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






page updated: 4/24/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 4/17/06 - 4/3/06)


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(LATE UPDATE - 4/17/06 - 6:30 PM PDT)

We're back with a new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell. In this edition, Barrie takes a look at a number of British TV and film DVD releases, including Acorn Media's The Hanging Gale and A Perfect Spy, A&E's Monty Python's Flying Circus: Terry Jones' Personal Best and The Best of Not the 9 O'Clock News, Blue Underground's The Firm and Made in Britain, and Paramount's The Blitz: London's Longest Night (released for PBS). He also reviews 20th Century Fox's The Laurel and Hardy Collection, Volume One. And, as always, he runs down the latest classic film DVD release announcements. Enjoy!

Back tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/17/06 - 1 PM PDT)

Morning, folks! Hope you all enjoyed the weekend. Matt (Mr. MusicTAP) is STILL enjoying the weekend... lucky bastard.

Well... we've been getting a lot of nice comments today about our words of wisdom (from Friday) regarding the HD-DVD format's official launch this week, so thanks for that.

For the record, we've been able to confirm that HD-DVD IS now officially launched... sort of. Several Best Buy stores here in Orange County, CA now have the Toshiba HD-A1 player in stock (SRP $499). Some stores have already started selling them, while others are waiting until tomorrow (Tuesday). We've been getting reports from Bits readers and Best Buy employees around the country all weekend confirming that players are now available (or about to be available) in their area as well. Several Best Buy employees have also told us that their stores now have the first four HD-DVD releases in their stockrooms, and they're getting ready to begin selling them tomorrow. There aren't going to be a lot of HD-DVD players available however. Virtually every store we checked with this weekend says they only have (or only expect to have) 3 or 4 players available to sell to consumers this week. So if you've really got to have a player this week like your life depends on it, you'd best be waiting outside your local Best Buy's front door at 10 AM when they open tomorrow. We don't expect format sales to be outrageous (keep in mind that there's only a few thousand players expected to be available in the entire U.S. this week in all), but in some markets with a lot of early adopter types, 3 players per store could sell out pretty quickly.

By the way, we expect Toshiba to make some kind of official announcement about this week's launch either today or tomorrow. We'll let you know if there's any developments.

Now then... we'll be back with more later, but first, we've got a completely non-DVD related announcement that we're pleased to be able to make. Actually, it's our very own Adam Jahnke who is best equipped to tell you about it, so here he is:

"Hi, Bits-ers. Bill has graciously allowed me to intrude on his two cents to ask for a few of yours. My second book with Troma president Lloyd Kaufman is about to be released (and is apparently already shipping from Troma.com and Amazon). Unlike our last one, the popular and critically-acclaimed (no, really!) Make Your Own Damn Movie!, this one's a novel.

The Toxic Avenger: The Novel is more than just a regurgitation of the classic 1985 movie (although, this being Troma and all, there is some regurgitaton in it). In fact, I think I can safely say that this is unlike any novelization you've ever read. It includes the secret history of Tromaville, untold tales of Toxie's past, and "guest narrators" including J.D. Salinger, Oliver Stone, and James Ellroy. Lloyd, Toxie and I are all very happy with how it turned out and we think you'll dig it, too. The Toxic Avenger: The Novel. Ask for it by name. You'll be glad you did."


Bill here again. Here's the cover art, complete with a link to purchase the book on Amazon.com:

The Toxic Avenger: The Novel

Now how can you resist a page-turner with a cover like that? Ain't that a thing of beauty? Don't it just make you weep with... er... joy, or something? And she's only $11 on Amazon too. Anyway, we're proud as punch of ol' Adam, so do the brother a favor and buy his new book if you're of a mind. Odds are, Adam's never gonna get more'n a few cents a copy for all his hard work, but hey... it'll make him feel all warm inside to know that a few of the Bits faithful checked it out. If you do, be sure to drop him an e-mail and let him know what you think.

Okay, 'nuff with the book shilling. We'll be back later, so stay tuned...

4/14/06

We've got a few new DVD release announcements to report today.

First up, Warner Bros. has revealed that they'll debut 16 Blocks on 6/13 (SRP $28.98). The film will be available in dual anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on both discs will include an alternate ending that can be viewed separately or branched seamlessly from the film, deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Richard Donner and writer Richard Wenk, the film's theatrical trailer and more. There's no word yet whether Warner is preparing an HD-DVD version of the film, but we suspect it's likely that they'll announce one at a later date.

Meanwhile, Universal has announced the release of Munich and Nanny McPhee today (for 5/9), as well as The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season (for 7/18). Munich will be released in three versions - full frame and anamorphic widescreen standard editions (SRP $29.98 each) and a 2-disc limited edition (No SRP set). There's no word yet on the extras, but we expect that to be available soon. Nanny McPhee will also be available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions (SRP $29.98 each). The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season will be a 4-disc set (SRP $39.98), with video in the original full frame.

We've posted artwork already for the standard edition of Munich, but here's art for the limited edition, along with The Incredible Hulk: The Complete First Season and Universal's yet-to-be-announced Something New...

Munich: Limited EditionThe Incredible Hulk: The Complete First SeasonSomething New

Also today, 20th Century Fox has announced the release of Aquamarine for 6/20 (SRP $29.98). The teen mermaid movie will include both anamorphic widescreen and full frame on different sides of the same disc, along with cast and crew commentaries, deleted scenes and behind the scenes featurettes.

Fox has also announced a series of "celebrity packs" for release on 6/3, each collecting a trio of films of a particular actor or actress (SRP $29.98 each). They'll include Angelina Jolie (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Pushing Tin, Life or Something Like It), Arnold Schwarzenegger (True Lies, Predator, Commando), Colin Farrell (Tigerland, Daredevil: Director's Cut, Phone Booth), Denzel Washington (Man on Fire, Courage Under Fire, The Siege), Drew Barrymore (Fever Pitch, Never Been Kissed, Ever After), George Clooney (One Fine Day, Solaris, The Thin Red Line), Jennifer Aniston (She's the One, Picture Perfect, Object of My Affection) and Natalie Portman (Anywhere But Here, Garden State, Where the Heart Is). These are all the existing DVD versions of these films (no new transfers) so it looks like Fox is trying to get rid of their stock of catalog titles. Hey... it's not a bad price for three films, if you happen to like any of them and haven't added them to your collection yet.

Finally today, on the announcement front, Fantoma Films is releasing Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? on 5/30 (SRP $19.98). The release will include a new digital transfer of the film, with improved English subtitle translation and an interview with cinematographer Dietrich Lohman.

By the way, that cover artwork we posted yesterday for Genius Product's TransAmerica (due 5/23)? As we've mentioned before, there's actually a lenticular hologram on the front, which "transforms" actress Felicity Huffman (or should we say Filliam H. Muffman, for you Colbert Nation faithful) into the character she plays in the film. We've had a few people in the last day e-mail us going, "What the hell is Felicity doing on the cover as herself?!" Yeah, we think it's strange too, but there you go. Chalk it up as one of those ideas that probably looked a lot better in the marketing plan...

And with that... another week's come to a close. But with the long anticipated debut, this coming Tuesday, of the HD-DVD format (including the first four titles and... possibly... the first players from Toshiba), we stand here at a bit of a crossroads. So we wanted to take a moment to offer a few words to help put it all into perspective for you. As you can imagine, a lot of readers have been asking us in recent days if they should consider HD-DVD, or wait for Blu-ray Disc instead, or just sit the format war out entirely. A lot of people have even wondered if this means that DVD is going to be obsolete soon.

First things first... while we've seen both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc in multiple demonstrations now, we haven't had the chance yet to get our hands on final product for either format, to really evaluate the hardware and software and give the tires a good kick. We hope to be able to do that with HD-DVD very soon. We expect to have software in hand in the next couple days, although Toshiba isn't able to confirm yet if they'll have players in stores next week for sure, much less when the media will get to test drive them. So at this point, it's very hard to give you a fully-informed opinion about either format.

That said, the most reasonable advice we can give you is just to wait on buying HD-DVD (and Blu-ray Disc as well) for the time being. The bottom line is that unless you really have to try out all the latest technology, you have a lot of money to blow, and/or you don't mind buying hardware and software today that could become worthless in a year or two... you should just sit tight. The longer you wait, the more we'll know about how well these formats work and how well they'll be supported with software. The longer you wait, the clearer the picture should become in terms of which format has the edge in the high-def format war. The longer you wait, the cheaper the hardware and software will get. Even more importantly, the longer you wait, the better the hardware and software will be in terms of quality and features. Let the early adopters deal with all the technical problems that are inevitably going to crop up - that's what they do. By this time next year, all of those issues should be worked out. Plus, good old regular DVD looks and sounds just great and it's going to be around a long time.

DVD is currently the single biggest source of income for the Hollywood studios, bringing in far more profit than even theatrical presentations. There are currently more than 100 million DVD players in homes in the U.S. alone, not to mention many millions more computers equipped with DVD-ROM drives and videogame systems that can play DVD discs too. Just as VHS has been around since the 1980s (that's more than 20 years - many of you still have VHS players in your houses and lots of old home movies on videotape), DVD is going to be around and supported by the Hollywood movie studios for many more years to come. Our guess is at least 10 years, and maybe even 15 or more.

Soon enough, we here at The Digital Bits (and lots of other respected and knowledgable reviewers too) will have the chance to test drive the hardware and software. You can bet we'll have plenty to say about HD-DVD (and eventually Blu-ray Disc) - we'll give you our informed opinions and call things like we see them. If you absolutely must have HD-DVD immediately, then more power too you. As for the rest of you... relax. Enjoy your current DVDs, and don't worry about it. We'll straighten all this stuff out for you in time.

Actually, if you've really got an extra couple $1000 burning a hole in your wallet, and you think you might be interested in HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc down the line, then the best thing you can buy today is a new high-definition TV (widescreen, of course, and one equipped with an HDMI input). Your existing anamorphic widescreen DVDs will all look better than ever on it, and there's lots of great content you can watch in high-definition now, available via over-the-air broadcast or from your digital cable or satellite provider. And when the dust does finally settle in the HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc scuffle, you'll be all set to take advantage of whichever format should happen to survive it.

So there you go.

Happy Easter to all those of you out there who celebrate it! We hope all of you have a great weekend, and we'll see you back here next week to talk about the debut of HD-DVD... maybe. We think, if it actually happens. We'll see...

Peace out!

4/13/09

There's lots of news to report today, so let's get right into it.

Let's start on the high-definition front. Toshiba is apparently hoping to have at least some HD-DVD players in stores this coming Tuesday (or shortly thereafter) to accompany Warner and Universal's first releases on the format. The studios expect to ship between 7,000 and 10,000 copies of the initial titles due on 4/18, and Toshiba hopes to ship between 10,000 and 15,000 players. The hardware information comes from retailers - we're waiting for official confirmation from Toshiba. You can read more here at Video Business.

Also today, Universal has officially announced two more waves of HD-DVD titles, set for May. May Wave 1 is due on 5/9 (SRP $34.98 each) and will include Assualt on Precinct 13, Cinderella Man and Jarhead. May Wave 2 will follow on 5/23 (SRP $34.98 each) will include The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick: Unrated Director's Cut, U-571 and Van Helsing. As with the previous releases, they'll all be "HD-30" (single-sided) format discs, and will include English, French and Spanish audio in English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround, with English SDH and French and Spanish subtitles. Additional extras, if any, are TBA. Our High-Definition Release List has been updated to reflect this. Here's a look a the cover art...

Assualt on Precinct 13 (HD-DVD)Cinderella Man (HD-DVD)Jarhead (HD-DVD)

The Bourne Supremacy (HD-DVD)The Chronicles of Riddick: Unrated Director's Cut (HD-DVD)U-571 (HD-DVD)

Van Helsing (HD-DVD)TransAmericaGrand Prix: Two-Disc Special Edition

As you can see, we've also included art for a pair of standard DVD releases as well... Genius Products' TransAmerica (5/23) and another title we're going to talk about in a moment.

By the way, we have a follow-up on a bit of news we posted the other day, namely that Genius Production would be releasing The Libertine on 6/27. It's the 130-minute, R-rated theatrical edition. Just FYI.

Now then... Warner has announced a Grand Prix: Two-Disc Special Edition for release on 7/11 (SRP $20.97). We're waiting on details as to the extras, but expect documentaries, featurettes and more. Also newly announced by the studio are new DVD versions of The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Key Largo and To Have an Have Not for 7/25 (SRP $19.97 each), a pair of new TV titles - La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fourth Season and Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season - also on 7/25, and Mrs. Harris (for HBO) and How Art Made the World (for BBC) on 8/1. By the way, those Bogart and Bacall films are individual releases of the same discs that are included in the forthcoming Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection box set. Amazon has the set due on 4/25 (SRP $39.92), but Warner doesn't have it in their official release database yet. For that reason, we believe the set will be released on 7/25, with the individual discs. We'll let you know for sure as soon as Warner confirms this.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set Date Movie and Date Movie: Unrated Edition for release on 5/30, The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes: Unrated Edition for 6/20, an Independence Day: 10th Anniversary Edition and Find Me Guilty on 6/27, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Volume 2 and The Black Swan on 7/11, and The Shirley Temple Collection, Volume 4 (including Captain January, Just Around the Corner and Susannah of the Mounties, also available separaetely) and The Will Rogers Collection, Volume 1 (including Life Begins at Forty, Steamboat 'Round the Bend, Doubting Thomas and In Old Kentucky) on 7/25.

FYI, the Independence Day: 10th Anniversary Edition (SRP $19.98) seems to just be a rehash of previously-released material, as it's set to include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a branching viewing option that lets you watch either the theatrical cut of the extended cut, scene specific audio commentary with director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, and a second commentary with FX supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith. Seems to us that ALL of this content has been available on earlier DVD editions.

The Hills Have Eyes will be released in separate 108-minute theatrical and 111-minute unrated editions (SRP $29.98 each). Each will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary (by director Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levassuer and Marianne Maddalena), the Surviving the Hills: Making of The Hills Have Eyes featurette, production daries, the Fox Movie Channel: Casting Session special, a music video and more.

Also, Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (A Conversation with Vin Diesel about Character, A Conversation with Sydney Lumet about the Film, Body/Make-up Work, The History of the Film and Meeting Jackie DiNorscio) and the film's theatrical trailer.

Finally, Paramount has announced Failure to Launch for release on 6/27.

Okay... that's pretty good for now, I'd say. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/12/06 - 5 PM PDT)

Okay... one MORE last update today. And it's a cool one. 20th Century Fox has just announced the DVD release of Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) for release on 6/20 (SRP $27.98). The double-sided release will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video in two versions on the same disc... the original Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles (on Side B), and dubbed English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well (on Side A). Extras on the Russian side will include audio commentary with Bekmambetov and a second commentary with novelist Sergei Lukianenko (both subtitled in English, Spanish and French). Extras on the English side will include an extended ending (with optional subtitled commentary), an additional extended ending (The Roof), and the Night Watch Trilogy featurette. We'll post cover art as soon as it's available. Night Watch is a pretty great little film - well worth seeing. We can't wait for the DVD release. You read my comments about the film itself here.

Okay... now Matt and I are off to go catch a retro screening of Army of Darkness. How cool is that? Don't forget, there's a new South Park tonight - part two of last week's episode.

See you tomorrow!

(LATE UPDATE - 4/12/06 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Just a quick last update this afternoon... as we predicted last week, Lionsgate has officially confirmed that they're going to be delaying their first two waves of Blu-ray Disc titles. Their first wave (Crash, Lord of War, The Punisher, Saw and Terminator 2: Judgment Day), which had previously been announced for release on 5/23, will now be released on 6/27. Their second wave of titles (The Devil's Rejects, Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall, Stargate and Frank Herbert's Dune), which had been expected on 6/13, will be delayed until probably July (they'll be re-announced at a later date). So there you go. The delay is designed to better coordinate Lionsgate's high-def movie software with the U.S. debut of the first Blu-ray Disc player - Samsung's BD-P1000 - now set for 6/25. You can read additional confirmation at Video Business. As you'd expect, our High-Definition Release List has been updated to reflect this.

Can't say we didn't warn ya.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/12/06 - 11 AM PDT)

Morning, folks!

Disney has just announced the DVD release of the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Tsotsi, on 7/18. We expect to have more details soon.

Also today, as predicted, Universal has finally officially announced their first three HD-DVD titles for release later this month. "Wave 1" (due next week on 4/18 - SRP $34.98) will include Joss Whedon's Serenity. "Wave 2" (following on 4/25 - also SRP $34.98) will include Ron Howard's Apollo 13 and Andrzej Bartkowiak's Doom: Unrated Extended Edition. All three releases will be "HD-30" (single-sided) format, and will include English, French and Spanish audio in English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround, with English SDH and French and Spanish subtitles. Additional extras, if any, are TBA. We've updated our High-Definition Release List accordingly.

Here's a look at the official cover art...

Apollo 13 (HD-DVD)Serenity (HD-DVD)Doom: Unrated Extended Edition (HD-DVD)

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/12/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We have an update from our industry sources as to the status of 20th Century Fox's yet-to-be-announced Blu-ray Disc release plans. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill this morning.

While we're talking Fox, you should be aware that readers are reporting that SOME copies of the studio's recent Mel Brooks Collection DVD box set contain a version of Young Frankenstein that's non-anamorphic widescreen, while other copies contain an anamorphic widescreen version. All of the films in the set SHOULD be anamorphic widescreen. If you get a non-anamorphic copy of the film in your set, we suggest you take it back to the retailer it was purchased from and try to exchange for one with the correct version. We're trying to determine if there's any way to identify the correct version on the outside of the package. If there is, we'll let you know. By the way, we should also let you know that the set includes the movie-only version of Blazing Saddles, so don't sell your existing 30th Anniversary Special Edition thinking you'll get a even trade-up on the extras.

Meanwhile, Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have announced the release of The Libertine on DVD for 6/27 (SRP $28.99). The film will be available in anamorphic widescreen format only.

Universal has announced an NBC TV series title that I can't imagine anyone but those who have appeared on it would want to own... Fear Factor: The First Season. I guess if you like watching people eat bugs, you'll have a blast when the set hits stores on 6/27. Also newly announced by Uni are Stoned (for 7/4) and Mee-Shee: The Water Giant (7/25). And still I keep asking, where's more Baa Baa Black Sheep?

Here's a nifty bit of news: While we don't have specific release dates yet, you 007 fans will certainly be interested to know that Sony's new Fun with Dick and Jane DVD includes a teaser trailer for a "coming soon" re-release of the Bond films on disc, recently acquired as part of the MGM catalog. I'll bet good money that you'll see at least a few Bond flicks on Blu-ray Disc before the end of the year as well. Thanks to Bits reader Zac F. for that eagle-eyed spot!

On the UMD front this morning, Sony's The Pink Panther (2006), recently announced for release on DVD on 6/13, will be debut on the UMD format that same day.

Finally this morning, speaking of UMD, you should be aware that Warner seems to have quietly cancelled all of their remaining, previously-announced releases on the format. Affected titles include Heat, Goodfellas and Scooby-Doo: The Movie (previously announced for 4/4), NBA Furious Finishes and NBA Hardwood Classics: Michael Jordan: His Airness (previously announced for 4/18), Ocean's Eleven (previously announced for 5/9), and True Romance and The Matrix Reloaded (previously announced for 6/6). We updated the UMD Release List with all of the above news accordingly.

Stay tuned...

4/11/06

We've got a pair of interesting new standard DVD release announcements to report this morning from 20th Century Fox. The studio has revealed that they'll bow Mark Robson's Valley of the Dolls: Special Edition and Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls on 6/13. Each will be a 2-disc set (SRP $26.98 each). Valley of the Dolls will include the film with audio commentary by Alonso Duralde, a second commentary with members of the cast, Gotta Get off this Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls and Showtunes, Pill Pop-Up Karaoke: Follow the Bouncing Doll, The Divine Ms. Susann, Doll-a-Palooza: Addicts Forum a Go-Go, Translate French Porn Movies, a What's My Line? episode, screen test footage for several cast members, trailers and TV spots, archival featurettes and much more. Meanwhile, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls will include audio commentary with screenwriter and film critic Roger Ebert, a second commentary with the cast, Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley, Look on Up at the Bottom, The Best of Beyond: Psychedelic Scrapbook, Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby, Z-Man's Far Out Party Favors, event footage from S. Perry-Z-man's boobs, trailers and TV spots, more screen test footage, an archival promotional piece and more. Here's the cover art for both titles...

Valley of the DollsBeyond the Valley of the DollsBetty Grable Collection, Volume 1

As you can see, Fox has also announced a new Betty Grable Collection, Volume 1 for release on 6/13 (SRP $59.98), that will include My Blue Heaven, The Dolly Sisters, Moon over Miami and Down Argentine Way.

Also today, Paramount has announced a new What's Eating Gilbert Grape: Special Collector's Edition for release on 6/20. The film will be presented in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by director Lasse Hallstrom and writer Peter Hedges, 3 featurettes (The Characters of Gilbert Grape, The Voice of Gilbert Grape and Why We Love Gilbert Grape) and the film's theatrical trailer.

Here's cover art for that, along with Paramount's Strangers with Candy: The Complete Series (6/27) and Rawhide: The Complete First Season (7/25)...

What's Eating Gilbert Grape: Special Collector's EditionStrangers with Candy: The Complete SeriesRawhide: The Complete First Season

While we're showing you cover art, we've got three more pieces of Blu-ray Disc art for you this morning from Sony (and MGM). Here's a look at Species, The Terminator and Stealth, all due on 6/13.

Species (Blu-ray Disc)The Terminator (Blu-ray Disc)Stealth (Blu-ray Disc)

And while we're on the subject of Blu-ray Disc, we've gotten an update from our industry sources on that possible delay we mentioned last week in the release of Lionsgate's first titles on the format. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill, along with word on a new DVD special edition that Paramount's working on.

Finally this morning, we've updated our CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the players shipped into retail in the third and fourth weeks of March. All charts have been updated accordingly.

Whew! Not bad for one morning. Okay, back to work with you.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/10/06 - 12:15 PM PDT)

We've got a quick update for you this morning... Sony has officially announced the DVD release of filmmaker Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight on 6/20 (SRP $24.96). I have to say, this documentary is both fascinating and deeply unsettling... and yet surprisingly even-handed. The whole premise of the film evolved from a stern warning that then-outgoing Republican President (and former WWII Army General) Dwight D. Eisenhower gave in a speech in 1961, about the dangerous potential impact the "military-industrial complex" could have on the future of our nation, both in terms of politics and daily life. It won the Grand Jury prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival, and it's one of the most interesting films I saw all last year. The DVD release will include extended scenes, the Military Industrial Complex: A Brief History of Time featurette and audio commentary with Jarecki. You can visit the film's website here.

Also today, Genuis Products has announced the DVD release of The Weinstein Company's TransAmerica, directed by Duncan Tucker and staring Felicity Huffman, for 5/23 (SRP $28.95).

And 20th Century Fox has officially confirmed the release of the recent The Hills Have Eyes remake on 6/20. Look for the release to include audio commentary with director Alexandre Aja, a production diary, the Surviving the Hills: Making the Hills Have Eyes featurette and The Finalist's Leave the Broken Hearts music video.

Before we go, we've announced a trio of new Contests today, giving each of you the chance to win copies of Warner's ThunderCats: Season Two, Volume One and Full House: The Complete Third Season, along with Mute UK's Moby: Live - Hotel Tour 2006. How's that for a diverse trio of discs? The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, April 23rd. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/10/06 - 11 AM PDT)

Morning, all. We've got a few new DVD announcements to report for you this morning.

First up, Sony has announced a trio of new TV DVDs, including Newsradio: The Complete Fourth Season, King of Queens: The Complete Fifth Season and Married... with Children: The Complete Fifth Season, all for release on 6/20.

Fox has set Imagine Me and You for release on 6/27.

And Paramount has set Rawhide: The Complete First Season for release on 7/25.

There's a hint in their latest newsletter that The Criterion Collection is going to be getting a graphic make-over soon (think new logo), and will be announcing a new line of DVD releases as well. Should be interesting to see what they have up their sleeves.

Meanwhile, on the high-def front, Universal still has yet to officially announce their first, already confirmed to retailers HD-DVD titles (as of this morning), but when they do announce them, expect them to carry a banner that looks a little something like this...

Universal HD-DVD banner

We'll leave you this morning with some new cover artwork. Here's Sony's Black Hawk Down: Extended Cut (6/6) and When a Stranger Calls (5/16), along with MGM's Platoon: 20th Anniversary Edition (5/30)...

Black Hawk Down: Extended CutWhen a Stranger CallsPlatoon: 20th Anniversary Edition

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/7/06 - 5 PM PDT)

We've got one last thing to share with you today... new cover art for more of Sony's upcoming Blu-ray Disc titles (along with a couple new DVD covers too). Here's Kung-Fu Hustle, Robocop, S.W.A.T. and Legends of the Fall (all Blu-ray titles, due on 6/13), along with Fox's Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 1 box set (due 6/20) and temp art for Disney's The Little Mermaid: Special Edition (10/3)...

Kung-Fu Hustle (Blu-ray Disc)Robocop (Blu-ray Disc)S.W.A.T. (Blu-ray Disc)

Legends of the Fall (Blu-ray Disc)Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 1The Little Mermaid: Special Edition

Okay... NOW we're done for the day. Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 4/7/06 - 1 PM PDT)

We've gotten word that Magnolia has set The World's Fastest Indian for release on 6/13.

Also, we've gotten confirmation from our sources today on those initial Universal HD-DVD release dates - those are the dates the studio is giving to retailers, even though the titles have yet to appear on their press website. So we feel comfortable updating our High-Definition Release List accordingly (the updates are in ORANGE text).

And speaking of high-definition releases, we've learned that a number of them are finally (actually) available for pre-order at Amazon.com, including Sony's first wave of Blu-ray Disc titles. Keep in mind that doing so through our links (below) helps to support our going work here at The Bits (and we appreciate it). We're updating the links from all our cover art as well. Here's a list of what's now available, for those eager to get them ordered:

Warner HD-DVD titles:

4/18 - Million Dollar Baby, The Last Samurai, Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Universal HD-DVD titles:

4/18 - Serenity

4/25 - Apollo 13, Doom: Unrated

Sony Blu-ray Disc titles:

5/23 - 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, xXx

6/6 - Underworld: Evolution

6/13 - Kung Fu Hustle, Legends of the Fall, Stealth

MGM Blu-ray Disc titles:

5/23 - The Last Waltz

Lionsgate Blu-ray Disc titles:

5/23 - Crash, Lord of War, The Punisher, Saw, Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Goldhil Entertainment titles:

4/18 - Chronos: HD-DVD Digital Reference Series Edition

5/23 - Chronos: Blu-ray Disc Digital Reference Series Edition

Back Monday! Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/7/06 - 1 AM PDT)

Anyone out there anticipating the opportunity to compare the same movie titles in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats? You'll likely get the chance this summer. In a new Video Business story confirming that Samsung's first Blu-ray Disc players will be pushed back until June 25th, Warner Home Video's Steve Nickerson suggested that his studio will likely have their first Blu-ray titles available around the same time. He also noted that there would be "some overlap" with the titles it releases on HD-DVD, several of which should already be available in April and May. It's worth noting that I was able to confirm with WHV execs, at their 2006 catalog slate event in January, that the studio has no plans to favor one format over the other. All titles they release should (eventually) be available on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. If Warner is already planning to have Blu-ray Disc titles available by June, you can bet a lot of people (ourselves included here at The Bits) are going to be very eager to start directly comparing similar titles across both formats. At which point, this format war is gonna get a lot more interesting...

This next bit would normally go in The Rumor Mill so do take it in that context. Our sources are suggesting that Lionsgate may delay their already announced slate of Blu-ray Disc releases (currently due on 5/23 and 6/13) until later in June, to coincide with Samsung's new player release date. Note that I said MAY. A lot is obviously in flux at the moment with regard to the high-def formats. As of yesterday afternoon, Lionsgate's plans were officially unchanged. Sony still plans to have their first Blu-ray Disc titles available on 5/23 as well, regardless of player availability. We'll update you if any of this changes.

By the way, we're also being told that Universal is very close to announcing their first wave of HD-DVD titles, expected to include Serenity on 4/18, with Apollo 13 and Doom: Unrated Edition following a week later on 4/25 (SRP $34.98 each). These dates are already starting to appear on various online retail stores, including Amazon.com. Consider all of it rumor, however, until the studio gives the official word. You can be sure we'll let you know.

Finally this morning, in a Rumor Mill follow-up from yesterday, there are trailers for The Little Mermaid: Special Edition (due 10/3) on several of Disney's recent DVD releases. However, specific details as to the extras are still yet to be announced by the studio. We probably should have posted the information in here in the daily column rather than in The Rumor Mill to avoid confusion, but now you know. Yes the title is official, but the features are still TBA.

Stay tuned...

4/6/06

Well... gotta tell you, today is a terribly slow news day. Just not much happening in the DVD world this afternoon, announcement-wise. So I'm going to take the day to continue working on a new feature here at The Bits that we hope to launch next week. 'Nuff said for now.

We do have some interesting news for you on the extras you can expect on Disney's forthcoming The Little Mermaid: Special Edition, planned for release later this year (on 10/3). You'll find that in The Rumor Mill today.

Also today, we're pleased as punch to present you with another fine edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre, featuring Adam's thoughts on Slither, Inside Man and Thank You for Smoking (now playing at your local google-plex), along with Proof and October Sky (on DVD). Enjoy!

On a final note today, while there might not be a lot of DVD news, there is some interesting TV news... Battlestar Galactica and South Park have both just won well-deserved Peabody Awards. We gladly doff our caps to the creative staffers of both series. Bravo!

We'll be back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...

4/5/06

Afternoon, folks. We've got some DVD release news to report today.

20th Century Fox has announced the release of The Omen: Collector's Edition for 6/20 (SRP $26.98). The 2-disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and the original English, French and Spanish mono. Extras will include audio commentary director Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird, a second commentary with Donner and writer/director Brian Helgeland, 6 featurettes (including Curse or Coincidence, Jerry Goldsmith on the Omen Score, 666: The Omen Revealed, The Omen Legacy, David Seltzer on Writing The Omen and An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen), an introduction to the film by Donner, a deleted scene, a stills gallery and the film's theatrical trailer.

Also coming from Fox on 4/25 (SRP $29.98) is Tristan + Isolde, which will include anamorphic widescreen and full frame video, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio, audio commentary by executive producer Jim Lemley and co-producer Anne Lai, a "making-of" featurette, a stills gallery and Gavin de Graw's We Belong Together music video.

Meanwhile, New Line has announced the DVD release of a 2-disc Final Destination 3: Trill Ride Edition for 7/25 (SRP $29.93). The film will be available in separate full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio. Extras will include the Choose-Their-Fate interactive viewing option, audio commentary by director and co-writer James Wong, co-writer Glen Morgan and director of photography Robert Mclachlan, the Kill Shot: The Making of Final Destination 3 documentary, the It's All Around You animated short, 2 featurettes (Dead Teenager Movie and Planned Accidents), a deleted scene and the film's theatrical trailer. I'll tell you, I haven't seen this film yet, but I didn't realize that Wong and Morgan were behind it. That alone is enough to make me want to give it a spin. By the way, also on 7/25, you'll also be able to purchase a Final Destination “Thrill-ogy" 3-Pack of all three films in the series on disc (SRP $59.85).

Here's cover art for all three of the titles we just mentioned...

The Omen: Collector's EditionTristan + IsoldeFinal Destination 3: Trill Ride Edition

Now then... last night, Matt and I had the chance to take in a screening of Ridley Scott's extended cut of Kingdom of Heaven at the Arclight in Hollywood (hosted by our friends over at Collider.com). Let me tell you, you just haven't really seen this film yet. If you've read my review of the 144-minute theatrical cut on DVD, or my initial comments about the film from last year, you'll know that while I really wanted to like Kingdom of Heaven, I felt that there was just too much missing from the story. Too many thing happened too quickly to the character of Balian (Orlando Bloom), and so many of the other characters either lacked motivation or had unresolved stories when the film concluded. At the time, I noted that over 40 minutes had actually been trimmed out of Scott's original cut of the film in order to create a version that the studio considered more theater-friendly. Well, let me tell you, those cuts REALLY hurt this film. I couldn't make myself give the theatrical cut more than a C+. It was a beautifully-lensed, but woefully incomplete story. This new 191-minute extended cut, on the other hand, is a truly great piece of work. I'd give it an A-, maybe even a solid A.

Finally, you understand more of what motivated Balian - you see more of his life and circumstances in France. You see his wife briefly in Balian's memory, and understand his grief better. You learn that he's fought in war previously, and was an experienced engineer, so his cleverness later in defending Jerusalem makes more sense. You learn more of Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson)'s own connections to Balian's home and his village, and why he would not only return to find Balian (his son) but also why the local lord's men would attack them later (it's another family connection). The animosity between Balian and his brother, a local priest, is shown in greater clarity. Once Balian arrives in the Holy Land, you learn that Sibylla's marriage to Guy de Lusignan is really one of convenience only, which puts Sibylla and Balian's romantic relationship into better context. You learn that Sibylla has a son (who was completely cut out of the theatrical version), and that her love of her son motivates almost every action she takes (which in turn makes sense out of her bizarre behavior late in the film). You see more of Balian's interactions with King Baldwin, and their developing respect for one another. And, at last, you not only understand why Guy de Lusignan hates Balian (it isn't just about Sibylla), but their animosity for one another actually pays off in a final confrontation that, again, is completely missing from the theatrical cut.

I can't stress enough how different this version of the film is, and how much better and more rewarding an experience it becomes, with the restoration of the trimmed minutes. The 191-minute cut makes its home video debut on Fox's forthcoming 4-disc Kingdom of Heaven: Extended Edition (due in stores on 5/23 - available here at Amazon.com), and as far as I'm concerned, it's worth owning just for this cut of the film alone. Add to that what promises to be an outstanding batch of special features (produced by Scott's longtime DVD producer, Charles de Lauzirika, and his team), and it's not to be missed.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/4/06 - 11 AM PDT)

We've got a quick news update for you today.

First, we have word that Samsung has decided to delay the release of its first Blu-ray Disc player, the BD-P1000 (retail price around $999), from May 23rd to June 25th. The company reportedly wants to better test its compatibility with the first batch of Blu-ray Disc software titles.

And on the HD-DVD front, it looks as if Toshiba's advertising blitz has officially begun. I was listening to my Sirius satellite radio this morning, and heard an ad spot telling me to "Buy a Toshiba HD-DVD player before May 31st and get a $20 DVD coupon! Toshiba HD-DVD - in stores now!" Well, in stores now... give or take a few weeks. Guess the coupon means we won't get a bundled HD-DVD title here in the States?

By the way, we've learned that Toshiba expects to launch HD-DVD in Canada this month as well. Both the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 will be available later in April up in the Great White North (for approximately $699 and $999, respectively). Just FYI. Click here to read the press release.

Also... a quick follow-up on a title we reported on the other day. Echo Bridge is releasing Hallmark Entertainment's The Poseidon Adventure (as seen on NBC in November) on 5/9. This is apparently just a price drop/re-promotion of the original DVD release from 2/7/06 (the price is dropping from $28.98 to $14.99).

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/4/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We're pleased today to bring you another new edition of Barrie Maxwell's Classic Coming Attractions column here at The Bits. In today's installment, Barrie reviews 14 new and recent classic DVDs (some 21 films and TV series in all), including 20th Century Fox's Daddy Long Legs, Pin Up Girl, Fallen Angel, House on Telegraph Hill, No Way Out and David and Bathsheba, Grapevine Video's Irish Luck/Up in the Air double feature, Paramount's The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fifth Season, Stalag 17: Special Collector's Edition and The Ten Commandments: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition, Shanachie's The Abbott and Costello Show: Volumes One and Two, Sony's Midnight Cowboy: Collector's Edition and Universal's Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection box set. As always, he also runs down the latest classic release announcements. Enjoy!

Sony has announced more DVD releases today. First up, Boondocks: The Complete First Season, the Pink Panther: Classic Cartoon Collection, Volume 4 - Swingin' in the Pink, the Sandler Collection box set (including Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy and 50 First Dates) and repackaged versions of all eight seasons of Stargate SG-1 will all street on 6/13.

On the UMD front, Sony has announced Boondocks: The Complete First Season, Anger Management and The Princess Bride for 6/13 as well. We've updated our UMD Release List accordingly.

Also, while we knew they were coming, Sony has finally (officially) announced to retailers its second wave of Blu-ray Disc releases for 6/13, including Kung Fu Hustle, S.W.A.T., Stealth, Legends of the Fall, Species and The Terminator (the last two titles for MGM).

Meanwhile, we've gotten word from Goldhil Entertainment that their Chronos: HD-DVD Digital Reference Series Edition, which had been set for release on 3/28, is now expected to street on either 4/18 or 4/25. Goldhil, like the rest of the industry it seems, is waiting on players to be available before streeting titles on HD-DVD. We'll post the final street date when it's official (our High-Def Release List has been updated).

Speaking of high-def, we have cover artwork for you today for all of Lionsgate's 5/23 Blu-ray Disc releases, including Crash, Lord of War, The Punisher, Saw and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Here you go...

Crash (Blu-ray Disc)Lord of War (Blu-ray Disc)The Punisher (Blu-ray Disc)

Saw (Blu-ray Disc)Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Blu-ray Disc)

In other news today, Universal is reporting that it sold a whopping 6.5 million copies of Peter Jackson's King Kong on DVD in its first week of availability (click here for more from Home Media Retailing). Guess all those people who didn't go see the film in theaters last year were just waiting for the disc. Speaking of which - and this is Rumor Mill-worthy so take it accordingly - Jackson has confirmed in recent interviews that Universal plans to release a more elaborate 3 or 4 disc version of the film on DVD later in 2006. Apparently his audio commentary, several deleted scenes and other choice extras have been deliberately held back for inclusion the better version. Just FYI.

By the way, while it's not specifically DVD-related, you may have heard that a lot of the studios today began offering their films for broadband download over the Internet. Universal, Warner Bros., MGM, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Paramount will all offer their films via Movielink, while Sony, MGM and Lionsgate will deliver them through CinemaNow. Prices per film are generally comparable to (or less than) DVD and will be available on the same day as the DVD version. If you download them from Movielink, you'll be able to copy them to two other computers and make a DVD backup (but one that's only playable on your computer - not your regular DVD player). CinemaNow downloads will only be playable on the computer you first downloaded them onto for now. You can read more here at Video Business.

What I find most interesting about these "legal" movie downloading services is the timing for their debut. They're starting up just as both high-definition videodisc formats are preparing to make their big launches. There's been a lot of talk in the industry about how the future of enjoying movies at home is Video-on-Demand rather than packaged media. So is this timing a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. In any case, while we're not terribly interested in downloading movies here at The Bits (we prefer the freedom, superior quality, personal control of content and special features that discs offer), you certainly can't say that the studios haven't been trying to provide consumers with a lot of choices. Maybe too many... DVD, UMD, downloading, cable and satellite VOD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray. Tell you what, if I were a theater owner, I'd be more than a little concerned about the future of my business right now.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/3/06 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We posted a few new Sony announcements earlier this morning, but we wanted to let you know that Sony has also just announced the DVD release of a new The Princess Bride: Collector's Edition on 6/13 (SRP $24.96). The 2-disc set will include anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will start with those that were on MGM's previous special edition release (including audio commentary with director Rob Reiner, audio commentary with writer/screenwriter William Goldman, the As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride documentary, Cary Elwes’ home movies, the original 1987 The Making of the Princess Bride featurette, another vintage making-of documentary and the original theatrical trailer). You'll also get all-new content, including the Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas featurette, the Love is like a Storybook Story documentary, the Miraculous Make-up featurette, The Quotable Battle of Wits trivia game and the 8-page Fezzik's Guide to Florin booklet. The Princess Bride is a title I'd like to see on Blu-ray Disc, but one unfortunately hasn't been announced as yet (hint, hint). FYI, the packaging will be available in two versions: Buttercup and the Dread Pirate Roberts. Here's a look at both...

The Princess Bride: Collector's Edition (Buttercup packaging)The Princess Bride: Collector's Edition (Dread Pirate Roberts packaging)Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes

As you can see, we've also posted the cover artwork for Paramount's Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes (formerly Adult Party Cartoon from Spike TV) due on 7/18. The 2-disc set will include 198 minutes worth of unrated episodes, along with 17 animatcs, 3 pencil tests (including Naked Beach Frenzy), tons of model sheets and background art, and the rough cut of Ren Seeks Help.

Also newly announced by Paramount is director Doug Pray's documentary on the grunge movement, Hype! (due on 7/18), as well as Laguna Beach: The Complete Second Season (due on 7/25).

And Echo Bridge has just set Human Trafficking and Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend for release on 5/2, with The Poseidon Adventure (as seen on NBC in November) following on 5/9.

By the way, don't forget that Toshiba wraps up its cross-country HD-DVD tour over the next couple weeks with demo dates in Pennsylvania and California (go here and click "HD-DVD Tour" to see the exact store locations).

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/3/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Well, it's back to the old grind for another week. Hope you all had a great, fun, relaxing or at least tolerable weekend. Mine was spent doing things around the house, 'cause you know... hanging that new mirror in the bathroom for my wife was only going to wait so long, you know?

By the way, I should have mentioned on Friday that this weekend was Daylight Savings/clock forward an hour time here in the States (or most of them at any rate). Man, I HATE losing an hour. I'm routinely up until like 2 AM every night anyway, what with working on the website and all (it's just a nice, quiet time to get a lot of work done). But man... I'm doing my thing in the wee hours of Sunday morning there, and suddenly - WHAM - I look up and it's like 4 AM. Ouch. Even for a night owl like me, it kinda blows to be going to bed as the sun's rising. Ah well.

Anyway, speaking of Friday, I assume you all saw the late-breaking news. But if you didn't, Toshiba officially began selling its HD-XA1 HD-DVD player in Japan on Friday. The HD-XA1, along with the HD-A1, will be available here in the States sometime in the next 3 or 4 weeks (the HD-A1 isn't being released in Japan, by the way). For those of you wondering what people might be playing on their brand new HD-XA1s, according to Toshiba's press release: "Initial shipments of HD-AX1, until April 27, will bundle two complimentary HD DVD movie discs, Resident Evil and a Japanese film, Moonlight Jellyfish." A nice touch - hats off to Toshiba on that. Gotta give the people SOMETHING to watch, right? Wonder if they'll do that here in the States too...

By the way, I just can't make myself call the format HD DVD, sans the dash. Something seems cosmically more correct about typing "HD-DVD." So that's what we're going to do here at The Bits. What can I tell you? It's just the way we roll.

Some specs to keep in mind about the HD-XA1: It will output video in 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i resolutions, and will play audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1, Dolby TrueHD (2-channel only), DTS-HD 5.1 and L-PCM 5.1 formats. Also, in addition to HD-DVD and DVD-Video (and hybrids thereof), it will play DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD-R, music CD, CD-R and CD-RW format media.

Now then... back to regular DVD news, we've got a few new announcements to report for you this morning.

First up, Sony will release their recent When a Stranger Calls on DVD on 5/16. The studio has also set The Three Burials of Melquiades for release on 6/6. And just announced for release on 6/13 is The Pink Panther - the new version, starring Steve Martin.

Meanwhile, Paramount has set Perry Mason: Season One, Volume One for release on 7/11 (5 discs containing the first 19 episodes... and lots more to follow, you can be sure).

Home Vision has the German film Boat is Full due on 6/27.

Genius Products has announced the animated Doogal for release on 5/16.

And, on the topic of animation, Sony Music has set The Best of Boris and Natasha: Volume 1 for release on 5/9.

By the way... while we're talking about upcoming DVDs, here's a new cover I'll bet a few of you have been looking forward to seeing: Fox's Boston Legal: Season One (due on 5/23). You'll also find the final cover art for Neil Young: Heart of Gold and The Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Collection: Volume One box set from Paramount (both 6/13):

Boston Legal: Season OneNeil Young: Heart of GoldThe Martin and Lewis Collection

Denny Crane...


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