Today seems like a busy day in the world of Blu-ray. To start off, Starz Home Entertainment has released more information about their move to Blu-ray. First, they’ve announced the first four Masters of Horror releases.
- Masters of Horror – Season 1, Volume I (October 16th)
- “Cigarette Burns” (John Carpenter)
- “Dreams in the Witch House” (Stuart Gordon)
- “Fair Haired Child” (William Malone)
- Masters of Horror – Season 1, Volume II (October 16th)
- “Jenifer” (Dario Argento)
- “Sick Girl” (Lucky McKee)
- “Deer Woman” (John Landis)
- Masters of Horror – Season 1, Volume III (November 13th)
- “Incident On and Off A Mountain Road” (Don Coscarelli)
- “Dance of the Dead” (Tobe Hooper)
- “Pick Me Up” (Larry Cohen)
- Masters of Horror – Season 1, Volume IV (December 11th)
- “Imprint” (Takashi Miike)
- “Homecoming” (Joe Dante)
- “Haeckel’s Tale” (John McNaughton)
- “Chocolate” (Mick Garris)
Pricing will be USD$29.97 each
Second, they’ve also announced dates from some of their other titles – Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Halloween, and Evil Dead II will all street on October 2nd. That’s going to be quite the day for horror fans, all classics of the genre. I think I’ll be picking up Evil Dead II myself – one can never have too much Bruce Campbell. Beowulf & Grendel follows on November 6th.
The US version of Planet Earth is getting a Blu-ray release through the Discovery Channel. The American version, as broadcast on Discovery HD Theater, is narrated by Sigourney Weaver. The program was a co-production with the BBC, and the UK version of the program was narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The UK version is available now on Blu-ray, released in the US through Warner Brothers. But there are some technical issues with the encoding, and some missing material. No details are yet available on the US release, and if it will correct these issues. What I want to know is why they don’t do one release with both audio tracks? Even if the video is a bit different, I would think branching could handle it.
And a rumor – could Image Entertainment be going Blu? GalleryPlayer, holder of the largest library of protected high definition images, has partnered with Image Entertainment to release collections of the images on Blu-ray. Previously, Image has released the Discovery Atlas series on both Blu-ray and HD DVD. This is interesting mainly as Image also holds the distribution rights to many Criterion Collection films. It is not yet clear if this Blu-ray exclusive is a signal to a larger move by Image Entertainment, or just pertains to GalleryPlayer deal.
And now some great news for anime fans – of which I am one. Bandai Visual has announced that the classic anime film Wings of Honneamise is coming to Blu-ray on September 11th. The BD50 release will be a new 1080p transfer from a restored print encoded in AVC, with the Japanese soundtrack in both PCM and Dolby TrueHD and an English dub in Dolby Digital. The release will come bundled with a DVD of the film as well.
On the same day they’ll also release an HD DVD / DVD bundle with the film on an HDDVD30 encoded with VC-1, with the same audio and the same DVD. You know, if you actually care about HD DVD. Both bundles will be $79.99.
First released in 1987, Wings of Honneamise is one of the best animated features, ever. This is an incredible film, one of the first efforts from famed Studio GAINAX. Visually stunning with incredible designs and a great story. It is set in an alternate universe and follows humanity’s first space program amidst a global war. This is one of my favorite films, and I’ll definitely be pre-ordering this.
And yet more anime Blu-ray news. IGN has an article on anime companies and high-definition, in which FUNimation states their intent to support Blu-ray and to have their first BD releases out later this year.
“At this point, we are in the Blu-ray camp. We started researching this about a year-and-a-half ago, actually,” explains Ward Thomas, Senior VP of Sales and Operations at FUNimation. “We feel that the fanbase and our customers are very much trailblazers on the technology side, so it’s something we wanted to get involved in right away. We really felt that the introduction of the PlayStation 3 last year was kind of a foray for our customers and fans to at least get into the next-gen platforms.”
Blockbuster Video’s recent announcement that it’s siding with the Blu-ray format certainly won’t hurt FUNimation’s plans either.
“We do a nice business with Blockbuster,” says Thomas. “I’ll be honest with you. From a retail perspective, Blockbuster is probably pretty much the only place we do a retail business with right now. From an online perspective, obviously we’re in business with Netflix and we have a wonderful business with them as well. Most of our rental business is with Blockbuster. Their announcement was just kind of gravy for us since that was the direction we were headed anyway.”
And what haven’t I been saying for the past few years? That Blu-ray has more potential for interactive features because BD-J is a more powerful platform than iHD. I’ve been told that it doesn’t matter – but FUNimation seems to agree with me:
“Some of the demonstrations that we’ve seen, and just in talking to the different people [developing the format], the long-term interactive scope of Blu-ray just seems to be so much more endearing to at least the fans of the FUNimation content,” he says. “I just think long term what we’re going to be able to do on a Blu-ray disc from the interactive programming perspective is really intriguing and it opens up a lot of new windows for us. So it was really the direction we wanted to head.”
The article also talks about Bandai, which released their initial high-def title, Freedom, on HD DVD. But the Japanese arm of Bandai has taken a dual-format approach, releasing both HD DVD and BD versions day-and-date. Now it looks like the US arm is following suit – as with the Wings release above. And they checked in with Geneon, who doesn’t really have anything to say yet – their high-def plans are still on hold. A big change from the days when Geneon was Pioneer and DVD was new – since Pioneer had a stake in DVD they were one of the first anime vendors to embrace DVD. Next week IGN will have part two of their article with ADV, Manga, and Viz. Manga is a division of Starz Entertainment, which, as mentioned above, have announced their plans to be Blu-ray exclusive. So, whenever Manga does a high-def release, I think it is safe to bet it will be BD.