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





page updated: 6/14/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 6/6/07 - 5/15/07)


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6/6/07

We've got more announcement news to report today, including a few big theatrical, catalog and TV titles... and even a couple new high-def releases too.

First up, Lionsgate has confirmed the details of their July slate. Look for White Boyz in the Hood and Mummy Maniac on 7/3, Amor Xtremo and Brutal on 7/10, Waiting (Blu-ray Disc), The Ogre, Baxter, Surf School and Haunted Boat on 7/17, Slow Burn, The Monster Squad: 20th Anniversary Edition, Weeds: Season Two (DVD and Blu-ray Disc) and The Long Weekend on 7/24, and Bratz Kidz Sleep-Over Adventure, Dead Clowns and Played on 7/31.

Fox has just announced It's Always Sunny for release on 9/4, with Bones: Season Two following on 9/11. Bones will include 21 episodes on 6 discs, along with extensive audio commentaries with the cast and crew, deleted scenes, featurettes, a gag reel and more (SRP $59.98).

Also newly announced for DVD release by Fox are a Commando: Director's Cut (includes both the original theatrical version and a new 5-minute longer cut via seamless branching, along with director's commentary, deleted scenes, the Let Off Some Steam and Pure Action featurettes and photo galleries) and a Wall Street: 20th Anniversary Edition (intro by Oliver Stone, new interviews with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, deleted scenes and the Money Never Sleeps: The Making of Wall Street and Greed is Good featurettes), both on 9/18. SRP on Commando is $19.98 (Wall Street is TBA).

Meanwhile, Warner has announced a Supernatural: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 2-pack for release on 9/11, with The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The Complete Season 1 following on 9/18. Warner has also announced TMNT for release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD on 8/7.

And on the high-definition front today, Warner has set Purple Rain and Out for Justice for release on both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD on 7/24.

Also, while we're talking high-def, Universal Studios Home Entertainment contacted us yesterday afternoon with word that their fixed replacement copies of The Good Shepherd and Children of Men on DVD/HD-DVD Combo format are now available. You can call (800) 626-9497 anytime 24/7 to arrange a swap for your defective copies. For ease and speed of service, Universal would prefer people use the 800 number rather than e-mail to contact them with problems.

In more announcement news, here's a quick to cancelled TV show to DVD release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment... What About Brian: The Complete Series is due on 9/25 (SRP $59.99). The 5-disc set contains 24 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, along with "cast interviews and behind the scenes bonus features." Hey, what about that Brian guy anyway? I guess we'll never know.

And Paramount has set Charmed: The Final Season and Charmed: The Complete Series pack for release on 9/11, followed by Ghost Whisperer: The Second Season and Backyardigans: Super Secret Super Spy on 9/18.

Here's a look at the DVD cover art for Warner's TMNT, and Fox's Prison Break: Season Two (due 9/4) and the Commando: Director's Cut...

TMNTPrison Break: Season TwoCommando: Director's Cut

Finally today, here's a bit of great news from Variety... CBS is apparently about to announce its decision to bring back its hastily cancelled Jericho for at least 7 or 8 more episodes next season (read more here at CNN). Depending on how those eps do in the ratings (and CBS is now tracking DVR and download/streaming viewing as well), there's the possibility of more. After the show was canned last month, fans went nuts... literally, bombarding the CBS offices with angry mail, phone calls and bags of nuts (20 tons of nuts at last count) in protest. The nuts refer to a plot thread ("NUTS!") that was part of the season finale - one of the strongest cliff-hangers we've seen in years. If you haven't been watching, Jericho is a terrific series. Both Sarah and I were hooked from the first episode. You can head over to CBS.com to catch up on the show from the beginning, and we expect the first season to be announced soon for DVD release on 9/11 (from CBS via Paramount). What great news this is! Congrats to all you fans who kept hope alive. Hope nobody at CBS had nut allergies.

Man... Jericho and NBC's Friday Night Lights are both coming back next season? Bill's a happy boy right now...

Stay tuned!

6/5/07

First things first today... we're pleased as punch to bring you another fine installment of The Bottom Shelf, from our very own Adam Jahnke. In this edition, Adam takes a closer look at 5 recent DVD releases, including Warner's Blood Diamond, Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut and For Your Consideration, Universal's The Good Shepherd and Paramount's Freedom Writers. And he is not thankful for it (but you may be)!

Also today, Adam's ever-lovin' Electric Theatre turns 50... or at least hits 50 installments with this week's edition, which features his reviews of Knocked Up, Mr. Brooks and more. My, how the time does fly.

In addition, Greg Suarez has checked in with a look at Buena Vista's Déjà Vu in full 1080p via Blu-ray Disc.

In announcement news today, Paramount has set the DVD release of South Park: The Complete Tenth Season for 8/21. Also announced by the studio (for DreamWorks) for release on 8/28 is Blades of Glory in DVD (in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame), Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions. All versions will include 6 featurettes (Return to Glory: The Making of Blades, Celebrities on Thin Ice, Cooler Than Ice: The Super-Sexy Costumes of Skating, Arnett and Poehler: A Family Affair, 20 Questions with Scott Hamilton and Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan), deleted scenes and alternate takes, a blooper reel, Moviephone Unscripted with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and Will Arnet, MTV interstitials, trailers and TV spots, a photo gallery, Bo Bice's Blades of Glory music video and more. Also newly announced (for DreamWorks) for release on 10/30 is Surviving Christmas.

Meanwhile, Sony will release the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Vacancy on 8/14. Following on 8/21 will be Perfect Stranger.

And New Line has set the DVD premiere movie Safe Harbour for release on 10/16 (SRP $19.97), complete with an introduction by author Danielle Steel. Moms everywhere will be beside themselves.

On the high-def front today, you knew this was coming: Sony has just officially dropped the price of its new second-generation Blu-ray Disc player, the BD-S300, to $499, though they claim that it's not in response to Toshiba's recent HD-DVD player price slashing, but rather reductions in manufacturing costs. The price of its original BDPS1 has also been cut from $999 to $799. The BD-S300 is reportedly on its way to stores now and should soon be available widely. You can read more here at Video Business.

Video Business is also reporting (click here) that Sony's DADC replication facility is adding Blu-ray production capacity to meet increasing demand, and that Panasonic's Hollywood Lab "is expanding its research and development facility here and its staff to grow with the Blu-ray Disc format" (click here).

Things aren't all rosy for Blu-ray though... a company called Target Technology has apparently filed suit against Sony for patent infringement involving Blu-ray. Click here for that.

Around the site today, we've kicked off FIVE new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's The Closer: The Complete Second Season, Fail Safe, The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season, F Troop: The Complete Second Season, CHiPs: Season One, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, Welcome Back, Kotter: The Complete First Season and the BBC's Robin Hood: Season One (along with an engraved Robin Hood tankard, for all your... ahem... 'tanking' needs), Universal's Breach, Shout! Factory's Fired!, MGM's The Sergio Leone Anthology box set and Sony's Ghost Rider on Blu-ray Disc! The contests will all run for TWO WEEKS, until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, June 17th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We've also updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its most recent version (dated 1/9/07). We'll update it again when Jim's master copy is... well... updated again. 'Nuff said.

We'll leave you today with some new cover art. Here's Buena Vista's Wild Hogs (8/14), Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied Edition (8/21), Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Third Season - Seriously Extended (9/11) and Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season (9/18), Paramount's South Park: The Complete Tenth Season (8/21) and DreamWorks' Blades of Glory...

Wild HogsUgly Betty: The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied EditionGrey's Anatomy: The Complete Third Season - Seriously Extended

Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First SeasonSouth Park: The Complete Tenth SeasonBlades of Glory

Oh, by the way... one last thing. Any of you guys Speed Racer fans? Here's proof that we meant it when we said that we still dig Harry and the boys over at AICN. My faith in Larry and Andy Wachowski's Speed Racer live action/CG feature film just went up by a HUGE margin. Maybe this means we'll get the original series on DVD again, but with some real extras this time. Lionsgate? You listening?

Stay tuned...

6/4/07

Morning, folks! Hope you all had a great weekend. Just so you know, we've been having some minor server glitches over the last week, so the site may go down from time to time while they're corrected. The problems started last Wednesday, and are being debugged now, so thanks for your patience while we deal with them.

Now then... we've got something special for you this morning. Last year at our annual Comic-Con panel in San Diego, DVD producer Andy Mangels set the audience buzzing by talking about literally dozens of great DVD titles that he was currently working on - titles like Space Academy, He-Man, Ark II, The Secrets of Isis, Bravestar, She-Ra and scores of other great Saturday morning favorites from the Filmmation library. We enjoyed our discussion with Andy so much, that Todd and I decided to continue our chat with him here, in the pages of The Digital Bits, for all of you to enjoy. A shortened version of this appears in the pages of the latest issue of Geek Monthly as well, but here's the full, epic and unedited version in all it's glory. So with that, we give you... By the Power of Mangels!!

Okay, elsewhere around The Bits today, our own Russell Hammond has yet again updated our new Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. Included are lots more new DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover art and Amazon links. So be sure to check that out.

Also today, we've updated all of the DVD and high-def format stats we track (above), and we've even added a couple of new stats as well, including Total Blu-ray Disc Titles and Total HD-DVD Titles - useful numbers to have handy if you're a fan of either format.

One brief update this morning: Time is running out to sign up and join The Digital Bits and The Home Theater Forum at the EMA Expo in Las Vegas (July 17-19th) in celebrating 10 great years of DVD. We've got special reduced rates for rooms at The Venetian, and we're putting together a very cool line-up of exclusive events just for our group. It's a perfect chance to join some 60 of your fellow enthusiasts, along with Bits and HTF staffers, in enjoying good company, Vegas fun and a special schedule of studio presentations and other private events. Click here for more but act fact to join us!

Now then... it's time for a little follow up on our length high-def Soapbox editorial from Friday evening. As you can imagine, we've gotten a few interesting e-mails over the weekend. ;)

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the overwhelming majority of the mail we got was in agreement with us, though some (having already chosen HD-DVD for reasons of their own) took exception. A small handful were personally offended by our "obviously biased rantings," and we got one or two rather juvenile posts along the lines of "FU Bits!" Such is the elevated state of dialogue in parts of the home theater/film enthusiast community these days. Thanks to the captains of Hollywood and consumer electronics, we have a format war that's bitterly divided the online enthusiast community in a way that it's never been before. Nice going, industry!

I wish we could reply personally to everyone who e-mailed us, but there just isn't enough time in the day. Thank you to all those of you who took the time to send us your thoughts, however, whether you agree with us or not. We appreciate and value your opinions. We did want to make a few general replies to some of your comments here.

What some HD-DVD fans would call 'obvious bias,' we'd call carefully formed opinion based on observation and experience. It's a format war, folks. There may or may not be winners in this fracas, but there will definitely be losers. We didn't start this thing, but if we can help in some small way to nudge it to a conclusion with the occasional bit of straight talk and common sense, we mean to try.

The e-mails we found most puzzling were to the effect of: "Shame on you for taking sides! Where are your journalistic standards? This is a sad day for your site's integrity, sir!" Question: Were any of you guys around back when we took sides for DVD and against Divx? Were you reading when we said that we've actively lobbied the studios to support anamorphic widescreen? Do any of you not recall our efforts over the years to get certain films released on DVD, or to see that the studios correct problems with defective discs that they might rather just sweep under the carpet? We're enthusiasts. The Bits is an enthusiast publication, about sharing our love of great films on disc. We report industry news, but we also offer our editorial opinions. And we GET INVOLVED. That's how The Bits has always been, and that's how it will continue to be. Our guiding principle here will always be to work for what we think is best for the films themselves, for our readers and for the film enthusiast community as a whole. And in our opinion, sitting by and watching this format war destroy all the great things that have come about as a result of the success of DVD over the last ten years is good for no one. Except maybe Microsoft.

One other point to note: To those who would say, "Relax! These formats can coexist just fine! The real answer is obviously combo players," we would point to DVD-Audio and SACD as a cautionary tale from which everyone needs to learn. Those formats coexisted just fine. There were affordable combo players. And good luck finding DVD-Audio and SACD discs on store shelves anymore. Two competing formats = consumer confusion = crash and burn. Continuing to straddle the fence in the hopes that HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray Disc will sort itself out before cannibalizing the entire market was just getting tiresome. So we want to try and do something about that if we can.

We might lose a few readers over this, but we'll gain new readers because of it too. The Net is funny that way. Actually, very little is going to change here at The Bits. We'll still review HD-DVDs as well as DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and report release news for all three formats. The basic difference is that when anyone asks us what format they should buy or which we think is the smarter bet, our advice is generally going to be Blu-ray. We'll certainly keep an open mind and watch the situation closely. If the Blu-ray exclusive studios suddenly start flipping like poker chips, we'll let you know and revise our opinions accordingly. But you can't be afraid to stand up for what you believe. And we believe that of these two very good formats, Blu-ray has the far greater chance of succeeding long term. So there you go.

We'll be back tomorrow with a new edition of The Bottom Shelf from Adam. Stay tuned...

6/1/07

Okay... we've got some new title announcements to report this morning, and then I'm gonna get up on the soapbox and rant a little bit. We've held our tongue on the HD issue for a while, but long enough. But back to that in a moment.

First, the new announcements. We'll start with MGM, which has just set the DVD release of Stargate SG-1: Season 10 for 7/24. The 5-disc set will include all 22 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video. Extras will include audio commentary on 19 episodes, 5 SG-1 Directories Series featurettes (including Insiders, Memento Mori, Company of Thieves, The Shroud and Unending), 4 additional behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Ori: A New Enemy, Stargate SG-1: Behind the 200th, Setting the Mood with Jim Menard and Life As a Tech with Gary Jones), deleted scenes with introduction by Joseph Mallozzi, and extensive photo and production design galleries.

Next up, Sony has announced the DVD release of Angels Fall, Are We Done Yet? and Montana Sky on 8/7.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has set Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season - The Bettyfied Edition for release on 8/21, with Brothers & Sisters: The Complete First Season following on 9/18 (SRP $59.99 each). Ugly Betty will feature 23 episodes in anamorphic widescreen video on 6 discs, along with the Becoming Betty, A La Mode and Green is the New Black featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries and a blooper reel. Brothers & Sisters will also include the episodes in anamorphic widescreen video on 6 discs, along with an unaired bonus episode, the Walker Family Tree, Set Tour with Dave, Balt and Matt and Family Business featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries and a blooper reel.

We're not done yet with Buena Vista: They've also just announced Desperate Housewives: The Complete Third Season - The Dirty Laundry Edition (due 9/4), Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Third Season - Seriously Extended (9/11) and Lost: The Complete Third Season - The Unexplored Experience (12/11). Again, all three titles will SRP for $59.99 each, and all three will include the episodes in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Desperate Housewives (23 episodes on 6 discs) will offer the Here Comes the Bride, Amas de Casa Desesperadas and Cherry Picked featurettes, unaired storylines, deleted scenes, and bloopers and outtakes. Grey's Anatomy (25 episodes on 7 discs) will include four uncut extended episodes, audio commentaries and the Making Rounds with Patrick Dempsey, Good Medicine and Prescription for Success featurettes. Meanwhile, Lost (23 episodes on 7 discs) will include the Lost Flashbacks, The World of the Others, Lost in One Day, Lost on Location and The Lost Book Club featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries and bloopers.

On to other studios: Warner has set Carlos Oscar: Life is Crazy Good for 7/17.

HBO has announced White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (for 8/7), Bob Saget: That Ain't Right (8/28) and Dare to Dream (9/18).

New Line has announced the DVD release of Full of It on 9/25.

And finally, Universal has set Hot Fuzz for release on 7/31 in full frame and anamorphic widescreen DVD versions (SRP $29.98 each) as well as a DVD/HD-DVD Combo format edition ($39.98).

Universal has also announced Curious George: Takes a Job and Other Monkey Business for 8/28, an Arnold Schwarzenegger: Comedy Favorites Collection on 9/18 (the very title makes me cringe - you get Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Junior - SRP $19.98), a John Candy: Comedy Favorites Collection also on 9/18 (Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors, Going Berserk - $19.98), and The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and a Dawn of the Dead/Land of the Dead 2-Movie Collection on 9/25.

And on the HD-DVD front, Universal will release Dawn of the Dead, The Hurricane and Notting Hill on 8/25.

Okay, now then... here's that rant we promised. We straddled the fence in this HD format war as long as we could, folks. We really did. But something's happened to push us off, and sometimes you just have to have the strength of your convictions and the balls to stand by them. So hold onto your seats, 'cause this here's a goodun...

HD-DVD: Buyers Beware (or... What Have You Done, Headgeek?!)

*ahem*

Check back on Monday (if you dare) for a very cool, in-depth interview with one of our favorite DVD producers. We've got a new Bottom Shelf column from Jahnke coming next week as well, along with plenty of reviews, news and more. Don't miss it.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned!

5/31/07

Let's kick things off today with the latest installment of Jahnke's Electric Theatre. This time around, Adam offers up his take on such "now showing" films as Fay Grim, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Luc Besson's unfortunate Angel-A, as well as a trio of other films now on DVD. Don't miss it.

Also (speaking of missing things), in case you missed it last night... we posted Todd's latest Doogan's Views column early yesterday evening, featuring several more new DVD reviews. You'll find a pair of recent Masters of Horror titles, Anchor Bay's awesome 6-disc/4-film The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky box set and more. Be sure to check that out as well today.

In other news this morning, Toshiba is crowing in the trades about increased HD-DVD player sales as a result of their recent and rather dramatic price cuts. You'll find that at Video Business.

And while we're talking high-def, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has updated their catalog Blu-ray Disc release slate for the summer. Look for Flatliners and The Patriot: Extended Cut on 7/3, with Premonition and Wild Things following on 7/17. August catalog titles so far include Are We Done Yet?, Arlington Road and the CG-animated Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within all on 8/7. The studio tells us that several additional summer catalog and new release titles are in the works as well, and will be announced soon.

And on the standard DVD front today, Fox has set The Salon for release on 8/7.

Around the site this morning, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include data on players shipped to retail though the end of April. All charts (above) have been updated accordingly.

By the way, did any of you guys happen to catch the debut of Traveler last night on ABC? They replayed the pilot (first shown a few weeks ago) and ran the first regular episode. You should check them both out if you can (they may have the episodes available here online). It's kind of a new spin on the 24 meets The Fugitive formula, but it's well written and acted. The basic plot is: Two guys fresh out of college seem to have been betrayed by their best friend - someone they've known and lived with for a few years - and have been framed for a terrorist bombing in New York City, which as you can imagine results in the hammer of Homeland Security falling pretty hard on them. So now these two guys are on the run, trying to figure out who's framed them and why. And they need to try to figure out who their friend (the title character, Will Traveler) really was, because it's the only way to prove they're innocent. I guess it's just a summer replacement show for now, but I hope ABC considers picking it up for a full season order, because it's pretty damn good. It grabs you and keeps you interested, which is a lot more than we can say for most crap on network TV these days.

Finally, there's good news for those you who hate all that digital copy protection clogging up your music downloads. Apple's iTunes service has just begun offering music downloads with no DRM. The songs cost a little more than those with DRM ($1.29 each vs $.99), but the move means that you can now play iTunes downloaded music on at least some other portable music players, like Microsoft's Zune. You can read more here at MSNBC. Now if only Hollywood would see the light too... Yeah right.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/30/07 - 6:15 PM PDT)

As promised, we're pleased to check in this evening with Todd's latest edition of Doogan's Views. In this installment, Todd spins a few new and recent DVD releases from our friends over at Anchor Bay, including Masters of Horror: Pro-Life, Masters of Horror: Family, Dead and Deader, the Phantasm: Anchor Bay Collection, the Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead - Anchor Bay Collection and The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky 6-disc box set, which includes La Cravate, Fando Y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, along with soundtrack CDs for both El Topo and Holy Mountain. As always, Todd's column is well worth a read, so be sure to check it out.

We've also got FOUR new music DVD reviews from our MusicTAP crew today, including MVD's Mott the Hoople: Under Review and Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House, Hip-O/Universal Music's John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Give Peace a Song and Eagle Vision's Frank Zappa: Classic Albums - Apostrophe/Over-nite Sensation. Enjoy!

By the way, we've got updated information for you direct from the studio on Fox's Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 3 box set (due on 8/14). The SRP will be $39.98, and the box will include Charlie Chan's Secret, Charlie Chan on Broadway, Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo, The Black Camel and the bonus film Behind That Curtain (we've updated our early post today as well). The set's special features are as follows: Charlie Chan's Secret will include commentary by film critic Ken Hanke, 2 featurettes (Charlie Chan and the Rise of the Modern Detective and Dr. Henry Lee: The Modern Day Charlie Chan), a restoration comparison, the original theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Charlie Chan on Broadway will include 2 featurettes (The World of Charlie Chan and Chanograms: The Aphorisms of Charlie Chan), a restoration comparison, the original theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo will add the Chan Is Missing: The Last Days of Warner Oland featurette, a restoration comparison, original theatrical trailers, a still gallery and a poster gallery, as well as the 1929 film Behind That Curtain film (featuring the earliest surviving onscreen appearance of the Charlie Chan character). Finally, The Black Camel will offer commentary by film critic Ken Hanke, a restoration comparison, the original theatrical trailers, a still gallery and Charlie Chan’s Chance: A Recreation (a dramatized recreation of the lost film, Charlie Chan’s Chance, with an optional introduction by film historian John Cork).

Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/30/07 - 12:15 PM PDT)

Okay... let's start off today with some new announcements.

Fox has set Prison Break: Season Two for release on 9/4 (SRP $59.98). You'll get 22 episodes on 6 discs, including audio commentary on 11 episodes with members of the cast and crew, as well as all-new cast and crew interviews, 3 featurettes (Reinvention of a Series, Turning Dallas Into America and Prison Break Theme - Ferry Corsten Breakout Mix) and an Easter egg. Video will be anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Fox has also announced the Charlie Chan Collection: Volume 3 box set for release on 8/14 (SRP $39.98), which will include Charlie Chan's Secret, Charlie Chan on Broadway, Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo, The Black Camel and the bonus film Behind That Curtain.

Meanwhile, Universal has set I Witness for release on DVD on 9/25 (SRP $24.98). They've also set Elizabeth for release on DVD ($14.98) and HD-DVD on 9/18 ($29.98). A DVD double feature of Anne of the Thousand Days and Mary, Queen of Scots will also street on 9/18 (SRP $19.98). And a Favorite Family Treasures 3-pack (containing Babe, Beethoven and Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat) will arrive on 8/28 (SRP $26.98).

On the high-def front, Universal has set the HD-DVD release of Erin Brockovich, Meet the Fockers, Mercury Rising and What Dreams May Come for 8/14 (SRP $29.98 each).

Meanwhile, New Line has set Full of It for release on 8/14 (SRP $19.97). The DVD will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, deleted scenes, the trailer and 5 featurettes (Video Yearbook, Introducing Ryan Pinkston, Perils of Lying, Bad Advice and Man on the Street).

Warner has set Masters of the Arctic Ice (National Geographic) and History of Penn State Football for release on 9/4, with Engineering the Impossible (National Geographic), IFL Greatest Knockouts & Extreme Action and the animated Superman Doomsday following on 9/18. In addition, Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages (BBC) will street on 10/2, and Michael Palin: Pole to Pole (BBC) will round things out on 10/9.

Finally, a reminder: The Weinstein Company and Genius Products will release of a pair of John Woo films on DVD, Hard Boiled and Last Hurrah for Chivalry, on 6/24. The 2-disc Hard Boiled: Ultimate Edition (SRP $24.95) will include Dolby Digital 5.1 (Catonese and English) and Mono (English) as well as DTS 5.1 (Catonese), English and Spanish subtitles, audio commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, 4 featurettes (A Baptism of Fire, John Woo: Partner in Crime, Terence Chang: Art Imitates Life and Mad Dog Bites Again), a location guide, the Hong Kong theatrical trailer and U.S. promotional trailer. Last Hurrah for Chivalry will include Dolby Digital 5.1 (English dubbed and Cantonese) and Mono (Cantonese) audio, English and Spanish subtitles, audio commentary with Bey Logan, 3 featurettes (Pray for Death: An Interview with Fung Hak-On, Deliver Us from Evil: An Interview With Lee Hoi-San and Legendary Weapons of China), the original theatrical trailer and U.S. promotional trailer.

We'll be back in a little bit with Todd's latest Doogan's Views, so stay tuned!

5/29/07

Time sure does fly, doesn't it? Three days go by awfully fast. We hope that all of you had a great long holiday weekend - those of you here in the States at least. Given the nature of the holiday, we'd like to take a moment to send a shout-out and thanks to all you folks serving in the military, wherever you may be. Be safe, guys. We're thinking about you.

So the news from Star Wars: Celebration IV this weekend was sadly non-DVD related, but people we trust who attended tell us that a good time was had by most nonetheless. It seems the fanboys were treated to the spectacle of several dozen young damsels dressed as Slave Leia from Return of the Jedi, which I suppose makes up for the lack of a DVD box set announcement in some small way. Naturally, there were oodles of other new product announcements. Lucasfilm is always ready with new ways to take your money. The only really interesting news out of the weekend from our perspective, however, was the debut of the first trailer for the new Clone Wars CG animated series (coming at some vague time in the future). Looks kinda cool, we'll grudgingly admit. Anyway, you'll find that over at this link at the newly redesigned Star Wars website if you should wish to check it out.

By the way, Sarah and I took a few hours out of our afternoon on Friday to take in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. Turns out it's pretty darned good. It's been getting mixed reviews by critics, but we both found it to be an entertaining climax to the trilogy. It's both funnier and darker than the last film, and a good deal more satisfying. All the characters' stories are wrapped up in a way that doesn't disappoint, and there are some really great action sequences - absolutely terrific CG effects work is on display here. The film is a bit long to be sure, but I would say that if you liked the first two films, you'll definitely enjoy this one as well. It should look great on Blu-ray later this year too.

Okay... the first a bit of site business today: Our stout-hearted Russell Hammond has once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. There are scores of new DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc covers included, so be sure to check them all out. And don't forget that preordering discs through our Amazon links supports our work here at The Bits, so grazie, merci and thanks!

Just to let you know, we've also update some of the DVD and HD format stats we track (above). We'll be updating the CEA stats in the next couple of days as well.

Now then... let's catch up on some DVD release news. There's not a ton of it to report yet this morning, given the holiday, but we do have a couple things for you.

First of all, Buena Vista has confirmed the 8/14 release of Wild Hogs on DVD (SRP $29.99) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.99). Extras on both editions will include the Bikes, Brawls and Burning Bars: The Making of Wild Hogs and How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle featurettes, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, audio commentary with director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland, outtakes and an Easter egg.

Also today, Paramount has set Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke: Special Collector's Edition for release on 9/4.

Fox has confirmed that the DVD release of Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife (due 8/7, SRP $29.98) will include both full frame and anamorphic widescreen video, audio commentary by Rock, deleted scenes, bloopers and outtakes, the I Think I Love Making This Movie and What's a Man to Do? featurettes, FX Movie Channel footage of the casting session and premiere, The Brand New Heavies' I Don't Know Why (I Love You) music video and the film's theatrical trailers.

And we'd normally put this in The Rumor Mill (so salt it accordingly), but industry sources are telling us to expect the DVD release of Disney's The Lookout and Sony's Vacancy on 8/14. Sony is also expected to release Perfect Stranger and The Lives of Others on 8/21.

On the high-def front today, we've got word today that in addition to all of the standard DVD features we've mentioned previously (50 deleted scenes, the 73-minute unaired pilot, audio commentary with the cast and crew, and behind-the-scenes featurettes), Universal's HD-DVD release of Heroes: Season One (due 8/28) will include a number of U-Control features, among them picture-in-picture video commentary on 12 episodes with series creator Tim Kring and producer Dennis Hammer, interactive character profiles, the ability to "discover the hidden helix symbol revealed throughout the series" and a Heroes "ability test." The discs will also be web enabled, allowing for future downloadable content.

Universal has also announced that the DVD and HD-DVD release of Hot Fuzz (tentatively due on 8/7) will include deleted scenes, outtakes, 3 featurettes (Hot Funk, The Fuzzball Rally and The Man Who Would Be Fuzz) featurettes, audio commentary and more. By the way, in case we haven't mentioned it previously, Universal has Shaun of the Dead set for release on HD-DVD on 7/31.

In other high-def news today, Paramount has confirmed that Shooter will street on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/31, a month after the DVD hits stores (on 6/26). Extras on both versions will include 7 deleted scenes, the Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter documentary, the Independence Hall featurette, the film's theatrical trailer (all video features will be in HD on both versions) as well as audio commentary with director Antoine Fuqua. Paramount has also confirmed the HD-DVD and Blu-ray release of Zødiac on 9/18 (features TBA - the DVD streets on 7/24).

We've got new cover art to show you today as well: Here's Universal's Serenity: Collector's Edition (8/21) and House: Season Three (8/21), Sony's 20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition (7/31), Universal's Heroes: Season One HD-DVD, and Disney's Roving Mars (7/31) and Paramount's Shooter on Blu-ray Disc...

Serenity: Collector's EditionHouse: Season Three20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition

Roving Mars (Blu-ray Disc)Heroes: Season One (HD-DVD)Shooter (Blu-ray Disc)

By the way, a quick note for you music fans: The Police officially kicked off their reunion world tour last night up in Vancouver (preceded by a fan/rehearsal gig on Sunday night). The reviews are all pretty great, and we hear that Bono, members of R.E.M., Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and even Eddie Van Halen were in the house for the fan show. Check out the band's new website later today for video and pictures from the first concert. Weatherman Dave and I have tickets to the L.A. shows next month. We've been waiting 25 years for this, and we mean to enjoy every moment of it. ;)

Finally this morning, we want to acknowledge the passing of actor Charles Nelson Reilly on Sunday. Some of you might be too young to remember, but Reilly appeared in the TV version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, before later becoming a fixture on TV game shows like Match Game and the Hollywood Squares in the 70s. He also appeared in a TON of other TV shows (if you grew up in the 70s and 80s, the guy was everywhere), including Lidsville, The Love Boat and one of my all time favorites, the Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' episode of The X-Files (as none other than Jose Chung himself). Reilly even won a Tony Award for his performance of Bud Frump in the original Broadway version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He was 76, and his signature laugh will be missed.

Barring any breaking news before then, we'll be back tomorrow morning with a new Doogan's Views column from Todd (no, we're still not kidding). You'll definitely want to check back for that rarified stuff.

Stay tuned!

5/25/07

It's hard to believe that today marks the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of the original Star Wars to theaters. Three decades ago, on May 25th, 1977, the first few thousand members of an entire generation of young filmgoers had their minds blown away... and the rest would soon join them in the weeks and months that followed. Like many of them, I'm turning 40 this year and have over time developed something of a love/hate relationship with all things Star Wars. Padawans and midichlorians have soured the Saga a bit for folks like me, but I still can never forget how that initial viewing of the original film in an old dark theater with a couple hundred other people changed my life. It was the first time I was ever so excited by a film that I literally leaped out of my seat cheering. And then came the waiting. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, there was no Internet. There were no fan sites and discussion forums. All you got was Starlog magazine, and they didn't print spoilers. So you just had to suck it up wait three years for the next film... and incredibly, The Empire Strikes Back was even better! But oh, the humanity! Could Darth Vader REALLY be Luke's father?! How was a 13-year old mind to deal with that? Simple. You stumbled into the restroom, splashed some water on your face to recover from the shock... and snuck right back into the theater to see the next showing. Then you had to wait three MORE years to find out if it was true! But in the meantime, there was E.T. to see, and Blade Runner and Raiders of the Lost Ark! And the original Star Wars was being released back into theaters, and Alien and Close Encounters and Superman II were all on HBO - cable was such a cool new thing at that point. It wasn't all roses to be sure. Eleanor Ringel Gillespie of the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a column earlier this week bemoaning how the blockbuster success of Jaws and Star Wars killed the commercial prospects for the kind of more substantial filmmaking that had dominated the 70s to that point. And she's right. In fact, the dearth of good mainstream dramatic Hollywood filmmaking today can arguably be traced right back to May 25th, 1977. Most every studio head these days would rather chase an epic fantasy franchise instead of nurturing off-beat, thoughtful film fare, and all too many young directors and writers want to make a Star Wars of their own. But that's now... and this was then. And back then... well, it was a helluva great time to be a kid going to the movies, I'll tell you.

The geek place to be this weekend is up at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where Lucasfilm is holding court at the Celebration IV convention with events like "Billy Dee! The Lando Diaries" and "Advanced Droid Building." But I just couldn't bring myself to shell out at least $40 to watch the guy that plays Jango Fett talk about his experience of making Episode II. I'm still considering the slim chance that Lucasfilm will finally announce their long-awaited, 9-disc Ultimate Star Wars DVD box set sometime this weekend, but I'm certainly not holding my breath. In the meantime, if you're a Force weary fan like me, but you're still looking for a way to acknowledge the occasion... here's a couple suggestions.

First, our friend Michael Coate (who I used to write with over at Widescreen Review) has updated his excellent reference piece on the release of the original film, May 25, 1977: A Day Long Remembered, over at From Script to DVD.com. It's always well worth a read, and should bring back some fond memories.

Also, there's an amazing new book out that is a must-have for anyone whose life was changed back in '77... J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. That subtitle isn't a boast - this truly is THE definitive look at the making of the film. It's been getting rave reviews. And if we can't have the definitive DVD special edition that we all really want, a definitive book is the next best thing. The Making of Star Wars is also available in a softcover version, but the hardback has like 80 more pages of content, so it's the better buy.

As for me... well, it's not Blu-ray or HD-DVD, but I've somehow managed to fill up my DVR by recording all the Star Wars movies in 1080 off HBO HD, so I may have to watch a couple of them this weekend just for kicks. Now if I could only figure out a way to burn them onto actual Blu-ray media so I can free up some badly-needed space on my DVR...

A couple of quick news updates today: First, we've updated our late post yesterday with an e-mail address that Universal suggested we refer people to - those of you who want to exchange your defective Children of Men and The Good Shepherd DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs. For the record, it's USHE.ConsumerRelations@worldmarkinc.com. We expect to have an 800 phone number next week as well.

We've got a couple new DVD announcements to report today: Universal has set 30 Rock: Season 1 (3-discs, 16x9 video, SRP $49.98) and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Scare-riffic Double Feature (SRP $14.98, includes Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman) for release on 9/4.

Also, Warner has announced that they'll release a 2-disc Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection: Volume 3 on 9/11 (SRP $26.99). A 3-pack of Volumes 1-3 will be available as well (SRP $80.92).

And around the Net today, the trades have stories about this past Tuesday's glut of great high-def releases (Video Business) and Warner's strong sales of The Departed on high-def disc (Home Media). That Home Media story now includes actual unit numbers for the title broken down by format: 58,300 Blu-ray and 35,300 HD-DVD.

Okay... this being the long Memorial Day weekend here in the States, The Bits and MusicTAP are going to be taking the day off on Monday. But we'll be back on Tuesday with news and a cool new in-depth interview as well. We've got more disc reviews coming too, as well as more column and section updates. Todd's even going to grace us with his presence next week (gasp!), or so he claims.

So in the meantime, all of you have a great long weekend. May the Force be... you know, and we'll see you back here on Tuesday.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/24/07 - 5:30 PM PDT)

Okay... it took a little longer than we expected, but here at long last is my review of Warner's 5-disc The Ultimate Matrix Collection on HD-DVD. All in all, it's a good release - not without a couple of strikes against it, but the new high-def video and high-rez audio is pretty great. If you're a total fan of these films and you're moving into the HD world, you'll probably have little trouble justifying the $100+ upgrade price. More casual fans however, might prefer to purchase just The Complete Matrix Trilogy on HD-DVD (3-discs, which includes just the movies in 1080p plus audio commentaries, IME and some limited extras), or just stick with the existing 10-disc DVD version of The Ultimate Matrix Collection. I'll break it all down for you in the review, so be sure to check it out.

By the way, part of the reason it took so long to complete the review is that the new HD-DVD set includes virtually everything that was in the previous 10-disc set (and even adds a couple of features from the previous DVD releases that the 10-disc set omitted), but the new 5-disc DVD/HD-DVD Combo configuration means that some of the extras have been shuffled around. Going though it all, disc by disc and item by item, to make sure that everything was still there was a massive and somewhat brain-frying task. Nonetheless, I think I've covered it all. That said, if you spot any errors or omissions in the review text, please feel free to e-mail me and I'll correct it.

One other quick note today, Universal has informed us that they're currently in replication on those corrected/fixed versions of Children of Men and The Good Shepherd (the DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs, which have been having playback and compatibility issues on many brands of HD-DVD players, apparently due to a slightly too thick bonding layer). They expect to start having the fixed discs available for exchange as early as next week. For now, use this e-mail address to arrange exchanges: USHE.ConsumerRelations@worldmarkinc.com (we'll have a phone number for you next week).

And finally, Warner has informed us this afternoon that the software sales breakdown for their HD releases of The Departed (mentioned in the earlier post this morning) is approximately 60/40 in favor of Blu-ray Disc. So that would equate to roughly 60,000 Blu-ray copies and 40,000 HD-DVD copies sold through. Just FYI.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/24/07 - 11 AM PDT)

Morning, folks! We've got a couple more new announcements for you today.

First, Universal has set House: Season Three for DVD release on 8/21. The studio has also revealed The Land Before Time: Amazing Adventures for 8/28.

Also today, Warner Home Video has revealed that they'll bow Tweety's High Flying Adventure on 9/18.

A couple of quick corrections: Warner's online website apparently had listed the incorrect street dates for Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season and Two and a Half Men: The Complete First Season, which we posted yesterday. The correct dates for SHOULD be 9/18 (for Smallville) and 9/11 (Two and a Half Men) respectively. Just FYI.

Be advised that the version of Count Dracula that Warner is releasing for the BBC on 9/25 (SRP $14.98) is the 3-part miniseries from 1977, staring Suzanne Shepherd, Frank Finlay, Louis Jourdan, Mark Burns, Judi Bowker and Susan Penhaligon. It's widely regarded as the most faithful version of Bram Stoker's novel ever filmed, and has long been awaited by fans on DVD.

Finally, the correct street date for The Tick vs. Season Two from Buena Vista should be 8/7.

In other news today, this week's release of The Matrix films on HD-DVD and the Pirates films on Blu-ray has not been without a measure of difficulty. As we mentioned in our review of the Pirates discs, the BD-Java features (Liar's Dice and Scoundrels of the Sea) require new firmware updates on many existing models of Blu-ray player in order to function properly. There are now reports that some of The Matrix HD-DVD discs are having compatibility issues as well. Reloaded seems to be the most commonly reported problem disc, specifically on the Xbox 360 add-on drive. No doubt there may be firmware updates required there too. As we've said before, it's worth remembering that these problems are the kinds of things you have to expect on any new format, so they should come as no surprise to early adopters. Be sure to check with the manufacturer of your specific HD player to make sure you have the latest firmware updates.

Speaking of firmware updates, Sony's about to give the PlayStation 3 a new update (available now - version 1.80) that will reportedly allow the unit to upconvert PS2 and PS3 games, as well as standard definition DVDs, to 1080p video. Other new functionality is being added as well, including downconversion of 1080p Blu-ray content to 720p for some displays. You can read more here at Gamespot and you can find the specific details on the upgrade here at Sony's PS3 website.

Also today, Warner has issued a new press release announcing that The Departed has become the first film to sell through more than 100,000 units in HD. One qualifier: This is a combined sales total across both HD formats - the studio isn't breaking down how many units sold on HD-DVD and how many sold on Blu-ray Disc (indications from other industry sources suggest that they've sold more Blu-ray, but that awaits studio confirmation). You can read more here at Video Business.

We'll be back with more later this afternoon, so stay tuned...

5/23/07

We've got a couple new announcements for you this afternoon.

First, Sony has announced the 7/31 release of Lonely Hearts, Yellow, a 2-disc 20 Million Miles to Earth: 50th Anniversary Edition and a new Kung Fu Hustle: Deluxe Edition. Details will follow when they become available.

Meanwhile, Fox has set Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife for release on 8/7.

Warner has announced the DVD release of A Room With a View: Special Edition (for the BBC - it looks to be the same 2-disc release available previously - 7/3), Short Fuse (7/10), Rock the Bells (7/31), Two and a Half Men: The Complete First Season, And Then Came Love, an Essential Directors: Martin Scorsese box set (includes The Aviator, The Departed and the Goodfellas: Special Edition), NFL's Greatest Follies: Volume 3, Street Stars: Game Over and Street Stars: The Alpo Story (8/14), Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season (9/11), Supernatural: The Complete Second Season (9/18) and Count Dracula (also BBC - 9/25).

And Paramount and DreamWorks are jointly releasing The Epic Legends Collection on 7/31, featuring both Braveheart and Gladiator. Too bad it's DVD only. We'd love to see both of those films in high-def.

Around the site this afternoon, we've updated our reviews of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray Disc, to include a bit of news about the Easter eggs that were on the previous DVD release. Turns out they ARE all on the Blu-ray versions, along with a couple of new ones too.

Stay tuned...

5/22/07

As promised, we're pleased today to bring you Barrie Maxwell's latest edition of Classic Coming Attractions, featuring reviews of 8 new classic DVD box sets (that's 38 individual films in all) plus an additional 15 single film releases, including Warner's Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection - Volume 2, James Cagney: The Signature Collection and the Literary Classics Collection, Fox's Michael Shayne Mysteries: Volume 1, the Tyrone Power Collection, Jane Eyre, Les Misérables and Anna Karenina, Universal's W.C. Fields Comedy Collection: Volume Two, Classic Western Round-Up: Volume 1 and Classic Western Round-Up: Volume 2, Sony's The Caine Mutiny: Collector's Edition, The Guns of Navarone: Collector's Edition, Kill the Umpire/Safe at Home and The Natural: Director's Cut, Paramount's To Catch a Thief: Special Collector's Edition, Criterion's 49th Parallel and VCI's Hammer Film Noir Double Feature: Volume 4 and Hammer Film Noir Double Feature: Volume 5. Barrie also runs down the latest classic release announcement news as always. Enjoy!

Also today, our own Adam Jahnke has checked in with another installment of his Jahnke's Electric Theatre, featuring his thoughts on a few new films in theaters, including Paris, je t'aime, 28 Weeks Later, Shrek the Third and more, as well as some DVD releases too.

In announcement news today, as we first posted in The Rumor Mill last week, Paramount has confirmed the 6/26 release of Shooter on DVD (and likely both HD formats as well, though that hasn't been announced yet). Paramount has also announced the 8/3 DVD release of a number of Elvis classic, including Blue Hawaii, Easy Come, Easy Go, Fun in Acapulco, G.I. Blues, Girls! Girls! Girls!, King Creole, Paradise, Hawaiian Style and Roustabout.

20th Century Fox has set Pathfinder for release on DVD on 7/31, in both single-disc 99-minute R-rated and 2-disc 106-minute Unrated editions. Both editions will present the film in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, and will include audio commentary with director Marcus Nispel and 8 deleted scenes with optional commentary. The Unrated edition adds to this 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The Beginning, The Design, The Build, The Shoot and The Stunts), the We Shoot Now! Marcus Nispel on the Set of Pathfinder and Clancy Brown: Cult Hero featurettes, and theatrical trailers. Strangely, the SRP for both versions is $29.98. No word yet on high-def editions but we do expect them to be announced soon.

Meanwhile, Universal has set I'm Reed Fish for release on DVD on 9/4.

Buena Vista has set the animated The Tick vs. Season Two for release on 8/7 (12 episodes on 2 discs - SRP $34.99 - for the record, the press release notes that "Episode 15 will not be included on this release"), with Darkwing Duck: Volume Two following on 8/7 (27 episodes on 3 discs - SRP $34.99). Also newly announced by Buena Vista are Cory in the House: All-Star Edition and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody: Sweet Suite Victory (both on 8/7) , as well as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Treat (on 8/28).

Finally, Warner Home Video has set Virginia for release on 7/17. Our friends over at TVShowsonDVD.com have also learned that the studio will be releasing Josie and the Pussycats: The Complete Series on DVD on 9/18.

Here's a look at the cover art for Shooter, Pathfinder: Unrated and The Hills Have Eyes 2: Unrated (7/17)...

ShooterPathfinder: UnratedThe Hills Have Eyes 2: Unrated

Stay tuned...

5/21/07

Okay... we've got a couple new disc reviews for you today. I've just completed my review of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray Disc. Both titles street tomorrow and, as I think you'll find after reading my thoughts, they're well worth a look. In fact, Dead Man's Chest has the best looking HD video I've seen yet. I'm almost done with that review of The Ultimate Matrix Collection HD-DVD box set, which also streets tomorrow, so watch for that later this evening.

Elsewhere around the site today, we've yet again updated our recently redesigned Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with lots more new DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover art (and Amazon links, the use of which supports our work here at The Bits), so be sure to check it out.

In terms of announcement news today, MGM has revealed a series of "Awesome 80s" catalog double-feature DVDs they're releasing on 7/17 (SRP $19.98 each), including Class/Secret Admirer, Desperately Seeking Susan/Something Wild, Fatal Beauty/Running Scared, Losin' It/The Last American Virgin, Johnny Be Good/Youngblood, Once Bitten/Vampire's Kiss and The Sure Thing/Valley Girl.

Also, New Line has set Fracture, staring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, for release on DVD on 8/14 (SRP $28.98).

And on the high-def front today, Sony has confirmed that they'll be releasing a remastered Blu-ray version of The Fifth Element on 7/17 to replace the previous BD version, the video quality of which was sorely lacking. We're waiting to see if the studio will offer any kind of exchange program to those who purchased the original disc.

Around the Net this afternoon, New Line has released the first teaser trailer for a film that we're REALLY looking forward to right now here at The Bits... The Golden Compass. It's the big screen adaptation of the first novel in Philip Pullman's excellent His Dark Materials trilogy. Think of the Harry Potter books, only with a somewhat more adult sensibility. We're certainly hoping the film delivers the goods. It's sure got a great cast. Click on the link to check out the trailer in Quicktime HD.

By the way, watch for a brand new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

5/18/07

Well, it's a mighty slow news day here at The Bits today, so we're hard at work on finishing up those Matrix reviews. Yeah, I know... but there's a LOT of stuff on these discs! What's a fella to do but slog through it all?

Speaking of reviews, we've just gotten our hands on an early copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Blu-ray Disc. All we can say is... wow! Who says 50GB doesn't come in handy? The video quality is just stunning (using the AVC codec). This is arguably the best looking high-def title we've seen yet, and we've seen a lot of great 1080p video over the last year, so that's really saying something. We'll have more on the title on Monday, but suffice it to say that you guys are in for a treat when it streets next week.

Just a couple of quick announcements this afternoon: Warner has set Grindin for release on 8/21 (SRP $19.97).

Fox has Firehouse Dog due for release on 7/31.

And Paramount and DreamWorks have just announced Perfume: The Story of a Murderer for release on 7/24.

Okay... time to put our noses back to the grindstone. Have a great weekend everybody!

5/17/07

Sorry for the absence yesterday, folks. Things are just absolutely crazy around here at The Bits this week. We're chasing down news stories... the phone is ringing off the hook. Normally, our busy time of the year is in the fall, during the holiday DVD release season, and things slow down again in January. But this year, what with the format war, the frantic pace just hasn't stopped. Go figure.

Anyway, we've got a lot of news to report today, and we'll catch up with that review I mentioned soon.

First, our own Adam Jahnke has posted a new edition of his regular Electric Theatre column, featuring a 2007 Summer Movie Preview and his take on each of the films listed. Be sure to check it out.

Warner has announced a number of new DVD releases today. The studio will release Life Support on 8/7, followed by Nip/Tuck: The Complete Fourth Season and a Nip/Tuck: The Complete Seasons 1-4 4-pack on 9/4. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Complete Season Two and a 2-pack of both Season One and Season Two will street on 9/11, as will the Noel Coward Collection. Following on 9/18 are Ballykissangel: The Complete Series 6, Ballykissangel: The Complete Collection, Jekyll and Van Gogh.

Warner has also revealed that the HD-DVD version of 300 (due 7/31) will include the ability to watch the entire film with an In-Movie Experience featuring special commentary by Zack Snyder, as well as an exclusive HD strategy game, Vengeance & Valor. Both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions will include Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio.

Not done yet... Warner has also re-upped their distribution deal with producer Saul Zaentz for five years. As part of this deal Warner will be releasing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats in February '08. You can read more here at Video Business.

Still not done with Warner: Some HD-DVD copies of The Ultimate Matrix Collection (due in stores next Tuesday) will come packaged with a pamphlet promoting the forthcoming high-def release (in both formats) of Blade Runner and a number of Stanley Kubrick films including 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and the unrated Eyes Wide Shut. All are expected before the end of the year.

And for you Elvis fans, Warner has also announced that both Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas will be released on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats on 9/18.

In other HD news today, Sony and Midway are reportedly using the extra disc space on Blu-ray Disc to include a high-def version of John Woo's Hard Boiled on a BD-50 special collector's edition of the PS3 game Stranglehold, which is set for release in August. You'll find more on that here at Digital Trends.

Also, Universal has announced that its Heroes: Season One release (due 8/28 on both DVD and DVD/HD-DVD Combo formats) will include some 50 deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and the 73-minute original series premiere that never aired on NBC.

By the way, Universal has also set Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: The Complete Second Season for DVD release on 8/21.

Criterion has announced its DVD release slate for August. Look for David Mamet's House of Games (Cat #399), along with Carlos Saura's Cria cuervos... (#401) and Luis Bunuel's The Milky Way (#402).

Meanwhile, MGM has set Blue Water, White Death for DVD release on 7/31.

Finally this morning, Paramount has announced a number of new titles for this summer (from Paramount, DreamWorks, CBS and more). This includes the official announcement of the release of David Fincher's Zødiac on 7/24 (on full frame and widescreen DVD, as well as HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc), along with Dynasty: The Second Season on 8/14, A Night at the Roxbury: Special Collector's Edition, The Crocodile Dundee Triple Feature and The Odd Couple: The Second Season on 8/28, The Naked Brothers Band: Battle of the Bands on 9/1, Bosom Buddies: The Second Season and SpongeBob SquarePants: Season 5, Volume 1 on 9/4, and Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Complete Book 2 Collection box set on 9/11.

Here's the cover art for Zødiac on DVD, as well as Warner's 300 on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc...

Z°diac300 (HD-DVD)300 (Blu-ray Disc)

Back with those reviews we mentioned as soon as possible, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/15/07 - 3:15 PM PDT)

Okay... we've got more new release announcements for you, including a couple of major titles.

First up, Universal Music will release U2: PopMart - Live from Mexico City on 6/26, directed by David Mallet. The DVD will be available in two versions, a standard single-disc edition featuring the concert and a 2-disc limited edition with a second disc of "previously unreleased live audio and video material, including documentaries, a PopMart tour visuals montage and DVD-ROM extras."

Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the HD-DVD release of Darkman and Sea of Love for 7/31. The studio has also officially set Heroes: Season One for release on 8/28. The DVD will SRP for $59.98, with all of the episodes in anamorphic widescreen on 7 discs. The HD-DVD will also be a 7-disc set, and will carry a $99.98 price tag. The high-def version will also feature Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.

Sony has set Premonition for release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 7/17, and has also announced the DVD release of Benson: The Complete First Season on 7/24.

20th Century Fox will release Perfect Creature and The Hills Have Eyes 2: Unrated Edition on 7/17.

The big news today is that Warner has announced the release of 300 on 7/31 in four versions - a standard DVD, a 2-disc special edition DVD, a DVD/HD-DVD Combo version and a Blu-ray Disc. All four versions will include audio commentary with director Zack Snyder, writer Kurt Johnstad and DP Larry Fong. The 2-disc DVD and both high-def versions will also include deleted scenes with introduction by Snyder, the 300 Spartans: Fact or Fiction?, Frank Miller Tapes and Who Were the Spartans? featurettes, websiodes, photo galleries and more. The high-def versions will also offer additional features TBA.

Warner has also set a number of new Elvis Presley films for release on 8/7. Elvis: The Hollywood Collection (SRP $49.92) will include Charro, Girl Happy, Kissin' Cousins, Live a Little, Love a Little, Stay Away, Joe and Tickle Me (each also available separately for SRP $12.97 each). Other Elvis titles available on 8/7 include a single-disc Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition, a single-disc Jailhouse Rock: Deluxe Edition, a 2-disc This Is Elvis: Special Edition, a 2-disc Elvis: That's the Way It is - Special Edition and single-disc regular editions of Viva Las Vegas, Jailhouse Rock, It Happened at the World's Fair, Harum Scarum, Double Trouble, The Trouble with Girls, Speedway and Spinout. The Big E rocks on...

And in other news, Panasonic has just revealed that they're debuting a cheaper version of their previous DMP-BD10 Blu-ray Disc player at the end of this month... the DMP-BD10A. Carrying an SRP of just $599 (it was originally $1299), the player includes support for Dolby TrueHD and DTSHD audio, BD-Java and more. The player will also come packaged with 5 Blu-ray Disc movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Transporter, Fantastic Four and Crash. Here's Panasonic's press release and you can see photos of the unit here.

Around the site today, we've got two GREAT new Contests running, giving each of you the chance to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray Disc, as well as ELEVEN awesome new DVD titles from Warner Home Video, including The Fountain, The Good German, The Painted Veil, Music and Lyrics, Letters from Iwo Jima, E.R.: Season 7, American Pasttime, What I Like About You: Season 1, The Waltons: Season 5, Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection and Tom and Jerry Tales: Volume 2.

Here's a look at the DVD art for both versions of Warner's 300, along with Universal's Heroes: Season One...

300300: 2-Disc Special EditionHeroes: Season One

That Matrix high-def review is still on the way, either later tonight or tomorrow morning. There's a LOT to go through on the discs, as you can imagine, and we want to be thorough with it.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/15/07 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Hey guys... we'll be back with more later this morning, but first we wanted to check in early with a quick bit of Disney release news. At a press event in Hollywood last night for the forthcoming Pirates high-def release, Buena Vista Home Entertainment president Bob Chapek revealed that his company has started production on the Blu-ray Disc release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, likely due to hit stores sometime early next year. Additional titles are also in production, so look for more announcements in the coming weeks. We'll have details as they become available.

By the way, while we're talking Disney... consider this Rumor Mill worthy, but we're told by our industry sources to expect the DVD release of Wild Hogs and The Lookout on 8/14. Also coming on the TV front from the studio are 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter: The Complete First Season and Home Improvement: The Complete Seventh Season, both on 8/7.

One other quick note: Microsoft is apparently releasing a firmware update for their Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on drive later today, for those of you who have one and want to keep it up to date. You'll find the details over at Team Xbox. Thanks to Bits reader Joey S. for the heads-up.

We'll be back later with more news, and that review of the Matrix HD-DVDs. Our Pirates BD reviews will follow later in the week.

Stay tuned...


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