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(Archived Posts 5/18/06 - 5/3/06)
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UPDATE - 5/18/06 - 12:15 PM PDT)
In between getting bombarded by Star Wars
e-mails this morning (we expected that, of course, and it seems you're
all as peeved as we are), we're pleased as punch to bring you Adam
Jahnke's latest edition of
Bottom Shelf, in which he reviews a pair of films on disc
either directed by David Lynch (Universal's recent
Special Edition) or presented by him (Sony's
directed by Terry Zwigoff). We've also got Adam's latest installment of
Electric Theatre for you today... so there's more Jahnke
around here today than you can shake a stick at. Enjoy!
Wanna see something cool? The folks at
Criterion Collection have officially unveiled their new website
look and logo. Pretty swell. They've also announced more new titles for
release in August, including Eric Rohmer's The
Bakery Girl of Monceau (Cat #343), Suzanne's
Career (#344), My Night at Maud's
(#345), La Collectionneuse (#346),
Claire's Knee (#347) and Love
in the Afternoon (#348)... all of which will also be
available in the Six Moral Tales
box set (#342). Also coming in August from The Big C are Noah Baumbach's
Kicking and Screaming (#349) and
Pietro Germi's Seduced and Abandoned
(#350). That's a damn nice batch of titles there if you ask us.
We've got some more street date information from our industry sources
on a few major upcoming DVD releases (think M:I
3, RV, United
93 and more). You'll find that in
Rumor Mill this morning, so do check it out.
Finally, a lot of people have been asking if Paramount's Apocalypse
Now: The Complete Dossier (due 8/15) will include the
infamous Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's
Apocalypse documentary. We've checked with the studio and
sadly, it will not. Yes, we know... "How can they call it complete
without that?!" We don't know. Do any of you industry types out
there know who owns the rights to the Hearts
of Darkness documentary, and what the status of its DVD
release may be? It would seem like a no brainer.
We'll leave you with some new cover art. Here's Warner's Blazing
Saddles and The Fugitive
on HD-DVD (due this coming Tuesday) and Universal's Inside
Man on DVD (TBA)...
(EARLY UPDATE -
5/18/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)
Well... it seems we've started a bit of a firestorm with this business
we posted yesterday about the original versions of the Star
Wars films on the forthcoming (9/12) DVD release being
offered in non-anamorphic widescreen video only. So be it. Sometimes,
you have to call it like you see it. The news is absolutely true by the
way. We've confirmed it specifically with reps of both Lucasfilm and
Fox. It is no rumor.
By the way, for those of you who don't know what anamorphic means on
DVD, we refer you to our
guide on the subject. [Editor's Note: Keep
in mind that this guide was written some six years ago. Anamorphic
enhancement has since been widely adopted as the industry standard for
presenting widescreen films on DVD... and HD-DVD HAS obviously arrived.
What you will, in fact, be getting on the second disc in each of these
new 2-disc sets (unless something changes dramatically and soon) are
transfers of the original films that were done for the 1993 "definitive
collection" laserdisc box set release. (By way of confirmation,
Lucasfilm's Jim Ward had this to say about the transfers
the recent USA Today story: "It
is state of the art, as of 1993, and that's not as good as state of the
art 2006.") Great. Thanks. Swell.
So the transfers, and the technology used to produce them, are MORE
than a decade old. Of course, they're going to be digitally cleaned up a
bit, and even a non-anamorphic transfer is going to look better in
digital video on DVD than the same transfer would when presented on an
analog laserdisc. Colors are going to bleed less, detail will be a
little sharper. There's also apparently an additional bit of tweaking
being done, because Episode IV
will feature the original 1977 version of the opening crawl (sans the "Episode
IV" text) which has NEVER been released on home video
before, save for in excerpted form in the 2004 Empire
of Dreams DVD documentary (which, we feel strangely compelled
to point out, WAS ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN). In any case, the bottom line
is that the transfers we're getting on DVD are old and they're
non-anamorphic. The video resolution and quality is going to pale in
comparison to the look of most other widescreen films on DVD.
A lot of people have been e-mailing us asking why Lucasfilm doesn't
simply do new anamorphic, high-definition transfers of these versions of
the films. Well... after confirming and posting the non-anamorphic
information yesterday, we started making follow-up calls to various
experts and industry insiders... you know, just to figure out what the
hell was really going on. Were we crazy in feeling a little outraged
about this? Was this really just a half-assed effort designed to milk
Star Wars fans yet again? What was
the real reason for the lack of new anamorphic transfers?
It's been reported previously that when Lucas went back to the original
negatives of the Star Wars films
in the mid 1990s, they were found to be in bad shape. Such bad shape, in
fact, that had they not been restored immediately, the films could have
been lost forever. So restoration is exactly what Lucas had done. Except
that when he was creating the new 1997 Special Edition versions of the
films... he cut the original negatives. So the original negatives of the
theatrical versions no longer exist. Okay, we knew that. But what's the
big deal? What about the original interpositive prints? What about
high-quality release prints? Why can't Lucasfilm just use either of
those elements to do a new transfer for DVD?
Well... at the same time as he was preparing the 1997 versions, Lucas
apparently went on a little tear and recalled every release print of the
theatrical versions that he could get his hands on, and he had them all
destroyed. Which means that when Lucas said back in 1997 that the
original theatrical versions of the Star Wars
films no longer existed, he was serious. He apparently tried hard to
make sure of it.
Nonetheless (and thankfully), we know for a FACT that beautiful dye
transfer prints of the original versions of the films still exist in
private hands, and that additional copies are preserved in a number of
film archives around the world. What's more, Lucas would have been
foolhardy if he didn't keep the original interpositives carefully stored
in a climate-controlled vault for preservation's sake. Come on... of
course he did. No one is THAT stupid that they'd just trash all the
original elements of the films that made them rich beyond the dreams of
If good quality original elements don't exist, where did Lucasfilm get
that footage of the 1977 opening crawl that was used in Empire
of Dreams? And how could it have been presented in anamorphic
widescreen on DVD unless a new anamorphic transfer of the footage was
done or was already available? So why then can't anamorphic transfers of
the films be done now for the new DVDs? It makes no sense whatsoever. In
any case, neither the man himself nor senior Lucasfilm executives are
willing to admit that they exist, because as Lucas has said many times
in the past, "They no longer exist." So what we get are
excuses and bogus claims: "We returned to
the Lucasfilm Archives to search exhaustively for source material that
could be presented on DVD." Right. Guess they didn't look
too hard. Give us two days here at The Bits
and we'll make some calls. We'll find you good quality source materials
outside of the Lucasfilm Archives that could be presented in high
quality on DVD... and in anamorphic widescreen too. All it takes is the
money and the will to get it done right the first time.
What are we left with? Either the films truly don't exist anymore, so
it simply isn't possible to give them to you in state of the art quality
(unlikely in the extreme, as we've said, despite public and private
statements to the contrary)... or Lucasfilm DOES have copies of the
original versions in their vaults, and they're just unwilling (or too
damn cheap) to spend the money to give them to you in state of the art
quality... yet. If the former is true, there can be no future anamorphic
release of the original versions on DVD, and there can be no high-def
release on the new Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD formats. Laserdisc is as good
as it will ever get for those original theatrical cuts. If, on the other
hand, the latter is true (and we believe it is)... Lucasfilm's greed is
Bottom line: This notion that Lucasfilm is doing the fans a favor by
finally giving them the original versions on DVD in 2006... but in 1993
laserdisc quality... is baloney. In fact, it's unacceptable. Even though
most of them probably don't even know what anamorphic means on DVD, or
why they should care about it, the fact remains that the fans are
getting bilked. We hate to say it, because we've known many of the folks
at Lucasfilm for years now. But someone HAS to say it. It needs to be
said. Lucasfilm can and should do better. Who knows? Maybe they're
already planning to do better for the 30th Anniversary of the original
Star Wars next year... and this is
just one more bite at the pie in the meantime.
The strange thing is, Lucas himself doesn't seem to think the fans are
even interested in the original theatrical versions of the films on DVD.
Witness his comments in
recent interview at MTV.com: "It's
just the original versions, as they were," Lucas said. "We
didn't do anything to it at all. But we're not sure how many people want
that." That's just an insane thing to say given how many
Most Wanted DVD lists the original Star Wars
films top around the Net, and the folks at Lucasfilm have to know it. So
here's an unsettling thought... Lucas finally agrees to include the
original versions on the new DVDs, but he won't pony up for new
transfers. Do you suppose there's a deliberate reason for that? If
people don't buy them because of the lack of quality, Lucas can simply
say, "See? People didn't buy them. They don't want 'em." And
if they do buy them, but in a year or two start asking for better
quality, Lucas can say, "Gimme a break. I already gave them to you
on DVD. Now quit bugging me about it." D'oh!
In any case, rest assured that we're as sick of talking about the Star
Wars films on disc as you probably are of hearing it. But our
motto here at The Bits is right up
there in our logo: "Celebrating Film in the Digital Age." It's
awfully damn hard to find anything worth celebrating about this. Which
is a real shame... because it was pretty damn cool news there for a
We'll be back with a new Bottom Shelf
column from Adam Jahnke later today. Don't forget that Barrie Maxwell's
edition of Classic Coming Attractions is up now, so be
sure to check it out.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/17/06 - 4
Okay... we've got a couple more things for you today.
First up, Warner has officially announced the HD-DVD release of Blazing
Saddles and The Fugitive
for this coming Tuesday, 5/23 (SRP $28.99 each). All of the extras that
were on the previous standard DVD versions will be included. Boy...
there's not much notice on these Warner HD titles, is there? Retailers
must be having a tough time getting the info in their systems for
orders. Anyway, we've updated the
Release List accordingly, and we'll post cover art very soon.
Also today, we've just posted Barrie Maxwell's
edition of Classic Coming Attractions, in which he reviews
13 new DVDs, collectively including 14 feature films and a TV series as
well. Among them are Universal's
West: The Glamour Collection (including Night
After Night, I'm No Angel,
Goin' to Town, Go
West Young Man and My Little
Story of Ruth and the
Temple: America's Sweetheart Collection - Volume 3 (including
Little Colonel and The Littlest
Rebel), VCI's Betty
Hutton Double Feature (including The
Stork Club and Perils of Pauline)
G. Robinson Double Feature (including Scarlet
Street and The Red House),
MGM and Sony's new
and Dolls: Deluxe Edition, and Paramount's
Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition. As
always, Barrie also runs down the latest classic release announcements.
Enjoy that, and thanks for your patience while we worked to get it
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/17/06 -
1:15 PM PDT)
Well... things are a little interesting around here today.
We've confirmed something today (directly with both Fox and Lucasfilm)
that we'd begun to suspect... and it's probably going to disappoint a
lot of you. It certainly disappoints us here at The
Bits. Those new DVD editions of the Star
Wars films? The original theatrical versions of the films are
going to be non-anamorphic (our original post on this indicated
otherwise, but we have confirmed that the widescreen versions will be
letterboxed only). What this likely means is that Lucasfilm has simply
re-purposed the non-anamorphic transfers that were done for previous
laserdisc and VHS releases of the "original" versions of the
films. And with that, our enthusiasm for this DVD release has just
dropped through the floor. Anamorphic-enhanced versions of the
theatrical editions, we'd buy in a heartbeat. But what we're going to
get instead is little better than a ported-over laserdisc. In this day
and age, releasing a widescreen film without anamorphic enhancement on
DVD is just unacceptable. Does Lucasfilm really think fans want those
versions of the films on DVD so badly that people just won't care? Yes
Virginia, they do. How many versions of these films do you suppose
Lucasfilm will try to get fans to buy in high-def over the coming years?
And think about it... you just know the studio has to be prepping yet
another standard DVD release for next year's 30th Anniversary of the
original Star Wars. Do you suppose
this means that the theatrical editions won't be included in the super-über
box set of all six films? Probably. Ugh.
Line up like Jersey cows and grease up yer teats, Force fans. Or better
yet... run for the south forty as fast as your hooves'll carry you.
On the subject of Apocalypse Now
today, a lot of you have been asking what aspect ratio the films
included in the 2-disc Complete Dossier
DVD release will be in. Apparently, some are displeased with the fact
that while the films were shot in 2.35:1, they've seldom been released
on video at that exact ratio. Confirmation from both Paramount and
director Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope (see
this link) indicates that the film's cinematographer, Vittorio
Storaro, prefers that Apocalypse Now
be exhibited on video at the slightly cropped widescreen ratio of 2.0:1
(as was the case on the previous DVD releases). Coppola agrees with this
decision, so that's what you'll get on the DVD. While it wouldn't be our
choice, it's hard to argue with the director and DP. Thankfully,
however, both versions of the film on the new DVD will be in anamorphic
widescreen (unlike some OTHER forthcoming and much-beloved films on
Around the site today, we've finally updated
Winner's Circle for those of you who have been wondering who's
won our recent contests.
Speaking of Contests,
we've kicked off a new one today, giving each of you the chance to win
copies of Universal's
Producers on disc. This contest will run until Noon (Pacific)
on Sunday, May 21st. Click on the link to get started and good luck!
Okay, for those of you who have been patiently awaiting Barrie's
column, we'll be back with that shortly. As you can imagine, getting
this Star Wars DVD news confirmed
took priority this morning.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/16/06 -
6 PM PDT)
We wanted to check in here with a quick update this evening, to give
you a look at the cover artwork for the forthcoming Star
Wars: Limited Edition DVDs due on 9/12, which will each
contain both the original theatrical edition and more recent "2004
DVD edition" of the individual films. The art was released by
Lucasfilm on their
Wars.com site earlier this afternoon...
One thing that's kind of cool about this new cover artwork, as you may
already be able to tell, is that while it's done in photo montage style,
it's designed to look like some of the original painted poster art
images from back in the day. We would still have preferred the posters
themselves, but that's Lucasfilm for you. Here they are for
Anyway, we suspect that a lot of people will simply replace the movie
DVDs in their existing
Wars Trilogy box sets with these new 2-disc sets. Of course,
purchasing these new discs means buying a second copy of the 2004
editions just to get the previously unreleased theatrical versions. As
far as we know, the 2004 discs in these new sets will be identical to
the copies you already own, except that perhaps they'll have new art
printed on the discs themselves (the extras - basically just the
commentary tracks - are the same).
By the way, for those of you who may be weary of having to purchase yet
ANOTHER version of the Star Wars
films (after all the previous tapes, laserdiscs and DVDs), we refer you
to the May 5th installment of the online comic strip Rockwood,
by Brian Lundmark (click
this link and scroll down). All too true.
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/16/06 -
2:30 PM PDT)
Warner Bros has made their V for Vendetta
official for release on 8/1, as we expected. You'll find three different
versions available on that day - single disc versions in both full frame
and anamorphic widescreen video (SRP $28.98), and also a 2-disc special
edition (SRP $34.99). The extras are as we described them in
Rumor Mill the other day. There's no word yet of an HD-DVD
version, but we expect one to be announced eventually.
Warner has also announced the DVD release of The
ATL for 7/18 as expected. Look for two versions - full frame
and anamorphic widescreen (SRP $28.98 each).
Sony has set Robert Ludlum's Covert One: The
Hades Factor and a Hudson Hawk:
Special Edition for release on 7/25. In addition, both the
UMD and DVD release of the animated Boondocks:
The Complete First Season have also been moved to 7/25 (from
Universal has announced Severed: Forest of
the Dead for 8/1, four individual volumes of Dog
Whisperer with Cesar Millan for 8/22, Karate
Dog for 8/29 and a single-disc Backdraft:
Anniversary Edition for 9/12. There's no word yet as to the
new extras on Backdraft (if any).
Meanwhile, Buena Vista has set Tsotsi
for release on 7/18. An Escape from Witch
Mountain: 2-Movie Collection (including both Escape
and Return) will follow on 9/5.
Looking long term, watch for a Bad Santa:
Director's Cut on 10/10. Also, Mickey
Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales
will arrive in stores on 11/14.
Over on the mountain, Paramount will release Hogan's
Heroes: The Complete Fourth Season on 8/15.
We also have additional details on Paramount's 8/15 release of Apocalypse
Now: The Complete Dossier. The 2-disc special collector's
edition will include audio commentary on both the 153-minute theatrical
edition and the 202-minute Redux
edition by director Francis Ford Coppola, 12 never-before-seen segments
from the cutting room floor, the lost "Monkey Sampan" scene,
Marlon Brando's complete reading of the T.S. Eliot poem The
Hollow Men, the Apocalypse Then
and Now retrospective featurette, the PBR
Streetgang cast reunion featurette, additional
never-before-seen featurettes, and more. We're trying to determine if
the films will be presented in their correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. We do
know that the discs will be anamorphic widescreen. Audio will be Dolby
Digital 5.1 with English and Spanish subs.
By the way, this would normally go in The
Rumor Mill, so salt accordingly: Sources are telling us that,
despite recent rumors to the contrary, Star
Trek: The Complete Animated Series is still tentatively
expected to be released on DVD by Paramount later this year (likely in
September). However, don't look for much in the way of extras ('cause
there won't be much).
Around the site today, we've also updated all of the DVD format stats
we track (above)
DVD Player Sales numbers for the complete month of April. All
charts should now be up to date.
Here's artwork for Warner's V for Vendetta,
along with Fox's 30 Days (due
Due to all the announcements, we'll be back tonight with Barrie's new
column (for tomorrow). We've got a new column from Adam Jahnke on the
way too. Stay tuned...
Afternoon, folks! Hope you all had a great weekend. It was pretty busy
around the old Hunt household. Some of my family is coming out for a
visit in a couple of weeks, so there's preparations afoot. For those who
have been wondering, Chloe (our new kitten) is finally back home and
doing fantastic. In fact, she's sitting here right next to me watching
birds out my office window as I type. Let's see... what else. I caught
the final episode of The West Wing
last night. Pretty good. It's a shame the show's going off the air - I
was really starting to like the new cast. Ah well. Grey's
Anatomy was pretty good too. Don't forget, the second part of
the season finale is tonight.
Anyway, enough personal stuff. Let's get down to business.
Warner has just officially announced a couple of great classic film
collections for release on 8/15. James
Stewart: The Signature Collection (SRP $49.92) will include
The FBI Story, The
Naked Spur, The Spirit of St.
Louis, The Stratton Story
and a double feature disc containing a pair of films Stewart starred in
with Henry Fonda: The Cheyenne Social Club
and Firecreek. We've been really
looking forward to The Spirit of St. Louis,
so it's nice to finally see it announced. Also on the way is Ronald
Reagan: The Signature Collection (SRP also $49.92), which
will include Kings Row, Knute
Rockne All-American, The Hasty
Heart, Storm Warning
and The Winning Team. Knute
Rockne All-American is another great classic we've been
eagerly awaiting. All of these films will be available separately (as
well as in the sets) for $19.97 each.
Meanwhile, Fox has just announced the release of 30
Days for 7/11. For those who haven't seen it, it's the series
created by Super-Size Me's Morgan
Spurlock, in which different people try to live in each other's shoes
for a month. I've only seen a couple episodes, but it's pretty good from
what I can tell. I'm looking forward to checking them all out on disc.
Paramount has set the 3-disc South Park: The
Complete Eighth Season for release on 8/29. Expect more "mini
commentaries" from Trey and Matt on the set's episodes. Also due
from the studio on 8/15 is the 2-disc Apocalypse
Now: The Complete Dossier, which includes both the original
1979 and the 2001 Redux versions
of the film, along with "audio commentaries, rare unseen footage,
lost scenes, brand new featurettes, Segments
from the Cutting Room Floor, Then &
Now retrospectives and more."
Also, we've gotten word from our friends at Media Blasters that things
are looking good for them to continue releasing additional seasons of
Zatoichi: The TV Series, which
pretty well makes our day (you can read my review of the first three
As we reported last week, Volume Four
is due on 6/13 and Volume Five is
set for release on 8/29. Volume Six
is TBA and will conclude the first season on disc. These are the
episodes you can expect to see in the next two sets:
Volume Four - (014) Fighting
Journey with Baby in Tow, (015) Festival
Song of the Raven, (016) The Winds
from Mt. Akagi and (017) Burning
Sunset in Bridal Pass
Volume Five - (018) Rush
Trip, (019) A Rainbow Over My
Homeland, (020) The Godmother and
the Wolves (aka Female Yakuza Boss
and Wolves) and (021) The Little
Flower That Could
By the way, a few of you have asked us what's up with the one Zatoichi
feature film that remains unreleased on disc here in the States: Zatoichi's
Pilgrimage. As we've reported in the past, Miramax purchased
the rights to the film a few years ago, because Quentin Tarantino wanted
to do a remake... that is until Beat Takeshi did his Zatoichi
film in 2003. The DVD release rights to Pilgrimage
might have passed with the rest of the Tarantino material to The
Weinstein Company, so we're going to keep digging on this one.
Here's cover art for Zatoichi: The TV Series
- Volume Four, along with Paramount's South
Park: The Complete Eighth Season and Apocalypse
Now: The Complete Dossier...
Finally today, you guys want to see something funny? Check out
video of Al Gore from Saturday Night
Live this past weekend. "I assure you, we will not let
the glaciers win." The link is a little slow today, so be patient.
Wanna see something else funny? Check out
Apple Mac commercials starring John Hodgman from The
Daily Show (the guy's a riot - you can view
of his Daily Show work here) and Justin Long, who played
Warren Cheswick on NBC's now defunct Ed.
"No, no... do not be a hero!" One last funny thing to watch...
director Wes Anderson's new
Express commercial. "Can you do a .357 with a bayonet?"
These vids are all good stuff that should give you a giggle or two.
FYI, we'll have
Winner's Circle updated tomorrow. A few of you have asked
about it, so rest assured we'll take care of it.
Back tomorrow with Barrie Maxwell's new Classic
Coming Attractions as well. Stay tuned!
Well... it's the end of another long week, and we've got some new title
announcements to report for you today. We've got some other ground to
cover as well, so let's get to it.
Fox has set the DVD release of The Girls
Next Door: Season 1 for 8/8, The
Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season on 8/15, and a 2-pack of
Romancing the Stone and Jewel
of the Nile on 8/29. The Simpsons
will include a massive slate of extras too numerous to list here (but
expect bonus material similar to what's been on recent season sets for
the series). Two different packaging options will be available -
Digipack and a plastic Maggie head (see pic below).
Disney has announced the DVD release of The
Shaggy Dog (2006) for 8/1 (SRP $29.99).
Meanwhile, Universal will release The Sci-Fi
Boys documentary on 5/16 (SRP $19.98). Hosted by Peter
Jackson, the doc looks at a group of filmmakers who, inspired by Forrest
J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters
magazine, made their own B-movies and later went on to craft some of the
biggest and most influential films of all time - folks like Spielberg,
Lucas, Jackson and Corman. Along the way, you'll get a look at the
evolution of science fiction films and special effects too. It's a cool
piece of work.
Speaking of Universal, we've been getting reports from readers that the
studio's Munich: Limited Edition
is MIA in stores. Indeed, it seems no longer to be available from
Amazon.com. We've got inquiries into the studio as to what's up with the
release and we'll let you know when they get back to us. You can,
however, still widely find the movie-only version in stores (and online)
if you prefer it. [Editor's Note: We've learned
that the 2-disc version hasn't been cancelled and it isn't defective.
Demand was simply much higher than expected, so retailers have had to
order more copies from Universal. You should find the title back in
Also today, Warner has The Flintstones: The
Complete Sixth Season due on 9/5 (SRP $44.98). We should note
that this season introduced The Great Gazoo character, and was also the
show's final year, thus completing the release of the classic Hanna
Barbera animated series on DVD. Extras on the 4-disc set will include
The Flintstones Meets Pop Culture
and The Great Gazoo: From A to Zetox
Speaking of Warner, do check out our latest
Mill update today, with details on when you can expect the
studio's V for Vendetta to hit
DVD, along with other TBA title news.
On the high-definition front, Warner has announced a new batch of
HD-DVDs... sort of... for release NEXT year. The news came at this
week's E3 conference. It seems that Warner Interactive Entertainment is
working on a Dirty Harry videogame
that's set to be released late in 2007, timed to coincide with the
HD-DVD release of a definitive Dirty Harry
Collection from Warner Home Video. The collection will
include Dirty Harry, Magnum
Force, The Enforcer,
Sudden Impact and The
Dead Pool in high-definition with "completely
revamped sound and, with the help of Eastwood himself, may feature some
never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage and many other bonus
materials." Interesting. We've updated the
Release List accordingly. Now if Warner would just announced
The Matrix and Batman
Begins, they'd really be on a roll (watch for that to happen
Speaking of high-def, Stan Glasgow, president and chief operating
officer of Sony Electronics, has apparently let it be known that the
company won't have enough components on hand to manufacture enough
Blu-ray Disc players to meet the expected demand in the States this year
(you can read more on this
PC Mag). Apparently, the global explosion in the
popularity of electronics devices like cell phones has led to a
tightening supply of chips and other components, and thus higher prices.
That certainly isn't good news for the Blu-ray Disc camp.
Of course... maybe demand won't be quite as high as Sony predicts. In
the wake of Sony's PS3 pricing announcement at the E3 convention this
week, we're left with decidedly mixed feelings. On one hand, $599 is a
pretty attractive price when you consider that you'll be getting one of
the lowest-priced Blu-ray Disc players on the market at that time (most
will be closer to $1000), PLUS a next-generation gaming console. On the
other hand, for those only interested in the PS3 for its gaming
functions, $599 might just price the console right out of the "must
by" category for many gamers. If Microsoft drops their Xbox 360
price by, say $50 or more when Sony debuts the PS3 in November, a lot of
people who would normally have purchased the PS3 sight-unseen might
decide to wait a year until the price goes down. Those who waited to buy
the Xbox 360 hoping for a price break might pick up one of those in
November instead. Sony is placing a helluva high bet on the table with
their PS3 price. Meanwhile, the real winner to come out of E3 seems to
be Nintendo. Sure, we all gave the company a lot of crap about naming
their next generation system the Wii. And sure, the Wii won't be able to
render games at higher than 480p resolution. That said, Nintendo's price
for the unit is expected to be well under $300. Plus, Nintendo seems to
be the one company that's really trying to innovate the way people play
games. We're very intrigued by their motion-sensitive wand controller,
and the possibilities it opens up for playing shooters, RPGs and sports
games. And the buzz from the show floor, according to numerous reports
in the press and around the Net, seem to be all about the Wii.
A very real concern we have here at The Bits
about these game systems, and particularly the future of high-definition
on disc, is how much money is too much to ask consumers to pay? We're at
a place in the consumer marketplace where people are worried about
soaring gas prices and higher interest rates. DVD sales are slowing,
movie-going in theaters is on the decline. People only have so much
disposable income. They're often willing to pay when they know they're
getting real value in return... but how much value is Blu-ray Disc and
HD-DVD really going to give them? The only real, tangible improvement
that HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc offer over existing DVD is in the area of
picture and sound. Few people that we know of worry too much about the
lack of picture and sound quality on their existing DVDs. On the
contrary, they're pretty thrilled with it. Keep in mind, most people
don't yet have 16x9 displays and full surround sound systems. When they
do upgrade their gear, their existing DVD library is still going to give
them significant additional quality that they haven't experienced yet by
and large. Do we really think they're going to be eager to upgrade to
high-definition? And despite all the talk about the amazing new
interactivity these formats are expected to offer... eventually... most
people never even interact with all the features on the standard DVDs
they buy. What all of this tells us is that HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are
going to be niche formats for a long time - the laserdisc of the 21st
Century. They'll remain the province of the very high-end cinephiles.
And we think that real success on that level, for either format, is
going to depend on how quickly this format war becomes a moot issue.
Why? Well... even the early adopters we hear from these days are split
as to which format they'll lay down their cash for. Some even tell us
they may wait a year or more, until the landscape for high-def discs
becomes more clear. Again, these are the early adopters we're talking
On the HD-DVD front, two of the four major studios touted at CES as
being supporters of the format, Paramount and New Line, haven't even
officially announced titles yet (Paramount came close to announcing
their first trio of titles last week, then delayed... we're told New
Line is unlikely to release titles until the 4th Qtr at the earliest).
Still, Warner's title announcements are expected to ramp up dramatically
in the coming weeks, and we understand that Universal has some exciting
titles being prepped for summer release on the format as well.
Additional hardware is forthcoming from RCA, and of course there's
Microsoft's Xbox 360 HD-DVD upgrade expected to be out before the end of
the year (specific price and release date are still TBA).
On the Blu-ray Disc side, we'll have to wait and see how their launch
goes. Sony, MGM and Lionsgate are expected to be fairly aggressive with
titles (and have already announced many). We've heard that Fox and
Disney each have a large slate of launch titles nearly ready go, and
that they're just waiting to announce them once hardware delivery dates
are more firmly locked down. Warner's first Blu-ray titles should start
being announced in the next month or two. Pioneer, Samsung, Sony and
Panasonic are all expected to have players out this year, along with
Sony's PS3 in November (which, again, should be the cheapest Blu-ray
Disc player available for a time).
Frankly, the real test of all these formats and systems will come in
the 4th Quarter, when we've had our first chance to see how consumers as
a whole react to them... or not... over the holiday season. Will either
Blu-ray Disc or HD-DVD be the "must buy" item on people's
shopping lists? Will people spend their money on the new game systems
instead? Will they favor the 360 and Wii due to the PS3's higher price?
Or will people simply tighten their belts and avoid all of the above?
Once thing's for sure - there's going to be a LOT of hardware out there
vying for people's hard-earned money. It will certainly be interesting
to see what happens.
In the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to an article by David
Pogue that was run in The New York Times
yesterday, ominously entitled
the World Doesn't Need Hi-Def DVDs. It's a pretty savvy piece
of writing on these new high-def formats. David makes a great argument
for most consumers just to sit this high-def war out, and we certainly
can't say that we disagree with him. In fact, we've made a lot of these
same points here at The Bits over
the last few months. It's interesting how the media buzz for
high-definition has taken a decidedly more cautionary tone compared to
the buzz that was going around in the press back in early 1997 when DVD
first appeared on the scene. Hollywood and the consumer electronics
industry would do well to take note.
Well... got a little long winded there, didn't we? Guess we had to make
it up to you for missing out on Wednesday's post.
Anyway, we'll leave you today with some new cover artwork. Here's art
for Fox's The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth
Season, Warner's HD-DVD versions of Full
Metal Jacket and Unforgiven
(both due on 5/16), as well as their just announced DVD releases of the
Look, Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of
Superman documentary (6/20) and The
Flintstones: The Complete Sixth Season, and MGM's new Some
Like it Hot: Collector's Edition (7/18)...
We'll be back next week with a new Barrie Maxwell column, new HD-DVD
format reviews and more. Have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!
Anyone up for some reviews? The standard DVD kind? We decided to take a
break yesterday and today in order to concentrate on reviewing a few
recent and upcoming releases on everyone's favorite optical disc format.
So presented for your enjoyment this afternoon are my own thoughts on
six DVDs I can happily recommend to varying degrees: 20th Century Fox's
of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut and the long-awaited
Legal: Season One (both due in stores on 5/23), Synapse Films'
of the Will: Special Edition (now available) and Media
Blasters' much appreciated DVD releases of
The TV Series - Volumes One, Two and Three (also now
You guys know what big fans we are of the legendary Blind Swordsman, so
we're pretty thrilled with these TV episode discs (for the record, Volume
Four is due on 6/13 and Volume
Five is set for release on 8/29). Actually, all of these
titles are well worth a look, particularly the new edition of Kingdom
of Heaven, which is a must-have for Ridley Scott fans and
another jam-packed special edition to boot.
One quick note today... we've gotten our hands on Warner's HD-DVD
version of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal
Jacket. The film IS presented in widescreen (we believe at
1.78:1 aspect ratio, but we'll look more closely and confirm that this
weekend). Just FYI.
Okay... so that's it for today. We'll catch you up on any late-breaking
DVD and high-def news tomorrow. We've also got more DVD and HD-DVD
reviews on the way, so stay tuned.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/9/06 -
5:30 PM PDT)
We've gotten several e-mails from Bits
readers this afternoon, indicating that Microsoft may have inadvertently
let the cat out of the bag with regard to the price of the newly
announced HD-DVD add-on drive for their Xbox 360 game system. According
to a few of our ever observant readers, a $199 price for the device
story at Xbox.com for a brief time today. A short time after it
appeared, however, the specific pricing information was removed.
Microsoft is saying publicly that the pricing and availability details
on the accessory will be announced at a later date.
If the price information IS accurate (and keep in mind again, it's not
yet official), that would put the cost of HD-DVD playback capability for
the Xbox 360 at around either $500 or $600 (assuming a purchase price
for the system itself of either $299 or $399, plus the $199 for the
HD-DVD drive). That's actually right in line with Sony's just announced
$499 and $599 models of their PS3, which will be Blu-ray Disc capable
right out of the box. Interesting indeed. We'll keep you up to date as
new information becomes available. Thanks to all the Bits
readers who contacted us on this.
We've got one other interesting piece of high-def information today,
and it concerns those problems we've been having with our Toshiba HD-A1
HD-DVD player locking up on us during playback. Our industry sources are
telling us that the problem is not so much with the player itself, as
with its remote (so both the HD-A1 and the higher-priced HD-XA1 are
affected by this issue, as they basically use the same remote - it's
just back-lit on the XA1). It seems that the remote is very sensitive,
so that sometimes when you press one of its buttons, it inadvertently
sends more than one command to the player. This can cause the player, in
effect, to become confused and stop responding. I'm told that if you
have a universal remote that can learn commands, and you program it
correctly with the Toshiba remote's basic navigation functions (and use
it for this purpose), your player will respond normally without errors.
This makes sense to us, because as reviewers we're typically pretty
aggressive when it comes to skipping around discs, going in and out of
the menus very quickly, etc. And nine times out of ten, that's when we
have the most problems. Toshiba's engineers are apparently working on a
solution (presumably a firmware upgrade to the players) to deal with
this issue. We'll let you know when it's available. Meanwhile, now that
you know what's causing most of the lock-ups, you should have an easier
time avoiding them.
(EARLY UPDATE -
5/9/06 - 11:30 AM PDT)
Warner's announced some interesting new titles on standard DVD today.
First up is ABC's Invasion: The Complete
First Season. I'll tell you, it's actually a pretty
interesting show. Worth checking out if you haven't done so already.
You'll find that in stores on 8/22 (SRP $59.98), complete with
anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Also arriving on 8/22 is a SciFi double feature of Them!
and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
TV fans will also be pleased to learn that Warner will be releasing
Supernatural: The Complete First Season
on 9/5 (SRP $59.98).
Backpeddling to June, however, Warner has just announced a title that
we're particularly looking forward to for 6/20... the Look,
Up in the Sky!: The Amazing Story of Superman documentary,
commissioned by Superman Returns
director Bryan Singer and directed by Kevin Burns. The documentary,
presented on DVD in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1
audio (SRP $14.99), examines the history of the character, from the
earliest comic book appearance to this year's new feature film. Should
Meanwhile, New Line will be reissuing its 3-movie Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles Collection box set on 6/6 (SRP $37.92).
On the high-def front today, Warner has announced another pair of new
HD-DVD titles for release on 5/16 (SRP $28.99). The first is a war movie
and is also Stanley Kubrick's first film on high-def disc, Full
Metal Jacket. The other is Clint Eastwood's Best
Picture-winning western, Unforgiven.
The two discs will include all of the extras that had been available on
the previous DVD versions of these films. We've updated the
Release List accordingly.
One other bit of high-definition news from E3 this week... Sony has
officially announced that its Blu-ray Disc capable PlayStation 3 will be
available here in the States in two versions on 11/17. There will be a
model priced at just $499 containing a 20GB internal harddrive, and also
a $599 unit containing a 60GB harddrive. I have to say, those are pretty
impressive price points, given that speculation just a few months ago
had the PS3 selling for $700 or more. Still, only the 60GB model will
have an HDMI output, so those of you interested in the PS3 for home
theater use in addition to gaming will need to shell out a little more
for the higher tier model. You can read more on these two units via
official press release.
Elsewhere around the site this morning, we've kicked off a new
giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Universal's
McPhee. Like the others (which continue this week) this new
contest will run until Noon (Pacific) on Monday, May 15th. Click on the
link to get started and good luck!
Back with reviews tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Word from the E3 computer gaming expo, which kicked off here in L.A.
today, is that Microsoft has officially announced that they're going to
be releasing an add-on HD-DVD drive for its already available Xbox 360
game system. There's no word as to the price or when it will be
available yet, but Microsoft promises that it will be "fully
featured" for home theater enthusiasts and that the momentum is all
on the side of HD-DVD in the format war because of the price advantage.
here for more official propaganda on this from Microsoft
Meanwhile, back in the world of... you know, actual consumer reality,
industry reports have sales of HD-DVD players and hardware sluggish so
here for more from Video Business),
with the format still as yet unavailable at most retailers.
By the way, speaking of Microsoft and HD-DVD, it seems that reports
that Toshiba's HD-A1 is basically just a home theater PC are true.
Thwaits recently decided to dismantle his HD-A1 to see what makes
it tick, and inside he found a 2.5 GHz Pentium 4 CPU, a bunch of PC2700
DDR RAM memory and other off-the-shelf parts - pretty much everything
but a mini-Windows XP OS (the machine actually runs Red Hat Linux and
boots off an internal flash drive). No wonder it takes a full minute to
start up. Click the link above for all the geek you can handle. Well
On the standard DVD front today, Sony (for MGM) has just announced the
release of a 2-disc Some Like it Hot:
Collector's Edition for release on 7/18 (SRP $24.96).
And here's a little Rumor Mill-worthy
20th Century Fox DVD release information (so salt accordingly): industry
sources are telling us to expect the studio's Phat
Girlz on 8/8, Thank You for
Smoking and Just My Luck
on 8/15, and The Sentinel on 8/29.
Back later. Stay tuned...
We're pleased as punch this afternoon to be able to bring you Adam's
edition of Jahnke's Electric Theatre. In this installment,
without Pity, Adam takes his Theatre
"unplugged" so to speak, and turns in something a little
different: a bit of a summer movie preview. Don't miss it!
We've got SEVEN new music DVD reviews for you today, thanks to the
efforts of Matt and Lindsay over at our
affiliate site: Roadrunner Records'
Dresden Dolls: Paradise, Polar/Universal Music's
The Movie, Hip-O/Motown's
Gaye: The Real Thing - In Performance 1964-1981, and four
Classic Albums DVDs from Eagle Vision, including
Pistols: Never Minds the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols,
Floyd: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon and
The Making of A Night at the Opera.
We've also got some great new cover art to show you from Universal.
Here's a look at their Double Indemnity:
Legacy Series (8/29), and new HD-DVD art for Happy
Gilmore and The Rundown
(both 6/13), and Friday Night Lights
and Pitch Black (both 7/11). We've
also got a look at The Three Burials of
Melquiades Estrada for you from Sony (due 6/6)...
Watch for lots of reviews next week (both DVD and HD-DVD), including
Fox's outstanding new 4-disc Kingdom of
Heaven: Director's Cut.
Meanwhile, have a great weekend!
(LATE UPDATE - 5/4/06
- 12:45 PM PDT)
Well... the Star Wars news is
barely 12 hours old, and the reaction is coming in fast and furious. My
e-mail box was jam packed this morning by readers chiming in with their
two cents. Most are happy to see the original versions finally on the
way, though a few have complained about getting double-dipped again, and
some are upset that the original versions "won't look as good"
as the recent SE versions and will only have Dolby 2.0 Surround audio.
Others are screaming to know what kind of extras will be included ("Deleted
scenes?! Please tell me will there be deleted scenes?!") and the
answer is that we really don't know. I strongly suspect there will be
very little extras on these discs, except that you might get the same
audio commentary tracks on the SE version discs as they've included on
DVD in the past. Keep in mind that 2007 is the 30th anniversary of the
original Star Wars, so I'd be
shocked if Lucasfilm didn't have something up their sleeves to
commemorate that. We know that they've been working on an über-ultimate
super box set of all six films, so it makes sense that we might see that
for the anniversary. Maybe it will be available in just standard DVD, or
maybe both standard and high-definition - we don't know. It might very
well be that Lucas is hoping that by releasing the original theatrical
versions of these films now on standard DVD, he can avoid having to
include them in a future high-def box set release. You know... sort of a
"let's get 'em out of the way now" sort of thing. The only
real new bit of information we have about the release today is that each
2-disc set will carry an SRP of around $30 (likely $29.98). This comes
from our old friend Mike Snyder of
Today, who has a story up about the release online (see link).
We're still trying to confirm whether there will be a box release so you
don't have to drop the full $90 for all three films, but if not, look
for these sets to be heavily discounted just about everywhere you'll be
able to buy them. We'll post art and official specs when they're
Speaking of September, our industry sources are telling us that's
likely when Fox's first Blu-ray Disc format releases will debut. Word is
that's when Pioneer's BDP-HD1 Elite player will finally hit store
shelves. Samsung's BD-P1000 is expected to street in June (6/25 to be
exact), while new Blu-ray players from Panasonic and Sony are
tentatively due around August.
Meanwhile, back on the good old regular DVD front, Fox has just
announced a few more August titles, including a Mr.
Moto Collection: Volume 1 (featuring Moto
Takes a Chance, Mysterious Mr.
Moto, Thank You, Mr. Moto
and Think Fast, Mr. Moto) on 8/1,
and Fourteen Hours (1951), Shock
(1946) and Vicki (1953) on 8/29.
Also today, Sony will release Edison Force
on 7/11. They're currently planning to release Basic
Instinct 2 and Benchwarmers
sometime in July as well.
DreamWorks has set She's the Man
for release on 7/18.
Universal's Stoned is due on
7/25. The studio also has Brick
tentatively slated for release sometime in July (we'll let you know when
the street date is official).
Finally today, Warner has just announced that they'll release Thinking
XXX (for HBO) and All Aboard
Rosie's Family Cruise on 6/13, Steal
the Sky, Enemy Within,
Fever and Fortress
(all for HBO) on 7/25, Curb Your Enthusiasm:
The Complete Fifth Season, The
Comeback (both for HBO) and Richard
Pryor: Live in Concert on 8/1, The
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Fourth Season on 8/8,
The Brak Show: Volume Two, Sealab
2021: Season 4 (both for Cartoon Network), The
Madness of Henry the VIII and Napoleon's
Final Battle on 8/15, Elizabeth I
(for HBO) and Veronica Mars: The Complete
Second Season on 8/22, and Almost
Strangers and Shooting the Past
(both for BBC) on 9/5.
(EARLY UPDATE -
5/4/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)
It's official, folks!
Just hours after we posted our story in
Rumor Mill, the official Star Wars
now officially confirmed it: Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox are
going to be releasing the original, undoctored and digitally-untweaked,
theatrical versions of the Star Wars
films on standard DVD in September. The films will be available on disc
only for a very limited time, starting on September 12th (they'll go out
of print on December 31st). The films will be available as individual
2-disc sets (there may also be a box as well). One of the discs in each
set will include the recent "2004" special edition version of
the film, while the other disc will include the original theatrical
version in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0
surround. [Editor's Note: We have since learned
that these versions will NOT be anamorphic - just letterboxed. Plan your
purchase or non-purchase accordingly.] And yes, on the 2-disc set
of A New Hope... Han will shoot
first! Here's an official quote from Lucasfilm's Senior Vice President,
"Over the years, a truly countless number of
fans have told us that they would love to see and own the original
version that they remember experiencing in theaters. We returned to the
Lucasfilm Archives to search exhaustively for source material that could
be presented on DVD. This is something that we're very excited to be
able to give to fans in response to their continuing enthusiasm for Star
Well, all I can say is... it's about ___-damned TIME! So much for "those
versions don't exist anymore." This is very good news indeed, and
we're very happy to see it finally happen. Hats off to George Lucas, Jim
Ward and everyone who decided to finally make this a reality on DVD.
And before you ask, it IS DVD only... there's no high-definition
version expected this year. Just FYI.
(LATE UPDATE - 5/3/06 - 4 PM PDT)
We just HAD to check in with this, folks! You Star
Wars fans are going to brown your boxers. We've been hearing
for a while now that something cool was in the works DVD-wise up at
Lucasfilm... and now our industry sources have weighed in with
confirmation. If you wish to become one with the Force, do NOT miss
Mill update. Just trust me on this. It's real. We aren't
kidding. It's going to be official very soon. 'Nuff said. ;)
(LATE UPDATE -
5/3/06 - 1:15 PM PDT)
Didn't I just mention the subject of Blu-ray Disc delays in my earlier
post? Well, word has just arrived from retailers that Sony (despite
previous statements to the contrary) has finally decided to push its
first few batches of Blu-ray Disc titles (both Sony and MGM releases)
into June, to coincide more closely with the availability of the first
Blu-ray Disc players from Samsung and Pioneer. The new revised dates are
as follows (they're based on revised dates posted on Amazon - Sony has
yet to issue a statement):
Sony Blu-ray Discs:
Evolution (day and date)
of Flying Daggers,
(delayed from 5/23)
(day and date),
of the Fall,
(delayed from 6/13)
MGM Blu-ray Discs:
Last Waltz (delayed from 5/23)
Terminator (delayed from 6/13)
We're confident that these dates are accurate based on retailer
confirmation, so we've updated the
Release List accordingly.
On the standard DVD front today, Fox has announced some of its August
slate, including Broken Saints: The Complete
Series and the What the Bleep Do
We Know?: Rabbit Hole Edition on 8/1, The
Frat Boy Collection (includes Bachelor
Party, PCU and Porky's),
The Jayne Mansfield Collection
(includes Girl Can't Help It, Sheriff
of Fractured Jaw and Will Success
Spoil Rock Hunter?), and The Girls
Next Door: Season 1 for release on 8/8, a Clark
Gable Collection: Volume 1 (includes Call
of the Wild, Soldier of Fortune
and The Tall Men) due 8/15, and a
movie-only version of Transporter 2
and a Transporter/Transporter 2
box set on 8/22. The studio will release Man
on Fire on UMD format on 8/8 as well (our
Release List has been updated).
Here's cover art for Sony's Blu-ray Disc version of Underworld:
Evolution (due 6/6), and Paramount's Threshold:
The Complete Series (8/22) and Disney's Eight
Below (6/20) on DVD...
(EARLY UPDATE - 5/3/06 -
12:01 AM PDT)
So... I'll tell you, we're just over two weeks into the official HD-DVD
launch, and we're having really mixed feelings about the format right
now here at The Bits. First of
all, the HD-A1 we've managed to borrow temporarily for our review work
is just a total lemon. As we've reported before, it repeatedly locks up
during playback - completely locks up, including non-responsive controls
- forcing you to have to unplug the unit and plug it in again to reboot
it. When the unit doesn't completely lock up, we get frequent instances
where the video stutters and freezes for a moment, after which time the
audio is no longer in sync. Both of these problems aren't getting any
better and that (along with the fact that it takes about a minute and a
half to get the HD-A1 back into playback mode with discs each time you
reboot) has really made it difficult to review the movie software
effectively. About half of the readers who own the HD-A1 that we've
heard from thus far are reporting similar problems, while the fortunate
other half say their units are bug-free. We envy you bug-free folks.
As we've reported, the selection of titles available has been markedly
lackluster to date (though we expect that to improve dramatically by the
end of this month and into June, with titles like U-571,
The Chronicles of Riddick and the
soon to be announced Batman Begins).
The discs that have been released look and sound (by and large)
fantastic, but again I don't know too many people salivating for the "DVD
and HD-DVD Combo Format" version of Rumor
Has It..., do you?
So then yesterday, we contacted the PR agency handling the format
launch for Toshiba (as we have done about once or twice a week for a
while now) to find out when we might finally get the actual review
hardware we'd been expecting and waiting patiently for... only to learn
that it might still be as long as two months before Toshiba can send us
one. Now, let me tell you, it's awfully hard for us to do our jobs here
at The Bits of reporting on a new
format, when we can't even get our hands on WORKING review hardware. And
it's even more unusual for a new format that the industry is so keen to
promote (by comparison, I'm assured by the Blu-ray Disc camp that we'll
have review hardware from them as soon as it's available). Given how
hard we've worked to cover HD-DVD thus far here at The
Bits, and how many of our readers we managed to turn out for
Toshiba nationwide format launch tour last month (we've been told that
Bits readers attended at many of
the tour stops), the fact that we still can't get review hardware is
telling. I know from talking to other members of the press (particularly
the online press) that they're having similar problems getting HD-DVD
Before we go on, this has nothing to do with sore feelings about not
getting hardware. Frankly, in talking with the PR agency, it just sounds
as if there's not many review units available at the moment. What that
tells us is just how seriously rushed the HD-DVD format launch has been.
Toshiba, desperate to get HD-DVD onto store shelves before Blu-ray Disc,
has stretched itself pretty thin. Buggy and less than fully-featured and
compliant hardware, uneven PR support, lackluster software selection,
VERY limited hardware and software availability at retail outlets... all
of these things have resulted in a lot of frustration among early
adopters and many in the early adopter press. Our own experience with
HD-DVD here at The Bits has been a
decidedly mixed bag thus far, and the reviews we've seen elsewhere in
the press, along with the reports of our own readers who have purchased
players and discs, seem to corroborate this. I'm not ready to declare
the HD-DVD format launch a disaster... but it's been significantly less
smooth than we (and, I suspect, the HD-DVD camp - despite enthusiastic
press statements to the contrary) might have hoped, and far less smooth
than the current DVD format's launch was back in March of 1997.
Somewhere out there, I suspect the Blu-ray Disc folks are smiling like
the cat that ate the canary. We'll know soon enough whether Blu-ray can
do better with its launch... though the lack of software announcements
and firm hardware availability dates doesn't fill us with much
confidence. Still, if the launch hardware is bug-free, that alone will
be an improvement. Either way, I'm beginning to have the strong feeling
that HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc might follow the same course as DVD-Audio
and SACD did: Two competing formats offering significantly improved
quality... and not all that many people willing to spend the money to
take advantage of it. We shall see.
There's no real DVD news to report today yet, though we do have a cool
bit of movie news to call your attention to. Actually, it's not so much
news... as a trailer. Some of you will no doubt remember how, after last
year's ComicCon, we raved about the preview that was shown for Bryan
Singer's Superman Returns. I
believe I said something to the effect that the preview (much longer and
better than the preview trailer that's been officially available in
recent months), made a believer out of virtually everyone who saw
Singer's presentation. Well now, you finally get to see something that -
if you're truth, justice and all that - should get your pulse racing but
official, final theatrical trailer for Superman Returns is now
available online, and it's a real dandy. Kevin Spacey looks to be
a badass Lex Luthor. I'll tell you... this is, by a wide margin, the
summer film I'm most looking forward to. June 30th can't come fast
Around the site today, we've kicked off three new
here at The Bits, giving each of
you the chance to take home copies of Warner's
The West Wing:
The Complete Sixth Season,
Life Goes On:
The Complete First Season,
and Life in
the Undergrowth (from the BBC), Image Entertainment's
The Movie - Limited Collector's Edition, and First Nat'l's
Baby Felix &
Friends: His Magic Bag of Tricks. Definitely something there
for everyone. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on MONDAY, May
15th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!
By the way, not to turn The Bits
into The Cat Report, but we've had
more than a few of you ask how our kitten Chloe is doing. We've
initially expected her to be back with us Monday, but that unfortunately
hasn't happened yet. Still, we're pleased to say that she's doing a lot
better and we got to visit her yesterday morning for a while, so that
was good. Hopefully, she'll be home soon. Thanks again for all your kind
Back with more later. Stay tuned...
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