Death Race [DVDRip] (2008)

The Transporter star Jason Statham takes the wheel in director Paul W.S. Anderson's remake of the Roger Corman classic about a hyper-violent cross-country race that breaks all of the traditional rules of the road. The time is the not-so-distant future, and as America's prisons begin overflowing with violent criminals, the powers that be devise a grisly game that will free up space in the cells and entertain the masses at the same time. Jensen Ames (Statham) is a three-time speedway champion with a dark past. A survival expert and ex-con whose sordid history comes back to haunt him when he is framed for a murder he didn't commit, Ames is forced to choose between donning the metallic mask of a mythical racer known as Frankenstein or languishing away on Terminal Island -- America's most notorious penitentiary. Over the course of the next three days, this unlikely champion will get behind the wheel of a nightmare machine outfitted with machine guns, grenade launchers, and flamethrowers in a desperate attempt to outrun some of the most violent criminals ever imprisoned. Should Ames be the first to cross the checkered flag, he will win his freedom; should he come in second, however, death would be preferable to a grim future in a cramped concrete cell. Co-stars include Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez, and Tyrese Gibson, who takes over the role of Machine Gun Joe, made famous by Sylvester Stallone in the original.

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HD DVD returns and kicks Blu-ray to the gutter

Just when Blu-ray thought it had clear sailing, a tempest has risen in the East: China Blue Hi-definition Disk (CBHD). Toshiba has licensed its HD DVD to them and it will be the unit world leader in HD optical technology in just 12 months.

Why? The Times Online reports that the CBHD players are outselling Blu-ray in China by 3-1 and the CBHD disks cost a quarter of Blu-ray.

What happened to Blu-ray’s dominance? Blu-ray’s dominance.

Conceived by Sony at a time when few thought upscaling would succeed, the idea was that HDTVs would require HD content on optical media. Reliving the glory days of DVD adoption they forecast tens of billions in revenue from players and disks, enormous licensing fees and consumer-proof DRM.

Watching the CD business crater, studio thought that HD would drive their business to new heights while eliminating piracy. It was an optical gold rush - that has turned into a mirage.

The fundamental problem is that the slightly sharper HD picture isn’t worth the extra dollars. 10%-15% max.

China has good reasons to support a home-grown HD format. First, the exorbitant Blu-ray royalties hurts Chinese manufacturers ability to compete on price.

An equally important, but unspoken, issue is the econoclypse. The Chinese government has made a deal with the Chinese people: leave us in control and we’ll deliver rising living standards. The current slow down has hit China hard: millions have been laid off and economic growth is anemic.

CBHD is a double win for the Chinese government: billions saved in royalties; and a much cheaper, locally manufactured, luxury item for the restless masses. Blu-ray is simply collateral damage.

Studio knuckle-draggers no doubt are salivating at a tough new form of Region encoding: incompatible formats for the West and Asia. But will that really work?

English is the #2 language in Asia, so English-language CBHDs will be popular. Shanghai vendors will happily sell CBHD players and disks on Ebay. The economics are irresistible and, other than the studios, who will turn down HD content at DVD prices?

Toshiba’s gambit is brilliant. Instead of taking a total loss on their billion-dollar HD DVD investment, they’ll get incremental revenue and, no doubt, valuable future consideration from the Chinese government.

It is a nice win for the Chinese government and manufacturers. Blu-ray’s high cost has slowed its acceptance to a crawl, so Chinese CBHD players will rapidly climb down the cost curve to prices lower than DVD-only players since they aren’t paying DVD royalties either.

The studios get a couple of years to make some money on Chinese CBHD releases, but will piracy disappear? Not anytime soon.

The big loser is the Blu-ray camp. Boo-hoo. They’ve consistently misjudged the market and Blu-ray’s appeal. Guys, I’m sorry you made a bad business decision, but it’s time to man up and take your write-offs.

CBHD vendors should not ignore the writable CBHD market. Many consumers would like something larger than DVDs for backup and much cheaper - and more compatible - than Blu-ray.

Here’s hoping the CBHD storage market is running wild by this time next year. CBHD will be the world’s #1 format in unit volume by next year.

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