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page updated: 7/16/10



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 7/2/10 - 6/15/10)


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7/2/10

Well... not much in the way of news or announcements is forthcoming today, which is probably to be expected as we head into the 4th of July holiday weekend.

We do have one thing to report however, which is that Warner Home Video is re-issuing New Line's Elf as an Ultimate Collector's Edition package on 10/26 on both DVD and Blu-ray (SRP $39.92 and $49.99). But before you get too excited, we believe this is the exact same disc already released, just with added swag. Specifically, you'll get an Elf CD soundtrack sampler, a "festive" holiday stocking, gift tags and a magnetic picture frame, all of which comes in a new tin packaging.

We've also got a little more cover art for you this afternoon: BOTH versions of Universal's Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (due 10/26), which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com, and also Sony's Harry Brown Blu-ray (due 8/31)...

Harry Brown (Blu-ray Disc)Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Edition Trilogy (DVD)

Now then... I promised that I'd have more to say on the whole subject of Predator and excessive digital noise reduction on Blu-ray transfers. For those of you who've heard enough of it, feel free to skip down to here. As for the rest of you purists, masochists and True Believers, read on dear friends...

Predictably, we've gotten a lot of reader responses to my Wednesday rant about the Predator. I'm pleased to say that the overwhelming majority agreed with me and were just as upset as I was, both by the release itself... and by the recently trend of studios over-scrubbing old catalog digital masters for Blu-ray release. A couple of you, specifically those who thought the new Predator BD looked just awesome (to quote HEADGEEK "The print is f--king unbelievably sharp. I'm talking portal into another dimension sharp."), took exception. So be it, I guess. Everyone's got an opinion and this is probably unavoidable. There are also still lots of people who hate those damn black bars on their new HDTV sets, who don't seem to care or notice that AMC HD stretches the hell out of all their full frame films to fit the 1.78 HDTV aspect ratio, and who would prefer to watch the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life rather than the original black and white. ("If Frank Capra made that film today, he would have used color, dammit!") It ain't my thing, and I continue to have a hard time understanding those attitudes, but to each their own. Nonetheless, I'm still going to do everything I can to try to hold the studios to a higher standard, and to TRY to educate consumers on these issues.

Interestingly, I've heard from a number of industry sources in the last couple of weeks that a lot of people at the various mastering houses are painfully aware of this problem, and are doing whatever they can to alert the studios to the issue. (And guys, know that we're TOTALLY behind you and appreciate your efforts. If there's anything we can do to help, please let us know.) But there are still too many decision-makers at the studios - good, decent people to be sure - who just don't yet really understand the problem. I've also heard that, many times, studio decision-makers are giving the thumbs-up to these BD masters after checking them on a 40-inch plasma. And that's just not enough to really determine the quality - you need to throw them up on a 100-inch or larger projection screen to really see whether the image is breaking down or not. If you go to any good post production facility that does film remastering, you'll know that's exactly what they do - they digitally project the film in a real screening room space and carefully look for quality issues at that scale. It's the only way to properly do the job.

Lest you all think I'm some kind of anti-DNR film Nazi, let me say this: DNR isn't evil. I don't hate DNR. Virtually EVER high-definition master uses some form of DNR. What I hate, is when DNR is used carelessly and excessively. There are too many people working at the studios who think of ANY grain as some kind of defect, and so they have no qualms just stripping it all out with DNR, which all too often damages the integrity of the image.

Let me be clear: I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with grain reduction, especially if the grain in a film element is coarse and distracting -- unless that was the specific intent of the director and DP. I dislike a "grain storm" as much as the next guy. But when I'm watching a film, shot on film, on Blu-ray, I still expect to see a little very light grain texture in the background - even after DNR has been applied - because that's an inherent physical property of any film negative. When I start quality checking the transfer of a film on Blu-ray, I look for a bright scene, pause the image and start frame-stepping forward. If I can see a very slight/subtle pattern of print grain changing from frame to frame, I generally move on and don't think anything of it. But if can't see that grain anymore, even upon very close inspection, it's likely someone has gone too far. And so I start looking at other detail in the image - skin and fabric textures, etc - and 9 times out of 10, some of that has been removed too. Or in the case of the new Predator disc, a LOT has been removed. And that's when it's a problem for me.

Robert [Harris], myself and others arguing the film purist side of this aren't just doing this to be obnoxious. But I don't care how many sales there are, Blu-ray is still a fairly niche format - a "20% of the market" format. A premium format, sold for a premium price. So I think it's reasonable to expect a little better. But if you don't demand better, you'll likely never get it.

I'm not saying DNR should never be used again. I'm simply arguing that there needs to be some kind of standard. Film, shot on film, should still identifiably look like a film on Blu-ray. If we're talking about Avatar or Toy Story 3, then I expect them to be crisp and clean and grain-free. But if I'm watching Predator, or Night or the Living Dead, or Battleship Potemkin, you know... I expect to see a little grain. It's not rocket science. Criterion is getting it right. Sony is getting it right. All it takes is someone familiar enough with both film and video remastering to know that there's a balance that needs to be struck, and you need to employ a careful, light hand with digitally cleaning these masters.

Look guys - for all those of you who felt the original Predator disc was terrible because it was too grainy, my belief is that the new one is just as terrible... only in a different way. There IS an easy, happy medium to be struck here. Hell, if Fox had even SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE between the two discs with regard to employing DNR, I doubt any of this would be an issue.

And let me make one last argument for the importance of proper, careful digital remastering - the point I think is really the MOST important of all...

How many films in the history of cinema - even just Hollywood cinema history - have been lost to time? The prints were cut, trashed, have deteoriated or been misplaced completely? A HUGE portion of the films made before 1930 simply no longer exist. This might surprise you, but Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation estimates a whopping 80% of the American films made prior to 1930 are gone forever. Let that sink in for a moment.

Who knows how many of our favorite films today will simply be lost 100 years from now? There are many beloved classics with negatives in dire need of restoration and preservation, RIGHT NOW, even today. In a tough economy, film restoration is one of the first things that stops happening. It becomes much less of a priority for the studios. So what happens when those prints are lost or badly damaged - and I assure you if it's happened before it will happen again - and there's no one left alive who even remembers what they looked like?

My point is, it is ENTIRELY possible that, as we move fully into an all-digital world, some of these digital masters will end up being the ONLY surviving versions of our favorite films. So isn't it important get them right? I sure think so.

Anyway, it's important and well worth noting that MOST catalog BD titles these days are pretty well done, and some are downright spectacular. And a lot of good people in the industry are working very hard to deliver the very best quality possible. But sadly, the list of catalog titles with terrible transfers is truly depressing, in that it contains all too many much-loved titles that fans were really excited for: Gladiator, Patton, The Longest Day, Flash Gordon, many of the older Star Trek films... and now Predator. Let's just hope those continue to be the exception and not the rule... and that they'll all be revisited one day on Blu-ray with proper transfers.

All right, I'm done talking about this topic for a while... at least until the next catalog title with dud remastering comes out and sets our eyes to bleeding!

Have a great and safe 4th of July weekend with your family and friends, and we'll see you back here on Monday. Best to all of you... (yes, even you wrong-headed types who love the new Predator Blu-ray!)

Peace out! ;)

7/1/10

Afternoon, folks! Hope all's well in your world.

I'm going to have some follow up commentary tomorrow morning on the whole Predator BD/DNR topic, so be sure to check back for that. I bet you guys NEVER would have expected I've have more to say on the subject, right? ;)

In the meantime, as expected I'm very pleased to present today FOUR new disc reviews. Barrie's taken time out to look at a couple recent documentary releases - MPI's new Collapse and Warner's The Eastwood Factor: Extended Edition, both on DVD. Also today, El Doogan has turned in his thoughts on Image's 44-Inch Chest on Blu-ray, and Tim Salmons has checked in with a look at Sony's Moon on Blu-ray too. Enjoy!

In announcement news today... Warner Home Video has set Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals (for HBO) and Top Gear 13 (for the BBC) for DVD release on 9/28, followed by In Treatment: The Complete Second Season on 10/12 and You Don't Know Jack on 10/26 (both also for HBO).

And in other news, our friends over at Home Media have opened fan voting for the 2010 High-Def Awards. So get on over there while you can and weigh in with your picks!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/30/10 - 2:45 PM PDT)

All right, here we go again. The rants just keep a-coming these days...

I wanted to say a few words about 20th Century Fox's new Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray. Remember how last week I was ranting about how the studios are putting HD mastering and transfer quality too low on their priority lists? Well... here's a timely example of EXACTLY what I was talking about. Predator is a bit of an interesting case. Let me be perfectly clear: The new Blu-ray is an unmitigated disaster. You remember how awful Patton looked? Well, the new Predator disc is every bit as bad. So much Digital Noise Reduction (the infamous and dreaded 'DNR') has been applied to this disc, that even the sky looks like it was molded from shinny plastic. Fox has actually managed to take a dark, gritty film and make it look like video. Not even high-def video, but old analog video. There is not a speck of grain to be seen anywhere, and hardly a speck of fine image detail either. The subtle textures of clothing, walls, hair, skin - they're nearly all gone. And Fox did this deliberately.

Why, you might be asking? I'll tell you why, and in my mind this is the even bigger travesty: Because when the first Blu-ray edition came out, a bunch of fans and reviewers in all the online A/V forums complained about the video quality. "There's too much grain! The transfer looks like crap!" Well, let me tell you... I'll take that original Blu-ray over the new one any day. It's just deeply disheartening to see a Blu-ray released with shockingly mishandled video like this. But it's even more disheartening that there are apparently so many fans online who don't seem to understand the most basic, most important thing about film restoration and mastering: A FILM SHOULD LOOK LIKE A FILM! Yes, I know that original Predator Blu-ray was full of sometimes coarse grain. But how many of those who complained about it have actually seen Predator projected in a theater? That's how the film looks, guys. That's how it looked on Day One when it hit theaters. It's ALWAYS looked like that - dark, gritty, grainy - the result of choices in film stock and camera process made by director John McTiernan and his cinematographer. Predator does not look crisp and clean like Watchmen, and it's not meant to look like that. It was NEVER meant to look like that! In this particular case, the studio (and I'm giving them a bit of credit by recognizing this, and the fact that they have generally improved their catalog BD quality in recent months) was stuck between a rock and a hard place: They released the film on Blu-ray once, and some fanboys online freaked out that there was too much grain. So now they've responded and re-released the film on Blu-ray in a version so scrubbed to death with DNR that the film now looks like Pixar produced it. Don't believe me?

Here's a screenshot from the new Blu-ray to illustrate what I'm talking about (the screenshot was originally posted here, and all credit due to our friend Justin Sluss of HighDefDiscNews for taking it). The last time I saw the Governator's cigar-chomping mug polished up this shiny was at the Hollywood Wax Museum. His shirt is so smooth it looks like Mattel molded it for Mr. Potato Head. If you're not fully sickened by this, what kind of film fan are you? Now, if the film in question were Plastic Man, that'd be one thing. But trust me, this is NOT how Predator was EVER intended to look...

This is fucking appalling...

The problem here two-fold: First, too many people in both the fan community and film industry have taken Blu-ray's "look and sound of perfect" marketing far too literally. Once again, the word "perfect" with regard to Blu-ray does not and should not mean 100% sharp, crisp and completely blemish free - that everything should look like it was shot with an HD video camera yesterday. It means that the film on the disc should look as good as it did in the very best theatrical screening on Day One. If you were sitting in the director's private screening room on opening day, that's how good the film should look - THAT'S the experience that Blu-ray should work to recreate in the home.

Second, there are WAY too many fans today who came of age in a world in which DVD always existed and so they've rightly grown to love lots of great films... but without EVER having seen these films projected in an actual theater. Too many guys first experienced Predator and similar films on late-night HBO and on DVD in the old analog TV days, and so they never actually saw all the detail - and yes, the inherent defects - that were present in the negative. Standard-definition, analog TV simply didn't have the resolution to show all the detail. So now, those fans are seeing their favorite films for the first time as they actually are, and they're freaking out. "Oh my god, look at all that noise?!" It's not just noise - it's film grain. Some of it is actually supposed to be there. And NO, it's NOT simply a matter of preference any more than colorizing a black and white film is a matter of preference. Image grain is an inherent part of what makes film look like film.

But lest you think me harsh, you should know that I'm not a hardliner for grain either. A few years ago, Home Theatre Magazine interviewed Mike Inchalik about the film restoration process at DTS Digital Images - formerly Lowry Digital. Here's what he had to say about film grain in the age of high-def discs...

Question: How much film grain is appropriate in a modern video master?

Answer: Film purists have often taken the position that film grain should never be changed. Having worked for Eastman Kodak for 25 years, I am extremely sensitive to this way of thinking and completely agree that many cinematographers use film grain as a part of their craft and make it an integral part of their storytelling. Nevertheless, I believe that the opinion that the film grain should never be altered is too sweeping a generalization.


I agree with this position - it's a balance that's required here. You know who's getting it right (aside from Criterion, of course)? Grover Crisp and his team over at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Here's an interview with Crisp done by our friends over at HDNation (Love you guys!) from the Blu-Con 2.0 conference last year, where he talks about some of these very issues. And now here's what director Martin Scorsese had to say about the proper presentation of films on Blu-ray from the same conference (and the same HD Nation episode). Note his comments about the importance of grain, and how Blu-ray should work to replicate the original theatrical experience of a film. The amazing thing to me is that Scorsese and Crisp were speaking before a conference of MOSTLY studio executives, and what they were saying about Blu-ray was CRITCIALLY important! I even said so at the time, in my column here on The Bits. But it's obvious that painfully few of them seem to have been paying attention.

Look... modern audiences aren't used to seeing film grain, and modern HD display technology is capable of showing every flaw in an image. Coarse film grain can be distracting for some, and I understand that. So if grain can be reduced without compromising fine image detail and without removing so much of it that the film look is actually lost, that's one thing. But it's very subtle work and should be done by trained digital film restoration technicians with a light, careful touch. Dialing up the DNR knob to '11' and heavy-handedly stripping every bit of grain away in a process that is actually destructive not only to the film look but also to the integrity of the image is absolutely wrong and downright APPALLING. And to the extent that ANYONE - fan, digital technician or studio employee alike - thinks that's okay or a good thing, all I can say is shame on you! Sadly and predictably, there are far too many "expert" online reviewers (based on a sampling of comments about the disc on the Net today) who clearly don't understand any of this and are all but raving about how clean and wonderful Predator now looks, and what an improvement this disc is over the original Blu-ray. Guys, you are actively undermining EVERYTHING that a lot of good film preservation people in this industry have worked so hard for over so many years. You are doing yourselves, the film, the legacy of classic, pre-digital cinema, your fellow movie fans, and the Blu-ray format as a whole a terrible, TERRIBLE disservice.

In any case, as someone who personally put their reputation on the line to see high-def discs get a chance to thrive, and to ensure that movie fans would get to enjoy the very best quality versions of their favorite films in high-definition... well, for me, seeing a disc like this is just truly depressing. After all that - after fighting for anamorphic-enhancement of DVDs and slogging through two format wars - is this REALLY "The Look and Sound of Perfect" we were fighting for? God, I hope not...

Make no mistake, the new Predator Blu-ray is a disaster. It's simply unwatchable. Compare it to the original and you will be shocked at just how much image detail has been scrubbed away. You want to see DNR, you want to see a perfect example of everything that Blu-ray SHOULDN'T be? Exhibit A: The new Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray. The other sad thing is that all the previous DVD extras that SHOULD have been included on the first Predator Blu-ray? They're all here... on a double-dip disc that TRUE fans of the film should want to run over with their cars. I don't mind a double-dip that really gets things right. But this isn't one of 'em.

To all of you readers of The Digital Bits who care about presentation quality and about the Blu-ray format, it's time to make some noise. Do it politely, but do it loudly and don't stop until the industry responds. Don't let those who are misinformed or apathetic decide the future of film presentation quality in this new digital age. Let the studios know that this is a HUGE problem and that your Blu-ray spending will reflect your desire for the proper A/V treatment of films on disc. And for goodness sake, PLEASE DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN to educate yourself and others as to what exactly a "perfect" quality film presentation on Blu-ray should be, and what it should really look like! This is even more important than the debate about Pan and Scan vs original aspect ratio presentation of films on DVD, or of colorization vs. original B&W presentation of vintage films on DVD, or of anamorphic enhancement of widescreen films on DVD. Demand a higher standard... or the likes of Spartacus, Patton and Predator will become the new, all-too-easy normal on Blu-ray.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/30/10 - 1 PM PDT)

First things first this afternoon: Be sure to check back tomorrow for some new disc reviews from Barrie, Doogan and other Bits staffers. We've been holding them back what with all the other breaking news, rants and malware issues, but we'll have some for you to check out tomorrow morning.

Now then... in announcement news today... Warner Home Video has set Cartoon Network Hall of Fame: Dexter's Laboratory - Season One for DVD on 10/12 (for the Cartoon Network). And on 10/19, they'll follow with Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 4 and a Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 4 SE.

Also, Lionsgate has set their preliminary September release slate, though we expect additional titles to be announced soon. Coming on 9/7 are Denise Austin: Hot Body Yoga, Jillian Michaels: Shred It with Weights, Less than Perfect: Season One, Boy Meets World: The Complete First Season, Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season, Boy Meets World: The Complete Third Season, Doc West and Fierce People (all DVD). And on 9/14, look for Princess Ka'iulani, Barney: A-Counting We Will Go, Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly (all DVD) and the previously-announced Jacob's Ladder (Blu-ray).

Disney has revealed a couple new "coming soon" titles, including the Walt & El Grupo and The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story documentaries. And (no surprise) Disney has also rebranded Flash Forward: The Complete First Series as FlashForward: The Complete Series - street date is 8/31.

Boston Aviation Services and Black Pearl Productions have announced a documentary on TSA airport security called Please Remove Your Shoes, due 7/1 on DVD.

BBC America will also release Look Around You: Season One on DVD on 7/20.

MVD Entertainment will release Johnny Winter: Live Through the '80s on DVD on 8/24.

Anchor Bay has set City Island for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 8/24.

Warner Home Video has announced a new direct-to-disc animated superhero title on 9/28. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse will street on both DVD and Blu-ray (SRP $24.98 and $29.99). Extras on both will include 3 featurettes (DC Showcase: Green Arrow, Sneak Peak at the Next DC Universe Animated Original Movie and Supergirl: The Last Daughter of Krypton) as well as 2 bonus episodes from animated television series handpicked by Bruce Timm. The Blu-ray will exclusively add The New Gods documentary, all-new featurette pods (Orion and Mister Miracle), 2 additional bonus episodes picked by Timm and a Digital Copy version.

And FUNimation has announced a new DVD and Blu-ray distribution partnership with Japanese genre film label Sushi Typhoon. The first two films that will be released on both formats as part of this deal are Aliens vs. Ninjas and Mutant Girls Squad in 2011.

And in other news today, Hulu has officially begun a $9.99 a month subscription online content viewing service. Users can also view Hulu content on the Apple iPhone and iPad via a custom app. More here at Home Media.

Also this afternoon, we've got links to a trio of new preview trailers on the Net. The first two are anime-related titles: a live-action Space Battleship Yamato and the all-CG Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Odd, fascinating and certainly cool, but I'm waiting for the Cowboy Bebop live-action film. Also, here's a link to the new Harry Potter trailer - or rather the preview trailer for BOTH of the remaining finale films. (By the way, Warner Home Video assures me that the rest of those individual film DVD and Blu-ray UCE box sets are still coming.) And here's something so geekish-cute that even the most jaded of you Star Wars fans will be smiling by the time it's over.

More later, so stay tuned...

6/29/10

All right, everyone should now be able to see The Bits without getting those annoying malware/attack site warnings. And just in time, because we've got more great announcement news for you today...

First though, our own Dr. Adam Jahnke has just updated his Electric Theatre column featuring reviews of with reviews of The Killer Inside Me and Jekyll! Enjoy!

Also, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates & Artwork section with all the latest DVD and Blu-ray cover scans, and Amazon pre-order links. As always, a small portion of anything you order from the retailer after clicking to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits, and we surely appreciate it!

Now then... Sony has set the original rock musical Tommy (based on The Who's similarly-titled album) for release on Blu-ray Disc on 9/7 (SLP $24.95). Here's the cool thing - you'll get remastered 5.1 audio, along with the original 5.0 'Quintaphonic' theatrical audio! Extras will include movieIQ+sync (via BD-Live) featuring a Tommy playlist and information on the cast, music and trivia, as well as the film's theatrical trailer. Very cool!

Sony has also set In Cold Blood for Blu-ray release on 9/7.

Meanwhile, Anchor Bay Entertainment has set Solitary Man, starring Michael Douglas, for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/7 (SRP $29.98 and $39.99). Extras will include audio commentary with writer/director Brian Koppelman, director David Levien and actor Douglas McGrath, the Solitary Man: Alone in a Crowd featurette and the theatrical trailer.

You should also be VERY thrilled to learn that Anchor Bay is soon to announce the release of the Sam Raimi classic The Evil Dead on Blu-ray Disc!! Watch for it to street on 8/31 (SRP $29.97), and inside sources tell us they've REALLY done it up right! The title is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com (see the cover art below) below, and expect all the official details will be revealed in the next week or so.

In other release news, 20th Century Fox has set Just Wright for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 9/14 (SRP $29.98 and $39.99). BD extras will include 3 featurettes (The One You Can't Live Without, Common on the Fast Break and When Amazing Happens), a gag reel and something called Live Extras - What's New. You'll also get a Digital Copy version. The DVD version will only include the first two featurettes and the gag reel.

For you baseball fans, A&E and Major League Baseball Productions is preparing to release The Kansas City Royals: 1985 World Series Collector's Edition box set on DVD on 7/27 (SRP $69.95). The 7-disc set will include all 7 World Series games presented in complete broadcast form, along with the Royals' 1985 season highlight film, and 6 vintage featurettes (George Brett Hometown Hero, Bret Saberhagen Cy Young Award Winner, ALCS Highlights, Royals Clubhouse Celebration, Royals Looking Back and How the Royals Met the Cardinals).

BFS Entertainment has set the excellent Stephen Fry in America documentary series for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/27 (SRP $29.98 and $39.98).

Lionsgate has set Caught in the Crossfire for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/13.

Severin Films has set the 1985 sex-comedy classic Loose Screws for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/27 (SRP $19.95 and $24.95). It's the sequel to Screwballs - think Porky's and you're on the right track. A rare 35mm print was recently discovered in Glendale (naturally!) so the film will be seen in its original aspect ratio and in full color. Extras will include featurettes with production manager Ken Gord and producer Maurice Smith, a commentary track by director Rafael Zielinski, and the international version of the film in its entirety (which contains an extra 10 minutes of footage trimmed from the U.S. version). Fascinating.

Meanwhile Gaiam is releasing a Shark Week: Jaws of Steel Collection on both DVD and Blu-ray on 7/13 (SRP $19.98 and $24.98). This celebration of Discovery Channel's popular sharkfest will include Great White Appetite, Deadly Waters, Sharkbite Summer, Day of the Shark II, Blood in the Water, Shark After Dark, Shark Under Glass and Cash Cab: Shark Week Edition.

Don't forget, The Weinstein Company and Vivendi Home Entertainment are FINALLY releasing Fanboys on Blu-ray here in the States on 7/27 (SRP $19.97), though I suspect that most fans have already imported the Canadian Blu-ray. Extras will include an introduction to the film by director Kyle Newman and producer Matthew Perniciaro, audio commentary by the cast and crew, deleted scenes, the Disturbances in The Force webisodes, 5 featurettes (The Truth About Fanboys, Star Wars Parallel, 4 Fanboys & 1 Fangirl, The Choreography and Fanboys Goes Global), and the Fanboys: The Comic Book and Fanboys: The Gallery image galleries.

Finally, Kino has announced more DVD and Blu-ray titles for release in August. Look for a Pandora and the Flying Dutchman: Deluxe Edition on DVD and Blu-ray on 8/3 (SRP $29.95 and $34.95), and Ajami on DVD and Blu-ray (SRP $29.95 and $34.95) and An American Journey: In Robert Frank's Footsteps on DVD all on 8/24 (SRP $29.95).

And in a bit of EXTREMELY cool soundtrack CD release news today, our friends over at Varèse Sarabande Records have just announced that they're going to be releasing an amazing 7-disc soundtrack box set over the first week of August. The extraordinary Alex North's Spartacus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (SRP $109.98) will be produced in a limited edition of 5000 (as part of Varèse Sarabande's Soundtrack Club line) in commemoration of North's 100 birthday and the 50th anniversary of the film. The project also marks producer Robert Townson's 1000th album production - no kidding. It will easily be the single most elaborate special edition treatment of any soundtrack to date, featuring 6 CDs and 1 DVD! Among the CDs, Disc 1 will include all surviving stereo tracks of the Spartacus recording, including all tracks from the original soundtrack album, assembled in film order. Discs 2 & 3 will include the film's complete soundtrack in monaural sound. Disc 4 will include a selection of unused and alternate cues from the original film sessions, along with North's original preliminary cue recordings for the film. Disc 5 & 6 will encompass Spartacus: Love Theme and Variations - 22 classic and newly recorded interpretations of North's Spartacus Love Theme featuring Bill Evans, Yusef Lateef, Carlos Santana, Lalo Schifrin, Dave Grusin, Mark Isham, Alexandre Desplat and many others. Disc 7 (a DVD) will include the 96-minute Conversations on Alex North's Spartacus documentary, featuring Desplat, Isham, David Newman, Schifrin, Robert Townson, Brian Tyler, John Williams and Christopher Young, as well as 2 more Love Theme Variations by Mark Isham and Diego Navarro. Finally, the set will include a 168-page book by Robert Townson, featuring detailed analysis of the Spartacus score, background on the film, an Alex North biography and over 100 photos. There's no doubt that this is a pretty esoteric release for soundtrack fans and Spartacus fans only, but DAMN! How cool is that? Says Townson himself in the announcement: "Never have I been more proud of any project with which I have been involved and, frankly, I never dreamed that my promise to Alex, that one day I would restore and release his masterpiece, ever could have resulted in something so grand." Amen. Here's a look at the cover of the box set itself (left), along with the covers for the DVD and the Variations CDs included in the set...

Alex North's Spartacus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (6 CD/1DVD box set)Alex North's Spartacus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (6 CD/1DVD box set)Alex North's Spartacus: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (6 CD/1DVD box set)

Doesn't it just make you cry to see how carefully and wonderfully Varèse Sarabande is treating the film's score, compared to the lackluster treatment (specifically the absolutely shoddy HD presentation) Universal gave to the film itself on Blu-ray?

Finally, here's something cool: Sony is honoring legendary stop-motion filmmaker Ray Harryhausen by renaming its 119-seat theatre in his honor in celebration of his 90th birthday! Awesome and well deserved. You can read more here.

We'll leave you with a look at come new cover artwork. Here's Lionsgate's Jacob's Ladder (due 9/14), Anchor Bay's The Evil Dead and Kino's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman: Deluxe Edition all on Blu-ray...

Jacob's Ladder (Blu-ray Disc)The Evil Dead (Blu-ray Disc)Pandora and the Flying Dutchman: Deluxe Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/28/10 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Okay... just one more update on this whole malware silliness. As you should no doubt be aware by now if you can read this, there IS NO MALWARE on The Bits. It turns out that, unknown to us, a third-party banner on our site was somehow linking to a URL that was reported as malicious by Google. That caused Google to flag us as an attack site, and malware warnings about The Bits to appear on many browsers. We quickly removed that banner and all code and links associated with it, and we've fully scanned and double-checked the whole site. We also requested a review by Google, and they've now checked the site themselves and verified that The Bits has no malware - it's 100% safe as usual. So they're now in the process of lifting the warning flag, and all the browser warnings should stop over the next few hours. My first reaction is, I'm really glad Google is so on top of this stuff! I'm actually really impressed with how quickly they responded on both ends. My hats off to them. Sorry about the inconvenience to all of you, but as I said earlier, this is just the kind of silly thing you have to deal with on the Interweb. So there you go.

Meanwhile, we've got one more bit of announcement news today... our friends at Blue Underground have announced the 10/26 DVD and Blu-ray release of the Maniac: 30th Anniversary Special Edition. Each will be a 2-disc set (SRP $24.98 and $34.98) and will include a new 2K HD transfer of the film, DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio (Blu-ray only - the DVD will be Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), a newly-recorded audio commentary with co-producer/director William Lustig and co-producer Andrew W. Garroni, a second commentary with Lustig, make-up effects artist Tom Savini, editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinell's assistant Luke Walter, 4 all-new featurettes (Anna and the Killer, The Death Dealer, Dark Notes and Maniac Men), theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots, The Joe Spinell Story and the all-new Maniac Publicity and Maniac Controversy segments. Pretty cool! We'll have cover art soon.

Meanwhile, here's a glamour shot of Warner's newly announced Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection DVD box set (due 10/5). This is where you all go "Oooooooooo, aaahhhhhhhhh!"... ;)

Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection

Thanks for your patience and understanding over the last couple days, and we'll dive right back into business as usual around here tomorrow. In the meantime, be sure to check out all the awesome title announcements from this morning - the new Bogart Blu-rays and DVD box set, and Uni's The Back to the Future Trilogy on Blu-ray too!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/28/10 - 7 AM PDT)

Not done yet - we've got one more big announcement for you this morning!

First though, be aware that the malware warnings some of you may be getting from your browsers when viewing the site should be clearing up shortly. We've had Google scan the site again this morning, and we expect them to lift the alert soon. So thanks again for your patience. Ah, the silly things we deal with on the Interwebs... ;)

All right... here's the other great news today: Warner Home Video has officially announced the Blu-ray Disc release of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon, both set for release on 10/5 (SRP $24.98 each), along with the DVD only release of Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection, which includes 24 of his films on 12 discs, along with a 13th bonus disc (SRP $99.98).

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Blu-ray Disc will include will include audio commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax, the Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre featurette, the feature-length documentary John Huston, outtakes, the classic cartoon 8 Ball Bunny, a Warner Night at the Movies 1948 short subjects gallery (includes a newsreel, the Joe McDoakes comedy short So You Want to Be a Detective, the cartoon Hot Cross Bunny and trailers for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and 1948's Key Largo) and an audio-only bonus (a radio show adaptation featuring the movie's original stars).

The Maltese Falcon Blu-ray will include audio commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax, the The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird featurette, the Breakdowns of 1941 studio blooper reel, makeup tests, Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, a Warner Night at the Movies 1941 short subjects gallery (includes a newsreel, the musical short The Gay Parisian, the classic cartoons Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt and Meet John Doughboy, and trailers for The Maltese Falcon, 1941's Sergeant York and 1936's previous Falcon movie adaptation Satan Met a Lady) and an audio-only bonus (3 radio show adaptations - 2 featuring the movie's original stars and another starring Edward G. Robinson).

Meanwhile, Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection will include the films The Petrified Forest (1936), Black Legion (1937), Kid Galahad (1937), Marked Woman (1937), San Quentin (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), Dark Victory (1939), The Roaring Twenties (1939), Invisible Stripes (1939), Brother Orchid (1940), They Drive by Night (1940), Virginia City (1940), All Through the Night (1941), High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Across the Pacific (1942), Action in the North Atlantic (1943), Passage to Marseille (1944), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), Key Largo (1948) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). The bonus disc will include The Brothers Warner documentary.

We first posted the cover art for the two Blu-rays last week, but here they are again for you along with a look at the Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection box on DVD...

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Blu-ray Disc)The Maltese Falcon (Blu-ray Disc)Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection (DVD)

Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/28/10 - 5:30 AM PDT)

Morning folks! We'll have another update on the whole malware thing later today. In the meantime, just rest assured there is no actual problem with The Bits, and we're working with Google now to lift their warning flags.

In the meantime, there's big announcement news today...

Universal Studios has OFFICIALLY confirmed what we've been reporting for a long while now: The Back to the Future Trilogy is coming to Blu-ray Disc this Fall! Specifically, you'll be finally be able to buy all three films in one 25th Anniversary Blu-ray set on 10/26 (SRP TBA - note that a 25th Anniversary DVD set will also be available). Video will obviously be 1080p, and Universal's press release says the set will feature new restorations of each film along with DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. Extras will include most (if not all) of the previous DVD special features, including feature commentaries with producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, Q&A commentaries with director Robert Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale, a Michael J. Fox Q&A, 16 deleted scenes, 3 archival documentaries (Making the Trilogy: Chapters One, Two & Three, The Making of Back to the Future Part I, II & III and The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy), 9 behind-the-scenes segments (Outtakes, Original Makeup Tests, Production Design, Storyboarding, Designing the DeLorean, Designing Time Travel, Hoverboard Test, Designing Hill Valley and Designing the Campaign), Back to the Future: The Ride, Huey Lewis and the News' Power of Love music video, ZZ Top's DoubleBack music video, 5 image galleries (Production Art, Additional Storyboards, Photographs, Marketing Materials and Character Portraits) and theatrical trailers. New for for the new 25th Anniversary sets are a 6-part retrospective documentary called Tales from the Future featuring interviews with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, director Robert Zemeckis, producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton, and executive producer Steven Spielberg (includes In the Beginning..., Time to Go, Keeping Time, Time Flies, Third Time's the Charm and The Test of Time), The Physics of Back to the Future featurette with physicist Michio Kaku and the Nuclear Test Site Ending Storyboard Sequence. In addition, the Blu-ray set will exclusively include the 3 new U-Control options (Setups & Payoffs, Storyboard Comparison and Trivia Track) and a 30-minute archival Back to the Future Night TV special hosted by Leslie Nielson. And here's something especially exciting: Stephen Clark of the excellent BTTF.com tells us (per producer Bob Gale) that the new documentary WILL include ultra-rare footage of Eric Stoltz (who was briefly cast as Marty McFly), PLUS the films have been given new HD transfers AND the film grain is preserved too! (Great Scott!!) All in all, there's over two hours of new material. Here's a look at the Blu-ray cover art...

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Edition Trilogy (Blu-ray Disc)Three Kings (Blu-ray Disc)The Essential Bugs Bunny (DVD)

As you can see, we've also posted new cover art for New Line's Three Kings Blu-ray (due 10/12) and Warner's newly-announced The Essential Bugs Bunny DVD (also 10/12).

And we have a couple other interesting items for you this morning...

Amazon now has DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon available for pre-order in a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack. There's no street date yet, and we believe it's only 2D, but the SRP is $39.99 ($27.99 on Amazon).

And we have official details for you on the all-new extras set to be included on Image Entertainment's The Twilight Zone: Season One on Blu-ray when it hits stores on 9/14 (SRP $99.98)... and they're amazing! First, you'll get the extremely rare, never-before-released unofficial Twilight Zone pilot (The Time Element, written by Rod Serling and hosted by Desi Arnaz) presented in full HD! Also included are 19 new audio commentaries (featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, Fantastic Television author and film historian Gary Gerani, A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann author and music historian Steven C. Smith, music historians John Morgan and William T. Stromberg, Lois & Clark/Dark Angel writer/producer David Simkins, Children of Men/Iron Man writer Mark Fergus, actor William Reynolds and director Ted Post), all new interviews with actors Dana Dillaway, Suzanne Lloyd, Beverly Garland and Ron Masak, the Tales of Tomorrow episode What You Need, a vintage audio interview with director of photography George T. Clemens, 1977 syndication promos for A Stop at Willoughby and The After Hours, 18 vintage radio dramas... AND 34 isolated music scores featuring the legendary Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and others! PLUS, nearly all of the previous DVD extras will be included too (we're told a few of the old commentaries have been updated with new ones! Pretty cool, no?

Okay, that's all for now. We'll be back with more later. Stay tuned!

6/27/10

Okay... for those of you who can actually see The Bits without getting a malware warning, we've got a rare Sunday update for you on this situation. The problem is absolutely not actual malware on The Bits. It turns out that, unknown to us, one of the banners that appeared on our site recently was linking to a URL that known to be malicious by Google. That caused Google to flag The Bits, which resulted in malware warnings about The Bits to appear on many browsers. We have since removed that banner, and the associated link, we're scanning and double-checking the whole site today. We will shortly address the issue with Google - we'll have them check the site again themselves and verify that The Bits has no malware. That should take care of the problem, and the Google reported browser warnings should stop over the next day or two. Just so you all know. Sorry for the inconvenience. We'll be back tomorrow with another update, and the usual news.

We now return you to your Sunday afternoon, already in progress. Stay tuned...

6/25/10

All right, first things first today... we've been getting a few reports from readers that The Bits is occasionally blocked or tagged in select browsers as hosting malware. Let me be 100% clear: THERE IS NO MALWARE. We've checked the site ourselves, and verified with Google that this isn't the case. We had Google crawl the site through and through, and they found no malware. So know that the site is 100% safe, and the false browser reporting should clear up soon. We'll keep watching the situation, and be sure to let us know if you continue seeing this.

Okay... as expected, we've gotten many hundreds of e-mails from readers responding to my rant yesterday about some of the reasons why DVD and Blu-ray catalog sales are down 20%. It certainly appears that I've touched a nerve, and I had a sneaking suspicion I would based on the frustrations we've been hearing from readers for many months now. I've added a couple things to the text based on this feedback (including noting that the major studios ARE doing some good catalog BD work too), and I've copied the piece to its own Soapbox editorial page, so it's easier for you all to link to, quickly reference, print and pass around, etc. All I can say is, there's a lot of frustration out there among the most avid Blu-ray consumers - the serious film and home theatre enthusiasts - and those of you who work at the major studios would do well to address it seriously and soon. Many of your best customers are a little... pissed. Sadly, the very good catalog Blu-ray work some of you are doing is being overshadowed all too many titles with recycled, mediocre, digitally over-scrubbed transfers. I would say that if you're not willing to spend a little money to create a new HD master from the best available elements, don't release the title. "Good enough" just isn't good enough, and you REALLY need people with experience in film restoration and mastering to act as a quality check to make sure crap isn't getting through - people who know what a FILM is supposed to look like, not just HD video techs. Trust me, there is a BIG difference.

You know, I suspect there are probably a few upset executives at the major studios today, and all I can say to that is that sometimes the truth just hurts. But we have a very long history here at The Bits - 13 long years of it - of working to approach these situations reasonably, rationally and with the best interests of both our readers and the health of the industry as a whole in mind. We're not unreasonable and we don't grind axes here just to piss people off. So when we talk about a problem like this... there's a REAL problem. We've actually been posting warnings of it now and again since high-def discs first appeared, hoping that it would go away. But the industry seems to have taken its eye off the ball, and it's time we started getting more insistent.

Bottom Line: Nobody's fought harder for DVD over the years than we have here at The Bits, and nobody's fought harder for Blu-ray than we have, because we felt both formats were in the best interests of our readers and the industry. But the fact is, Blu-ray is being sold for a premium price. And Blu-ray has been and continues to be marketed as "The Look and Sound of Perfect" by the major Hollywood studios. So that's what film enthusiasts expect. And if you're cheaping out by recycling a 6-year-old HD master, you ain't delivering perfect, Jack. No way, no how. So think of this as a bit of tough love, from your old pals here at The Bits.

In announcement news today, Warner has set The Essential Bugs Bunny for DVD release on 10/12 (SRP $26.99). This 2-disc set will contain 17 classic shorts in all.

Sony Pictures has revealed that they're streeting The Kim Novak Collection on DVD on 8/3 (SRP $39.95). The 3-disc set will include Picnic, Pal Joey and Bell, Book and Candle - all previously available on DVD - as well as Jeanne Eagels and Middle of the Night, both of which are new to the format. The set also includes a gallery of rare archive photos, as well as audio of Novak in "newly recorded intimate conversations with author Stephen Rebello."

Meanwhile, First Run Features has set Prodigal Sons for DVD release on 7/21.

Synapse has announced the DVD release of Graphic Sexual Horror on 8/10 (SRP $24.95). The film is a new documentary about the infamous InSex.com bondage website, and was one of the most talked about films at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2009. Extras will include delete scenes, unused interview segments, an interview with co-creator Barbara Bell and the theatrical trailer.

National Entertainment has set The Greatest for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 7/13 (SRP $26.98 each). Extras on both versions will include interviews with director Shana Feste and actors Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon and Johnny Simmons.

Also today, Network Releasing in the U.K. has announced a bunch of new DVD titles for July, including The Fosters: Series 1, The Gaffer: Series 2, Hallelujah: Series 2, The Mind of JG Reeder: Complete Series, Mystery and Imagination: The Complete Series, Surgical Spirit: Series 6 and The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club: Series 2 on 7/5, followed by Clayhanger: The Complete Series on 7/12, The Upper Hand: Series 3 and The Corridor People (as a web exclusive) on 7/19, and Codename: Kyril: The Complete Series (also as a web exclusive) on 7/26.

And New Video has set Huxley on Huxley, Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Painter and Red Vs. Blue: Season 6 - Reconstruction for DVD release on 7/27.

Finally, The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films last night announced the winners of their 36th Annual Saturn Awards, and thanks to my old friend Ed P. (Thank you, Ed!), I had the honor and great fun of attending the awards ceremony at the Castaway, high in the hills above Burbank. As one might expect, the combination of Avatar and Lost dominated the event, but for me the highlight of the evening was seeing Leonard Nimoy win a Saturn for his recent guest turn on Fringe. Stunningly, Nimoy said this Saturn was the first true award he's ever won for his work. He's been nominated for 4 Emmys (and several other Saturns) over the years, but has never won before. So it was extremely moving to see him win, and receive a standing ovation, for a roll he says will be his last on camera... ever. Very, very cool.

Enjoy the weekend! Stay tuned...

6/24/10

Well, folks... it's apparently time to state the obvious again here at The Bits. So let's get right to it, shall we? And if you happen to work at a 'Major Hollywood Studio' you might want to take notes...

I was reading my friend T.K. Arnold's latest editorial over on Home Media this morning, in which he talks about a surprise positive forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the future of the film industry, including theatrical ticket sales, but also DVD and Blu-ray sales, as well as VOD and EST. Now, that's good news to be sure. But in the piece, here's the thing I found most interesting: T.K. notes that he's heard recent complaints from studio executives that "catalog sales are down a dismal 20%," and "TV DVD is a shadow of its former self."

Well, look... the recession isn't helping any of this. That's the first thing that needs to be said. Generally, when times get tough economically (as they did after 9/11), people immediately cut out stuff like travel and big new purchases first and then tend to say home more, and thus watch movies and consume more entertainment at home. But as a recession drags on, people cut more deeply into frivolous entertainment spending too. So they tend to rent more, re-watch movies they already have, or look for greater bargains when buying DVDs and Blu-rays - like 40% off, or titles for $9.99.

Now, as for TV DVD, I suspect another part of the problem is that most of the best shows, the ones that diehard fans (the kind of people who BUY most TV DVD and Blu-ray releases) really want, have already been released at least once on DVD. And it's hard to convince all but the most diehard fans to upgrade to new Blu-ray versions of these series unless the studio really goes all out to make the release special with new transfers and lots of new extras. That's just the reality of ANY business, when you're trying to sell your customers a product they've already purchased from you at least once in the past. It's not helped by the fact that, as many fans know, most TV DVD sets these days include just a smattering of glossy, EPK-style extras and that's about all - certainly not enough to motivate a purchase among collectors. Generally, only smaller labels like Image Entertainment and Shout! Factory (to name a few) are really going all out on these sets in a way that generates real excitement - and purchases - among fans.

But the other reasons for the decline of catalog DVD and Blu-ray sales are fairly obvious. At least they are to us and to our readers, and they SHOULD be obvious to studio executives. Yes, there's a recession going, and consumer sales are down in general. And yes, most of the really beloved catalog films have already been released on DVD multiple times. So that's naturally going to make it harder to sell them to fans a second and third time. BUT... that doesn't mean a studio can't sell these titles to fans again. It CAN be done, but it requires a little more effort on the part of the studios. Believe me, because I hear this complaint EVERY SINGLE DAY here at The Bits: Fans are sick an tired of buying double and triple-dip DVD catalog titles that contain only a couple paltry new features, usually some kind of cheesy EPK featurette or music video! These titles just feel to fans like exactly what they are: Shameless attempts to revisit the well one more time with minimal effort. On the other hand, if the studio really puts some effort into creating a genuinely interesting special edition with significant new extras - or a true special edition of a film that previously has only been movie-only on DVD - fans WILL buy it. Hell, look at Blade Runner! Not exactly a blockbuster in theatres back in 1983, and yet Warner sold a helluva lot of copies of that film on DVD and Blu-ray a few years ago.

The situation with Blu-ray is even more irritating for movie fans: MANY of them are DESPERATE to re-buy their favorite films in high-definition, provided they have brand new HD transfers to ensure the very best A/V quality, and include genuinely interesting and illuminating new special features. I know this because I hear from them every day, and because I'm one of them myself! But instead, the studios are all too often recycling old HD masters done for HD cable or satellite broadcast - or even for a previous DVD release many years before - and they're pushing them through a heavy-handed digital clean-up process and releasing the result on Blu-ray for $34.99. And instead of new extras that would actually interest film enthusiasts and collectors - like new audio commentaries with those involved, previously unseen footage and other materials from the vaults, or new retrospective documentaries - the studios are choosing instead to cake up these catalog Blu-rays with silly interactive bells and whistles that add virtually NOTHING to a fan's appreciation of the film and - even worse - sometimes make the disc crash your Blu-ray player.

Let me tell you studio guys something (AGAIN!), because too many of you clearly don't understand this: The ability to look up a recipes, or check an actor's IMDB profile, or chat with friends, or watch content on your iPhone... all while watching a film on Blu-ray... doesn't excite ANYONE who is actually passionate about film, Blu-ray or, hell... even iPhones for that matter. Film fans don't look at ANY of that crap, and even the few people who love that kind of thing may sample it once and never look at it again. And yet the studios are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create it, manage it, QC it, trouble-shoot it and maintain the servers for it. I have no doubt that having these features makes the studios feel like they're really innovating technically, and making Blu-ray feel different and more advanced than DVD. And I'm sure such things look great on a marketing spreadsheet or press release. BUT FANS OF THESE FILMS DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANY OF IT. And by including it on your discs, you're just wasting money that would be better spent on new HD transfers, or on paying actors or directors to participate in new commentaries or interviews to create truly new extras. Will someone at the Hollywood studios PLEASE figure this out? Finally?!

Look... my own frustration with catalog BDs (and the frustration of MANY of our readers) aside... I should add here that yes, a select few of these advanced interactive features are actually cool, interesting and genuinely worthwhile. I also know that there are a LOT of good people in this business working hard to make them special, and I don't mean to disparage any of them or their efforts. But the bottom line is that Blu-ray is a MOVIE format, above and beyond anything else. And as is (and should always be) the case with any movie format, it's the PICTURE AND SOUND THAT MATTER MOST! If a studio can't be bothered to get that most critical part right, then all the rest of the BD-Java and BD-Live stuff is just putting the cart before the horse. And even the very best and most well-intentioned of you interactivity guys should understand and appreciate that. Nobody buys a Blu-ray for the games, the chatting options or the Focus Points. They buy it hoping to see a movie they love, in the very best possible quality. Make no mistake.

No catalog Blu-ray Disc should EVER be released with an HD master that's more than a couple years old! The state of the art in HD transfer and mastering technology is just moving too fast, and in order to achieve the best quality picture and sound that people expect of Blu-ray, you have to start with the best elements - not recycled ones. And simply including a bonus DVD and Digital Copy, along with murky layers of online-connected interactive features - none of that crap excites a movie fan to a new purchase. None of it. Instead, you have to actually put a little more effort into these titles. Of course, in a time when the major Hollywood studio home video departments are being wracked by round after round of layoffs and aggressive cost cutting measures, this isn't what ANY studio executive wants to hear.

They're ARE studios who already know these things, of course, and who are doing a great job with catalog DVD and Blu-ray releases (and even TV DVDs), but they tend to be the smaller operations who really truly understand their audience and know that you have to give them what they want... not just feed them what's easy for you to give them. Think Criterion, Shout! Factory, Image, Blue Underground, Synapse, Kino, etc. Of course, that's not to say that there isn't certainly very good transfer work being done at the major studios. Think of Paramount's fine African Queen and Braveheart Blu-rays, Warner's North by Northwest and How the West Was Won, Fox's very good Mel Brooks Collection, Disney's Armageddon, Lionsgate's latest Dirty Dancing BD, Sony's recent Karate Kid BDs. Excellent work IS happening, and making it to the format. But they are also FAR too many major catalog BDs falling through the cracks with subpar transfers - Gladiator, Patton, Flash Gordon, Spartacus, etc. Titles people were really excited for... until they actually brought them home and watched them. And these do far more to damage the Blu-ray format than anything else.

Look... if I can send any one take-home message to the studios, it's this: THERE ARE MANY THOUSANDS OF DIEHARD MOVIE FANS OUT THERE WHO ARE DYING TO BUY YOUR CATALOG PRODUCT, ESPECIALLY ON BLU-RAY! They're EAGER to part with their money, if you give them good new Blu-ray editions of their favorite films. BUT YOU HAVE TO DELIVER QUALITY!!! You can't spend money to create boring, unwanted bells and whistles, all while cutting corners on the stuff that REALLY counts (new HD transfers), and then cookie-cuttering these catalog Blu-rays out into stores with a $34.99 price tag. Well... you can, but don't expect ANYONE to actually want to buy them. Because I promise you, the folks who fill out your fancy customer research surveys and say they really love Blu-ray iPhone apps and online chat during the films - those guys aren't actually buying Blu-rays right now. If they EVER started buying them to begin with, Blu-rays were probably the first thing they cut from their budgets when the recession took hold. Instead, they're probably renting movies from Netflix and Redbox, or watching movies on Xbox Live or Playstation Network, or for free on Hulu and Bittorrent, or just watching their old DVDs. Meanwhile, the folks who are ACTUALLY still willing to drop $30 on a catalog movie reissue on Blu-ray right now - you're giving them shit. You don't understand what they want and demand from these titles, and you're disappointing them in DROVES. I'd bet that no small portion of that 20% decline is made up of avid and diehard movie consumers who are just frustrated, and sick and tired of being taken advantage of and taken for granted. And the more you disappoint these folks, the harder it gets to get them excited again... and the less likely they are to buy your titles in the future.

As for those of you (consumers and studio personnel alike) who would say, "Well, who cares? It's all going to be downloading in a few years anyway...," here's a few points to consider. Call 'em a warning, if you like. First, prepare yourself for the death of great movie special editions, because you won't be getting them anymore. They're ALREADY on the decline compared to the "golden age" of the DVD format several years ago, and no studio is going to want to use up valuable server space and bandwidth to make available for download lengthy documentaries and commentaries that aren't download profitable. Great classic film restorations will dry up too, because they cost money and it was profits from strong DVD sales that have funded them (and justified the expense) in recent years. Don't believe me? How many of you are still waiting for MGM to finally save The Alamo? When profits are down, film SEs and restorations are among the first things to fall by the wayside. Second, watch for the entire home video market to became a much smaller pie. Why? Even if you optimistically hope that LOTS more people will download movies in the future, $7.99 or $9.99 downloads will never make up for $29.99, $49.99 and $69.99 (or even more for box sets) physical product sales. And good luck getting anyone to spend more than $9.99 on a movie download. Even if Hollywood's latest scheme to charge $25 or $30 for downloads of first-run movies still in theatres (presumably hoping to snatch some of the family movie-going audience that's sick of paying $100 a pop for 4 tickets, plus soda and snacks - read more here as well), you're still cannibalizing profits from somewhere, certainly theaters and probably also later disc sales and rentals. Finally, here's one to put the scare into you Hollywood marketing folk: Downloads don't require press releases, press events and marketing campaigns. An elaborate new Anniversary collector's edition box set of... say... Lawrence of Arabia is an event to celebrate - something for movie fans to rightly get excited about, and that requires lots of P.R. people to promote. All a newly-available Xbox Live or PlayStation Network download of Lawrence of Arabia requires is a little pop-up message when you log into the system to let you know it's available. So to the extent that the home video industry is driven by (and requires lots of) marketing folk right now, well... one day in the not too distant future, your services will no longer be required thank you very much. How do you like them apples?

Bottom line: There are still LOTS of consumers who want to buy great catalog physical product on DVD and Blu-ray. The window of opportunity is still open, that market still exists, and it's to EVERYONE'S advantage for the major Hollywood studios to cater to it, to encourage it and to not just keep it alive, but get it thriving again. It CAN be done. But all the low-lying fruit has been picked already, so it requires a little more focus and effort - and frankly vision - on the part of you studio types. And the clock is ticking...

Man, I don't know how many times we have to say this stuff, but what the hell... we'll KEEP saying it until the studios finally GET it. That's just what we do here at The Bits, yes?

Stay tuned...

6/23/10

Holey moley! Are any of you guys watching World Cup? I'm not going to spoil today's results for those of you stuck at work and TiVo-ing the morning games, but MAN what a finish! (Hint: Don't click the link if you don't want to know.) I went to a local pub here in the O.C. with a few friends and we had quite a time. I do dig this sport, I surely do. It ain't real Football, but it's pretty damn good. Kidding! ;)

Anyway, in announcement news today, Warner has revealed that they're going to be selling The Lord of the Rings films on Blu-ray Disc as individual single movie editions starting on 9/14 (SRP $24.98 each). The Neverending Story also streets on Blu-ray that day. [Editor's Note: This appears to be a repromote as this title previously streeted on BD in March.]

Warner has also set The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Third Season for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/14, followed by Human Target: The Complete First Season on both formats on 9/21.

Warner and the BBC will release Clatterford: Season Three on DVD on 9/7, followed by Judge John Deed: Season Two, Lark Rise to Candleford: Season Three and Robin Hood: The Complete Series on 9/14.

And Warner has also set NHL Stanley Cup Champions 2010: Chicago Blackhawks - Special Edition for DVD release on 10/5, followed by Cartoon Network: Generator Rex - Volume 1 on 10/19.

Meanwhile, HBO has set Bored to Death for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 9/21.

MTI Home Video has Fireball due on DVD only on 6/22, with DVDs of Sutures, Metamorphosis and Say Goodnight soon to be announced.

The Cinema Guild will release Shirin on DVD on 8/24 (SRP $29.95).

And Genius Products and Vivendi Entertainment have set The Killing Room for both DVD and Blu-ray release on 8/17 (SRP just $14.97 each).

Finally, we have a few details for you on what you can expect in Disney's Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition when it hits Blu-ray+DVD Combo on 10/5 (SRP $39.99 - available in Blu-ray and DVD packaging). No less than THREE versions of the film will be included, along with a never-before-seen alternate opening and deleted scene, 3 documentary featurettes (Beyond Beauty, Broadway Beginnings and Composing a Classic), a new music video, all the previous 2-disc DVD features, a BD-Java Enchanted Musical Challenge, the Bonjour, Who Is This? BD-Live phone message option, and more. That last one is a bit of B.S. - I wish studios would shift a little of their financial resources away from creating iPhone compatible BD apps and a little more into new HD transfers and top-tier mastering of ALL their BD titles. Note to the studios: Do you know who cares about iPhone BD apps?! Studio marketing people. And NOBODY else. Certainly nobody buying Blu-rays in any quantity at the moment. But I digress...

And in other news, here's something interesting - as reported today at Home Media, sales of 3D compatible HDTVs and Blu-ray players have topped $55 million in the first 90 days of availability. Not bad. Still not blazing, and I'm betting the unit numbers are about what analysts expected, but still.

Meanwhile, Apple says they've now sold 3 million iPads. It'll be interesting to see what sales of the first Android powered tablet are like. Clearly, this category has more like than many analysts expected, though personally, I suspect it's going to be huge.

By the way, if you're looking for a good comedy, a la The Hangover or The 40 Year Old Virgin, let me just recommend to you DreamWorks' She's Out Of My League. We watched it last night here, and darned if we didn't get a lot of really good and unexpected laughs out of it. It's very enjoyable movie.

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

6/22/10

Morning, folks! We've got a quick early update for you today.

First, our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates & Artwork section with lots of new DVD and Blu-ray cover scans, and Amazon.com pre-order links. As always, a portion of anything you order from Amazon after clicking through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we truly appreciate it.

Now then... RHI Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment have the spy thriller The Diplomat for release as a Blu-ray + DVD Combo on 8/10 (SRP $19.93).

Hen's Tooth has set the classic Don Knotts and Tim Conway comedy The Private Eyes for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/28 (SRP $29.95 and $34.95). No kidding! Extras will include audio commentary by Tim Conway and director Lang Elliott, a photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer.

And Lionsgate has confirmed a Neighbor: Unrated Director's Cut for DVD release on 7/27 (SRP $26.98), along with new Blu-ray Disc releases of Johnny Handsome, Lock Up, the Rambo: Extended Cut (SRP $19.99 each) and Rambo: The Complete Collection (SRP $54.99). Newly announced by Lionsgate for release on 9/14 are Princess Kaiulani and Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly on DVD (SRP $27.98 and $14.98 respectively), and Jacob's Ladder on Blu-ray Disc (SRP $19.99).

Following up yesterday's post, here's the new cover artwork for Warner's The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut on both DVD and Blu-ray (due 10/5), as well as pre-announcement artwork for Criterion's The Seven Samurai Blu-ray (TBA, but available for pre-order on Amazon.com)...

The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut (DVD)The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)The Seven Samurai (Blu-ray Disc)

The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

6/21/10

We've got a few more new title announcements to start the new week...

First though, our very own Dr. Adam Jahnke has updated his Electric Theatre with a new column featuring reviews of Toy Story 3 and Jonah Hex (now in theatres), as well as a look at The Dish on DVD. Don't miss it!

Now then... Sony has set The Back-up Plan for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 8/24 (SRP $28.95 and $34.95), followed by Harry Brown on both formats on 8/31 (SRP $27.96 and $30.95). The Back-up Plan will include deleted scenes and the Belly Laughs: Making The Back-up Plan featurette. Harry Brown will include cast and filmmaker commentary and deleted scenes. Both Blu-rays will add movieIQ+sync and BD-Live Connect.

Paramount (plus CBS, DreamWorks, etc) has announced their September DVD and Blu-ray slate, but continuing the studio's recent and unfortunate trend of releasing very few catalog Blu-rays, the only confirmed such title due during the month is Stardust on 9/7. Considering how many great and as-yet-unreleased-on-BD catalog titles they have, this is a real shame. On standard DVD, look for Criminal Minds: The Fifth Season, a Criminal Minds: 5 Season Pack and The Guardian: The Second Season on 9/7, followed by Broken Lizard Stands Up, SpongeBob SquarePants 10 Happiest Moments, Two Tickets to Paradise and the previously-announced The Good Wife: The First Season on 9/14.

For those of you who are excited about Stardust on Blu-ray (SRP $29.99), the disc will include audio commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman, the multi-part Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust documentary (in HD), the Nothing Is True... featurette, deleted scenes, a blooper reel and the film's theatrical trailer (in HD).

By the way, Paramount and MTV have also set Jersey Shore: Season One Unrated for DVD release on 7/20 (SRP $19.99). And I think that's about all that needs to be said about that.

Meanwhile, Warner continues to distinguish themselves with their classic film efforts on Blu-ray. You'll be pleased to learn that the studio is soon to announce the Bogart gems Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon on the format. You'll find cover art below, and Classicflix.com has larger 3D images.

Warner and the Cartoon Network have also set Cartoon Network Hall of Fame: Courage the Cowardly Dog - Season One for DVD release on 7/20 (SRP $24.98). The 2-disc set will include all 13 original episodes.

And as expected, Warner has just announced the DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut on 10/5 (SRP $19.96 and $34.99). The single-disc DVD will include ONLY the Extended Director's Cut. The 2-disc Blu-ray (in book packaging) will include the Extended Director's Cut on Disc One, with audio commentary by director William Friedkin, 3 new and exclusive-to-Blu-ray documentaries (Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist, The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now and Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist), and a gallery of trailers and TV and radio spots. Disc Two of the set will include the original 1972 Theatrical Cut, along with all of the previous DVD extras (the commentaries, the Friedkin introduction, interviews, the original ending, sketches and storyboards, and more trailers and TV spots. The Blu-ray also comes packaged with a 40-page book that includes a personal letter written by Friedkin, as well as photos, cast bios, production notes and more.

FYI, the street date for Warner's He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition DVD has been changed from 9/7 to 9/21.

Also today, Anchor Bay has set Brittany Murphy's last film, Abandoned, for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 8/24 (SRP $26.97 and $34.98).

And finally this afternoon, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of famed illustrator Al Williamson back on 6/12 - the man who brought both Flash Gordon and Luke Skywalker to life on the pages of the comics. He was 79. More on his life and work here at The New York Times and also Comic Book Resources.

Here's a look at BD art for Warner's Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon (street date TBA), as well as new BD artwork posted on Amazon.com for Criterion's soon-to-be-announced Videodrome (also TBA)...

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Blu-ray Disc)The Maltese Falcon (Blu-ray Disc)Videodrome (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned...

6/18/10

Boy, I'll tell you... there's too much World Cup, and not enough hours in the day! I hit a local pub this morning (VERY early) to watch the U.S.A. and England matches with some friends, but I'm impressed by the diehards (read: crazies) who have been doing that on a daily basis. All I can say is, I'm sure glad you can watch all the matches for free online at ESPN.com. Makes multitasking (and life) a whole lot easier during the tournament.

Anyway, here's some interesting release news: Warner Home Video has set A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and The Year Without a Santa Clause for Blu-ray Disc release on 10/5 (SRP $24.98 each). They also have a Peanuts Holiday Collection due on Blu-ray that same day (SRP $42.93), including It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas. And on standard DVD, look for Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo and Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare on 9/14 (SRP $19.98 each).

Bits reader Dave C. has reliably informed us that Criterion is working to eventually bring Videodrome to Blu-ray Disc. Pretty cool. I'll tell you, Criterion is seriously delivering with the high-def format, whereas a few of the major studios seem to be dropping the ball at the moment. By the way, Dave's also reported that Warner's The Exorcist has been posted for pre-order on Blu-ray on Amazon.co.uk (street date 10/25), which means a U.S. release probably can't be too far behind. And, in fact, an industry source tells us that Warner will be announcing The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut + Theatrical Cut for Blu-ray release here in the States very soon...

Meanwhile, CBS and Paramount have set The Good Wife: The First Season for DVD release on 9/14 (SRP $64.99). All 23 episodes will be included, along with the multi-part The Education of Alicia Florrick: Making Season One and Aftermath: Real Life Events featurettes, and deleted scenes.

Image Entertainment has set $5 a Day for DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 8/24 (SRP $27.98 and $29.98).

Anchor Bay has set Brooklyn's Finest for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/6 (SRP $29.98 and $39.98), followed Operation: Endgame on both formats on 7/27 (SRP $29.97 and $34.98) and After.Life on both formats on 8/3 (SRP $29.98 and $34.98). Anchor Bay also has Growth set for DVD only on 9/7 (SRP $26.97).

True Story Films has set Blood Into Wine for DVD release on 9/7. Extras will include extended interviews with Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer frontman Maynard James Keenan and vineyard partner Eric Glomski, Puscifer concert footage, and deleted scenes featuring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.

For you anime fans, Funimation has set Casshern Sins: Part One, Casshern Sins: Part One and an Origin: Spirits of the Past - Special Edition for DVD and Blu-ray release on 8/17, followed by Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Part Two on both formats on 8/24, and Full Metal Panic! Season One and Black Blood Brothers: The Complete Series on both formats on 8/31. Following in September from Funimation are Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season One, Part Two on DVD and Blu-ray and The Slayers: Revolution - Season Four and The Slayers: Evolution-R - Season Five on Blu-ray on 9/14, followed by Eden of the East: The Complete Series, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings - The Complete Series on both formats on 9/28.

And E1 Entertainment has Parasomnia and How to Make Love to a Woman set for DVD and Blu-ray release on 7/13, along with the DVD only releases Saving Marriage and Vivre.

In other news today, here's a bummer: Southern California electronics retailer Ken Cranes is shutting down, according to this piece in DealerScope. They've been a good family-run operation for many years here, and we'll sure miss them.

Elsewhere around the Net today, our friend Michael Coate has written up a 35th anniversary look back at Steven Spielberg's Jaws over at Cinema Treasures. Do check it out.

And in a bit of shameless nepotism, I've been asked by my brother Jason Smith to let you all know that, if you're in the Chicago area and you're looking for a fun bit of local entertainment on Saturday night, he's directed a musical comedy called The Stops that's playing at the Skoke Theatre. The Chicago Reader and Chicago Sun-Times have both given it good reviews. You can find out more here.

All right... that's it for now. Be sure to take the family out to see Disney and Pixar's Toy Story 3, which open this weekend. I have it on good authority from director Lee Unkrich that it's pretty great. And let me just say, I also happened to catch a screening of The A-Team last night and darned if it's not pretty fun as well.

Have a great weekend everyone! See you Monday...

6/17/10

All right, we've got a couple more title announcements for you today, and then I've got a couple other interesting things I wanted to bring to your attention. Don't forget to check out Barrie's new High-Definition Matters column if you missed it yesterday, featuring 11 new Blu-ray Disc reviews!

Now then... announcements...

First up this afternoon, Shout! Factory has revealed that thirtysomething: The Complete Final Season will initially be released as an Amazon-exclusive DVD on 9/7 (SRP $59.97, but Amazon has it for $44.99), and will then be available widely in stores later this year. The 6-disc set will include all 23 episodes mastered from new HD transfers, along with new extras including a special "in-depth introduction" from show creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick.

Meanwhile, Image Entertainment has set Multiple Sarcasms for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 8/10 (SRP $27.98 and $29.98). Extras will include a behind-the-scenes featurette, cast and crew interviews and the trailer.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has set A Prophet for DVD and Blu-ray release on 8/3 (SLP $27.96 and $38.96).

Severin Films has set the (*ahem*) erotic classics Joy and Joy and Joan for DVD release on 7/27 (SRP $29.95 each). We're told to think of them as French versions of 9 ½ Weeks. So, you know... plan accordingly.

And ESPN has announced the DVD release of The Two Escobars documentary on Amazon.com, as part of its 30 for 30 series. Watch for it next week on 6/23. It tells the story of the Columbian national soccer team.

In other news today, Lucasfilm has revealed that Daily Show host Jon Stewart (alias Stu-Beef) is going to be interviewing George Lucas live on stage at the Star Wars Celebration V event in Orlando (this coming August 12-15th). Among the other events set for Celebration V is "the last flight of the Endor Express" hosted at Disney's Orlando Hollywood Studio. You can find all the details here.

Also today, we've learned some VERY cool film-related book news. As you may know, we're big fans of director Stanley Kubrick here at The Bits, and so have very much enjoyed Taschen's wonderful Stanley Kubrick Archives coffee table book, which was edited by Alison Castle with the the help of Kubrick's wife Christiane and producer Jan Harlan. The first edition of the hefty tome was released back in 2005 for $200, complete with its own carrying box, a CD of interviews with Kubrick and a twelve-frame film strip clipped from Kubrick's personal 70mm archive print of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This first edition sold out within a few months. Thankfully, a more affordable "Trade" reprint edition of the book (very slightly smaller, sans CD and film strip) was released in 2008 for the more wallet-friendly price of $70, allowing a great many more Kubrick fans the chance to enjoy the book's experience. (The reprint is now sold out as well.)

To follow up the Kubrick Archives, Castle and the folks at Taschen produced a stunningly cool (but WAY esoteric) behemoth last year: Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made. Only 1,000 numbered copies were produced, which quickly sold out at the soul-crushing price of $1500! When you pulled the leather bound book out of its slipcase and opened it up, it was hollow. Inside were 10 or 11 smaller books, each highlighting a portion of the exhaustive research material Kubrick collected in preparation for a Napoleon film he ultimately was never able to make. There was a complete copy of the script, a photography file, costume and location research, personal notes and correspondence, sketches and on and on. The book also came with a code granting the owner exclusive unlimited access to an online library of 17,000 Napoleonic images from Kubrick's research files. So to make a long story short, here's the cool news: We've just officially confirmed with Taschen that a far more affordable "Trade" reprint edition of Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon is being prepared for release sometime next year. It'll no doubt still be somewhat expensive as books go, but it'll also still be a MUCH better chance for serious Kubrick fans to experience the lost riches of his legendary unfinished masterpiece. We'll post more details as they become available. In the meantime, watch for our thoughts on Taschen's new Godfather Family Album in the next couple weeks. One thing's for sure: Taschen sure is producing some cool film related books these days...

And finally today, some of you may recall that a year or two ago, I recommended a product called Smart Strips - essentially an advanced power outlet strip that allows you to save energy. The idea is that lots of your electronic devices (game systems, DVD and Blu-ray players, VCRs, etc) use almost as much electricity when turned off in stand-by mode as they do when you're actually using them. The Smart Strips allow you to eliminate that energy waste. They have a control outlet, a couple 'constant hot' outlets and then several switched outlets. You simply plug your TV into the control outlet, plug the cable or satellite box into the constant hot (as it often needs power to record items when you're away), and then you plug everything else into the switched outlets. When you turn on your TV, power becomes available to the switched outlets so you can use those devices. But when you turn your TV off, the strip kills power to the switched outlets so those devices don't waste electricity. In my own experience, by using a combination of Smart Strips and replacing all my household lighting with CFL bulbs, I was able to cut my monthly electric bill by more than 40%. That's pretty impressive, when you consider that both Sarah and I work at home, we both use computers all day long and I'm running my home theatre constantly. But while CFL bulbs have improved greatly over the last few years, and they absolutely save energy over regular incandescent bulbs, they have a few disadvantages. First, not all of them produce a pleasant quality of light. Second, some take a few minutes to get up to full brightness when you first switch them on. Third, very few are compatible with dimmers. And finally, the bulbs contain tiny amounts of mercury, which means you have to take care to dispose of them properly, as you would a battery.

Here's the point of all this: I've now found a great new light bulb product that I absolutely love, that address ALL of these issues. I've been waiting a long time for LED bulbs to become affordable. Most technology experts will tell you that LED IS the ultimate future of household and commercial lighting. But getting an LED bulb of good quality designed to replace standard 40 or 60 watt bulb has been a VERY expensive proposition up until now. You've had to spend between $50 and $100 for just one. Here's the cool thing: A company called Lighting Science Group has developed an LED bulb called the Definity A19. It's a bright white 40 watt equivalent, so it's perfect for table lamps and wall sconces, and it's now selling in Home Depot stores (under the EcoSmart brand) for just $19.97 each. Now some of you might be thinking, $20 for a light bulb?! That's crazy! No, it's really not. Here's why: These LED bulbs are guaranteed to last 5 years out of the box, but lab work has shown that LEDs burn much cooler, so they could easily last 10 or 15 years. I've been testing these A19s for a few weeks now, and the quality of light is just terrific (about 3000K, which is on the warmer side of white). They use about 8.5 watts of energy, which is about the same as an equivalent CFL, but they're compatible with dimmers and they have NO mercury. They're just awesome. Lighting Science also makes a whole range of other LED bulbs for various types of fixtures, including a Definity PAR30 that's a full 60 watt replacement designed for overhead/ceiling can fixtures (I'm told they're working on a traditional 60 watt bulb replacement as well, styled like the A19). And rest assured, as more people buy LED bulbs, the technology will continue to get better and cheaper. But this jump from $50-100 to just $20 is a great start.

Let me be right up front - I'm not making any money from talking about these bulbs, nor have I made any money from Smart Home USA, the company that produces Smart Strips. I'm just someone with a keen personal interest in bringing the latest energy efficiency technology home, where it can make a real difference. So I'm always on the lookout for really good, effective products at an affordable price. When I find them, I buy and test them myself, and then occasionally talk about them here on The Bits so you guys get the benefit of my research and don't have to deal with all the usual trial and error. Funny thing is, I still get 2 or 3 e-mails a week from Bits readers asking about the Smart Strips, so I figured some of you guys would be interested in the EcoSmart bulbs too. Anyway, if you check them out, I think you'll really dig 'em. Drop me a line if you do and let me know what you think.

Okay, that's more than enough geek material for one day. We'll be back tomorrow with more DVD and Blu-ray news. Stay tuned...!

6/16/10

Afternoon, folks! Man, have any of you been watching Expedition Great White on NatGeo? This marine biologist and his team have devised a way to catch big White sharks live and lift them right out of the ocean (via an elevator platform on the side of a ship) so they can be measured, tagged with radio transmitters and take blood and tissue samples to better understand the species' behavior. Then they release them back into the water unharmed. The show gets a little repetitive to be sure, but in the final episode (there are only 4 or 5 in all), they caught this nearly 17-foot female shark. BIG. Anyway, fascinating stuff. It you happen to come across it while you're surfing channels some afternoon, it's worth a look.

As promised today, our own Barrie Maxwell has kicked off a new High-Definition Matters column, featuring 11 new Blu-ray reviews: Paramount's K-19: The Widowmaker and War of the Worlds, Disney's Tombstone and Armageddon, Warner's Doctor Zhivago, Sherlock Holmes and Edge of Darkness, Fox's Avatar, Alliance Canada's The Matador (available from Ais in the States), E1 Canada's Red Cliff: Extended Version (available from Magnet here in the States) and MGM's The Magnificent Seven Collection. Do check it out.

And in announcement news this afternoon, here's one for the fast-to-disc category: Summit Entertainment has already set Furry Vengeance for release on DVD and Blu-ray + DVD (a flipper) on 8/17. Extras will include Audio commentary with the director and cast, deleted scenes, a gag reel and 2 featurettes (The Pitfalls of Pratfalls and Working with Animals).

Paramount and Nickelodeon have set the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever for DVD release on 8/24.

For you TVD fans, Warner Home Video has finally unveiled a few great titles we've been waiting for. First of all, Chuck: The Complete Third Season streets on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 9/7. Extras will include at least 2 featurettes (Chuck-Fu... and Dim Sum: Becoming a Spy Guy and The Jeffster Revolution: The Definitive Mockumentary), "declassified" scenes and a gag reel. Also due on 9/7 is Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season on both formats, with extras including 2 featurettes (Kneel Before Zod and Justice for All), cast/creator commentaries on 2 episodes (Idol and Kandor) and deleted scenes. Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season also streets on both formats that same day, featuring the Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides videos, the Ghostfacers: The Web Series, producer/writer commentary on The End, a deleted scene and a gag reel. Not done yet... following on 9/14 is Fringe: The Complete Second Season on both DVD and Blu-ray, featuring 2 featurettes (The Mythology of Fringe and In the Lab with John Noble and Prop Master Rob Smith), Fringe: Analyzing the Scene "sidebar" shorts on 6 episodes, audio commentary on 4 episodes by the cast and crew, the Unusual Side Effects gag reel, more Dissected Files deleted scenes and the set also includes The Unearthed Episode (the one that was held back from broadcast during the show's first season). SRP for all these titles is $59.98 for DVD and $69.97 for Blu-ray. On the DVD only front, look for The Mentalist: The Complete Second Season and Two and a Half Men: The Complete Seventh Season on 9/21 (SRP $59.98 and $44.98, respectively). Finally, Warner will release Alien Autopsy on DVD on 9/21 (SRP $14.98).

Here's final cover art for Chuck, Smallville, Fringe and Supernatural (some new, some we've shown before - all available for pre-order on Amazon now), along with art for Well Go USA's 9th Company DVD (8/31 - BD art not yet available)...

Chuck: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray Disc)Chuck: The Complete Third Season (DVD)Fringe: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray Disc)

Fringe: The Complete Second Season (DVD)Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season (Blu-ray Disc)Smallville: The Complete Ninth Season (DVD)

Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray Disc)Supernatural: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)9th Company (DVD)

And 20th Century Fox has set It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 5 for DVD and Blu-ray release on 9/14 (SRP $39.98 and $49.99).

In other news today, much was made at this week's E3 convention about the debut of 3D gaming - at least by the press, particularly in the wake of Sony's PS3 3D gaming firmware update release. According to a new CEA research report, there's widespread consumer interest in 3D gaming, though it's not likely to really take off until the next round of gaming consoles arrives to fully support 3D gaming. Meanwhile, at E3 Nintendo showed off its new 3DS handheld gaming upgrade of the regular Nintendo DS, which claims to offer true 3D gaming on one of its 3.5-inch screens, all with out the need for glasses. Now, I've seen technology that can display 3D on very small cell phone screens without glasses, and sure... it's kind of cool. But while some bloggers seem thrilled, others aren't so sure. In my opinion, a 3.5-inch 3D display is hardly going to change the face of gaming... or 3D for that matter. The company's marketing message is likely to infuriate Sony, Panasonic and Samsung however, as it features images of people removing active-shutter 3D glasses set to the words "Nothing between you and the experience!" You can see a little of it here at CNN (starting at about 2:30 minutes into the video clip).

Finally today, I wanted to let all of you (especially those of you heading down to San Diego Comic-Con next month) know that, yes... we WILL be doing our annual Digital Bits DVD/BD Producers Panel again this year! We're working to finalize all the panelists now, but in the meantime make a not that our panel will be held on Thursday (7/22 - the first full day of the Con) from 1 to 2PM in room 32AB. It should be a lot of fun, so we hope to see you there!

Back tomorrow with some new disc reviews, so stay tuned...

6/15/10

All right, we've got a few more announcements to catch you all up on today, but first...

Our own Russell Hammond has once again updated the Release Dates & 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 through to them from our links goes to help support our work here at The Bits and we appreciate it.

Okay, back to those announcements...

First up, our friends at Criterion have announced some FANTASTIC titles for release in September. First up, as expected Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (Cat #536) arrives on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 9/28 (SRP $29.95 and $39.95). That same day, you'll also get Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (#535) on both formats, a 1983 WWII drama starring David Bowie (SRP also $29.95 and $39.95)! Also, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (#408) finally arrives on Blu-ray Disc on 9/14, as does Stanley Donen's Charade (#57) on 9/21 (SRP $39.95 each)! And on DVD only, Eclipse Series 24: The Actuality Dramas of Allan King arrives on 9/21 (SRP $69.95 - 5-discs), including Warrendale, A Married Couple, Come On Children, Dying at Grace and Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company.

The Thin Red Line will include a new and restored high-definition digital transfer approved by director Terrence Malick and cinematographer John Toll, new audio commentary (featuring Toll, production designer Jack Fisk and producer Grant Hill), outtakes from the film, video interviews with several of the film's actors (including Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, Tom Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok and Sean Penn), a new video interview with casting director Dianne Crittenden (featuring original audition footage), a new interview with composer Hans Zimmer, a new video piece featuring interviews with the editors (Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, and Saar Klein), an interview with writer James Jones's daughter Kaylie Jones, vintage World War II newsreels featuring footage from Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, the film's original theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt and a 1963 essay by James Jones on war films.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence will include a new and restored high-definition master, The Oshima Gang (an original making-of featurette), new video interviews (with producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Paul Mayersberg, actor Tom Conti and actor-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto), Hasten Slowly (an hour-long documentary about author and adventurer Laurens van der Post, whose autobiographical novel is the basis for the film), the film's original theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring an essay by film writer Chuck Stephens and a 1983 interview with director Nagisa Oshima by Japanese film writer Tadao Sato.

Breathless will offer a restored high-definition digital transfer approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard, archival interviews (with director Jean-Luc Godard, and actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg and Jean-Pierre Melville), new video interviews (with Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient and filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker), new video essays by filmmaker and critic Mark Rappaport and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chambre 12, Hotel de suede (an eighty-minute French documentary about the making of Breathless, with members of the cast and crew), Charlotte et son Jules (a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Belmondo), the French theatrical trailer, a new and improved English subtitle translation and a booklet featuring writings from Godard, film historian Dudley Andrew, François Truffaut's original film treatment and Godard's scenario.

And Charade will include a new high-definition digital transfer with restored image and sound, an audio commentary with Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone, The Films of Stanley Donen (a selected filmography, with an introduction by Donen biographer Stephen M. Silverman), Peter Stone's career highlights and the film's original theatrical trailer.

Here's a look at the cover art for the three BD titles that have it already available...

Breathless (Blu-ray Disc)Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Blu-ray 3D)Charade (Blu-ray Disc)

Meanwhile, Warner Home Video has announced the Blu-ray release of the catalog title Three Kings on 10/21 (SRP $24.98). It appears that all the previous DVD extras will be included.

Warner has also set The Middle: The Complete First Season for DVD only release on 8/31 (SRP $44.98). The 3-disc set will include all the episodes along with 2 featurettes (Raising a Sitcom Family and Sue's Best Shots), unaired scenes and a gag reel.

And Warner will release a He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition on DVD only on 9/7 (SRP $19.98). The disc will also include the short Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown and the Snoopy's Ice Home featurette.

Also today, Universal has set Parenthood: Season 1 for DVD only release on 8/31, followed by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - The Eleventh Year on 9/21.

Fox has set the Lifetime film Amish Grace for DVD release on 9/14 (SRP $26.98).

First Run will release The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers on DVD on 7/20 (SRP $27.95).

Image Entertainment has set Classic Artists: Legends of the Canyon for DVD release on 8/31. They also have Accidents Happen coming on DVD and Blu-ray on 7/27.

Pathfinder has The Snake due on DVD on 7/7.

Lionsgate has set Doc West, Less Than Perfect: Season One, Boy Meets World: Seasons 1, 2 & 3 and Fierce People all due on DVD on 9/7.

Anchor Bay has announced the comedy City Island for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 8/24.

And finally today, for you zombie fans, Osiris Entertainment has set DIEner for DVD release on 8/24 (SRP $24.98). Extras will include behind-the-scenes footage, a photo gallery and the film's trailer, which you can see now here.

Here's additional cover art for you: Both versions of Lionsgate's Kick-Ass (due 8/3) as well as Shout! Factory's Max Headroom: The Complete Series on DVD (8/10)...

Kick-Ass (Blu-ray Disc)Kick-Ass (DVD)Max Headroom: The Complete Series (DVD)

Back tomorrow morning with Barrie's new High-Definition Matters column! Stay tuned...


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