Ever wonder what it would be like to suddenly find yourself directing a
movie starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray?
So did McG... until he was hired to take the driver's seat on Columbia
TriStar's high-flying, babe-fu flick, Charlie's
Angels. I recently had the chance to chat with the G-man, and
I think you'll get a kick out of it. So without further you know what...
the Cuff with McG. Enjoy!
Also today, Columbia TriStar has officially announced the DVD release
of Close Encounters of the Third Kind
and The Celluloid Closet. Both
titles will street on May 29th. Close
Encounters will be a 2-disc set in "library case"
packaging similar to Lawrence of Arabia.
It will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1
audio (as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 audio), the 101-minute documentary
The Making of Close Encounters,
the 1977 Watching the Skies
featurette, 11 deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, filmographies and
more. The disc will be THX certified. SRP is $27.95. Celluloid
Closet will include full frame video (the original aspect
ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, audio commentary by filmmakers Robert
Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, along with Lily Tomlin, Howard Rosenman
and Arnold Glassman, a second audio track featuring a Vito Russo
lecture, 55 minutes of outtakes, weblinks, trailers and filmographies.
Also, the infamous "War of the Words" correspondence between
Gore Vidal and Charlton Heston will be reproduced in the disc's booklet.
SRP is $29.95.
Have a great weekend and watch for The 2nd
Annual Bitsy Awards next week!
Today, we thought we'd post a comprehensive upcoming DVD list in
Rumor Mill, which includes the street dates of every major
title that's been officially announced, along with word on titles that
are in the works. We've got listings for virtually every major studio,
so don't miss it.
Also this afternoon, we figured you might enjoy a first look at some
menu screens from Fox's Big Trouble in Little
China (5/22) as well as Columbia's The
House of Mirth (5/29). Enjoy!
And we've got lots more planned for tomorrow, so stay tuned!
(LATE UPDATE - 3/14/01
- 5 PM PST)
We've just gotten word from Columbia TriStar that their long-awaited
DVD version of Tootsie will street
on May 29th (SRP $24.95). The DVD will include anamorphic widescreen and
full frame video, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio and talent files.
We've also confirmed that The House of Mirth
will hit stores on May 29th as well. And the Region 1 DVD release of
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
will officially street on June 5th.
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/14/01 - 11 AM PST)
Well... the subject of Star Wars
DVDs has come up again. Click on over to today's
Mill post for our statement on the situation. We've also got
word on another Amazon "estimated" street date for a major
upcoming title. Stay tuned...
(LATER UPDATE - 3/13/01 - 7 PM PST)
Okay... We've just posted 3 new DVD reviews for you to check out.
Todd's given Warner's
Planet a spin, Greg's taken a look at all the versions of
the Line of Fire and Brain's got his take on Buena Vista's
Also today, we're giving you to a chance to participate in our 2nd
Annual Bitsy Awards (check
out last year's awards here)! We've created a new category this
year: Readers' Choice: Best DVD of 2000.
We want you to tell us which disc was your favorite from last year in
terms of overall video, audio and content quality. We'll tally the
entries and feature your choice on The Bitsys,
which we're planning to announce next week. You can e-mail us your
choices at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
And be sure to use the word BITSY in the header. So get busy and tell us
what you think!
See you tomorrow!
(LATE UPDATE - 3/13/01 - 11 AM PST)
Columbia TriStar has just announced the DVD release of their A
Few Good Men: Special Edition on May 29th. The disc will SRP
for $29.95 and will include anamorphic widescreen video, English Dolby
Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, a
new audio commentary by director Rob Reiner, the Code
of Conduct documentary, a featurette called From
Stage to Screen with Aaron Sorkin and Rob Reiner, trailers
and the usual talent files. Subtitles will include English, French,
Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. This should be a great
Also today, we've posted word in
Rumor Mill on a few Paramount titles in the works, and more
big upcoming DVDs that you can already preorder on Amazon.com - don't
Back with reviews this afternoon...
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/13/01 - 1 AM PST)
Let's get this baby off to an early start today, shall we? I'd say 1:30
AM Pacific is early enough. As I write this post, I'm watching the
shuttle astronauts working on the space station on NASA TV (click
here for a 24-hour, live video feed). Gotta love it. Hey -
speaking of the space station,
got a poll on their website where you can help select which DVDs
and CDs get sent up into orbit for the astronauts and cosmonauts to
watch. You can also enter to win one of Sony's DVP-FX1 portable DVD
players, just like they use on Alpha. You'll notice (if you participate)
that a few of the movies aren't yet on DVD officially. We're guessing
that if Star Wars wins, Lucasfilm
will burn 'em a disc special. Damn - those astronauts get all the perks!
All right... many of you will no doubt recall
recent review of Artisan's DVD version of Frank
Herbert's Dune. I think it's no secret that we were
disappointed with the DVD. What surprised us most is that Artisan has,
overall, been very good in terms of the quality and features of their
other DVD releases. They were quick to adopt such features as anamorphic
widescreen and animated menu screens, and have been very proactive in
terms of adopting other innovative aspects of DVD technology, like the
DVD-18 disc configuration and seamless branching. So how, we wondered,
could they have dropped the ball so badly on Dune?
The disc was originally to have included anamorphic widescreen, 5.1
audio, trailers, director's commentary and numerous other special
edition features that failed to make the final disc.
Well... we've been digging hard on this, and we may be able to shed a
little light on the situation. What it boils down to, is that there was
something of a business disagreement between the series' creators and
Artisan Entertainment. Sources close to the DVD's production have
informed us that, when it came time to talk about the DVD, a lot of
promises were made by the series' creators in terms of the content and
elements the disc's producers would have access to. But the film's
director, John Harrison, then decided that he wanted a significant
amount of money to produce a director's cut of the miniseries for the
DVD release - a six-figure amount. Apparently, some 20 additional
minutes of footage would have been added back into the series' 266
minute running time (included brief nudity and scenes that were cut to
accommodate commercials during the SciFi Channel broadcast). A few
effects shots would also have been finished. When Artisan balked at the
amount in question, the series producers denied Artisan access to
an anamorphic master, 5.1 audio stems and most of the promised
supplementary materials. They then went overseas and made a deal with a
German company instead to produce a special edition DVD release of the
series for Region 2. As part of this move, they granted the German
company access to the anamorphic master and the other "premium"
elements denied to Artisan. Artisan was then never given a formal chance
to bargain with the producers for any significant added content (beyond
what made the final disc) - they couldn't even get trailers. So Artisan
had little choice but to do the best they could with the materials
they'd been given. What that means, is that Region 1 gets a lackluster,
non-anamorphic DVD, while Region 2 will get a loaded, anamorphic special
Now... granted, this is only one side of the story. We have yet to
speak with Dune director John
Harrison and his people (we ARE making an effort to do so). We have
heard that Harrison feels he was treated rudely in his dealings with
Artisan. In any case, the only people who truly suffer in a situation
like this are DVD fans and, more importantly, fans of the series. I'm
sure plenty of Region 2 DVD consumers will find it fitting that Region 1
is getting screwed for once when it comes to a DVD release. Here at The
Digital Bits, all we can say is that it's disgusting when
egos and seemingly petty business disagreements get in the way of
quality. When you consider how cool this DVD release could have been,
and what happened to prevent that... you really have to just throw your
hands up in frustration. As a fan of this series, I'm extremely
disappointed. And judging by the flood of e-mail we've been getting here
at the Bits over the last few
days, I'm definitely not the only one. Is there hope that someday Region
1 will get the DVD special edition that fans of the series deserve?
Maybe, if cooler heads prevail. Artisan certainly wants to give us one.
But in the meantime... what a shame.
Back with more later.
(EVEN LATER UPDATE!
- 3/12/01 - 9 PM PST)
This just in... we've gotten word from Kevin Smith's
that the Dogma: Special Edition
DVD has finally been rescheduled by Columbia TriStar for release on June
26th. We have no word on any possible content changes, although we'd
heard through the grapevine that Disney did require a few (thus causing
the delay). We'll have to see what the new spec list looks like. In the
meantime, Smith fans... REJOICE!
Be sure to check back tomorrow - we'll have new DVD reviews and more.
We've also uncovered some interesting information on Artisan's new
Herbert's Dune DVD. You may recall that we were disappointed
by the 2-disc set, particularly for its lack of anamoprhic widescreen.
Well, now we know at least part of the story as to why the disc turned
out the way it did... and we think you'll be a little surprised by what
we learned. Don't miss it.
See you in the morning... ;-)
(LATER UPDATE - 3/12/01 - 4 PM PST)
We've got yet another
Rumor Mill update for you this afternoon, with more word on
the DVD release of V, V:
The Final Battle, Pay it Forward,
The Sopranos: Season 2, a series
of Batman: SE discs and the Dungeons
& Dragons: Platinum Edition. Don't miss it!
We've also announced
the winners of our first March
(LATE UPDATE - 3/12/01 - 1:30 PM PST)
Okay, we've updated
Rumor Mill with the latest on a number of upcoming DVDs from
Columbia TriStar. We'd planned to post this last week, so it's slightly
old news, but we figured we'd mention it in case you hadn't heard.
The rumors of Express.com's financial troubles have born more fruit
today. The online retailer has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection. If you're thinking of ordering discs from them... buyer
beware. The Digital Bits is among
the many businesses Express owes money and hasn't bothered to pay for
almost a year. Go figure.
Criterion's going to make a lot of people happy on May 22nd. They've
announced the DVD release of Akira Kurosawa's The
Hidden Fortress for that date. Expect the disc to include a
stunning new 16x9 video transfer, an exclusive interview with director
George Lucas about the film, the theatrical trailer and a new English
subtitle translation. VERY cool. Also on May 22nd, look for Criterion
DVDs of Jacques Tati's Playtime
and Luis Bunel's Diary of a Chambermaid.
An unrated DVD version of Universal's The
Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps is also due May 22nd. The disc
will contain some 3 minutes of footage deemed too offensive for
theatrical release. Hhmm.... wouldn't it have been a smart idea to
release it on the original collector's edition DVD? Universal is rapidly
gaining a reputation for releasing multiple versions of their films -
something that's bound to anger collectors that already own the earlier
discs. How many versions of The Mummy,
Jurassic Park and The
Klumps do we really need?
Also today, Image Entertainment's announced
whole slate of Image-exclusive DVDs for May. Be sure to check
News page for more upcoming titles as well.
We'll be back with more soon...
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/12/01 - Noon PST)
So... have you ever had one of those situations where just about
everything that could go wrong did? That's been my weekend. First, I
couldn't connect to the website because of a problem with my cable modem
(which I thought was a server issue). Then... critical system files in
my computer's Windows Millennium operating system decided to crash,
resulting in a day of re-installing and re-formatting. And then, when I
got my computer back to normal last night, I tried to connect to the
website, and (wouldn't you know it) a real server issue prevented me
from logging in!
FINALLY... I've got everything talking to everything else, and all our
ducks are in a row. It's going to take most of the afternoon and well
into the evening to get all caught up, so watch for several posts today.
We appreciate your patience, and we'll get the ball rolling with a good
head of steam ASAP.
Well... we'd intended to post that Heston story and some more reviews
yesterday, but we're having server problems again. Some people can see
the site and some can't (I'm one of the latter, unfortunately). We've
got our host working on it, and I'm uploading this in the hopes that
someone will be able to read it! We'll try to be back full force later
this afternoon (Friday). Thanks for your patience...
(LATE UPDATE - 3/7/01 - 4:15 PM PST)
This afternoon, we're pleased to bring you our look at the films (DVDs)
of one of the cinema's acknowledged masters, director Alfred Hitchcock.
We've got 3 new reviews for you this afternoon: Rope,
Saboteur and Vertigo
(in addition to 3 Hitchcock titles we'd reviewed previously: The
Birds, North by Northwest
and Psycho). Many of these are
part of Universal's Alfred Hitchcock Collection, of which a whole series
of new DVDs has recently been released. We'll be adding more reviews of
these titles in the coming days. So, with that, enjoy
Hitchcock Presents... The American Films of Alfred Hitchcock on DVD!
Also this afternoon, word has come in that another forthcoming (and
yet-to-be-announced) DVD is available for preorder on Amazon - Buena
Vista's Unbreakable. Amazon's
reporting a street date of June 19th and an SRP of $29.99. Once again,
Looks like those Hong Kong pirates are at it again. Bootleg DVD
versions of the Indiana Jones Trilogy
have begun to appear on Ebay, we assume mastered from laserdiscs (here's
a link, but don't expect it to stay alive for long). It was only a
matter of time. Now if Paramount and Lucasfilm could just get their act
Just FYI... it looks like that DTS version of Dune
we mentioned earlier (that's soon to be released in R4) MAY be David
Lynch's theatrical version... not SciFi and Artisan's Frank
Herbert's Dune. Sorry for the confusion.
I'm gonna try to pop back in this evening with that report on our
recent encounter with actor Charlton Heston, but we're also trying to
get Fox's 3-disc Cleopatra DVD
reviewed as well (which we've just gotten our hands on), so it'll
probably get posted tomorrow. So many great DVDs... so little time. ;-)
One last note... we wanted to let you all know that our next Trivia
Contest is going to feature some great prizes, including a
Charlton Heston signed copy of Ben Hur
on DVD and a signed Meet the Parents
disc as well! The current
contest runs until Friday, so get your entries in fast (and be
sure to watch for the next one).
(EARLY UPDATE -
3/7/01 - 12:30 PM PST)
Okay... this is going to be just the first post today. We've updated
DVD Art section with the cover art for Universal's upcoming
Jaws 2 DVD (street date 5/22 -
thanks Scott!) and also Columbia TriStar's Ice
Castles (5/1). We've also posted a complete transcript from
with MGM Home Video on the Home Theater Forum. It was
billed as a "no holds barred, ask anything you want" event,
and it that's exactly what it was. Lots of great questions were asked
and answered. There's a TON of good upcoming MGM DVD information
included in the transcript, so don't miss it. Thanks to Ron and the gang
at HTF for sending it.
The big news of the moment is that Amazon has begun taking pre-orders
for Columbia TriStar's Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon DVD with an "estimated" street date
of July 5th (and an estimated SRP of $29.99). We'll see...
Now then... to add a little frustration to the whole Dune
DVD situation, we're hearing that the R4 version may include a DTS
soundtrack. Ouch. We'll post more when we know it.
Back soon with more!
(LATE UPDATE - 3/6/01 - 5:30 PM PST)
We're still waiting to hear back from Artisan about their Dune
DVD. In the meantime, we've just published another review of a better
DVD release... Carl Sagan's
Collector's Edition. It's currently available from directly
Studios and also a number of online retailers. At the SRP of
$169.95, it's a little pricey. But you can get good deals on the 7-disc
set online and it's well worth having.
We'll be back tomorrow with Heston, Hitchcock and more, so stay
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/6/01 - Noon PST)
Okay, I've slept on this Dune DVD
thing... and I'm still pissed. In fact, I'm even more angry, because
I've heard from people involved in the Region 2 version of this DVD, and
they tell me that it WILL be anamorphic widescreen. Here's an excerpt
from Artisan's official press release:
"Frank Herbert's Dune is packed with over
five hours of content and special features including a 30 minute "Behind-the-Scenes"
Featurette: an exclusive look at the making of Frank Herbert's Dune, an
extensive photo galleries with hundreds of original stills and sketches
from the creators, "The Cinematographic ideation of Frank Herbert's
Dune," - an interactive written treatise by cinematographer
Vittoria Storaro, 16:9 widescreen, production notes, cast and crew
information, trailers and TV spots, and interactive menus... everything
a true fan would want! The suggested retail price is $24.98."
Let's see... what's wrong with that statement? Well, there are no
trailers and TV spots, the discs are NOT 16:9 and the "hundreds of
original stills and sketches" have been boiled down to a couple
dozen at most. Not exactly everything a true fan would want. I've got
calls on this in to Artisan and Artisan's PR agency and I'm gonna get to
the bottom of it. I'm also going to try to get an e-mail address where
people can send their thoughts on the matter.
In other news, we've gotten word that Warner's long-awaited The
Iron Giant: Special Edition will finally see the light of day
sometime in late summer. And the studio is reportedly planning to
deliver The Fugitive: Special Edition
to VHS on June 5th. Word is, an SE DVD may also be on the way for that
date. Also, we've confirmed that HBO's Sex
and the City: The Complete Second Season will street on May
22nd, with 18 episodes on 3 DVDs for an SRP of $49.98.
One other note - Columbia's Finding
Forrester DVD has been moved up to an April 24th street date
(from 6/12). Just FYI...
We'll be back with more soon. Stay tuned...
(LATER UPDATE - 3/5/01 - 9 PM PST)
All right... I intended to have a little more to post this evening. But
I got wrapped up in a rather lengthy review of Artisan's forthcoming,
2-disc DVD release of
Herbert's Dune (street date 3/20). Many of you probably saw
the lavish miniseries last year on The
SciFi Channel and enjoyed it as much as I did. I'm not so sure how
much you'll like this DVD however, because Artisan definitely screwed
the pooch on this one. The extras leave a lot to be desired (especially
compared to those included on the bonus DVD disc that comes with the
book, The Secrets of Frank Herbert's Dune
- if you intend to buy the Artisan DVD, you might as well just order the
book right now to get the bonus material you expect). The sound is only
Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, instead of the full 5.1 mix the miniseries
deserves. Worse yet, the disc was supposed to be in anamorphic
widescreen on DVD (even the packaging claims that it is), but the disc
offers only a regular, letterboxed presentation. Check out
review - I've gone into a lot more detail there. I have to tell
you though, I haven't been this disappointed by a DVD since Warner's
original Kubrick Collection. Look
- I'm practically writing a review of my review! Argh! All right... I'm
too upset about this thing. Sleep... that's what I need.
See you tomorrow... and maybe I'll have a better attitude then.
(LATE UPDATE - 3/5/01 - 2 PM PST)
Columbia TriStar has announced the DVD release of the following titles:
Circus (4/3), My
Life (4/24), All the Pretty Houses
(5/8), Hangman (5/15), Celluloid
Closet: Special Edition (5/29) and The
Muppet Movie (6/5).
And we've again updated the
DVD Artwork section to include My
Life, All the Pretty Horses
and The Muppet Movie. Stay
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/5/01 - 1 PM PST)
We've got a bunch of stuff for you today. First of all, we've updated
Rumor Mill with details on a whole slew of MGM's June DVDs.
These include Salvador and more.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
was slated for June release, but has been delayed to July or August -
we'll have more soon. We've also got word on HBO's Sex
and the City: The Complete Second Season, Warner's V:
The Complete Miniseries and more. Don't miss it.
We've also updated the
DVD Player Sales numbers to include the numbers for the last
week in February - some 165, 542 players were shipped to retailers in
the week ending 2/23. That takes the format total to date over 15
million in the States. All charts have been updated accordingly.
Even better still, we've updated the
DVD Artwork section to include some 15 new covers - Best
in Show, V: The Complete
What Women Want, Vertical
Limit, Unlawful Entry,
The Superman Collection, Star
Trek: The Original Series, Volumes 21 & 22, Point
Break, Duets, Chain
Reaction and Big Trouble in Little
One last note - a number of readers noticed a problem with our
- the #6 actor name to unscramble had an error. It's now been corrected.
If you already entered the contest, we won't count against you for the
We'll be back with more later, so stay tuned...!
(LATER UPDATE - 3/2/01 - 5 PM PST)
Okay... the Trivia Contest is now up.
AND we've got some great DVD announcements to finish off the week! May
29th is definitely going to be a spendy day for DVD fans. USA's
announced their Traffic disc for
5/29, and Columbia TriStar's officially delivering their 2-disc Close
Encounters of the Third Kind and The
House of Mirth DVDs the same day! Also, look for Warner's
Pay it Forward on May 1st. We'll
have more details on these and other titles on Monday. See you then!
(LATE UPDATE - 3/2/01 - 3 PM PST)
We're going to delay our posting of the Heston story until Monday. The
reason, is that we've been on the phone all afternoon talking with our
studio sources. And we've got a little word on MGM's forthcoming Hannibal
DVD for you - that's in
Rumor Mill. We're also working to get the Trivia
Contest up in the next hour or so. The prizes for this contest
will include DVD copies of MGM's The Greatest
Story Ever Told and The
Fantasticks, as well as Warner's Oliver
Stone Collection and more. So be sure to check back for that.
And, as always, have a great weekend!
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/2/01 - 11 AM PST)
Well... those of you who have been having trouble with disc orders from
probably had guessed that the online DVD retailer was having serious
financial troubles. Certainly, there have been rumors and reports of
financial trouble for months. Now there's some evidence that backs it
up... the retailer's DVD.com
news site is no more. A couple of weeks ago, most of the staff of DVD.com
was laid off, and this week, if you visit DVD.com,
the link takes you directly to the Express site. I'm not going to make
editorial comments on this, but there you go.
We've got news in
Rumor Mill on more Star Trek
TV series coming to DVD, Wings of Desire
information, word on a forthcoming Tombstone:
SE and a few other titles as well. Don't miss it.
For those of you who subscribed to Total
Movie magazine, we've got a phone number you can call to
arrange a refund in light of the publication's cancellation. Many of our
readers have reported that they ARE getting their money back by calling
this number: (888) 446-2446 (select option #6).
Warner still has no official comment on the Canadian Giant
DVD, although I'm told unofficially that it IS being pulled. Part of the
reason is that the disc is being remastered so that when it's
re-released (both here and in Canada), the picture and sound quality
will meet all our high expectations. The Canadian release was apparently
a mistake. There is, however, no word as to when the disc might be
re-released, and there's no word as to whether the supplemental material
might be affected at all. If you can't wait, there are still plenty of
retailers online that have it available.
Finally, for those of you who live in the Atlanta, GA area, our own
Todd Doogan will be making a guest appearance tonight on
Lucky Yates Talk Show at Dad's Garage. He and collaborator
John Babcock will be talking about a book they're working on, called
Does Anyone Remember Laughter. The
show starts at 12:13 AM EST in the Top Shelf at Dad's Garage (located in
Inman Park near Little 5 Points). Click on the link and scroll down
about halfway for information on the show, and to the bottom of the page
for directions, ticket information and more. Drop on by, have some
drinks and snacks, be entertained and say hi to Doogan. What more could
you ask for a Friday night? I mean... early Saturday morning?
We'll be back in a few hours with more, including our Heston report.
Hi guys! We've just updated
Rumor Mill today with word on HBO's The
Sopranos: The Complete Second Season as well as MGM's June
line-up, which includes new special editions of Salvador
and Platoon, as well as more Woody
Allen. Be sure to check it out.
Also this morning, we've got that transcript we mentioned yesterday -
Theater Forum's chat with film preservationist Robert Harris
from Tuesday night. If you know nothing about the urgent problem of film
restoration and preservation, you definitely don't want to miss it.
Fans waiting for Artisan's 2-disc DVD release of Frank
Herbert's Dune are going to be a little disappointed by it.
Early information was that the set was going to feature anamorphic
widescreen (it doesn't, even though Artisan's little "aspect ratio"
grid on the back says it is) and that it would include theatrical
trailers for the production (it doesn't). That's not to say that it
doesn't look good, and still isn't worth having... but I was REALLY
disappointed not to have that big, wide anamorphic picture I was
expecting. Someone over there at Artisan needs to get on the stick. This
disc, coupled with their non-anamorphic SE of The
Doors? Yuck. At least get the labeling right, guys.
Finally this morning, on a personal note, Sarah and I would like to
send our congratulations to our oldest and dearest friend, David Hovde
and his wife Heather, who had their first child (a boy) on Wednesday
night. I've known Dave since junior high school (1980 I think?) back in
frozen Fargo, ND, where
now the weatherman for KXJB TV. And we couldn't be prouder of him.
Congrats, Dave and Heather!
We'll be back tomorrow with more, including a special report on our
recent encounter with Judah Ben-Hur himself, actor Charlton Heston!
We'll also have the Trivia Contest
up then as well. Stay tuned...
Our friends over at the
Theater Forum held another great chat last night, with film
preservationist Robert Harris. Bob had a lot of great stories and
anecdotes to tell - it was a good time. We should have the full
transcript posted this evening. Also we're going to be launching a new
Trivia Contest, which will give
people a change to win lots of great DVDs, including an Oliver
Stone Collection from Warner - be sure to check back tonight!
In the meantime, Todd's checked out a new wrinkle in our favorite
format - DVD+CD, in the form of Artisan's new
of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 disc. A DVD+CD is basically one side
of a DVD disc, glued back to back with one side of a CD disc. The CD
side can be played in any standard CD player (it contains various music
tracks). And the DVD side is your standard DVD movie plus extras. Check
out Todd's review to see what he thinks of it.
One last note - we've received a lot of questions from readers about
Total Movie magazine.
Specifically, people who subscribed want to know how they're going to
get their money back in light of the publication's demise. We suggest
you look in the front of the magazine - there's usually a subscription
phone number you can call. We'd be surprised if Imagine Media didn't
make refunds available.
(LATER UPDATE - 2/27/01 - 3 PM PST)
All right... I just received an e-mail from Thunder DVD in Canada. It
looks like supplies of the Giant
DVD have dried up, and they aren't able to get any more copies of the
disc from their distributors. This is going to be the case with
virtually every retailer that's been selling the title. Warner is
apparently now pulling the Canadian disc off the market for legal
reasons. We don't know what this means for any possible U.S. release. We
STILL have no word from the studio on what's up with the title
officially. But if you're just dying to get it, do so fast, because
they're disappearing quick.
(LATE UPDATE - 2/27/01 - 11 AM PST)
Just a quick update to let you know that Total
Movie magazine is closing its doors. Imagine Media is folding
some 20 publications due to diminishing returns and Total
Movie (the film & DVD dedicated publication that included
a disc of trailers and short films in every issue) is among them. We're
sad to see it go, because it was a very good effort.
Also, we've gotten word that DreamWorks' Almost
Famous, which arrives on DVD on March 13th, will include the
film's theatrical cut, along with dual Dolby Digital and DTS
soundtracks, 7 original Rolling Stone
articles from the 1970s penned by director Cameron Crowe, the Fever
Dog music video, a behind-the-scenes featurette and more.
Unfortunately, the disc's promised director's cut didn't happen in time
to meet street date. Says Crowe in a statement on the disc's press
release: "I am so excited that more people
will have the chance to see the definitive theatrical version of Almost
Famous on DVD and VHS on March 13th. The DVD contains bonus material
which greatly complement the film. Since I can't let go of Almost
Famous, I can't wait to create my hand-made director's cut version
of the film as soon as I finish filming Vanilla Sky. In keeping
with the spirit of the film, the director's cut version will contain
lots of other extras."
Now... we at the Bits think Almost
Famous got screwed for a Best Picture nod. It's a great film.
But when you're getting ready to purchase this disc, you should think
hard as to whether or not you want to wait for the special edition
director's cut. We do at least have to give DreamWorks for letting us
know that they've got another disc planned. Other studios would have
just tried to milk fans of the film twice. Kudos.
We mentioned the film Giant
yesterday in The
Rumor Mill. It's been released in Canada as a DVD-18 special
edition, but is not currently scheduled for release here in the States.
We're still waiting as to Warner's response, but I'm going to guess that
it's because the Canadian DVD is of rather subpar video and audio
quality. I've looked at the disc and it's got a very soft and muddy
looking picture, that's almost entirely lacking in fine detail. I'd give
it maybe a C+ for video if I was reviewing the disc. And the soundtrack
is a flat Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. My guess is that they're
remastering for the eventual U.S. release. Still, if you're a fan, it
might be worth picking up. The extras are tremendous.
One other note - we mistakenly neglected to mention this morning that
The Crow: Collector's Series is a
2-disc set. The report below has been corrected, and we wanted to make
sure you were aware of that.
Don't forget that
chat with Robert Harris tonight - 6 PM PST.
(EARLY UPDATE -
2/27/01 - 2 AM PST)
We've got some information on a pair of big Buena Vista DVD releases.
First up is The Emperor's New Groove,
which is slated for May 1st. The title will be released in 2 versions -
a single-disc standard edition (SRP $29.99) and a 2-disc special edition
($39.99) called The Ultimate Groove.
Both editions will present the film in anamorphic widescreen, with dual
Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. The standard edition will include
Sting's My Funny Friend and Me
music video, Rascal Flatts' Walk the Llama
music video (with "llama dance tutorial"), filmmaker audio
commentary, a set-top game, a deleted scene, a behind-the-scenes
featurette and DVD-ROM features (including playable game demos and
weblinks to exclusive online content). The special edition includes the
above, plus an animation process/Disney Studios Animation Department
tour, which takes viewers through the entire filmmaking process. This
includes Development (with story treatments and concept art), Story and
Editorial (scene pitches, more deleted and unused scenes), Layouts and
Backgrounds (storyboard-to-film comparisons and artwork galleries),
Animation (character tests and animation progressions), Scanning and Ink
& Paint (color models), Music and Sound (mixing demo and sound
effects), and Publicity Trailers. The special edition promises to be
another amazing Disney effort.
Also coming from Buena Vista on March 20th, is The
Ultimate Crow DVD Collection - a 3-movie boxed set including
The Crow: Collector's Edition
(2-discs), The Crow: City of Angels:
Collector's Edition and The Crow:
Salvation: Collector's Edition (SRP $89.99). All 3 movies
will also be available separately (SRP $29.99 each) and will feature
anamorphic widescreen video and dual Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1
soundtracks. The Crow 2-disc set
will also include a behind-the-scenes featurette, audio commentary with
the producer and writer, 3 extended scenes, a deleted scenes montage,
poster artwork, storyboards for 5 scenes, the DVD-ROM screenplay and
more. The Crow: City of Angels
will include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a production and costume
design featurette, audio commentary with several members of the
production crew, poster art and production design stills, the DVD-ROM
screenplay and more. And The Crow: Salvation
will also include 2 featurettes (production and makeup), audio
commentary, a DVD-ROM screenplay and more.
You'll find the artwork for all 3 Crow
movies and both Emperor's New Groove
discs on pages 2 and 5 of the
DVD Artwork section.
Also today, we've updated the CEA
DVD Player Sales charts to include the latest sales figures
for week 3 of February - some 117,682 players shipped to retailers
during the week ending Feb. 16th.
We're not in the habit of crowing about products or services here at
the Bits, but we did want to
mention one thing. You long-time readers may that remember that, way
back in 1998, we reviewed a product from CD Playright called
for DVD. It's basically a system for cleaning, protecting and
repairing your DVDs. We can definitely vouch for the fact that it really
works (and well). CD Playright's recently completed some product testing
with video outlets that deal in heavy disc rentals and they got great
results. If you're looking to protect your DVD collection, their product
is really worth a look. And it works on any optical disc-based media, so
laserdiscs, CDs and CD-ROM discs can be protected too. Click on over to
and check it out.
Finally this morning, we wanted to point you to one of the funniest
commentaries we've seen yet on your more fanatic DVD fans (and believe
me, we consider ourselves in that lot). It's written by "The Lard
Biscuit", from the perspective of an insider, and if your side
isn't hurting from laughing after reading it... well, you probably
aren't a fanatic DVD fan. So enjoy
Freaks: Definitely Very Demented and the author's multi-part
decent into digital dementia. We sure did. Nicely done, Lard! Or should
we call you Mr. Biscuit?
Just a quick couple of comments and then we've got something important
we want to talk about. We'd like to remind you that our friends over at
Home Theater Forum will be hosting a live chat with film
preservationist Robert Harris tomorrow night (starting at 6 PM PST). Bob
is a great guy - he's a longtime friend of The
Digital Bits - and he's been involved with the restoration of
a number of important and classic films. Film preservation is more
critical than ever these days, and Bob's definitely a leader in his
field. We think you'll really enjoy hearing what he has to say, so be
sure to click
here to participate in the chat tomorrow night. But if you miss
it, don't worry - we'll have a full transcript of the chat for you to
read after it's done. Just FYI, HTF also has a chat with MGM scheduled
for Tuesday, March 6th. Should be interesting.
One last note - we've got word in
Mill about a whole slew of titles, including Close
Encounters. Don't miss it.
Now then... I wanted to use today's column to address an issue which we
feel is going to have major consequences for DVD in the months ahead.
It's been featured in the trades recently, including Video
Store magazine (to which Todd and I are regular
contributors). The issue of concern is Blockbuster Video, and their
relationship to the Hollywood studios.
Many of you may remember that, back when DVD's success was still
uncertain, Blockbuster delayed moving to carry rental DVDs in the
majority of their nationwide stores. When they finally did adopt DVD, it
was rumored that they demanded big spiffs from the studios to do so.
Blockbuster is currently the leading video rental chain in America. In
fact, Blockbuster now controls more than 40% of the domestic home video
rental market - a fact which has angered many smaller, independent
retailers. Like WalMart and other major "super-chain"
retailers, the effect of Blockbuster's success has been to force smaller
"mom and pop" video rental stores out of business. Because of
their size, Blockbuster is able to negotiate "sweetheart"
revenue sharing deals with the studios - deals that smaller chains and
stores can't get. Those deals have (the smaller retailers claim, we
think rightly) helped Blockbuster to dominate the market. And now,
Blockbuster has grown so large that they're using their dominance in the
industry to actually arm-twist the studios to get whatever they want.
What Blockbuster wants is even better revenue-sharing deals than they
already have. Currently, the studio home video arms still make most of
their money from VHS rentals. Blockbuster currently pays some $25 to $30
per rental cassette to the studios (independent retailers pay much
more). With DVD now on everyone's minds (including consumers),
Blockbuster wants deals that require them to purchase fewer (or even no)
units of VHS. They're also pushing hard for rental windows for DVD,
arguing that when consumers shift from VHS to DVD, many of those who
used to actively rent VHS tapes are now simply buying DVDs, which is
having a detrimental impact on their overall rental business. Most of
the studios don't want these rental windows, because they're making good
money on day and date sales and because the lack of rental windows is
part of the strategy that has made DVD so successful. Blockbuster also
wants future deals with the studios to include "digital delivery"
rights. Blockbuster is working hard on it's own video-on-demand service
(which is currently testing in 4 cities), and wants to dominate that
landscape as much as they've come to dominate the brick and mortar
rental business. So they're demanding that such rights be included in
new revenue-sharing agreement negotiations with the studios.
Just how is Blockbuster using their dominance to get what they want?
Well, when an agreement with a particular studio comes up for
negotiation, they simply refuse to purchase most of that studio's rental
product. The chain recently did this with Universal when their deal came
up for renewal - rental copies of Bring it On
and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
were noticeably absent from Blockbuster stores on their February 13th
street date. Blockbuster managers were told by corporate headquarters to
keep on-hand copies of those films in their storerooms, despite customer
complaints. It's only when Blockbuster got their way from Universal that
those films were stocked on shelves. Said one studio rep in a recent
issue of Video Store: "Blockbuster
is so big that they can basically screw with any studio's quarter. If
they don't buy, you're screwed - and they can do without one studio's
product for a quarter. I'm not going to say that they can bring us to
our knees, but they can certainly cut a big hole into our results."
Blockbuster can also go around a studio when buying rental DVD product -
they can refuse the studio's product directly, and then go buy copies of
the studio's titles elsewhere at low retail prices.
So what do Blockbuster's strong-arm tactics mean to consumers? Well, if
things go their way, you might soon not be able to get many new films on
DVD day-and-date. You'll have to wait out a 30 or 60 day rental window.
It also means that, almost inevitably, the quality of service you
currently enjoy as consumers will decrease. History has shown that when
a service company doesn't have healthy competition, they've got little
incentive to serve their customers well. I point to the cable companies
for anyone who doubts this.
Now, we're not saying that you should boycott Blockbuster. The studios
certainly helped to create this monster, so it's probably only fitting
that they now have to deal with it. But you should think long and hard
about the choices you make as consumers when renting movies on VHS and
DVD. And you should think hard about the possible effects of
Blockbuster's actions on the future of DVD. Besides... I bet your local
"mom and pop" video rental store would REALLY appreciate your
business right about now.
I'm gonna sneak today's post in right under the wire this evening.
We've just updated our review of Columbia TriStar's
to include their new 2-disc special edition release. And Todd's taking a
Films of Spike Lee on DVD, starting with both Universal's
original and the new Criterion version of
the Right Thing and Columbia's
Also today, this would normally go in The
Rumor Mill, but for sake of posting ease, we're mentioning it
here. We've got word that MGM's Antitrust
is slated for March 27th, along with Buena Vista's Duets
and Paramount's What Women Want.
Columbia TriStar's All the Pretty Horses
is due on April 3rd, and their Vertical Limit
will arrive on DVD on April 24th. Universal's Jaws
2 is due on April 17th. Buena Vista's Unbreakable
is also tentatively slated for April release. ADV Film's Farscape,
Volume 4 is set for June 12th. And Paramount's Ordinary
People has been moved to July 17th.
Have a great weekend!
(LATE UPDATE - 2/22/01 - 3 PM PST)
All right... we're going for a something a little different with
today's reviews. We're taking a look at the "babes of tasteless B
movies", starting with Dan's take on Paramount's
(which is not so bad), continuing with his thoughts on Anchor Bay's
Trilogy (getting worse) and wrapping up with Todd's look at
the films of Chesty
Morgan on DVD (ack!) from Image. And just to clear your DVD
palette after all that, we've got retro reviews of Warner's
Got Mail and Polygram's
Dreams May Come from Brad. A little of everything... that's
what we give you here at the Bits.
None of that sissy, all mainstream stuff! We expose you (literally) to
all kinds of films on DVD around here. We should be teaching an
extension class in this somewhere. Wossamotta University, maybe? Quick -
somebody get me the area code for Frostbite Falls, MN!
Tomorrow, we'll take a more frequented review path, with a look at some
of Spike Lee's films on disc, including Criterion's new Do
the Right Thing. We've also given Carl Sagan's Cosmos
a spin on DVD, so stay tuned for that.
Also, a quick update from earlier - we've got word that Buena Vista's
The Fall of the Roman Empire may
have been delayed until later in 2001. We're investigating and we'll
post the latest in
Mill as soon as we hear anything from our sources.
See you tomorrow!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/22/01 - 2 AM PST)
Today we've got a bunch of great reviews on the way, many of them
featuring a definite "B-movie babes" theme. We'll have those
up soon, so keep your eyes open for 'em.
In the meantime, we've updated the
DVD Artwork section with some 11 new covers. Included are Dancer
in the Dark, Support Your Local
Sheriff and Big Country
(street date 3/20), Nurse Betty
(4/3), Loving Jezebel (4/10), Coneheads,
Stuart Saves His Family and The
Ladies Man (4/17), Farscape,
Volume 3 (5/1) and Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The
Terminator: Special Edition (TDB). The DVD covers for Crouching
Tiger and Terminator
are taken from Region 2 and 4 releases, but the artwork isn't expected
to change significantly for Region 1 (we'll update it if it does). We
just figured you'd get a kick out of seeing them if you haven't already.
You should know that Crouching Tiger
is tentatively set for June release here in R1 and Terminator
is expected in the Q4 2001.
Also this morning, we've updated
Rumor Mill with information on some cool upcoming music DVDs,
as well as word on a big epic film coming to DVD from Buena Vista.