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(Archived Posts 3/10/08 - 2/21/08)
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Morning, everyone. Or should I say afternoon? I hope you all had a
fine weekend. Mine was decent, though the time change back from
Daylight Savings really threw me off. I always hate losing an hour
Here at the site today, our very own Todd Doogan has turned in
masters' thesis review of Grindhouse, otherwise known
as Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror
and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof,
both of which are now available on DVD from Genius Products and The
Weinstein Company. I suspect you longtime Bits
readers will really get a kick out of it. Let's just say Doogan has
returned to form. I think you'll see what I mean.
In announcement news today, Genius Products has set The
Great Debaters for release on DVD on 5/13 in single-disc
and 2-disc Collector's Edition
You Gen-Xers will be pleased to know that Sony has just announced
the DVD release of Square Pegs: The
Complete Series on 5/20 (SRP $29.95). The 3-disc set will
include all 19 episodes along with the Weemawee
Yearbook Memories featurette (includes interviews with
Sarah Jessica Parker, Jamie Gertz, Tracy Nelson and Claudette Wells,
John Femia, Steven Peterman, Amy Linker, Merritt Butrick and Anne
Meanwhile, Buena Vista has officially confirmed that The
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
will street on Blu-ray Disc on 5/13.
New Line has set Over Her Dead Body
for release on 5/6.
And finally, Lionsgate has officially set Rambo
for release on 5/27 in full frame and anamorphic widescreen
single-disc DVD versions, a 2-disc Special
Edition DVD and a Blu-ray Disc. There will also be a
6-disc DVD box set of all four Rambo
films that same day. No word yet on special features.
Back with more later if announcements warrent. Stay tuned...
That's right, The 9th Annual Digital
Bits Bitsy Awards are on the way! We've been getting lots
of e-mails from readers wondering when we were going to roll out
this year's awards. Normally, we try to have The
Bitsys up by the time Hollywood hands out the Oscars, but
with the format war ending and all, that's kept us pretty busy
lately. Now that the dust is finally settling, however, we're busy
compiling our lists of worthy nominees and making our final picks.
Does anyone else out there agonize over their yearly "Best of"
DVD picks as much as we do? Our list of nominees is inevitably
hundreds of titles long, and the process of weeding through them,
watching various discs and features, and boiling the list down to
five or six truly worthy titles in each category takes forever.
Then, we have to start all over again to pick the most deserving
winners. Seriously, we spend weeks going through it all. Probably
more time than it's worth, but hey... if you dig what we do here at
The Digital Bits, it's
probably because we care enough to agonize over stuff like this.
Anyway, look for The 9th Annual Digital
Bits Bitsy Awards to debut sometime next week. We're not
sure what day yet, but probably by mid-week. It's going to depend on
how quickly we can tighten down the screws to everyone's
satisfaction. So just know that they're coming and they should be
worth the wait as always.
In terms of title announcements this afternoon, 20th Century Fox
has set The Bette Davis Collection
for release on 4/8 (SRP $49.98). The 5-disc set will include the
All About Eve: 2-Disc Special Edition,
along with The Virgin Queen
(first time on DVD), Phone Call from a
Stranger, Hush Hush Sweet
Charlotte and The Nanny.
Fox has also announced 27 Dresses
for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 4/29.
Meanwhile, Anchor Bay has announced The
Dario Argento Box Set for release on DVD on 5/27 (SRP
$49.97). Included will be a Tenebre:
Special Edition, a Phenomena:
Special Edition, Trauma,
The Card Player and Do
You Like Hitchcock?, along with audio commentaries,
behind-the-scenes featurettes, trailers and other special features.
Also, Warner is apparently offering an exchange program for those
who purchased the previous 1080i version of Terminator
3: Rise of the Machines on Blu-ray Disc. You can
apparently identify the new 1080p T3
version by this barcode number: 3000016223. Call Warner's Customer
Service number (1-866-488-4640) to arrange a swap.
Finally, in news around the Net today,
Financial Times of London is reporting that Microsoft and
Sony are in talks about making a Blu-ray Disc drive available for
the Xbox 360. Sony is talking with Apple about eventual Macs with
Blu-ray Drives as well. Sony's Stan Glasgow also reiterates in the
piece that he believes Blu-ray player prices will drop to $299 by
the holidays, and possibly as low as $200 by the end of 2009. On the
same note, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has confirmed today that his
company does plan to support Blu-ray Disc in some way (read more
All right, that's it for today. It's back to work on The
Bitsys for us. All of you have a great weekend, and we'll
see you on Monday. Peace out...
Afternoon folks. The Digital
Entertainment Group has announced that it's getting behind
Blu-ray Disc and "is developing a
multi-faceted campaign featuring consumer education, retail training
and public relations programs" to promote the format. As
the DEG has long done with DVD, it will serve as a clearing house
for information on Blu-ray, both to consumers and to retailers and
the rest of the industry. The Blu-ray Disc Association has issued
"The Blu-ray Disc Association is pleased
to have the DEG join ranks of companies and organizations that have
recognized Blu-ray Disc as the global, high definition successor to
DVD. As the BDA continues to drive promotional efforts and moves its
focus to providing consumers with a broader understanding of the
format and the benefits of upgrading to next generation hardware and
software, we look forward to coordinating the efforts of the DEG and
the many other supporters of the format to encourage and accelerate
On that note, having officially backed the Blu-ray Disc format
since June of last year, we here at The
Digital Bits have some suggestions to all the Blu-ray
Disc studios and manufacturers as to how best to make Blu-ray an
easy choice for consumers going forward. You BD guys listening?
Yeah, I know you are. Here goes:
1. Blu-ray Disc hardware prices obviously need to come down by the
4th quarter to attract more mainstream consumers to the format.
Offering Blu-ray player/HDTV deals makes sense, given the FCC's
mandated deadline to switch to all-digital broadcasting by early
next year (at midnight on 2/17/09 to be exact -
click here for
details), but it would be good if there were at least a few BD
players priced in the $250 range or better by the holidays.
2. The Blu-ray Disc Association needs to make profile 2.0 support
MANDATORY on all new players ASAP, and all hardware manufacturers
need to make their new player models profile 2.0 compatible ASAP in
order to avoid consumer confusion. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. We're
getting many e-mails from readers who are interested in buying into
Blu-ray now but are confused by the multiple profiles (and if that's
you, I'll explain them in a moment). This is especially important
when you consider how many firmware updates have been required to
ensure hardware compatibility with software - built-in Internet
connectivity is key to making this process easier and more consumer
3. Blu-ray Disc software prices should come down a little as well
in time for the holidays. They're still too high for most people -
definitely too high to encourage impulse purchasing. Rebates and
incentives should be offered to encourage BD upgrades of catalog
titles for people who may already own the same titles on DVD (as
Buena Vista has recently done). It also wouldn't hurt to have a few
more MAJOR and much-loved catalog titles available on Blu-ray before
the end of the year (including more older classics). There's no
better incentive for a movie-lover to upgrade than the release of a
favorite film title in 1080p quality, and at a price that isn't
going to break the budget.
4. The Blu-ray supporting studios who have previously supported
HD-DVD need to release Blu-ray versions of those titles previously
exclusive to HD-DVD ASAP. This is especially important with key
titles like The Matrix, V
for Vendetta, Heroes: Season
One, Battlestar Galactica:
Season One, Transformers,
Top Gun and Star
Trek: The Original Series Remastered - Season One. Those
titles encouraged many people to buy HD-DVD players, and now many of
those people feel like they've been led up the creek without a
paddle. Meanwhile, the exclusivity of those titles to HD-DVD is a
major sore spot with Blu-ray consumers. There's a lot of goodwill
that needs to be restored all around with high-def consumers
(Special word to Paramount and DreamWorks: Having now abandoned your
high-def consumers not once but TWICE, you guys have a LOT of work
to do in this area).
5. ALL BLU-RAY DISC TITLES, WHENEVER POSSIBLE, SHOULD BE RELEASED
WITH LOSSLESS AUDIO. In the same way that anamorphic enhancement
became standard on DVD to ensure the highest video quality possible,
lossless audio is critical to ensuring the highest sonic quality on
Blu-ray. 1080p video is clearly stunning, but it needs the sound to
So that's our advice to the Blu-ray camp.
Now then, about some advice to you Bits
readers out there? We know that many of you may be thinking of
buying a Blu-ray Disc player now that the format war is over, and
there's definitely never been a better time. But here's a couple
things to consider:
1. Blu-ray Disc player prices now start at about $399 for good
models, but if you wait until Christmas, they'll likely be down to
$299. Prices could even drop below $200 by next year (click
here for more via The New York
2. If the prices are low enough for you now, and all you really
care about is being able to watch a film in great high-def quality
and see MOST of the usual bonus material, don't hesitate to adopt
Blu-ray now. On the other hand, if you really care about being able
to access ALL Blu-ray bonus features, particularly the most advanced
interactive and online features that you'll start seeing later this
year, you might want to wait to get a profile 2.0 compatible player
(which has Internet access). They'll start becoming available in May
or June, and there should be many by Christmas. If you just can't
wait that long, Sony's PlayStation 3 is both a great Blu-ray player
AND a next-generation game system. It's already designed to connect
to the Internet AND it will be firmware updatable to profile 2.0
later this year. So it's basically future proof right now.
3. Look for sales, bargains, deals and special offers on Blu-ray
players and discs. There will be LOTS of them in the months ahead,
4. Feedback counts! Let the studios and manufacturers know what you
like and dislike. If there's a movie you'd like to see released, let
them know. If there's a feature or function you think needs work,
same drill. If you have a problem with a player or a disc, don't
stop bugging them about it (politely, of course) until you get it
resolved. Here at The Bits,
we'll help on major issues affecting our readers whenever we can.
What do all these Blu-ray spec "profiles" mean? All
Blu-ray players are profile 1.0, which means they offer all of the
basic video, audio and menu functionality needed to enjoy movie
content and most extras. Some newer models are profile 1.1, which
adds the picture-in-picture option and a few other advanced
interactive features (sometimes called "Bonus View").
Profile 2.0 players will additionally add the ability to connect to
the Internet, opening up all kinds of online interactive options
(you'll see these features often labeled as "BD-Live").
Later this year, most (likely eventually all) new Blu-ray players
should offer compatibility all the way to profile 2.0. The reason
for the different profiles is that both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc were
rushed to market about a year before they were really ready. So
Blu-ray was forced to start releasing players and discs in 2006,
before all of the interactive specs had been fully finalized.
Conversely, HD-DVD had finalized their interactive specs by the time
they launched, but there was a reason for this too: HD-DVD's HDi
interactive scheme isn't as advanced or powerful as Blu-ray's
BD-Java. In any case, the different profiles are inconvenient to be
sure, but they should be largely worked out by the time most
mainstream consumers really start to consider buying Blu-ray players
anyway. So it's mostly the early adopters who are being
inconvenienced, and a little inconvenience is something most early
adopters have come to expect when buying ANY new technology before
the rest of society. So just keep all this in mind, have a little
patience while you wait (if you decide to wait) and don't let the
subject scare you.
Okay... just a couple more routine items of business...
In announcement news today, Lionsgate has revealed their DVD
release slate for May. Look for 100 Girls,
to Cook Your Life, Doodlebops:
Live in Concert, Speed Racer:
The Next Generation - The Beginning and Oprah
Winfrey Presents Mitch Albom's For One More Day on 5/6,
Lampoon's Cattle Call, TKO
and Tobor the Great on 5/13,
Entrance, Workout: One-on-One
Training With Jackie and a Hamburger
Hill: 20th Anniversary Edition on 5/20, and The
Chair and The World War
Collection (includes The Sound
Barrier, King & Country,
Angels One Five and The
Captive Heart) on 5/27. Blu-ray titles are TBA.
Meanwhile, Buena Vista has announced The
Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning for release on DVD on
8/26 (SRP $29.99). From the press release: "This
all-new movie features Jodie Benson and Samuel Wright reprising
their signature roles as the voices of Ariel and Sebastian.
Audiences will also find out how best friends Ariel and Flounder
first met." I know some of you were probably wondering, "Man,
I wonder how Ariel and Flounder first met?" Well, there you go.
And Fox has set Burn Notice: Season One
for release on DVD on 6/17.
We're pleased today to bring you Barrie Maxwell's latest
Matters. This time around, Barrie reviews Warner's
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as
well as Sony's
Jane Austen Book Club. He also updates his regular
Definition Release Schedule as well. Enjoy!
Also today, you Trek fans
might want to make a quick visit to
Rumor Mill this afternoon. It looks like the feature films
at least are being spiffed up for release on disc again when the new
J.J. Abrams film debuts next year.
In other news today, you Blu-ray fans should be happy with this:
20th Century Fox has just lowered the SRP of many of its older
catalog Blu-ray Disc releases by $10, cutting them from $39.99 to
$29.99. These include titles like Chain
Fantastic Four, The
Omen etc. A select few additional titles have been price
reduced by about $5 each from $39.99 to $34.99 (Kingdom
of Heaven, etc). New and more recent titles remain priced
has already started reducing their prices accordingly.
Meanwhile, Warner has set single-film editions of Ocean's
Eleven and Ocean's Twelve
for release on Blu-ray on 4/29 (and HD-DVD on 5/20). P.S.
I Love You has been set for 5/6 on DVD and Blu-ray, with
HD-DVD to follow on 5/27. Botched: Uncut
is due on DVD on 5/13. And Warner has set NFL
Road to Super Bowl XLII for DVD release on 6/3, with NHL
Stanley Cup Champions 2007-2008 following on 7/8. For
those who might be interested, NFL Road
to Super Bowl XLII will be a 4-disc set containing the
complete broadcasts of the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the
Super Bowl, plus extras (SRP $39.92).
Also, Paramount has yanked the "HD" listing for There
Will Be Blood from its release database, confirming that
it was an error as we suggested yesterday. We do expect Blu-ray
announcements from the studio very soon. On the standard DVD front,
the studio has announced the release of Mannix:
The First Season for 6/3, followed by Hawaii
Five-0: The Fourth Season, The
Fugitive: Season Two, Volume One and The
Odd Couple: The Fourth Season on 6/10, and Dynasty:
Season Three, Volume One, Sabrina
the Teenage Witch: The Fourth Season and Californication:
Season One on 6/17.
Finally, there are also a couple of deaths we wanted to note today.
The first is composer Leonard Rosenman, whose scoring work includes
such films as East of Eden,
Barry Lyndon, Star
Trek IV: The Voyage Home and many others. You can read
at Variety. The other is fellow by the name of Gary
story here). If that name doesn't ring a bell, perhaps you
Gen-Xers will know him better for the game he co-invented - a little
something called Dungeons & Dragons.
We roll our eight sided dice in his honor today. Both will be
(LATE UPDATE -
3/4/08 - 2:15 PM PST)
Okay, we've got one more post for you this afternoon. First up, I
wanted to let everyone know that The Bits
will once again be teaming up with our friends at The
Home Theater Forum and TV
Shows on DVD for a trip to EMA 2008 in Las Vegas, June
24th - 26th. We'll have more on this in the weeks ahead, but you can
find out all the current details and sign up
on this page over on HTF.
Now then... we've been getting a lot of e-mails today about Toshiba
CEO Atsutoshi Nishida's recent
to The Wall Street Journal. Specifically, one of the
things he said (that readers have been asking us about) was this:
"What people don't realize is that
Hollywood studios are going to release new titles not just for
Blu-ray but for standard DVDs as well, and there are a far greater
number of current-generation DVD players out there. If you watch
standard DVDs on our players, the images are of very high quality
because they include an "upconverting" feature. And we're
going to improve this even more, so that consumers won't be able to
tell the difference from HD DVD images. The players would be much
cheaper than Blu-ray players too. Next-generation DVD players are in
a much weaker position than when standard DVD players were first
For the record, this idea that upconverted standard DVD video
quality will EVER look as good as true high-definition video is
complete hogwash. Upconverting basically takes 480p video and
mathematically adds scan lines to increase the effective output
resolution to 1080p. The problem is that this process effectively
magnifies the original video image. So if the 480p video has warts
or defects (whether on the original film print or compression
artifacting in the DVD master), those are going to be even more
noticeable when upconverted. It's the old "garbage in, garbage
out" principle. On the other hand, many of the new transfers
being done for true high-definition releases on Blu-ray (and for a
time HD-DVD) are actually being done at 2K or even 4K or higher
resolution, and then they're downconverted to 1080p. That allows the
maximum possible image detail to be included in the signal. An
upconverted 480p DVD is NEVER going to be able to compete with that.
That's not to say that upconverted DVDs may not be good enough for
some consumers, but this idea that you won't be able to tell the
difference is utter nonsense. Anyone who becomes interested in
high-def, and there are more and more such consumers all the time,
will see right through this.
We've gotten another question today from a few readers (albeit in
various differently worded forms): Is there
any possibility that Toshiba is negotiating with Paramount to stick
with standard DVD and NOT support Blu-ray Disc?
The answer is no. We've confirmed that Paramount has MANY Blu-ray
Disc titles already in the works, and we expect the first official
announcements very soon.
Finally today, we've just heard back from Universal - Atonement
WILL be the studio's last HD-DVD release on 3/18. All HD-DVD's
previously announced for release after that date are cancelled. The
studio is still firming up its Blu-ray slate and will be making
announcements in the next few weeks.
Back with a new column from Barrie tomorrow. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
3/4/08 - 12:45 PM PST)
Paramount has just officially reconfirmed that There
Will Be Blood will be released on DVD on 4/8. The studio
had originally set the DVD and HD-DVD versions for release on 4/8,
but then the title was pulled from the Paramount Home Entertainment
online press database. Just today, however, it's been added back
into the system in the following configurations: single-disc
widescreen DVD, 2-disc widescreen Collector's
Edition DVD and 2-disc Collector's
Edition "HD". Since the studio has already
confirmed that today's HD-DVD releases (Things
We Lost in the Fire and Into
the Wild) are its last, the new "HD" listing
for There Will Be Blood can
mean only one of two things: Either it's the studio's first newly
announced Blu-ray (possible, but we think somewhat unlikely), or
this is simply error - an HD-DVD title that hasn't yet been cleaned
out of the database. When I tried contacting the studio this
morning, per usual these past few weeks, I was unable to speak with
anyone who could confirm anything either way. We'll keep trying, but
in the meantime, you CAN at least expect the DVDs on 4/8. And
according to what little detail was available on the press site, the
2-disc Collector's Edition DVD
will include some 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes, at least 3
featurettes (The Story of Petroleum,
There Will Be Blood - Pics, Research, Etc
and Dailies Gone Wild),
trailers and more. Here's the cover art for both DVD versions (the
2-disc version is on the left)...
As you can see, we also thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at the
Blu-ray Disc cover art for Fox's Patton,
due in stores on 6/3.
Speaking of high-def, there's word from various sources (including
Business) that Atonement
may be Universal's last HD-DVD release, though the studio doesn't
seem to be commenting officially on the record today.
By the way, Russell has checked in with our usual weekly update of
DVD Cover Art section. As always, there's tons of new art
and Amazon pre-order links to check out, and again a portion of
ANYTHING you pre-order after clicking through our links to the
online retailer goes to support our work here at The
Bits. That includes DVDs, but also music, books,
hardware, games - anything. We certainly do appreciate your support.
Finally this afternoon, we've updated our original
Top 100 Films on DVD list to reflect that fact that The
Jazz Singer is now out on DVD. That leaves only The
African Queen officially unreleased in Region 1 in an
authorized DVD edition. And yes, we do know that the list is out of
date. We'll try to update it soon.
(LATE UPDATE -
3/3/08 - 4:30 PM PST)
Here's a quick update: We've just been informed by Warner Home
Video that the Dirty Harry: Ultimate
Collection Boxset will NOT be released on HD-DVD format
on 6/3 as we originally reported earlier today. The title IS still
listed in the studio's online press database, but we've officially
confirmed this afternoon with WHV's VP for Catalog Publicity &
Promotion, Ronnee Sass, that it's an error. There will be no Dirty
Harry on HD-DVD. Just FYI. Sorry for the confusion.
(LATE UPDATE -
3/3/08 - 1:45 PM PST)
So... remember those new Indiana Jones
DVD special editions we first mentioned were coming
on 2/19? Well, they're finally official.
has just made the official announcement (also available
- all three titles are due on 5/13 as we anticipated. This is the
first time these three films have been made available on DVD
individually (SRP $26.98 each), and they will have new bonus
content. You'll also be able to buy an
Jones: The Adventure Collection box set of all three (SRP
$59.98). No word yet on a Blu-ray Disc release (we suspect only the
new film will arrive on Blu-ray this year, but you never know -
we'll try to confirm). Here are the details...
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost
Ark: Special Edition will feature anamorphic widescreen
video, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) and 2.0 (French, Spanish) audio,
An Introduction by Steven Spielberg &
George Lucas, 2 featurettes (Indiana
Jones: An Appreciation and The
Melting Face), a storyboard sequence for The
Well of Souls scene, 4 image galleries (Illustrations
& Props, Production
Photographs & Portraits, Effects/ILM
and Marketing) and the game
trailer and demo for LEGO Indiana Jones:
The Original Adventures.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom:
Special Edition will also feature anamorphic widescreen
video, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) and 2.0 (French,
Spanish) audio, An Introduction by Steven
Spielberg & George Lucas, 2 featurettes (Creepy
Crawlies and Locations),
a storyboard sequence for The Mine Cart
Chase, 4 image galleries (Illustrations
& Props, Production
Photographs & Portraits, Effects/ILM
and Marketing) and the game
trailer and demo for LEGO Indiana Jones:
The Original Adventures.
Finally, Indiana Jones and the Last
Crusade: Special Edition will also feature anamorphic
widescreen video, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) and 2.0
(French, Spanish) audio, An Introduction
by Steven Spielberg & George Lucas, 2 featurettes (The
Women: The American Film Institute Tribute and Friends
and Enemies), a storyboard sequence for The
Opening Sequence, 4 image galleries (Illustrations
& Props, Production
Photographs & Portraits, Effects/ILM
and Marketing) and the game
trailer and demo for LEGO Indiana Jones:
The Original Adventures.
That AFI thing was pretty cool (I was fortunate enough to attend
the event back in 2003 - you can read my coverage and see a picture
It featured a reunion and discussion with Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw
and Alison Doody, and Harrison Ford himself showed up at the end IN
COSTUME as Indy. This was done to promote the original box set DVD
release of the films. It should be very cool to see again on disc.
Here's a look at the DVD cover art for all three individual
One other note this afternoon: Our
Bits Power Buy deal with DocDVD
on Pioneer's Elite Pro-150 Kuro plasma is almost over. JUST TWO
UNITS are left. So act fast if you're interested.
for the details.
(EARLY UPDATE -
3/3/08 - 12:15 PM PST)
Welcome to March, folks. As always, the months do fly by...
In announcement news today, Sony has set First
Sunday for DVD and Blu-ray release on 5/6, with The
Cottage and the DVD and Blu-ray release of Youth
Without Youth following on 5/13.
Buena Vista has set The Diving Bell and
the Butterfly for release on DVD on 4/29 (SRP $29.99).
Extras will include audio commentary with director Julian Schnabel,
2 featurettes (Submerged: A Look Inside
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and A
Cinematic Vision) and the Charlie
Rose interview with Schnabel. And in a very special
Easter egg appearance, about halfway through Schnabel's commentary,
Sean Young pops in to heckle him. No, I'm just kidding about that
Fox has also set A Good Man Is Hard to
Find for 5/6, with Cover
and Nora's Hair Salon 2
following on 5/13. And look for a Casino
Royale: 40th Anniversary Edition and a City
Slickers: Collector's Edition from Fox on 6/3, followed
by Futurama: Beast with a Billion Backs
on 6/24. Expect the studio to announce more details shortly.
Meanwhile, Warner seems to be re-promoting Terminator
3: Rise of the Machines on Blu-ray on 3/4, so one wonders
if it's the new corrected 1080p version (the original version was
1080i - we'll try to find out). Warner has set the Dirty
Harry: Ultimate Collection Boxset for release on DVD,
Blu-ray AND HD-DVD on 6/3, which would seem to make it the studio's
last HD-DVD day-and-date title. [Editor's
Note: Turns out this was an error in the studio's press site
database - Dirty Harry will NOT be available on HD-DVD.
We've just officially confirmed that this afternoon with WHV's VP
for Catalog Publicity & Promotion, Ronnee Sass.]
And New Line (via Warner) has set The
Orphanage (presented by Guillermo del Toro, directed by
J. A. Bayona) for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 4/22. Extras
will include 3 featurettes (When Laura
Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage, Horror
in the Unknown: Make-Up and Rehearsal
Studio), video segments about the filmmakers, still
galleries and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray will also include
Spanish DTS-MA 7.1 audio, with English subtitles.
Around the Net this afternoon,
Wall Street Journal has a story up on what Toshiba plans
to do in the wake of the failure of HD-DVD. In an interview with the
newspaper, CEO Atsutoshi Nishida offers both honesty and spin.
You'll have to decide which is which. Though if you need help,
Sweeting's got it for you over at Content
And here's more cover art: Universal's Atonement
(3/18) and Friday Night Lights: The
Second Season (4/22), Buena Vista/Miramax's The
Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Sony's Jesse
Stone: Sea Change (available now - that's for you, Mom)
and Fox's Alien vs. Predator: Requiem -
Extreme Unrated Set and Juno
(both 4/15) on Blu-ray Disc...
(LATE UPDATE -
2/29/08 - 7 PM PST)
As promised, we've checked in this evening to deliver you an
in-depth review of Universal's new
Galactica: Season Three on DVD, which hits stores on 3/18,
just two weeks before the debut of the show's fourth and final
season on Sci-Fi. Rest assured, fans (and I am most definitely one)
will not be disappointed by this 6-disc set. Enjoy.
We've got just a couple more quick news items for you today. First,
Media is reporting that Genius Products and The Weinstein
Company will deliver their next Miriam Collection title, The
Fall of the Roman Empire, to DVD on 4/29. Look for a
lavish 3-disc set, due to include audio commentary by Bill Bronston
(son of producer Samuel Bronston) and film expert Mel Martin, a
reproduction of the original 1964 souvenir program, examination of
the real fall of the Roman Empire, an elaborate behind-the-scenes
documentary, 5 Encyclopedia Britannica
featurettes on the Roman Empire and a set of 6 color production
stills. There's no word yet on a Blu-ray version.
has just announced a disc replacement program for Disc One of
the He-Man and the Masters of the
Universe: Volume One set (the 2002 series), which has an
authoring problem. You can call 866-641-3472 or e-mail
[email protected] to
arrange an exchange (be sure to include or tell them your name,
mailing address, daytime telephone number and the store where you
purchased the set). As a bonus, they'll send you an exclusive art
card with the replacement disc for your troubles
Finally today, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge
passing of writer and conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr.,
who died on Wednesday at the age of 82. Buckley founded the National
Review and wrote hundreds of books and columns over the
years. I don't necessarily share his politics and certainly didn't
agree with many of the things he said, but I've always admired those
figures who rise above the usual partisanship to articulate their
views with good humor and logical, well-reasoned arguments. He was
the longtime host of Firing Line
and more recently was a frequent guest on the
Rose show, which I seldom miss, and I've always enjoyed
listening to the two of them discuss the issues of the day. Like Art
Buchwald, who also passed away recently, Buckley was an original and
an absolutely fascinating thinker, and I wish there were more
political figures on both sides of the isle in his mold. He will
surely be missed.
Okay, everyone have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday. Stay
(EARLY UPDATE -
2/29/08 - 12:45 PM PST)
So what do you know? It's Leap Year Day. Someone said Happy Leap
Year Day to me this morning, and threw me for a loop. Imagine a day
that only exists once every four years. Go figure.
Okay... we've got reviews coming, never fear. Todd's working on
some, the rest of the guys are working on some. Mine is taking a
little longer than expected, because it's a hefty set that showed up
on my doorstep rather unexpectedly the other day, but was a very
nice surprise: Universal's Battlestar
Galactica: Season Three. It's six discs of pure awesome,
with great picture and sound quality, about an hour of deleted
scenes, Ron Moore's podcast commentaries for every episode and even
a special version of the episode Unfinished
Business with 25 minutes of additional footage. You also
get all the Resistance
webisodes too (one of the things that helped touch off the recently
resolved writers' strike) as well as lots of behind-the-scenes
featurettes. It's taking me a while to go through all this material
(there's 15 hours of extras in all), but I should have the full
review up by the end of the day.
One quick but MAJOR bit of Hollywood news this afternoon: New Line
is about to officially be folded into Warner Bros., though the
studio will continue to exist as its own separate development,
production, marketing and distribution entity. But all
decision-making on the business end will be coordinated with Warner.
It sounds like some New Line employees will be absorbed by Warner
but many others will lose their jobs. First up on the pink slip list
are New Line co-chairmen Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne. You can
at The Hollywood Reporter.
And in announcement news today, Universal has just set the Get
Smart feature film The Nude
Bomb for release on DVD on 6/17 (SRP $19.98). No word yet
on extras if any. Universal has also set a Xanadu:
Magical Music Edition for release on 6/24 (SRP also
$19.98). Extras will include the Going
Back to Xanadu featurette and the film's theatrical
trailer, along with the complete soundtrack on CD. The studio has
also announced that it's lowering the SRP on all of its previous
HD-DVD releases by about $10 to $15 each on 3/4, presumably to clear
(LATE UPDATE -
2/28/08 - 5:15 PM PST)
Boy, it never fails. I sit down to write a few reviews, and what
happens? More breaking news.
It seems we're finally starting to get a little bit more of a sense
of what Paramount and DreamWorks Animation are up to with regards to
their high-def release plans. Paramount has just confirmed that Into
the Wild and Things We Lost in
the Fire (both due next week on 3/4) will be the last
HD-DVD format releases from either studio. DreamWorks Animation's
Bee Movie (originally due
3/11) has been cancelled on HD-DVD, along with the HD-DVD versions
of Sweeney Todd (originally
set for 4/1), There Will Be Blood
(originally 4/8), The Kite Runner
and The Jack Ryan Collection
(both previously announced for 4/25). All new release titles are now
officially due on DVD only for the time being, though industry
sources are telling us here at The Bits
that Blu-ray versions are soon to be announced. You can read more on
(EARLY UPDATE -
2/28/08 - 11:30 AM PST)
Just a quick note: We're working on several new disc reviews for
you - DVDs and at least one Blu-ray - and we'll have the first few
of them up for you later this afternoon. So be sure to check back
Around the Net, both
Agenda are reporting on the Katzenberg comments from
Tuesday in stories that are worth checking out.
And in announcements this morning, Fox has set the Fox
Western Classics Collection for release on 5/13, due to
include The Garden of Evil,
Rawhide and The
Warner has announced the DVD release of Prehistoric
Earth (for the BBC) and Strange
Days on Planet Earth 2 (for National Geographic) on 6/3,
followed by NBA Bloopers Volume 1
on 6/10 and Illicit (also for
National Geographic) on 6/17. Warner has also set the HD-DVD release
of Dirty Harry for 6/3. Expect
the DVD and Blu-ray versions about three weeks earlier (details to
Meanwhile, Sony will release the new Raisin
in the Sun TV movie on 5/6.
And Universal will release Friday Night
Lights: The Second Season on 4/22 (SRP $29.98 - 4 discs -
extras include audio commentary on 3 episodes, deleted scenes and a
featurette on the Pasley Festival panel discussion with the cast and
crew), Curious George: Takes a Vacation
and Discovers New Things on 5/13 and James
Stewart: The Western Collection on 5/20 (SRP $39.98 -
includes Destry Rides Again,
Winchester '73, Bend
of the River, The Far Country,
The Night Passage and The
Back later this afternoon with those reviews. Stay tuned...
You know.... DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is one of
those guys who just makes you scratch your head and wonder. Back in
March of 2007, he had
to say on the subject of high-def discs to Variety:
"Blu-ray and HD-DVD are a niche
business. They're not going to become the next platform. I think for
the general consumer, there is not a big enough delta between the
standard DVD in terms of where it is today and the next generation."
But then in August, his company takes a widely reported $100 million
offer from Toshiba to abandon Blu-ray and go HD-DVD exclusive.
Paramount is said to have accepted $50 million to do the same.
Bob Iger called foul to the Hollywood Reporter,
saying: "Those studios are largely
taking easy money, and it will cost them in the future."
At the time,
basically side-stepped the payment issue by suggesting that
the Blu-ray studios were compensated for their support of that
format too: "It's somewhat disingenuous
for other companies to suggest that they were not compensated for
Iger proceeded to deny outright at an investor's conference:
"We haven't taken any money because we
think it's far and away the best business. I think it's a foregone
conclusion about which [format] will win." Turns out
Iger was right. DreamWorks Animation proceeded to release only a
handful of HD-DVD exclusive titles, none of which had much of an
impact on Blu-ray's software sales momentum. Then Warner went Blu at
CES. Every major video industry retailer went Blu within a month
thereafter. Microsoft bailed on HD-DVD. Finally
officially threw in the towel on the HD-DVD format a little
over a week ago, and both Universal and Paramount have announced
their intention to support Blu-ray in the near future.
But now, just yesterday,
has reportedly said that his company is still locked into its
deal to distribute movies on HD-DVD: "We
have a partnership with Toshiba and have an obligation to see this
through. As you know, we have been well-compensated for our support.
It really is in their court at this point to really declare what the
next step will be. We're poised either way to jump into the
marketplace when the conditions are right to do so."
Either Katzenberg is COMPLETELY out of touch with reality... and
DreamWorks Animation has the worst contract lawyers in Hollywood...
or he's posturing for some reason. So what's really going on here?
Here's our take: He's posturing. Take this as VERY Rumor
Mill-worthy, but here's what our industry sources are
suggesting is happening behind-the-scenes. Very reliable sources are
telling us that DreamWorks Animation is currently authoring and
replicating multiple new titles on the Blu-ray format for release in
the coming months, including Bee Movie.
They're also working on an official announcement of Blu-ray support.
So why the new comments from Katzenberg? Well, our sources are
hinting that as of the day Toshiba threw in the towel, DreamWorks
Animation and Paramount hadn't yet been paid the full $150 million
they were promised for abandoning Blu-ray and supporting HD-DVD
exclusively (it's generally standard practice in a deal like this
for payments to be made in installments over the life of the deal,
as various contractual milestones are reached). Both studios are
reportedly negotiating with Toshiba as to just how much of the still
unpaid amount they'll receive for having remained loyal to the end.
That's why neither studio has officially announced new Blu-ray
titles yet, and that's why Katzenberg is still talking about loyalty
to Toshiba. Having taken a big PR hit with Blu-ray fans for
abandoning the format last year, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount
want to at least get as much of the promised payment from Toshiba
too. As soon as this issue is sorted out however - and our sources
say all parties are close to agreeing on a final amount - you'll see
both Paramount and DreamWorks Animation start announcing new Blu-ray
Anyway, with a little luck, all this confusion will be cleared up
in the next few weeks. So just be patient in the meantime. Hey,
we've been saying all along that this format war was all about the
benjamins. It's perhaps only fitting that the end of it is all about
Well... we've gotten a bit swamped the last couple days with
behind-the-scenes business here at the site. So we're going to just
offer a quick rundown of the latest announcements and other news
while we try to wrap it all up.
First though, our own Russell Hammond has again updated the
DVD Cover Art section with all kinds of new DVD and
Blu-ray Disc cover art, so do check it out. As always, anything you
order from Amazon through our links supports our work here at The
Bits and we greatly appreciate it.
Also today, we've kicked off FOUR new
here at the site, giving each of you the chance to take home copies
of Warner's It's
the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown,
Mirren at the BBC,
Bunny is Coming to Town,
Season Eight and
Season Eight, VH-1's
Volume 3, Lionsgate's
Point and also
Plays the Classics for the kids. Entries will be accepted
until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, March 9th. Click on the links to get
started and good luck!
And here's something for you Battlestar
Galactica fans before we get to the regular news today:
has a VERY cool 5-minute preview of the upcoming final season
of the show (which starts on SciFi in April). The preview was
apparently shown in Canada on the Space channel.
BEWARE OF SPOILERS.
Okay... 20th Century Fox has just officially announced a trio of
new DVD releases due on 5/20, including If
It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, What
Did You Do in the War, Daddy? and The
Night They Raided Minsky's. The studio also has The
Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream due on 4/1, with The
Big Trail: Fox Grandeur Special Edition following on
Universal has set The Land Before Time:
Through the Eyes of a Spiketail for DVD release on 5/13,
with The Jamie Foxx Film Collection
following on 6/3. The collection (SRP $39.98) will include the
2-disc version of Ray, an
exclusive Ray bonus disc, the
Miami Vice: Unrated Director's Edition,
The Kingdom: Deluxe Edition,
an exclusive bonus disc for The Kingdom,
the Jarhead: Collector's Edition
and an exclusive Jarhead bonus
Meanwhile, Warner has set One Missed
Call for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 4/22, with the
DVD/HD-DVD Combo version following on 5/13.
Warner and National Geographic will also offer the excellent
Degrees Could Change the World documentary on Blu-ray Disc
as an Amazon.com exclusive on 4/22 for just $19.95 (it will be more
widely available this fall).
Buena Vista has finally revealed it's 8th wave of Walt
Disney Treasures titles, due on 11/11. They'll include
Chronological Donald: Volume 4 and the long awaited Dr.
Syn, Alias the Scarecrow. Each will be a 2-disc set in
metal tin packaging and will be available for a limited time (SRP
$32.99 each). Destino is an
animated film that began in 1946 as a collaboration between Walt
Disney and artist Salvador Dali, but was never finished. It was
recently rediscovered by Roy Disney, who saw to it that it was
Upcoming Blu-ray titles from BVHE will include the Coyote
Ugly: Double Shot Edition, Hidalgo
and Unbreakable in April, and
the recently announced National Treasure
and National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Meanwhile, Paramount has started to ship previously-released
Blu-ray titles back into stores - titles that were released before
the studio flipped briefly to HD-DVD, like the Mission:
Impossible films, Babel,
Aeon Flux, Italian
Job, Rattle and Hum,
etc. You can read more
I've actually seen a few of these on store shelves in the last
couple days myself, so they're definitely out there.
to Home Media, Tai Seng has cancelled its most
recently announced HD-DVD release, Dragon
Tiger Gate, and will be releasing a Blu-ray version
instead on 5/27.
has announced officially that its first profile 2.0 ready
Blu-ray players will be released later this year. Each will include
profile 1.1 "Bonus Play" support, an Ethernet connection
and a USB port for external storage. The BDP-S350 ($400) will be
available this summer and will be firmware updatable to profile
2.0/BD-Live later in the year. The BDP-S550 ($500) will follow in
the fall, and will ship with profile 2.0/BD-Live support installed.
FYI, sources at Panasonic have also told us that their first profile
2.0 player, the BD-50, is due to arrive in stores in May or June.
Well... as expected, the Oscars were the usual boring and lengthy
affair. There weren't too many surprises. I was pleased to see the
Coen Brothers win for No Country for Old
Men - a great film, though probably not to everyone's
taste. I was also glad Daniel Day-Lewis got the Best Actor nod for
his role in There Will Be Blood.
Diablo Cody gave a nice speech. The best moment of the night
however, at least in my book, was that not only did Glen Hansard and
Markéta Irglová win for Best Song, the producer had
host Jon Stewart bring Markéta back out on stage after the
commercial break to finish her speech, because the music played her
off the first time out. Has that EVER happened before, where a
winner gets to come out a second time to say their piece? That was a
very classy moment (you can watch it
Those kids are just too cute. Fair play to those who dare to dream
indeed. You've just gotta love it when Hollywood outsiders upstage
things at the Oscars. Anyway,
here for a list of all the Oscar winners.
In other news this morning, Microsoft has announced that it's
discontinuing the HD-DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360. No word yet
on whether the company will eventually release a Blu-ray add-on
drive, but you can bet they're least planning one in case the format
really takes off. You can read more
at Home Media.
On the announcement front today, Fox has set Cover
for release on 5/13. The Shirley Temple
Collection: Volume 6 has also been officially announced
for release on 4/22, and will include Young
and John Ford's Wee Willie Winkie.
Meanwhile, Sony has set The Devil's Own
for Blu-ray release on 5/6, along with DVD and Blu-ray versions of
Saawariya and the DVD release
of Bewitched: The Complete Sixth Season
Also, Universal has announced the DVD and HD-DVD release of the
Best Picture nominated film Atonement
on 3/18. The DVD will be available in two versions - full frame and
anamorphic widescreen (SRP $29.98 each). Extras will include audio
commentary by director Joe Wright, deleted scenes with commentary by
Wright and 2 featurettes (Bringing the
Past to Life: The Making of Atonement and From
Novel to Screen: Adapting a Classic). The HD-DVD/DVD
combo version will sell for SRP $39.98. No word yet on whether it
will carry additional extras, or when a Blu-ray edition might be
Finally today, Criterion has just announced a new batch of DVD
releases for May, including Louis Malle's The
Lovers (Cat #429) and The Fire
Within (#430), as well as the 1940 classic The
Thief of Bagdad (#431). The latter will be a 2-disc set,
complete with a new restored transfer, two audio commentaries (one
by directors Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, and one with
film and music historian Bruce Eder), new video interviews with
special-effects experts Ray Harryhausen, Dennis Muren and Craig
Barron, producer Alexander Korda's 1940 propaganda film The
Lion Has Wings shot during the making of The
Thief of Bagdad, excerpts from codirector Michael
Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography, music selections by
composer Miklos Rózsa not used in the final film, a stills
gallery featuring rare Dufaycolor images of the film's production,
the theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring new essays by film
scholars Andrew Moor and Ian Christie. Here's a look at cover art
for all three Criterion titles...
More later, so stay tuned...
Just a quick reminder... the Oscars are on TV tonight for those who
care about such things. Jon Stewart is hosting and he's always good
for a laugh or two. Plus, I think Glen Hansard and Markéta
Irglová are performing the song Falling
Slowly live during the show - it's from the film Once
and it's nominated for Best Song. Hope it wins. Once
is an amazing little movie by the way. I highly recommend it. You
Jahnke's review of the DVD here.
Also, it seems that Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
and Frank Spotnitz were up at WonderCon in Frisco this weekend to
preview the teaser trailer for The
X-Files 2 (due in theaters on 7/25). Nice!
has a report up on their panel, and YouTube has shaky-cam
video of the trailer
I don't know how long it will be up until it gets yanked, but I hope
Fox debuts a better quality version soon. Tell you what... of all
the great genre films coming this year, I think I'm as excited for
this one as any of them. X-Files 2,
Indy 4, Speed
Racer, The Dark Knight,
Quantum of Solace, Harry
Potter 6... should be a fun year. Sort of like 1982 all
over again. It's just too bad Star Trek
got pushed to 2009.
Anyway, enjoy and see you in the morning!
First up today, we want to take a moment to acknowledge
passing of Ben Chapman. If you don't recognize that name,
perhaps you'll know him better as the character he played: The
legendary Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ben passed away yesterday
after a short illness, and he'll be missed.
In industry news today, it seems as if Genius Products might
already be moving toward eventual Blu-ray Disc releases. According
to our friend
Alt over at Video Business, they hinted as much this
past weekend at a Genius investors conference in Dana Point,
CA. Check out her column for the details.
On the announcement front, Buena Vista has just revealed that the
National Treasure: Collector's Edition
will street on Blu-ray Disc on 5/20 (SRP $34.99). The disc will
include: "exclusive interactive bonus
material including Mission History, a look inside the
Declaration of Independence, with more than 70 minutes of new video
content, along with never before seen audio commentary by Director
Jon Turteltaub and Actor Justin Bartha. Additionally, hours of bonus
features from the standard definition release are also included,
allowing audiences to uncover deleted scenes, an alternate ending,
behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes and more." Audio
will be PCM 5.1. The film is obviously already available on DVD.
That same day, you'll also get National
Treasure: Book of Secrets. There will be a single-disc
DVD (SRP $29.99), as well as a 2-Disc
Gold Collector's Edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc (both
$34.99 each). DVD extras will include audio commentary with director
Jon Turteltaub and actor Jon Voight, deleted scenes, The
Treasure Reel bloopers and outtakes, 8 featurettes (Secrets
of a Sequel, The Book of
Secrets: On Location, Street
Stunts: Creating the London Chase, Inside
the Library of Congress, Underground
Action, Cover Story: Crafting
the Presidents Book, Evolution
of a Golden City and Knights
of the Golden Circle) and Easter eggs. The Blu-ray will
include all that and add the Book of
History: The Fact and Fiction of NT2 trivia game, as well
as two more deleted scenes.
Meanwhile, Fox is trying to keep interest in 24
alive in the absence of new episodes with the 5/20 DVD release of
the 24: Season One - Special Edition
(SRP $59.98). The set will include "all
24 one-hour episodes and is packed with over three hours of
never-before-seen special features including a Season Seven
trailer, over 25 deleted and extended scenes, two all-new
behind-the-scenes featurettes and more. Additionally the set will be
available in collectible metal tin packaging that features special
introductory letters from both series co-creators on their
inspiration and challenges working on this groundbreaking show."
Now what would be REALLY cool was if this were coming to Blu-ray as
well. I'm just saying.
Classic animation fans will be happy to learn that Warner is
delivering Popeye the Sailor: Volume Two
- 1938-1940 on DVD on 6/17 (SRP $34.98). The 2-disc set
will include 31 classic shorts.
For those of you wondering when Paramount is going to be announcing
more details about their Blu-ray plans, the answer is soon. We've
heard from a few replication and retail sources now that the studio
has a number of new and catalog BD titles already in the works. We
would expect to start seeing announcements in the next couple of
weeks. On a related note, the studio has just pulled the HD-DVD
listings off their press website (though the already announced
titles are still in the database). So again we expect Blu-ray
listings to be added soon, and we'll bring you all the official
details as they come in.
A quick word of advice to Paramount (and CBS): You guys REALLY need
to say something about what you plan to do with Star
Trek: The Original Series - Remastered on Blu-ray, and
soon. We're getting TONS of e-mails from frustrated Trekkies, some
of whom spent a lot of money on the HD-DVD Combo version of Season
One, and who are now trying to figure out what they're
going to do.
International has a special upgrade offer for their new Digital
Video Essentials: HD Basics disc, coming soon on both
Blu-ray and HD-DVD. The offer is just $9.95 for the new disc
extended to anyone who already has the current HD-DVD version of
Digital Video Essentials.
We've got a couple other interesting articles we wanted to share
with you from around the Net today...
New York Times has a editorial by David Pogue on the
reality of physical discs vs. downloading... and why the latter is
probably farther away from mass market than most people think. As
part of the piece, he looks at each of the different downloading
services available today and evaluates each.
Media has a good piece on Ridley Scott's American Gangster,
featuring comments from the director himself. I'm just hoping
Universal fast-tracks this title on Blu-ray, because the DVD and
HD-DVD versions were a mess. Is it too much to ask for a single
release with both versions of the film in 1080p plus ALL the extras?
Media also has a report on the special screening event
Image and Criterion held up at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian
Theater earlier this week to commemorate the new remastered DVD
release of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last
Emperor. I was originally scheduled to attend and was
really looking forward to it, but this damn flu bug has me good. I'd
have been coughing all the way through, and there's nothing I hate
more than watching a movie with some guy coughing his lungs up in
the next row. Anyway, special thanks to Image's Garrett Lee and
Criterion's Peter Becker, and everyone else involved for putting on
what looked to be a fun event, not to mention the great work on the
film and disc. I'm hoping to review the DVD release next week.
Speaking of Home Media, their
latest print issue (due next week -
online now) as you might expect features extensive coverage
off the end of the format war. As it happens, that war has ended the
very week Home Media planned
to release a special It's Blu
insert supplement (you'll find it included with both the print and
digital versions). Given how long I've been covering DVD and now
high-def media, T.K. Arnold asked me to contribute an editorial
column for the supplement:
the Blogosphere: The Inevitability of Blu-ray. You'll find
it on page 14 of It's Blu
(also included is a column by Scott Hettrick, and Arnold has
something to say in the regular HMR
issue as well). I hope you'll find my contribution interesting, so
do check it out and let
me know what you think.
Finally, we'll leave you this week with more new cover art. Here's
Fox's 24: Season One - Special Edition,
Warner's Popeye the Sailor: Volume Two -
1938-1940 and CBS and Paramount's The
4400: The Fourth Season (5/6)...
We'll be back on Monday (and all next week) with lots of new DVD
and Blu-ray Disc reviews. So have a great weekend in the meantime,
and we'll see you then!
(LATE UPDATE - 2/21/08
- 3:30 PM PST)
Okay, I'm trying to fight off a case of this nasty flu bug that's
going around today. That's why the Paramount news was up a little
later than normal today - I was trying to get a little extra sleep
this morning. But that's how it usually goes. The one day I sleep
in, THAT'S when news breaks. Go figure.
Anyway, there are a number of interesting articles and editorials
around the Net today on the end of the format war, the death of
HD-DVD and what it all means for consumers and the industry. We
wanted to link to a few of them:
Globe and Mail up in Toronto has a story on Sony CEO
Howard Stringer that's worth a look.
News has an interesting interview today with a couple of
industry analysts on what this all means for consumers. To their
comments, I would only add that I think Blu-ray prices ARE going to
drop even without pressure from HD-DVD, as we head into the
holidays. Having now won the format war, the members of the Blu-ray
camp are going to work very hard to try to move the format into the
mainstream, and retailers are going to be eager to help them grow
the high-def disc business. All this means you'll see MAJOR
promotional pushes, and hardware and software deals in the 3rd and
4th quarters of this year. With the FCC-mandated transition to all
digital broadcasting looming early next year, LOTS of consumers are
going to be out looking at new HDTVs, and just as we started to see
last year, I'm betting manufacturers are going to be eager to offer
them HDTV/Blu-ray player combo deals. I also don't think that
downloading is going to really encroach on physical media for a
while yet, and even when it does, it's going to have a bigger impact
on rentals than sales of physical discs. More on that in a future
Speaking of physical discs having an impact,
a bit of whimsy: A fire chief in Walterboro, South Carolina
had his life saved from a stray bullet by a DVD disc he was carrying
in his jacket pocket. You can read more
as well. I'll bet HE'S glad we haven't moved into an all-download
world yet. ;)
Finally, here's a very good editorial piece over at Roughly
Drafted. It's called Lessons
from the Death of HD-DVD. The author looks back at the
history of this format war, and what was going on behind-the-scenes
at Sony, Toshiba, Microsoft and elsewhere in the industry, and talks
about the motivations each company had for their actions, and the
larger industry context and dynamics in which the war took place.
One of the things I love about this piece is that it addresses in
some detail what Microsoft in particular was up to: What they really
wanted and why they were so eager to back HD-DVD.
Unlike so many of the most ardent supporters of either side, I
don't have any particularly dislike for Microsoft or love of Sony. I
really could care less about such things - I just love watching
great movies in great quality. I'm a Vista user, and of all the
next-gen game systems out there, I really dig the Xbox 360. I don't
even have a PS3. But I'll tell you, I've been suspicious of
Microsoft's motivations in this format war for a while now, based on
reports from our many industry sources, and my own personal
experiences with Microsoft's HD-DVD "evangelism" team.
This piece fleshes out and supports (from another perspective) MANY
of the things we've been saying for a while now, including the fact
that it was Microsoft that convinced Toshiba to continue backing
HD-DVD when Tosh was ready to give up back in 2005 (before these
formats actually launched), and also that Microsoft campaigned on
behalf of HD-DVD to prolong the format war itself. It's no
coincidence that right after Warner announced they were backing
Blu-ray at CES,
Gates started shifting the focus away from HD-DVD toward
downloading. And it's also no coincidence that since CES, Microsoft
- which had been the most vocal supporter of HD-DVD up until that
time - hadn't said much else about HD-DVD
their statement on Monday that the format's failure wouldn't
impact their Xbox 360 business.
One of the big reasons we here at The
Digital Bits decided to finally officially back Blu-ray
in June of 2007, was that we'd noticed that certain folks in the
HD-DVD camp were saying things that made no logical sense to us,
that were contrary to EVERYTHING we'd come to know about the home
video business in more than a decade of working in and interacting
with it, and that occasionally we even believed to be blatantly
false. We also noticed that much of this misinformation was being
spread to folks online in the various discussion forums and groups,
who didn't have the perspective, experience and industry contacts to
KNOW it was suspect, and these folks were in turn spreading it
elsewhere online. This happened repeatedly. It was a deliberate
effort to use enthusiasts to fight corporate PR battles, and finally
we simply couldn't sit on the sidelines anymore and let it continue
unchallenged. We've gotten pretty good over the years at sniffing
out marketing spin and PR BS. And some of the stuff that was spread
around was really despicable, even to the point of personal smears.
We've never seen anything like it. Even back in the DVD vs. Divx
days, it NEVER got as nasty online as it did with HD-DVD vs.
Blu-ray. And certain parties were deliberately fueling the fire.
Drafted story is an absolutely recommended read, even
though I expect there will be some folks out there that simply won't
believe it. We certainly can't (and don't) vouch for everything in
the piece, as our area of expertise primarily lies in the film and
home video realms - not the computer or gaming industries. And the
site does seem to have an overall anti-Microsoft bent which we can't
(and don't) endorse. But I can say that in the particular terms of
what was going on behind-the-scenes in this format war, the author's
perspective definitely jives with what we ourselves have seen and
experienced. For better or worse, we believe Microsoft used this
format war to push its own agenda, and it's been home theater and
film enthusiasts - both early adopters and those waiting on the
sidelines for this whole big confusing mess to end - that have
suffered the consequences. We believe that without Microsoft's
influence (as evidenced in
Business Week story from 2005), Toshiba and Sony would
likely have been able to work out their differences in this format
war, under pressure from Hollywood and retailers, just as they did
back during the development of standard DVD (when Sony and Philips
abandoned their own MultiMedia Compact Disc format to get behind
Toshiba's SuperDensity Disc, which became the basis for DVD). Had
that happened, there wouldn't have been a format war at all. Which
means that this format war DIDN'T have to happen. And as a website
long concerned with providing our readers with the best advice we
can, making sure they get the best value for their DVD (and
high-def) dollar and protecting them from begin taken advantage of,
this really pisses us off. So if you want to know what really put
the bees in OUR particular bonnet in this format war, here you go.
We're certainly glad it's all finally over. It's just a shame that
so many enthusiasts got shafted in the process.
As one final bit of icing on the cake, we offer this:
shinny new MSNBC story posted just yesterday in which the
reporter cautions readers to "hit the pause button" on the
decision to buy Blu-ray, proceeds to offer up all the same
cautionary talking points that Microsoft and the HD-DVD camp have
tried to sell to enthusiasts in recent months, and then proffers
instead the "upconverting alternative" and downloading. It
should come as no surprise to any of you that MSNBC is a joint
venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.
Special thanks to all the readers who sent in these links and
others. Much appreciated.
We'll be back with some new disc reviews, so stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE -
2/21/08 - 11:30 AM PST)
NOW it's done. As in DONE done. Paramount just went Blu.
Officially. Again. Here's the statement,
to Home Media and
Hollywood Reporter this morning:
We are pleased that the industry is
moving to a single high-definition format, as we believe it is in
the best interest of the consumer. As we look to [begin] releasing
our titles on Blu-ray, we will monitor consumer adoption and
determine our release plans accordingly."
Unfortunately, that was it. There were no further details. A number
of open questions remain, including: Will Blu-ray versions of the
just announced There Will Be Blood
and Sweeney Todd be soon
revealed? What about vocal Blu-backer Michael Bay's Transformers,
which we've been informed WAS at least authored in Blu-ray? And for
Trekkies who got caught up in Paramount partner CBS's HD-DVD
exclusivity with an outrageously expensive Star
Trek: The Original Series Remastered - Season One, what
happens now? It's clear that Season Two
and Three are no longer coming
to HD-DVD, so when will ANY of them be available on Blu-ray? And
will CBS and Paramount offer some kind of exchange program? All
these questions must be answered in the weeks ahead, so watch this
By the way, one other new bit of Blu-ray information: The booklet
in Disney's new 101 Dalmatians: Platinum
Edition DVD confirms that Pinocchio
will be the next Platinum Blu-ray after Sleeping
Beauty (due later this year), presumably in 2009.
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