'cause it ain't there.
Ah well. At least you have a chance of seeing the trailer for The
Dark Knight. And if you're really observant during the
film itself, you might catch an interesting Easter egg - the teaser
poster for a supposed Batman/Superman
feature film arriving on 5/15/09 (which just so happens to be a
Friday). Warner's little hint of things to come perhaps?
See you Monday...
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/14/07 - 12:45 PM PST)
We're pleased as punch today to offer you our very own Dr. Adam
edition of The Bottom Shelf, in which he dives
in-depth into CBS's awesome new 10-disc
Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition. The Doctor says
he'd definitely like slice of cherry pie with that. Don't miss it!
In announcement news today, New Line has revealed that Love
in the Time of Cholera will street on 3/18 (SRP $27.95).
Extra are TBA.
The big announcement today, at least from our perspective, is that
Fox has set Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling
Limited for release on 2/26 (SRP $29.98). Extras will
include the Hotel Chevalier
short and featurettes. It's too bad there's no Blu-ray version
Fox has also set The Secret Things of
God for DVD release on 3/11.
Meanwhile, MGM will release a 12 Angry
Men: 50th Anniversary Edition on 3/4. Extras will include
a pair of featurettes - Beyond a
Reasonable Doubt: The Making of 12 Angry Men and Inside
the Jury Room.
Also coming from MGM on DVD on 3/25 are the classic epics Kings
of the Sun, Solomon and Sheba
and Taras Bulba (SRP $19.98
Elsewhere here at the site today, we've updated some of the DVD and
high-def format stats we track (above),
including the High-Def Market Share
numbers. For the week ending 12/9, Blu-ray dominated by a fully 3 to
1 margin. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Here's a look at the cover art for Sony's We
Own the Night (2/12), Fox's The
Darjeeling Limited and MGM's 12
Angry Men: 50th Anniversary Edition...
Okay... Matt and I are off to see I Am
Legend. Everyone have a great weekend and we'll see you
It's been a little quiet around here these last couple days.
There's not a lot of major breaking news, so we've been working on a
number of disc reviews. Watch for them soon.
In the meantime, let's have some new announcement news today, shall
First up today, Buena Vista has announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc
release of The Game Plan for
CBS and Paramount have set Baldwin
Hills: The Complete First Season for release on 3/25.
Universal has revealed the first-ever Region 1 DVD release of David
Lynch's Lost Highway on 3/25
(SRP $19.98). Video will be anamorphic widescreen. Extras will
include a 10-part Multi-Angle Interview
with David Lynch. Universal will release Skid
Row on 3/25 as well.
Lionsgate has just announced their February release slate, set to
include Killer Pad, Fierce
People, an Ice-T Triple
Feature (Stealth Fighter,
Body Count and Mean
Guns), the Harlequin
Collection: 3-Disc Triple Feature - Volume 1 (This
Matter of Marriage, At the
Midnight Hour and Another
Woman), the Harlequin
Collection: 3-Disc Triple Feature - Volume 2 (Recipe
for Revenge, Hard to Forget
and Treacherous Beauties),
The Director's Series: Jean-Luc Godard
box set (Prenom Carmen, Passion,
Detective and Helas
pour moi, plus the Jean-Luc
Godard: A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma documentary), The
Legend of Butch & Sundance, Bobby
Jones Comedy All-Stars: Volume 1, Jerry
Springer: Undressed, Unleashed & Uncensored 1, Jerry
Springer: Undressed, Unleashed & Uncensored 2 and
Jerry Springer: Undressed, Unleashed &
Uncensored 3 (all 2/5), Tyler
Perry's Why Did I Get Married, Tyler
Perry's What's Done in the Dark and Primal
(all 2/12), Chaos and Catacombs
(both 2/19), and Highlander: The Source
and Bratz Kidz Fairy Tales
For you music fans, Sony BMG Music Entertainment has announced that
Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour
will street on Blu-ray Disc on 12/18.
Finally, Warner has revealed a few new titles today as well,
including IFL Championship 2007
(2/12), National Geographic's Extreme
Alaska: Denali National Park (3/18), The
Greatest NBA Rivalries: Volume 1 and Frisky
Dingo: Season 1 (3/25), and My
Boy Jack (2007 - 4/22).
Around the Net today,
Business is reporting that Disney's Pirates
of the Caribbean: At World's End sold a whopping 8
million copies on DVD in its first week of release, along with
another 160,000 copies on Blu-ray Disc.
And we'll leave you with cover art for Universal's Lost
Highway and Elizabeth: The
Golden Age (2/5) on DVD, along with Paramount's Into
the Wild: Two-Disc Collector's Edition (2/12) also on
Okay, back tomorrow. Stay tuned...
You know... some days I really love my job. I was fortunate enough
yesterday to get my hands on the 5-disc Blu-ray edition of
Runner: The Final Cut, so you can probably guess how I
spent my evening. It's extraordinary after all these years as a fan
to hold in my hand no less than five high-def versions of one of my
all-time favorite films. Very cool indeed. As you'd guess, I've
review with all the details. Rest assured, we'll add the
HD-DVD comments as soon as we get the discs, although we expect it
to be identical in quality to the Blu-ray versions, as the encodes
are the same.
One last quick note today - some readers who have purchased
Warner's Harry Potter: Years 1-5 -
Limited Edition Gift Set on Blu-ray Disc are reporting an
unwelcome surprise in the case. Films 1-3 and 5 are the Blu-rays as
ordered, but The Goblet of Fire
is the HD-DVD version. D'oh! Make sure you check your case before
you leave the store. Wonder if the same is happening in reverse. As
Bits reader Stanton Z. so
sagely noted via e-mail this morning: "Isn't this the poster
child for why there shouldn't be TWO hi-def formats?" Yep.
Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE -
12/11/07 - 5 PM PST)
This is just a quick update to let you all know that we've kicked
off FIVE new
here at The Bits today, giving
each of you the chance to take home Warner's
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and
Collection items, plus
Batman: Season 4,
Titans: Season 4 and
Hill: Season 4, Anchor Bay's
Night, Deadly Night,
Dead: Ultimate Edition and
Unrated Director's Cut, Universal's
On: In It to Win It, and finally a signed copy Time Life's
Simmons: Sweatin' to the Oldies. No kidding! Each of the
giveaways will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, December 23rd.
Click on the links to get started and good luck!
We've also updated the
DVD Cover Art section today with all the latest DVD,
Blu-ray and HD-DVD cover scans, thanks to the efforts of our own
Russell Hammond. Remember that a small portion of anything you order
through our Amazon links goes to support our work here at The
Bits, and we appreciate it. There's lots of new art, as
usual, so be sure to check it out.
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/11/07 - 12:01 AM PST)
Okay... we've heard back from Warner Home Video. That Best Buy
version of Blade Runner: The Final Cut
isn't an exclusive after all. Turns out it's the exact same Five-Disc
Ultimate Edition on DVD that's available everywhere else
in the briefcase... and yes, it does include the briefcase. Best Buy
basically just posted the artwork for the Digipack that's in the
case, rather than the briefcase itself. Go figure. So there's no
exclusive, and the 5-disc DVD version (that includes the workprint)
isn't available in Region 1 without the briefcase. We've revised
in-depth review of the set accordingly.
We're still trying to confirm that Best Buy 5-disc version of Blade
Runner. There's some reason to believe it may actually
the briefcase version after all. As soon as we've determined it one
way or another with Warner, we'll let you know and revise the
Just FYI, file this in the Rumor Mill
category, but we're now hearing that a second Blu-ray player may
soon be selling for under $300 - Sony's S300. Again, as soon as we
hear anything for sure, we'll let you know. This offer however is
confirmed: At Best Buy, if you buy one of two models of Panasonic
plasma HDTV plus the BD-30 Blu-ray player, you get a credit for $499
- effectively making the Blu-ray player free.
here for the details. You're likely to see a lot of
manufacturers bundling their players with HD displays in the weeks
Okay... let's have some announcement news. Fox has just set The
Final Inquiry for release on DVD on 2/28. The
Comebacks: Unrated Edition is due on 1/29, along with a
Drumline: Special Edition. The
animated Fantastic Four: World's Greatest
Heroes - Volume 3 streets on 3/11, along with the eighth
wave of film noir titles, including Black
Widow, Daisy Kenyon
and Dangerous Crossing. And
look for Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief
on DVD on 3/4.
Sony has officially announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Run
Lola Run on 2/19. The American
Gangster (1992) and Gabriel
street on DVD the same day, along with Black
Water and The Wubbulous World
of Dr. Seuss 3-Pack: Back to Back 1, 2
and 3. Slipstream
and Goya's Ghosts follow on
DVD on 2/26. Also, we've now learned that Kevin Smith's Dogma
will street on Blu-ray in March (we'll post the exact date shortly).
Buena Vista has announced that Dan in
Real Live will arrive on DVD on 3/11. Gone
Baby Gone is also on tap for 2/12, on both DVD and
Universal has set Magnum P.I.: The
Complete Eighth Season for DVD release on 3/4. Also, they
have Elizabeth: The Golden Age
due on DVD and DVD/HD-DVD Combo format on 2/5. Extras will include
audio commentary with director Shekhar Kapur, deleted scenes and 4
featurettes (The Reign Continues: Making
Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Inside
Elizabeth's World, Commanding
the Winds: Creating the Armada and Towers,
Courts and Cathedrals).
New Line has announced Martian Child
for DVD on 2/12. Look for audio commentary with producers Corey
Sienega and David Kirschner as well as writers Seth Bass and
Jonathan Tolins, the Handle with Care:
Working with The Martian Child documentary, The
Real Martian Child featurette, deleted scenes and the
film's theatrical trailer.
Finally, Warner has announced a Classic
Musicals from the Dream Factory: Volume 3 box set for
release on 4/8 (SRP $69.92). The nine titles included will be Hit
the Deck, Deep in My Heart,
Goes to Rio, Two Weeks with
Love, Broadway Melody of 1936,
Broadway Melody of 1938, Born
to Dance and Lady Be Good.
Other newly announced titles coming from Warner include a Riverdance:
Live from Radio City Music Hall - Collector's Edition and
the BBC's 1995 version of Les Miserables
(2/19), The UCLA Dynasty
(3/4), Wiggles: Pop Go the Wiggles
(3/11), HBO's Pu-239 (3/25)
and The Return of Swamp Thing
By the way, a quick personal request: Did any of you Brazilian
readers happen to get a good, off-air DVD recording of the Police
Live in Rio concert broadcast last week? There's a video
stream online, but I'm dying to see it in higher quality. Let me
Since we posted on Saturday, why not post on Sunday too? Here's
some big news worth checking in for: Remember that rumor we
mentioned last week about how a sub-$300 Blu-ray player was due
imminently? Well, it's here. Several major retail chains have just
dropped the price of Samsung's BD-P1400 to just $299. It's now
City (and possibly other retailers too). And if you buy the
BD-P1400, a quick firmware update will allow you to access full
resolution DTS HD Master Audio sound as well as Dolby TrueHD. A lot
of retailers are offering several free Blu-ray Discs with the
purchase of a player too. So if you've been looking at Blu-ray and
you've been hovering on the edge, the price has never been better.
Try the Samsung for $299 or even Sony's PS3 for $399 (keep in mind
the PS3 will soon be firmware updated to profile 1.1). Trust us...
Runner: The Final Cut's gonna look awfully good in Blu.
By the way... for those of you thinking maybe it makes sense to buy
BOTH Blu-ray and HD-DVD to cover your bases, it would frankly be
smarter just to buy neither. I know it's tempting for enthusiasts to
buy both, but keep this in mind: Supporting both is only going to
continue prolonging this format war, when what we all really need is
for this thing to end as soon as possible.
One other quick Blade Runner
note today - we've
our review to include one more DVD version of the release.
Best Buy apparently has available for pre-order what looks to be a
retailer exclusive: A special
Runner: The Final Cut - Five-Disc Ultimate Collection on DVD
for just $54.99. In other words, it's ALL FIVE DVDs of content, just
without the briefcase. To our knowledge, this is the only place in
Region 1 you can get this version. Thanks to Bits
reader Michael Jr. for the heads-up.
[Editor's Note: It looks like this may be the
briefcase version of the 5-disc DVD after all. We're checking with
Warner now to confirm and we'll post an update as soon as we have
See you in the morning. Stay tuned...
Well... we haven't made a post on a Saturday in a while. But boyo,
this is a good 'un. Yes, we've finally gotten our hands on what we
think is the DVD and high-def release of the year: Warner's awesome
Runner: The Final Cut! We only have the DVD versions at
the moment, but we've got ALL FIVE DISCS of content... and man is it
cool. We predicted early on that this release was going to drive
Blade Runner fans crazy - in a
good way, of course - and it'll sure do that. What a blast we've had
watching all this stuff. Anyway, click on the link for our
extended-length review of all five discs - what we believe is the
first in-depth review ANYWHERE - complete with screen shots and all
kinds of goodness. And be sure to check back, because as soon as we
get our hands on the high-definition versions, we'll update this
review with the details on their quality as well. Enjoy!
Okay... I may be back later with another update, but in the
meantime, here's the latest today.
First up, the Pirates 3
Blu-ray... Disney now believes that the problem is related to
viewing the disc in 1080p/24 mode via certain monitors (using the
PS3 and some Samsung models). They're suggesting viewing in 1080i
mode as a short-term solution, and say that firmware updates
available shortly will correct the problem.
Second, I finally got the Battlestar
Galactica: Season One HD-DVD today. The good news is that
the discs all showed up unscratched. The bad news is that this is
quite possibly the worst packaging I've ever seen. It's a flimsy
fold-out cardboard disc holder, that slips into an equally flimsy
plastic outer case. Mine showed up having been utterly crushed as
flat as it could be in shipping, though miraculously the discs seem
to have survived unscathed. Haven't looked at the content yet, but I
can't wait. I'll try to post a review early next week.
One other Battlestar note
today - there's also a problem being reported with the Best Buy
version of Razor, which
includes that exclusive bonus disc we mentioned earlier this week.
The problem is, a lot of copies apparently don't have the disc
inside, even though the packaging is marked with a sticker. The copy
I purchased DID have the bonus disc on one of those plastic swing
trays inside the case. So try shaking the case to see if you can
hear it inside before you purchase, then make sure you open the disc
to confirm that the bonus disc is in there before you leave the
parking lot. Like I've been saying, it's always something.
Let's see... what else?
Week has a new story up on the format war today that
HD-DVD fans aren't going to like much, because it basically says the
same thing we've been saying for a while now: That Sony has the
advantage. The piece notes that the key to the format war - which
should come as no surprise to any of you - is what Warner decides to
do next. A shift by Warner to Blu-ray exclusivity would effectively
give the BD camp sole access to 70% of all major Hollywood studio
content, while a shift by the studio to HD-DVD only would create an
almost 50/50 split and result in an indefinite quagmire. Sources are
telling us that hints by both sides that Warner is warming to their
camp (including some in the Business Week
piece) are premature - the studio is watching sales closely and
isn't likely to make any changes in their dual-format support
strategy until early 2008 at the earliest. Meanwhile, top executives
from both camps have been making personal appeals to senior Warner
management to plead their case. Lower price has long been the key
advantage the HD-DVD has used to leverage their argument, but
industry sources are also hinting to us something that's noted in
the BW story - that a sub-$300
Blu-ray player may be soon to hit store shelves.
Financial Times also has a story up on the format war
today that's worth a quick read. Among other things, it reveals that
18 of the top 20 bestselling high-def titles sold this year are
available on Blu-ray. Universal's Ken Graffeo is also quoted in the
story, saying that "most PS3 owners do not use the Blu-ray
function and will not buy as many discs." However, this is
contrary to Sony's claims in recent weeks that their research shows
as many as 80% of PS3 owners have used the machine to watch at least
one Blu-ray movie, and that Blu-ray's continued 3 to 1 software
sales advantage in the U.S. (despite having slightly fewer
stand-alone players) is proof of this.
Fascinating. Just another day in the format war.
In other news today,
and Vision magazine has a cool new feature story up on the
restoration work involved in creating Blade
Runner: The Final Cut, which streets on all three formats
on 12/18 (rest assured, our in-depth review will be posted as soon
as the discs arrive).
Meanwhile, there are reports that the world's first BD profile 1.1
disc is expected to street in Germany next week from Imagion AG.
It's a comedy called Neues vom Wixxer,
which will apparently feature true PiP commentary. Our friends over
at the excellent Cinefacts GmbH
website have more on this today (click
for the original German text, and
for a sketchy English translation via Google).
Finally today, this has nothing to do with the format war, but we
think it's cool nonetheless: Warner has just released the first
teaser trailer for the forthcoming Speed
Racer live-action film from the brothers Wachowski.
can see it here in Quicktime format (in your choice of 480,
720 and 1080 resolution). I'll tell you what, I don't know what
exactly I was expecting from this film, but it sure as hell wasn't
this. This film is either going to be perfect... or awful. Either
way, you've never seen anything like it before. This trailer
actually has me more interested than ever, and it certainly seems to
be creating a buzz online. It plays like a live-action cartoon, just
as campy and colorful as the original animated series, right down to
the moment where Speed discovers Spritle and Chim-Chim stowed away
in the trunk of the Mach 5. Count me in. Boy, 2008 is going to be
HUGE for blockbuster films. There's Speed
Racer, Star Trek,
Indiana Jones and the Something or Others,
Man, Get Smart,
another Potter film, another
Narnia film, another Bond
film, The Dark Knight, Wall-E
and I'm sure lots more I'm forgetting. It'll be like 1982 all over
again. Movie geeks, unite!
Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday.
(LATE UPDATE -
12/6/07 - 6:30 PM PST)
I just got off the phone with a technical staffer at Disney
regarding the Pirates 3
Blu-ray issue. As I mentioned earlier, the problem of the disc
freezing up after the trailers (and before menus load) is only
happening for small percentage of users and it's not happening
consistently, so Disney is having a hard time replicating the
problem. The belief is that it might be related to the interaction
between the player and the display device people are using. So
Disney is asking anyone who is having a playback problem with the
disc to call their Customer Service number (1-800-723-4763) and be
sure to tell them not only the brand and model of player you're
using, but also the brand and model of your display. They're working
hard to get to the bottom of this, and the more information people
can provide them, the faster they can resolve the issue for
everyone. We'll keep you up to date.
(LATE UPDATE - 12/6/07
- 2 PM PST)
Okay, so we've been getting a lot of e-mails from readers today
regarding the Pirates 3
Blu-ray and the PS3. Turns out the disc is working just fine for
most people, which is good news indeed. It seems the problems are
fairly hit or miss, and I suspect firmware updates will take care of
it for most people. As I said yesterday, if you are having trouble,
give Disney Customer Service a call (1-800-723-4763) and check with
your player manufacturer to see if an update is available. I
actually watched a bunch of the content on the disc last night, and
it's pretty damn great. It's a gorgeous transfer, and the Inside
the Maelstrom behind-the-scenes set tour really surprised
me. It's a sort of 'hypertext' concept of navigating bonus content,
where you get to drive how you explore the set and the production. I
think you guys will really enjoy the disc.
[Editor's Note: Bits
reader Davey R. has just e-mailed to say that if your copy gets
stuck after the trailers on the PS3, if you push the 'triangle'
button on your controller and select 'top menu', it'll take to the
movie menu. Give it a shot.]
As for the Battlestar HD-DVD
thing we mentioned yesterday, reports we're hearing from readers now
suggest that it's not the packaging itself that's causing damage to
the discs, but perhaps something that's happening between the time
the discs are pressed and packaged. The good news is, like the Pirates
3 issue, it doesn't seem to be a widespread thing. I'm
hoping to have my hands on the set by early next week. I have to
confess, all format preferences aside, I'm seriously ready to geek
out over the chance to watch a whole season of Battlestar
in high-def. This prolonged wait for Season
Three (on disc) and Season
Four (on Sci-Fi) is killing me.
Speaking of geek... I wanted to take a moment to send a shout out
to our old friend Simon Brew over at the U.K. website
Den of Geek.
Simon had some nice things to say today about us in
latest column. He was too generous by far, of course, but it
was very kind of him and we appreciate it. Simon's a good egg, as
they say. More to the point though, I'm glad to see others speaking
out on how poisonous this format war has turned the tenor of the
debate in the online enthusiast community. And how certain parties
in both corporate camps are intentionally exploiting that soured
climate in the various discussion groups, to muckrake and spin and
get other people to fight their battles for them. When movie fans
are actually threatening each other online over this format war -
and big media corporations are deliberately taking advantage of that
- it's simply disgusting. To their credit, not every enthusiast is
participating. In fact, I suspect most are just laying low and
staying out of the fray. But no matter how differently we may each
feel about which high-def format is the better choice, there is
absolutely no reason we can't agree to disagree in a civil tone, and
focus on the things we do all have in common more often... like the
love of great movies. As Dr. Adam Jahnke is always saying to the
rest of us here at The Bits:
You gotta keep it level, people. Just keep it level. Anyway... thank
Elsewhere around the Net today,
Media Retailing apparently has a story up on some of the
panels at High-Def 2.0 the
other day, including the blogger panel I was on with Pete Bracke
Digest and Guido Henkel from
I found this out, because I had a bunch of people e-mailing me in
the wee hours of last night telling me they'd seen my picture over
there. And then I actually saw the picture and got stuck thinking: "Boy,
that guy needs to lose like 30 pounds and stop wearing brown."
Yeah, I'll get right on that. I'm actually told that HMR
videotaped all the panels and may be putting them up for viewing
online in the next week or two. I'd love for our readers to be able
to hear the discussion - which at our blogger panel was very
interesting, I think - but there's no way I'm going to be able to
sit there an watch myself for 45 minutes. Ugh. They should have used
Pete's picture for the article. Or Guido's. Dashing fellows, both.
What's that they say: You're always your own toughest critic? It's
We've got just a few more announcements to report today...
First, Fox and MGM have revealed that the film noir classic Black
Widow will street on DVD on 3/11. And on 2/12, they'll
deliver The Charlie Chan Collection:
Volume 4, set to include Charlie
Chan in Honolulu, Charlie Chan
in Reno, Charlie Chan at
Treasure Island and Charlie
Chan in the City of Darkness. Personally, I'm waiting for
Charlie Chan in Fargo. Naw,
I'm just kidding. I checked with Barrie - apparently ol' Charlie
never made it to Fargo. Shame.
Meanwhile, Paramount has announced The
Heartbreak Kid for DVD and HD-DVD release on 12/26. The
DVD will be available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen.
Extras on all three versions are set to include audio commentary by
the Farrelly Brothers, 4 featurettes (The
Farrelly Brothers in: The French Tradition, Ben
& Jerry, Heartbreak
Halloween and The Egg Toss),
bloopers and outtakes, 6 deleted scenes, the film's trailer and
Finally, Disney has set Snow Buddies
for release on DVD on 2/5.
One last note - Bits reader
Gary H. reports that if you buy a copy of the newly-released Omega
Man on Blu-ray or HD-DVD, you'll find a free ticket to
see I Am Legend in theaters
inside. Now that's not a half bad deal right there. Beats a kick in
the pants, that's for sure.
We'll leave you today with a look at the packaging for all the
different versions of Warner's forthcoming Bonnie
and Clyde: Special Edition (due on 3/25), as well as
Paramount's The Heartbreak Kid
and CBS's The Love Boat: Season 1, Volume
1 on DVD (due 3/4). I love that book packaging for the HD
versions of Bonnie and Clyde...
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/6/07 - 2:30 AM PST)
Hope all you vintage movie fans have your coffee at the ready,
because we're pleased this morning to offer you Barrie Maxwell's
latest edition of
Coming Attractions. In this installment, Barrie reviews 19
new and recent classic titles on DVD, including VCI's
Glass Mountain and
Christmas Carol: Ultimate Collector's Edition, MGM's
Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition and
Return of Dracula/The Vampire, Sony's
Million Miles from Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition and
for Murder/Man in the Attic,
Girl Next Door and
a Song in My Heart, Universal's
of the Thousand Days/Mary Queen of Scots and
Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Paramount's
Face: 50th Anniversary Edition and
Mason: Season Two, Volume Two, Image Entertainment's
from American Film Archives III, Warner's
Jazz Singer: 80th Anniversary Edition,
Lancaster: The Signature Collection and
Stanwyck: The Signature Collection, and finally Questar's
and Soul. There's something in that batch for just about
every taste. As always, Barrie also runs down the latest classic
release news. Enjoy!
We also have a quick title announcement for you this morning:
Warner has just released The Omega Man
on Blu-ray and HD-DVD (it came out on 11/27 - SRP $28.99 each) as
part of an effort to promote their upcoming theatrical release of
I Am Legend. Not sure how we
missed that, but there you go. A rare offering in 1080 for you
classic film fans.
Finally this morning, here's just about the most fascinating
film-related story I've seen in a long time: Director Morgan
Spurlock's latest documentary, Where in
the World is Osama bin Laden?, has just been snatched up
by the brothers Weinstein for theatrical and home video release in
2008, after a private screening of just 15 minutes of footage from
the film at the Berlin Film Festival. You can read why
at MSNBC. Either this is the ballsiest indie film PR
stunt ever, or it's going to end a lot of careers in Washington. Or
maybe both. Either way, Morgan... dude, you are one clever bastard.
We doff our caps in your general direction. Color us intrigued.
(LATE UPDATE -
12/5/07 - 7:30 PM PST)
Boy... if it's not one thing with this high-def stuff, it's
A few readers have e-mailed us this evening to report having
trouble getting Disney's new Pirates of
the Caribbean: At World's End Blu-ray Disc disc to work
on Sony's PlayStation 3. Apparently, it sometimes hangs after the
trailers as it's trying to load the menus. The disc works just fine
on the Panasonic BD-10A here in the office, but we've reported the
issue to Buena Vista. If you're having trouble, we suggest you call
their tech support number at 1-800-723-4763 (it's also printed on
the disc label).
Also today, we're hearing reports that the packaging on Universal's
new Battlestar Galactica: Season One
HD-DVD doesn't hold the discs very securely, so the discs are coming
loose in shipping. As a result, a few of our readers have reported
problems with badly scratched discs. If you're encountering this
problem yourself, visit Universal's
HD-DVD website to contact them for help or replacements (look
in the Support section).
If we hear anything more on either of these issues, we'll let you
(LATE UPDATE -
12/5/07 - 4:15 PM PST)
Well... as you might expect, we've got a bit of follow-up this
afternoon regarding director Michael Bay. After commenting yesterday
his website that he prefers Blu-ray (as reported earlier), a
number of HD-DVD fans took issue and decided to take him to task in
the forum area of his website. So Michael has followed up his
original comments with
"Does anyone out here want to challenge
what I feel suits my films better in terms of look. I see every
frame of my films over a hundred times before it is ever released. I
know the lighting conditions I shot it and the result on the DI. I
know the range. I know what the final product should look like - Blu
Ray suits my films better. But that said - I don't a care about this
format war because I have both formats in my screening room - I'm
just filling you in on what people deep in the film industry feel
ultimately is going on -
Transformers looks great even in DVD!!"
D'oh! This format war would be amusing if it weren't so foolish and
In other news today, Sony has confirmed that it will release 30
Days of Night on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 2/19.
Also, you Battlestar Galactica
fans might want to head on over to your local Best Buy today. It
seems that the Best Buy version of Razor
includes an exclusive bonus DVD. On that disc (which comes inside
the packaging), you'll find a 20-minute featurette entitled The
Making of Battlestar Galactica: Razor. It features new
interviews with many of the show's cast and crew (including most of
the principals as well as Stephanie Jacobsen and Nico Cortez, who
play Kendra Shaw and Young Bill Adama). You also get on-set
production footage, glimpses of additional unused material, a look
at the creation of the show's effects and even previz video of the
ejection sequence. It's all pretty great stuff and, if you're a fan,
it's well worth having. Yeah, I know. It's frustrating to us too.
Sorry we didn't hear about this sooner, or we would have warned you
ahead of street date.
Finally, while we're talking sci-fi, you Trek
fans might want to check this out: Star
Trek: The Tour. It's 50,000 square feet of props,
costumes, displays, sets you can be photographed in and other
interactive experiences. The touring exhibit kicks off on 1/18 in
Long Beach, CA and will hit 40 cities in 2008, so prepare to get
your geek on. You can read more
thanks to our friends at The Trek Movie Report.
We're busy formatting Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic
Coming Attractions column, so watch for it late this
evening or first thing in the AM. Stay tuned...
(STILL SORT OF EARLY
UPDATE - 12/5/07 - 10:45 AM PST)
We've got a few more news items for you this morning.
Media is reporting that a high percentage of HD-DVD fans
are accessing the web-enabled online features being offered on
titles like Transformers and
Heroes: Season One. Paramount
reports some 80,000 unique users have logged on from Transformers,
with a 31% percent returning to download new features online.
Meanwhile, the Blu-ray Disc Association is now reporting that their
hardware numbers have passed the 2.7 million mark in North America
(through 11/24), in the wake of strong Black Friday sales. The
number includes both the BD-capable PlayStation 3 as well as
dedicated set-top players (more detailed breakdowns are expected to
be released at CES). This comes on the heals of the HD-DVD Promotion
last week of having achieved a North American installed
hardware base of 750,000 players following Black Friday promotions,
a number that includes both dedicated set-top players as well as
Xbox 360 add-on drives.
Business has more on all this.
One other Blu-ray note: Disney's packaging for Pirates
of the Caribbean: At World's End on Blu-ray mistakenly
lists the video as 1080i in the features grid on the back. That's
just a typo - it's actually full 1080p, as expected.
In standard-def software release news today, Universal has set Sydney
White for release on 1/22, followed by Barbie
Mariposa on 2/26 and The
Sasquatch Gang on 3/18.
Fox has revealed that The Comebacks
is due on DVD on 1/29, followed by Bachelor
Party 2: The Last Temptation on 3/11.
Finally, Warner has announced John from
Cincinnati: The Complete First Season for release on DVD
on 3/25 (3 discs, SRP $59.99 - for HBO). Also newly announced are
I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid
Newkirk and Peta (1/8 - HBO), Sand
and Sorrow (1/29 - also HBO), Stompin
(3/11 - Polychrome) and Doctor Who:
Episode 70 - The Time Warrior (4/1 - BBC).
By the way, there's been some confusion regarding Warner's recent
announcement of the DVD release of the Warner
Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection: Volume 3 on 3/25.
Several readers have asked when Volume 2
came out. As it turns out, Warner's done some re-naming of previous
DVD box sets. Their original Warner Bros.
Pictures Gangsters Collection is obviously Volume
1. However, their previous Warner
Bros. Pictures Tough Guys Collection is now called the
Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters
Collection: Volume 2. Hope that explains it.
Back this afternoon. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/5/07 - 9:30 AM PST)
Well... we're back from High-Def 2.0,
which was actually quite a lot of fun. Perhaps the biggest surprise
of the Home Media-sponsored
conference (and something that was a definite topic of discussion
among the attendees over the course of the day) is that the HD-DVD
format was a total no-show. Not a single representative of the
format was in attendance, despite the fact that they were invited
and genuine efforts were made to keep the conference panels and
events balanced. What's more, a number of HD-DVD titles won honors
at the High-Def Awards last
here for the details), and only Warner and Paramount sent
representatives to accept. Universal was represented by no one.
Earlier in the day, Pete, Guido and I all had a great time during
the Blogger panel, where we
offered a decidedly frank and pessimistic assessment of the current
state of the high-def format war, and what we each see as future of
the home video business. Attendees seemed to appreciate the candid
and lively discussion, which is unusual for an industry event of
this type. Once we got going, there was certainly no problem filling
up the entire 45 minutes allotted. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of
saw much hope of HD-DVD winning the format war at this point, given
Blu-ray's growing sales edge around the world and the HD-DVD camp's
dramatic hardware price-slashing strategy. But we all agreed that
the longer the perception of a format war persists, the less likely
it is that high-definition packaged media will ever become a
substantial market. Guido made an interesting point that Hollywood
runs the danger of devaluing its films the same way the record
industry has devalued their album catalogs, by making them available
too often and in too many different formats. None of us saw
downloading as a viable near or mid-term revenue stream for the
studios, due to technical limitations and the lesser perceived value
in the minds of consumers of a downloaded file compared to a
physical product. Pete further suggested that the only way high-def
packaged media will ever really take off is if the studios
eventually begin phasing out DVD (the way the record industry phased
out LPs back in the 1980s), or at least start releasing certain
titles and content only in high-definition. The events of 2008 are
likely going to determine the future of the home video industry, and
the Hollywood studios all need to ask themselves some very tough
questions in the next few months as to exactly what they want that
future to be. All in all, it was a good discussion.
Here's some interesting stats revealed at the conference: By the
end of 2007, industry analysts predict that over 1/3rd of all TV
households in the U.S. - some 50 million out of an estimated 120
million - will have HDTVs. That's a surprising number, suggesting
that HDTV has finally become mainstream. Manufacturing reps noted
that HDTV screen sizes here in North America will trend larger,
while a representative of Phillips revealed that smaller flat panel
sizes dominate in Europe, as house sizes there tend to be smaller.
Meanwhile, a Sony rep cited internal research suggesting that over
80% of all PlayStation 3 owners had watched at least one Blu-ray
movie on their systems. It was also revealed that the Blu-ray
profile 1.1 firmware update for the PS3 is expected to be made
available for download later this month.
Some new information as to high-def title plans for 2008 - all
Blu-ray due to the other camp taking a pass - was offered at the
event as well, during a studio panel late in the day. First, Sony
revealed that Kevin Smith's Dogma
is due to arrive on Blu-ray on 2/12, with Run
Lola Run following on 2/19. In addition to the release of
Resident Evil: Extinction on
1/1, Sony will street a Resident Evil:
The High-Definition Trilogy set on Blu-ray the same day.
The Guns of Navarone and A
Passage to India are apparently on the way in early 2008,
with Bridge on the River Kwai
and Lawrence of Arabia
expected to follow later in the year. Sony also hinted that they're
going to experiment with more advanced BD-Java features in 2008.
Further down the line, Disney, Fox, Sony and Lionsgate all confirmed
that they're going to be expanding their Blu-ray release slate in
2008. Fox revealed that new theatrical titles like Juno,
Hears a Who and Mr. Magorium's
Wonder Emporium will all be released, as well as many new
catalog titles. Lionsgate expects to deliver Saw
IV in January, while Disney confirmed that Finding
Nemo and The Chronicles of
Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will both
feature PiP video.
Director Michael Bay was also the topic of discussion at the event.
He's apparently spoken out once more on the subject of the format
war on his website. Here's the text of his latest post
his discussion forum:
"What you don't understand is corporate
politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes
and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty
secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out
$100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and
not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the
market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and
you will see the truth.
Technically, Toshiba paid Paramount and DreamWorks, but it's hard
to argue with Michael's overall point about Microsoft's involvement
in the format war. We've made this argument ourselves.
One last note this morning - a bit of follow-up from last week: The
AV Magazine site has learned from the distributor that
the Onkyo DV-HD805 HD-DVD player has NOT been discontinued. Rather,
the unit is simply in short supply in Europe until the end of the
year. It's expected to be fully launched in European stores in
January or February. Here's
translated version via Google. Thanks to Bits
reader Vladimir I. for the heads-up.
Back later with a new column from Barrie Maxwell. Stay tuned...
Morning, folks. Just a couple quick update for you, before we head
on up to High-Def 2.0...
First up, Sony has just announced the DVD release of The
Stanley Kramer Film Collection box set on 2/12 (SRP
$59.95). Included will be Guess Who's
Coming to Dinner, Ship of
Fools, The Wild Ones,
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T and
The Member of the Wedding,
each featuring plenty of bonus material.
Also newly announced for DVD release on 3/25 is the Warner
Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection: Volume 3 (SRP
$59.92), which is set to include Picture
Snatcher, Lady Killer,
Smart Money, Black
Legion, Mayor of Hell
and Brother Orchid. Each film
is also available separately for $19.97.
Finally this morning, our own Russell Hammond has once again
DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD, Blu-ray and
HD-DVD cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. Enjoy!
We've got new Contests coming
later this evening, so be sure to check back.
(LATE UPDATE -
12/3/07 - 3 PM PST)
We've gotten our first look at a trio of big new DVD box sets
recently. Given the fact that many of you are probably considering
these sets for purchase this holiday season, we wanted to give you
all a peek inside each of them today.
The first is Fox's
X-Files: The Ultimate Collection. The 61-disc set includes
all 9 seasons as you'd expect, along with the feature film, The
X-Files: Fight the Future. The DVD versions of the
episodes are the original releases (not the slim sets), which is
good because it means that this set DOES include the bonus discs of
extras for each season. And the film disc includes all of the extras
that were on the original release as well. There's an additional
bonus disc included too that adds all four of the Threads
of Mythology documentaries that were in the Mythology
DVD sets. You also get a booklet guide to all the episodes, a comic
book, art cards and a Fight the Future
poster. So the good news is that if you buy this box set, you can
sell your original full season DVDs and gain a LOT of shelf space.
The only real bad news, aside from the high cost of the set (SRP
$329.98, but just $230 on Amazon), is that it doesn't include the
new audio commentaries that were on many of the episodes in the Mythology
DVD sets. So if you want ALL the available DVD content, you still
can't get rid of those discs (but it's easy enough to put those
discs in paper sleeves and tuck them into the box). One last note on
the packaging - the discs all slip into tiny books (one for each
season and one for the movie and bonus disc), which then are
contained in the top compartment of the box set. There's also a
second drawer-like compartment that slides out of the bottom on one
side - that's where you'll find the booklet, the cards, poster, etc.
This thing is surprisingly heavy, so when you get the set, check to
make sure that the bottom of the top compartment hasn't been crushed
out (due to the weight of the discs and improper shipping) so that
the drawer beneath it won't slide open as it should. The
X-Files: The Ultimate Collection is WAY too expensive for
casual fans of the series, but you diehards will no doubt appreciate
The second box set we wanted to talk about today is the spiffy new
Man From U.N.C.L.E. The Complete Collection, which is
currently only available online from TimeLife (SRP $249.95 -
produced in conjunction with Warner). The case is made of sturdy
cardboard, complete with a handle and latches. When you open it, the
inside of the lid features an image of the front of Del Floria's
Tailor Shop in NYC, which fans will know as the secret entrance to
U.N.C.L.E.'s headquarters. The bottom portion of the case contains
four Digipacks, one for each season. Underneath the Season
4 Digipack, you'll also find a compartment containing a
pair of additional DVD discs, each including more bonus content
that's exclusive to this box set (scores of interviews with the cast
and crew, photo and image galleries, 6 original featurettes, and
tons of promos, trailers, TV spots and appearance footage). The
Digipacks each offer a booklet with liner notes and a guide to the
season's episodes. Each season also includes its own extras, such as
behind-the-scenes and retrospective featurettes, the original pilot
episode, the 1966 One Spy Too Many
feature film, home movies from the set and even a new reunion
interview with stars David McCallum and Robert Vaughn. This set is
produced by the same crew that brought you
Smart on DVD (voted
of Show at the recent TV DVD Awards and a Digital
Bits Bitsy Award winner last year for
DVD - TV Series Presentation), so that should more than
assure you as to the high calibre of the content and extras. I
haven't done more than sample the first few episodes yet, but the
A/V quality seems quite good. Given how long fans have been waiting
for this series to hit DVD, I think they're in for a real treat.
Finally, we've also gotten our hands on the final packaging for
Runner: The Final Cut - Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition
DVD (SRP $78.92, but just $54.99 on Amazon - also available on
- SRP $99.98 each but just $66.95 on Amazon). The plastic case is,
of course, a replica of Deckard's Voight-Kampf machine case from the
film. When you trip the two latches and open it, you'll find that
the top presents a black file folder containing 8 large cards
featuring production artwork from the film (Syd Mead pre-production
sketches, storyboard artwork, etc). Beneath that, contained in its
own plastic pouch, are two pieces of clear Lucite (attached
magnetically) containing a lenticular-motion image from the film.
It's a shot of Deckard raising his gun as he's about to enter his
apartment at the end of the film. You can view the clip either
inside the Lucite or removed, but the Lucite stands, allowing you to
display the image nicely on your desktop of shelf. Beneath this, the
bottom half of the case is covered with a clear plastic sheet.
Printed on the sheet is a signed letter from Ridley Scott,
explaining how and why the final cut was created, along with one of
his own 'Ridleygram' drawings of Deckard in his apartment. You then
lift this up to find a padded foam enclosure underneath, containing
the Digipack for the actual movie discs (complete with an insert
booklet), as well as a pair of cool swag items. The first of these
is a silvery plastic replica of Gaff's unicorn origami (from the end
of the film - it stands about 2½ inches tall). The other is a
4-inch long plastic replica of the Police Spinner vehicle, complete
with accurate markings and doors that swing open vertically. Each
briefcase is individually numbered via a sticker on the bottom of
the case. All in all, it's an incredibly cool presentation. And all
this is before you even watch a single frame of video on the discs
(which we'll review separately for you in full detail as soon as
Again, keep in mind that these box sets really are intended for the
more serious fans out there, especially given the SRPs, but each set
in its way is extremely cool. The best value (and slickest
presentation) is definitely the Blade
Runner set. In any case, if you're in the fan base for
whom price is little or no deterrent, each set is well worth a look
this holiday season.
One quick note: Tomorrow's post may be a little light. The reason
is that we'll be attending the
2.0 conference up in Hollywood, where I'll be
participating in the A View from the
Blogsphere panel discussion along with our old friends
Guido Henkel of DVD Review and
Pete Bracke from High-Def Digest
(moderated by T.K. Arnold of Home Media
magazine - 1:30 to 2:15 PM). It should be fun, and interesting too.
We'll give you a full report when we get back.
Until then... stay tuned!
(EARLY UPDATE -
12/3/07 - 11:45 AM PST)
Morning folks! Hope your weekend was swell... or at least passably
So as it turns out, The Golden Compass
is pretty good. Certainly it's much better than either Matt or I was
expecting. Fans of the book will be very happy to learn that the
basic themes of Philip Pullman's original text are not only there,
they're stronger than ever. Only a little bit of the terminology has
been changed for consumption by a wider commercial audience. The
basic ideas are intact. The cast is pitch perfect. The young actor
playing Lyra is terrific, and Sam Elliot steals the show as Lee
Scoresby. The CG effects, particularly the animal daemons, are
mostly well done too. The film ends a bit earlier - and on a more
optimistic note - than the book, but we thought it worked well
enough. There was even a bit of an unexpected surprise over the end
credits: Kate Bush sings the closing song.
The biggest complaint that Matt and I had was that the story has
been condensed to run under two hours (113 minutes to be exact) and,
as a result, a lot of things seem to happen conveniently of
necessity to the plot rather than being more obviously motivated by
character. It's a little like watching some kind of Cliff's
Notes version of the story. Still, it's easy to
understand why this was done. The fate of New Line as a studio - and
obviously the fate of the sequels as well - depends on the success
of this film. A shorter run time is not only family-friendly, it
presumably will allow more screenings per day.
But New Line, not to mention fans hoping for the sequels, needn't
worry. The sneak peek screening we attended was packed with parents
and their children, and leaving the theater it was clear that they
thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The story is faithful enough to
please most fans, and there are wonders a plenty to dazzle young
audiences - even those who have never read the books. I suspect this
film will do big business over the holidays. Meanwhile, Matt and I
are hoping that New Line's plan is to eventually deliver an extended
cut of the film on DVD - a la Lord of the
Rings - that will flesh out the story and characters a
bit more, and make the film's narrative a little more satisfying.
I'm betting The Subtle Knife
will be green-lit before the end of the month. Tell you what
though... I don't know how the hell they're going to adapt The
Amber Spyglass to the screen. Now THAT I want to see.
The Golden Compass is a bit
glossy to be sure. It's not as satisfyingly textured, nuanced or
REAL a world as it might have been in the hands of a genuine
visualist like Ridley Scott, or Peter Jackson, or Guillermo Del
Toro. But director Chris Weitz has turned in a better film than we
expected from him and it's worth seeing. I'd give it a B-.
Okay, we've got a bit of announcement news for you today.
First up, Sony has announced a number of new and catalog titles for
release in February. They've confirmed that Across
the Universe will street on Blu-ray on 2/5, the same day
as the DVD. The Jane Austen Book Club
will also street on DVD and Blu-ray on 2/5. Following on 2/12 are
DVD re-issues of all three Stuart Little
films (each packed with a toy) along with a pair of Stuart
Little Animated Series DVDs. Also streeting on that day
are a 2-disc Guess Who's Coming to
Dinner: 40th Anniversary Edition and Romance
and Cigarettes on DVD, along with We
Own the Night on DVD and Blu-ray.
Meanwhile, Fox has set Newhart: Season
One for release on DVD on 2/26. The
Riches: Season One is due on 1/8. Look also for a Mrs.
Doubtfire: Behind-the-Seams Special Edition on 3/4.
New Line has set Blade: The Series -
Season 1 for release on DVD on 2/12 (SRP $39.98).
Best of all today, Warner has revealed that they'll deliver a Bonnie
and Clyde: Two-Disc Special Edition on DVD (SRP $20.97),
Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD on 3/25 (SRP $28.99 each), with extras set
to include a History Channel documentary, deleted scenes, screen
test footage and more. An Ultimate
Edition will also be available that will include a
36-page book and a reproduction of the original press book (SRP
Finally, CBS and Paramount will release The
Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season on 3/18.
That's all for now. Stay tuned...
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