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page updated: 1/21/09



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 1/13/09 - 12/12/08)


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(LATE UPDATE - 1/13/09 - 6 PM PST)

Okay, the last of our CES coverage will be up tomorrow, but I thought you might be interested in this in the meantime...

For you Baz Luhrmann fans, Fox has just announced the release Australia on 3/3. Australia will be available in two versions... a single-disc DVD (SRP $29.98) and a Blu-ray Disc ($39.99). The DVD will include a pair of deleted scenes. The Blu-ray will include those, along with the Australia: The People, The History, The Location documentary and 9 featurettes (Photography, Production Design, Costume Design, Locations, Cinematography, Sound, Editing, Music and Visual Effects).

Also, Fox has set The Haunting of Molly Hartley for release on DVD only on 3/3 as well.

And we figured you might like to see this... cover art for all three versions of MGM's newly announced Quantum of Solace (3/24), as well as the DVD art for Summit's Twilight: Two-Disc Special Edition (3/21 - again, a Saturday), Fox's Australia and Paramount's Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series (3/24)...

Quantum of SolaceQuantum of Solace: Two-Disc Special EditionQuantum of Solace (Blu-ray Disc)

Twilight: Two-Disc Special EditionAustraliaAndy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/13/09 - 10 AM PST)

Well... those of you who predicted that March was going to be a HUGE month for the home video industry were spot on. Two MAJOR titles have just been announced for release during the month.

First up, MGM has officially set the latest James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace, for release in the U.S. on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 3/24. Here are dates for other regions: Australia - 3/18, U.K. - 3/23, Netherlands - 3/25, Sweden - 3/25, Spain - 3/25, Italy - 3/26, Germany - 3/27, Mexico - 3/27, Switzerland - March/May, France - 5/13, Japan - 6/16, Brazil - 6/24 retail/3/23 rental. The title will be available in single-disc DVD, 2-disc DVD Special Edition and Blu-ray versions (SRP $29.98, $34.98 and $39.99 respectively). The single-disc DVD will include the film with theatrical trailers and the Another Way to Die music video. The 2-Disc DVD Special Edition will add 7 featurettes (Bond on Location, Start of Shooting, On Location, Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase, Director Marc Forster, The Music and Crew Files). The Blu-ray will include all of the above, with all video features in high-definition. I know the reviews for the film were somewhat mixed, but as a continuation of the previous Casino Royale, we thought it was pretty brilliant. We can't wait to see it again.

By the way, we still expect the second wave of catalog James Bond films to arrive on Blu-ray Disc in March as well (likely day and date with Quantum). The latest (unofficial) information we have is that you can expect Goldfinger, GoldenEye, License to Kill, The World Is Not Enough, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker (see this Rumor Mill post from early December). Watch for an official announcement very soon.

The other big announcement today is that Summit Home Entertainment has confirmed that the teen vampire fest Twilight will arrive on DVD on 3/21 - yes, that's a Saturday. Both a single-disc DVD and a 2-disc DVD Special Edition will be available, but Home Media has apparently learned that most retailers will only have access to the 2-disc version (SRP $32.99). There's no word yet whether a Blu-ray version will also be available, but we'd be very surprised if there wasn't one. According to author Stephenie Meyer's blog, the 2-disc Special Edition will include audio commentary with director Catherine Hardwicke and stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, 5 extended scenes with director introductions, 5 deleted scenes with introductions, the 7-part The Adventure Begins: The Journey from Page to Screen documentary, the Comic-Con Phenomenon featurette, 3 music videos (featuring Muse, Paramore and Linkin Park) and more TBA.

Back with more later...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/13/09 - 3 AM PST)

Morning folks! Hope you're all well this morning. Is anyone else out there enjoying the new season of 24 as much as we are here at The Bits? It's sure good to have the ol' Jack Bauer Power Hour back on the air. I'll tell you... if I had to sit through another hour of cooking, singing or dancing reality fare, I was gonna go nuts. And not only is 24 back this week, Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights both return to TV this coming Friday evening as well (the former on SciFi and the latter on NBC, though those you with DirecTV have already seen Lights' exclusive run on the satellite network). Thank goodness for scripted dramatic programming!

Anyway, as we've announced previously, Universal's Blu-ray Disc release of Peter Jackson's King Kong hits stores next Tuesday (1/20), packing both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, along with commentary, artwork galleries and BD-Live features. Here's a look at the cover art, along with final art for Disney's Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (3/10) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year - Deluxe Extended Edition (2/17), DreamWorks' The Kite Runner (3/24) and Lionsgate's W. (2/10) all on Blu-ray, as well as Anchor Bay's Cyclops on DVD (2/24)...

King Kong (Blu-ray Disc)Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Blu-ray Disc)High School Musical 3: Senior Year - Deluxe Extended Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

The Kite Runner (Blu-ray Disc)W. (Blu-ray Disc)Cyclops

One other title note: For those of you eager to get your hands on Universal's The Bourne Trilogy on Blu-ray Disc (due 1/27), you should know that the set includes virtually everything that was on the previous DVD and HD-DVD releases, with just a couple of exceptions. The Speed of Sound featurette and sound mixing demo from The Bourne Identity: Explosive Extended Edition DVD is not included on the Blu-ray (I believe it was on the HD-DVD). Also, none of the Blu-rays have theatrical trailers, so if you want those, you can find all three on the Passport Bonus Disc that came packed with the previous Jason Bourne Collection DVD box set. Other than those, everything else is included on the Blu-rays. Just FYI.

Finally this morning, our own Russell Hammond has updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section per usual, with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a small portion of anything you order from the retailer after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we greatly appreciate it!

Back later with more this afternoon. Stay tuned...

1/12/09

Okay, I'm still working on the final CES report and Sarah's tuning up the gallery. I'm going to try to get something posted today, but if not it may be tomorrow sometime. As you can imagine, it's a lot of work.

In the meantime, Dr. Jahnke has been a busy boy this weekend. He's churned out another new Electric Theatre column, this time featuring a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly that was the year 2008 at the cineplex. It's a damn fine read, as usual. Screw that... it's flat-out awesome. By the end, it had me cheering... when I wasn't laughing that is. Leave it to Jahnke to say (fearlessly) what CLEARLY needs to be said. Hollywood? You listening? Meh, probably not. Still, it's a great piece of critic-erie, so don't miss it.

Also, in the event you missed them when I first posted them over the weekend, be sure to check out CES Report #1 and CES Report # 2, as well the official announcement of Warner's Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology on Blu-ray on 3/10.

Speaking of announcements, Sony has set I've Loved You So Long for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 3/3. Also, the studio has set The Grudge (Blu-ray), Passengers (DVD and Blu-ray), Runaway: The Complete Series (DVD) and The Grudge 3 (DVD) for release on 3/24.

Meanwhile, Paramount has set A Woman Called Golda, Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series, Master of the Game, Centennial Collection re-issues of The Odd Couple and To Catch a Thief for DVD release on 3/24, along with a Blu-ray version of The Kite Runner the same day.

Also, Universal has announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of Changeling on 2/17.

Finally, Lionsgate has announced its February DVD and Blu-ray slate. Look for The Alec Guinness 5-Film Collection (including The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Man in the White Suit, The Captain’s Paradise and The Ladykillers), The Peter Sellers 5-Film Collection (including I'm All Right, Jack!, The Smallest Show on Earth, Carlton-Browne of the F.O., Two-Way Stretch and Heavens Above!), Clifford's Puppy Days: Practice Makes Perfect, Everybody Wants to Be Italian, Inside Moves, Jammin' with the Doodlebops, Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism and Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones on 3/3, Are You Scared 2, Fist of the Warrior, Hit Favorites: Here Comes Spring!, Shaun the Sheep: Back in the Ba-a-ath, W. (DVD and Blu-Ray) and DVD re-issues of Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave, Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out and Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers on 2/10, Hard Country, The Midnight Meat Train: Unrated Director's Cut (DVD and Blu-Ray), Religulous and Still Waiting: Unrated on 2/17, and finally Ironweed, My Wife & Kids: Season One and Scourge on 2/24.

Back with more as soon as we can. Stay tuned...

1/11/09

Okay... for Part Two of our CES 2009 coverage, I'm going to go into a little more detail about the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) press conference, and some of the sales numbers revealed there, as well as the annual Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) State of the Industry event.

Let's start with the BDA. Pioneer's Andy Parsons (chairman of the BDA's U.S. Promotion Committee) hosted the event. Here's some sales data presented by Andy regarding Blu-ray hardware and software performance...

The BDA estimates that 10.7 million Blu-ray capable playback devices (PS3 and standalone) have now been shipped in the U.S. in just 2.5 years since the format's inception, compared to 5.4 million DVD players shipped by the end of that format's third year. Player shipments in 2008 saw a threefold increase over 2007. For meaningful comparison, here's some data from Adams Media Research showing the U.S. market penetration of other historical home entertainment technologies at the end of their respective third year of introduction:

TV - 3%
Color TV - .5%
VHS - .5%
CD - 1.5%
DVD - 4.5%
HDTV - 1%
Blu-ray - 7.75%

Obviously, consumer appetite for media (and adoption patterns) has increased dramatically over time, but this is still an interesting comparison. Note that the Blu-ray number counts both PS3 and standalone players, but only counts multiple-player households once. Additionally, the BDA says there are now 1,100 Blu-ray titles available, and they confirmed that Warner's The Dark Knight was the first title to surpass 1 million units sold, just 2.5 years since the format launched (and despite the format war with HD-DVD). By contrast, the first DVD title to reach 1 million (Warner's The Matrix in late 1999) came almost exactly 3 years after the early 1997 introduction of DVD (which also faced a format war with the pay-per-view Divx format). Obviously, the success of DVD has grown the market for movies on disc, thus allowing the faster Blu-ray success, but I think this clearly shows that Blu-ray is a very robust and healthy format, despite the naysayers we've been hearing recently. The first 2 million discs sold month was reached in October (2.3 million), and here's something to give you a sense of how well the format did in the 4th quarter: 3+ million discs were sold in November, and a whopping 8+ million discs were sold in December. Some 9 BD-Live capable player models are now on the market (including the PS3), which together amount to over 75% of all Blu-ray players sold. In addition, 19 new models of Blu-ray Disc player were announced at CES for release in the coming year, 13 of which will be BD-Live capable. The specific units announced are as follows (those marked with * are BD-Live - note that I'll have more on them in my final CES report tomorrow):

EzGear - BluCobra EZ3000
JVC - LT-42b300
LG - BD370*, BD390*
Panasonic - DMP-BD60*, DMP-BD80*, DMP-BD70V*, DMP-BD15*
Philips - HTS-5100B, BDP-3010, BDP-5010*, BDP-7310*
Pioneer - BDP-120*, BDP-320*, BDP-23FD*
Samsung - BD-P3600*, BD-P4600*
Sharp - LC-BD80U
Vizio - VBR100

Looking ahead, it was noted that Digital Copy continues to be a very popular option added to select Blu-ray Disc titles (at least 53 are already available) and that the BDA is examining and evaluating all of the various technical proposals for adding 3-D capability to the format in late 2009 and 2010. It's worth noting that most of the 3-D demonstrations available on the CES show floor were being driven by Blu-ray players, sending signals to specially-equipped HDTV displays. As there are a number of major filmmakers working on 3-D films (including James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, John Lasseter, Peter Jackson and others), this is seen as an exciting possible growth area.

In addition to the market status report, the BDA press conference also included a Q&A with a trio of industry analysts, moderated by my friend Mike Snider of USA Today. Included were Tom Adams of Adams Media Research, Richard Doherty of Envisioneering and Paul Erickson of DisplaySearch.

Tom Adams noted that while Sony's PS3 under-performed in 2008 in terms of sales, standalone player sales grew strongly as he expected. He noted that Wal-Mart's Blu-ray advertising push late in the year was key. "It turned out to be a really phenomenal year for Blu-ray players." Adams further predicted that Blu-ray players will eventually take over from DVD (hardware-wise), and that he expects to see a two or threefold increase in Blu-ray software sales in 2009. As to the predictions of some that digital delivery will squeeze Blu-ray and packaged media out, Adams said "I've been hearing that electronic delivery would replace packaged media for 25 years now," adding that "Electronic delivery is not impacting packaged significantly." Five years from now, he expect that packaged media will continue to be about a $25 billion a year business, with Internet delivery and cable "on-demand" delivery reaching about $1 billion each.

Paul Erickson said that the Blu-ray format's strong 3rd and 4th quarter sales "even in a tough economy" had "changed my perspective of Blu-ray." He predicted that Blu-ray demand will steadily increase in 2009, and that hardware sales will continue to outpace DVD thanks to the PS3, aggressive price reductions and the continuing addition of premium features. He also added that in 2008 "the economy had some impact on sales, but the anticipated economic impact was overstated." Erickson also doesn't believe that electronic delivery will have much of an impact on future sales of the format, noting the continued high cost and poor availability of high-speed broadband, as well as the fact that "generations of consumers" are now used to packaged media. "I think packaged and downloads will coexist for some time. Downloading is not a major threat to Blu-ray." He also predicted that Blu-ray technology will continue to get more consumer friendly and easy to use in 2009 and beyond.

Richard Doherty was even more bullish about the prospects for the format, predicting a five to sixfold increase in software sales for Blu-ray. This past holiday season "a lot of people bought BD titles early and THEN bought BD players," adding that "when people buy the player, people are also buying lots of software." He noted that according to sales data, upconverting DVD players were not having an impact on Blu-ray. Regarding the attractiveness of BD-Live and Digital Copy, he noted that "consumers are really only just starting to experience BD-Live in the last 90 days," but that Digital Copy is strong. On the subject of downloads vs. Blu-ray, Doherty had this to say: "Downloading and packaged media will absolutely coexist. HD downloading is nowhere near the quality level of BD, and the broadband expansion has stalled" in the States. He added that "the best satellite and cable HD is delivering just one-third of the visual quality of Blu-ray" and noted that research shows that HDTV owners are recognizing this and trending accordingly. Finally, he said that while DVD has remained a relatively static technology, new features are added to Blu-ray all the time. "Consumers recognize the value of this."

Okay, that's the BDA news. Let's talk DEG next...

At the Digital Entertainment Group's State of the Industry event, which frankly is the thing I enjoy most every year at CES (I've been going for more than ten years now, and it's a great chance to catch up with nearly everyone you know in the industry in a very relaxed setting), additional sales data was released and discussed, including the previously-released HDTV Owners: The Prospects for High-Definition Media study (we have it available for PDF download in full here). Here's some additional market data offered at the event...

U.S. consumer spending for home entertainment software (rental and sell-through, both DVD and Blu-ray combined) totaled some $22.4 billion in 2008, down from $23.7 billion in 2007, no doubt due to the economic slowdown. (At the height of the DVD format in 2004, the total was $24.9 billion.) The Blu-ray Disc format was the bright spot in the industry this year, with U.S. software sales spending growing fourfold from last year to nearly $750 million. 250% more BD discs were shipped to retailers this year over 2007. U.S. DVD sales were off about 9% from the previous year at $14.5 billion, but rentals were flat at $7.5 billion. The growth in Blu-ray helped to offset the DVD decrease somewhat, making the category as a whole (both formats combined) off by just 5% from 2007 despite the recession. Blu-ray Disc software shipments in the U.S. and Canada amounted to 1.26 million units in 2006 and 17.9 million units in 2007, but grew to a whopping 63.2 million units this past year in 2008. (28.6 million units were shipped in the 4th quarter of 2008 alone.) The total format to date is an impressive 82.4 million in just 2.5 years. On the hardware side, the DEG estimated that 9.65 million Blu-ray capable devices were shipped in 2008 (PS3 and stand-alone units combined), with more than 3 million delivered in the 4th quarter alone. Some 80 models of stand-alone Blu-ray player are now available at over 10,000 U.S. storefronts, with the lowest SRP reaching just $149 in 2008. (The format's entry price is likely to crack $100 by the end of 2009.) It's worth noting that if these hardware sales trends continue to increase as expected, the Blu-ray Disc format could hit 40% penetration of the U.S. market by 2010. (Note that 40% is widely considered to be the threshold required to officially consider any product "mass market.") In terms of DVD, some 25 million DVD players were sold in the U.S. in 2008, making the format-to-date total over 264 million in the U.S. (counting stand-alone, portable, home theater in a box and combo players). Adjusting for the number of households with more than one player, the total number of U.S. DVD households is now 92 million. On the software side, some 10.3 billion DVD discs have been sold in the U.S. and Canada since the format launched in early 1997, 1.4 billion in 2008 alone. The DEG also estimates that more than 50 million HDTV sets were sold to consumers during the year, bringing the total in the U.S. to nearly 40 million, and that 22% of households now have more than one HDTV set. The last estimate I heard (from Nielsen) was that there's slightly over 113 million TV households in the U.S., so this is finally reaching mainstream penetration levels. Keep in mind, that according to the DEG's recent HDTV white paper (linked above), nearly 30% of the 1,101 HDTV owners surveyed for the report owned a Blu-ray player as well, and 84% of them were likely or very likely to recommend the format to their family and friends.

One last word on Blu-ray Disc player sales in the 4th quarter: This is anecdotal, so take it as you will, but back in early December, a senior executive for a leading player manufacturer (I'm not at liberty to say which one) told me that the Saturday after Black Friday, their top three retail customers (which I believe you can take to mean Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc) were calling to beg for more units, because their store locations had already sold out of their entire stock on hand. I'm told this level of demand continued throughout the remainder of the holiday shopping season, and that many stores are currently STILL out of stock on select BD player models.

In other news reported at the event, while the DEG has been in existence here in the United States (under various names, including the DVD Video Group and DVD Entertainment Group) since 1997, the group has now expanded to both Europe and Japan in an effort to better coordinate the group's efforts worldwide. The DEG is also continuing its recent efforts to covert the entire home entertainment industry to green/sustainable practices.

Finally, the DEG announced the winners of its annual Creative Excellence Awards at the event. Once again this year, I had the honor of participating as a judge. The complete list of winners is as follows:

Best of Show - The Dark Knight (Warner)
Theatrical DVD Title of the Year - Wall-E (Disney)
Catalog DVD Title of the Year - Touch of Evil: 50th Anniversary Edition (Universal)
TV DVD Title of the Year - The Sopranos: The Complete Series (HBO)
Direct to DVD Title of the Year - Futurama: Bender's Game (Fox)
Music DVD Title of the Year - Shine a Light (Paramount)
Blu-ray Disc Title of the Year - Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Edition (Disney)

National Retailer of the Year for Hardware - Best Buy
Regional Retailer of the Year for Hardware - Sixth Avenue Electronics
Retailer of the Year for Software - Amazon.com

The DEG Emile N. Petrone Digital Innovation Awards (for Products)

Sight - Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-141FD HDTV
Source - Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray Disc Player
Sound - Pioneer SC-09TX A/V Receiver

So there you go... that's CES Report #2. My third and final CES report will look more closely at the specific Blu-ray Disc hardware announced at the show. That will come tomorrow. Hey... 24 returns tonight, man! Plus there's a half-hour Battlestar preview special on SciFi tonight as well. You've gotta have priorities. Also, Sarah should have our CES 2009 Gallery up in the next couple of days as well.

Have a great night, and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning. Stay tuned...!

1/10/09

Evening, folks! After a good long sleep and much paper and notebook sorting, I'm hard at work on the rest of my CES report. Watch for it tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, I thought you'd like to hear a little bit of news, and see some new cover art.

First the news: Warner has just OFFICIALLY announced that the Blu-ray Disc version of Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology will street on 3/10 (SRP $129.95). The set will include all four previous films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) with special features repurposed from the previous DVD box set and special editions. The set will also include a fifth disc containing a Digital Copy version of the original Batman. The films are only available on Blu-ray in the box set at this time (contrary to listings on Amazon), but the studio is repromoting the DVD versions on 3/10 as well (SRP $12.97 for single-disc, $26.99 for the 2-disc special editions and $79.92 for the DVD box set). Hey, only a month later than we predicted! At least we didn't have long to wait for official word. We posted the cover art for the box set in The Rumor Mill back in November, but now that it's official you'll find it below along with the individual disc covers, though remember again that they're all ONLY available in the box - not individually.

While we're posting new cover art, below you'll also find the art for Comedy Central's South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (3/10), Warner's Body of Lies (2/17) and Genius/Weinstein's Clerks II and Zack and Miri Make a Porno (both 3/3), all on Blu-ray (the DVD versions of the new release titles will be available on the same day)...

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology (Blu-ray Disc)Batman (Blu-ray Disc)Batman Returns (Blu-ray Disc)

Batman Forever (Blu-ray Disc)Batman & Robin (Blu-ray Disc)South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season (Blu-ray Disc)

Body of Lies (Blu-ray Disc)Clerks II (Blu-ray Disc)Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, if we haven't mentioned this before, Body of Lies will include audio commentary with director Ridley Scott, screenwriter William Monahan and novel author David Ignatius, additional scenes with introduction and optional director's commentary, the Interactive Debriefing featurette (featuring Scott discussing the film with stars Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio), several Actionable Intelligence: Deconstructing Body of Lies Focus Points featurettes and additional features available via BD-Live (TBA). All of the video-based features will be presented in full HD.

Finally, DreamWorks Animation (via Paramount) has announced the release of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 2/6. Note that the DVD version will also be available bundled with the companion title, The Penguins of Madagascar, on a seperate disc (it will be included on the Blu-ray as a special feature). You'll also be able to buy a 3-disc DVD gift set that includes both titles, along with the original Madagascar.

Back tomorrow afternoon (Sunday) with the rest of the CES report. Stay tuned...

1/8/09

Well... after a full day at CES floor, I'm exhausted. There's just so much to see and do, and so many images, sounds and people bombarding you as you walk around the convention floor, that it really saps you. It probably doesn't help that I basically try to cover everything I need to in just a day, but having covered CES for as many years as I have, the idea of doing this for several days in a row is unthinkable. I like the surgical approach - get in, get what you need, get out.

Anyway, one of the most unusual things about CES this year, is that there just doesn't seem to be any one single gadget or bit of new technology that's really captivating everyone's attention. There's this thing called Yahoo Widgets (basically little software modules that will soon begin allowing you to interact with the Internet in various ways while you're watching live programming on your DTV), and there's obviously wireless everything on display on the show floor - every kind of wireless gadget you can imagine, up to and including wireless home theater components. And it seems that 3-D is looming on the horizon - perhaps a year or so away from coming to market, but several major display manufacturers had demonstrations on the show floor. More on 3-D in a minute. The other unusual thing about CES 2009, is that economy does seem to have impacted attendance. I'm told the normal attendance is between 150,000 and 170,000, and this year it's down to about 130,000 - which makes the show floor noticeably less crowded.

Obviously, I came to CES to check out the latest Blu-ray developments, so let's have a quick software update first. I've already covered Sony's Ghostbusters announcement, so there's no need for an update there, though I did learn that Ghostbusters 2 is being held for a special release of its own. In talking with the folks at Sony, I learned that titles like Dr. Strangelove, Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia are all still in the works - the studio really wants to get them right, so they're taking their time. Obviously, big new release titles like Angels and Demons are in the works - no surprise there. And the studio tells me that they have plans for about 100 Blu-ray releases total in 2009, including a mix of new release and catalog titles. And the studio is working on ways to evolve and enhance their BD-Live offerings - really trying to explore the features people want and enjoy, to create the best online and advanced interactive experience.

As I mentioned the other day, Walt Disney Studios did in fact announce a number of new titles here at the show. First up, the studio confirmed that they're continuing their popular Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack idea (including both a standard DVD version of the film with the Blu-ray release, as they did with Sleeping Beauty) in 2009, with such forthcoming titles as High School Musical 3 (2/17), Pinocchio (3/10) and Snow White (TBA for October). In addition, 14 more Blu-ray titles this year will be enhanced with DisneyFile digital copy. In terms of the specific new Blu-ray titles announced at the show, here are the details from their own press release...

"WDSHE North America will be releasing several new theatrical titles to Blu-ray day-and-date with the DVD including Swing Vote (Touchstone Pictures) on January 13; Miracle At St. Anna (Touchstone Pictures) on February 10; Blindness (Miramax) on February 10; High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Walt Disney Pictures) on February 17; Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Walt Disney Pictures) on March 3; Morning Light (Walt Disney Pictures) in summer of 2009; as well as an all new direct-to-video Space Buddies (Walt Disney Pictures) on February 3.

In addition, WDSHE North America will also be expanding its Blu-ray catalog library with more than 30 exciting releases including such titles as Pretty Woman (Touchstone Pictures) on February 10; High School Musical Remix Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) on February 17; Monsters Inc. (Disney/Pixar); A Bugs Life (Disney/Pixar); Microcosmos (Miramax); Rounders 10th Anniversary Edition (Miramax); Lost: The Complete First and Second Seasons (ABC); Sin City (Miramax); Miracle (Walt Disney Pictures); Sling Blade (Miramax); The Greatest Game Ever Played (Walt Disney Pictures); Pulp Fiction Special Edition (Miramax); Good Will Hunting Special Edition (Miramax) and many more to follow in 2009.

In Europe/Australia, WDSHE will roll-out the following Blu-ray titles beginning with Space Buddies (Walt Disney Pictures) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Walt Disney Pictures) in February; Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) in March and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Walt Disney Pictures) in April; and Monsters Inc. (Disney/Pixar) sometime in 2009.

Japan will see the following WDSHE Blu-ray releases starting with Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Walt Disney Pictures) in March; Tinker Bell (Walt Disney Pictures) and WALL-E (Disney/Pixar) in April; and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Walt Disney Pictures), Monsters Inc. (Disney/Pixar) and Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Walt Disney Pictures) to follow at later dates."


I was able to confirm with sources that this is going to be a big year for catalog titles with Warner, Fox and Paramount. Look for Star Trek to feature prominently in the first half of 2009, as we've reported previously, and Battlestar Galactica is indeed coming to Blu-ray later this year from Universal.

As far as other software announcements, the only other key release came from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company, which revealed that Kevin Smith's Clerk II and Zack and Miri Make a Porno will arrive on Blu-ray Disc on 3/3 (Zack and Miri will also be available on DVD the same day). Soul Men will follow on 2/10.

We'll have a lot more on upcoming, soon-to-be-announced BD releases here on The Bits in the next few weeks, rest assured. A couple of quick Blu-ray sales stats for you...

The DEG announced that Blu-ray software sales grew from $270 million in 2007 to more than $750 million in 2008. Combined DVD and Blu-ray software sales for 2008 totaled more than $22 billion dollars, down slightly from nearly $24 billion last year. The BDA says there are now some 10.7 million Blu-ray playback devices currently in the market, including both PS3 and standalone units, this after just 2.5 years of format availability. By contrast, just 5.4 million DVD capable devices had shipped by the end of the third year of that format's availability. The Year Three U.S. market penetration of Blu-ray is set to reach about 8%, which is impressive given that the Year Three penetration of DVD was just 4.2%. The DEG reported that some 3 million players were shipped in the 4th quarter of 2008 alone. The lowest player SRP for this past holiday season was $149 for an entry level unit. This is just a quick summary of released stats - I'll have more details for you later this weekend.

On the 3-D front, there were in-booth demonstrations of 3-D HD from LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic on the show floor. All of them were fairly impressive, though it should be noted that all were technical demonstrations, requiring special plasma and LCD displays or projectors, and also requiring the viewer to wear glasses (either shuttered or with polarized lenses). It's clear that there are a variety of technologies being explored for 3-D HD, but most of the demos were actually driven by Blu-ray Disc players. The demo material was a mix of film (U2 3D), CG animation (Bolt) and other sources. At the BDA press event yesterday, it was revealed that the BDA is currently evaluating all the different approaches to 3-D on the format, and will be working with the various manufacturers to pick the best one. It may require new processing technology to be included in players, but at least one studio executive I spoke with at the show said that there are a couple different ways it can be done on existing BD players (not including the current red/green 3-D titles we've already seen from Warner and Disney). My recommendation was to bundle a couple different versions on future 3-D releases - a version that can be viewed on all existing players, and one that will be compatible with the future, final chosen technology - so that the discs will work for everyone. Samsung plans to have at least one monitor capable of 3-D available in the U.S. at the end of 2009, but most manufacturers I spoke with said you'd probably start seeing the technology more in the first half of 2010. Obviously, a number of filmmakers are currently working on 3-D films for release in 2010, so this would coincide nicely with their eventual home video release.

Some 18 different new models of Blu-ray Disc player were announced at CES this year for release later in 2009, from the likes of JVC, LG, Panasonic, Phillips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp and Vizio. (Sony is working on new models, but did not announce any at the show.) Of these, 13 are fully BD-Live/profile 2.0 compatible. I'll be back with a couple of posts over the course of the weekend, to tell you more about each of them. I'll also talk more about the BDA and DEG events, and the sales information that was revealed at each. And Sarah will post a big CES 2009 photo gallery on Monday.

Stay tuned...!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/7/09 - 9 AM PDT)

Okay... speaking of title announcements, here's an official one hot off the wires: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will indeed be releasing Ghostbusters on Blu-ray Disc on 6/16, in celebration of the film's 25th anniversary and timed to coincide with the release of Atari's Ghostbusters: The Video Game the same day. The Blu-ray (SLP $38.96) will include most (if not all) of the previous DVD extras, including audio commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Joe Medjuck, 10 deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons and 3 featurettes (The Making of Ghostbusters, Interviews with Cast and Crew and SFX Team with before and after multi-angle explorations). New features for the Blu-ray include a Slimer Mode picture-in-picture viewing option (featuring an examination of the spook-hunters' firehouse headquarters, an in-depth exploration of the creatures in the Ghostbusters mythology, behind-the-scenes discussions of making the movie, new cast, crew and special effects artists interviews and much more), the Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car featurette, a Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 Gallery and a 32-page scrapbook. The title will also include BD-Live connectivity, offering additional features (TBA). FYI, there's no official word yet on Ghostbusters 2, but we'll check on it.

Sounds pretty cool. We'll post the cover art as soon as it comes in. Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/7/09 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Well... we're off to Vegas this afternoon, to start taking in the glorious high-tech spectacle that is the annual Consumer Electronics Show, otherwise known as CES. I'll be visiting with all the major manufacturers to see what new Blu-ray hardware is in development for the new year, and of course we expect there will be some interesting software announcements and the like as well. More on all that in a minute.

First though, our own Jeff Kleist has delivered a couple of new Blu-ray Disc reviews for you to check out today: DreamWorks' Eagle Eye and Showtime's Dexter: The First Season, both distributed by Paramount. The former arrived in stores last week, while the latter streeted yesterday. Enjoy!

Now then... let me give you a quick rundown of some of the things I expect to see and hear at CES this year...

First, the Digital Entertainment Group and the Blu-ray Disc Association will definitely be releasing their 2008 holiday sales data for DVD and particularly Blu-ray hardware and software. (Look for strong sales throughout the holiday season to be reported, with very brisk sales on Black Friday weekend.) We also expect some industry forecasts for Blu-ray sales in 2009. I have no doubt there will be much ado about the Digital Broadcast Transition that FINALLY happens next month (on 2/17), when analog TV broadcasting will be discontinued across the United States. All of the major consumer electronics manufacturers will have announcements related to new Blu-ray hardware. I expect to learn of new standalone players with added features (new audio and video improvements, SACD playback capability and the like), as well as overall cheaper prices on existing models and new entry line models. You MAY hear of the first portable players, and I've been told that at least a couple manufacturers are working on Profile 2.0 models with built-in wireless modems for easier Internet connection. You will likely hear more news about players (and TVs, like recently announced models from Samsung and LG) that can connect to Netflix for movie downloads over the Internet. I also expect to see early demos of 3-D HD displays driven by Blu-ray players, though the first actual retail models are likely still a year or two away.

In terms of actual hardware news that's already leaked, Samsung is apparently debuting an ultra-slim Blu-ray player at the show, and a company called EzGear is planning to launch its first Profile 1.1 (BonusView) Blu-ray player, the BluCobra EZ3000. The EZ3000 will carry an SRP of $399, but will play SACD high-resolution audio discs in addition to DVD, CD and Blu-ray software - a feature we've been waiting eagerly for on a more affordable unit.

On the Blu-ray software side of things, I expect much crowing about blockbuster sales of Warner's The Dark Knight on both DVD and Blu-ray. The studio's last official announcement indicated that 13.5 million units of the title have been sold worldwide, including 1.7 million copies on Blu-ray, but this is old data and we expect an updated tally at CES. In terms of new title announcements, sources tell me that Sony Pictures will finally (officially) announce the Blu-ray release of Ghostbusters at the show. We've also learned that Buena Vista is likely to confirm that Monsters, Inc., A Bug's Life, Rounders, Sin City, Pulp Fiction, Microcosmos, Miracle, Sling Blade, Good Will Hunting, The Greatest Game Ever Played and the first two seasons of Lost are all coming to Blu-ray in 2009, among other catalog releases. There may be some additional release news as well, so the trip to Vegas should be worth the time and effort.

As many of you know, I've been going to CES for over a decade to cover DVD and now Blu-ray for readers of The Bits, and there are two ways to do it. You can make lots of small reports on things as you see them all throughout the event, or you can file one big report on the whole smash all at once. I tend to prefer doing the latter, as it allows me to digest what I've seen a bit, and also to put things in better context. The latter is particularly important, because I generally have the chance to talk more casually with a lot key people in the industry during CES - people that I've known for many years now in some cases - and so I tend to learn a lot of interesting things that you just don't hear on the show floor and in the usual press conference setting. As such, I'll busy all day on Thursday attending meetings and demos, but I'm bringing my trusty new netbook along so, with a little luck, I MAY check in later tonight with additional pre-show thoughts, and I should be back on Thursday night or early Friday morning with a full show report.

As always, CES is sure to be interesting this time around. So keep checking back... and stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/6/09 - 2:15 PM PDT)

Okay... we've got a quick update on Warner's Blu-ray Disc release of the Batman catalog films for you today. As you may know, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin and Batman Forever are now already announced or available in Japan, Australia and parts of Europe on Blu-ray, and are indeed coming soon here in the States as well. However, our best industry sources have informed us that they may not be released in February as we first reported last week. The studio had recently listed the DVD versions of these films for re-release on 2/10, and we expected to see the Blu-rays street at the same time, but we're told now that the 2/10 date wasn't official and the release is going to pushed back an as yet indeterminate amount of time. Rest assured, the Blu-rays ARE coming, very likely in the first 1st quarter of this year... just don't necessarily expect them in February. So adjust your plans accordingly.

Meanwhile, I happened to catch something interesting on the Sundance Channel last week: a Channel 4 documentary called Stanley Kubrick's Boxes. It's really fascinating. It seems that Kubrick saved every piece of research he ever gathered for his films (or films that he was interested in making), and upon his death this amounted to some 1,000 boxes of material. Filmmaker Jon Ronson was invited to examine it all (it's since been donated to the archives of the University of the Arts London), and he made a short film about the experience. It's REALLY amazing stuff, I'll tell you. Ronson also discovered that Kubrick's daughter, Vivian, shot something like 16 hours worth of film footage of her father at work on the set of Full Metal Jacket, and you get to see a little bit of it in the documentary. Boxes was first shown last year, and somehow it slipped under my radar. I happened to stumble across the program when it was on Sundance last month, and managed to record part of it, but it doesn't look like it's scheduled to run again any time soon. I'd love to have a copy of Boxes on DVD. Hopefully, Sundance or Channel 4 will release it on disc for purchase. It's a great supplement to Warner's Kubrick box sets. I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance to.

We'll be back again with more later this evening...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/6/09 - 10:30 AM PDT)

We'll be back with more shortly, but first we just wanted to jump in here early with word on something of importance to you Battlestar fans. We've learned that U.S. Best Buy stores this morning have an exclusive Limited Edition Gift Set version of Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0 DVD release, which features a couple of cool swag items in the package... a set of prop replica Colonial dog tags (featuring Starbuck's name) from Qmx and a 32-page booklet (called So Say We All) with profiles of every character of any significance on the show, from Commander Adama to Tom Zarek. The dog tags alone normally carry a retail price of $19.99. I picked up a copy myself this morning, and it's pretty cool. The Limited Edition version will set you back about $10 more than the regular version ($39.99 vs. $31.99 both on sale), and it's only available while supplies last. Also, if you live in Canada, Future Shop stores there feature the regular edition set in custom Steelbook packaging. Galactica SitRep has photos of both versions up, if you'd like a closer look.

Here's something that will irritate you though. The Best Buy website currently has a pair of good deleted scenes up for the episodes Faith (Adama test flying Starbuck's "factory fresh" Viper) and Six of One (a conversation between Anders, Athena and one of the Eights) that I've confirmed are NOT on the Season 4.0 DVDs. Maybe they'll be on the Blu-rays. Grrrrr...

Anyway, just wanted to let you guys know...

Back soon... stay tuned...

1/5/09

Afternoon, folks! Welcome to 2009, and welcome back from the holiday break! I'll tell you, it was good to have a couple weeks to recharge the batteries, though getting back to the regular grind is taking a bit of getting used to. Lots of caffeine is helping though.

For my part, New Years was great. Our old friend Weatherman Dave (of KSBY up in San Luis Obispo, CA - I've known him for nearly 30 years now, from our old Fargo/salad days) came down with his kids as planned to visit Sarah and I for a couple days. We all met Matt (of MusicTAP) and his wife Debbie for dinner, before coming back here to watch movies and the usual Times Square ball-drop. Speaking of which, did anyone else think CNN's coverage was terrible? Not like it was a big deal or anything, but they had tech problems galore, and they put so many video windows up on the screen at once that you couldn't see much of anything well. What's worse, CNN recently fired its ENTIRE science staff at a time when, it seems to me, well-produced science coverage is more critical than ever. Good thinking there. Better to keep all those "blogosphere" reporters! CNN's REALLY going downhill, I'm afraid. Anyway, the rest of the weekend was spent watching football, and trying to work off the calories from eating too much rhubarb pie. A few angry miles on the treadmill helped take the sting out of the Vikings loss on Sunday to Philly (hats off to you Eagles fans - correctly pronounced "Egg-els" I've come to learn.) At least the Vikes made the playoffs, which is more than I expected after a 1-3 start.

Okay, this week we're going to catch up on a little release news, and we're getting ready for CES, which kicks off in Vegas later this week. We'll be leaving for the event on Wednesday, and of course we'll be bringing you lots of news, context and analysis regarding the latest Blu-ray developments. We're likely to hear all about the holiday sales numbers and the format's plans for 2009, so be sure to stay tuned for it all.

In the meantime, here at the site today, our own Dr. Adam Jahnke has updated his Electric Theatre with the second part of his In Memoriam 2008 tribute. Do check that out.

Russell Hammond has also updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a small portion of anything you order from the retailer after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we greatly appreciate it!

Some odds and ends... we've been able to confirm that Warner's Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Season One, Volume One is indeed on the way (likely in March - watch for an official announcement soon), but it MAY be DVD only for the time being. That would be a serious bummer - like many, we've been waiting to watch it in HD on Blu-ray. Hopefully, we'll know soon.

Speaking of Warner, we've also confirmed that all four of the older Batman feature films are soon to be announced for individual Blu-ray Disc release, as well as in a Blu-ray upgrade of the Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology box set. Catwoman is also coming to Blu-ray around the same time. Watch for official details soon.

Anchor Bay has announced the Roger Corman produced TV film Cyclops for DVD release on 2/24.

Fox has set The Haunting of Molly Hartley for DVD only release on 3/3. Extras will include cast and crew interview featurettes.

Buena Vista will release The Boy in the Striped Pajamas on DVD only on 3/10. Extras will include commentary with writer/director Mark Herman and author John Boyne, as well as deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and the Friendship Beyond the Fence featurette.

While we're talking Fox, we're told that their street date for MGM's The Silence of the Lambs on Blu-ray is also 3/3, rather than the 4/3 we mentioned previously. Alter your plans accordingly.

Meanwhile, Paramount has announced a new Primal Fear: Hard Evidence Edition for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 3/10.

Genius Products has set Kevin Smith's Clerks II: Special Edition for release on Blu-ray on 2/3 (the title is already available on DVD, as you know).

And Sony has set Barney Miller: The Complete Third Season and The Three Stooges Collection: 1946-1948 for DVD release on 3/17.

In news around the Net today, the excellent SciFi Japan website has a good piece up on the recent HD restoration of all 28 Godzilla films by Toho studios. Sources are telling us that we're likely to see the films begin appearing on Blu-ray Disc later in 2009.

Finally, The New York Times has a new story up today - Blu-ray Format Struggles With Uncertain Prospects. It's an overall good piece, though it features the usual mix of "downloading is coming, Blu-ray is too expensive" and other arguments we've heard from those who have never been favorably inclined towards the format (*cough* Rob Enderle *cough*). The article does, however, rightly point out that prices have come down, that format sales have been strong over the holidays and that the format is selling ahead of DVD at the same stage in its adoption. So frankly, this is not even worth commenting on overmuch. The latest holiday BD sales numbers will be announced at CES, and I think they'll speak for themselves. And every bit of research so far indicates that HDTV owners prefer Blu-ray quality to HD downloads and even cable/satellite HD. Let me repeat the old mantra: Downloads will have far more impact on the RENTAL market, not BD software sales. I'll also reiterate something I've said before: I think it would be great if EVERY BD manufacturer included Netflix movie downloads/rentals into their players. It's a cool capability. Regardless, I have no doubt the format's detractors will continue to spin the notion that Blu-ray is in trouble, despite strong and growing sales even in a tough economy. The point to keep in mind is, these same "experts" were completely wrong about the HD format war, so why would you take them seriously now? Every time one of these stories go up, I get two or three e-mails from readers asking what I think. Here's what I think: The proof is in the pudding, folks. Pay them no mind. I'll naturally have more to say on this subject after CES.

Stay tuned...

12/31/08

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you're all well on this, the final day of 2008. ;)

We're just checking in here quickly this afternoon, to let you know that we've got a brief update in The Rumor Mill today, featuring possible Warner release news that you Star Wars fans might find interesting.

Speaking of Warner, the studio has just set National Geographic's Kingdom of the Blue Whale for DVD and Blu-ray release on 3/31. The studio has also just solicited the previous standard and special edition DVD versions of the older Batman feature films (Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin and Batman Forever) for re-release on 2/10. This means that the Blu-ray versions we reported on back in November (and which are already available in Japan and the U.K.) are soon to be announced for U.S. release in the first quarter of 2009. We've got the proper inquiries in and we'll let you know what we learn.

We've also posted our weekly update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section today with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover scans and Amazon pre-order links. Remember, anything you order through our links helps support our work here at The Bits, and we appreciate it!

Here's more new cover art... Fox's The Robe: Special Edition on DVD (3/17), and Sony's Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist (2/3) and Capote/In Cold Blood double feature (2/17) on Blu-ray...

The RobeNick & Nora's Infinite Playlist (Blu-ray Disc)Capote/In Cold Blood (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, we've been getting a lot of reader e-mail over the last few days, and we're trying to answer as much of it as we can. But it's going to take time, so if you're trying to reach us, please be patient. Thanks, guys!

Okay, that's all she wrote. Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve, and we'll see you back here in 2009 (a.k.a. Monday, or sooner if there's any interesting news)! Stay tuned...

12/29/08

Happy holidays! I hope you're all having a great time relaxing with your family and friends. We've been pretty busy here. Some of Sarah's family have been in town, and we've been eating pretty much from the moment they arrived until today. Sarah and I spent an evening with Dr. Jahnke and Dr. Girlfriend checking out holiday lights. I've been enjoying a little homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, which is always enough to put me in a good mood. The Vikings managed to claw their way to an NFC North Championship, which is also pleasing and I'm trying to enjoy it, even if they're likely to have their horns handed to them by Philly next weekend. Our old friend Weatherman Dave is coming down with his kids for a visit later this week. We've also been watching a lot of movies on Blu-ray and DVD these last few days. I've enjoyed reconnecting with The Road Warrior in particular, along with more recent fare like Mongol, Elf, Anchor Bay's Traitor and others. I've also been enjoying Sci-Fi's continuing Battlestar Galactica: Face of the Enemy webisode series, which brings up some interesting stuff...

Amazon.com is one of the places the series has been available for streamed viewing online, and on Friday, they "accidentally" leaked nearly all the rest of the unaired installments (they've since been pulled). I use the quotes, because the one installment suspiciously not leaked (#9) seems to contain the key revelations to the entire webisode series, as well as the upcoming episodes (although I should note that I think the main one implied in the upcoming installments is a red herring). Given the way they've provoked discussion among fans online (along with Sci-Fi's You Will Know the Truth site) I suspect the leak was deliberate - a way to start really getting a buzz going for the final ten episodes. I have my own thoughts on who the final Cylon is, and what's going to be revealed, but that's a topic for another day. Whatever's set to be unveiled, I'm certainly enjoying every minute of it so far.

As expected, we've got some new announcements to report today...

First, Fox has officially confirmed the DVD only release of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People on DVD on 2/17. A 2-disc Yentl: Extended Director's Edition is also available on DVD only on 2/3.

Fox has also officially confirmed the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of The Robe on 3/17 (SRP $19.98 and $34.99), after an HD restoration process that took over a year, involving Fox, the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. The film will be presented in the "Fox CinemaScope Version" with a 2.55:1 aspect ratio (AVC, BD-50, DTS-MA HD). Extras on the DVD will include an introduction by Martin Scorsese, audio commentary with film composer David Newman and film historians Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, The Making of The Robe featurette, The Music of The Robe (Alfred Newman's score presented as an isolated music track), still galleries and an interactive pressbook. The Blu-ray will include all of the above, along with vintage celebrity introductions by Richard Widmark, Susan Hayward, Robert Wagner, Clifton Webb and Dan Dailey, 2 featurettes (The CinemaScope Story and From Scripture to Script: The Bible and Hollywood), a 1969 audio interview with screenwriter Philip Dunne, 5 Movietone News shorts, trailers and TV spots, a gallery of poster and lobby card art, and a special BonusView picture-in-picture viewing mode featuring The Robe Times Two (a comparison of the full frame and widescreen versions) and 10 A Seamless Faith: The Real-Life Search for The Robe featurettes. Very, very cool. I'm really pleased to see Fox going all out like this on their classic films on Blu-ray Disc.

Also, retail sources inform us that MGM's The Silence of the Lambs is tentatively due for Blu-ray release on 4/3.

Meanwhile, Sony has officially set Cadillac Records and Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York for release on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 3/10.

Criterion has confirmed that François Truffaut's The Last Metro (cat# 462) is coming to Blu-ray and DVD on 3/24.

Here's some news that's exciting to us: Magnet Releasing is apparently delivering Let the Right One In on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 3/10. As you might recall, this is that excellent Swedish vampire film we told you about a couple months back.

Finally, Warner Home Video has announced the DVD release of Max Fleischer's Superman on 4/7. I'd kill to have these shorts on Blu-ray, but there doesn't seem to be a BD release planned - shame. Meanwhile, Falling Down is tentatively set for BD release by Warner (in Digibook packaging) on 5/26. By the way, The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition and Gremlins are now both soon to be announced for Blu-ray release here in the U.S. from Warner (they're both finally listed in the studio's release database, though no street date is yet listed).

Here's the Blu-ray cover art for Fox's The Robe, MGM's The Silence of the Lambs, Magnet's Let the Right One In and Warner's The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition (3/24), The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition (TBA), Rock'n'Rolla (1/27) and 2010 (4/7), along with DVD art for Warner's Max Fleischer's Superman and Yentl: Extended Director's Edition...

The Robe (Blu-ray Disc)The Silence of the Lambs (Blu-ray Disc)Let the Right One In (Blu-ray Disc)

The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)Rock'n'Rolla (Blu-ray Disc)

2010 (Blu-ray Disc)Max Fleischer's SupermanYentl: Extended Director's Edition

For the record, 2010 will include the vintage 2010: The Odyssey Continues featurette and the theatrical trailer (same as the previous DVD). The Goonies will apparently include audio commentary with director Richard Donner and select members of the cast (with "hidden video treasures"), The Making of The Goonies featurette, outtakes, the theatrical trailer and Cyndi Lauper's The Goonies 'R' Good Enough music video. Audio for both will be Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Also, don't forget that The Matrix is the exact same disc that's currently in The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray box set, just with new Digibook packaging.

Okay... that's it for now. Our current plan is to return for business as usual a week from now, on Monday, January 5th, but we'll check in a few times before then with breaking news and/or announcements as they come in.

Stay tuned!

12/24/08

Well... we've gone and done it. We've reached The Twelfth Day of Bits-Mas. Guess it was bound to happen sometime! Our very own Jeff Kleist brings you our last review of the season on this lovely Christmas Eve Day... and, as it happens, there's a little story to go with it.

You see, back in 1968... the times were changing. People were fearful, tragedies and losses had been suffered, beliefs were being challenged, attitudes were in transition, and many parts of the world were in turmoil. In short, the future seemed uncertain. Fast forward four decades... and you begin to realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But right at the end of '68, something interesting happened. Exactly forty years ago this evening, the Apollo 8 astronauts made a historic TV broadcast from their orbit around the Moon, during the most daring space mission that NASA had yet attempted. This was the first time humans had ever left Earth for another world. Their spacecraft was untested, and no one knew for sure if their rocket would fire to bring them home again. But that evening, the astronauts took this very first photograph of Earthrise over the surface of the Moon...

The first image of Earthrise.

The image gave the world something it was missing... hope. Now, in 2008, the Japanese space agency's Kaguya probe has captured Earthrise in full color 1080 HD video, and the footage has finally been made available from NHK Video on Blu-ray Disc. Jeff has reviewed that disc for you today - Kaguya's Month in Orbit. We think it's a fitting way to close out Bits-Mas, and the year that was 2008 in general. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So with that, we're finished for the week to go enjoy the Christmas holiday with family and friends. We'll be back on Monday with a news update. And just in case you missed it last night, we posted the year's final column from Barrie... a combo Classic Coming Attractions and High-Definition Matters with 9 new DVD and Blu-ray reviews. Enjoy!

Before we go, we wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading The Bits this past year. It goes without saying that we're grateful for all of you, but we'll say it anyway 'cause it's true. We wish you and yours a very safe and Happy Holidays, wherever you may be. To close, we'll borrow (a few) words of the Apollo 8 astronauts from way back on Christmas Eve in 1968: Merry Christmas to all of you... all of you on the good Earth.

See you Monday!

12/23/08

Evening, folks! Hope you're all enjoying your pre-holiday festivities... or perhaps the frenzy of last-minute shopping. Either way, we've got a couple things for your reading pleasure today.

First up, Barrie Maxwell delivers our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review for the day, in the form of Fox's Home Alone: Family Fun Edition on Blu-ray Disc. Just one more to go!

Barrie's also gift-wrapped you a final column for 2008, and it's a combination of both his Classic Coming Attractions and High-Definition Matters. In it, he offers NINE new disc reviews, including Warner's Classic Holiday DVD Collection: Volume 2, Fox's Murnau, Borzage and Fox box and VCI's The Sights and Sounds of Christmas on DVD, as well as HBO's Band of Brothers, MPI's Becket, Warner's Casablanca: Ultimate Collector's Edition, Paramount's Coach Carter and (with DreamWorks) Tropic Thunder: Director's Cut, and Fox's The X-Files: I Want to Believe. He's also updated both the Classic and Blu-ray release lists. Enjoy!

Finally today, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans, as well as Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of ANYTHING you order from Amazon after clicking to them through our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits, and we greatly appreciate it. FYI, the Amazon database has been filled with a lot of junk entries (the ones in the bottom portion of the art pages, with no artwork), so we ask for your patience until they're cleared up. Don't forget, you can sort the titles by format, by top selling and alphabetically, to make it easier to browse and find what you're looking for.

We'll be back tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, with our final Bits-Mas review. Happy ho, ho, ho 'til then!

12/22/08

Welcome to Christmas Week, Bits readers! Either you're sitting at home waiting for family to show up, or you're sitting in an airport trying to kill some time until your flight. Or maybe you're one of those unlucky types who are stuck at work today. No problem - we've got a couple things today for your holiday reading pleasure.

First up, Todd Doogan delivers our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review for you today - none other than Buena Vista's Bad(der) Santa on Blu-ray Disc, featuring both the Unrated and Director's Cut versions of the film! There's othing like a little anti-holiday cheer viewing to set you in the right festive mood this week. Enjoy!

Also today, the good Dr. Jahnke revives his Electric Theatre column to take a look back and remember some of the great talent we lost this past year. It's pretty sobering when you see all those names in one place, I'll tell you.

Finally, we've kicked off THREE new Giveaways, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Nip/Tuck: Season Five, Part One and The Waltons: The Complete Eighth Season, cool busts of Horton the Elephant and a Lord of the Rings Ringwraith from our friends at Sideshow Collectibles, and... for your post-holiday flab-busting fun... six fitness titles on DVD (also from Warner)! Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, January 4th. Click on the links to get get started, and good luck!

And don't forget, there should be a new Battlestar Galactica webisode to check out later today, so keep your eyes peeled for it.

Late-breaking news aside, we'll be back tomorrow with another Bits-Mas review, as well as a final combined Classic Coming Attractions/High-Definition Matters column from Barrie. In the meantime, safe travels and stay tuned!

12/19/08

First things first today... we're closing out the week with another of our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas reviews here at The Bits. And Day Nine brings a true holiday classic: Bob Clark's A Christmas Story. It's one of our all-time favorites, and Adam Jahnke's here to talk about the recent Blu-ray Disc edition. Enjoy!

Also today, a quick title update: We've confirmed with Warner Home Video that their recently announced The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (due on 3/24) is the exact same disc that's already available in The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray box set, simply in new Digibook packaging which will feature new artwork and liner notes. So if you already have the Blu-ray box - no worries.

Finally today, I have a report for you on last night's The Dark Knight BD-Live "community screening" event with director Christopher Nolan. As many of you know, the event was restricted to 100,000 participants to ensure that the server could handle the workload. (We understand that future BD-Live events with the studio will be scaled up, as the infrastructure is improved.) Not long after I received a review copy of the disc, I signed up for a BD-Live account with Warner and logged in. It took nearly a full 5 minutes to get signed in through my Panasonic BD55's internet connection, and once I did connect, there wasn't much to do. The only options that were accessible were "Home," "Media Center" and "Help"... I couldn't get anything in the Media Center to work (trailers for example), and there was nothing in the Help section. So I was a little worried going into the event, but figured that maybe Warner just hadn't activated any of the features yet.

Warner's e-mailed instructions were to log in about 15 minutes early, so I did... and my concern mounted. As before, nothing was active yet. I signed out and in again with five minutes to go until the event was to start - nothing. So I almost gave up. I've actually heard from a number of readers today who DID give up at this point, and understandably. But I tried again, one last time, at a couple minutes after 6 PM. To my surprise, suddenly all the options were available. So I navigated to the "Express Yourself" option and then to "Live Community Screening"... and listed there in the event manager was the Live Chris Nolan Event with the option to join. So I did. And I was pleasantly surprised that it actually worked, and fairly well.

The remote server took control of my player, and the film began to play, though not from the very beginning. The screening had already started at that point, and I was joining it a minute or two in. So The Joker's clowns were swinging down their zipline as I jumped in. The way it worked was this: You could submit questions for Nolan in advance, and also live during the screening via Warner's BD-Live site (from a laptop, PC, cell phone, etc). A moderator was in control of the event, and Nolan was reportedly sitting in an office on the Warner lot in Burbank, answering questions as quickly as he could as they came in. It's seemed that he'd answered at least a few in advance, because at first they appeared on the screen in pretty quick succession. Here's a couple partial screen shots of what it actually looked like... you can see the text box at the top where the questions and answers appeared as the film played.

Dark Knight BD-Live Screening

Dark Knight BD-Live Screening

Dark Knight BD-Live Screening

I asked several questions, but unless I looked down at the wrong time and missed one, I don't believe any were answered. That's probably not surprising, as the moderator noted that some 13,000 questions had been received, and more were constantly coming in. Some of them were pretty interesting, and Nolan's answers were fascinating. He revealed, for example, that one of his influences for The Dark Knight was Michael Mann's Heat. When asked why the entire film wasn't shot in IMAX format, he explained that the cameras were bulky and noisy, so everything they shot was footage that didn't require live audio and dialogue to be recorded on set. He also explained that many of the special effects - for example Two Face's scarring - would have been much more expensive and difficult to do in the higher IMAX resolution. For most of 150 minutes, things proceeded very smoothly. There was one brief moderator controlled pause early on for technical adjustments, and there was a 5-minute break about halfway though the film so that Nolan could use the bathroom - no kidding. Presumably, many of 100,000 people took the opportunity to do the same. (Note that Warner hasn't yet said if all 100,000 participation slots were used.)

I have to say, it's fascinating to be sitting right there in your own home theater, participating in such a large communal experience. It's also pretty interesting watching as a moderator remotely takes control of the play/pause functions of your Blu-ray player, though I should note that you can still exit the screening at any time. I did so a couple times - exiting and rejoining the screening to see if it would work. It did. The movie simply restarts at the right point to re-sync with the screening as it continues live.

All in all, though, the event was pretty cool. I didn't stay though the whole thing - with the holiday closing in, and family soon on the way, my wife and I have too much to do. So I ducked out about 40 minutes before the end. I was fairly impressed, though. It'd be really cool if you could actually see and hear the director talking in a little Picture-in-Picture window during the film. Or at least if you could see sequential still images or even artwork. That's probably technically possible, but might be challenging given the bandwidth that would be required. As it is, the whole process is a little clunky, and reading tiny scrolling text for that long becomes a bit tiresome. It would be nice if Warner made the transcript accessible via BD-Live after the event, so you could review it later for stuff you missed. Still, there is something undeniably cool about being able to participate in a live event like this. As I said yesterday, I unfortunately didn't have my wireless network upgrade ready in time to participate in Universal's Hellboy II BD-Live event, so I don't know how they compare. But it'll be very interesting to see how these kind of experiences evolve in the months and years ahead. Thanks to Christopher Nolan and the folks at Warner for all their time and hard work.

Okay... that's it for this week. Obviously, Christmas is coming next week, so Hollywood is pretty much shutting down today. Which means there's not going to be a lot of news to report until after the New Year. We will, however, be back on Monday with our final three Bits-Mas reviews - one each day until Christmas Eve. So have a great weekend everyone! If you or your family are traveling, please be safe - there's a lot of nasty weather out there.

See you Monday!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/18/09 - 4:30 PM PST)

Now then... today's Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review is a twofer - Jeff Kleist's take on Die Hard 1 & 2, both available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox. As you may already know, they offer cautionary tales, about what can happen when you get invited to the wrong Christmas party or pick the wrong holiday plane flight to hijack. Yippee-ki-yay, Santa!

We've got a bonus review for you today as well... a title that I was quite happy to stay up late last night watching: Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.0, which streets on DVD on 1/6/09. I love this show. Have I mentioned that I love this show? Well, I do. Enjoy.

Finally today, there's sad news to report. Actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, has passed away. Majel appeared in such shows as Leave it to Beaver, Bonanza and The Lucy Show, but later became known as Nurse Chapel on the original Star Trek, Lwaxana Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the voice of the Enterprise computer on virtually every Trek series since. She was 76.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/18/09 - 1 PM PST)

Okay, first things first today... tonight is Warner's big BD-Live screening event with The Dark Knight and director Christopher Nolan. It kicks off at 6PM Pacific, but you should log in about 15 minutes early. So if you're one of the 100,000 folks who have registered and logged in with your Dark Knight Blu-ray, maybe I'll see you there. I wasn't able to get my wireless network working in time to take in Universal's Hellboy II event with Guillermo del Toro, so this will be my first experience with a Blu-ray BD-Live event. I've got my fingers crossed that it all works, because it seems to take like 5 minutes to log in with Warner's BD-Live servers, and once I'm in, I can't get much to work. We'll see. If it does work, I'll post some comments about it all tomorrow. If you have any questions, go here.

In announcement news today... Warner Home Video has just set a number of new Warner and New Line catalog titles for release on Blu-ray Disc on 4/7, including 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Above the Law, American History X, Collateral Damage, John Q, Final Destination, Point of No Return, the Taking Lives: Extended Cut, Tango & Cash and The Wedding Singer: Totally Awesome Edition. That's a pretty cool line-up. I'm particularly pleased to see 2010 in there.

In other news, a number of readers have informed me that there's a new Yahoo Tech Blog arguing against Blu-ray. This one claims Blu-ray is "a worst tech product of 2008" (mostly, it seems, because the commentator feels disc prices are still too high) and that the market indicates that the format not a success. I don't know what market data he's been looking at, but I've seen actual sales data for both hardware and software, both of which are AHEAD of projections not only for this year... particularly when factoring in the recession... but they're also ahead of historical sales numbers for DVD hardware and software at the same point in that format's life. Hey, Blu-ray movie prices are still a little too high, but that's what happens with ANY new format. The prices start high and then drop over time. But you'd have to be hiding under a rock not to see all of the amazing software discounts that are available this holiday season. What's been most interesting (and yet unsurprising) to us is the way in which the high-def format war split the enthusiast and tech communities, and how some of those divides remain, nearly a year after HD-DVD was discontinued by Toshiba. Whether because people preferred HD-DVD and so harbor a resentment against Blu-ray, or because they dislike Sony over the PS3 or for other reasons, or they prefer downloading, or what have you... we guarantee that no matter how well Blu-ray sells or what happens with the format in the years ahead, there will always be those who argue against it for one reason or another, having little to do with the actual value of the format as a medium to watch films. Now you all know exactly WHY we argued against the format war so intensely back in 2005 and early 2006 here at The Bits, when others remained silent - because we KNEW this is what would inevitably happen. Whatever, what's done is done. All we really care about is the ability to enjoy great movies at home in high-definition, in the highest possible quality. And on that score, Blu-ray delivers. Hollywood is 110% behind the format. And the prices will fall in the months and years ahead. That's how these things work. So there's a little common sense for you. Somebody's got to offer it, because apparently it's still a rare commodity online.

All of which reminds me... Warner's The Dark Knight has passed ONE MILLION units sold on Blu-ray in the U.S., officially becoming the format's first million selling title. It's also apparently soon to become the format's first TWO MILLION selling title, as its unit sales on the format have already reached 1.7 million worldwide in just its first week of release. Meanwhile, Blu-ray's apparently selling well enough to start impacting standard DVD sales too. Oh, yeah... this format's got no future in it. ;)

Here's some cool new cover art: Sony's Gandhi, Kramer vs. Kramer and Quarantine on Blu-ray Disc (all due 2/17)...

Gandhi (Blu-ray Disc)Kramer vs. Kramer (Blu-ray Disc)Quarantine (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, I'm getting a TON of e-mails from readers lately - a higher volume of messages even than usual - and it's taking a long time to go through it all. So if you're trying to reach me, please be patient. Thanks!

Back with more in a couple hours... stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/17/08 - 2:30 PM PST)

We're back as promised with today's Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review! And Day Seven brings none other than a batch of classic TV Holiday Treats on DVD from CBS and Paramount, thanks to our very own Barrie Maxwell. Enjoy!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/17/08 - 1:15 PM PST)

We'll be back later with more, but first we've got a few more new announcements to report...

First, Warner has just set Pride and Glory for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 1/27. There will be a single-disc DVD (SRP $28.98), a 2-disc DVD Special Edition ($34.99) and a Blu-ray Disc ($35.99). The single-disc DVD will be movie only. The 2-disc Special Edition and the Blu-ray will also include the 67-minute Source of Pride: The Making of Pride and Glory documentary, as well as a Digital Copy version of the film.

Synapse Films has announced a new DVD label, Impulse Pictures. Their first DVD release under the new label will be Schoolgirl Report 5: What All Parents Should Know, due on 2/24 (SRP $24.95). Included will be the original uncut German version of the film. Ahem... racy would be the word you're looking for.

Buena Vista has set a trio of DVD titles for release on 12/30, including Greek: Chapter Two, The Secret Life of the American Teenager: The First Season and Kyle XY: The Complete Second Season - Revelations.

Meanwhile, Genius Products and The Weinstein Company will release the World War II romantic epic Closing the Ring on DVD on 1/27 (SRP $19.97).

Sony has set The Children of Huang Shi for DVD release on 1/20.

20th Century Fox has officially confirmed that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ will street on Blu-ray Disc format on 2/17 (SRP $34.99). The release will be a 2-disc set (one Blu-ray and one DVD). Disc One (the Blu-ray) will include both the original theatrical and "re-cut" versions of the film, an enhanced viewing mode with Biblical footnotes, multiple audio commentaries with Mel Gibson, the filmmakers and theologians, and a music commentary with composer John Debney on selected scenes. Disc Two (the DVD) will include the exclusive The Making of The Passion of the Christ documentary, multiple featurettes including The Legacy: A Historical & Cultural Retrospective of the Crucifixion, a historical photo gallery, deleted scenes and more.

One more from Fox - the studio has also set Clark Gregg's Choke for DVD release on 2/17 (SRP $27.98). Extras will include audio commentary with Gregg and actor Sam Rockwell, 5 deleted scenes (with optional commentary by the same), a gag reel and multiple featurettes, including A Conversation with Clark Gregg and Chuck Palahniuk, My Name is Victor and I'm a Sex Addict, A Mother's Love, From the Los Angeles Film Festival and Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session.

And Warner Home Video has announced a number of new DVD releases for March and April, including A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Seasons on 3/17, Peanuts: Snoopy's Reunion - Deluxe Edition and TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection on 4/7 (includes It's a Great Feeling, Tea for Two, April in Paris, The Tunnel of Love and Starlift), Knots Landing: The Complete Second Season, National Geographic's The Everglades and North Star on 4/14, Dallas: The Complete Eleventh Season, National Geographic's On Board Air Force One and National Geographic's On Board Marine One on 4/21, and the BBC's Warriors on 4/28.

Here's a little more cover art: Fox's Choke DVD and Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Blu-ray (2/24), and Warner's TCM Spotlight: Doris Day Collection DVD...

Choke DVDFuturama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (Blu-ray Disc)TCM Doris Day Collection DVD

Don't forget: There's a new Battlestar Galactica webisode available today.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/16/08 - 5 PM PST)

Okay... here's our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review of the day: Adult Swim's The Venture Bros.: Seasons One & Two on DVD! You'll have to read the review to discover how this fits into our holiday theme. Trust me, it works. It's also a brilliant animated series, which we all highly recommend if you haven't seen it yet. Enjoy!

See you in the morning!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/16/08 - 2:15 PM PST)

Just a quick heads-up... we'll be back with today's Twelve Days of Bits-Mas review later this afternoon, so be sure to check back for it then.

Also here at The Bits today, our own Russell Hammond has updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section once again with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you purchase from Amazon after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits, and we certainly appreciate it.

Now then... we've got LOTS of new announcements to cover today. The biggest is official confirmation of the release of Fox's South Pacific: 50th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray Disc on 3/31 (SRP $34.99). The 2-disc (dual BD-50) release will present the film in 1080p video via the AVC/MPEG-4 codec, with DTS-HD 5.1 audio. (English 4.0 Dolby Surround, English Stereo and French/Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital audio will also be included.) Extras on Disc One will include the theatrical cut of the film, an audio commentary by Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization president Ted Chapin and musical theater writer Gerard Alessandrini, sing-a-long Karaoke subtitles and a songs-only option. Disc Two will include the extended "Road Show" version of the film (15 minutes longer), audio commentary by film historian Richard Barrios, the Making of South Pacific featurette, the 60 Minutes Exclusive: The Tales of the South Pacific, the Fox Movietone newsreels South Pacific on the Screen: A Perfect Hit and State Department Confers High Honor on South Pacific, vintage stage excerpts performed by original Broadway stars Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza (including Some Enchanted Evening and A Wonderful Guy), Mitzy Gaynor's screen test and the original theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray will also feature a new exclusive feature: the Prejudice and South Pacific: Creating an American Masterpiece full-length documentary. You'll find the cover art below.

Also newly announced by Fox for BD release on 2/10 is Donnie Darko (SRP $34.99). This will be a 2-disc set (one Blu-ray and one DVD). Extras on the BD disc will include both the theatrical cut and the director's cut, 3 audio commentary tracks (one with writer/director Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal on the theatrical cut, a second with the cast and crew on the theatrical cut, and a third with writer/director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith on the director's cut) and D-Box enhancement. The DVD disc will include more extras on SD format, including a Donnie Darko Production Diary with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster, 2 featurettes (They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary), a storyboard-to-screen featurette and the director's cut theatrical trailer. Cover art is available below.

We've mentioned this before, but Sony has set The Pink Panther remake for Blu-ray Disc on 1/20 (SRP $28.95), complete with the Code Pink: Animated Graphics-in-Pictures Track (all new original animation of the Pink Panther and Inspector Clouseau delivering fun facts and trivia about making the film), as well as 5 featurettes, 11 deleted scenes, 3 music videos and audio commentary with director Shawn Levy.

Sony has also set Groundhog Day for release on Blu-ray on 1/27 (SRP $28.95). Extras will include commentary with director Harold Ramis, 3 featurettes, 6 deleted scenes and the BD-exclusive Needle Nose Ned's Picture-in-Picture track.

And Criterion has added François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (Cat#5) and The Last Metro (#462) to it's upcoming Blu-ray slate. Both are expected on 3/24. The Last Metro will also be available on DVD on that date (The 400 Blows is already on DVD from Criterion). Thanks to Bits reader Patrick M. for the heads-up.

On the standard DVD front, Sony has also set Red Sands for release on 2/24.

Image Entertainment will release the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired on DVD on 1/27.

Icon Home Entertainment has set The Tattooist for DVD release on 1/26, as "a newly edited cut with enhanced features."

Here's some cool new cover art... Fox's South Pacific and Donnie Darko BDs, Criterion's The 400 Blows and The Last Metro BDs, Universal's Howard the Duck: Special Edition DVD (3/10) and Sony's Quarantine DVD (2/17)...

South Pacific (Blu-ray Disc)Donnie Darko (Blu-ray Disc)The 400 Blows (Blu-ray Disc)

The Last Metro (Blu-ray Disc)Howard the Duck: Special EditionQuarantine DVD

Back in a while... stay tuned...

12/15/08

Afternoon, folks and welcome to a new week! I'll tell you, we're getting blasted with rain here in Southern California. I recently thought to clean out the rain gutters on the house, and I'm glad of it, or we'd be flooding like crazy right now.

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Sarah and I spent our Saturday decorating, and then attended Mr. and Mrs. MusicTap's annual Christmas party. I'll tell you, no one does a holiday like Debbie Rowe. She's a decorating addict - this year it's snowmen everywhere! While all the celebrating and merriment was going on, Matt and I managed to slip away to catch a screening of the new Day the Earth Stood Still remake. It's been getting pretty mixed reviews, but we actually didn't find it that bad. We both really appreciate a decent high-concept effort from Hollywood, even if they rarely achieve what they mean to. Keanu Reeves was perfectly cast as Klaatu - the role plays right to his strengths. In fact, the entire cast was excellent. The production design was great as well. The problem with the film is, it's only about 70% of a great remake. All the ideas are in place or at least hinted at, but either the writer just couldn't quite find the right way to pay off the story, or someone came in and seriously meddled with the script. For example, John Cleese is terrific as a scientist who interacts with Klaatu, but he's only in the film for a single scene. And while the original film ended with a stern message for humanity, which was the key to the whole film, there's no such warning in this remake... which sort of defeats the whole point. Anyway, it's a shame, because this could really have been a brilliant remake. As it is, the film is still worth seeing if you like science fiction, but it's only just a little better than the average.

Now then... we continue this afternoon with our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas, and today Doogan chimes in with a review of a perfect holiday title... Monty Python's Life of Brian - The Immaculate Edition, now available on Blu-ray from Sony! "NO ONE... is to stone ANYONE... until I blow this whistle!!" Great stuff.

Also, we are super-pleased to bring you the next installment of Rob Siegel's popular Golden Hollywood column here at The Bits, this time featuring a look back at the making of a Disney animated classic: Sleeping Beauty! There's TONS of amazing artwork for you to check out, so enjoy. While we're at it, Barrie Maxwell's posted a quick review of the new Blu-ray edition, and watch for a more in-depth review soon.

In release news, MGM is re-issuing The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection on DVD on 1/27 as a 9-disc set (SRP $69.98) containing 9 volumes of the original animated shorts.

Meanwhile, Paramount has announced a trio of new Blu-ray Disc releases for March, including Primal Fear and Comedy Central's South Park: The Complete Twelfth Season. Both are due on 3/10, and will be released the same day in standard DVD format as well. This marks the first time an entire season of South Park has appeared on disc in high-definition. Extras on the South Park disc will include 3 featurettes (Six Days to South Park: A Day-by-Day Making of South Park, Six Days to South Park: The Sixth Day and The Making of Major Boobage). Presumably, they'll be in full HD on the Blu-ray. Also coming from the studio on 3/17 is National Lampoon's Van Wilder: Freshman Year - Unrated on both DVD and Blu-ray.

Sony has announced a number of new standard DVD only releases, including The Lodger (due 2/10), and Stonehouse, Canterbury's Law: The Complete Series, Just Shoot Me: The Complete Third Season, S.I.S., Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (all on 2/24).

Also, Warner has finally (officially) announced a title it first teased in promotional Blu-ray inserts a couple months ago: The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray. The title is set for release as a BD-50 Digibook edition on 3/24. We SUSPECT it's simply the same disc that's currently in The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray set, just available by itself in custom Digibook packaging (with the usual production notes and artwork). We'll confirm that as soon as we can, of course.

In other news, don't forget that the second installment of Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy webisode series is now online. New installments will be available each Monday and Wednesday leading up to the 1/16 debut of the last ten episodes of the series.

Finally, we wanted to take a moment today to acknowledge the passing of actor Van Johnson last week. Johnson appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over the course of his long career, including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Ziegfeld Follies, The Caine Mutiny, Brigadoon, the classic TV Batman, The Virginian, McCloud, Rich Man, Poor Man, The Purple Rose of Cairo and on and on. He was 92.

Stay tuned...

12/12/08

Okay, we'll round out the week with our Twelve Days of Bits-Mas entry for the day: Dr. Jahnke's take on Universal's Eastern Promises on Blu-ray Disc. Ah-ha! You thought this was going to be all cutsy-cuddly holiday titles, didn't you? Well, that's just not how we roll here at The Bits. How is Eastern Promises a holiday title you might ask? It just so happens that the film's story takes place during the holiday season. So there. Enjoy!

Now then... we wanted to take a moment today to acknowledge the recent passing of a couple of icons. Here's Doogan with a few words...

"It always sucks to have to write the latest OBitsuary, and sadly this one is even harder still. The last two weeks have seen two giants fall. Giants, not necessarily in all areas of entertainment, but certainly giants of Pop Culture. First, Forrest J. Ackerman left us on December 4th. Over the years, he gave us some of our favorite, best loved science fiction writers, he gave us Famous Monsters of Filmland, he coined the term sci-fi and generally all-around inspired some of the most creative people working in film, literature and television today. His life, his work... hell, even his home... were all a tributes to his passion. Uncle Forry was someone we all admired for the love of the fantastic he brought to us all and he will be greatly missed by Pop Culture fans everywhere. As for the other loss... well, Bettie Page gave us Bettie, and with it a whole world of pin-up photography, kitsch style and female adoration that both men and women could cling to. Without her, there'd be no Suicide Girls, no Dita Von Teese and the late Dave Stevens may not have been inspired to do The Rocketeer. Bettie was the best of a breed of model, who came to epitomize an era and become an icon of female beauty that lives on today. She passed away quietly in a coma at the age of 85 on December 11th."

Ugh... we hate that part of this job. It goes without saying that we doff our caps in their honor.

Now then... there's no real release news to report today, but we did make a slight update/correction to our Rumor Mill post from yesterday, so do check it out.

In other news from around the Net, word is that both Oppo and Denon are getting ready to release "universal" Blu-ray Disc players, that play DVD-Audio and SACD discs in addition to Blu-ray titles and DVDs. Oppo's entry will sell for between $499 and $599, while Denon's will be a little... well, a LOT more pricey. Both will have full BD-Live functionality right out of the box. We LOVE the idea, at least...

Don't forget BSG fans: Today is the big launch of Sci-Fi's new Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy webisode series! You'll get two new installments each week leading up to the 1/16 premiere of the new season of the show. And if you haven't been watching one of TIME's Ten Best Shows of 2008: What's up, yo?

Okay, now I'm off to decorate the Christmas tree and put lights on the house. Yeah, I know... better late than never. Have a great weekend. Stay tuned...



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