Today, we've got more DVD reviews for you as promised. Here's our look
at Buena Vista's
Wedding and Criterion's
Long Good Friday. And Paulie
and In Dreams will be posted
shortly. We've also updated the CEMA DVD player
chart to reflect this week's numbers - 54,953 players sold into
retail in the week ending May 21st.
Around the Internet, Warner Home Video has issued their
release announcing their June DVD releases. I spoke with WHV
yesterday, and again confirmed that Heat
(starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino) is set for July 27th. They still
can't speak officially about street dates for Shawshank
Redemption or Excalibur,
except to say that both are in the works for later this year. As I've
mentioned before, all three will feature new 16x9 transfers, and 5.1
audio (Excalibur will also have a
new director's commentary track).
No, Columbia TriStar isn't switching to the Snapper case. I'm not sure
why, but I've gotten a ton of e-mail about this. I suppose it's because
Gloria (which streets Tuesday, and
a few people have gotten their hands on early) is in a Snapper. Here's
the story on this - Columbia wanted Dr.
Strangelove to be included in Warner's upcoming Kubrick
Collection set. The price was that Columbia agreed to release
Dr. Strangelove, Gloria
and the Taxi Driver: Special Edition
in Snappers (I'd be surprised if they weren't repackaged later in keep
I've spoken with Buena Vista Home Entertainment again on the
oft-mentioned subjects of anamorphic widescreen and animation. As
always, anamorphic widescreen is "under consideration" for at
least those titles in 2.35:1 aspect ratio (we think ALL widescreen
titles should be so treated). So what about Alice
in Wonderland and Dumbo
being released on Divx? As many of you know, I also write for Video
Store magazine (one of the video industry trades). My editor
there, Kevin Brass, published a short story in the latest issue, in
which Buena Vista's Martin Blythe made these comments: "I do not
believe anti-Divx advocates should read too much into the choices. They
might have a point if it was Mulan."
He went on to say that both Divx titles are "still under discussion
for DVD," although keep in mind, several have already been released
on DVD in other regions. "It's not a question of will [the animated
classics] come out on DVD, the question is when," Blythe went on to
say. "We are much more interested in getting as many new titles out
day-and-date as possible." So there you have it. I guess we'll just
have to wait and see.
By the way, Buena Vista has informed me that their July 27th DVD
line-up (which includes I Love Trouble,
What's Love Got to Do With It,
Smoke Signals, Romy
and Michelle's High School Reunion and The
Pallbearer, has been pushed back to early August. We'll give
you a new date when one is available.
A reader e-mailed me about my comments yesterday on the "Double
Digital" markings on the Episode I
bootleg VCD. Here's his explanation:
"I thought I would drop you a line and let you know that this
isn't the sound format but rather the name of the bootleg operation that
produced the disc. You see most VCD makers in Asia will put a logo on
their discs and on the screen to identify when one bootlegger makes a
bootleg of their bootleg. With me so far? Some of the major ones in HK
are THX, Z, and the Double Digital. These logos are usually in the upper
right hand corner of the screen and scroll up and down and occasionally
will cross to the left for brief period of time."
I guess even the pirates fear bootleggers! Many thanks, Brent, for your
There's a quasi-funny DVD-related joke up on the
with Conan O'Brien web site. Check
link for their Actual Items page, which has an add for DVD
players containing the joke (click on the ad to see it).
Finally today, I'd like to let you all know about the efforts of a Bits
reader, to get episodes of Babylon 5
released on DVD. Niall Young has created a
Petition web site, to get the show on DVD in anamorphic
widescreen. You may already know this, but I've been told that the
series (and the many feature-length TV movies based on it) have all been
produced in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in anticipation of widescreen Digital
TV broadcasting. So they are perfect candidates for anamorphic
enhancement on DVD. Niall has collected more than 1300 signatures
already, and is still going strong. I've spoken to WHV about the
subject, and rest assured, they are WELL aware of the demand for B5
on DVD. They wouldn't comment officially on expected release dates or
discs features, but I'm hearing through the grapevine that all of you
who are waiting patiently will be very happy later in the year...
Have a great weekend, and we'll be back on Monday. See ya then!
We're back! What an unpleasant experience that was. I won't go into
details, but suffice it to say that I spent most of the last two days
laid out in bed. Not fun. Thanks to everyone who sent kind "get
well" wishes - they were very much appreciated!
One nice thing about having to stay in bed, however, is that I've
watched a bunch of new DVDs. Both Todd and I have been very busy
spinning discs, so the next few days will see a whole slew of new
reviews. Today, we've got our exclusive early look at
and one of my recent favorite independent flicks, a hyper-kinetic,
paranoid little flick called
We've also got four more reviews coming tomorrow, including a pair of
previously-mentioned (and excellent) DreamWorks titles, Paulie
and In Dreams. And we've got a
couple more beyond that for the weekend, and for Monday. Whew! Best of
all, these reviews are all done and in the can - ready to post.
We've also been hard at work gathering
for upcoming DVD titles to show you. Today, we've cleaned out all
the art for discs that streeted this week, and added 15 new cover scans,
including Mallrats, So
I Married an Axe Murderer, In
October Sky, The
Last Starfighter and more!
Looks like Ebay
quickly pulled the plug on that Phantom
Menace bootleg VCD that we mentioned was up for auction
yesterday, but here's a look at the artwork that was posted on the page
for kicks. I can't believe anyone would pay money for this. It's hard to
see, but the cover claims that the disc is in "Double Digital"
audio. Loving craftsmanship, straight from Malaysia. And some moron was
going to bay $132 for this (at the last bid I saw). Yikes!
Around the Internet, there's
interesting story on how DVD has broken into the mainstream but
good - some 25% of the disc sales thus far this year, have been
non-action and family titles.
Finally, a big thumbs up from the Bits
to the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, which blasted into orbit
this morning on a mission to continue building the International Space
Station. Wish we could join you guys!
Urgh... your erstwhile editor has been sidelined with a horrendous bout
of the flu. I'm uploading this post from my laptop in bed. Not good.
Basically I just wanted to let you all know what's up. Todd and I do
have some 6 reviews done and ready to roll, so as soon as I can get the
energy to get them posted, the Bits
will be back full force.
There are a couple of interesting items I've learned about however.
First, it was only a matter of time, but The
Phantom Menace is already being sold on
ebay. Take a look at
auction post, for a bootleg VCD of the film, complete with cover
artwork. And apparently a complete print of the film was lifted from a
theater in a small town in Wisconsin (I've bene there - trust me when I
say small) -
the news report here.
Data is also reporting that Fox TV will get to broadcast the film
in November of 2000, some 6 month after the video release. That would
place the video release in May of next year, as we've reported
Divx is releasing a bunch of in demand titles over the coming months,
including Dumbo, The
Abyss, and possibly Robin Hood
and The Sword and the Stone.
However Disney WILL be releasing animated films to DVD later this year,
and The Abyss is currently slated
as a September special edition DVD from Fox. So while Divx's early
access may be frustrating, just ignore them. I say - who cares? The
films are on the way to DVD.
Speaking of in demand titles, we've again confirmed that Warner's
long-awaited Heat will street on
July 27th. New Line's Blast from the Past
is also scheduled for that date.
Finally, those of you who read my Video
Store work, will have probably noticed that this week's issue
includes a review of The Avengers
DVD set, which is a little hard to read. Somewhere between my computer
and printing, the review text got a little jumbled, making it nearly
impossible to understand. Here's the text as it should read:
The Avengers - A&E Home Video - Available Now
I really hope that the Hollywood studios take notice of the way A&E
releases TV series episodes on DVD. Avengers fans should go nuts for
these discs - the entire 1967 season of the classic British show has
been released on DVD in one fell swoop. Four box sets are available in
all, with each set's two DVDs holding six episodes. There are no extras
included, but who cares - you get twenty-four episodes in all! The menus
and packaging are sexy, and the episodes themselves look better than
some new films do on DVD. This is an impressive set. Now if we could
just get The X-Files or Monty Python released like this
I'll be back tonight and tomorrow with all those new reviews, and we
should be back to full strength by then as well. Thanks for your
Oh, no... not ANOTHER version of Star Wars?
Well, maybe. Our friends over at fellow theden
Coming Attractions e-mailed me on Saturday, to say that the
Sun published an article last week on a local digital artist
named Kevin Braun, who has supposedly worked on another new version of
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
(the article isn't available online, but you can read a
over at Corona). We at the Bits
had actually been hearing several such rumors, but nothing we considered
substantial. According to the article, this new version would be further
modified from the Special Edition
version that recently appeared in theaters - even after the SE
was done, "there were still 17 shots that Lucas wasn't happy with."
One of these is the scene in which Obi Wan Kenobi dies at the hands of
Darth Vader. Braun claims to have worked on this scene, and says that
this new, further-enhanced version will be re-released to theaters, and
will appear on DVD. We say if they're STILL tinkering with the film, how
about fixing the shot where you can see the metal pole on Ben's
lightsaber, and "unfixing" the shot where Greedo shoots first
(wo big peeves with fans of the film, post-SE)?
We'll keep you up to date on this.
According to the video trades, the DVD format is gaining a lot of
momentum at rental outlets. Encouraged by predictions that the the DVD
player base is expected to at least triple in 1999, most major chains
are making DVD rental a bigger part of their inventories. Hollywood,
Hastings and West Coast Video all carry DVD in 100% of their store
locations, and Video Update, Movie Gallery and Blockbuster are following
their lead, albeit more slowly.
We've got some very cool information in today's
Mill update, about the list of features on New Line's upcoming
Blast from the Past DVD, as well
as a new DreamWorks title that's in the works. We've also updated the
CEMA DVD Player Sales numbers (the summary and the
All right - we'll be posting that Alien 3
review tonight, and Todd and I are working on a whole bunch of great new
DVD reviews for you this week. Tomorrow will be DreamWorks day around
the Bits, with a look at Paulie
and In Dreams. Don't miss it!
(LATE UPDATE - 5/21/99 - 11:15 PM PDT)
The winner of our May Trivia Contest
has been announced! Thanks to everyone (all
1,129 of you), who took the time out from standing in Star
Wars ticket lines to participate!
And speaking of the Trilogy,
another interesting story (look down on the page) about the
possibility of the DVDs coming out soon, over at the
Chronicle.com. Producer Rick McCallum talks about some of the
interesting things George would like to see included on the DVDs. It
doesn't really resolve the issue of a street date, but it's a very
interesting insight into Lucas' thoughts on the DVDs. Do not miss it.
We'll be back this weekend with that Alien 3
review. To be honest, I need to watch it a couple more times to really
get a handle on my feelings about the film. Originally, I didn't like it
much when I saw it in the theaters. But after seeing it once again on
DVD, I'm starting to have a renewed appreciation for director David
Fincher's efforts. I must reflect on it further to give the film a fair
See you then! Oh... and be sure to check out the newly relaunched
Express website - very cool!
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/21/99 - 11:30 AM PDT)
Today is your last day to get those
entries in. We'll be accepting entries until 6 PM PST, so do hurry! The
winner will be selected and announced tonight.
We'll be making a larger post at that time as well, but given just how
much positive feedback we've been getting on the
reviews, we'd like to point out a couple of other articles we did a
couple of months ago, to those who might have missed them. First of all,
Charles de Lauzirika, who was Ridley Scott's hand-picked creative
supervisor on the Alien DVD. Our
Doogan also took a look at the film's history, and all the extras
featured on previous laserdisc releases (the vast majority of which are
on the new DVD, including all the deleted scenes and outtakes). And
we'll be back tonight with our review of the forthcoming Alien
3 DVD as well.
Around the net today, our friends at
Entertainment have updated their
News page, with lots of new upcoming titles. There are a bunch of
Warner Music DVDs in the works, including some featuring Old Blue Eyes.
Prizzi's Honor, Silkwood,
The Fighting Sullivans: Special Edition,
and Grand Theft Auto are among the
more interesting titles that were announced.
Also, Columbia TriStar has just officially announced a host of new DVD
titles of their own, including The General,
and 8MM (street date July 20th),
as well as Tango (street date
See you back here this evening. And don't forget - get those contest
Today, The Digital Bits is proud
to present you with your first look at Fox's terrific new DVD releases
of Ridley Scott's
20th Anniversary Edition, and James Cameron's
Special Edition, both of which are part of the upcoming Alien
Legacy boxed set (available June 1st). These discs are
absolutely terrific, and well worth the wait, so do check out the
reviews for all the details.
In some cool forthcoming release news,
Collection is going to be unveiling four great new DVDs this
summer. Look for a pair of Akira Kurosawa's classic films, Yojimbo
and Sanjuro, as well as The
Unbearable Lightness of Being, and one of my all-time
favorite documentaries, Al Reinert's For All
Mankind. Columbia TriStar has also announced a few new titles
to street on July 13th, including Central
Station, Bye, Bye Birdie,
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,
and The Professionals.
So you say that you want Star Wars: Episode
I on DVD? Or Disney's new Tarzan?
Or maybe Wild Wild West? Well,
jump on over to
link at Amazon.com, and they'll send you order information when
these films eventually are announced for DVD release. How's that for an
early hard sell? By the way, Amazon.com also has The
as a June 16th release for DVD.
Back on the subject of aliens (as in little green men, not a DVD), I
wanted to point out something which I think is really very cool. Any of
you who have a computer can now help out in the search for
extraterrestrial intelligence. I'm not kidding here. One of the big
problems scientists have in SETI research, is a lack of sufficient
computer power to analyze all of the data they record when they scan the
skies for intelligent radio transmissions. So the
is sponsoring a new project that allows computer users to download a
free program over the Internet, called
When installed and running, the program will connect to the SETI
computer, download a tiny chunk of recorded data and run mathematical
scans on it to look for possible signals. When it's done, it uploads the
results back to the SETI computer, and gets another piece of data. The
program functions as a screensaver, so it will run only when you're not
working on your computer, or (if your computer is powerful enough) you
can have it run in the background while you work. And if your computer
finds a true alien signal, you'll be listed with the project's team
scientists as one of the discoverers. This is a chance for the average
person to actively participate in real SETI research, and it's a lot of
fun too, so do check it out.
Finally today, we've had a couple of readers notice this and ask about
it, so we may as well mention it now. Yes... that is me in the Read
Me column in the June issue of Wired
magazine (page 194). Every issue in the column, four "digerati"
types (I'm still not sure if that's good or not) are asked what books
they've been reading lately. You tell them about two books, and why you
liked them, and they pick one and summarize your comments about it.
Naturally, the one they choose to feature for me was Rocket
Boys, by Homer Hickam, Jr. (the book October
Sky was based on), revealing once again just what a space nut
I am. Ah well - like you hadn't figured that out by now. For the record,
my other book was Visions by
physicist Michio Kaku, about the scientific revolutions that are
expected in the 21st century. Nothing like a little light reading there,
(LATE UPDATE - 5/19/99 - 4:30 PM PDT)
Our review is in! You can now read my thoughts on Star
Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. As I said last night, I
really enjoyed myself. I've worked hard to keep the review as
spoiler-free as possible, so if you haven't seen it yet, you can read
without fear. And we've got those
from the 12:01 AM Westwood Village screening as well - I think
you'll get a kick out of them.
We'll be back tomorrow with a pair of very special DVD reviews, so stay
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/19/99 - 4 AM PDT)
Well... it's the wee small hours of the morning, and while I often do
my updates this late (or early), I've gotta get some sleep - I'm bushed!
But let me just say this to all of you - having seen Episode
I firsthand, just forget all the critics completely. This
movie is a blast. I don't care what Time
and Newsweek have to say - I'm
guessing those same critics didn't get the original Trilogy
either, because they've completely missed the point. Ebert is right...
this is just a damn fun flick, and was to me well worth the wait. No,
the acting isn't going to win any Academy Awards, but it was just fine
to serve the story, and that's far more important anyway. Go in
expecting a completely entertaining Star Wars
movie, and that's exactly what you'll get. And the visuals are
incredible - this film simply rewrites all the rules in terms of the
kinds of visions that can now be realized on film. What a treat!
To give you some context, I'll give you my rating. Keep in mind that I
hold these films to a slightly less stringent standard than I do most
others - they're just too much a fond part of my youth for me to be
overly critical. But using our customary film letter grading scale, Star
Wars would rate an A, and Empire
would be an A+ in my opinion. You've gotta love a flick where the good
guys get their asses kicked beginning to end, right? Not too common in
Hollywood fare these days. Jedi
gets a C- from me, 'cause any movie with an army of teddy bears is tough
for me to swallow. On this scale, I'd give The
Phantom Menace a good solid B+. It's good entertainment, and
just plain good fun. Not too bad, given that the film had to lay the
groundwork not just for the Trilogy,
but the ENTIRE six film Saga. My
advice... just go and enjoy.
We'll be back tomorrow afternoon (after some much needed sleep), with a
full-length review of the film, and some photos from the Mann's Westwood
Village 12:01 AM premiere (our venue of choice), which was an absolutely
jam-packed fan-fest. We even met some Bits
readers there - good fun all around. And they're still going strong over
there - when we left at 3 AM, the line was still around the block for
the 3:30 AM show!
See you later!
(LATE UPDATE - 5/18/99 - 4:30 PM PDT)
Want to see a funny DVD? Try MGM's new
starring Woody Harrleson, Randy Quaid, and Bill Murray. Directed by the
duo that brought you There's Something About
Mary, the Farrelly brothers, Kingpin
is one of their best yet.
Back tomorrow (after we get back from Episode
I... and sleep til noon)!
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/18/99 - 11:30 AM PDT)
All right, be honest - how many of you out there are planning on
attending those 12:01 AM first screenings of The
Phantom Menace tonight? Come on now, fess up. You may be
wondering - will the staff of the Bits
be seeing it tonight? You bet your asteroids we will.
Given that LOTS of you will no doubt be watching the movie in the wee
hours of the morning, and considering that the film has taken a bit of a
beating by some critics, I thought I'd give you some reason to rest
easy: Ebert dug it. You can read his
review of the film over at the Chicago
Sun-Times Online (3 and a half stars). And if you've got sound
capability on your computer, with Shockwave installed in your browser,
to his review from this week's
& Ebert show. There be very mild spoilers here, but
nothing major. Ebert gives it a "thumbs up". You can also
listen to interesting discussions with George Lucas, and some of the
And, in keeping with our Star Wars
theme around here, we've got more information on the films appearing on
DVD, courtesy of the Cleveland
Plain Dealer website. Rick McCallum was interviewed in New
York as part of a recent press junket, and discussed the DVDs again.
Here's the passage from the
The original trilogy will be available on DVD soon. Lucas has
interesting ideas on including information about the movie-making
process on the DVDs, McCallum said.
So how does all this tie in with what we've heard from Lucas? Well, I'm
guessing that we will be seeing the DVDs later this year or early next
year after all, based on what I've been hearing behind-the-scenes for
the last few months. Lucas' talk of the DVDs in 2005 means the full set
of six films - nothing in his language precludes an earlier DVD release
of at least the original Star Wars Trilogy.
We'll have to wait an see.
We'll be back later this afternoon, with those reviews, so stay
Well, 2 days and counting to the big Episode
1 debut - everyone got your tickets out there? While you're
waiting for that movie, how about reading another of our DVD reviews?
Our own Todd Doogan brings you his look at Artisan's
directed by Hype Williams.
So I hope you all had a great weekend. We, here at the Bits,
spent our weekend up at the E3 computer gaming convention here in Los
Angeles. All in all, I'm surprised how little DVD-related activity there
was going on, although it definitely seemed to be a hot topic among
convention goers. Not too many companies have fully begin to churn out
DVD-based games, but with both Sony and Nintendo having just announced
DVD-based console game systems, you can be sure that 2000 will be a huge
year for DVD gaming. Sony seems to be the farther along of the two, but
neither manufacturer had demonstration units on display at the show.
Instead, Sony did have a video demo of their system's rendering
capabilities - showing off character facial animation and a racing game.
I was extremely impressed, with the smoothness and clarity of the
The big debut at the show seemed to be Sega's sneak peak at their new
Dreamcast system, which uses propietary CD-ROM technology, allowing each
disc to store up to a full gig of data. They had dozens of demonstration
models on the show floor for convention goers to play hands-on, and more
than 30 very cool games. The actual system debuts on September 9th, but
again seems poised for only a year or so of strong sales, until it's
overtaken by DVD-based systems in late 2000. Go figure.
In other news, Image
Entertainment has updated their
News page with some more new titles, including In
Dreams from DreamWorks, The King &
I (animated) from Warner, and others. Also, remember when we
told you a few weeks ago, that Warner was expecting to release Heat,
Excalibur and The
Shawshank Redemption before the end of the year, in newly
remastered quality? Well, those of you who have been anxiously awaiting
Heat should look no further - you
should see it in July, boasting anamorphic widescreen to boot.
Some of our readers have been relating that George Lucas has made
further comments about the Star Wars
saga appearing on DVD. Appearing in interview on the Fox News Channel,
Lucas was asked again about the DVDs, and reportedly said that he
expects a box set of all 6 of the films on DVD by Christmas 2005. Oh
goodie. How about giving us the original Trilogy a little sooner,
We'll be back tomorrow, with more new DVD reviews, including
DreamWorks' Paulie, and MGM's Kingpin.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/14/99 - 3:30 PM PDT)
Our friends over at
Express just told me that they'll be relaunching their website
early next week. Look for the site to be merged with their
DVD.com site, and
you'll find lots of new features, including movie memorabilia for sale,
the ability to save your shopping cart and return to it later, and lots
more. Be sure to check it out!
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/14/99 - 1:30 PM PDT)
All right, I was so wrapped up in my Disney/Divx rant yesterday, that I
neglected to mention some cool Nintendo news. The video game giant just
announced that their next-generation Nintendo system will, in fact, be
DVD based. In a clear case of "keeping up with the Joneses"
(namely Sony, who has also announced a DVD-based PlayStation game
system), Nintendo revealed some basic details about their upcoming
system, code-named Dolphin. Not only will the console use DVD-based game
media, it will play DVD movies as well, and will also be networkable
(possibly a even as a "set-top box").
Don't expect any more details to be made available for some time -
Nintendo clearly wanted to diffuse all of the hype Sony's been
generating, but doesn't intend to talk more about their unit until much
closer to the estimated worldwide ship date, which is late-2000. But
Nintendo has partnered with IBM on the chipset, so it's expected to be a
fairly affordable system. And all of the DVD capabilities are courtesy
of Nintendo's partnership with Matsushita (aka Panasonic). Imagine
millions of kids buying game machines equipped to play DVD movies as
well... and we're talking about a MAJOR boost for DVD.
here to read the full details on the new system, over at
Today, around the Bits, we've got
a new review of an interesting Image title - The
Complete Uncensored Private Snafu. Also today, we've got the
scoop on some new Fall DVDs in the
Mill for you, including DreamWorks' Prince
Here's that Buena Vista contact information I told you about yesterday,
so start getting those comments in about their lame-duck DVD policy:
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
PO Box 908 Lakewood, CA 90714-0908
Consumer Hotline: 800-723-4763
Web site: http://www.disney.com
E-mail (Form on Disney Site):
Finally today, I just wanted to chime in about a very funny movie I saw
this week. If you liked Bottle Rocket
or Rushmore... you've got to do
yourself a favor and see Election.
This is twisted humor at its finest, starring Matthew Broderick as a
well-intentioned, but meddling high school teacher, and Reese
Witherspoon as Tracy Flick... a goodie-goodie, overachieving student who
will win her student council presidential election at all costs. Think
of this as a reverse Ferris Bueller's Day Off,
set in Nebraska - VERY funny!
Have a great weekend!
Today, we've got Todd Doogan's look at
RoboCop DVD for you to peruse. I've also posted all of
Buena Vista's June DVD artwork in our
Art section, including White Squall,
Brown and Enemy of the State,
so do check that out.
Speaking of Buena Vista, I had an interesting conversation with Divx's
Josh Dare this morning, regarding their decision to release a couple of
Disney Classic animated titles on regular Divx discs. As many of you
know, Alice in Wonderland will be
available next week, and Josh tells me that Dumbo
will be released next month on the pay-per-use format.
According to the terms of their contract with Buena Vista, Divx has the
rights to release Disney's catalog of classic animated films. Apparently
this contract specifies that if Divx chooses to release the moritorium
classics (Lion King, Mulan,
101 Dalmatians, etc...) they must
be released on Divx Gold discs. But there are certain classic animated
titles that Disney does not consider moritorium titles: Dumbo,
Alice in Wonderland, Robin
Hood and Sword in the Stone.
These DO NOT have to be released on Divx Gold. Now the latter two titles
apparently do not have good source elements at the moment for ANY
digital disc release, but the former do, which is why they're now coming
to Divx. Josh explained that, "We just didn't have a very good
sense of what Disney was planning to do with animation on DVD, and we
didn't want to release titles on Divx that would be available on DVD a
few months later. That wouldn't make good business sense from our
Hhhmmmm.... You know, I frankly don't care what Divx does anymore. And
the reason I don't care, is that the vast majority of consumers don't
care. The "format war" we all feared, turned out to be nothing
more than a lot of posturing and a few isolated skirmishes. The war is
over and done, and DVD's won. I mean sure, there was reason to worry for
a while there, and I was probably the most vocal anti-Divx voice out
there. But I've long gotten over the fear that Divx posed a threat to
open DVD in any way. With over 2 million DVD players and 7 plus million
DVD-ROM drives in the U.S. market now (and growing FAST), who cares what
a format that's probably less than 200,000 players is doing? Divx wasn't
the threat we all feared, and now it's no threat at all. Let me be
clear: NOTHING Divx will (or could) do is going to stop DVDs growth -
not even releasing a few Disney animated titles.
That doesn't mean, however, that Divx isn't still a MAJOR irritation to
DVD fans like me, especially when stuff like this happens. But
remember... nothing in Divx's contract with Buena Vista prevents the
studio from releasing the films we all want on open DVD - they just have
to have the will to do so. The studio is the key here, not Divx. We've
all seen Buena Vista's lackluster approach to DVD, and they've flat out
told me several times that, "we're not going to be pushing this
format" in terms of features. The bottom line, is that if we want
certain films on DVD from Buena Vista, with certain important features,
we the fans are just going to have to drag them kicking and screaming to
the table. The time is long past to waste anger on Divx - I mean who
really cares anymore? Place it where it squarely belongs, and where it
might do some good - the studio which has allowed Divx to release their
animated films, with no immediate concern for open DVD (which is, and
will always be, a MUCH larger market). I'd also like to point out that
both Dumbo and Alice
in Wonderland are available on DVD in Region 2, and Armageddon
is being reissued on June 7th in Region 2 as an RSDL disc, in full
ANAMORPHIC widescreen. Does that piss you off? Well it certainly should.
Personally, I think talks of boycotting Disney are worthless and
ineffectual - the bottom line is that Disney is selling a crap-load of
DVDs right now, and will continue to do so, whether those of us on the
Internet stop buying them or not. I'd bet a lot of us aren't anyway. But
if we boycott, we loose the ability to do what we've been most effective
at, which is pushing change. Whenever an important part of a company's
market demands change, it usually happens. And whenever the DVD crowd on
the Internet has started vocally calling for change in a studio's DVD
policy, and campaigned hard for it via phone, fax, mail and e-mail,
we've gotten things done. Even if it was just to plant the seed with
certain studio executives, time after time, we've gotten things done.
That's what we should be doing here. Tomorrow we will post all the
contact information you need to make yourselves heard on this issue, and
I hope all of the other DVD sites out there do as well.
(LATE UPDATE 5/12/99 12:40 PM PDT)
Well, I've spoken to Buena Vista Home Entertainment this morning, and
I've requested an official statement on both the classic animation issue
(as related to Divx, and eventual open DVD releases), as well as a
review of their policy against anamorphic widescreen. I'm told that a
statement will be made available in the next few days. Stay tuned...
(EARLY UPDATE 5/12/99 3:30 AM PDT)
We've got another review for you today - MGM's new
First Sight, starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino. I missed
this film in the theaters, and was glad to have the opportunity to
finally catch it on DVD. We've also got a brief update in the
Mill today, with some new titles coming from Universal for the
Well campers... remember way back when, when we told you that Disney
had stated that they'll be releasing their classic animated films to
DVD... but not before they release them on Divx? Guess what... now we
know which title they're talking about releasing first, because Divx has
here to jump to a page on the Divx web site, which reveals that
Alice in Wonderland is now
available on the pay-per-use format (and no doubt on DVD later this
I've got to say it - I'm having a VERY hard time not being disappointed
with Buena Vista's DVD commitment thus far. They continue to release
featureless titles, and charge premium prices for them. When they do add
features, they charge an even higher premium price. Divx gets first dibs
on the classic animated titles - who made that fu**ed-up decision?! And
they are very deliberately choosing not to provide consumers with one of
the DVD format's most significant quality improvement features, namely
anamorphic widescreen. EVERY other major studio is now supporting this
feature on at least a few of their most important titles, but Buena
Vista has yet to do even a SINGLE anamorphic DVD. A
Bug's Life would have been the perfect title for this
feature, but the studio chose to trumpet recomposed full frame as a
ground-breaking feature instead. The Criterion version of Armageddon
costs $50 and STILL isn't anamorphic. And you know what the sad thing
is? They're selling crap-loads of both discs, so they have absolutely no
incentive to change this policy. Just crank out the product, and shovel
in the cash. When you think about what they could be doing with this
format... well, it's just really disappointing. Wanna know the Disney
film I've enjoyed the most on DVD thus far? The
Black Hole... done by Anchor Bay, with excellent quality
(after the audio fix), good features, and a terrific price. It's sad,
I guess we can always hope Buena Vista will surprise us. All it would
take is their just listening to what their consumers want, and then
giving even a little bit of it to them, rather than looking at what
their bean-counters' pie-charts say consumers should get. I'm trying to
give you the benefit of the doubt Buena Vista - all I ask is just the
tiniest amount of vision on your part.
Stay tuned. And good luck to all of you trying to buy Phantom
Menace tickets today at Noon. May the Force be... well you
Not much in the way of news today, so we've got a couple of new reviews
for you. Todd takes a look at Criterion's
a classic from Italian director Federico Fellini. And you'll find my
thoughts on Paramount's brand new
Trek: Insurrection DVD, which streets tomorrow. It's about
time we got more Trek films in
anamorphic widescreen on DVD.
Well, I finally was able to catch Leonard Maltin's interview with
George Lucas last night on Entertainment
Tonight. As most of you know, Leonard accepted questions via
e-mail on the ET web site, and in
this very column, I asked all of you loyal Bits
readers to ask about the DVD. Naturally, I asked the question as well.
Here's the exact text of my question:
"When can we expect to see the "Star Wars" Trilogy
released on DVD?"
So when the interview began, I was stunned to realize that it was
probably my question that was asked right off the bat - they even
flashed the EXACT text up on the screen (minus my last name). How do you
like that? I was floored. Now, I suppose that another Bill could have
phrased the question in exactly the same way I did, but I've heard
before that Leonard and some of his people stop by the Bits
from time to time, and I have no doubt that the reason it was the "most
asked question by far," was in large measure thanks to all of
you... the readers of The Digital Bits.
So I don't think this was any accident. And if that's the case, I want
to thank Leonard right here and now, for asking George about the DVDs
with my own words. I owe you one Leonard -
e-mail me and let's do
lunch, as they say.
As for George's answer, well you should probably check it out for
yourself. Thanks to a number of readers, I've got a small .wav file
(113k) of the question and Lucas' answer, for you to listen to (click
here to hear it). For those of you who can't listen to audio
files, here's the exact text:
Leonard: Here is the single most asked question, George. The number
one question out of the 5,000. Bill asks, "When can we expect to
see the "Star Wars" Trilogy released on DVD?"
Lucas: We have been kind of waiting on the DVD, because I've been
trying to make sure that the DVD is the ultimate repository of the Star
Wars saga. And primarily what we're trying to do is wait until I have
all six of them before we release them on DVD.
So there you have it. Very interesting. So we're all now asking some
other questions of ourselves. Does this mean he only plans on ONE SINGLE
DVD release of the Trilogy ever?
Will we really have to wait another 6 or 7 years before ANY DVD version
comes out? I seriously doubt it. Let me do some digging on this one, and
we'll get to the bottom of things. In any case, let me also thank you,
the readers of the Bits, for
submitting your own questions. Remember - you have the power to affect
change in the DVD industry, and in most anything for that matter. You
vote with your dollars, and every time you send a studio feedback. So
now, thanks to you, we've heard from Big George. Now it may be time to
start a bit of a lobbying campaign. But let me see what I can learn
first, after some digging - stay tuned on this.
In other news today, we've got a quick update to the
Mill, about another title from Fox, and a Paramount title
we've heard is in the works, so do check that out.
And Anchor Bay has posted the complete details of their forthcoming,
limited release Halloween: Special Edition
DVD on their web
All right - I gotta believe there's something goofy here. According to
several readers, last night Entertainment
Tonight played more of film critic Leonard Maltin's interview
with Star Wars director George
Lucas. Thanks to ET's online
appeal for questions, Leonard asked him the question we've all wanted
answered: "When will the Star Wars
films be released on DVD?" George's answer? He reportedly said that
he now wants to wait until ALL SIX of the films are completed before
they appear on DVD. Huh??!! That would mean 2005. You've got to be
kidding me. I suspect this is a bunch of nonsense, and it certainly goes
against EVERYTHING that's been said before, and everything that our
sources have been telling us. Still, if reports are correct (I didn't
see the interview myself), and this indeed came straight from the
horse's mouth, one can only sit and scratch one's head...
There are now officially more than 2 million DVD players in the U.S.
CEMA late this afternoon released its latest player sales figures for
April, indicating that some 119,978 players were shipped to retailers in
one week (ending April 30th). The total for the month of April alone, is
269,107 players shipped, making it the format's best month to date. And
with strong sales figures like these, heading into the spring and summer
months (typically poor for electronics sales), many market watchers are
now predicting that the market could reach to between 3.5 and 4 million
by year's end. Not to shabby, me thinks. You can see all the details for
yourself by checking the CEMA numbers above, our
We've got more reviews for you today, as promised. You can get the
skinny on two new DVDs, as reviewed by Todd and myself - The
Jazz Singer and Monty
Python's Life of Brian. And a quick note on one of yesterday's
reviews. I mistakenly said that Criterion's This
is Spinal Tap has been discontinued. I've learned today that
it officially has not, although good luck finding it available for rent
or sale online. Searches of
Express both come up empty on the title. Sorry for the confusion!
Wondering why so many of those special edition Miramax titles have been
delayed? According to the latest issue of Video
Store, Buena Vista has hit a series of legal snags with
regard to the supplemental materials they'd planned to include on the
discs. Among those delayed are Il Postino,
Switchblade Sisters and Halloween
H20, although Clerks is
apparently still expected in the next couple of months (although likely
not in the original 6/29 street date).
Looking for cables for your home entertainment system? Our friends over
City have just opened a companion site, called appropriately,
you know, anyone that mentions The Digital
Bits when purchasing from DVD City, gets 2% off of the value
of the order. Well, we've got another nice reader perk for you - mention
us when ordering from Cableland, and you'll get 5% off. We're working on
more cool special offers for our readers, so stay tuned!
We'll be starting our May Trivia Contest
in a few hours, so check back soon. In the meantime, have yourselves a
OK, it's been slow going getting myself back on top of things today,
but we've gotten some new stuff up for you. First of all, you'll find
Todd Doogan's look at Criterion's This
is Spinal Tap. The disc has been officially discontinued, but
we think it's pretty sweet, so get it while you can. By the way,
400 Blows (which Todd also reviewed the other day), has also
been discontinued, but the film is being released on DVD again soon from
We've also got lots of new
DVD artwork for you to feast your eyes on today. We've removed all
the art for titles that have just been released, and added new scans of
A Simple Plan, Enemy
of the State, Brain Damage,
of the Century, The Thin Red Line,
new art for A Better Place, Taxi
Driver: Collector's Edition, Silverado,
Dr. Strangelove (repackaged in a
Snapper case for Warner's Kubrick Collection),
and the aforementioned The 400 Blows
from Fox Lorber. Just FYI, with all the scans we removed, pages 6 and 7
of the artwork section are now empty until new art comes in.
Also, just a quick note - we've had to delay the start of the May Trivia
Contest until tomorrow, but we'll still run it for two full
weeks to give everyone a chance to enter. Should be a fun one.
Around the Internet, our friends over at
Entertainment have made another update to their
News page. Among the new titles you'll find announced there are
countless Image releases, several Paramount DVDs we told you about in
the Rumor Mill a while back
(specifically Gallipoli, School
Ties, Varsity Blues,
and Witness), several Columbia
TriStar titles including the Ghostbusters
DVDs and Still Crazy, and Hi-Lo
Country and Hillary & Jackie
We'll be back tomorrow with two more new DVD reviews, and the start of
our May Trivia Contest. See you
My parents have left the building...
Well, after a week-long visit, my parents' plane finally took off this
morning bound for home. Boy, it sure was tough to keep things going with
the Bits, and still spend enough
time with them - what a juggling act! In any case, I don't thing the
disruption was too apparent around here. Now that they're gone, however,
I do need a day to recoup (I'm sure you can understand)! We'll be back
tomorrow full force, and we'll try to get the new Trivia
Contest started later tonight.
In the meantime, I've officially introduced my parents to the world
DVD. We got them a DVD player for their birthdays, and armed them with a
couple of movies. It was good fun to show them all the features, and
watch them play with their new toy - talk about role reversal! My Dad is
very excited, let me tell you. And as one of the movies features Tom
Selleck, you can bet Mom's happy too. My parents live in a pretty small
town in North Dakota (population 14,000), and I was stunned when they
told us that their local video rental place already has a wall full of
DVDs to rent. And here I was thinking they'd be the first family with a
DVD player in town! If that isn't a testament to the fact that DVD has
gone mainstream successfully, then nothing is...
In a quick side note, wanna read "the first review of The
Phantom Menace" on the Net" (not my words)?
here to be whisked away to our favorite discussion stop, the Home
Theater Forum. Apparently, Ron was let into a theater owners
preview screening - go figure (you know he likes to be first at this
kind of thing). Sadly for Ron, there are dozens of reviews now available
online, from others who were also sneaked into such screenings - just
check our fellow Den affiliate
Force.net. I should probably say, "Reader beware!"
I, for one, am not going to read any of them, 'cause I want to make up
my own mind...
Anyway, thanks for your patience during our Great Family Invasion, and
we'll be back tomorrow!
Well, today is a bit of a slow news day, but we do have a look at the
new DVD version of the cult classic Dark
Star. It's a darned twisted little film (director John
Carpenter's first), and makes for a surprisingly cool DVD.
Around the Internet today, there's a
article over at Infoseek
(from Variety) about a market
watcher film's report on the current DVD boom, and better than expected
sales of players this year. There's also a mention of recordable DVD
players emerging soon, and a good line: "The report said nothing
about the future of floundering pay-per-view rival Divx, which lags far
behind DVD in hardware and software sales." Don't get me started...
Also, jump on over to
page at the official Star Wars site, and you can download
four new TV spots for Star Wars: Episode I,
that will begin running this month. All four are available in QuickTime
3 and 4 quality, and feature new footage - rather cool.