Toshiba officially threw in the towel today. It’s, there’s nothing left but the crying. I did my rant this weekend about the pending death of HD-DVD. I think the format war has ended too soon, but hey, what can you do? Several people emailed me and said that my post was some anti-Sony screed and that I have buyer’s remorse. Actually, I don’t. I have both formats and never committed to either so it isn’t like I have hundreds of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray movies lying around the house. I have exactly 15 HD movies, but I’ll benefit from having a single format because it means all the studios will eventually be able to send me Blu-Ray disks. Not a bad deal for me, I get everything basically free. Except I did buy the Harry Potter set on HD-DVD. Doh! Anyway, I digress, I still believe that – at least in the short term consumers will lose on this because the Blu-Ray group will not come down in price anytime soon. I’m hoping they prove me wrong and start slashing prices now that the war is over and they still have to convince people that the HD format is worthwhile. I like the format, but don’t see HD as much of a leap from a good DVD.
It’s funny and ironic that I finally get around to starting the High Definition section on the site with the idea of trying to be as balanced as possible. Only to have the wheels fall off the HD-DVD band wagon. It started last month with Warner Brothers dropping the format, after that it was nothing but bad news for Toshiba’s format. And this week’s triple does of bad news – Netflix, Walmart, and Best Buy all dropping the format put a nail in the coffin. It was always a forgone conclusion that Toshiba would lose the war, if for no other reason than the PS3 including the Blu-ray drive into it’s system. Granted sales of the PS3 has been disappointing (for good reason, the system kind of sucks) comparatively speaking – in terms of game consoles, it had a big enough install base that it was almost double those who had HD-DVD players. For HD-DVD to succeed they really should have worked out a deal with MS to put the HD-DVD drive in the 360. If that happened, we would be talking about a totally different outcome now. I have both formats, but I was hoping HD-DVD would win, I still think it’s a better format and at least the freaking thing has a standard and you can upgrade it. The Blu-ray group is still trying to figure out it’s standards and half the players don’t have Ethernet ports so you can’t do firmware upgrades. But wait, it’s “funny” that the PS3 is “future” proof. Instead we’re now stuck with one format – Sony and for all practical purposes one player option – PS3. Sure there are other players, but considering you can’t upgrade most of them and there’s only a $50 difference between the cheapest Blu-ray player and the cheapest PS3, who would be dumb enough to get the stand alone player?
Already I’ve noticed that prices of Blu-ray DVDs have gotten ridiculously out of hand, you can no longer walk into a Best Buy, Target, Borders, etc. and expect to see a new release Blu-ray flick for $19.99, no these retailers have the gall to try and charge full retail prices. I was in Borders today and they had the Spiderman Blu-ray set for $99!! Really? Superbad was over $30.00 (when I say over $30, I mean like $35 – $39). Really? Resident Evil: Extinction over $30. Really??? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix over $30. Really??? The only place you can still get Blu-ray for a reasonable price is Amazon and other online retailers. Not to mention the damn machines are still over $350! So yes, consumers, the color of Greed is Blu and we lose out again. Rumor has it the official announcement is coming later this week.
Across The Universe
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (TCFHE) today confirmed the arrival of six fan favorite “must have” Blu-ray Disc catalog titles available in the first quarter of 2008. Highlights include the long-awaited BD debuts of ICE AGE (March 4), featuring everyone’s favorite sub-zero heroes in a daring quest to return a human baby to its tribe; the sci-fi action thriller INDEPENDENCE DAY (March 11) starring Academy Award®-nominated actor Will Smith and featuring a Blu-ray exclusive trivia track and BD-Java Alien Scavenger Hunt game that challenges players to correctly identify items in select scenes to unlock additional bonus features; and the high-tech action adventure I, ROBOT (March 11) also starring Will Smith and featuring a BD industry first – direct access to in-movie features through one of the four colored buttons on the BD remote that allows viewers to quickly access the enormous amount of bonus materials on the disc including commentaries, production diaries, extended and deleted scenes, trivia and more.
Additional BD titles to debut include the psychological thriller MAN ON FIRE starring Academy Award®-winning actors Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken available January 8; Academy Award®-winning director Oliver Stone’s behind-the-scenes look at corporate greed and corruption, WALL STREET, starring Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas, in his Academy Award®-winning Best Actor performance; and the hilarious Farrelly brother’s comedy about nice guys with multiple personality disorders, ME, MYSELF & IRENE, starring Jim Carrey and Academy Award®-winning actress Renee Zellweger, both available February 5. Each of Fox’s BD titles will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.98/49.98 CANADA.
The folks at Fox Home Video are one of the first studios to come out with a Blu-Ray disk that supports the new 1.1 (or picture in picture) spec. One of the things that distinguished HD-DVD was it’s copious use of picture in picture for extra features. For instance on the 300 HD-DVD you could watch the entire movie in it’s original unedited green screen form and compare the original shots with the finished product. Very cool insight into how that film was made. Fox Home Video’s “Sunshine,” doesn’t do anything nearly as nifty as that. But it’s nice to know that they’ll have that capability in the future. For now the Sunshine Blu-Ray Disk has some basic pop-up featurettes that go in-depth into how certain scenes were made. The picture window is quite large and beautiful. The navigation menus on this disk are also really nice. They are transparent and float in and out of the picture with minimal fuss. It’s probably pointless to tell you that the movie looks amazing. It’s sharp, clear, and clean with no artifacts. The blacks are “blue black.”
We did a lot on this film last year and it’s a shame it didn’t do better, but it’s now available on Blu-Ray. Check out these clips.
Sony has a slew of new Blu-Ray titles coming in the next few weeks including We Own The Night, 30 Days of Night, and Across the Universe. Here are the press releases for each title.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is proud to present We Own The Night on DVD, Blu-ray™ High-Def and PSP February 12, 2008. This action-driven mob thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line, Gladiator), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, Shooter), Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) and Eva Mendes (Ghost Rider) arrives on disc with exclusive bonus features, including a commentary with writer/director James Gray and three action-packed “making of” featurettes, for the SRP of $28.95 (DVD), $38.96 (BD) and $24.94 (PSP). Bobby Green (Phoenix) is the popular manager of El Caribe, the legendary Russian-owned nightclub in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. For Bobby, every night is a party as he greets friends and customers or dances with his beautiful Puerto Rican girlfriend, Amada Juarez (Mendes), in a haze of cigarette smoke and disco music. But it is 1988, and New York City’s drug trade is escalating. He has changed his last name and concealed his connection to a long line of prominent New York police officers. Bobby tries to keep his distance from a Russian gangster operating out of the nightclub – a gangster also targeted by his brother, Joseph Grusinsky (Wahlberg), an up-and-coming NYPD officer, and his father, Burt Grusinsky (Duvall), the legendary deputy chief of police.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (TCFHE) today confirmed the imminent arrival of its first Profile 1.1 Blu-ray Disc, SUNSHINE, available January 8, 2008, day-and-date with DVD. The most technologically advanced Blu-ray Disc release to debut from Fox to date, SUNSHINE features dual-stream picture-in-picture commentary, enhanced viewing mode, and the first-ever “surround sound mixing” feature, as well as deleted scenes, web production diaries and two short films. Helmed by visionary director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, The Beach), SUNSHINE follows a daring crew of eight astronauts as they boldly fight for their lives and the future of the planet on a mission to deliver a device that will reignite the dying sun. The film features an all-star cast including Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Red Eye), Chris Evans (Fantastic Four), Michelle Yeoh (Babylon A.D., Memoirs Of A Geisha) and Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later, Troy). Presented in widescreen format with English 5.1 DTS HD Lossless Master Audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound and English, Spanish and French subtitles, SUNSHINE will be available to own on Blu-ray Disc for $39.98. U.S./$49.98 CAN.
It’s another action packed week in the High Definition DVD Race and this week’s report is all about moves that Blu-Ray has been making. Every since HD-DVD Players were a big hit thanks to Toshiba’s $99 black Friday special it’s been pretty quiet on the HD-DVD front. I fully expect to get some news at CES from both camps next month. There’s a rumor going around that Warner Brothers is planning on going Blu-Ray exclusive next year. This would be a big blow to the HD-DVD side, as Warner has been putting out was a big supporter of the format. Personally, I think this rumor sounds ridiculous. Warner has been producing cross platform product for awhile now – 300 and Harry Potter are available on both platforms, but the WB heavily promotes the HD-DVD version and with good reason the features on HD-DVD are much better. WB makes extensive use of the PIP capabilities on HD-DVDs which Blu-Ray vs. 1.0 isn’t capable of. But…
The PS3 has become the first Blu-Ray player to fully support the new 1.1 spec. Thanks in large part to this week’s PS3 2.10 update. This update includes the new Bonus View capability. This allows the playback of supporting content such as storyboards, video commentary and behind-the-scenes clips at the same time as the main movie. As I said a feature Warner uses extensively in their HD titles. Check out Batman, 300, The Matrix, or their latest Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s a gimmick, but it’s so much better than listening to the standard commentary track. But before you Blu-Ray fanatics rejoice, know that it’s going to be awhile before 1.1 discs become available. Not only that but folks who own the 1.0 hardware will be screwed as most players aren’t software upgrade-able. Fox Home Video just announced one of the first 1.1 version disks will be the Blu-Ray version of the amazing sci-fi film from Danny Boyle – Sunshine. This week we have a bunch of new Blu-Ray titles including Castaway, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Simpson’s Movie.
Hey Everyone, I’m finally getting around to starting that new HD column. Let’s start by saying at the moment I’m platform agnostic, I don’t particularly see much difference between Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. I actually have both, I use my PS3 to play Blu-Ray and a Toshiba A3 and X-Box HD-DVD Drive for my HD-DVD Player. When I have to choose formats, I generally select the HD-DVD version because I think the PS3 isn’t that great of a player and I do like the navigation features on HD-DVDs. The drawback to the 360 HD is the lack of HDMI support, no DVD upscaling and the fact that the 360 is loud as heck. A way to minimize the noise on the 360 is to make sure there’s no disk in the 360 itself. You still notice the sound, but it’s tolerable. But I love the 360 remote, it glows in the dark, nice big buttons and it has, gasp, a power off button. I’m mixed on the Toshiba, it’s certainly thinner and lighter than that monstrosity that was the A2, it takes about 30 seconds to load a disk and requires a firmware upgrade right out of the box – but I can’t get the damn thing to connect to the internet for the update. It came packed with 300 and Bourne Identity, two great films that truly show off the format. I am pissed at the miss-advertising, supposedly you get 5 free DVDs in the mail with a purchase. I bought my 360 HD-DVD in August and haven’t received squat, now I’m getting ready to fill out the forms for my 5 free HD-DVDs for my Toshiba purchase and am not holding my breath. To start this column off right, we have some great titles starting with. This amazing Harry Potter HD-DVD set from Warner Brothers.
Warner Brothers is releasing the ultimate Harry Potter movie collection. This set includes all five films in glorious HD and features a ton of extras including Special Trunk Packaging,Two-Disc Editions of Harry Potter 1-5,Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game,5 Collectible Bookmarks and16 Collectible Trading Cards. When are they going to finally include commentary tracks? This is a great set, but I wish they included the extended versions that were shown on TV. The movies already look amazing in standard def, so I fully expect to be blown away by the HD version and both the Blu-Ray and HD copies include true High-Def sound quality.