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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 1/17/00



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 11/3/99 - 10/4/99)


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11/3/99

Today, Todd and I are very pleased to bring you something special: a full length review of MGM's recent (and excellent) Phantasm: Special Edition DVD, and a fascinating interview with the film's director, Don Coscarelli. As you know, Todd and I have been very busy conducting a number of interviews with those involved in DVD, and the film industry (believe me, there are definitely more on the way). This time around, we give you a look at a filmmaker who works outside the Hollywood mainstream. Don's got some interesting things to say, and a pretty cool perspective on his work, and the business in general. We hope you enjoy the interview!

And speaking of interviews, all of the people we've chatted with recently (Don Coscarelli, as well as DreamWorks' Steve Gustafson, Synapse's Don May, Jr., and DVD producers David Prior and Charles de Lauzirika) would love your feedback about their work, and what they had to say in their interviews. By all means, feel free to e-mail us with your comments (just be sure to tell us who you're addressing in the subject line), and we'll be happy to pass them along. Like Todd and I, they all thrive on feedback, so start feedin' back folks! ;-)

Speaking of Todd and I, we've been so wrapped up in site work and interviews, that we've been a little lean on DVD reviews as of late. Since Todd and I do most of the work here at the Bits (with occasional contributions from Frankie, Sarah and others), it's tough to keep all our bases covered. But rest assured, we're gearing up to deliver lots more reviews soon, so hang in there!

One other site note: we've just updated our mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to it's most current version (October 4th). It's definitely a must read if you haven't checked it out yet.

In other news, that Fortune magazine article on DVD we were mentioned in (it's in the November 8th issue) is finally available on the Internet. And thankfully, they've gotten our URL correct (yeah!). So enjoy Thou Shalt Buy DVD. And thanks to Fortune for the reference.

I don't know how many of your were aware of MGM's official James Bond website, but you might find some of the questions in our current Weekly Trivia Contest answered there (hint, hint...). There's also an official Indiana Jones website up now as well.

One of our site sponsors, DVD Express, was recently honored by Forrester Research PowerRanks as the Number One online retailer for delivery in the books, music and video category (see press release). Congrats guys - I know you've been busy beavers over there lately!

Looks like you British DVD fans out there are going crazy over Warner's recent Region 2 release of The Exorcist. The disc has reportedly set a new U.K. DVD sales record (see press release).

Steve Gustafson over at DreamWorks has informed me that the DTS version of Saving Private Ryan HAS shipped. Supply may be short at the moment, but they're working hard to make enough discs to meet demand, so you should find them on store shelves soon. We'll post a comparative review in the next week or so, so stay tuned.

Columbia TriStar has informed us that they'll be releasing The Big Brass Ring on DVD on January 11th, 2000. The disc will include audio commentary with director George Hickenlooper and co-writer F.X. Feeney, six deleted scenes, talent files, trailers and more. SRP will be $27.95.

And finally today, Image Entertainment has updated their DVD news page, to include a host of new Image-exclusive titles, including (gasp! - and I mean that in a good way) a DVD of eight Davey & Goliath episodes, an original Flash Gordon serial with Buster Crabbe, and more Twilight Zone episodes. VERY cool.

As always, thanks for reading the Bits! And stay tuned...!

(EVEN LATER UPDATE - 11/2/99 - 5 PM PST)

This is just a quick update - Andy Patrizio just let me know that he's posted a follow-up article on Wired, about the DVD hackers who cracked the CSS encryption, and how they did it. There's also a hint at initial industry reaction to the situation - the DVD Forum has issued a brief statement on the subject. I think you'll find it interesting.

Also, a Bits reader e-mailed me this afternoon with an interesting comment about all this (thanks for your thoughts, Dan):

"I found several articles about the CSS cracking just yesterday, and I want to point out something you may have missed. A significant portion of the work done to break the CSS scheme was performed to create a player that would run on Linux. Due to the nature of the CSS code, there was no way the Linux community would be able to redistribute any code, if they were to license the required information. I mention this, not to defend anyone, but to point out that the goal of the principal parties involved is to be able to watch DVDs on their PC, using the OS of their choice."

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/2/99 - 2 PM PST)

All right... the new Trivia Contest we promised yesterday is now on! Actually, we're doing something a little different this month. We're going to be running a new contest each week in November, and we're starting things off by giving away a copy of the James Bond DVD Gift Set. We've got lots of other great DVDs to give away this month, and of course, another DVD player. We figured that by doing a new contest each week, more people would have an opportunity to win. We'd like to thank Ken Crane's for sponsoring the November contests. They've got a couple of stores right down the freeway from me here in Orange County, CA. I'm definitely a regular customer - it's a great place to buy hardware and software. This first contest will run until Sunday afternoon (5 PM PST), and then we'll announce the winner, and start the next contest up. So get your entries in fast!

By the way, I discovered a couple of technical errors in my post earlier on DVD piracy, about how CSS encryption works. The errors have been corrected, so you might want to read over the post again to get the updated facts. Thanks!

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/2/99 - 8:30 AM PST)

By now, you may have heard that Wired has run a story - by our friend Andy Patrizio no less - that digital pirates have managed to find a way to crack DVD's CSS encryption scheme. And I've received several panicked e-mails, from people fearing that this is "the end of DVD". So I'm gonna address this issue, and try to calm the waters a bit. First of all, some explanation as to how the pirates were able to do this.

DVD's CSS (Content Scrambling System) works like this: all of the audio and video content on a DVD disc is encrypted using a 40-bit encryption scheme. The keys for decrypting this content are stored on the same disc (and are also encrypted, using the same 40-bit scheme). Each player (be it a software DVD-ROM player, or a stand-alone hardware DVD player) then has its own activation key (also encrypted) coded into its decoder, which ensures that the device is authorized to read the disc's content. This is an oversimplification, but basically what happens, is that when the encrypted content data on the DVD disc is discovered, the player decoder's activation key is authenticated, which in turn activates the decryption key on the disc, thus allowing the decryption of the program content.

The CSS algorithm and keys are supposed to be secret, but as Jim Taylor (author of the Official DVD FAQ) says in his book DVD Demystified, "anyone who thinks it will remain secret for long is delusional." And such as come to pass. Being the clever chaps that they are, a group of hackers in Scandinavia started looking at the many software DVD players (for computer DVD-ROM drives) available. All of these players are supposed to encrypt their built-in activation keys, so hackers can't get at them. This is yet to be confirmed, but according to Patrizio, apparently one (the XingDVD player) didn't do this properly, and the activation key was easily extracted from the program's code. The result is a small utility, now available on the Net, which strips away the CSS encryption, leaving an unencrypted (and massive) audio/video file on your hard drive. This knowledge in hand, these hackers were then able to successfully guess at other activation keys.

Now before everyone starts panicking, and thinking this is the end of the world, let's get a few things straight. First of all, these tools have apparently been available on the Net for several months at least, on pages loaded with "DVD Ripper" utilities. And no one is churning out perfect DVD copies, that you can spin in your DVD players. These files are 600 MB+ in size. So what some people have done, is to convert this audio/video file (the .vob file) into more traditional Internet movie file formats (.avi or .mpg, for example), at a substantial reduction in quality, and copy them onto VCD-formatted CD-R discs. In most cases, this is little better quality than you can get from doing the same thing from a VHS or laserdisc source. If you tried to copy the .vob file itself, and run it in your DVD player, you'd need like 10+ CD-R discs per movie. It also begs the question, why would you want to do this in the first place? What's the advantage of taking a DVD movie, and turning it into a VCD of much less quality? Or simply splitting a DVD movie in higher quality into 10+ discs? Well, there isn't really any reason, unless you're a Hong Kong pirate, and you routinely make lots of illegal VCD movies anyway - this just gives you another tool to do so.

The real problem, will be DVD-R drives, and recordable stand-alone DVD-R players (expected in the first few months of next year), which generate discs that can be played in all current DVD players. These would allow people to copy complete .vob files onto one disc. Now keep in mind, that this hacked software doesn't copy and emulate all of the authoring, so there's no menus and interactivity. But sooner or later, these hackers will probably create their own custom authoring software (if they haven't already), remedying this problem. It remains to be seen how the Hollywood studios will react to all this. This isn't the end of DVD as we know it, folks - I'm told by reliable industry sources that there are a number of measures that can be taken to solve this problem. But I would be surprised if the first move Hollywood makes isn't to put the brakes on the introduction of recordable DVD, until such a time as stronger safeguards can be put in place to prevent this kind of piracy.

Rest assured, we're working closely with some of the players involved in this issue, and we'll have in-depth follow-up in the coming weeks. And we'll be back later today with more, so stay tuned...

11/1/99

So did everyone have a great Halloween weekend? I wish I had a dime for every copy of The Blair Witch Project that probably sold or rented this weekend. And everyone remember to set your clocks back?

We're wrapping up the hardware and software upgrades on the site this afternoon, and we'll be back tomorrow with a full post to catch up. We'll also be back tonight, with a brand new Trivia Contest to kick off the new month. We're going to be doing a new contest EVERY week this month, so there will be lots of chances for you to win great prizes in November - a DVD player, the James Bond DVD collection, copies of many of the Disney animated discs, and lots more.

I hope everyone enjoyed the interview we did last week with Steve Gustafson of DreamWorks, about Saving Private Ryan. I'm sure lots of you are waiting, money in hand, to get your own copy of the disc tomorrow, and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Todd and I have more good interviews in the works for the coming weeks, so stay tuned...

And finally today, we wanted to thank all of you for your support of the Bits. We found out this weekend that we were mentioned in the November 8th issue of Fortune magazine, as "a great site for news and well-written reviews of DVD titles." The issue features a very pro-DVD article on page 201 (called Thou Shalt Buy DVD) - it's definitely worth a look. Unfortunately, Fortune posted our website address incorrectly (they left out the "the" in "thedigitalbits.com"), but we appreciate the spirit and the mention anyway. We work hard on the Bits, but we believe it's our readers who make what we do possible, and worthwhile. So, as always, thank you.

We'll be back tonight with the contest, and tomorrow with lots more. See you then!

10/28/99

Today, we're pleased to present a special Q&A session, with DreamWorks DVD producer Steven Gustafson. Steve answers some of our questions about the studio's DVD work, and their upcoming Saving Private Ryan disc, and more. It's an interesting discussion, and we think you'll come away with a greater appreciation for the approach that DreamWorks takes when it comes to the DVD format. We hope you enjoy it!

Now then, down to other business. You should know that Buena Vista Home Entertainment confirmed with us yesterday, that BOTH the movie-only and special edition versions of their upcoming Tarzan DVD will be in anamorphic widescreen. That's music to our ears (even if the premium price they're charging for these discs strikes something of a sour note here at the Bits).

So you think two Episode I bootlegs isn't enough? Okay... we're hearing about a THIRD now. Bits reader Rick Siote sent us this scan of the cover of another bootleg version, with different markings than the other two. This is just getting more and more interesting, no? Thanks for the scan, Rick!

Another Episode I bootleg

Sony Music also e-mailed us yesterday, with a list of the DVD titles they're working on, and street dates as well:

Ricky Martin - The Ricky Martin Video Collection, Domingo/Kass/Fernandez - Christmastime in Vienna, and Sesame Street: Do the Alphabet (all 11/9), Donna Summer - VH1 Special, Ruffhouse: 10th Anniversary Special, MTV - The Real World: Hawaii, and Sesame Street - 123 Count with Me (all 12/7), Ricky Martin T.V. Special, Pink Floyd - The Wall, MTV - Grind Workout: Tai Funk Aerobics, George Michael - Ladies & Gentlemen: the Best of George Michael, The Family Values Tour, Kathy Smith Personal Trainer, and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Live At The El Mocambo (all 12/14), and Mariah Carey - #1's, Woodstock '99, Celine Dion - All The Way...A Decade of Song, Black Sabbath - The Last Supper, Andy Kaufman - Midnight Special, MTV - Classic Moments, and MTV - Finest Moments (all 1st QTR 2000)

And one of our readers just e-mailed us, to say that he spotted that Saving Private Ryan DVD ad (in which our review is quoted - there's also a VHS version) during the last game of the World Series last night. Wouldn't you know - we completely missed it! Still, we're kind of blown away by the whole thing. Not like Todd and I are the Siskel and Ebert of DVD or anything, but we're still honored by the mention - definitely a first for the Bits on TV. And that's a LOT of people who may have subliminally seen our website address! ;-) Our thanks to Chris for the spot.

We're going to be doing more behind-the-scenes work on the website between now and the weekend, so updates may be spotty. But Todd and I have lots more great stuff in the works, including more interviews, so stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/27/99 - 10:30 PM PDT)

This is just a quick update to announce the winner of this month's Trivia Contest. Congratulations to Harrison Shinn of Pearl City, Hawaii! His name was chosen at random, from the entries of those who correctly guessed all of the covers in our Name That DVD puzzle. Thanks to all 1,141 of you who entered. We're going to be doing multiple contests in November, giving away another DVD player, and lots of great DVD movies, so check back soon for your next chance to win!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/27/99 - 12:45 PM PDT)

Today, we're pleased to finally bring you that interview we've been talking about - a chat with the producer of the Ravenous DVD, David Britten Prior. Todd and I think you'll find it an interesting look into the process of producing for DVD, some of the difficulties and challenges involved, and the reasons one goes through all of the trouble in the first place. We talked with David for a good long while on a lazy Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, and we covered some pretty wide ground - it was a lot of fun. David even gives you a sneak peek at a couple of VERY cool DVDs he's working on right now with Fox, so you definitely don't want to miss this (here's a hint - Brad Pitt's in one of 'em). So it's our pleasure to give you, Jerky Treats!

But that's not all - we've also updated the Rumor Mill today, with some just-in information from our sources, on several good upcoming DVD titles that we can expect for the 1st quarter of 2000. And our friend Reto Waeffler has sent along a scan of the actual Phantom Menace bootleg DVD - the new one we mentioned yesterday. Sure enough, it looks like a completely new disc. You can get a closer look at the new Episode I bootleg here, and compare it to the original bootleg here.

And around the Net today, there's a couple of press releases up at Yahoo (click here and here), which confirm the information we reported a few days ago, about Tarzan premiering on DVD on February 1st, 2000. This will be a movie-only disc, for $39.99 (SRP). In addition, a Tarzan: Collector's Edition DVD, will street on March 21st (for a whopping SRP of $49.99), including audio commentary and lots more. We're also hearing that it will be anamorphic (no word if the movie-only release will be 16x9 as well). An Extremely Goofy Movie will also be released on DVD on Leap Day - Tuesday, February 29th.

And speaking of the Episode I bootleg, The Force.net has a poll up right now, asking readers if they would be willing to wait until 2006 for official Star Wars DVDs, or would they be willing to buy a bootleg in the meantime. Thus far, 28% would buy a bootleg, and another 23% would consider it based on cost.

Finally today, is anyone else as surprised as I am, that Fox Television has decided to cancel Chris Carter's Harsh Realm after airing only three episodes (see news item)? The show got little promotional support, and you can't really judge a show's ratings after only 3 episodes, in a tough Friday night time slot. I mean, come on - there's nobody at home watching TV on Friday nights. Even The X-Files, which debuted in that slot, took almost 2 years to really catch on. This smells suspiciously like someone at Fox harbors a grudge against Carter. I actually watched the premiere, and thought it wasn't half bad - hopefully another network will pick it up. Oh, well...

We'll be back to announce the winner of the Trivia Contest tonight - you have until 7 PM Pacific to get your entries in. Stay tuned...!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/26/99 - 4 PM PDT)

This just in - a Bits reader has just informed us that he's seen yet another bootleg DVD version of Star Wars: Episode I. Reto Waeffler, the owner of a home theater installation company in Switzerland, e-mailed me today with a cover scan (NO, he doesn't sell it, and he can't tell you where to get it, so don't spam him with e-mails asking). What we know at the moment comes from his e-mail:

"Even though the cover says 5.1, the DVD features only 2.0 Dolby Digital, no French Subtitles, but two different permanent subtitles I do not know. The format is 2.35:1 and low quality, at about 3 MB/s (Pioneer DVD player rating). I couldn't find the trailer either, but as the MENU language is CHINESE or whatever FAR EAST language, I was not able to read and navigate. There are six chapter on the DVD and the DOLBY City Trailer."

We aren't sure if this is the same disc as the other Episode I bootleg we've mentioned, or just new packaging for the same disc. But we will investigate, and will have all the details soon. In the meantime, click here or on the image below for a closer look. Looks like Lucasfilm's gonna have their hands full. Thanks again, Reto!

Another Bootleg Episode I (click for a larger view)

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/26/99 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Nope - we haven't disappeared. Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday. We're installing some new software here at the Bits - new ad banner software, and new webmaster screens, and it's talking a lot of work to get it done. Part of the improvements we're doing a little at a time here.

We've got that interview transcript ready to go - we're just waiting for one necessary piece of information to come in before we can post it, and as soon as we get it, we'll put it up for you. Todd and I have been VERY busy, over the last couple of weeks, doing lots of new interviews here at the Bits. Takes a lot of time to research a good interview, then fact check and get everything transcribed. But we're definitely working to bring lots of fun new content to the site.

Over the weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a get together of Orange County, CA members of the excellent Home Theater Forum. The event was hosted by Kevin Sorkin, and there was a terrific turnout. We had great food, great discussion, and lots of people brought prizes to raffle off - discs and things. I also gave those attending an early sneak preview of Saving Private Ryan, and Roy Orbison Black & White Night, and let them see what a real bootleg DVD looks like - the Titanic disc from way back. Anyway, I really had a great time, and got to meet some good people, many of them loyal Bits readers, and talk DVD with them. What could be a better way to kill an afternoon? Thanks for all the hard work, Kevin! We'll have to do it again sometime.

Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News Page, to include American Pie, Bowfinger, Mystery Men, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the original Dracula and more from Universal, and lots of other good titles as well. Do check it out.

Thanks for your patience as we get some much needed upgrading done around the site. We'll be back with more as soon as possible, so stay tuned!

10/22/99

Okay, we've finally got that review up. In keeping with their push to release TONS of music DVDs, Image Entertainment is about to release the live concert program, Roy Orbison: Black & White Night on the format (street date 11/9). And the disc is one of the very first concert discs to feature both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 on the same disc (and you can switch between tracks on the fly)! I think you'll enjoy both the review and the disc, so do check it out.

Speaking of Image, they've again updated their DVD News page, to list a number of new titles, including a Disney Animated DVD Gift Set, and lots of Columbia/TriStar discs. Disney's also creating a time capsule to commemorate the first-ever DVD release of Pinocchio (see press release). In other news today, CEMA has reported their DVD player sales numbers for the 2nd week of October - 30,856 units sold into retail (we updated the listing above and the full chart). That Episode I DVD auction on Ebay is up to over $300 clams - yikes. And The Force.net's got some actual screen shots of the disc (just slide about halfway down the page). Finally today, the USA Today has an article up on how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has set guidelines for studios to send Oscar voters DVDs to screen Academy Award candidates.

One important note: Buena Vista Home Entertainment has provided me with their Consumer Hotline phone number, that those with the Halloween H2O disc can call to resolve their situation: 800-723-4763.

That interview transcript we mentioned yesterday is being pushed until Monday, but it will definitely be ready by then. Trust me... it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, have a great weekend everyone! Stay tuned...

10/21/99

First things first - we've got a pair of VERY cool DVD reviews for you today: Artisan's The Blair Witch Project: Special Edition, and Fox's Ravenous. This has been a crazy couple of days around here (more on that in a minute), but we've got another cool review almost finished - a look at Image's new Roy Orbison: Black & White Night, which includes BOTH Dolby Digital and DTS on the same disc. We'll be posting that as soon as we can. Tomorrow, with any luck, we'll have that cool interview ready for you (that we've alluded to recently).

Well, you may have noticed some changes around the website. We've been planning on rolling out a true Version 2.0 of the Bits for some time now, but our daily work has kept us so busy, that we haven't been able to do it all at once. So onto Plan B - a gradual transition to 2.0!

Here's what we've done so far: the background has been changed, to be a much smaller graphics file (thus loading faster!), and we've changed the button bar on the left somewhat. Specifically, we've reordered the buttons from top to bottom, to reflect what people are looking for most of the time. We've also added a button that takes you to our Trivia Contest page, and we've done away with the Studio & DVD News button. In fact, we've done away with that whole section of the site. The reason for this, is that all of the DVD news we post here at the Bits, tends to go into one of two sections. Official information is posted in this column on a daily basis, and unofficial (specifically yet-to-be-announced) information always goes in the Rumor Mill. We hadn't updated the studio pages in months, and having so many pages to update every time news came in was really putting a damper on the amount of stuff we could post every day. Plus, we were having a few people e-mail us and say, "Why haven't you updated your website in months?" Which would cause us to scratch our heads, and think, "Huh?" So now, when you go to one of the old studio pages, you get a page redirecting you here. We've also made some changes to the Review section, condensing some of the alphabetized listings, and adding a page for special Series-style reviews, like our recent Bond coverage.

We're planning other site upgrades as well, such as a search engine to access our old articles and all of our reviews more easily. Don't expect them anytime in particular - we're going to just add and change and tinker with things now and again until we're happy. And then we'll call it 2.0! But the result should be a faster-loading, easier to use Bits, and one that should be easier for us to maintain, letting us concentrate on doing more reviews and feature stories. Also, I think we've decided to avoid going to frames here on the site - it's just too much of a pain in the you know what, and lots of people still have trouble with them anyway.

Yesterday, we talked about the possible release of Disney's Tarzan on DVD next year. Word from a loyal Bits reader, is that the new Winnie the Pooh holiday video includes a trailer for Tarzan, and says, "Coming to video and DVD February 1, 2000."

One last thing today - you may want to check out our fellow IGN affiliate The Force.net, which did a great editorial about the lack of Star Wars on DVD yesterday. The editorial was prompted by our recent revelation of bootleg Episode I DVDs appearing here and there. They also find it inconceivable that Lucas wishes to wait until after Episode III is done before releasing the series on DVD. Demand for the DVDs is high, and people will fill it any way they can - even buying bootleg discs. The bootleg disc has even appeared on Ebay - figures.

Well, have a good evening, and we'll see you back here tomorrow! Stay tuned...

10/20/99

We've waiting to hear back from Buena Vista Home Video, but it looks as if they've got plans to release Tarzan on DVD next year, probably day & date with VHS. The evidence for this comes from Disney's official DVD website, over at Disney.com. Slide on down the page, and you'll see that they've got Tarzan listed as coming soon, along with Inspector Gadget (which is a December title). I think most of us expected this - look for the DVD to be released sometime early next year.

We've got a bunch of upcoming DVD title information in today's Rumor Mill, so do check it out.

Retailer Video City has announced plans for an aggressive rollout of DVD products in their nationwide locations (some 77 in all in the U.S.). Click here to read their press release.

Hollywood Video is hosting a video premiere party for The Blair Witch Project tomorrow night (10/21) at their Wilshire Blvd. store in Los Angeles. Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez will be there in person, and the event is being webcast live on the Internet. Click here for all the details.

Synapse's Don May, Jr. has sent over more cover art and menu screens for you to sneak preview, this time for their upcoming DVD release of Deadbeat at Dawn (click here for all the details from Synapse). Here's the artwork for you:

Deadbeat at Dawn: Special Edition Deadbeat at Dawn menus

Deadbeat at Dawn menus

Finally today, we thought we'd follow up yesterday's post on the Episode I bootleg with a cool casting idea for Episode II. There's been a lot of criticism about The Phantom Menace, for not being dark enough (or serious enough) for adult fans - in short, just too much kid's stuff. So imagine casting Chow Yun-Fat in Episodes II & III, as either...

A) a Jedi Knight
B) a Sith Lord
C) Boba Fett

Chew on that one for a while, and let me know what you think... ;-)

Stay tuned...

10/19/99

Those of you who are thinking of picking up Halloween: H20, should be aware that the disc DOES NOT include the DTS soundtrack or the director's commentary track mentioned on the sticker labels or the packaging. Buena Vista has gotten back to us on this, and they tell us that the error is one of a packaging misprint. These extras were apparently dropped from the disc quite a while ago (for whatever reason), and the people who were doing the cover artwork and packaging were not made aware of this. Buena Vista will be reprinting the disc artwork, and they will handle the situation for consumers in one of three ways: 1) you will be able to exchange your incorrect case insert for a corrected one, 2) you will be able to get a complete refund for returning the disc if you so choose, or 3) you will be able to exchange the disc for another title of similar price. All of these options will be handled by mail, and we'll have the address and return/exchange information for you as soon as Buena Vista is ready and makes it available. Most importantly, Buena Vista wants you to know that this was completely unintentional, and they apologize for the error and any inconvenience it's caused.

Now then... on to business. We've got Bond pretty well covered now, folks. As promised, our full-length review of MGM's Licence to Kill: Special Edition is now available, completing our look at this first set of James Bond Special Edition DVDs (which streets today). Todd has also got a look at the latest entry in Universal's Classic Monster collection, with his review of The Wolf Man. Speaking of classic monsters, The Bride of Frankenstein also streets today. And that cool Image title, Computer Animation Marvels is also now available.

FYI - Image Entertainment's DVD News page was again recently updated to include several more New Line titles (Drop Dead Gorgeous among them). And did you know that Disney's got a special DVD offer going right now? If you buy all 9 of their upcoming classic animated titles, they'll give you two others free. Click here for all the details.

Finally today, we've had a LOT of people ask where you can purchase that Episode I bootleg DVD. The Digital Bits cannot (and will not), endorse the sale of bootleg discs, and so we do not plan to provide that information. While I agree that George Lucas could go a LONG way toward discouraging the sale of bootleg DVDs of the Star Wars films by releasing even basic editions of them, the sale and purchase of these unauthorized discs hurts the format, and all of us in the long run. But you folks at Fox and Lucasfilm take heed - to date, almost all of the films that have been pirated on bootleg DVDs, have been pirated because of the very fact that NO AUTHORIZED DVD IS AVAILABLE! If George decides to wait, as he claims, until Episode III is done before releasing any of the films on DVD, this problem is going to explode. Heck - I'd even consider picking up a bootleg copy if the alternative is having to wait until 2003! This is silly. Do you know how many people would shell out for even basic movie-only versions of the Star Wars films on DVD right now? Pretty much everybody with a player. Hell, I'll get in line right now if you tell me when and where. And I'll have no problem also paying $200 for Lucas' DVD special edition, blue laser, packed-to-the-gills, ultimate smack-down, kick-ass boxed set of all of the films in 2003, or whatever the hell. But enough is enough. Give the people what they want, George. Don't string us along - you're the one who got us all hooked in the first place. Well, now we've got our lunch money ready, and we want the goods. It's time to deliver. Or else, your faithful fans will get it somewhere else, inferior quality be dammed. And judging from the HUNDREDS of e-mails I've gotten begging for information on how to buy these bootlegs, they will find a way to get them eventually. Enough said.

Stay tuned...

10/18/99

Everyone have a great weekend? As you might have heard, we had little rocking and rolling going on here in Southern California early Saturday morning. Nothing like a little earthquake to get your blood going. It's amazing how many people I talk to, who don't live in California, who ask how we can deal with earthquakes. Californians, on the other hand, always marvel at how anyone else can deal with tornadoes and hurricanes! Guess no place is perfect, and it's all what you're used to.

Today's post is late thanks to more cable modem problems, but I've got a full-length review of MGM's re-issue of the Tomorrow Never Dies: Special Edition now posted. It's actually a composite review, which also looks at the earlier DVD releases of this film. And our look at the entire First Wave of the James Bond DVD Collection will be complete tomorrow, when we post our review of Licence to Kill, so stay tuned.

One last quick note before I head off and start working on tomorrow's post (the work is never done it seems) - I received a copy of Columbia's new Muppets From Space DVD today, and what a blast it is! The disc includes Ghostbusters-style live commentary, except that this time around, it features director Tim Hall, along with Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo. It's almost as entertaining as the film itself. This is a fun disc, and you can expect a full review to be posted here very soon.

Back tomorrow!

10/15/99

We've got come nifty DVD stuff to cover today around the Internet. First of all, Warner held a brief chat with some of the folks who worked on The Matrix DVD - you'll find the complete transcript over at their Matrix Virtual Theater. Keep in mind, that the biggest event by far is yet to come - on November 6th, you can chat live with the Wachowski Brothers (who wrote and directed the film) themselves! All the details can be found on the site, so definitely don't miss it! You can read a press release on this event as well.

Our friends over at IGN.com (of which the Bits is an affiliate site) have managed to get themselves an exclusive Fight Club trailer, created by David Fincher himself, for all of you to check out. Can't wait to see this flick.

DVD Express has a fun Halloween promotion going on. If you buy any two DVDs from them that ship in October, you'll get a Halloween PEZ dispenser free along with 'em. Cool!

We've updated our CEMA DVD player sales numbers, to include the 40,475 units sold in the first week of October (week ending 10/8). Check the full chart and the listing above for the details.

Finally today, we'd like to send out a note of thanks to the folks at DreamWorks. We just heard from them today, that they've created TV spots specifically for the Saving Private Ryan DVD, which will start airing on your favorite shows as early as next week. And they'll include a quote from our review of the disc here at the Bits. What can we say but thanks, and we're VERY honored!

We've got a whole lot of great stuff lined up for you for next week, including lots more reviews, and even some nifty interviews. We'll be wrapping up our look at the Bond discs, as well taking a look at Warner's new Wizard of Oz, and Universal's The Wolf Man. We'll also give Fox's Ravenous a close look, and feature an exclusive interview with disc's producer. And we've got another special interview in the works, that you will definitely not want to miss.

So have a great weekend, and stay tuned!

10/14/99

Our look at MGM's upcoming James Bond DVD Collection continues today with a full-length review of Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only: Special Edition. And we've updated our close-up look at the Episode I bootleg DVD, with a full-size scan of the actual disc itself, so do check it out.

Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News page again, to include a host of upcoming titles. Among the titles listed are The General's Daughter, Presidio and Stalag 17 from Paramount, Mickey Blue Eyes and a slew of National Graphic DVDs from Warner, Farewell My Concubine, Rogue Trader, Summer of Sam, Supercop 2 and more from Buena Vista, and special editions of The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Dick and Easy Rider from Columbia TriStar.

Vampyros Lesbos Special Edition DVD Also, we've got a few more Upcoming DVD Cover scans, including Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, Summer of Sam, The Very Thought of You, Supercop 2 and more. And we've even got more shots of the menu pages from the upcoming Disney animated DVDs, this time with Peter Pan, The Lion King 2, Lady & the Tramp, and 101 Dalmatians.

Finally today, Don May Jr. has sent over the cover artwork for Synapse's upcoming Vampyros Lesbos DVD, which is expected in November. The special edition DVD will feature a new digital widescreen transfer, uncut German dialogue version with new English subtitles, the "groovy" world famous dance soundtrack (as heard in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown), and lots of other supplemental materials. All you "Psycho-Sexadelic Horror Freak-Out" fans, look out!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/13/99 - 2:15 PM PDT)

At last, we've got some Bond for you! Our full-length review of MGM's new Goldfinger: Special Edition is now up, and we'll be posting the rest throughout the day. Be sure to check our special James Bond DVD Collection page for the others as they become available.

There are a couple of things I wanted to mention to all of you - Mediatrip.com has the complete video of the spoof short film George Lucas in Love available for viewing on their site. If you haven't seen this, it's a very funny parody of the life of young USC filmmaker George Lucas, as he struggles to write Star Wars, done a-la Shakespeare in Love. You can watch it via Real Video, or Windows Media Player, so get on over there, and don't miss it!

The USA Today has another one of those Matrix DVD technical problem stories available, and the New York Times has a good look at the differences between DVD-Audio and SACD.

Finally today, I'd like to point out some news that I find really exciting (even though it isn't exactly DVD related). New Line Cinema has officially announced the start of production on a trio of films based on the J. R. R. Tolkien classic The Lord of the Rings novels! Filming commenced on Monday (10/11) in New Zealand, with director Peter Jackson (The Frighteners and Heavenly Creatures) at the helm, and Saul Zaentz (The English Patient and Amadeus), and Bob and Harvey Weinstein (co-chairmen of Miramax) as executive producers. You can get all of the details at the production's official website, including last week's press release, which reveals the film's impressive cast and crew, and ambitious production plans. As some of you may know, The Lord of the Rings actually encompasses 3 novels - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Believe it or not, New Line is actually shooting all three films at the SAME TIME (and not one after the other, like Back to the Future 2 & 3) - the first time it's ever been done. I can't wait to see what they come up with. Given the talent involved, and the state of CGI effects, can you imagine how amazing these films could be? Very cool.

As always... stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/13/99 - 3:30 AM PDT)

While up late working on the Bond reviews (what is it - like 3AM?), I received something VERY interesting via e-mail that I had to share with you immediately. You remember that Star Wars Episode I bootleg DVD that I mentioned a while back? Well a Bits reader has managed to get his hands on a copy, and he sent along a long-awaited cover scan. Click on the image below for a much large, more detailed look at it.

Episode I bootleg DVD

We'll have more details on this as soon as they come in. Just thought you'd find this interesting. I know lots of you Lucasfilm guys read this page every day - give me an e-mail on this one and let's chat, shall we? Thanks to John for the scan, and Fredric for first reporting it to us!

Back later with more...

10/12/99

The Bond reviews are almost done, folks. I want to post them all at once, and I've got 4 reviews for you in all - Goldfinger, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, and Tomorrow Never Dies (which is simply a reissue in new packaging). I've been working hard on them, and will get them up as soon as they're finished. And you can look forward to screen shots of the nifty menus on all these discs, just like before.

In the meantime, we've posted Todd's look at New Line's The Corruptor (Platinum Series), starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg. I watched this disc myself recently, and I can tell you that it looks and sound gorgeous - there's some really vibrant color in this picture. It's a fun film too.

In other news, ETown is reporting from the Tokyo Electronics Show, and has word that Panasonic intends to be selling recordable DVD in the U.S. by Spring 2000. Toshiba and Hitachi also announced recordable players for next year. And you may be aware that last night in New York, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba accepted Emmy awards for technical achievement, for the development of the DVD format (see Panasonic's press release, Toshiba's, and Sony's - note that Toshiba's statement also mentions their upcoming progressive scan players). The most interesting thing I noticed in all of this hoopla, is the glaring omission of DVD-Audio in the Sony statement, made by Sony Electronics president and CEO, Dr. Teruaki Aoki. Here's the quote: "This award is important because it not only recognizes Sony's role in the standardization of the format, but our ongoing commitment to the technology,'' Aoki said. "From DVD-Video and DVD-ROM hardware products, to digital content creation, DVD authoring and distribution, we have embraced DVD like no other company.'' Anybody else find the omission interesting? I have 4 letters for you: SACD. Guess they're not quite as supportive of the WHOLE DVD format as they claim...

Finally today, we've got some interesting scuttlebutt for you on a pair of major Fox DVDs, a "super" Warner flick, and a much-desired Paramount series as well - look for it all in today's Rumor Mill.

Stay tuned...

10/11/99

This is just a quick update, to let you all know that our October Trivia Contest has now started. We've been so busy that we missed the September contest, and boy did we ever hear about it! Seems a lot of people out there enjoy doing Sarah's puzzles. This month, she's cooked up another of those "Name That DVD" challenges. And we're very pleased to welcome aboard a brand new sponsor for our Trivia Contest - Access DVD. I first became acquainted with Access DVD back when I was doing the Digital Man Radio Show every week - Access DVD was a major sponsor of the show. They're great folks, and they've got excellent prices and service, so if you're looking to buy movies online, do check them out. As for prizes, we're giving away a Pioneer DV-525 DVD player this month, and the entire first season of Monty Python's Flying Circus on DVD (look for our review soon)! The contest will run until 7 PM PDT, on Wednesday, October 27th - we'll announce the winner that evening. It's a fun one this month, so be sure to get your entries in for you chance to win!

We'll be back later today with more. And just to let you know, the Bond reviews were delayed over the weekend - Todd and I were instead conducting a tag-team phone interview with an L.A.-area DVD producer, who is currently working on some very cool upcoming titles. We'll have the full transcript of the interview later this week. In the meantime, I'll be working to post the Bond reviews later today. So check back soon, and thanks for your patience!

10/8/99

Wow - I guess we didn't realize that September had 5 weeks, so CEMA numbers just came in for week 5, and we've just set a brand new DVD player sales record (and how!): 501,502 players shipped into retail in just 1 month! The grand total for Region 1 thus far, is now: 3,725,207. We've updated our CEMA page, and the listing above. 4 million here we come...

Those of you who read my Joan or Arc review yesterday, know that I'm a big fan. Well, we've got a cool link for you. CBS has their Joan of Arc website still up, and it's got some special edition materials that weren't on the disc: lots of still photos, video highlights, Real Audio clips of director's commentary on the battle scenes, and an interview with the producer. Thanks, James, for the tip!

I'll be posting those Bond reviews starting this evening, so keep your eyes peeled for them. In the meantime, Doogan's taken a good look at Universal's upcoming Bride of Frankenstein, so do check that out.

Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News page once again, and you'll find the latest on new titles from Warner like Before Sunrise (in 16x9!), The Big Sleep, Black Beauty, Deep Blue Sea, and lots more from New Line, HBO and other studios.

And none other than Don May, Jr. himself has informed us that Synapse Films has just announced the DVD release of Organ, by filmmaker Kei Fujiwara. The disc will SRP for $29.98, and is expected in January 2000. It'll include:

· Uncensored Version Re-Mastered from Original Film Elements
· Presented Full-Frame in the Original 1.33:1 Theatrical Aspect Ratio
· Japanese Language Edition with English Subtitles
· An Exclusive Look at Scenes from Organ 2

As you can probably guess from the title, Organ isn't for the faint of heart! Thanks to Don for the info!

We'll be back later today, and throughout the weekend with the Bond stuff. And look for the October Trivia Contest to start this weekend as well. By the way, thanks to everyone who send birthday wishes via e-mail. Yes, I am an old man, and yes, I had a great day! Thanks and stay tuned...

10/7/99

We've got another big update for you today. First of all, Todd and I have each posted new DVD reviews. Todd chimes in with his look at Fox's Strange Days, and I've got the skinny on a pair of easily overlooked (but absolutely not to be missed) new discs: Wallace & Gromit and Artisan's new Joan or Arc.

And we've posted more Upcoming DVD Cover Art as well. This time around, we've got some 20 new scans, including a look at such forthcoming titles as Chinatown, Wild Wild West, Creepshow, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Great Santini, Last of the Mohicans, Patton, Muppets From Space, Notting Hill, Hideous Kinky, Falling Down, Clan of the Cave Bear, Star Trek: The Original Series, Volumes 5 & 6 and more. Don't miss it!

Around the Net, be sure to stop on by Image Entertainment, who have updated their DVD News page to include lots of upcoming DVDs from Paramount, Columbia TriStar (can't wait for Heavy Metal), Disney and more (including a slew of Image exclusives). And Sony Music is bursting with good holiday cheer for their upcoming DVD lineup, which includes family classics (see this press release), as well as lots of music DVDs (and this one).

We got a nice surprise in the mail yesterday - screener copies of the remainder of the films in MGM's upcoming Bond Special Edition DVD Gift Set. This new batch is as impressive as the first (you should SEE the cool menus!), and they're equally loaded with extras. We're already hard at work on our reviews, and you can bet we'll be back tomorrow with full-length looks at Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, and Licence to Kill. I'm telling you, this Bond set packs some serious bang for your buck - I'm really impressed.

Now then... I'm off for a rare day of fun and relaxation. I turn 32 today, so I'm gonna mull over the passing of another year, by sharing a pizza and beer with my wife and some friends. Well, okay... I'm the only one who'll be having a beer, but you get the idea. So while I'm out enjoying the day, I hope you all have a great one as well.

Oh, one last thing - thanks to everyone who sent Todd e-mails while he was out on tooth patrol. He got some 300 messages in all, and he says it made his day. Seems like everyone's got a horror story about getting their teeth pulled!

Todd, Frank and I will see you back here tomorrow. Until then... best wishes!

-----crackle of static-----

Hey everybody, this is Todd -- I'm breaking through Bill's Two Cents to raise a cheer for my faithful leader on this site. It's Bill's birthday today, and if anyone in my life deserves a spirited birthday greeting it's good ol' Billy Boy. I really love this guy, and I'm honored to be working with him, as well as Sarah and our newest acquisition Frank Ortiz. Join me in singing a round of Happy Birthday to Bill, on his 32nd year on this blue rock we call home. Happy Birthday, Bill... keep spinning those discs!

-----we now return you to your regularly scheduled program-----

10/6/99

Today, we've got the first installment of our new Frank's Notes editorial column. I wonder how many of you knew that you can all enjoy the benefit of DVD Audio quality sound on your current DVD players? Well you can - several companies are releasing 96/24 music discs, that ONLY be played on your DVD player (but here's the thing - they can be played on almost ALL current players). They aren't 5.1, but having heard a demonstration, I can tell you that 2.0 stereo audio in 96/24 is damn near live-sounding. Anyway, Frank will tell you all about it. Welcome aboard, Frank!

We've got another DVD review for you today - Todd's latest installment in our Nightmare on Elm Street series. This time it's Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

Today's Rumor Mill post includes a ton of new title information, including word on Before Sunrise, Deep Blue Sea and more. And we've got the scoop on what's happening with a Chasing Amy special edition - will it be a Miramax: SE or Criterion?

There are a number of DVD news stories and press releases available today. First of all Reuters has run a brief story on the problems people have been having with The Matrix. Video City and Warner Bros have reached the first-ever DVD revenue sharing agreement (see press release). And Bits sponsor DVD Express has officially launched its studio store (see release), where you can purchase film-themed posters, hats, clothing and other goodies online.

Stay tuned...

10/5/99

First of all today, we'd like to send our congratulations out to the Bits' own DVD music guru, Frank Ortiz. Frank and his lovely wife Jill are celebrating three years of marriage today, and we think that's pretty damn cool. Way to go guys!

And speaking of Mr. Ortiz, he's been pretty busy around here lately. We've got four new music-related DVD reviews for you from Frank today: Criterion's Sid & Nancy, Palm Pictures' Six-String Samurai, Pioneer's B.B. King: Live in Africa, and Sony Music's Pearl Jam: Single Video Theory. And Frank will be back tomorrow, as well, with his first Frank's Notes editorial column - don't miss it!

We've added DVD screen shots for Disney's upcoming Hercules to the shots we posted the other day from Mulan and Pinocchio, so do check them out.

Around the Net today, CEMA is trumpeting the excellent DVD player sales in the first 9 months of this year - more than 2 million players sold in all (see the press release). And Fox is pulling out all the stops for their goofy 25 1/2 Anniversary re-release of Young Frankenstein (see press release). They air-dropped "The Flying Frankensteins" into the tiny hamlet of Frankenstein, Missouri, and they're even renaming the town! One thing to note: other than a new cover, the disc is identical to the previous DVD version. Not to be a party pooper or anything... ;-)

A couple of things you should be aware of: first of all, Buena Vista's new DVD version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit claims to include a theatrical trailer - it doesn't. The film has also been edited, to remove a frame or two of "objectionable" material added by the film's animators as a joke - it's not a big deal, but it is altered from its theatrical release version. And Warner's new DVD re-release of A Christmas Story, which was originally going to include the anamorphic widescreen that the previous MGM pan & scan copy lacked, apparently doesn't. Gggrrrr...

Our friends over at Columbia TriStar have informed us that the Ray Harryhausen classic The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is due to hit DVD on November 30th. The disc will SRP for $27.95, and will include The Ray Harryhausen Chronicles documentary, two interview featurettes (A Look Behind the Voyage and Jason and the Argonauts), This is Dynamation SFX featurette, the original theatrical poster artwork, several awesome trailers (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 20 Million Miles to Earth, Jason and the Argonauts, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, It Came From Beneath the Sea, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad), and talent files. I absolutely can't wait for this DVD!

We've had several people ask when Image's Computer Animation Marvels (which we reviewed yesterday) will be available. FYI - it streets on October 19th.

Finally today, Jim Taylor (Microsoft's DVD Evangelist and author of the Official DVD FAQ) e-mailed me yesterday, to let me know that the Forbes article we mentioned yesterday was in error. Forbes apparently didn't do its homework, because Pioneer and Philips already unveiled the first DVD recorders a month ago. According to Jim, Pioneer's recorder is based on DVD-RW (which is incompatible with MEI's DVD-RAM), and Philips' recorder is based on DVD+RW (also incompatible). Jim says (and I quote), "Recordable DVD is going to be an unholy mess!" I couldn't agree more.

See you tomorrow...

10/4/99

Hope you all had a great weekend. I took some time to catch a couple of great new movies: Happy Texas and American Beauty. Happy Texas is about a pair of prison escapees, who hide out in a little Texas town, and... well I don't want to give anything away. But you should definitely check it out - VERY funny with plenty of laughs. It features William H. Macy, as a hick sheriff - a role that's almost as good as his turn in Fargo. American Beauty is a little tougher to describe. It's an extremely well-created (and very biting) commentary on the modern Nuclear family. And while it's well done, with some great laughs, it's more disturbing than anything else, and I don't think it's as good as everyone is saying. My biggest problem with it, is that the end is just WAY too predictable - I mean, I saw it coming from a mile away. Still, Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are amazing. Just don't go looking for a happy time at the movies.

There's word (via an article in Forbes) that Matsushita (aka Panasonic) will unveil the world's first DVD-Video recordable decks at the upcoming Japan Electronics Show. According to the story, product will hit store shelves in 2001.

We've got some great new reviews for you today. Todd Doogan (fresh from tooth removal recovery) checks in with looks at 8MM, Raising Arizona, and Image Entertainment's cool new Computer Animation Marvels. We've also got a look at some screen shots from Disney's upcoming Mulan and Pinoccho DVDs.

Stay tuned!


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