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Site created 12/15/97.


page updated: 11/29/00



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 11/2/00 - 10/6/00)


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11/2/00

We've got more reviews for you this morning. Florian and I have teamed up for a tag-team review of Columbia TriStar's The Patriot: Special Edition. Our own Brad Pilcher's been busy spinning discs too - he's got a look at Paramount's Rules of Engagement, Buena Vista's Keeping the Faith and Palm Picture's Free Tibet.

And speaking of Columbia, we've just gotten our first look at their 2-disc special edition release of Bridge on the River Kwai. David Lean fans are going to love this. It comes in a very cool "library" case similar to what the Men in Black: Limited Edition is packaged in, and it includes a very cool little booklet which reprints the exact text from the film's original 1957 souvenir book. My mouth is really watering now for their Lawrence of Arabia release early next year. We'll try to get a review done ASAP on this cool release, so stay tuned...

11/1/00

Whew! Are we wiped out! Yesterday was a lot of fun for all of us here at the Bits, so thanks to everyone who has sent in kind e-mails about SpookFest 2000. It was a lot of work, but we really enjoyed it. Halloween's one of our favorite times of the year here at the Bits. So maybe this'll be a regular thing. To be honest, we just really dig the "jack-o-lantern" logo. Anyway, thanks for all the kind comments! ;-)

We've also selected the winner in our October Trivia Contest. So congratulations to Ben Susser of Livingston, NJ. Ben takes home the Panasonic SC-HT80 DynaMovie Home Theater System courtesy of our contest sponsor Etronixs.com. Thanks also to all 1,285 people who entered this time. The next contest will start soon, and may have a slightly Jurassic slant (hint, hint!). In the meantime, you can find the answers to this month's puzzle by clicking here. Thanks for playing!

Also today, an X-Files DVD update. There's been some confusion online as to what the exact street date is for The X-Files: The Complete Second Season DVD boxed set. We've spoken with the studio, and they've told us that November 28th is the big day. Be aware too that the revised DVD version of The X-Files: Fight the Future is expected on December 26th (tentative date), which will include anamorphic widescreen video and dual Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. Very cool.

Stay tuned...!

(LATE, LATE UPDATE - 10/31/00 - 11:59 PM PST)

Well... SpookFest 2000 is now complete. In the wee late hours of last night, we posted the remainder of our reviews, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Carrie, The Changeling, Beetlejuice, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween H20. Over the course of the day, we posted a whopping 32 reviews in all. Whew!

I'd like to say a word of thanks to our talented staff here at the Bits, starting with review editor Todd Doogan, who mans the helm at our East Coast office. Thanks also to reviewers Greg Suarez and Brad Pilcher. And a special thanks has to go to Bits reviewer Dan Kelly, who turned (by far) the lion's share of these reviews. And, of course, thanks also to our contest guru, Sarah Hunt, who is (even as we speak) at work on the November Trivia Contest. Thanks everyone!

We hope you enjoyed SpookFest 2000 as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you. And now... I'm gonna sleep for like 12 hours. But we'll be back tomorrow to announce the contest winner. And look for some cool stuff in the next few days, including reviews of Mission: Impossible 2 and more. Stay tuned!

(LATER UPDATE - 10/31/00 - 2:30 PM PST)

We're about halfway through our SpookFest 2000, and already we've posted reviews of some 14 DVDs! That's taken our site total to over 600 discs reviewed here at the Bits. Here's a list of the titles posted so far today: Night of the Living Dead (6 different versions), Night of the Living Dead (1990), Christine, Prom Night, Exorcist III, Friday the 13th, Friday the 13, Part 2, Friday the 13th, Part 3 and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

And on the way for the rest of the day are Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 & 2, Urban Legend, The Changeling, Beetlejuice, Carrie, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and the ENTIRE Halloween series!

So stick around... 'cause there's lots more spooky fun to come!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/31/00 - Midnight PST)

SpookFest 2000 is on! Let the haunting begin! We've got DVD reviews of a whole slew of great "things that go bump in the night" movies for you today, and we're going to post them 3 or 4 at a time, starting with a set of Paramount slasher classics - Friday the 13th, Friday the 13, Part 2, Friday the 13th, Part 3 and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. We've got almost 30 reviews on the way throughout the day, and we'll wrap up with a look at the complete Halloween series. So keep checking the What's New section at the top of this page, or the Reviews page for the latest additions. And we'll wrap up the whole list of titles in this column at the end of the day.

Also, don't forget that today is the last day to get your entries in for the Trivia Contest - we'll announce the winner tomorrow morning.

And finally this morning, you may have been hearing rumors about Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes coming on DVD in May of 2001 from Paramount. That information is false, and we've got the official word from the studio on the issue in the Rumor Mill today, so be sure to check it out.

Now then... enjoy SpookFest 2000 and have a happy and safe Halloween! Don't eat too much candy... ;-)

-10/30/00

You know how the song says it never rains in California? What they meant was that it never rains in California... except when it's raining. Which it's been doing all weekend. It's funny - you can live here for months and never see so much as a drizzle, and then you get dumped on all of a sudden. And since L.A. is basically a desert, the soil is mostly sand and can't hold a lot of water. That means that people's houses start to slide down hillsides and stuff. Anyway, it's a strange time of year here.

So did all you Americans remember to set your clocks back this weekend or were you an hour early to your weekly football party? Yeah... me too. I joined several dozen fellow members of the Southern California Viking Club, who meet at a local pizza joint here in Orange County every Sunday, and we watched our team get spanked but good by Tampa Bay. Ah well - we all knew their undefeated record couldn't last. What can you do? Anyway, I hope your favorite team won this weekend.

You may have noticed I'm not talking DVD much. That's for two reasons. First of all, there's never very much DVD news to talk about on a Monday. But, more importantly, we're saving it all until this evening - tonight at Midnight to be specific. That's when we're kicking off our first ever Digital Bits SpookFest 2000! Throughout the day tomorrow, we'll be posting reviews of some of your favorite scary movies, including the entire Halloween series, maybe some Friday the 13th, all the different versions of Night of the Living Dead and lots more - more than 20 reviews in all. So gather up all the skeletons in your closet and we'll see you back here tonight.

Stay tuned... mmmoooaaaahahahahah! ;-)

10/27/00

As expected, PlayStation 2 madness has swept gamers across the country. Seems like everyone's got a news story up on the craze, including CNN, MSNBC and CNet. There are scads of links to newswire reports over at Yahoo.com and our old friend Andy Patrizio's even written one for Wired.com. Gotta love it.

Today is a very slow news day and we're working on something special for Monday, so we're going to wrap this one up quick this afternoon. But before we go, we've got a sneak peek at some DVD titles Warner is working on for later this year and early next year. Note that some are titles distributed for New Line. Also note that street dates are tentative. So here goes:

Life Beyond Earth (11/14), Escape Under Pressure, Switch (11/21), Chasers (12/5), The Cell (12/5), Saving Grace, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (12/19), The Art of War, The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen, Race Against Time (12/26), MVP: Most Valuable Primate (1/16/01), 4 Little Girls, Soul of the Game (1/23/01), Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost (3/6/01)

And, as luck would have it, we've got DVD cover artwork for The Art of War and The Cell, as well as the two upcoming Powerpuff Girls DVDs (street date 11/7). Enjoy!

The Art of WarThe Cell

The Powerpuff Girls: Powerpuff BluffThe Powerpuff Girls: Down 'n' Dirty

Have a great weekend and stay tuned...!

10/26/00

Well, today is the big day that lots of you get to pick up your pre-ordered Sony PlayStation 2 game systems. Our own Greg Suarez got in line at 5:15 AM this morning to get his and was at home playing with it by 7 AM. Greg reports that (as expected) it pretty much rocks. He's going to be working on a full report of his first experience with the DVD-based game system, including a test of how it handles DVD-Video playback. We should have it up here sometime next week - that is, if we can get him to stop playing Madden NFL 2001 for long enough to get some writing done... ;-)

Sony's DVD-based PlayStation 2 game system, on sale today.

In the meantime, click on over to our affiliate network IGN.com, which has complete coverage of all things PS2 related, including full reviews of all 27 games available for the launch. And if you're heading out to buy a PS2 this afternoon, good luck. We've heard reports that they're ALREADY gone - everywhere.

Speaking of the PS2, we've just gotten an e-mail from our friends over at Digital Leisure, who tell us that their PS2 versions of Dragon's Lair I & II, Space Ace and Hologram Time Traveler are now on store shelves. Best of all, they're a LOT cheaper than the $49.95 SRP of most of the regular games (Dragon's Lair is only $29.95 most places). Click here for the company's press release and a look at the games themselves.

FYI, Image Entertainment's got a new DVD News page update, with lots of great upcoming titles listed. Included are Artisan's Inside the Space Station (which will premiere on the Discovery Channel in December - you KNOW I'm there), Columbia's Godzilla 2000, Survivor and Wonder Boys from Paramount and more.

And speaking of Image, Todd and I just got our hands on their new DVD release of Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala, which we'll be reviewing sometime next week. You can bet I'll be happily giving the disc a spin this evening, 'cause let's face it - Kurosawa rocks.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/25/00 - 1:45 PM PDT)

All right Fincher fans... you've waited a LONG time for this one. But Todd and I are very pleased to be able to bring you an early look at New Line's terrific Se7en: Platinum Series 2-disc DVD set, which streets on December 19th (SRP $30.98). Since you're about to read our in-depth review, I don't want to say much more than this - this new DVD release was WELL worth the wait. New Line's gonna make a LOT of people happy this Christmas. And hey... isn't Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy and Wrath what the season's all about these days? ;-)

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/25/00 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We've got another review or two coming later today, including possibly Se7en, so be sure to check back. In the meantime, we've updated the Rumor Mill again (about time!) with some more upcoming DVD information, including an official street date on New Line's The Cell: Platinum Edition, an update on Paramount's future Star Trek DVD plans and a sneak peek at Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season. Don't miss it.

Also, there's word that Columbia TriStar's Under Suspicion will be released on DVD on January 2nd, for an SRP of $24.95. Look for the disc to include commentary with director Stephen Hopkins and Morgan Freeman, a "making of" featurette, talent files and full frame and anamorphic widescreen video.

And there's good word that Sony's PlayStation 2 is making an impact on Japan's lagging DVD market. The U.S. market should get an even bigger boost when the game system hits store shelves on Thursday. Read the whole story at Yahoo.

Finally this morning, here's a look at the DVD cover art for a pair of upcoming titles - Paramount's The Conversation: Special Edition (a classic Coppola flick which streets on 12/12) and Disney's Coyote Ugly (coming in January).

The ConversationCoyote Ugly

We'll be back later, so stay tuned...!

10/24/00

Today's a busy day around the Bits. Even as your faithful editor recovers from a massive head cold (ouch), we've finally got our review of Columbia TriStar's Men in Black posted. Todd and I have compared all three versions of the film on DVD in depth, and talk extras and quality. If you're a fan of this flick and you haven't already picked up one of these discs, we'll be giving you a reason to head to the video store tonight. ;-)

And no sooner do we get that done, we've got our hands on another major new double-disc DVD set to review for you... New Line's Se7en: Platinum Series. We'll try to get the review done as soon as possible. But I can say, based on an initial spin of these discs, I think you'll be pretty excited. It was worth the wait.

Image has got some cool DVD news today. They've just announced that they're going to be releasing Aardman Anamation's classic short Creature Comforts on DVD on November 28th. The film, by the same people who gave us Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit series, will arrive on disc for an SRP of only $9.99. Best of all, 3 additional Aardman shorts will be included as well - Wat's Pig, Not Without My Handbag and Adam. Personally, I can't wait. I'm a big Wallace & Gromit fan and I really dig this animation style. Very cool news.

Also today (and file this one in the "Oh... They're Still Making Laserdiscs" category), Pioneer has just announced that they're releasing Universal's The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps on LD. That's cool and all, but is anyone still buying new films on laserdisc? It's one of those things that make you say, "Hmmmmm..."

In case you didn't know, we've kicked off the last Trivia Contest for October with another Name That DVD Cover puzzle. One winner will take home a Panasonic SC-HT80 Home Theater System - it's just the right size for your office or dorm room. You have until 7 PM PDT on Tuesday, October 31st to enter. And since that's Halloween, you can bet the DVD covers you have to guess will have something to do with things that go bump in the night... ;-)

All right... I'm outta here. I've got hours more reviewing to do. Have a great night and see you back here tomorrow... same Bat time, same Bat channel!

10/23/00

Okay... this is the first of a couple of updates that will go up today, so keep checking back. But, as a nice way to kick off the new week, I thought you might want to get your first look at Fox's forthcoming X-Men DVD (street date 11/21). Also, I've done a little more playing with my Jurassic Park and Lost World DTS discs and have updated the reviews again with further comments. I have been able to get more low frequency from the DTS soundtracks, but it took some tweaking. Ultimately, if your system is capable of reproducing it accurately, you'll enjoy an excellent DTS experience. But I'm still not sure how I feel about the fact that it took additional tinkering with an already professionally calibrated system to enjoy that audio. I'm betting that a lot of less tech-minded DTS fans are being left in the dark, so to speak. Anyway, check the reviews.

In other news, it looks like Buena Vista's taken care of that Toy Story 2 problem - at least according to them. We received this statement from them late Friday:

"Buena Vista Home Entertainment has learned that, due to a manufacturing defect at Technicolor Videocassette, Inc., a limited number of Toy Story The Ultimate Toy Box DVD 3 Packs are defective. The second disc within the set inadvertently contains part of an "R" rated movie.

There has been NO defect identified with discs contained in the two-disc DVD Toy Story 2-Pack.

We are confident that the defective product has been isolated and removed from store shelves. The defect occurred in less than 1% of the sets manufactured.

If your Ultimate Toy Box contains a defective disc, please return it to the location where it was purchased for a full refund or exchange."

Hopefully, that should be the end of that. Now then... we'll be back with more in a few hours. Stay tuned...

Go Vikes!

10/20/00

We've got LOTS of reviews for you today. First of all, Todd and I have done some comparisons between the Dolby Digital and DTS editions of Universal's Jurassic Park and The Lost World, and we've updated our reviews accordingly. DTS fans... prepare to be disappointed. Todd has also got a two-shot look at a pair of classic Orson Welles film noir classics, Columbia TriStar's The Lady from Shanghai and Universal's Touch of Evil (street date 10/31). We suggest starting with Lady from Shanghai, because the two reviews are sort of a matched pair, discussing the career of Welles from one film to the other. Then, Todd rounds things out with a look at Columbia's Heavy Metal 2000: Special Edition and Synapse's forthcoming Evil Dead Trap (street date 10/31) as well. Topping it all off, Florian's given Miramax's The Cider House Rules a spin, and he's got some thoughts on it for you. Told you we had some reviews coming! And don't fret, 'cause we've got more on the way for Monday, including (finally!) Men in Black and Frequency. I know - you'll believe it when you see it. ;-)

Just FYI, we've also updated the CEA DVD Player sales chart to include the 128,174 players shipped into retail in the second week of October (ending 10/13). That takes the monthly total up to a nice 311,827, with 2 weeks to go. All listings have been updated accordingly.

Yesterday, we mentioned MGM's forthcoming When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition, without talking extras. So now... let's talk extras. The disc is expected to include some 11 minutes of deleted scenes, a new audio commentary by director Rob Reiner, a "making of" documentary with new interviews (including Reiner, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher) and Harry Connick, Jr.'s It Had to be You music video. The disc streets on January 9th, for an SRP of $24.98. Guys... get the Kleenex boxes out and keep 'em handy. The studio is also releasing In the Heat of the Night the same day with a new audio commentary (featuring director Norman Jewison, Rod Steiger and Lee Grant). And MGM has also finally announced all of the other January titles we mentioned in our report on their 2001 DVD plans. I have just one thing to say. MGM... please release Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire on DVD, ASAP. Okay... I've said my piece.

Fans of documentarian Ken Burns will be delighted to learn that Warner is releasing Jazz as a 10-disc DVD set on January 2nd. The set will SRP for $199.92. Of Burns' other multi-part documentaries, Baseball was just released on DVD and we have good word that The Civil War is on the way for next year.

Columbia TriStar has also just announced their DVD release of Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man. The special edition DVD will also street on January 2nd, for an SRP of $24.95. Included on the disc will be a commentary track with director Paul Verhoeven, Kevin Bacon and Andrew Marlowe, Jerry Goldsmith's isolated score with commentary, the HBO special Anatomy of a Thriller, 3 deleted scenes, talent files and much more. Should be cool.

Finally today (and speaking of Columbia TriStar), you L.A.-area fans of Mel Gibson's The Patriot will be happy to learn that Columbia TriStar is holding a special signing event on Wednesday, October 25th at the Virgin Megastore on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. The signing will run from 7 to 9 PM PDT, and on hand to sign your DVD copy of the film will be director Roland Emmerich, producer Dean Devlin and actor Jason Isaacs (who played the vile Colonel Tavington). Should be a fun evening, so if you're in the area, don't miss it. We'll have a review of the DVD soon.

Now then... the Trivia Contest is being assembled and should be up sometime tonight, so be sure to check back. As always, have a great weekend and stay tuned...!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/19/00 - 5:45 PM PDT)

Reviews! We've got a look at Fox's Titan A.E.: Special Edition, which isn't the best animated flick I've ever seen, but the DVD is well worth a look. And our own Erin Lindsey has given all of Paramount's Peanuts Holiday Collection DVDs a spin - A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. If you want a real warm-fuzzy blast from the past, you can't beat 'em. We've got several more reviews coming tomorrow, and we'll start the contest then too. I'm trying to get stuff posted as fast as I can - I'm on the road to recovery but this flu drains the energy out of you fast. ;-)

One thing I did want to mention - I've heard back from Buena Vista regarding the problems with the Toy Story 2 disc. Apparently it's a problem that occurred at the replication stage, with Technicolor, and it only effects the version of the film that appears in The Ultimate Toy Box. Here's Technicolor's official statement on the matter:

"Technicolor has identified and is investigating a manufacturing defect in part of the Disney three-disc DVD set, "Ultimate Toy Box." The problem exists in only a small percentage of the three-disc DVD packages and is limited to a specific isolated region of the United States.

There has been NO defect identified with discs contained in the two-disc DVD "Toy Story Deluxe" sets.

The manufacturing defect has been identified as a content mix, affecting some of the Toy Story 2 DVDs from the "Ultimate Toy Box".

Technicolor will continue to investigate the cause of the defect and the magnitude of the problem. Further information will be provided as soon as it becomes available."

So it's apparently not Disney's fault, but a replication error. In any case, if you've got a problem disc, you can call Buena Vista's customer service number and they'll arrange a replacement - 1-800-723-4763.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/19/00 - 12:15 PM PDT)

Well, I suppose with all the DVDs being rushed to market this fall, it was inevitable that there'd be a few problems along the way. Such seems to be the case with Toy Story 2. We've been told by numerous readers that some are having problems with the supplement disc of the Ultimate Toy Box not playing properly, while others are having trouble with Toy Story 2 - when it hits the layer switch as you watch the movie, it suddenly switches to a scene in High Fidelity (also a Buena Vista release), then locks up entirely. We've HEARD that some discs are being recalled, but that's just second-hand information. We do have a call into the studio, and as soon as we hear back from them we'll let you know what the story is (no pun intended).

But it's not just Buena Vista having problems - as you may remember from a few days ago, MGM is taking flak for missing subtitle problems in several of their discs (The Living Daylights, Octopussy and Delta Force). Remember - you can call MGM's toll-free customer service line (1-877-MGM-4YOU) to get your problem discs replaced. But give MGM a day or two to figure out exactly what's wrong and get the situation remedied.

Here's some more upcoming DVD cover artwork for you - a look at the regular movie-only edition of Disney's Dinosaur (street date 1/30/01) and Disney's The Kid (1/16/01), as well as MGM's forthcoming When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition (1/9/01), which also gives you a sneak peek at MGM's new DVD cover layout. Look for all MGM's future discs to use a variation of this layout.

DinosaurThe Kid

When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition

Now then... we'll be back with reviews later this afternoon. But we wanted to mention this first. We've managed to confirm that Columbia TriStar's The Patriot: Special Edition is the first Region 1 disc to be enhanced with RCE (Region Code Enhancement) so that it will not play on modified all-region DVD players. When you try to play it on a modified player, you'll see this screen:

RCE Message

We're not gonna get into a debate about whether RCE is a good thing or a bad thing - we've already been there and done that and a lot of you seem to have wildly conflicting thoughts on the issue. So debate, but debate elsewhere. We're just posting this information here as an FYI to those of you who might try to buy The Patriot for use on a hacked player. I suppose we can count the days until some would-be Wozniak figures out how to bypass this. ;-)

Back soon...

10/18/00

We've been hearing from a LOT of panicked Ridley Scott fans, who have read elsewhere on the Net that Universal's Legend: Collector's Edition has been cancelled. That information is misleading. Here's Universal's official statement on it:

"The DVD release of Legend Collectors Edition has been postponed until further notice."

We've been working closely with Universal and the disc's producers on an in-depth story on the Legend DVD, and I can tell you wholeheartedly that it HAS NOT been cancelled. It's just been delayed. I can also tell you that the delay isn't about legal issues. They merely need more time to finish the disc to make it as good as you all want it to be. That MAY (note the emphasis on may) include adding a feature or two, and tweaking the technical aspects of the release. The delay shouldn't be long and there's every reason to believe that the title should be out before the end of the year. So hang tight - Legend is still coming and you're all gonna be the better off for this delay.

Now then... your editor is unfortunately still sick in bed, but I thought I'd give you a look at a couple of other upcoming DVD releases, Disney's Dinosaur: Collector's Edition (2-discs - street date 1/30/01) and Criterion's The Rolling Stones: Gimmie Shelter (11/14). Enjoy!

Dinosaur: Collector's Edition (2-discs)The Rolling Stones: Gimmie Shelter (Criterion)

We'll be back tomorrow with several reviews and the new Trivia Contest, so stay tuned...

10/17/00

Well... you may have heard the news and you've certainly heard the rumors - three of MGM's just released DVDs are semi-defective, suffering from the same "missing" film captions problem that their This is Spinal Tap: Special Edition did. The titles in question are Octopussy and The Living Daylights from the Bond Wave 3 set (and the single copies as well) and Delta Force. I spoke yesterday with the studio, and rest assured, MGM is aware of the problem and has, in fact, ALREADY corrected the discs. That means all current shipments are of the corrected discs. BUT some bad ones did get shipped early on. MGM is planning NO recall, but I'm told if you did get a defective copy of ANY of these titles, you can simply call their toll-free customer service line (1-877-MGM-4YOU) and they will arrange to replace them with corrected copies free of charge. Here's how to tell if your copy is good or not - on the top label on the disc (the white seal sticker), if it just says the film's name, that's a bad copy. The corrected copies say "4*Octopussy4*" with a "4*" on either side of the title. That probably doesn't apply with the boxed sets, but at least its a start.

Now then... today's another slow news day, and wouldn't you know it, I've been sacked with a head cold. But Image Entertainment's got another great DVD News update posted with details on lots more upcoming titles, including Better Tomorrow 1 & 2 and Children of the Corn from Anchor Bay, BMG's Annie Lennox: Totally Diva, Chieftains: An Irish Evening, Eerie Indiana (3 episodes of the TV series) and Eurythmics: Greatest Hits, Buena Vista's Dinosaur (2 versions), Columbia TriStar's Loser, The Road to El Dorado from DreamWorks, all those DVD-Audio titles from Warner Music and lots of other great titles. Be sure to check it out.

Stay tuned...

10/16/00

We've got a few things for you today. First up, we've finally announced the 13 winners in the Trivia Contest. We had some 1,412 entries, and people seemed to enjoy this one a lot. We have another contest that will be starting in the next couple of days, so be sure to check back for it. In the meantime, click here to see the winners and answers.

We've posted the full transcript of another chat our friends over at the Home Theater Forum held last week with Michael Felsher of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. Lots of good questions were asked and answered, and a number of new title announcements were made. I have to say, I'm really impressed with the quality of the work Anchor Bay has been doing on DVD. Since many of their titles aren't A-list films, like Avis, they have to try harder. And they're really releasing some fine discs in the process.

Speaking of Anchor Bay, we've just posted a review of one of their recent releases, The Beyond: Limited Edition. Todd's also taken a look at another big upcoming release from Warner - The Perfect Storm: Special Edition (street date November 14th). I think you'll find both reviews, and their respective discs, worth a look.

We've also updated the CEA DVD Player sales numbers today, to add the 183,653 players that were shipped to retailers by manufacturers in the first week of October (ending 10/6). At this rate, we feel pretty confident in predicting that the number of players in Region 1 will exceed 12 million by the end of the year.

We've been getting a lot of good comments on RCE and Region Coding, both from people for and against. Some of you seem to feel pretty strongly about the issue. We can't reply to everyone who has sent in their thoughts, but we do appreciate them nonetheless. We suggest continuing the debate over at the Home Theater Forum - our favorite place to hang on the Net for enlightened DVD discussion (when we're not working on the Bits, of course).

In other news, DreamWorks has finally announced their DVD edition of Road Trip for release on December 19th. The disc will include 30 seconds of unrated footage, deleted scenes, music videos and much more, for an SRP of $26.98. And the details are finally in on Paramount's DVD release of the CBS TV series Survivor (argh!). Entitled Survivor Season One: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments, the disc will street on January 9th, just 2 weeks before the next contest starts on CBS (for an SRP of $19.95). I just don't have anything to say about this, expect that I'm wondering when Big Brother Season One: Eddie Brushes His Teeth and Other Thrilling Moments streets...

Finally today, a football comment or two. Before the start of this NFL season, I had to endure countless predictions of disaster for my team, the Minnesota Vikings, and now here they are, as yet undefeated at 6-0. I'm not so stupid as to think it's gonna last - the Vikings are nothing if not masters of the big choke. But it's sure nice while it lasts. I know it has nothing to do with DVD, but DAMN I love football season. ;-)

Stay tuned...

10/13/00

Just a quick note this freaky Friday the 13th - today is the last day in our Trivia Contest, so get your entries in by 7 PM PDT this evening for your chance to win copies of This is Spinal Tap or The James Bond DVD Collection - Wave 3 from MGM, or even a light-up 3D movie poster frame from ShowOff Displays. And just so you know, another great contest will kick up on Monday. Good luck!

Now then, as I mentioned in the last post, I spent yesterday afternoon at the sound and video post production facilities of Disney studios, talking with their DVD and home video staff about their plans for the format in 2001. To start with, I was given a video and audio demonstration of their Ultimate Toy Box (which we've reviewed here) and The Fantasia Anthology (which streets in November), as well as one of their other new "standard" DVDs, Shanghai Noon. These were used to illustrate the studio's new commitment to DVD quality and extras. It's no mistake that Buena Vista chose to give 3-disc special edition treatment to the Toy Story and Fantasia films, as doing so involves handling both their newest and oldest product at the same time. They consider both sets a sort of opening shot - a statement of intent, of you will - about their renewed commitment to the format.

Part of Disney's new seriousness about DVD comes from the fact of it's impressive growth - 10 million players in the market in a little over 3 years. Their research also shows that DVD is aggressively moving into a more mainstream market, which means many more "families" and less technical folks - the VHS crowd - is getting into the format. So the studio's future DVD plans are two-fold. They plan to cater to the high-end film buffs, with the super amazing special editions, and the casual movie fan as well, with less "tricked-out" versions (witness the Ultimate Toy Box and their movie-only Toy Story 2-Pack as examples of this two-pronged attack). You'll be happy to know that the studio has created a new DVD content production and development group internally, so they can really add unique and valuable supplemental material to their discs. They're committed to anamorphic widescreen enhancement of all films that were exhibited widescreen in theaters. But they also plan to provide full frame versions of many films (particularly family films) whenever they can (their research shows that Moms hate letterboxing). They're not going to abandon widescreen, they're just going to try to serve both audiences. They're also committed to adding more solid bonus content to even their standard DVD releases, of which they say that Shanghai Noon is a good early example. And the studio says they'll continue to consider DTS audio on a title by title basis.

Of course, one of our biggest complaints (and yours as well) of Buena Vista DVDs has been the mandatory promo trailers for other Disney DVD product that play at the start of every "standard" grade disc - even before you get to the menu screen. The studio has heard your complaints and has developed what they believe will be a happy medium. The trailers will still play when you put in the disc... if you take no action. However, they are now authoring all their discs so that you can skip the trailers immediately if you press the ">>" or "menu" buttons on your remote. And you will soon notice that their DVDs will begin sporting a message at the beginning of the trailers, informing you that you can skip them by pressing "menu" at any time. We think it's a fair compromise, even if it's not ideal. Of course, multi-disc special editions will never feature such trailers.

Disney basically wants you all to get the following message: they believe DVD is for real and that it is the future. Having made that determination, their goal is to treat DVD as carefully as they currently do their theatrical product. Going forward, the studio claims to have a LOT of product in the development pipeline, including a wider variety of family and niche product (like art, foreign and genre titles). Though they were guarded about giving specifics, they say that they have a lot more genuine special editions on the way, including more multi-disc sets (the first of which will be Dinosaur on January 31st, which they claim will have as much, if not more, cool content than the Ultimate Toy Box or the Fantasia Anthology). You're going to see more classic animation and more direct to video animation (Lady and the Tramp II anyone?). And they're going to kick off their "Platinum" line of classic animated DVD special editions in 2001 (tentative plans call for Snow White to be the first title, but this could change). Their plan for the Platinum series calls for 10 titles, released one per year.

I do wish they had been more candid about their upcoming product, to give you all a sneak preview of things to come. But if their future product is of the caliber of Toy Story and Fantasia, I think we'll all be very happy with their DVD work for 2001. By the way, I did find out some interesting things about Toy Story and Fantasia. First of all, the supplemental disc (disc 3) of the Ultimate Toy Box contains some 6 hours of video and audio programming (not including the films on the other two discs, mind you), along with over 2,000 still images. And the disc includes a funny Easter Egg as well (our review has been updated accordingly). If anything, the Fantasia Anthology is even more cool - the 3rd disc in that set includes 11 hours of video and audio programming (again, not including the film discs) and 2,200 still frames. All the discs are organized using very classy, film-themed animated menus, which allow you to access the material as if you were peeling the layers of an onion. Some of this stuff is very cool. Fantasia includes a commentary with Walt Disney himself, put together from audio interviews he did about the film back in the day. And Fantasia 2000 also includes a "showcase program" which is a 7 or 8 minute home theater demonstration program of the best audio and video material in the film. You're also going to see material from the original film that has NEVER been seen before, including abandoned segments, unused animation and more. It's all extremely cool. The really great thing, is that if you're a serious fan or student of feature film animation, these two sets are going to really cover every possible aspect of the process.

So that's Disney's presentation for the coming year. I have to say, I was impressed. Obviously, there wasn't a lot in the way of details about upcoming releases. But I do believe Disney when they say that they're serious about the format. The studio plans to take a leading role in the DVD industry, and if their immediate upcoming releases are any indication, I think it's safe to say they're well on the way.

Now then, have a great Friday the 13th and a terrific weekend. Rest assured, we'll be back on Monday with a bunch of cool stuff for you, so stay tuned. And you know I can't resist - Go Vikings!

10/12/00

Looking for DVD-Audio titles? Well... November 7th's the big day for you. That's when Warner Music releases a spate of 7 DVD-Audio titles in their catalog, priced at $24.98 each. Among the titles expected are Core by Stone Temple Pilots, Tigerlily by Natlie Merchant and Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. If only the players didn't still cost so much...

Image Entertainment's got a new DVD News update posted with details on lots more upcoming releases, including Anchor Bay's All Creatures Great and Small and Times Square: Special Edition, Styx/REO Speedwagon: Arch Allies: Live At Riverport from BMG, Annie, Kikujiro and Trixie from Columbia TriStar, Dragon's Lair 1 & 2, Space Ace and Traveller for the PlayStation 2 from Digital Leisure, La Femme Nikita from MGM, The Conversation: Special Edition, Children of a Lesser God, The Odd Couple, An Officer and a Gentleman: Special Edition and The Virgin Suicides from Paramount and The Replacements: Special Edition from Warner.

Also today, Don May, Jr. at Synapse noticed something with a new DVD he just got his hands on and, out of his love for the DVD buying public, wanted to alert us to a possible problem. If you bought the new From Dusk to Dawn double disc set with Full Tilt Boogie included, you may have a defective disc. There must have been a run of bum discs, and since people ran out to pick up the set for the new documentary and didn't watch the film, they're missing a glitch. First look at the data side of the FDTD disc, and if you notice a milky swirling, then move to the next step. Pop the disc into your player and check the film at about 70 to 71 minutes in - spoiler ahead (where Quentin as a vampire is snuffed by George). Okay, end of spoiler. If your picture skips ahead a scene, pixilates or freezes and shuts your player down... well, then you obviously have a bad disc. We haven't talked to Disney yet (we will soon - more in a moment), and we don't know the official word, so about your only option at this point is to return the disc to your retailer and hope the next one you get isn't faulty. Be warned, Don went through 6 discs at his local store on their player looking for a good one. So if you're as pushy as Don, do the same to ensure vampiric satisfaction.

And finally this morning, DreamWorks has officially announced their DVD special edition edition of the animated The Road to El Dorado. The disc will street on December 12th, for an SRP of $26.99. Included will be anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, director's commentary, an Elton John music video for the film's theme song, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a gallery of marketing materials, cast & crew bios, production notes, a DVD-ROM brain teaser game and lots more. Should be worth a look.

Now then, as you know, last week I was invited to attend a studio meeting with the folks from MGM, to talk about their plans for DVD in 2001. This afternoon, I'm heading up to Buena Vista Home Entertainment to chat with them about their upcoming DVD work, and to get a preview for all of you of what's ahead. We'll have that tomorrow, so be sure to check back for it. And I'll be sure to ask that all-important question, "Why forced trailers on your discs?" ;-)

Stay tuned...

10/11/00

Well... we've had a little change of plans as far as our DVD reviews. And I don't think you'll mind one bit. We've gotten our hands on Disney and Pixar's Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box 3-disc DVD set, and we've got a full in-depth review up for you now! You're gonna love this thing! It streets in just 6 days (on October 17th) for an SRP of $69.99, and we think it's worth EVERY penny. You get both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in amazing anamorphic widescreen video, mastered using the same straight-digital transfer process Pixar created for their DVD of A Bug's Life. You get terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (Toy Story 2 even features 5.1 EX). And you get audio commentaries, deleted footage, trailers and more supplemental materials that you can shake a stick at - enough to last days and fill up an entire third disc (they even squeezed extras onto the movie discs as well). This is just a blast - absolutely DO NOT miss it.

Before we get back to our review work today, we just wanted to say a little more about this whole Regional Code Enhancement controversy. Some of you (particularly our European readers) obviously feel very strongly about this issue, and you might have misunderstood our position. Look... we know that lots of you in Region 2 import movies from Region 1 because the studios aren't being as aggressive in releasing them in your own areas. And we at the Bits have all-region players ourselves and import the occasional disc from Europe or Japan. But as we mentioned yesterday, you simply can't deny the fact that the studios have a right to protect their product. I mean, they OWN the films - not us. Region-unlocked players or not, none of us here at The Digital Bits expected that the studios were going to just allow people to keep importing discs from outside their regions forever. And those of you outside the U.S. should keep in mind that you still have access to nearly 8,000 movies already released here that don't use RCE. Also, RCE is still only in the testing phase - there's no guarantee that it's going to become standard even at Warner, and there's no guarantee that other studios will adopt it. But it IS undeniably the studios' right to use it if they so choose, just like it's their right to use Macrovision or CSS encryption. You might not like it, but you don't own the film. Hey - we download MP3s from Napster. Do we begrudge the record companies the right to sue Napster? No. Would we begrudge them the right to encrypt their music or watermark it to fight piracy? No. We might not like it, but we knew it was a possibility going in... just like all of you who purchased all-region players should have known that you were taking advantage of a loop-hole that could be closed at any time.

We're not saying that you don't have very good and understandable reasons for being angry about RCE. But the answer to your problem isn't fighting RCE. You should all work together, gather up that energy and do something positive with it - like lobby the studios to get more aggressive about their DVD work in your particular region. Maybe the worldwide day-and-date release of films and DVDs is the answer - we happen to think it IS the future. But keep in mind that it takes time, money and a LOT of effort to release a film worldwide simultaneously. It's hard enough to release a good special edition DVD - now imagine having to translate the menu pages in 20 or 30 other languages, and create subtitle and language tracks in them too, and master it all together so it works properly and replicate enough discs to meet demand.... It takes time. And the demand for day-and-date DVD releases here in the States means that the studios barely have enough time to get a disc ready for release here on time. But the movie studios are NOT out to cheat you. There's no conspiracy. They're not sitting back in their offices, smoking stogies and plotting their next big screw. They're just very scared of losing their way in an all digital world. You can't blame them for that. Angry (and irrational) posts like the one on Ain't it Cool are only gonna scare them more. You've got valid concerns, so make them known (in a CONSTRUCTIVE way) to the studios. Change CAN happen folks - we saw that with Divx. But you have to direct your energy positively and you have to be patient. You've got to work together.

Stay tuned...

10/10/00

Reviews at last! I've just posted my in-depth reviews of Universal's nifty Sci-fi thriller Pitch Black (both the R-rated and unrated versions - street date October 24th), as well as a recent favorite which is getting special edition treatment from our friends at Synapse - Six Days in Roswell (street date November 14th). Both are great little flicks and we highly recommend them.

We'll be back with more reviews tomorrow (including Frequency and our long-awaited Men in Black review), so stay tuned...

In the meantime, a quick note - our friends over at Full Moon Entertainment are hosting a big Halloween event this Friday the 13th, from 6-10 PM PDT, at the Tower Records/Video store in Glendale, CA (on Brand Ave. across from the Glendale Galleria). It's called "Full Moon Over Tower" and there will be tons of prizes and special giveaways. There will also be a series of celebrity appearances, including some of the directors and stars from such films as Witchhouse 1&2, Subspecies 2-4, Sideshow, Pleasurecraft and more. Should be a lot of fun, so if you're in the area, drop on by.

Now then... Todd and I have worked up another good rant on a bit of DVD "news" that broke on the Net in the last few days. So here goes:

Recently, Ain’t It Cool News’s Coaxial News section posted a rant by El Cosmico concerning rumored goings-on at Warner Bros, based on an "internal document" that's been posted on the Net. He labels the rant: “Warner Bros. Out to Screw the Worldwide DVD Market?” The answer to that question would be a simple, “No.”

The “screwing” in question involves a new technology Warner is developing. With what is to be called Regional Code Enhancement (RCE), Warner Home Video will “enhance the capabilities of the regional code specification for DVD." According to the document, “this program is a response to the unauthorized practice of altering DVD video hardware players so that they bypass the region code requirements for DVD. This is happening on a more frequent basis in many territories, and retailers are openly marketing these non-complying players with names such as region free and multi zone.”

Basically, everyone in the US with a store-bought player has absolutely nothing to worry about. But if you altered your player somehow with a kit, bought a pre-altered player off the Internet or have one of those hacked DVD-ROM drives, you're possibly screwed. Then again, you'd be screwed anyway, because if your altered player breaks down, the manufacturer won't honor the warranty. The main people affected will be those of you who live in a country outside Region 1 line, who have been viewing imported Region 1 titles. RCE is a real technology, but it isn't as close as you'd think. The memo posted the DVD Debate website, and referenced in El Cosmico’s rant, claims that WHV will start applying RCE to discs scheduled for release in the U.S. market beginning in late October. We've spoken with the studio - these dates have been changed and, at the moment, RCE encoding is just in the testing phase.

How will the technology work? Apparently, much like Macrovision, the enhancement is an additional imbedded code within the bitstream on the DVD disc, that will make the current regional coding much more “robust”. From the memo: “The RCE allows the disc to detect if a hardware player is region specific (as required by the CSS licensing agreement), or if it has been manufactured or altered in the market to be “region free”. If the player is “region free” the RCE will not allow the disc to play the program material. It will instead display a message on the television advising the consumer that the machine is not authorized to play this disc.” It won't change the picture or sound quality one bit, and if you live in Region 1, and have a store-bought Region 1-encoded player, you'll never notice it. But if you play a Region 1 disc on a multi-region player, the following text will pop up on your monitor: “THIS DVD PLAYER MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED AND IS UNABLE TO PLAY THIS DISC. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS DISC. DVD PLAYERS AND DISCS ARE DESIGNED TO WORK IN CERTAIN REGIONS; THIS DISC IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH THIS PLAYER. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL RETAILER OR PLAYER MANUFACTURER FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. WE APOLOGIZE FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE.”

In his story, El Cosmico comments that, “This is just the sort of evil crap that those I commonly refer to as "muckety-mucks" enjoy pulling on those of us who seek enjoyment out of life." That's like complaining that The Bible says you can't kill people because it's just "taking the fun out of life.” Regardless of what El Cosmico has to say, Warner is not running a conspiracy or trying to destroy consumer interest in DVD. Simply put, Warner has every right to protect their DVD product from being exploited in markets other than what they were meant for and comments like the above do nothing but inflame the masses for no reason whatsoever.

El Cosmico summarizes the situation thusly: “This doesn't affect people living in Region 1 nearly as much as people in Regions 2 and 3, who buy most of the code-free devices. Of course, that's MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people, most of them living in very industrialized countries, with LOTS of spending cash. Region-free players are VERY widespread in these two Regions. I really can't wait to see their reaction if this becomes widespread. Will they just start buying Region 1 and eschew product from their own Region? Will the French farmers and teamsters blockade the seaports?” Huh? First, multi-region players aren't sanctioned by the manufactures, so just by buying one, you're already on your own. If you live in a Region outside Region 1, you've still got your own Region's discs to watch. Since this hasn't even been implemented yet, all the Region 1 discs released thus far will still work just fine. And we're just guessing that French farmers and teamsters, as much as they love their DVD, have better things to do than revolt because they aren't getting the American version of The Perfect Storm or The Patriot.

Look... movies cost a lot of money to make. They also take time and effort to market and release. Let's say, for example, The Perfect Storm hasn't been released in theaters in Germany yet (it has, I know, but this is just an example). The DVD comes out early next month here in the States, and Joe Schmo in Germany buys the DVD from a source that gets him imported Region 1 discs. When the German-licensed DVD comes out in Germany later, Joe isn't going to buy it. The company that licensed the film from Warner loses money and complains to WHV, who therefore has to figure out a way of protecting their investment. Warner also distributes other studios' films in foreign countries, so they lose money when they release The Patriot in theaters in Germany, but loads of people have already seen it on imported Region 1 DVDs. Bottom line - Warner and the other studios have every right to protect their product.

What about the issue of ethics? The Internet has a bad rap these days as it is, and silly posts like the one found on AICN only serve to justify that reputation. Isn't it a little questionable to be posting an inter-company memo on the Net at all? Next thing you know, some wiseguy will be posting stolen storyboards from Star Wars: Episode II (oops - already been done). It’s mind-boggling.

We've become selfish, all of us. We want EVERYTHING and we want it RIGHT NOW and to hell with anything or anyone who stands in our way. This kind of pressure is so bad, that it recently forced director P.T. Anderson to give us a deleted scene on the Boogie Nights set that you could tell on the commentary he simply didn't want to give us. We're all going to have to change our way of thinking a little bit, because it's just not fair to the studios or the artists who make these films. DVD fans need to pick their battles, folks. And this one just isn't worth fighting.

- Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt

10/9/00

Well... I feel like an old man now. I celebrated my 33nd birthday on Saturday and even had a weird little visit from a family member to make it... well, I'm not gonna say perfect. Unusual - how's that? Probably everyone has at least one relative that just is like the black sheep in the herd. You know what I mean? You choose your friends, but you're pretty much stuck with your family. Anyway, it made for a fascinating weekend.

We've got reviews coming this evening, and all through the week - some really great new and upcoming titles. And I'll say no more until we post them... ;-)

We've also got something cool for you right now - how about a look at upcoming DVD cover artwork for DreamWorks' The Road to El Dorado (12/12), Warner's Space Cowboys (TBD) and The Replacements (11/28 - WHEW, that was fast!), Paramount's Rules of Engagement (10/17) and a better look at HBO's The Sopranos: The Complete First Season (12/12). Enjoy!

The Road to El DoradoSpace Cowboys

Rules of EngagementThe Replacements

The Sporanos: The Complete First Season

For those of you who are into the thriving used DVD market, our friends at Thunder DVD have a pretty good thing going for you. They now buy and sell used DVD titles - a good way to catch up on titles you missed and maybe make a few bucks on titles you want to get rid of. We think this is pretty cool, so do check it out.

Finally, this morning we're launching a GREAT new Trivia Contest. There will be 13 winners in all, with each winner taking home one of the following great prizes: a light-up, 3D back-lit movie poster case from Show Off Displays, one of three DVD copies of MGM's This is Spinal Tap, or one of nine copies of MGM's The James Bond DVD Collection - Wave 3 (which includes Diamonds are Forever, The Living Daylights, From Russia with Love, Octopussy, A View to a Kill and You Only Live Twice). The contest will run until 7 PM PDT on this Friday, October 13th. That's 13 winners on Friday the 13th! So get your entries in fast, folks!

Stay tuned...

10/6/00

First up, wouldn't you know it? We posted a review of Columbia TriStar's Rudy: Special Edition yesterday and forgot to mention it in our daily column! Anyway, it's a great sports movie - and a great football movie - from the folks who brought you Hoosiers. I really think you'll enjoy it, so do check out the review and the disc.

Today is a really slow news day so far, but we've officially received the CEA DVD Player sales numbers for the final week in September - 617,952. That makes September another record month with 1,296,280 players shipped into retail here in the States. AND... it brings the format total to date to some 10,516,075 players. 20 million here we come?

Okay, there IS one little bit of DVD news. UMass basketball star Monty Mack was arrested Thursday on shoplifting charges - apparently he walked out of a Kmart store with seven DVD movies hidden in his sweat pants. I'm not even gonna go there. I know that's not exactly the kind of DVD news you were looking for, but hey - we didn't make this up! ;-)

Today is going to be a light post, because we're trying to ready a whole slew of new DVD reviews to post. In the last week, we've received a score of great upcoming DVD titles, and we want to get as many of them looked at for you as possible. We've also got a new Trivia Contest coming on Monday. So have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday with a bunch of great stuff! Stay tuned...


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