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page updated: 3/22/02



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 3/6/02 - 2/14/02)


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(LATE UPDATE - 3/6/02 - 3:30 PM PST)

As promised, we've got something special for you this afternoon. Our own Dan Kelly was fortunate enough this weekend to chat one-on-one with director Baz Luhrmann. Baz talked about his films, his work with DVD, the idea of "challenging" his audience and much more. I think you'll find it fascinating and well worth a read. So head on over to Simply Baz! Enjoy... ;-)

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/6/02 - 1 PM PST)

We'll be back in a couple of hours with a brand new special feature story, but first we wanted to check in with a look at the DVD cover artwork for Buena Vista's Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition (street date: 10/8). We've also got (surprise!) a look at their Nixon: Director's Cut (street date: 3/12) and the Oliver & Company: Special Edition (5/28):

Beauty and the Beast: Platinum EditionNixon: Director's Cut

Oliver & Company: Special Edition

Stay tuned... ;-)

3/5/02

We've got word in The Rumor Mill this morning of a couple of additional TV series being released on DVD later in 2002. Definitely give it a look.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/4/02 - 3:15 PM PDT)

Okay, we're back with new DVD review of DreamWorks' Almost Famous: Untitled by Greg and Lions Gate's Bully by Drew.

Also, we're reposting a chart from the EETimes which might help all of you to make better sense of what's being considered (format-wise) for the next generation of DVD disc, specifically for high-definition.

HD-DVD Format Guide (from the EETimes)

Back tomorrow with more...

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/4/02 - 2 PM PDT)

Okay... we'll start the week by updating you on more upcoming DVD releases. Buena Vista's gettin' busy on 5/14 with David Blaine: Fearless and the long overdue Oliver & Company. Chungking Express, Country Life, Out Cold and Walking and Talking follow on 5/21. Columbia TriStar has added Cruel and Unusual to its 4/30 slate, and Earth vs. the Spider to 5/7. HBO has The Protector and Traces of Red set for 6/4. Koch International is releasing The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Last Time I Saw Paris on 4/23. MVD is releasing Kids in the Hall on 4/16. Sidewalks of New York is coming from Paramount on 5/21. 20th Century Fox's May slate includes Waking Life (5/7), From Hell (5/14) and Between Heaven and Hell, D-Day, The 6th of June, Desert Rats, To the Shores of Tripoli and Yank in the RAF (all 5/21). And their June slate so far includes Hombre, The Hustler, The Verdict and Shallow Hall (all 6/4). Universal's added Brewster's Millions, Duel, It Came from Outer Space, Silent Running and Which Way is Up? to their 5/21 lineup. And upcoming Warner titles include National Geographic: Vietnam's Unseen War, War Letters and West Point: The First 200 Years (all 5/21), MaCabe and Mrs. Miller, Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, Scooby-Doo Goes Hollywood, Scooby-Doo's Creepiest Capers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Women and South Park: Insults to Injuries (all 6/4) and Saddle Club: Adventures at Pine Hollow (6/18).

This falls in the category of rumor, but I'll post it here anyway - word is that Universal filmed a feature for the upcoming Back to the Future DVDs at the recent FX-2002 Back to the Future Exhibit in Orlando. This news is according to e-mails by various attendees of the show. The largest collection of privately owned BTTF props & costumes in existence was on display, and Universal apparently wanted to document them for a featurette on the discs. Street date is still tentatively in December.

And did you hear? Miramax and MGM are planning on remaking Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Is that about the worst idea you've heard so far this year or what? Just leave aside the fact that it's already been remade numerous times (with some good and some lousy results). Isn't anyone out there getting sick of seeing Hollywood pillage the classics of film history for lame remakes starring guys like Chris Klein? Did we really need another Rollerball? Another Planet of the Apes? Was it really necessary to make live action versions of The Grinch, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Josie and the Pussycats? Aren't there better stories to be told? Isn't Hollywood interesting in telling stories at all?

Speaking of which, I saw a really interesting episode of PBS's Frontline this weekend, called The Monster that Ate Hollywood (here's a link to the official site). This is recommended viewing for anyone who frets the lack of really truly good and original movies being made in the last couple of years. The site features interviews with studio execs, directors, independent filmmakers and even a transcript of the complete show. Definitely worth a look. The gist is that the Hollywood studio appetite for blockbusters, sequels, franchises, dumb-ass teen flicks and explosion movies is basically killing independent filmmaking. Not that that's a new conclusion, but the problem has gotten much more serious in the last two years, as corporations tighten their ownership hold on the studios. It's gotten to the point that a lot of really great, intelligent and fresh independent filmmaking is going almost completely unseen, because they're getting crowded out of theaters by all these 2,000 screen blockbuster releases. Once again, corporate America spins horribly out of control. You've got Hollywood killing great filmmaking, a Starbucks on every corner, the Detroit automakers sending jobs overseas, WalMart killing retailers in small town America and Enron giving everyone the shaft. I'm a proud American, but you begin to understand why half the world hates us. Don't get me started. Anyway, the point is, this particular Frontline is a must see for anyone connected with (or possessing the love of) filmmaking.

Got a couple new DVD reviews coming this afternoon. Back soon...

3/2/02

Here's a story for all those of you who have been e-mailing me with panicked worries about Blu-Ray disc obsoleting your current DVDs. I've said many times that we were still a ways away from any kind of actual HD-DVD format specification. And here's proof - the DVD Forum officially voted (last week) to go away from blue laser (aka Blue-Ray) technology with MPEG-2 compression for next generation digital movie discs, and stay with existing ruby laser technology with "low-bit-rate" MPEG-4 compression (see the whole story here from the EETimes). Of the 17 members of the DVD Forum, some 11 voted for this plan, with the remaining 6 abstaining. It should be noted that those 6 happen to be behind Blue-Ray (including Matsushita, JVC and Philips). Here's quote from the story: Blu-ray is a recording format for real-time interlaced TV programs, including HDTV programming, while low-bit-rate encoding is positioned as a prerecorded HD-DVD playback format for movies, said Chris Buma, program manager for A/V disk recording at Philips. "We don't see Blu-ray as replacing DVD; rather, it complements the next-generation DVD format." One of the reasons many would rather avoid blue laser technology is that it would be substantially more expensive. A U.S. exec (speaking on conditions of anonymity) claimed a switch to blue-laser equipment would make advanced players prohibitively costly, whereas a red-laser-based player that could handle both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 decoding would carry a palatable retail premium of $25 to $50.

So what should all this tell you? For one thing, existing DVD is alive and well. More importantly, viable HD-DVD is still a ways off. How far away depends first on these corporations, and second on the studios endorsing a compression/anti-piracy scheme. And I'd lay down good money that any eventual HD-DVD or Blu-Ray players will be backwards compatible with CD, Video CD and existing DVD, so your movie collections will still be good. But I wouldn't expect to see HD-DVD discs in your Christmas stockings anytime soon.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 3/1/02 - 4:45 PM PST)

We've got one more fun Buena Vista item for you today - a look at the cover artwork for Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums! No word on features or when the disc will street, but we'll update you as soon as we hear anything. Loved this movie... ;-)

The Royal Tannenbaums

Also this afternoon, we've got Todd Doogan's latest Doogan's Views. Todd takes an in-depth look at some of the 350 reader responses to his last column, in which he (I think quite rightly) lamented the dying art of the special edition on DVD. It's very funny and well worth reading, so don't miss it.

Unfortunately, editing Todd's 14-page Word doc into HTML took a lot longer than I expected. And my fingers are aching from the effort. Anybody got a quick fix for carpel tunnel? Please? ;-)

I'll have those new reviews for you on Monday. And that's all she wrote for now. Have a great weekend, everyone!

(EARLY UPDATE - 3/1/02 - 11:15 AM PST)

Michael Wiese Productions contacted us this morning with the official details on their forthcoming Hardware Wars: Collector's Edition DVD (street date 4/1 - timed to take advantage of the release of Episode II to theaters). The disc will contain over an hour of material, including director's commentary ("like none you've ever heard"), the producer's comments, a rare look at a pirated Foreign Version from 1979, an interview with Fosselius on the hit TV show Creature Features, the never-before-seen Director's Cut, Antique Sideshow (a prequel revealing the recent re-discovery of Hardware Wars), and much more. It is said to be "5.1 Pro-Logic and Mono Compatible" and it is an NTSC, all Region disc. The DVD is only available from the MWP website, but you can preorder now ($14.95 plus shipping). Here's a look at the cover artwork...

Hardware Wars: Collector's Edition

Now then... we've also got detail on the major Disney DVDs coming later this year. First up is, Oliver and Company and Snow Dogs on May 21st. The 4-disc Pearl Harbor: Vista Series debuts on July 2nd. On July 23rd, Disney unveils Tarzan & Jane. The Schoolhouse Rock: 30th Anniversary Edition arrives on August 27th, which collects every song from the show. Mickey's House of Villians hits disc on September 3rd. Disney's Monsters, Inc. follows on September 17th. And the Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition rounds out the year on October 8th, with no less than THREE versions of the film included on the set.

The definitive 2-disc Monsters, Inc. will SRP for $29.99, and will include...

Disc One - the fullscreen Version of the Film (1.33:1) specially reframed for standard TVs, a Widescreen Version of the Film (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 televisions (original theatrical aspect ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX sound effects only track, THX-certified with THX Optimizer, audio commentary by the filmmakers (Director Pete Docter, Co-Director Lee Unkrich, Executive Producer John Lasseter and Executive Producer and Screenwriter Andrew Stanton)

Disc Two - (divided into two worlds: The Monster World and The Human World), outtakes (including Company Play), a performance of Put That Thing Back Where it Came from or So Help Me (written, choreographed, produced, directed and catered by Mike Wazowski), For the Birds (the 2001 Oscar-nominated Pixar animated short film, the music featurette If I Didn't Have You (performed by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) and an exclusive sneak peek of Finding Nemo (Disney/Pixar's new upcoming feature)

And trust me when I say that that's just scratching the surface. The Beauty & The Beast: Platinum Edition (available for a limited time only (SRP $29.99) will include...

Disc One - an all-digital presentation utilizing an all-new high definition transfer for the DVD (widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 TVs), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound newly created for the 2002 large format release, THX Certified, French language track, three versions of the film (the Special Edition includes the all-new musical sequence Human Again, the Original Theatrical Edition is the animated film masterpiece audiences around the world know and love, and the Work in Progress Edition as shown at the 1991 New York Film Festival), audio commentary from the filmmakers, a karaoke/sing-along track (watch the film and sing along to all your favorite songs as the words pop up on the screen), Maurice's Invention Workshop Game (help Chip in Maurice's Workshop and begin a journey that continues on Disc 2 in which the viewer can break the spell and make all the enchanted characters human again)

Disc Two - The Story Behind the Story (the viewer is transported into Belle's library as celebrity hosts Celine Dion, James Earl Jones, David Ogden Stiers, Ming Na, Angela Lansbury, Robby Benson, Page O'Hara and Jodi Benson share the stories behind several of Disney's most beloved characters), A Tale as Old as Time ("making of" featurette), Character Profile Game, Beauty and the Beast Broadway musical featurette, Disney's Animation Magic, Chip's Musical Challenge Game, Beauty and the Beast music video by Jump 5, Break the Spell adventure game and a complete and exhaustive section for ultimate collector's and film fans, which includes the early presentation reel, an alternate version of the Be Our Guest number, an alternate score (The Transformation - original demo recordings with introduction by Alan Menken), a production and character design art gallery, pencil tests, animation tests, a layout and background art gallery, camera move tests, poster and ad design artwork, trailers and TV spots, the Large Screen Format trailer and more

Click here for Disney's complete press release with all the details in ASCII Text format (including specs on these titles plus Pearl Harbor and others). Whew!

We'll be back with not one but two new reviews this afternoon, as well as Todd's new Doogan's Views column. Stay tuned...

2/28/02

All right, we've got some serious mojo in The Rumor Mill for you today, so do check it out. There's word on more Star Trek, some long overdue Tarantino special editions and even some Universal news. Definitely worth a look.

Also today, we've got a look at the final Legend: Ultimate Edition artwork for you. Remember, click to preorder from DVD Planet.

Legend: Ultimate EditionBlue Velvet: Special Edition

Surprise! We've got word on MGM's forthcoming Blue Velvet: Special Edition. The disc streets on June 4th (SRP $24.98). Look for the disc to include a new anamorphic widescreen transfer personally supervised by director David Lynch, the Mysteries of Love documentary featuring rare interviews with Lynch, Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan and other cast and crew members, the Are You a Pervert? deleted scenes featurette, Siskel & Ebert's critical review, a photo gallery, trailers and more. Audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1, French stereo and Spanish mono, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. By the way, all those other MGM June titles we mentioned yesterday will street on June 4th as well.

You Star Wars fans will be pleased to learn that Fox TV will be debuting the final trailer for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones on March 10th (smack dab between Malcolm and a new X-Files). Word is the 2 and 1/2 minute trailer features serious Jedi-in-action material. The trailer will appear in theaters later in March with Ice Age, ET and other films. Click here for the whole story via EWOnline.

You know... the hype that happened on Episode I might be suspiciously absent this time around, but I for one am no less excited. In fact, after reading the cautiously glowing script reviews at Dark Horizons and AICN, I'm getting down right pumped (by the way - avoid those links if you wish to stay spoiler free). It's almost a cliché to say these days, but Star Wars was THE film of my childhood. And the thought that I've got two more chances to recapture that giddy feeling I first got in 1977 makes me happy, happy, happy. What a great year this is gonna be for movies! You got Episode II, you got Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you got Spider-Man, Star Trek: Nemesis, Panic Room, Minority Report. Sure hope at least half of those titles turn out to be at least half as good as I'd like them to be...

By the way, if ANYONE out there has a complete copy of the Episode II screenplay, drop me an e-mail. I'm dying to read it and I'll make it worth your while. ;-)

Stay tuned...

2/26/02

Afternoon all! Todd wanted me to let everyone know that the DavidLynch.com store has officially opened. And his The Short Films of David Lynch DVD (which includes Six Men Getting Sick, The Alphabet, The Grandmother, The Amputee, The Cowboy and The Frenchman, along with his Lumiere short originally available on the Lumiere Shorts DVD) is now available for order (for $39.95 plus shipping and handling). Also, the Eraserhead DVD is available as a backorder item only, which will ship around April 1st. It also sells for $39.95. Both DVDs come in custom 8" x 8" cardboard DVD boxes with informational booklets (16-pages for the shorts, 20-pages for Eraserhead). Here's a look at the cover artwork...

The Short Films of David LynchEraserhead

Columbia TriStar's got some interesting new titles on the way. Look for All in the Family: The Complete First Season on March 26th. Bite the Bullet and Breakout are due on April 2nd. Race the Sun and Cruel and Unusual follow on April 30th. May 7th will see To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and Earth vs. the Spider. On May 14th, The Cowboy will arrive on DVD. And on May 21st, the studio will release a Memento: Special Edition.

We've also got a look at some of MGM's June DVD lineup for you. Here's what to expect: Best Seller, Caveman, Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers, Deal of a Lifetime, Great Balls of Fire, Hero and the Terror, High Spirits, The Jackie Robinson Story, The Manhattan Project, Men at Work, Mr. Saturday Night, UHF and Unforgettable.

Before we leave today, how about some upcoming DVD artwork? Several of you have complained that we haven't updated our Upcoming DVD Artwork section in a while. That's deliberate. On our current server, all that artwork downloading to the Net is killing our bandwidth allotment. So we're waiting to update until we're on the new server. More on that in a moment. In the meantime, here's some cool stuff to tide you over: Columbia TriStar's All in the Family: The Complete First Season (3/26) and First Men in the Moon (1964 - 3/26), Fox's Black Knight (4/16), MGM's UHF (6/4), Warner's Ocean's 11 (5/7), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker - Uncut Version (4/23) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (4/3) and Universal's Legend: Ultimate Edition (5/21 - note that the Legend artwork is subject to change). Click on each to pre-order from DVD Planet. Enjoy...

All in the Family: The Complete First SeasonFirst Men in the Moon

Black KnightUHF

Ocean's 11Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker - Uncut Version

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyLegend: Ultimate Edition

Back to the server issue. Our next post will be on Thursday, barring some MAJOR announcement tomorrow. That's so we can FINALLY get the move to the new server completed. We think you'll notice the difference in speed right away. No more server crashes, no more "service temporarily unavailable", no more long download times. Imagine that? (sigh) Just be aware that the site (and our e-mail) might be spotty until then.

So we'll see you Thursday! 'Till then, stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/25/02 - 11 AM PST)

Just wanted to jump in here with a cool bit of DVD news. The Washington Post.com today published an interview with Roger and Me director Michael Moore. During the interview, he confirms that the film will be released on DVD this year. Click here for the full text. Thanks to Bits reader Mike for the tip!

You fans of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga will be happy to learn that AnimEgo is going to be releasing the original film series on DVD this summer. Here's an e-mail I received this morning from Bits reader Jerry: "I purchase anime from AnimEigo.com. I found a listing of Samurai films I've never noticed before, to my surprise & delight. They are listing The Lone Wolf & Cub (6 films) a.k.a.; the Baby Cart films and Zatoichi (7 of this films series) as coming to DVD this spring (of 2002). They will announce a firm date when they're ready to duplicate. I watched the laserdisc years ago of Lone Wolf. As it turned out the Laser was a pan & scan and edited version (bad dub), according to Leonard Maltin's movie guide, from a great 6 film series. I e-mailed Amimego because I had a few questions regarding the release of the series. I asked about Anamorphic and release dates - separate or all 6 together. I received a nice reply from Robert Woodhead, CEO, of AnimeEigo. To quote: "When we do the DVD of LW&C, it will be "anamorphic" digitally transferred from a new print. Summer more likely, we expect the inevitable snags. It's much more complex than it seems. One at a time, every few months." I wanted to pass this info on to you..." Cool news indeed. For the record, here's the link to the official announcement at AnimEgo.

This just in from our friends at A&E Home Video (and it is official) - Gerry Anderson's UFO is coming to DVD this summer. UFO: DVD Set 1 is being released on 7/30. More when we have it.

The official Weird Al website has announced the release date for the UHF: Special Edition - look for it to hit store shelves on June 4th. The disc will feature both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions. Extras will include audio commentary with Al Yankovic and Jay Levey (plus surprise special guests), deleted scenes (hosted by Al), a photo gallery (with over 200 pictures), a "behind the scenes" documentary, the film's teaser and theatrical trailers, the UHF music video and more.

In other news, there's a story on Yahoo about the first copy-protected CD released here in the States (for the record, it's Charley Pride: A Tribute to Jim Reeves) not passing muster with consumers... or at least not ONE consumer anyway.

And finally, Bits reader Christopher has e-mailed us a link to a story that he says describes more accurately what Windows XP's Media Player does in tracking DVD and CD usage. Thanks, Chris!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/25/02 - 12:01 AM PST)

In light of the death of animator Chuck Jones this weekend, a lot of you have been asking us when Warner Bros. will get around to bringing his classic Looney Tunes shorts to DVD. I've spoken to the studio about this, and they've apparently been working on them for a while now. It seems that the shorts are badly in need of restoration before they see their DVD debut, but that's definitely been a ongoing project for some time. Now, however, I think you'll see this become a bit of a higher priority for the studio. I know I'm not the only one who wants a complete DVD boxed set of all the classic Tunes animation (and a complete boxed set it must be, or a series of in-order volumes that eventually leads to the complete Looney Tunes catalog available on DVD). So get busy Warner. The fans are waiting... and nothing would honor Jones' memory more. By the way, cudos to Warner for their online tribute.

Now then, let's get the week off to a good start, shall we? We've got word on a whole bunch of upcoming DVD releases from Buena Vista/Disney. On March 12th, look for On the Line, Iron Monkey, Mexico City and New Port South, with the animated The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the straight-to-video The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2, Adrenalin, Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom and Tall Guy following on March 19th. April 2nd will see a huge batch of live-action catalog titles, including Turner & Hooch, Three Men and a Baby, Three Men and a Little Lady, Ruthless People, Taking Care of Business, Three Fugitives, Tin Men, Dick Tracy (!), Iron Will, Angels in the Outfield, Homeward Bound 2, White Fang and White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf. Following on April 9th are Serendipity, High Heels and Low Lives and Texas Rangers. May 5th will see the DVD release of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, with The Others, Corky Romano and Snow Dogs following on May 14th, and Out Cold on May 21st. On June 4th, look for more live-action catalog titles, including Krippendorf's Tribe, Annie (the 1999 TV version), Mr. Wrong, The Joy Luck Club, V.I. Warshawski, Sarafina!, The Scarlet Letter and The Good Mother. Max Keeble’s Big Move and Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch arrive on June 18th. And finally, July 2nd is the new street date for the Pearl Harbor: Vista Series DVD.

Just to keep you going, here's the DVD cover artwork for a trio of those titles that I know there's a lot of interest in right now - Dick Tracy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Strictly Ballroom. All three titles (though it's hard to tell by the packaging) will feature at least some special edition content.

Dick TracyStrictly Ballroom

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

And here's a DVD-related Big Brother note for you Windows XP users (like me): if you watch your DVDs using Windows Media Player, you may (or may not) be surprised to learn that the software keeps track of what titles you're watching and reports that information back to Microsoft. Guess ya'll better lay off the porn, huh? For the record, Microsoft says they don't use the information for marketing purposes. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge... ;-)

Stay tuned...

2/23/02

Some very sad news today from right here in our own neck of the woods... Orange County, California. Chuck Jones, former animation cel washer, iconic animation director and Mark Twain lover extraordinaire, died yesterday of heart failure (click here and here for more information). For everything he has given us - from the attention-seeking Charley Dog, the day-dreaming Ralph Phillips, the mysterious Michigan J. Frog, the misunderstood super genius Wile E. Coyote, the cucumber cool lover Pepe Le Pew and on to Daffy's swaggering turn as Duck Dodgers and beyond - we'll always be grateful. And we just wanted to say goodbye. Chuck Jones was, and always will be, the greatest 15-year old who ever lived.

Say hello to Tex, Friz and Mel for us...

Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones

September 21, 1912 - February 22, 2002

2/22/02

We've got some good DVD announcements for you today. First of all, Warner has revealed (as we reported in The Rumor Mill a month ago) that they'll release their new Ocean's 11 remake on May 7th. That same day (and this is official), Paramount will release Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Two on DVD. Other upcoming titles to look forward to: Anchor Bay will release Tender Mercies, Plenty, Can't Stop the Music and Highlander on 4/16. Artisan's got Iron Eagle 2 and All Quiet on the Western Front coming on 4/23. Buena Vista will unleash Corky Romano on an unsuspecting public on 5/14 (in case anyone but Corky cares). As you already know, Columbia TriStar's movie-only Ali streets on 4/30, along with Race the Sun. Universal's Flixmix: Ultimate Fight is due on 4/16. And in addition to Ocean's 11, Warner will release S.O.B., The Great Race and Skin Deep on 6/4 (sweet!).

Now then... a lot of people have been e-mailing us worrying that this new Blu-Ray disc announcement spells the end of DVD. Don't even begin to worry about this. The recent announcement was for a disc specification, not a home video format. There's probably at least a year's worth of haggling over HD video format specs before any hardware will come to market. Then there's the encryption issue, which is a serious stumbling block for Hollywood, particularly given how fast DVD's CSS encryption was cracked. And you can put this fact in the bank: the Hollywood studios aren't going to do anything that will cannibalize the massive profits they're making from standard DVD anytime soon. Our estimate is that standard DVD will be around at least 10 years before any kind of HD format makes a major impact. That might not sound like a long time, but remember - VHS has only been around about 20 years. That doesn't mean you won't be able to watch HD movies at home soon (via broadcast, D-VHS tape or even early HD-DVD discs) - just that they're not going to kill DVD for a long time. Laserdisc died a fast death only because it was never really a mass market format in the first place. But it's already 5 years into DVD, and do you see people dumping their VHS players by the thousands? Of course not - people have both. The same will happen with DVD and HD-DVD. Keep in mind too that any Blu-Ray/HD-DVD hardware is likely to be completely backwards compatible with existing 5" disc formats, meaning that you'll still be able to play all your current CDs and DVDs on the new equipment. So relax. Buy and enjoy your discs without worry.

And if you're wondering about Todd's latest Doogan's Views column, he's talking about the death of good DVD special editions, silly... NOT the death of the format as a whole. You've gotta actually READ the whole column, 'cause he's making an important point. ;-)

One other thing we want to mention this morning, and it's another cautionary advisory of sorts. Our friends at The Force.net are running with a story that was first reported on the French website DVD Alliance. Apparently, a DVD promotional magazine released there (made by Fox Pathé Europa) contains a promo disc with trailers of other films "available on DVD". And among the trailers are all three original Star Wars films. Does this mean they're coming to DVD soon? I'd caution you strongly before you start getting too excited. George Lucas made it clear (when we were at the Ranch for Episode I) that Episode II would be released on DVD in the normal timeframe after its theatrical release. So we can reasonably expect it in time for the holidays. But ANYTHING else should be taken with a major grain of salt. We'll look into this, but I'd definitely caution you (very strongly) not to let yourself get excited just yet.

Okay - that's it for now. Have a great weekend!

2/21/02

We've got some DVD news for you today. First a bit of street date news - Artisan's Frank Herbert's Dune: Special Edition has been moved from April 23rd to June 11th. Just FYI.

Around the Internet today, there's word that Fox is seeing big DVD sales numbers for their Moulin Rouge disc since the Oscar nominations were announced. No surprise there. Also today, it looks like Hollywood is asking the Bush administration to get tougher on foreign DVD pirates. In particular, the MPAA's Jack Valenti wants closer attention paid to the three biggest offenders - Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand - which are the world's largest exporters of renegade DVDs. Can you say "Axis of Evil DVD"? Also, today, there's a couple of good press stories on the recent Blu-Ray announcement online (click here and here for those). Did you notice that Matsushita and company have even created a new logo for the Blue-Ray discs? Whatever they call 'em, we're calling 'em HD-DVDs. ;-)

Blue-Ray Disc logo

One other news note today: Video Store magazine's Enrique Rivero has written a great cover story on the issue of widescreen vs. full frame DVD releases. You should find that online soon (probably sometime next week) by clicking here. And if you read the current print issue, featuring the same story, you'll see a demonstration of the difference provided by The Bits from our Guide to Anamoprhic DVD. It's definitely worth a read, because the message the studios send is that they're not planning on abandoning widescreen as DVD goes even more mass market. Good news indeed. Nice work, Enrique!

Rounding out the day's news content, we've got a trio of new DVD reviews. First up is Greg's look at Universal's Jurassic Park III: Collector's Edition. We also have Brain Ford Sullivan's take on MGM's Stargate SG-1: The Complete First Season. And finally, Drew brings it all home with his review of Fox's new All the Right Moves DVD (street date: 3/5). Enjoy!

Also this afternoon, be sure to check out the FINALLY announced winners of the last Trivia Contest, which are now posted. ;-)

Okay... with all the server and computer stuff going on, it's been taking us a while to get back to all our review candidates. But we're going to send out the next few invitations to join our staff by the end of the day today. And now that we're almost back to normal, we'll try to get the process completed soon. Look for the first announcements in the next few days.

Have a great day!

(LATE UPDATE - 2/20/02 - 3 PM PST)

We've just posted Todd's new column in the Doogan's Views section, and I think it's one you'll definitely want to check out. In addition to reviewing Warner & PBS's DVD release of Ken Burns' Mark Twain, Synapse's The Grapes of Death: Special Edition and IndieDVD's Drawing Flies, Todd's got something important to say about the direction our favorite digital format is headed. And it's not good. So get on over there, give what he has to say a read and drop him a line to let him know you thoughts.

In other news today, we've got word from HBO that their Mr. Show with Bob and David DVD set is not going to be delayed after all. Well, okay... it will be delayed a little. But not indefinitely. It was to have been released on April 2nd - now it's due on June 11th. Okay... I can wait that long. Thanks to Chris for the info.

And how about Rhino these days?! Look at what they've got coming to DVD in the weeks ahead: Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner's 2000 Year Old Man (street date 2/26), The Best of the Blues Brothers (3/12), Cheap Trick: Music for Hangovers, Mystery Science Theater 3000: I Accuse My Parents and Mystery Science Theater 3000: Red Zone Cuba (all 3/26), Gumby, Volume 1 and the Gumby Boxed Set (both 4/9 - set includes 7 discs, a miniature Gumby figure, an interview with the creator, the pilot, storyboards, bumpers, behind-the-scenes footage of animators and more), and Battle of the Planets, Volumes 5 & 6, The Juniper Tree, The Transformers, Season 1 - Parts 1-3 and The Transformers, Season 1 Boxed Set (all 4/23 - Transformers Boxed Set includes 4 discs, 16 episodes, bumpers, outtakes, alternate sequences, an original series script, a mini documentary from the Botcon 2001 Convention and 2 limited-edition cels).

The folks at Rhino have been busy little beavers lately, haven't they? Those Gumby and Transformers: Season 1 boxes look very cool!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/20/02 - Noon PST)

Just a quick first update today. We've received word from Columbia TriStar on their forthcoming DVD release of Michael Mann's Ali. As we've said previously, the disc debuts on April 30th (SRP $27.96). Features will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and theatrical trailers. No word on whether there will be a special edition release in the future.

Also this morning, we've been talking with Universal about the impending Region 4 DVD release of Battlestar Galactica (click here for details). According to the studio, they are beginning to consider releasing TV product on DVD, but there's nothing on the slate for this year so far. However, we'd like to direct everyone to an online petition, this one created by Richard Hatch's Battlestar Galactica.com, to get the show released widely on DVD. As you may recall, Hatch played Apollo on the 70's, Sci-fi TV series (no, he's not the Survivor guy). If we can help gather enough signatures (the petition is up to about 3,600 so far), maybe we can get Universal to consider this more seriously. So get on over there and sign up. This isn't just about Battlestar Galactica - this is about sending a message to Universal that TV product on DVD is not only viable, but in demand by consumers. So let's get busy...

And finally, we've got word that the Hardware Wars: Special Edition is coming to DVD in April! Yes... the original Star Wars spoof comes home on disc. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss your money good-bye! This news comes from the Michael Wiese Productions website. Here's more info: "This will include a remastered surround-sound track (imagine those space irons flying by!) and a director's commentary track by Ernie Fosselius. We also will include a 1998 television program featuring Ernie presenting his collection of never-before-seen "Hardware Wars" merchandise (a parody of Hollywood merchandising, plus a complete version of Ernie's rare book, "The Hollywood Gift Catalog" plus more." No word yet on price, but watch the site for updates. Thanks to Jim for the tip!

Back soon...

(LATE UPDATE - 2/19/02 - 3:45 PM PST)

We've got some new upcoming DVD announcements for you this afternoon. First of all, Columbia TriStar has announced Not Another Teen Movie for 4/30. 20th Century Fox is releasing full frame versions of the following films (to go along with the already released widescreen versions) on 5/21: The Abyss, Anna and the King, Big Momma's House, Cast Away, Edward Scissorhands, Entrapment, Independence Day, Lake Placid, Men of Honor and The Predator. Strand Releasing has set Monkey's Mask for 3/12. Universal has announced The Skulls 2 and the Spy Game: Collector's Edition for 4/9. And Warner has added Cosmic Voyage: IMAX to their 4/30 slate.

Speaking of 20th Century Fox, we've got a list of the studio's first ten D-VHS "D-Theater" titles (expected sometime around June): Die Hard, X-Men, Independence Day, Bedazzled, Courage Under Fire, The Siege, Titan AE, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Fight Club and Entrapment.

Also this afternoon, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the 169,176 players that shipped in the first week of February (ending 2/1 - technically the last week of January, but CEA is tracking it in Feb.). All charts have been updated accordingly.

We meant to have the Trivia Contest winners posted last week, but computer issues prevented it. I'll have them up shortly. Also, look for a new Doogan's Views column tomorrow, with lots of new DVD reviews.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/19/02 - 2 PM PST)

What a busy weekend! I'm finally up to speed on my new computer (almost, anyway) and we're getting ready to make the move to the new server. Lots of behind-the-scenes work is on-going.

But, lest you think we were napping, we DID catch the big news today. A group of several companies in the DVD camp (Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Pioneer, Royal Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Thomson to be exact) have just announced that they've jointly established the basic specifications for a next generation, large capacity optical disc video recording format called "Blu-Ray Disc". This would be the basis for the much talked about HD-DVD format (and you'd better believe this announcement was motivated by a desire to steal some thunder from the recent D-VHS "D-Theater" news). The disc can record and play back up to 27 gigabytes of data using a blue laser. The nine companies plan to begin licensing the new format as soon as specifications are completed (sometime this spring). You can read the full press release on the Matsushita website.

Now... this is pretty preliminary. But it iIS significant, because getting all these companies to agree on a basic spec will help to prevent the kind of format wars that have plagued the first generation of DVD-recordable devices (Toshiba and Mitsubishi are notably absent from this group - when and if they'll get on board is yet to be seen). Still, "Blu-Ray" (as it's being called) has a long way to go before we see it in stores. The matter of digital copy protection is still of great concern. The advantage to the recently announced D-VHS "D-Theater" scheme is that video tapes can't be played in computer DVD-ROM drives (thus making them harder - but not impossible - to hack). Since these discs probably will be computer usable, any copy protection scheme will have to be VERY robust to convince Hollywood to get on board (particularly after DVD's CSS encryption was cracked so easily). All that said, this announcement is good news for the vast majority of serious video-philes who, like us here at The Bits, believe that digital disc (and not tape) is the future of home entertainment. We'll keep our eyes on the development of "Blu-Ray" you can be sure.

We'll be back with more soon, but I wanted to jump in here with some new upcoming DVD cover artwork first. So here's a look at Columbia TriStar's forthcoming Ali (street date: 4/30) and the Jerry Maguire: Special Edition (also 4/30), along with Universal's Spy Game: Collector's Edition (4/9), Slap Shot: 25th Anniversary Special Edition (3/26) and Mulholland Drive (via USA, street date: 4/9). Click on each cover to pre-order the disc from DVD Planet. Enjoy...

AliJerry Maguire: Special Edition

Spy Game: Collector's EditionSlap Shot: 25th Anniversary Special Edition

Mulholland Drive

Stay tuned...

2/18/02

Just to let everyone know, since today is a holiday here in the States, we're taking the opportunity to continue our server and site work behind-the-scenes here at The Bits. But we'll be back tomorrow with our usual daily update. Enjoy the rest of your long weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 2/15/02 - 3 PM PST)

Oh... we couldn't let the week go without posting a couple more things. First of all, that link we posted to The Back to the Future Australian DVD trailer is no longer working. So here's a screen shot of the most important bit of info on it, namely the part where it says "Summer 2002". Again, keep in mind that this date is relevant to Australia only (December is when it's due in R1 - also keep in mind that summer in Australia is winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, so we're probably looking at about the same release timeframe):

Back to the Future Australian DVD trailer

Thanks to Adam for that. Also today, we've just posted Todd's review of Anchor Bay's awesome new The Evil Dead: Book of the Dead - Limited Edition (street date: 3/5). Trust us on this - if you're a fan, just get your money ready. It's very cool.

Okay. NOW have a good weekend! ;-)

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/15/02 - Noon PST)

Boy... some of you aren't going to be happy when you hear this. Our friends over at Dark Horizons have posted word that the complete Battlestar Galactica TV series is being released in Australia (Region 4) for a limited time as a DVD box set. Unfortunately, Universal tells me that there are no plans to do this here in the States anytime soon. And I report this knowing that the firestorm's about to begin...

More bad news today - HBO is considering shelving the Mr. Show with Bob and David DVDs until New Line gets around to releasing its lingering in limbo Run Ronnie Run movie. This comes from the Bob and David's official website.

Not pleased about this? My advice is to organize yourselves and contact Universal (via this link) and HBO (via this link) and tell them what you think. But PLEASE be polite about it or you're not likely to do more than make yourselves look like fools. And if you get decent petitions going, we'll post links to them.

Here's some good news today: Columbia TriStar has just released details on their Jerry Maguire: Special Edition (street date: April 30th). Look for the 2-disc set to include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio (and video) commentary with director/writer Cameron Crowe and actors Tom Cruise, Rene Zellweger and Cuba Gooding, Jr., deleted scenes with optional commentary, the Secret Garden music video by Bruce Springsteen, the How to Be a Sports Agent featurette (featuring footage with the "real" Jerry Maguire - Drew Rosenhaus), the Rod Tidwell commercial featuring Cuba Gooding, Jr., rehearsal footage with optional commentary, the Mission Statement, a photo gallery, theatrical trailers, filmographies and the film's screenplay (via DVD-ROM). SRP for the set is $29.95. Sounds like a great release!

Just FYI, we'll be back to announce the Trivia Contest winners later today.

One last thing - we're going to be moving the site to a new server over the next few days. So e-mail is going to be spotty for a few days, and you may notice a disruption on the site as well. Just FYI...

Have a great weekend and see you back here next week!

(LATE UPDATE - 2/14/02 - 5:30 PM PST)

A quick clarification on two issues this afternoon. First up, there's been some confusion about the release date for the Back to the Future DVDs, stemming from a trailer for the set that says "Summer 2002" (you can view it online here with Quicktime - thanks Adam!). This trailer was released in Australia, so it DOES NOT pertain to the Region 1 release. As we reported in The Rumor Mill yesterday, December is when to expect it here in the States. Keep watching Universal's newly-launched official site for details. And, of course, we'll post inside news on the DVDs as we hear it.

Second issue: we've been getting concerned e-mails from readers who have been seeing "DIVX" software available for download around the Net, and who suddenly fear that the Circuit City-backed (and long defunct) pay-per-play disc system was suddenly making a comeback. Rest easy. The DIVX you're seeing now is simply a free "codec" for viewing video on PCs over the Net. They simply borrowed the name as a joke. Click here to learn more.

Now you can sleep easy. ;-)

(EARLY UPDATE - 2/14/02 - Noon PST)

To start things off this morning, we've got better artwork for you on the Friends: Season One box set...

Friends: The Complete First Season

In news today, word is that co-directors Joel and Ethan Coen have recorded their first ever "straight" audio commentary track for USA's upcoming The Man Who Wasn't There DVD, which streets on April 16th (SRP $26.98). Fans of the Coens may be aware that they recorded a "tongue-in-cheek" commentary on their Blood Simple DVD from Universal. The disc will also include an interview with cinematographer Roger Deakins, a "making of" featurette and deleted scenes.

Also, there's word that the film version of The Band's The Last Waltz (directed by Martin Scorsese) will be released on DVD this year in honor of the film's 25th anniversary. Click here for more from Launch.com via Yahoo. According to the story: "The DVD then comes out May 7, containing not only the film but also previously unreleased "jam footage" featuring the Band and concert guests such as Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood, Dr. John, and Stephen Stills. Scorsese and Robertson provide scene-by-scene commentary for the DVD, and there are interviews with surviving Band members Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, concert guests Ronnie Hawkins and Mavis Staples, and various crew members and journalists who covered the event, along with a photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer for the film. Suggested retail price for the DVD will be $24.98." Very cool!

By the way... Happy Valentine's Day! To keep in the spirit of things, make it a point to go out and kiss somebody today. Just be sure you know where their lips have been first.

Stay tuned...


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