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page updated: 3/20/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 3/10/06 - 2/17/06)


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3/10/06

Boy, strange weather here today in SoCal. Rarely do we get rain, and today not only is it raining... it's hailing too! I've got one eye on my office window watching for pigs to come flying by. Strange days indeed.

Hope you all enjoyed The Bitsy Awards, which we posted late yesterday afternoon. I've already gotten e-mails from people who got a kick out of The Big Lebitsy theme. Don't know how we didn't think of that one sooner! Every year we try to play on a movie title with The Bitsys... and Adam, Todd and myself came up with a few different ideas for this year. We even, very briefly, toyed with Brokeback Bitsy... but then the idea of spoofing The Big Lebowski fell upon us, and how could we ignore inspiration like that? We've already got next year's title picked out, and the graphic is even half done too. I'll tell you, we have a lot of fun doing these awards every year, and you should all know that we really put a ton of careful thought, consideration and effort into them. Again, we very much hope you enjoy them. Hats off to Adam, who writes a lot of the comments in the different categories. We (Todd and yours truly here) would also like to send out special thanks to Barrie Maxwell for his expertise in the classic categories, to Matt over at MusicTAP for his input on the music categories, and to our friends Gord Lacy and David Lambert at the excellent TVShowsonDVD.com for their input in the TV category. FYI, we're also going to be chatting with readers about the results over at this thread at The Home Theater Forum this weekend.

This has nothing to do with DVD today (except maybe that Fox should consider putting it on a future DVD release) but there's a great piece of video up at Google. My understanding is that Sky One in the UK went to the trouble of recreating the animated show opening to The Simpsons with real actors, sets and location footage (presumably as an ad to promote the series' broadcast on the channel). They did an absolutely amazing job. It has to be seen to be believed. Do check it out... and good luck trying to keep your jaw from hitting the floor.

Just a couple bits of DVD release news today: First, Universal has set Columbo: The Complete Fifth Season to street on 6/27 (SRP $39.98).

And Warner has announced John Ford and John Wayne's 3 Godfathers, Fort Apache, The Long Voyage Home, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, They Were Expendable and The Wings of Eagles for release on 6/6, along with a new 2-disc The Searchers: 50th Anniversary Special Edition and a 2-disc Stagecoach: Special Edition. Also coming from the studio on 6/6 is Christopher Reeve's In the Gloaming, Entourage: The Complete Second Season (distributed for HBO) and Chris Rock Show: The Complete First & Second Seasons (also for HBO). And look for Civilization: The Complete Series on 6/27 (for the BBC).

Finally, the BIG Warner news (or should I say... "super" news?). The studio has officially unveiled its complete Superman DVD release plans for the rest of 2006. In the 2nd Qtr, look for Look Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of Superman documentary (street date TBA), along with the newly (and/or recently) announced Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - Season Three, Adventures of Superman: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons, The Adventures of Superboy: The Complete First Season, Krypto: The Superdog, Volume One - Cosmic Canine, Superman: Brainiac Attacks (an original animated movie), Justice League of America: Season Two and Superman: The Animated Series - Volume 3, all currently expected for release on 6/20. In the 3rd Qtr, look for Smallville: The Complete Fifth Season (street date TBA). Then in the 4th Qtr, watch for the DVD release of Superman Returns, Superman: The Movie - Special Edition, Superman II: Special Edition, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman III: Deluxe Edition, Superman IV: Deluxe Edition, The Superman Collection, The Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition, Supergirl, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - Season Four, Adventures of Superman: The Complete Fifth and Sixth Seasons, the Superman Serials (the 1948 and 1950 editions, starring Kirk Alyn), Krypto: The Superdog - Volume Two, Justice League Unlimited: Season One and Justice League of America: Season Three (street date for all is TBA, but likely November). Whew! That's a lot of super for one year.

And while we're on the subject of Superman, we'd like to acknowledge the far-too-early death last week of Dana Reeve, wife of the late Christopher Reeve, from lung cancer. Also recently deceased are actor Jack Wild and photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks. All will be missed.

Okay... we've got a big week coming next week. Now that The Bitsys are out of the way, it's back to serious HD format coverage and DVD reviews for us here at The Bits. Plus we have new columns from Adam, Barrie and Todd on the way, and more.

Don't forget the season finale of Battlestar Galactica on SciFi tonight! We hear it's going to throw fans some major twists. Should be great.

Have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!

3/9/06

Well... we didn't quite make your morning coffee reading, but making sure we had all our Ps and Qs in order took a little extra effort (not to mention tallying all the Reader's Choice e-mail and forum poll voting). We think, however, that DVD achievers everywhere will find that the wait was well worth it. So, just in time for late tea or your first evening cocktail (we'd like to recommend a White Russian - you'll understand why in a moment), let's get right to it. The 7th Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards are finally here!

When you're done checking out the results, click on over to this thread at our Digital Forum to discuss the winners with your fellow Bits readers (and proud we are of all of them). Enjoy!

(LATE UPDATE - 3/8/06 - 12:45 PM PST)

We've got some interesting DVD release news to report today. First up, Warner has announced John Ford's The Wings of Eagles for release on 6/6 (SRP $14.97). Video will be anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio. The disc will include the film's theatrical trailer.

Also, we have word that Sony and MGM's 2-disc Ronin: Collector's Edition (due 5/9 - SRP $24.96) will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by director John Frankenheimer, an alternate ending, the Ronin: Filming in the Fast Lane documentary, 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (including In the Cutting Room with Tony Gibbs, Composing the Ronin Score, Natascha McElhone: An Actor's Process, The Driving of Ronin and Through the Lens), an animated photo gallery and the Venice Interviews video montage.

As promised, we've got a big update in The Rumor Mill this afternoon with TONS of unofficial street date information from our industry sources. Lots of as-yet-unannounced are touched upon, so do check it out.

And we'll leave you with more new upcoming DVD cover artwork. Here's MGM and Sony's Ronin: Collector's Edition, and Paramount's Wild Wild West: The Complete First Season and Highlander 2: Special Edition (both 6/6)...

Ronin: Collector's EditionWild Wild West: The Complete First SeasonHighlander 2: Special Edition

Don't forget to vote for The Bitsys, and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning with the results! Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/8/06 - 11:30 AM PST)

Boy... life just can't ever be easy, can it? As some of you may have noticed, The Digital Forum crapped out on us late yesterday afternoon. Gremlins apparently changed a few software 1s and 0s to letters or something. Anyway, the result of the glitch is that The Bitsy Awards voting for the BEST DVD - OVERALL (READER'S CHOICE) category was suspended before it was complete. The forum is back up now, but it's potentially still glitchy. So what we've decided to do to be fair is to delay posting The Bitsys by 24 hours, so that people can finish voting. You now have until 12:01 AM tomorrow morning (Thursday) to make your picks. We're going to take votes via both e-mail and the polling thread in the forum until then, just as a backup.

These are the nominees for BEST DVD - OVERALL (READER'S CHOICE) for 2005:

The Incredibles: 2-Disc Collector's Edition
King Kong: Collector's Edition
Gladiator: Extended Edition
Frank Miller's Sin City: Recut, Extended, Unrated
Titanic: Special Collector's Edition
Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997
The Devil's Rejects: Two-Disc Director's Cut - Unrated
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Batman Begins: Deluxe Edition
Bambi: Platinum Edition
Raging Bull: Special Edition
The Wizard of Oz: Three-Disc Collector's Edition
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection
War of the Worlds (2005): 2-Disc Limited Edition
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Special Collector's Edition
Lost: The Complete First Season
Rush: R30 - 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Ran (Criterion)
King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries
The Fly: Collector's Edition
OTHER
(e-mail us your alternate suggestion)

You have until 12:01 AM to e-mail in your choice. Please use the words 'Bitsy Voting' in the subject line. We'll tally the votes and they'll be posted as part of The Bitsy Awards bright and early tomorrow to enjoy with your morning coffee. Sorry about the technical delay and thanks as always for your patience. Mama always said there'd be days like this, didn't she?

Meanwhile, we'll be back in a bit with a nice juicy Rumor Mill post to help you forget the delay.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/7/06 - 4:15 PM PST)

Afternoon, Bits-ers! We've got a little more DVD news for you this afternoon, as we gear up for The Bitsy Awards tomorrow.

First up, we've just posted Adam's latest edition of The Bottom Shelf, in which he reviews five new DVD releases, including Facet/Other Cinema DVD's Afro Promo: Black Cinema Trailers - 1946-76, Paramount's Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan - Ultimate Edition DVD Collection, and Sony's MirrorMask, Off the Map and Thumbsucker.

Also today, Lindsay Planner of our MusicTAP.net site has turned in a new As the Disc Spins column, in which he reviews Shout! Factory's The Best of The Electric Company and The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave, along with Chrome Dreams/MVD's Syd Barrett: Under Review.

Now then... those announcements. Universal has revealed that they'll street Northern Exposure: The Complete First and Second Seasons on 5/9 (SRP $59.98). Following on 5/16 is Susan Stroman's The Producers (SRP $29.98), complete with never-before-seen musical numbers. Straight Into Darkness (SRP $19.98) will arrive the following month, on 6/6. And Against the Wall rounds out the new Uni titles on 6/13 (SRP $19.98).

And lest we forget, Anchor Bay has set The Long Good Friday (1980) for release on 4/4.

Moving on today... remember how, a few weeks ago, we reported on Lionsgate releasing Lord of War (a 2.40:1 aspect ratio film) on DVD cropped to fill the 1.78:1 frame (click here and slide down a few paragraphs)? Remember how we asked the studio about it, and they said it was a decision made by the production company? Yeah... well, maybe it was the production company's fault. But now it looks like it WAS the screw-up we figured all along. Readers are starting to report seeing new copies of Lord of War on store shelves, marked with a sticker on the back of case (over the old aspect ratio information) saying that the film is now presented in the correct 2.40:1 ratio. Upon buying and watching the new stickered disc, they report that it has indeed been quietly re-issued at the correct 2.40:1. Boy... if this is true, a LOT of folks who purchased the cropped version are going to be PISSED. If we hear about Lionsgate doing some kind of disc exchange program, we'll let you know. They certainly should.

We'll leave you this afternoon with more upcoming DVD cover art. Here's HBO's Deadwood: The Complete Second Season (5/23), Universal's Earthquake (5/9) and The Producers, as well as Warner's Joey: The Complete First Season (5/30), Adventures of Superman: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons (6/20) and Superman: The Animated Series - Volume Three (also 6/20)...

Deadwood: The Complete Second SeasonEarthquakeThe Producers

Joey: The Complete First SeasonAdventures of Superman: The Complete Third and Fourth SeasonsSuperman: The Animated Series - Volume Three

See you tomorrow with The Bitsy Awards! Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/7/06 - 2 AM PST)

Yes... it's true. We've updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section at last. Our own Russell Hammond has checked in with an overhaul that includes TONS of new, recent and upcoming cover scans. There are lots of great titles in there to see. All those of you that have been badgering Russell for the update, how's about you drop him a quick e-mail to thank him for the hard work? More artwork will follow in the weeks ahead, so be sure to check back. And remember, pre-ordering DVDs (or anything else) through our Amazon links helps to support our work at The Bits. So please do (and we thank you for it).

One last reminder... you have until 12:01 AM tomorrow morning to vote in the Reader's Choice category in our Bitsy Awards. Please head on over to The Digital Forum and do so. A lot of the people who work on these great DVDs read The Bits regularly, so voting for your favorite disc from 2005 is a nice way to show them your appreciation.

We've got a bit of new DVD release news to report today. First up, HBO has announced the release of Deadwood: The Complete Second Season on 5/23 (SRP $99.98). Look for the episodes to be offered in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras are TBA, but are expected to include audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more.

There's also a release date change to report. The Weinstein Company's The Matador, which had been set to street in April (on 4/25) from distributor Genius Products, has now been moved back to July. We'll report the revised street date soon.

This would normally go in The Rumor Mill (so handle the info appropriately), but sources are telling us that Universal will release Something New on 5/16. On a similar note, Universal Music is expected to release Hollow Man 2 and Bloodrayne on 5/23.

Around the site today, we've kicked off a new Contest, giving each of you the chance to win very cool Harry Potter items. There will FIVE winners in all. One will take home the Grand Prize of a $300 Noble Collections Gift Certificate (Noble Collections is the official distributor of Harry Potter collectibles). Two more will take home First Prize of a $100 Noble Collections Gift Certificate. And two Second Prize winners will receive Warner's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on DVD. The contest will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, March 19th. Click the link to get started and good luck!

Finally this morning... a personal note that has nothing to do with DVD, but sometimes you just need to say your piece, you know? I need to say a couple things today about Kirby Puckett, the former Minnesota Twins baseball player who passed away yesterday at the age of 45 (see reports here, here and of course here). When I first heard the news last night, it was like I'd been punched in the gut. Kirby was just a few years older than I am, but he's the stuff of legend back where I come from. It's hard to put into words (although this comes close). In the Spring of 1991, I was fresh out of college and working for a video production company in Minneapolis. We were hired by the Twins to shoot video during the season, so when they made it to the World Series against the Braves, I had the stunning good fortune to be offered tickets for Game 7. Of course, they were only going to be good if the Twins won Game 6. As long as I live, I will never forget Kirby's performance that night, and the chance it game me to watch my team win the Series in person at the Dome the following evening. A few days later, many of baseball's greatest players came to hang out with Kirby at his annual pool tournament, to raise money for a local children's hospital. My company donated the use of a video wall for the event and, as we were setting up, Kirby came over personally to thank us for being there. We talked for a few minutes about the Series and how the wall worked. He shook our hands with that smile of his and made us feel like the most important people there. Later that night, he signed my Game 7 tickets, had several of his Twins teammates do the same, and then thanked me again. That's just the kind of guy he was. He was an unlikely sports hero - a tremendous player - who could have made far more money by leaving Minnesota to play for the Yankees or some other big market team... and yet he didn't. He stayed a Twin his entire career. He gave so much more to his fans, to his team and to the community than he ever asked in return. And we will miss him dearly for it. As for me, I'll always remember Kirby for a smile, a handshake and an autograph - all generously given - that made me feel like a million bucks. And I'll remember him for this. Touch 'em all indeed. Thanks, Kirby.

And thanks to all of you for letting me get that off my chest.

Back with more DVD news later. Stay tuned...

3/6/06

Afternoon, everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. For my part, I had a heck of a good time at Lebowski Fest. I went with friends and it was well worth it. I even had a fascinating brush with Jeff Dowd on Friday night (alias "The Dude" - the guy upon whom Jeff Bridges' character in The Big Lebowski was based). Lotta keggling was done, and as it's been a while since I last keggled, a lotta sore muscles are showing up today. Ah well. To be sure, a good time was had by all.

Any of you watch the Oscars? I have to admit, the Oscars really represent everything I hate about Hollywood - the self-importance, the excess, the shameless self-promotion. The only real interest in our house was in watching host Jon Stewart do his best dog and pony show. Jon was pretty funny in our opinion, but I have no doubt that many in attendance didn't get it. Sarah TiVo-ed the show and we scanned, scanned, scanned. FYI, Crash took home the big prize (Best Picture) and I have to say that though I was surprised, I'm not disappointed. It's a great film. So is Brokeback Mountain and the others too, but Crash was really deserving for a lot of reasons. It came out so early in the year that I was afraid the Academy would forget about it. I know Matt's pretty happy over at TAP. He loved that flick. Anyway, here's a list of the winners from last night. Congrats to all of 'em.

By the way, Matt and I recently caught a screening of Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch, and it's WELL worth your time to see (click here for the official website). It's fascinating to see a Russian take on Western special effects epics. It's the first part of a trilogy about a thousand-year cold war between Good and Evil that's being waged just beneath the surface of our own present-day reality. Visually it's very cool - sort of a grungier, budget-rate version of The Matrix, with a dash of horror and Star Wars mythology tossed in. The second film in the series, Day Watch, comes out here in the States later this year. Dusk Watch, the final installment, will hit theaters in 2007. It's in limited release at the moment, I believe, but it's starting to go wider and it's well worth checking out. Just know that it's in the original Russian (as it should be) with English subs. So to catch everything that's going on (visually, this is a very active film), you might have to see it twice. Cool flick.

Okay... we have a few announcements for you this morning. But first, we want to remind you that the voting for our new Bitsy Award category, BEST DVD - OVERALL (READER'S CHOICE), is now open at this thread over at The Digital Forum. To make this award meaningful, we really need as many of you as possible to get in there and vote. You'll have to sign up for the forum to do so, but it's absolutely free, so no skin off anyone's nose. The voting will be open until 12:01 AM on Wednesday, March 8th, and we'll post The Bitsy Awards later that morning. Please vote for your favorite!

Now then... some new DVD announcements. First up, Sony has set The White Countess, Here Come the Brides: The Complete First Season and Every Time We Say Goodbye for release on 5/16.

Universal has set Brilliant But Cancelled: EZ Streets and Brilliant But Cancelled: Crime Dramas for release on 5/16 as well (SRP $19.98 each). We expect to have more details on these DVDs soon.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista has announced The Disney Channel's High School Musical for release on 5/23. The disc will include two versions of the movie and more.

And Criterion's let slip in their latest newsletter that they'll be releasing Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming this summer.

Around the Net today, if you haven't already checked it out, do give Moriarty's DVD Shelf a look. Moriarty, as many of you know, is the Ain't it Cool News alias of one Drew McWeeney. Drew's a good guy - I see him at different industry events (most recently at Warner's big catalog unveiling) - and he's put together a nice site featuring his thoughts on our favorite format. Be sure to stop on by.

Finally, Video Business has a good story up today on the so-far sketchy launch of the HD-DVD format, which is supported to make its big debut on 3/28. Toshiba's first two players, the HD-A1 ($499.99 list) and HD-XA1 ($799.99), are expected on that day. A number of titles from Warner are expected on 3/28 as well, but... despite the press releases to the contrary... there's been little to no retailer confirmation of the titles so far. There are a grand total of ZERO details about the HD-DVD titles up on WHV's studio retailer site, this with less than three weeks to go before they're supposed to street (by comparison, in-depth details of most standard DVD releases are announced to retailers on the studio site months in advance). Toshiba's nation-wide HD-DVD promotional tour continues this week (click here for the latest dates and locations from Toshiba's official format site - you'll also find them in this PDF file), but I'm told by those who have seen it that the only thing Tosh reps have to show is a demo disc of movie trailers - no final product HD-DVD software is ready yet.

On that front, I've spoken with a number of my contacts within the industry - at various production and authoring houses, as well as the studios - and nearly all of them expect that the titles will end up getting delayed. I'm told that the authoring is just a mess right now - the format is being pushed to launch too quickly, and there are many problems getting the movies to work properly. Part of the problem is that the software used to author discs is still in the beta stage - not surprising given that the AACS portion of the HD-DVD spec was only finalized last month. Even IF Toshiba and Warner are able to get both hardware and software titles out on 3/28, they'll basically just be ports of existing DVD releases, with HD video and maybe a few new special features at the most. The iHD interactivity isn't really going to be a factor on the software releases until later in 2006 (after the authoring software is finalized and functioning, and HD-DVD check discs can be vigorously tested on actual player hardware). We'll have more on all this soon.

Okay... one last note this morning. I know a lot of you have been e-mailing lately asking why we haven't updated the cover art section, why we haven't posted more DVD reviews, why our CES coverage is late, etc. Look... all of those things are coming and we're working hard on them. But we're now scrambling to cover the breaking and developing news for FOUR different formats (DVD, UMD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, not including audio releases), we've just launched a new discussion forum and we're about to post our annual DVD awards program. All of that takes time, and there are only so many of us here (and only so many hours available in the day). Most of our staffers at The Bits have day jobs and families and it's a LOT of work to balance all of those things - an overwhelming amount of work at the moment, in fact. That's not to mention all the time I've been spending lately going behind-the-scenes to talk with industry insiders about these new HD formats to get the lay of the land - off-the-record stuff I can't specifically post, but that helps to ensure that I know what's really going on (so I can tell YOU what's really going on). We just don't have New York Times kind of resources to do all that work with - The Bits is a labor of love, first and foremost. The best thing you can do to help us is to pre-order movies and other items from our Amazon links, to visit our advertisers, to join our new Digital Forum (these things will all help support our work here at The Bits)... and to be patient. We really appreciate it. We're working VERY hard, believe me.

Stay tuned!

3/3/06

Sure, we know... The Academy Awards are happening on Sunday. But who cares about that, right? We know what movie awards you're REALLY waiting for. Well, the wait is almost over. Yes... The 7th Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards are coming next week, and this year we're doing something a little different. We've added a new award category... BEST DVD - OVERALL (READER'S CHOICE)! That's right, YOU get to decide which title wins!

We've created a poll including the top TWENTY DVD releases from 2005 that we feel are most deserving of recognition in this category. You'll find it in this thread over at our discussion group, The Digital Forum (if you go there indirectly, it's in The Digital Bits section, under the Feature Films on DVD discussion). Your assignment is to vote for the ONE title you think most deserves to win. If, on the other hand, you feel that a title that's not listed deserves to be called The Best DVD of 2005, then select OTHER and post your "write-in" choice in the thread.

The voting will be open until 12:01 AM PST on Wednesday, March 8th. The winner will be added to The Bitsy Awards, which will be officially announced later that morning. To make this worthwhile (and to make sure the most deserving title is acknowledged), we need as many of our readers to vote as possible. So please do your part! And may the best DVD win!

Now then... I'm off to Lebowski Fest West up in La-La-Land (tonight and tomorrow), for drinking, bowling and general all-around what-have-you. So have a great weekend, enjoy the Oscars and we'll see you back here on Monday. As always, the Dude abides!

3/2/06

We've got some good news this morning for you fans of Crash. Lionsgate has just announced a Crash: 2-Disc Special Edition for release on 4/4 (SRP $26.98). The set will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 ES and DTS 6.1 ES audio, audio commentary with director Paul Haggis, actor Don Cheadle and writer Bobby Moresco, an introduction to the film by Haggis, deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, the Behind the Metal and Glass: The Making of Crash documentary, 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes (On Paul Haggis, Unspoken and L.A.: The Other Main Character), Bird York's In the Deep music video, music montages, script-to-screen comparisons, storyboard-to-screen comparisons and theatrical trailers.

In other DVD news today, Warner has announced a 2-disc Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?: Special Edition for release on 5/30. Look for plenty of superhero-themed titles from the studio in June, including The Adventures of Superboy: The Complete First Season, Adventures of Superman: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons, Justice League of America: Season 2, Superman: The Animated Series, Volume 3 and Lois & Clark: The Complete Third Season, all for release on 6/20. Following on 6/27 are Alice: TV Favorites and Step by Step: TV Favorites.

Meanwhile, Universal has set Miracle at Sage Creek for release on 5/9, along with a new anamorphic widescreen reissue of the original Earthquake (also due 5/9). The studio will also drop the price of King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Dairies to just $22.98 on 4/4 (from $39.98).

And Paramount has announced big release plans for June. On 6/6, look for a Track of the Cat: Special Collector's Edition, a Plunder of the Sun: Special Collector's Edition, Man in the Vault, Ring of Fear and a From John Wayne's Batjac Productions: The Suspense Collection box set (containing all four of the previous titles), along with Mommie Dearest: Hollywood Royalty Edition, The Wild Wild West: The Complete First Season - 40th Anniversary Edition, Charmed: The Complete Fifth Season and a 2-disc Highlander 2: Special Edition. Following on 6/13 are Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete First Season, Cheers: The Complete Eighth Season, MacGyver: The Complete Sixth Season, Frasier: The Complete Eighth Season and This is America, Charlie Brown. Also due sometime in June from the studio (street date TBA) is JAG: The Complete First Season.

This is unofficial, but for you music fans, Tower Records is listing Stewart Copeland's Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out documentary as an 11/26/06 release on DVD, presumably from Universal Music. We'll post more when we have it. Special thanks to Bits reader Mike V. for the heads-up.

A quick note about our new Digital Forum today... we're going to be reorganizing the discussion threads a little bit over the next few days. Currently, they're grouped by website (The Bits, MusicTAP, etc). We're going to be eliminating the website groupings and just arranging the various threads by general subjects. That'll streamline the forum quite a bit, allow it to grow organically and make it easier to use. FYI, if you're having trouble registering for the forum (specifically, if you haven't gotten your confirmation e-mail), be sure to read this thread for instructions on how to resolve the issue. A few bumps and glitches are to be expected, so thanks for your patience. You're definitely going to want to register for the forum, however (and you're about to find out why).

Finally this morning, we're very pleased to announced that The 7th Annual Digital Bits Bitsy Awards will go live next week! We've been working very hard over the last few days to finalize our nominations and agonize over our ultimate picks in all the usual categories - a daunting task, believe me. This year, however, we're going to be doing something new. Those of you who join our Digital Forum discussion group will have the chance to vote for your favorite title in a brand new category... BEST DVD - OVERALL (READER'S CHOICE)! We should have the voting thread up and running by tonight, and you'll have at least four or five days to make your pick. The winner, of course, will be announced as part of The Bitsys next week. We definitely hope you'll all participate!

As always, stay tuned!

3/1/06

Just wanted to check in early with some new cover art that's too cool to keep from sharing. Here's a look at Fox's Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut (5/23), Paramount's Mission: Impossible-2: 2-Disc Set (4/11), and Sony's The Patriot: Extended Cut (4/25)...

Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's CutMission: Impossible-2: 2-Disc SetThe Patriot: Extended Cut

Back with more later, so stay tuned...

2/28/06

Yeah, I know it's not the 28th yet (unless it IS, in which case just skip this first paragraph). As I write this, it's about 4 PM in the afternoon on the 27th. But there's just so much news to report today... and I'm going to be very busy working on other things behind-the-scenes here at The Bits for you tomorrow... that I thought I'd just set the Wayback Machine ahead 12 hours and get tomorrow's post done now.

Anyway, the news just doesn't stop coming, both good and bad. The bad first... it seems that actor Dennis Weaver passed away over the weekend as well. Weaver was best known for his roles in the TV series Gunsmoke and McCloud, but his list of credits was long and varied, including such films as Steven Spielberg's Duel and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. He was 81.

Now for some good news... we finally know when both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are expected to arrive in stores. As we've reported previously, HD-DVD is set for a March launch, with the first titles from Warner expected to street on 3/28 (the exact titles are still TBA, but they're timed to coincide with the first HD-DVD players from Toshiba due in stores next month). Now, Sony has revealed that they'll street their first titles on 5/23, in keeping with a May format launch (and timed to coincide with the first Blu-ray players from Pioneer and Samsung). The studio will debut eight titles on 5/23 - 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, The Last Waltz (via MGM), Resident Evil: Apocalypse and xXx, which should all sell for around $25 each. Lionsgate will add five more that same day, including Crash and Lord of War at $39.99 each, as well as The Punisher, Saw and Terminator II: Judgement Day at $29.99 each. Sony and MGM will then release seven more catalog titles on 6/13, including Kung Fu Hustle, Legends of the Fall, RoboCop, Stealth, Species, S.W.A.T. and The Terminator (at around $25 each). That same day, Lionsgate will add six more, including The Devil's Rejects ($39.99) and Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall, Stargate and Frank Herbert's Dune (all $29.99 each). You can read more on this here at Home Media Retailing and here at Video Business. You can also visit Sony's official Blu-ray Disc website in addition to Toshiba's HD-DVD site.

Format war... here we come.

On the standard DVD front, New Line has announced Terrence Malick's The New World for DVD release on 5/9 (SRP $27.95). The disc will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the Making The New World documentary and the theatrical trailer. Just as a reminder - and this is not official - we've heard that a multi-disc director's cut release may follow later in 2006 (click here for more on that from a recent Rumor Mill post).

Also today, Sony has set If Only, Puff, Puff, Pass, a Puff, Puff, Pass/Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams 2-pack, Surrender, Dorothy, The Facts of Life: The Complete First and Second Seasons, Rescue Me: The Complete Second Season, a repackaged Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams and a new 2-disc Ronin: Collector's Edition, all for release on 5/9.

Can't remember if I've mentioned this one or not - Fox will release The Family Stone on 5/2 (SRP $29.98). Separate full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions will be available. Extra will include audio commentary by Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney, a second commentary by director Thomas Bezucha, producer Michael London, editor Jeffrey Ford and production designer Jane Ann Stewart, 6 deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, 2 Fox Movie Channel shorts (Casting Session and World Premiere), video of a Q&A session with the cast at the Screen Actor's Guild Theatre, a gag reel, 2 Easter eggs and the recipe for Strata.

Criterion has announced another May release - Barbara Kopple's Academy Award-winning documentary Harlan County, USA (cat# 334).

Stephen Frears' Academy Award-nomintaed Mrs. Henderson Presents is expected on 4/18 from The Weinstein Company (via distributor Genius Products).

And Universal (for DreamWorks) has announced the April 25th release of Woody Allen's Match Point on 4/25 (SRP $29.98). You'll get anamorphic widescreen video and Allen's typical mono audio. Special features, if any, are still TBA.

Speaking of Universal, and this is Rumor Mill worthy so salt accordingly, sources are telling us that Susan Stroman's The Producers is now likely to be a 5/16 release (our sources had reported previously that the title would be announced for 4/25). Plan accordingly.

One last thing today - there's an exciting new Digital Bits Power Buy available to those of you who sign up for our new discussion group, The Digital Forum. You'll find a thread on it in The Digital Bits section of the forum (and signing up is free), so be sure to check it out when you have a few moments.

We'll leave you with some new DVD cover artwork (and yes, a major artwork section update is coming soon). Here's New Line's The New World, DreamWorks' Match Point and Fox's The Family Stone...

The New WorldMatch PointThe Family Stone

Stay tuned!

2/27/06

Morning, folks! Hope you all had a lovely weekend, that got your Winter Olympic fill, watched some great movies, spun some fine discs, etc. As they say, we don't live to work, we work to live. You've gotta take a little time now and again to enjoy yourselves and smell the roses, you know what I'm saying?

We've got a few interesting things for you this morning, but first a bit of sad news. Two actually. First, actor Don Knotts passed away on Friday at the age of 81. Knotts was best known as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, but I'll always recall him fondly for his roles in such kid-friendly films as Hot Lead and Cold Feet, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Shakiest Gun in the West. The other bit of sad news is that actor Darren McGavin has died as well, on Saturday at the age of 83. McGavin's work in Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a big part of the inspiration for The X-Files, on which he later appeared as a guest star. But it's as Ralphie's dad in the all-time classic A Christmas Story that I'll always remember him. Somewhere over Lake Michigan, a tapestry of furnace-fighting obscenities still hangs (It's a clinker!). It's good, at least, that both actors lived long lives and left us with so much of their work to enjoy. They'll be missed.

Now then, we start our regularly scheduled programming today with a new edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre... can you believe it's Adam's 26th installment already?! This time, Adam reviews Steve Martin's revised Pink Panther, along with a few other films now in theaters or on DVD.

Also today, we've got FIVE new DVD reviews for you to check out. Joe Massaro checks in with a look at Paramount's Æon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection, Peter Schorn gives Universal's The Sting: Special Edition - Legacy Series a spin, and new staff reviewer Jason Paul Smith delivers his thoughts on First Look's My Date with Drew. Meanwhile, over at our MusicTAP site, Lindsay Planer offers his take on Universal Music's Bob Marley and The Wailers: Live! at the Rainbow and Hip-O's The Motortown Revue Collection. Watch for more new DVD reviews coming later this week.

Elsewhere here at The Bits, we've done a major updating of all our DVD format stats (above), including the software sales and rental data, and the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers. We've added the complete hardware stats through the end of 2005, and continued on through January to the first week of February as well. All charts have been updated accordingly.

That's not all. We've also updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its most recent version (dated 2/10). There's lots of new info in there, so do check it out.

On top of all that, we've kicked off FIVE new Contests here at The Bits as well, giving each of you the chance to take home DVD copies of Warner's Controversial Classics, Volume 2 - The Power of Media box set (including new special editions of Network, Dog Day Afternoon and All the President's Men), Universal's Jarhead and The Ice Harvest, Fox's 2-disc Walk the Line and No Shame's Satan's Blood: Uncut and The Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set, as well as UMD versions of The Hills Have Eyes and Near Dark from Anchor Bay! All of these contests will run for two weeks, until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, March 12th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Rounding things out this morning, we have a few new DVD release announcements to report. First, Buena Vista will debut Casanova on 4/25 (SRP $29.99). Look for anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, filmmaker audio commentary, an extended scene and three making of featurettes (Creating an Adventure, Dressing in Style and Visions of Venice).

Also coming from the studio on 4/25 is Steve Martin's Shopgirl (SRP $29.99), featuring anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, deleted scenes, audio commentary by director Anand Tucker and the Evolution of a Novella: The Making of Shopgirl featurette.

Buena Vista will also offer the theatrical cut of The Great Raid on DVD on 5/16 (SRP $29.99), featuring anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and the same extras already available on the Director's Cut release of the film on disc.

Finally, Showtime's Sleeper Cell officially arrives on DVD on 3/14 (SRP $34.99). The 3-disc set will include all 10 episodes, along with behind-the-scenes clips, producer's commentary and a featurette on the making of the 10th episode.

Don't forget, Toshiba's cross-country HD-DVD tour continues this week. You'll find the dates and store locations in Friday's post. If you get the chance to see it, be sure to drop in over at our new Digital Forum discussion group to let your fellow readers know what you think.

Stay tuned!

2/24/06

Okay, we've got a couple interesting things for you today to close out the week.

First up, Sony has issued a public response to last week's published Merrill Lynch report (see our post on the subject here), which suggested that the PS3 could cost as high as $800 and possibly not ship until Spring '07. According to this story at Gameshout, Sony says the Merrill Lynch pricing information is bogus and that the company is expecting to keep its originally planned launch date of Spring THIS year in Japan, and later in 2006 here in the States. Predictably, however, Sony declined to mention a specific U.S. launch date or an anticipated retail price. Guess we'll have to wait and see (though hopefully not too much longer). Special thanks to Bits reader Ben D. for sending over the link.

Now then... as you may recall, late last week we issued a request for YOUR comments on the kinds of extras you'd like to see in Warner's upcoming Superman Ultimate DVD Collection. Jim Bowers, the editor of the Superman-themed Caped Wonder website, had e-mailed us about the work-in-progress DVD, wondering what we thought would be cool to see in the set. And we just couldn't resist asking all of you. So we did... and BOY did we receive a lot of comments. Faster than a speeding bullet, over 300 of you chimed in with your thoughts in just a couple of days. What really surprised us was the effort some of you put into making your suggestions. Sure, we got the usual unrealistic, unreasonable and just plain impossible suggestions. You know, like "I'd like EVERYTHING and the kitchen sink plus a piece of Superman's actual red cape, all packaged in a 30-disc set for less than $30. Oh, and I'd like Warner to record Christopher Reeve's posthumous audio commentary too." On the other hand though, we also received some really detailed and well considered opinions - some truly great ideas. For example, a few of you suggested that maybe the set could come with a reproduction of D.C.'s Action Comics #1 (the first issue in which the character of Superman ever appeared in print). More than a few noted that a closer look at the work of composer John Williams was in order, and several of you suggested that maybe the entire set could be dedicated to Reeve. My own personal contributions were on the packaging - how cool would it be to see limited edition Daily Planet packaging, where the outer box looks like the top of the building, complete with the spinning globe? Or maybe Fortress of Solitude packaging textured to resemble the criss-crossed crystal pattern of Superman's arctic HQ? Anyway, there were LOTS of great ideas and no shortage of enthusiasm. And for your reading pleasure, we've compiled them all together here (sans personal information, e-mail addresses and non-essential chitchat - just the meat of your ideas). You can rest assured that this will be seen by the folks involved in the actual DVD production at Warner Home Video, so you never know... some of your thoughts just might help make the final box set that much better for everyone. Either way, it's fun to dream, isn't it?

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to do this (and yes... you can stop sending suggestions now)!

Speaking of Warner, this would normally go in The Rumor Mill, so salt accordingly. But our industry sources are now telling us that Warner will likely release Syriana on 5/2, with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang following on 5/16. You might recall from recent Rumor Mill posts that Syriana had originally been planned for 4/18, and then was pushed back. Keep in mind that neither title has yet been officially announced by the studio.

However, Joey: The Complete First Season has just been officially announced by Warner for release on 5/30 (SRP $39.98). There's no word yet on extras if any, but expect the 4-disc set to include all 24 first season episodes.

Also, Universal has today announced a Smokey and the Bandit: Special Edition for release on 5/30 (SRP $19.98, with anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio - no word yet on extras). Also set for that day is a Riddick Trilogy set (SRP $19.98, including The Chronicles of Riddick, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury and Pitch Black) and the John Wayne: An American Icon Collection (SRP $26.98, including The Conqueror, Jet Pilot, Pittsburgh, Seven Sinners and The Shepherd of the Hills).

And 20th Century Fox has announced Tristan & Isolde for release on 4/25 (SRP $29.98). The disc will feature both full frame and anamorphic widescreen video, along with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by executive producer Jim Lemley and co-producer Anne Lai, a making-of featurette, an image gallery and Gavin de Graw's We Belong Together music video.

Finally today, we wanted to let you all know that Toshiba's cross-country HD-DVD tour continues all next week with stops at the following locations (visit their official website for the latest updates):

2/28 - Las Vegas, NV at Ultimate Electronics (741 S Rainbow Blvd)
2/28 - Concord, CA at Fry's Electronics (1695 Willow Pass Road)
2/28 - Downer's Grove, IL at Fry's Electronics (3300 Finley Road)
3/1 - Las Vegas, NV at Fry's Electronics (6845 Las Vegas Blvd S)
3/1 - Sunnyvale, CA at Fry's Electronics (1077 E Arques)
3/1 - Glenview, IL at ABT Electronics (1200 Milwaukee Ave N)
3/1 - Newton, MA at Tweeter Etc (14 Needham Street)
3/1 - Norton, VA at Crutchfield (TBA)
3/2 - Las Vegas, NV at RC Willey (3850 Town Center Drive S)
3/2 - San Mateo, CA at Video Only (500 Strader Blvd)
3/2 - Oak Brook, IL at Tweeter Etc (1600 W 16th Street)
3/3 - Las Vegas, NV at Tweeter Etc (8950 W Charleston Blvd)

Okay, I'll be checking in over our new Digital Forum this evening (and throughout the weekend) to chat a little and answer reader questions. Maybe I'll see you there!

Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday. Peace out!

2/23/06

Morning everyone. We've got a few new DVD release announcements today.

First up, Universal has announced Saturday Night Live: The Best of Commercial Parodies and Saturday Night Live: The Best of Cheri Oteri, both for release on 5/23.

Sony has set Antonioni's The Passenger, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Every Time We Say Goodbye for release on 4/25. They have Fun with Dick and Jane officially set for 4/11. Newly announced by Sony for May are End Game, Second in Command, The Nanny: The Complete Second Season, Modern Romance and two new double-feature DVDs, At First Sight/Return to Me and Mr. Mom/Baby Boom, all for release on 5/2.

On the UMD front, Sony has set Bad Boys II, Men in Black and Jerry Maguire for 5/2.

Meanwhile, Disney has set The Little Mermaid: Special Edition for release on 10/3 (SRP $29.99). Extras on the 2-disc set will include "exciting new bonus materials that will entertain and enlighten viewers about the world of The Little Mermaid". Details will be announced in the weeks ahead.

Criterion has announced Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (cat# 332) for release in May.

Paramount has set Queen Latifah's Last Holiday, I Love Lucy: The Complete Sixth Season and a re-packaged Terms of Endearment for 5/2, Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist - Season 1 for 5/9, The Marx Brothers' Love Happy and the noir classics Body and Soul, Secret Beyond the Door, The Dark Mirror and Letter from an Unknown Woman for 5/16, The 4400: Season 2, PBS' Catherine the Great, Freeway and the John Wayne double-features Wake of the Red Witch/Night Riders, New Frontier (1935)/New Frontier (1939), Red River Range/Three Texas Steers and War of the Wildcats for 5/23, and Numb3rs: The Complete First Season and Medium: The Complete First Season for 5/30. In April, the studio has added Meeting Daddy to their 4/18 slate and Hard Rain to 4/28. And for those of you look ahead to June, Paramount has set a 4-disc Star Trek: Q - Fan Collective DVD for release on 6/6. Can a Ferengi Collective be far behind? Maybe a Holodeck Collective? A Tribbles Collective? A Prime Directive Collective? I don't know. I'm just not a big fan of the whole Collective thing. I'd rather just see Paramount announce The Animated Series and be done with it. That, 1492: The Conquest of Paradise and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Please.

Finally this morning, Warner has set Rough Riders and The Sacketts for 5/30, F-Troop: The Complete First Season and Cheyenne: The Complete First Season for 6/6, Mulberry: The Complete Series for 6/13, and A Fine Madness, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, I Love You Alice B. Toklas, The Loved One and Petulia for 6/20.

Here's some new DVD cover art for you to check out... Fox's The Mel Brooks Collection box set (4/4), Buena Vista's Delicatessen (5/2) and Sony's Fun with Dick and Jane...

The Mel Brooks CollectionDelicatessenFun with Dick and Jane

Stay tuned...

2/22/06

Afternoon, folks! We've just posted the complete transcript of last night's Warner Home Video chat at The Home Theater Forum. There's some GREAT DVD release news in the chat - tons of details about long-awaited upcoming titles. You DEFINITELY want to give the transcript a read, and you'll find a compiled summary of the major news at the end. When you're done, be sure to head on over to this thread at The HTF to discuss it all. Thanks to all our friends over at HTF for the transcript and for another great live event!

There's some interesting Blu-ray Disc news today. On Friday, Wall Street brokerage firm Merrill Lynch issued a report suggesting that the launch of Sony's Blu-ray compatible PlayStation 3 console could be delayed as much as a year from the company's initially anticipated Spring 2006 target date. We'd been hearing that the launch might be pushed back to November, but this could mean Spring 2007. What's worse, some cost estimates place the launch production cost of each PS3 unit as high as $900 ($230 for the Cell processor alone, along with another $350 for the Blu-ray Disc drive). That would mean a likely retail price for consumers at between $700-800. The news has set Sony's stock falling and actually impacted the entire Tokyo stock market on Monday. Sony has denied these reports, but has yet to announce official details on launch date and price. Ouch. You can read more here at Gamespot.

We've got an update for you today on the commentary tracks you'll find on Fox's 4-disc Kingdom of Heaven: Extended Cut DVD (due 5/23). This is confirmed: You'll get THREE commentary tracks. The first will feature producer/director Ridley Scott, writer William Monahan and actor Orlando Bloom. The second includes executive producer Lisa Ellzey, VFX supervisor Wesley Sewell and first assistant director Adam Somner. Finally, the third will include the film's editor, Dody Dorn. Should be very cool - we can't wait to see it!

By the way... we're busy compiling that list of what you guys would like to see in Warner's Superman Ultimate box set. We got TONS of e-mails in response to our invitation for your opinions - much appreciated! It'll take us a couple days to sort through all the e-mails and compile a list, so we'll be sure to post it later this week.

I'm heading over to our new Digital Forum this afternoon to answer some reader questions and check out what's happening over there. Maybe I'll see you there.

Stay tuned!

2/21/06

That's right, folks... Toshiba officially kicks off their HD-DVD tour of the U.S. today in Paramus, NJ at the Electronics Expo (166 Route 17 North)! So if you're in the neighborhood, be sure to get on over there and see what the fuss is about HD-DVD for your own bad selves.

Other dates and locations you'll find Toshiba showing off their HD-DVD format this week include:

2/22 - New York City, NY at PC Richard & Son (2375 Broadway & 86th Street)
2/22 - Springfield, NJ at 6th Ave Electronics (22 Route 22 West)
2/23 - Paramus, NJ at PC Richard & Son (317 Route 17 South)
2/23 - Wayne, NJ at Electronics Expo (79 Willowbrook Blvd)
2/23 - Indianapolis, IN at HH Gregg (4161 E 96th Street)
2/24 - Carle Place, NY at PC Richard & Son (109 Old Country Road)
2/24 - Paramus, NJ at 6th Ave Electronics (530 Route 17 North)

Additional dates next week will find Toshiba in Las Vegas, NV, Sunnyvale, CA, Newton, MA, Glenview, IL, San Mateo, WA, Oak Brook, IL and Norton, VA. We'll post a list of the following week's dates and locations each Friday throughout the tour. You can also see the complete list of dates, times and locations by downloading this PDF file (right click the link to save it on your drive). Updates are also available here at Toshiba's official HD-DVD promotional website.

Now then... in case you missed it yesterday, we've launched an official discussion forum for readers of The Digital Bits! Aptly named The Digital Forum, it's a joint effort with our partner sites Digital Audio Video.com (DocDVD) and MusicTAP.net. Things are already taking off over there, so we hope you'll join us (and lots of your fellow readers) for some lively discussion about movies, DVDs, high-definition, software, hardware, games, films... you name it. All of us here at The Bits will be popping in from time to time to answer questions and more, so we hope to see you there!

Finally this morning, here's your last notice - that big Home Theater Forum chat with Warner Home Video is on for tonight (5-8 PM PST), so be sure to save up all your DVD questions and head on over there this evening. Don't forget, we'll have the complete chat transcript up for your reading pleasure tomorrow here at The Bits.

Stay tuned...

2/20/06

Hey Bits-ers! Hope you all had a great weekend. It's a holiday for most here in the States (President's Day), but for those who are checking in, I want to introduce you to something cool that we've created for you, our readers... The Digital Forum! It's our very own discussion group, which we've created in conjunction with our friends at Digital Audio Video.com (DocDVD) and MusicTAP.net. The whole Bits staff will be checking in regularly to answer questions and talk shop (I'll try to stop by at least once a day myself), along with the teams at our partner sites as well, so we hope you'll all join up and participate. It's free, it's easy and it should be a lot of fun. We've got sections all ready for you to start threads about various discussion topics, and if you think we need more, just let us know. You'll find links to The Digital Forum at the top of this page (see the new logo) and in the button bar on the left-hand side of the page as well. Hope to see you there!

Given the holiday, things are pretty quiet in Hollywood-land, but there is an interesting story over at Video Business on the new packaging you're going to see for Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, as well as changes being made to existing DVD packaging to make room for the new formats. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll find actual pictures of the new format packaging here at The Bits.

By the way, lest we forget about our friends over at The Home Theater Forum, we want to remind you about the big online chat over there tomorrow night (5-8 PM PST). Execs from Warner Home Video will be on hand to answer your questions about the studio's big catalog release blitz for 2006, so be sure to participate. We'll have the complete transcript here at The Bits on Wednesday morning.

Speaking of Warner, we'll be compiling your Superman ultimate box set wish lists until Midnight tonight, so keep sending them in!

Stay tuned!

2/17/06

Well... it's looking like HD-DVD may launch on time in March after all, but don't expect the format's full interactive features to be available in the first two players to market (Toshiba's HD-XA1 and HD-A1). Industry reports now indicate that an interim license for the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) has been obtained that will allow Toshiba to move forward with the format launch as planned. According to a story at Home Media Retailing, "the interim agreement gives hardware manufacturers and disc replicators access to secret encryption keys necessary to manufacture discs and players capable of reading them." Once the final AACS details are ironed out, you'll be able to update the two Toshiba players with a firmware upgrade. You can read more on this here at Video Business as well.

FYI, don't expect full 1080p video to be an option on first generation players either (at least the first HD-DVD players). We've been told by player manufacturing sources involved with HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc that version 1.0 of the HDMI spec may only allow video pass-thru up to 1080i. On the other hand, we're also hearing that the HDMI people claim their spec CAN pass full 1080p, but that the manufacturers are cutting corners on their first generation players to save profit margins and are trying to pass the buck on the HDMI spec. We're checking on this and we'll post a follow-up on the issue next week.

As part of Toshiba's format launch, the company will be taking to the road starting on 2/20 with an in-store demonstration program that's expected to continue through April and stop in over 40 cities. Among the first few stops are the following:

Toshiba HD DVD Tour Schedule

2/21 - Electronics Expo - Paramus, NJ
2/22 - PC Richards - New York City, NY
3/1 - Tweeter - Newton, MA (Boston area)
3/1 - ABT Electronics - Glenview, IL (Chicago area)
3/1 - Fry's Electronics - Sunnyvale, CA (San Francisco area)
3/7 - Best Buy - Bellevue, WA (Seattle area)
3/8 - Fry's Electronics - Renton, WA (Seattle area)
3/8 - Best Buy - Atlanta, GA
3/15 - Fry's Electronics - City of Industry, CA (L.A. area)
3/15 - Myer Emco - Fairfax, VA (Washington D.C. area)
3/22 - Fry's Electronics - Plano, TX (Dallas area)
TBA - Best Buy - Miami, FL

Additional cities and specific store locations and event details will be announced soon. We'll post updates as they become available.

Speaking of HD-DVD... I've just gotten my hands on my first piece of HD-DVD software. It's actually a hybrid demo disc, featuring the same content in both standard DVD and HD-DVD quality - mostly HD video clips (shot on film and in HD video), along with a short video primer on the format itself. The disc is indistinguishable from a regular DVD disc, and the standard DVD layer plays perfectly in every player and ROM drive we have here at The Bits. We don't get have an actual HD-DVD player on hand here yet, but when we're able to obtain one, we'll give you a full report on how it works.

Okay, in terms of standard DVD release news, we finally have official and confirmed details on the extras you'll get on 20th Century Fox's 4-disc Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (street date 5/23, SRP $34.98). Sir Ridley Scott's new 191-minute version of the film will be included in two parts (split over Discs One and Two of the set) in full anamorphic widescreen video, with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. The film will start with a new video introduction by Scott, and the movie will offer you audio commentary featuring Scott, writer William Monahan, executive producer Lisa Ellzey, film editor Dody Dorn, visual effects supervisor Wes Sewell and first assistant director Adam Somner. The film will also include an optional text commentary track called The Enginer's Guide, along with story notes.

Discs Three and Four will together contain a feature-length, 6-part documentary called The Path to Redemption. It breaks down as follows, starting on Disc Three: Part I - Development (the Good Intentions featurette, a "Tripoli" text overview and image gallery, complete text of the first draft of the screenplay by William Monahan, a "story notes" text and image gallery, and a gallery of location scout images), Part II - Pre-Production (the Faith and Courage featurette, screen test video with commentary, cast rehearsal video, the Costume & Weapon Design featurette, and text and image galleries covering production design, conceptual art and costumes), Part III - Production: Spain (The Pilgrimage Begins featurette, the Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak featurette, storyboard comparisons via multi-angle video & images, and photo galleries featuring text and images).

The Path to Redemption continues on Disc Four with Part IV - Production: Morocco (Into the Promised Land featurette, Unholy War: Mounting the Siege featurette, storyboard comparisons via multi-angle video & images, and photo galleries featuring text and images), Part V - Post-Production (The Burning Bush featurette, deleted and alternate scenes with commentary, Sound Design Suite with interactive video and audio options, Visual Effects Breakdowns featurette with commentary) and Part VI - Release (Sins and Absolution featurette, gallery of theatrical trailers and TV spots with commentary, ShoWest Presentation reel, Press Junket Walkthrough featurette, Japanese & London Premieres featurette, Poster Explorations: Domestic & International image gallery and The Director's Cut & DVD Campaign featurette and image gallery).

FYI, all of these extras are being assembled by DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika (and his crack team of producers and editors) - the same people responsible for all of Ridley Scott's previous special editions (including The Alien Quadrilogy, the 3-disc Black Hawk Down: SE and the Gladiator: Extended Edition), so we think you can be sure that the bonus content will be well worth checking out.

Some other DVD releases newly announced by Fox include:

5/2 - King of the Hill: Season Six

5/9 - That 70s Show: Season Four

5/16 - Hill Street Blues: Season Two

5/23 - M*A*S*H: Season Ten, Compulsion (1959), Murder, Inc. (1960), Seven Ups (1973), St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Classic Crime Collection gift set (St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Seven-Ups, Murder, Inc. and a single-disc French Connection), Classic Western Collection gift set (Culpepper Cattle Company, The Proud Ones, Broken Lance and Forty Guns), Heroes of War Collection: Frontline Combat gift set (D-Day: The 6th of June, Decision Before Dawn, Guadalcanal Diary and Halls of Montezuma), Heroes of War Collection: Navy Battles gift set (Frogmen, Sink the Bismarck, Morituri and The Enemy Below), Heroes of War Collection: Soldier's Stories gift set (Men of Honor: Special Edition, Courage Under Fire, Tigerland and Thin Red Line)

5/30 - Marilyn Monroe: 80th Anniversary Collection (The Seven Year Itch, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Niagara, River of No Return, Let's Make Love and Marilyn: The Final Days)

Okay Bits readers... moving on today, we want YOUR opinion on something. Some of us here at The Bits were thinking about Warner's in-development Superman box set, and we got to wondering... what would WE want in an ultimate Superman movie box set? If we could just shoot the moon and create our ultimate fan-boy list of extras - everything AND the kitchen sink - what would we want? All the movies, all the deleted scenes? New commentaries with cast members? A retrospective on Christopher Reeve with his family and friends? The complete original scripts for the films? What kind of packaging would we want? We've started compiling our own list, but we want YOUR take too. What do YOU guys want in an ultimate Superman DVD box set? E-mail us your thoughts on this over the weekend, and we'll compile the ultimate list here next week. Be sure to use the words SUPERMAN WISH LIST in the subject line.

We've got more new art for you to check out today. Here's Fox's new Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Longest Day special editions (all due 5/23), Universal's limited edition cover for Coach: The First Season (6/13) and Sony's Odyssey 5: The Complete Series (4/25) and Hostel: Unrated Cut (4/18)...

Patton: Special EditionTora! Tora! Tora!: Special EditionThe Longest Day: Special Edition

Coach: The First SeasonOdyssey 5: The Complete SeriesHostel: Unrated Cut

FYI, our friends over at The Home Theater Forum are going to be hosting their live chat with George Feltenstein, George Parker and Ronnee Sass of Warner Home Video on this coming Tuesday (2/21 - 5-9 PM PST). As always, we'll have the complete transcript of the event here on The Bits the following morning. You can visit this page at The HTF for all the details and to participate.

Now then... if all goes well next week, we'll complete our CES coverage, starting with posting our in-depth interview with Toshiba's Mark Knox. We're planning to kick off our new discussion forum next week as well. We've got even more planned for next week too, so it's going to get VERY busy around here in the days ahead. Judging by the increasing length of the daily posts we've been cranking out around here over this last month or two, it's a continuing trend. Guess that's what happens when you start gearing up for new formats. Never a dull moment, I'll tell you.

In the meantime, have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!


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