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page updated: 2/13/02



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 1/30/02 - 1/10/02)


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(LATE UPDATE - 1/30/02 - 10:30 AM PST)

Just when the digital landscape was finally starting to look easy for consumers to navigate, JVC and a group of four Hollywood studios today announced their intention to release feature films on their new high definition D-VHS platform. The studios have opted to release their films on an optional system within the D-VHS format, called D-Theater. Created by JVC specifically for copyrighted, high value prerecorded content, D-Theater provides high encryption and security for content producers. D-VHS D-Theater software will be recorded in the HS mode at an 28 Mbps data rate, surpassing the 19 Mbps ATSC standard for HDTV broadcasts. D-VHS's 44 GigaByte capacity per cassette makes it possible for software content providers to fit an entire feature-length HDTV movie on a single cassette. A D-VHS cassette has the maximum capacity to record and playback 4 hours of high definition television or more than 50 hours of standard definition television. JVC's high definition recorder also gives consumers the flexibility to record and play back in analog VHS, Super VHS, Super VHS ET and digital D-VHS formats (HS, STD and LS3). Artisan Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios are expected to release the first D-Theater titles in June (look for Independence Day, Die Hard, X-Men, U-571 and the first two Terminator films to be among the first titles). You can read more here and here.

I'm actually going to see a demo of this new technology tomorrow morning, so we'll have more to tell you about it tomorrow afternoon. For now though, it's certainly interesting. And for high-end home theater-philes (you SuperBit guys) who have been dying to watch films on HDTV, it's definitely going to give DVD a run for the money. It may actually sell a few TVs too. And I'll bet the pictures are pretty. But what happens to those spiffy pix when the tape wraps around the guts of the player, as is inevitable with any TAPE-based format? I also can't help but think that this is a tactical move to capture more of the home video pie by studios who have always been reluctant DVD supporters. Look who's backing this format most ardently - DreamWorks, Fox and, most importantly, Universal (which hasn't exactly been the most proactive DVD studio and has certainly shown the desire to rake consumers multiple times for the same film on DVD). D-VHS is also gonna confuse the hell out of average consumers, many of whom are new to DVD. But then again, maybe that's the point. Do I think D-VHS is a theat to the success of DVD? No, not really. But I think at least a few execs at these studios wouldn't mind terribly if it were.

Briefly, in other news today, 20th Century Fox has announced the DVD release of its Joy Ride: Special Edition for March 12th. Here's more from the press release: The Joy Ride: Special Edition DVD lets viewers continue the ride with four shocking alternate endings with optional commentary, including a 28-minute never-before-seen third act, commentary by Director John Dahl, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, and writers Clay Tarver and J.J Abrams, voice auditions for the film's creepy unseen villain with the "More Than One Rusty Nail" feature, a "Making of" featurette and deleted footage. The Special Edition DVD is presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround, English Dolby Surround sound and French Dolby Surround Sound, with subtitles in English and Spanish.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/30/02 - 12:01 AM PST)

We're waiting to hear back from our first review staff candidates, and as soon as we do we'll be announcing them. One thing I want to mention right away, is that we're going to be spending lots more time going through all the applications in detail, to make sure we give them all their due. And if you don't hear from us, know that we're keeping all the applications on file for the future. We're very excited however, because we've found a number of people who we think will really fit in well here at The Bits. More soon.

On to some new DVD news. First up is word on Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. Peter Jackson has revealed, in an interview with New Zealand's The Evening Post, that there will be 2 versions of the DVD - the "theatrical" version in August (on VHS and DVD), and a special edition DVD in November, which will include about 30 minutes of additional footage. "I don't really want to call it the director's cut," said Jackson in the interview. The special edition DVD is also expected to feature the first part of a documentary by filmmaker Costa Botes on the making of the trilogy, among other extras.

And we've got word on the contents of Fox's The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season on DVD (street date: May 14th). According to the official X-Files website, the set will include six dual-layered discs with the episodes in full frame video, along with English and French Dolby Surround audio. A quick note here - our information was that anamorphic widescreen might also be included, as the episodes from season five on were shot widescreen for eventual HDTV broadcast. Now we're hearing from a few sources that it wasn't until the start of season six that the series was shot in widescreen. We'll confirm this with Fox to be sure. The extras on the set will include audio commentary by Chris Carter for Post-Modern Prometheus, audio commentary by John Shiban for The Pine Bluff Variant, deleted scenes from Post-Modern Prometheus, The Red and the Black, All Souls and Christmas Carol (with optional Chris Carter commentary), international clips from the episodes Redux, Christmas Carol, Kill Switch, Patient X and The End, an all-new 30 minute documentary (The Truth About Season Five), several Behind the Truth featurettes from the FX broadcasts, special effects clips with commentary, 2 TV spots per episode (:30 and :10 each) and the Earthbound DVD-ROM game. We'll get back to you on the anamorphic widescreen issue.

Finally this morning, it looks like you can look forward to the official announcement of Warner's Harry Potter DVD very soon. The studio has informed us that an official press unveiling will take place on Tuesday, February 5th. This will include information on street date, extras and lots more. So watch The Bits that afternoon for all the details.

Stay tuned... ;-)

1/29/02

Okay... I had to make a quick L.A. trip for an upcoming feature story yesterday afternoon, so we're going to play catch up today and get down to business. First things first - a lot of people have asked me whether MGM's upcoming The Charge of the Light Brigade (which we mentioned in The Rumor Mill the other day) is the 1936 Errol Flynn version or the 1968 Trevor Howard/John Gielgud version. It's the 1968 version. No word on the other yet.

Also this morning, Columbia TriStar's announced the DVD release of Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives on April 16th (SRP $24.95). The disc will include full frame and anamorphic widescreen video, English and French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio, and a trailer.

Now then... the last couple of weeks have been a real test here at The Bits. As you may have noticed, we're still having server troubles. My Cox@Home broadband access crashed harder than an Evil Knevil stunt cycle for a few days. Just last night, my PC damn near blew a hard drive (I MacGyvered it back to life with chewing gum and duct tape) after being irritable for a couple of weeks. Consequently, we haven't gotten much in the way of new disc reviews done around here. Seems like the poo all flies off the fan at the same time, doesn't it? We were actually expecting locusts to start flying through our offices. But NNNNnooooooooo... we had to get bees instead. Remember that? Here's the hive being removed...

The Bee Man Returneth...

But hey - we've read The Art of War. We roll with the punches. We bend like reeds in the wind. We've been very busy moving and shaking behind-the-scenes here at The Bits (some of that's just a nervous condition, but the rest is pure 100% hard work, baby - fingers in the dirt kinda work). We expect this week to move the site to its (hopefully) final home, on a server so good we'll even be able to do streaming video if we want to (no more warning messages and long download wait times). We've got a new computer on the way, so I can consign my old one to the scrap heap. And this afternoon, we'll begin announcing the first of several new staff reviewers. Come mid-February, we should be kicking some serious butt. Growing pains are a bitch, but the fact that we're growing as fast as we are shows just how many readers we have and how loyal you all are. So thanks for hanging in there with us.

You're watching Sports Night on CSC, so stick around...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/28/02 - 10:30 AM PST)

A couple of quick film-related notes this morning. MGM and Bond producer Danjaq Prods. win the "studio spoil sport" award this week. Seems they've taken issue with New Line over the title of the next Austin Powers movie, which was to have been called Goldmember. MGM felt it was an "unauthorized parody" of the title of the third Bond film, Goldfinger, and took up the issue with the MPAA. A ruling came down against New Line on Friday, basically saying that they had failed to go through proper channels to "authorize" the title. Here's what an MGM spokesman had to say: "MGM/UA and Danjaq have a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who tries to trade in on the James Bond franchise without authorization." Just FYI... The Digital Bits has a zero-tolerance policy against lame-brained studio execs in Hollywood, who can't seem to make a decent Bond film to save their lives. Denise Richards as a nuclear weapons expert in The World is Not Enough? These guys are doing enough damage to the franchise all by themselves...

In greener studio news (puns intended), you Shrek fans will be pleased to know that DreamWorks has already signed stars Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz to voice a sequel. Oh... you knew it was coming.

And on a subject we know some of you have been waiting to hear more, we're going to ask just a little more patience. Todd and I have decided to take one more day before we begin to announce who we've selected to join The Bits staff as new DVD reviewers. Why you ask? Well... we got so many good applications that we've decided to take on a few more new staffers than we had planned! So hang in there and we'll start announcing them tomorrow.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/28/02 - 1 AM PST)

We're going to have a few updates scattered throughout the day today, but we wanted to kick the new week off early with a look at a few things that Paramount's working on for the next few months. And since we did so well with The Rumor Mill last week, where better to start today? So fill your coffee mugs, click on in and enjoy.

In other news this morning, we've got a look at A&E's Space: 1999, Volumes 5 & 6 for you (SRP $39.95 each). Both 2-disc sets street on February 26th, and collectively contain the first 12 episodes of the British TV series' second season. Just FYI, Volumes 7 & 8 (which are expected by the end of the year) will complete the show's release on DVD.

Space: 1999, Volumes 5 & 6

By the way... we finally figured out what a "Pocket DVD" is. Some of you may be aware that Columbia TriStar is releasing the anime Metropolis on DVD on March 12th. The title will be a 2-disc release. You'll get a standard DVD disc with the film, plus a second disc - a Pocket DVD - with most of the extras. It's a smaller sized disc - 3 inches instead of the standard 5 inch DVDs you're used to. It's similar to those 3-inch CD singles the record companies released for a while back in the late 1980s. A Pocket DVD can hold about 90 minutes worth of video and other extras, and will work on all existing DVD players (it simply fits in that smaller slot in your player's disc tray). I'm not sure what the advantage of a smaller disc is, other than the novelty, but hey - we'll give it a try. I suspect, though, that most DVD fans are simply going to wonder why Columbia didn't just make it a standard 2-disc set. We'll see. You can read more about Pocket DVD via this link over at Video Business.

Be sure to drop on by again this afternoon for more. Stay tuned...

1/25/02

We're closing out the week with yet another post in The Rumor Mill this morning, which may be of interest to you Babylon 5 fans. There's also word on more Stargate TV product and some of MGM's May line-up.

Wanna see something funny? Bits reader Martyn recently found a bootleg DVD version of Harry Potter for sale in Hong Kong. Anyone who followed our look at the bootleg versions of the Star Wars films knows how poor the quality of these things usually is. What's amusing here is the description of the film written on the back of the Potter disc. See for yourself...

Potter Bootleg DVD text

Got that? Good, 'cause there's gonna be a quiz later. Dare you to say THAT three times fast.

Now then... here's some new DVD announcements. A&E will release the recent TV remake of Magnificent Ambersons on 1/29. Anchor Bay has 18 Again, Crimes of Passion, Soul Man, Wrong Guys and Fraternity Vacation due on 3/19. Columbia TriStar's added 3:10 to Yuma, Breakout, Drunken Master and The Net: Special Edition to its 4/2 slate, with Shiri following on 4/9. Paramount's set to release Domestic Disturbance on 4/9 and My First Mister on 4/23. Sony Music has Vangelis: Mythodea slated for 2/19, with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones: Live at the Quick, Gloria Estefan: Live in Atlantis and Sade: Love Tones following on 2/26. Warner's finally revealed Friends: The Complete First Season on 4/30. They also have Any Which Way You Can and Every Which Way But Loose due on 5/7, and Billboard Dad, It Takes Two and Switching Goals on 5/21. Upcoming Warner BBC titles now officially include The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Way We Live Now on 4/30, with Blue Planet: Seas of Life #3 & 4 following on 5/7. Goldhill Media will release William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy's Mind Meld: Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime on 1/29. And Wellspring Media will release Directed by Alan Smithee and Kurosawa on 4/16.

Finally today, there's word that Warner Home Video has lost a legal battle with Australian retailers over DVD rental guidelines. Click here for more on that.

And that will do it for this week. We'll be back on Monday with lots of new content, including a new Doogan's Views and more. Plus, we expect to announce the latest additions to The Digital Bits' review staff then as well. So have a great weekend and we'll see you then!

1/24/02

As we continue to work our way through all of the reviewer applications, we're gonna keep things simple today. But we've got lots more good upcoming DVD information in The Rumor Mill this afternoon to keep you going. Some good stuff in there, about a whole bunch of big upcoming titles, so don't miss it.

Also today, CNet's run a good story on how the Hollywood studios are working to create a new copy-protection scheme for digital TV broadcasts. The "digital tagging" scheme will still allow people to copy on-air programming for their own use, but will ideally prevent that content from then being spread online through file-sharing services like Napster.

And for you Lord of the Rings fans, you can now order a copy of the National Geographic Beyond the Movie: Lord of the Rings documentary on VHS and DVD. Click here for the official site.

And one side note: we got a review position inquiry during our open call from a reader by the name of Andrew Smith. Andrew... your return e-mail address isn't working. But please send us your stuff (and your correct return address). We'd like to consider you for the positions. Thanks.

Stay tuned...

1/23/02

Well... we're going through all the reviewer applications, and we should have them narrowed down by Friday. We did receive a lot of good applications, so going through them all is both fun and a challenge. But we're excited about adding some new staffers to the mix here at The Bits. We'll keep you up to date on this - we should have something to announce soon.

Now then... we've got confirmation from multiple sources on a street date for Warner's Harry Potter and another major title. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill today.

Stay tuned...

1/22/02

We've got a few new rumor tidbits today, pertaining to Star Trek and Harry Potter among other titles. You'll find those in The Rumor Mill, along with a recap of other recent rumors.

Also today, we've got word from several readers that The Final Countdown DVD has been delayed by minor production problems, but the problems are being resolved and the discs should be shipping soon.

The official Weird Al Yankovic website has word that MGM's UHF: Special Edition should be out this summer on DVD, featuring audio commentary and more. Here's the quote from the site: "Because you DEMANDED it, MGM Home Video will be releasing Al's 1989 feature film UHF on DVD this summer. We're happy to announce that it will be an ultra-spiffy Collector's Edition - Al has been busy working on all the special features and bonus materials for the release. We'll give you more specific information as soon as we can."

Warner Bros. has announced that their recent Thirteen Ghosts will street on April 2nd (SRP $24.98). You'll get anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, Ghost Files (12 in-depth vignettes created by the film's conceptual artist describing the back stories of the ghosts in the film - their life experiences and how they became ghosts), the Thirteen Ghosts Revealed behind-the-scenes documentary, audio commentary by production designer Sean Hargreaves and creator of special make-up effects Howard Berger, the original theatrical trailer, a music video montage and more.

You may have heard that Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford are finally talking seriously about making an Indiana Jones 4. At a Golden Globe after party, the pair confirmed to reporters that they've finally got a good script, an as-yet-unannounced title and that Spielberg will begin serious work on the film as soon as he completes his upcoming Catch Me If You Can (with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks). 'Bout time.

And finally today, Columbia TriStar has announced the DVD release of Jackie Chan's original Drunken Master on April 2nd (SLP $24.95). Look for anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital mono audio in Cantonese and English and a trailer.

Stay tuned...

1/21/02

We've gotten word that Warner will announce their Friends: The Complete First Season DVD box set this week, possibly as soon as tomorrow. And the expected street date for the title is April 30th. Would anyone care to guess what else is coming on that day? Warner's 2-disc DVD release of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as produced for TV by the BBC! Look also for the BBC sci-fi/comedy Hyperspace on 4/30. And while we're talking Warner DVD, here's a look at the cover artwork for Mr. Show: The Complete First and Second Seasons (HBO via Warner - street date 4/2) and the animated Justice League (4/23):

Mr. Show: The Complete First and Second SeasonsJustice League

In other news today, HBO's Band of Brothers mini-series is soon to see its release on DVD. How do we know? Tom Hanks spilled the beans at the Golden Globes last night, when the series won for Best Miniseries or Movie Produced for Television (click here for a list of all the winners). Here's a quote: When one reporter compared it in scope to New Line Cinema's current hit The Lord of the Rings Hanks only waved dismissively, and shouted "A puny nine hours! We've got 10 hours! And it's coming out on DVD soon!''

Also this morning, one of the items demoed at CES this year was a new super-high density optical disc format, which has six times the storage capacity of DVD and could be the basis for a future HD-DVD format. DVD giant Toshiba created the new discs, which can be both read and written via new blue laser technology. But should you start getting excited for HD-DVD? Not quite yet. In fact, I wouldn't hold you breath. HD-DVD is definitely the future... but do you really think the studios are going to cannibalize their current golden cow (DVD) with a format that most people don't even have the TVs to view yet? Not likely. And then there's the digital piracy issue - studios were very reluctant to release their films in DVD quality on disc. HD-quality will be an even dicier proposition for them until a better copy protection scheme is developed. From everything we're hearing at The Bits from industry experts (and our best guess), any sort of HD-DVD format is at least ten years away. But it's cool to know that they'll be ready to do it when they want to. Hey... I remember seeing HDTV demonstrations back in the mid-1980s. And twenty years later, we're still just starting the HD conversion! Remember this mantra: "We shall sell no format before its time."

By the way... we've announced the winners of the Trivia Contest, so be sure to check that out if you entered.

Okay... that's enough for this MLK, Jr. Day. See you back here tomorrow!

(LATE UPDATE - 1/18/02 - 1:30 PM PST)

Just a last quick update for this week. It's taken us a long time to get the numbers from CEA, crunch 'em against our own records and check 'em twice... but we've FINALLY updated the CEA DVD Player Sales figures for the whole of 2001. Some 1,862,772 players were shipped to retailers from manufacturers in the month of December (which, for record keeping purposes, had five weeks). That takes the players shipped total to a grand 12,706,584 for all of 2001, and some 26,628,915 to date (since the format's inception in 1997) here in the United States. And yes... all charts have been updated accordingly. ;-)

Video Store is reporting that Image Entertainment may be developing its own branded line of blank recordable DVD media, banking on the future success of recordable DVD players, which should start becoming affordable to consumers in the next year or two. VERY interesting (and cool in our book).

Also, we've got a few more official announcements. Look for After Dark My Sweet, Light Sleeper, Queen's Logic and Trees Lounge from Artisan on 3/26. Add Bite the Bullet and She Creature to Columbia TriStar's 4/2 slate. Elite will deliver a Re-Animator: Millennium Edition on 4/30. As we've mentioned recently Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One will street on 3/26. They'll follow on 4/16 with The Accused, Eye for an Eye, Fatal Attraction, Flesh and Bone, Indecent Proposal, The Temp and Thief of Hearts. And Warner music will release a trio of Bjork discs on 2/19... Bjork: Live at Cambridge, Bjork: Live at Shepherds Bush and Bjork: MTV Unplugged.

Enjoy the weekend, folks!

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/18/02 - 11:45 AM PST)

Our own Dan Kelly's checked in today with a review of 20th Century Fox's forthcoming Carmen Jones DVD, which streets on Tuesday.

In other news today, Michael Felsher of Anchor Bay has revealed that a last minute situation (believed to be a legal/rights snag) will mean that their upcoming Evil Dead: Book of the Dead edition (street date 3/5) will no longer include the short film, Within the Woods, that inspired it. They're just as disappointed as fans are, but the problem was apparently unavoidable. Sad, but we're still looking forward to the disc in any case.

Also this morning, since many, many readers have asked for it, we've got an update on the whole Final Countdown situation. The disc was supposed to be shipped from Pacific Family Entertainment on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. But several readers have e-mailed us to say that the discs have not yet been sent. Here's a report from Bits reader Stacy R:

I called PFE to ask why I haven't received my DVD yet since they charged my credit card two weeks ago. I was told that was their policy and that even though the release date was yesterday, it was going to be delayed "a couple of days." He then told me "we haven't exactly had an influx of orders so we had to adjust a little." I haven't any idea what that means but when I asked him when I could expect to received the DVD, he said, "well, to be safe, I'd wait two more weeks."

While we know for a fact that there are thousands of fans of this film out there waiting for its DVD release, I don't think anyone should be surprised that there hasn't exactly been an influx of orders. Has PFE issued a press release on the title? No. Have they promoted it to fans or the DVD media (even those that call repeatedly for information)? No. Is it available for order anywhere online? No. In fact, you can barely find information about it on their own website. In any case, if you've ordered the disc, be patient. It is coming. But after all the frustration we've gone through over this title... if we never mention it again, don't be surprised.

How about ending on a more upbeat note today? We've gotten official word that M*A*S*H: TV Season Two is coming to DVD in May from Fox! And we've been told quietly to expect a lot of TV product from Warner in 2002. No word on what that might mean aside from Friends, but South Park and Babylon 5 are obvious choices.

And how 'bout this story from Business Week? Rumors are that MGM is for sale, for a snappy asking price of $7 billion. Just a year or so ago, MGM was seen to be one of the financially weakest studios in Hollywood. Why a price tag with so many zeros? DVD of course. It seems the studio's 4,100-odd catalog titles are ripe for re-release on our favorite 5" disc, and the vaults have barely been tapped. According to the article: Last year, MGM generated $264.2 million in revenues from selling DVDs of more than 300 of its titles, including such oldies as When Harry Met Sally and the Rocky series. That's a 67% hike from a year earlier, and closing in on the $395 million generated from home video sales. And some of MGM's more recent special editions, including The Terminator, Mad Max, Buckaroo Banzai and Jeepers Creepers, have been damn fine indeed. Note to MGM Home Entertainment: Nicely done, guys. Now if we could just get Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire on disc... ;-)

Have a great weekend!

1/17/02

Yep - it's true. We've confirmed that Warner will soon release Friends: The Complete First Season on DVD! We don't have an official street date, but word is April 30th according to a few retailers. We'll post more details as soon as they're available.

Now then... we've got a little ground to cover today. First of all, we've been told that Fox's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season will street on DVD in June. And Anchor Bay's new 2-disc Highlander: The Immortal Version is coming April 16th. Buena Vista's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is due on May 7th, with Corky Romano following on May 14th. "O" streets on February 19th from Lions Gate. All in the Family: The First Season streets on March 26th from Columbia TriStar, along with the Ray Harryhausen classic First Men in the Moon. You high-end home theater buffs will be happy to learn that Columbia's Vertical Limit: SuperBit and The Big Hit: SuperBit DVDs have been announced for March 19th. And The Net: Special Edition streets on April 2nd.

Also today, Elite Entertainment's sent over details on their Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition (street date 3/12 - SRP $24.95). The disc will include a newly approved THX film transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1 remixed audio, the original mono soundtrack, dual commentary tracks featuring George A. Romero and the entire cast, trailers and TV spots, the film parody Night of the Living Bread, a still photo gallery featuring rare color photos, the history of Romero's company - The Latent Image, scenes from the "lost" Romero film There's Always Vanilla, a video interview with Judy Ridley, a final interview by star Duane Jones, a look at foreign and domestic posters and collectibles and original props, the entire original shooting script, cast member's personal scrapbooks, a THX Optimizer, Romero-directed TV spots and short films, liner notes by Romero and Stephen King and more. Here's the cover art...

Night of the Living Dead: Millennium Edition

Now for some non-Rumor Mill rumors: Stephen Clark, editor of BTTF.com, e-mailed me this morning with an update on the upcoming release of Back to the Future on DVD. Seems producer Bob Gale's confirmed that new high-def transfers of the films are being done for DVD from newly struck and restored elements. ETA on the discs is reported to be the 2nd half of 2002. Click here for the complete text of Gale's comments.

Also today, The One Ring.net has a "spy report" (reportedly from CNN) that when The Fellowship of the Ring hits DVD later this year, it will include a four-and-a-half hour cut of the film. Cool if true, but I'd say this is best left in the rumor category until confirmed by New Line.

We've been hearing from people that Universal's Legend is being released in R2 in March. My understanding, however, is that this will be a movie-only release. There's no word on an official street date for the R1 disc yet, but I'd hazard a guess that the studio may be waiting to capitalize on the DVD release of Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. Here's what I do know... the title will be a 2-disc Ultimate Edition and all the special edition materials are done. As soon as we heard anything, we'll let you know. We've also been told that Universal has plans to release Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill on DVD later this year (thanks Martin!).

And you Bay-area fans of the film Ghost World will be happy to learn that Video Droid in San Rafael, CA will be hosting an autograph signing and Q&A with writer/director Terry Zwigoff next month, in honor of the MGM DVD release. It will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2002, from 2 to 4 PM. Video Droid is located at 898 Lincoln Avenue in San Rafael (phone: 415-456-3146).

Stay tuned...

1/16/02

No... we haven't suddenly been overrun by mysterious forces from The Home Theater Forum, in case you were wondering! You may have noticed that, occasionally, a visit to The Bits looks more like a visit to the HTF. That's because both sites are on the same server. And when it goes down and reboots, it takes a little while for our web address to point back to the site. Just FYI. ;-)

Well... as of our closing deadline of midnight we officially have more than 350 applications for our DVD reviewer positions here at The Bits. We're going to start going through them today and we should announce our new staffers some time early next week. Thanks to everyone who applied!

By the way... Bits reader David A.'s pointed out that Dick Tracy is listed as an April 2nd, 2002 release to DVD on Amazon.com. You may also be interested to know that Red Dwarf: Season 1 & 2 will be released by Warner and the BBC here in Region 1 in August. And here's something that will get people in the States riled up... word is that The West Wing will start appearing on DVD soon too... in Region 2. Syndication issues will likely prevent its release in R1 for some time. Hey... does anyone else out there watch reruns of Aaron Sorkin's other great show, Sports Night, on Comedy Central? Now there's a show I'd love to have on DVD. And there was only like 1 or 2 seasons of it anyway...

Our own Greg Suarez wanted to jump in here this morning with a word or two on director Ted Demme, so here he is...

Thanks Bilbo. As you're probably aware by now, director Ted Demme passed away this week at the frighteningly young age of 37. Beginning his career in television, Demme soon made the transition to feature film and, in my eyes, became one of the premiere east coast directors. Films such as The Ref, Beautiful Girls and Monument Ave. (aka Snitch) were shining examples of his ability to coax a unique depth and personality from his characters. With his swan song biopic Blow, Demme further demonstrated this talent.

You always know when you're watching a Ted Demme film. His ability to leave an intangible trademark on his work continually assured the viewer that they were in for a quality experience - a vision more tuned to depth than width. Demme was a director who reminded us of the important rule that a big budget does not a good film make. Many of Demme's films were made for next-to-nothing, yet are so unique (there's that word again) and clearly envisioned that they beg for repeated viewing. The director also had the rare ability to be as good with drama as he was with comedy. The Ref is a scathing, yet brilliantly funny look at family psychology. Monument Ave. is a film rooted in the suspense of Irish-American gangland Boston, while Beautiful Girls, one of the 1990s best romantic comedies, is as touching a drama as it is a humorous look into relationships between men and women in love.

It never hurt that his films were brimming with talented actors in-tune with Demme's style. This has included a (then) relatively unknown Kevin Spacey, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino, Natalie Portman, Martin Sheen, Famke Janssen and, most recently, Johnny Depp and Ray Liotta. And what kind of a Demme fan would I be if didn't give a shout out to one of the director's closest friends and filmmaking cohorts, Denis Leary.

So, in tribute to the late Ted Demme, I implore you to spin a couple of his films on DVD this weekend. Beautiful Girls might be a crappy DVD technically, but the quality of the film will allow you to overlook the disc's flaws. New Line pulled out all of the stops when translating Blow to DVD, as the studio made the disc one of its flagship Infinifilm titles. And you owe it to yourself to at least give Monument Ave. a rent. Disney, your task is to put The Ref - possibly Demme's finest film - on your release schedule right now. Not next week, not next month... right freakin' now! There's no reason this film should not be on DVD in the format's fifth year.

Goodbye, Ted. Your career was short, but your contributions will not be forgotten.

Thanks, Bill...

No problem. I must confess, I wasn't a hug fan of Blow and I'm not terribly familiar with all of Demme's work. But I'll definitely second Greg's comments on Beautiful Girls, which is a terrific little movie that's been a favorite of mine since its release in 1996. And Greg's point is well taken... how better to remember a director than to give his work a spin on DVD?

Stay tuned...

1/15/02

My cable modem has been down all morning, so I'm working to get back up to speed. I'm a subscriber to Cox@Home here in Orange County, CA, and if you know anything about the @Home financial saga, you'll know that things can get a little dicey for us subscribers.

First off this afternoon, I wanted to thank everyone who has sent in an application for the staff reviewer positions. We've gotten - no kidding - more than 300 good applications in the last 24 hours! And we're very happy to see that several are women. We're going to be taking applications until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, after which time we'll cut it off and start reviewing them all. So get your apps in fast if you want to be considered. And thanks again to everyone for the tremendous interest. We can't tell you how much we're honored by that. We're looking forward to working with at least a few of you. And we'll keep everyone's applications on file for next time.

This would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but for sake of brevity, I'm posting it here. A reader e-mailed us this morning to say that director Ridley Scott confirmed, during an Atlanta radio interview, that the forthcoming Blade Runner: Special Edition (due late in 2002) would likely be a 3-disc affair (thanks to Ed B. for the tip). That's nothing we didn't already know, but since Scott himself confirmed it, it's worth mentioning. We've also gotten more word that Buena Vista is now working on a Who Framed Roger Rabbit special edition DVD, in addition to their Dick Tracy. If anyone from the studio is reading this, may we respectfully request you add Ed Wood and The Rocketeer to your list of badly needed special editions? They'd sure make great Vista Series releases....

Speaking of badly needed special editions, we'd like to point out that Miramax is rapidly positioning itself to take the Studio We Want More From honors in our upcoming Bitsy Awards (you can find out who took past honors by visiting the last two Bitsy Awards in the FAQ and Archives section). Miramax has so many great films that are WELL OVERDUE for special edition treatment - The English Patient, Pulp Fiction, Kieslowski's Blue, White and Red, Jackie Brown... the list is long and filled with gems. We've been hearing that they're "in production" for some time now - it would be good to get an update. Miramax? Anyone? By the way, look for our 3rd Annual Bitsy Awards in March.

In other news, Columbia TriStar has announced the release of their Wilde: Special Edition on March 19th. The disc will feature anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, audio commentary with cast and crew, the featurettes Simply Wilde and Still Wild About Wilde, DVD-ROM material (including the content of the official Wilde website) and more. SLP is $29.95. The studio is also releasing another volume in their Three Stooges series on March 26th (SLP $24.95). The disc will include the following shorts: Three Arabian Nuts, Three Little Beers, Three Smart Saps, Three Dark Horses and Three Loan Wolves.

And we have a vague price on Paramount's forthcoming Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One set - looks like $139.98 is the "SRP", but most places will be selling it in the neighborhood of $89.98.

Finally this afternoon, all of us at The Digital Bits would like to give a respectful nod to director Ted Demme, who died yesterday here in LA. Demme was a successful producer at MTV for many years, and later directed such films as Beautiful Girls and Blow. He'll be missed.

Back soon with that Trivia Contest. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/14/02 - Noon PST)

We've just posted Todd's List of 10 DVDs Coming Tomorrow in the Doogan's Views section, along with his latest column, which includes reviews of Universal's The Fast and the Furious: Collector's Edition, MGM's Jeepers Creepers: Special Edition and Reborn From Hell 1 & 2 from Tokyo Shock.

We've also got some DVD news from Todd, so here he is...

New from Fangoria's Weekend of Horror panel on DVD: Anchor Bay announced a three-disc Dawn of the Dead special edition with the Italian Dario Argento cut, the theatrical cut and the George A. Romero director's cut. Commentary and extras from Elite's special edition laserdisc along with a new commentary featuring all four members of the "human" cast. Also coming are Near Dark, Fear No Evil (from the creator of Lady in White Frank LaLoggia) and the Rankin and Bass classic Mad Monster Party.

Alternative Cinema announced Al Adamson's first biker film Hell's Bloody Devils.

Media Blasters announced for it's Shriek Show line: Lambero Bava's Delirium (with interviews with director Bava, George Eastman and David Brandon, trailers and talent bios), Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega) (with interviews with Cinzia Monreale, assistant/art director Dontella Donati, trailers, talent bios; still and poster gallery), Zombie Holocaust (featuring interviews with director of U.S. title scene (Roy Frumkes), actor Ian McCulloh and special effects Man Maurizio Trani, scenes from the unfinished film Tales to Rip Your Heart Out that were used in U.S. version called Dr. Butcher M.D. with commentary by Frunkes, plus still and poster gallery and talent bios). There's also a bunch of Lucio Fulci films coming: Lizard in a Woman's Skin, House of Clocks/Sweet House of Horrors Double Disc and Zombie III. Look for some Umberto Lenzi films: Hitcher in the Dark, Eaten Alive, Spasmo and Seven Blood Stained Orchids. Also look for Ruggero Deodato's House by the Edge of the Park, Jean Rollin's Two Orphan Vampires and Fiancée De Dracula, Lamberto Bava's Demons III: The Orge. There's a lot huh? There's more. How about: My Dear Killer, What Have They Done to Solange? and Zombie IV: After Death. Also look for two new Tokyo Shock flicks by Takashi Miike Fudoh and Visitor Q.

And finally our friends at Synapse have the LSD thriller Blue Sunshine coming as well. Oh... and at the View Askew Vulgarthon 2002, Don May, Jr. announced a two-disc set of Hollywood Brian Lynch's Angry Naked Pat webtoon (check it out at this weblink). The disc will feature a lot of cool bonus material and maybe even an exclusive toon created specifically for this DVD. If you ever found the secret commentary on A Better Place, you know this is going to be a hugely funny disc. And Brian... if you need a DVD fanboy voice, I'm here. Back to you Billy-boy.

I'd say we're good for now. Check back later for a new Trivia Contest. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/14/02 - 10 AM PST)

All right... we've got a lot of stuff to post today here at The Bits. To start with, we've been hearing from a few readers that Blockbuster is responding to their calls and e-mails about the lack of widescreen... with word that they'll start carrying more widescreen versions. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill.

Also this morning, we're putting out the call for intrepid DVD reviewers to join the staff of The Digital Bits. We're looking for at least three new reviewers, and we'd very much like for at least one to be female. We think it would be nice to get the fairer perspective on DVD once in a while, don't you? Staff reviewers don't get paid, but we do try to provide them with discs to review and keep when we can, as well as other perks as opportunities present themselves. All reviews become the property of The Digital Bits and must be exclusive (they cannot appear elsewhere), but you will ALWAYS receive full credit for you work. Plus, this is a chance for your writing to be read by a virtual Who's-Who of the film industry - you'd be amazed to know who will see your work. Ideal candidates should have solid film knowledge, ranging from early classics and foreign films to modern Hollywood fare. Knowledge in specific genres of film is very welcome as well (film noir, silents, musicals, 50s sci-fi, etc...). We also like our reviewers to be experienced home theater enthusiasts with good knowledge of the DVD format and its features and capabilities. You should have viewing equipment with 5.1 audio capability, and an anamorphic widescreen display is a plus. As I mentioned, we will try to send you new product to review whenever possible, but you are more than welcome to review both new and older discs from your own collection. And if you have access to early screener product from the studios or through a retailer, that's a MAJOR plus. So... if you're interested in joining our experienced Bits review staff, send an e-mail to billhunt@thedigitalbits.com. Be sure to use the words REVIEW STAFF in the header. Tell us about yourself and your qualifications, and include one or two samples of your writing (preferably a film or DVD review). We're looking forward to having some of you join us, and add your own unique voices to The Bits in the new year!

Okay... we'll be back again shortly with more, so stay tuned...

1/11/02

Yeah... I know. Lots of you are probably wondering what's taking today's post so long to... well, post. The truth is, I had this huge amount of stuff I was going to put up this afternoon. Then I got an offer I couldn't refuse. I went hiking. Yep... me and my buddy Jim Carey (the REAL Jim Carey - not that actor guy) headed for the hills, and spent a few hours climbing up through a canyon to this place called Holy Jim Falls (that name thing's a long story). Why you ask? You know... sometimes, you just need to recharge the batteries. Get out into Nature. Leave the office and the computers behind and breathe some fresh air for a change. Sadly, we couldn't drag our wives up there, so we had to take a picture to prove we actually made it (that's me on the right).

Gone fishing (I mean, hiking).

So anyway, that big post will be ready for all of you Monday morning, to enjoy over your first cup of coffee. In the meantime, there is one bit of DVD information that I though I'd sneak in here this afternoon. We've basically confirmed that The Lion King will be Disney's Platinum DVD title for 2003. How you ask? Well... Disney's actually created an official website for the film's 1/1/2003 IMAX re-release, complete with downloadable versions of that trailer we mentioned a few days ago that people were seeing before Beauty and the Beast (now playing in IMAX theaters and coming to DVD in November of this year). I'd say that about seals the bargain. Thanks to Bits reader Scott M. for the heads up on the trailers!

All right... have a great weekend, all of you. Relax. Take a load off. Throw care to the wind. You get the idea. Sure feels good once in a while... ;-)

(LATER UPDATE - 1/10/02 - 3:15 PM PST)

Okay... we promised you a picture of the final packaging format Paramount's decided upon for their Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. Here you go...

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season One (final packaging)

Looks pretty great to me. And for under $100 a season, it's hard to beat.

By the way... I actually got a nice e-mail from Dave Dadekian, who was quoted in that MSNBC story about DVD extras the other day. He's a good guy... and a Bits reader too! ;-)

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 1/10/02 - 1:45 PM PST)

WOW! We just received the official announcement from Paramount for their upcoming Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs. Get this - the studio plans to release ALL SEVEN SEASONS of the series on DVD in 2002, starting with Season One on March 26th. A new season will then be released every other month throughout the year. Each release will include all that season's episodes in their original full frame aspect ratio, digitally remastered and in full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (2.0 audio will also be included, as will English subtitles and Closed Captioning). Season One will include 26 episodes, along with four newly created documentaries exclusive to the DVD release. Here's a detailed description of the documentaries, which will be included on Disc Seven of the set:

The Beginning focuses on the challenges of creating a new series and keeping to Gene Roddenberry's vision - includes interviews with Roddenberry, Patrick Stewart, Robert Justman (former producer of the Original Series), Rick Berman (Co-Executive Producer at the time), Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Denise Crosby and other cast members.

Selected Crew Analysis features first season cast members talking about their roles, their acting backgrounds prior to being cast and their impressions of the Star Trek legacy. Also features a comparison between the launch of the series in 1987 and the comments from the cast seven years later (1994), using archive interviews and b-roll to present a fascinating 'before' and 'after' look from the series cast members.

The Making of a Legend features commentary from the first season production staff members: Michael Westmore (Make-up), Herman Zimmerman (Production Designer), Mike Okuda (Scenic Artist), Richard Sternbach (Scenic Artist), Dan Curry (Visual Effects), Peter Lauritson (Co-Producer), Rick Berman and others, as they discuss the making of the new series. Uncovers information on how the beaming effect is achieved, Worf's make up process and how much time and effort goes into creating each episode.

Memorable Missions features cast and crew discussions of specific episodes and events that occurred during the first season.

There is no specific SRP for each single season set, but they're expected to retail for less than $100 each. One of the ways they're able to keep the cost lower is that they've decided against the extra plastic case packaging (shown below). We'll have a better picture of the final packaging for you shortly. I have to say, we at The Bits are duly impressed. And with the complete Next Generation coming out this year, we're now wondering if we won't see similar treatment of Deep Space Nine and Voyager in 2003 and 2004. Hhmmmm....

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 1/10/02 - 10 AM PST)

Good news for you fans of The X-Files... back when it was still a good show I mean. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release The X-Files: The Complete Fifth Season on DVD on May 7th. You can expect all twenty fifth season episodes to be included, and word is (this is yet to be confirmed) they'll be in anamorphic widescreen for the very first time. The show's producers began shooting the series in widescreen for eventual HDTV broadcast at the beginning of this season. Some highlight episodes of the season include Christmas Carol, Emily, Kill Switch (an episode written by author William Gibson), The Red and the Black and The End (the season ending cliffhanger which led into The X-Files: Fight the Future feature film). Other details on the set are TBA, but you can reasonably expect deleted footage, behind-the-scenes interviews, commentary on a few episodes and TV spots. We'll post more when we can.

And you Doctor Who fans will be pleased to learn that Warner Bros (who holds the U.S. domestic release license for the BBC) will release two new DVDs featuring the good Doctor on April 2nd (SRP $24.98 each). According to the discs' content producer for the BBC, Remembrance of the Daleks will include audio commentary by Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor) and Sophie Aldred (Ace), two TV trailers, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, two multi-angle sequences, the complete isolated music score, "subtitle" production notes and a photo gallery. The Caves of Androzani will include audio commentary by Peter Davison (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri) and Graeme Harper (director), a TV trailer, an extended scene (with optional commentary), the Creating Sharaz Jek featurette, the Regeneration featurette (with optional commentary), an option to watch remastered or original effects sequence via branching, three news items reporting on Peter Davison leaving the show, the complete isolated music score, "subtitle" production notes and a photo gallery. Maybe they'll throw in a K-9 too - whew! Thanks, Steve!

We've got an update on that online petition to get Blockbuster to serve the needs of its widescreen consumers a little better. It's up to almost 18,000 signatures. Who knows if Blockbuster will even bat an eye, but keep them coming. At least we can send a message...

In news from CES, four DVD player manufacturers have announced that they'll support Microsoft's Windows Media Audio technology in their players. This would enable consumers to play CD and DVD discs created on their computers with that technology on their DVD players. The manufacturers are Toshiba, Panasonic, Apex Digital Inc. and Shinco, a Chinese manufacturer.

Also today, CNet's done a story on inexpensive DVD products that include high-end features like progressive scan, DVD-Audio and DVD-R support.

Stay tuned...

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