THE SHOWDOWN: WALL-E VS. BATMAN

While many industry observers are predicting that the planned December 9 release of The Dark Knight on DVD will become the year's biggest video hit, a few others suggest that next Tuesday's release of Disney/Pixar's WALL-E should not be overlooked. They point out that animated features have a long history of dominance in home-video sales and that WALL-E is one of the few that holds as much appeal for adults as it does for children. Meanwhile, websites that focus on high-definition fare have unanimously endorsed the Blu-ray version of WALL-E as the HD gold standard. On dvdtown.com, James Plath begins his review of the Blu-ray release with the single word "Wow." He calls the picture detail "remarkable" and says that it often displays a "pleasing" 3-D quality that gives the illusion of depth "without 'popping' the figures out at you as if you were watching a film with those funny cardboard glasses." On bluray.com, Ben Williams calls the video quality "flawless ... simply stunning." He adds: "WALL-E is as perfect and stunning on Blu-ray as anyone could have hoped." On highdefdigest.com, Peter M. Bracke calls the WALL-E Blu-ray package "a truly ground-breaking achievement." He goes on to write that it is "guaranteed to rank as a new demo disc of choice. ... Pixar has crowed that there is not a pixel out of place, and the hyperbole is justified. WALL-E is a visual masterpiece."

MOVIE DOWNLOADS: ANOTHER WII-LIKE DEVICE NEEDED?

Netflix chief Reed Hastings is urging fellow content distributors to adopt a form of the Internet browser to simplify the process of selecting and downloading movies directly to TV sets. He also proposes that they substitute the typical remote with an electronic "pointer" that would function like the PC mouse. Speaking at the New TeeVee Live conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Hastings said that such a device could represent a "real breakthrough," adding, "The videogame generation is very comfortable with a pointer on the screen."

AMPAS REJECTS DARK KNIGHT SCORE

In times past, a composer may have received credit for creating the musical soundtrack for a movie even when he contributed little more than the theme. However, an uproar has now followed the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's decision to disqualify the score of The Dark Knight because credited composers James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer were unable to establish that they were directly responsible for more than 70 percent of the music, a requirement of Academy rules. The two had listed three others as composers on the official cue sheet, telling Daily Variety earlier this week that they did so in order to qualify them for royalties. The Academy's music committee reportedly spent hours debating the issue, with several members arguing unsuccessfully that the score merited nomination notwithstanding the cue-sheet issue.

PIRACY WATCHDOG SEEKS GREATER CONTROL

A British-based anti-piracy group is seeking tougher copyright legislation that would require Internet service providers to turn over the names of suspected pirates to movie studios without requiring a court order. In a statement, John Lovelock, head of the semi-official Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), appeared to acknowledge that his group regarded such legislation as ideal but possibly beyond attainment. Under it he said, "personal data relating to a given IP address may be given to the rights holder on request, without a court order being needed, which is arguably gold plating." Lovelock appeared to suggest that an accommodation between copyright owners and ISPs, under which the ISPs would turn over information about suspected pirates upon request, is unlikely. "A voluntary approach would be the easiest solution but experience has shown that such an approach may well not work, as it is dependent on a full consensus [among all ISPs] being achieved," he said, noting some ISPs would be unwilling to alienate their customers.