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page updated: 7/17/09



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 7/9/09 - 6/11/09)


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7/9/09

Well, it's another slow news day today, announcement-wise. That shouldn't be surprising... most of the major studios are saving their big announcements to roll out at Comic-Con in San Diego later this month. But we'll be there, so we'll have all the details for you.

We do have just a couple things for you though...

First, Warner Home Video and BBC Video have set the 1967 version of Wuthering Heights for DVD release on 10/13 (SRP $14.98).

Warner has also set Cartoon Network's Xavier: The Renegade Angel - Season 1 & 2 for DVD release on 11/10 (SRP $19.97).

For you Lindsay Lohan fans, First Look Studios has set Labor Pains for DVD and Blu-ray release on 8/4 (SRP $28.98 and $29.98 respectively).

Eagle Rock has set Quincy Jones: The 75th Birthday Celebration Live at Montreux to debut on both DVD and Blu-ray on 7/21 (SRP $24.98 each).

Disney has set Santa Buddies for DVD and Blu-ray release on 11/24.

And Image Entertainment will release the 1950s alien invasion spoof Alien Trespass (starring Eric McCormack and Robert Patrick) on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/11 (SRP $27.98 and $35.98). Extras will include a pair of featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, "live" news updates and trailers.

Elsewhere here at the site, you fans of comedian Garry Shandling are DEFINITELY going to want to check out The Rumor Mill today. Enough said. ;)

In news from around the Net, a company called Bright Stage Media has developed a BD-Live e-commerce system that will allow you to purchase items via your BD-Live enabled Blu-ray player. Word is it's going to be rolled out on a major forthcoming BD release in August. You can read more at Video Business and Home Media.

Also, Warner has just added 30 new titles to its Warner Archive program, including Get to Know Your Rabbit, Conspirator, The Girl Who Had Everything, Rhapsody, Big Boy, Go Into Your Dance, Say It With Songs, The Singing Fool, The Singing Kid, Wonder Bar, Mammy, The Moon is Blue, The Fox, Green Mansions and more. By the way, the Archive site also has an official podcast for you to listen to, hosted by Warner's George Feltenstein... our old friend (and "cinematic obsessive").

Here's a little more new cover art work... Image's Alien Trespass (both versions) and Sony's The Class on Blu-ray (8/11)...

Alien TrespassAlien Trespass (Blu-ray Disc)The Class (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

7/8/09

Well... more information has been released on the subject of DreamWorks Animation's DVD and Blu-ray release of Monsters vs. Aliens (due on 9/29, via Paramount). Sadly, it seems now that the film will NOT be released with a 3-D viewing option on disc... yet. The reason is apparently that the studio doesn't feel the best 3-D effect of the film can be replicated in the home with existing technology. To satisfy demand for 3-D however, the new B.O.B.'s Big Break short, included with both the DVD and Blu-ray versions, will be presented in 3-D (glasses included). DreamWorks Animation apparenty DOES plan to re-release the film in actual 3-D on Blu-ray when the final 3-D spec for the format is implemented, possibly as soon as next year. You can read more on all this here at Home Media. In the meantime, both versions will include filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes, a Karaoke option, multiple featurettes and previews (in HD on Blu-ray), the B.O.B.'s Big Break shot (in both 2-D and 3-D), and a 3-D Paddle Ball Game. The Blu-ray will also include an exclusive trivia track and the Animator's Corner PiP viewing option. Here's the cover art...

Monsters Vs. Aliens/B.O.B.'s Big Break DVD 2-packMonsters Vs. Aliens (Blu-ray Disc)

In terms of release news, I don't know if we've mentioned this before, but Lost: The Complete Fifth Season is due on DVD and Blu-ray from Disney on 12/8 (SRP $59.99 and $79.99). There will also be a Limited Edition DVD Gift Set version that includes Dharma Initiative packaging and swag for $119.99. Again, here's what they look like...

Lost: The Complete Fifth SeasonLost: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray Disc)

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season Limited Edition DVD Gift Set

Also today, Warner Home Video has revealed that they'll re-release the Amadeus Director's Cut on Blu-ray Disc on 9/15 (SRP $28.99) in - gasp! - regular Blu-ray blue Elite plastic case packaging! The disc is otherwise identical to the version currently available in Digibook packaging.

And one last note today: There's a new indie Blu-ray hardware maker in town, and word is they're pretty damn good. A company from northern California called Oppo has just released their new cadillac Blu-ray player, the BDP-83. Here's what makes it cool - not only will it play Blu-ray and decode all the format's lossless audio schemes (DTS-HA MA, Dolby TrueHD) on board, it also plays DVD, CD, AVCHD and even DVD-Audio and SACD high-resolution audio discs! I'm a HUGE fan of the SACD format, given that the entire Peter Gabriel and Police catalogs are available in that format. Sadly, SACD has pretty much faded away here in the States but it's still going fairly strong in Europe. So if you're like me, the player is right up your alley. Did I mention that the BDP-83 is also fully BonusView and BD-Live compatible? Well it is. It even has 1GB of built-in memory (so you don't need an SD Card to use BD-Live) and it's got both 5.1 and 7.1 analog outputs for you audiophiles. And we hear the DVD up-scaling is excellent and that 1080p video decoding via HDMI is spectacular. The early reviews from the A/V enthusiast press have been through the roof (see this one for example). We'll be finding out for ourselves shortly - I expect to have my hands on a demo unit in the next week or so. In the meantime, if you're interested, the BDP-83 is now available via Amazon.com (for just $499) at this link. Here's what it looks like...

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc player

That's all for now. Stay tuned!

7/7/09

Morning, folks! In the interest of getting a jump on things today, we bring you this wee-early-AM-morning post...

...which includes a new Electric Theatre column from Dr. Jahnke, featuring his thoughts on Michael Mann's new Public Enemies, now unspooling at your local googolplex. You'll find Adam's take on Cottage: Unrated on DVD (in Tales from the Queue) in there too. Enjoy!

Also this morning, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates and Artwork section, featuring all the latest DVD and Blu-ray 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 helps support our work here at The Bits, and we surely do appreciate it!

In announcement news this morning, Anchor Bay has just set Rob Zombie's first feature-length, adults-only animated film, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 9/22 (SRP $19.97 and $34.98). The press release describes the film as "a colorful blend of Fritz the Cat, Scooby-Doo, Ren and Stimpy and Santo wrestling flicks." One shudders to imagine... (but color us intrigued).

Finally, we hope this isn't a jinx, but Video Business is reporting that Image Entertainment is having trouble staying financially viable. The indie DVD and Blu-ray studio/distributor has been around since the wee early days of laserdisc and (for our part) we hope they're around for a long time yet to come. Seems to us they've been counted down and out before, so fingers crossed.

Stay tuned!

7/6/09

Afternoon, folks! We've got some good new title announcements to report on today, so let's get right to it...

First of all, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation have officially revealed that the animated Monsters vs. Aliens will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on 9/29. It looks like both will be presented with a 3-D viewing option, and will include the 3-D debut of the new B.O.B.'s Big Break animated short. We'll have cover art and more details in the next few days.

Next, Warner Home Video has set 4 final box sets for release on DVD on 11/3 as part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection line (SRP $27.92 each each). Available on that day will be the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Holiday (includes A Christmas Carol, Christmas in Connecticut, The Shop Around the Corner and It Happened on 5th Avenue), the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Comedy (Arsenic and Old Lace, A Night at the Opera, The Long, Long Trailer and Father of the Bride), the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Family (National Velvet, Lassie Come Home, Flipper and The Incredible Mr. Limpet) and the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Hitchcock Thrillers (Suspicion, Strangers on a Train, I Confess and The Wrong Man).

Warner has also announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Ultimate Collector's Edition on 10/27 (SRP $39.92 and $39.92). The actual disc-based content is the same as is already available on each format, but the boxes will include a replica of Clark Griswold's holiday Santa hat, a set of holiday-themed coasters with quotes from the film, a box of fake snow and an "I survived a Griswold Family Christmas" button. The Blu-ray box will also include a collectible moose figurine.

And Warner has set Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960's Volume Two and Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970's Volume One for DVD release on 10/27 as well.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate has set Ulysses (SRP $14.98) and Cravings ($26.98) for DVD release on 8/4.

Sony has announced another round of Martini Movies (Wave 3 to be exact) for DVD release on 9/8. Available for the first time on DVD will be Model Shop (1969), The Buttercup Chain (1970), The Pursuit of Happiness (1971), Summertree (1971), and Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973). Each will sell for $19.94. Sony has also set Carlos Cuaron's Rudo y Cursi for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 8/25.

Our friends over at Blue Underground have a new Blu-ray release due on 10/27... Jorge Grau's Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (SRP $29.95). Extras will include 3 featurettes (Back to the Morgue, Zombie Fighter and Zombie Maker), a 2000 interview with Grau, trailers, TV and radio spots and a gallery of poster art and stills.

Infinity Entertainment has set the James Dean: The Fast Lane documentary for 2-disc DVD release on 8/11.

Also today, Fox has set Bones: Season 4 for DVD and Blu-ray release on 10/6.

Mondo Macabro has set Alain Robbe-Grillet's Gradiva for release on DVD on 8/25 (SRP $24.95), featuring a new interview with the director, a trailer and production notes. This is the first time the film has been available in the States.

And Disney has set Spike Lee's Kobe: Doin' Work - Uncensored Special Edition for DVD release on 11/24 (SRP $29.99). The disc will include commentary with Kobe Bryant and deleted scenes, among other extras.

In other news today, director Robert Rodriguez has confirmed (via his Twitter page) that he's working on a new DVD and Blu-ray release of Grindhouse. Presumably, this would be the long-awaited "ultimate" version, combined with the fake trailers and the like.

Horror fans will be pleased to learn that Universal Studios has finally set Phantasm II for DVD release on 9/15, along with the John Carpenter: Master of Fear Collection (The Thing, They Live, Prince of Darkness and Village of the Damned), The Wes Craven Horror Collection (The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker and The People Under the Stairs) and The Wolf Man: Universal Legacy Series Special Edition (the original 1941 version). SRP is $19.98 each except for Wolf Man, which is $26.98. You can read more here in this Video Business piece on upcoming horror titles, which also reveals that Classic Media is bringing the classic original Gojira (Godzilla) to Blu-ray Disc on 9/22 (SRP $29.93).

According to our friends over at TVShowsonDVD, A&E will bring Farscape back to DVD in November with the release of a Farscape: The Complete Series Megaset (the exact SRP and street date are TBA). Also available will be box sets of each full season. Lots of extras will be included, though there's no word yet on whether any new extras will be included, or whether everything from the previous ADV DVD releases will be included. We expect to learn more on all this at Comic-Con later this month, where the show's creators and stars will participate in a 10th anniversary panel discussion. FYI, it's our understanding that this is a DVD-only release (we understand that only the show's final season was finished in 1.78 widescreen and all the post production was done in 480p for the first few seasons so, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, a Blu-ray release would require each of the episodes to be rebuilt from the original film elements up with new HD effects).

Also today, the good folks over at Criterion have announced the next installment of their Eclipse series of DVDs: Eclipse 17: Nikkatsu Noir (SRP $69.95) on 8/25. The 5-disc set will include the classics I Am Waiting (1957), Rusty Knife (1958), Take Aim at the Police Van (1960), Cruel Gun Story (1964) and A Colt is My Passport (1967).

Along other lines, we've got a couple good recommendations for you today for films now playing at your local art theatre. Go see Duncan Jones' Moon, starring Sam Rockwell - it's a very good little science fiction puzzler, in the spirit of 2001, Sunshine and Blade Runner. (Our old friend Mojo also recommends it, as does Jahnke.) Also well worth your time is Robert Kenner's new documentary Food, Inc., which is a pretty unsettling look at the current state of the food industry. If you've recently wondered how we could be having so many E Coli outbreaks from tainted meat and produce lately, Kenner lays it all our for you.

Finally today, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of someone who was incredibly controversial back in the late 60s and early 1970s... former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. McNamara was the intellectual architect of the Vietnam War and much of U.S. military planning and decision-making back during the Cold War, but (much like Robert Oppenheimer, who was the key developer of the atomic bomb) he came to have a serious change of heart about these things as a got older. We mention this here, because McNamara was the key subject of Errol Morris' excellent 2003 documentary, The Fog of War, which is highly recommended viewing. He was 93.

We'll leave you today with cover art: Here's Disney's Zorro: The Complete First Season and Zorro: The Complete Second Season (due 11/3) on DVD, and Blue Underground's The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue on Blu-ray...

Zorro: The Complete First SeasonZorro: The Complete Second SeasonThe Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Blu-ray Disc)

Okay, that's all for now. See you tomorrow.

Stay tuned...

7/3/09

Hey Guys!

Well... I've spent the morning checking 'round the horn for news and other announcements. I've hit the newswires and the studio press sites. Frankly there's not much going down today - probably not surprising, given that most folks in Hollywood (and the rest of the country for that matter) took today off to start celebrating the July 4th holiday early.

The only thing worth mentioning is that Amazon.com has a new holiday-weekend deal, offering people a free Sony Blu-ray player with the purchase of select Samsung HDTV displays. So if you're in the market for a new TV, that's a pretty good incentive. I'm guessing deals on HD displays and Blu-ray players will really start to heat up in August, however, as football season approaches (and Madden NFL 10 hits stores). That's usually how it works.

Anyway, it goes without saying that we wish you all a safe and happy holiday weekend with your family and friends, but we'll say it anyway. Go out and get some sun, eat some good food, take in a movie or two... maybe check out some fireworks or somesuch. You know the drill.

See you back here on Monday! Stay tuned...

7/2/09

Okay... afternoon, folks! Let's have a release news update, shall we?

First up, Sony has announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla on 11/2 (SRP $28.95). Extras will include a visual effects commentary, 2 featurettes (All Time Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes and Behind the Scenes of Godzilla with Charles Caiman), the movieIQ and The Ultimate Godzilla Trivia Game interactive options, and The Wallflowers' Heroes music video.

Sony has also set Sugar for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/1 (SRP $28.96 and $39.95).

Meanwhile, Universal has announced State of Play for release DVD and Blu-ray on 7/21 (SRP $29.98 and $39.98). DVD extras will include deleted scenes and The Making of State of Play featurette. The Blu-ray version will add the U-Control Picture-in-Picture and Washington, D.C. Locations features, as well as BD-Live options.

Other recent Blu-ray announcements by Universal include 12 Monkeys, Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 and Fast & Furious (and singles of the previous Fast and Furious BDs) on 7/28, Half-Baked on 8/4, Last House on the Left and The Last Starflighter: 25th Anniversary Edition on 8/18, Duplicity and Fighting on 8/25, Heroes: Season 3 and Bring It On: Fight to the Finish on 9/1 and The Office: Season Five on 9/8.

Warner Home Video has confirmed that The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen will be released on Blu-ray Disc on 9/8 (the title is already available on DVD).

Speaking of Warner, two things: First, the cover for the new 300: The Complete Experience Blu-ray is absolutely spectacular looking. It's embossed with metallic bronze and it's just gorgeous. We'll be reviewing it in the next few days so be sure to watch for it. Also, there's an insert included in the 300 package that confirms what we already knew: the theatrical editions of The Lord of the Rings films will street in a 3-disc box set on 11/3 from New Line (via Warner). Very cool.

Other new DVD and Blu-ray announcements from Warner include NFL: Green Bay Packers Heroes on 9/22, The Wiggles Big Big Show! and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (on single-disc DVD, Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray) on 9/29, NFL: A Tradition of Defense - The Chicago Bears and Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (BBC - DVD and Blu-ray) on 10/6, Jim Jefferies: I Swear to God and Cartoon Network's Bakugan Volume 5: The Game is Real on 10/13, Bleach: Volume 21 on 10/20 and a new March of the Penguins gift box, Cartoon Network's Secret Saturdays: Volume Two, Death Note Re-light #2: L's Successor, Naruto Shippuden: Volume 2 and Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl Battle Dimension Volumes 5 and 6 on 10/27.

Also today, CBS and Paramount have announced that the already available Star Trek: The Original Series - Season One Blu-ray will soon be upgraded with new extras via BD-Live. Available this week to those who own the title on Blu-ray (and have BD-Live ready players) will be a new video roundtable discussion with special effects producers Mike and Denise Okuda, Dave Rossi and Neil Wray, as well as David Gerrold, "Tribble" inventor and writer of the fan-favorite Trouble with Tribbles episode. You can also expect there to be previews and announcements related to the forthcoming BD release of Star Trek: The Original Series - Season Two (tentatively due on 9/22). Be sure to check it all out!

In other news, some of you may be familiar with FEARnet, which offers on-demand horror films online and via various cable VOD services (its co-owned by Sony and Lionsgate). Recently, FEARnet was dropped from Time Warner Cable, and there's an online effort to get it back on the official Facebook page. So if you're interested, head on over there and type in your John Hancock.

Around here at The Bits today, we're sending out a LAST CALL for orders for our new Comic-Con 2009 T-shirt in EXTENDED SIZES, as they have to be special ordered from the printer. So if you want one in 2XL up through 5XL, click here to get your order in fast.

Finally today, we want to take a moment to note the passing of actor Harve Presnell on Tuesday. Harve appeared in many films and TV series over the years, including the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Annie and Dawson's Creek, but you might know him best for his role as William H. Macy's father-in-law in Fargo. He was 75. "Watcha doing, Dad?" "Watchin' the Gophers..."

We'll leave you today with some new cover art. Here's a look at the Blu-ray covers for Universal's 12 Monkeys, State of Play and The Office: Season Five, Indican's The Wonder of it All (due 9/8 according to Indican, though Amazon says 9/15) and Fox's Lie to Me: Season One (8/25), as well as Warner's The Hills Run Red on DVD (9/29)...

12 Monkeys (Blu-ray Disc)State of Play (Blu-ray Disc)The Office: Season Five (Blu-ray Disc)

The Wonder of It All (Blu-ray Disc)Lie to Me: Season One (Blu-ray Disc)The Hills Run Red

Stay tuned...

7/1/09

This is just a quick update to let you all know that Barrie's new Classic Coming Attractions column is NOW live at long last! This time around, Barrie updates you all on the latest with the Warner Archive Program, runs down the latest classic DVD and Blu-ray release news, and updates his classic and western database listings too. He also reviews some 18 new classic and western DVD releases, including Flicker Alley's Under Full Sail: Silent Cinema on the High Seas, Universal's Pre-Code Hollywood Collection and Cleopatra: 75th Anniversary Edition, MGM's The King and Four Queens, Doc, Time Limit and Northwest Frontier, Paramount's El Dorado and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Centennial Collection editions, Fox's Man Hunt, E1 Entertainment's The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Warner's TCM Spotlight Doris Day Collection and The Charles Bronson Collection (Telefon/St.Ives), Sony's Nickelodeon/The Last Picture Show and The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six - 1949-1951, VCI's British Cinema: Renown Pictures - Literary Classics Collection and Darn Good Westerns: Volume 1 and Criterion's The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Enjoy and thanks for your patience in the wait for this one!

Also today, we want to take a moment to recognize the passing of veteran Hollywood actor Karl Malden today. Malden won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and appeared in such other classics as On the Waterfront, Patton, Gypsy, How the West Was Won, Hotel, Birdman of Alcatraz, Pollyanna, Bombers B-52, 1957's Time Limit (reviewed by Barrie in his new column), Fear Strikes Out, Nevada Smith, TV's The Streets of San Francisco and many, many more. He was 97.

We'll have our regular news update early tomorrow morning. Stay tuned...

6/30/09

Morning, everyone! Though we'd get an early start today...

First up, our own Dr. Jahnke has just updated his Electric Theatre with what might very well be the best review of Transformers 2 you're likely to read anywhere... and from a wholly unexpected source too. We're not ashamed to say that it might also be the best review we've ever posted on The Bits. You'll see what we mean when you check it out. Adam also looks at 3-Iron on DVD. Enjoy!

Also today, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates and Artwork 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 Amazon after clicking to them through our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we greatly appreciate it.

And in announcement news this morning, 20th Century Fox has officially set the DVD release of The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season for 8/10 (SRP $49.98). All 21 episodes will be included along with audio commentaries with the writers, cast and crew, illustrated commentaries, animation showcases, a special language feature, deleted scenes, 2 featurettes (Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever. and Global Fanfest), commercials and a sketch gallery.

Meanwhile, Sony has set Tyson for DVD and Blu-ray release on 8/18 (SRP $28.96 and $39.95). Extras will include commentary with director James Toback, the A Day in the Life featurette and the Iron Mike: Toback Talks Tyson Q&A session.

Sony has also set the hot-off-ABC-silly-fest Impact for DVD release on 9/1. The film (in case you missed it, which most of you probably did on Sunday night) features an Armageddon-like plot with scientists trying to prevent the Moon from crashing into the Earth. Yeah, I know. Extras will include 2 featurettes (Making of Impact and Creating Zero Gravity) and deleted scenes.

Following on 9/8 from Sony is Gifted Hands on DVD only (SLP $24.96).

Also due on 9/8 from Sony are new catalog Blu-ray editions of Silverado and The Quick and the Dead.

Here's one that somehow slipped under the radar... Shout! Factory will release American Gladiators: The Original Series - The Battle Begins on DVD on 7/14 (SRP $29.99). The 3-disc set will contain several episodes from the first season along with commentaries by several of the original combatants.

CBS (via Paramount) has set Friday the 13th - The Series: The Final Season, The Brotherhood: The Final Season, Ghost Whisperer: The Fourth Season and Taxi: The Fourth Season for DVD release on 9/22, followed by CSI: NY: The Fifth Season on 9/29.

Dave Parker's The Hills Run Red is due on DVD on 9/29 (SRP $19.98) from Warner Home Video. Extras will include commentary with Parker, writer David J. Schow and producer Robert Meyer Burnett, and the It's Not Real Until You Shoot It: The Making of The Hills Run Red featurette. No word on a Blu-ray edition - wish there was one. (Hint, hint Warner!)

But here's a puzzler... Warner's direct-to-video Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins IS being released on both DVD and Blu-ray on 9/22. Ah well.

Finally, Anchor Bay has set Grace for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/15 (SRP $26.97 and $34.97). Extras will include audio commentary with writer/director Paul Solet, producer Adam Green and director of photography Zoran Popovic, 6 featurettes (Grace: Conception, Grace: Family, Her Mother's Eyes: The Look of Grace, Grace: Delivered, Lullaby: Scoring Grace and Grace at Sundance) and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray will also add a second commentary with Solet and actor Jordan Ladd.

Here's some more cover art... Fox's The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season and Criterion's Homicide (9/8) on DVD and Paramount's The Soloist on Blu-ray (8/4)...

The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth SeasonHomicide (Criterion)The Soloist (Blu-ray Disc)

Finally, two things... first, Barrie's Classic Coming Attractions column should, at long last, be up tomorrow morning.

Also... Doogan sent this over this morning, with the cryptic recommendation of "haha": It's a link to an episode of Squidbillies over on Adult Swim. I won't tell you why he sent it, except that the payoff is RIGHT at the very end of the episode. It makes up for Joe Jackson being such a tool over the weekend in some small way. Enjoy!

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

6/29/09

First up today, a quick Bits family note: Today is our very own Todd Doogan's birthday. So drop him an e-mail and wish him a little happy happy joy joy.

Okay... it seems like everywhere we click, tune in or channel change, the death of Michael Jackson is all anyone in the media is talking about. Which is understandable, given that Jackson is essentially the Elvis of Generation X.

Anyway, we bring it up here because we've gotten a lot of e-mails over the weekend about Michael Jackson's Thriller video. A lot of people are wondering when it will be released on DVD or Blu-ray. The answer is that it was released by Sony Music on the Michael Jackson: HIStory - Video Greatest Hits DVD. (Thanks to Bits reader Michael D. for the heads-up.) We suspect a LOT more Jackson material is going to start arriving on disc in the months and years ahead. We have learned (see this link and also this one) that the full final rehearsal for what would have been Jackson's upcoming London comeback concert run was recorded both on audio and high-definition video. Word is, bids have already gone out for a possible CD, DVD and Blu-ray releases. No doubt they'll be out in time for the holidays.

On a related note, Jackson's father took the unfortunate opportunity on Sunday at the BET Awards to plug his new company's Blu-ray plans in the same interview he reacted to his son's death. Stone cold creepy, man. If you didn't feel bad for Michael before that, you have to now. The guy had a tough life.

Anyway, we'll be back later today with more, so stay tuned...

6/26/09

Okay... just a couple quick items for you today...

First, we've posted a review of Criterion's terrific new Blu-ray edition of For All Mankind. If you're a fan of Al Reinert's beautiful documentary on the Apollo moon missions, you'll be very pleased here. The film has never looked better, the disc includes EVERYTHING from the previous DVD version and you get some new extras too. Be sure to check out the review.

Also today, Universal has set Duplicity and Fighting each for release on both DVD and Blu-ray on 8/25 (SRP $29.98 and $39.98 each respectively). Duplicity will include audio commentary, while Fighting will include both the theatrical and unrated extended cuts and delete scenes.

And in other news, Adams Media Research and the BDA have (perhaps not surprisingly) disputed a recent Harris poll about Blu-ray and high-def adoption. And we think they have good reason to do so, given the overwhelming market data that contradicts the Harris' conclusions. For example, the Harris poll claims that 11% of Americans own an HD-DVD player, despite the fact that the HD-DVD Promotions Group itself claimed less than 1 million set-top players sold into the market less than 50 days before the HD-DVD format folded. Fascinating. You'll find more here at Home Media.

Also today, as expected, Matt's written up a few word on the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett over at MusicTAP. Do check it out.

Finally, you may have noticed that TV's been pretty awful the last couple of weeks. Not much on, and not much to look forward to, as my old friend Weatherman Dave noted in his latest blog. HOWEVER... there IS something interesting on tonight at least: The 2-hour pilot for Ron Moore's new Virtuality TV series airs on Fox tonight 8 PM Eastern/Pacific (7 Central). Moore, as many of you know, was the co-executive producer of the recent Battlestar Galactica. The show tells the story of the crew of Earth's first starship on a ten-year mission to explore a nearby star system, and their use of virtual reality equipment onboard to entertain themselves along the way. If nothing else, it should at least be interesting, so be sure to set your TiVos.

We'll leave you today with a little more new Blu-ray cover artwork. Here's Disney's forthcoming Zatoichi, Hero and Iron Monkey (due on 9/15)...

Zatoichi (Blu-ray Disc)Hero (Blu-ray Disc)Iron Monkey (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, one last note: On Thursday afternoon, Barrie Maxwell and myself had a conversation with the folks at Warner Home Video about their classic film plans. Accordingly, Barrie's working to revise his new Classic Coming Attractions column over the weekend, so we WILL have it up for you at last early next week. Just FYI.

Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/25/09 - 4 PM PDT)

Every once in a while, you have one of those terribly sad weeks when the entertainment world loses an icon or two. As of this afternoon, we've now lost three this week. Just a couple days after the death of Ed McMahon, and hours after word of the passing of Farrah Fawcett broke, now comes the news that singer Michael Jackson has died in Los Angeles at the age of just 50. I think nearly every member of Generation X, myself included, owned a copy of his Thriller album back in the 1980s. Say what you will about his later years, but there's simply no denying that - in his prime - Jackson's musical and performing talent was second to none. Very, very sad news indeed.

I expect our own Matt Rowe will have a few things to say about this in his MusicTAP post tomorrow, so be sure to watch for it.

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/25/09 - 1:15 PM PDT)

Well... we have some good news and some sad news today. We'll come back to the last bit in a minute.

First, the good news. We've got word in The Rumor Mill today of a street date for at least a DVD version of the long-awaited The African Queen from Paramount. No, I'm not kidding. We're hoping for a Blu-ray too, but at the very least we're going to get a DVD before the end of the year. You'll find information on a few other Blu-ray catalog titles too, so do check out our Mill post for more.

In other release news today, Sony has set a number of DVD titles for release on 9/1, including Rescue Me: Season 5, Volume 1, All in the Family: Seasons 1-6 (each season priced at $24.95) and America (2009). Also coming on 8/11 is Paris 36.

Meanwhile, Fox has set Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods - Final Cut (the re-imagined, re-cut and remastered version of the pilot) for release on DVD only on 7/21 (SRP $26.98). The disc features new visual effects, a new score and a more self-contained storyline. Extras will include audio commentary with co-writer and executive producer Brad Wright and star Richard Dean Anderson, and the Back to the Beginning featurette.

Also, Universal has set Monster Force: Volume One for DVD release on 9/15.

Fox has set High Crimes for release on Blu-ray on 9/1.

MGM's James Bond Blu-ray Collections: Volumes 1-3 will be re-issued on 9/1 for SRP $69.99 each.

And Warner Home Video has set Doctor Who: The Next Doctor - 2008 Christmas Special for DVD release on 9/15 (for the BBC), followed by Yellowstone: Battle for Life (BBC - DVD and Blu-ray) on 9/29, The Esther Williams Collection: Volume 2 (TCM Spotlight - includes Thrill of a Romance, Fiesta, This Time for Keeps, Pagan Love Song and Easy to Love) and Lark Rise to Candelford: Season One (BBC) on 10/6, Last of the Summer Wine: Christmas Specials 1978-1982 (BBC) on 10/13 and Edge of Darkness (BBC) on 11/3.

In other news today, Warner is going to be hosting a BD-Live online screening of Watchmen (due on DVD and Blu-ray on 7/21) featuring director Zack Snyder. If you log into the BD-Live portion of your Blu-ray on 7/25 (with an appropriately equipped player and Internet connection), you'll be able to watch the film along with Snyder, and see and hear him as he provides live commentary directly from Comic-Con in San Diego. Sounds like it'll be pretty cool. You can read more here at Video Business.

Predictably, I've been getting a few e-mails today about Robin Harris' latest anti-Blu-ray column over on ZDNet. (And no, I'm not going to link to it, because I refuse to draw more attention to it than it deserves.) "Is it true?" and "What do you make of this?" a couple of you have asked. I'll tell you what I make of it: Not much. Here's something I've said more than once in the last couple of years: Robin is a good guy (I'm sure), but he's a longtime computer industry, data storage and downloading observer, and that's the perspective from which he sees all this. He doesn't have a lick of experience with Hollywood and the home video industry. As I recall, he wasn't even close in his predictions of the format war. So you know... I think on this issue, you should probably stick with the advice of people who consistently got it right. And when you need an opinion on computers, hard drives or data storage, you know where to go.

Much more interesting today is a new report from Futuresource Consulting, which is a market analysis firm that DOES actually have some experience watching this industry. They're predicting that Blu-ray software sales will make up roughly half of the home video business by 2012, as both hardware and software sales continue to drop. You can read more here at Video Business.

Also interesting is this Home Media story out of this week's Entertainment Supply Chain Academy Conference up in Hollywood, where folks seemed pretty bullish on Blu-ray.

Okay... now for the sad news: Actress Farrah Fawcett has passed away today of cancer at the age of 62. It's been said a million times today already I'm sure, but you couldn't live in the 1970s without seeing posters of Farrah on seemingly every young male's bedroom wall. As for me, though Charlie's Angels lifted her to stardom, I'll remember her for appearances in such films as Logan's Run (see The Rumor Mill today for word on this title), The Cannonball Run, Saturn 3, Myra Breckinridge and The Apostle, and on TV's The Six Million Dollar Man, Spin City and others. It goes without saying that she'll be missed.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/24/09 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Chalk this up to 'You Knew It Was Coming'... (WE knew it was coming at any rate)...

In a meeting with shareholders in Tokyo today, Toshiba president Atsutoshi Nishida "did not rule out" the possibility of using Blu-ray drives in future player/recorder models. "It makes no sense to decide not to enter the Blu-Ray market simply because we lost the DVD-format war. We cannot change the fact that we lost, but we would like to keep our options open," he said. Given the steady worldwide growth of the Blu-ray business even in the midst of recession, and the fact that Toshiba's previous insistence in not adopting Blu-ray has virtually frozen it out of the Japanese HD player market (which is dominated by Blu-ray), reconsidering their stance makes a great deal of economic (and practical) sense. You can read more here at Nikkei.

You see? Even -- whoa! I think I just saw a PIG fly past my office window!

Stay tuned... ;)

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/24/09 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning, folks. We've got a couple of pretty cool little items for you this morning, so let's get right to it...

First, you may recall that The Bits and Trek Movie have been partnering up on Star Trek Blu-ray release information, as we get confirmation from our sources. Well, we've gotten some. Specifically, we've gotten a tentative list of the special features you'll find on the forthcoming Blu-ray release of the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek feature film! You'll find THAT in The Rumor Mill this morning, so beam on over there and check it out, will you?

In other news today, we've confirmed that Warner's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 25th Anniversary Film Collection (all four films, both DVD and Blu-ray) has been delayed from 8/4 to 8/11. Adjust your plans accordingly.

Warner has also officially announced the Blu-ray Disc release of the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on 10/20 (SRP $34.99). As we indicated the other day, the disc will come in Digibook packaging (a.k.a. "Blu-ray Book" in the press release). Extras will include audio commentary with the original Wonka Kids, the Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory documentary, 4 sing-along songs, a vintage featurette and the film's theatrical trailer (the same, I believe, as the previous DVD). Here's a look at the cover art...

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Blu-ray Disc)Replicant (Blu-ray Disc)Cutthroat Island (Blu-ray Disc)

As you can see, we also posted cover art for a pair of Lionsgate August BD titles: Replicant and Cutthroat Island.

As it happens today, we have full details on Lionsgate's entire August DVD and Blu-ray release slate, which will shape up as follows: Available on 8/4 will be Cravings and Ulysses on DVD. Following on 8/11 will be Barney: Sharing is Caring and The Last Resort on DVD, along with a series of catalog Blu-ray films including Chaos, Cutthroat Island, The Ninth Gate, Replicant and See No Evil. 8/18 will see the DVD release of The Golden Boys and LeapFrog: Let's Go to School. Finally, 8/25 will bring Bob the Builder: Call in the Crew, Fireman Sam: Help is Here!, Frayed, Goodbye Solo and The Lee Strobel 3-Disc Film Collection (includes The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith and The Case for a Creator), all on DVD.

Meanwhile, Indican Pictures has just officially announced the theatrical, DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of a film I'm quite excited about: Jeffrey Roth's documentary on the Apollo moon flights, The Wonder of It All. The film will arrive in your local art cinema in 25 cities across the country on 7/17, just in time to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight. It will then street on standard DVD on 8/25 (SRP $24.99), with the Blu-ray version set to arrive on 9/8 (SRP $29.99). [Editor's Note - these date differ from the ones on Amazon, but ours came directly from Indican last night.] The DVD will include the film, plus audio commentary with the filmmaker, audio commentary with several of the Apollo moonwalkers, trailers, an outtake reel, a John Young presentation and an interview of Buzz Aldrin by Miles O'Brian. The Blu-ray will have that, plus exclusive interviews with Mr. & Mrs. Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7 LMP and his spouse), Ed Fendell (who worked in Mission Control), Mrs. Roger Chaffee (the widow of the Apollo One astronaut), former President George H.W. Bush and Space Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins. You can view the official website here. Thanks to Bits reader Jim Cook for the heads-up, and to the folks at Indican for sending over the official details. Here's what the DVD cover art looks like (below - we'll post the Blu-ray art when it's available). We've also included cover art for a pair of other titles coming in the next few weeks that space enthusiasts might be interested in - Image's Moon Machines DVD (due 7/7) and Criterion's For All Mankind on Blu-ray (7/14)....

The Wonder of It All (DVD)Moon Machines (DVD)For All Mankind (Blu-ray Disc)

And our friends at Criterion have announced a couple of new standard DVD additions to their fine Collection, including David Mamet's Homicide (Cat# 486) and Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman (# 487). Both are expected to street on 9/8 (SRP $39.95 each).

Finally this morning, a sad note: Television star and longtime Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon has passed away here in L.A. at the age of 89. He'll be remembered by millions the world over for his boisterous, nightly introduction: "Heeeeeeeerrre's Johnny!" You know... I really miss watching Carson and McMahon. They were staples in our house each night when I was a kid. I'm sure many of you recall them fondly as well.

That's all for now. Stay tuned...

6/23/09

Okay... we've got a bunch of stuff for you here today.

First up, a cool bit of Blu-ray release news: Warner Home Video has apparently leaked the street dates for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Gone with the Wind on their Warner Shop site. If these dates hold true, look for the Rings box on 11/3 (SRP $99.98) featuring the theatrical editions of all three films. Extras will reportedly include some of the LOTR.net featurettes, as well as trailers and TV spots. Each film will also offer 2-3 documentaries, including Welcome to Middle Earth, Quest for the Ring and A Passage to Middle Earth on Fellowship, Starz' In the Set and Return to Middle Earth on Two Towers and The Quest Fulfilled: A Director's Vision, A Filmmaker's Journey and the National Geographic special on King. You can pre-order the set from Amazon (for just $69.98) by clicking the cover...

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)Gone with the Wing: UCE box (Blu-ray Disc)

Meanwhile, the Gone with the Wind: Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray box set is apparently due on 11/30 (SRP $84.99), according to the site (though more likely it's actually 12/1, which is a Tuesday - the DVD versions actually say 12/1). No word yet on specific extras. You can pre-order this title from Amazon as well (for $64.99) by clicking on the box art above. Watch for official announcements from Warner soon.

Around the site today, we've got FOUR new Blu-ray Disc reviews for you to check out, including my own take on Paramount's Revolutionary Road, Matt's thoughts on Warner's Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition and Jeff's two cents on Paramount's Defiance and Alliance's Canadian release of Fanboys (as there IS no U.S. Blu-ray release). All are now available except Knowing which streets on 7/7. Enjoy!

In addition, our own Dr. Jahnke has posted a new Electric Theatre column, featuring a look at the online David Lynch Interview Project and a review of Whatever Works (now playing at your local cineplex). He also offers his thoughts on Some Girls on DVD. Again, we hope you enjoy!

Also today, Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates and Artwork section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of ANYTHING you order from Amazon after clicking to them through our links helps to support our work here at The Bits and we surely appreciate it.

Those of you who have enjoyed our annual Digital Bits Comic-Con T-shirts in the past will be pleased to learn that our new 2009 T-shirt design is now available! You can order them here or by clicking on the logo below...

Digital Bits - Comic-Con 2009 T-shirt

And we've also updated all of the DVD and Blu-ray software sales and rental stats we track today (you'll find them above).

Finally this morning, we've kicked off a number of new Giveaways giving each of you the chance to take home a number of great new discs, including Warner's Everwood: Season 2, Tom & Jerry: Chuck Jones Collection and Mr. Troop Mom, National Entertainment's Night Train (Blu-ray), E1's Rob Thomas: Live at Red Rocks, Universal's Coraline and Vivendi's Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew. Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 1st. Click on the links to enter and good luck!

That's all for now. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/22/09 - 3 PM PDT)

We've got more exciting Blu-ray and DVD announcements to report today...

First up, Disney has just announced more great catalog Blu-ray releases on 9/15, this time featuring a great batch of Asian wire-fu & martial arts films. Coming on that day are Hero (SRP $44.99, includes Digital Copy), Iron Monkey, The Legend of Drunken Master and (gasp!) Beat Takeshi's Zatoichi (SRP $39.99 each)! All four will also be available in a 4-disc Black Belt Collection box set ($109.99). No word yet on extras. Now if only we could get some classic Zatoichi films on Blu-ray...

Meanwhile, Lionsgate has set Fear Itself: The Complete First Season for release on DVD on 9/15 (4-discs, SRP $29.98) packaged in a tombstone-shaped box. All 13 episodes will be included along with substantial extras (including 4 director's cuts and 5 unaired episodes).

Also coming on 9/15 to DVD from Lionsgate are Bodyguard: A New Beginning and Four Dragons.

And Paramount has officially announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of The Soloist on 8/4 (SRP $19.99 and $29.99). Both will include audio commentary by director Joe Wright, deleted scenes, the trailer and 4 featurettes (An Unlikely Friendship: Making the Soloist, Kindness, Courtesy and Respect: Mr. Ayers + Mr. Lopez, One Size Does Not Fit All: Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles and Beth's Story). All will be in full HD on the Blu-ray, which will also include the BD-exclusive featurette Juilliard: The Education of Nathaniel Ayers.

Finally today, a personal note: This post is dedicated to a woman named Neda, and all the brave young Iranians risking their lives to stand up for what they believe in. Stay safe.

Check back very early tomorrow morning for those Blu-ray reviews we mentioned earlier. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/22/09 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Let's start the new week with some GREAT Blu-ray release news, shall we?

Paramount Home Entertainment has just OFFICIALLY announced a trio of BD titles that we've been hinting at for months now in The Rumor Mill. Specifically, Braveheart and Gladiator arrive on Blu-ray on 9/1, followed by Forrest Gump on 11/3. All three will kick off a new premiere series for the studio, called the Sapphire Series. Each will be a 2-disc set, will be fully remastered and will include extensive, never-before-seen bonus material. Here's a breakdown...

Braveheart will feature 2 hours of new material, including a trio of new BD-Java Interactive Timelines (Production, Historical and Fiction), 2 documentaries (Braveheart: A Look Back and Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields) and the Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion option explained thusly by the studio:

Two major Scottish battlefields, Falkirk and Bannockburn, will be presented as 3D models that can be explored for further investigation into the military strategies and timetables employed in each. Topography, weapons, troop movements, and leadership data can also be accessed. An alternate playing mode will allow the story of each battle to unfold in an "automated" fashion, much like the interactive dioramas displayed at historical site museums around the world.

Meanwhile, Gladiator will be presented with both the theatrical and extended editions, and will include two separate audio commentaries (one on each edition), The Scrolls of Knowledge interactive viewing mode (with trivia, a deleted scene marker for the extended edition and branching featurettes), the Visions from Elysium: Topic Marker (that allows you to create playlists of various topics of interest while watching the film, so you can watch bonus material on those topics after the film), the Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator documentary with its own enhanced viewing mode (offering branching featurettes and trivia), 5 behind-the-scenes documentaries (The Making of Gladiator: HBO First Look, Gladiator Games: The Roman Blood Sport, Hans Zimmer: Scoring Gladiator, My Gladiator Journal and Image & Design), abandoned sequences and deleted scenes, and VFX Explorations of Germania and Rome.

Finally, details for Forrest Gump (which is being released on Blu-ray in honor of its 15th anniversary this year) will be released in the coming weeks, but we're told it will also include new material such as a newly-recorded roundtable discussion video. From the studio's press release, director Robert Zemeckis had this to say:

I'm delighted that Forrest Gump is going to be a part of Paramount's Sapphire Series so that fans can enjoy it at home with pristine picture and sound along with a wealth of special features to give the film context. It's wonderful that Paramount is taking the time to produce exceptional Blu-ray presentations of these classic films.

Here's a look at the cover art for all three Blu-ray titles. Braveheart and Gladiator are now available for pre-order on Amazon.com by clicking on the cover art...

Braveheart: Sapphire Series (Blu-ray Disc)Gladiator: Sapphire Series (Blu-ray Disc)Forrest Gump: Sapphire Series (Blu-ray Disc)

Back with more (including new BD reviews) later. Stay tuned!

6/20/09

Yeah, we know it's a Saturday... but this was just too good to hold until Monday...

Something that may come as a bit of shock to those of you reading this... is that most of us here at The Digital Bits are geeks. I know, I know. Take a deep breath and compose yourselves. Specifically, we're movie and pop culture geeks, with a mix of comic book, literature, science and A/V geek tendencies blended in. One might be safe to call us "alpha" geeks, given our passion for Battlestar Galactica and our tendency to take up arms in format wars. A few of us are even PCs. It should therefore come as no surprise that we're great fans of the work of John Hodgman, a VERY famous minor television personality. As it happens, John was the headliner at last night's Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner in Washington DC. During his presentation, he used this rarified opportunity to test the "geek/nerd" credentials of our new President, with an on-the-spot pop quiz. And thanks to the server nerds at C-SPAN and YouTube, it's all on streaming video for your enjoyment. This is, of course, priceless.

If you are the kind of person who 1) can do the Vulcan salute 2) knows the name of the fictional god to whom Conan the Barbarian prays and 3) has ever read Frank Herbert's Dune... you can reasonably expect to be laughing for the next 14 or so minutes. In his masterful highlighting of the vast generational/cultural gap now encompassing our nation's capitol (also a brilliant send-up of the whole left/right debate) many of John's references seemed to go over the audience's head (the "broadcasters" no doubt - not the bloggers), but we were heartened to see that the President got most of them. And we have a sneaking suspicion that most of you, our readers, will get them too. So here is a fine bit of geek satire we trust you'll appreciate.

As for the rest of you... we're told there's some very good professional golfing on television today. *ahem* Enough said.



By the way, to the 2 or 3 of you who sent us angry e-mails last month when we posted a picture of the President in the White House theater wearing 3-D glasses... and who are probably all a-bluster over this too... have a sense of humor, will you? By Crom, this isn't political! It's just damned funny.

All right, back to your weekend, people. See you Monday. To quote Hodgman: That is all.

6/19/09

Afternoon, folks. There's a little bit of interesting industry news to report today, so here goes...

Sony has announced that it's rolling out a new BD-Live option on forthcoming titles, called MovieIQ. Essentially, it sounds like their own online version of IMDB, allowing you to look up cast and crew information, production details, soundtrack listings and more, all while watching your favorite Sony Blu-rays. MovieIQ will specifically be connected to all major new release and catalog titles from Sony starting in the next couple of months, including the likes of Angels & Demons, Easy Rider, Punch Drunk Love, The Quick and the Dead and Sex, Lies and Videotape. (So you can assume they're all coming to Blu-ray this year, and we've added them to the list of titles to look forward to in yesterday's Rumor Mill post.) What's more, future Sony BD-Live options are expected to include RSS feeds, live streaming video and audio, and connection to mobile devices. You can read more on all this here at Video Business.

Also today, Warner has revealed more of those catalog Blu-ray titles we've been hinting at in The Rumor Mill for months now for release in September and October. Specific titles include Snakes on a Plane, Catwoman, Creepshow, Dead Calm, Freddy vs. Jason, Friday, Menace II Society, Sphere, Over the Top, The Postman, Set It Off and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all on 9/8 (SRP $28.99). The original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is also coming on 10/20 (SRP $34.99) in Digibook format. More catalog titles are soon to be announced. In fact, we've been told to expect Gone with the Wind and North by Northwest to be among the BD titles announced in the weeks ahead by WHV, so stay tuned.

Finally today, this is a bittersweet story, but it's more proof that the folks up at Pixar are collectively a class act. You can read another local OC report here. Our hats off to you guys up in Emeryville.

That's it for now. I know a number of you had been expecting Barrie's new Classic Coming Attractions column this week. It's definitely still coming, but there's a TON of reviews and other information in this one, so formatting it all is taking time. We expect to have it up by mid next week, so thanks for your patience.

We wish all of you a wonderful Father's Day weekend! Take Dad out to a ball game or something. And on a different note, I know that we have a number of readers in Iran, so given all that's been happening there these past couple of weeks, everyone please stay safe.

See you Monday!

6/18/09

We've got a quick update of The Rumor Mill for you today, with updates on several yet-to-be-announced catalog BD titles that are STILL expected to street in 2009... and a number that are now set for 2010. Consider it a bit of "rumor control" if you will. Do check it out.

In announcement news today, Image Entertainment has set their September release slate as follows: On 9/1, look for Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas (DVD and Blu-ray), Discovery Channel's Alien Planet, Doing Da Vinci, Family Hour, Scruff's Halloween and Scruff's Adventures. On 9/8, look for Heroes of World Class Wrestling (Blu-ray), Michael Loftus: You've Changed and Zorro: Generation Z - Volume 3. On 9/15, you'll see Truth Hall, The Shadow Boxer and Discovery Channel's Treasure Quest: Season One. 9/22 will see Adam Resurrected (DVD and Blu-ray) and 2 Turntables and a Microphone: The Life and Death of Jam Master Jay. Finally, on 9/29, look for Management (DVD and Blu-ray) and Billy Jack (Blu-ray).

Meanwhile, Warner Home Video has set Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II for DVD release on 7/21 (for Adult Swim - SRP $19.97). Extras will include 15 minutes of never-before-seen footage, as well as over 90 minutes' worth of extras, including audio commentaries (from Ahmed Best, Abe Benrubi, Rachael Leigh Cook, Breckin Meyer, Adrianne Palicki, Billy Dee Williams, special guest Frank Oz with Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, guests Dave Filoni and Matthew Wood from Clone Wars and the Robot Chicken writers and crew), 9 featurettes (Chicken Nuggets, The Making of Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II, Behind the Scenes: Sneak Peek, Skywalker Ranch Premiere, 501st Visit, Animation Meeting, Accepted/Rejected, Time Lapse and Production Design), as well as Video Blogs, Deleted Animatics, Alternate Audio, On-Air Bumps and trailers.

Warner has also released the final artwork for all three versions of The Wizard of Oz (below, due 9/29)...

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary 2-disc SE (DVD)My Name Is Earl: Season Four (Blu-ray Disc)How I Met Your Mother: Season Four (Blu-ray Disc)

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary UCE box (Blu-ray Disc)

The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary UCE box (DVD)

As you can see, we've also posted art for the Blu-ray versions of Fox's My Name Is Earl: Season Four and How I Met Your Mother: Season Four (due 9/15 and 9/29 respectively).

Meanwhile, a number of readers have asked about MGM's To Live and Die in L.A. Blu-ray Disc. The title had originally been set for release on 6/2, but our studio sources are telling us that it's now been officially delayed until February 2010. Adjust your plans accordingly.

In other news today, we've got a poll going over at our Digital Bits Facebook page where you can vote on the color of our Comic-Con T-Shirt this year... you know, for those of you who are interested.

Finally, our old friend Robert Zohn of the East Coast regional retailer Value Electronics, wanted us to let you all know that they're going to be hosting their annual HD flat panel and front projector "shoot-out" event next weekend (6/27-28) at their Scarsdale, NY location (108 Garth Road). There will be food, wine, lots of great display demos and tests. Seating is limited, but Robert says all Bits readers are welcome. You can visit their website for more information, and if you can't make it, there will be a live webcast from the event on the site. Thanks, Robert!

Stay tuned, folks...

6/17/09

We've got some interesting title announcements and format-related news from around the Net this afternoon. But first, there's this...

Ten years ago yesterday, Circuit City officially announced the end of the Divx pay-per-view version of the standard DVD format. As some of you may recall, The Bits was right in the thick of that format war, so the idea that it ended a decade ago is really something. Time does fly!

Now then... Warner Home Video has announced a number of new (and re-issue) standard DVD titles for the next few months, including Babylon 5: The Complete Seasons 1-5 on 6/16, NHL Stanley Cup Champions 2008-2009/NHL: Sidney Crosby On the Ice and Beyond on 7/7, One Tree Hill: The Complete Seasons 1-6 on 8/25, Bleach: Volume 20 on 9/15, Naruto: Uncut Box Set 16 and Naruto: Uncut Box Set 16 - Special Edition on 9/22, Pokemon Elements: Volume 3 (Water), Pokemon Elements: Volume 4 (Electric), Naruto Shippuden: Volume 1, NHL Calgary Flames: 10 Great Playoff Games, NHL Toronto Maple Leafs: 10 Great Leafs and their most Memorable Games and Sense and Sensibility (1971/BBC) on 9/29, the Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics box (includes The Walking Dead, Frankenstein 1970, You'll Find Out and Zombies on Broadway) on 10/6, and Tom & Jerry's Greatest Chases: Volume Three, Where's Amelia Earhart?, Lovejoy: The Complete Collection and Lovejoy: The Complete Season Six on 10/13.

Also, Anchor Bay has announced the DVD and Blu-ray release of Sunshine Cleaning for 8/25 (for Overture Films - SRP $29.98 and $39.98) and Crash: The Complete First Season (for Starz - SRP $59.97 and $79.97).

Lionsgate has set the DVD and Blu-ray release of Crank 2 for 9/8, along with the Blu-ray release of Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (already available on DVD).

And our old friend Mark Gray at Spacecraft Films has a pretty exciting DVD and Blu-ray Disc release in the works for release sometime in July (next month)... Live from the Moon: The Story of Apollo Television. It's a new 2-hour documentary on the Apollo missions, that may be seen on cable HD later this year and will eventually be released on disc. You can visit the official website here (an HD preview is also available here), and you can now pre-order the title on Blu-ray (SRP $44.99) or 2-disc DVD (SRP $34.99). Rest assured we'll keep you up to date as new information becomes available. On a related note, this coming July 20th will mark the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned landing on the Moon.

Finally, Home Media is reporting that Sony will be cutting the price of its PS3 game system by $100 in August, right around the time that the new Madden NFL 2010 arrives in stores.

Stay tuned...

6/16/09

Our very own Dr. Jahnke has posted a new update of his Electric Theatre today, featuring a review of Duncan Jones' Moon, starring Sam Rockwell. Sounds pretty interesting! He also looks at Tell No One on DVD. Do check it out.

We've also updated the Release Dates & Artwork section today with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans, and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order from the retailer after you click to them through our links helps support our work here at The Bits and we greatly appreciate it.

Okay... in announcement news today, Universal has set Parks & Recreation: Season One for DVD release on 9/8 (SRP $29.98). Extras will include music videos, the Hose cold open, deleted scenes and audio commentary on 6 episodes with members of the cast and crew.

On 8/18, Universal will release the remake of The Last House on the Left on DVD and Blu-ray (SRP $39.98 and $29.98). Both will include the original theatrical edition and an unrated extended version of the film, along with deleted scenes and the A Look Inside featurette. The Blu-ray will also include a bonus Digital Copy of the unrated version.

Additional Universal DVD announcements include Barbie and The Three Musketeers and Bionicle: The Legend Reborn on 9/15, followed by 30 Rock: Season Three (3 discs - SRP $49.98) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Tenth Year (5 discs - SRP $59.98) on 9/22.

Warner Home Video has announced a number of new (mostly DVD) titles for National Geographic, including CIA Confidential for release on 9/15, Egyptian Secrets of the Afterlife on 9/22, the National Geographic Ultimate High-Definition Collection (on Blu-ray - includes Atmospheres: Earth, Air and Water, Journey to the Edge of the Universe, Kingdom of the Blue Whale, National Geographic Extreme, Relentless Enemies and Rhino Rescue) on 9/29 and Animal Holiday: Special Edition on 10/6.

Here's some cool Blu-ray news: Criterion has just set BD-upgraded versions of Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (Cat #421, 1 disc - SRP $39.95) and D. A. Pennebaker's Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey (#169, 1 disc - SRP $29.95) and The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (#167, 2 discs - SRP $69.95 - includes Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey, along with nearly every complete performance from the festival). All three are set for release on 9/22. Here's a look at the cover art...

Pierrot le fou (Blu-ray Disc)Jimi Plays Monterey and Shake! Otis at Monterey (Blu-ray Disc)The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (Blu-ray Disc)

In other news today, industry analysis firm Screen Digest says worldwide Blu-ray Disc software sales saw a four-fold increase in 2008. You can read more here at Home Media.

Home Media also has a story on speculation from a Wall Street investment firm that Paramount could end up merging with another major Hollywood studio in the coming months. On a similar Rumor Mill note, we hear that The Weinstein Company is in a great deal of financial difficulty, the home video impact of which is apparent in the lack of a U.S. Blu-ray release of Fanboys (only available on BD in North America from Canada's Alliance).

Finally today, we have an announcement of our own: We WILL be returning to Comic-Con down in San Diego next month with our usual panel event. The panel will be held on Thursday afternoon (7/23). Here are the details:

2:30-3:30 - DVD/Blu-ray Producers 2009: Now in Glorious High-Definition! - Join Bill Hunt, Adam Jahnke and Todd Doogan (of The Digital Bits.com), as they talk about the latest DVD and Blu-ray developments with some of the leading special edition producers in Hollywood! Panelists will include Robert Meyer Burnett (The Hills Run Red, Free Enterprise: The Wrath of Shatner), Laura Gross (Coraline, 9), Charles de Lauzirika (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood), David Naylor (Fringe, Bad Lieutenant) and Cliff Stephenson (Crank 2: High Voltage, Gamer) for inside talk, Q&A and a sneak peek at great upcoming discs! ROOM 7AB

It'll be a great time, as always, so we really hope you can join us for it.

Okay... we'll be back tomorrow with a new installment of one of our regular staff columns, so stay tuned...

6/15/09

Afternoon, folks! Hope you all had a fine weekend. Let's get right to the new announcements today...

First, Paramount has announced the Blu-ray Disc release of 48 Hours, Deep Impact, Escape from L.A., K-19: The Widowmaker, The Firm, The Score and Varsity Blues on 9/15. The studio has also set One Step Beyond: The Official First Season, Bonanza: The Official First Season, Volume One, Bonanza: The Official First Season, Volume Two and CSI: Miami - The Seventh Season for release on DVD only on 9/15. Here's a look at some of the Blu-rays...

Deep Impact (Blu-ray Disc)48 Hours (Blu-ray Disc)K19: The Widowmaker (Blu-ray Disc)

Meanwhile, Disney is releasing Earth on DVD and Blu-ray on 9/1 (SRP $29.99 and $39.99).

Fox has announced the DVD release of the animated Delgo on 8/4 (SRP $22.98).

Speaking of Fox, the studio has also announced more TV titles for release on Blu-ray Disc, including My Name Is Earl: Season 4 (9/15 - SRP $59.99) and The Unit: Season 4 (9/29 - SRP $69.99).

Sony has set The Informers for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/25 (SRP $24.96 and $34.95). The Lost and Found Family is set for DVD release on 9/15 (SRP $24.96). Sony has also set Night of the Creeps for release on DVD only on 10/20 (SRP $19.94). Extras will include 2 audio commentaries, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, 6 featurettes and more.

And Warner has announced Primeval: Volume 2 for release on DVD on 9/15 (SRP $39.98 - for the BBC).

In industry news today, Video Business is reporting that the Blu-ray format will finally get Managed Copy next year. This will allow Blu-ray consumers to make one legal back-up copy of any Blu-ray title they buy. You can read more here.

Also, despite all the talk and TV ads in recent months, it looks like nearly 800,000 people STILL got caught with their pants down on Friday, when analog TV broadcasting ended here in the States. According to this story at MSNBC, the FCC hotline has received a lot of panicked calls over the weekend. Go figure.

On the hardware front, Wal-Mart has a great deal going for Father's Day week (now through 6/20): Magnavox's NB500 Blu-ray Disc player for just $128. Note, however, that we can't vouch for the quality and that this is only a profile 1.1 player (which means it's good for BonusView, but not BD-Live). Still, that's a pretty great price.

Finally today, there's a video over at Dailymotion that really made us laugh this weekend. It's a very funny bitch-fest about all the things some guy hates about DVD. A warning though, the language is GOING to offend somebody out there... and we don't agree with everything the guy says. All that aside, though, it's still damn funny. Enjoy!

Stay tuned...

6/12/09

Hey, Guys! I hope that those of you who have downloaded it are enjoying the new Spears & Munsil Grain Example disc, per yesterday's post. It's worth checking out for anyone who's gotten caught up in the Blu-ray grain/DNR issue.

Today, as it happens, is my wife Sarah's birthday. So as there's not much news going... and having been married for nearly 19 years, I certainly know my priorities... I'm taking the day off to spend it with her.

We'll be back on Monday with more news and reviews, and we'll have new columns next week from Barrie and Rob too. I also wanted to let you all know that, once again this year, we're going to be holding our annual DVD/Blu-ray Producers Panel down at San Diego Comic Con next month. We'll have details for you next week, but for now know that our panel is going to be on Thursday afternoon and it should be a great time, so we hope to see you all there.

Okay... that's it. I'm off. Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday. Peace out!

6/11/09

Here's a nifty bit of Blu-ray news today, and then we've got something pretty cool for you, so read on...

Those of you who already own Paramount's Transformers Blu-ray Disc, and can connect to the disc's BD-Live online options, will be able to access an exclusive sneak peek of the forthcoming sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which arrives in theatres on 6/24), starting on this coming Tuesday, 6/16. Not only will you get to see the preview, you'll also be able to access an additional 25 minutes of exclusive, all-new bonus material for the ORIGINAL film, including new deleted scenes, Megan Fox's audition tape and more. The complete list of new material includes:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Sneak Peek (footage from the new film), From the set of Revenge of the Fallen: Day 1 (an exclusive inside look at the first day of shooting), From the set of Revenge of the Fallen: A Day in the Shade (a comical look at the differences between Megan and Shia's on-set treatment), never-before-seen deleted scenes from Transformers, Fly on the Set: Pentagon (on the set filming of the Pentagon Military Command Center), Music and Mayhem (renowned special effects house ILM deconstructs the blockbuster action of Transformers), Metal in Motion (special effects tests and early robot animation), Stunts 101 (an in-depth look at the amazing stunts in Transformers), Choose Your Weapon (a fly on the wall glimpse into the selection of weapons and how they were used by the film's soldiers), The Man in the Ice (from design to production, watch the Arctic come to life on various sets in Los Angeles, California), Voices (the voices behind the Autobots and Decepticons) and Audition Tapes: Megan Fox.

Note that if you DON'T currently have the Transformers Blu-ray, you can either buy the BD disc to get the content, or buy a NEW copy of the DVD (identified by an "Exclusive Sneak Peek" sticker on the package - available in stores on Tuesday) and access the new material via a special online website as instructed in the packaging. The key thing to note is that if you already own the Blu-ray, you're set to access the new material on 6/16. Got it? Okay.

Now then... here's that cool thing we mentioned. It'll take a moment to explain, so again... read on...

There's been a lot of talk, debate and confusion in recent weeks about the subject of film grain and the use of Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) on Blu-ray Disc. We've seen the issue come up several times in the last year or so, starting with Fox's Patton and The Longest Day and continuing with Paramount's recent Star Trek box set and Lionsgate's T2: Judgment Day. Part of the problem is that many people who are now Blu-ray enthusiasts grew up watching their favorite films on DVD, and have never seen them in an actual theatre before. DVD really didn't have the resolution to reveal film grain, so now people are seeing grain that was always there for the first time, and they're reacting negatively to it. The other problem is that most people have no idea how complex choices of DNR, compression and video codecs impact the visual quality of the final Blu-ray presentation.

In the specific case of T2, there's a notable difference in detail between the new Lionsgate edition and the version available from Geneon in Japan on Blu-ray. The new Lionsgate disc (encoded in VC-1 - Lionsgate says no DNR was requested) looks a little softer than the Geneon version (encoded in AVC at a slightly higher data rate).

In the effort to get to the bottom of all this, we consulted an expert: Stacey Spears, a highly knowledgeable video guru with years of experience in video processing. Spears is a co-inventor of multiple patents in video and image processing, and is the co-creator (with Don Munsil) of the new Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark, Blu-ray Edition, which we highly recommend. (You can visit his website here.)

As a result of these and other discussions, the consensus seems to be that the difference in image detail between the two T2 Blu-rays MAY result from the way VC-1 and AVC handle hard edges in the image during the encoding process. According to Spears, each codec employs an in-line loop filter during processing:

"The loop filter is designed to try and smooth the edge between two blocks. AVC uses 4x4 (or 8x8) blocks. Their loop filter can touch up to 3 pixels. This means the middle pixels can be touched twice. The VC-1 loop filter works on an 8x8 block and it only touches one pixel. The idea is to try and reduce the hard edge between the two blocks by blending them a little closer together."

In laymen's terms, this means that AVC loop filter can work on 3 times more pixels twice as hard in half the space as the VC-1 loop filter, which can result in a more accurate rendering of fine details in a challenging film to encode like T2.

[Editor's Note: There's still the possibility - that we haven't been able to rule out or confirm - that the authoring facility applied DNR prior to encoding on the T2: Skynet Edition without the studio's knowledge (as a matter of habit of lazy practice), which might explain the difference in image detail between it and the European version, also encoded in VC-1. Nevertheless, the above issue is still well worth looking into.]

As past of the consultation, we realized that what's needed is a good reference tool that everyone can use to familiarize themselves with the issues of grain and encoding - something to get everyone on the same page, so to speak, and inform the discussion and debate.

So Spears has created for us a special Blu-ray demo disc (Spears & Munsil Grain Example) featuring a thorough comparison of the way MPEG-2, VC-1 and AVC process hard edges in the video image during encoding at different bit rates, with and without the use of the loop filters. This disc is being made available for FREE, LEGAL download via Bit Torrent software clients, widely available online. THIS TORRENT LINK will allow you to download a Blu-ray ISO disc image, which can either be burned to a BD-R disc for playback on any player, or the ISO file (extracted using an application like WinRAR) can be played on your PC using PowerDVD or any other Blu-ray playback software. Please keep in mind that this image, while only 800MB, cannot be burned to a DVD-R for playback in a player due to the high bit rates used. When you download the torrent, it will show up in your client as SMGrain.zip. Just unzip this file, burn the iso file it contains and you're off.

Here's Spears' explanation of the disc...

"Spears & Munsil Grain Example

This example Blu-ray is NOT intended as a CODEC comparison. The clips were encoded using the default 2-pass encode in each encoder. The purpose of this is to demonstrate what an encode looks like with and without the loop filter. (in-loop deblocking filter)

The 20-second clip is provided in all three Blu-ray video CODECs. The content was shot on the RED ONE camera at 4096x2048. The artificial grain was added using Adobe After Effects CS4.

MPEG-2 does not have a loop filter, so there are fewer encodes. The MPEG-2 and AVC were encoded using the same professional Blu-ray encoder. This encoder also offers a DVNR plug-in from Digital Vision. This is the same DVNR algorithm used on many Blu-ray titles. We left the DVNR at the default strength of 7, out of 15. VC-1 has an additional encode using a feature called the Overlap Transform. We are not aware of any Blu-ray titles that have been encoded with this enabled. It is off by default in the encoder.

Each clip can be played on its own or back-to-back. To play all of the clips for a given codec, select the CODEC name instead of the individual clip.

Example: AVC 20/30 Loop Off. The 20/30 denotes the average/peak bitrate. The Loop On / off is referring to the loop filter.

We are also willing to provide an 8-bit 4:2:0 YUV file if interested. We will not host the YUV file due to the size. Please contact as at www.spearsandmunsil.com if interested in hosting the YUV source file."


So there go. Please note that we here at The Digital Bits cannot provide tech support for this demo disc if you have difficulty downloading, burning or using it. So please don't e-mail us a million technical questions about it. However, assistance from fellow readers who have successfully done so MAY be found on our official Bits discussion thread at Blu-ray.com if you're having trouble with it. Also, once you've downloaded the disc, we ask that you continuing seeding it for as long as you can so that others can download a copy as well. Please be patient when you first start downloading, as it's going to take a little time for seeders to get established.

Hopefully, after you've seen the demo, you'll at least have a better understanding of how encoding at various bit rates can affect the grain and detail you seen in a Blu-ray image, and appreciate the complexities involved a little more. We'd like to say a special word of thanks to Stacey Spears and Don Munsil for all their hard work and efforts in making the disc available.

Stay tuned!


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