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page updated: 7/26/00



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 4/6/00 - 3/9/00)


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4/6/00

We've got something special for you today! Yesterday morning, I was fortunate to attend a special press event held by Columbia TriStar Home Video, in honor of their upcoming Stuart Little DVD. On hand were other members of the press (including some of my fellow DVD webmasters) as well as the production staff who worked on the DVD itself, and even the film's director, Rob Minkoff. The event included a special tour of the Sony DVD Center, and I brought my trusty digital camera along to give you all a look behind-the-scenes. So be sure to click here for our coverage of the day's fun - hope you enjoy it! And we'll have our full-length review of the actual Stuart Little DVD for you soon.

In other news, Image Entertainment's DVD News page has again been updated, with a look at a bunch more upcoming titles, including American Movie: Special Edition, Dennis Miller Live in Washington DC, The Three Stooges: All the World's a Stooge, Eye of the Beholder: Special Edition, Blonde: VH1 Behind the Music, American Gigolo, The Firm, Romeo and Juliet, more Star Trek TV series episodes and lots more.

From the Chicago Sun Times comes word that sales of Star Wars Episode I on VHS aren't going as expected. Says the article: "The tape was released Tuesday, the shelves are stocked and the crowds are thin." What was it Gomer Pyle used to say? "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" ;-)

Some of you have been buzzing over a post on a French DVD website that purports to show the DVD cover artwork and menu screens from a forthcoming DVD release of Raiders of the Lost Ark - in 2001 according to the site. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's a fake. That comes officially from Paramount, who had this to say this afternoon: "We are investigating." And I've done enough Photoshop work to spot a cut and paste job when I see one. Notice how the fine print on the cover art is nicely sharp and legible, while the UPC symbol is blurry? Still, someone certainly went to a lot of effort. Nice try.

And finally today, in addition to his work here at the Bits, our own Brad Pilcher is a busy freelance reporter, who writes for Wired.com and other publications. Now that he's seen the other side of the DVD website trade, Brad began wondering just exactly what kind of influence sites like The Digital Bits, DVD File and DVD Review have on the studios who actually make DVDs. So he did a little research, and his story on the subject has just been filed over at Wired.

We'll be back tomorrow with some reviews - stay tuned...

4/5/00

Gasp!! An early update of the Bits? Say it isn't so!

Yep... we decided to sneak in a post in the wee early hours of the morning for a change. How do you like them apples? And we've got some good new reviews for you today too. Todd's taken a look at Universal's new For Love of the Game, starring Kevin Costner. Greg Suarez has also given an older title a spin - Miramax's Pulp Fiction.

And we're very proud to introduce today the final new addition to our review staff: Florian Kummert. Hailing all the way from Germany, Florian is a student at Columbia University, and he's the first international addition to the Bits. He's been studying film for a long time, and after we read some of his writing, his passion for the medium was clear. We knew he'd fit right in around here. We've just posted his look at Criterion's Grand Illusion, the first of what we will hope will be many reviews from Florian. So please join us in welcoming him aboard - drop him an e-mail to say hello! Welcome aboard, Florian!

Now then... some news. Our friends at Anchor Bay have e-mailed us with a bunch of news. Here's just a taste of what you'll find over at their official website:

- Limited Edition tin clarifications and price drop
- Supergirl 2: Limited Edition price drop
- Commentary news on Repo Man and the Ilsa films
- Let Sleeping Corpses Lie - the official release name
- May 2000 releases - cover art and final details are up
- Army of Darkness: Director's Cut to be released in July
- The Midnight Hour on DVD this July
- Times Square coming this October
- Day the Earth Caught Fire, Many Faces of Christopher Lee and other titles just acquired
- Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except finally coming to DVD

Be sure to zip on over there and check it all out!

For those of you anxiously awaiting a first look at New Line's upcoming The Lord of the Rings films, you're in for a treat in a couple of days. The official Lord of the Rings website is gearing up to give those of us on the Internet an exclusive sneak peek at actual footage from the production! Be sure to visit the site on Friday, April 7th for all the excitement.

Speaking of cool films in the works, check out this website for a glimpse of the SCIFI Channel's 6 hour made-for-TV version of Frank Herbert's Dune. The miniseries will run on the cable network in the fall, featuring William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides and Giancarlo Giannini as Emperor Shaddam IV. I hope this is as cool as it could be. Also in the SCIFI vein, the network's acclaimed Farscape series (see the official site) has just arrived on VHS and DVD in the UK - no word yet on an American release.

On the Star Wars front, there are a couple of new articles on Episode I's DVD-less home video debut, and they're not exactly raves. Randall King of the Winnipeg Sun give readers his two cents in Star Bores?. And Bruce Kirkland of the Toronto Sun has actually reviewed the VHS edition in A dearth of Darth (and he's none too kind). $40 for a VHS widescreen edition? Damn, George... what are you thinking?! FYI - our look at the DVD bootlegs discs is almost complete. Look for it soon.

And finally today, some news that we're a bit late in posting (but heck - that's not stopping us!). You may remember the name Steve Gustafson from our Q&A with him about the Saving Private Ryan DVD. Steve did a ton of great DVD work over at DreamWorks, and has now joined the staff of the Complete Post DVD Center in Hollywood, as the division's Vice President. There, he'll oversee the production of DVDs from a number of major studios and content providers. Steve's done a lot for the format, and he's become a good friend. Trust us when we say that we can all expect a lot of great DVD work from the folks at Complete Post now that he's on the job. Congrats, Steve!

We'll be back tomorrow with more DVD fun, so stay tuned. And for those of you who may be wondering, yes... that IS our own Todd Doogan diving for Abyss DVDs! What can we say? He's a Renaissance man... ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 4/4/00 - 4 PM PDT)

Our new Abyss Trivia Contest is now on! All you have to do is correctly answer 5 questions related to the film, and you'll be eligible for our drawing to win one of 10 DVD copies of The Abyss: Special Edition. The contest will run until 7 PM PDT on Sunday, April 9th - the winners will be announced the following morning. So what are you waiting for? Get them entries in fast!

We also have a new Rumor Mill update this afternoon, which includes some titles to expect in Buena Vista's June DVD lineup, as well as delays for The Straight Story and Princess Mononoke.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/4/00 - 12:30 PM PDT)

That Abyss Trivia Contest will be up this afternoon. In the meantime, for those of you who love DVD (and are thus abstaining from rushing out to purchase a $40 VHS widescreen copy of Star Wars: Episode I today), we've got a couple more reviews for you. First up is Brad Pilcher's look at Universal's End of Days: Collector's Edition. And we've also got Doogan's take on the only Best Picture-nominated film to arrive on DVD thus far - Buena Vista's The Sixth Sense: Collector's Edition.

In an interesting twist in the DVD legislation case, First Amendment lawyers have appealed the injunction against websites posting the code, on the grounds that the posts are constitutionally protected free speech and do not meet the test of trade secret infringement. You can read the news blurb here.

We've gotten a lot of e-mails from people wondering about the aspect ratios of the Galaxy Quest DVD. In the theaters, the film opens at 1.33:1 (as we watch an old TV clip) and then widens out to 1.85:1 for about the first 20 minutes or so. Then, when the story moves into outer space, the ratio changes to a much wider 2.35:1. This was done to show the difference in locations, and give the change in location more impact visually. But the DVD goes from from 1.33:1 right to 2.35:1, and some have complained about it. This was done on purpose, and is not an error in the making of the DVD. Director Dean Parisot apparently felt that this aspect ratio effect was lost on the small screen, and so decided to forgo the 1.85:1 stage for the home video and DVD deliberately. Hope that explains it. FYI - the disc streets on May 5th.

Back on the subject of Star Wars... no, we WILL NOT be reviewing the VHS release. In our opinion, that's just silly, and makes no sense whatsoever. We have never covered VHS in these pages, and we never will. We will, however, be taking a closer look at all of the bootleg Star Wars DVDs that are available. Since there are no official DVDs at the moment, lots of you have been buying these bootleg discs, and we think you deserve to know what you're getting. So look for that very soon.

Stay tuned...

4/3/00

We've got some cool hardware reviews for you today. I'm sure many of you have heard of that new player that not only plays DVDs, CDs and discs of MP3 files, but allows you to bypass Macrovision and Region coding - the Apex AD-600A. Well our own Chris Maynard has given it a throughout going-over, and his review is now online. Also today, our friend Digital Man (aka Josh Lehman and Express.com's Doc. DVD) has taken VideoLogic's DigiTheatre DTS for a test spin. It's a complete Dolby Digital/DTS surround sound system in a box, including speakers, and it's worth a look.

We've also got some new DVD reviews up too: Brad Pilcher's look at New Line's forthcoming The Hidden (which streets on 4/18) and Dan Kelly's review of Universal's recent Love and Death on Long Island, starring John Hurt.

And in other news, Image Entertainment's updated their DVD News page again, with the details on a number of new Image-exclusive titles. Among those mentioned are: Asylum, Dreamscape: Special Edition, Fallen Angel, Project Moonbase, Rocketship X-M, Twilight Zone #26 & 27 and Wonderful Planet.

It seems that even Newsweek magazine is getting into "no Star Wars DVD" mode - check out this link: A DVDisturbance in the Force...

Finally, a couple of tidbits according to this week's Video Store magazine. Many of the cast members of Universal's The Skulls were given video cameras, and were asked to document their work on the film for an eventual DVD release (too bad the film wasn't better). And it seems that American Beauty director Sam Mendes is "far too busy" doing press to work on a DVD version of his film right now. Here's what we think might be the real issue: DreamWorks would reportedly like to include multiple endings of the film on the DVD (according to a recent address by studio head of worldwide operations Sandy Friedman, at the recent International Recording Media Forum meeting), but Mendes opposes this idea. We know some kind of DVD has been done - Academy members got the film on DVD as a screener for their Oscar voting...

We'll be back later this evening to start the new contest. We're giving away 10 copies of The Abyss: Special Edition, so be sure to check back!

Stay tuned...

4/1/00

As expected, my e-mail is jammed today with April Tom Foolery... reviews of mythical DVDs like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, news stories of George Lucas apologizing for Jar Jar Binks and even an Elvis sighting. We dig the hume, but have abstained ourselves - the credibility of the Internet is strained enough without making fools of ourselves on purpose. We did seriously consider a gag involving Eyes Wide Shut, but we'll leave it to you imaginations. ;-)

However (and this is no joke), we've announced the winner of our March Trivia Contest. Congratulations to Brian W. Ralston of Tucson, Arizona! Brian was chosen at random from the 1072 entries this month, and takes home the player and movies. You can read his answers to our two questions here. The next contest will start on Monday - thanks to our friends at Fox, we've got 10 spanking new copies of The Abyss: Special Edition to give away, so be sure to check back!

Now then - I'm off to watch Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday!

3/31/00

Okay... I've had a chance to give an early preview copy of DreamWorks' upcoming Galaxy Quest DVD a spin, and my full-length review is now online. When the disc is released on May 2nd, don't ask any questions. Just buy it. You're gonna laugh hard at this flick - trust me on this.

Don't forget that today is the last day to enter our Trivia Contest - get those entries in before 7 PM PST tonight for your chance to win!

Yes... that April 31st date I mentioned yesterday for the end of the Star Wars on DVD Campaign petition WAS an error. As about 200 people e-mailed me to report, there IS no April 31st. So the petition will end on April 30th, m'kay? ;-)

In other news, Image Entertainment has officially launched their new DVD Planet website (read the press release here). And the DVD Entertainment Groups' issued a press release on all of the past & current Academy Award-winning films that are available (or are coming soon) on DVD.

And finally, for those of you who may have wondered what the difference really is between the censored American release of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and the uncensored foreign release, we've got something for you to look at (by way of Harry Knowles' Ain't-it-Cool News). It's a European DVD website with screen shots taken from the Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs, showing exactly how the film was digitally altered. The images aren't for the kiddies, but I think they'll open your eyes. Enough said.

Enjoy your April Fools Day and have a great weekend!

3/30/00

Okay, we've got more reviews. Now... around here, we think Jim Carrey deserved an Best Actor nomination for his performance in Man on the Moon. Since Oscar snubbed him, we decided to give him a little coverage here our way. So our own Greg Suarez has completed a trio of reviews of some of his films on DVD - a Carrey Fest as it were. You can now read Greg's look at Liar Liar: Collector's Edition, Dumb and Dumber and The Mask. And as promised, I'll be back later this evening with my review of DreamWorks' excellent upcoming Galaxy Quest DVD.

Don't forget, this is the last full day for you to enter the March Trivia Contest. The contest closes tomorrow night at 7 PM PST, so get those entries in fast - time's running out. And to give you a sneak peek at what's next, next week we're launching a special contest and giving away 10 copies of The Abyss: Special Edition thanks to our friends at Fox. Don't miss it!

And speaking of time running out, Pete and I have decided that April 31th will be the last day of our joint Star Wars on DVD Campaign's signature drive. We really want to get as many people to sign it as possible in the next 30 days, so please drop on by the petition and sign - it just takes a moment. And be sure to get your friends to do so as well. Thanks!

Stay tuned...

3/29/00

In the spirit of continuing to catch up on loose ends, we've today updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to the most recent version. We've also done a new tally of the signature totals for our joint Star Wars on DVD Campaign with DVD File. As of today, we have 28,238 signatures in our petition to get the Star Wars films on DVD! We're going to be sending the signatures to Lucasfilm soon, so be sure to sign the petition ASAP.

Now then... you may remember that we mentioned Warner's new Stanley Kubrick website a few days ago. The site as just been officially launched, and there's news, press releases, trailer clips and other content on it. But one of the biggest pieces of news, is a press release announcing that director Steven Spielberg is officially going to be writing and directing Kubrick's A.I. (which stands for Artificial Intelligence). A.I. was a project that Kubrick had been developing for years, and he apparently had several conversations about it with Spielberg. The story will reportedly involve a young boy who turns out to be an android (although don't quote me on that). In any case that's pretty cool news in our book. Be sure to check the site out for more.

Image Entertainment's updated their DVD News page again with the latest announcements. Included this time are an Our Town: Special Edition, a Veteran's Day 3-pack (including Tora, Tora, Tora, The Longest Day and Patton) from Fox, boxed sets of The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Lucy Show from Madacy, Gypsy from Pioneer and a ton of other smaller label titles.

And speaking of Image, they've just announced a foreign distribution deal with Nippon Columbia (in Japan) and Warnervision (Australia), so you folks in Japan, Australia and New Zealand will soon have access to lots of great Image-exclusive titles. You can read the full press release here.

Finally today, Columbia TriStar has just announced the DVD release of The Emperor and the Assassin on June 13th. The film won the Grand Technical Award at the 52nd annual Cannes Film Festival. The disc will carry an SRP of $29.95 and will include anamorphic widescreen, director's commentary with Chen Kaige, talent files and production notes. If I read the press release correctly audio will be available on the disc in Dolby Digital 2.0 in the original Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, along with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

We'll be posting several more reviews soon, including our look at DreamWorks' Galaxy Quest. Stay tuned...

3/28/00

We're finally catching up on some loose odds and ends around the site that had fallen by the wayside during our recent move. We've just updated the CEA DVD player sales numbers (both the listing above and the full chart). And we're working on doing some archiving too, of pages like The Rumor Mill, which have grown a bit big in recent weeks. We should have all the housekeeping done by tomorrow.

In the meantime, we've got more reviews for you. I've given Columbia TriStar's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc a look for you. Todd's checked in with Fox's Boys Don't Cry (the film for which Hilary Swank won her Best Actress Oscar), and Brad's weighed in with Columbia TriStar's Labyrinth.

Speaking of Columbia, the studio has just announced it's new Cliffhanger: Collector's Series DVD, which will street on June 13th. The disc will carry a $29.95 SRP, and will include the "making of" featurette Stallone on the Edge, as well as audio commentary with Stallone and director Renny Harlan, a second commentary with the effects crew, three deleted scenes with commentary, a special introduction by the director, 2 effects featurettes, storyboard comparisons and a pair of photo galleries. The video will be anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 audio.

Our friends over at the Home Theater Forum have posted their online photo scrapbook of their recent trip to California. They took lots of behind-the-scenes photos during special tours of a number of studios and DVD production facilities, and I think you'll find it worth a look.

Stay tuned...

3/27/00

So what did everyone think of the Academy Awards last night? I actually thought the show was better produced than it's been in years, but since most of the nominations were pretty predictable, it still ended up being rather boring to watch. There were just no real surprises, and no great "Oscar moments". In any case, click here for a full list of the winners.

Now then, we've got a whole bunch of great reviews coming for tomorrow and the rest of the week. But today, we've got something special for you - a sneak peek at the menus for Paramount's upcoming Sleepy Hollow DVD! And we've got some DVD news for you today as well. Let's start with this from Doogan:

Manga Entertainment just let us know that some pretty cool anime is coming up on April 25th. First up is The Castle of Cagliostro, the first film written and directed by anime pioneer and visionary Hayao Miyazaki -- the genius behind Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro. Cagliostro will be digitally restored both in video and sound, and will be presented in letterbox format (no word if it'll be anamorphic) with English and Japanese DD 2.0 tracks. Next up from Manga is Go Nagai's Devilman! Both episodes (The Birth and Demon Bird) will be available on one DVD, presented full frame with a remastered English DD 5.1 track. Last but not least is Perfect Blue, an edgy noir anime that really has to be seen to believed. It'll be pretty loaded with DD 5.1 tracks in Japanese and English, and it will feature the uncut director's cut version presented letterbox (again no word on if it will be anamorphic). All three discs will have some special edition material and will retail for $29.95. Keep your eyes open for a bargain online.

Thanks, Todd. Now then... Columbia TriStar has announced the DVD release of Girl, Interrupted on June 6th. The disc will SRP for $27.95 and will include audio commentary by director James Mangold, deleted scenes (also with commentary), an HBO: First Look documentary on the film, the isolated score, and talent files. It will, of course, be in anamorphic widescreen.

Last but not least, Image Entertainment has a great batch of titles coming up in May and beyond. Nancy Sinatra's Emmy Award-winning television special Movin' with Nancy will include a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, as will Peter Frampton: Live in Detroit (which will also feature a 5.1 DTS soundtrack). The exciting IMAX documentaries The Discoverers and Stormchasers will each be available with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood, a six-hour documentary hosted by Kenneth Branagh about the history of European filmmaking, is coming on one DVD-18 disc. And later in the summer, the "best-of" special AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies will be presented in its full-length 10-hour version in one package. The new special AFI 100 Years, 100 Stars will debut as well.

Speaking of classic films, the influential and little-seen World War II film The Story of G.I. Joe, starring Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum, will make its DVD debut in May, along with special editions of the Charles Chaplin classics The Gold Rush, Monsieur Verdoux and a double-feature of A King in New York and A Woman of Paris. Bruce Brown's surfing classic The Endless Summer will be coming the same month, along with a selection of his other titles.

In June, the 1984 Dennis Quaid science-fiction film Dreamscape will be released with both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtrack, new anamorphic video transfer, and extensive supplements. The classic Merchant-Ivory film A Room with a View, starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Dame Maggie Smith, will also be coming, along with the Steve Guttenberg comedy Short Circuit. Quiet Days in Hollywood, a 1999 indie production starring Oscar winner Hilary Swank, will debut in July, while August will see the availability of Stephen Sondheim's musical A Little Night Music, starring Elizabeth Taylor. Along other musical lines, Image continues its predominance in the field with new concerts, including Steely Dan: Two Against Nature, The Cranberries: Beneath the Skin - Live in Paris, Tony Bennett's New York, New York and Brian Wilson's classic Imagination, all featuring both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Image will also release BET music productions by Jeffrey Osborne, Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls and Bobby Womack, all with dual DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Finally, the epic I Claudius will come to DVD in late summer with ancillary materials.

We'll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, be sure to get your Trivia Contest entries in. Remember - everyone can enter! Stay tuned...

3/26/00

It's Oscar time again folks! So of course, we had to have a little fun with it all. Our Oscar-themed Trivia Contest is now on, and it will run for one week (until Friday, March 31st). Everyone can enter this time - there's no right or wrong answers. So be sure to get your entries in fast!

Now then... in the spirit of the day (and just for fun), Todd and I (site editor Bill Hunt - FYI) have decided to give you our picks for tonight's top awards. We'll tell you who we think will win, and who deserves it most. So here we go...

Best Picture

Todd says American Beauty will win, and deservedly so. I say The Cider House Rules deserves to win, but American Beauty will take. And where's Being John Malkovich?

Best Director

Todd says Sam Mendes for American Beauty will walk away with it, but Lasse Hallstrom for Cider House Rules is the more deserving. I think Spike Jonze for Being John Malkovich ought to get the nod - but since his film didn't make the cut, look for Sam Mendes to win here. And why isn't Three Kings director David O. Russell on this list?

Best Actor

This is a tough one, 'cause we like all these guys a lot - all amazing performances. Todd says Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) will win, but Denzel Washington (The Hurricane) deserves it. I'd have to agree that this is Kevin Spacey's year, but I'd give it to Russell Crowe (The Insider). And I can't help hoping that Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story) sneaks away with it, 'cause that would just be a great moment to see.

Best Actress

Todd says Hillary Swank (Boys Don't Cry) will win and deserves to. I'd have to agree that Swank deserves it the most, but giving the Academy's leanings, I think Annette Bening (American Beauty) will walk away with the statue.

Best Supporting Actor

Todd says Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) will take, and that he deserves to do so. I think also think Caine will and should win, but I'd love to see the statue go to Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile). I'm a sucker for great Oscar moments, and Duncan's run up to the podium would be as fun as Roberto Benigni's.

Best Supporting Actress

Both Todd and I think Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) will walk away with it, but both of us would give our votes to Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense).

Best Original Screenplay

Once again, Todd and I are in agreement. American Beauty will win this award, but if there was a better original screenplay this year than Being John Malkovich, we haven't seen it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Just give it to Election. Why? Have you seen Election? We liked Cider House Rules, but Todd and I both think Election will and deserves to win.

Well there you have it! Don't forget to tune in tonight to see what happens (5:30 PST - ABC TV). And remember - you can visit the Oscar website too. Have a great night, and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning!

3/24/00

Well... it's Friday at last, and we've got some more great reviews for you to enjoy. First up, I've given Fox's new Walking with Dinosaurs a look, and it's one of the coolest and most surprising DVDs I've had to pleasure to watch in some time (street date 4/18). Todd Doogan's got his two cents for you on Artisan's acclaimed The Limey, and it's another disc you won't want to miss. Rounding things out today, Brad Pilcher's got his reviews of MGM's The Graduate: Special Edition and Columbia TriStar's Bandits. We've got more great reviews coming next week, including The Messenger and more, so do check back.

In the meantime, we're going to be launching our March Trivia Contest this weekend, and it's one EVERYONE can enter. All you'll have to do is watch the Oscars on Sunday night (on ABC), and then answer two simple questions for us about the winners and losers. There are no right or wrong answers here - everyone who participates will be entered in the drawing for a brand new DVD player and 3 movies of your choice. We'll start the contest on Sunday, so check back then, and be sure to watch the Oscars so you can enter!

In other news, our partners over at IGN.com have announced the results of the Anti-Awards voting, so be sure to stop on by and check it out.

Now then, from all of us at The Digital Bits, have a great weekend. And Todd, Frank, Sarah and I want to send out our thanks and congratulations to our entire staff of new reviewers (Brad, Greg, Dan and Chris) on their first full week of spinning discs for us. Welcome aboard everyone!

Stay tuned...

3/23/00

We've got 4 new disc reviews for you today, and there's new and old titles in the mix. First up is Todd Doogan's look at Troma's new Cannibal! The Musical. Brad Pilcher checks in with his look at a recent classic, Miramax's Life is Beautiful. Also up is Greg Suarez with his thoughts on Buena Vista's Quiz Show. And rounding out the offerings for today is Dan Kelly's review of Trimark's Eve's Bayou. We'll be back tomorrow with more reviews - I'll even chime in on one.

In other news, Image Entertainment has once again updated their DVD News page to include new announcements of Sleepy Hollow: Special Edition, Galaxy Quest (in DTS), Man on the Moon, Marnie, Snow Falling on Cedars: Special Edition, The Fighting Seebees, Flying Tigers, End of the Affair, Guns of Navarone and lots more.

Video Store Magazine is reporting that Blockbuster is moving into the used DVD game, similar to the way they sell "previously viewed" VHS tapes in many of their stores. Discs are offered at prices that are in the $14.99 to $19.99 range.

Also, one of our readers discovered a DVD-related article in a recent issue of the USA Today. Here's his report (thanks, Billy!):

"Just thought you might want to know that USA Today had a snippet in their March 16, 2000 issue. The headline is "DVD TO DEEP-SIX VHS". The article says that "Sales of digital video discs will surpass VHS sales by 2003, according to a study by Baskerville Communications. Analysts estimate that worldwide sales of DVDs will top $9.1 billion this year, compared with $31.8 billion for VHS. The balance will begin shifting when recordable DVD players are released next year." Just thought that this was pretty interesting DVD reading."

Don't forget to check in on that Matrix Live Event tonight at 9 PM EST (6 PM PST).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/22/00 - 2:30 PM PST)

Review time! Brad Pilcher's checked in with a look at Columbia TriStar's new Jakob the Liar DVD. We're also very pleased to introduce another new disc reviewer today: Dan Kelly. Dan's a fellow Minnesotan, and works on staff with the Minnesota AIDS Project, where he edits their out-going publications. He's a great writer, as we think you'll see, and Todd and I are very glad to have him on The Digital Bits team. His first review for us is up today - a look at Fox's Best Laid Plans: Special Edition. So give his stuff a read, and be sure to drop him an e-mail to say hello: dankelly@thedigitalbits.com.

Also, just a reminder - on Thursday, March 23rd, Warner will be holding their second online event related to their Matrix DVD. Everyone who signs on will get the chance to experience a live chat with film editor Zach Staenberg, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta and sound designer/supervising sound editor Dane Davis. The event will start at 9 PM EST (6 PM PST), and you can register for it via the "Online Events" section of your DVD (using a PC DVD-ROM drive), or by going straight to The Matrix Virtual Theater online. It should be a fun event, so you might want to check it out.

Finally, we've updated yesterday's Rumor Mill post on Braveheart - the disc had been planned to street on June 6th, but has been pushed back a bit (it will now likely street in August). Before you fret over the delay, take my word for the fact that it's for a very good reason - the result will be noticeably higher quality when you finally have the disc in your hands.

Hope you enjoy the reviews! See ya tomorrow...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/22/00 - 12:30 PM PST)

We've got some Universal DVD news for you today. The studio has announced that they'll be releasing Conan the Barbarian, Man on the Moon, Alfred Hitchcock's Marine and Snow Falling on Cedars on May 30th. All of the titles feature anamorphic widescreen. Conan will be a Collector's Series disc, which should include audio commentary with director John Milius and star Arnold Schwarzenegger, a documentary, trailers, a photo gallery and production notes. Man on the Moon will feature dual DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, a documentary on Andy Kaufman, a behind-the-scenes featurette, trailers and production notes. Marnie will also be a Collector's Series DVD, with a documentary, production notes and photos and a trailer. And Snow Falling on Cedars will feature audio commentary with director Scott Hicks, a featurette on the Menzanar internment camp, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, production notes and a trailer. Snow and Man on the Moon will carry a $24.98 SRP, while the Collector's titles will SRP for $29.98.

And Criterion's PR film has announced a slate of titles that they've got in the works for the remainder of the year (many of which you may recall from our Conversation with Criterion's Peter Becker). First up in June is a W.C. Fields Collection (containing six of his films), along with his Bank Dick and the classic And God Created Woman. July should see Olympia, along with The Lady Eve, Element of Crime, Knife in the Water, Children of Paradise and The Harder They Come. The late Akira Kurosawa's famed The Hidden Fortress is on tap for August, along with Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, and new versions of Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible I & II and Alexander Nevsky. Sisters and the original The Blob are set to follow in September, with Black Narcissus and The Ruling Class slated in October, and The Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter, Josef von Steernberg's The Scarlet Empress and Cries & Whispers planned for November. Other titles in the works at Criterion include Kubrick's Spartacus, Douglas Sirk's All that Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind, October, Tales of Hoffman and Le Million.

In other news, we've discovered a pretty interesting article on the legal wrangling over the CSS encryption hack over at the Law News Network. Discussed in the article are the various positions and legal implications of the issue, and whether the various parties have unrealistic expectations as pertains to the law in this case. Don't miss it.

We'll be back in an hour or two with more DVD reviews, so stay tuned...

3/21/00

We've got some cool information in today's Rumor Mill for you - an update on the status of Braveheart, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Planet of the Apes and Desperately Seeking Susan.

We also have 3 more new DVD reviews - Brad Pilcher's take on Columbia TriStar's The Big Brass Ring and (no we're not kidding) Warner's Pokemon: The First Movie. Doogan's also given Warner's 187 a spin, so do check them all out.

In DVD news, Columbia TriStar's officially announced The Guns of Navarone for May 23rd. It should be awesome, featuring new audio commentary by director J. Lee Thompson, a retrospective documentary and no less than 4 featurettes, a message from screenwriter Carl Foreman, production notes and talent files. Naturally, the DVD will be in anamorphic widescreen with newly-remixed 5.1 audio and the original 2.0 track as well. Pick it up for the $24.95 SRP, and be happy, happy, happy. And coming on June 6th from the studio, are The Eyes of Laura Mars, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Foxfire. Sinbad includes several featurettes and vintage advertising, and will be in the original full frame aspect ratio with mono sound. Laura Mars will include new commentary with director Irvin Kershner (also known for directing The Empire Strikes Back), a featurette, original production photos and more. All three will SRP for $24.95.

Finally today, Warner and a company called Xenon have announced a new partnership to use Xenon's new low-temperature DVD bonding process at Warner's WAMO DVD replication facility (read the press release here). The process is reportedly more efficient, and should result in less defective discs and higher overall production capacity. We're wondering if Warner didn't test this process on their upcoming Three Kings DVD, which is RSDL dual-layered, but isn't the familiar gold color usually associated with dual-layered discs. We'll let you know when we find out.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/20/00 - 3:15 PM PST)

Wow - two updates in one day! After 5 days of being M.I.A., that's probably hard to believe! ;-)

In any case, we've got those reviews we promised you earlier. First up is Todd Doogan's in-depth take on Warner's ultra-cool new DVD special edition of Three Kings (which streets on April 11th). This is a great film, and it's a damn fine DVD too - arguably one of Warner's best yet. Up next is a new review from Chris Maynard - his take on Columbia TriStar's new Random Hearts DVD.

And finally, we'd like to welcome another new reviewer to the crack staff of Digital Bits disc spinners... Greg Suarez. Greg knows his film, as you'll see when you read his review of The Exorcist: 25th Anniversary Special Edition. We're posting this review in honor of the just-released-to-theaters (in a few cities) "writer's version/ultimate director's cut" of The Exorcist, which includes newly restored scenes. You can expect it to appear on DVD later this fall. In any case, Greg's a great addition to our staff, and we're glad to have him aboard. You can e-mail him starting this evening at: gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com. So be sure to drop him an e-mail and give him a nice welcome!

Once again, on behalf of all of us at the Bits, thanks for your patience over the last few days of downtime. We'll be back tomorrow, so stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/20/00 - 11 AM PST)

We're back! Thanks for your patience in waiting out our computer problems and the move. I've finally gotten them resolved, and luckily, it looks as though no data was lost after all. Whew! Also, The Digital Bits (West) is now settled in our spiffy new digs, and we're almost completely back up to speed. So no more interruptions (sound of applause)!

We've got some news to run down for you. First of all, Paramount has officially announced a few of their May DVD titles (all of which street on May 23rd), which include some major heavy hitters. First of all, comes what could almost be called a quasi-Paramount Special Edition title - Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. The disc will SRP for $29.99 and will include the following extras: new director's audio commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette with exclusive cast and crew interviews, a photo gallery, cast & crew bios and 2 trailers. Also coming on that day are The Firm, American Gigolo and Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (all will SRP for $29.99). The Firm features 2 theatrical trailers and 5.1 audio. American Gigolo includes 1 trailer and 5.1 audio. Romeo and Juliet includes a trailer and "Dolby Digital audio in English". All of the above are Closed Captioned, and all will be enhanced for 16x9 displays.

Paramount has also announced that April will see their first DVD titles released in Europe and Japan (Region 2). Among the titles expected in the first three months are The Truman Show, The Rugrats Movie, Top Gun, Star Trek Insurrection, Days of Thunder and 48 Hours.

Columbia TriStar also has a few titles on the way for May 23rd. First up is American Movie (SRP $27.95), which includes an audio commentary with the director and cast members, the short film Coven and 22 deleted scenes. It will include 5.1 audio and be 16x9. Also coming on 5/23 are the second installment in Jim Henson's The Bear in the Big Blue House (SRP $24.95) and The Three Stooges: All the World's a Stooge, which includes 7 classic episodes for (also for $24.95 SRP): Grips, Grunts and Groans, All the World's a Stooge, 3 Dumb Clucks, Three Little Pirates, Uncivil War Birds, Back to the Woods and Violent is the Word for Curly.

Image Entertainment updated their DVD News page while we were down with details on 4 new volumes of Monty Python's Flying Circus (due in April - the remaining episodes of the series are expected to be released on DVD in the fall), Entrapment: Special Edition, Sex and the City, Tumbleweeds: Special Edition, Bringing Out the Dead and more.

Now then... despite the disruption over the weekend, our crack review staff has been busier than ever, and they've got lots of new reviews done. So I'll be back in a couple of hours with a few of them, including a look at Warner's Three Kings!

Stay tuned (and thanks again for your patience)...!

3/15/00

Well folks... I've got good news and bad news for you today. Before I get to that, let me just quickly let you know that we've got two new DVD reviews available this morning from Todd and Brad - Universal's new The Bone Collector and New Line's Embrace of the Vampire. Hope you enjoy them, 'cause here's where I get back to the aforementioned news.

Let's have the good news first. The Digital Bits is moving to spiffy new digs here in Irvine, CA. We've got a brand new office picked out, and the move will officially take place over the rest of this week. We should have a lot more room, making it easier to bring you lots of great DVD news and information. For all those of you out there who we deal with at the studios (and particularly anyone who might have occasion to send us review discs and press releases), we'll be contacting you over the next few days with our new address and phone number. If you don't hear from us for some reason, please be sure to give us a call (at the current number) so we can make sure to get everything updated. We're working to make the move as smooth as possible, so please bear with us.

Now for the bad news. I had hoped that the move wouldn't cause any unnecessary disruptions to our daily posts... and the MOVE itself won't. But this morning, as I was preparing this update, my computer's hard drive crashed and crashed hard. I heard this truly unholy noise (that computers should never make... EVER) and the drive was toast, just like that. Luckily, I had already posted the two reviews, and we have backups of all our important data, so I'm writing this on my laptop. But having happened as it has on top of the move to our new office... it's probably going to be a few days before I can get my PC working again. And since the computer support staff of the Bits is limited to one person (me), that means that posts may be a bit thin over the next few days. Don't you just hate it when your finely-tuned technology rears up and bites you in the ass? Man, and I had just updated all of my software too... :-(

Anyway, I'll try to keep you all up to date on the situation, using the laptop to post when (and if) I'm able. Rest assured, we're working hard to get back up to full speed as soon as possible. In the meantime, we really appreciate your patience. Thanks guys... you're the best!

3/14/00

Let me tell you, Todd and I haven't written truly long DVD reviews in quite a while. But we've finally finished and posted the two reviews we mentioned yesterday... and they're pretty hefty. You'll find my thoughts on Fox's impressive The Abyss: Special Edition - it took a lot of words to describe the 2-disc set's laundry list of extras. And Todd's got plenty to say about Elite's new 2-disc set, The Masterworks of the German Horror Cinema, which contains Der Golem, Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

In other news, there's a press release up at Yahoo on NetFlix's new "All You Can Watch" DVD rental program. You pay $20 a month, and you can rent as many DVDs as you want, for as long as you want, with no late fees. Also, the nifty DVD Unleashed has a couple of interesting interviews up with our friend Don May, Jr. from Synapse and Elite's Vini Bancalari. They're worth a look. And here's an interesting note - Warner is working on an official Stanley Kubrick website. It should be interesting to see what appears there in the months ahead...

Finally today, you may remember that a few days ago, I mentioned an article I did recently on anamorphic widescreen for the industry trade Video Store magazine. The article is called Anamorphic DVD: What It Means and Why You Should Care, and it's now available in this week's issue of the publication. The two page feature (found on pages 16 and 17) features a visual demonstration of the difference anamorphic enhancement on DVD makes on a widescreen TV, and a listing of how the various studios mark the feature on their disc packaging. And it explains everything you need to know on the subject in fairly straightforward terms. My intent was for the feature to make a nice educational piece video retailers can use for their employees and customers - just tear it out and post it for all to see. And if you don't have access to the magazine, but still want to read the article, you can find it via this link at the Video Store website. And of course, our own Ultimate Guide to Anamorphic is always available here at the Bits. Never let it be said that we aren't doing our part to promote the use and understanding of DVD's most important video quality feature...

We'll be back with more reviews and news tomorrow. See you then - same Bat time, same Bat channel!

3/13/00

Welcome back to work, everyone! You're probably drinking that first cup of coffee to get you through Monday, right? Well, I hope you all had a great weekend at least. ;-)

Frank and I made the mistake of seeing Mission to Mars this weekend - what a piece of crap. And I usually dig these kinds of sci-fi flicks. But this one tries to be 2001 meets Close Encounters and fails miserably. Even the payoff at the end is done in by some very silly looking CGI creature effects. This is a major weak effort from director Brian De Palma. It's so lame that not even top-flight acting talent can save it.

We did happen to recently see a fairly good sci-fi flick though. It's been getting panned by some critics, but I have to tell you that we enjoyed Pitch Black a lot more than we expected. We went in with zero expectations, anticipating a cheesy B-movie. What we got was a surprisingly stylish and creepy little B-movie. Sure... there are tons of plot holes and the script isn't exactly high-concept. But if you go in knowing that this is your basic "space-bugs-gonna-get-you" flick, I think you'll enjoy it. The look of the film is very cool, with one of the most intense spaceship crash sequences I've ever seen at the start. And the aliens are pretty effective. Let's just say that while it isn't perfect, it's definitely got its heart in the right place.

Anyway, back to DVD. We've got just the thing to get your blood pumpin' on a Monday morning - TONS of new Upcoming DVD Cover Art! We've got more than 100 new cover scans from some big upcoming titles, like The Insider, Chasing Amy, all the Bond films, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Diner, The Fox and the Hound, The Aristocats, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek: The Original Series, Volumes 9 & 10, Spaceballs, Showgirls, The Messenger, Three Kings, Galaxy Quest, For Love of the Game, Boys Don't Cry, The Living Sea, Blue Velvet, Il Postino, The Omega Code... you get the idea. I could go on and on. There's definitely something for everyone in there, so don't miss it.

We'll be back later today with new DVD reviews of The Masterworks of the German Horror Cinema and The Abyss: SE, so stay tuned...

3/11/00

This is just a quick note to let you all know that we've announced the winner of our Noses in the News Trivia Contest. Keep your eyes peeled for the next contest, which will start soon...

3/10/00

We're very pleased today to announce the first of our new reviewers, Chris Maynard. Many of you may know Chris from The Home Theater Forum, where he co-moderates the Advanced HT Discussion Forum. Frank and I met Chris last week, when a whole group of their readers were here in L.A., and he's a great guy. We're very happy to have him as a regular contributor to The Digital Bits. His first review, Paramount's Double Jeopardy, is now available. His e-mail address should be active within the hour, so please join Todd, Frank, Sarah, Brad and I in welcoming him to our merry band of DVD fools. Welcome aboard, Chris!

Also today, Brad's given a couple more discs a spin and we've got his comments on them posted. Be sure to read his reviews of USA's The Last Days and MGM's Stigmata.

Buena Vista's press release for their April VHS and DVD titles is now available via Yahoo. Also CNet's got a story up about how the studio's Tarzan DVD makes you sit through a bunch of commercials first (it includes a brief quote from yours truly). Also from CNet, it seems that despite the blistering 3 day Japanese sales totals of Sony's PlayStation 2 (some 900,000 units), that's still short of what they were expecting. And there's worse news - some of the systems' memory cards may be defective, forcing a recall. Ouch. Hopefully they'll have worked the bugs out in time for the system's fall U.S. debut (the actual date and price is expected to be announced at the upcoming E3 Convention).

In other news, Image Entertainment's updated their DVD News page again today, with lots more upcoming titles listed. Among those mentioned are Columbia TriStar's Dogma and The End of the Affair, MGM's James Bond Collection - Wave 2, and TONS more titles from the independents.

We'll be back tonight to announce the winner of the Noses in the News Trivia Contest (remember - you've got until 5 PM PST tonight). And we'll be back on Monday with a whole bunch of new reviews from Todd, Frank and I... yes, including The Abyss: SE.

Stay tuned and have a great weekend!

3/9/00

Well, that Abyss DVD turns out to have a LOT more on it than I expected. I really want to give this disc the review attention it deserves, so please be patient while I go through it all. In the meantime, we've got some very cool (and tentative) DVD news today in The Rumor Mill, regarding awesome upcoming titles from Fox, Warner and HBO. You definitely will not want to miss it.

Speaking of Warner, here are the details of their upcoming Three Kings: Special Edition, which streets on April 11th (SRP - $24.98):

Behind-the-scenes documentary Under the Bunker: On the Set of Three Kings, 2 feature-length audio commentaries with the director and producers, tour of the Iraqi village set, interview with the D.P., David O. Russell's Video Journal, deleted scenes with director's commentary, special photography from Spike Jones, a look at the acting process with Ice Cube, "bunkers" (three hidden features), theatrical trailer, DVD-Rom features (links to CNN's Gulf War archives, web events, film's original web site and more).

Finally, thanks to the efforts of Bits reader Colin Law, our Ultimate Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen DVD is now available as a downloadable (and printable) Adobe .pdf file. You'll find that by clicking to the first page of guide. Thanks Colin!

Stay tuned...


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