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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Steelbook Pictures and Details

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UK online retailer Play.com has released an exclusive Steelbook edition of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, out this week on Blu-ray.  One of the most critically acclaimed blockbusters of the year, Rise re-imagines the story behind Planet of the Apes, the 1968 original starring Charlton Heston.

Featuring James Franco, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox and the amazing motion-capture work of Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes sees an experimental treatment produce increased intelligence in apes, particularly one named Caesar.  As he continues to evolve and rally other apes around him, the battle for dominance on the planet begins.

The movie is a Triple Play edition with the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy inside, plus the following special features:

  • Audio commentary.
  • A New Generation of Apes.
  • Deleted Scenes.
  • Mythology of the Apes.
  • The Genius of Andy Serkis.
  • Breaking Motion-Capture Boundaries.
  • Scene Breakdown.
  • The great Apes.
  • Character Concept Art Gallery.
  • Composing the Score.

The Steelbook has only slightly different artwork to the standard release, but still manages to look special and is another excellent release from Play.  That subtle, atmospheric front cover is unfortunately blighted by permanent BBFC certification logos, and there isn't a design inside the casing either.  Around the back are two images from the film along with all the usual information and promotional blurb.  It's also marked as a Region A, B and C disc.

It's still available from Play for £17.99, but as with all their exclusive Steelbooks, it could go out of stock without warning.

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New BeoVision 7-40 Adds 3D Blu-ray to Gorgeous Package

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Bang & Olufsen has added a revised BeoVision television to their range, as the updated BeoVision 7-40 now comes complete with a 3D Blu-ray player inside.  Fans of the super-stylish Danish brand will recall that the 7-40 was updated back in May this year, swapping out the DVD player for a Blu-ray.  As technology has now moved on to include 3D, the company has done the same again this month.

As you would expect now there is a 3D Blu-ray player built-in, the screen itself has become a 3D panel, plus you'll get a pair of active-shutter glasses in the package too.  The 40" screen will likely be the best seller, however a 50" version has also gone on sale at the same time.  B&O has given the specs a slight overhaul, with the screen now boasting a 100hz refresh rate, 3000:1 contrast ratio and a 6ms response time.

Otherwise the spec has remained the same with Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio support from the standard decoder plus an optional built-in DVB-HD decoder, motorised stand and the BeoLab speaker system.

You're going to have to take a deep breath when it comes to handing over the cash though, as the new BeoVision 7-40 is priced at £7,600!

Yamaha Launches First All-In-One Blu-ray, the BDX-610

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A latecomer to the All-In-One Blu-ray system party, Yamaha's first attempt has just gone on sale in the USA and the UK.  The BDX-610 was seen during the IFA show back in September and the promised November release date has now been met.

The BDX-610's main unit houses the Blu-ray player along with a 5.1 audio receiver, boasting a total output of 500 watts.  This is transfered to a collection of five speakers and a subwoofer, ready to deliver 80 watts each and 100 watts respectively.  The design used for the speaker boxes is very traditional, with oblong black enclosures for the individual channels and a big black cube for the subwoofer, however the glossy black finish is sure to look good.

The player/receiver is certainly more compact than a separates system would be, plus it benefits from a very simple rear panel layout.  A peak reveals a single HDMI port, a coax or optical audio connection, an Ethernet port and a series of less-than-ideal spring connectors for the speakers.  Even those with limited experience in setting up home cinema systems should find it a breeze.

On to the specs.  The Blu-ray player supports 3D playback, the receiver happily decodes Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD audio, it's DLNA certified and there's a USB port on the front panel too.

That's about what you'd expect from a mid-range Blu-ray player these days, so when you add in the surround sound audio and speaker system, provided the price is right the BDX-610 looks tempting.  Happily, the price is a good one at around £450 in the UK and $699 in the USA.  Interestingly, Yamaha will also sell the Blu-ray/receiver box separately in the near future, so you'll be able to make use of that speaker set you've got hanging around.  The UK price for this has yet to be revealed, but The Verge say it'll cost $549 on its own in the USA.

Jaws Blu-ray Out Summer 2012, and E.T. to Follow for Christmas?

JawslogoIt was back in June when we last heard anything about Jaws and E.T. being released on Blu-ray, when Steven Spielberg spoke to AICN saying both movies were being prepared for their HD debut, and that neither would be subject to any digital tinkering.

Since then it has been quiet until a tiny snippet of news appeared over at The Digital Bits.  The statement is another tease with no firm information; but it's still exciting - "Our industry sources are now telling us that Universal will release Steven Spielberg's Jaws on Blu-ray in time for Summer 2012, probably around May or June. Also, E.T. is likely to be a Fall 2012 title, released in time for Christmas".

With the end of 2011 just a couple of months away, an official announcement for Jaws - if it is coming May or June - could come in January or February.  A similar timeframe was used for Spielberg's recently released Jurassic Park trilogy Blu-ray set, with the official announcement at the tail-end of June and the release a couple of weeks ago at the end of October.

There's also a chance the Blu-ray release date could coincide with the original theatrical date back in 1975 which according to IMDb, was the 20th June.

Jaws is one of the few remaining 'big' catalogue titles still unreleased on Blu-ray, and is often cited as a reason not to adopt the format, so here's looking forward to a spectacular release!

Tax Loop Hole to be Closed, Cheap Online UK Blu-ray Buys Could End

BlurayAnyone who regularly purchases Blu-ray or DVD films will undoubtedly use sites based in the Channel Islands such as Play.com and Amazon, mainly thanks to their low prices.  The reason they're invariably cheaper than high street retailers is a tax loophole that allows them to avoid paying VAT on products costing less than £15, which covers the vast majority of DVD and Blu-rays.

In turn, the tax concession encouraged companies to move all their mailorder operations to the Channel Islands in order to use a system called 'circular shipping' to further cut costs.

These glory days could be coming to an end next year though, as the UK Treasury has said they'll be closing the loophole entirely from the 1st April 2012. 

The Government's reasoning is that it'll allow small and medium sized businesses who can't afford to set up an offshore mailorder company to better compete with those who can.  So, great for businesses, but potentially not so good for customers.  Don't forget, it's good news for the Treasury's coffers too.

There appear to be two courses of action for Channel Island retailers, either move outside the EU where the tax law still stands, or increase prices to compensate.  It's not hard to guess which one they'll be forced to adopt, now is it.

Need a 3D Blu-ray System? Take a Look at HP's New TouchSmart PC

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If you're on the look out for a second 3D TV system for your home, but don't want anything too big, or want to cram in as much functionality as possible; take a look at the new HP TouchSmart 620 PC.  Mounted on a tilting stand the PC is encased behind a 23" 3D-capable touchscreen display with a 1920 x 180 full-HD resolution, so you'll be assured of the best picture quality possible when playing Blu-rays, even if the screen is on the small side.

The disc drive can play 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs along with the usual DVD and CD material, while the system will also convert standard 2D content into 3D.  For the truly 3D mad, the TouchSmart 620 has a pair of webcams integrated into the screen's bezel, allowing you to take 3D still images or shoot 3D video. 

Running Windows 7, the TouchSmart 620 is powered by a 3.1Ghz Intel Core i5 processor and has 8GB of RAM built-in.  On the storage side a 1.5TB HDD should keep you going for a while, and the AMD Radeon HD 6670A graphics card should satisfy most gamers too.  HP has also included the Beats by Dr. Dre audio tweaks to make the sound match the video performance, and inside the pack you'll also find a single pair of 3D glasses.

You probably already suspect the TouchSmart 620 won't be cheap, and you'd be right.  Available direct from HP, it'll set you back $1899, which is a large amount of cash for a second-room system, but there's no denying it contains a lot of tech!

Sony Releases First Portable Blu-ray Player, the SX1

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It seems there is enough demand for on-the-move HD video that Sony feels the need to release a portable Blu-ray player of its own, joining other manufacturers such as Panasonic.  The BDP-SX1 was announced earlier this year and has recently gone on sale in the UK and around the world.  So what do you get for your money?

Like other similar products, the SX1 looks like a chunky laptop, but in place of a keyboard there's a disc tray.  The screen measures 10.1" and has a 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, which as most will understand is considerably less than true HD - although you'd hardly notice any difference on a screen this size anyway. 

In addition to playing discs, a USB socket lets you play digital media (including pictures and music) from a memory stick, however there's no Wi-Fi to enable streaming video while out and about.

The SX1 has a remote control and an HDMI-out, so it could be used as a regular Blu-ray player in your home and it supports the usual DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD audio feeds, plus it happily plays DVDs and CDs too.  It's not 3D compatible though.

Sony quote a battery life of 5 hours and the player is driven by Sony's excellent XMB menu system, making it very easy to use. 

The Sony SX1 is available through Sony for the full retail price of £299, but if you shop around it's possible to reduce this by £50-£70.  The only thing is, a small amount more could net you a Blu-ray player in a laptop, a far more versatile product than the SX1.

Primare's New BD32 Blu-ray Player is Pricey, But Impressive

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If you've got £3250 burning a hole in your pocket and are keen to spend it on a new high-end Blu-ray player, then take a look at the new Primare BD32, a universal player with an extensive feature list and a very sleek design.

While 'universal' is a phrase usually attached to players with the ability to play SACD and DVD-A discs as well as Blu-ray and DVD, the BD32 supports these and other formats too, so it really could be the only player you'll need.

In addition to those mentioned above, it'll also spin 3D Blu-ray and CD, plus a USB port will accept various video, music or image files from a memory stick or eSATA drive.  All audio formats are also supported and clever circuitry will convert them to PCM ready for D/A conversion on another component if you'd prefer.

Around the rear of the player you'll find two 1.4a HDMI ports, both of which are 3D capable, composite and component video, 7.1 analogue audio outputs, an RS232 port and space for a Wi-Fi dongle which unusually, is included in the package. 

The chassis is absolutely gorgeous too, with a brushed aluminium finish, subtle buttons and a small display.  All the components used inside are reference quality - as they should be for this price - and should ensure the BR32 produces the best audio and video possible.  But with a price tag of over £3K, only a few will get to see what it can do!

HMV Announces Exclusive Limited Edition Lion King Trilogy

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The Lion King is sure to be a popular Blu-ray release on its own, but fans of the movie or limited Disney collector's editions may want to reserve a copy of this impressive, exclusive Blu-ray set coming from HMV.  Released on the 7th November, The Lion King Trilogy: Collectors Edition has been made available for pre-order with HMV in the UK at a price of £64.99.  What do you get for that price?  This:

  • The Lion King: Diamond Edition.
  • Lion King 2: Simba's Pride.
  • Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata.
  • Lion King Special Edition Official Soundtrack.
  • 2-disc Special Edition of the Original Broadway Cast Recording.
  • Behind the Scenes Bonus DVD.

All this will be presented in a stained wooden box, limited to just 3000 copies.  I think you'll agree it looks really special too!  The Lion King: Diamond Edition includes the following special features:

  • Bloopers & Outtakes
  • Interactive Blu-ray Gallery
  • Audio Commentary By Co-Directors Roger Allers And Rob Minkoff And Producer Don Hahn (original Version)
  • Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition
  • Pride Of The Lion King
  • The Lion King: A Memoir - Don Hahn
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes With Introductions by Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff Music & More
  • Play Movie With Sing-Along Mode
  • The Morning Report: Extended Scene
  • LK2- Timon & Pumbaa's Insectapedia
  • Classic DVD Bonus Features
  • "One By One"
  • Timon & Pumbaa: Find Out Why
  • Proud Of Simba's Pride
  • "Love Will Find A Way" Music Video
  • LK3- Timon & Pumbaa's Vacation Safari
  • Classic DVD Bonus Features
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Intro To "Scurry, Flinch, Sniff"
  • Timon & Pumbaa look for Oasis
  • Timon: Behind The Legend
  • Before The Beginning: The Making of The Lion King 1 1/2
  • Grazin' In The Grass" Music Video

If you're a Lion King fan, will you be pre-ordering this set?

Star Trek: Next Generation Confirmed for Blu-ray in 2012

Startreknextgen It was only logical that Paramount should follow-up its brilliant Blu-ray presentation of the Original Series of Star Trek, with an equally lovingly-prepared edition of Next Generation; the question was, when?  Through an official announcement over at StarTrek.com, we've been given an answer, as a Blu-ray sampler of three Next Gen episodes will be released on the 31st January 2012.

The sampler release will pave the way for a complete Season One boxset before the end of next year, and it promises to be quite a release.  According to StarTrek.com, CBS returned to the original negatives and re-edited them together exactly as they were when they first aired, and then came up with a special process to create true 1080p masters.  The visual FX are being recomposited rather than upconverted from videotape, and the sountrack will be remixed into 7.1 DTS Master Audio.

To show how much Paramount and CBS care about this release, they've enlisted the help of Denise and Michael Okuda, both longtime Star Trek contributors and authors of various books inlcuding the Star Trek Encyclopedia, as consultants.

Back to the January release.  It will be called Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level and will include three episodes: the Encounter at Farpoint pilot, Sins of the Father and The Inner Light.  You can see the artwork above, and a teaser video for the release below.  It's out on the 31st January and has been given a retail price of $21.99 in the US.

As for a release date for Season One, Dark Horizons speculates it'll be out in a year's time, on the 28th September, to coincide with the original pilot's airing.  It's a good theory, but it may also depend on when the sequel to 2009's Star Trek movie hits the big screen, as that's when next year's Star Trek fever will be at its highest.