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page updated: 6/17/04



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 6/11/04 - 5/19/04)


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6/11/04

Fans of a number of classic TV series are going to be pleased today. It was announced late yesterday that producer Stephen J. Cannell has struck an exclusive distribution deal with Anchor Bay Entertainment to release a number of his classic shows on DVD. Starting in mid-September, The Bay will release 21 Jump Street, followed by Silk Stalkings in early October. Two more series are expected to start being released before the end of the year, with another two due in early 2005 - these include Hunter, The Commish, Renegade and The Greatest American Hero. Anchor Bay is already hard at work producing special features for the sets, so look for them to be loaded with cast and crew interviews, audio commentaries and "making-of" featurettes. You can read more on this here.

We've got a little more info on the HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc format war that's shaping up today, specifically an update on Warner Bros' position on the whole thing. Rather than remaining loyal to Lieberfarb, the studio is reportedly hedging their bets. A Bits reader sent us this link to a story over at the L.A. Daily News on Tuesday's panel discussion, in which it's revealed that the Hollywood studios - including Warner - aren't yet committing to either format. In fact, you might be comforted to know that the studios are lobbying hard for a single format behind-the-scenes. That's good, because frankly it seems that only the studios have the power to stop a format war. Here's an interesting section from the story:

"Warner remains firmly on the fence," said Warner Home Video President Jim Cardwell, adding that his studio would probably embrace "whichever one is most likely to succeed. We don't want to back a loser."

But Cardwell said any kind of format war would be "suicidal" for the industry. In the war between VHS and Betamax, the two competing standards were released into the marketplace at the same time. It was essentially left up to consumers to decide the winner between the superior quality Betamax or the less expensive VHS format. It was VHS that eventually won, leaving Betamax buyers with an ultimately useless format.

MGM Home Entertainment President David Bishop urged some kind of truce this time around.

"I encourage the parties to get together," he said. "We can't go to market with two formats. ... It will be the death knell."

The executives all agreed that the new technology should debut in 2006 or 2007 and said among the most important elements are cost and copyright protection.

Bob Chapek, president of Disney's Buena Vista Home Video, used the analogy of two powerful trains approaching each other in a high-stakes game of chicken.

Asked Chapek: "Will the two trains recognize each other? Will they stop before it's too late? Is there an option whereby both trains accomplish their objectives without a disastrous collision?"


Good to know that there ARE some sane minds at the highest levels in Hollywood, isn't it? I have to say, Bob Chapek's a good guy. I've spoken to him on a couple of occasions. With any luck, these manufacturers will actually listen to Chapek and the other studio heads and come to their senses. Thanks to the Bits reader who sent that in.

In other news today, we've got some more new street dates for you. First up, Miramax will release Ella Enchanted on disc on 8/24.

And how about a slew of new dates for more great Paramount titles too? Check today's update of The Rumor Mill for those - they come from reliable industry sources but the titles have yet to be announced officially by the studio.

We have another sad bit of news to report today. Special effects pioneer Donald Edmund Trumbull died on Monday at the age of 95. Trumbull began his career in the film industry working as a rigger on Wizard of Oz. He would go one to innovate new techniques in visual effects motion control in such films as Star Wars and Close Encounters, twice winning the Academy scientific and technical achievement awards for his efforts.

Speaking of Star Wars, Lucasfilm and the Cartoon Network are getting back together to produce 5 new animated, 12-minute Clone Wars adventures. Reportedly, the events in these new longer episodes will lead into the beginning of Episode III, which hits theaters next summer. Says Cartoon Network spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg: "What you'll be reading in the scroll [for Episode III] is what you'll be seeing in the cartoon." The new toons will hit the Network starting on March 12th, 2004, just two months before the film debuts. It's suspected that all the Clone Wars shorts will eventually be released on DVD. You can read more on this here and here.

We'll leave you this week with a sneak peek at some of the cover art you'll find in Warner's upcoming classic Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection, due on 9/7. Here's Dial M for Murder, Suspicion and the new Strangers on a Train: Special Edition...

Dial M for MurderSuspicionStrangers on a Train: Special Edition

Now then... we'll be back on Monday with a new Classic Coming Attractions from Barrie, a review of one of the new Walt Disney Treasures titles from Adam (along with an interview on the title's creation), and more. On Tuesday, we'll post Todd's next Weekly Release Roundup. I might even try to bang out a few new DVD reviews myself next week. You just never know...

Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/10/04 - 1 PM PDT)

Just a quick update with sad news. Music legend Ray Charles passed away here in L.A. this morning at the age of 73. There's obviously a lot of reasons to miss him, but from the perspective of film fans, we'll always remember him fondly for his turn in one of our all-time favorites... The Blues Brothers. Can't help but think he's shakin' his tail feather somewhere even now. Give the film a spin on disc this weekend and we think you'll agree.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/10/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Mekka Lekka Hi-Mekka Hiney Ho!

If you know what that means, you're about to be a happy camper. Yes, that's right... all 45 episodes of Pee-wee's Playhouse (including 6 "lost" episodes) are coming to DVD this fall from Image Entertainment, according to the Hollywood Reporter (via Yahoo). Word is they'll be released in 2 box sets, and the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special will be released separately as well. There will reportedly be basic editions first, and then special "limited" editions next year. Creator/star Paul Reubens will be involved, so look for lots of cool extras on the later editions. We'll post more on this as it becomes known. Here's the link to Image's press release.

Moving on, if all those new cover scans in the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section aren't enough for you, here's three more: Buena Vista's Alias: The Complete Third Season (9/7) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (8/3), as well as Universal's Funhouse (9/7)...

Alias: The Complete Third SeasonSomething Wicked This Way ComesFunhouse

Meanwhile, you'd have thought you'd time-warped back to the early days of the DVD format if you were in attendance at the DVD Lucky 7 industry conference here in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Supporters of the opposing Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats participated in a panel discussion on the next generation of optical disc technology... and sparks flew. The godfather of DVD himself, Warren Lieberfarb, spoke on behalf of the HD-DVD camp and called Blu-ray "vaporware." Columbia TriStar's Ben Feingold, weighing in on the Blu-ray side, countered that their high-def format would be ready to launch by the end of 2005.

What's most interesting about all this early rhetoric (and some of you may have been reading The Bits long enough to remember) is that Lieberfarb and Feingold were once staunch allies in the push to get the current DVD format adopted. So what's changed? The companies that collect most of the licence fees for current DVD (Toshiba and NEC) want to keep things the way they are with the next generation format (HD-DVD is based on the current DVD spec). Meanwhile, the companies that collect fewer licence fees with current DVD (Sony, Phillips and Matsushita - Sony owns Columbia TriStar) want a bigger slice of the pie. To get that bigger slice, they've gone out on their own to create a completely separate format - Blu-ray Disc. What's more, they've actively worked to obstruct progress on HD-DVD by voting against it in the DVD Forum, which was an organization that was created to avoid a format war with DVD in the first place. With late 2005/early 2006 looking ever more likely to see the rollout of both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, and with the opposing camps becoming ever more entrenched, a next generation format war now seems almost unavoidable.

The real shame about all this, is that on the consumer end of things (which is where these sorts of conflicts are ultimately going to be resolved), I'm not convinced that anyone but the early adopters and high-end home theater enthusiasts are going to even care about high-definition optical discs... at least in the near term. Even if a SINGLE high-definition disc format were launched, most consumers are so heavily invested in current DVD that I just don't see them looking to upgrade anytime soon. Sure, the penetration of HDTVs is finally starting to pick up, but here's the problem... current DVDs look pretty damn amazing on new widescreen HDTVs. Some current DVD players even have DVI outputs that upscale the 480p video content on regular DVDs to near high-definition resolutions. Back when most people were upgrading from VHS to DVD, the quality improvement was obvious. But most consumers just aren't going to appreciate the difference between a good DVD and a high-definition disc.

It certainly helps that both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD players will all likely be able to play your current DVD discs. Still, how many people are going to want to re-buy all of their DVD movies in high-definition? Even the diehard DVD fans are getting sick of having to buy the same films again and again as better special editions are released. They've been double and triple dipped to death already.

Oh, but it gets worse still. Just like some Hollywood studios supported DVD early on, while others supported Circuit City's now-defunct Divx variation, you can bet that Columbia TriStar is only going to release their high-definition titles in Blu-ray Disc format, while Warner Bros. will support only HD-DVD. The rest of the studios will be faced with the prospect of having to chose one format or the other, release titles in both, or wait until one or the other wins the war. Meanwhile, as prices for both DVD hardware and software drop into the basement, profits margins for the studios and manufacturers are going to start thinning out. In fact, they've already thinned out for manufacturers, which is why they're so desperate to launch the next-generation formats. And the studios, having grown fat off the DVD gravy train, are going to start getting desperate to re-sell the same films to consumers yet again in high-definition.

So what does all this mean? Two competing high-definition disc formats are going to be released into a consumer marketplace that isn't ready yet for even one... and both are going to languish for a long time. Most consumers won't care, and those that do will either be confused or pissed off or both. Look at what's happened to the much-ballyhooed debut of high-resolution audio. We have two formats (DVD-Audio and SACD - not coincidentally from the very same two camps now fighting over high-definition movie discs) and there aren't even enough consumers interested yet for anyone to give a damn that there's a format war going on, much less to crown a clear winner.

I'll tell you this right now: unless the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc folks pull their heads out of their asses and start talking about establishing a single, unified format... the "next big thing" is going to be an almost complete disaster for years to come.

You can read more of my thoughts on Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD here (based on a first look at the technology at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January of this year). For more on Tuesday's panel "discussion," visit this link at Video Business (subscription required) or this link at Yahoo.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/9/04 - 5:30 PM PDT)

We've got one more cool announcement for you today. Kevin Smith's News Askew website has revealed that Miramax will release a 3-disc Clerks: 10th Anniversary Edition on 9/7 (SRP $34.99). The full extent of the extras has yet to be revealed, but the set will include the original "Sundance" version of Clerks used to shop the film around to prospective studios. It will not, unfortunately, include the original Clerks TV pilot or the Lovely Tea Party documentary (Tea Party will reportedly be released at some point, but the TV pilot is tied up for legal reasons). We'll post more details and artwork as they become available.

Now then... yes, it's true.

We've FINALLY finished the Upcoming DVD Cover Art update. We've added more than 150 new scans. There's tons of new art, some of which you probably haven't seen before. As always, you can click on each cover to pre-order that title at Amazon.com, and doing so helps support our work here at The Bits. We appreciate it. Just FYI, we'll be adding more cover art next week as well, so be sure to watch for it.

Enjoy the art and we'll see you tomorrow!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/9/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Still working on that art, but while that's going on, I thought you'd like to know that Buena Vista and Touchstone have announced the DVD release of The Alamo on 9/28 (SRP $29.99). The film will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include three featurettes (Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes, Return of a Legend: The Making of the Alamo and Deep in the Heart of Texans), deleted scenes and more.

Plus, while I'm prepping all this art, I thought you might like a taste of some of the new covers we've just gotten in. So here's Warner's Babylon 5: The Movies (8/17), along with a few of MGM's forthcoming David Lean DVDs (due on 9/7)...

Babylon 5: The MoviesThe David Lean CollectionOliver Twist

Judgement at NeurembergBrief EncounterGreat Expectations

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/9/04 - 10:30 AM PDT)

A number of you have been asking us about Columbia TriStar's forthcoming Three Stooges DVDs, which were believed to offer only colorized versions of the shorts on the discs. Good news - they'll actually offer BOTH the original B&W as well as new color versions. They claim the colorization process itself has been improved to be more realistic. And according to their press release for the Stooges discs:

"These DVDs will also feature CTHE's "ChromaChoice" feature which allows viewers to toggle between the original black and white version of a film and its colorized version in a seamless manner using the DVD remote."

So there you go. Both Three Stooges: Goofs on the Loose and Three Stooges: Stooged and Confoosed (due on 8/10) will offer this feature. You can expect it to appear on future classic titles as well.

While we're talking Columbia TriStar, they've announced a couple of new titles. Look for them to release Bon Voyage, Past Midnight and a Candyman: Special Edition on 8/17.

Back with more soon. And yes, I'm STILL working on that art. All 150 pieces of it. ;-)

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/8/04 - 5 PM PDT)

Another quick update while we continue to work on our cover art section. Video Business is now reporting that New Line will release the 4-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Special Extended DVD Edition in December. There's no other details yet and no exact street date (although you can likely expect it early in the month rather than later), but at least we finally have a better idea on the timeframe for the release.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/8/04 - 1:45 PM PDT)

We're back with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup. Some great titles reviewed in there today, including Warner's Mystic River, Miramax's City of God and Shout! Factory's SCTV, so don't miss it.

Also this afternoon, we've gotten word that 20th Century Fox has announced the rest of their Studio Classic titles for 2004. On 9/7, look for Alexander's Ragtime Band featuring commentary by film score restorationist Ray Fiola, 3 deleted scenes, Alice Faye as seen on A&E's Biography, Movietone news footage and more. 10/5 will see The Three Faces of Eve featuring commentary by film historian Aubrey Solomon, the Movietone Academy Awards newsreel and more. 11/2 will bring Three Coins in the Fountain featuring commentary by Wesleyan University Film Studies chair Jeanine Basinger, another Movietone newsreel and more. Finally, on 12/7 you'll get How to Steal a Million featuring commentary by Eli Wallach and Catherine Wyler, the Audrey Hepburn: The Fairest Lady episode of A&E's Biography and (you guessed it) more.

Also, we have word that the 8/10 release of DreamWorks' Envy has been postponed indefinitely (no idea why). We'll give you the new date when we have it.

Stay tune-ed.

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/8/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Yeah, I know. I promised that the cover art update would go up yesterday, and here it is Tuesday morning and it still isn't up.

I'm working on it, I'm working on it!!!

Seriously, given that I was gone a week, it turns out that there's a LOT more art to go up than expected, so it's naturally taking more time than anticipated to get it all formatted. In addition, I've found myself working to follow up on a number of interesting DVD-related rumors/stories, so that's been keeping me busy as well. The art WILL be up as soon as I can get it all posted, so keep checking back.

In the meantime, you'll find one of those interesting DVD-related rumors/stories in today's Rumor Mill update. Here's a hint... it's a particularly big and green rumor. Smells like an ogre. Looks like one too. Actually, there's some Matrix-ey info in there too, so enjoy.

By the way, I've seen the Star Wars DVD trailer. It talks all about the new features and has tons of film footage, but there's really no new information given and none of the changed/altered scenes are shown. It's basically just a promotional piece. I have, however, heard through the grapevine that Lucasfilm, THX and Lowry Digital have done some amazing restoration work on these films for the DVD release. Word is they look absolutely stunning - as good as you've ever seen them in fact.

Back later with Todd's column and yes... that art update. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/7/04 - 12:30 PM PDT)

That artwork update is on the way later this afternoon, but first we wanted to catch you up on a few more new DVD announcements today.

To start with, New Line has officially announced the DVD release of Elf for 11/16 (SRP $29.95). The 2-disc set will be an Infinifilm edition release, and will include the film in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions on the same disc. Audio will be Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras will include 2 audio commentaries with director Jon Favreau and star Will Ferrell, deleted scenes, a number of featurettes (Film School for Kids, Tag Along with Will Ferrell, How They Made the North Pole and Kids on Christmas), karaoke, a read-along option, an Infinifilm fact track, interactive games, DVD-ROM extras and more! You can visit the official Elf DVD website here.

HBO has announced Mr. Show: The Complete Fourth Season for release on 9/21 (SRP $34.98). The 2-disc set will include all of the episodes from the show's final season, along with 10 audio commentary tracks with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, deleted scenes, a music-only track and outtakes.

Warner Bros. has finally officially revealed that they'll street a 9-film DVD box set, The Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection, on 9/7 (SRP $99.92). The set will include 7 new titles (Dial M for Murder, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, The Wrong Man, Stage Fright, I Confess and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) which will also be available separately for $19.97 each. The set will also include a 2-disc Strangers on a Train: Special Edition ($26.99 separately) and the previously released North by Northwest: Special Edition. All will feature documentaries and other extras.

MGM will release Walking Tall on DVD on 9/28 (SRP $27.98). Extras will include deleted scenes, bloopers, an alternate ending, the Fight the Good Fight stunts featurette, audio commentary by The Rock, another with the director and crew, and a photo gallery.

And Miramax will release Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl on 9/14, in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and featuring audio commentary Smith and star Ben Affleck, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more (SRP $29.99).

We've also got word in The Rumor Mill today on what 20th Century Fox plans to do with the second season of Lost in Space on DVD. Don't miss it.

Here's cover art for Elf, Mr. Show and Universal's The Munsters: The Complete First Season (8/24)...

ElfMr. Show: The Complete Fourth SeasonThe Munsters: The Complete First Season

By the way, we've also kicked off THREE new Contests today, giving each of you a chance to win copies of Universal's A-Team: Season One and Shout! Factory's SCTV: Volume 1, as well as a cool Quest for King Arthur-themed package of prizes from The History Channel. The first two contests will run until Noon PDT on Friday, June 11th, while the King Arthur contest will run for two weeks until Noon PDT on Friday, June 18th. Good luck!

Back with the rest of that cover art later this afternoon. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/7/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Yeah... you guys are gonna love this (note the sarcasm in my type). Star Wars.com just made the trailer for the forthcoming Star Wars Trilogy DVDs available online... BUT they've made it an exclusive to subscribers to their Hyperspace service. Lovely. We obviously haven't seen the trailer yet, so we can't tell you what's on it. We've been told by a few readers, however, that none of the newly enhanced/altered footage is included.

It's been something of a strange weekend here in the States. I was watching some of the D-Day anniversary coverage on TV on Saturday, when they broke in with the sad (but not unexpected) news of the death of actor-turned-President Ronald Reagan at his home here in California. He's been out of the public eye for almost a decade now, sadly fighting a battle against Alzheimer's disease, but he has been (and will continue to be) missed. The staff of The Bits would like to take this opportunity to doff our caps one last time for the Gipper.

By the way... saw a couple of movies this weekend. Believe it or not, the new Harry Potter flick is actually worth your time. In the hands of a real director, Alfonso Cuaron, Prisoner of Azkaban finally manages to capture some of the dark humor and whimsy that fans love about the books. It's worth seeing.

NOT, however, worth your time is that meteorological crap-fest better known as The Day After Tomorrow. I'm not even going to get into it with you here, because I've already lost 124 minutes of my life to this flick, and I'll be damned if I give it another 5. Avoid it like the plague. Why the hell can't someone in Hollywood write a smart script for one of these disaster flicks? You'd think... ah, screw it.

Our TAP crew has a new SACD review for you to enjoy this morning... Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn's In Session.

We'll be back later with that Upcoming DVD Cover Art update, so get the coffee perking and grab your Krispy Kremes.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/4/04 - 3:30 PM PDT)

We've got one last post for you today. As expected, we've checked in with Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Reviews Roundup. In this edition, Barrie reviews the new Marx Brothers Collection on DVD from Warner, which includes A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races and A Night in Casablanca (all of which are also available separately), as well as Room Service, At the Circus, Go West and The Big Store (which are exclusive to the box set). Barrie also checks out Direct Cinema Limited's newly-released The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell documentary on disc. Don't miss it!

Just to let you know, we have another Classic Coming Attractions column from Barrie set for early next week, along with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup and that big artwork update we mentioned earlier.

So have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/4/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

As promised, we've updated all of the DVD sales and rental stats we track here at The Bits (see above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers (now up to date through the week ending 5/14, which brings the format total to date in the States to well past 70 million players). We've also updated our mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its latest version (dated 5/26).

We've got some good news in The Rumor Mill today for you fans of the long-awaited holiday title, Elf. We've also got a brief note on a short lived (but much loved) TV series possibly coming to DVD as well. Don't miss it.

In terms of new announcements today, New Line has revealed that they'll release a Guyver: Director's Cut on 8/17, along with Guyver 2: Dark Hero and Mangler.

Fox will release Bill Cosby: Himself and Johnson Family Vacation on 8/10.

And Paramount has announced the release of The Prince & Me for 8/10.

A lot of people have asked us which version of Highlander 2 will be released on DVD on 7/20 by Lions Gate. We're looking into this, but if it helps, we know for sure that the running time for the feature on Disc One is 109 minutes, with an R rating. The theatrical running time was 91 minutes, so this would seem to be the director's cut (a.k.a. The Renegade Version). Keep in mind, however, that this version will feature over 100 new effects shots, so it's something of a "new" version of The Renegade Version... if that makes sense. If we learn otherwise, we'll let you know.

A lot of people have also asked us why Universal is releasing later seasons of the various Law & Order TV series on DVD on 9/7, while skipping earlier seasons (for example, the second season of Criminal Intent, seasons two through four of Special Victims Unit, and seasons three through thirteen of the original Law & Order). The plain and simple answer is that we have absolutely no idea, and it makes little sense to us, unless perhaps the studio wants to get episodes out on disc while they're still fresh in the minds of fans. In any case, we do expect that the missing seasons will be released as well... eventually.

Here's some more upcoming DVD cover art to hold you over until our BIG artwork update on Monday. Take a look at Disney's Home on the Range (9/14), the movie-only version of Warner's THX-1138 (not the 2-disc set - also 9/14) and The Whole Ten Yards (7/27)...

Home on the RangeTHX-1138 (movie-only version)The Whole Ten Yards

Back later with Barrie's column. Stay tuned...

6/3/04

Okay... we're back from our vacation! Sarah and I took advantage of the time to spend a few days in New York City. I haven't been there in years, so it was a lot of fun. We ate too much great food at places in Hell's Kitchen, Little Italy and Chinatown, we visited Soho and the Village, we spent an afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History, etc. We found time to drop by CBGBs, and we even caught a showing of The Control Room at the Film Forum at NYU (LOVE that place). Wish I'd had the time to take in a few of those Ingmar Bergman film festival screenings, but what can you do? Anyway, it was a great time.

Now, however, it's back to business. Let's catch you up on a few of the titles that have been announced while we were away. First up, Miramax has revealed that the Coen Brothers' The Ladykillers will be released on DVD on 9/14 (SRP $29.99). The disc will feature anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include outtakes (The Slap Reel), deleted music scenes (Gospel of the Ladykillers), a featurette (Danny Ferrington: The Man Behind the Band) and a DVD-ROM script reader (The Ladykillers Script Scanner).

Disney has set 9/14 as the street date for the animated Home on the Range (SRP $29.99). Look for deleted scenes, a "making of" featurette, a couple of interactive games and a music video.

Columbia TriStar has announced Good Bye, Lenin!, Crossroads, Heaven is a Playground, The Three Stooges: Goofs on the Loose, The Three Stooges: Stooged and Confoosed (both Stooges titles feature colorized episodes, although why I don't know) and Good Times: The Complete Third Season, all for 8/10. Also coming from the studio on 8/3 are Tiptoes, 13 Going on 30, Gidget: The Complete Collection and Significant Others: The Series.

Good Bye, Lenin! (SLP $29.98) will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by director Wolfgang Becker, a second commentary featuring the cast, 10 deleted scenes with director introduction, the uncut Aktulle Kamera broadcasts, the Lenin Learns to Fly VFX featurette, a "making of" featurette and the theatrical trailer.

13 Going on 30 (SLP $28.95) will feature the film in anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, with audio commentary by director Gary Winick and the producers, 18 deleted scenes, a blooper reel, 3 featurettes (I Was a Teenage Geek, The Making of a Team Dream and The Making of a Teen Dream: Another Take), the 80's Outfit Challenge game, the theatrical trailer, a video still gallery and promo trailers for other titles.

In other news, MGM has announced the DVD release of National Lampoon's Dorm Daze: Unrated Edition for 8/10. As we first posted in The Rumor Mill a few weeks ago, the studio has also officially revealed that its September release slate will include Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, Great Expectations, In Which We Serve, Madeleine, Oliver Twist, The Passionate Friends and This Happy Breed (these will also be collectively available in The David Lead DVD Collection box set - SRP $99.96), a Judgement at Nuremberg: Special Edition, The Burning Bed, Gotham, Moving Target and The Martian Chronicles. Street date for all these titles is 9/7.

Also, Lions Gate has revealed a Highlander 2: Special Edition for release on 7/20 (SRP $19.98). The 2-disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video (from a 24p HD master) and both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio. The film has been newly enhanced with over 100 new effects shots produced by the film's original effects team. There is an alternate viewing mode (The Deconstruction of Highlander 2) which will let you go behind the scenes on the production of different scenes in the film, much like the Follow the White Rabbit option from the original Matrix DVD. Other extras will include the Highlander 2: Seduced by Argentina multi-part documentary, The Redemption of Highlander 2 featurette (a look at the new special effects), The Music of Highlander 2 featurette (hosted by composer Stewart Copeland, formerly of The Police), The Fabric of Highlander 2 featurette (a look at the costume design), the Shadow and Darkness: The Cinematography of Highlander 2 featurette (hosted by director of photography Phil Meheux), the original Cannes Film Festival presentation reel, deleted scenes and more. Sounds like a pretty nice set.

Speaking of Lions Gate, you may be interested to know that the studio has reached an agreement with Miramax's Harvey and Bob Weinstein to distribute Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in theaters on June 25. IFC Films will also participate. Look for Lions Gate to release the film on DVD in August or September.

Still not done with the DVD announcements today - 20th Century Fox has revealed that they'll be releasing their next Studio Classics title, Alexander's Ragtime Band, on DVD on 9/7. The disc will include the original fill frame video with mono audio, optional commentary by Ray Faiola, 3 deleted scenes, a 45-minute biography of Alice Faye, a Fox Movietone newsreel, a trailer and a still gallery. Fox has also announced that the 4th wave of their martial arts series (due 9/7) will include Knockabout, Battle Creek Brawl, Mr. Vampire, The Postman Fights Back and Iron Fisted Monk.

Criterion has announced two new titles for August release. Along with David Cronenberg's Videodrome (catalog #248), look for Federico Fellini's I Vitelloni (#246) and Richard Linklater's Slacker (#247).

Finally today (in terms of DVD news at least), Universal has announced the DVD release of The Apprentice: The Complete First Season, The Munsters: The Complete First Season and Night Gallery: The Complete First Season (all for 8/24), along with Columbo: The Complete First Season, Law & Order: Criminal Intent - Season 3, Law & Order: Season 14, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 5 and Magnum P.I.: The Complete First Season (all for 9/7). The studio will also release the following titles on high-definition D-VHS format on 6/29 - 2 Fast 2 Furious, Biker Boyz, The Last Castle, The Life of David Gale, Meet the Parents, Out of Sight, Red Dragon and The Scorpion King. And as part of its distribution deal with DreamWorks, the studio will release Envy on DVD on 8/10.

Here's the cover art for Columbia TriStar's 13 Going on 30, Criterion's Videodrome (August TBA), MGM's The Martian Chronicles, Lions Gate's the Highlander 2: Special Edition, a peak at the packaging for Paramount's TBA Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 1 and what might be revised cover art for Miramax's Kill Bill, Volume 2 (street date 8/10 - this art more closely matches the Volume 1 DVD and is currently being used in ads in the video industry trade magazines)...

13 Going on 30Videodrome (Criterion)The Martian Chronicles

Highlander 2: Special EditionStar Trek: The Original Series - Season 1Kill Bill, Volume 2 (alternate art)

Okay... that's it for today. Tomorrow we'll update all of the DVD format stats we track around the site, and we'll post a new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell, featuring tons of new disc reviews. Plus, I'm sure we've also missed a few new and recent DVD announcements, so we'll cover those tomorrow as well. And watch for a big (and long overdue) Upcoming DVD Cover Art update on Monday.

By the way, if you've sent us an e-mail in the last 10 days, it's going to take us a while to catch up on them all. I've been downloading my mail for a couple of hours now, and I'm up to about 5,000 messages with plenty more to go. So be patient. I will get to them all... eventually.

Stay tuned!

5/26/04

Morning, folks! We've just posted the latest Classic Reviews Roundup from our own Barrie Maxwell. In this column, Barrie looks at 10 new and recent classic film DVD releases from Columbia TriStar and Paramount.

And, just as we promised, we've also posted a new Bottom Shelf column from Adam Jahnke... Notes from Blue Underground. In this piece, Adam reviews 7 titles that have been released recently from... you guessed it... Blue Underground. These include great spaghetti westerns and more. Don't miss it!

By the way, with the DVD reviews in those columns, that makes 32 individual titles we've covered in the last three days, and close to 90 for the month (see our complete reviews index here). Expect a lot more when we return from our break. We're going to review as many titles as possible as the summer progresses, in both column, Roundup and stand-alone formats.

In terms of DVD release news today, you'll be pleased to know that 20th Century Fox has officially announced Chris Carter's Harsh Realm: The Complete Series for 8/24 (SRP $39.98). The 3-disc set will include all 9 episodes of the series in their original full frame aspect ratio, with Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio. This includes the 6 episodes that were never shown on Fox. The pilot episode will feature audio commentary by Chris Carter and Dan Sackheim. Extras will include the Inside the Harsh Realm and Creating the Logo and Title Sequence featurettes, TV spots for the pilot, as well as FX premiere and review spots, and preview trailers for other Fox titles.

Fox has also announced the DVD release of Futurama: Volume 4 for the same day (8/24 - SRP $49.98). The 4-disc set will include (we believe) 18 episodes in full frame video with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Extras will include audio commentaries (with the cast and crew) and deleted scenes for almost every episode, international clips, animatic videos and Easter eggs.

Here's a look at the cover art for Harsh Realm and Futurama, along with Universal's Connie and Carla (street date 8/17), and early, black and white art for Disney's forthcoming Miyazaki DVD releases (due on 8/31), including My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Porco Rosso. Enjoy!

Harsh Realm: The Complete SeriesFuturama: Volume 4Connie and Carla

My Neighbor TotoroNausicaa of the Valley of the WindPorco Rosso

We have one last bit of DVD news for you today. Criterion has revealed that they'll be releasing a John Cassavetes Box Set this fall. The box will include Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night, all mastered with new high-definition transfers. The set will also include Charles Kiselyak's 200-minute documentary, A Constant Forge, as well as new interviews with Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Seymour Cassel, Lelia Goldoni and others. Should be a great release.

Before we sign off, we should also let you know that our MusicTAP audio site is back to full strength after Matt's hard drive crash. He's going to continue his daily updates while the rest of us are on a break. So be sure to stop by (and tell him we said hello). ;-)

And you Star Trek fans out there, don't forget that the season finale of Enterprise is on tonight on UPN. We hear it's a pretty twisted cliff-hanger ending, so program your TiVos. Last time we'll bug you about the show until next season!

Okay... that is officially it for The Bits for the next seven days. Have yourselves a great (and safe) Memorial Day weekend. See you back here on Thursday, June 3rd!

Peace out.

(LATE UPDATE - 5/25/04 - 4 PM PDT)

We're back as promised this afternoon with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup. But we're doing things a little different today. The staff of The Digital Bits is going to be taking a much needed week off starting tomorrow, so that we can all charge up for the busy Summer and Fall DVD schedule ahead. Because of this, Todd's Roundup today covers both titles that are new in stores this week, and those that street next week as well. Some 13 new DVDs are reviewed, and Todd runs down the other good releases you might want to check out too. Lots of great stuff in there.

Also this afternoon, we've kicked off FOUR new Contests, giving each of you the chance to win HBO's Curse of the Bambino, the BBC's Coupling: The Complete Third Season, MGM's Bubba Ho-Tep: Special Edition and a Lord of the Rings Moria Orc Archer bust from Sideshow Collectibles. These will be two-week contests, and entries will be accepted until Noon PDT on Friday, June 4th.

As I said, The Bits will be dark from tomorrow afternoon until Thursday, June 3rd. But don't fret, because we'll be back tomorrow morning (early) with one last post before we go. We'll be bringing you a pair of new columns from Barrie Maxwell and Adam Jahnke, containing lots more upcoming, new and recent DVD reviews.

See you back here first thing in the AM. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/25/04 - 1 PM PDT)

Okay... we're going to be checking back in today with a number of posts, so be sure to tune in throughout the day. First up though, we have UPDATED word from Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski himself on why Legend of the Rangers isn't included in Warner's forthcoming Babylon 5: The Movies DVD collection (due 8/17). In posts on his Usenet site, Straczynski has told fans of the series that Legend of the Rangers will be released separately on DVD. In addition, there will be a separate DVD box set release of the 13-episode Crusade series (click here for that - it's near the bottom of his post). Thanks to Neil D., John H., and the many Bits readers who sent this in.

Speaking of Babylon 5, CNN has posted a story of the death of series star Richard Biggs.

On a more offbeat note, CNN is also reporting that select McDonalds stores are going to start renting DVDs. Does anybody remember a time when some thought this format would never appeal to more than the videophile niche market? How long do you suppose it will be before we get DVDs in Happy Meals?

Also this morning, our MusicTAP crew has posted a review of a new SACD release for you... David Elias' The Window. Enjoy!

We'll be back later with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup and more. Stay tuned...

5/24/04

Yeah, just when you thought all the hubbub over director Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 had finally died down, the film wins the top prize (the Palme d'Or) at the Cannes Film Festival. Like Moore or not, you can bet he'll squeeze every ounce of promotion out of the controversy over this film that he can. Our prediction - Miramax will find a way to release it and it'll piss off 51% of you, while the other 49% loves it (or vise-versa). Either way, I have no doubt it'll be a huge money-maker. It's not over yet folks. You can read more here at CNN.

You know, we happen to support the release of this film. But if Moore feels so strongly about this film being seen (and it's truly about his principles and not about making money), maybe he could let people see the film online, either for free or for a reduced cost. Just a thought. It would certainly solve the distribution problem.

Regardless of our position on Moore and his films... we always seem to get at least a few testy e-mails from people who disagree. Moore never fails to inspire spirited debate, that's for sure.

While we're talking films this afternoon, let me just say that if you haven't already gone to see Shrek 2 (and judging by the box office take this weekend, most of you did), don't hesitate. If you liked the first film, this one really is even better. It's great for the whole family and TONS of laughs for adults as well as children. They riff on just about every movie you can think off. It's very clever and very, very funny.

In DVD news this afternoon, our guys at MusicTAP have a review of a new DVD-Audio disc for you... Porcupine Tree's in absentia from DTS.

And Warner has officially announced the DVD release of Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed for 9/14 (SRP $27.95). The film will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions. Extras will include 10 minutes of deleted scenes with director's commentary, 2 behind-the-scenes documentaries (including True Ghoul Hollywood Story and Dancing Dog), the Triple Threat featurette, the Scooby-Doo Monsters Challenge and Behind the Mystery: The Mystery of the Missing Pants interactive games and 2 music videos (for Big Brovaz' Thank You Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again and Simple Plan's Don't Wanna Think About You).

By the way, a lot of people have been asking us why Warner's Babylon 5: The Movies collection (due 8/17) doesn't include Legend of the Rangers. The short answer is that we don't know. We can only assume the omission means that there are plans to release it separately, or that there's some kind of legal hold-up. We'll post more when we learn anything.

By the way, in a sad (but related) note today, actor Richard Biggs, who played doctor Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, passed away this weekend. He was only 43.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/21/04 - 3 PM PDT)

Damn, it just isn't stopping today! We've got one MORE last post for you this afternoon. Warner Bros. has just announced the DVD release of a Babylon 5: The Movies DVD collection for 8/17 (SRP $59.98). This set will include the films In the Beginning, The Gathering, Thirdspace, River of Souls and A Call to Arms, all in their original aspect ratios (some full frame, some anamorphic widescreen) with English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include new introductions on each of the films by creator J. Michael Straczynski, audio commentary for each film by members of the cast and crew, and the Creating the Future featurette (on how science fiction and the show have influenced each other). We'll post cover art when it becomes available from the studio.

Okay, that's it. Stick a fork in it... we're done for the week. Promise. ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 5/21/04 - 3 PM PDT)

Okay... we just had to check in with one last update today. We've got more information for you on THX-1138 thanks to an article at Video Business magazine. Here's a quote:

"There are a few snippets of extra footage throughout the movie, but the main differences in the new version--in addition to digital video and audio restoration--are digitally enhanced backgrounds, cityscapes and crowds of people. Those enhancements add a greater scope and scale than Lucas could generate with the limited budget and technology of 33 years ago, said Jim Ward, VP marketing and distribution at Lucasfilm."

According to the article, the film was in bad shape, and more than 10 months of restoration work was involved to restore it. For the DVD, extras will include the 1-hour long documentary, A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope (featuring new interviews with Lucas, Coppola and Duvall, the documentary features Martin Scorsese, John Milius, Matthew Robbins, Walter Murch and Caleb Deschanel), Lucas' original short film Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, audio commentary by Lucas and co-writer and sound designer Murch, the 30-minute Artifact from the Future featurette on the making of the film, and an isolated sound effects track/branching video, called Theatre of Noise, on the film's sound design.

Also today, we've updated The Rumor Mill one last time this week with more street dates for great upcoming Paramount catalog titles through the end of 2004, as well as word on a great new Criterion disc in the works. You DEFINITELY don't want to miss it!

Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 5/21/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

We've gotten word from some of our readers that a few of the new effects shots in THX-1138 can be seen in the online preview trailer now up on the film's official website. Like the CG additions to Star Wars, there are shots of background activity (elevators and underground trains sweeping past), expansive environment shots (some kind of factory-like lab), etc. If you're a fan, you might want to check them out. Also, we've got an image that is either (or both) the film's re-release poster artwork or the DVD cover art (thanks to reader Stefan B. for that). The words in very small print at the bottom say, The George Lucas Director's Cut. Here it is...

THX-1138: The George Lucas Director's Cut

By the way, if you want to see a great film this weekend... well, the obvious choice is Shrek 2. But if you want to catch a great film that definitely won't be as crowded or in demand, you might want to check out Twilight Samurai. Matt and I caught a late matinee screening yesterday, and the film is really incredible. Very well acted... moving. It's about a low-level samurai struggling to raise two young daughters and an ailing mother alone, while having to deal with his lack of stature in society and his duty. The film also takes place at a time when Japan's samurai culture is dying, so people are struggling to accept that. Really a great film - an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film last year, and deservedly so. It's in Japanese with English subs, but don't let that stop you from going if you can. Twilight Samurai is a lovely piece of work, and I think you'll be glad you saw it. There is a little samurai fighting, but not nearly as much as you think. This is very much a character driven story. Here's a link the film's official U.S. website as well as the Japanese site (which has a trailer - click on the second red diamond from the top to access them).

Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/21/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We figured some of you would be interested in this news. Miramax has announced the DVD release of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Volume 2 for 8/10 (SRP $29.99). This will be a single-disc edition containing the film in anamorphic widescreen video (aspect ratio 2.35:1) and both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround sound. Extras will include The Making of Kill Bill, Volume 2 featurette, footage from the film's premiere and a deleted scene. Be aware that more elaborate DVD versions of both volumes will arrive at a later date. The title is available for pre-order now at Amazon (click on the cover artwork)...

Kill Bill, Volume 2

On the Buena Vista/Disney front, look for Ella Enchanted to street on 8/24.

Now for the other big news this morning. USA Today is reporting that Warner Bros. will release THX-1138: The George Lucas Director's Cut on 9/14. The title will be available as a 2-disc collector's edition (SRP $26.99) and a single-disc, movie-only edition (SRP $19.97). Extras on the collector's edition will include a documentary on the making of the film and another on Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studio. Although it doesn't say anything in this particular article, we have a number of very reliable industry sources who are telling us that the film will feature "significant digital changes and enhancements." THX-1138 will also make a limited theatrical run in 20 cities around the country starting on 9/10. Warner has launched a new website to promote the release.

Back with more later. Stay tuned...

5/20/24

Some interesting news today. First up, though it's not particularly DVD related it's good news for Paramount's Star Trek franchise. UPN, at their upfronts press conference this morning in New York, officially announced that Star Trek: Enterprise will be renewed for a fourth season and will appear on Friday night this fall. UPN programming executive Dawn Ostroff told the audience of television and advertising executives at UPN's upfront presentation that Enterprise is an established franchise with a loyal audience and that the level of mail seeking renewal gives her every reason to believe that the audience will follow Enterprise to the new time and night. Here's the except from UPN's press release:

"STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (Friday, 9:00-10:00 PM), the latest in the “Star Trek” franchise, is now entering its fourth season. A prequel to the original “Star Trek” series, STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE takes place during the early pioneering days of deep space exploration when interstellar travel is in its infancy and 100 years before Capt. James T. Kirk takes the helm of the famous starship. As the season opened, a mysterious and deadly race of aliens called the Xindi had attacked Earth, killing millions of people. Having discovered that their next planned attack will completely destroy Earth, Capt. Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and the crew set out on a gripping new mission to track down and put an end to these enemy aliens. With the fate of the planet in their hands, the crew faced strange new life forms, dangerous unexplored regions of space and difficult moral questions. In addition to being more action packed with spectacular special effects, this new season will take STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE into further uncharted territory, while advancing last season's critically acclaimed storylines, including Vulcan Sub Commander T'Pol's (Jolene Blalock) blossoming relationship with Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker III (Connor Trinneer) and mysterious twists in the familiar timeline. The series also stars John Billingsley as Dr. Phlox, Dominic Keating as Lt. Malcolm Reed, Anthony Montgomery as Ensign Travis Mayweather and Linda Park as Ensign Hoshi Sato. Rick Berman and Brannon Braga are creators/executive producers. STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE is a production of Paramount Network Television."

You can read more over at former Bits-er Brian Ford Sullivan's The Futon Critic. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to get word to UPN that we want this show back for another year! Well done!

Now then... a number of DVD retailers have leaked information about a 9-disc Matrix Trilogy box set that may be in production by Warner Bros. We've got details on that in The Rumor Mill today, along with a preview of titles on the way in September, October and November from MGM. Fans of directors David Lean and Alfred Hitchcock will definitely not want to miss it.

Also this afternoon, we have word that Universal will release Nia Vardalos' Connie & Carla on 8/17 (SRP $29.98), complete with deleted scenes, extended music scenes, outtakes, audio commentary with creator/star Nia Vardalos and director Michael Lembeck, The Making of Connie and Carla featurette and more.

We've updated our Zatoichi DVD review section today to include reviews of three new titles - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi's Vengeance and Zatoichi's Cane Sword. We've also rearranged the reviews so that they're all presented in series order. We'll be reviewing all the remaining (and currently released) Ichi titles on DVD in the next week or so.

Our own Matt Rowe has posted an interview with Colin Cigarran of Sony's SACD group, featuring discussion of the development and future of the high-resolution audio format. Don't miss it.

Finally, I wanted to tell you about a new sponsor of The Bits that might be of interest to you Canadian readers. DVD Soon is a great source for R1/Canadian DVDs and the site is available in English and French. If you live up in the Great White North, be sure to give them a try - doing so supports our work here at The Bits, so we appreciate it.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/19/04 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We're back as promised with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup. In this edition, Todd checks out some 12 new titles that have just arrived in stores. There are a number of really great DVDs are finally available this week, so you definitely don't want to miss it.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/19/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

First up this morning, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of actor Tony Randall yesterday at the age of 84. Randall was, of course, one half of TV's comic Odd Couple and much loved for his work on the big screen, from classic Doris Day and Rock Hudson films to last year's Down with Love. He'll definitely be missed.

In terms of DVD news today, we have a great bunch of information about upcoming Paramount film titles through October. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill, where we also touch upon the subject (again) of changes to the forthcoming Star Wars films on DVD, the most recent evidence for which appeared over at AICN yesterday.

Also this morning, we've got some cool cover art that I know a lot of you have been waiting for. Here's a look at Universal's Knight Rider: Season One (8/3), as well as Disney's The Black Hole (8/3) and Columbia TriStar's Earth vs. the Spider (7/6)...

Knight Rider: Season OneThe Black HoleEarth vs. the Spider

By the way, The Black Hole is just one of several classic titles coming from Disney on 8/3, including Unidentified Flying Oddball, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Paradise and Jack. We have no word yet on extras.

Since we posted that Earth vs. the Spider artwork, we should tell you that Columbia TriStar has added National Security: Special Edition and She Creature to its 7/6 release slate as well.

Finally this morning, we've been getting word from our industry sources (and it's appearing over at Save Enterprise as well) that Star Trek: Enterprise will indeed be renewed by UPN for a fourth season, with the official announcement coming tomorrow at UPN's Fall Line-up press conference in New York. If this is true, it's great news in our book. Hats off to all you fans who worked hard to keep Trek on the air. And if you haven't been watching... no kidding, the show's been really great this year. Be sure to watch tonight's penultimate episode of the season if you get the chance.

We'll be back in a bit with Todd's Weekly Release Roundup. Stay tuned...


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