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page updated: 6/21/05



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 6/8/05 - 5/18/05)


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6/8/05

Afternoon, folks! We've got some interesting information for you all today on upcoming, in-the-works and newly announced DVD releases.

Before we get into that however, we should take a moment to acknowledge the passing of actress Anne Bancroft on Monday. Bancroft won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for her role in The Miracle Worker, but she's best known for her turn as the infamous Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols' The Graduate, opposite a young Dustin Hoffman. She also appeared in a trio of Mel Brooks films, including Silent Movie, To Be or Not to Be and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. She'll be missed.

Now then, we have some new information from our various industry sources today on a number of titles in the works at Fox and Universal. That's in The Rumor Mill and you definitely don't want to miss it. Think mockingbirds, aliens, Jedi, TPS reports, etc.... Get the picture?

In other news today, Universal has announced the release of House: Season One for 8/30. The FOX series will hit DVD on 3 discs featuring all 22 episodes (including the pilot) in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. SRP for the set will be $59.98. There's no word on extras if any.

Speaking of Universal, we've learned that their Rumble Fish: Special Edition (9/13) will include deleted scenes, audio commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola, the A Look Back... The Making of Rumble Fish documentary, The Percussion Based Score featurette (featuring archival footage and new interviews with Stewart Copeland of The Police), and Copeland's Don't Box Me In music video. Nice. See the artwork below.

20th Century Fox has set The Cabinet of Caligari, The Doctor and the Devils, Dressed to Kill (1941), The House on Haunted Hill (1958), The Innocents, Killer Tomatoes Eat France!, Killer Tomatoes Strike Back and The Omen 4: The Awakening for release on 9/6.

Warner has announced Taboo: The Complete Second Season for release on 9/20, with the animated Atomic Betty: Volume 1: Betty, Set, Go!, Atomic Betty: Volume 2: Betty to the Rescue and an Atomic Betty 2-pack due to follow on 10/13.

In other news today, Paramount has finally released cover artwork for Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Three. According to label on the cover, the 7-disc set will include (at least) more deleted scenes and outtakes. The U.S. street date and full specs are still officially TBA, but we have a tentative date of 9/20.

Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Three

And for samurai flick fans, AnimEigo will release Samurai Banners (starring Mifune Toshiro) on 7/12, with Red Lion (also starring Mifune) tentatively following in September.

On the HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc front, Toshiba has just announced the development of recordable HD-DVD disc technology. This move is certainly intended to counter the fact that recordable Blu-ray Disc hardware and media is already available in Japan. It's yet to be determined how soon after the format's launch later this year the recordable option will become available to consumers.

All right... let's round out today's post with some new DVD cover artwork, shall we? Here's Sony's The Brown Bunny: Superbit (8/16), Paramount's Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Three, Witness: Special Collector's Edition (8/23) and Sahara (8/30), Universal's Rumble Fish: Special Edition and Disney's The Muppets' Wizard of OZ (8/9)...

The Brown Bunny: SuperbitStar Trek: Enterprise - Season ThreeWitness: Special Collector's Edition

SaharaRumble Fish: Special EditionThe Muppets' Wizard of OZ

Stay tuned...

6/7/05

So we've figured out the reason for the Pink Panther: Cartoon Collection delay. MGM (now Sony's) live-action remake, starring Steve Martin, had been set for an 8/5 release to theaters. Sony however has made the decision to delay the release of the film until 2/10/2006. Says Sony Pictures Releasing president Rory Bruer, in a statement to the press (see Reuters story):

"With the recent acquisition of MGM, we wanted to give our marketing department the time and opportunity to launch this very important franchise. We've seen the movie, and we really love this film. It's a franchise we believe in and are really excited about, and Steve Martin is great as Clouseau."

No doubt Sony's decision to delay The Pink Panther: Classic Cartoon Collection DVD set from its original 7/26 street date reflects this theatrical re-scheduling move. After all, as they say, timing is everything in Hollywood. We've also learned that MGM/Sony's live-action Pink Panther DVD re-issues that had been set for 7/26 have been delayed as well (although MGM's previously-released Pink Panther Film Collection set will remain on store shelves). We'd frankly be surprised if Universal didn't delay their planned 7/26 release of The Return of the Pink Panther too, but we'll have to wait and see.

In other news today, MGM WILL release The Ballad of Jack and Rose on 8/16.

Sony's set TJ Hooker: The Complete First and Second Seasons for release on 8/2.

Warner's The Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season has been announced for 9/27.

HBO will street Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fourth Season on 8/30.

Here's a nifty little surprise: Blue Underground is prepping a Fire and Ice: Special Edition DVD for 8/30. That's the 1983 Ralph Bakshi animated film.

And in the "You Knew It Was Coming" category, a pair of adult publishers (Glay'z and H.M.P.) have announced that they're going to start releasing UMD titles for Sony's PSP in Japan next month. And by UMD titles... I mean ADULT UMD titles. Porn. I don't even want to know what the titles translate to, but we've added them to our UMD Release List.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/6/05 - 7 PM PDT)

Just a quick update before we sign off for the day. We've just been informed by studio representatives that The Pink Panther: Classic Cartoon Collection 5-disc box set, previously announced for 7/26 from MGM, has been delayed until further notice. We have no information as to what the specific reason for the delay might be, but it's likely a decision that's been made by Sony (which now owns and distributes MGM titles). We'll let you know when we hear anything further on this.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/6/05 - 5 PM PDT)

Today's post comes a little later than I expected, but we're doing a little remodeling work here at Casa Hunt on the left coast, and I kinda got caught up in it all. Life happens, you know?

In the meantime, our own Robert Harris has checked in today with a new Yellow Layer Failure column. In this edition, Robert takes a look at a couple new documentaries just released as extras on a DVD special edition - extras that are actually of real value for a change. Don't miss it.

On the DVD news front, Buena Vista has announced a number of new titles, including Track Down, Dear Frankie and Prozac Nation on 7/5, Momentum and When Billie Beat Bobby on 8/2, A Lot Like Love on 8/23, Den of Lions, Haven and Paris Is Burning on 9/6, and Twin Sisters (De Tweeling) on 9/13.

Also newly announced by Buena Vista is the third wave of Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites titles, which will include Volume 8: Holiday Celebration with Mickey and Pals and Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories, both on 9/27 (SRP $14.99 each).

Not done yet - the studio has announced a trio of new Miramax re-issues for 9/30 as well, including a Don't Be a Menace: Special Edition, an unrated Scary Movie 3.5 DVD and a 3-disc Chicago: Miramax Collector's Series set.

Don't Be a Menace will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, featurettes on the making of the film and The Wayans Brothers Behind-the-Scenes, audio commentary with the filmmakers, deleted scenes, the film's theatrical trailer and TV spots.

Scary Movie 3.5 features a new unrated, 85-minute cut of the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, along with audio commentary (with director David Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss, and writers Craig Mazin and Pat Proft), new deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary, the Making Scary Movie 3 and Making Scary Movie 3... For Real documentaries, outtakes and bloopers, an alternate ending and the Hulk vs. Aliens: Behind the Scenes of the Alternate Ending featurette.

The long-awaited, 3-disc Chicago will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, audio commentary with the director and screenwriter, extended musical performances, song rehearsal footage, a behind-the-scenes featurette, the deleted musical number Class performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, a VH1: Behind the Movie episode, 5 new featurettes (including Chita Rivera's Encore, From Stage to Screen: The History of Chicago, An Intimate Look at Director Rob Marshall, Academy Award-winning Production Designer John Myre and Academy Award-winning Costume Designer Colleen Atwood) and the film's 16-song soundtrack available on DVD (we assume this is a set-top, menu-selectable option).

Don't Be a Menace: Special Edition and Scary Movie 3.5 will SRP for $19.99 each, while Chicago will carry an SRP of $34.99.

In other news, Universal has informed us that their One Last Dance DVD, which has been expect to street on 8/30, has been moved to 8/23. Adjust your plans accordingly.

Finally, Paramount will release Winter Solstice on 9/13, the new The Longest Yard re-make on 9/20 and Branded on 9/17.

Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...

6/3/05

Afternoon, folks! Well, in light of the information we posted yesterday regarding Russell Crowe having just completed a new audio commentary track for the forthcoming Gladiator: Extended Edition DVD (a track he recorded together with director Ridley Scott, by the way), we now feel comfortable offering you the COMPLETE and accurate spec listing for the 3-disc DVD set (which streets on 8/23 - no SRP, but expect the price to be in the $25-30 range). Here's what to look for:

Disc One will include two versions of the film in anamorphic widescreen video, presented via seamless branching - the original 155-minute theatrical cut and a new 172-minute extended cut - audio in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, the all-new audio commentary track with director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe, a video introduction to the film by Scott and an Are You Not Entertained? subtitle-style trivia track.

Disc Two will include the feature-length Strength and Honor: Creating the World of Gladiator documentary, composed of 7 topic-specific featurettes (Tale of the Scribes: Story Development, The Tools of War: Weapons, Attire of the Realm: Costume Design, The Heat of Battle: Production Journals, The Glory of Rome: Visual Effects, Shadows and Dust: Resurrecting Proximo and Echoes in Eternity: Release and Impact).

Disc Three will include an Image and Design section with 2 featurettes (Production Design Primer: Arthur Max and Storyboard Demonstration: Sylvain Despretz), a production design gallery, storyboard gallery and multi-angle storyboard-to-film comparisons (with optional audio commentary) for 3 sequences from the film, including the Germania Battlefront, the Chain Fight and the reenactment of the Battle of Carthage. You'll also get a gallery of Ridleygrams (a sampling of the director's own personal storyboard drawings), a costume design gallery, an in-depth production photo gallery and a Supplemental Archive featuring VFX Explorations of Germania and Rome, a gallery of trailers and TV spots and finally, a collection of abandoned sequences and deleted scenes (Alternate Title Design, Blood Version, the Rhino Fight and the newly-discovered Chose Your Weapon deleted scene) including film footage, storyboards, VFX tests and audio optional commentary.

The entire 3-disc set was created by longtime Ridley Scott DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika and his team - the same people responsible for such great past DVD releases as Fox's The Alien Quadrilogy and Sony's Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition and Spider-Man 2: Special Edition - so you know it'll be damn well worth the wait. Even if it doesn't have a DTS track. Just remember, folks... there's only so much room on a single DVD-9.

We've posted it before, but here's the Gladiator: Extended Edition cover art, along with new artwork for Sony's Kung Fu Hustle (8/9) and xXx: State of the Union (7/26). I wonder whose brainless idea it was not to pay Vin Diesel more and replace him with Ice Cube instead? Man, what a dumb move. I really liked the original, but I've got no interest in the xXx series without Diesel as Xander Cage (judging by the paltry box office numbers, neither did anyone else). But I digress. Here's the artwork...

Gladiator: Extended EditionKung Fu HustlexXx: State of the Union

Speaking of Sony (by way of MGM), we've been informed that the previously announced DVD release of Jiminy Glick in La La Wood (which had been expected 7/19) has been cancelled until further notice. We don't know why, but we'll update you when we hear anything.

Also today, Criterion has announced a trio of new DVD releases for August (street date TBA). Look for Roberto Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis (cat #293), Jean Renoir's Boudu Saved from Drowning (#305) and Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri (#302).

Finally today, we've got a great new Digital Bits Power Buy offer, exclusive to our readers, thanks to our partnership with DocDVD! This offer is for the Sharp 56DR650, a truly great 56" rear projection DLP HDTV. Don't wait too long to take advantage if you're interested, because they won't last long.

Okay, that's all for this week. We'll be back on Monday with lots more, so have a great weekend and we'll see you then!

6/2/05

Okay... we're back as promised this morning with Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Coming Attractions column. In this edition, Barrie reviews more than 20 new and recent classic films DVD releases, including Warner's Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection and The Doris Day Collection, Anchor Bay's British War Collection and Ealing Studios Comedy Collection, MGM's Ambush Bay, Attack on the Iron Coast, Beach Red, Beachhead, The Quiet American, Submarine X-1, The Noose Hangs High and Dance with Me, Henry, Image's Paris Underground, Universal's Shirley Temple: Little Darling Pack and 20th Century Fox's The Razor's Edge, The Best of Everything, The Street with No Name. Anna and the King of Siam, Nightmare Alley and House of Bamboo. There's something there for everyone, so enjoy!

Also today, we've got a couple of interesting tidbits in The Rumor Mill from our sources on DreamWorks' forthcoming Gladiator: Extended Edition and Paramount's TBA (classic) War of the Worlds: Special Collector's Edition.

Around the site today, we've updated all of the DVD format stats we track, including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the first two weeks for May. All charts (above) have been updated accordingly.

Around the Net this morning, The New York Times has a fascinating story up on how DVD sales may actually be hurting theatrical ticket sales. As you may know, ticket sales have been down this year from last. The Times' argument is that the reasonable price, convenience and high quality of DVDs these days is such that most people would just as soon wait to watch a film on disc in the comfort of their own homes, rather than fight crowds at the theaters. It's a damn good argument if you ask me. When you consider the soaring cost of ticket prices, soda and popcorn at the local cineplex these days, along with the irritation of ringing cell phones, crying babies and rude audience members who can't shut the hell up during a film, I'd rather just wait to see most films on DVD myself. That's especially true when you consider that so many films these days are arriving on disc soon after the theatrical debut. The piece is well worth a read, so don't miss it. Special thanks to my ol' pal Weatherman Dave for that link.

If you missed it late yesterday, be sure to check out our new Digital Bits Guide to UMD Movies for PSP. It includes a complete list of all the titles that are currently available or announced for the format, that we'll update regularly. Frankly, we're floored by the number of titles already slated for UMD release. We wish some of these studios had supported DVD as enthusiastically this early in the format's life!

Finally, we'll leave you this morning with a look at some new DVD cover artwork. Here's Universal's The Office: Season One (8/16) and The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition (8/30), and Miramax's My Left Foot: Collector's Series (8/16)...

The Office: Season OneThe Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary EditionMy Left Foot: Collector's Series

Okay... I haven't slept in like 36 hours, so I'm off to bed. You all have a great day, and we'll see you tomorrow (Friday)!

6/1/05

We've got some great news today for you Zatoichi fans out there (and judging by the amount of e-mails we get, I know there are a lot of you). We've officially confirmed with Media Blasters that the company has obtained the Region 1 DVD rights to the Japanese Zatoichi Monogatari TV series! The series ran for four seasons (in 1974, '76, '78 and '79 respectively), with approximately 100 hour-long episodes produced in all. Media Blasters is currently planning to release the entire first season (26 episodes) on DVD in 2006. If sales of that first season are good, the company will continue releasing the remaining seasons until the complete series is available on DVD. Media Blasters has promised to keep us updated as their plans develop, so keep checking back here at The Bits for the latest.

Now if we could only convince Miramax to release Zatoichi's Pilgrimage on disc (click here for our recent update on that)... Harvey, Bob? You guys listening?

Moving on today, we've got something else for you that we think you'll find pretty cool... The Digital Bits Guide to UMD Movies for PSP! Sony's new PlayStation Portable (PSP) videogame system is selling very well at the moment, and one of the most interesting things about it is its ability to play movies on Universal Media Disc (UMD) format. Six major Hollywood studios have announced movie titles on UMD for PSP, and several independents intend to release UMD titles as well. So we've put together a primer on the subject, which includes a complete release list of available and announced titles. We'll keep the list up-to-date as new titles are announced, for the convenience of those Bits readers who have adopted the PSP. Enough of you guys have certainly been asking us for a list like this, so we've done you proud. We hope you find it helpful. By the way, if you're into UMD movies and you purchase them online, we'd appreciate it if you'd do so through our Amazon links. It'll help support our continuing work here at The Bits.

In DVD release news today, Universal has announced The Office: Season One for 8/16 (SRP $28.98). The critically-acclaimed U.S. version of the popular U.K. series has already been renewed for another season by NBC. All 6 half-hour episodes will be included on a single disc in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Extras will include deleted scenes, outtakes and more (given how funny series lead Steve Carrell is, those should be pretty good).

Other titles newly announced by Universal include Smile for 9/6 and Silver Hawk, staring Michelle Yeoh, for 9/27.

In other news today, we've learned that Columbia TriStar's Kung Fu Hustle (due 8/9 - SLP $28.95) will include 2 deleted scenes, a blooper reel, audio commentary with members of the cast and crew, the Making of Kung Fu Hustle: A TV Special featurette, a Ric Meyers interview with Stephen Chow, an international poster art exploration gallery and trailers. Video will be anamorphic widescreen with the original Cantonese and dubbed English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio (optional English and French subtitles will be available). The film will also be available in full frame and UMD for PSP the same day.

Around the Net, Variety is reporting briefly today that Warner Bros. will finally release the fully-restored, original 1933 version of King Kong on DVD later this year, likely shortly BEFORE Peter Jackson's re-imagined version hits theaters on December 14th. You normally have to be a subscriber to read Variety's online articles, but if you watch a commercial for Warner's James Dean Collection on DVD first, you can read any complete store for free. Not a bad deal, so do check it out.

Finally today, we've added one more Contest for you, giving you a chance to win Capital Entertainment's World War I in Color: The Complete Series on DVD. Like the others we kicked off yesterday, it will run until Noon (Pacific) on Thursday, June 9th. Click the link to get started and good luck!

For those of you who have been waiting patiently for Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Coming Attractions column, never fear! It WILL be up later tonight or early tomorrow morning, come hell or high water. There are only just so many hours in the day, you know?

Stay tuned!

5/31/05

Welcome back, everyone! I hope all of you had a nice weekend... a LONG weekend for you folks here in the States.

We want to kick off the new week (Tuesday-style), with a trio of fresh DVD reviews from our own Adam Jahnke. Adam's delivered a new Bottom Shelf column in which he spins a trio of biopics on our favorite format, two of them brand spankin' new and one a title that finally streeted last year after a long wait. So here's Adam's take on Warner's The Aviator: 2-Disc Widescreen Edition, 20th Century Fox's Kinsey: 2-Disc Special Edition and Touchstone's Ed Wood: Special Edition. All are well worth your time, and I think you'll find Adam's reviews well worth a read too.

Speaking of reviews, we're going to have a bunch of them for you this week. We'll have Barrie's new column tomorrow, in which he looks at more than 19 classic films on DVD. Then I'll check in on Thursday and Friday with a number of new reviews too... yes, including The Life Aquatic.

Around the site today, we've kicked off FIVE new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's James Dean: The Complete Collection box set, Wonder Woman: The Complete Third Season and The Dukes of Hazard: The Complete Third Season, Sony Music's World Poker Tour: The Bad Boys of Poker, Universal's Law & Order: The Third Year - 1992-1993 Season and the Law & Order: Justice is Served PC game, and a pair of 12" Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series figures from Sideshow Collectibles - Vampire Spike and Vampire Willow! These contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Thursday, June 9th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

And before I sign off this morning, I wanted to take a moment to note the passing on Thursday of actor Eddie Albert. Albert was probably best known to TV audiences as Oliver Douglas on Green Acres, but he appeared in many other films and series over the years, and was Oscar-nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category for his roles in Roman Holiday and The Heartbreak Kid. Personally, I'll always recall him fondly as Jason O'Day in Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain. He'll be missed.

Stay tuned...

5/27/05

We're going to kick things off today with some new DVD announcements and cover artwork.

The big one we need to report today, is that Warner has officially announced the release of a Ben Hur: 4-Disc Collector's Edition for 9/13 (SRP $39.92). The film has been carefully remastered from the original 65mm film elements. You'll find that on Disc One and Two of the set, in anamorphic widescreen video (2.76:1 aspect ratio) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. These first two discs will also include audio commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher (with scene specific comments from actor Charlton Heston), a music-only track showcasing Miklos Rozsa's score, screen test footage, a vintage newsreels gallery, film highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards ceremony and a theatrical trailer gallery. Disc Three will include the 1925 Silent Version of Ben-Hur, presented in the Thames Television Restoration, complete with stereophonic orchestral score by composer Carl Davis. Finally, Disc Four will include a new documentary Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema (featuring interviews with current filmmakers like Ridley Scott and George Lucas reflecting on the importance and influence of the film), the 1994 documentary Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic hosted by Christopher Plummer, the 1986 Directed by William Wyler documentary (featuring the last interview with Wyler before his death) and Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures ( a new audiovisual recreation of the film via stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue). All told, the 4-disc set includes more than 10 hours of bonus material. You'll find the cover art below.

Warner has also announced a New Jack City: Special Edition for 8/23 (SRP $26.99), featuring the film in anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1) along with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by director/co-star Mario Van Peebles, the New Jack City: A Hip-Hop Classic, New Jack City: Harlem World and Harlem World: A Walk Inside documentaries, Ice T's New Jack Hustler, Christopher Williams' I'm Dreamin' and Color Me Bad's I Wanna Sex You Up music videos and the film's theatrical trailer.

In the meantime, not a day after I review the studio's The X-Files: Abduction - 4-Disc Mythology Collection, 20th Century Fox goes and announced the next volume, The X-Files: Black Oil - 4-Disc Mythology Collection, Volume 2, which will street on 8/2 (SRP $39.98). According to Fox's press release, the set will include the following episodes from seasons 3-5: Nisei, 731, Piper Maru, Apocrypha, Talitha Cumi (with commentary by Bob Goodwin), Herrenvolk, Tunguska, Terma, Memento Mori (with commentary with Rob Bowman), Tempus Fugit, Max (with commentary with Kim Manners), Zero-Sum, Gethsemane, Redux and Redux II. You'll also get the Threads of Mythology - Black Oil documentary. All of the episodes will be in full frame except Redux and Redux II, which are anamorphic widescreen. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. You'll find this cover art below as well.

Fox has also announced The Simpsons: Season 6 for 8/16 (SRP $49.98). No word yet on extras.

Here's some new cover art for you: Warner's Ben Hur: 4-Disc Collector's Edition, Fox's The X-Files: Black Oil - 4-Disc Mythology Collection, Volume 2 and Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection (8/23)...

Ben Hur: 4-Disc Collector's EditionThe X-Files: Black Oil - 4-Disc Mythology Collection, Volume 2Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection

We'll be back bright and early on Tuesday (after the Memorial Day holiday) with that review of Life Aquatic and a new column from our own Barrie Maxwell. See you then.

A great (and safe) holiday weekend to you and yours!

5/26/05

Well, it looks pretty certain now that we're in for an HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc format war. Both Sony and Toshiba are now making statements in the media to the effect that the market will eventually have to decide which format will stick. You can read reports on their latest comments at Reuters and Engadget. There's also a ThomasNet report on the new variations of HD-DVD discs recently announced by Toshiba.

Frankly, part of me hopes that both of these formats languish (as seems to have happened to the same camps' DVD-Audio and SACD high-resolution audio formats), so that these idiots might learn a measure of common sense. It's too soon to say whether we'll endorse either format here at The Bits. More likely we'll just cover both to a degree, while giving each side hell for being so pig-headed. When is the consumer electronics industry EVER going to learn that it can't keep jerking consumers around like this?

Okay on to better things. New DVD reviews are the order of the day here at The Bits this afternoon. I've just completed EIGHT of them for you: Paramount's Star Trek: Insurrection - Special Collector's Edition (which streets 6/7), Warner and the BBC's Voyage to the Planets and Beyond (now available), Warner's The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey - The Complete Series box set (now available), Lions Gates' Wooly Boys and Speed Racer: Limited Collector's Editions - Volumes 1-3 (all now available) and finally, 20th Century Fox's The X-Files: Abduction - Four-Disc Mythology Collection (coming on 6/7). That a nice variety of reviews for one day, I'd say. There outta be something in there for everyone.

I'll be back tomorrow with that review of Criterion and Touchstone's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou that I mentioned yesterday, and possibly a couple more. We'll see how ambitious I am tonight.

Stay tuned...!

5/25/05

I'm working to get those reviews done this afternoon, but in the meantime, I wanted to check in with a bit of new information.

First of all, we've got word in The Rumor Mill today on tentative street dates for a few upcoming Paramount DVDs. We're talking new films and BIG catalog titles, so you definitely don't miss it.

Also today, we have word that Warner Bros. is going be releasing a trio of catalog Gene Hackman films on DVD on 7/12, including Twice in a Lifetime, Night Moves and Scarecrow. Twice in a Lifetime will include audio commentary by Ann-Margret, Amy Madigan and director Bud Yorkin, along with the film's theatrical trailer. Night Moves will feature the vintage featurette The Day of the Director and the film's theatrical trailer. Scarecrow will include the vintage featurette On the Road with Scarecrow and the theatrical trailer. All three will SRP for $19.97 each.

Universal's Rumble Fish: Special Edition (9/13 - SRP $19.98) will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, commentary with director Francis Ford Coppola, deleted scenes, featurettes and more.

Universal has also announced The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition on 8/30 (SRP $22.98) which will include 2 versions of the film - the director's cut that appeared on the original DVD release and the theatrical cut (released for the first time on DVD). Other extras will include an introduction by Dan Aykroyd, a behind-the-scenes documentary, concert footage and more (much of this will likely be recycled from the previous DVD). This DVD will be available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions.

There are a couple more TV announcements today by Universal as well - Adam-12: Season One and Emergency! Season One, both for 8/23 (SRP $39.98 each). Been waitin' on old Gage and DeSoto to come rolling out on disc, sirens blaring...

There are a couple of interesting stories around the Net today. First up, Iomega is apparently trying to apply nanotechnology to create 800GB+ optical discs. You can read more on this at PhysOrg.com and also at ITVibe).

TechWeb's Storage Pipeline is reporting that in light of the unification talk failure, both the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD camps are soldiering on with plans to roll-out their competing formats in the next 12 months or so.

Also today, Time Magazine film critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel have posted a list of what they consider the 100 all-time best films. I've looked it over, and I have to tell you, it's a pretty damn impressive list. You've got Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, a pair of films from Stanley Kubrick (Barry Lyndon and Dr. Strangelove), a pair from Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), a pair from Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru and Yojimbo), Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, some Hitchcock, some Fellini, some Truffaut, films from Spielberg, Lucas and Peter Jackson, some older classics, some newer classics. Yessir, a DAMN fine list indeed. Do check it out and, if you haven't seen some of these films, we highly recommend that you do.

Okay... it's back to the review mines here at The Bits. We'll get a bunch of them posted as soon as we can, so stay tuned...

5/24/05

The big DVD news today is that Disney has officially announced the DVD release of The Muppet Show: Season One for 8/9. The long-awaited 4-disc set will include all 24 first season episodes, along with Jim Henson's original pitch reel for the show, a gag reel, the original pilot episode and a feature called Muppet Movies. You'll find possible cover art for the set below. Also on 8/9, the studio will release The Muppets' Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Now then, as many of you out there know, we're MAJOR fans of the Japanese Zatoichi film series, which depicts the adventures of a legendary blind swordsman played by the late Shintaro Katsu. All of the 26 films in the series are now available on DVD in the States (from Home Vision, AnimEigo and Media Blasters)... save one: Zatoichi's Pilgrimage, the missing 14th tale in the series. Exactly WHY this film is unavailable on DVD here, and who owns the release rights to the title, has been a mystery we've been investigating for close to three years now. But we've finally uncovered the answer to those questions... and they might surprise you.

As it turns out, Miramax purchased the U.S. rights to the film a number of years ago. Apparently, director Quentin Tarantino was interested in doing a remake of the film. Of course, not long after this, Japanese director Takeshi Kitano (also known as Beat Takeshi) created his own updated version of the series, Zatoichi, which was also released to theaters and DVD in the U.S. through Miramax. Because of this, the future of Tarantino's version is uncertain. Unfortunately, also uncertain as a result of all this has been the fate of a U.S. DVD release of the original Zatoichi's Pilgrimage. We would like to strongly urge Buena Vista and Miramax to release the film on DVD, and we encourage all of you who are fans of these films to let the studio know you want Pilgrimage on disc ASAP. Sadly, pretty much everything DVD related at Miramax is on hold at the moment due to the Disney-Miramax split. In the meantime, we've updated our Zatoichi series review page with this new information.

In other DVD news today, Paramount has announced The Truman Show: Special Collector's Edition for release on 8/23. The release will include anamorphic widescreen video (at last), along with 8 deleted/extended scenes and the 2-part The Making of The Truman Show documentary. You'll find cover art below.

Sony has announced the release of their xXx: State of the Union - Special Edition for 7/26. Guess Who (Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher) will follow on 8/2. The Discovery Channel's recent Alien Planet and The Brown Bunny: Superbit will street on 8/16. Also coming on that day are Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth and The Deal. In addition, Sony will release MGM's The Ballad of Jack and Rose and a Breakin' Collection (featuring Breakin, Breakin 2, Beat Street and an exclusive bonus disc) on 8/16 as well.

Finally, Filter magazine is reporting that recent U2 performances at Chicago's United Center were recorded for a forthcoming Vertigo Tour DVD release.

Around the site today, we've updated most of the DVD format stats we keep (above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers (for the complete month of April).

On a Star Wars note, for those of you interested in seeing Episode III in a digital theater (as it was meant to be seen), our friends over at From Script to DVD have compiled a list of digital engagements of the film around the world. The list even notes which theaters are known to showing the film digitally at 2K resolution. By the way, there were rumors going around that the digital versions of this film might be slightly longer than the regular film version, but we've been unable to confirm this. It's possible that the longer version is being held back by Lucasfilm for the DVD release instead.

Here's cover art for Disney's The Muppet Show: Season One, Paramount's The Truman Show: Special Collector's Edition, Sony's Downfall (8/2), Guess Who and Ghostbusters 1 & 2 Gift Set (8/2), and New Line's The Purifiers (8/30)...

The Muppet Show: Season OneThe Truman Show: Special Collector's EditionDownfall

Guess WhoGhostbusters 1 & 2 Gift SetThe Purifiers

Okay, we're off to finish up a bunch of DVD reviews. We'll be back tomorrow with new reviews of Criterion's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Paramount's Star Trek: Insurrection - Special Collector's Edition and more. Stay tuned...

5/23/05

Well, there's more bad news today on the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format unification talks. While we believe the presidents of Sony and Toshiba have yet to meet, a number of press outlets are now claiming that the talks have failed altogether. We're getting more details from CMPnetAsia on last week's hard-line comments by Matsushita president Kunio Nakamura, and let's just say things are not looking good.

In other (better) DVD-related news this morning, there are whispers within the animation biz that there's in-house talk at Fox of creating new content based on the animated Futurama for direct-to-DVD release (see report here). This COULD mean new episodes of the series, but consider the information grain-of-salt-worthy until we get some kind of confirmation from the studio. As we mentioned a couple of days ago, Fox has already announced a Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection for release on 8/23.

In a quick Episode III follow-up, it's being reported (see this link from AP via Yahoo) that the final Star Wars film ever grossed a whopping $158.5 million in its first four days of release (Thursday to Sunday), shattering previous single-day, opening day, three-day and four-day box office records in North America. The previous three-day record holder was 2002's Spider-Man with $114.8 million (Episode III took in $124.7 million in that same time), while the previous four-day winner was 2003's The Matrix Reloaded at $134.3 million. Add another $144.7 million from overseas ticket sales this weekend, and Episode III clicks in at a whopping $303 million worldwide in just four days. With an estimated budget of $115 million, the film likely paid for itself sometime late on Thursday night or early Friday. It will be interesting to see where its box office numbers go in the weeks ahead, and the DVD's just six or seven months away.

Of course, bootleg DVD versions of the film (reportedly based on a time-coded, VHS-quality workprint) have already leaked online and are being sold by street vendors in New York, Asia and elsewhere around the world (see this story at CNN). You knew that was coming. We'll just wait for the REAL DVD, thanks.

Around the site this morning, we've kicked off FIVE new Contests, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Warner's The Aviator, Batman: The Animated Series - Volume Three, The Batman: Training for Power - Volume One, Samurai Jack: Season Two and Super Friends: Volume Two, Showtime's Fat Actress: The Complete First Season, Fox's M*A*S*H: Season Eight and three Frank Sinatra titles from Fox including The Detective, Tony Rome and Lady in Cement, and finally NINE great catalog westerns and war movies from Fox including The Bravados, Broken Lance, Buffalo Bill, Drums Along the Mohawk, A Farewell to Arms, Forty Guns, Frogmen, In Old Arizona and Warlock. That's NINETEEN titles we're giving away, folks! The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, May 29th. Click the links to get started and good luck!

Stay tuned...

5/20/05

We've got some new DVD announcement news for you today. First up, DreamWorks and Universal have finally revealed their Gladiator: Extended Edition for release on 8/26. The 3-disc set will include two versions of the film in anamorphic widescreen video on Disc One - the regular 155-minute theatrical cut and a newly assembled 171-minute extended edition (that's 16 minutes longer for those of you who hate to do the math). Audio will be available in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Disc Two will feature an in-depth documentary on the making of the film, while Disc Three will feature many additional supplements. All of this will be included in Digipak packaging with an outer slipcase, plus a 12-page booklet. No SRP has been set. We expect official details on the set's extras soon (although you'll find tentative details here from a Rumor Mill post on the title). In the meantime, you'll find the cover art below.

Universal has also announced a Coal Miner's Daughter: 25th Anniversary Edition and a new Rumble Fish: Special Edition, both for release on 9/13. There are no details yet on the Rumble Fish extras, but Coal Miner's Daughter will include audio commentary with Sissy Spacek and director Michael Apted, the Tommy Lee Jones Remembers Coal Miner's Daughter and President George Bush, Sr. Salutes AFI and Coal Miner's Daughter featurettes, a new interview with Loretta Lynn and Apted and more.

In other release news, Buena Vista has finally announced Touchstone's Once and Again: The Complete Second Season for 8/23. Based on your e-mails, a surprising number of you have been waiting for the second season of that show. Must be Billy Campbell's recent appearance on The O.C.. Hey, speaking of Campbell, what the hell is taking Buena Vista so long to release The Rocketeer: Special Edition anyway? Now THERE'S a title I'd pay good money for.

Also today, Warner Bros. has announced the release of the animated ThunderCats: Volume One for 8/9 (SRP $64.92). The 3-disc set will include the show's first 33 episodes in their original full frame video with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio, along with the Feel the Magic, Hear the Roar: ThunderCats Fans Speak Out featurette. HHHOOOOOOOOO!!!

In other news today, there's unfortunately been some rather negative developments on the HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc front. For those of you who think that giant media conglomerates are above waving their dicks around to see whose is bigger, here's proof to the contrary. Not a week after Toshiba defiantly announced their three-layer, 45GB HD-DVD disc, TDK has upped the ante by announcing a four-layer, 100GB recordable Blu-ray Disc (see the story here at Entgadget). Good lord... a 100GB disc. Oh, we're not done.

Matsushita president Kunio Nakamura (a Blu-ray Disc proponent) then went ahead yesterday and basically gave Toshiba the very public finger, by saying that it's up to Toshiba and the HD-DVD camp to yield their position in the stalled talks for a unified format, and that Matsushita and Sony won't budge (you can read more on this at E-Commerce Times and ExtremeTech). As you recall, there had been rumors that the two sides were close to a deal based on using the physical Blu-ray disc spec along with HD-DVD data writing software, but Toshiba quickly and publicly denied this. Word is Toshiba is afraid of angering its partners in the HD-DVD camp, many of which have already been re-tooling their production lines to replicate discs based on the HD-DVD spec. If the final format was based more on Blu-ray, they'd have to once again re-tool their production equipment (read more on that here and here).

Look... Toshiba DOES need to back down in my opinion, because far more serious than angering its partners is the danger of angering consumers and early adopters with a format war, which would likely kill interest in high-definition content on disc, at least for the next several years. And the reality is, the Blu-ray Disc spec appears to be superior, and has the support of virtually the entire computer and consumer electronics industry. But still, acting like petulant children isn't going to help anything. Sometimes you just want to sit these guys down in a room and give 'em a good solid scolding, you know? I'll tell you, our technology may have gotten better in the last thirty or forty thousand years or so, but humans are all basically still just different tribes of cavemen clubbing each over the head to get the best watering hole or tastiest piece of mammoth meat. "My god is better than your god!" BONK. "We're taking sixty percent and you're getting forty!" CLONK. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!!" THONK.

Ah well. Just keep reminding yourself... 6 x 9 = 42. Douglas was a wise man indeed.

On a more upbeat note, Paramount has informed Video Business that they expect to release a whopping 240 TV titles in 2005, and the studio is already planning next year's slate. It's more proof that the TV on DVD category has become a huge growth area for the format. And yet, here I sit... STILL waiting for Quark and Supertrain...

Here's an even MORE upbeat note, if you're George Lucas anyway. AP is reporting that Star Wars: Episode III raked in a whopping $50 million clams in North America on its opening day (including the Midnight shows on Thursday morning), utterly destroying the previous single-day record of $44 million set by Shrek 2 in May 2004. Keep in mind, this doesn't include ticket sales today, tomorrow or Sunday, and it doesn't include ticket sales worldwide either. Anyone have a wager as to how much this flick will take in for the 4-day opening weekend in North America? $150 million? $200 million? I wouldn't even DARE to hazard a guess as to what the global haul will be this weekend.

Speaking of Episode III, a LOT of you have been e-mailing me to ask about those two surprising pieces of information you learn in film - the things I mentioned in my review a couple weeks ago. One I'm sure most of you caught, but the other it seems a lot of people don't. So here they are (I'll make the text black so those of you who haven't seen the film yet aren't spoiled - just highlight the following with your mouse pointer if you want to read it):

When Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis, he says that Plagueis knew the secret of using the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life, that Plagueis taught this power to his apprentice, and that his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Palpatine, of course, was that apprentice, which implies that either Plagueis created Anakin before Palpatine killed him... or Palpatine created Anakin himself. It rings true as the obvious payoff to both the midi-chlorian concept and Anakin not having had a father (from Episode I). On the other hand, Palpatine was lying about Plagueis knowing how to save people from death - simply playing on Anakin's fears about Padme. The second bit of information, is when Yoda reveals to Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon learned how to retain his consciousness after death, and that Qui-Gon will teach both Yoda and Obi-Wan this secret during their years of exile on Dagobah and Tatooine. In the film's shooting script, there was actually a brief conversation between spirit Qui-Gon and Yoda, but the scene was later cut (click here to read the scene in text format). You just see the tail end of it in the film now - Yoda appears to be meditating when Bail Organa comes into say that Obi-Wan has made contact (en-route from Mustafar). I hope Lucas shot the whole scene, because I'd love to see it on the DVD release.

Okay... there you go. Major stuff. Watch for it the next time you see the flick.

We're going to leave you today with some new upcoming DVD cover art. Here's DreamWorks' Gladiator: Extended Edition, Dimension's Frank Miller's Sin City (8/16), Sony's Steamboy: Director's Cut (7/26), Warner's ThunderCats: Volume One, and Touchstone's Life As We Know It: The Complete Series (8/23) and Once and Again: The Complete Second Season...

Gladiator: Extended EditionFrank Miller's Sin CitySteamboy: Director's Cut

ThunderCats: Volume OneLife As We Know It: The Complete SeriesOnce and Again: The Complete Second Season

We're working on a bunch of new DVD reviews for Monday and Tuesday (barring any major breaking news), so have a great weekend and we'll see you then.

Peace out.

5/19/05

Ah yes... the great Episode III day after hangover. How many of you out there are suffering? Feel comforted in knowing that you've got a LOT of company.

We've got a couple things for you today. First up, our very own Adam Jones checks in this afternoon with three more new DVD reviews... MGM's Species III: Unrated Edition, New Line's Son of The Mask: Platinum Series and Anchor Bay's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Adventures in Friendship. A more diverse trio of reviews in a single shot we DARE you to find. Enjoy.

Also today, we've got a couple interesting stories to report from around the Net. First, Wired has a piece up on a research group in the UCLA Department of Silly Persons that's come up with a new kind of anti-piracy measure - biometic restriction of DVD movies. Yes, this wunderbar technology would insert an RFID (radio frequency identification) tag into DVD discs. When you purchased the DVD at the store, you'd have your fingerprint scanned, and that information would be recorded onto the disc's tag. Then, when you get the movie home and pop it into your DVD player, the use of a special fingerprint reader on your player would be required in order to view the movie. If your newly-scanned print matches the one on the disc, the movie starts playing normally. If not, the joke's on you (and you're a double-dumbass for buying a DVD player with a fingerprint reader on it in the first place).

Hey... I feel like giving my DVD player the finger too some days, but come on! Methinks a few researchers at UCLA have WAY too much time on their hands. Do they give out grant money for this stuff?

The other interesting story is at Engadget - an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In the text, Ballmer implies that there may be some future hardware "surprises" with regard to their just announced Xbox 360 game machine. He hints that Microsoft is going to be "agile on our feet, relative to the issues between HD DVD and Blu-ray." Could this be taken to mean that Microsoft may somehow add HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc compatibility to their machine down the line (possibly as a Mark II unit or as an add-on device to the 360)? Hhhmmm.... Cagy, Ballmer. Very cagy.

Stay tuned...

5/18/05

Yes... it's a sad day in the streets of Gotham. Frank Gorshin, best known as Batman's arch-nemesis The Riddler on the classic 60s TV series, passed away yesterday at the age of 72. We'll always remember him fondly here at The Bits for his creepy turn as Dr. Fletcher in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, and for his black-on-the-RIGHT-side Bele on the original Star Trek episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Judging by his lengthy list of credits at IMDB, Gorshin kept himself quite busy in recent years. He'll most certainly be missed.

Okay, on to better news. We've got a bunch of new upcoming DVD release announcements for you.

First up, Universal has announced The Wedding Date for 8/16 and One Last Dance for 8/30.

Sony has announced some new August titles for 8/9, including Kung Fu Hustle (for both DVD and UMD/PSP), Look at Me, Off the Map, Murder at the Presidio, a Kung Fu Hustle/The Medallion 2-pack, T.J. Hooker: The Complete First and Second Seasons (6-discs) and The Replacement Killers (UMD/PSP).

Sony has also announced some of the MGM titles they expect to release in August. On 8/9, watch for a number of live action fairy tale films, including Beauty and the Beast (1986), Huckleberry Finn (1974 - directed by J. Lee Thompson), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), The Emperor's New Clothes (1988), Hansel and Gretel (1987), Puss in Boots (1988), Snow White (1987) and Tom Sawyer (1973).

Buena Vista and Dimension have confirmed that Frank Miller's Sin City will street on 8/16 (SRP $29.99). The disc will feature 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video, with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. The extras are as yet unannounced, but look to be just a production featurette and storyboards. You can expect a more elaborate release later in 2005 or sometime in 2006.

20th Century Fox has unveiled a big DVD slate for August as well. On 8/9, look for Because of Winn-Dixie, Big Black Comedy: Volume 3, Dunston Checks In, a re-issue of Dr. Dolittle (1997), Far from Home, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, In Old Chicago, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Oh Heavenly Dog (Chevy Chase) and Roswell: The Final Chapter - The Complete Third Season. Following on 8/16 is The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season. On 8/23, you'll see The Adventures of Ociee Nash, Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection, The Roach Approach: Don't Miss the Boat and The Roach Approach: The Mane Event. Finally, rounding out the month on 8/30, you'll get Garfield and Friends: Volume 4, Strawberry Shortcake: Moonlight Mysteries and new editions of three Shirley Temple films, including Heidi, Curly Top and Little Miss Broadway.

New Line has announced King's Ransom for release on 7/26, and The Purifiers on 8/30.

Finally, Warner Bros has announced Garbo: The Signature Collection for 9/6 (SRP $99.92). The 10-disc set includes Anna Christie, Anna Karenina, Camille, Flesh and the Devil, Grand Hotel, Ninotchka, Queen Christina, Mata Hari, a double feature of The Mysterious Lady and The Temptress on the same disc and the TCM Archives: Greta Garbo documentary. Flesh and the Devil, The Mysterious Lady and The Temptress will also be available separately on the TCM Archives: Garbo Silents 2-disc set (also due on 9/6, SRP $39.92).

Other Warner titles streeting on 9/6 include a BBC Charles Dickens Collection (SRP $59.98), featuring Bleak House, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewitt and Our Mutual Friend (which are also available separately), the BBC's Doctor Who: Episode 92 - Horror of Fang Rock and Doctor Who: Episode 45 - The Mind Robber, The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Editing, Magic School Bus: Catches a Wave, Magic School Bus: Human Body, Trollz Volume 1: Best Friends for Life and Trollz Volume 2: Magic of the Five.

On a completely different topic, a lot of you have e-mailed me in the last few days to ask what I though of Star Trek: Enterprise's final two hours. Well, I'll tell you, Terra Prime was simply outstanding. The episode had a classic Trek feel and subject matter, it involved the entire cast at their best, guest star Peter Weller chewed up the scenery as the vile (but idealistic) Paxton and the episode's final scene was one of the most poignant endings of a Trek episode in years. It was easily one of the best hours of the season.

Unfortunately, the series finale, These Are the Voyages..., was just absolutely awful, depressing and disappointing. It almost completely ruins Terra Prime's touching final scene by backing away from a character relationship that had taken two full seasons to FINALLY reach a satisfying place, then actually kills off one of the pair in a contrived and arbitrary subplot involving a kidnapping, a stolen jewel and Silly Aliens of the Week (TM). Most of the rest of the Enterprise cast are reduced to being guest stars on their own show, with little screen time and almost nothing in the way of character development. Sadly, the episode's real stars are Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, as Riker and Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation - the entire hour is basically the continuation of a mediocre TNG episode. All of the Enterprise scenes take place in the Enterprise-D's holodeck, meaning that none of what you see is real anyway. Even the episode's conclusion, in which Archer is about to give Another Big Gazelle Speech (TM) at the signing of the Federation charter, is ruined by Riker, who has the balls to say "Computer, end program" before Archer gets to utter a single word. All of this is frosted with a quick montage of three ships named Enterprise - stunningly, it's the only thing in the episode that's NOT likely to trigger a brain aneurysm among those brave souls who stuck with this series through four difficult seasons.

If this had been a regular episode of Enterprise, it would still have been a damned weak episode of The Next Generation. But as the Enterprise series finale, it was absolutely abysmal and frustrating. Many of the cast and crew of Enterprise have openly criticized the finale, and they're right to do so. It's just appalling, ranking right up there with Voyager's finale (in which the crew finally gets home to Earth but ends before you get to see it) and Captain Kirk's death by falling off a bridge in Star Trek: Generations (not the bridge of a starship but a LITERAL bridge). Fans have once again been screwed over by Trek executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who naturally wrote These Are the Voyages... (and, not coincidentally, were also responsible for the Voyager finale, Kirk's silly death and Enterprise's aimless first two seasons which eventually killed the series).

To Manny Coto, Mike Sussman, Judith Reeves-Stevens, Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Andre Bormanis and all the rest of the cast and crew of Enterprise, I really want to say this... thank you. You guys gave the fans a helluva great last season and you restored my faith in Star Trek. I hope you all get the chance to return to Roddenberry's universe someday.

And to Rick Berman and Brannon Braga... what the hell were you guys thinking? Seriously, what have you both been smoking? Thanks for tossing salt in the wound and adding insult to injury. I hope Paramount finally sees your half-assed stewardship of Star Trek for what it is and shows you both the door. But hey, good luck in whatever you do next, 'cause if karma exists, you're REALLY going to need it. This is what happens when you rest on your laurels for a decade: "Computer, end franchise."

Okay, turning to another sci-fi franchise that's about to come to a close... I know for a lot of you, today is a very, VERY big day. Many thousands of you are, even as I type this, waiting anxiously in line for the 12:01 AM opening of the last Star Wars film ever. Countless more of you are planning to play hooky from work tomorrow to head to your local theater. As I said in my review of the film a couple of weeks ago, I think most of you are going to find that it was by and large worth the wait. Matt, Sarah and I are going to be joining those of you in line at the Irvine Spectrum for one of tonight's screenings, so maybe we'll see you there. Let me just say this to Star Wars fans everywhere: I hope you all enjoy Episode III. Savor every minute of the experience, because tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your lives. You'll understand that tomorrow, believe me.

Okay, that's it for now. Our best to you all, "May the Force..." and whatnot, and we'll see you back here tomorrow. Stay tuned...


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