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page updated: 4/25/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 4/20/07 - 3/27/07)


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4/20/07

Well, it's an unusually rainy afternoon here in SoCal. Kind of a nice change of pace. We do have a little bit of release news to report for you, so let's get to it...

First, Criterion has announced another fine series of new DVD releases for July, including a Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara box set (#392), including Pitfall (#393), Woman in the Dunes (#394) and The Face of Another (#395), along with Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (#396), Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood (#397) and Jean-Pierre Melville's Les enfants terribles (#398 - written by Jean Cocteau).

Meanwhile, Warner has announced the Blu-ray Disc release of Blood Diamond on 6/5, with the HD-DVD version following a month later on 7/3. The DVD version is now available. This marks the first time that Warner is deliberately releasing the HD versions with different extras, or at the very least, they're not delaying the Blu-ray Disc version so that it can include the same extras as the HD-DVD version (which has in recent months resulted in a delay). That makes Blood Diamond a test case of sorts - if sales are good, they'll move forward with additional Blu-ray Disc releases without waiting for BD-Java issues to be resolved first. The Blu-ray Disc and the HD-DVD version will both feature all of the standard DVD extras, including audio commentary with director Edward Zwick, 5 featurettes (Focus Points, Blood on the Stone, Becoming Archer, Journalism on the Front Line and Inside the Siege of Freetown), Nas' Shine on 'Em music video and the film's theatrical trailer. To this, the HD-DVD will add (from Warner's press release) "web-enabled extras which allows viewers to use their players to offer opinions in WHV's online polls and to view other exciting special features such as maps of conflict pertaining to war-torn areas in Africa" as well as an In-Movie Experience feature. Here's the cover art for all three versions...

Blood DiamondBlood Diamond (Blu-ray Disc)Blood Diamond (HD-DVD)

By the way, Warner has also set Walk by Faith (for Lightyear) for 6/26, and Starter for 10 (for HBO) and The Astronaut Farmer (with both anamorphic widescreen and full frame on the same disc) for 7/10.

Here's the cover art for The Astronaut Farmer, along with Warner's Music and Lyrics (5/8) and Sony's Ghost Rider: 2-Disc Extended Cut (6/12)...

The Astronaut FarmerMusic and LyricsGhost Rider: 2-Disc Extended Cut

In other release news, Genius Products is releasing Slingshot on 4/24 and Mistress of Spices on 5/22.

Our friends over at TVShowsonDVD.com have reported interesting word that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. may finally be on the way to DVD from Warner. Stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are reportedly going to be meeting next month with producers to do new interviews for the DVD release. Good news indeed if it pans out!

This would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but for ease of posting we'll release it here: Industry sources are telling us to expect Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End to be released on DVD and Blu-ray in December. Also Rumor Mill-worthy: Universal's Peaceful Warrior is expected to be released on 6/26, Paramount's Shooter and Black Snake Moan are tentatively due in June (likely on all three formats), and New Line's The Last Mimzy is currently slated for release in July. Remember that all this is unofficial until the studios make their announcements.

Finally today, in what may be considered good news for the high-def disc market overall, retail giant Wal-Mart is apparently moving aggressively to carry both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc players and discs in their U.S. stores. None of this works to end the format war, but maybe it's a sign that the niche market will grow a little larger, past just diehard enthusiasts. You can read more here at Home Media.

Okay... that's all for now. We'll be back with more on Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend!

4/18/07

We've got a couple of new columns here at The Bits for you today. First, our own Adam Jahnke has posted another new edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre, featuring reviews of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters and Disturbia, as well as assorted other films on disc.

And Barrie Maxwell has turned in yet another fine edition of his High-Definition Classics and Beyond column, featuring reviews of Warner's Dog Day Afternoon, Bullitt, The Getaway and The Departed, and Paramount's Payback: Straight Up - The Director's Cut and Babel (all on HD-DVD), as well as Sony's Casino Royale and Rocky Balboa (on Blu-ray Disc - Barrie's first reviews in that format). Enjoy!

In standard DVD release news today, Sony has set Wedding Wars for 6/26.

Meanwhile, Warner has set Baby Looney Tunes: Volume 4 for release on 8/14, along with Loonatics Unleashed: Season 2 and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: Volume 7. The studio has also set an Ocean's Twelve/Ocean's Eleven 2-pack for release on 5/11, and will bow Charlie & Lola: Volume 5 on 8/7 (for the BBC). We should also note that all of those Film Noir Classics Collection box set double-feature titles due on 7/31 will also be released as singles that day (SRP $20.97 each), including Act of Violence/Mystery Street, Crime Wave/Decoy, Illegal/The Big Steal, They Live by Night/Side Street and Where Danger Lives/Tension.

In other DVD news today, MGM has revealed the initial slate of titles due to be released by their new direct-to-video division. These will include Audrey Rose and Dark Blue remakes, the sequels Legally Blondes, Species: The Awakening, War Games: The Dead Code and The Cutting Edge, a film version of the Showtime series Dead Like Me, the genre films Captive, Pet and Angelmaker, and a pair of Stargate films including The Ark of Truth and Continuum. You can read more here at Home Media.

Also today, Sony has apparently corrected a DVD compatibility problem on their Casino Royale, The Pursuit of Happyness and Stranger Than Fiction discs caused by a recent update of the company's ARccOS copy-protection system. You'll find more about that here at Video Business. ARccOS apparently causes problems with some Sony, Toshiba and Harman Kardon DVD players. Those of you who have encountered these issues can obtain replacement discs from Sony by calling 800-860-2878.

Now then... there's a bit of high-def news today as well. First a quick update: We're still working to find out what's happening with Universal's DVD/HD-DVD Combo format versions of The Good Shepherd and Children of Men. We're having problems playing both titles here on our Toshiba HD-XA2, and we know others are experiencing problems as well (both on Toshiba players and the Xbox add-on drive). The specific problems we're having are that the HD-DVD side of the discs are either not recognized by the players (which occurs about 70% of the time), or when they are recognized, the discs stop playing about 3/4ths of the way through the film. We've contacted Universal, which is apparently in touch with Toshiba. Hopefully we'll know soon whether this is a disc replication or authoring problem (perhaps a bad batch of discs), or if it's a player issue that might be corrected with a firmware update. We'll let you know.

Also today, the HD-DVD camp finally has some good news to crow about. The HD-DVD Promotions Group has announced that 100,000 dedicated set-top HD-DVD players have sold since the format was launched about a year ago, not counting PC or Xbox drives. That's more set-top players than Blu-ray Disc has sold thus far, however when you count in game systems (like the PS3) Blu-ray still holds a strong lead. Still, it's positive news for HD-DVD and it comes on the heals a recent report by the Financial Times (subscription required, but you can read a summery here at Ars Technica) that HD-DVD currently leads Blu-ray in the European market. Though again, Blu-ray still has the upper hand here in North America, as well as Japan and Australia.

So what does all this mean? Well, each side has been able to claim small victories, but not much more. You know, the longer all this drags on, the more we're starting to believe that high-definition movies on disc are just going to remain an enthusiast niche format. We're a year into this format war and neither side appears willing to back down. Each side has their exclusive titles. Each side has their share of technical problems. For every price cut in Blu-ray Disc players, Toshiba seems to slash the price of their HD-DVD players to undercut it. We'd be surprised if the 4th Qtr doesn't see $399 Blu-ray players and $299 HD-DVD players. The sad thing is, if this thing drags on past the end of 2007, I think we're all going to lose. Retailers are going to be faced with the continued prospect of devoting valuable shelf space to three formats, and some will simply stop doing it. New combo players will delight enthusiasts, but their high price will keep them from being any kind of a real mass-market solution. Combo format discs like Total HD might appear, but there inevitably will be manufacturing and player compatibility issues, not to mention the fact that the best and most elaborate special editions will still have to be released on separate HD-DVDs and Blu-ray Discs because of disc space issues. And most consumers are still going to be faced with a confusing choice between two competing formats... and they'll decide to just stick with DVD. We're 10 years into DVD, the most successful consumer packaged media format ever, and there are still major and beloved catalog films that have yet to be released. With HD discs a niche format, and with two competing formats, there are hundreds if not thousands of great films that will never see the light of day on either format. And sooner rather than later, the industry will move on to the Next Big Thing. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. But the early signs aren't looking good.

One last item before we close today... Bits reader Esteban C. has dropped us a note to say that Amazon finally has sales links up to the corrected version of the Superman Ultimate Collection (due 5/29). So here's the new art again...

Superman: Ultimate Collector's EditionSuperman: Ultimate Collector's Edition - StickerSuperman: Ultimate Collector's Edition - Sticker

Stay tuned...

4/17/07

Afternoon, folks. We've got a number of new announcements to report for you.

First though, we've kicked off FOUR new Contests here at The Bits (and announced the previous contest winners as well), giving each of you the chance to take home copies of the BBC's fantastic Planet Earth series, Warner's Scooby Doo: Where Are You? The Complete Third Season, The Venture Bros.: Season Two, The Drew Carey Show: The Complete First Season, Larry King Live: The Greatest Interviews and George Lopez: The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons, and Anchor Bay's Highlander: The Ultimate Collection - Best of the Best. All the contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, April 29th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Okay... now for those announcements: Paramount has revealed a large slate of early August titles today, including a number of catalog double and triple feature releases, all for release on 8/7. These will include Airplane!/Top Secret!, American Beauty/The Virgin Suicides, Death Wish/Escape from Alcatraz/Uncommon Valor, Election/You Can Count on Me, Enemy at the Gates/Uncommon Valor, Footloose/Flashdance, Friday the 13th/Friday the 13th, Part Two, Hardball/The Bad News Bears, Kiss the Girls/The Gift, Planes, Trains & Automobiles/Summer Rental/Foul Play, Romeo & Juliet/Love Story/Falling in Love, Serpico/Narc/Internal Affairs, Tales from the Darkside/Graveyard Shift/April Fools Day, The Italian Job/Primal Fear/The Score, The Last Castle/The Peacemaker, The Naked Gun Triple Feature, The Price & Me/Sabrina/I.Q., Tommy Boy/Black Sheep, Up in Smoke/Still Smokin', War of the Worlds (1953)/When Worlds Collide, Soul Food: The Series - The Second Season, Teletubbies: Time to Dance, Nick Jr. Favorites 6, Nick Picks 6, Caillou: Playschool Adventures and Jay Jay the Jet Plane: Jay Jay's Wing Wigglin' Mystery.

Meanwhile, Universal has announced more new catalog titles as well, including The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Second Season and Voyagers! The Complete Series (both 7/17), The Rhinemann Exchange (7/31) and Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas and a Darkman Trilogy box set (both 8/7).

Fox has set That 70s Show: Season Six for release on 5/8, as well as Reno 911!: Miami - The Movie on 6/19 (SRP $29.98). Extras on Reno will include audio commentary, extended scenes, an alternate ending, PSAs, footage of the premier, Easter eggs, and the Making a Spoof featurette.

But it's MGM that's making us all most happy around here today, having just released details on their LONG-awaited 8-disc box set, The Sergio Leone Anthology box set, due on 6/5 (SRP $89.98 - the individual 2-disc sets will also be released separately for $26.98 each). The set will include 2-disc Collector's Editions of A Fistful of Dollars (100 mins), For a Few Dollars More (132 mins), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (178 mins) and Duck, You Sucker! (157 mins, a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite). Each film is presented in fully-remastered anamorphic widescreen video. Audio will be English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish and French Dolby 2.0 Surround (for Duck, You Sucker! and For a Few Dollars More), English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround (for A Fistful of Dollars) and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). All four films will feature subtitles in English, French and Spanish and will be Closed Captioned. Here's a list of the extras you can expect on each:

A Fistful of Dollars will include audio commentary by film historian Sir Christopher Frayling, 5 featurettes (A New Kind of Hero, A Few Weeks in Spain, Tre Voici, Not Ready for Primetime and Location Comparisons: Intercutting Film Clips with Current Footage of Locations Used), the network prologue (additional scene), 10 radio spots, a double-bill trailer for the film and an 8-page booklet.

For a Few Dollars More will include audio commentary by Sir Christopher Frayling, 5 featurettes (A New Standard, Back for More, Tre Voici, For a Few Dollars More: The Original American Release Versions and Location Comparisons: Intercutting Film Clips with Current Footage of Locations Used), 12 radio spots, the original theatrical trailer, a double-bill trailer and an 8-page booklet.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly will include audio commentary by film historian Richard Schickel, 3 documentaries (Leone's West, The Leone Style and The Man Who Lost The Civil War), 3 featurettes (Reconstructing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Il Maestro: Ennio Morricone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Il Maestro: Part Two), deleted scenes, the extended "Tuco torture" scene, The Socorro Sequence: A Reconstruction, the film's French trailer, the original theatrical trailer, a poster art gallery, 4 Easter eggs, 5 collectible postcards and an 8-page booklet.

Finally, Duck, You Sucker! will include audio commentary by Sir Christopher Frayling, 6 featurettes (The Myth of Revolution, Sergio Donati Remembers Duck, You Sucker, Once Upon a Time in Italy, Sorting Out the Versions, Restoration Italian Style and Location Comparisons: Intercutting Film Clips with Current Footage of Locations Used), 6 radio spots, the original theatrical trailer and an 8-page booklet.

Don't forget that Warner is also releasing Leone's Colossus of Rhodes in the Cult Camp Classics: Volume 4 - Historical Epics box set (and also separately) on 6/26.

Here's a look at the artwork for The Sergio Leone Anthology, along with Paramount's Gunsmoke: The First Season (7/17) and Universal's The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Second Season...

The Sergio Leone AnthologyGunsmoke: The First SeasonThe Incredible Hulk: The Complete Second Season

Also newly announced by MGM today are The Secret of Nimh: The Family Fun Edition on 6/19 (SRP $19.98 - including both full frame and widescreen video, deleted scenes with audio commentary by directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, a 10-minute "making of" featurette and 5 set-top games), The Gary Cooper Giftset on 5/22 (SRP $39.98 - includes The Cowboy and the Lady, The Real Glory, Vera Cruz and The Winning of Barbara Worth), a series of single-film releases staring Gary Cooper on 5/22 (SRP $19.98 each) including The Adventures of Marco Polo, Ball of Fire, Casanova Brown and The Wedding Night, and The Peter Sellers Giftset also on 5/22 (SRP $39.98 - includes What's New Pussycat?, Casino Royale (1967), The Party and The Pink Panther).

On the high-def front today, Warner has informed us that the street date for the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases of The Road Warrior and Battle of the Bulge have been moved back a bit from 5/8 to 5/15. Adjust your plans accordingly. Watch for more hi-def news tomorrow.

Stay tuned...

4/16/07

There's some good news and bad news for you Underdog fans today. Genius Products and Classic Media have announced that they'll be releasing three volumes of classic Underdog episodes on 7/24 (SRP $12.93). That's the good news. Unfortunately, each disc will only contain 3 remastered episodes plus bonus materials. You can read more here at Home Media. Why is it that Classic Media can't seem to do vintage cartoons on DVD the right way? First they botch the hell out of Harveytoons, releasing an utterly incomplete "Complete Collection" (reviewed here - winner of the Worst DVD - Special Edition category in this year's Bitsy Awards), and now they're giving us a paltry few Underdog episodes when a complete series box set is what so many animation fans crave. It seems there IS need to fear after all.

Here's a bit of better news however: Universal has finally announced Baa Baa Black Sheep: Volume 2 for release on 7/3, as we predicted in The Rumor Mill a while back. The 3-disc set will contain the remaining first season episodes from the series (SRP $39.98).

Also today, Lionsgate has announced a large slate of titles for May release, including Happily N'Ever After (DVD & Blu-ray Disc), EnvyGirls: Workouts for the Spots That Really Count, Will & Grace: Season Six, Tower of the Firstborn and a Van Damme Triple Feature box set (containing Kickboxer, Replicant and the Universal Soldier: Special Edition) on 5/1, Deliver Us from Evil, You and Your Stupid Mate, the Dirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary Edition (DVD & Blu-ray Disc), a series of John Wayne double features (including Dakota/In Old California, Dark Command/A Lady Takes a Chance, The Fighting Seabees/Wake of the Red Witch, Flame of Barbary Coast/Santa Fe Stampede, Sands of Iwo Jima/Flying Tigers and Westward Ho/The Fighting Kentuckian), a John Wayne Collection: Volume 1 (containing The Quiet Man: Collector's Edition, Flying Tigers, Wake of the Red Witch and Sands of Iwo Jima) and a John Wayne Collection: Volume 2 (containing the Rio Grande: Collector’s Edition, A Lady Takes a Chance, The Fighting Kentuckian and Dakota) on 5/8, Curse of the Zodiac and The Perfect Marriage on 5/15, Grandes Compositores: Volumen 1, Leyendas del Cine Mexicana: Volumen 1, The Shadow Walkers, Cutthroat Island and The Ninth Gate on 5/22, and Champions, Restless Natives, Resistance, Drive Thru, a Weeds: Season One Blu-Ray Disc and a Basic Instinct Blu-Ray Disc on 5/29.

Meanwhile, Warner has set The Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume 4 for release on 7/31, containing Act of Violence/Mystery Street, Crime Wave/Decoy, Illegal/The Big Steal, They Live By Night/Side Street and Where Danger Lives/Tension. SRP is $59.92.

BCI Eclipse has announced the 16-episode Mission: Magic! animated series for release as a 2-disc set on 5/8 (SRP $24.98), so you Rick Springfield fans can finally rejoice. By the way, BCI has also set Hero High: The Complete Series for release on 5/22 (SRP $24.98), including 26 episodes on 2 discs.

And 20th Century Fox has revealed a trio of new catalog DVDs today for release on 5/22, including The Third Secret, White Feather and Together Brothers.

Elsewhere around the site this afternoon, we've got a rundown of some of the great new and catalog DVD releases you can expect from MGM in July in today's update of The Rumor Mill. Is anyone else as delighted at the prospect of a Red Dawn: Collector's Edition as we are? Wolverineeeees! And The Happy Hooker and Blue Water, White Death too? Sweeet.

And here's some more new cover art: Universal's Baa Baa Black Sheep: Volume 2 and Lionsgate's Dirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary Edition on DVD & Blu-ray...

Baa Baa Black Sheep: Volume 2Dirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary EditionDirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 4/13/07 - 11:30 AM PDT)

We've got a last little bit of news to update you on today.

First, Samsung has announced that they'll follow LG's BH100 Super Multi Blue player with a hybrid player of their own later this year - one that will play both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD software. The BD-UP5000 or "Duo HD" player will be out in time for the holidays and Samsung claims it will be fully compatible with both HDi and BD-Java. There's no word, however, on what it might cost. It's good news for early adopters, who have jumped into both high-def camps, but the unit may be prohibitively expensive for most average consumers. We'll see. You can read more here at Home Media.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista has released a Blu-ray Disc sellsheet confirming the 5/22 release of both Pirates of the Caribbean films and Apocalypto, followed by Bridge to Terabithia on 6/19, Cars sometime over the summer and The Santa Clause 3 on 11/20 (that last title is a new one).

On the DVD front today, MPI and The Film Foundation will release Becket on DVD on 5/15 (SRP $24.98).

Finally, around the site today we've updated some of the DVD and HD format stats we track (above), and we've added Nielsen/VideoScan's new High-Def Market Share tracking numbers for comparing Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD sales.

And that's all for now! Have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday.

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/13/07 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Okay... let's get the Friday post started early, shall we?

As planned, we've posted a new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell this morning, in which he runs down all the latest classic release announcement news on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Also today, Matt Rowe has written a good remembrance of novelist Kurt Vonnegut that you'll find that at MusicTAP.

Now for some announcement news: Warner has revealed a number of new DVD and high-def releases over the last couple of days. First up, the studio has set catalog reissues of Stealing Home, The Exorcist 3, My Blue Heaven and Presumed Innocent for 5/1 (in the old Snapper cases) for just $5.98 each. Guess they're clearing out inventory. Also coming on 5/1 are Heatseeker, Little Polar Bear: Lars and the Little Tiger, and the BBC's The Kumars at Number 42 and Graham Norton: The Best of So Graham Norton.

As we've announced previously, following on 5/15 from Warner are HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions of Battle of the Bulge and The Road Warrior (SRP $28.99 each). The Road Warrior will contain a new audio commentary with director George Miller and DP Dean Semler, as well as an introduction by Leonard Maltin (both are currently exclusive to the HD versions). A theatrical trailer will also be included. Battle of the Bulge will feature the previous standard DVD extras, including audio commentary, 2 vintage featurettes (The Filming of Battle of the Bulge and History Recreated) and the film's theatrical trailer. A standard DVD version of The Road Warrior: Special Edition is reportedly soon to be announced as well.

Also coming on 5/15 are DVD reissues of Chasing Liberty and True Romance: Unrated (SRP $12.97 each), along with a Scorsese Collection box set (containing The Aviator, The Departed: Special Edition, the Goodfellas: Special Edition and the Mean Streets: Special Edition - SRP $68.92).

In addition to the high-def versions of The Cowboys and Rio Bravo we mentioned yesterday (due on 6/5), we'd like to remind you that The Cowboys: Deluxe Edition, the Rio Bravo: Special Edition and the 2-disc Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition all street on DVD on 5/22 as well.

Other DVD releases newly announced by Warner include National Geographic: Great Inca Rebellion on 7/3, the 5-disc TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Collection box set (including Bathing Beauty, Dangerous When Wet, Easy to Wed, Neptune's Daughter and On an Island with You) on 7/17, The List on 7/31, the 2-disc Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show on 8/7 and National Geographic: The Last Royals on 8/14.

A quick follow up on Universal's recently announced The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection (due 7/24 - SRP $39.98). The 3-disc set will include 75 original theatrical cartoon shorts (hopefully uncut), as well as over an hour of vintage bonus features including a documentary, behind-the-scenes footage with Walter Lantz and a full episode of The Woody Woodpecker Show.

Also this morning, 20th Century Fox has announced a new 4-disc Die Hard: Collection DVD box set for release on 6/19, containing single-disc versions of Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengeance, as well as a new bonus disc with an hour of exclusive content including the Live Free or Die Hard teaser trailer and 2 featurettes (Wrong Guy, Wrong Place, Wrong Time: A Look Back at Die Hard and The Continuing Adventures of John McClane). We suspect Blu-ray Disc versions of these films are in the offing for release later in 2007, coinciding with the eventual release of the forthcoming Live Free or Die Hard (due in theaters on 6/27).

Here's a look at the cover art for Warner's The Road Warrior (HD-DVD version) and Battle of the Bulge (Blu-ray version), as well as the studio's Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD (due 5/22), Fox's Die Hard Collection DVD box set, Buena Vista's King Arthur: Director's Cut Blu-ray (now available) and Digital Leisure's Dragon's Lair Blu-ray interactive game (due next Tuesday, 4/17)...

The Road Warrior (HD-DVD)Battle of the Bulge (Blu-ray Disc)Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition

Die Hard CollectionKing Arthur: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)Dragon's Lair: HD Videogame (Blu-ray Disc)

That's all for now. Have a great weekend! Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/12/07 - 3:15 PM PDT)

Okay... there's another bit of sad news to report this afternoon: Actor Roscoe Lee Browne has passed away. You may recall Browne as the narrator of the film Babe, for his appearances on such TV shows as All in the Family, Soap and The Cosby Show, and his many roles in classic films including The Cowboys and Topaz. Longtime Star Wars fans may also recall him as the narrator of The Story of Star Wars album (thanks to Bits reader Dane P. for that reminder). Browne was 81. More is available here at CNN.

There's two last bits of high-def news today. First, we've confirmed with Buena Vista that both Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will street on Blu-ray Disc format on 5/22.

And Genius Products has set Harsh Times and Black Christmas for release on HD-DVD on 6/12. Harsh Times will include a gallery of theatrical trailers. Black Christmas will include 2 featurettes (What Have You Done?: Remaking of Black Christmas and May All Your Christmases Be Black), 7 deleted scenes and 3 alternate endings. Audio on both will be English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1.

Also here at the site, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the first three weeks of March. All the charts have been updated accordingly.

Now then... some standard DVD news: The street date for New Line's Little Children has been pushed back from 4/24 to 5/1. Adjust your plans accordingly.

Lionsgate will release Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls on 6/12, with Pride following on 6/26.

BCI has announced the release of the 6-part Prehistoric Park on DVD on 6/5 (SRP $24.98).

Magnolia Entertainment has set A Collection of 2006 Academy Award Nominated Short Films for release on DVD on 5/1 (SRP $29.98). The set will include the following films: The Danish Poet, West Bank Story, Binta and the Great Idea (Binta y la Gran Idea), Éramos Pocos (One Too Many), Helmer & Son, The Saviour, A Gentlemen's Duel, Guide Dog, One Rat Short, The Passenger, Surviving the Rush and The Wraith of Cobble Hill.

And here's a bit of cool news: Image Entertainment has acquired the DVD release rights to four Jeremy Thomas-produced films, including The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Hit and Insignificance. Image will release movie-only versions, while Criterion (distributed by Image) will release full special editions as part of their regular collection. You can read more here at The New York Times. Thanks to Bits reader Matt A. for the link!

Here's a look at the cover art for BCI's first two Welcome to the Grindhouse titles (due on 7/3), along with DreamWorks' Dreamgirls: 2-Disc Showstopper Edition (5/1)...

Welcome to the Grindhouse: Pickup & The TeacherWelcome to the Grindhouse: Black Candles & Evil EyeDreamgirls: Showstopper Edition

We'll be back tomorrow with more DVD news, as well as a new Barrie Maxwell column. Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/12/07 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Morning, folks! Sorry for disappearing yesterday. A number of things came up that just ate up all our time. No worries though, we'll make it up to you today with multiple posts.

First, we'd be remiss if we didn't take a moment to acknowledge the passing of novelist Kurt Vonnegut, whose works included Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Slapstick and his most recent (and final) work, A Man Without a Country. Whatever else you might say about him, Vonnegut was an original - a World War II P.O.W., and a man of sharp wit and deep convictions. He was 84.

Now then... Warner has just announced the high-definition release of Rio Bravo and The Cowboys on 6/5, in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats, in honor of what would have been John Wayne's 100th birthday. Both titles have been remastered and will include audio commentaries, featurettes and theatrical trailers (on both formats). SRP is $28.99 for each. You'll find a look at the HD-DVD cover art below.

Also today, Paramount has officially anounced the DVD release of Eddie Murphy's Norbit on 6/5 in DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions. That's the same day the studio is also releasing Murphy's Coming to America: Special Collector's Edition and Trading Places, both also on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats.

Here's a look at high-def cover art for some of the titles we just mentioned...

Rio Bravo (HD-DVD)The Cowboys (HD-DVD)Norbit (HD-DVD)

Coming to America: Special Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc)Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Blu-ray Disc)Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Blu-ray Disc)

As you can see, Buena Vista also sent over a sneak peek at the cover art for their forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray Disc (both due on 5/22 - confirmed by the studio - and both 2-disc BD-50 sets).

And while we're talking high-definition this morning, our old friend Andy Patrizio has posted a story on what caused the HD format war and who might be drawing it out. It's detailed, well written and may cause a little bit of a stir in some camps. You'll find that here at internetnews.com.

Back with some standard DVD news in a little while. Stay tuned...

4/10/07

We've got another exciting animation announcement to report today. Universal has finally set 7/24 as the release date for The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection. The 3-disc DVD set will SRP for $39.98 and will contain some 8 hours worth of classic animated shorts in both color and B&W. Video will be full frame as you'd expect, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio. We'll post additional details as Universal makes them available, but you'll find the cover art below.

In other news today, New Line has set Uncle P for release on 6/26 (SRP $19.97).

BCI has announced that they're launching a new double-feature DVD series under the "Welcome to the Grindhouse" moniker. The series will consist of various camp and B-movie titles, with each 2-movie disc selling for about $13. BCI expects to release more than 15 titles through early next year, culled from a library of more than 100 such films. You can read more here at Video Business.

And on the HD front, Sony has added to their Blu-ray Disc planned slate, announcing Cruel Intentions for release on the format on 6/12.

There are also some indications today that Universal may be having HD-DVD replication issues. After select Xbox 360 users complained that their add-on HD drives couldn't read some (but not all) copies of Children of Men, we've now been getting e-mail from readers who say they're having trouble playing the studio's DVD/HD-DVD Combo format release of The Good Shepherd. We've checked our copy and sure enough, about 3/4ths of the way through the film on the HD side, the disc locks up and can't be read by our Toshiba HD-XA2. The DVD side reads fine. We've contacted the studio for their response as to what may be going on, and we'll let you know when we hear anything. Production and replication problems are certainly not unexpected when you have new formats - both Blu-ray and HD-DVD are having their issues right now. And given how many problems there have been in recent years with DVD-18 format discs, we always get a little nervous when dealing with discs with multiple bonded layers and sides. We can only imagine how tricky Warner's Total HD hybrid format discs are going to be to replicate...

Here's a look at the cover for Universal's The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection, as well as Sony's Ghost Rider (theatrical cut - 6/12) and CBS/Paramount's Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log (7/12)....

The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon CollectionGhost RiderStar Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log

Stay tuned...

4/9/07

Afternoon everyone. Hope you all had a nice weekend!

First things first today: Matt's doing well. If you're interested, he talks all about what's been going on with him in his own words over at MusicTAP today.

Also, our own Adam Jahnke has posted a new installment of his Electric Theatre, in which he remembers the late director Bob Clark... and drops in for a visit to the Grindhouse. Don't miss it!

Now then... Sony has finally released details about their Ghost Rider DVDs and Blu-ray Disc (due 6/12) this morning. On DVD, there will be a single-disc theatrical cut (SLP $28.95) and a 2-disc extended edition ($34.95). The extended edition will include some 15 minutes of additional footage edited back into the film. Both DVDs include the Spirit of Vengeance: The Making of Ghost Rider documentary, which includes commentary with writer/director Mark Steven Johnson. Both DVDs also include feature-length commentary with Johnson and VFX supervisor Kevin Mack, as well as a second commentary with producer Gary Foster. The extended edition also includes the Sin and Salvation featurette on the comic book origins of the character. The Blu-ray Disc version ($38.96) will include the extended version of the film, the Spirit of Vengeance: The Making of Ghost Rider documentary and both feature-length audio commentary tracks. A UMD version for Sony's PSP will also be released.

FYI, also announced today by Sony are Hex: The Complete First Season (due 6/5) and Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season (on 6/19).

We've also got a little bit of Warner release news. Or actually, a follow-up on recent news. The studio has forwarded us a first look at the new cover art for the fixed Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition box set re-release (due 5/29). Specifically, here's a look at the stickers on the cover that will identify the new fixed release from the previous version:

Superman: Ultimate Collector's EditionSuperman: Ultimate Collector's Edition - StickerSuperman: Ultimate Collector's Edition - Sticker

Also, according to the studio's press site, here's the NEW UPC number for the revised box set: 085391165262. For the record, the UPC for the OLD box set was 012569819122.

As always, we've updated the format stats (above) including the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD numbers through the week of 4/1.

Finally today, we've had a number of readers e-mail us about the low box-office numbers for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse this weekend. The film came in fourth, taking in just $11.6 million, which has surprised a lot of people. But as Todd noted in our phone conversation on the subject last night, Grindhouse isn't exactly the kind of film you go see on Easter weekend. It makes sense: if you're spending time with your family, and decide to take the whole clan out to see a film, Grindhouse probably isn't the best family filmgoing choice. It's also over three hours long, and so isn't going to get as many showings as other films. Given those things, it's probably an achievement that the film took in as much money as it did this weekend. Our guess is that ticket sales will be strong all week, and that it will do bigger business next weekend. We'll see. For the record, Todd says it's pretty great and Jahnke called the double feature "a fun but exhausting night at the movies." in his column. I'm joining Matt for a screening this evening, and we're both looking forward to it. We'll let you know.

Okay, back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

4/6/07

Morning, everyone. Before we get started today, there's a little personal business to get out of the way. It seems that no sooner did our own Matt Rowe turn 50 earlier this week, he had a bit of a health scare. Shortness of breath turned into a trip to the doctor, where an EKG uncovered some possible heart problems. Matt's in the hospital today for a follow-up, so we're all crossing our fingers around here that it's just minor issues he has to deal with. If you feel like sending him an e-mail of well wishes, I know he'd appreciate it. I'm going to swing by later and visit him, so we'll keep you up to date on how things turn out.

Now then... Sony has released to the media a report tracking weekly sales of high-definition packaged media - both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc - from 10/1/06 through the week ending 3/18/07. The report, entitled Next Generation Disc Tracking Report, was prepared with sales figures from Nielsen VideoScan. It's the first such detailed sales data we've really seen, featuring graphical breakdowns by format, title and studio, so we wanted to post the document in its entirety for your consideration (and Sony has given us permission to do so). The document is large (over 1MB) and it's in Adobe PDF format. We've posted it on the server in a zip file. Just click on the link above to download it.

In release news today, Universal has set Breach for 6/12 on DVD (full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions) as well as HD-DVD (DVD/HD-DVD Combo format).

Paramount has set The Best of Chappelle's Show: Uncensored for release on 6/5, with Diagnosis Murder: The Second Season following on 6/12.

New Line is reissuing a pair of P.T. Anderson titles on 5/8, including Magnolia and Boogie Nights. They're also releasing a Mortal Kombat I/Mortal Kombat II double feature on 5/22.

And Warner has announced a bunch more new July DVD releases, including The Last Stand and NHL Stanley Cup Championships 2007 on 7/10, NBA Champions 2007 on 7/17, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - Volume 3 and a Classic Musicals Collection: Classic Musicals from The Dream Factory - Volume 2 box set (containing Words and Music, The Pirate, a Royal Wedding/Belle of New York double feature, That's Dancing and a That Midnight Kiss/Toast of New Orleans double feature - all also available separately) on 7/24, and Dallas: The Complete Seventh Season and a Dallas: The Complete Seasons 1-7 pack on 7/31. For the BBC, Warner will release Hedda Gabler (1962) and The Henrik Ibsen Collection on 7/24, with My Hero: Season Two following on 8/7. Warner also has a series of catalog double feature DVD releases coming on 7/3, including Insomnia/Just Cause, Maverick/Wild Wild West, Memphis Belle/The Aviator, The Outlaw Josey Wales/Pale Rider, The Perfect Storm/Three Kings, Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary Special Edition/Blue Collar Comedy (that's an odd match), Proof of Life/Exit Wounds, See Spot Run/Clifford's Really Big Movie, Selena/The Bodyguard: Special Edition, A Sound of Thunder/Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, Starsky & Hutch/Disorderlies, A Walk to Remember/Chasing Liberty, What a Girl Wants/New York Minute and Wildcats/The Replacements.

One last bit of news for you music fans today: It's been announced that Graying and Balding, Inc. will be documenting the forthcoming world tour by The Police for release as an eventual concert DVD. The company has previously produced DVD projects for Sting, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones and The Dixie Chicks. By the way, at a book signing in London earlier this week, Police guitarist Andy Summers revealed that the band's rehearsals are going great, that they'll be preforming some new music during their tour this summer, and that they're considering recording a new studio album once the tour is over. Just six months ago, who would have imagined? Outstanding news indeed.

Okay... that's it for another week. Don't forget Grindhouse is in theaters this weekend. There's more Planet Earth on Discovery on Sunday too, as well as the start of the new season of Entourage on HBO.

Thanks to all of you who've sent in comments on the latest Doom9 DRM hack. I'll read all your e-mails over the weekend and post more next week.

All of you have a wonderful weekend, Happy Easter to those who celebrate it, and best wishes from all of us. See you Monday.

4/5/07

There's some very sad news to report today, as you may have heard. Bob Clark, who directed the classic A Christmas Story, along with such films as Porky's, Rhinestone, Turk 182! and Black Christmas, was killed yesterday in a car crash in Pacific Palisades, CA by a drunk driver. His 22-year-old son was also in the car and died as well. Naturally, the driver of the other car survived. You can read more here at the L.A. Times. It's hard to find the words to express how just sad and angering this is. Except these words of Ralphy from A Christmas Story seem to work pretty well: Oh FUDGE! Only I didn't say "fudge"... Bob will be sorely missed. Christmas might have to come early around here...

On the release front today, this would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but what the hell... watch for Paramount to announce Norbit soon for release on 6/5. Hope that flick didn't cost Eddie Murphy the Oscar he so richly deserved this year. Not that Dreamgirls was a favorite around here or anything, but he was damn great in it.

Also, Heretic Films has announced the release of Starbucking on 4/24. This title is of course caffeine, not Battlestar, related.

And in other news today, Video Business has a story up on the home video industry's high-def replication troubles. With both HD-DVD and Blu-ray still so new to market, replication capacity is struggling to keep up. This has resulted in delays for titles in both formats, including Universal's Children of Men DVD/HD-DVD Combo disc, Warner's Happy Feet Blu-ray Disc and some of those delayed Fox and MGM catalog high-def titles. So all those of you who've been asking what's up with the delayed titles, now you know. They're coming, just later than expected.

Finally today, there's more high-def weirdness to report. Those crazy kids over at the Doom9 boards seem to be on to yet another possible crack of the AACS copy-protection scheme used by both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. We don't pretend to be engineers or programmers, so all those lines of code are just gibberish to us, but what seems to be happening at the moment is that someone's figured out a way to custom patch the firmware on Microsoft's HD-DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360, thus allowing them to launch all the world's nuclear missiles or some such. Actually, they've found a way to hack the Xbox drive in such a way as to make it easier for them to decrypt HD-DVD movies while at the time ensuring that the device can't be "revoked" to stop them from doing it. We think. If someone from NASA wants to try to explain this in clearer language for our readers, please drop us a line and we'll post it. What it means for the industry in the long term remains to be seen, but it certainly is fascinating to watch. You know, the folks who get paid to come up with all this crazy DRM stuff should enlist the Doom9 guys right from the start. You'd think it'd just be easier.

Okay... back with more tomorrow. Don't forget to check out our new Upcoming DVD Cover Art update in the meantime. Stay tuned...

4/4/07

Morning, folks! I thought we'd get an early start on things today.

First of all, in case you missed it, we posted a big update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section yesterday. Over 100 new scans were added, with more coming next week.

Now then... Paramount will release The Future Pack box set on 7/2, which includes The Island, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Aeon Flux. Drawn Together - Uncensored!: Season Two is expected on 7/10, followed by the long awaited Gunsmoke: The First Season on 7/17. The studio has also set John Grisham's The Rainmaker: Special Collector's Edition for release on 7/24, along with Wayside School, a Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log (including favorite episodes featuring the Captains from all the Trek live-action series) and a 5-pack of all the existing Star Trek: Fan Collective releases. By the way, the studio has also announced Reno 911!: The Complete Fourth Season - Uncensored! for release on 6/26.

Something worth noting for you Battlestar Galactica fans: As we predicted, on 5/8 Universal will release a shrink-wrapped 2-pack of Season 2.0 and Season 2.5 together for a lower combined price of SRP $69.98. Unfortunately, the studio doesn't seem to be planning to re-release them in a single package until the HD-DVD version next year. Still, each set individually was previously priced at SRP $49.98, so this is a pretty good deal - as much as $30 off.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced Blood and Chocolate for release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD on 6/12, along with Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise and Jesse Stone: Night Passage (Mom will be thrilled - both on DVD), a new repackaged Starship Troopers DVD and a Blu-ray Disc of Seven Years in Tibet.

TV fans may be pleased to learn that Fox has set The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season for release on 6/5. Never thought we'd see The Fall Guy before The Six Million Dollar Man, but any Lee Majors on DVD is okay by us.

In other news, as you may have heard, EMI and Apple have reached a deal that will allow Apple to carry EMI catalog music (aside from the Beatles catalog, which is still being negotiated) on its iTunes download service. But here's the best news... the music will be made available without any kind of DRM protection, AND in higher-resolution (256 kbps vs 128 kbps on standard iTunes downloads), for just 30 cents more per track. You can read more here and here at Home Media. That means not only better quality, but the tracks will be playable in any digital media player device. Hopefully, this portends a trend toward completely DRM free downloadable music online. And one would certainly hope the movie industry would take note.

You may have seen recent press comments by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to the effect he thinks HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are going to remain niche formats for the forseeable future (you can read more on Katzenberg's comments here at Variety). The shame of it is, I think if there was just a single format that wouldn't have to be the case. But with two competing formats, he's almost certainly right. I don't have as much faith in downloading as he does. To my mind, getting downloading to work properly represents a substantial technical challenge that some consumers just aren't going to want to deal with. It's one thing if you're a tech-savvy gamer using Xbox Live, but it's another thing entirely if you're the type that still can't figure out how to program your VCR. Also, sooner or later, people who do download movies that they want to keep are going to suffer a hard drive crash, and suddenly the whole idea of downloading will become a lot less attractive. I suspect downloading will challenge the rental market more than sales of movies. Either way, standard DVD is still likely to remain the dominant format for some time to come.

Finally this morning, we're pleased to announce some new Digital Bits Power Buys in conjunction with DocDVD. We have the following Pioneer Elite plasmas deals available:

Pioneer Elite Pro-FHD1 50" 1080P Plasma with a FREE 50" Pro-5016HD Elite 768P Plasma - $6600 shipped anywhere in the domestic US.

Pioneer Elite Pro-940HD 42" 768P Plasma - $2585 shipped anywhere in the domestic US.

Pioneer Elite Pro-1140HD 50" 768P Plasma - $3056 shipped anywhere in the domestic US.

Limited numbers of each of the plasmas are available, and they will be physically purchased in store in your name from an Elite authorized dealer, so the full US warranty will apply. Act fast as these deals will not last! Email us here for more information on this and other great specials! Be sure to use the words Power Buy in the header.

Okay - enough for now. Stay tuned...

4/3/07

We've got a quick update for you on the Children of Men HD-DVD/Xbox 360 drive issue. Based on reports from readers, the problem seems to be occurring only with select batches of discs. Several people have reported exchanging the disc and the new copy works fine. And other readers' copies never had a problem with the 360 HD-DVD drive. There's a lot of people out there who are quick to call such things the death of the format - as people did with Lionsgate's Descent Blu-ray problem - but the reality is, these are exactly the kinds of technical growing pains you're going to get with any new format. Universal is no doubt working to correct the problem. In the meantime, if you have a bad copy, we recommend that you try to exchange it where you purchased it for a good one. If we hear anything official from Universal on this, we'll let you know.

Speaking of Universal, the studio has set a Doris Day and Rock Hudson Comedy Collection for release on 7/24 (SRP $19.98), which will include Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers all in anamorphic widescreen.

Sony has confirmed the 6/12 release of Ghost Rider on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. We'll have more details soon.

Warner has announced some major new releases today as well, including the Letters from Iwo Jima: Special Edition (on 2-disc DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray - both single disc - on 5/22), a Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers: 5-Disc Commemorative Edition DVD box set (also on 5/22) and Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 - Volume One (4 discs on 7/31). We'll post further details - specs, etc - as they become available.

HBO has set Louis CK: Shamless for release on 6/26, with George Lopez: America's Mexican following on 7/3, Extras: The Complete Second Season on 7/10, and P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy: Season Two and Taxicab Confessions: New York, New York - Part One on 7/17.

And New Line has released details of their forthcoming Rush Hour: Special Edition and Rush Hour 2: Special Edition (due on 5/22 - SRP $14.97 each). Rush Hour will include audio commentary by director Brett Ratner, isolated score with commentary by composer Lalo Schifrin, deleted scenes, the Rush Hour 1, 2, 3! behind-the-scenes documentary, the A Piece of the Action documentary, Ratner's Whatever Happened to Mason Reese? early short film with commentary, Heavy D's Nuttin’ But Love music video with optional commentary by Ratner, Dru Hill's How Deep Is Your Love music video with optional commentary by Ratner, cast and crew biographies and the film's theatrical trailer. Rush Hour 2 will include audio commentary by director Brett Ratner and writer Jeff Nathanson, the Rush Hour 3: French Connection behind-the-scenes documentary, 7 Beyond-the-Movie features (including Jackie Chan's Hong Kong intro, Culture Clash: West Meets East, Language Barrier, Attaining International Stardom, Kung Fu Choreography, Lady Luck - Ratner's early short film with optional commentary and a Fact track with optional subtitles), several All-Access Pass features (including Making Magic Out of Mire, 3 Evolution of a Scene segments, The Fashion of Rush Hour 2, deleted scenes and outtakes with optional commentary by Ratner, a visual effects deconstruction, an intro by visual effects supervisor Kevin Lingenfelser and a multi-angle presentation of the opening bomb scene), cast and crew biographies and 3 theatrical trailers. Video on each is anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and 2.0 audio.

Around the site today, we've got a quick Upcoming DVD Cover Art update for you. There's over 100 new covers to check out, and a larger update is on the way.

Adam's posted a new update of his Electric Theatre in which he reviews more new theatrical releases including Blades of Glory, The Lookout and more. Don't miss it!

We've also kicked off TWO new Contests today, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's Happy Feet, IMAX: Deep Sea, Batman Beyond: Season Three, Justice League Unlimited: Season Two and Full House: The Complete Sixth Season, as well as Anchor Bay's Masters of Horror: Pro Life, Masters of Horror: Family, Stan Lee presents The Condor, Phantasm, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, Tokko: Volume One and Eloise in Hollywood. Each of these contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, April 15th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Finally, we've also updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers this afternoon, with the complete data for January and February of this year. March data should be available next week. You'll find the summary here and the detailed monthly breakdown here.

Here's a little more new cover art to round out today's post: Warner's Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 - Volume One, the Letters from Iwo Jima: Special Edition and the Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers: 5-Disc Commemorative Edition...

Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938 - Volume OneLetters from Iwo Jima: Special EditionLetters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers: 5-Disc Commemorative Edition

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/2/07 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Wow... there's more good DVD news today: Our industry sources have just informed us that Warner is about to announce that their fantastic (and Bitsy Award winning) 14-disc box set, The Superman Ultimate Collection, is being re-released to stores on 5/29 (SRP $99.92). And this time, it's the Version 2.0 that includes the fixed Superman: The Movie - Four-Disc Special Edition (with the correct original theatrical 2.0 audio) as well as the correct Superman III: Deluxe Edition disc. We're told that you'll be able to identify the set by a new sticker on the front of the packaging. It may also have a new UPC code as well (we'll post that here when we have it). Be aware that replacement discs are still available from Warner directly by calling 800-553-6937.

A couple more quick announcements: Sony has set The Messengers for release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD on 6/5. The studio will also release What's Happening Now!: The Complete First Season on DVD on 6/12.

Also today, we're hearing reports from a number of readers about a playback problem with Universal's Children of Men DVD/HD-DVD Combo disc on the Xbox 360 (via the add-on drive). Specifically, the add-on drive doesn't seem to be able to read the disc. We'll check with Universal to see what's going on and what might be done to fix the problem.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/2/07 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning, everyone! Before we get started today, we'd be remiss if we didn't take a moment to congratulate our very own Matt Rowe, of MusicTAP fame, on reaching his 50th birthday. A half-century - that's a lotta tree rings, boyo! And here I was feeling a little long in the tooth for closing in on 40 later this year. Matt's naturally going to be doing a bit of celebrating with his family tonight (and praying for an Ohio State victory), and Mrs. Bits and I are likely to join 'em. If you get the chance, drop Matt a quick e-mail and give him a little pat on the back for not having died yet. Skol, friend!

Now then... we've got some VERY good news for you Disney fans today. I assure you, this is no Day After April Fools' Day joke. You guys have been asking us for months: "Will there be any more Walt Disney Treasures DVDs? There's a rumor online that they're done! Please say it isn't true!" Well... we TOLD you it wasn't true, but some of you didn't believe us. Now here's the official details: Wave Seven of the much-loved series will arrive in stores on 12/11. You'll get Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, The Chronological Donald: Volume 3 and Disneyland: Stories, Secrets and Magic, each an individually numbered, limited edition 2-disc set, complete with a certificate of authenticity and a collectible lithograph! As always, each of the sets will be hosted by film historian, author and critic Leonard Maltin. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will feature a series of silent animated shorts staring the beloved (and rarely-seen) character, made from 1926 to 1927 (thus predating Mickey Mouse), that only recently returned to the Disney label. The shorts will be restored and feature a brand-new musical score recorded just for this DVD release. The Chronological Donald: Volume 3 features Donald in a series of also rarely-seen animated solo shorts dating from 1947 to 1950. And Disneyland: Stories, Secrets and Magic is a comprehensive documentary look at the Happiest Place on Earth, featuring archival footage (including Walt's own words), along with new interviews and footage that take you behind the scenes at the park. So there you go... all this comes straight from the studio. Doubters, thou art quelled!

Here's more great animated Disney news: The studio has set The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition for release on 10/2 (SRP $29.99). The 2-disc set will include anamorphic widescreen video (aspect ratio 1.75:1 - the first time the film has been presented on home video in its original aspect ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and an all-new 5.1 Disney-enhanced Home Theater Mix. Extras will include audio commentary (with members of the original production team as well as current animators), 4 featurettes (including The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino, Disney's Kipling: Walt's Magic Touch on A Literary Classic, The Lure of The Jungle Book and Mowgli's Return to the Jungle), The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book documentary, an artwork gallery and the Baloo's Virtual Swingin' Jungle Cruise game (playable set-top and and via DVD-ROM). Oh, oobee doo... I wanna be like youuuuu...

FYI, Disney has also set Primeval for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 6/12. And this would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but look for The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause on 11/20.

In other DVD news today, Warner has set a Friends: The Complete Seasons 1-9 pack for release on 5/22 (SRP $269.92). These are the previous single-season DVD sets, just bundled together. Warner is also releasing (for the BBC) A Bit of Fry & Laurie: Season 3, A Bit of Fry & Laurie: Season 4 and A Bit of Fry & Laurie: The Complete Collection... Every Bit!, all on 7/24.

Meanwhile, Fox has set A Guide for the Married Woman for release on 4/10, along with A Wedding and A Perfect Couple. A series of catalog war films follow on 4/24, including Fixed Bayonets, I Deal in Danger, Man in the Middle, The Purple Heart, Sailor of the King and Tonight We Raid Calais (1943). Fox's Night at the Museum is still set to hit Blu-ray on 4/24 as well. The Hustler: Collector's Edition is also newly announced for DVD on 6/12.

MGM has set The Chocolate War, Thieves Like Us, The Pulp and True Confessions for release on 4/17.

The Weinstein Company has announced that a Hannibal Rising: Unrated Edition DVD will street on 5/29. An R-rated version will street that day as well. No word yet on an HD-DVD.

Koch Vision will release the James Cameron presents The Lost Tomb of Jesus documentary on 4/24 (SRP $24.98). The disc will offer a 105-minute director's cut of the Discovery Channel special, and will add 80 minutes of bonus features including an epilogue with Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici, and over an hour of additional expert interviews. The science is a bit sketchy, but the program makes for fascinating viewing.

And Universal has announced a Bourne 2-Movie Collection (SRP $22.98) for 7/24. The 3-disc set contains both The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, as well as a bonus disc that includes 3 featurettes (Who Was Robert Ludlum?, The Ludlum Supremacy and The Ludlum Ultimatum). Universal has also announced non combo format versions of the Army of Darkness and Unleashed HD-DVDs (SRP $29.98 each) on 6/26. Both were previously released as DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs. There's no word as to why they're being re-released this way.

Around the site today, we've updated all of the DVD and high-def format stats we track (above), including the latest Blu-ray Disc vs. HD-DVD software sales numbers. Previous trends continue as expected.

Finally, here's some more new DVD cover art: Warner's Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete Series and Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series (both due on 7/17), as well as Paramount's The John Wayne Century Collection and the Flags of Our Fathers: 2-Disc Special Edition (both due 5/22), Sony's Catch & Release (5/8) and New Line's The Number 23: Infinifilm Edition - Unrated (7/17)...

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio: The Complete SeriesSpace Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete SeriesThe John Wayne Century Collection

Flags of Our Fathers: 2-Disc Special EditionCatch & ReleaseThe Number 23: Infinifilm Edition - Unrated

We now return you to your previously scheduled Monday morning, already in progress. Enjoy!

3/29/07

There's not a lot of news to report today, so we're doing some archiving and other site maintenance work here at The Bits this afternoon.

There is a bit of standard DVD release news though: Fox and MGM have announced that an All That Jazz: Music Edition is due on 4/3. TV fans will be thrilled at the announcement of Flipper: Season One on 4/24. Cagney & Lacey: Season One streets on 5/8. And on 5/15, look for The Siege: Martial Law Edition with audio commentary and featurettes.

Also today, Anchor Bay has a Highlander: The Ultimate Collection - Best of the Best 6-disc box set coming out on 4/17 (SRP $49.98). The set will include 15 of the series' best episodes including the premiere, along with 3 hours worth of extras, among them 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The City of Lights, The Cutting Edge, All About You!, Gameplay and Steel).

And Sony has set Rescue Me: The Complete Third Season for release on DVD (SRP $49.95) and Blu-ray Disc ($79.95) on 6/5. The Blu-ray version will include the episodes in 1080p video, along with all the standard DVD extras, on 50GB discs. Oddly, Sony says they have no immediate plans to go back and release the show's first two seasons in HD. Anyway, here's more on this story from Home Media.

By the way, Sony has also announced The Italian for release on DVD on 5/22.

Finally, our friends over at From Script to DVD have posted a list of locations around the country where you can see Disney's Meet the Robinsons in Digital 3-D starting tomorrow.

We'll leave you today with still more new cover art: Fox's Epic Movie: Unrated Edition (5/22), MGM's Flipper: Season One and Anchor Bay's Highlander: Best of the Best box set (all on DVD), along with Warner's The Ultimate Matrix Collection HD-DVD (5/22), Sony's Hellboy Blu-ray Disc (6/5) and Paramount's The Untouchables: Special Collector's Edition Blu-ray (7/3) as well...

Epic Movie: Unrated EditionFlipper: Season OneHighlander: Best of the Best

The Ultimate Matrix Collection (HD-DVD)Hellboy (Blu-ray Disc)The Untouchables: SCE (Blu-ray Disc)

Stay tuned!

3/28/07

Afternoon, folks. We've got more new DVD announcements to report, as usual.

First up, some potential good news for Battlestar fans: Our friends over at TV Shows on DVD.com have reported that Battlestar Galactica: Season Three is expected to arrive on DVD in August. This lines up nicely with our information from The Rumor Mill from a few weeks ago, in which we posted that Universal currently plans the high-definition release of Battlestar Galactica: Season One on the HD-DVD format in September. We should also note that a 2-hour Battlestar movie special, featuring Admiral Cain and the Pegasus, will debut this fall on Sci-Fi and will be available a couple of days later on DVD. All of this is designed to keep the series fresh in the minds of fans leading up to the fourth season kick-off on Sci-Fi in early 2008.

In other news today, Fox has announced a Big: Extended Edition and a That Thing You Do: Tom Hanks' Extended Cut for release on 5/8 (SRP $19.98 each). Big features 25 minutes of new footage added back into the film, the Big Brainstorming audio documentary, 8 deleted and extended scenes, 4 featurettes (including Backstory: Big, Carnival Party Newswrap, Big Beginning and The Work of Play), the Chemistry of a Classic documentary, and trailers and TV spots. That Thing You Do features 39 minutes of additional footage added back into the film, 5 featurettes (including Making That Thing You Do, The Story of the Wonders, The Wonders: Big in Japan, That Thing You Do Reunion and That Thing You Do Title Song Submissions), the HBO First Look: The Making of That Thing You Do episode, and trailers and TV spots.

And Warner Home Video has announced The Good German for release on DVD on 5/22. No word on possible HD releases. The studio has also set National Geographic's Ultimate Factories for release on 6/12, with National Geographic's Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone set to follow on 6/26, National Geographic's A Man Among Wolves expected on 7/10 and HBO's Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Sixth Season due on 7/24. Warner is also re-issuing a number of catalog titles on 5/15 for just $12.97 each, including Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Batman, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, Blue Collar Comedy, Cats & Dogs, Chasing Liberty, Clifford's Really Big Movie, The Color Purple, Caddyshack: 20th Anniversary Edition, Full Metal Jacket, Goodfellas, The Goonies, The Green Mile, Gremlins, Heat, The Matrix, Natural Born Killers, Ocean's Eleven (2001), The Omega Man, The Perfect Storm, Rosewood, See Spot Run, Selena, The Shawshank Redemption, Sour Grapes, True Romance (Unrated), Unforgiven and A Walk to Remember. Get 'em while they're cheap.

Also today, we've got word on street dates for some major upcoming DVD releases in The Rumor Mill. We think you Sergio Leone fans are finally going to have reason to celebrate. Don't miss it.

On the high-def front, though most of the details have been reported previously, the HD-DVD Promotion Group has announced that more than 70 titles will be released on HD-DVD through July. All this is timed to coincide with Toshiba cutting the prices of their HD-DVD players (reported yesterday). You can read more here at Home Media.

Along these same lines, Microsoft has finally announced their Xbox 360 Elite (due in April for $479) which will feature an HDMI connection and larger 120 GB harddrive. At the same time, New Line announced that its titles will soon be available for download via Xbox Live, along with Paramount HD titles. You can read more at Variety.

We'll leave you with some new pieces of DVD cover art, including Warner's The Good German, Fox's Big: Extended Edition and That Thing You Do: Tom Hanks' Extended Cut, Touchstone's Apocalypto (5/22), Paramount's Trading Places: Looking Good, Feeling Good Edition (6/5) and Sony's Seinfeld: Season 8 (6/5)...

The Good GermanBig: Extended EditionThat Thing You Do: Tom Hanks' Extended Cut

ApocalyptoTrading Places: Looking Good, Feeling Good EditionSeinfeld: Season 8

Stay tuned...

3/27/07

Well... we've got a bunch of high-definition news to report this morning. Standard DVD release news will follow at the end of the post.

First up today, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has just announced that the Casino Royale Blu-ray Disc, released on 3/13, has become the first high-definition title to ship 100,000 copies, and reportedly broke single-day sales records for a high-def title as well. Apparently 50,000 copies were shipped to retailers with another 30,000 on reserve - all sold out by the second day of release. Back in 1998, the first title to ship 100,000 units on DVD (Sony's Air Force One) took 11 months to do so. Royale has done that for Blu-ray in just two weeks. It will certainly be interesting to see how well The Matrix Trilogy sells on HD-DVD in May, and how Cars and the Pirates films do later this year on Blu-ray. The same Home Media Retailing story confirms that over 1 million Blu-ray Discs have now sold to consumers (700,000 this year in 2007), with about 900,000 HD-DVDs sold (310,000 in 2007). You can read more at Video Business as well.

Next up today, the Blu-ray Disc Association has finally mandated that all Blu-ray Disc players sold after 10/31 this year must be fully compatible with the BD-Java spec, which includes the ability to play picture-in-picture video. And it's about time. In our opinion, the BDA should have mandated this from the very beginning. The lack of this full compliance is what's caused studios like Warner to hold back some of their IME titles on Blu-ray (including Batman Begins and The Matrix Trilogy), and it's the one real technical area where Blu-ray is currently lagging behind rival HD-DVD. You can read more here at Video Business.

There's big HD-DVD news today as well. Toshiba has confirmed that they've cut the prices of all their HD-DVD players pretty dramatically. They've dropped their HD-A2 and HD-A20 by $100 each (to $399 and $499 respectively). The higher-end HD-XA2 has been dropped $200 to $799. The price changes officially take effect on 4/1. You can read more here at Twice. We've also heard that Microsoft has cut the price of its Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on drive by about $70 (taking it from $199 to $130). You'll find more on that at 1Up.com.

On the software front, Sony has confirmed some of the information we posted in The Rumor Mill last week, specifically that they'll be releasing Hellboy and Meatballs on Blu-ray on 6/5.

Buena Vista has announced Bridge to Terabithia for release on Blu-ray Disc on 6/19. It's also just announced Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane and Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur: Director's Cut for release on Blu-ray on 4/3.

Also today, Digital Leasure has announced that they're releasing the classic Dragon's Lair video game on Blu-ray Disc format (using BD-Java) on 4/9 (SRP $49.95). All the original video has been remastered in 1080p and the sound has been remixed in 5.1 surround. All the extras are in 1080p as well - they include new interviews with game creators Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and Rick Dyer, in addition to optional audio commentary during the game. Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp will apparently follow in Blu-ray from the company as well. You can read more here.

Now for the standard DVD news. As you might expect, Buena Vista's Bridge to Terabithia will street on 6/19 in dual full frame and anamorphic widescreen DVD versions.

Genius Products has set Arthur and the Invisibles for release on 5/15.

Universal has set Disappearances and Eureka: Season One for release on 7/3, with Rap Sheet: Hip Hop and the Cops following on 7/31.

Sony's announced Secrets of the Code, Hex: The Complete First Season, Seinfeld: The Complete Eighth Season and a Meatballs: Special Edition for release on 6/5.

Paramount has set Mostly Martha for release on 7/20.

Finally this morning, we've updated some of our DVD and HD format stats (tracked above). We'll have a CEA DVD Player Sales update in the next few days.

Stay tuned...


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