The latest news on HD DVD and Blu-Ray discs. (Mania.com)

By:John Sinnott
Date: Sunday, October 01, 2006

KING KONG to be Packaged With HD DVD Drive for X-Box 360: Last week we reported that the HD DVD add-on for Microsoft's X-Box 360 would not have an HDMI output, but we have some good news about the accessory this time around. Microsoft has announced that for a limited time it will bundle the HD DVD version of KING KONG as well as an Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote Control with the HD DVD drive. There is no price for the add-on drive yet, but it should be available from retailers in mid-November.

Hulk

HULK Bumped: The Ang Lee's foray into the Marvel Universe, Hulk was supposed to be released on HD DVD on November 14th. Universal has unexpectedly removed the title from their release schedule, with no reason given and no future date announced. While I've never been a fan of the movie I will admit that I was looking forward to seeing how the green behemoth would look in HD. When it gets put back on the schedule, we'll let you know.

Saw II

Lions Gate Postpones Blu-ray Titles: At the last minute Lions Gate has decided not to release its third wave of Blu-ray discs. Originally scheduled for release on October 17th, AMERICAN PHYCHO, FIRST BLOOD, SAW II, AND YOUNG GUNS have all been postponed until early 2007. No word was given for a reason (though some sources speculate that it was to re-encode the films with the VC-1 codec that has shown to be superior to the MPEG-2 codec that Lions Gate has used for its previous releases.)


Spotlight of the week:

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS on Blu-ray:

Continuing to cater to a primarily male audience, Lion's Gate has released one of the better horror films from 2005 as a Blu-ray disc: Rob Zombie's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. This is a sequel to his cult classic HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and is just as shocking and entertaining as the first film. This high definition release looks very good and reproduces the film very faithfully.

Set some months after the events shown in HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, the film opens as the Texas Rangers descend on the murderous Firefly family's ranch in force. A firefight ensues in which several officers are killed and wounded and three members of the Firefly clan escape: Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (wonderfully played by Sid Haig). Looking for a place to lay low, the trio meets up at an old motor inn where they take a group of traveling musicians hostage and user them for some sick entertainment.

The officer who led the raid, Sheriff John Quincy Wydell (William Forsythe), is furious that three people got away. That is nothing compared to the rage he feels when he discovers a picture of his brother, murdered, in a scrapbook taken from the Firefly ranch. Realizing that these people are responsible for his brother's death leads the Sheriff down a dark path. Vowing vengeance, the officer of the law slowly goes mad, and becomes just as evil as the murderers he's hunting.

This is not a move for the timid, but if you enjoy very dark humor and a good amount of violence, you can't go wrong with this flick. The humor especially worked well as a counterpoint to the frequent violent acts. A good example of this is when Spaulding's car breaks down and he has to steal another one. He walks up to a lady in a parking lot, in full clown make-up, and says in a sweet and gentle voice: "I'm gonna have to be taking your car today. See I have some top secret clown business that supersedes any plans that you might have for this here vehicle." The fact that viewers know that Spaulding would kill the lady just for fun makes the scene both humorous and a bit suspenseful.

Writer/director Rob Zombie did a great job with the tone, style, and feel of the film. He made the film in a 70's style and he did it quite well. The good guys are morally ambiguous just like Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson's character from the DEATH WISH films, and the bad guys are likeable in a twisted sort of way. The movie has a washed out look reminiscent of older films and even the outfits and vehicles could have appeared in a 70's classic. The yellow sunglasses that one deputy wears are outrageously funny.

Zombie used music very effectively in the film too, often slowing the action down a lot while appropriate classic rock songs played. These slow motion sequences were some of the most memorable and effective in the film.

This Blu-ray disc presents the film with its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded for up to 1080p playback. The image quality looks very good and accurately reproduces the look that the director and DP were going for. As I mentioned earlier, the colors are intentionally muted and a bit drab looking, which works well in the context of the film. The disc reproduces these colors nicely with a good amount of definition. The picture generally had a good amount of depth, though in some of the darker scenes the image flattened out a bit. The detail was excellent, with fine details being strong, though this wasn't always an advantage. The CGI blood didn't look too convincing in high definition, especially in slow motion such as the ending scene. Not all of the blood was computer generated however, just the effects were something would puncture the skin, so much of the gore looked fine. Overall I was very happy with the look and appearance of this movie. This would make a nice addition to any Blu-ray collection.

Upcoming High Definition Discs:

September 26, 2006

HD DVD

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)

DAZED & CONFUSED

THE DIRTY DOZEN

END OF DAYS

FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT

GRAND PRIX

THE LAKE HOUSE

LAND OF THE DEAD

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS

Blu-ray

FOUR BROTHERS

THE FUGITIVE

HOUSE OF WAX (2005)

THE LAKE HOUSE

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER

LEATHAL WEAPON 2

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

SLEEPY HOLLOW

SPACE COWBOYS

SWORDFISH

TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE

October 3, 2006

THE PAT METHENY GROUP: THE WAY UP HD DVD and Blu-ray

October 10, 2006

HD DVD

ARMY OF DARKNESS

BATMAN BEGINS

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH

THE POLAR EXPRESS

WAIST DEEP

Blu-ray

AEON FLUX

CLICK

THE ITALIAN JOB

SAHARA

U2: RATTLE AND HUM

October 17, 2006

HD DVD

THE BREAK-UP

Blu-ray

THE BROTHERS GRIMM

DARK WATER

GATTACA

GLORY ROAD

GONE IN 60 SECONDS

HAUNTED MANSION

THE PROFESSIONALS

October 24, 2006

HD DVD

12 MONKEYS

THE INTERPRETER

NACHO LIBRE

OUT OF SIGHT

SLITHER

SPARTACUS

THE THING
(1982)

Blu-ray

THE ITALIAN JOB (2003)

MONSTER HOUSE

NACHO LIBRE

RESERVOIR DOGS

SAHARA