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-Newsletter est. 4/15/97-
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page updated: 1/3/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 12/19/06 - 11/15/06)


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(LATE UPDATE - 12/19/06 - 6 PM PST)

Okay... let's catch up with some DVD announcements. We'll start with Universal. The studio has set The Return for release on 2/27, along with The Rockford Files: Season Three. Also, the studio has Hollywoodland due on 2/6 in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen DVDs, as well as a DVD/HD-DVD Combo disc.

Paramount has officially set Twin Peaks: The Second Season for release on 4/10 (see cover art below). Also due on 4/17 are Happy Days: The Complete Second Season, Laverne & Shirley: The Complete Second Season and Mork & Mindy: The Complete Second Season.

Meanwhile, Disney is prepping a Peter Pan: 2-Disc Platinum Edition for release on 3/6.

Sony has announced Stranger Than Fiction for release on 2/27.

Lionsgate's January slate will include Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq and Balzac (1/2), Crank (DVD and Blu-ray), Murder Set Pieces and Live Nude Girls (1/9), Saw III (DVD and Blu-ray), Doodlebops Superstars, Jacknife, Kounterfeit, Last Light, Rubberface and a Marvel Animated Features Collector's Gift Set featuring Ultimate Avengers: The Movie, Ultimate Avengers 2 and The Invincible Iron Man with an Iron Man bust (1/23), The Invincible Iron Man (1/27) and UFC 7 Classics, UFC 8 Classics, Unhitched and El Vacilon (1/30).

20th Century Fox has set The Addams Family: Volume Two and The Shield: Season Five for release on 3/27. They also have The Full Monty: Fully Exposed Edition due on 3/6, as well as Stargate: Atlantis - Season Two.

And Warner has set The Departed for release on 2/13 in single-disc and 2-disc special edition DVD versions (SRP $28.98 and $34.99 respectively). There's no word yet on extras. We expect HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions to be announced as well. Other newly announced DVDs from Warner include Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: The Complete Second Season (due 4/24), George Lopez: The Complete First & Second Seasons (4/17), The Science of Sleep (2/6), Tom Goes to the Mayor: The Complete Series (4/3), and Infamous (2/13).

On the high-def front today, Buena Vista has set The Prestige, Reign of Fire and Ladder 49 for release on Blu-ray Disc format on 2/13.

We've also finally heard back from Warner per our high-def inquiry from early last week. We've spoken today with Warner Home Video's VP of HD Media Development, Dan Silverberg, about the studio's support of both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats moving forward. Here's what he had to say:

"WHV's objective is to have triple day and date releases for all new theatrical titles on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. We began this with The Lake House and more recently Superman Returns and Ant Bully. As for our catalog titles, we would like to have simultaneous HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. Again, this is something we have done recently with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, and will be doing with Scooby-Doo and Alexander: The Director's Cut, as well as recent DVD releases coming soon to high def like Wickerman and Beerfest, both being the unrated versions.

We also plan to make every effort to "catch-up" the 2006 titles currently only out on HD DVD with the Blu-ray versions in 2007. There are two reasons that the discrepancy exists. One has to do with the interactivity layer for BD with respect to picture-in-picture functionality. Some of our titles like Batman Begins and V for Vendetta have extensive interactive experiences and we don't want the Blu-ray consumer to have a "lesser" experience. We expect that this enhanced interactivity will be ready on the Blu-ray side soon. The other reason had to do with length of movies and the availability of 50 GB discs. That situation has already improved, as the releases of Unforgiven, Last Samurai and Goodfellas (1/16) show. We are also working on Enter the Dragon and a few others for early 2007 Blu-ray release as part of that "catching up" plan."


Silverberg also informed me that Warner will be confirming continued support of both high-def formats at CES early next month, and expects to announce "some titles of interest" at the show (as will a number of the other high-def supporting studios, as we reported here at The Bits last week).

Okay, we'll leave you this evening with a look at some more new DVD cover art, hot off the wires. Here's Warner's The Departed: Special Edition, Paramount's Twin Peaks: The Second Season and South Park: The Complete Ninth Season (3/6), Universal's Hollywoodland, Disney's Peter Pan: Platinum Edition (temp/marketing art) and Fox's The Shield: Season 5...

The Departed: Special EditionTwin Peaks: The Second SeasonSouth Park: The Complete Ninth Season

HollywoodlandPeter Pan: Platinum EditionThe Shield: Season 5

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/19/06 - 3 PM PST)

We're back! Or rather I'M back... from visiting family in North Dakota over the weekend. Thanks for your patience while I slipped away for an early Christmas holiday for a few days. It was certainly fun to see the old homestead again. As it happens, on the night my brother and I arrived back in frozen (but surprisingly un-snowy) Valley City, we were treated to an AMAZING display of the Northern Lights. Apparently there was a solar flare or something earlier in the week, and the result was the best display I'd ever seen by far. Jason (my brother) happened to have his camera along, so the two of us dragged our dad out into the country and took some 30-second, long-exposure pictures. I thought some of you might get a kick out of seeing a few of them, so here you go...

Northern Lights in Valley City, ND - 12/14/06 - photo by Jason Smith

Northern Lights in Valley City, ND - 12/14/06 - photo by Jason Smith

Northern Lights in Valley City, ND - 12/14/06 - photo by Jason Smith

Northern Lights in Valley City, ND - 12/14/06 - photo by Jason Smith

Those first three were taken with the camera pointed down close to the horizon, while in the last one it was pointed straight up. Obviously, that's myself, dad and Jason in that first picture. The shots are a little blurry, but this was just one of those spur of the moment opportunities, plus we were struggling to work the tripod in the dark with frozen hands. Anyway, a good time was had by all... as you can probably tell.

We'll be back in a little while to start catching you all up on the latest DVD and high-def news. Tomorrow morning, we're also going to be posting one last 2006 edition of Classic Coming Attractions from Barrie Maxwell, in honor of the holiday season. In the meantime, I'll be trying to catch up on some of the 3500 e-mails that came in over the weekend while I was away, and sorting out the wheat from the chaff (or the spam) so to speak.

First, however, we want to acknowledge the passing yesterday of Hollywood animation legend Joe Barbera. Barbera was the co-creator (with Bill Hanna) of such beloved classic characters as Fred Flintstone, George Jetson, Jonny Quest, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear. He was 95. We can't think of a better way to remember him than to enjoy some of his work on DVD. Thankfully, MANY of these great vintage shows are now available on disc from Warner. Barbera will certainly be missed.

Back in a bit, so stay tuned...

12/14/06

Just a couple new DVD announcements to report today. Warner has set Emperors of the Ice for release on 3/20 (for National Geographic). They also have The Batman: The Complete Third Season and a 3-pack of The Batman: Seasons 1-3 due on 4/10, as well as Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda due on 4/17 (for the BBC).

Also, MGM will be releasing (via Fox) a new Silence of the Lambs: Collector's Edition on 1/30 (SRP $26.98). The film will be included in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include the Inside the Labyrinth: Making of The Silence of the Lambs documentary, the 2-part The Silence of the Lambs: Page to Screen documentary, the 3-part Jonathan Demme & Jodie Foster documentary, the Scoring the Silence featurette, the original 1991 featurette, deleted scenes, an outtakes reel, a phone message by Anthony Hopkins as Lector, a photo gallery, TV spots and theatrical trailers. MGM also has The Hannibal Lector Collection Giftset due on 1/30 (SRP $29.98) containing single-disc editions of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Manhunter.

And that's going to do it for us here at The Bits until next week. I'm taking my Christmas holiday a couple weeks early, and travelling back to North Dakota this weekend for a surprise visit with my family. Never fear, we'll return on Tuesday, December 19th with all the latest DVD news and more. Hope you guys all have a great weekend and we'll see you then!

Hey - not so fast.....it's Sarah here, while I'm uploading this post for Bill, he may be away, but I will be back with a special giveaway from Sideshow Collectibles and a little story about a trip to Las Vegas last November BEFORE Tuesday, so you might want to check back for that. Especially if you are eagerly awaiting a certain film to open next week, you'll want to check it out!




12/13/06

We've got some sad news to report today. Veteran film and TV actor Peter Boyle has passed away at the age of 71. Boyle's list of credits is surprisingly long and deep, but it's for his appearance as The Monster in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein that he first gained notoriety. Most people, of course, will know him best as Ray's dad, Frank, on TV's Everybody Loves Raymond. I have to say, though, I think my favorite of all of Boyle's roles over the years was Clyde Bruckman, the reluctant psychic with the power to foresee how people will die, on the classic X-Files episode Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. Character acting just doesn't get much better than that. Our friend Moriarty over at AICN has written a nice remembrance of Boyle today that's worth checking out. We'll miss you, Peter.

Here at The Bits today, we've got Todd Doogan's latest Weekly Release Roundup for you. Todd runs down the major DVD releases that have arrived in stores this week, and gives you his quick take on which are worth your time.

As is to be expected occasionally in mid-December, there's little real DVD news to report today. The only high-def news worth mentioning is that Sony's first Blu-ray Disc player, the long-delayed BDP-S1, is finally shipping to retailers (read more here at Home Media Retailing). Toshiba's second-generation HD-DVD players (the HD-A2 and HD-XA2) should also now be available in stores.

One other quick note today... I was able to slip away last night and catch a screening of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto with Matt Rowe of our MusicTAP affiliate site. I have to admit, it's not really a film I was looking forward to. What with all the hype, and all the bad press Gibson's gotten recently, neither of us was quite sure what to expect. Turns out it's a pretty damn good film. The story is compelling, it's well written and shot, the characters are interesting and the tension builds nicely. It's violent to be sure, but not nearly as much as I expected based on some of the recent media comments (I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising that the film's violence, like so much else, has been overblown by the media). There are a couple of extremely unlikely and convenient turns in the plot, but when you get right down to it, it's a good piece of work. I wouldn't call it great... but it's well worth seeing. As Matt noted, the theater was awfully full for a Tuesday night (and for a film all in Mayan no less). Whether you like Gibson personally or not, one thing's for sure: The man knows how to make an interesting film.

Stay tuned...

12/12/06

Okay... we're pleased today to bring you the latest installment of Barrie Maxwell's Classic Coming Attractions. In this edition, Barrie reviews 15 new and recent classic DVD releases, including VCI's Forgotten Noir: Volume 2 and Forgotten Noir: Volume 3, 20th Century Fox's The Quiller Memorandum, The Chairman and The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Warner's Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection, Motion Picture Masterpieces box set, The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Four, the Astaire & Rogers Collection: Volume 2, Paramount's Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection: Volume One, The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Seventh Season, The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Final Season and Oh! What a Lovely War: Special Collector's Edition, Criterion's A Canterbury Tale and Questar's Adventures in America's Western Parks. As always, Barrie also runs down the latest classic release announcements. Enjoy!

Elsewhere around The Bits today, we've kicked off TWO new Contests, giving each of you the chance to win copies of a TON of great Warner titles, including The Taylor/Burton Collection, Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 1, A Star Is Born, The Ant Bully, The Polar Express, The Dukes of Hazzard: Season Seven, The Year Without a Santa Claus and Full House: Season Five, along with Warner's Animaniacs: Volume Two and Pinky and the Brain: Volume Two. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific), on Sunday, December 24th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

In DVD news today, Universal has set Alias Smith and Jones: Season One for release on 2/20 (SRP $39.98). They've also set Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow for release on 3/6, with The Land Before Time XII: The Great Day of the Flyers expected on 2/27.

Geneon Entertainment will release Trigun: Volume 6 on 1/2, with Fighting Spirit: Volume 16 following on 1/9, and Gun Sword: Volume 5 and The Law of Ueki: Volume 5 due on 1/16.

Meanwhile, Paramount has announced The Untouchables: Season One, Volume One (the Robert Stack series) and The Streets of San Francisco: The First Season, Volume One for release on 4/3, with Bang the Drum Slowly, Fear Strikes Out and Talent for the Game following on 4/6. They've also officially announced the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner - Uncensored! for release on 3/20, as well as I Love Lucy: The Complete 7th, 8th & 9th Seasons which is expected on 3/13.

In other release news, New Line has announced Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny for release on 2/27 (SRP $27.95). Extras will include audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes, featurettes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, a music video and more.

MGM (via 20th Century Fox) has also announced a Fiddler on the Roof: 2-Disc Collector's Edition for release on 1/23 (SRP $26.98). Extras will include audio commentary with director Norman Jewison and actor Topol, deleted scenes, a documentary, 6 featurettes, interviews, photo galleries, trailers and more.

Speaking of Fox, an L.A.-area judge threw out yesterday a lawsuit by a pair of fraternity brothers (featured in a rather embarrassing scene in the film) that could have delayed the DVD release of Borat. You can read more here at MSNBC and here at Variety.

There's more high-def news to report today as well: 20th Century Fox has just announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Ice Age, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Dodgeball and Commando on 3/13 (SRP $39.98 each). Mr. & Mrs. Smith will feature AVC compression, while the rest will be MPEG-2. All will have 5.1 DTS HD Lossless audio and at least a few extras each (repurposed from the DVD releases).

Meanwhile, Universal Home Entertainment has gotten back to us this afternoon with a bit of news regarding their high-def plans. Vivian Meyer, the studio's Senior VP of Publicity, has informed us that the studio will continue exclusively backing the HD-DVD format in 2007 and expects to make a number of major HD-DVD release announcements at CES next month.

Finally today, here's more new cover art... Paramount's The Wild Wild West: The Second Season (3/20) and the Ghost: Special Collector's Edition (3/13), along with MGM's Fiddler on the Roof: 2-Disc Collector's Edition...

The Wild Wild West: The Second SeasonGhost: Special Collector's EditionFiddeler on the Roof: 2-Disc Collector's Edition

Stay tuned...

12/11/06

Afternoon, folks. There's some interesting DVD announcement news to report today, and we've got a high-def follow-up from Friday's post as well. Let's start with the DVD news...

First, Warner Home Video has announced the 3/27 debut of a 5-disc Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection, Volume 2 box set. The set will contain Adventures of Don Juan (1948), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Dawn Patrol (1938), Dive Bomber (1941) and Gentleman Jim (1942). All of these films will also available individually for SRP $19.97 each. Adventures of Don Juan will include audio commentary by director Vincent Sherman and historian Rudy Behlmer. All of the titles except The Dawn Patrol will include Warner Night at the Movies short subjects. All will include theatrical trailers. And Gentleman Jim will include an audio-only feature: a radio show adaptation of the same story featuring Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith and Ward Bond (with subtitles).

Sony has announced American Hardcore, Crossover, Flight of Fury, Walking Tall: The Payback, The Three Stooges: Hapless Half-Wits (colorized), A Man for All Seasons: Special Edition, a Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children - Limited Edition Collector's Set (that includes a bonus disc, the script, a book and postcards) and a Blu-ray Disc version of Vertical Limit, all for release on 2/20.

Meanwhile, Universal has announced a Family Favorites 4-Movie Collection (3/20 - SRP $26.98) set to include Casper, Flipper, Leave It to Beaver and The Little Rascals.

The latest e-mail newsletter from Criterion hints that the company will be releasing more classics from filmmaker Ingmar Bergman on DVD in early 2007. At least five more titles are apparently in the offing.

And our friends over at Media Blasters have sent us word that they're releasing Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman - Volume Six on 1/30. This will complete the DVD release of the classic Japanese TV show's first season. Media Blasters is currently evaluating whether they'll continue with seasons 2-4. We certainly hope they do! FYI, Volume Six will include episodes 22-26 (Song of the Father and Son, Suicide Song of Lovers, The Coming of Spring, Way of the Yakuza and Traveling Alone).

Okay... now for a bit of high-def news. I said on Friday that you can expect some major title announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. Well, I wasn't kidding and we've got a bit of follow-up for you.

I've just spoken today with Eric Maehara, VP of Communications for Buena Vista Home Entertainment. He informed me that the studio is planning to announce a MAJOR Blu-ray Disc release line-up for the first half of 2007 at CES. In addition, he reiterated to me in no uncertain terms that BVHE has no plans to support HD-DVD, despite persistent online rumors to the contrary.

I've also spoken this afternoon with Steve Feldstein, Senior VP of Corporate and Marketing Communications for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. He likewise confirmed that Fox has no plans to support HD-DVD, and that the studio will also be announcing additional Blu-ray Disc titles at CES.

Paramount's Senior VP for Worldwide DVD Production, Jeff Radoycis, has informed me that the studio is currently focusing on new release titles, but is also busy evaluating a number of major catalog titles for their readiness to be released on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the year ahead. The studio definitely expects to continue supporting both high-def formats equally in 2007.

And on Friday afternoon I spoke with a press representative of New Line Home Entertainment regarding their future high-def releases. The latest official word is that the studio is currently still evaluating their plans as far as which format(s) they might support and what titles they might want to release. For now, don't expect anything from them on either format until probably mid-2007.

We've got follow-up inquiries in to Warner, Universal and Sony with regard to their forthcoming high-def announcement plans, in particular whether they plan any major announcements at CES or not. We'll post the details of their responses as soon as they come in.

Okay... we'll leave you today with more new cover art. Here's Media Blaster's Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman - Volume Six, Criterion's Green for Danger (2/13) and Universal's The Mummy Returns HD-DVD (1/16)...

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman - Volume SixGreen for Danger (Criterion)The Mummy Returns (HD-DVD)

We'll be back with Barrie's new Classic Coming Attractions column later tonight or early tomorrow AM. Stay tuned...

12/8/06

Well... looks like we're going close out the week with some major high-definition news. Buena Vista Home Entertainment has announced (via their DisneyBluray.com website) an updated January 2007 Blu-ray Disc release slate. Due on 1/23 are Casanova, Chicago, The Guardian and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. All will be 50GB titles, most of which will SRP for $34.99 each.

Lionsgate has confirmed their 1/23 Blu-ray release of the Saw III: Unrated Edition (SRP $39.99). Extras will include audio commentary with director Darren Lynn Bousman, writer/executive producer Leigh Whannell and executive producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine, a second commentary with producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg, a third commentary with Bousman, editor Kevin Greutert and DP David A. Armstrong, deleted scenes and 5 featurettes (The Props of Saw III, The Details of Death: The Traps of Saw III, Darren's Diary: Anatomy of a Director, Amanda: Evolution of a Killer and The Writing of Saw III). The High-Def Release List has been updated accordingly.

Pioneer has also just released Ghost in the Shell: Innocence on Blu-ray Disc in Japan (you'll find it at CD Japan - $70 U.S. dollars).

Meanwhile, Warner has informed me that the studio is committed to catching up with their Blu-ray Disc releases in 2007, so that all previously released HD-DVD titles will be available on Blu-ray as well, and future titles will be released on both formats simultaneously.

While we're talking Warner HD-DVD, the studio has released Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on that format in the U.K. (you'll find it at Amazon UK) and reports from readers indicate that it plays flawlessly on U.S. players. The U.S. release of the title is expected to be announced early next year. In fact, watch for a number of major high-definition release announcements to be made by the studios at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month (January 8-10). Some big catalog titles are in the wings for release in early 2007 on both formats.

One last bit of high-def news today. There's apparently a report that's been issued by the marketing research firm Cymfony, in which "enthusiast sentiment" about both high-def formats has been measured... sort of. "Blu-ray drowning in negative buzz" says the headline at arstechnica. Basically, Cymfony conducted an informal survey of enthusiast websites, blogs and other places where people are talking about the new HD formats, and found 46 percent more "positive discussions" about HD-DVD than about Blu-ray. Reportedly, this is not because of any complaints about technical deficiencies of the Blu-ray format, but rather because home theater enthusiasts and gamers seem to have a more negative attitude towards Sony right now (for having launched many failed formats in the past, for delaying the PS3 and bumping up the cost, and for a general perception of corporate arrogance). I've had a few people e-mail this to me this morning, some of them claiming it as proof that HD-DVD is winning the format war (in the same way that select people regularly e-mail me the list of top selling high-def titles on Amazon as proof of one format or the other winning - I can tell you from personal experience that the Amazon numbers are almost meaningless in terms of judging actual strength of sales). Frankly, I wouldn't read too much into any of this, though I'm sure some folks will anyway.

This report is certainly interesting, but it's not really anything new or surprising. It's also not really a fair comparison. The fact is, HD-DVD beat Blu-ray to the market by several months and the HD-DVD supporting studios have released more titles on that format, so it's only naturally going to have more positive buzz. What's more, not only has the Blu-ray camp been slower with both hardware and software, the delay and higher price of the PS3 has drawn loud complaints from gamers, which has skewed the buzz negative. Frankly, I'll be more interested to see measurements of enthusiast sentiment next year, once Warner's Blu-ray slate has caught up to its HD-DVD slate, once Fox, Disney, MGM, Sony and Lionsgate have begun releasing many more exclusive Blu-ray Disc titles (major catalog releases along the lines of the Bond films, Alien, ID4 and the Disney animated films), once there are several million PS3s sold, once Sony and Pioneer's players have finally arrived in stores and once you start to see hardware prices come down a bit.

As I've said before, BOTH formats can (and usually do) deliver outstanding picture and sound quality. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The slight differences in video quality some perceive between the two have less to do with individual format specs, and more to do with quirks or deficiencies of the early players and the different video compression schemes being used to encode the films. Personally, I've discovered that I tend to have a preference for AVC and VC1, which HD-DVD uses exclusively. Most early Blu-ray Discs have been encoded in MPEG-2 which, while adequate, seems to lend a slightly softer look to the resulting image. But more and more Blu-ray titles are being encoded in AVC and VC1 these days, so that difference is starting to become irrelevant. And the more hardware that becomes available for each format, the better one is able to judge overall format quality vs. hardware issues.

Based on what I'm being told by industry sources, Blu-ray Disc should start to close the gap in early 2007, both in terms of hardware availability and the sheer number of titles released. Sales of Blu-ray software are reportedly already on the rise, likely triggered by the debut of the PS3 (although NEITHER camp is yet willing to release specific hardware or software sales figures yet, which tells you a lot about consumer interest in HD discs overall).

I'll be the first to admit that, prior to either format launching, I felt Blu-ray Disc had the clear edge in studio and hardware support. I'll also be the first to admit that I've been VERY impressed with HD-DVD so far, and in particular with the efforts of Warner and Universal to release tons of great catalog titles on the format. However, the Blu-ray studios are only now just starting to really ramp up their catalog release slates, so we haven't yet seen a level playing field between the two formats. That will change in 2007, when both camps will be finally be bringing their A-games to this competition. Only then will enthusiasts be able to make truly fair comparisons between the two formats in terms of hardware and software... and we'll see what happens. It's certainly going to be interesting.

Okay... it's mostly quiet on the standard DVD front again today, I'm afraid. We do have word, however, that Universal has announced the release of Northern Exposure: The Complete Sixth Season on 3/6.

Also, Amazon has begun taking preorders for MGM's Stargate Atlantis: Season Two, with the street date listed as 3/6 (SRP $49.98). We expect an official announcement soon.

And BCI has officially announced the DVD release of the animated Ghostbusters on 2/27. Filmation's Ghostbusters: Volume One will be a 6-disc set (SRP $39.98) that includes the first 32 episodes along with new interviews with the show's creators, an anti-drug PSA, the original 10-minute presentation/promo pilot episode, a storyboard slideshow, an image gallery, Easter eggs and trivia, and a bonus episode.

Elsewhere here at The Bits, we've posted another update of The Rumor Mill featuring a few more new anticipated street dates for early 2007 DVD releases. Don't miss it.

And we've got a bit of new DVD cover art for you to check out today as well. Here's Fox's Trust the Man (2/6), Sony's Gandhi: 25th Anniversary Edition (2/13), BCI's Ghostbusters: Volume One, Criterion's 49th Parallel (2/13), Pioneer's Ghost in the Shell: Innocence Blu-ray (Japan only) and Warner's Poseidon HD-DVD (12/31)...

Trust the ManGandhi: 25th Anniversary EditionGhostbusters: Volume One

49th Parallel (Criterion)Ghost in the Shell: Innocence (Blu-ray Disc)Poseidon (HD-DVD)

Okay... that's all for now. If we don't post again today (for lack of news), have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday with a new Classic Coming Attractions column from Barrie Maxwell, and more new disc reviews (including some Blu-ray and HD-DVD reviews). Stay tuned...

12/7/06

It's another typically slow December news day DVD-wise here at The Bits. Hardly anything's getting announced at the moment it seems. The studios are all waiting until next month to really start the big early 2007 announcements, and they're waiting for CES to announce any big HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc news. So we're going to go work on more disc reviews today for posting soon. There's never a lack of titles to review, that's for sure.

I've also been busy debugging a troublesome computer - scandisking, defragging and, of course, the endless struggle to create more free space on the hard drives. So if for some reason you've been trying to contact me, just know that I probably won't be able to access my e-mail until tonight. Ugh.

There is one big bit of news in the industry today, which is that Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest sold a whopping 5 million copies on DVD on just its first day of release. Industry analysts are expecting it to be the biggest release of the year when all is said and done. The studio also held a promotional event this week in Hollywood which fans were made to "walk the plank." You can read more at Video Business and Home Media Retailing.

Stay tuned!

12/6/06

Afternoon, folks! As promised, we've got more new DVD reviews for you today, including my thoughts on CBS/Paramount's new Star Trek: The Animated Series, 20th Century Fox's 36-disc M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection and Universal Music's U2 18: Videos, U2 18: Singles - Limited Edition (CD/DVD) and U2: Zoo TV Live from Sydney - Limited Edition. All of these titles are now available in stores.

Also as promised today, we've got Todd's quickie Weekly Roundup of the latest DVD releases in stores this week. There's some good new classic film box sets in particular that arrived in stores yesterday, so don't miss it.

As we've said before, December is typically a very slow month for new announcements, but we do have a few to report today. First, 20th Century Fox has set Anything But Love: Volume 1 for release on 2/6. That's the TV series staring Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis. They've also set Lillian Russell (1940) and The Gang's All Here (1944) for release on 2/20. Finally, they're planning a new Romeo + Juliet: Music Edition on 2/6 as well - that's the Baz Luhrmann film, by the way. No word yet on extras.

Finally, Warner has announced One Foot in the Grave: Season One, One Foot in the Grave: Season Two, The Cherry Orchard (1981/1962), The Judi Dench Collection and Clarkson: Heaven and Hell for release on 3/27 (all of them BBC titles), along with NBA Los Angeles Lakers 1985 Champions: Return to Glory, Full House: The Complete Sixth Season and a Full House: Seasons 1-6 gift pack.

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned!

12/5/06

Okay... sorry today's post is a little late, but we're getting ready to unleash a barrage of disc reviews. We'll start this evening with a look at Disney and Pixar's Cars (the widescreen version, of course), along with Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 and BCI Eclipse's Ark II: The Complete Series. Then we'll be back with at least three more DVD reviews tomorrow, along with Todd's latest Weekly Release Roundup. We'll also have more high-def reviews by the end of the week as well, so be sure to watch for them.

Some quick DVD announcements today... Universal has set Man of the Year and Curious George's Zoo Night and Other Animal Stories for release on 2/20, with Kettle of Fish following on 3/6, and Sex Sells due on 3/27.

Also, Warner has announced four more high-definition titles for release on 1/16: Scooby-Doo: The Movie on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc, GoodFellas on Blu-Ray Disc and Poseidon on HD-DVD. Each will carry an SRP of $28.99, and will include all of the bonus materials that were offered on the standard DVD releases. Poseidon will also include a new In-Movie Experience (IME), in which actor Josh Lucas discusses "the challenges of creating special effects and action on a water drenched set." Should be riveting. The High-Def Release List has been updated accordingly.

Back with more tomorrow, so stay tuned!

12/4/06

Afternoon, folks! We've got a few interesting new DVD announcements to report, including a title coming in a couple of weeks that almost slipped by our attention.

I'm speaking of Lionsgate's The Doors: 15-Year Anniversary Edition, due on 12/12 (SRP $19.98). The set includes the film in both full frame and newly remastered anamorphic widescreen (I believe this is the first time this film has been available in anamorphic), with audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES. Extras include a new one-on-one interview with director Oliver Stone, 3 documentaries (The Doors in Los Angeles, The Jim Morrison Phenomena in Paris and The Road to Excess) and some 43 minutes worth of additional scenes and footage.

Also coming from Lionsgate on 12/26 is The Descent. The title will be available Unrated anamorphic widescreen, Unrated full frame and R-rated full frame editions (SRP $28.98 each), as well as a Blu-ray Disc edition that includes both versions of the film in 1080p widescreen (SRP $39.99). The Unrated DVDs will include audio commentary with the director and cast, a second commentary with the director and members of the production crew, The Descent: Beneath the Scenes documentary, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, the DesENDING interview with the director, storyboards and scene comparisons, a stills gallery, and cast and crew biographies. The full frame R-rated edition will include only the audio commentary with the director and cast. The Descent Blu-ray Disc will include both versions of the film via seamless branching, 6.1 PCM uncompressed audio and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio, all of the Unrated DVD extras, plus an in-movie interactive experience called The Gate (that lets you view behind-the-scenes material while watching the film) and a short featurette called Caving in high-definition.

In other news today, Paramount will release Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: The Complete Fourth Season on 2/20.

Also, Sony has set Zoom: Academy for Superheroes, Half Nelson, The Quiet, All in the Family: The Complete Sixth Season, Grosse Pointe: The Complete Series, a 2-disc Gandhi: 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition and Marie Antoinette, all for release on 2/13.

Finally, 20th Century Fox has just announced a new 2-disc Passion of the Christ: Definitive Edition for release on 1/30 (SRP $26.98). Disc One will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, two versions of the film (the original and a "recut" edition) via seamless branching and 4 audio commentary tracks (the first three available only on the original edition of the film - filmmaker commentary with Mel Gibson, Caleb Deschanel and John Wright, production commentary with Stephen McEveety, Ted Rae and Keith Vanderlaan, theologian commentary with Gibson, Father William J. Fulco, Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek, and selected scenes music commentary by John Debney). Disc Two will include the feature-length, multi-part By His Wounds We Are Healed: Making The Passion of the Christ documentary, a panel discussion, the multi-part The Legacy documentary, deleted scenes, galleries of production art, historical texts and other images, and the theatrical trailer.

Here's a look at the cover art for The Descent, The Doors and Passion of the Christ...

The DescentThe Doors: 15-Year Anniversary EditionPassion of the Christ: Definitive Edition

Back with more later. Stay tuned...

12/1/06

Afternoon, lads and lasses! Well... just found out I'm doing the PetSmart Santa thing again this weekend, plus the wind and snow's blowing like crazy in a lot of places and poor ol' Doogan's been knocked silly with a cold. Must be December. Bbbbrrrrrr!

Speaking of Doogan, despite being a little under the weather, he's turned in his Weekly Roundup for this week, running down all of the week's new-in-stores DVD releases. Drop him an e-mail if you get the chance and give him a little pick-me up to cut through all the mucous and whatnot.

Not much news today, but Warner has announced that they're releasing the following titles for HBO in early 2007: Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry: Season 4 and Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry: Seasons 1-4 Pack (both 2/27), followed by The Affair, Age Old Friends, The Image, Judgement, State of Emergency and Women & Men 2 (all 3/6).

Also, Universal has unveiled the 1/30 release of a Half Baked DVD/HD-DVD combo disc. The High-Def Release List has naturally been updated.

Lack of announcements aside, we do have a Rumor Mill update that you'll dig if you're interested in tentative street dates for Flushed Away, Shut Up & Sing, Borat, A Good Year, Twin Peaks: Season 2, For Your Consideration and more. Don't miss it.

And that's about it. We'll have some new DVD reviews for you on Monday, plus any late-breaking news and the usual hijinks. Don't forget the new Battlestar on Sci-Fi tonight. And, or course, have a great weekend!

11/30/06

We've got one new announcement to report for you today: Buena Vista has set Andrew Davis' The Guardian for release on 1/23. You'll get audio commentary with Davis and the screenwriter, deleted scenes, an alternate ending and two featurettes (The Guardian: Making Waves and Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live).

We've got a few more Superman disc replacement notes today as well. First, Canadian readers are reporting that they're able to use WHV's 800 number, so if you're north of the border that should be good news. Second, a number of retailers have apparently pulled the 14-disc Superman box set from their shelves and are waiting for updated sets, presumably to avoid having to deal with lots of complaints and returns. Other retailers are already sold out of their initial shipments. So if you're having a hard time finding it, that's why. New sets should start arriving in 2-3 weeks. In addition, a couple of U.K. readers who pre-ordered the R1 sets via Amazon have reported receiving e-mails from Amazon telling them to expect their sets to ship in early-to-mid December... and they're supposedly going to be the corrected sets. So that's another bit of good news for at least some of you international readers.

Also today, we wanted to address some rumors that are apparently circulating on various discussion forums regarding Buena Vista's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest DVD. The rumor apparently says that there's a 3-disc special edition version of the title planned for next May. We've contacted the studio and they swear to us that the 2-Disc Collector's Edition (due next week on 12/5) is the ONLY one currently planned. No doubt there will be a box set of all THREE films late next year, after Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End hits theaters (we also expect Blu-ray versions eventually), but for now the studio tells us the 12/5 release is the big one. Just FYI.

A quick correction from yesterday's post - we mistakenly got the street date wrong for Warner's Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Second Season and Batman Beyond: Season 3. It should be 3/20 (we've corrected the earlier post). What can we say... brain fart. It happens. ;)

Around the site today, we've updated some of the DVD format stats we track (above).

We've also updated the High-Def Release List with newly announced titles, street date changes and Amazon purchase links. The updated titles are in ORANGE text. In addition to the recently announced titles that we've mentioned here in the daily column in the last few days, Genius Products has announced revised street dates for a number of Weinstein Company HD-DVD releases, including Derailed, Wolf Creek, Scary Movie 4 and The Matador (all now due on 12/19), and Clerks II, Pulse and Lucky Number Slevin (due on 1/19).

We'll be back tomorrow with Todd's new Weekly Roundup, some Rumor Mill info and maybe even a few more disc reviews. Stay tuned...

11/29/06

Okay... we're kicking this off this afternoon with a pair of new DVD reviews, both titles we enjoyed a great deal. The first is Sony's new An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, which just arrived in stores on Tuesday. The second is Universal's long awaited Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season, which streets on 12/5. Don't miss either title (and enjoy the reviews).

There are a few DVD announcements to report today: 20th Century Fox has set Flyboys for release on 1/30. There will be a standard edition DVD in full frame and anamorphic widescreen (SRP $29.98), a 2-disc Collector's Edition (SRP $39.98) and a Blu-ray Disc release (also $39.98). The single disc DVD will include Dolby Digital and DTS audio, audio commentary with director Tony Bill and producer Dean Devlin, 15 minutes of deleted scenes, 3 featurettes (Real Heros: The True Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, Taking Flight: The Making of a Flying Sequence and Life of a Miniature Stunt Pilot) and trailers. The 2-disc set adds 2 more featurettes (Whiskey and Soda: The Lion Mascots and The Real Planes of Flyboys), a DVD-ROM game and more. The Blu-ray Disc will have all this along with DTS 5.1 "lossless" audio and a pop-up trivia track.

Also just announced for DVD release by Fox are One Night with The King and both R and Unrated editions of Marine (both 1/30), as well as Trust the Man (2/6).

Fox has also announced more Blu-ray Disc releases, including Marine (2/13) and Hart's War (1/30).

Meanwhile, Paramount has officially confirmed Hawaii Five-O: The First Season for release on 3/6, along with Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Complete First Season and South Park: The Complete Ninth Season. Following on 3/13 are Bosom Buddies: The First Season, a Ghost: Special Collector's Edition, I Love Lucy: The Complete 7th, 8th & 9th Seasons and Max & Ruby: Easter with Max & Ruby. On 3/20 look for JAG: The Complete Third Season, Sleeper Cell American Terror: The Complete Second Season and The Wild Wild West: The Complete Second Season.

Can't recall if I've mentioned it before, but BCI will release Space Academy: The Complete Series on 1/16 (SRP $29.98). You'll get all 15 episodes on 4 discs, plus the Back to School with Space Academy documentary, 2 audio commentaries, scripts, art galleries and more. Can Jason of Star Command be far behind?

Finally, Warner has set Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Second Season and Batman Beyond: Season 3 for release on 3/20. They also have Without a Trace: The Complete Second Season due on 2/6 and HBO's Sex and the City Essentials: The Best of Fashion due on 12/6.

Around the site today, we've also kicked off FIVE new Contests, giving you all the chance to win copies of Warner's Brando and Newman box sets, the Kirk Alyn Superman serials, Looney Tunes, Thundercats and the new Astaire & Rogers box, four great anime titles from Anchor Bay including The Castle of Cagliostro, Image's Pablo Francisco Ouch! Live from San Jose, HBO's Angel Rodriguez and Anchor Bay's Roseanne: Season 6. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, December 10th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Here's cover art for Flyboys, BCI's Space Academy: The Complete Series and Hawaii Five-O: The First Season...

Flyboys: Collector's EditionSpace Academy: The Complete SeriesHawaii Five-O: The First Season

Stay tuned...

11/28/06

We're busy working on some more disc reviews this afternoon, for posting over the next few days, but we wanted to pop in here with a couple of quick follow-up comments on WHV's Superman disc replacement program.

First, operators are basically just taking your names and phone numbers at this point. It will be a few days before all the details are in place, and they know when discs will be available. Discs are being replicated now, but it takes time. And if you get put on hold or have a hard time getting through, be patient. They're getting a LOT of calls.

Just to be precise, the 1978 Superman theatrical edition disc (Disc One of the Ultimate Collector's Edition) is supposed to have the revised 5.1 audio (edited down from the 2001 Extended Edition's 5.1 remix) and the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL 2.0 audio. That's what the corrected discs will contain (right now, the 2.0 is the remix also rather than the original theatrical audio).

WHV tells me that corrected DVDs and sets will eventually find their way into stores (as a 'running' production change) once the current stock sells out. They'll have new SKU numbers to distinguish them from the current ones - don't know what those are yet.

Finally, for you international (non U.S.) customers who may have purchased the Region 1 sets online via Amazon, Warner is checking with Amazon to confirm arrangements to make the corrected discs available to you. We're waiting to hear back from WHV to see if there will be a phone number or mailing address that other international customers (who may have purchased R1 sets online) can use to get the corrected discs. We'll try to let you know.

Moving on, we've got a little bit of release/announcement news today. We've confirmed that Sony's Open Season will be released in 4 versions on 1/30 - full frame DVD, anamorphic widescreen DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD. The studio has also announced that it will release Boynton Beach Club, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Incubus, Mad About You: The Complete Third Season and Here Comes Mr. Jordan on 2/6. Also streeting on 2/6 are Blu-ray Disc releases of Glory and The Tailor of Panama. The Grudge 2 is expected to be released on 2/6 as well, but details have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, Universal has set Catch a Fire for release on 1/30, with Emergency!: Season Three following on 2/13, Private School following on 3/6 and the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection: Volume 2 (SRP $59.98, containing Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, Poppy, The Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Old Fashioned Way and You're Telling Me!) arriving on 3/20.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/27/06 - 8 PM PST)

Okay, folks. Here's Warner's official statement on the Superman discs:

"Bonus content was omitted from the Superman III Deluxe Edition in the 14-disc Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition. Furthermore, disc one of Superman: The Movie Four Disc Special Edition did not include the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Neither disc is known to be physically defective in any way.

Warner Home Video wants to extend apologies to all of our loyal Superman fans who've waited so patiently for these great collections and has taken immediate steps to correct these errors with the intention of standing behind our product 100%.

Replacement discs can be obtained by calling: 800-553-6937. The exchange program applies only to purchases of the Superman III Deluxe Edition in the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition and to disc one of Superman: The Movie Four Disc Special Edition, available as a single title, as well as in The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection and in the Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition."


Just so you know, we're trying to find out if and when future corrected sets might arrive in stores, and if this replacement program will work for international customers (who may have purchased the R1 sets via Amazon) as well. We'll let you know when we hear anything on these issues.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/27/06 - 4 PM PST)

Here's the deal - we've just spoken with Warner Home Video. They ARE going to be issuing corrected discs for both Disc One of the Superman: The Movie - Four-Disc Special Edition (also Disc One of the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition 14-disc set) AND Disc Eight of the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition. Disc One will feature the CORRECT original 2.0 audio track for Superman: The Movie and Disc Eight will feature the new Superman III: Deluxe Edition. ALL of the other discs streeting tomorrow are correct. The mistakes in the Superman: The Movie - Four-Disc Special Edition and the Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition were apparently just honest authoring/replication errors - not deliberate decisions - and Warner is already in the process of correcting them. NO recall of existing sets is planned at the moment, but we'll have an 800 number shortly that you can call and arrange to have the corrected discs sent to you via mail. The official statement from Warner will follow shortly, so be sure to check back in a little while.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/27/06 - 3:30 PM PST)

Okay... we've just posted an in-depth review of Warner's new 14-disc Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition box set, which streets tomorrow. As we note in the review (and in our earlier post from today), there are a pair of very serious problems with the otherwise excellent set. We've been in touch with Warner reps today, and have been told that the studio will be making some kind of official statement as to how they intend to address these two problems very soon... possibly before the end of the day today. AS SOON as word reaches us, we'll post the details here. We expect that some kind of mail-in disc replacement program will be involved.

Meanwhile, enjoy the review and stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/27/06 - 11:30 AM PST)

Morning, everyone! Welcome back from the holiday! Hope you all had a great time with your families and friends this Thanksgiving... ate lots of turkey, saw lots of movies, got all your shopping done, etc.

We've got some news to catch you up on, but first a couple of quick notes. We'll be back later today with a DVD review or two, including a look at Warner's 14-disc Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition box set, which streets tomorrow. It's a pretty great set... BUT there's a couple of major issues with it. First, the 1978 Superman theatrical edition DOESN'T have the original 1978 audio - it's got an edited down version of the irritating remixed audio from 2000, complete with all the awful new sound effects. Also, in at least some sets, the Superman III disc included is mistakenly the previous movie-only version, NOT the new Deluxe Edition that's supposed to be in the set. We're waiting to hear back from Warner as to how they're going to handle the situation, and we'll let you know.

Also, there's more news about The Hobbit to report today. It seems that producer Saul Zaentz, the owner of Tolkien Enterprises, has chimed in with interesting new word that Peter Jackson might STILL be the director of the films. It seems that the film rights revert back from New Line to Zaentz next year, and Zaentz has every intention of asking Jackson to direct. You can read more here at The One Ring.net. The site also has a list of contact information you can use if you'd like to POLITELY let New Line and others involved know how you feel about the idea of Jackson NOT being involved.

One other thing before the news... Matt and I happened to catch a screening of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain this weekend. It's a fascinating film, and I applaud Warner's decision to support it, even if it isn't the most commercially viable project. It's visually stunning, and the subject matter is meaningful and likely to spark good conversation. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz play basically the same characters in three different time frames, spanning some 1000 years of history. The story itself is about love and death, and the search for the mythical fountain of youth. The film was originally going to star Brad Pitt, and the script was apparently much longer, but the story was ultimately pared down when Warner cut the budget after Pitt departed the production. It's a shame, because I have a feeling that a lot of the raw emotional appeal of the film was lost in the editing. As it is, it's intellectually quite interesting, but you aren't able to really get invested in the characters enough for the film to have its full intended emotional impact. Still, hats off to Aronofsky for championing what is obviously a deeply personal film, and to Warner for supporting it. It's nice to know that there are still young filmmakers out there looking to explore deeper issues on film, and studios willing to take a chance on that. Do check out The Fountain if you can. Whether you end up liking it or not, it's well worth seeing.

Now then... some DVD news. Universal has announced the DVD and HD-DVD/DVD Combo format release of Focus Films' Hollywoodland on 2/6. The DVD will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame editions (SRP $29.98 each). The HD-DVD/DVD Combo (with Dolby Digital Plus audio) will carry an SRP of $39.98. Extras are TBA.

Universal has also announced a new line of digitally-remastered "Cinema Classics" on DVD, the first wave of which (due 2/6 - SRP $14.98 each) will include All Quiet on the Western Front, Arabian Nights, Going My Way and The Heiress.

Criterion has announced their February DVD slate. Look for a Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist box set (Cat #369), which includes Body and Soul/Borderline (#371), The Emperor Jones/Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (#370), The Proud Valley/Native Land (#373) and Sanders of the River/Jericho (#372). Also coming are Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (#374), Sidney Gilliat's Green for Danger (#375), Mikio Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (#377) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel (#376). With that lot, we CONTINUE to be impressed by Criterion's selection of titles here at The Bits. How many people would EVER see some of these films if not for Criterion's efforts? Very nice.

Meanwhile, Sony has set the animated Open Season for release on 1/30 (details are not yet available, but we expect both DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions). Also coming on that day are Facing the Giants, It's a Big, Big, World: The Sky Above, It's a Big, Big, World: Investigate Your World, a single-disc edition of Stealth and a 9-disc Pedro Almodovar Classics Collection (including Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, All About My Mother, Talk to Her, The Flower of My Secret, Live Flesh, Law of Desire, Matador and Bad Education, along with an exclusive bonus disc).

Interestingly, 20th Century Fox is preparing to release 24: Season 6 Premiere on 1/16 (SRP $14.98). It includes the first four hours of the new season (which debut on Fox on 1/14 and 1/15), plus a 12-minute preview of the next episode. What a cool idea! Big Valley: Season 2, Volume 1 follows on 1/30. The studio also has Idiocracy set for 1/9, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 2, Volume 2 due on 2/20.

Finally this morning, Warner (for HBO) has announced the Blu-ray Disc release of The Sopranos: Season 6, Part 1 (SRP $129.95). The 4-disc set (all BD-50s) is due on 12/19 (the HD-DVD version is already available).

Back with those reviews later this afternoon. Stay tuned!

11/21/06

Well... as you've probably already heard by now, we've lost a legendary filmmaker and a Hollywood original. Robert Altman passed away yesterday, at the ripe age of 81. That's actually a rather extraordinary thing. I was talking with our own Robert Harris this morning, and he reminded me that Altman had actually had a heart transplant about a decade ago (something he only revealed earlier this year, when he accepted his honorary Oscar). The fact that he was able to continue his filmmaking career for so long given this condition is amazing and is nothing less than a gift to his fans. Best of all, as our own Adam Jahnke notes today in a special tribute edition of his Bottom Shelf column, Altman definitely went out on a high note. He'll be missed.

Here at The Bits today, we're pleased to bring you two more columns for your pre-turkey entertainment: Todd Doogan's usual Weekly Release Roundup and a short new Yellow Layer Failure from the aforementioned Mr. Harris. We hope you enjoy them.

We'll be back tomorrow with one last DVD news wrap-up before the Thanksgiving holiday, so don't zone out on tryptophan just yet. But for those of you who are about to begin your travels home to see family and friends, we wish you a safe journey and a happy holiday!

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

11/20/06

Afternoon, folks! Well, this was quite the weekend. Not only did we get a new Bond and the PS3, no sooner did some get their new PS3's plugged in, many of them were back in line to get the Nintendo Wii on Saturday night! I happened to stop by our local Target here in Irvine, and there were nearly 100 people camped out overnight, waiting for the store to open on Sunday morning. Amazing. We certainly hope all those of you who wanted a Wii got your hands on one.

Speaking of Bond, Matt and I took in an afternoon screening of Casino Royale on Sunday (Todd saw it on Saturday, and I expect he'll have something to say about it in his column this week). I have to tell you, I was pretty damn impressed. I think anyone who doubted that Daniel Craig had what it takes to play 007 was immediately reassured. He's simply perfect in the role, and I think he's potentially the best Bond since Connery. He's got just the right look - just the right sparkle in his eye, that's both amused and deadly serious. He's the most dangerous Bond in a long time, and I think that razor's edge is what's been missing from the franchise. It's strange, because while Casino certainly feels like a Bond film, it's missing much of the obvious formula that we've come to expect from the franchise - the scene where Bond gets the gadgets and makes glib jokes, the scene where the super-villain unveils his entire plot for Bond, the high-tech superweapon that can destroy the world, etc. We've become so conditioned to expect those things from Bond, that it's going to take a little getting used to their absence. To be fair, the film is a little long, and loses its focus a bit somewhere in the middle. Most of the twists are fairly predictable. Still, there are a number of tightly-paced action scenes, the occasional bit of playful yet restrained humor here and there, the obligatory hot girl or two (good actresses, not overblown stars), the classic opening credits and a genuinely creepy villain. Todd enjoyed the film. Matt (a die-hard Connery fan) was skeptical yet open-minded going in, but ended up liking Casino Royale more than he expected. He thought it owed a lot to the recent Mission: Impossible films. To me, if you're looking to make a comparison with this film, the Bourne series would probably be closer. In any case, call it a reboot, call it what you will. I really like this new Bond, and I've got high hopes for the next one. I give it a solid B.

There's another bit of film-related news to report today, but I'm afraid it's not at all good. In fact, we'd call it rather seriously depressing. It seems that Peter Jackson will not be making a big-screen version of The Hobbit to go along with his Lord of the Rings films. There's been reports recently that Jackson, New Line and MGM were in negotiations to do a pair of films based on The Hobbit, but Jackson and Fran Walsh just sent The One Ring.net an e-mail report that addresses the current situation. The gist is that New Line has apparently decided to pass on having Jackson direct the film, due to a lawsuit his company filed over the studio's accounting practices on the previous Rings films. We understand that business is business, but that's just about the WORST film-related news we've heard in a long time here at The Bits. If New Line brings another director and writing team in to make The Hobbit over Jackson, it'll be the greatest cinematic injustice since the Salkinds fired director Richard Donner from Superman II. If you care about this project at all, we encourage you to POLITELY make your feelings known. Damn. Thanks to everyone who sent this news in - we're as bummed about it as you are.

There's not a lot of DVD or high-def news to report today. With Thanksgiving coming up later this week, Hollywood is definitely winding down for the holiday.

However, there is a report today from Video Business that Nintendo is planning to add software DVD playback capability to its new Wii videogame system next year. Apparently, Sonic Solutions is providing the software upgrade, and the news was released by them in a press release. You can read more here.

There's also a report at Home Media Retailing today that many retailers, including Best Buy stores, are reporting a very cool reception for HD-DVD and Blu-ray Discs thus far. The reason for the tepid response is just what you'd expect... the fact that there are two competing formats. It will be interesting to see if Blu-ray Disc software sees a spike in sales in the coming weeks due to all those new PS3s out there in consumer hands. We expect at least a little bump, but we also expect that most people are going to use the PS3 for gaming purposes rather than watching movies. We'll see.

We'll be back shortly with a new column from Robert A. Harris, so stay tuned...

11/17/06

So how many of you braved lines last night to get your hands on a PS3? Seems like it's getting a little crazy in these old videogame wars. CNN Money's got an interesting review of the system, based on initial impressions of the machine. There are much more in-depth reviews as well around the net (including here at Gamespot), from the hardcore gaming perspective. I continue to hear from industry sources that the PS3 is not just a good, but the BEST Blu-ray Disc player available at the moment, and it's also the cheapest by several hundred dollars... if you can find one. 88,000 sold in Japan in the first couple of days it was out last week, and reports indicate that just 400,000 are available in North America for today's launch, most already spoken for by pre-orders. Still, given that Sony and Pioneer keep delaying their stand-alone players, that adds an interesting wrinkle to the Blu-ray saga.

On the HD-DVD front, there's good news and bad news too. First, we're hearing very positive things about the HD-DVD add-on drive that Microsoft just launched for the Xbox 360. It's cheap (under $200), it seems to work well and now we're hearing that it might even work with your PC (click here for more on that). Now for the bad news... Toshiba has just announced that they're delaying the launch of their 2nd generation stand-alone HD-DVD players, the HD-A2 and the HD-XA2. Both were expected to be available now, but the A2 has been pushed back until mid-December and the XA2 is expected at the very end of December. We should be getting our hands on an XA2 for review, so we'll let you know how it works. If it operates faster and smoother than the A1 and XA1, it ought to be a pretty nice machine.

Ah well... nobody said embracing new technology was easy.

There's just one bit of standard DVD news today, but it's a good one: Paramount has revealed that they'll be releasing the classic Hawaii Five-O TV series on DVD in 2007. Hawaii Five-O: The First Season is tentatively expected to street on 2/27. Details and artwork will follow.

We've got one other interesting thing for you today: Pictures Sarah took last night at Warner's DVD release party for Superman Returns. Enjoy!

We'll be back on Monday with a new column from Robert Harris, along with lots of reviews, including new DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles. In the meantime, don't forget: There's a new Battlestar on SciFi tonight AND Casino Royale debuts in theaters today. We're looking forward to seeing how Daniel Craig plays as 007.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned!

11/16/06

We've got some new announcements to report today. First up, New Line has set Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning for release on 1/16, in separate R and Unrated editions. Extras will include deleted and extended scenes, audio commentary from director Jonathan Liebesman and a behind-the-scenes documentary.

Paramount has announced a number of new titles, including Broken Bridges (1/9), Abandon (1/26), Rob & Big: The Complete First Season and Zoey 101: Season 1 (both 2/13), Girlfriends: The Complete First Season (2/27), South Park: The Complete Ninth Season and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch: The Complete First Season (both 3/6), and Run's House: The Complete Seasons 1 and 2 (3/20).

Universal has announced a pair of new HD-DVD titles for release on 1/16 - The Sting and The Mummy Returns. Universal has also set the DVD release of the spoof Disaster! for 2/6, with Planet Brooklyn following on 2/27. Speaking of Universal, they've kicked off an interesting online game to promote the 11/12 DVD and HD-DVD release of You, Me and Dupree. A few readers have reported that it's kind of cool, in case any of you want to check it out.

Meanwhile, Warner has announced the DVD release of Walkout (for HBO - 3/6), The World's Most Dangerous Gang (for National Geographic - 1/16) and Baby Looney Tunes: Volume 3 (3/13).

Finally, Sony's delayed the release of its previously announced Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Blu-ray Disc, and replaced it on the 1/16 schedule with Resident Evil: Apocalypse. We expect Crouching Tiger to be re-announced shortly. Our High-Def Release List has been updated accordingly. Sony has also announced the 1/23 Blu-ray Disc, DVD and UMD release of Gridiron Gang, as well as the standard DVD release (that same day) of Night Skies, The FIFA 2006 World Cup Film: The Grand Finale, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: The Cat's Family and Friends, Don't Knock the Rock/Rock Around the Clock (Double Feature) and Don't Knock the Twist/Twist Around the Clock (Double Feature).

We've also kicked off FIVE new Contests here at The Bits, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Superman Returns: SE and Adventures of Superman: Seasons 5 & 6 along with a $100 Noble Collection gift certificate, Warner's The Green Mile: SE, Universal's King Kong: Extended Edition, Paramount's An Inconvenient Truth and Shout! Factory's Inside the Actors Studio: Icons and Inside the Actors Studio: Dave Chappelle. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, November 26th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Finally today, our own Todd Doogan has checked in with his latest Weekly Release Round-up, running down the latest DVD releases that hit stores on Tuesday. Todd offers his thoughts key titles as well, so don't miss it!

Stay tuned...

11/15/06

Okay, folks... it's been a crazy couple of days around here. I meant to pop in yesterday with an update, but we're trying to get some MAJOR new DVD releases reviewed here at The Bits, so yesterday's post ended up being bumped to today. But I think you won't mind when you see what we've got for you.

We've just posted in-depth reviews of BOTH Warner's new Superman Returns: Two-Disc Special Edition and the long-awaited new Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut! I think you'll enjoy both discs when they street on 11/28.

We'll be back later this afternoon with Todd's Weekly Release Round-up, and we'll be recapping some news as well.

So enjoy the reviews and stay tuned!


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