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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 9/8/99



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 8/16/99 - 7/23/99)


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8/16/99

Today's update will be brief, but we've posted a review of Miramax's brand new Shakespeare in Love disc for you, which also happens to be Buena Vista's first anamorphic widescreen DVD. It's a great movie (it WAS this year's Best Picture winner, after all), and it's a pretty good disc too, as movie-only DVDs go. Do check it out.

The reason for the brief update, is that I'm posting this from DVD Pro '99 in San Francisco. DVD Pro is mostly a technical conference - a nuts and bolts meeting, where content producers, equipment manufacturers, and others come together to talk about the format, and how best to use it. There are lots of people here involved in program creation, not just from Hollywood, but from independent production companies and post houses, involved in doing corporate, educational and government work. DVD is definitely moving into the mainstream video world, there's no doubt about it.

My reasons for attending the show this year are simple - this is a great place to roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty (so to speak) talking about the format, the spec, and all kinds of technical aspects involved in creating and mastering interactive programs on DVD. I've been eager to educate myself a bit more on the intricate details of the format, and to find out some of the difficulties that it presents to content producers. Despite it's amazing capabilities, DVD is a tricky format to work with. After attending some of yesterday's pre-show conferences, I've already learned some very interesting things about the format, technically-speaking, that I didn't know before. I'll share a few of them when I get back (don't expect a big report - this isn't really the kind of event that demands it, but I will talk about it here more over the next couple of days). And I was also a judge for this year's Discus awards, so I'm attending the presentation ceremony tonight. I'll be sure to post a list of the winners later this evening (for tomorrow).

In the meantime, enjoy the review. Todd's been busy recently too, so we'll have a new Doogan's Views for you come tomorrow. See you then!

8/14/99

Okay - first of all, congratulations to Doug Singer of Glenview, Illinois! Doug was the winner of our Friday the 13th Quick Contest. Thanks to all 249 people who entered. FYI - we've just kicked off out monthly Trivia Contest for August as well, which will run until 8/27. We're giving away another Sony DVD player and more, so get those entries in!

In other news, Columbia TriStar has announced a new animated DVD title: The Nuttiest Nutcracker. Look for it on October 19th, with a sing-along feature, and three interactive games (SRP $19.95). Warner Bros has announced a day-and-date DVD version of Jack Frost, starring Michael Keaton. The disc streets November 2nd (SRP $24.98). And Buena Vista has issued some press materials on their upcoming Who Framed Roger Rabbit DVD (street date 9/28), including several menu screens. I wouldn't read much into this, but given the dimensions of the released art, it looks like the menu screens at least will be anamorphic (although that doesn't guarantee anamorphic video - Fox's X-Files DVD also has anamorphic menus, but a straight letterboxed transfer). Go figure...

Main menu for Roger Rabbit DVD

Also, look for DVD versions of 10 Things I Hate About You, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (The Wonderful World Of Disney), Children of the Corn, 666: Isaac's Return, Existenz, Halloween: H2O, and A Walk on the Moon from Buena Vista in October.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned...!

8/13/99

Sorry about the lack of updates. We've been dealing with some major server issues - slowdowns, crashes and the like, that are really causing problems. I hope to have it all resolved by this afternoon, but please let us know if you have trouble accessing the site in the meantime.

We'll be back tonight with our regular update. Meanwhile, we've got a super-quick mini Contest for you all today, in honor of Friday the 13th (the day, not the movie - maybe that's why we're having so many problems!). You have the chance to win a copy of The Exorcist: SE DVD, as well as an IGN.com T-shirt, (and it's an easy one) so get those entries in fast! We'll accept them until 8 PM tonight, and we'll announce the winner sometime shortly after that.

Back later!

8/11/99

Well, I'm sure some of you noticed that we didn't post an update yesterday. An odd convergence of occurrences resulted in a major headache for the Bits staff for most of the afternoon, and much of last night.

I spent the early afternoon up in L.A., attending New Line's Editor's Day for their upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street box set (I'll talk more about that in a minute). I had intended to make a post about that yesterday afternoon. But when I returned, it came to my attention that our server was down. I'm not sure what time it crashed, but it was down for most of the evening, and after several hours of tech support calls to our hosting service (Concentric), we finally got it restarted. But by that time, it was 2 AM. And no one has any idea what caused the crash, which is what I've been investigating all morning. As Homer Simpson might say, "Doh!" Anyway, server issues aside, it seems to be stable enough now to make a post. So let's talk about Nightmare on Elm Street.

At the time Nightmare was released, visceral teen slasher films were all pretty straightforward (think Friday the 13th, or Halloween). Then Wes Craven came up with the idea of a killer who inhabited a dream world, and a horror plot in which the line between dreams and reality became blurred. As imaginative as this was, almost no one thought it would work - it was too "high concept" for horror (imagine that). But New Line's Robert Shaye was excited about the idea, and managed to scrounge up $1.2 million to fund it. Not only was it a huge hit with American audiences, but New Line took a chance and marketed the film internationally, where its success spawned one of the first film franchises (at a time when "franchise" had yet to become a buzzword in Hollywood), and really helped to launch New Line as a studio.

Despite the importance of the series, New Line only recently reacquired the home video rights to several of the films. On December 31st, 1997, the rights to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th installments in the series reverted back to the studio. Many of these films haven't been available on video for years, and copies are very hard to come by. So for the 15th anniversary of the franchise, New Line decided to do something special, and release a new DVD boxed set. The Nightmare films have been by far the most requested DVDs from the studio yet, and the idea is to market the films at the male 18-34 demographic, introducing them to a whole generation who has never seen them, and reintroducing them to those who grew up with them in high school. A huge marketing campaign is being launched to support the series.

The plan to release these films on DVD actually originated over two years ago, and work began on the films just as New Line's first Platinum DVD title, The Player, was coming together. One at a time, the films were remastered, to create new, fully-digital, Hi-Def, anamorphic masters. DVD producer Mark Rance was brought in to shepherd the project, and several other companies were contracted to produce various elements of the discs: WAMO (authoring), Belief (menus and interactivity), The Content Project (DVD-ROM features), Sonic Deli (audio design), and PC Friendly.

I have to tell you, that having seen New Line's demonstration, this is going to be a really terrific DVD set - probably the best yet released. First of all, all seven films in the series boast new anamorphic widescreen transfers (as I mentioned). Each film has a fully-animated menu system (also anamorphic), that is visually similar on all of the discs (providing unity for the set), but is also unique to each title (you see flashing, dream-like images from the film). I can tell you that the video quality is outstanding. And all of the soundtracks have been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1 (you can also listen to the original mono audio on the films that have it). Each DVD includes a cast & crew bio section, with information taken straight from the original studio press kits for each film, and "Jump to a Nightmare" scene selection. Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven's New Nightmare also include full-length audio commentary. And Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare allows you to choose up front if you want to watch the ending sequence with or without 3D (3D glasses included). You can also choose to jump right to the 3D sequence from the special features section. And at the demonstration, the 3D effect worked pretty well.

But, as if that wasn't cool enough (and it is), the real star of this set is a special eighth DVD, The Nightmare Series Encyclopedia. Even as we speak, WAMO is working around the clock to complete the complex authoring on this last disc (replication is just beginning on the films themselves, and WAMO and New Line DO expect to make the September 21st street date). The 8th disc is a DVD-9 disc (dual-layered - all of the others in the set are DVD-5 - single layered). It has no less than 94 chapter stops, and no less than 4 hours of supplemental material on it, and that's if you could watch it all back to back (I'll explain more in a minute). The disc is broken into three sections: Primetime, Labyrinth, and Index. Primetime is a 45 minute, "behind the scenes" documentary, with lots of new interviews and footage. Index allows you to access lots of supplemental material by each film title (music videos, all the theatrical trailers for the series, etc...). But Labyrinth is the real meat of this disc. It's an interactive maze, if you will, where you use your DVD player remote to navigate through an environment composed of settings and elements from all the films. As you do, you can come across (and pick up) objects, and you'll stumble into more than 30 juicy little Easter Eggs - rare footage, interview clips, photographs, alternate endings, Freddy's stint on MTV, and more. I'm told that if you know your way around this maze, it would take you some 5 and a half hours to get through it all. Cool no? Just think of the Easter Egg list on that title!

But were not done - we haven't even touched upon the DVD-ROM content of the set yet! That cumbersome PC Friendly interface is gone - each disc has animated menus for your computer that mirror the style of the DVD-Video menus. Each disc includes the complete screenplay of the film, which you can browse scene by scene. As always, you can jump from the script to that scene in the film at any time. But even better, you can actually watch the scene in a small window, AS you follow along in the script! Sweet! Each disc also features links to updated IMDB bios of the cast & crew, Freddy's Portal web links to the just-launched-yesterday Nightmare on Elm Street web site (where you can download screensavers, play trivia games, buy stuff and lots more), screensavers, "Interactive Freddy" characters (that you can e-mail to friends), and a Dream World Trivia Game. On each disc, are 60 trivia questions, which are asked in bunches of 20. if you answer 13 of 20 correctly, you get a code, and you move on to the game on the next DVD in the set. Once you have all 7 codes, you can access the game on the 8th disc. And if you win that 8th game, you're entered (via the Net) in a drawing for prizes from New Line. Whew! You also get a nifty 36-page booklet, and having leafed through it, I can tell you that it's just icing on the cake.

As you can see, the Nightmare on Elm Street boxed set promises to be a huge blast, and one of the biggest DVD "events" the format as seen thus far. Best of all, the SRP on the WHOLE set is only $129.98 ($20 LESS than Warner's Kubrick Collection, which has an SRP of $149.92). The Minimum Advertised Price (at retail) is $99, and you can get the set for even less online ($77.99 at DVD Express, for example). You can be sure that we'll give you full reviews of all 8 discs, as soon as we get our hands on the set. And you can be sure that we CAN'T WAIT to get our hands on the set!

Thanks to the folks at New Line for their Editor's Day event, and for giving us a preview of these cool DVDs. Just one last note - I've learned that all of the elements for the studio's Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me DVD are currently being approved by Mike Myers himself. The disc is on-schedule and should be extremely cool!

Finally today, some very good news: CEMA has reported that some 189,595 DVD players were shipped to retailers in the U.S. in the last week of July. That gives July the second highest monthly sales total to date (at 325,151 - June was about 1,000 higher). It also moves our Region 1 player total to the very brink of 3 million players (currently 2,963,480 to be exact). 4 million players is starting to look VERY achievable by the end of the year. Both the listing above and the full chart have been updated, so you can check out all the details for yourself. Just FYI, you'll also notice above that, according to Nimbus, we're just about to cross the 4,000 Region 1 DVD titles available mark (not counting adult titles). Love this format, baby!

Stay tuned...!

8/9/99

Well, I hope you all had a great weekend. I spent my time relaxing, and seeing 3 movies: Deep Blue Sea, Mystery Men, and The Sixth Sense. Darned if all weren't completely enjoyable. Deep Blue Sea is a B-movie in every sense of the word, and thankfully, it doesn't take itself seriously. But it's got some great scares, some excellent CGI and animatronic shark effects, and it throws in some good surprises. I completely enjoyed it. There's also one great moment that I won't spoil, that had the whole audience in stitches (strangely enough). Go see it - it's good fun. Mystery Men is also fun, although I think it would have benefitted from some editing and script tightening - it gets a bit slow in parts. But the performances are good, and the film definitely pokes fun at the whole "superhero film" genre, with plenty of laughs along the way. Finally, The Sixth Sense sports a really creepy premise, some good scares and performances, and an ending that holds a darned nifty twist. All three films are definitely worth a watch.

Here at the Bits today, we'd like to welcome a new DVD reviewer to the family - Frank Ortiz. Frank's a good friend of mine, who is very knowledgable in home theater, computers and lots of other technical areas. He's particularly interested in music and concert DVDs, and DVD Audio, so you can expect to see his work here cover those areas. In the meantime, we're kicking things off with Frank, by posting his first two DVD reviews: Waking Ned Devine and The Wedding Singer. Feel free to drop Frank an e-mail, say hello and welcome him to the site. I think you'll really enjoy his work. Glad to have you aboard, Frank!

In other news, DTS has announced a bunch of new DTS-encoded DVD titles, and promises lots more titles in the future. You can check out the list of current titles at the link provided, as well as a PDF file of upcoming titles (Adobe Acrobat is required to view the file). And word is that DTS may be working with Buena Vista and Fox to release their films on DTS-encoded DVDs in the near future.

Also today, we have a few more details on those Columbia TriStar DVDs for you. The Blue Lagoon and Hard Eight will both be special edition DVDs, to be released on October 5th. Blue Lagoon will have two commentaries (with the director, screenwriter, and both Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins among others), a featurette, Brooke Shield's personal photos, and "talent files". Hard Eight will also include dual audio commentaries, as well as a deleted scene, a trio of Sundance Institute Filmmaker Lab scenes, and talent files.

Also coming are Desert Heat and The Night of the Living Dead (1990) on September 28th. Desert Heat will have a Jean-Claude Van Damme featurette (you can be SURE that as soon as it streets, we'll add it to VAN DAMAGE!), as well as talent files. Night of the Living Dead will include a "making-of" featurette, talent files, and audio commentary with director Tom Savini.

Finally today, DVD International has issued a press release, claiming that they (and not Artisan) will be releasing the first DVD-18 title to market: Aquaria. The title, which streets on September 28th (SRP $24.98) is 20 hours worth of fish tank wallpaper for your TV, in full frame, letterboxed widescreen, and anamorphic widescreen. Multiple DD 5.1 audio tracks are also included. I can just imagine hearing that goldfish swim around behind my head. I wish they'd just do more Earthlight DVDs...

Stay tuned...!

8/6/99

The fifth and final day of our VAN DAMAGE! review fest is here! Today we've got a look at the last 3 Van Damme DVD titles currently available: Cyborg, Black Eagle and Kickboxer. And with these last few reviews, we're very pleased to say that we now have reviews for fully 200 DVD titles available for you to read here at the Bits! Todd and I have been working hard towards this day, and we're very happy about it - this is something of a milestone for us. Rest assured, we've got lots more for you very soon.

For those of you who jones heavy over upcoming DVD cover artwork, we've got The Matrix up today, on Page 6 of our DVD art section.

Those busy folks over at Columbia TriStar have announced even more upcoming DVD titles. Look for The City of Lost Children (16x9, commentary, costume design & production artwork galleries, and talent files), Heavy (commentary - widescreen, but no word on anamorphic), and Someone to Watch Over Me (full frame, 16x9, talent files), all on 9/21, for an SRP of $27.95 (Someone to Watch Over Me is $24.95).

And for October, Columbia TriStar has The Thirteenth Floor (with 16x9, audio commentaries, a "before and after" effects gallery, conceptual art, talent files, DVD-ROM features, and The Cardigans Erase/Rewind music video), The Monster (16x9, with Robert Benigni talent files), and This is My Father (with 16x9, audio commentary, and talent files). All are expected on 10/5, at an SRP of $24.95.

Finally, Sony Music has a host of titles on the way as well. Look for VH1 Pop-Up Videos (8/17), Doors of Wonder: Little Witch and John Denver: The Wildlife Concert (both 8/31), MTV's Celebrity Death Match and Charlotte Church: Voice of an Angel (both 9/7), Golden Books: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (9/14), and Alice In Chains: MTV Unplugged, Ricky Martin Video Compilation, Karajan Legacy: New Year's Concert 1988 - Kissin, Karajan Legacy: Beethoven Violin Concerto - Mutter, Karajan Legacy: Beethoven Symphony 2&3, and Karajan Legacy Beethoven Symphony 4&5 (all 9/21). All of these titles will list for $24.98, except Rudolph, which will list for $19.98. All will have Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 2-channel tracks (except the Karajan titles, which will have only PCM).

I'm told the John Denver title, which was first announced a year ago, will feature exceptional video and audio quality. The 5.1 remix for Alice In Chains was supervised by Toby Wright, the original producer for the broadcast and CD, so it should be one of Sony Music's best yet. The second edition of Best of Sessions is expected in October, and a George Michael collection is currently set for November. Best of all, Sony expects their Pink Floyd's The Wall DVD to also ship in October, with a brand new hi-def, anamorphic transfer, a full 5.1 soundtrack, a brand new Roger Waters commentary (and possibly other commentaries as well), an additional song (Hey You) which was cut from the original release, and fully animated menu screens. It should be extremely cool.

Have a great weekend, and see you soon!

(LATE UPDATE - 8/5/99 - 3 PM PDT)

As promised, here's Day Four of VAN DAMAGE! Freshly posted for all you Van Damme fans out there today, are reviews of Nowhere to Run, Universal Soldier and Lionheart. But that's not all - not by a long shot. We've also just posted our full-length first look at the first of Universal's classic horror DVDs, none other than the original Frankenstein! Both Todd and I have been through this disc, and it's just terrific - absolutely worth the wait. It streets on August 17th, so just trust us and get in line for it now!

Back with more tomorrow!

(EARLY UPDATE - 8/5/99 - 3 AM PDT)

I wanted to squeak in an early morning update today, for all those of you who check the Bits out first thing when you get to work (hey - it's a coffee break!). We've got some hot information for you today in the Rumor Mill. We've managed to get our hands on Paramount's expected DVD release list well into December (we're talkin' some big catalog titles here, and LOTS of stuff for you Trekkies), and we've got some late-breaking information on that Blair Witch Project DVD we told you about. Need I say the words? Do not miss it. Okay... I said the words. ;-)

Columbia TriStar has announced DVD versions of Alvarez Kelly, and The Who's classic rock opera Tommy, for September 14th. Alvarez Kelly will feature Dolby Digital Mono audio, and three trailers (including one for The Bridge on the River Kwai). Tommy will be in full Dolby Digital 5.1. Both discs will include full frame, anamorphic widescreen, and talent files, and will SRP for $24.95.

Also, Universal has announced their October DVD slate, which includes their next classic horror DVD, The Bride of Frankenstein, along with The Hercules Collection, Liar, Liar: Collector's Edition, and Life, all of which street on October 19th. Bride of Frankenstein will include audio commentary, a David J. Skal documentary, and more (SRP $29.98). The Hercules Collection includes 4 discs (a Hercules TV disc with 2 episodes, a Xena TV disc with 3 episodes, Young Hercules, and Hercules & Xena: The Battle for Mount Olympus) - SRP is yet to be decided. The Liar, Liar: CE will include anamorphic widescreen (yeah!), commentary, a featurette, trailers, photo, production notes, a trailer and more (SRP $34.98). Eddie Murphy's Life will also include anamorphic widescreen, along with a trailer (SRP $29.98).

And Image Entertainment has announced a pair of cool DVD boxed sets, both of which street on October 12th (SRP $59.99): The Marx Brothers Box and RoboBox. The Marx Brothers includes three of Image's DVDs for Universal in one set (Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, and Horse Feathers). And RoboBox, as you might guess, will contain Image's RoboCop 1-3 discs in one set. Very cool.

We'll be back later today with more DVD reviews, including Day Four of VAN DAMAGE! Stay tuned...

8/4/99

VAN DAMAGE! continues into its third day today, with three more DVD reviews: Street Fighter: Collector's Edition, Timecop and Hard Target. Thanks to all of you who have e-mailed us to say that you're enjoying this collected look at a particular actor's DVD work. After the popularity of this, and our recent Kubrick reviews, we're thinking of highlighting the work of some other directors or actors as well. Be sure to let Todd or I know if you have any suggestions.

Columbia TriStar has announced another upcoming DVD title. Look for a Sleepless in Seattle: Special Edition on September 28th, with audio commentary by Nora and Delia Ephron, a featurette, the When I Fall in Love music video by Celene Dion and Clive Griffin, talent files and more. SRP will be $27.95. Columbia also has an Immortal Beloved: Special Edition DVD scheduled for the same day, which will include audio commentary, featurettes and more. Once again, SRP is $27.95.

As for other upcoming DVDs, look for The Matrix to include storyboards, an isolated score, audio commentary, featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage, among other things. Warner also has Lost & Found set for October 5th, and Goodbye Lover on October 12th.

Stay tuned...

8/3/99

Yessir... it's Day Two of our VAN DAMAGE! review fest! Today, we've got a look at DVD versions of Legionnaire, The Quest, and Sudden Death. And I've just posted my long-overdue, full-length review of Columbia TriStar's excellent Ghostbusters: Collector's Series DVD, which gets my vote for damn near the best of the year so far. It's a very cool disc, so do check it out.

Several good new titles have been announced over the last few days. Columbia TriStar announced The Thirteenth Floor (which goes head-to-head with The Matrix on September 21st), This is My Father (also 9/21), Desert Heat (9/28), and Muppets From Space (10/26). Artisan Entertainment is weighing in with a DVD version of the television miniseries Joan of Arc, as part of their Halmark series. Look for that on September 28th. They've also got Black Mask on the way (10/19). Warner is working on Thumbelina for 9/21, and they're also reissuing A Christmas Story (in 16x9 widescreen), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears a Who on 8/24 (Horton will have a lower SRP than the MGM version - $19.98). HBO is readying Jerry Seinfeld: I'm Telling You For the Last Time, and Tales From the Crypt: The Robert Zemeckis Collection (both on 9/7). And Monty Python's Flying Circus: Sets 3 and 4 are both now set for 11/16 from A&E.

Finally, Image Entertainment has a huge new batch of their own titles to announce today. Be sure to check out their DVD News page, and their main site, where you'll find the scoop on tons of new DVDs, including such titles as Baron Blood, The Phantom of the Opera (starring Burt Lancaster), a DTS version of Joni Mitchell: Painting with Words and Music and lots more. And there's even better news. Image has just announced two new DVD product lines of classic British and European horror films: the EuroShock and Mario Bava collections. Very cool!

See you tomorrow!

8/2/99

Hope you all had a great weekend, DVD-fans! I'm just going to make some brief comments here today, as I'm working hard to get lots of stuff posted. But I can tell you that the Bits is very proud to present you with none other than... VAN DAMAGE! It's our tongue-in-cheek look at some 15 of action star Jean-Claude Van Damme's films on DVD. Yep, there's one thing you can say for sure... the Muscles from Brussels has been good to DVD. We've got 3 of his films reviewed today: Knock Off, Double Team and Maximum Risk. And every day this week, we'll be adding 3 more. Why Van Damme you ask? Why the hell not? Somebody had to follow up our look at Kubrick...! ;-)

Around the Net today, there's news of some new head-honchos being appointed to run the show over at Warner. And Toshiba has also announced the first CD-RW drive, with DVD-ROM capability.

Speaking of Warner, the studio has revealed that they're hoping their upcoming Matrix DVD (which streets on September 21st, as we've reported) will become the first DVD title to sell 1 million copies. We at the Bits wouldn't bet against it. Despite the fact that Titanic debuts on the format a month earlier, it will be only a non-anamorphic, bare-bones disc, while The Matrix will be a fully-loaded special edition, perfectly tailored to the average DVD consumer. And The Matrix is only available for sale on DVD. The disc will contain behind-the-scenes footage, the complete screenplay, over 700 storyboards, and special scenes shot specifically for DVD during the film's production. A live, online event (a la Ronin) will be held a month after the disc's release. Very cool.

I'll be back later with that Ghostbusters review, and we'll have lots more tomorrow. See you then!

7/31/99

Surprise - a rare Saturday update of the Bits! So is everyone enjoying their weekend? I know I am - too many late nights working on the site. Working until 3AM every night gets a little rough after a while, let me tell you. I'm starting to feel like one of those mole people from campy '50s sci-fi - the ones who live underground and never see the light of day....

We've announced the winner for our July Trivia Contest. Congratulations to Brian Phelps of Auburn, Alabama! Brian correctly answered all of the crossword puzzle questions, and was chosen at random to win the Sony DVD player. And thanks to all 736 readers who entered. We'll get the August Trivia Contest up soon.

I've just posted our full-length review of Fox's Alien Resurrection DVD, so we now have all of the Alien films reviewed here at the Bits. And Todd has finished his look at Paramount's new anamorphic widescreen Payback, with Mel Gibson. I really have to give Paramount a lot of credit. With the annoying exception of Titanic, they've been very supportive of DVD's anamorphic capabilities (and I'm told the Titanic decision was made way back in January, prior to their 16x9 commitment). Almost everything they've released lately has been 16x9 enhanced. Well done, Paramount. Titanic still pisses me off, almost enough for me to stick with my laserdisc version, but I'll forgive you if you can get an anamorphic widescreen Braveheart out in time for the holidays... ;-)

It's come to my attention that we haven't been reviewing much Columbia TriStar DVD product around here lately, so I'm fixing to remedy that in a hurry. I've been going over their Ghostbusters: Collector's Series DVD, and I'd definitely give it my vote for one of the very best discs of the year so far. Look for a long-overdue review on Monday. And Todd's got something very special planned for you in the next week or so, in terms of disc reviews. I'll just give you one clue: the Muscles from Brussels. Chew on that one for a few days!

We've updated our CEMA DVD Player sales chart, to include the latest numbers - 62,280 players sold to retailers in the week ending July 23rd. At this pace, July is likely to be another very strong month for DVD. Both the full chart and the listing above have been updated accordingly.

We've also updated our AFI Top 100 Films on DVD list again, to include Warner's upcoming Rebel Without a Cause DVD, which streets on 9/21. By the way, we've had several people say that The Jazz Singer is already out on DVD... and that's true, but not the one on the AFI list. That's the 1927 Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, which was the first-ever "talking" picture. The 1980 Neil Diamond version, sadly, doesn't count.

Around the Net today, there's another good article on the lessons to be learned following the demise of Divx, over at PCWeek Online (via ZDnet). It's funny how we're hearing less and less about Divx these days, after two years of rallying against it. I was talking with a buddy over at The Good Guys the other day, and discovered that they're selling Divx discs for 99 cents now - but they still aren't moving. "We can't give them away," was my friend's comment. I'm just glad Divx is gone, so I can feel good about patronizing Good Guys again. I dig the sales guys at my local store - it's one of my favorite places to shop for gear. Why... it's almost like Divx never existed at all. ;-)

Also, electronics giant Matsushita (that's Panasonic to you and me) has announced that they'll market a pair of DVD-Audio capable DVD players in the States in October (click here for the press release).

Have a great weekend, everybody!

7/29/99

We've got a big update for you here at the Bits today. To start things off, we've updated our Upcoming DVD Art section, to remove old artwork, and add some 49 new cover scans. We've got new artwork for such titles as The Mummy (both versions), Strange Days, Excalibur, The American President, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's And Now for Something Completely Different, The Stand, Frankenstein, For All Mankind, The Prince of Egypt, The Avengers and Star Trek TV episodes discs, and the list goes on and on... whew!

We've updated our AFI Top 100 Films on DVD list as well, to include Patton, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, All About Eve, and It Happened One Night, all of which are now in the works for release later this year. And our Top 10 Selling DVD list has also been updated to include last week's VideoScan numbers.

Finally, we've got three new DVD reviews for you. Todd has weighed in on the new Clerks: Collector's Series and Jerry Springer: Too Hot for TV 2000 (no, I'm not kidding), and I've posted my review of The Faculty as well. And don't forget our full-length look at Warner's long-awaited Heat disc, which we posted late yesterday. How's that for exceeding your daily dose of DVD?

In other news, Columbia TriStar has just announced a series of new DVD releases for September 7th: The Buddy Holly Story ($24.95, with audio commentary, "talent files", trailer, full frame and 16x9 widescreen), Tingler: 40th Anniversary ($24.95, with featurette, "Scream" sequence, "talent files", two trailers and 16x9 widescreen), Fright Night ($24.95, with trailer, full frame and 16x9 widescreen), and Monty Python and the Holy Grail ($24.95, with 4 trailers and 16x9 widescreen).

No, I haven't forgotten about that digital projection story. It's still coming. We'll have that and some more reviews for you tomorrow. I know, I know... you'll believe it when you see it. :-)

Have a great day, gang!

7/28/99

Well, I think we've got our technical difficulties mostly solved. Or, let me rephrase that - I think my cable service provider has THEIR technical difficulties resolved. And while we regroup here at the Bits, I've got something special for you - another big Rumor Mill update, with lots more upcoming DVD title information! We've got unofficial street dates through the end of '99, for titles like The Matrix, Austin Powers 2, Life is Beautiful and more. And we've also got some exciting information on Artisan's plans for their upcoming The Blair Witch Project DVD release. Don't miss it!

Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News page once more, to include DreamWorks' Forces of Nature, Columbia's The Thirteenth Floor, Paramount's Breakfast at Tiffany's and more. Looks like Columbia is also re-releasing several titles as double feature discs.

Finally, my full-length review of Warner's new DVD release of Heat has just been posted. Did Warner make good after a year-long wait? Check out our review and find out.

Stay tuned...

7/27/99

All right, after going back and forth with my cable service provider, I'm told that the problems with my cable modem will be resolved this afternoon. In the meantime, using the laptop again, I've managed to get most of today's update up.

I've just posted the last two of our Kubrick disc reviews, Paths of Glory and Barry Lyndon. We're pleased to say that we now have full-length reviews of every Kubrick film currently available on DVD here at the Bits. Sadly, few of them are of very good quality. But at least you can arm yourself with that knowledge as you begin to explore the director's work on DVD.

We've updated our DVD Titles Released and/or Announced number again - we're up to 3,829 net titles available (excluding adult titles). That number seems to be growing faster as the year goes on.

For whatever reason, in the last 24 hours I've been asked by numerous readers to confirm or deny rumors regarding a possible Planet of the Apes DVD box set coming from Fox, as well as details on the upcoming Warner DVD of The Matrix. I haven't had time to explore what information is being posted around the Net, or where it's coming from, but we can talk a little about these titles. First of all, Fox is not saying anything about a Planet of the Apes set, even if one is in the works. I can tell you, that we at the Bits do know menu screens have been done for at least the first film, and that at least the first film will be available late this year, or early next year. But anything else is speculation - there's just too much going on over at Fox right now to get reliable information. As for The Matrix, Warner HAS NOT announced the title officially yet, but I'm told to expect such an announcement within the next 10 days or so. Until then, a WHV spokesperson has told me that most of what has been published on the Net about this title is not accurate. So let's just wait and see - the official details will soon be available.

Normally, this next bit of information would be posted to the Rumor Mill, but with my cable modem troubles, I'm just going to post it here (all the usual disclaimers apply): Buena Vista sources have again confirmed to me that a handful of their classic Disney animated films WILL find their way to DVD before the end of the year. There's still a great deal of discussion going on at the studio as to which titles will be released, and what the features will be, but I can say that at least a couple will likely be older titles, originally presented in Academy Standard aspect ratio (so anamorphic widescreen will not apply to some of them). Look for them by the holidays, but possibly much earlier if all goes well. There's no word yet on specific announcements, but you'd have to believe that we'll probably hear something in the next 30 to 60 days, in order for retailers to make adequate sales preparations.

Back to Warner again - the studio HAS officially announced their August slate, which will include Analyze This (8/17 - $24.98, with commentary and a gag-reel), Message in a Bottle (8/3 - $24.98, with commentary, deleted scenes and "hidden" documentary effects segments), True Crime (8/10 - $24.98, with two featurettes), The American President (8/31 - $19.98, with a theatrical trailer), and the Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years (8/31 - $19.98). The $19.98 price on American President is confirmed by WHV - their press release mistakenly indicated $24.98.

Finally today, you can now check out George Lucas's recent Star Wars DVD comments (made on the British show The Big Breakfast) for yourself. Just pop on over to the DVD Home website, where you will find a text transcript, along with MP3 audio and Real Video files of the relevant discussion. Nice work, guys!

I'll be back as soon as my cable modem is operational again with that digital projection story (which has been updated to include information about the new Tarzan projections) - there are just too many pictures to post it from the laptop. And you can expect a full-length review of Warner's new Heat DVD for tomorrow.

Stay tuned...

7/26/99

Well, I've been struggling with cable modem problems (apparently the local node in my neighborhood crapped out again) since early Sunday morning. I've got a bunch of stuff ready to post, and will get it up as soon as possible tonight. I'm making this update from my laptop and, if I have to, I'll post everything like this later this evening. Hopefully, things will be worked out by later today. I definitely live my life by technology, but every now and then, that mysterious ghost in the machine jumps out and bites you square on the ass. Go figure.

In the meantime, I've posted Todd's look at some Hong Kong cinema: The Films of Wong Kar-wai on DVD. Todd reviews a trio of the director's work on the format: Ashes of Time, Fallen Angles and Happy Together. Do check it out.

Thanks for bearing with us. Back later...

7/23/99

Well, after the flurry of exciting developments yesterday, we're working to get back on top of things here at the Bits. We've been doing some more housekeeping work, and have finally caught up on some of the things we've needed to do for a while.

First of all, we reposted our news on Miramax's upcoming 16x9 Shakespeare in Love DVD in the Rumor Mill today, as we know that lots of people read that section of the Bits every day, but may just skim this column. If you read yesterday's post, just ignore it - it's the same text. But we felt that the news was too important for anyone to miss.

We've also added two new reviews today. Todd has checked in with a look at Criterion's new Insomnia DVD, which stars Stellan Skarsgård (whom you may remember from Ronin). The disc has the distinction of being Criterion's first (and LONG overdue) foray into anamorphic widescreen on DVD (and let's hope it's just the first of many). And, as Todd says, it's also a damned good film. I've also updated my Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition review, to include a brief look at Sharpline Arts' The Alien Legacy documentary disc, which is available by special mail-in offer, if you purchase Fox's complete Alien Legacy Collection. And yes, for those of you who have been asking, we will be reviewing Alien Resurrection very soon.

We've updated the CEMA DVD Player sales numbers again today, for sales data from the week ending 7/16 - 31,122 players sold. Both the listing above, and the full chart have been updated.

Finally today, we do promise to have our oft-delayed Star Wars digital projection story up this weekend. With all of the upcoming title and Miramax stuff we've uncovered over the last few days, it's been tough to get everything posted. But we do expect that to be posted over the weekend. And, as both Todd and I have been busy spinning discs, we will have a number of new reviews up for Monday, including the last two Kubrick titles, and lots more.

In the meantime, for those of you who missed the Star Wars digital projection, DLP Cinema has just announced the first animated feature film to be digitally projected: Disney's Tarzan. The film begins screening today at three theaters: AMC Pleasure Island 24 (Lake Buena Vista, FL), AMC Media Center 6 (Burbank, CA), and the Edwards Irvine Spectrum (Irvine, CA). If you have access to any of these theaters, I highly recommend that you check it out. You'll be very surprised at how good it looks.

Anyway, that's all for now. Have yourselves a great weekend!


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