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page updated: 1/15/03



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 12/27/02 - 12/2/02)


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12/27/02

Well... director Steven Spielberg' is dropping more Indy DVD hints again. This time, he suggested to Variety that the release of Indy 4 to theaters would be "synchronized" to the release of the first three films on DVD. The article further mentions 2005 as the theatrical release year for Indy 4. So the idea seems to be that Raiders hits DVD in 2003, Temple of Doom arrives on disc in 2004 and Last Crusade shows up in early 2005, just before the new film hits theaters. This would be supported by previous Spielberg comments about the first film arriving on DVD next year. Keep your fingers crossed...

In other news today, there's word that Warner and the BBC will release Coupling: Season One on DVD here in R1 on 1/21 (SRP $24.98). The set will include all first season (or "series" as you Brits say) episodes, plus behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. Think of Coupling as Friends with a lot more sex. 'Nuff said.

Docurama will release a pair of interesting titles on 1/28. First up is BaadAsssss Cinema (SRP $24.95), a terrific IFC documentary that explores 1970s blaxploitation films. Then there's Smothered: The Great Smothers Brothers Censorship Wars ($24.95), the subject of which should be self-explanatory.

DreamWorks wants you to know that The Tuxedo (2/25 - SRP $19.95) will feature anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, and other never-before-seen footage.

In other release news, Buena Vista will release Time Out and Tangled on 1/14, with Tadpole and Ordinary Decent Criminal following on 1/21. SRP for each is $29.99.

And finally today, we've got a look at Image Entertainment's March release slate. On March 11th, look for John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 (remastered in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and audio commentary by the director), along with Contraband, Wife to be Sacrificed, Mee Pok Mon, X2000: The Collected Shorts of Francois Ozon, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The House with Laughing Windows, Acoustic Alchemy: Sounds of St. Lucia, Without Lying Down, DJ Quik: Visualism, Kidsongs: Billy's Birthday, Kidsongs: Meet the Biggles, Kidsongs: Animal Fun Box Set and Kidsongs: Sing-Along Fun Box Set. On March 18th, they've got Rock Masters: Billy Joel, Rock Masters: Emmylou Harris, Rock Masters: Hall & Oates, Joe Jackson: 25th Anniversary Special, Goo Goo Dolls: Live in Alaska, Rockthology 5, Rockthology 6, The Man Who Came to Dinner and Roy Orbison: Live at Austin City Limits. And following on March 25th are White Knuckle: Because, White Knuckle: Props, Beginning of the End, Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic, Day of the Nightmare/Scream of the Butterfly, The Psycho Lover/Heat of Madness, Jamie Foxx Unleashed: Lost, Stolen and Leaked!, The Adventures of Dennis Da Menace: South Beach, M.O.P.: Straight from the Projects, Gene Autry Collection: South of the Border, Gene Autry Collection: Rovin' Tumbleweeds, In the Cold of the Night, Ninja Academy, The Wind and Rules.

That's all she wrote for this holiday week. See you back here on Monday with more. Have a great weekend!

12/26/02

So, for all those of you who celebrate it, how was your Christmas? As you can imagine, news is a little slow around here this week. Not too much happening in Hollywood over the holiday break. But we do have some new stuff for you.

First of all, there are more follow-up stories about the termination of Warren Lieberfarb from Warner. The Washington Post has a good article on this, which cites "a clash over the direction of Warner's future" as the reason he was let go. It seems Warner CEO Barry M. Meyer wasn't too keen on Lieberfarb's rising star within the company. The Hollywood Reporter (via Yahoo) also ran a story on this, claiming that the move may be the start of a bigger plan to restructure Warner's home video division. You can also read more at Video Business. Strange and hard to believe, that a studio would fire the man who almost single-handedly saved them financially. We're now officially concerned for the future of DVD and HD-DVD, without Lieberfarb's steady hand there to guide it.

In new announcements today, Criterion has revealed four new titles for release in March. On 3/11, look for Robert Bresson's Les Dames du Bois de Boulonge ($29.95 - spine #183). The disc will include the film in its original B&W, 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound (featuring a new digital transfer with restored picture and sound). Extras will include a stills gallery, essays by François Truffaut and David Thomson and new and improved English subtitle translation.

Also on 3/11, Criterion will release Lasse Hallström's My Life as a Dog ($39.95 - spine #178). The film will be presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio (16x9 enhanced) with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, featuring a new digital transfer approved by the director. Extras will include Shall We Go to My Place or Your Place or Each Go Home (a 45-minute film also by Hallström), a new video interview with the director, reflections on the film by Kurt Vonnegut, the original theatrical trailer and new and improved English subtitle translation.

Then on 3/25, Criterion will release Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs ($39.95 - spine #182), in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (16x9 enhanced) with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. The film will be presented with a new high-definition digital transfer of the 117-minute uncut version. Extras will include audio commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince, footage of Dustin Hoffman on the set, behind-the-scenes footage, video interviews with Susan George and Daniel Melnick, original theatrical trailers and TV spots, an isolated music and sound effects track and more.

Finally, 3/25 will also see the release of by Brakhage: an Anthology ($39.95 - spine #184). The 2-disc set will include 26 masterwork short films by exploratory filmmaker Stan Brakhage, including The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes, Black Ice, Cat’s Cradle, Commingled Containers, Crack Glass Eulogy, The Dante Quartet, The Dark Tower, Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse, Desistfilm, Dog Star Man, Eye Myth, For Marilyn, The Garden of Earthly Delights, I... Dreaming, Kindering, Love Song, Mothlight, The Stars are Beautiful, Stellar, Study in Color and B&W, Night Music, Rage Net, Glaze of Cathexis, Wedlock House: An Intercourse, Window Water Baby Moving and The Wold Shadow. Each will be presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (color and B&W) with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio. The films all feature new high-definition digital transfers approved by Stan Brakhage. Additional extras will include an interview with Brakhage and an essay by Brakhage expert Fred Camper.

Here's a look at the DVD cover art for all four titles...

Les Dames du Bois de Boulonge (Criterion)Straw Dogs (Criterion)

My Life as a Dog (Criterion)by Brakhage: an Anthology (Criterion)

And around the site today, we've updated various charts and graphs, including the CEA DVD Player Sales data. But be aware, our addition of the numbers CEA's provided isn't agreeing with CEA's math, so revisions may be forthcoming.

Stay tuned...

12/23/02

Well... you're not going to believe this folks. But it was announced today that Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyer is firing the company's visionary Home Video president, Warren Lieberfarb. As those of you who have been around since the beginning of DVD will already know, Lieberfarb is the man who almost single-handedly championed the DVD format to the Hollywood studios. And he was (aside from us, of course) the most out-spoken critic of Circuit City's now-defunct, pay-per-play Divx format as well. Thanks in large part to Lieberfarb's energy and vision, the Hollywood studios are enjoying a collective $12 billion winfall from DVD this year alone. In our opinion, Meyer's decision to fire Lieberfarb is as foolish and short-sighted a move as we've ever seen from a major studio... and it's a move that is sure to have ramifications for the future of DVD.

The bottom line is, if you love watching movies on DVD, you have Warren to thank for it. The industry owes him a big thank you for his efforts, and we hope he lands an even better position in the new year... one that will allow him to continue to shape the future of home entertainment.

All right... it seems a little trivial to post this now after such a surprising and disappointing announcement. But, as they say, the show must go on. So we've got a little holiday surprise for you. Think of it as our little way of saying thank you to all those of you out there around the world who read The Bits day in and day out. We truly think of you all as part of our DVD family. You read what we have to say each day, and send us e-mails with your thoughts and feedback. It's no exaggeration to say that your loyalty and support humbles and honors us. So here's... you guessed it... The Digital Bits Holiday Card for 2002! Enjoy. ;-)

And here's a good upcoming DVD announcement for you - Kino has officially revealed the details on their upcoming Fritz Lang's Metropolis DVD (street date 2/18, SRP $29.95). The disc will feature the new German restoration of the film (124 mins, B&W, 1.33:1 aspect ratio), along with a 43-minute documentary on the making of Metropolis by Enno Patalas, a Digital Restoration featurette, photo galleries (featuring production stills, missing scenes, architectural sketches and poster artwork), 13 cast and crew biographies, a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound version of the newly recorded orchestral score, audio commentary in English, German, French and Spanish, and subtitles in English, German, French and Spanish. Here's the final cover art...

Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition

Also, Star Trek: Nemesis director Stuart Baird has spilled a few details about the eventual DVD version of the film. Look for some 30 minutes worth of deleted scenes if all goes well. The flick is actually one of the best Trek films yet, but it's done poorly at the box office, thanks to an ill-advised release date just half a week before The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (click here for details on that). And sadly, I'm afraid franchise helmsmen Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have almost completely killed fan passion for Star Trek. Even Enterprise, the latest series that came out of the gate at warp speed with phasers blazing, has become little more than clone/rehash of what's come before. Berman and Braga have overstayed their time in the Captain's chair in our humble opinion. Ah well...

With that, we're going to sign off until Thursday. Be safe, be happy and our best to you and yours, now and always. Hee-Haw and Happy Holidays!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/20/02 - 3:15 PM PST)

We're back with the latest Yellow Layer Failure column from our own Robert Harris. This time around, Robert talks about a whole host of topics ranging from the grain structure of film, to the recent Walt Disney Treasures titles, to film censorship. He even pokes a little fun at that lawsuit against MGM over their widescreen DVDs that we mentioned yesterday. As always, his two cents are well worth a read. So enjoy Goofy, Mickey, a Loveably Reluctant Dragon, Film Grain & Censorship.

And finally this week, a last couple of new DVD announcements. Anchor Bay has set 2/11 as the street date for its The Man Who Fell to Earth: Special Edition. 20th Century Fox has added Predator 2 and Q&A to its 2/4 slate, with Angel: Season One following on 2/11 and Lucas due on 3/11. And Warner will release Jane Doe on 2/4 and Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire on 3/4.

Now then... go catch a few movies, or spin a few discs, and have a great weekend! See you Monday...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/20/02 - 2:30 PM PST)

Okay... as promised, we've got four new DVD reviews for you this afternoon. Adam Jahnke's given Image's La Boheme a spin, along with Disney's new Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White. Graham Greenlee's checked in with a look at Warner's new Amadeus: Director's Cut - Special Edition. And our own Robert Smentek's got a retro review for you today... Paramount's The Warriors. Next week, we'll have reviews of more new and upcoming titles, including Signs and Minority Report, so be sure to watch for those.

Back with Robert Harris' new column soon. Stay tuned...!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/19/02 - 1:30 PM PST)

Columbia TriStar has officially announced a great new batch of SuperBit titles for March 4th. Look for The Dark Crystal, Das Boot Director's Cut (FINALLY!), From Here to Eternity, Seven Years in Tibet, the original Heavy Metal, Labyrinth and Legends of the Fall. Also announced for 3/4 are Best of The Muppet Show: Harry Belafonte, Best of The Muppet Show: Peter Sellers and Born Free. And other newly announced Columbia TriStar titles include Band of the Hand (1/28), Bliss and Good Times: The First Season (2/4), and Sasquatch (3/11).

Here's a look at the cover art for all the new SuperBit titles, as well as the final artwork for Fox's X-Men 1.5: Special Edition (due on 2/11)...

X-Men 1.5: Special EditionDas Boot: Director's Cut (SuperBit)

Legends of the Fall (SuperBit)From Here to Eternity (SuperBit)

Heavy Metal (SuperBit)Labyrinth (SuperBit)

Seven Years in Tibet (SuperBit)The Dark Crystal (SuperBit)

Now then... there's BIG news today on the HDTV front. One of the major obstacles to the widespread adoption of digital and high-definition television has been the lack of a requirement by the FCC that cable operators carry the digital signals. Cable is, after all, how 2/3rds of Americans get their primary television signals. But something's happened today that should help make this a moot issue. Electronics manufacturers and U.S. cable operators have reached an agreement to allow digital cable signals to be directly piped into television sets without extra equipment. The deal would set nationwide “plug-and-play” standards for cable systems, ensuring that HDTV sets would be able to work with all cable operators to receive digital signals without requiring pricey extra equipment, like a digital converter box. This is VERY good news indeed. Be sure to click the link above to read more.

In other DVD news, Fox has announced the DVD release of Futurama: Volume 1 on 3/25 (SRP $38.98). The 3-disc set will include audio commentary on all the episodes, deleted footage and more. In addition, the studio will release The Family Guy: Volume 1 on 4/15 (SRP $49.98). This will be a 4-disc set with audio commentary on select episodes and other extras.

And finally today, Don May, Jr. of Synapse Entertainment has informed us that they'll be releasing the Blue Sunshine: Limited Special Edition on 4/15. For $27.98, you'll get a new anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1) supervised by director Jeff Lieberman, a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, the original mono soundtrack, audio commentary by Lieberman, the original short film The Ringer (also directed by Lieberman), a still gallery, the original theatrical trailer, liner notes, a restoration comparison, the 30-minute video interview Lieberman on Lieberman and the never-before-released original soundtrack CD. The set will be limited to 50,000 copies.

We'll be back tomorrow with some new DVD reviews and a new column from our own Robert Harris. Stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/19/02 - 10:30 AM PST)

A lot of people have asked us about the mis-framing problem with the Back to the Future 2 & 3 DVDs. What appears to have happened is that the widescreen matting has been done in error, so that the image that appears on the disc is not correctly framed as it should be. There's a thread over at the HTF with screen shots illustrating this, so check it out if you're interested (note that the pictures show the R2 version, but the R1 transfer is the same). Here's the e-mail Universal is sending people about this issue:

"Thank you for your email. Universal Studios will exchange Back to the Future parts 2 and 3 for copies with the updated framing in late February 2003. You may send the DVDs back now or wait until February. Please send Back to the Future disks 2 and 3, without the case, and a letter with the following information: Name, Full Mailing Address, Daytime Phone Number, Reason for Return and Return Address. Send to:

Back to the Future DVD Returns
PO Box 224468
Dallas, Texas 75260

Thank you,
Universal Studios Customer Service"


By the way, we also have a Canadian customer service number for people to call: 866-532-2202. Thanks to Bits readers Mark P. and Scott B. for sending that in.

Now then... we've posted in update in The Rumor Mill today with news on a couple of interesting titles in the works over at MGM for 2003. Don't miss it.

Buena Vista has announced a new spate of titles for April 2003. On 4/1, look for Two Much, Scenes From a Mall, Stella, New York Stories, Life With Mikey, My Father the Hero, The Inkwell, An Innocent Man, The Marrying Man, Last Dance, Beyond Silence, Four Days in September, Tom & Viv and Best of the Power Rangers.

Alan Parsons has confirmed the development of a DVD-Audio version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Click here for more on that.

In other news today, it seems that Blockbuster is having some financial troubles because so many people are buying DVDs at discounters... rather than renting or buying them at Blockbuster. You can read a couple of stories on this here and here.

You fans of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will be happy to know that, even now, director Peter Jackson is working to complete the extended edition of the film for the as-yet-unannounced November 2003 4-disc DVD release. Look for about another 30 minutes of new footage to be added back into the film. The theatrical 2-disc DVD edition will likely appear in August.

And finally this morning, there's word that a DVD consumer, one Warren Eallonardo, is suing MGM for releasing widescreen DVDs that he claims are, in fact, nothing more than matted pan and scan transfers... meaning that instead of providing more picture in the widescreen image, they provide even less. Click here and here for more on this. Is there anything to this guy's claims? We consulted our Magic 8-Ball which said: Very doubtful. Seriously, we don't believe he knows what he's talking about. 'Nuff said.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/18/02 - 11:15 AM PST)

Guess it wouldn't be the holiday season without a problem on a major studio DVD release. Universal's Back to the Future Trilogy DVD set contains all three films on disc, as you know. But what you may not know is that the widescreen versions of Back to the Future 2 & 3 on the set are mis-framed (badly or not depending on who you ask). But word is Universal is going to be addressing the issue in the new year with replacement discs for those who want them. The corrected discs will be available in late February - call (888) 703-0010 for all the details.

I'm not even going to comment on the fact that Universal is knowingly selling mis-produced discs to make its holiday sales numbers, hoping that most of you will never notice the problem. The studio has decided, in its wisdom, to stop providing review copies of its new titles to many (if not all) review publications. So if you're wondering why there are so few reviews of the set online and in print, it's 'cause Universal apparently wants it that way. For our part here at The Digital Bits, we will no longer be reviewing ANY Universal DVD product until they change this policy.

Anyway, if you're a fan of Back to the Future, and you haven't picked up the set yet, buyer beware. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/18/02 - 10 AM PST)

Well... it's true what they're saying. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which opens today across the country, is nothing short of absolutely amazing. Matt and I, along with some friends (and thousands of other Rings fans), attended midnight screenings of the film in the wee hours this morning. And we're still trying to process all that we've seen. If you thought The Fellowship of the Ring was a stunning spectacle, let me just tell you that this continuation of the story is epic on a scale the likes of which Cecil B. DeMille only dreamt of.

The completely CG-rendered character of Gollum steps into the spotlight in this film, and he puts recent memories of Jar-Jar, Scooby-Doo and even "YoDa Man" to shame - it's a stunning digital performance, full of emotion and nuance. And your brain just simply isn't prepared for the sight of 10,000 orcs advancing on the fortress of Helm's Deep, or an army of tree-like Ents on the march in Isengard. To be fair, some of this looks a little more digital than perhaps it should, but the visuals are so jaw-dropping, you're not likely to care. And those who disliked Fellowship for its lack of a more satisfying (and complete) story arc are going to find more to complain about here - this film is truly the "middle", having neither a true beginning or ending. Instead, you're launched straight into the action where the last film ended, and left hanging with our heroes still headed into the jaws of certain peril. There's also not as much character development of our established heroes (although there are some good arcs for the new characters, including a nifty scene involving Gollum wrestling with his conscience). But fans already know to expect these slight short-comings, and shouldn't be put off by them in the least. And for the rest of you... know that you're at least in for one helluva ride.

Once again, Peter Jackson's given us a splendid and uncompromising cinematic stocking-stuffer. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers should leave you breathless and eager for the final chapter, The Return of the King, in late 2003. As for Matt and I... we're hoping New Line finds a way to make The Hobbit with this cast but soon, so we can keep the fun going in 2004 and beyond. In the meantime, The Two Towers is a film that absolutely demands multiple viewings. And we're already planning our second trip to the theater this weekend.

Around the site today, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales charts to include the 629,257 players shipped to retailers in the 4th week of November, ending on the 22nd. That takes the month to date to over 2.5 million units - a new monthly record. All charts have been updated accordingly.

And we're very pleased today to introduce a new another columnist to our ranks here at The Digital Bits... Barrie Maxwell. Here he is to introduce himself:

"I'm a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who has had a lifelong love affair with the movies. My earliest recollections are watching the old serials and B westerns when they were first available on television, and eagerly collecting the issues of such magazines as Screen Thrills Illustrated and later Films in Review. Somehow, through numerous late-night viewings, local film societies, and university film screenings, I managed to satisfy my desire to see many of the great and not-so-great films of Hollywood's Golden Age. And despite the sometimes fine films of the intervening years, I've never lost my affection for and appreciation of the artistry and craft that went into those films of an earlier age.

I've been immersed in home theatre for some 15 years, beginning with VHS and then graduating to laserdisc in the early 1990s. I was an early advocate of DVD, although it was hard to let go of the shiny big discs at first. Since mid-2000, I've written a regular column on classic films on DVD, called Precedents, over at DVD Verdict, where I've also contributed over 200 reviews. Beginning with today's article on the prospects for classic film releases on DVD in 2003, I'm looking forward to keeping you up-to-date in this area on an ongoing basis here at The Digital Bits. I know that the idea of having one source to go to that focuses just on classic film releases appeals to me; I hope it does to you. Please feel free to contact me with any relevant news on classic releases that should be included."


Barrie's new regular column here at The Bits is titled Classic Coming Attractions, the first edition of which is now available for your DVD reading pleasure. And be sure to drop Barrie an e-mail at barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com to give him a big Bits hello. Welcome aboard, Barrie!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/17/02 - 11:45 AM PST)

Here's some interesting news today for you... director Steven Spielberg was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal last week about Minority Report, Indy 4 and his new film, Catch Me If You Can. During the discussion, he mentioned the possibility of Raiders on DVD - here's the relevant passage:

Q. "E.T." is finally out on DVD after a long wait. Fans of Indiana Jones are hoping "Raiders of the Lost Ark" won't be far behind, but Paramount is mum. Can you fill us in?

A. We're aiming for next fall. George Lucas and I are having an argument with Paramount. Paramount wants to come out with all three [Indiana Jones] movies in one package. George [writer and producer of "Raiders"] and I want to come out with one film at a time and then come out with all three movies, and maybe even the fourth one, in one package later. (Paramount says there is no argument and discussions are ongoing.)


Interesting no? Format aside, it looks like there's a real possibility that Indiana Jones will be brandishing his whip on your TV screens before 2003 is out.

Now, let's catch up on some other news. Artisan has officially announced the DVD release of their Stargate: Ultimate Edition for 2/18 (SRP $19.95). Look for both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, for the first time in anamorphic widescreen, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES. You'll also get audio commentary with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, 2 featurettes (The Making of Stargate and Is There a Stargate?), trailers, photo galleries and more.

And Anchor Bay is releasing The Complete Musketeers on 2/4 (SRP $34.95), which will include both Ilya Salkind's 1973 The Three Musketeers as well as his sequel, The Four Musketeers. The 2-disc set will include both anamorphic widescreen and full frame, as well as a whole mess of extra features. Good news indeed!

In other upcoming release news, ADV Films will release Farscape: Season 2, Volume 5 on 2/25, with Zone of the Enders: Dolores #3 - Prelude to War on 3/11. Artisan Entertainment will release American Heart, Asteroid, Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp, Insignificance, Last Summer in the Hamptons, Play'd: A Hip-Hop Story, Stargate: Ultimate Edition, Summer of Fear, Swirl and Trouble Bound, all on 2/18. Buena Vista has set Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World for 2/25. Columbia TriStar will release I'll Do Anything, Three Stooges: Stop, Look and Laugh and You Can't Take It With You on 2/18. HBO will debut Unchained Memories: Reading from the Slave Narratives on 2/11. New Line has set Sleeping Dictionary for 2/18, with Knockaround Guys following on 2/25. Paramount will debut Bang the Drum Slowly, Fear Strikes Out and Talent for the Game on 3/4. Rhino has Walking Tall II and Walking Tall: The Final Chapter due on 1/14. Also on 1/14, SlingShot Entertainment will release Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees and Seasons: IMAX. And finally, 20th Century Fox will release Bushwhacked, Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog and My Friend Flicka on 3/11.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/17/02 - 9:30 AM PST)

We're back!

Funny story before we get back on the DVD train today. Last Wednesday night, right before I left for not-so-chilly North Dakota, Sarah and I went to see the Peter Gabriel concert in L.A.. First up, it was a great show. Peter and his band really sounded great, and I'm now even more excited for those SACDs next year (including UP on 1/14). And Gabriel's theatrical production design was as good as ever. But almost as interesting as the show itself, was the people-watching. Sitting in just our section of the crowd alone was Helen Hunt, Brooke Shields, Weird Al Yankovic, Ridley Scott, Hans Zimmer, Peter Buck from R.E.M., Erin Brockovich and many other celebrities that I'm sure I'm forgetting. All in all, a pretty fascinating evening of entertainment.

All right... around the site this morning, we've updated various charts and graphs with the latest DVD sales and rental data. And we've announced the winners of our Holiday Trivia Contest. You'll find them all on the contest page, along with the solution to the word search puzzle. Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all 1,913 people who entered!

Now then, we'll be back with several more updates throughout the morning and afternoon to get caught up on all the latest news and what-not. So stay tuned...

12/11/02

Okay... we've got a LOT of ground to cover today. First up, we're very pleased to bring you a new regular column here at The Digital Bits, entitled Hot Buttered Popcorn for the Movie Lover's Soul by Bob Banka. Here's Bob to introduce himself to all of you...

"I'm a 40 year-old school teacher living in South Jersey. I grew up watching movies for seventy-five cents a ticket at Fort Dix Army Base and McGuire Air Force Base. I miss those days. Movies were inexpensive, lightweight entertainment... a great way to spend an evening or Saturday afternoon. Later, I learned that movies can be so much more than that. They can be art. They can say something to an audience - make us think, feel, reflect. They can teach us about ourselves and others. Unfortunately, these days, most big Hollywood films do little more that fight for the coveted weekend lead at the box office.

I've been a home theater enthusiast for about 12 years, from a mad devotion to laser discs and a 32" tube television to my current, full blown home theater with projector and 100" screen. I jumped into DVD with both feet when they first started hitting the shelves. I suppose I've written about five or six hundred DVD reviews to date, for Jeff McNeal's The Big Picture. After a near year long hiatus from writing online, I'm once again writing the occasional review there. And I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to write articles on film, home theater and the movie-going experience here at The Digital Bits."


We're just as pleased to have Bob join us here. And in this first edition of his column, Bob talks about a growing problem among rational, intelligent movie-goers everywhere... the dreaded CINEPLEXAPHOBIA (and yes, it's just as scary as it sounds). So be sure to check it out and don't forget to drop Bob an e-mail to welcome him aboard!

Also this morning, we've got a complete transcript of a live chat with DVD producer Van Ling which was held on Monday night at The Home Theater Forum. Some interesting information in there, so don't miss it.

Around the site today, we've updated Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its most recent version, dated November 13th.

And we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales charts with the sales numbers for the week ending November 15th. Some 767,345 players shipped to retailers here in the U.S. during the third week of November, bringing the month-to-date total to 1,914,873 (with still two weeks left to go). And that takes the DVD format-to-date total for the U.S. to a whopping 40,263,363 players.

Our friends at ShowOff Displays are offering all of you a special "buy one, get one half off" coupon good for their DVD Marquees and Sound System Signs. All you have to do is e-mail them at dbcoupon@showoffdisplays.com with the word "coupon" in the subject line. You'll get an auto-response e-mail with the coupon code to use with your order.

And finally today, we're kicking off our big Holiday Trivia Contest. TEN lucky winners will have the chance to take home great prizes, including new DVDs from Fox, DreamWorks and MGM, and home theater accessories from CinemaWise, CD/DVD Playright and ShowOff Displays! And this time, Sarah's cooked up a fun, holiday-themed word search puzzle for you to solve! You've got until 12:01 AM PST on Tuesday, December 17th to enter, so get those entries in and good luck!

Now then... your erstwhile editor is off on an early Christmas journey to frosty North Dakota this weekend, to spend a little time with family and friends. So we'll be dark Thursday, Friday and Monday. But we'll be back on Tuesday morning with lots of news and more. We've got NEW disc reviews in the pipeline (no kidding!), along with new columns and lots more gleaming DVD fun.

So we'll see you back here on Tuesday. Deck the halls!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/9/02 - 2 PM PST)

We've got a couple of new DVD reviews for you this afternoon. Adam Jahnke's taken a look at Artisan's recent Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition, as well as Disney's new Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio. Both titles are well worth a look.

Also today, CNN's got a follow-up story on that kid in Norway who wrote the DeCSS software that defeats DVD's CSS encryption scheme. Jon Lech Johansen appeared in court today and denied that he actually cracked the code himself.

And there's an interesting story over at Jim Hill Media, a site dedicated to reporting on inside issues at Disney, on the company's Lilo & Stitch DVD, as well as the company's reported shift on releasing 2-disc special edition titles. We can't confirm most of the information in this (or Jim's other) articles, but we have heard from our sources that Disney IS shifting away from 2-disc SEs as much as possible to maximize DVD profits. And the article is an interesting read in any case. I don't know what's more irritating - Disney CEO Michael Eisner's reported edict against DVD special editions... or the fact that he had the gaul to appear during the Anaheim Angels World Series award ceremony wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/9/02 - 10:15 AM PST)

Morning everyone. Hope you all had a great weekend. We're going to be checking in today with more updated throughout the day, but first I wanted to jump in here with word that Columbia TriStar will be holding a live, online event on December 15th, with Tobey Maguire and JK Simmons, through the Spider-Man DVD-ROM Online Theatre. Fans with the DVD and a PC DVD-ROM drive with a good Internet connection can participate. The event starts on Sunday, December 15th, at 7:30 PM EST. You'll be able to watch the film live with a streamed online audio commentary in Windows Media featuring Maguire and Simmons. The commentary portion of the event will start at 8:00 PM EST, and is only available to those who have the Spider-Man DVD in their PC-ROM drive at that time. You can log on to the event through the Countdown to Spider-Man 2 link on Disc One of the DVD.

Now then, we've updated The Rumor Mill again with retailer confirmation of a number of upcoming DVD titles for the first half of 2003. Interested in Red Dragon, Smallville, new seasons of South Park and Friends and more? Don't miss it!

Back later. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/6/02 - 2 PM PST)

Just wanted to drop in with one last quick post this week to give you all a look at the (still tentative) DVD cover art for the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - Special Collector's Edition. It has yet to be finalized, so we'll post the revised art if it changes. We've added it to the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section as well.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - Special Collector's Edition

Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/6/02 - 12:01 AM PST)

Paramount has officially announced the DVD release of the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - Special Collector's Edition for 3/4! The two disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Disc One of the set will also include audio commentary by director Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, as well as another text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda. Disc Two will include several new production featurettes (Time Travel: The Art of the Possible, The Language of Whales, A Vulcan Primer, Kirk's Women, Future's Past: A Look Back, On Location, Dailies Deconstruction, Below-the-Line: Sound Design, From Outer Space to the Ocean, The Bird of Prey, Roddenberry Scrapbook and Featured Artist: Mark Lenard), as well as original interviews with Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and DeForest Kelley, a storyboard and production photo gallery and the film's theatrical trailer. We'll post cover artwork as soon as it becomes available.

Also we've added a few more pieces of Upcoming DVD Cover Art this morning. New for today are Stingray, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, Six Feet Under: The Complete First Season, Queer As Folk: The Complete Second Season, Tuck Everlasting, a few new Wim Wenders films from Anchor Bay and several more. There are 20 new cover scans in all.

And around the Net today, MSNBC's got a story on the continuing success of DVD. Of note in the story is that fact that Fox's Ice Age DVD pulled in nearly three times as much money in its first week of release as the film made in its first week of theatrical release. No wonder DVD is the disc that saved Hollywood. There's another piece up at Yahoo on the impending DVD release of Minority Report. And the USA Today has a story on DVD, featuring basic buying tips for those in the market for their first player this holiday season.

We're working to get some of those reviews we've been promising up as soon as possible, so bear with us in the meantime.

Stay tuned...

12/5/02

Morning all! We've got some good news for you fans of Peter Gabriel and The Police. Our own Matt Rowe got a great scoop from insiders at Universal Music. The company plans to release Peter Gabriel's Up on SACD on 1/14. In addition, they're planning 3 additional TBA catalog titles from Gabriel later in 2003 (no word on which ones yet, but my money's on Us, So and Security/PG4). Even better news is that the company will release the ENTIRE Police catalog on SACD in 2003 in honor of the band's 25th anniversary. This will include Outlandos d'Amour, Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine, Synchronicity, Every Breath You Take: The Classics and Live. Note that there's no word yet on possible DVD-Audio releases of these titles. Be sure to check out Matt's MusicTAP site for other SACD and DVD-Audio news.

Given all these great titles coming out on SACD (and to a lesser extent DVD-Audio), if you're at all interested in high-resolution audio, our recommendation here at The Bits is to make sure your next DVD player a combo player that will play both multi-channel SACD and DVD-Audio in addition to DVD-Video discs. Pioneer has a new model, the DV-45A that carries an SRP of $700, along with the DV-47Ai at $1,200. That's still far too pricey for most, but expect those prices to drop substantially over the next year or two. Other brands of combo players include Integra, Marantz and Onkyo, with at least a few other manufacturers expected to follow soon. If you've got a player that can handle it all, an audio format war is pretty much a moot issue as a consumer. Something to think about. We'll have a lot more coverage of high-resolution audio here at The Bits in 2003.

Now then... you want upcoming DVD cover artwork? We got your artwork right here! We've added more than 80 new cover scans in all, many fresh from the studio art teams. Among the many new titles this time are Eye See You, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Educating Rita, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Moon-Spinners, Secret Ballot, Blue Crush, Fear Dot Com, Dead Reckoning, all of Fox's Studio Classics first wave titles, Harrison's Flowers, Shampoo, Simone, Sirocco, The Harder They Fall, World Traveller, Pennies from Heaven, Free Willy: SE, all of the forthcoming Criterion titles, Formula 51, El Mariachi: SE, Driving Miss Daisy: SE, X-Men 1.5: SE, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, City By the Sea, The Four Feathers, You Can't Take it With You, Road to Perdition, 1984, Salaam Bombay!: SE, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Season One, NYPD Blue: Season One, Duel and more. Remember... you can order each title from our software sponsor DVD Planet by clicking on the cover art. And that helps support The Bits, which we appreciate. Enjoy! ;-)

Stay tuned...

12/4/02

We're working on those DVD reviews, and also a big Upcoming DVD Cover Artwork update, which may be up tonight, but will definitely be in tomorrow's post. In the meantime, however, we've got some VERY cool news in today's Rumor Mill post, including word on Steven Spielberg's Taken, Paramount's Tom Clancy films and LOTS of great possible 2003 titles from Fox (via that chat from the Monday night). You DEFINITELY don't want to miss it.

I also want to let everyone know that Image's multi-disc release of War and Peace (1965 - Russian) has been delayed (it was originally to have been released yesterday). We'll have a lot more details on this soon, but suffice it to say that the reason for the delay is a good one, and the final release will be well worth the wait.

Stay tuned...!

12/3/02

As you might have noticed, we had a little server glitch this morning. It was actually related to server upgrades and improvements that are ongoing. The issue should be resolved now, but we're going to a little more work behind the scenes to make sure things are kosher.

In the meantime though, we've got a complete transcript of that chat our friends at The Home Theater Forum held last night with 20th Century Fox's Peter Staddon. Peter talked about a lot of upcoming Fox titles and hinted at others, including several major titles and a whole mess of great TV releases that are on the way for 2003. It's definitely worth a read. Thanks to Ron, Parker and the guys at HTF for sending it over. And just FYI, next Monday (12/10) they'll be chatting with DVD producer Van Ling (Star Wars: Episode II), so don't miss it.

I also wanted to remind everyone out there who enjoys our work here at The Digital Bits to PLEASE SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS this holiday shopping season. Advertising online is pretty scarce these days, and The Bits is a VERY highly trafficked site... which means it isn't cheap to keep going. At the same time, we don't want to have to make The Bits a subscription service, or to assault you with those annoying flash advertisements and pop-ups you see everywhere else online these days. It's only through the support of our sponsors that we're able to keep bringing you the latest in DVD news and information. So please support DVD Planet, CD Playright, ShowOff Displays, DVD Escape, Expert Guides, Cinemawise and our other sponsors with your dollars. And be sure to tell 'em The Bits sent you.

Back tomorrow with reviews and more. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/2/02 - 12:30 PM PST)

Great news! We've just heard from Buena Vista that Miramax's Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors Trilogy DVDs (Blue, White and Red - set for 3/4) will be special editions! All three of the discs will feature anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1 aspect ratio), with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio in English and the original French.

Bonus features on Red (aka Rouge) will include several featurettes (Insights into Trois Coleurs: Rouge, A Discussion on Working With Kieslowski, A Conversation with Irene Jacob on Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kielowski's Cinema Lesson, Behind the Scenes with Krzysztof Kieslowski and Red at Cannes 1994), audio commentary with film scholar Annette Insdorf (author of the book Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski), an interview with producer Marin Karmitz, actor Irene Jacob selected scenes commentary, editor Jacques Witta interview/commentary, the original theatrical trailers and a Kieslowski filmography.

Bonus features on White (aka Blanc) will include more featurettes (A Look at Blanc, A Discussion on Kieslowski's Later Years, A Conversation with Julie Delpy on Kieslowski, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Cinema Lesson and Behind the Scenes of White with Krzysztof Kieslowski), audio commentary with Annette Insdorf, an interview with Marin Karmitz, actor Julie Delpy selected scenes commentary/interview, original theatrical trailers and a Kieslowski filmography.

And finally, bonus features on Blue (aka Bleu) will include still more featurettes (Reflections on Bleu, A Discussion on Kieslowski's Early Years, A Conversation with Juliette Binoche on Kieslowski and Krzysztof Kieslowski Cinema Lesson), audio commentary with Annette Insdorf, Marin Karmitz interview/selected scenes commentary, actor Juliette Binoche selected scenes commentary, Jacques Witta interview/commentary, original theatrical trailers and the Kieslowski filmography.

Now... I'm officially REALLY looking forward to these discs. If only Miramax would get around to doing a special edition of The English Patient soon...


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