All right, this is our final Bits post of 2020. And it’ll be a quick one.
This has certainly been a difficult year for all of us here and no doubt it has been for all of you, our readers, as well. But a new year at least brings the hope that things can and will get better on Planet Earth going forward.
On a personal note, I’m pleased to say that—though it’s been a struggle—The Digital Bits is still here. We’ve made it through some difficult times, we’re still alive and ticking. And we intend to keep cracking on in 2021 and beyond.
I’ve also been working on a second science fiction novel, and hope to see my first actually published sometime in 2021—something I’ve had to put on the back-burner this past year in order to keep the site going. But the writing process has certainly been personally satisfying, and it’s kept me going in dark moments. That, plus having a telescope to look at the stars a few times a month, and of course great family and friends—even though we’ve only been able to see them from afar.
In any case, I know I speak for all of us here at the site when I say that we’re grateful to have each and every one of you as readers of The Digital Bits.
So with that, we’d like to wish you all a very happy and safe New Year! And together we’ll make 2021 a better time for all of us.
See you back here on Monday. Peace out!
“On my thirteenth viewing, which was the first time I saw it at a different theater than the one I’d gone to since opening day, I knew there were noticeable changes when the final scene began with different music.” — film music historian Mike Matessino
The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present a continuation of our 40th anniversary coverage of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, the middle act of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy and one of the most celebrated and beloved sequels of all time. Part One of our Empire 40th coverage appeared back in May.
George Lucas’s penchant for making revisions to his work is about as legendary as his movies. The majority of Lucas’s alterations have occurred years after his films’ original releases. With The Empire Strikes Back, however, the first (of several rounds of) revisions were actually made while the movie was in first release, and it is this lesser-known aspect of the otherwise very-well-known production that is the subject of this column. [Read on here...]
Well... we now have just two and a half days left in the damnable misery that has been Planet Earth in the year 2020. But we hope these last few days and weeks at least have found you all safe, well, and enjoying the holiday season as best you can. And to those of you who have lost friends, family members, and other loved ones to COVID this year (and we here at The Bits are among you), we send out our love and support. We certainly wish each and every one of you better times ahead in 2021.
Around this time, of course, seemingly every website and media outlet on the planet starts to roll out their annual “Best of” lists for the previous year. At one time, many years ago, The Digital Bits even held its own Bitsy Awards to honor the best DVD and Blu-ray titles of the previous year. But the home video industry became so inconsistent with its product—and streaming delivery so dominant—that we finally stopped doing it. It was just too frustrating to try to organize and coordinate.
Still, if this pandemic has had any silver lining at all, it’s that the industry as a whole has been reminded that there is yet some profit to be made in the minting of 5-inch silver discs with movies and TV shows on them. The 4K Ultra HD format in particular has benefitted from this trend. And as a number of Bits readers have asked us for our thoughts on the best titles of our collective pandemic year, we decided to put our heads together to compile a list of those we found most notable.
In fact, we’ve decided to revive our old friend Bitsy! So today we’re happy to present The Bitsy List for 2020, honoring the best Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD titles of the year. [Read on here...]
Hey, looks like we do have a little bit of new announcement news for you today...
First up though, we’ve got a quick Amazon Deal of the Day to report: Network’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Complete Series Blu-ray is just $75 for today only on Amazon (42% off). It’s the same 7 discs found the Deluxe Edition (reviewed here on The Bits), just without the books and deluxe packaging. So strike fast if you’re interested. Here’s the Amazon link.
Also today, we have word that FUNimation’s Akira 4K Ultra HD release doesn’t have HDR. The version released in Japan does, but apparently the discs released in the US and the UK do not. FUNimation has now established an exchange program to get a proper 4K with HDR disc sometime in February via the mail. You can find those details here and here (below):
Okay, now for that announcement news: Kino Lorber Studio Classics has just officially set Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for release on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray combo on 4/27. You can see the cover artwork above left. [Read on here...]
All right, we’ve got just a quick update for you today with some great 4K Ultra HD announcement news.
First though, I wanted to let you all know that we’re likely going to be posting fewer news updates over the next week or so, given the forthcoming Christmas holiday. Announcements are sort of ramping down, so while we’ll pop in as needed, it’s quite likely that there won’t be a lot of news to report this week.
Nevertheless, we will check in with new disc reviews now and again over the next week. So there should be new content going up over the holiday.
We do have a great piece of 4K Ultra HD announcement news for you today, however... [Read on here...]
All right, we’ve got another new review for you today, along with some more announcement news and a bit of sad news to report as well...
First up, that review: Tim has just posted his in-depth take on Terence Fisher’s Hammer Films classic The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), now available on Blu-ray in a new 2-disc Special Edition from the Warner Archive Collection. It’s a great film restoration and it sounds like a great disc too, featuring a new audio commentary by our friend Constantine Nasr with Steve Haberman. This is one you’re not going to want to miss if you love the vintage horror genre.
Speaking of the Warner Archive, they’ve just revealed their featured January Blu-ray titles, which are set to include the classic films The Pajama Game, Good News, Room for One More, After the Thin Man, and The Man Who Would Be King, along with The 100: The Seventh and Final Season. Look also for Speedway and Boogie Nights on DVD only.
Paramount has just officially set Arthur Hiller’s Love Story (1970) newly-restored as a Paramount Presents Blu-ray edition on 2/9. Extras will include “a new Filmmaker Focus with film historian Leonard Maltin, with previously released content including a commentary by director Arthur Hiller, an introduction by film critic Ben Mankiewicz, Love Story: A Classic Remembered, and the theatrical trailer, plus access to a Digital copy of the film.” [Read on here...]
Good evening, everyone! Sorry for the lack of news updates this week, but we’ve been incredibly busy here at The Bits over the past several days. We’ve been doing some important server updates and software patching, but more importantly for you guys we’ve been working hard on new Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD reviews. So we have a few of those for you this evening...
First, I posted my review of Christopher Nolan’s TENET in 4K Ultra HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Monday. It’s an ambitious film with stunning image quality and a characteristically Nolan-frustrating surround sound mix. You’ll find all the details here.
And just today, I posted my thoughts on Well Go USA’s brand new Ip Man: The Complete Collection box set, featuring all four films in the series—Ip Man, Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster, Ip Man 3, and Ip Man 4: The Finale—in 4K Ultra HD with remastered image quality and new Dolby Atmos sound mixes. It’s also worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of Donnie Yen.
Meanwhile, Tim has reviewed Sean Cunningham’s DeepStar Six (1989) on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
And Dennis has turned in his looks at Robert Aldrich’s Attack! (1956) and Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug (1963), also on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. [Read on here...]
This is just a quick update for those keeping score. Disney’s Investor Day included some... ahem... significant content news this afternoon.
First up, the studio revealed that Disney+ has now reached 86 million subscribers worldwide. You recall that Disney18+ rumor we’ve been talking about? Well, it’s true, and it’s called Star, but it will only be integrated with Disney+ internationally—that’s where all the Fox (read 20th Century Studios and Searchlight) content will go for viewers around the world. Here in the States, it will continue to go to Hulu.
Among that content will be original films, ESPN+ programming, and ABC News original content, along with The Handmaid’s Tale: Seasons 4 and 5 (the former due in early 2021), a Rolling Stones limited series drama, four more seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and a new Alien series from Noah Hawley (Fargo) and Ridley Scott.
Meanwhile, Disney+ will also see “roughly” 10 new Marvel shows, 10 new Star Wars shows, 15 Disney live-action, Disney animation, and Pixar series, and 15 Disney live-action, Disney animation, and Pixar feature films over the next few years. [Read on here...]
We’ve got just a quick post for you today as we’ll be working on reviews for the rest of the day.
But we do have a couple of things to report...
First, today is Disney’s Investor Day, which means the is expected to reveal big plans for Disney+, how the studio will handle its forthcoming theatrical slate for the next year, and what new streaming series and films they have in the pipeline (Star Wars, Marvel, etc). They MIGHT even reveal that long-rumored Disney18+ service expansion, that would see the studio adding R-rated films from Fox to their streaming service (in a section of the service protected from discovery by younger children by a passcode). Whatever news is revealed today, we expect that Disney means to make a big splash—their stock is trading at an all-time high today in anticipation of the news (see this link). Be sure to watch the trades this afternoon as word breaks—Deadline, Variety, and the Hollywood Reporter.
[Editor’s Note: Disney has now confirmed that its Disney+ streaming service has reached over 86 million global subscribers, and that it plans to launch “roughly” 10 new Marvel shows, 10 new Star Wars shows, 15 Disney live-action, Disney animation, and Pixar series, and 15 Disney live-action, Disney animation, and Pixar feature films over the next few years. They’re also integrating a new Star service with Disney+ (for now only internationally) which will include R-rated Fox content. (This appears to be the source of the Disney18+ rumor.) In the US, it appears that R-rated Fox content (from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight) will appear on Hulu.]
Meanwhile, Criterion has just revealed plans to release a new World of Wong Kar-wai Blu-ray collection on March 23, 2021. [Read on here...]
All right, we’ve got an announcement news update for you here at The Bits this afternoon...
First up today, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has officially set their long-awaited Spaceballs (1987) 4K Ultra HD for release on 4/12. The 4K disc will include Dolby Vision HDR and audio commentary by Mel Brooks. Audio will be includes in 5.1 and 2.0 (format TBA) with optional English subs. You’ll also get the film on Blu-ray, which will include lots of additional legacy extras. You can see the 4K art at left. We’ve updated our 4K Ultra HD Release List here at The Bits accordingly.
The company also has a nice March slate of catalog Blu-ray titles, which is expected to include Sidney Lanfield’s My Favorite Blonde (1942), David Butler’s Caught in the Draft (1941), and Elliott Nugent’s Nothing But the Truth (1941) on 3/2 (all Bob Hope films), followed by Don Jones’ The Forest (1982, for Code Red), Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), Robert Aldrich’s The Choirboys (1977), and Richard Fleischer’s The Don is Dead (1973) on 3/9, Jim O’Connoly’s Tower of Evil (1972, for Scorpion Releasing), Andy Anderson’s Positive I.D. (1986), Francis Megahy’s Taffin (1988), Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train (1985), and Marty Feldman’s The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977) and In God We Trust (1980) on 3/16, Don Jones’ Schoolgirls in Chains (1973, for Code Red), Frank Perry’s Doc (1971), George Seaton’s Showdown (1973), Henry Hathaway’s Shoot Out (1971), and Richard Fleischer’s Crossed Swords (1977, aka The Prince and the Pauper) on 3/23, and Otto Preminger’s Rosebud (1975), Andrew Bergman’s Isn’t She Great (2000), Édouard Molinaro’s A Pain in the Ass (1973), and Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007) on 3/30. [Read on here...]