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page updated: 10/11/04



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 9/23/04 - 9/2/04)


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(LATE UPDATE - 9/23/04 - 11:30 AM PDT)

Morning again. Some Blu-ray Disc news today. Sony has just announced officially that its next generation PlayStation videogame system, the forthcoming PS3, will run software on Blu-ray Disc format media. This means both game software as well as compatibility with high-definition movies on Blu-ray Disc format. More food for thought.

We've got some Batman: Special Edition news for you today in The Rumor Mill. Be sure to check it out. There's also information on another edition of Tony Scott's Man on Fire from Fox.

In other news today, Warner Bros. has announced that they'll release the BBC's Coupling: The Complete Fourth Season on 1/25/04. Other BBC titles on the way include The Barchester Chronicles (12/28/04) and He Knew What Was Right (1/25/05).

Finally this morning, we want to remind you about our live chat tonight with IGN DVD. Members of The Digital Bits staff will be on hand, including Todd Doogan and myself, to answer your questions about a whole range of DVD and related issues. The chat will start tonight at 8 PM EDT (5 PM PDT). You can use this link for browser access, or if you use a chat client like mIRC, you need to connect to the server: chat1.ign.com. The browser-based interface will automatically connect you. After that, join the channel #DVD, by typing #DVD and pressing enter. The pound sign is required. Then just select a username and off you go. Click here for more details at IGN DVD. See you then!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/23/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning, all! I just wanted to chime in here with the first word on the sales of Fox and Lucasfilm's Star Wars Trilogy box set. According to Reuters, $115 million in worldwide sales were generated on Tuesday, the first official day of the title's release. That's an impressive figure, despite the fact that the number reportedly includes sales data for both the DVD box set and the Star Wars: Battlefront video game. We expect separate numbers to be released soon. In any case, it represents probably the highest single day sales for a single release in the history of the format. Anyone surprised?

Speaking of Star Wars, I had the pleasure of visiting THX's Burbank facilities yesterday with Ron Epstein, Parker Clack and some 60 members of The Home Theater Forum, who are visiting the L.A. area this week on their annual California pilgrimage. THX's technical director, Rick Dean, provided us with a first-hand look at the effort involved in fully digitally restoring and remastering the films for DVD release. Among the things we were shown was a glimpse of the original, high-definition technical master for A New Hope, prior to color timing and digital debris removal. At Lucasfilm's press day for the event, Dean and Lowry Digital's John Lowry claimed that literally hundreds - even thousands - of scratches, bits of debris and other types of print damage were removed from EACH FRAME of each of the three Star Wars films. They weren't kidding. Judging by the images we saw, the digital clean-up work done by the folks at THX, IVC and Lowry was nothing less than heroic. Many thousands of man-hours were spent not only making these films look perfect for the DVD release, but also in creating a digital negative that can be used for future HD releases. "Creative changes" to the video and audio component of these films aside, you can be sure that every bit of that restoration effort shows up on the screen. And let me tell you, those of you watching these films in full frame are doing yourselves (and the restoration team) a huge disservice. Let that serve as my anamorphic widescreen pitch of the day.

On an interesting side note, DVD producer Van Ling was also on hand, and let us know that early numbers indicate that some 80% of the first day sales of the DVDs at Wal-Mart stores are the widescreen versions. Wal-Mart DVD sales, as you may know, are usually skewed heavily towards full frame. Hey... maybe people are FINALLY starting to figure out that movies like these should ALWAYS be seen in their original aspect ratio.

By the way, for any of you The Home Theater Forum members who might be reading this, let me just say that it's always a pleasure to hang with you guys. Too bad we can't do it more often.

That's all for now. Stay tuned!

9/22/04

We're pleased this morning to welcome back Matt Rowe's TAPNotes! In this edition, Matt reviews 8 new, recent and classic music DVD releases, including Neil Young: Greendale, Boz Scaggs: Greatest Hits Live, Tomita: The Planets, Journey: Greatest Hits DVD, Jean Luc Ponty: In Concert, Joni Mitchell: Refuge of the Roads, Tom Dowd & The Language of Music and another look at The Jam: The Complete Jam. We hope you enjoy it!

That's not all. We've got some awesome new upcoming DVD cover art for you to check out this morning. Here's an early look at Miramax's HERO (11/30) and their Bridget Jones's Diary: Collector's Series (11/9), Disney's Bambi: Platinum Edition (3/1/05), Fox's DodgeBall (12/7), the final cover art for Universal's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series (11/16) and Columbia TriStar's The Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen box set (11/30)...

HEROBridget Jones's Diary: Collector's SeriesBambi: Platinum Edition

DodgeBallBuck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic SeriesThe Fantastic Films of Ray Harryhausen box set

Also today, a lot of you have been e-mailing to ask how Todd is doing after his surgery. Well, how about I let him tell you in his own words? Here he is...

Thanks for the reintroduction, Bill.

Hi guys. Hope everybody is doing well. I'm back from surgery and except for a few complications, I'm doing fine. I just wanted to let everybody know that their well wishes and prayers were very much appreciated. I made it through the woods and now it's all about post-op recovery, which is going fine. My physical therapist says that I'm doing very well. The good news is, starting this week I can sit under a laptop and get to writing a column for you - a best of the weeks past, if you will. And for those who just can't wait, Bill, me and the boys will be chatting live on IGN on Thursday night. Should be fun. So, yes... I lived, but no... I'm not fully on my feet yet. That shouldn't hurt y'all though, 'cause I'll be back to writing something for you by the end of this week. Thanks once again for all the positive vibes you've been sending my way. I got it all, and I'm doing super -- thanks for asking.

Love and hugs,
Doogan


Good to have you back, buddy. No doubt about it.

By the way... a quick follow-up on that Fraggle Rock story we posted on Monday. We've been informed that HIT Entertainment is now officially planning on releasing the series in full-season sets Fall 2005. Thanks to Bits reader Kevin A. for the scoop!

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/21/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Anyone up for some big new 20th Century Fox title street dates? Look for Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in DodgeBall on 12/7. Will Smith's I, Robot will follow on 12/14. Even better, the critically well received (but hardly seen) Napoleon Dynamite will street on 12/21. Finally, Alien Vs. Predator will officially hit stores in January (exact date is still TBA). We're made to understand that this will not be the recently rumored "director's edition" because there really isn't much unreleased footage. You might get a little more blood, but that's about it.

As far as specs and extras, I, Robot will include anamorphic widescreen video, both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, commentary by director Alex Proyas and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, The Making of I, Robot featurette, a still gallery and previews for other upcoming Fox titles.

DodgeBall will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary with writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber and actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, 6 Easter eggs, 7 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary by the director, an alternate ending with optional director's commentary, the Dodgeball Boot Camp: Training for Dodgeball, The Anatomy of a Hit, Dodgeball: Go for the Gold and Justin Long: A Study in Ham & Cheese featurettes, bloopers and a gag reel, trailers, teasers for The Ringer and Elektra and the screenplay via DVD-ROM.

Features for the other titles are still TBA. We'll post cover art when it's available. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/21/04 - NOON PDT)

Morning, everyone! Well, the big day has officially arrived. The Star Wars Trilogy is coming home today with a lot of you I'm sure.

Obviously, we've been going over the sound issues these last couple of days, and Lucasfilm says they're deliberate creative decisions. The audio quality of Tarkin's line may simply have been unavoidable, and we're prepared to acknowledge that. The whole thing with the music being dialed back during the first part of the Death Star battle however... that's just irritating. That we suspect WAS a creative decision, but we think it was a really poorly considered one. Williams' score was so much a part of the spirit of that scene and now it's barely audible for the first few minutes of the battle. That's really a shame.

You know, it seems like with each new revised version of these films, there's one change we absolutely hate. In 1997, it was Greedo shooting first. Now that scene has been tweaked a little more, and we can deal with it. But in 2004, it's not younger Anakin we hate, it's not the Emperor, it's not the revised Jabba. All that we don't mind. But this music change is disappointing. Ah well. Maybe George will fix that in the 2007 ultimate version... and there will be something new to complain about. In any case, we trust you will enjoy these DVDs. By and large, they're pretty nifty. But this ain't your older brother's Star Wars, that's for sure. Anyway, we're going to be doing a final revision of our review of the set to reflect our final opinion on all this. Just FYI.

We've got a bit of other news for you today. First of all, The Digital Bits is going to be moving to a new server. That SHOULDN'T impact you guys at all. With any luck, you won't even notice the transition. But it's going to keep us a little busy behind the scenes for the next few days, so if the posts seem a little light, you'll know why. Never a dull moment around here. Heck, you guys probably won't even notice. You'll all be to busy watching Star Wars.

Next up, Universal has announced Sci-Fi's recent Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries for release on 12/28. The DVD will be a single disc only, containing the complete 183-minute miniseries in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There are no other details yet on the extras, but we suspect it will at least include a preview of Sci-Fi's reinvisioned Battlestar Galactica TV series, which premieres in January.

By the way, Universal has also announced Relative Evil for 12/21.

The other news today is that Video Store magazine has officially announced the nominees for the first ever TV DVD Awards. Three nominees were chosen in each of twelve categories (from over 150 entries), by a panel of experts that included myself, USA Today’s Mike Snider, veteran home video journalist Bruce Apar, TV Shows on DVD.com's Gord Lacey and DVD Talk's Geoffrey Kleinman. Here's the cool part - YOU guys get to pick the winners! You can visit either Video Store's website or TV Shows on DVD.com to make your picks. The winners will be announced Oct. 19 during the second annual TV DVD Conference in Century City, CA. Here's the list of nominees:

Best 1950s Series - Have Gun With Travel: The Complete First Season, The Honeymooners: The "Classic 39" Episodes, I Love Lucy: The Complete Second Season

Best 1960s Series - The Dick Van Dyke Show (complete series), Here's Lucy: Best-Loved Episodes, Star Trek: The Original Series Season One

Best 1970s Series - Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series, The Richard Pryor Show, Sonny & Cher: The Ultimate Collection

Best 1980s Series - The Kids in the Hall: Complete Season One, SCTV Network 90/Volume One, Sledge Hammer! Season One

Best 1990s Series - Freaks & Geeks: The Complete Series, The Simpsons: Complete Fourth Season, West Wing: The Complete First Season

Best 2000s Series - 24: Season Two, Alias: The Complete Second Season, The Sopranos: The Complete Fourth Season

Best Animated Series - Looney Tunes Golden Collection, The Simpsons: Complete Fourth Season, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete First Season

Best British TV Release - MI-5: Volume One, The Office, Pennies From Heaven

Best Compilation - The Jack Paar Collection, The Ultimate Johnny Carson Collection, Unsolved Mysteries

Best Made-for-TV Documentary - Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, How's Your News?, The World at War

Best Miniseries or TV Movie - The Reagans, Shogun, The Winds of War

Best Special Feature - 24: Season Two: Exposed Part One & Part Two featurette, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Sixth Season: Once More with Feeling featurette, The X-Files: The Complete Ninth Season: The Making of the Truth documentary

Get your votes in!

Okay... since we've got to move the site to the server, we're going to delay Matt's reviews a day. Watch for them to be posted late tonight for tomorrow. Matt doesn't mind. He's still glowing from his Bears' victory over the Packers this weekend.

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/20/04 - 10:30 PM PDT)

Well... Lucasfilm has responded to our questions about the audio issue on the DVD of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope with a blanket statement of denial. Here's the exact text:

"We are always impressed with how closely fans listen to the many different sound mixes we have made for the Star Wars movies over the years. It is flattering to know that, indeed, the audience is listening. Consequently, each mix comes out differently and any changes that you hear on the all-new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX tracks on the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set are deliberate creative decisions. We can confirm that there are no technical glitches as reported."

Now here's my response. I don't buy it. The audio quality of that Tarkin line can't be anything other than a technical issue, probably a problem with the original audio element of the dialogue, and Lucasfilm doesn't want to cop to that on the eve of the big release. When you guys hear it tomorrow, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Tarkin's "Then name the system!" line sounds terrible. As far as dialing down the trumpet fanfare during the Death Star attack (in fact, much of Williams' music during the first part of the attack has been reduced in volume in the mix)... I can see that could be a creative decision. It's a decision I absolutely HATE, but okay, maybe that's a creative decision. You guys will have to see what you think when you get the discs. We'd like you die hard audiophiles out there to give them a listen yourselves and let us know your opinion.

We'll keep looking into this, so stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/20/04 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We're pleased to kick off the new week with some new announcements this morning. Paramount will release SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Second Season - one of the most strangely compelling animated shows I've ever seen - on 10/19, with Richard Prior: I Ain't Dead Yet, #*%$#@!! Uncensored on 12/7.

Columbia TriStar will release a Ray Harryhausen 5-Pack Giftset on 11/30. The set will include It Came from Beneath Sea, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, 20 Million to Miles Earth, Mysterious Island and First Men in the Moon.

Anchor Bay's The Commish: Season One will be released on disc on 11/16. Extras will include new interviews with Michael Chiklis and Theresa Saldana.

HIT Entertainment is releasing the 3-episode Fraggle Rock: Where It All Began on 10/19. We've heard they're also thinking about releasing full season box sets of the show on DVD - give 'em a call if you're a fan and you'd like box sets: 1-866-405-7625. Remember - be polite!

Also, MGM seems to have revised its December DVD release schedule, and mysteriously the Martin Scorsese Film Collection titles have disappeared from the slate (they had been set for release on 12/14 - we suspect they've been delayed until early 2005). Now set for release in December are the Wild at Heart: Special Edition, the direct-to-DVD Species III and Species III: Unrated Edition, Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got the Will?, Hi, Mom!, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Jinxed, Out Cold, Young Doctors in Love, The Phantom of the Opera (1989) and Smooth Talk (all on 12/7), followed by the Rocky Anthology (on 12/14). We'll let you know when the Scorsese titles get reannounced.

In all the hype over the DVD release of Star Wars, I'm afraid to say there's a bit of bad news about the discs (or at least one of them) from a quality standpoint. We've discovered what we believe are a pair of audio defects on Episode IV - A New Hope. We've updated our DVD review of the set accordingly with the details as follows:

The familiar Force theme trumpet fanfare that used to play right after Red Leader says: "This is it!" and just as the X-wings start diving towards the Death Star's surface has been dialed back in volume so that it's almost inaudible - it's almost completely buried in the surround mix.

The audio quality varies wildly as Tarkin says the line: "You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system." - almost as if the master sound element was damaged.

Other reports of audio problems or changes are starting to appear around the Net as well. These problems would seem to be severe enough to merit a repressing/exchange of the disc. We're waiting to hear back from Lucasfilm on this issue and we'll update this review with the details as soon as we do.

Speaking of Star Wars, CNN has posted an interesting interview with director George Lucas in which he talks about the DVD release, the changes he's made and the future of the Star Wars universe. He also talks about why he's releasing these films now rather than after Episode III as he originally planned. It's well worth a read.

In other news today, Video Store Magazine is reporting that Toshiba and Sanyo expect to launch the first HD-DVD hardware players into the U.S. and Japanese consumer markets by the fourth quarter of 2005. Not a single Hollywood studio has yet agreed to support the format with software however. The magazine also has a good story on industry analysis of Sony's purchase of the MGM catalog and how it might affect the looming format war between Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD.

Also members of The Digital Bits staff (including Todd Doogan and myself) are going to be participating in another IGN DVD Chat this Thursday, September 23 (at 8 pm EDT, 5 pm PDT). You can use this link for browser access, or if you use a chat client like mIRC, you need to connect to the server: chat1.ign.com. The browser-based interface will automatically connect you. After that, join the channel #DVD. The pound sign is required. We'll be talking about the Star Wars DVDs, other upcoming titles and much more. Click here for more details at IGN DVD. See you then!

We've kicked off THREE new Contests today, giving each of you the chance to win copies of 20th Century Fox's Angel: Season Four and MADtv: The Complete First Season, along with Buena Vista's Felicity: The Complete Third Season. The contests will run until Noon PDT on Sunday, September 26th, so get your entries in quick. Good luck!

Finally today, if you haven't already checked out our Artist of the Month for September, there's no time like the present. You may recognize Robert Shields from his TV days as half of the duo Shields and Yarnell. These days Robert's creating his art in beautiful Sedona, Arizona - loads of different and whimsical designs. Sarah and I recently visited Sedona, happened upon his work and really liked what we saw. Robert draws his inspiration from all areas, including film. Check out the print of "Coyote Law" that was inspired by Tombstone. Robert's offering a special discount just for Bits readers - $5 off any purchase of $30 or more from his online store through September. We think you'll like his work as much as we do, so be sure to check it out!

Back tomorrow with more DVD reviews from our own Matt Rowe. Stay tuned...

9/17/04

Remember Warner's DVD Decision 2004? Well, your votes are finally in, they've been tallied and the winners have been announced. The following 5 titles will get their DVD debut in early 2005, each remastered and with new bonus features and special content: The Letter, Ice Station Zebra, Ivanhoe, Random Harvest and King Solomon's Mines (1950). Look for more information on these titles in the coming months. Special thanks to Bits reader Clyde P. for the heads-up on this.

Moving on, anyone remember EVD? It was supposed to be China's custom, home-grown answer to DVD... except that it turns out it's not being accepted so readily by Chinese consumers and manufacturers. Go figure. You can read more here via DigiTimes.

Matt's been on vacation in Illinois this week, so I want to make mention of this: Ramones guitarist and co-founder Johnny Ramone died earlier this week. Definitely a sad day for music. I'm sure Matt will talk more about it over at MusicTAP when he gets back next week, but in the meantime, I know I speak for him when I say hats off to Johnny's family, friends and fans. You can read more here at CNN.

By the way, we hope all of you readers down on the Gulf Coast weathered Ivan okay. I grew up in the Midwest with tornados, so I know what it's like when Mother Nature sends a fit your way. Hang in there.

If we don't pop in later with any late-breaking news, have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday.

Stay tuned...

9/16/04

Afternoon, folks. We've got more new announcements to cover today, so here we go...

Universal has revealed that its delayed Twin Towers has been rescheduled for 10/12. Also, their release of Northern Exposure: The Complete Second Season has been pushed back to 11/30. Other, newly announced titles from the studio include The Door in the Floor on 12/14 and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (distributed by Universal for DreamWorks) on 12/28. Look for Anchorman to be released in a number of versions - there will be a full frame PG-13 theatrical edition (94 mins), full frame and anamorphic widescreen unrated extended editions (103 mins - SRP $29.99 each), and an anamorphic widescreen limited edition gift set (no SRP). The limited edition will include Ron Burgundy's Month to View Journal and a bonus disc containing an entire second film, Wake Up Ron Burgundy, also in anamorphic widescreen.

Buena Vista has announced That's So Raven: Supernaturally Stylish, Volume 1 and Kim Possible: The Villain Files for 12/7, the animated In Search of Santa for 11/23 and My Name is Modesty for 9/28.

20th Century Fox has added M.A.S.H.: Season 7, How to Steal a Million and Garfield and Friends: Season 2 to its 12/7 slate, with King of the Hill: Season 3 following on 12/28.

Paramount has informed us that the Top Gun: Special Collector's Edition is going to be moving to December (it had previously been set for release in November). The new street date has been tentatively set as 12/14. We'll keep you posted.

Also, Warner is going to be releasing MI-5: Volume 2 (for the BBC) on 1/11/05 (SRP $79.98).

Here's a little cover art for you... Touchstone's King Arthur: Unrated Director's Cut (12/21), the BBC's MI-5: Volume 2 and Disney's A Wrinkle in Time (11/16)...

King Arthur: Unrated Director's CutMI-5: Volume 2A Wrinkle in Time

By the way, our friends over at DVD Town have posted a Quicktime video clip comparing one of the changes in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (specifically the Jabba scene) from the 1997 SE to the new DVD version. Be sure to check it out.

Stay tuned...!

9/15/04

We're kicking things off today with a trio of new DVD reviews from our own Adam Jahnke. Take a look at his in-depth thoughts on Warner's GoodFellas: Special Edition and his reviews of Universal's Duel: Collector's Edition and Sugarland Express by way of his latest edition of The Bottom Shelf on the cult films of director Steven Spielberg. Enjoy!

In announcements today, Universal has announced the DVD release of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Izzy & Moe, The Prince and the Surfer, Skateboard Madness and Ski School 2 for 12/28 (SRP $9.99 each). Video for all will be in full frame.

Columbia TriStar will release Falling from Grace on 11/9, with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, First Snow of Winter and The Pickle due on 11/16, and Doing Hard Time, Unstoppable and Zhou Yu's Train following on 11/23.

Also, Criterion has a new 2-disc special edition of Fritz Lang's M on the way for December (street date TBA).

On the news front, there's a good story from Reuters (via Yahoo) on how Sony's purchase of MGM gives it a major leg up in the battle to position its Blu-ray Disc as the format to beat in the next-generation, high-definition optical disc battle. Don't say we didn't tell you so. Let's just hope this deal doesn't kabosh Peter Jackson's plans to lens The Hobbit sooner rather than later (the rights to make the film are owned by New Line, but the rights to distribute it are owned by MGM... and now, presumably, Sony's Columbia TriStar).

Finally this morning, Video Business and Variety have posted some interesting sales numbers this week. It seems that, dollar for dollar, DVD sales are outpacing sales of movie tickets in the U.S. by about 30% (as of mid 2003).

Stay tuned...

9/14/04

Well, we meant to have this posted yesterday. But Barrie's latest Classic Coming Attractions contains a massive table listing of Film Noir titles that was a real bear to format. Nonetheless, his latest column is now up. As you might have guessed, it's an in-depth look at Film Noir overall - one of our favorite genres here at The Bits. In addition to looking at Noir as a whole, Barrie reviews 6 newly released Noir titles on DVD, including Image's Too Late for Tears and Warner's Film Noir Classic Collection, which includes Out of the Past, The Set-Up, Murder, My Sweet, Gun Crazy (gee... that title is oddly appropriate today, isn't it?) and The Asphalt Jungle. There's a lot of meat on them bones, so dig in and enjoy.

In news today, there's a good story at CNN on George Lucas' excellent THX 1138. The new DVD release is excellent. In fact, on the whole, the DVD itself is arguably better than the Star Wars Trilogy DVDs in terms of extras. If you're out buying Star Wars next week, definitely don't miss out on THX. It's well worth your time, particularly if you're into high-concept science fiction, like 2001, A Clockwork Orange or Blade Runner.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/13/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Barrie's column will be up later this afternoon, but I wanted to jump in here early with quick news that Sony's last-minute $5 billion bid might just have worked. The latest reports indicate that Warner has pulled their offer to purchase MGM and Sony will close the deal to take possession of the studio. You can read more here at CNN/Money and Variety (subscription requited). There are also many reports on Yahoo news. Can you say Blu-ray Disc?

Back later. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/13/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Has anyone else out there missed football season as much as me and Matt? We've both been thoroughly enjoying listening to the NFL preseason games on Sirius satellite radio. As most of you know, Matt's a Bears fan, while I'm a Vikings fan. Living as we both do in Southern California, we rarely get to see either of our teams on TV. Thankfully, Sirius not only carries every game, you can choose to listen to each game with the home radio announcers of either team. Came in handy yesterday afternoon, I'll tell you. I had to make a run to IKEA, but I didn't miss a moment of the Vikings' thrashing of the Cowboys. You just gotta love digital technology.

On the DVD front this morning, there's a whole mess of online newspaper stories about next week's impending Star Wars Trilogy DVD release. Click here for links to just a few via Yahoo. In case you missed it, we added more DVD screenshots on Friday illustrating additional changes that have been made to the films for the DVDs.

By the way, as you probably know by now, Universal has removed Twin Towers from its release schedule (it was originally to have streeted on 9/7). We expect a new date to be announced at some point, so we'll keep you up to date.

As we've reported in the past, Warner is expected to announce soon that it will release both versions of Exorcist: The Beginning on DVD sometime early next year. Paul Shrader directed the original version, but the studio felt it was "too cerebral", so Renny Harlin shot a "scarier" version of the film that the studio eventually released to theaters. Warner and production company Morgan Creek should make their final decision this week. You can read more at Video Business.

And in other news today, Sony is reported to have raised its offer to purchase MGM to close to $5 billion in a last-ditch attempt to steal the deal away from Warner. Meanwhile, Warner has reportedly told MGM it will rescind its own bid unless MGM accepts it within the next couple of days. This thing is REALLY heating up, folks. Expect some kind of announcement on the deal to be made soon either way. Depending on how this shakes out, the fate of both Peter Jackson's The Hobbit and the opening round of the forthcoming HD disc format battle could be decided in one fell swoop.

We'll be back later this afternoon with a new Classic Coming Attractions column from Barrie. In the meantime, stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/10/04 - 10 PM PDT)

Evening, folks! We're going to leave you this week with a quick late update. We've gotten some nifty upcoming DVD cover art for you tonight. Here's an early look at Touchstone's King Arthur (12/21), DreamWorks' The Terminal (11/23) and temp art for Universal's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series (11/16)...

King ArthurThe TerminalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

See you Monday. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/10/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We have some very sad news to report today, I'm afraid. Legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas has passed away here in Los Angeles. He was 92. Thomas, along with friend and fellow animator Ollie Johnston, was one of Walt Disney's original "Nine Old Men" and was part of the team that lovingly hand-crafted such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi. If you haven't seen it yet, I think a great way to honor his memory is to give the wonderful Frank and Ollie documentary a spin (click the link for Barrie Maxwell's review of the special edition DVD). In this time when traditional hand-drawn animation has been all but abandoned by the studio that bears Walt's name, Thomas is greatly, greatly missed. Here at The Bits, we humbly doff our caps in his honor.

On the news front this morning, we've got more details on Miramax's 11/30 release of HERO on DVD. The disc will include the 99-minute theatrical edition of the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. We know the original Chinese audio will be included (with optional English and Spanish subtitles), as will English and French dubbed audio. Extras will include storyboards for 4 scenes, and the HERO Defined and Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino featurettes.

It's also worth noting this morning that there are fresh rumblings around the industry that Warner's bid to buy MGM is either a newly done deal, or just about to be sealed. Click here for the latest via Yahoo.

Finally, we've updated those pages of screen shots comparing the 1997 special editions and 2004 DVD editions of the Star Wars Trilogy. Several new screen shots from Return of the Jedi have been added showing more digital changes, and we've added text to accompany the images as well.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/9/04 - 10 PM PDT)

Well, we're now hearing that New Line HASN'T yet officially announced the street date for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Special Extended DVD Edition. Earlier today we said that the studio had announced the title for release on 12/14. They had published a 2-page spread in this week's issue of Video Store revealing the street date, SRP and other details. Turns out that the ad got printed prematurely and was retracted. So the street date and other release details are still subject to change. Doh! We've updated the posting below and we'll be sure to let you know when New Line gets their ducks in a row on the release information.

By the way, I'm up to over 2,000 e-mails about the Star Wars DVDs in less than 24 hours since I posted my review. I'm trying to read them all, but there's just no way I can get back to you all. It seems everyone's got a question or a comment! Judging by the volume of e-mail I'm getting though, one thing is certain - there's a LOT of interest in this title. No surprise there, I suppose!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/9/04 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Boy, I'm getting FLOODED with e-mails about the Star Wars DVDs. Everyone's got a question it seems. Just FYI, I've updated the review to note a couple of new changes we've discovered in the films.

Some DVD release news today - fearful of fans importing Asian versions of the film on DVD, Miramax has officially announced the release of HERO on 11/30. The film will be available on disc in both subtitled and dubbed English translations, and will include a "making of" featurette and an interview with presenter Quentin Tarantino. With almost no extras, that transfer had better rock Miramax. Don't make us come up there, 'cause you know we will.

On the Fox front, we've learned that the studio's 24: The Complete Third Season (due on 12/7) will feature a special "half episode" written by the show's creators and shot with the cast. It's designed to bridge the time span between seasons 3 and 4, and introduce some of the new characters and situations that will appear in season 4. Very cool. You can read more on this at Video Business.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/9/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

So... anyone up for a little MORE George Lucas on DVD today? Yeah?

Okay then... after 8 long years of waiting, here's my in-depth review of 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's 4-disc Star Wars Trilogy DVD box set. Was it worth the wait? Do the films look and sound awesome? Has Lucas really made more changes to them? Just read the review, folks. It's all in there. On that last question however, I think this will finally convince you that we weren't lying all those many months ago when we first said there would be more surprises in store for these films. Don't say we didn't warn you. ;-)

By the way, Mark Hamill and Irving Kershner? Cool guys. Both were in attendance at the DVD press event yesterday, which I'm sure you'll be able to read about all over the web. I'm frankly just too wiped out from completing the review to go into it at the moment. Anyway, enjoy the review. The DVDs street in just two weeks, on 9/21.

Before we go, we've got one great piece of news for you today. New Line has officially announced the DVD release of their 4-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Special Extended DVD Edition for 12/14 (SRP $39.99). The set will include more than 50 minutes of new footage added back into the film and many, many hours of audio commentary and documentaries on the production (we'll post a complete list when it becomes available). Also on 12/14, you'll be able to buy the Collector's DVD Gift Set of the film (SRP $79.92) that includes the 4-disc DVD along with an exclusive Minas Tirith keepsake box and an exclusive bonus DVD - Howard Shore: Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony.

[Editor's Note: We posted this Return of the King news based on the studio publishing a 2-page ad in Video Business magazine with the street date and the above details. We're now told that the ad was published prematurely, and that the street date may be wrong. So the above information is now NOT official and is likely to change. We'll post the final details when they become available from New Line.]

We've posted it before, but here's the cover art again...

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Special Extended DVD Edition packaging

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Special Extended DVD EditionHoward Shore: Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony

Alright, I'm gonna go sleep for about 12 hours. Stay tuned...!

9/8/04

So... anyone up for a little George Lucas on DVD today? Yeah?

Okay then... let's kick things off with my in-depth review of Warner's new, 2-disc THX 1138: The George Lucas Director's Cut - Special Edition. This is one great little DVD, let me tell you. The film streets next Tuesday (9/14) in both a single-disc version and this 2-disc edition. Just forget the single platter - the special edition is the one you want. Trust me. Check out the review and you'll understand why.

Now then, I'm off to L.A. this morning to attend Lucasfilm's official Star Wars Trilogy DVD press event. And you know what that means. Yes... with any luck (pending Lucasfilm's approval), I'll soon be able to post our in-depth review of the single most anticipated DVD release in the history of the format. So do keep checking back, will you?

Just to keep you busy in the meantime, we've kicked off THREE MORE contests today giving each of you the chance to win copies of Warner's THX 1138: The George Lucas Director's Cut - Special Edition, Rhino's Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials and a pair of their Transformers: Armada titles. Like the others, these contests will run for 2 weeks until Noon PDT on Sunday September 19th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

One last note this morning... Paramount has informed us that the revised street date for their delayed Star Trek: Generations - Special Collector's Edition is 9/28. But judging by the e-mails we've been getting, plenty of copies are now available on store shelves despite the recall. Keep in mind that the only difference between these two releases will be the wording of the spec list on the back of the packaging - the actual discs are the same. Consider yourself warned. We don't want you getting ripped off on eBay or anything.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/7/04 - 1:30 PM PDT)

DreamWorks has announced the DVD release of Steven Spielberg's The Terminal on 11/23. The film will be available in separate anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions (SRP $29.99 each), with audio in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. Extras are TBA. There will also be a special Limited Edition (no SRP) that will include the widescreen disc along with a second DVD of bonus materials.

Coming on 11/23 from Universal is a slate of interesting deep catalog titles (SRP $9.99 each), including Cloak & Dagger, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Commandments, The Cure, Little Miss Marker (1980), Missing, Private School, Splitting Heirs and Sweet Liberty.

Also, Warner has announced the next to last piece of the Babylon 5 puzzle on DVD... Crusade: The Complete Series. Look for the 4-disc set on 12/7 (SRP $59.98). All 13 episodes will be presented in their original full frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (there will be some special features TBA on the 4th disc). Only the Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers pilot film remains unannounced for DVD (expect that to change soon).

We've got a TON of cool Upcoming DVD Cover Art for you to check out today. Well over 200 new cover scans have been added, making it our biggest single artwork update to date. There's LOTS of stuff you haven't seen before so be sure to check it out. Special thanks to our resident cover art guru Russell Hammond for putting it all together.

Speaking of art, we're pleased to give you an early look at the packaging for 20th Century Fox's Daredevil: Director's Cut, which streets on 11/30, as well as the aforementioned Crusade: The Complete Series from Warner...

Daredevil: Director's CutCrusade: The Complete Series

Don't forget that Kevin Smith DVD signing event tonight in L.A. at the new Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash Comic Emporium. The signing starts at 5 PM, and you can expect a big line (so get there early). The store is located at 1045 Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Finally this morning, we've kicked off SIX new Contests today, giving each of you the chance to win DVD copies of Universal's Mask, American Dreams: Season One and The Ladykillers, Warner's Hitchcock Signature Collection, Everwood: The Complete First Season and Without a Trace: The Complete First Season, New Line's The Twilight Zone and Lions Gate's Punisher. The contests will run for 2 weeks until Noon PDT on Sunday September 19th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/7/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Well, here we are... Tuesday. Still kinda feels like Monday though. ;-)

We've got a lot more on the way for later today, but first I wanted to jump in here with word that Paramount is going to be releasing Star Trek: The Complete Original Series on 12/14 (all 3 seasons), followed by Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Series on 12/21 (all 7 seasons). Here's a look at the packaging for both sets...

Star Trek: The Original Series & Star Trek: Voyager - complete sets

For you Sci-Fi fans, Word is Paramount is going to be releasing The 4400 on 12/21 as well.

Just FYI, we've updated all the DVD software sales and rental numbers we chart here at The Bits, along with the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers. We've also updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its most recent edition (dated 9/3).

Back later. Stay tuned...

9/4/04

Yeah, this couldn't wait until Tuesday. Go see HERO.

Matt and I just got back from an early Saturday matinee screening of the film, and it's by far the best thing we've seen this year. Probably the best thing we've seen since The Return of the King. A lot of the early reviews compare this film to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but it actually reveals a much greater connection to late-period Kurosawa in terms of style, simplicity and philosophical depth. Films like Ran, Kagemusha and Dreams.

Miramax's trailers for HERO really do it a disservice. They make it seem like another Jet Li wire-fu action film. Rest assured, that's not the case. The combat, while powerful and plentiful, is almost incidental to the story. And don't let the "Quentin Tarantino presents" tag fool you either. We dig the guy's work, don't get us wrong, but this is so far beyond his range he's gotta be humbled by it. This film is a stunning meditation, combining a near perfect blend of movement, color and meaning. If I had any criticism, I would say that it's maybe just a little more intellectually satisfying than emotionally so, but the film certainly doesn't suffer much for that. HERO is in a league all its own.

Seriously. Just go see it. You'll thank us later.

And a quick note to you DVD guys at Miramax and Buena Vista: When you release this film on disc, the transfer quality had so better freaking rock or you will NEVER hear the end of it from us. I mean it - this thing had better sparkle or else.

'Nuff said. See you Tuesday. ;-)

(LATE UPDATE - 9/3/04 - 11 PM PDT)

You know... some cool new cover art became available late in the day today, so I thought I'd close out the week by giving you all a look at it. Here's Warner's The Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection, Volume 2 (11/2) and The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection 14-disc box set (10/19), DreamWorks' Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (street date TBA), and Universal's The Bourne Supremacy (12/7) and the main menu from their Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series (11/16)...

The Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection, Volume 2The Ultimate Oliver Stone CollectionAnchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

The Bourne SupremacyMain Menu from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

By the way, The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection will include Born on the 4th of July, The Doors, JFK: Director's Cut, Platoon, Salvador, Talk Radio, Wall Street, Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut, Heaven and Earth, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, Oliver Stone's America, U-Turn and the exclusive Ultimate Oliver Stone bonus disc (SRP $129.92).

Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/3/04 - 1:45 PM PDT)

Afternoon, everybody! We've got two quick items for you today.

First, I wanted to let you all know that Clerks director Kevin Smith is going to be having a special DVD signing event on Tuesday (9/7) to commemorate the opening of his new L.A. store... the Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash Comic Emporium. In addition to Smith, Jason Mewes and other celebrities may also be in attendance. The signing starts at 5 PM, and you can expect there will be a big line. The store is located at 1045 Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles. Maybe we'll see you there!

By the way, Bits reader Esteban S. has found subtle confirmation on the official Star Wars.com website of the changes to the films on the new Star Wars Trilogy DVDs. On a special offer page for an "exclusive Hologram Emperor" action figure, you'll find this text:

"Starting September 21, the debut of the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD is going to have fans seeing the film in a whole new way... from the unbelievably clear digital restoration and remastering of the picture and sound, to a few other surprises."

The folks at Lucasfilm do like their surprises, don't they? Just to let you know, I'll be attending Lucasfilm's official press event for the Star Wars DVD release next week here in L.A., so it's very possible you could start seeing the first reviews of the 4-disc set as early as the end of next week (Lucasfilm has an embargo date on reviews in place, but you can bet we'll post ours as soon as we're allowed to do so).

Okay... given that it's a 3-day weekend for you North American readers (owing to the Labor Day holiday), our next post will be on Tuesday. But we'll be back then with a major Upcoming DVD Cover Art update and several new DVD reviews.

Have a great weekend and we'll you then!

(LATE UPDATE - 9/2/04 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Howdy, kids. We've just received an official statement from Paramount about the Generations delay...

"There is a typographical error on the Star Trek Generations Special Collector's Edition DVD. It inadvertently notes a teaser and theatrical trailer that are not on the DVD. As a result, this product is being recalled and street date (originally September 7) is being delayed. We will provide further information on a new street date shortly."

So there you have it. We'll keep you up to date.

Anyone out there interested in the classic, British animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm? Home Vision is releasing the Animal Farm: 50th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition on 11/2 (SRP $24.95). According to the official press release, the DVD "includes a new digital restoration, scenes as told through original storyboards, an audio commentary by film historian Brian Sibley, Down on Animal Farm - a 30-minute BBC produced making-of featurette presented by Tony Robinson, and liner notes by author and art historian Karl Cohen (Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America)."

Finally this afternoon, CNN/Money is reporting that Warner may be about to close the deal in its months-long effort to purchase the MGM film library. MGM has reportedly restricted some of its employees' ability to trade shares in the company, a strong indicator that something's afoot behind the scenes. Thanks to Bits reader Chris W. for the heads-up on this. Other news sources (click here and here) also have updates on the deal today, saying that to make their bid more attractive to MGM majority owner Kirk Kerkorian, Warner has shifted their offer to all cash (from cash and stock). Looks like this could be for real, folks.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/2/04 - 12:01 AM PDT)

It's official, folks. After saying they were and then saying they weren't, Paramount is again saying that they ARE recalling the Star Trek: Generations - Special Collector's Edition so that the inaccurate spec listing on packaging can be corrected. The title will NOT be released on 9/7 as originally scheduled. Naturally, since the discs have already shipped out to retailers, many copies will still find their way into consumers' hands on 9/7. Whatever you do, DON'T pay a huge price for the disc on eBay. Paramount expects to announce the revised street date soon, so don't get ripped off by unscrupulous types on the secondary market. The title is still coming, and sooner rather than later. We'll give you the new date as soon as Paramount sends it over.

Some good news for you David Lynch fans today. MGM has officially announced the DVD release of the Wild at Heart: Special Edition for 12/7 (SRP $19.98). The disc will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video mastered from a new high-definition transfer supervised by Lynch himself. Audio will be included in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround. Extras will include Dell's Lunch Counter (featuring all new interviews with Lynch, Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Diane Ladd and Sheryl Lee), the 30-minute Love, Death, Elvis & Oz: The Making of Wild at Heart documentary, the Specific Spontaneity: Focus on David Lynch featurette (featuring the cast and crew talking about working with the director), the David Lynch: On the DVD featurette (featuring the director talking about the new transfer), the film's original 7-minute EPK featurette, an animated photo gallery featuring 65 images, the original theatrical trailer and TV spots.

MGM has also officially announced that Martin Scorsese Film Collection we told you about in The Rumor Mill a few days ago. Set to street on 12/14 (SRP $69.96), the set will include the New York, New York: Special Edition, a 2-disc Raging Bull: Collector's Edition, and the previously released The Last Waltz: Special Edition and Boxcar Bertha. The New York, New York: Special Edition will be presented in 1.66:1 letterboxed widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 and mono audio (SRP $19.98 separately). Extras will include audio commentary, alternate takes, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, and the film's theatrical and teaser trailers. The Raging Bull: Collector's Edition will be presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround audio (SRP $29.98 separately). Extras will include audio commentary by Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, a separate cast and crew commentary, a "storytellers" commentary, 3 documentaries (including Before the Fight: The Writing and Casting of Raging Bull, Inside the Ring: The Making of Raging Bull and The Bronx Bull), 3 featurettes (After the Fight: Creating a Classic, La Motta Defends Title and De Niro vs. La Motta) and the theatrical trailer.

Also coming on 12/14 from MGM is the 6-disc Rocky Anthology box set (SRP $62.96). The set will include all of the films in the series in anamorphic widescreen video (mastered from new high-definition transfers), plus a bonus disc containing A&E's Sylvester Stallone: The Rocky Road at the Top episode of Biography. Note that the original Rocky will feature both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, while all the rest of the films will have Dolby Digital 5.1 audio only.

In other news today, Universal has announced a new Meet the Parents: Special Edition for release on 12/14. No other details are as yet available.

Here's the cover art for Miramax's Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman/Sonatine double feature DVD (11/9), along with MGM's Wild at Heart: Special Edition and Raging Bull: Collector's Edition...

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman/SonatineWild at Heart: Special EditionRaging Bull: Collector's Edition

Stay tuned...


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