My Two Cents
Friday, 12 February 2016 15:32

Fox confirms more elaborate Martian: Special Edition BD on the way at NASA/Fox “Mars 101” event

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[Editor’s Note: Be sure to follow us on Twitter @thedigitalbits @BillHuntBits and on Facebook here and here.]

First things first today: Our own Jim Hemphill has just posted a new Blu-ray review, this time featuring a look at Alexander Singer’s 1971 western Captain Apache, now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

In announcement news today, Universal has set Cary Grant: The Vault Collection for DVD only release on 4/19. Here’s a bit about the collection from the studio’s press site: “Featuring 18 films released between 1932 and 1936, the collection showcases the actor as he perfects his comedic timing and stretches his dramatic skills in a variety of roles alongside such Hollywood legends as Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Sylvia Sidney, Charles Laughton, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and Fredric March. Including his feature film debut, This is the Night, as well as several Pre-Code dramas and comedies plus 5 films never before available to own…” We’ll post the complete list of films as soon as the studio provides it.  [Read on here…]

Also, MGM has set 007: The Daniel Craig 4-Film Collection for Blu-ray release on 5/3 (SRP $59.99), including Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and SPECTRE.

And Lionsgate has set Little House on the Prairie: The Ninth and Final Season for remastered Blu-ray release on 4/19. The set will include the movie special Bless All the Dear Children.

Here’s a look at the Blu-ray cover artwork 007, Little House: S9, and Universal’s previously announced Doris Day and Rock Hudson Romantic Comedy Collection (also due on 4/19)…

007: The Daniel Craig Collection (Blu-ray Disc)    The Doris Day and Rock Hudson Classic Comedy Collection (Blu-ray Disc)    Little House on the Prairie: Season Nine (Blu-ray Disc)

Now then… yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a forum at the Zanuck Theater on the Fox studio lot called The Journey to Mars 101, held by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in conjunction with NASA, JPL, the White House (Office of Science and Technology Policy), and the Planetary Society. Obviously, the event was geared to help promote the Blu-ray release (and probably the Best Picture chances) of Ridley Scott’s The Martian.

Mars 101 panel with NASA scientists moderated by Bill Nye

But what was so enjoyable about the day’s events, was that none of it felt promotional. Instead, it was a morning of science-heavy panel discussions, featuring mostly NASA/JPL engineers and scientists, as well as Expedition 44/45 astronaut Kjell Lindgren, on how NASA is preparing for a real manned mission to Mars. Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame served as the morning’s master of ceremonies, and both Savage and Bill Nye (the Science Guy and also head of the Planetary Society) moderated panel discussions.

Mars 101 panel with Andy Weir, Ridley Scott, Drew Goddard, and Adam Savage

Among the guests were Martian director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard, as well as Andy Weir, author of the original novel The Martian. All three of them participated in the day’s final panel, on the influence of science fiction on the real world.

There was some entertainment press in attendance, but most of the audience seemed to be Planetary Society members (I’m a member myself, so I fit into both categories). In between panels, there was time to actually go up and speak with the various panelists at some length, and many of them posed for pictures. There was also some “all new” behind-the-scenes material from The Martian shown between panels, including a 15-minute piece on the film’s production design, featuring designer Arthur Max, called The Bleeding Edge. This was terrific and clearly had that classic, in-depth Lauzirika touch that Blu-ray special edition fans have come to love. Indeed, Fox reps confirmed to me during the event that a new and much more elaborate The Martian: Special Edition Blu-ray is currently in production for release in the not-too-distant future. I’m told it’s not officially on their release schedule yet, but you can probably expect it before the end of the year, in time for the holidays. That’s great news, in my opinion. Yes, it’s a double dip. But if there was ever a Ridley Scott film that deserved elaborate special edition treatment, it’s The Martian.

Bill Hunt of The Bits with Bill Nye the Science Guy

Some other things of note at the event: Scott confirmed he’s about to begin production on Alien: Covenant in March (another Alien prequel/not quite Prometheus sequel) and that there will be two more films after it until “we come back around to the original” film. I got to spend a few minutes talking about perchlorate salts in Martian soil with Andy Weir, and learned a little bit more about the Planetary Society’s upcoming Lightsail mission, which should fly next year on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, from Bill Nye.

While cueing in line to enter the studio, I bumped into my friend Kevin Grazier, astrophysicist and Hollywood science consultant to Gravity, Battlestar Galactica and other shows. We talked about his recently published paper in Astrobiology (check it out here) and his opinion on the recent rumors that there may be a Planet Nine lurking deep in the outer solar system (he’s not yet convinced it exists).

Fox's The Martian VR Experience

Finally, it’s worth noting that Fox had its Martian VR Experience available for demo at the event, which is an interactive game of sorts that puts you into key situations from the film via the Oculus Rift. I was both briefly disappointed and way more impressed by this than I thought I would be. My disappointment came from the fact that the Oculus Rift’s resolution was a lot lower than I expected it would be, which negatively affects your sense of immersion... at first. But once the simulation got going, I was absolutely blown away. Not only is the 3D effect terrific, but the hand controllers have haptic feedback. There are points in the simulation where you’re Mark Watney, sitting in your spacesuit, and you feel like you’re looking out from the inside of a helmet. When you look down, there’s your arms and legs – move your arm with the controller in your hand, and your arms move in the simulation too. At several points, you’re able to pick up various objects to complete tasks and even work the MAV or Rover controls. When you grab the Rover’s joystick, it feels like you’re really holding a joystick. Crazy.

A image from Fox's The Martian VR Experience

The best part of the VR experience comes after you launch into space from the surface of Mars in the MAV. Once the rockets quit firing, suddenly loose items in the cabin (bolts, metal plates, etc) start floating up around you. You can actually reach out and pick them out of the air in microgravity, or tap them and send them spinning away from you. The simulation ends with you having to poke a hole in your suit glove with a screwdriver, then use your glove as a thruster to “fly” yourself through space toward the Hermes. This is certainly the most time I’ve spent demoing Oculus Rift VR, and all I can say is that the immersion in the environment is really impressive. When they eventually improve the resolution to 4K or better, the VR experience is going to be absolutely amazing.

All right, that’s all for this week. Everybody have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday with more Blu-ray, DVD, and UHD news. Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt (@BillHuntBits)

Bill Hunt of The Bits with Andy Weir, author of The Martian

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