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page updated: 8/3/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 7/26/06 - 7/11/06)


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(LATE UPDATE - 7/26/06 - 1:15 PM PDT)

This is just a quick update to let you know that sources are telling us 20th Century Fox will release X-Men: The Last Stand on DVD (and possibly Blu-ray format) on 10/3 (SRP $29.98).

Also, Sony will debut Adam Sandler's Click on DVD (and likely Blu-ray Disc as well) on 10/10.

Consider this information Rumor Mill-worthy until the titles are officially announced, but we expect that to happen very soon.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/26/06 - 12:45 PM PDT)

We've got LOTS more new DVD release announcements to tell you about today. The news just doesn't stop coming this week it seems.

First up, on the subject of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (due 11/28), which we mentioned yesterday, a number of readers have expressed reservations. Donner himself has stated in many interviews that he did not intend to be personally involved with the cutting of the new version. That's true, however he did give his permission to Warner Home Video for the cut to be done. What's more, I'm told that when he was later shown progress edits of the new cut of the film, he began suggesting additional tweaks, edits and changes... suggestions which were accommodated by the studio. In effect, he had final say on the film's editing and special effects, so the reality is that he DID eventually become involved. We hope that eases your concerns.

Speaking of Warner, the studio has officially announced the re-release of Blade Runner: The Director's Cut on 9/12 (SRP $19.97). This is a single-disc release (dual-layered), with no new extras, but you'll be pleased to know that the video has been completely remastered with a brand new anamorphic widescreen film transfer. The audio will be Dolby 2.0 Surround, like the original release. Keep in mind that a much more elaborate multi-disc Blade Runner: Ultimate Edition is currently in production for release sometime in 2007 - that is CONFIRMED. This disc is really just designed to update the original Snapper case release (one of Warner's first EVER releases on DVD back in 1997) with better video in the meantime.

Also newly announced by Warner is the 4-disc Looney Tunes: Golden Collection - Volume Four, for release on 11/14 (SRP $64.92). Additional details on the release will follow shortly.

In addition, Warner has set Beyond the Poseidon Adventure to street on 8/22 (SRP $14.97). The film sequel to the original Poseidon Adventure will arrive on DVD with anamorphic widescreen video, additional scenes not included in the theatrical version, plus the vintage Behind the Scenes: Beyond the Poseidon Adventure featurette and a gallery of disaster movie trailers.

In other studio news, Paramount and DreamWorks have announced the 10/17 DVD release of the animated Over the Hedge. The disc will come with so-called "hibernating content" which must be unlocked by visiting a website on 11/28 and entering a special code you'll find there with your player's remote. Other extras will include audio commentary with the filmmakers, the Behind the Hedge featurette, a production documentary, cast interviews, a virtual drawing lesson, a fake infomercial and more. SRP is $29.99.

Paramount is also releasing a new Grease: Rockin' Rydell Special Edition on 9/19, featuring a simulated leather jacket packaging (you'll find a picture of it below). Extras will include a sing-along feature, 11 deleted/extended/alternate scenes, video of the 25th anniversary DVD launch party, 3 featurettes (Grease Memories from John and Olivia, The Movies Behind the Music and Thunder Roadsters) and more.

Better still, Paramount has announced the DVD release of Police Squad: The Complete Series on 11/17! More details will follow, but you'll find the cover art for that one below too.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set the DVD release of Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties for 10/10 (SRP $29.98). The disc will include both anamorphic widescreen and full frame video, the Come and Get It music video, an exclusive Garfield comic strip, 2 interactive games (Odie's Photo Album and Garfield's Maze) and the Drawing with Jim Davis featurette.

Also today, Universal has announced that its Brick DVD, which had been slated for 7/11 but was later delayed indefinitely, has finally been rescheduled for release on 8/8. Just FYI.

Okay... here's the cover artwork for a few of the DVD releases we just mentioned, including Warner's Blade Runner: The Director's Cut and Looney Tunes: Golden Collection - Volume Four, Paramount's Police Squad: The Complete Series, Grease: Rockin' Rydell Special Edition and a yet-to-be-announced Black Rain: Special Collector's Edition, and finally Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition (due 12/12)...

Blade Runner: The Director's CutLooney Tunes: Golden Collection - Volume FourPolice Squad: The Complete Series

Grease: Rockin' Rydell Special EditionBlack Rain: Special Collector's EditionThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition

On the high-definition front today, remember how we mentioned a few weeks back that the Samsung Blu-ray Disc player wasn't delivering all of the fine image detail and color saturation that we expected, particularly compared to Pioneer's forthcoming reference Blu-ray Disc player? Yeah... turns out there's a reason for that. It seems that a noise-reduction circuit in the BD-P1000's scaler chip was left enabled as shipped from the factory, which results in a significantly softer than normal image. It's not something that can be fixed by the consumer - the player itself needs to be taken to a service center to be properly reset. Ugh. I first heard about this last week, and Samsung has apparently acknowledged the issue, but I haven't been able to follow up on it while preparing for (and recovering from) Comic-Con. If anyone out there has heard an update on how Samsung plans to handle the situation, please let me know so I can post the information here for our readers. Thanks!

By the way, I've learned that our very own Russell Hammond was at the Star Wars panel at Comic-Con on Friday, and his reaction was much like the others we've heard who saw the DVD clips. Apparently, Lucasfilm went to a lot of trouble to first show a doctored clip (supposedly from the DVDs) designed to look deliberately bad - something that they'd spent money to actually create! - in order to make light of the criticisms we at The Bits and MANY others have leveled on the forthcoming DVDs' quality shortcomings, and in order to make the actual DVD clips look somewhat better by comparison. In fact, Russell says that Sansweet's comments (that we posted earlier) were made right before showing the deliberately bad looking clips, as a way of playing up the joke. THEN he played the actual clips from the DVDs, and according to Russell, "It looked like crap too!" (Russell's exact words, spoken in an outraged tone to me this morning over the phone.) In other words, it looked exactly like we figured it would... soft, washed out, lacking in contrast and detail, etc... exactly what you'd expect from 15-year-old, non-anamorphic laserdisc transfers gussied up for DVD and blown up on a big screen. I'd like to refer you all to a lengthy post we made here at The Bits in May, which remains our definitive statement on this issue. In it, we point-for-point refute every single argument that Lucasfilm has made as to why this is the "best they can do." It was written by myself, along with our own Robert A. Harris, who is one of the foremost film restoration experts in the industry. I think you'll find it interesting reading, and we stand by it 100%. By the way, you'll find more fan complaints about the new DVDs here at OriginalTrilogy.com and a funny bit here at MSNBC.

Finally today, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Japanese-American actor Mako at the age of 72. His face should be familiar to many of you for his work in countless films and TV series over the years, including The Sand Pebbles (a role for which he was eventually nominated for an Oscar). Most recently, however, it was his voice work that people are likely to recognize: Mako was the voice of Aku in the animated Samurai Jack. He'll certainly be missed.

Believe it or not, there's still MORE DVD release news that we're working to gather and post for you, and tomorrow we're going to try to blow out a number of new DVD reviews that have been stacking up from our staffers as well. By the end of the week, we hope to be all caught up, at which point I plan to personally focus on a ton of HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc reviews. As always, stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/26/06 - 1 AM PDT)

Coffee up, folks! We've got more DVD announcements to report this morning...

First up, some Sony news. The studio has set Glass House: The Good Mother, The Woods, Forever Knight: The Trilogy - Part Three, The Three Stooges: Stooges on the Run, The Dark Backward: Special Edition, a Body Double: Special Edition, a Bugsy: Extended Cut, a Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition and a Stuart Little Movie Collection box set, all for release on 10/3. Also due on that day from the studio is a UMD version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the PSP. According to our best information, the Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition is apparently the same DVD as before, just repackaged.

Universal has officially announced Saturday Night Live: The Best of Saturday TV Funhouse for release on 10/24 (SRP $19.98), featuring some of the infamous Robert Smigel shorts that have been featured on SNL over the years. Not sure if we've mentioned this before, but the studio has also set a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels: Locked 'N Loaded Unrated Director's Cut for release on 10/3 (SRP $19.98), featuring 12 minutes of new footage. As we predicted in The Rumor Mill, the animated Curious George is officially due on 9/26. Also, just FYI, the studio's previously announced HD-DVD release of The Interpreter, which had been set for 8/22, has been delayed indefinitely.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has announced the first titles of their October DVD slate. Currently set for release on 10/3 are Thank You for Smoking, the Return to the Planet of the Apes animated TV series (previously available only in The Ultimate DVD Collection box set) and the Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition. Following on 10/17 are Author! Author!, Panic in Needle Park, the Al Pacino Collection box set (including Chinese Coffee, Looking for Richard, Local Stigmatic and the Babbelonia bonus disc), a Barney: The Dino-Riffic Collection! (including Let's Go to the Farm, Just Imagine and The Musical Scrapbook), a Bob the Builder: Bob's Hard at Work Collection! (including Getting the Job Done!, Help is on the Way and Snowed Under), a Wiggles: A Wiggle-tastic Collection! (including The Wiggly, Wiggly World, The Wiggly Safari and The Wiggle Bay), a Big Black Comedy box set (including all five volumes) and the previously announced Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil and Behind Enemy Lines 2-pack (containing Axis of Evil and the original film). Finally, on 10/24 you'll see Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 2, Volume 1.

There's a bit of cool news for you Muppet Show fans this morning. Buena Vista is preparing to release Season Two of the series on DVD early next year (Spring 2007 is what we're being told by the studio) and they're giving you all the chance to vote on the cover art they'll use on the set. Click here and you'll get to choose your favorite from among three possible Miss Piggy-themed options. We think it should keep the Season One theme and have pink felt this time.

Oh... one other thing this morning. You know how we were complaining a few months back that the original versions of the Star Wars films (due on 9/12) were going to look less than stellar in 15-year old, non-anamorphic, laserdisc-transfer quality video on DVD? A few thousand fans finally got a look at them at the Lucasfilm presentation at Comic-Con on Friday afternoon. Lucasfilm's Steve Sansweet had this to say to the assemblage: "The transfers from the bonus discs are absolutely incredible, because these are pristine master tapes, and I have NEVER seen - despite what you may have heard on Internet rumors - a better transfer of a movie."

The balls. THE BALLS.

Well... it seems that Steve's actual visual evidence wasn't quite as compelling as his personal opinion might otherwise suggest. Or so says Ain't it Cool News, Collider.com and others who were there to see the presentation (for the record, Todd, Adam and I missed it as we were wrapping up our own post-panel business on Friday afternoon). Scott Swan's Collider report is particularly depressing. He's actually posted an MP3 audio recording of the event, in which you can hear Sansweet addressing the anamorphic controversy in such a way that it seems he doesn't even quite understand what anamorphic enhancement is. For the record, Steve, the "little black bars" are NOT the problem here (we refer you to our Anamorphic Guide for your edification). Anyway, we've told Lucasfilm that we'd eat our hats if they can prove us wrong about how the DVDs look, but they have yet to take us up on the offer. The offer still stands.

We don't make this stuff up, folks! We're totally serial.

More DVD news to follow later this morning. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/25/06 - 4 PM PDT)

Okay... continuing on with our report on DVD-related stuff that was revealed at Comic-Con, Universal held a special preview event on Friday afternoon, during which they screened exclusive footage from the recently announced 3-disc Peter Jackson's King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition. The 11/14 release (SRP $34.98) was revealed on Universal's home video press website last week, but the details have since been pulled and so may be subject to change. The Comic-Con preview was introduced by Jackson himself in a special greeting for the fans. The preview showed a new scene in which the rescue party is crossing a swamp in a makeshift raft, when they suddenly encounter a massive fish-like creature that attacks the raft, sending its occupants into the water to be eaten one by one. There's a whole sequence in which Jack (Adrien Brody), dragged to the bottom of the swamp by the weight of the equipment he's carrying, struggles to escape the fish. Eventually, Jack and several of the company manage swim to safety... and of course Carl (Jack Black) has been filming it all. The new Extended Edition will feature 13 additional minutes of footage added back into the film, which also includes some 200 new digital effects shots. It was also revealed that Jackson has recorded feature-length audio commentary for the new release, and there will be other new extras as well. We'll post additional details when they're available.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista officially unveiled at Comic-Con plans to release The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Four-Disc Extended Edition on 12/12 (SRP $42.99). The set will include an all-new 150-minute cut of the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio (for the record, the new cut is roughly 10 minutes longer than the theatrical cut). This will be presented on Disc One of the set in its entirety, along with a blooper reel, a Narnia Fun Facts text trivia track, audio commentary with director Andrew Adamson and the child stars of the film, and a second commentary with Adamson and the film's producers. Disc Two will include the Two World of Narnia documentary, broken into three segments. Each segment is composed of its own featurettes as follows: Creating Narnia (including Chronicle of a Director and The Children's Magical Journey), Evolution of an Epic (including Anatomy of a Scene: The Melting River, Cinematic Storytellers, C.S. Lewis: From One Man's Mind and Creating Creatures) and Creatures, Lands & Legends (including Creatures of the World, the Explore Narnia 3-D map and a Legends in Time timeline). Disc Three will offer the all-new and C.S. Lewis: The Dreamer of Narnia feature-length documentary. Finally, Disc Four will include the Visualizing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Complete Production Experience documentary, the Anatomy of a Scene: Behind the Battle featurette and the interactive Art of Narnia Gallery featuring hundreds of production images from the film.

FYI, the Narnia: Four-Disc Extended Edition will also be available for a limited time in a special Gift Set (SRP $79.99) packaged with a pair of collectible bookends created by the artists at Weta Limited. As you may have guessed, both the 4-disc DVD itself, and the Gift Set package, are patterned directly after New Line's Lord of the Rings: Extended Editions. We'll post cover art for both versions of the new Narnia DVDs when we have it.

Moving on this afternoon, here's something else that's very cool from Comic-Con. File this as Rumor Mill-worthy, but I learned while down in San Diego that not only is Paramount working to release The Ultimate Star Trek Movie Collection in high-definition on HD-DVD and (possibly) Blu-ray Disc... the studio is quietly remastering all 79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series for eventual high-def disc release as well. Paramount also has sparkling high-def masters of all 4 seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise to release on disc. Can't wait to see all of the above!

Speaking of Trek, Paramount did reveal at Comic-Con a teaser poster for the soon-to-be-in-pre-production J.J. Abrams Star Trek feature film, which is expected in 2008. Here's what it looks like for those who might be interested...

Star Trek - 2008 Feature Film Teaser Poster

Finally this afternoon, we've kicked off FOUR new Contests today, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Dallas: The Complete Fifth Season, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: The Complete Series and Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fourth Season, Lionsgate's Weeds: Season One, Paramount and Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes - Uncensored and New Line's Final Destination 3: Thrill Ride Edition. All of these contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 30th. Click on the links to get started and good luck! And just FYI, we'll announce the winners of the previous contests on The Winner's Circle shortly.

Never fear... we'll be back tomorrow with LOTS more new DVD announcement news, more Comic-Con revelations, some HD news, disc reviews and more. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 7/25/06 - 1:45 PM PDT)

We've got the first of several Comic-Con DVD news posts for you, so let's get started...

First up, in an event at the Con, Warner officially announced the DVD release of Forbidden Planet on 11/14. There will be a Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary 2-Disc Special Edition (SRP $26.99) as well as a Forbidden Planet: Ultimate Collector's Edition (SRP $59.92). The 2-disc edition will feature anamorphic widescreen video (mastered from newly restored film elements) and newly-remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on the 2-disc edition will include additional scenes and rare "lost" footage (known in select circles as “The Saucer Footage"), excerpts from The MGM Parade TV series, a pair of later programs that feature Robbie the Robot (the 1958 MGM feature film The Invisible Boy and the Robot Client episode of MGM's The Thin Man TV series), 3 documentaries on the making of the film (including TCM's original Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us, and the all-new Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet and Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon), and a gallery of Sci-Fi film theatrical trailers. The Ultimate Collector's Edition will include the 2-disc SE DVD release in a tin case, along with a collectible Robby the Robot replica with moveable limbs, a reproduction lobby art card portfolio for Forbidden Planet and The Invisible Boy, and a Forbidden Planet original theatrical poster mail-in offer. There MAY be HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions of the release as well (we certainly hope so), but they're not yet announced.

Also just officially announced by Warner at Comic-Con is The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection box set for release on 11/28 (SRP $79.92).

This 8-disc set begins with a Superman: The Movie Four Disc Special Edition (SRP $39.92 if purchased separately), which will include BOTH the original 1978 and 2000 DVD versions of the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include new audio commentary by producer Pierre Spengler and executive producer Ilya Salkind on the theatrical version and the previous commentary by director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz on the 2000 DVD version, a music-only audio track on the 2000 DVD version, original trailers and TV spots, 3 documentaries (Taking Flight: The Development of Superman, Making Superman: Filming the Legend and The Magic Behind the Cape), restored scenes, screen tests, additional music cues (audio only), the vintage The Making of Superman: The Movie TV special, the 1951 Superman and the Mole-Men feature film (starring George Reeves) and 9 of the original Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons mastered from superior vault elements (including Superman, The Mechanical Monsters, Billion Dollar Limited, The Arctic Giant, The Bulleteers, The Magnetic Telescope, Electric Earthquake, Volcano and Terror on the Midway).

The set continues with the Superman II: Two-Disc Special Edition (SRP $26.99 if purchased separately), which includes the film in anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by executive producer Ilya Salkind and producer Pierre Spengler, 2 vintage TV specials (The Making of Superman II and Superman 50th Anniversary), the film's theatrical trailer, the First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series featurette and 8 more of the original Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons mastered from superior vault elements (including Japoteurs, Showdown, Eleventh Hour, Destruction, Inc., The Mummy Strikes, Jungle Drums, The Underground World and Secret Agent).

So this means that if you purchase the new 8-disc box set, or just the new DVD versions of the first two feature films, you'll be getting the ENTIRE Fleischer Studios animated Superman series - all 17 cartoons - looking better than you have EVER seen them, believe me. You'll be amazed at the quality of these things. The restoration work is spectacular.

Next up in the set is a Superman III: Deluxe Edition (SRP $19.97 separately), which will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by executive producer Ilya Salkind and producer Pierre Spengler, the vintage The Making of Superman III TV special, additional scenes (not added back into the film) and the theatrical trailer.

Finally, the set will include Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (SRP $19.97 separately), which will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by screenwriter Mark Rosenthal, additional scenes (not added back into the film) and the theatrical trailer.

Now then... you might be wondering what the deal is with that Donner cut of Superman II. It's NOT included in the box set. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut will be available separately on 11/28 (SRP $24.98). This will include an all new 122-minute cut of the film (in anamorphic widescreen video) newly-created by its original director, Richard Donner. According to Warner's press release: "the “Donner cut” restores the Marlon Brando role, filmed for, but not included in the final theatrical release version of Superman II. The legendary Brando's performance as Jor-El has finally been restored in key scenes that amplify Superman lore and deepen the profound relationship between father and son. With so many other changes, large and small, including a variety of Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) schemes to unmask Clark Kent as Superman, this Superman II will prove to be an eye-opening experience and an important addition to film history." The new cut also features newly finished special effects and more. Extras on this DVD will include newly-recorded audio commentary by director Richard Donner and creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz, the Superman II: Restoring the Vision featurette and additional scenes not added back into the film.

You might be surprised to know that the Superman Returns DVD was NOT officially announced at Comic-Con, however director Bryan Singer was on hand at the Con to offer additional details about the release. First of all, it will not be part of the new box set - you'll need to purchase it separately (we expect it to be announced soon, for release around the same time as the set, in DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats). The DVD release MAY include a gag-reel (which was shown at the Con). It will NOT feature an extended edition of the film, however it will include SOME of the deleted scenes from the film separately. It will not include the infamous "Return to Krypton" deleted opening sequence - Singer is saving that for a special theatrical or DVD re-release at a later time.

Here's even more info that you might not be aware of. At our own DVD Sneak Peek 2006 panel (coordinated and sponsored by us here at The Digital Bits), DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett revealed that he's working on a new 3-part, feature-length documentary on the making of the film for the DVD, entitled Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns, which will run some two and a half hours. It's been shot "fly-on-the-wall" style, a la the excellent The Beginning documentary on the Star Wars: Episode I DVD, so you're right there for every important moment of the production (it's also in anamorphic widescreen from start to finish!). Burnett showed a very cool clip from Requiem for Krypton, specifically authorized and hand-picked to show at our panel by director Bryan Singer, in which we see actor Brandon Routh being prepped by wardrobe and make-up for his official screen test for the film. With Singer supervising, Routh is trying on various possible versions of Clark Kent's glasses and also having his hair cut and styled with Superman's iconic curl. The cool thing is that Singer had called Burnett in to videotape all this, telling him that Routh was THE guy who was going to play the part... except that Routh hadn't yet been told he'd gotten the role (and Singer wanted no one to tell him). It was October 5th, 2004, and it would be two additional weeks before Routh was told. So it's fun to see Routh and the others reacting to one another, with everyone but Routh knowing that he's the guy. It's very cool stuff. The documentary will include Routh's original screen test footage as well, and much, much more. We'll post additional details on the DVD release of Superman Returns as soon as they're available.

FYI, we believe all of these Superman titles will be available on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc high-definition formats as well as standard DVD, but they haven't yet been announced.

By the way, while it's not a Warner title per se (and it wasn't announced at Comic-Con), New Line has just revealed that Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion will arrive on DVD on 10/10 (SRP $27.95). The film will be offered on disc in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary with director Robert Altman and star Kevin Kline, deleted scenes (with optional commentary), the Come Play with Us: A Feature Companion featurette, the Onstage at the Fitzgerald: A Music Companion featurette with extended musical performances and advertisement segments, song selection and the film's theatrical trailer.

Here's a look at the cover artwork for Warner's Forbidden Planet, along with a better packaging shot of Paramount's Star Trek: The Animated Series (due 11/21), and new art for New Line's A Prairie Home Companion...

Forbidden Planet: 50th Anniversary Edition - Ultimate Collector's Edition tin artStar Trek: The Animated SeriesA Prairie Home Companion

Back later with more. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/25/06 - 9:30 AM PDT)

Okay... long time no see!

Sorry, folks... I had planned to make our big "back from Comic-Con" post yesterday afternoon, but as luck would have it, I wasn't able to make it happen due to circumstances out of my control. I went to drop Doogan off at the airport for his return to Atlanta yesterday morning, and as I was driving back to the house, I noticed that some of the street lights were out in intersections around our neighborhood. So I'm thinking, "Yeah... this can't be good." I get home and the power's out. It's been like 100 degrees in the shade all weekend out here in The OC, so you know... high electric demand in California means The Man decides to screw us all again with rolling blackouts. Now I know why guys like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees went all primitive on people. I want to see the horror film where some guy buys one too many tanks of $3.75 per gallon gas, then snaps after opening up his $500 electric bill for using the air conditioner for 2 days per month, and offs a bunch of PG&E, Exxon and BP executives. Beyond Petroleum my ass. That's the freaking horror film I want to see. I tell you, I am THIS close to pulling the trigger on solar panels and taking my house off the grid. THIS close.

Anyway, Comic-Con was a lot of fun this year. And we've got LOTS of cool DVD news for you guys today, some of which you may have heard while we were away in San Diego, and some you haven't. I'm going to post it all in several installments today, so check back in a little bit for the first of them.

Back shortly. Stay tuned...

7/20/06

All right, everyone. Todd's in the house all airline fresh from Atlanta (GA), Adam's on his way and we're all a-headin' on down to San Diego this morning for this year's Comic-Con. Just a reminder for those of you attending, our DVD Sneak Peek 2006 panel is on Friday afternoon, from 2-3:30 PM in Room 6B of the San Diego Convention Center. We've got some interesting things to talk about with our panelists, and they're bringing cool stuff to show you, so we hope to see you all down there.

As for the rest of you, we'll be dark here at The Bits through the event, but we'll be back on Monday to catch you up on all the latest DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc news. We'll have plenty of interesting news to report from the show as well. So have a great rest of your week, and a wonderful weekend, and we'll see you then!

Stay tuned...

7/19/06

First up today, our own Adam Jahnke has turned in another edition of his Bottom Shelf column, featuring new reviews of six standard DVD releases - TV titles all - including Paramount's The Brady Bunch: The Complete First Season, The Brady Bunch: The Complete Final Season and The Andy Milonakis Show: The Complete First Season, Warner's Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Third Season, Anchor Bay's Profit: The Complete Series and MGM's Errol Morris' First Person: The Complete Series.

I've also posted a trio of HD-DVD reviews from yours truly, including Universal's Apollo 13 and Pitch Black: Unrated Director's Cut, as well as Warner's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. By the way, if any of the technical specs on these reviews are inaccurate, please let me know. It's late, and there's a LOT to keep straight when you're reviewing these new high-def formats, much less comparing them to standard DVD! More HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc reviews will follow soon.

While we're talking high-def, you should know that Warner is about to officially announce the HD-DVD/Combo format release of Good Night, and Good Luck. We don't have the exact street date and price yet, but we expect that shortly. In the meantime, the studio has confirmed that both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions of the film will include the same extras that were on the DVD release, specifically audio commentary with writer/director George Clooney and writer/producer Grant Heslov, the Good Night, and Good Luck Companion Piece featurette and the film's theatrical trailer. Both high-def versions will also include 1080p video and English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. We expect the video will be MPEG-2 on the Blu-ray Disc and VC1 on the HD-DVD, but we'll have to confirm that to be sure.

Also today, Lionsgate has officially announced their second wave of Blu-ray Disc titles for 8/22 (SRP $29.99 each). The titles will include Stir of Echoes, Stargate, Total Recall and The Devil's Rejects. Stir of Echoes will include audio commentary with director David Koepp, the Sight of Spirits: Channeling the Paranormal featurette and deleted scenes. Stargate (the 128-minute unrated version) will include audio commentary with writer/director Roland Emmerich and writer/producer Dean Devlin. Total Recall will include the Visions of Mars featurette. Finally, The Devil's Rejects (the 109-minute unrated version) will include audio commentary with director Rob Zombie, audio commentary with actors Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie, and deleted scenes. All will feature 1080p video with audio in "DTS HD High Resolution ES" and "5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX." We've updated the High-Def Release List accordingly.

Here's some standard DVD news that's sure to come as no surprise: Universal has just officially announced the release of Peter Jackson's King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition on 11/14. There will be a 3-disc, anamorphic widescreen version (SRP $34.98) and the same 3-disc version packaged in a gift box (presumably with lots of as-yet-unrevealed swag items) for $79.98. We expect more details soon. Also newly announced by Universal are Frankenstein: The True Story for release on 9/26, and American Dreamz for 10/17.

And we've updated The Rumor Mill this morning with some interesting standard DVD release information. We've got tentative street date information for a number of upcoming release, including Cars, Click, Monster House, The Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Do check it out!

One last note this morning... our e-mail is down as we anticipated, so if you're trying to get in contact with me for any reason, please know that it might be day or two before I can read your e-mail. Just FYI.

Stay tuned!

7/18/06

FYI, we're doing some server work around The Bits today, so if things get a little strange, please be patient. Our e-mail may also be spotty for the next day or two, but everything else should be back to normal in the next 24 hours or so.

In the meantime, Star Trek.com has posted new details on the extras you'll find on Star Trek: The Animated Series when it arrives on DVD on 11/21. Look for 2 featurettes (Drawn to the Final Frontier - The Making of Star Trek: The Animated Series and What's the Star Trek Connection?), a photo gallery, show history text, wallpapers and AIM icons (via DVD-ROM), and finally text commentaries by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda on the episodes Yesteryear, The Eye of the Beholder and The Counter-Clock Incident. It's not much compared to the kinds of cool bonus material BCI is giving their animated DVDs, but it's better than nothing. Here's a look at the outer plastic case for the set (a rough image, but this is it)...

Star Trek: The Animated SeriesGood Night, and Good Luck (Blu-ray Disc)Justice League Unlimited: Season One

We'll try to get better quality art soon. As you can see, we've also posted artwork for Warner's Blu-ray Disc release of Good Night, and Good Luck (8/1) along with their Justice League Unlimited: Season One DVD (10/24).

Speaking of BCI, the company has just announced the DVD release of Defenders of the Earth: Volume One on 10/10 (SRP $39.98). The 5-disc set will contain the series' first 33 episodes, which feature the animated adventures of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. Extras will include new interviews with the producers and voice cast, audio commentary for the first episode with the producers and voice cast, an image gallery (of model sheets, sketches and background artwork), the original presentation pilot for the series (featuring alternate characters), detailed character profiles, 2 collectible postcards featuring artwork, trivia, and a complete set of scripts and storyboards (via DVD-ROM).

In other news today, Mile Films is releasing The Big Animal and The Clay Bird on 9/26 (SRP $29.95 each). The Big Animal was scripted by filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Decalogue, Three Colors Trilogy) for those who might be interested.

Meanwhile, Universal will release the Flower Drum Song: Special Edition on 11/7 (SRP $29.98).

Finally this morning, we've kicked off FOUR new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Image Entertainment's Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock N' Roll - Ultimate Collector's Edition, Paramount's She's the Man and Ren & Stimpy: The Lost Episodes, Shout! Factory's Shakespeare Behind Bars and FIVE CeRT custom intro animation DVDs from Bitstream Animation! All of these contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 23rd. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We'll be back later with some reviews, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/17/06 - 12:15 PM PDT)

We have some additional standard DVD release news to report this afternoon - some interesting titles we think.

First up, Universal has set Slither for release on 10/24.

Sony has scheduled both Connors' War and Riptide: The Complete First Season for 9/26.

New Line has announced the direct-to-DVD release of The Butterfly Effect 2 on 10/10.

Criterion has just announced four new DVD titles for their October slate, including Alfonso Cuarón's Sólo con tu pareja (Cat #353), Francesco Rosi's Hands Over the City (#355), Lodge Kerrigan's Shaven Clean (#354) and Jane Campion's Sweetie (#356).

Paramount has announced some cool new titles today in addition to Star Trek: The Animated Series, including Flavor of Love: The Complete First Season on 8/29, both The Andy Milonakis Show: The Complete Second Season and Wonder Showzen: The Complete Second Season on 10/10, and Wings: The Complete Third Season on 10/24. Also, be aware that the studio's press site is indicating that the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth is currently set to debut on disc in October as well, but the specific street date is still TBA.

Finally this afternoon, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the complete month of June. Our listings (above) have been updated accordingly.

We expect to be back tomorrow with a bunch of new disc reviews, some new contests and more, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/17/06 - 11 AM PDT)

There's some exciting standard DVD news today for you Star Trek fans. After months (years!) of waiting and delay, Paramount has finally, officially announced the release of Star Trek: The Animated Series on 11/21 (SRP $35). The 4-disc set will include all 22 episodes of the 1973-74 animated series in the original full frame video with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. As some of you may know, the series featured much of the cast of the original live-action series doing their character's voices. We had expected the discs to include no extras, however industry sources are telling us that there will be at least some newly produced features on the set (they're still officially TBA). You can read more at Home Media Retailing, and also here from our friends at TV Shows on DVD.com.

Also, following in the wake of Buena Vista's Blu-ray announcement from this morning, a few additional titles have been listed on the Blu-ray Disc camp's promotional website that we can expect to be announced for release on the format in the months ahead (as was the case on Friday with the Universal HD-DVDs). The High-Def Release List has been updated with all the relevant details.

Finally this morning, there are new media reports (click here) that Target has decided to no longer carry movies in Sony's UMD format for the PSP. You can pretty much stick a fork in UMD, folks. It's on its last legs.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/17/06 - 10 AM PDT)

Morning, all! Hope you had a great weekend.

We've got some breaking high-definition news to report this morning. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, which has previously declared exclusive support for Blu-ray Disc, has finally announced their first titles on the format. They'll arrive in stores on 9/19, and will include Walt Disney Pictures' Dinosaur and Eight Below, and Miramax Films' Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and The Great Raid. A second wave of titles will street on 10/17, including Walt Disney Pictures' Glory Road and Haunted Mansion, Touchstone Pictures' Dark Water and Gone in Sixty Seconds, and Dimension Films' The Brothers Grimm. Most BVHE titles will carry an SRP of $34.99. Like other high-def releases, these discs will feature full 1080p video and menus with seamless animation that can be accessed while the movie is playing. Other features on these discs will be announced soon. In addition, from the studio's press release, Eight Below, Dinosaur, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Glory Road and Haunted Mansion will feature something called Blu-Scape, "exclusive high-definition short films inspired by the movies available only on BVHE Blu-ray Discs. These shorts are presented in 1080p and shot by renowned cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg." Additional extras are in development for future Blu-ray Disc releases. Says BVHE president Bob Chapek, "The Blu-ray Disc represents a major technological breakthrough in our industry, and just as DVD revolutionized home entertainment, the Blu-ray Disc promises to deliver a new and unparalleled consumer experience. The possibilities are endless and we've just begun to bridge the future of this exciting new paradigm. These are incredibly exciting times since we are in an era where the consumer has growing control over the delivery of their entertainment choices including packaged media. We are confident that the Blu-ray Disc will be the high-definition choice for the home entertainment future."

We've updated the High-Def Release List accordingly, and we expect additional BVHE title announcements in the weeks ahead. Here's a look at the artwork for Dinosaur and a menu shot from Eight Below (we'll post additional artwork when it's available)...

Dinosaur (Blu-ray Disc)Eight Below - Blu-ray Disc menu

Back with more in a bit. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/14/06 - 8 PM PDT)

This is just a last quick update for you. Bits reader Harminder S. e-mailed us with a heads-up that the new HD-DVD promotional website has been updated with a TON of new Universal titles. According to the update, the following HD-DVD releases are "coming soon" from the studio: 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious, The Thing, Out of Sight, Spartacus, 12 Monkeys, The Blues Brothers, The Hulk, Waterworld, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Meet the Parents, The Mummy, Dune, An American Werewolf in London, Field of Dreams, Miami Vice (2006), Battlestar Galactica (70s film or new TV series unknown, but probably the new series or mini-series), Casino, The Scorpion King, American Pie 5, American Pie Unrated, The Breakfast Club, The Deer Hunter, Waist Deep, The Break-Up, Scoop, Slither, The Black Dahlia, Idlewild, You, Me and Dupree, Accepted, Jet Li's Fearless and The Return. Not sure what The Return is, but that's one helluva list.

By the way Universal... if you ARE doing The Blues Brothers, someone call John Landis and get him to give you the original audio recordings of those three deleted musical numbers (details here) and throw 'em on the disc, will ya?

Anyway, none of these titles are OFFICIALLY announced yet, but they're obviously in the planning stages. So there you go. We've updated our High-Def Release List accordingly.

Okay... enjoy your weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/14/06 - 3:30 PM PDT)

We've got a bit of ground to cover today, including some new DVD release news, so let's get to it.

First up, Sony has set Friends with Money for release on 8/29. They've also set Sketches of Frank Gehry for release on 8/22.

Warner has moved the release date for its Hollywood's Legends of Horror box set from 10/3 to 10/10. Adjust your plans accordingly.

BCI has just announced He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season Two, Volume Two for release on 9/19 (SRP $49.98), which will include the final 32 episodes of the series (episodes 99-130). Extras on the set will include The Stories of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season Two, Part Two and Animating He-Man and the Masters of the Universe documentaries, a full-length animated storyboard comparison for the episode The Problem with Power, 2 original art cards, a trio of audio commentary tracks, character profiles, trivia, Easter eggs, TV spots and 5 episode scripts (via DVD-ROM).

BCI has also announced Groovie Goolies for release on 10/24 (SRP $29.98), which will include the complete series (all episodes), along with The Definitive Groovie Goolies Documentary.

Meanwhile, Shout! Factory has set the release of its Shakespeare Behind Bars documentary on DVD on 7/18.

This would normally go in The Rumor Mill, so treat the information accordingly, but industry sources are telling us to expect Paramount to release Nacho Libre on DVD on 10/24.

We've mentioned it before, but you Bond fans will be excited to know that MGM is preparing to release new Ultimate Editions of all 20 of 007's big screen adventures, timed to coincide with the theatrical and DVD release of the latest film, Casino Royale. The new DVDs will be released as 2-disc sets, and each of the films will include both Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Lowry Digital has apparently given the films a frame by frame digital polishing, and it's likely that they'll be released both in standard DVD and high-definition Blu-ray Disc format as well. The DVD versions have already been released in the U.K. and they're announced for release in Australia on 8/16 (click here to see pictures and details from the EzyDVD online store). We expect U.S. announcements very soon.

Those of you attending Comic-Con next week might be interested to check out Universal's brief preview of the extended edition DVD release of Peter Jackson's King Kong. It'll be in Hall H on Friday, 7/21, from 4-4:15 PM. The DVD itself is expected to be released later this year, in time for the holidays. Just FYI.

There's not much high-def news today, but there are a couple interesting articles on the subject around the Net. The first, over at Video Business, features the reactions of video retailers at this week's VSDA convention in Las Vegas to HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The general consensus seems to be that retailers just aren't ready for it yet, and consumers just aren't very interested in the formats yet... probably something that should come as no surprise at this point.

The second piece, from Forbes magazine, is entitled The Next Picture Show and examines the debut of the new high-def formats in detail. It's a surprisingly good primer on both the formats themselves and the current market situation, and it ultimately advises readers to hold off on adopting HD-DVD and Blu-ray for now. Rather, the author suggests that readers spend money to upgrade to good HDTV displays in anticipation of diving into high-def discs in the future. Note that you need to be a subscriber to read the full text. Thanks to Bits reader Roger M. for the heads-up on the piece.

I have to tell you, something we'd really like to see (and VERY soon) from all of the studios supporting both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc, are more announcements of really good "gee whiz" titles. You know... A-List action and sci-fi titles - the kinds of titles that are going to really dazzle the high-end home theater-philes who are currently the only people buying into either format. The reality is, if you REALLY want to grab the early adopters' attention, and jump-start these format launches in the process, Hollywood needs to start giving them the kinds of titles they can brag about, and use to show off their home theaters to friends and family. I certainly recall that when DVD was just a few months old, back in 1997, the first titles EVERYONE wanted were eye candy... things like Batman and Blade Runner. Of all the studios supporting HD-DVD, you really have to give credit to Universal for releasing titles like Serenity, Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick. Warner's offerings so far are... well, I'm sure there are a few people out there thrilled to have Rumor Has It on HD-DVD, but I'm not one of them. On the Blu-ray Disc side, Sony and Lionsgate are trying to get eye candy titles out, but many of the first offerings are a lot less impressive that fans would have hoped (The Fifth Element immediately comes to mind). While we feel confident now that BOTH formats are capable of absolutely superb video and audio quality, where are the killer ap titles that REALLY take advantage of that?

The problem, we suspect, is that some of the studios are holding back their biggest titles in an effort to include more advanced interactive features on them. Warner continues to delay releasing The Matrix, Batman Begins and Harry Potter for this very reason. But the reality is, those interactive features just aren't ready for prime time yet. The interactive specs are only just now being tested, the authoring software isn't up to snuff yet and even if both of those issues were fully resolved, the players can't handle much of the new interactivity without firmware upgrades. So why not just release a few of the great A-list, eye candy films already - even if all they offer extras-wise is a port of the previous DVD's special features - and then roll out the more advanced bonus features later, as they're ready? The longer early adopters have to wait for the good titles... the titles they REALLY want in high-def... the more impatient they'll get with both formats. The bottom line is this: Nobody is buying HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc right now for the potential to offer John Madden-style telestrator commentary or animated pop-up menus. What they care about are great films with AMAZING video and audio. So Hollywood would do well to focus a little more effort on satisfying those cravings first, and let the gravy stuff follow naturally. Anyway, that's just a little free advice to you studio types from your ol' pals at The Bits.

In other news today, there's been an interesting court judgement from Japan. It seems that a court there has ruled that movies released prior to 1953 fall into the public domain. The decision came in response to a Paramount lawsuit against a Japanese company, First Trading Corp., that's been releasing older Paramount films at bargain-bin prices on DVDs. A new 2004 law was intended to extend copyright on such films by 20 years, but the Japanese court ruled that the law can't be applied retroactively, a decision which is sure to cause both controversy and a flurry of follow-up legal activity.

Here's a bit of news from MSNBC that's sure to cause controversy as well, at least among South Park fans. It seems that Comedy Central and Paramount have decided that the image of Muhammad seen in a recent episode of the show will probably be blanked out on the upcoming DVD release, as it was in recent reruns on the cable channel. Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are, of course, unhappy about this. They also comment in the piece on the issue of their lampooning of Tom "Crooze" and Scientology in recent episodes. It's interesting reading.

We also want to take a moment this afternoon to acknowledge the recent passing of actors Red Buttons, Barnard Hughes and June Allyson, and longtime Hanna Barbara animator Alex Toth (who worked on such classic shows as The Challenge of the Super Friends, Jonny Quest, The Herculoids and Space Ghost). All will be very much missed.

Okay... that's it for now, barring any major announcements. We'll be back on Monday with HD-DVD and Blu-ray disc reviews, new standard DVD reviews from Adam Jahnke and much more. We'll also have some very interesting release news to report next week.

Before we go, one last note: The news today is obviously filled with coverage of the turmoil going on in various places around the world, so we wanted to say to all of you readers who might live (or have family, or be serving) in the affected regions, please stay safe. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you.

Back on Monday. Stay tuned...

7/13/06

Well, there's not much standard DVD news to report so far today, but we do have a little more HD-DVD news for you... Warner Bros. has just announced the release of ATL on HD-DVD on 7/18 (SRP $39.99). The disc will include deleted scenes, the In the Rink: A Director's Journey documentary, T.I.'s What You Know music video and the theatrical trailer (in other words, the same extras as the DVD release). The High-Def Release List has been updated accordingly.

Around the site this morning, however, we do have a trio of new standard DVD reviews for you to enjoy from our own Peter Schorn, including his take on Warner's 16 Blocks, and Sony's Underworld Evolution and Basic Instinct 2: Unrated Extended Edition. More reviews will follow tomorrow.

And here's a bit of new cover art... Warner's ATL on HD-DVD, along with their Poseidon: Special Edition DVD (8/22) and Universal's Inside Man DVD (also 8/22)...

ATL (HD-DVD)Poseidon: Special EditionInside Man

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 7/12/06 - 1:15 PM PDT)

We've got some breaking high-def format news to report this afternoon. Warner Bros has just officially announced their first Blu-ray Disc releases. Training Day, Good Night, and Good Luck, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang and Rumor Has It will all street on 8/1. All of these titles are already available on HD-DVD except Good Night, and Good Luck (but we expect that to change soon), so this will be the first really good opportunity to directly compare the two formats. Training Day and Good Night, and Good Luck will carry an SRP of $28.99. The other two titles will sell for SRP $34.99. There's no word yet on the extras to be included, but we expect more on that shortly. Warner also says that they'll be announcing additional waves of Blu-ray Disc titles soon.

Note that our High-Def Release List has been updated with the details, along with new HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc release announcements from a number of indie distributors.

While I'm on this subject, does anyone out there know who's going to be releasing Shinobi (or SHINOB!), True Blue, Virtual Trip: Hawaii and Virtual Trip: Tahiti on HD-DVD, as listed on the new format promotional site?

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/12/06 - 12:15 PM PDT)

We've got some more interesting standard DVD news to report today, starting with a follow-up on that French Star Wars DVD controversy we mentioned the other day. We've gotten a follow-up e-mail from our friend Arnaud at DVDRama in France. It turns out Fox France was wrong. Someone in marketing over there apparently still doesn't know what anamorphic means. The special edition versions of the films on Disc One of each set are anamorphic, but the original theatrical editions on Disc Two of each are definitely NOT anamorphic. They're just letterboxed widescreen as we expected. Fox France has apparently apologized for the confusion, and we definitely appreciate Arnaud's efforts in confirming the truth of the situation. France is getting the same sub-par Star Wars DVDs as the rest of us. 'Nuff said.

On a more upbeat note, Universal has announced some more TV DVDs today. They've set The A Team: Season Five and Simon & Simon: Season One for 10/10, with Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Fourth Season following on 10/17.

Buena Vista meanwhile has announced Scrubs: The Complete Fourth Season for release on 10/10. They've also got the feature film Goal! The Dream Begins due on 9/12.

And Warner Bros. has announced a number of interesting new titles. They've revealed that just yesterday (7/11) they released Sister Wendy: The Complete Collection (SRP $79.98) for the BBC. Coming on 10/24 are Batman Beyond: Season 2, Justice League Unlimited: The Complete First Season, The O.C.: The Complete Third Season, a Nightmares & Dreamscapes Collection (the mini-series is set to premiere this summer on TNT), and Waking the Dead: Season 1 & Pilot Episode and Jonathan Creek: Season 1 for the BBC. Following on 10/31 is Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fifth Season. 11/7 will see the release of a pair of new sports titles, NFL History of the Colts and NFL History of the Broncos (still no respect for the Vikings, I see...). Finally, also on 11/7, the studio will release individual DVD volumes of the BBC and Sci-Fi Channel's new Doctor Who TV series, including Doctor Who: Series 1, Volume 1 (Rose/The End of the World/Unquiet Dead), Doctor Who: Series 1, Volume 2 (Aliens of London/World War Three/Dalek), Doctor Who: Series 1, Volume 3 (Long Game/Father's Day/Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) and Doctor Who: Series 1, Volume 4 (Boom Town/Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways). These are the same as the volumes already released individually on PSP format - the DVDs will sell for SRP $19.98 each. Keep in mind that the complete first season (or series, as they say in the U.K.) is already available in one package on DVD for SRP $99.98.

We've updated The Rumor Mill this afternoon with anticipated DVD street dates from our industry sources for The Lake House, Curious George and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Just FYI.

Over at our MusicTAP.net site, Matt's posted a tribute to Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett, who passed away on Friday. He's also posted a review of Capitol's Steve Miller Band: Fly Like An Eagle - 30th Anniversary Edition CD/DVD release.

Those of you interested in HD-DVD will be pleased to learn that the format's supporting studios have just launched a new promotional website and media campaign, entitled "The Look and Sound of Perfect." It's definitely worth checking out. Most interesting is an apparent list of titles now available or "coming soon" on the format, which includes Braveheart, Se7en, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Ultimate Star Trek Movie Collection. Okay... it's probably going to be months before some of these titles are actually announced, but call me officially intrigued.

By the way, Warner has indicated now that their Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will arrive on HD-DVD in the 3rd Qtr of this year, so watch for announcements soon.

While on the HD topic, if any of you execs or marketing types for BCI, Goldhil, Razor Digital, Live Nation, Eagle Rock, Kultur, HDNet, MTI and other indies are reading this, e-mail me the official details of your upcoming high-def releases and we'll add them to our handy dandy High-Def Release List.

And here's yet another format to bother with: Sony has just announced that they're going to be making movies available on Memory Stick format for the PSP. Ugh. Not that this is a bad idea in principle, but will this format-a-palooza never end? Initial titles will include Hitch, S.W.A.T., The Grudge and xXx: State of the Union. And no, we're not going to create a special section to cover this side-show curiosity unless it explodes in the marketplace as the best thing since sliced bread. Which it won't. Come on, Sony! Do the words Betamax, MiniDisc and SACD mean anything to you? Haven't you learned anything about consumers in the last 25 years? UMD, Memory Stick or Blu-ray Disc... just pick one already and stick with it for God's sake!

Okay... we're off to work on some of those DVD and high-def reviews we've been promising. Watch for them to start appearing tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 7/11/06 - 2 PM PDT)

Okay, we've got an update for you on Warner's Poseidon HD-DVD street date. The title will apparently arrive on the 12/5 date as indicated on the studio's press site, and not on the 8/22 DVD street date. The delay is apparently due to Warner's desire to include more advanced interactive features on the HD-DVD version that require additional time to prepare and test.

In other news from VSDA, Home Media Retailing says Lionsgate is projecting that by 2008, "some 20 million U.S. households will have either a Blu-ray Disc player, an HD DVD machine or both." That's a pretty rosy projection in our opinion. A lot of it is going to depend on how much the perception of a format war prevents average consumers from buying into one format or the other. Then, even if there are combo players that play both formats and many common titles on both formats, the question consumers have to ask and answer is, which format's discs should they buy? That's a question many early adopters are still struggling with, and it has no easy answer as yet.

Also revealed in the story are a number of new Lionsgate DVD releases, including the On Native Soil documentary on 8/22, Akeelah and the Bee on 8/29, Hard Candy on 9/19, a Saw II: Special Edition sometime before Halloween, An American Haunting and a Reservoir Dogs: 15th Anniversary Edition on 10/24, See No Evil on 11/28, and a Dirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary Edition for early in 2007.

Here at The Bits this afternoon, we've just updated our mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its latest version, dated 6/29.

Finally today, we've launched a pair of new Contests this week, giving you each the chance to take home copies of Warner's E.R.: The Complete Fifth Season and Fantoma's Educational Archives: School Locker Box Set. Both contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 16th. That CeRT DVD contest we mentioned last week will start this coming Monday, just FYI.

Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/11/06 - 11 AM PDT)

Anyone see the World Cup final match this weekend between France and Italy? I was out of town for the weekend, and so only caught it on TiVo last night, somehow having managed to stay unspoiled as to the outcome for two days. I love World Cup football - it's one of the only major team sports in the world where the winners of the final game can legitimately call themselves world champions. And it was an interesting game too - congrats to both teams and their fans. One thing I hate about World Cup football however, is the absurd theatrics that some of these players put on. Man, if a player gets bumped or jostled in any way, they collapse to the turf writhing in agony like their appendix just burst, hoping to draw a foul on the other team. There needs to be a penalty for that, 'cause it's just silly. Ah well. It's still a helluva lot of fun.

Anyway, the Video Software Dealers Association show (VSDA) is happening this week in Las Vegas, so there's sure to be some interesting title announcements over the next few days on all three formats - DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Indeed, we've got a few of them to report on today for you.

First up, 20th Century Fox has revealed that it will release its computer animated Ice Age: The Meltdown on 11/21 (SRP $29.98). Extras will include audio commentary by director Carlos Saldanha, producer Lori Forte and members of the film's crew, new character introductions, a trio of short films, multiple production featurettes, a sound-effects lab, bloopers, interactive games, clips involving the characters from Family Guy and the original No Time for Nuts short.

Fox has also tentatively set The Devil Wears Prada for release on 12/12.

And here's a little something that's very interesting: Our friend Arnaud Calistri, who runs the DVDRama.com website in France, e-mailed me yesterday to say that Fox France has confirmed with him that the original versions of the Star Wars films to be released on DVD there will be in anamorphic widescreen (enhanced for widescreen 16x9 TVs). As many of you know, they were announced for release here in the States and elsewhere in non-anamorphic (letterboxed) widescreen only, causing a furor among fans (and rightly so). This news, if true, means one of two things: Either Lucasfilm quickly got their act together when fans complained and created new anamorphic masters for the DVD release everywhere (and it just hasn't been announced here in the States yet), or France is getting better DVDs that the rest of the world. If they DID get their act together, expect Lucasfilm's fan relations guru, Steve Sansweet, to make a massive deal about it the company's Star Wars panel at Comic-Con next week. If they DIDN'T get their act together, and France IS getting better discs, expect fans to make a massive deal about it. We'll ask all the right people to see if we can find out the truth of the matter. Of course, we'll let you know.

Moving on, Universal has set Spike Lee's Inside Man for release on 8/8 (SRP $29.98). The film will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame editions, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras are expected to include audio commentary with Lee, deleted scenes, a pair of featurettes and The Making of Inside Man documentary.

Lionsgate will release Mr. Jingles on 7/18, with Komodo vs. Cobra, La Mujer De Mi Hermano, Clifford's Puppy Days: Puppy Sports Spectacular and Clifford the Big Red Dog: Growing up with Clifford following on 7/25. By the way, there's no word yet on Lionsgate's second wave of Blu-ray Disc titles - the ones that were previously announced and then delayed.

Paramount has set a new Jackass the Movie: Unrated Special Collector's Edition for release on 9/5. The studio has also set their re-issues (for DreamWorks) of Madagascar, The Prince of Egypt, Shrek, Shrek 2 and Shark Tale for release on 8/29.

Meanwhile, Warner has set Krypto the Superdog, Volume 2 for release on 10/24.

Speaking of Warner, the studio has run full-page ads in some of the industry trades this week promoting their support of both new high-def disc formats. Presumably this means that they'll soon begin announcing Blu-ray Disc titles in addition to HD-DVDs. Pictured in the ads (one of which you can view here, courtesy of Bits reader Ben Simon) are Blu-ray editions of 16 Blocks, The Perfect Storm, Million Dollar Baby, Firewall and Swordfish (which are already available on HD-DVD).

By the way, Warner's retail site is currently indicating that the Poseidon HD-DVD may street on 12/5, rather than day and date with the DVD versions on 8/22. That doesn't make a great deal of sense, so we believe it could be an error. We still expect the title will arrive day and date with standard DVD, but we'll look into it and let you know.

Also today, you fans of Warner's Forbidden Planet will be pleased to know that we've confirmed with the studio that they'll finally reveal their 50th Anniversary DVD release plans for the film next week, during their promotional event at Comic-Con. We'll bring you all the details when they're available.

Around the site this morning, we've updated all of the DVD format stats we track (above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the first four weeks of June.

And finally, here's a bit of news that isn't likely to end the HD format war, but MAY make it cheaper for those hardware manufacturers who are willing to make HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc combo players available. It seems that Ricoh has developed a laser pick-up system that's compatible with both format specs. Thanks to several Bits readers who e-mailed this in. You can also read more here.

Here's a re-post of the cover art for a trio of Paramount's first HD-DVD releases, which were finally officially announced yesterday (click here). More Paramount HD-DVD art should be available soon...

U2: Rattle and Hum (HD-DVD)Four Brothers (HD-DVD)Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (HD-DVD)

Stay tuned!


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