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-Newsletter est. 4/15/97-
-Website est. 12/15/97-






page updated: 4/7/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 3/31/06 - 3/13/06)


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(LATE UPDATE - 3/31/06 - 2:15 PM PST)

Just wanted to check in with late-breaking news. Toshiba is now shipping their HD-XA1 HD-DVD player in Japan, and the unit reportedly went on sale at select retailers there today (priced at about 110,000 yen). The player is expected to be available here in the States next month (for $799). You can read more on this here (via TechWeb), here (via MSNBC) and here (via Business Week). Of course, in typically hyped fashion, a few of the stories proclaim that HD-DVD has beaten Blu-ray Disc to market. It's worth noting that 1) they were expected to beat Blu-ray Disc to market and 2) that no actual HD-DVD software is yet available in Japan to our knowledge.

On a related note, we've confirmed with Goldhil Entertainment that their Chronos HD-DVD (which was to have been released yesterday, and would have been the first HD-DVD title available here in the States) has been delayed. We expect to have a new street date next week. Our High-Definition Release List has been updated to reflect this.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/31/06 - 1:15 PM PST)

Well... we're still waiting to hear back from Warner as to what this statement on the back of their HD-DVD packaging means: *Levels of video resolution and audio standards stated require audio-visual equipment capability and appropriate digital connections. However, we now believe that the tech grids (the Phantom grid is re-posted below) are telling us that the actual feature film video is encoded at 1080p resolution, while the special features are simply ported over from the existing DVD releases at standard 480i resolution. We've changed the spec lists we posted the other day accordingly.

Phantom of the Opera HD-DVD - technical grid

As to that statement, it MIGHT be Warner's way of indicating that that the titles will employ the ICT flag to force downsampling of the high-definition video on displays with analog-only connections. HOWEVER, it may also simply be Warner's way of legally covering their backsides because of the varying capabilities of the HD-DVD hardware that will be available. For example, the tech grid for Phantom seems to indicate that the film is encoded on the disc at 1080p resolution. But the first two Toshiba HD-DVD players (the HD-A1 and HD-XA1) will only be able to pass 1080i resolution out to HDTVs via HDMI (we understand this isn't a limitation of HDMI, but rather is due to the particular components Toshiba is using in their first players). Likewise, the audio playback capabilities of the various players will differ. Either way, as soon as we hear back from Warner for sure, we'll let you know.

There's not a lot of other news to report today, but we do have a couple of new standard DVD announcements for you.

First up, 20th Century Fox has announced that it will release a Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Unrated Collector's Edition on 6/6. You'll get a 125-minute version of the film (as opposed to the 112-minute theatrical version that's now available). Fox is no doubt hoping that 13 additional minutes of potentially bare-assed Brangelina will be too compelling for many to pass up on (though what you'll probably actually get is bare-assed Vince Vaughn). We'll see.

Also, Buena Vista has revealed that it will street Night Stalker: The Complete Series on DVD on 5/30. That's the recent ABC TV series remake that went belly-up last year after just a few episodes.

By the way, this would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but Peter Jackson has confirmed in recent interviews that he's held back significant content (like audio commentaries and deleted scenes) from the current 2-disc King Kong DVD, because Universal is planning on releasing a more elaborate 4-disc version later in 2006. Just FYI.

Okay, we'll leave you with more upcoming DVD cover art today. Here's Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Unrated Collector's Edition and Buena Vista's Night Stalker: The Complete Series (temp art) and their previously announced Glory Road (6/6)...

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Unrated Collector's EditionNight Stalker: The Complete SeriesGlory Road

By the way, just to let you know, we're going to be doing a little reorganizing of the various sections over at The Digital Forum this weekend. We'll be eliminating the separate website sections, and just consolidating the threads into various subject groupings. We found that several of the same topics were being discussed in different places around the forum, so for ease of use we're tightening things up a little. By the way, if you haven't joined already, it's completely free and we'd love to have you!

That's it for another week around here. Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday. Stay tuned...

3/30/06

There's some interesting format news to report today...

First, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is saying that they plan to stay firm in releasing the first Blu-ray Disc software on 5/23 (click here to read more at Home Media Retailing), even though their own hardware likely won't be available until July. Samsung had been set to release its first Blu-ray Disc player (the PD-B1000) on 5/23, but may now wait until June. Pioneer's first players for the format are also due in June (but may be delayed slightly as well - click here for more from Video Business). Meanwhile, Panasonic's first Blu-ray machines are currently due in September (click here).

Interestingly, representatives from both the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD camps said at the Digital Hollywood conference this week that these delays aren't really going to have an impact on the success of either format (click here). This is in such stark contrast to the often bold statements that many of these same representatives were making as recently as CES, that we think it's a clear indication that the practical engineering and technical realities of launching new formats has, at long last, finally begun to override their corporate marketing zeal.

While we're on the subject of technical realities, it's worth noting that our industry sources continue to tell us that there remain ongoing difficulties in authoring, QC-ing and finalizing bug-free movie software for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc, which is why there have been so few real announcements for either format to this point. Several studios, including Paramount, Disney, Universal and Fox, are opting simply to wait until solutions to these problems are well in hand before making any release announcements beyond the vague statements issued at CES in January. We have little doubt that the issues will be resolved soon, but there's definitely a learning curve and a certain degree of "getting up to speed" happening on these new formats (as far as authoring).

Meanwhile, switching to a different format, it seems that Sony's UMD may finally be gasping its last, due to disappointing sales of both the PlayStation Portable hardware and the UMD software (click here). Universal, Paramount and Image Entertainment have all stopped releasing titles on the format, while other studios (like Fox, Disney and Warner) are cutting back and/or evaluating UMD releases on a title-by-title basis. What's more, it's being reported that Wal-Mart may soon stop selling the software altogether. We didn't figure that the format would last long (of our own staffers, only Matt's really dabbled with UMD), but we'll certainly keep our UMD Release List going as long as new titles continued to be issued.

Finally today, we've got your first look at the finalized cover art for Universal's Munich. The title is still yet-to-be-announced by the studio, but this is definitely what it will look like...

Munich

We posted details on the extras in The Rumor Mill a week or so back, and we'll post the final, official release details as soon as they're available.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/29/06 - 2 PM PST)

Afternoon, folks! We're just pleased as punch today to announce the launch of The Digital Bits - High-Definition Release List. It's just the first part of a whole new section here at the site dedicated to our coverage of the new HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats. We've compiled every announcement, every press comment, every statement PERIOD by studio reps... and the result is as complete a list of announced, expected and likely titles on both formats as we can provide you. We even went all the way back to CES from 2005 - more than a full year ago - to include the titles that the HD-DVD camp "unofficially" announced back then. We'll probably have to split the list in half as these formats really get going, but for now THIS is skinny. We'll update the list as new announcements are made and new information comes to light. And if you find any errors or titles missing, just drop us an e-mail and we'll tighten the screws right up. Enjoy!

In terms of standard DVD today, Warner has just announced Firewall for release on 6/6, along with A Perfect Fit. Bruce Campbell fans will be thrilled to learn that The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: The Complete Series will follow on 7/18, along with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Volumes 3 & 4. Also newly announced by the studio for release on 7/25 are the animated Pinky and the Brain: Volume 1 and Animaniacs: Volume 1.

Here's the cover art for Firewall, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: The Complete Series and Sony's Underworld: Evolution - Special Edition (6/6)...

FirewallThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: The Complete SeriesUnderworld: Evolution

Also, Sony has just unveiled a new 152-minute Black Hawk Down: Extended Cut for release on 6/6 (SRP $19.94 - the theatrical version clocks in at 144 minutes). A new The Missing: Extended Cut will also street that same day (SRP also $19.94 - 154 minutes as opposed to the theatrical 137-minute cut).

Around the site today (actually over at our outstanding MusicTAP affiliate), George Bennett has turned in a review of The Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man in high-resolution SACD format, now available from Mobile Fidelity.

We'd also like to take a moment today to acknowledge the passing of veteran TV producer/director Dan Curtis, who brought us the likes of Dark Shadows, The Winds of War and more. He was 78.

Also sadly no longer with us is Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, whose works included the classic Solaris (adapted for the big screen by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and Steven Soderbergh in 2002). He was 84.

Okay, it's back to the grindstone around here. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/29/06 - 12:01 AM PST)

Here's a little something you might be interested in. We've got the exact details for you on the disc specs and special features you can expect on Warner's first three HD-DVD releases (due on 4/18).

Million Dollar Baby will include widescreen video (1080p, 2.40:1 aspect ratio), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 (English and French) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio, subtitles in English, French and Spanish and English SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - feature only). Extras will be in 480i resolution and will include the James Lipton Takes on Three roundtable discussion with Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman, the Born to Fight and Producers Round 15 featurettes and the theatrical trailer. Here's a look at the technical grid on the back of the disc's packaging:

Million Dollar Baby HD-DVD - technical grid

Phantom of the Opera (2004) will include widescreen video (1080p, 2.40:1 aspect ratio), Dolby True-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 (English and French) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio, subtitles in English, French and Spanish, and English SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - feature only). Extras will be in 480i resolution and will include the Behind the Mask featurette, the 3-part The Making of The Phantom of the Opera documentary (including Preproduction, The Director and Production), a deleted scene (No One Would Listen), a sing-along feature and the film's theatrical trailer. Here's the title's tech grid:

Phantom of the Opera HD-DVD - technical grid

Finally, The Last Samurai will include widescreen video (1080p & 480i resolutions, 2.40:1 aspect ratio), Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 (English and French), Dolby Digital-Plus 2.0 (Spanish) and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio, subtitles in English, French and Spanish, English SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - feature only), and audio commentary with director Edward Zwick. Additional extras (in 480i resolution) will include deleted scenes, the Edward Zwick Director's Video Journal feature, the History Channel's History vs. Hollywood documentary, 6 featurettes (including Tom Cruise: A Warrior's Journey, Making an Epic: A Conversation with Edward Zwick and Tom Cruise, A World of Detail: Production Design with Lilly Kilvert, Silk and Armor: Costume Design with Nigla Dickson, From Soldier to Samurai: The Weapons and Imperial Army Basic Training), video of the Japanese premiere and the film's theatrical trailer. Again, here's the tech grid:

The Last Samurai HD-DVD - technical grid

Notice the * after Video and Audio in the tech grids? It's worth noting that all three of these titles include the following statement in tiny print on the back of the packaging: *Levels of video resolution and audio standards stated require audio-visual equipment capability and appropriate digital connections. We're trying to determine if that means that these are DVD/HD-DVD hybrid discs (offering both standard definition and high-definition video on the same disc), or that these titles make use of the Image Constraint Token (ICT) and analog video downsampling on HDTVs that lack HDMI or DVI connections. We strongly suspect that it's the latter, as all three titles are priced at SRP $28.99 (Warner has previously indicated that their DVD/HD-DVD hybrid discs would be priced at SRP $38.99). We'll confirm this with the studio and let you know for sure as soon as possible.

By the way, we also now know what that new plastic disc packaging is called. Warner's releases are packed in "Elite Red HD Cases." By that nomenclature, we think it's safe to assume that Sony's Blu-ray Discs (the first of which are due on 5/23) are in "Elite Blue HD Cases."

This just keeps gettin' more interesting, doesn't it?

Stay tuned...

3/28/06

While you all get ready to run to your local video stores later today to pick up Peter Jackson's King Kong (or Chronos, the first HD-DVD title to be released - if it actually makes it out today), we've got a couple things here at The Bits to keep you entertained.

First up, Disney has announced that their Eight Below will street on 6/20 as we recently reported in The Rumor Mill. Annapolis will follow on 6/27, also as predicted. Eight Below will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions. Extras will include audio commentary with director Frank Marshall, star Paul Walker and director of photography Don Burgess, a second commentary with Marshall and producer Pat Crowley, deleted scenes and the Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below featurette. Annapolis will also be available in full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions, and will include audio commentary with director Justin Lin, writer David Collard and editor Fred Raskin, deleted scenes and 2 featurettes (The Brigades and Plebe Year: The Story of Annapolis).

Second, 20th Century Fox has announced the UMD release of Die Hard and Die Hard 2 for 6/13 (the UMD Movie Release List has been updated accordingly).

Around the site this morning, reviewer Peter Schorn has checked in with his thoughts on Warner's The Polar Express and A&E's Monty Python's Flying Circus: John Cleese's Personal Best.

We've got FIVE new Contests starting today as well, giving you each the chance to take home Warner's Knots Landing: The Complete First Season and Friends: The One with All the Babies, Birthdays and Weddings 3-pack, Paramount's Star Trek Fan Collective: Time Travel, Anchor Bay's The Long Good Friday: Explosive Special Edition, a trio of Geneon TV anime titles and a King Kong hat, T-shirt and DVD from Universal. The contests will run until Noon PST on Sunday, April 2nd. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Don't forget that Toshiba's cross-country HD-DVD continues this week (go here and click "HD-DVD Tour" to see the exact store locations). By the way, if any of you happen to attend any of the tour dates in the coming days... and you're willing and able to pick up an HD-DVD copy of Chronos... see if the Toshiba guys will play it for you on their hardware and let me know if it works (and how it looks).

Speaking of HD-DVD, Warner's first wave of titles on the format (due 4/18) are now officially available to preorder at Amazon.com (and doing so from our links supports our work here at The Bits). Just FYI.

Stay tuned!

3/27/06

Well... a new week's here again. And we've got some new DVD release announcements.

First up, the big one... Sony has officially set their Underworld: Evolution - Special Edition for release on 6/6 (SRP $28.95). The title will also be available on both Blu-ray Disc and UMD formats the same day.

Also newly announced by Sony for 6/6 are Shadow Man, Air America: The Complete Series (6 discs), The Ron White Show, Farewell to the King and a UMD version of Desperado. We've updated the UMD Movie Release List accordingly.

20th Century Fox has announced Winter Passing for 5/16 and 30 Days: Season 1 for 6/27.

Universal is bowing The Fast and the Furious: Franchise Collection box set on 6/6 (SRP $22.98). Available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions, the set will include The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious and a bonus disc of new content (much of it no doubt designed to promote the new sequel film, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift).

Meanwhile, Warner will release Dead Broke on 5/30.

We've got word on a pair of new DVD release party/signing events here in the L.A. area tomorrow (3/28) and Wednesday (3/29) with Robert Englund, director Tim Sullivan and the cast of Lionsgates' 2001 Maniacs. The Tuesday event will be held at the Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank (4213 W. Burbank Blvd.) starting at 7 PM PST. The Wednesday event will be held at Hollywood Book and Poster (6562 Hollywood Boulevard) also starting at 7 PM PST. Among the cast members expected to attend one or both of these events are Lin Shaye, Giuseppe Andrews, Christa Campbell, Jay Gillespie, Dylan Edrington, Wendy Kremer, Brian Gross, Kodi Kitchen, Cristin Michelle, Gina Marie Heekin, Bianca Smith, Brendan McCarthy and Ryan Fleming. Should be a lot of fun, do drop on by if you're a fan!

Stay tuned...

3/24/06

Well... it's a beautiful afternoon here in The OC. Sunny, warm, barely a cloud in the sky. I'm gettin' the bug to get outside and go running. Just too nice not to be out in the fresh air today. Hope the weather is nice where you are too... or at least I hope the snow's finally starting to melt for you.

It's pretty quiet today, but the main bit of DVD news you'll want to hear about is that Warner has officially set Syriana for release on 6/20 (SRP $28.98). We expect separate anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions to be available, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include deleted scenes, the Make a Change, Make a Difference documentary and A Conversation with George Clooney. We expect additional features to be announced shortly, along with an HD-DVD release (possibly day-and-date). We'll post art and more details as soon as they're available.

We also have a little something for you Pink Floyd fans today. I should have posted this a long time ago, but somehow it slipped under my radar. Sony Music has announced the long-awaited DVD release of Pink Floyd: Pulse, the 1994 concert performance, for 9/12 (SRP $24.98). The 2-disc set will include Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and tons of extras. We also hear that Pink Floyd's Animals album is due for release on the high-resolution SACD audio format later in 2006 (at least in Europe).

Here's the cover art for Pulse, along with Criterion's upcoming release of Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (5/23) and Paramount's Beavis & Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection - Volume 2 (both 6/6)...

Pink Floyd's PulseViridiana (Criterion)Beavis & Butthead: The Mike Judge Collection - Volume 2

Around the site today, we've got more anticipated street dates from our industry sources for major upcoming releases. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill, as always.

We've also updated all the DVD format stats we track (above) including the CEA Player Sales numbers for the first week of March.

And brother Planner over at TAP has turned in reviews of a pair of new music DVD titles: HipO/Universal Music's Whitesnake: Live - In the Still of the Night and Shout! Factory's The Dick Cavett Show: Comic Legends. Matt's checked in with a pair of DualDisc reviews as well, including Sire/Rhino's Talking Heads: True Stories and Talking Heads: Naked (great discs both).

By the way, if you guys are in the L.A. area this weekend, Anchor Bay Entertainment is going to be hosting a DVD signing with director Stuart Gordon this Sunday, March 26th, in honor of the release of the first Masters of Horror anthology titles next week. The event will be held at Noon (Pacific) at the Dark Delicacies Bookstore in Burbank (4213 W. Burbank Boulevard - 818-556-6660). Should be a lot of fun, so do drop on by if you can.

Okay, that's it for another week. Have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!

(3/23/06 - UPDATED AT 3 PM PST - ORIGINALLY POSTED AT 12:01 AM PST)

Well... we're certainly excited to finally get our hands on HD-DVD here at The Bits, and I know we're not alone. However, it's looking like it'll be a few more weeks before anyone gets to really kick the tires. In the wake of Warner delaying their initial HD-DVD titles until 4/18... Toshiba has now officially announced that it's delaying their first HD-DVD players too. The HD-A1 and HDX-A1 are now tentatively expected to arrive in stores in mid-April, to coincide with the release of Warner's first discs. All this means that the HD-DVD camp is losing more of its valuable first-to-market edge over Blu-ray Disc, which is expected to debut in May (with Lionsgate and Sony's first discs due on 5/23, along with players from Samsung and Pioneer). Toshiba's move has apparently forced a few retailers to pull advertising/media buys that had been planned for next week to promote the launch. You can read more on this at the link provided above (at Video Business), as well as here (at Home Media Retailing) and here (at ars technica).

Around the site today, we've got a dandy double dose of Adam Jahnke for you all to enjoy. First up, he checks in with his latest edition of The Bottom Shelf, in which he looks at the work of inde DVD distributor Mondo Macabro. The column includes reviews of 4 new Mondo titles on disc, including the Don't Deliver Us from Evil: Uncut Special Edition, Satan's Blood: Uncut Euro Version, Virgins from Hell: Double Disk Special Edition and The Deathless Devil/Tarkan Versus the Vikings: Turkish Pop Cinema Double Bill.

Adam has also delivered a new edition of his Jahnke's Electric Theatre, in which he comments on a few films recently released to your local cineplex, including V for Vendetta, Ultraviolet, The Libertine and The Hills Have Eyes. He even reviews the recent Oliver Twist, now available on DVD.

Outta be something there for everyone, so enjoy!

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

3/22/06

We've got something cool for you Upcoming DVD Cover Art fans today. Our own Russell Hammond has not only updated the section with TONS of great new cover artwork, he's completely redesigned it as well! You can now find all the art for the whole year, complete with an index by release date. Russell's worked VERY hard to get this done for you guys, so be sure to drop him an e-mail to say thanks. And keep in mind, you can preorder the titles through our Amazon links to help support our work here at The Bits. Clicking on those Google banners on the art pages helps Russell get a little something in exchange for all his efforts on our behalf too (so please do click away). Hope you enjoy the revamped art section!

In a bit of DVD news this afternoon, Image Entertainment and Bandai Visual have announced the release of a Patlabor: The Movie - Limited Collector's Edition on 4/25. The 2-disc set (SRP $89.99) will include the film in newly remastered anamorphic widescreen video with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, new English dubbing and newly translated English subtitles. You'll also get original Japanese trailers and TV spots for the film, the Making of Patlabor: The Movie documentary (in Japanese with English subtitles), and no less that TWO insert books. The first is a 184-pager that includes exposition and criticism of the film, interviews with director Mamoru Oshii and other crew members, key animation drawing samples and more. The second book, a whopping 300-pager, includes the complete storyboards for the film by Mamoru Oshii with English translations. There will also be a single-disc, movie-only DVD edition of Patlabor: The Movie (SRP $29.99) featuring only Disc One of the set (and no books). Here's a look at the cover art for both versions...

Patlabor: The Movie - Limited Collector's EditionPatlabor: The MovieLovers of the Arctic Circle

As you can see, Image and Home Vision are also releasing another favorite film of mine from the 1990s on 4/25... Julio Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle (SRP $19.99), also in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (Spanish with English subs). Been waiting a while for a good Region 1 DVD release of that film!

Meanwhile, here's more cover art for Sony's 5/23 Blu-ray Disc releases...

Hitch (Blu-ray Disc)50 First Dates (Blu-ray Disc)The Last Waltz (Blu-ray Disc)

And I believe I promised you art for those three Synapse DVDs we announced the other day too. Here's Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare: Special Edition (6/27), Stalingrad: Special Edition (5/30) and Singapore Sling (also 5/30)...

Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare: Special EditionStalingradSingapore Sling

Don't forget the first new South Park of the season tonight on Comedy Central. Isaac Heyes might be gone, but Chef's back!

Stay tuned...

3/21/06

We've got another early update for you today, so get your coffee and park yer butts in your office chairs for the next few minutes. Hey... even Fortune says you've gotta slack off once in a while, right?

We'll start with a new Doogan's Views column from Todd, featuring his thoughts on the recent Academy Awards, along with reviews of 9 new and recent DVD releases, including Paramount's The Warriors: Unrated Director's Cut, Lionsgate's Ultimate Avengers: The Movie and High Tension, Magnolia's Pulse (aka Kairo), Synapse's Let Me Die a Woman: Transgendered Edition, and Subversive Cinema's The Candy Snatchers: Deluxe Collector's Edition, The Freakmaker, Battlefield Baseball: Special Edition and The Gardener.

Also this morning, we've got more information from our industry sources for you on the anticipated (and yet to be announced) DVD releases of Munich, Eight Below, Nanny McPhee, Underworld Evolution, Freedomland and When a Stranger Calls. You'll find all that in The Rumor Mill today, so don't miss it.

On the DVD news front, 20th Century Fox has announced that Big Momma's House 2 will hit DVD on 5/9. So you know... plan your lives accordingly.

Here at the site today, we've added an additional Contest to the list of those already running. This one gives you the chance to win copies of Warner's The Busby Berkeley Collection and Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Third Season. We've also extended the Harry Potter contest for another week. All of the contests will now run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, March 26th. Click on the links to enter and good luck!

And on the lighter side this morning, you know that you-knew-it-was-coming media war between South Park and Scientology? Oh, it's on. It's SO on. I keep hearing Lewis Black's voice: "Scientology?! Why... it's got science right in the name!" I don't know what's more funny, the situation itself or the media's coverage of it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone vs. Tom Crooze and the late L. Ron Hubbard? Yeah, I'll buy those season tickets. Floor seats, please. I got $5 says Tom gets even more annoying before all this is over. And you just wait until Professor Chaos enters the fray. Muwhaha! Muwhahaha! MUWHAHAHAHA!!!!

To quote George Takei, "Oh my..."

Stay tuned. ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 3/20/06 - 1:30 PM PST)

Okay... more news and announcements to report today...

First up, Universal has officially announced the DVD release of Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain for 4/4 (SRP $29.98). Separate anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions will be available. Extras will include 4 featurettes (On Being a Cowboy, Directing from the Heart: Ang Lee, From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Dana Ossana and Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain).

Also today, The Criterion Collection has officially unveiled a trio of new DVD releases for June: Maurice Pialat's À nos amours (cat #337), Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused (#336) and Jack Woods' Equinox (#338).

Warner has announced the Classic Musicals Collection: Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory box set (4/25 - SRP $59.92), including It's Always Fair Weather, Til the Clouds Roll By, Ziegfeld Follies, Three Little Words and Summer Stock. They've also announced a Clarke Gable: The Signature Collection box set (6/20 - SRP also $59.92), which will include Boom Town, China Seas, Dancing Lady, Mogambo, San Francisco and Wife vs. Secretary, along with the Clark Gable: Tall, Dark & Handsome documentary (hosted by Liam Neeson) and vintage featurettes and musical shorts.

20th Century Fox has added Time Tunnel: Season 1, Volume 2 to their 6/6 slate, with The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Season 4 and NYPD Blue: Season 4 following on 6/20. 30 Days: Season 1 rounds out the month on 6/27, along with Damon Wayans: Still Standing and Red Riding Hood.

We also have word that MGM & Sony's 2-disc Platoon: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition (due 5/30) will include anamorphic widescreen video (from a new HD transfer), Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 audio, audio commentary by director Oliver Stone, a second commentary by military supervisor Captain Dale Dye, deleted and extended scenes (with commentary by Stone), new interviews with Stone and Vietnam veterans, 5 behind-the-scenes documentaries (Creating the ‘Nam, One War, Many Stories, Raw Wounds: The Legacy of Platoon, Snapshot in Time: 1967-1968 and Tour of the Inferno), the Preparing for ‘Nam featurette, the film's theatrical trailer and TV spots, and an 8-page "journal" booklet.

Meanwhile, Synapse has announced a trio of great new DVDs. Look for the Stalingrad: Special Edition and Singapore Sling on 5/30, with the Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare: Special Edition following on 6/27. Stalingrad will include all three original German/Russian documentaries (The Attack, The Kessel and The Doom) in their original uncut forms, all in anamorphic widescreen video, with additional footage (in the English dubbed version), deleted interview segments and more. Singapore Sling appears for the first time on home video here in the States, and will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio, a still gallery and the theatrical trailer. Rock 'N' Roll Nightmare will feature anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (along with the original mono), commentary (with director John Fasano and star Jon-Mikl Thor), the Revelations of a Rock 'N' Roll Warrior, Rock 'N' Shock Memories and Creating a Child-Wolf featurettes, music videos for Energy and We Live to Rock, a new video introduction by Jon-Mikl Thor and liner notes by Ian Jane. We'll have cover art up tomorrow.

In other news today, Paramount has apparently reached a deal with Soros Strategic Partners LP and Dune Entertainment II LLC to sell the DreamWorks library - all 59 live-actions films released through 9/15/05. The deal is worth approximately $600 million, and Paramount will serve as the home video distributor. You can read more here at Home Media Retailing.

Our old friend (and longtime DVD producer) JM Kenny has joined forces with The Cannery to form Cannery Productions, a new behind-the-scenes documentary, DVD special features and original programming production company. JM, as some of you may know, was the creative producer behind such great DVD releases as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, A Christmas Story: 20th Anniversary Special Edition and both Evening with Kevin Smith titles (among MANY others). We wish him all the best!

Over at CNN/Money, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that his company is going to capitalize on Sony's delay in getting the Blu-ray Disc-enabled PlayStation 3 to market, in an effort to capture greater market share for their Xbox 360 game system. No surprise there, but how effective Microsoft will be remains to be seen.

Also today, there's an interview with George Lucas over at Time.com, in which the he talks about the future of filmmaking and the industry's conversion to digital production and distribution. Lucas doesn't have much faith in either HD disc format - he believes the future is downloading. It's definitely worth a read.

Around the site today, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the complete month of February. We've also updated many of the other stats we track (above).

By the way, Matt and I had a funny experience last week. There's a theater here in the OC that runs "classic" films from the 70s, 80s and 90s on Wednesday nights, and we've been checking some of the out. Last week's was supposed to be Alex Proyas's Dark City... but someone at the archive pulled the wrong print. We got Dark City alright... the 1950 William Dieterle film noir version, starring Charlton Heston! It was actually pretty cool to see an old film like that on the big screen. Naturally, however, the audience - expecting the Proyas film - was a little peeved. Someone started sassing off to the screen during the film, and pretty soon half the audience had something to say. It was like sitting through a live episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000! Very strange night, let me tell you.

Here's cover art for Universal's Brokeback Mountain, Disney's Dumbo: Big Top Edition (6/6) and Criterion's Dazed and Confused...

Brokeback MountainDumbo: Big Top EditionDazed and Confused (Criterion)

Back tomorrow with a new Doogan's Views from Todd - no kidding! Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/20/06 - 3 AM PST)

Morning, everyone!

Well... those of you who have been waiting on the edge of your seats for Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Coming Attractions column can rest easy, for it's finally here! In this installment, Barrie runs down the list of classic Best Picture winners that are available (or not) on DVD. He reviews a trio of recent Oscar nominated films - 20th Century Fox's Walk the Line, and Sony's The Squid and the Whale and Capote - followed by 13 additional classic titles including Mackinac Media's Attack of the 30's Characters, Popeye: Original Classics from the Fleischer Studio, Cultoons: Rare, Lost and Strange Cartoons!, Cartoons for Victory and Operation Manhunt, VCI's The Tall Texan, Sony's Cisco Pike, and Warner's The Good Earth, Johnny Belinda and Controversial Classics: Volume Two - The Power of Media box set, including the new 2-disc SEs of Dog Day Afternoon, All the President's Men and Network. And, as always, Barrie runs down all the latest classic release announcements as well, including a ton of new Warner DVD information. Don't miss it!

Meanwhile, also on the review front, John Dunphy over at our MusicTAP site has given the new Marillion: Colours and Sound DVD a spin on your behalf.

In new DVD announcements today, Warner has finally revealed the much anticipated release of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang for 6/13 (SRP $27.95). Extras will include a gag reel, the theatrical trailer and a behind-the-scenes piece, Long Shadows Sharp Tongue: A Noir Documentary.

Also, Sony has revealed a new 2-disc Platoon: Collector's Edition for release on 5/30 (SRP $24.98). Yes, we do mean the Oliver Stone film. They'll also street Cirque du Soleil: Lovesick that same day.

And New Line has set Getting Played for 6/13.

We'll leave you this morning with a look at the cover art for Warner's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as Fox's new Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The Ultimate Collector's Edition (due 6/6) and The Ringer (due 5/16)...

Kiss Kiss Bang BangButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The Ultimate Collector's EditionThe Ringer

Stay tuned...

3/17/06

Afternoon, folks! We've got a lot of ground to cover today, but how's about we start with this... your first look at the cover art for Warner's first three HD-DVD releases (as announced yesterday)? Here's the cover art...

Million Dollar Baby (HD-DVD)The Last Samurai (HD-DVD)The Phantom of the Opera (HD-DVD)

PLUS, we've also got a look at one of the special feature options for Warner's forthcoming Batman Begins HD-DVD. It looks to me like a picture-in-picture video commentary option, with live video of actor Christian Bale talking about the film playing over (and along with) the film itself...

Batman Begins HD-DVD - menu option

It sure is going to be interesting to see what really talented DVD producers come up with in terms of using HD-DVD and Blu-ray interactivity to create new kinds of special features. By the way, nice to see that Amazon is using our shot of the Batman Begins HD-DVD packaging from CES!

Back with more soon. Stay tuned...

3/16/06

Hey, folks. Sorry for the late update today. We had a couple things going on behind-the-scenes here at The Bits that delayed our regularly scheduled post. Barrie's column will be posted tomorrow, never fear.

We did want to jump in here quickly this evening, to let you all know that Warner Home Video has issued a press release with an update on their HD-DVD release plans. Warner now says that their first three HD-DVD titles will officially street on 4/18 (catalog-priced at SRP $28.99) and will include Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai and Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera. Extras will be basically the same as what was on the existing DVD versions. The studio will then follow with 17 additional titles in the weeks thereafter. These will include Batman Begins, Constantine, Training Day, The Matrix and some combination of those titles already tentatively announced at CES in January (which included Twister, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Lethal Weapon, Unforgiven, Goodfellas, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Swordfish, Syriana, Blazing Saddles, Dukes of Hazzard, Full Metal Jacket, Rumor Has It, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Charlie & Chocolate Factory, The Green Mile: Special Edition, Ocean's Twelve and Troy). According to the press release:

"Warner Home Video HD DVDs will offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color in addition to beautifully crisp sound (with up to 7.1 audio). HD DVD also introduces instant access to extra features with the debut of a seamless menu-bar that allows viewers to enjoy features and settings without leaving or interrupting the film."

Select titles will include HD-specific bonus features that have not been available on standard DVD. New release titles will be priced at $34.99, with hybrid DVD/HD-DVD titles priced at $39.99. You can read more on this here at Video Business. By the way, that story contains word that Image Entertainment and their Criterion Collection label are going to sit out both HD formats until manufacturing costs drop.

We expect more details (and cover artwork) on these first Warner HD-DVDs soon.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/15/06 - 6 PM PST)

Okay... we've got a couple of new announcements for you, so more on Toshiba's HD-DVD tour in a minute.

First up, Sony is now saying that it will launch its Blu-ray Disc-capable PlayStation 3 videogame system in both the U.S. and Japan simultaneously in early November. At a press conference today in Tokyo, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi blamed the setback on Blu-ray Disc copyright issues (expected to be finalized next month) and apologized for the launch delay. No specific launch date in November was given, however, and no price point was revealed either. You can read more here at Video Business and here at Home Media Retailing.

Speaking of Blu-ray, we have the final cover art for five of Sony's first-wave BD titles (all announced to street on 5/23). And in the interest of format fairness, here's the cover art for the first HD-DVD as well, Goldhil Entertainment's Chronos: HD-DVD Digital Reference Series Edition (expected on 3/28)...

xXx (Blu-ray Disc)House of Flying Daggers (Blu-ray Disc)The Fifth Element (Blu-ray Disc)

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Blu-ray Disc)A Knight's Tale (Blu-ray Disc)Chronos: HD-DVD Digital Reference Series Edition

Chronos can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.com, while the Blu-ray titles are available for "e-mail me when available" notification.

Also today, on the regular DVD front, Warner has announced that they'll release Duma on 5/16 and Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II on 7/18.

Fox has also announced a Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid: Collector's Edition for release on 6/6. Also coming on that date is Time Tunnel: Season One, Volume Two. Meanwhile, on 6/20, you'll get The Mary Tyler Moore: The Complete Fourth Season and that Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 1 box set we mentioned the other day, which we've learned will include Charlie Chan in London (1934), Charlie Chan in Paris (1935), Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) and Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935).

Now... back to Toshiba's HD-DVD roadshow event at Fry's in the City of Industry from this morning. The presentation itself was set-up in the Fry's demonstration room. Several Toshiba execs were on hand to answer questions, nice people all. Turns out there was a press event scheduled for Noon, to which I hadn't been invited (d'oh!), but into which I stumbled fortuitously as I so often do (not sure what that means for my odds of getting a review deck anytime soon, but I'll give Tosh the benefit of the doubt). Ah, the curse of being a dot.com. Anyway, the event itself consisted of a 10-minute demonstration of the hardware and the HD-DVD format's capabilities, along with time for Q&A. Toshiba's HD-XA1 was connected to a Toshiba DLP rear-projection display via HDMI, and you'll be glad (and unsurprised) to learn that it looked and sounded great. Unfortunately, there's still no completed HD-DVD software titles to play on the HD-XA1, so we were treated to the same demo material we've seen for the last few weeks now. It included some side-by-side comparisons of 1080i high-definition and standard definition video, along with trailers for films like Warner's The Corpse Bride and Universal's King Kong. No really new information was offered at the event, but I did get the chance to kick the tires on the player for a few minutes. Seems like a solid unit and, as I said, the footage I've seen so far looks great. Unfortunately, the demo disc didn't have any kind of menu screens, so there was really no way to gauge the full functionality of the unit.

Answers to a couple questions I asked: Once again, the Toshiba players' compliance with AACS means that whether or not full 1080 video will be passed to displays via analog outputs (to non-HDMI equipped devices) is going to be up to the software providers (read: the studios). The first two Toshiba HD-DVD players will NOT output full 1080p video (not that 1080i is slumming it). They'll also not play DVD-Audio discs (a bit of a surprise) or SACD discs (no surprise at all). They will be capable of playing your current DVD-Video and CD discs, and they'll upconvert your movie DVDs via HDMI. Toshiba's demonstration guru, Andy Farr (good to meet you, Andy!), says that he's tested the HDMI/DVI adaptability and it DOES work (so if your TV is equipped with DVI but not HDMI inputs, you're still good to go). The players will also ship with full basic interactivity, but compatibility with the iHD interactive layer will likely require firmware updates (available online from Toshiba at a later date).

I was going to take some pictures of the demo set-up, but it's really nothing you haven't already seen if you've checked out our CES photo gallery. By the way, Toshiba reps say a LOT of our readers have been showing up at their events around the country these last few weeks. Here's where they're going to be the rest of this week and next week (go here and click "HD-DVD Tour" to see the exact store locations):

3/16 - Townson, MD - Tweeter
3/16 - Kansas City, MO - NFM
3/16 - Jantzen Beach, OR - Video Only
3/16 - Nashville, TN - Electronic Express
3/16 - Madison, WI - American TV
3/17 - Enfield, CT - Bernie's
3/18 - Franklin, TN - Electronic Express
3/21 - Woodbury, MN - Ultimate Electronics
3/21 - Spokane, WA - Huppin's/One Call
3/21 - Grand Rapids, MI - Classic Stereo
3/21 - Columbus, OH - HH Gregg
3/22 - Plano, TX - Fry's Electronics
3/22 - Minnetonka, MN - Ultimate Electronics
3/22 - Englewood, CA - Ultimate Electronics
3/22 - Miami, FL - Brand Smart
3/23 - Dallas, TX - Tweeter
3/23 - Thornton, CO - Ultimate Electronics
3/23 - Missoula, MT - Vann's
3/23 - Kalamazoo, MI - Classic Stereo
3/23 - Coral Gables, FL - Tweeter
3/23 - Cleveland, OH - HH Gregg
3/24 - Dallas, TX - Ed Kellum

Do check the tour out if you can. It's a good chance to see HD-DVD in person. Plus, at some point in the next few weeks, Toshiba might actually have some final movie software to show you. Don't forget to tell 'em The Bits sent you!

One last note today... I forgot to mention this earlier this week, but we've kicked off SEVEN new Contests here at the site, giving each of you the chance to win copies of Warner's Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (plus Noble Collection gift certificates for Potter collectibles), Anchor Bay's Rosanne: The Complete Third Season, two new volumes of Geneon's The Judy Garland Show and several of their new TV anime titles too, Magnolia's Bukowski: Born into This, Keane and League of Ordinary Gentlemen, and finally Hallmark's Merlin's Apprentice. The contests will all run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, March 26th except Potter, which ends this Sunday, March 19th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We'll be back later tonight with Barrie's column (for early tomorrow morning). Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/15/06 - 10 AM PST)

We'll be back later this afternoon with Barrie Maxwell's column, but first I wanted to let you L.A.-area HD hounds know that we're headed on up to Fry's Electronics in the City of Industry (13401 Crossroads Pkwy South) this morning to check out Toshiba's travelling HD-DVD roadshow. Two weeks out from the format's originally planned launch, we're hoping that they've got more than a demo disc to show. Anyway, if you've got nothing better to do this morning, maybe we'll see you there.

Back later with a report and that column. Stay tuned...

3/14/06

We've got a few more new DVD release announcements for you today. First up, Sony has set a number of DVD/UMD 2-packs for release on 5/23, including The Dark Crystal (DVD/UMD), Escape from New York (DVD/UMD), Labyrinth (DVD/UMD), Resident Evil: Apocalypse - Special Edition (DVD/UMD) and Species (DVD/UMD). We've updated the UMD Release List accordingly. Also newly announced for 5/23 by the studio are The Dirty Dozen: Double Feature (including The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission and The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission) and Jim Henson's The Storyteller: The Definitive Collection (including Storyteller Collection & Greek Myths).

Warner Bros. has set Face the Music for release on 6/13. Also, remember all those John Ford and John Wayne films Warner announced a few days ago? Well, the studio has finally revealed that they'll all be available in a pair of new box set collections on 6/6. The 8-film John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection (SRP $79.92) will include The Searchers: Ultimate Collector's Edition, Stagecoach: Special Edition, Fort Apache, The Long Voyage Home, Wings of Eagles, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, They Were Expendable and 3 Godfathers. Meanwhile, the 5-film John Ford Film Collection will include (SRP $59.92) Cheyenne Autumn, The Informer, The Lost Patrol, Mary of Scotland and Sergeant Rutledge.

Also, we have word that Lionsgate is going to be releasing Tim Sullivan's 2001 Maniacs next week (on 3/21). The DVD (SRP $26.98) will include audio commentary with Sullivan and actor Robert Engund, a second commentary with Sullivan, co-writer Chris Kobin and producer Chris Tuffin, deleted/extended scenes with outtakes, an alternate opening with John Landis, an audition reel and the Inside the Asylum 6-part documentary (including Welcome to Pleasant Valley, Splatstick, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Sex and Slaughter, The Gory Details and The Grand Finale).

Finally, Paramount has announced The Martin & Lewis Collection, Volume 1 for release on 6/13. The set will include My Friend Irma, My Friend Irma Goes West, That's My Boy, Sailor Beware, Jumping Jacks, The Caddy, Scared Stiff and Money from Home.

Here's cover art for 2001 Maniacs, along with Lionsgate's The Triangle (3/28) and Crash: 2-Disc Director's Cut Edition (4/4), Paramount's Numb3rs: The Complete First Season (5/30) and JAG: The Complete First Season (6/20), and finally The BBC's Doctor Who: The Complete First Series (7/4)...

2001 ManiacsThe TriangleCrash: 2-Disc Director's Cut Edition

Numb3rs: The Complete First SeasonJAG: The Complete First SeasonDoctor Who: The Complete First Series

Back with a new column from Barrie Maxwell tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 3/13/06 - 3:45 PM PST)

We've just posted Adam's latest edition of The Electric Theatre, featuring reviews of the recent Oscar broadcast, along with the films The Proposition, Manderlay, LolliLove and Me and You and Everyone We Know.

On the DVD release front this afternoon, we've learned that Disney is going to be debuting a Dumbo: Big Top Edition on 6/6.

Buena Vista will also be releasing Glory Road that same day.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set a Garfield the Movie: The Purrrfect Collector's Edition for release on 6/6. Also on 6/6, look for Charlie Chan: Collection One (no details are yet available). They'll street Dharma & Greg: Season One on 6/13.

Also, The Weinstein Company has announced that they'll release Transamerica on DVD on 5/23 (SRP $28.95). Extras will include Dolly Parton's Travelin’ Through music video, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the video and feature-length audio commentary. The case's sleeve will also have a lenticular hologram "transforming" Felicity Huffman's character.

Finally today, we'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of accomplished stage actress Maureen Stapleton today. Her work on the silver screen included such classics as Reds and Bye Bye Birdie. She was 80.

Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/13/06 - 1 PM PST)

Afternoon, everyone! We're going to kick things off this week with some new DVD release announcements... and some Blu-ray Disc announcements too. We've also got the first official word from Warner that they will likely not make their planned 3/28 HD-DVD release date.

First up, the regular DVD news: Universal has revealed Monk: Season Four for release on 6/27.

New Line has set Face the Music and Getting Played to street on 6/13.

Fox has announced Like Mike 2: Streetball for release on 6/6, with End of the Spear following on 6/13 and Red Riding Hood expected on 6/27.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced The Berenstain Bears: Fun Family Adventures, Dragon Tales: Let's Be Brave!, Hollow Man 2, a Hollow Man: SE/Hollow Man 2 2-pack, London, a London/Spun (R-rated edition) 2-pack and a London/Spun (Unrated edition) 2-pack, all for release on 5/23.

Sony has also officially listed their first Blu-ray Disc titles on their retailer website. Set to be released on 5/23 (as expected), they include 50 First Dates, Hitch, A Knight's Take, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, The Fifth Element, House of Flying Daggers, The Last Waltz and xXx. SRP for each is $28.95. There's no word yet on extra features.

It's worth noting that WalMart has apparently stopped taking online pre-orders for Warner's HD-DVD titles (which had been planned for release on 3/28) until the official release details become more solid. WHV division president Ron Sanders is now confirming what we've been expecting - that there's likely going to be a delay from the planned 3/28 date of at least one or two weeks (the exact timeframe remains unclear). Neither Universal or Paramount expects to street HD-DVD titles before April (and neither has announced their specific plans to retailers either). Toshiba, however, says that they'll still have some 10,000 HD-DVD players in stores by the end of this month. One good thing for the HD-DVD camp - LG now says they're going to support both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc and will release players later this year.

Warner HAS, meanwhile, announced the DVD release of the BBC's new Doctor Who: The Complete First Season for 7/4 (SRP $99.98). That's the new Doctor Who, that's running on the SciFi channel.

If you're looking for something a little more off-beat, Media Blasters will release Zatoichi: The TV Series, Volume 3 tomorrow (on 3/14), and Volume 4 on 6/13. If you're a fan of the blind swordsman, you definitely don't want to miss these TV DVDs. They're outstanding. Watch for a review soon.

Meanwhile, on the anime front, Bandai has announced Cowboy Bebop: Remix - Volume 5 for release on 5/9, with the final entry in the series, Volume 6, due on 6/13.

And if you've been following Manga's Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - 2ng GIG, Volume 4 will be available in both regular and limited editions on 3/21.

We'll be back with a new column in a few hours. Stay tuned...


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