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Blu-Thunder: the format war is as good as over; plus Turok!

Apologies if you’ve been trying to access the sites today, but we seem to have had a bit of downtime – I know it’s taken me a while at least to get access to post today’s column. In a way, that was a good thing, as it allowed Rand to sneak in his latest review, for the latest comics to animation translation Turok: Son Of Stone. I must admit to knowing little to nothing about this one, save for recent promotions for a video game going by the same name (I have no idea if they’re related though they seem to share a dinosaur theme), but Rand looks like he got a bit of a kick out of this one. Supervised by TV director Tad Stones, the almost-legendary creative mind behind many of Disney’s better cartoon series and the recent Hellboy animated films, Rand says that he “never thought I’d see the day when we got a Turok feature, and now that it’s here I feel relieved that it wasn’t horrible. A good commentary and even better featurette make this a worthwhile package. I’d actually like to see Turok explored further in another film”.


Now…onto my original post, and the end of the high-definition format war. Yep, I know, I know, we’ve heard all that before. About how Warner Bros. switching from being format neutral to specifically releasing on Blu-Ray only from this summer was the death knell for Toshiba’s HD-DVD format. About how it was a matter of time before the last two HD hangouts – Paramount/DreamWorks and Universal – would join the Blu camp and effectively end the war. And, of course, how Wal-Mart’s latest Blu-only support would mean a lack of shelf space for HD-DVD. But now it turns out that it’s every company for itself, as format founder Toshiba themselves have as good as announced over the weekend that it intends to drop the HD-DVD format and join Sony, Panasonic and others in producing Blu-Ray players.

While this isn’t the best news for those that splashed out on the format, this news shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: the writing has been on the wall pretty much since Blu-Ray’s debut, where Sony had learned from their bitter loss of Betamax to JVC’s VHS in the 1980s, made movie titles and players seemingly more available in stores and, powered by their PlayStation 3 console that arrived in homes stealth-like with a built in movie player all ready to play high-definition content, started to outsell HD-DVD software and hardware by a 3-to-1 margin. I won’t keep harping on about the war here now, especially since it’s all but over for real, but head on over to our friends at The Digital Bits for a whole heap of continuing coverage.

Ironically, we’re just ramping up to bring you some selected hi-def reviews on both formats, with Randall about to express his crystal clear views on Justice League: New Frontier (Blu-Ray) and Beowulf: Director’s Cut (HD-DVD). Ironic, really, that we’ll now probably be returning to at least one of those titles in the near future to reappraise it for the Blu-Ray release! And don’t worry: we’ll also be covering both these titles in good ol’ regular DVD flavors too. For those who invested in the HD-DVD format, as Rand himself says, you’ve had a good year of being able to enjoy some specific hi-def content, some of which is still a very long way off from turning Blu anytime soon. At the very least, some of the companies involved seem to be working towards some kind of rebate scheme to allow those with HD-DVD to jump across a little more easily, and at last there is a (excuse the pun) high resolution to the issue, and more clarity now than one could ever hope for even in 1080p!

So…the future of home video is set – now all we need to do is keep campaigning to release standard definition DVD and Bu-Ray titles alongside each other, and as a choice of format, without the blackmail tactics currently employed by certain studios in their holding back of perfectly legitimate video-based content on DVD, only to make the Blu-Ray more attractive (as if image quality wasn’t enough). C’mon, guys…play fair.

Stay tooned for a bunch of new reviews coming up over the next few days! – Ben.

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