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page updated: 11/29/00



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 10/5/00 - 9/19/00)


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10/5/00

Universal Studios has officially announced the DVD release of The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. The collector's edition disc will street on December 5th, for an SRP of $26.98, and is expected to include a director's commentary with Peter Segal, interviews with Segal and producer Brain Grazer, deleted scenes, extended scenes, a Spotlight on Location featurette, a look at make-up effects, storyboard comparisons, trailers and Janet Jackson's Doesn't Really Matter music video, among other things.

Here's a look at the cover art for The Nutty Professor 2, as well as Buena Vista's Hamlet 2000 (street date 11/14) and Scary Movie (12/12), and Synapse's Six Days in Roswell (also 11/14).

The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps - Collector's EditionHamlet (2000)

Scary MovieSix Days in Roswell: Special Edition

In other news, Yahoo's got a story on Warner's efforts against digital piracy in light of their support of the forthcoming DVD-Audio format. According to CNet, Napster is one of the fastest-growing Internet technologies (and there's still no decision by the court on the appeal, although a ruling could be reached at any time). By the way, if you want to view the actual arguments made to the court on Monday in the Napster case, you can do so online via Real Video at C-SPAN. Just click on "View C-SPAN.org coverage online!" - the video runs about 52 minutes and is well worth a watch.

Finally today, Image Entertainment's got a new DVD News page update posted, with details on their Image exclusive titles for December. There are a bunch of great releases of all kinds, including some really good music titles, so be sure to check it out.

Now then... we're working on several more reviews that we'll be posting very soon, including Men in Black, Pitch Black, U-571, Frequency and more. So stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/4/00 - 4 PM PDT)

As promised, we're back this afternoon with a pair of new DVD reviews. Todd's taken a look at DreamWorks' American Beauty, and Greg Suarez chimes in with his comparison of the new special edition and the original version of Buena Vista's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Don't miss 'em.

We've also done a bunch of archiving of the daily My Two Cents columns (click here for those), and we've updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to the most recent version (dated 9/27).

In addition, we're very happy to be able to bring you an early look at some DVD menu screens from a whole slew of upcoming Paramount titles. We've got an early look at menus from The Nutty Professor, The Odd Couple, She's Having a Baby, Rules of Engagement, An Officer and a Gentleman, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and White Christmas, so be sure to check them out.

But the big news today is this - DVD has officially crossed the 10 million players shipped mark here in the States. We'll have the official numbers from CEA soon, but here's the DVD Entertainment Group's press release announcing the landmark for the format:

DVD-VIDEO SETS MILESTONE AS 10 MILLIONTH PLAYER IS SHIPPED

DVD-Video Reaches Benchmark Faster Than Any Other Consumer Electronics Product Including VCR and Compact Disc

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. - October 4, 2000 - Ten million DVD-Video players have shipped to market, signaling the format's unparalleled acceptance among consumers in North America. This level is reached faster than any other consumer electronics product in history, just three and a half years after its introduction. The DVD Entertainment Group announced this new milestone for the popular home video format at the annual DVD Forum meeting in Scottsdale.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), CD players took seven years to ship 10 million units, and eight years for VCRs to reach this level. Underscoring the strong consumer demand for the format, DVD-Video players have doubled their presence in the marketplace since reaching five percent household penetration in December 1999.

Fueling this growth is the enthusiastic support of movie studios and record labels, which are releasing more than 250 new DVD-Video titles each month. In response, DVD replicators have increased their capacity by more than 150 percent for the second half of 2000 over the same period last year in preparation for the extraordinary anticipated growth throughout the holiday selling season.

"The milestone of shipping 10 million DVD-Video players is regarded as an indicator of mass market acceptance," said Emiel N. Petrone, chairman, DVD Entertainment Group and executive vice president, Philips Entertainment Group, Worldwide. "We know that shortly we will achieve 10 percent household penetration - a benchmark of success for any consumer electronics product."

The convergence of consumer electronics - as DVD-Video players are integrated into televisions, stereos, video game consoles and home theater systems - will continue to propel penetration of DVD-Video players into households in the upcoming fourth quarter. Additionally, portable DVD-Video players, DVD-Video/Audio combination players and units for the car will also help to make DVD one of the most popular gift items this holiday selling season.

The DVD Entertainment Group is a Los Angeles-based, industry-funded nonprofit corporation that exists expressly to promote consumer awareness of the benefits of DVD-Video and DVD-Audio, and to provide updated information to the media and the retail trade about DVD players and titles. As part of the group's charter, it also looks to incorporate future applications for the DVD format such as interactive games.


How cool is that? Stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/4/00 - 10:30 AM PDT)

Ever since DVD really kicked into high gear, a lot of us have been looking to the various studios to follow suit - to really take DVD more seriously. One by one, most of the studios have done so. But there's been one studio that a lot of us felt could do more - MGM. Well, MGM is about to do just that - more - and I think a lot of you are going to be impressed by them in the new year.

While the political candidates were warming up to trump each other yesterday afternoon, I spent the afternoon at the Santa Monica offices of MGM Home Entertainment. I'd been invited to get a sneak peek at their upcoming DVD plans for 2001, as I'm sure were several other journalists. When you are invited to something like this, the idea is that the studio is trying to impress you, and they usually pull out all the stops. I figured I'd just wing this meeting, and during the hour-long drive to the studio, I made a mental list of the things I wanted to hear from them in order to be impressed. And darned if I didn't hear them all.

Frankly, I was very pleasantly surprised at their attitude and renewed commitment to the format. I always get excited to meet DVD people at the studios who love the format as much as we do, and I think these folks at MGM do. The first thing they mentioned was that the studio has rededicated itself to the format, and that as part of that, you're going to see anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 sound, LOTS of supplemental materials and new film transfers whenever possible - the rule rather than the exception. They've also decided that French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles will be standard whenever possible, along with English Closed Captioning. And their DVD packaging will now feature a revamped features grid on the back, that quickly explains the aspect ratio, audio and extras options on all their titles.

For 2001, the studio is organizing their DVD releases into the "branded lines" that they use for VHS, among them: Contemporary Classics, Soul Cinema, World Films, Avant Garde, Midnight Movies and more. You might wonder what the need for this branding is, as they only release 8-10 titles on DVD a month. No longer. In 2001, the studio told me that they're committed to releasing some 30-40 titles on disc every month, which will include at least one (and probably two) genuine special edition titles (they plan to release 20+ special editions next year). In fact, by the end of 2001, the studio's goal is to have released between 300 and 400 of their films on DVD. And they've set three tiers of pricing to do so: $14.95 for catalog, $19.98 for A&B grade films and $24.98-26.98 for new films and special editions.

So what are some of the titles that MGM has in the works? Well, they're kicking things off in style with a When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition in January. The disc will feature anamorphic widescreen, a new "making of" documentary that includes new interviews with almost everyone involved, 11 minutes of deleted scenes, a commentary track with director Rob Reiner and LOTS more. Some Like it Hot is slated for April and Magnificent Seven is a May title. Other highlights for the year include the long-awaited special edition of The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner finally had time to participate), DVD releases of B classics like Buckaroo Banzai and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Stargate SG1 episodes (either in season by season boxed sets or a few episodes a disc singly - they're still trying to determine and I encouraged them to go with the boxed sets) and, late in the year, Ridley Scott's Hannibal. I also encouraged them to revisit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with an anamorphic widescreen special edition, which they say is a possibility. The big hit of 4th Qtr 2001 will be their new Terminator: Special Edition (more on that in a minute). Just to give you an idea of the scope of MGM's DVD plans for 2001, here's a look at their complete January release list:

January 2nd - Autumn in New York, Crime and Punishment in Suburbia (new titles)

January 9th - Benny & Joon, The Cutting Edge, Love Field, The Man in the Moon, Moll Flanders, Mystic Pizza, Untaimed Heart, When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition, In the Heat of the Night: Special Edition, The Organization, They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (all Contemporary Classics), Black Ceaser, Black Mama, White Mama, Coffy, Cotton Goes to Harlem, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, Sheba Baby, Slaughter, Slaughter's Big Rip Off, Truck Turner (all Soul Cinema)

January 23rd - Mr. Accident (new title), Babette's Feast, The Bride Wore Black, Camille Claudel, Jean De Florette, The Man Who Loved Women, Manon of the Spring, Mississippi Mermaid, Small Change, The Story of Adele H(all World Films), Alice's Restaurant, American Buffalo, Dance with a Stranger, Desert Hearts, I Shot Andy Warhol, Longtime Companion, River's Edge, Suture (all Avant Garde)

That's just ONE month, folks. And that's a pretty amazing mix of new and old, classic and camp, art film and foreign. Plus, you get two genuine special editions. Okay... I'm impressed.

To round off the afternoon in style, MGM gave me a sneak peek at their forthcoming Terminator: Special Edition, which is being produced with longtime Cameron associate Van Ling. As I mentioned, the disc itself doesn't arrive until Q4 2001, but the new high def transfer and new 5.1 sound mix is done and they are truly impressive. I was very surprised at how good the film looked. MGM Technical Services went back to the original negatives and created a new interpositive with much improved color timing. This new film element was, in turn, given a high definition film transfer and a pass through a digital filter to clean up dust and debris. The result is really amazing - the film looks WAY better than I've ever seen it. On the sound side, the film's original composer, Brad Fiedel, along with James Cameron's hand-picked team of sound designers (among them Gary Rydstrom) went back to the original mono sound elements and created a brand new 5.1 mix at Skywalker Sound that really enhances the film experience, while remaining true to its original tone. There is SO much more subtlety to the sound cues, and there are genuine ambiences and environments in the mix. And naturally, when audio must explode from the screen, it'll blow you out of your seat. We watched the film's last reel, as Reese and Sarah are being chased by the Terminator through the factory, and did A/B (before restoration and after) comparisions throughout. Okay... I'm impressed again.

I was also surprised at just how open to feedback MGM's DVD team is. I think they asked me as many questions as I asked them - questions about what DVD fans seem want from DVD and the like. And they assured me that they do closely monitor Internet sites like the Bits, and places like the Home Theater Forum, to see what people are saying - what the trends are. That's a very good sign. I think DVD fans are really going to be very pleased with MGM's new DVD work for 2001. Based on what I've seen and what they've told me, it looks as if the studio is really gearing up to produce the kind of quality that we've always wanted from their product. Remember how Fox turned around their DVD operation? MGM looks to be about to do the same.

So that's MGM for 2001 in a nutshell. We'll be back this afternoon with some great new DVD reviews and more, so stay tuned...

10/3/00

In all the hubbub yesterday, I neglected to mention that Paramount has revealed their December DVD slate, and it's pretty classic. On December 12th, look for Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (staring Gene Hackman), along with Children of a Lesser God, The Odd Couple, An Officer and a Gentleman and Shaft 2000. And we're hearing that The Untouchables is on tap for early next year. Those are some nice titles, Paramount classics all (well... maybe Shaft 2000 isn't a classic, but you get the drift).

We've got a brief update today on Universal's Back to the Future Trilogy. You'll find that in today's Rumor Mill post.

Warner Music has thrown their weight behind DVD Audio. The label has announced that it's going to kick off the format by releasing seven titles, which will include recordings by Beethoven, Ravel, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Natalie Merchant. Look for DVD Audio to start appearing on store shelves in December and January, accompanied by a heavy marketing push. Personally, I think Audio is going be slower to catch on than DVD Video was, but it will ultimately do so - especially when affordable players hit the market that are capable of playing both formats (giving consumers the opportunity to try it themselves). In any case, we'll be watching closely.

Saban Entertainment and Fox Children's Network have filed a suit to stop Universal from releasing episodes of The X-Men animated series on VHS and DVD. The parties involved in the suit feel that the release of the program on to home video would destroy the ratings for the program and the ad money it could generate. The first DVD was slated to be released on October 24th... we'll see.

Here's a look at the X-Men disc in question, as well as cover art for Paramount's Star Trek: The Original Series Volumes 18 & 19 (street date 10/24 - which include the classic episodes The Doomsday Machine and Amok Time) as well as Crtierion's The Beastie Boys Anthology (11/7). Enjoy.

X-Men: The Phoenix SagaThe Beastie Boys Anthology

Star Trek: TOS - Volume 18Star Trek: TOS - Volume 19

Image Entertainment will be releasing Steve Oedekerk's Thumb Wars and Thumbtanic on DVD in Q1 of 2001. These will be just the first of a series of such "thumb parody" programs to be released. We've seen glimpses of both (and I believe Thumb Wars at least was broadcast on TV earlier this year). There's no doubt it's funny, but man... I don't know if I could watch a whole program like that. Still... MAJOR cool factor points to Image for releasing them. Now if we could just get Hardware Wars on DVD...

Pioneer is apparently working to develop a DVD/Tivo combination box, which I believe will allow consumers to time-shift programming that's recorded on a DVD type disc rather than a hard drive. Check out the article and see what you make of it yourself.

And finally this morning, a follow up on my Napster rant from yesterday. As many of you may know, Day One of the appeal hearing passed without a ruling. I wanted to clarify my feelings about Napster, and why, for example, I support Napster (in principle) while condemning pirated Star Wars DVDs. Well... first off, if Lucasfilm would release the Star Wars films on DVD legitimately, I'd be first in line to buy them. But that's another story.

I'm not saying that there isn't theft going on on Napster. But how is it that much different from people making tape copies of prerecorded CDs, or taping movies and TV programs off the air with VCRs? I don't like Napster because I can get lots of music for free, and I can rip off the record company and musicians. I like it because it lets me preview music that I want to buy anyway or might want to buy but was reluctant to risk $17 without hearing it first. I like it because it's the ONLY place I can get something like Klark Kent Kollected Works and hundreds of other great older albums which are now out of print. And I like it because it's going to force the record industry to get off its ass and really start serving its artists and consumers, rather than the other way around. Look - movie studios had the EXACT same arguments about VCRs in the 70s and 80s... and look what happened. Now, home video is the biggest source of income for the studios, movie fans have much greater access to their favorite films and that access has served to educate a whole new generation of film directors, thus fueling more creativity. The record companies have gotten fat, lazy and complacent, and Napster and other file-sharing schemes like it are going to change that. They'll have to start giving us the kind of musical diversity we want, for fairer prices. America's musical tastes are much broader that AOR-based radio station's playlists would indicate.

As for the movie studios, they've already learned to adapt and will continue to do so. But the best answer to piracy is making entertainment better, cheaper and more accessible. Why would anyone want to go out and buy a pirated DVD of a film that's already available legitimately in awesome DVD quality with a treasure trove of extras for a reasonable price? And I, for one, don't want to watch my movies from a hard drive on a computer screen. I want to hold the disc in my hands and put it in on my shelf with my collection of other favorite films. That's what will always prevent digital piracy from being the downfall of modern civilization that Hollywood and the record industry like to so loudly claim.

Napster, to me, is about giving consumers the leverage to force badly needed change upon an industry that has no interest in changing of its own accord. And if you poll musicians, those for and against Napster are running at about 50/50. Point is, I think there's a way to make the Napster model work for everyone. Allow Napster to have tons of older, out of print catalog music, and select new recordings, by established artists, released specifically to the Net to promote upcoming releases. Charge a $15 a month access fee, and let the RIAA split that money among all concerned parties, specifically the artists (on a per download basis). And allow new artists to make their music available on systems like Napster, so people can discover them, like MP3.com does. When one starts getting popular, the record company can sign them to a real contract. Everybody wins. There are MAJOR new opportunities here.

The other problem I have with all the efforts against Napster and file sharing, is that in the face of technology, they're 100% futile. The RIAA and MPAA will NEVER stop file sharing. It just isn't going to happen. Other new sharing schemes, like Gnutella, don't even have central party servers involved - there's no one to sue. But if the industry works quickly, they can turn file-sharing to their own advantage, and actually find new ways to make a lot of money. If they just keep fighting it, it's only going to keep getting more out of control that it already is. It's no coincidence that Napster usage went up 71% the day the ruling against them went down.

Anyway, those are just my two cents. I'm not asking for you to agree or disagree. Wired magazine has a really great look at this topic in their current issue (October 2000), and it will soon be available online as well (on 10/10). Whatever your position or beliefs, we at the Bits encourage you to look into it further, because this issue is at the center of a heated battle that will ultimately determine the way we'll be consuming media in the 21st Century. And there are legitimate concerns all around.

In any case, stay tuned...

10/2/00

Well... can you believe it's already October? And what do you know... my Vikings are 4-0! Gotta love this time of year (sigh)...

We've got a couple of things for you today. First of all, our own Dan Kelly's been a busy beaver this week, and we've got three new DVD reviews from him: Universal's American Psycho: Unrated Version, Columbia TriStar's new reissue of The Craft: Special Edition and New Line's Final Destination: Platinum Series. Think you'll definitely want to check 'em out.

We've also updated the CEA DVD Player sales numbers with the 222,726 players sold into retail in the States in the week ending 9/22. That makes the total for the month thus far some 678,328 - a new record - with still a week to go. And it makes the format total to date 9,898,123. I'm gonna make a prediction and say that DVD's topped 10 mil in the U.S. by the time all the September sales data has been reported. And THAT folks, is damn impressive (the 10 mil... not my prediction). ;-)

Also today, we've got a look at a couple more upcoming DVD covers: New Line's The Filth and the Fury (street date 10/10) and Columbia TriStar's His Girl Friday (11/21 - a Howard Hawks classic). We've also got some early DVD menu screens from Synapse's Six Days in Roswell (11/14). Can't wait!

The Filth and the FuryHis Girl Friday

Six Days in Roswell - Main Menu

Six Days in Roswell - Chapter Menu

Fans of Stargate SG1 may soon get more episodes on DVD. At least that's what one Stargate-themed website learned after attending a recent "Gatecon" convention for the show. We'll be meeting with MGM DVD representatives this week, and we'll be sure to ask them for confirmation. Stay tuned...

In other DVD news around the Net today, Sony may be in hot water this holiday season with parents. That's because of the one million PlayStation 2 game systems it had hoped to deliver, it may be only able to make about half that many. Looks like Tickle Me Elmo all over again. Hell hath no fury like a parent in the middle of a Christmas toy buying frenzy. "Do you have PlayStation 2?" "Yes we do sir... for $1,500." "I'LL TAKE IT!!"

The future looks bright for DVD. That's the conclusion of two industry analyst predictions at least. The two new reports disagree on whether broadband and satellite pay-per-view schemes will begin encroaching on existing brick-and-mortar home video rental business, but "enthusiasm built around DVD's popularity will drive DVD sales from this year's estimate of $4 billion to $14.1 billion by 2005." And rather than fear a loss of VHS renting due to DVD, home video retailers can expect DVD renting to far outpace what's lost in VHS. Adams Media Research's Tom Adams says, "The fact is that people who buy new DVD players not only buy more discs to replace their VHS collections but also rent more discs, averaging between five and seven rentals per month, compared to 3.5 VHS rental per-household per-month. By 2005, 61% of video rentals and 74% of video sales will come from DVD." Of course, we DVD early adopters knew that would happen all along. ;-)

Also, today is the day Napster goes to court to try to appeal a recent decision, in favor of the recording industry, that would shut down the MP3 file-trading system for good. Should be VERY interesting to see what happens. Gee... I'm sure glad I got all the tracks from Journey's upcoming Arrival CD earlier this weekend. The disc (which is awesome by the way) was supposed to be released next week... but Sony Music, in all its infinite wisdom, has decided to delay the release until February of 2001, much to the dismay of the band and fans. And this gets me to why I like Napster. I'm tired of record companies telling me what kind of music I should like, and when I should like it, and that I should pay $17.99 for a CD that costs 50 cents to produce. I'm tired of wanting to buy a particular album on CD and finding out that it's out of print, or it's never been made available on CD. I'm tired of hearing band after band that sounds the same, when thousands of great and talented artists can't even get a record company to look at them. And I'm tired of a bunch of marketing suits with Harvard business school degrees determining the tone and course of the music industry. I'm not alone. THAT'S why millions are using Napster and why file-sharing and MP3 will survive, even if Napster is shut down. Look... I understand the copyright issue and, as a writer, I have strong feelings on the matter. But music file-sharing exists because the industry is doing music, musicians and music consumers a major disservice, and has been for a long time. And before you all get your panties in a bunch... I AM gonna line up to buy a legit copy of Journey's Arrival when it's finally released next year. But in the meantime, it's rockin' the Bits office right now. Gee.. didn't know I had a rant in me today.

Finally this afternoon, Image Entertainment's updated their DVD News page to include details on lots more upcoming DVD titles, among them A&E's massive, 14-disc Monty Python's Flying Circus Collection, Reboot #3 from A.D. Vision, three discs worth of Backstreet Boys from BMG, several December titles from Buena Vista, DreamWorks' Gladiator, HBO's The Sopranos: The Complete First Season (which is 16x9), Paramount's Shaft 2000 (street date 12/12), Universal's Legend and lots more.

Stay tuned...

9/29/00

Some interesting things to note today. First of all, we've spoken with Warner Bros. about rumors that the studio finally plans to release episodes of the hit NBC TV series Friends on DVD here in the States in December. As many of you may know, almost the complete series has already been released on disc in European Region 2 markets. Warner has informed us that it IS being discussed, but that plans are very tentative and there's still a fair possibility that it might not happen at all. The difficulty apparently has to do with syndication rights issues here in the U.S. We'll see....

Speaking of Warner... when the studio reissues How The Grinch Stole Christmas on October 31st, look for it to be digitally "enhanced" (in other words, this is the "special edition" that was featured on TNT), and to include more bonus materials. The disc will still include Horton Hears a Who, and will now feature Songs in the Key of Grinch (an interview with composer Albert Hague and vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft), Making Animation and Bringing it to Life (commentary by Phil Roman and June Foray), pencil sketches and more. SRP is $19.95. No doubt the new attention to this title is designed to take advantage of the release of the new Universal live action version staring Jim Carrey. Regardless of why it's happening, we're just glad to see the Grinch finally getting his due on DVD. Too bad somebody isn't remaking A Christmas Story, because I'd sure love an anamorphic widescreen special edition of that film...

Criterion has informed us that their release of Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus has been pushed back to 1st Qtr 2001. In its place on November 14th, the company will release The Rolling Stones' Gimmie Shelter.

Also today, we've gotten official confirmation from A&E Home Video about more classic British TV series coming to DVD from them. So you can definitely look forward to Roger Moore's The Saint, Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds in 2001. Very cool. Look for them to be released in 2-disc sets like The Prisoner, Monty Python and The Avengers. Other properties, such as UFO and Captain Scarlet, are a possibility as well.

Wanna copy of Fox's X-Men? Well... you'll have to wait until November 21st. But that doesn't have to stop you from reserving your copy today. Retailers everywhere began taking preorders this morning. Just FYI...

And we've got some upcoming DVD cover art for you to check out today, including Buena Vista's Gone in 60 Seconds (street date 12/5), New Line's The Cell: Platinum Series (TBD), Miramax's Princess Mononoke (we assume with revised audio and extras, finally set for 12/19), Paramount's Airplane (10/24) and Planes, Trains & Automobiles (11/21) and New Video's The Awful Truth: The Complete First Season (10/31). Now will somebody please explain to me why Michael Moore's terrific Roger & Me isn't on DVD?

Gone in 60 SecondsThe Cell: Platinum Series

Princess MononokeAirplane

Planes, Trains & AutomobilesThe Awful Truth: The Complete First Season

Stay tuned... and have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/28/00 - 4:30 PM PDT)

We're back with some reviews, and we've got a real Steven King fest for you today. Todd's checked in with a look at two new Paramount titles, The Dead Zone and Pet Sematary. And Dan Kelly's taken a look at Columbia TriStar's cool new Stand By Me: Special Edition (it's about time that film got SE treatment). Finally, Greg Suarez has given a new DVD of one of my favorite films from earlier this year a spin - Buena Vista's High Fidelity.

We've also got a quick blurb in The Rumor Mill today about the Back to the Future Trilogy, although let me caution you that this is very tentative information. We're looking into it further and should have an update soon.

Finally this afternoon, we got this off an advance sellsheet - no idea if it's the FINAL artwork, but here's a look at what we think is the DVD cover for David Lynch's The Straight Story (due from Buena Vista on November 7th). It's definitely not to be missed when it comes out...

The Straight Story

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/28/00 - 12:45 PM PDT)

URGH! Do we really have to go over this again? You remember about a month ago when we debunked that rumor that appeared in the Official PlayStation magazine about Star Wars DVDs coming out this year, in November or December? Well he's late to the party, but rumor monster extraordinaire Harry Knowles has finally (and perhaps inevitably) picked up on it and his site posted the story today. We said it before and we'll probably say it again - THERE IS NO WAY THE STAR WARS FILMS ARE BEING RELEASED ON DVD THIS YEAR. Maybe I should make that text blink so everyone completely understands it. This isn't just us saying this... we just got off the phone with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and they officially confirmed it. Star Wars DVDs are at least 6-12 months away. People are working on the eventual discs, but we aren't going to see them until late 2001 at the earliest. Enough said (I hope).

Now then... how about some Fox news that IS true? We've confirmed the 6 DTS DVD titles that the studio has on the way for December and January respectively (three each month). Look for Predator, The Siege, Courage Under Fire, The Thin Red Line, The X-Files: Fight the Future and The Last of the Mohicans, all in anamorphic widescreen and all with dual Dolby Digital and DTS sound. Cool no? We were also able to confirm that the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is expected early next year, and that The X-Files: The Complete Third Season will be released in the 1st Qtr as well, hot on the heals of The Complete Second Season in late November. Very cool.

We'll be back with reviews soon, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/27/00 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Well how do you like that? Naturally, while we were gone, a slew of interesting things happened in the DVD world. To start with, X-Men was official unveiled, as was Universal's Legend: Collector's Edition. We've already talked X-Men, so let's give you a rundown of all the goodies on the Legend 2-disc set. First of all, you're going to get the 89-minute American theatrical cut of the film, with score by Tangerine Dream. Then you're going to be treated to a brand new, 113-minute Director's Cut, with Jerry Goldsmith's original score. Fans of this film are going to really love this - I've seen the new cut and it's terrific. Naturally, both will be included in anamorphic widescreen. Audio options for at least the Director's Cut will be Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. You also get a terrific 60-minute+ documentary on the making of the film, Creating a Myth: The Making of Legend. There's a brand new commentary track with director Ridley Scott, three separate storyboard sequences, trailers, production notes and the complete screenplay via DVD-ROM. And finally, you get a specially edited storyboard/music sequence depicting the lost "Fairy Dance" scene. All this for only $34.98 SRP. And best of all, you can pick up the disc on 11/21, the same day you head for the video store to get DreamWorks' Gladiator. How's that for cool? We expect to publish a special feature story on Legend sometime in the next week, featuring an interview with one of the disc's producers, J.M. Kenny, and a visit to the commentary recording session with Ridley Scott himself, so look for that soon. In the meantime, here's the DVD cover art for Legend, along with Gladiator, X-Men and HBO's The Sopranos: The Complete First Season.

Legend: Collector's Edition (2-discs)Gladiator: Signature Selection (2-discs)

X-MenThe Sporanos: The Complete First Season (4 discs)

Warner Home Video has announced that director Oliver Stone will be signing copies of his Any Given Sunday on DVD in New York City tonight. The signing will be held at Tower Video/Books at 4th & Lafayette (383 Lafayette St.), from 7 to 9 PM EDT. If you're in the neighborhood, don't miss it.

And speaking of Warner, the studio is releasing episodes of The Powerpuff Girls on DVD, which is a Cartoon Network property. These will appear on 2 discs, Down n' Dirty and Powerpuff Bluff. They'll SRP for $19.98 each (street date 11/7), and each disc will contain some 10 episodes.

A&E Home Video has announced the release of more classic British TV series on DVD, starting with Sci-fi cut hit The Prisoner on October 31st. The late-60s series starred Patrick McGoohan (whom some of you may better know as Edward the Longshanks from Braveheart). There will be 2 DVD sets of episodes, with 2 disc each (3 episodes per set, plus lots of cool supplemental materials, including rare trailers, an alternate version of one episode, production photos and more). Each set will SRP for $39.95. VERY cool.

And Buena Vista has revealed that their Gone in 60 Seconds will street on December 5th, followed by Scary Movie on December 12th (read more via Yahoo here).

Here's something that may have slipped under the radar - director Steven Spielberg has been given permission to create an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: 20th Anniversary Special Edition for release in theaters in March of 2002 (we've been told that work is already under way on that, as well as on the DVD release, which will occur later in 2002). The new version of the film will feature digitally enhanced scenes and new footage, a-la George Lucas' recent Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions. Again, you can read more via Yahoo.

And finally today, Image Entertainment's DVD News page features more upcoming DVD news, including details on Buena Vista's Gone in 60 Seconds and Scary Movie, Columbia TriStar's His Girl Friday and No Way Back, Criterion's Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter, MGM's December lineup (which includes Gorky Park and Sid and Nancy), Trimark's Heaven's Burning and their Kids re-release, Warner's League of Gentlemen: Series 1 and Running Mates and lots more.

Now then... we're caught up! So we'll be back tomorrow with a bunch of new DVD reviews. As always, stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/27/00 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Did ya miss us? Well, we didn't expect to be down for a week, but we're finally settling into our new home. Feels good to be back! First of all, let me say a big F#@K YOU to Concentric Network, who is the reason we had to go through all this hassle in the first place. You may recall that our server had long been housed by a small ISP called Anaserve here in Orange County, CA. Well Anaserve got taken over by Concentric a year ago, and everything went downhill from there. We've been getting (and promptly paying) our bills... paying the rate we agreed upon with Anaserve when we contracted with them. Then, about a month ago, we got a call from Concentric saying that they were going to triple our hosting rates. While we scrambled to figure out a course of action, Concentric then proceeded to call almost every day - SERIOUS arm-twisting - saying that if we didn't re-sign with them for a year ASAP, they were going to shut down our server. These guys were pushy like you wouldn't believe. Finally, I just told them to shut the damn server down, because we weren't going to be blackmailed into paying them another dime. And now what do you suppose they're doing? They're holding our old server (which we've long ago paid for) hostage, while they try to charge us like $1,800 in uncontracted "back bandwidth" charges - charges which are completely bogus and are being levied punitively for not signing with them again. Needless to say, our lawyer is on the case. Our advice - if you're looking for an ISP, Concentric is to be avoided at all costs.

God they've pissed me off. Did you get the sense that I'm a little peeved? Anyway, we're glad to be (mostly) rid of them. And we're very happy to acknowledge (and mound our sincerest thanks upon) our new ISP, Internet 1st, Inc.. They're based in St. Louis, MO, smack dab in the middle of the good old US of A. They were recommended to us by our friends at the Home Theater Forum and frankly we couldn't be happier. And as our new Internet home, we've added a link to Internet 1st at the bottom of every page here at the Bits (in place of the old Anaserve button - good riddance!). So if you're looking for a great place to host your website, give 'em a call.

Now then... there are still a couple of things that we need to tweak around here, particularly our e-mail, which may still be a tad buggy for the next few days. BUT... we took the time while we were down to give the Bits a MAJOR overhaul. We've scoured every page of the site for bad code, non-functional e-mail links, old formatting, uncredited reviews - you name it. The major change that you should notice immediately is the new button bar on the left of every page of the Bits. Not only does it feature "rollover" animation, it SHOULD finally put an end to all of those crashing problems you users of Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 for Mac have been having. Something about our old button bar graphics just gave the browser a major wedgie, so much so that many Mac users simply couldn't read the site. Hopefully, the new graphics will make your browsers happy - please let us know if you're still having problems.

We've got some archiving and catching up to do over the next day or two, particularly news and reviews. Our staff has churned out a ton of reviews while we were down, so we're going to start posting those later today. And we've got a couple of major features going up soon, including a closer look at Universal's upcoming Legend: Collector's Edition 2-disc set. So please bear with us while we get back up to speed again after being gone for a week. As I said, we'll be back later today to start things off.

In the meantime, we've updated the CEA DVD player sales data for the third week of September - 149,675 players sold into retail, meaning that 10 million players is just around the corner.

And we've FINALLY announced the winners of our September Trivia Contest. Congratulations to Jim Gostigian of Ft. Myers, Florida, who took home the Pioneer DV-434 progressive scan DVD player. Congrats also to Eric Anderson of Edmonds, Washington, who won the RTI T2 Remote. You can read the answers to the contest here. Sorry to keep you all hanging in there waiting to see who won, but we simply couldn't avoid the downtime. But be assured that we got everyone's entries right up until the close of the contest - all 3,247 of them (a new record)! Sarah's already at work on the next contest, and we've got some great prizes coming up, so be sure to check back soon for that.

By the way... we got hundreds of great answers to our "Monkey Mystery" question (What is the Meaning of the Monkey?). There were some very funny ones... and some where people seemed to REALLY read things into it. As we said when we posted it, there's no right answer. But our favorite came from Jamie Silver of Madison, Wisconsin, who said simply... "Monkey just is." Amen, baby. Just so you're not all scratching your heads wondering why we posted it in the first place, he's officially called the SprockMonkey, and he's the logo that Todd and I have created to represent our other, non-DVD creative endeavors (look for a SprockMonkey.com at some point in the near future). We wanted SpaceMonkey or SockMonkey, but those domains were gone. SprockMonkey is a combination of both, it's completely unique and it's just plain us. Anyway, we're pretty proud of the little guy and we just wanted to keep you all entertained while we were away. Who better to do that than a monkey?

SprockMonkey just is.

Well... that's about all for now. From everyone here at The Digital Bits, thank you all very much for hanging in there with us during our move. It was a real pain, but we're back and we're ready to jam. We really love what we do, and we've been away from it for WAY too long! Plus, we happen to think we've got the best readers around. So thanks again for all your support and we'll be back later this afternoon!

Stay tuned... ;-)

9/20/00

A DVD WILL RISE...!

Yes... this is FINALLY the final approved and absolutely final in every way DVD cover artwork for DreamWorks' Gladiator. And surprise... it's a Signature Selection! Yessir, director Ridley Scott himself has personally signed each and every disc. Well... okay, maybe not personally. But you get the idea. Let me just say this... between Gladiator and the Toy Story set, I'm gonna be a VERY happy camper in a month or two... ;-)

Gladiator: Signature Selection

Also... we wanted to be the first to break some more good Ridley Scott DVD news to you. We've been informed that Universal's terrific Legend: Collector's Series 2-disc set is also expected to street on November 21st, for an SRP of $34.99. How's that for a Scott 2-disc two shot? An official announcement is expected to come on Friday or Monday. And we'll have a special feature story on this title very soon. Add Legend to Gladiator and Toy Story in the list of discs I'm dying to get...

Don't forget that today is the last day of the Trivia Contest... just FYI.

Also this morning, I wanted to let you know that The Digital Bits is probably going to be moving servers over the next few days. That means that we may go down for a day or two, and that our e-mail may be down as well until we get up on the new server. If this does occur, please note that you will be able to reach me in a pinch via this e-mail address: billh1216@aol.com. Our regular e-mail should be back up soon. Thanks for your patience!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/19/00 - 8 PM PDT)

Okay... NOW it's official. Here's the text of DreamWorks' press release announcing the DVD release of Gladiator. We'll have the final FINAL artwork tomorrow morning (the stuff you're seeing on Amazon.com right now is still bogus):

DreamWorks' Colossal $185 Million Summer Smash
GLADIATOR
Starring Academy Award® Nominee Russell Crowe

Comes Out Swinging In The Video Arena November 21, 2000 On VHS and DVD

Ultimate Collector's Double Disc DVD Hits Shelves Featuring More Than Four Hours of Bonus Programming And Dolby Digital and DTS Sound Together On Discs

GLENDALE, CA - The second highest-grossing box-office smash and DreamWorks' number one hit movie of the year, Gladiator, makes its highly-anticipated DVD sell-through and VHS rental debut November 21, 2000. The critically acclaimed and action-packed epic that brings to life all the passion and glory of ancient Rome through amazing action and ground-breaking special effects, releases as a special double disc DVD with more than four hours of bonus programming. Available just in time for the holidays, the Gladiator DVD is the ultimate gift for the millions of fans who made the film a $185 million box office smash. It offers a coliseum full of extras, including an insightful director's commentary by Academy-Award*-nominated director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), deleted scenes, a seven-minute montage of never-before-seen footage produced exclusively for the DVD by Academy Award-winning editor Pietro Scalia (JFK), a production diary by one of the film's actors and much more. The Gladiator DVD will be available for as low as under $22.00.

The powerful story of courage and revenge, Gladiator stars Academy Award* nominee Russell Crowe (The Insider; L.A. Confidential) and features an outstanding, all-star international ensemble cast, including Joaquin Phoenix (8MM; To Die For), Connie Nielsen (Mission To Mars; The Devil's Advocate), Oliver Reed (Oliver; The Three Musketeers), Richard Harris (Patriot Games; Unforgiven), and Djimon Hounsou (Amistad; Deep Rising).

GLADIATOR DVD FEATURES

Continuing its tradition of creating DVD's that feature extraordinary programming and extras, DreamWorks is releasing the Gladiator DVD with more than four hours of bonus programming:

An insightful and compelling Director commentary with Ridley Scott providing an in-depth look at the dazzling special effects and the creation of this fascinating film.

Never-before-seen, previously unreleased scenes with Director Ridley Scott's commentary.

A visually stunning "Treasure Chest" of additional footage cut to music by Pietro Scalia.

A fascinating behind-the-scenes half hour special.

A one-hour program revealing the astonishing history of the Gladiatorial games.

An interview with Hans Zimmer on scoring the music for this epic.

Lucious' production diary written by young actor Spencer Treat Clark.

A slideshow of concept art and storyboard stills.

A behind-the-scenes gallery of stills from the set of Gladiator.

Original theatrical trailers and television spots.

Production notes.

Cast and filmmaker biographies.


We at the Bits have only one thing to say to all this: Sweeett! Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/19/00 - 9:15 AM PDT)

Well... it's ALMOST official. DreamWorks is this morning expected to announce the DVD release of Gladiator (street date November 21st). The 2-disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen with dual Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks and feature length commentary with director Ridley Scott and editor Pietro Scalia. Also along for the ride are trailers, 25 minutes of deleted scenes with Scott commentary, a seven-minute montage of never-before-seen footage put together by editor Pietro Scalia exclusively for the DVD edition, a behind-the-scenes featurette, HBO and TLC specials on the film and the history of gladiators and more. The set's SRP will be $29.99. You can read more via Yahoo here. We'll have more on this soon, including the final cover art.

Also announced for December from Buena Vista are Scary Movie (12/5) and Gone in 60 Seconds (12/12), each for an SRP of $29.95.

And don't forget that tomorrow is the last day of our Trivia Contest, so get your entries in fast for your chance to win a new progressive scan DVD player or a programmable remote control.

Stay tuned...


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