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-Newsletter est. 4/15/97-
-Website est. 12/15/97-





page updated: 7/17/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 7/10/06 - 6/22/06)


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(LATE UPDATE - 7/10/06 - 2:30 PM PDT)

We've got a quick update for all of you on our DVD Sneak Peek 2006 panel at the upcoming Comic-Con convention in San Diego. The Comic-Con staff has released the official program schedule for all four days of the show, which is now just 10 days away. The schedule for Friday (7/21) originally indicated that our panel was going to be from 2-3 PM - just an hour. That's an error and it's been corrected on the schedule. Our DVD panel will run a full 90 minutes, from 2-3:30 PM in room 6B. Once again, scheduled to participate in addition to myself (Bill Hunt) and Todd Doogan (your erstwhile moderators) will be DVD producers Robert Meyer Burnett, JM Kenny, Charles de Lauzirika, Andy Mangels and Javier Soto. You're going to get the first details on some very cool upcoming DVD titles (and even a look at a few of them), plus we'll talk about the new HD formats and we'll answer a ton of your questions in a lengthy Q&A session. It's going to be a lot of fun as always, so we hope to see you there!

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/10/06 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Okay... our first post for the new week covers both DVD and the HD formats, because there's some interesting news to report on all three fronts.

First, Paramount has finally officially announced their first three waves of HD-DVD titles, after an aborted near-announcement a couple months ago. Due on 7/25 are Sahara, Tomb Raider, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (that should make a nice HD title!) and Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Following on 8/1 are Four Brothers, We Were Soldiers and The Manchurian Candidate. A week later on 8/8, the studio will release U2: Rattle and Hum, Æon Flux and The Italian Job. Each of these titles will carry an SRP of $29.95, will feature video on 1080p and audio options to include Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and DTS 5.1. From the studio's official statement: "Paramount Home Entertainment plans to support the HD DVD format with a strong slate of titles throughout the year and beyond."

Meanwhile, Warner Bros has officially announced the DVD and HD-DVD release of Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon for 8/22. The DVD will be available in a 2-disc special edition in anamorphic widescreen (SRP $34.99), as well as full frame and anamorphic widescreen single-disc editions (SRP $28.98). The 2-disc edition will include the Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage - The Complexities of Making a Modern Adventure Movie, A Shipmate's Diary: A Film School Intern's Experiences on the Set and Poseidon: Upside Down - A Unique Set Design Chronicle documentaries, along with The History Channel's Rogue Waves special. The HD-DVD version of the film will street the same day (SRP $34.99) with the same extras.

Also today, Sony has announced the DVD release of King of Queens: The Complete Sixth Season and Hart to Hart: The Complete Second Season on 9/19. They've also reshuffled a few of their Blu-ray Disc titles to 9/19, including The Big Hit, S.W.A.T. and A Knight's Tale, and announced a new title for that date as well... Tears of the Sun.

We should also mention that some of Universal's September and October HD-DVD releases have had their street dates pushed back later into their respective months. We've updated the High-Def Release List with all the relevant new information. Please note that nearly all of the HD titles can be pre-ordered through our Amazon links, and doing so helps support our work here at The Bits (so we very much appreciate it!).

By the way, this would normally go in The Rumor Mill, but we've confirmed with sources that Disney is currently working on a 4-disc Extended Edition of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Expect more official details to be revealed soon.

And Criterion is hinting in their latest e-mail newsletter that their first titles from director Krzysztof Kieslowski will become part of the Collection this fall. Very cool indeed.

Stay tuned...

7/7/06

Well... another week draws to a close. We have just a bit of new DVD release news to report this morning, so let's get right to it.

First, 20th Century Fox's has pushed back its release of Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil and the 2-film Behind Enemy Lines box set from 9/26 to 10/17.

Water Bearer Films has announced that it will release Wolfgang Peterson's The Consequence (aka Die Konsequenz) on DVD on 8/29 (SRP $29.95). We suspect the timing is likely designed to coincide with Warner's yet-to-be-announced release of Poseidon.

Paramount has set a Too Cool for School: John Hughes Collection for 10/10, which includes the recent Ferris Bueller's Day Off re-release, along with the new special editions of Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink.

Meanwhile, Warner has just announced Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Season 1, Volume 1 for release on 9/26 (SRP $24.98). The 2-disc set includes the first 10 episodes of the series along with "never-before-seen games" and a gag reel. Also newly announced by Warner is La Femme Nikita: The Complete Fifth Season (10/17). And don't forget, Warner's E.R.: The Complete Fifth Season arrives in stores next week (on 7/11).

Also, just a reminder that Anchor Bay's Masters of Horror: Homecoming (directed by Joe Dante) is due to be released on 7/11 as well.

And for those of you who might be interested in personalized "intro" DVDs for your home theater (the kind of thing you play before the main DVD feature when you have guests over), you might want to check out the new CeRT disc from Bitstream Animation. The disc's 2-minute CG intro animation can be customized with your name, a logo, or even a personal message. The animation is presented in standard definition anamorphic widescreen video, and also included on the disc is an MPEG TS file in 1080i high definition for home theater PCs. Audio options are available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES (the Foley effects and mix were reportedly done by Skywalker Sound). You also get the classic "Let's All Go to the Lobby" animation and more. It's a pretty cute little disc - something for the home theater-phile who already has everything else. Visit the website for more information and pricing. FYI, we'll be giving away five copies of this DVD in a new Contest starting next week.

There's just a bit of high-def news to report today. I'd love to tell you that there are lots of new HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc software announcements, but such is not the case. However, on the hardware side of things, Panasonic has confirmed that their DMP-BD10 Blu-ray Disc player will be available in September for an SRP of around $1,299.95.

And in a bit of news elsewhere around the Net, Home Media Retailing is reporting that the pace of major studio DVD releases is slowing down. So far this year the total number of new titles is down about 10% from what it was this same time last year. This is reportedly due to the studios being conscious of not releasing too many titles at once - titles that then must compete for space on stores shelves. When you consider that DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD are all out there at once, you can certainly see the concern on the part of retailers.

Finally this morning, here's a little bit more cover art for you... temp art for Universal's The Office: Season Two (due 9/12), and Warner's recently announced HD-DVD releases of The Dukes of Hazzard: Unrated and Enter the Dragon (both due 7/11)...

The Office: Season TwoThe Dukes of Hazzard: Unrated (HD-DVD)Enter the Dragon (HD-DVD)

With that, another week bites the dust. Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

(LATE UPDATE - 7/6/06 - 2 PM PDT)

Here's some cool news for you classic monster fans... Universal has just announced plans to release new 2-disc 75th Anniversary Legacy Editions of both its original Dracula and Frankenstein on DVD on 9/26 (SRP $26.98). The new editions will include the digitally remastered films in their original full frame (1.33:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio. Extras are set to include documentaries, feature-length audio commentaries and more TBA. We'll post additional details as they come in.

In other news today, HBO has announced plans to release Big Love: The Complete First Season on 10/17 (SRP $99.98). Other titles newly announced by the studio include the Lewis Black: Red, White and Screwed comedy special on 10/3 (SRP $19.97) and director John Frankenheimer's Against the Wall, also on 10/3 (SRP $14.97).

And in a bit of interesting high-def news, it seems that Toshiba is eating some $200 on the cost of every HD-A1 HD-DVD player they ship. The player sells for $499, but according to this report at Home Media Retailing, the parts and manufacturing costs add up to nearly $700.

Also on the high-def front today, those of you who happen to read the Business section of today's L.A. Times will find an interview with yours truly (click here for the link). A couple weeks ago, I received a call from Times staff writer David Colker, who runs the paper's Technopolis column. David has done several stories in recent weeks on the launch of HD-DVD, and with the Blu-ray Disc launch at hand, he wanted to speak with someone who had experience with the format (and with both formats). So David came down to Irvine last week and we spent a couple hours looking at Blu-ray high-def video on the big screen, compared to the same titles on standard DVD. It's an interesting piece he's written as a result. David's of the opinion that neither HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc is likely to take off with mainstream consumers. I'd like to believe he's wrong, but years of experience with this industry tells me he's probably not, unless things change dramatically and soon. Now that both formats are here, I can tell you personally that both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc deliver stunning picture and sound quality, but you need good (and generally new) equipment to fully appreciate the difference. The associated costs and steep technical learning curve will probably scare off all but the most avid early adopters. What's more, many of those that are undaunted by the costs and complexity have no desire to back the wrong horse, so the perception of a format war is likely to scare off even more people. Based on my own recent experiences with online readers and home theater discussion forum members, even the early adopter community seems strongly divided about which format is best. In light of that, what's the average video consumer likely to do? Stick with tried-and-true standard DVD and sit tight, I suspect. Anyway, it's a nice little piece, so do check it out if you have the moment. And my thanks to David for coming down to The OC for a morning of high-def video watching.

I'll have more to say on both of the new HD formats next week. I've been talking (both on and off the record) to a lot of my long-time contacts at the studios and at various production and technical facilities around Hollywood these last few weeks, trying to get a sense of the mood in the industry with regard to HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. I've also got several reviews on the way for both formats - my goal is to catch up with reviews of just about every title that's currently available over the next few weeks. I'll tell you, there's just never a dull moment around here these days...

We'll leave you today with a little more cover art. Here's Universal's just-announced Dracula: 75th Anniversary Legacy Edition and Frankenstein: 75th Anniversary Legacy Edition, along with 20th Century Fox's The Unit: Season One (due on 9/19)...

Dracula: 75th Anniversary Legacy EditionFrankenstein: 75th Anniversary Legacy EditionThe Unit: Season One

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 7/6/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Well... it's late enough here in the day that I'm just going to pretend it's tomorrow. So here's Barrie Maxwell's latest Classic Coming Attractions installment six hours early! As always, Barrie reviews tons of new and recent classic film releases on DVD, and runs down the latest classic release announcements too. Included in this edition are Barrie's thoughts on Universal's The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (featuring The Sign of the Cross, Four Frightened People, Cleopatra, The Crusades and Union Pacific), Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Second Season and the John Wayne: An American Icon Collection (featuring Seven Sinners, Shepherd of the Hills, Pittsburgh, The Conqueror and Jet Pilot), 20th Century Fox's House of Strangers, I Wake Up Screaming, the Charlie Chan: Volume 1 box (featuring Charlie Chan in London, Charlie Chan in Paris, Charlie Chan in Egypt and Charlie Chan in Shanghai), the Betty Grable Collection: Volume One box (featuring The Dolly Sisters, Down Argentine Way, Moon Over Miami and My Blue Heaven), the Valley of the Dolls: Special Edition and the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Ultimate Collector's Edition, Warner's The Searchers: Two-Disc Special Edition, Paramount's Track of the Cat, Plunder of the Sun and The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Sixth Season, VCI's Western Divas Double Feature (featuring The Groom Wore Spurs and Oklahoma Annie), and finally Sony's Buster Keaton Collection: The Great Stone Face and Why We Fight. That's 16 titles and 28 films/programs in all. Whew!

Also today, Matt and his crew over at MusicTAP.net have turned in new DVD reviews of Motörhead: Stage Fright from SPV, Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel from Rhino and Metal: A Headbanger's Journey from Seville. Enjoy!

We'll be back later this afternoon if there's any late breaking DVD news to report, otherwise we're going to try to get some more DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc reviews posted for you.

As always, stay tuned...

7/5/06

Welcome back, folks! We'll be back with Barrie's column in a little while, but first we wanted to catch you up on the latest DVD release announcements this week.

First up, Paramount has begun to reveal their October release slate. Among the titles on the way are a 2-disc Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition, Reeker, The Roost, The Curse of El Charro, Medium: The Complete Second Season, G. I. Joe Sigma 6: First Strike, CSI: New York - The Complete Second Season, Penn & Teller Bullshit: The Complete Third Season and a My Little Pony Gift Set (including A Very Minty Christmas, The Princess Promenade and The Runaway Rainbow) all for 10/3, Dora the Explorer: Dora's World Adventure, Numbers: The Complete Second Season, a Mean Girls/Clueless 2-Pack, Carlos Mencia: No Strings Attached - Live, Extended and Uncensored, Marie Antoinette (PBS), Napoleon (PBS), CSI: The Complete Sixth Season, and an Edge of Your Seat Collection (featuring Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider and Double Jeopardy) all for 10/10, and a Nick Jr. Favorites Box Set, a Nick Picks Box Set, CSI: Miami - The Complete Fourth Season, Charmed: The Complete Sixth Season and a Charmed: Six Season Pack all for 10/17. That Reds release should make a lot of people happy - it's been a long time coming. We'll post more details when they're available.

Sony has moved the release dates for I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (originally scheduled for 8/1) and The Hard Corps (originally scheduled for 8/29) to 8/15. Adjust your plans accordingly. The studio has also announced the 9/12 DVD release of Bottoms Up and Serving in Silence: The Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer Story.

Also, Warner Bros. has set a Miami Heat: 2005-2006 NBA Champions DVD for release on 7/18 ( SRP $24.98) for all you basketball fans. And for you classic film fans, Warner has just announced a new Motion Picture Masterpieces Collection for release on 10/10 (SRP $49.92) that's due to include Treasure Island (1934), David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Marie Antoinette (1939) and Pride and Prejudice (1940), all of which are new to DVD. Each film will also be available separately for SRP $19.97 each. Extras will include vintage shorts, cartoons, theatrical trailers and more.

Here's temp art for Paramount's Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition, along with Warner's Motion Picture Masterpieces Collection and Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection (10/3)...

Reds: 25th Anniversary EditionMotion Picture Masterpieces CollectionHollywood's Legends of Horror Collection

Back with more soon. Stay tuned...

7/3/06

Afternoon, everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. There's not a lot of news to report today, given that the long holiday weekend is still in progress here in the States. But we do have a few interesting things for you, and some new cover art too.

First up, we've got word for you 80s fans that Paramount's new Pretty in Pink: Everything's Duckie Edition (due on 8/29) is going to include the film's original "Lost Dance" ending, along with new interviews with stars Molly Ringwald, Jon Crier, Andrew McCarthy and Annie Potts, new featurettes and more. Meanwhile, their Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition (also due 8/29) will include audio commentary with director Howard Deutch and star Lea Thompson, along with The Making of Some Kind of Wonderful documentary, and the Meet the Cast, The Music and John Hughes Time Capsule featurettes.

The Weinstein Company's Lucky # Slevin (due 9/12, SRP $29.95) will include deleted scenes, an alternate ending, the Making Lucky # Slevin featurette and audio commentary with the director and cast.

Warner has set Albert Brooks' Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World for release on 8/29 (SRP $27.95), with video in anamorphic widescreen and with features set to include additional scenes.

Warner has also announced that they'll be releasing a Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection on 10/3 (SRP $39.95), set to include Doctor X (1932), The Return of Doctor X (1939), Mad Love (1935), The Devil-Doll (1936), Mark of the Vampire (1935) and The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932).

Any Troma fans out there? Troma and Koch Entertainment are releasing a new 2-disc Tromeo & Juliet: 10th Anniversary Edition on 8/8 (SRP $24.98). Video will be in the original full frame, with extras that include new audio commentary with writer James Gunn and director Lloyd Kaufman, new cast and crew interviews, rehearsal footage, deleted scenes and more.

20th Century Fox's The Sentinel (starring Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland - due on 8/29) will include audio commentary by director Clark Johnson, 4 deleted scenes, an alternate ending, 2 featurettes and more.

Fox's previously announced Romancing the Stone: Special Edition and The Jewel of the Nile: Special Edition will include (between the two) new on-camera interviews with stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, 14 deleted scenes, director commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes and more. Both titles sell for SRP $19.98 each, or can be purchased in a 2-pack for just SRP $29.98.

Also, 20th Century Fox has just announced that The Unit: Season One will street on 9/19 (SRP $49.98). The 4-disc set will include all 13 first-year episodes in full frame (sadly not anamorphic widescreen as it should be) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, along with audio commentary on the episode SERE and the Inside The Unit featurette.

Here at The Bits today, we've kicked off FOUR new Contests, giving you each the chance to take home copies of Sony's Why We Fight, Image Entertainment's Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp, Universal's Fear Factor : The First Season and Severin Films' Gwendoline: Unrated Director's Cut. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 9th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Around the Net, our friends over at From Script to DVD.com have posted a list of all the theaters where you can catch Superman Returns either projected digitally, or in IMAX 3-D format, in case you haven't seen it yet.

Also, our friends over at TVShowsonDVD.com have posted a bunch of new information today on such forthcoming TV series DVD releases as Columbo, Dark Shadows, The Bill Cosby Show and more. Do check it out if you're interested.

We'll leave you today with some new cover artwork... here's Universal's Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5 (9/19), Fox's Romancing the Stone/The Jewel of the Nile Gift Set and Warner's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World...

Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.5Romancing the Stone/The Jewel of the Nile Gift SetLooking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Okay... we'll be off tomorrow, but we'll be back Wednesday with a new column from Barrie Maxwell and plenty of news. We'll have some HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc reviews later this week as well.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, and a great Tuesday to the rest of you! Stay tuned...

6/30/06

We've got a couple more DVD release announcements to report today... just a little something to close out the week. Here's what we've got...

Universal will release The Munsters: Two-Movie Fright Fest on 9/26 (SRP $19.98), featuring both Munster, Go Home! (in anamorphic widescreen) and The Munsters' Revenge (in the original full frame).

We have some details for you on New Line's A Nightmare on Elm Street: Infinifilm Edition due on 9/26 (SRP $26.99). The film will be available in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo audio. Extras will include the Never Sleep Again and Freddy's Coming For You "All Access Pass" documentaries, the Night Terrors and The House That Freddy Built Beyond-the-Movie documentaries, exclusive Nightmare Infinifilm video clips, and feature-length audio essays with Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and more.

And Fox will release Pretty Poison (1968) on 9/5. They also have Fourteen Hours (1951) due on 8/29, along with Shock (1946) and Vicki (1953). And for the kids (and the seriously bent or really easily amused), Fox will release The Wiggles: Wiggledancing (Live in the USA) on 8/15.

Here's a little more cover art - Fox's My Name is Earl: Season One (9/19), New Line's A Nightmare on Elm Street: Infinifilm Edition and Sony's Silent Hill (8/22)...

My Name is Earl: Season OneA Nightmare on Elm Street: Infinifilm EditionSilent Hill

Finally today, Video Business has a pair of updates on industry reports of how HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles and hardware are selling. If you're interested in HD, the stories are worth checking out.

Have a great weekend!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/29/06 - 3:15 PM PDT)

Okay... as promised, we're back this afternoon with Russell Hammond's big new update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Artwork section. There are TONS of new cover scans in there now, some of which you probably haven't seen before. There's definitely something for everyone, from major new feature releases to documentaries to animation and more. Please keep in mind that pre-ordering any of these titles via our Amazon links helps to support our work here at The Bits. We certainly appreciate it!

Well, I'd say that's good enough for one day. We'll be back tomorrow with more news.

Stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/29/06 - 1 PM PDT)

First up today, we've just posted a new update of Jahnke's Electric Theatre, in which Adam reviews Superman Returns, Over the Hedge and Nacho Libre in theaters, as well as 2046 and Running Scared on DVD. Do check it out.

Now then... we've got a bunch of new DVD announcement news for you, so let's get started.

20th Century Fox has set the release of The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Fourth Season for 9/5, along with Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock: The Complete Second Season and The Other (1972). My Name Is Earl: Season One is now officially set for 9/19. Deepa Mehta's Water is also set to be released by the studio on 9/26.

Buena Vista has set Stay Alive and a Stay Alive: Director's Cut for release on 9/19.

Echo Bridge is releasing NBC's 10.5 Apocalypse and The Black Hole (not the Disney film) on 8/1, with The Curse of King Tut's Tomb: The Complete Miniseries following on 8/8.

The Weinstein Company has moved the street date for its Lucky Number Sleven from 8/22 to 9/12.

Hart Sharp Video will release ESPN's Code Breakers on 7/18.

Universal's given us the new date for its Brick DVD (delayed from 7/11). Look for it now to street on 8/8.

Criterion has finally posted details on the 3-disc anamorphic widescreen re-issue of Brazil (Cat # 51) on their website, for those of you who might be interested. Normally, we're not a fan of double-dips, but we're downright excited about this one.

Paramount has set the re-issue of DreamWorks' ANTZ for release on 8/29. They have Noah's Arc: The Complete First Season set for release on 8/8. Paramount has also set both a new Pretty in Pink: Everything's Duckie Edition and a Some Kind of Wonderful: Special Collector's Edition for release on 8/29, with a new Dead Zone: Special Edition and a Pet Sematary: Special Edition following on 9/26.

Geneon Entertainment is getting ready to release the live-action Tetsujin 28 on 7/4 (SRP $19.98), complete with trailers and with Japanese audio in both Dolby Digital and DTS formats (with English subs). Following on 8/6 from Geneon is the classic animated Barefoot Gen (both films - SRP $29.98 for both), complete with a photo gallery and Japanese Dolby Digital audio (with English subs).

In other anime news, Manga (via Anchor Bay Entertainment) will release a new Castle of Cagliostro: Special Edition on 8/29 (SRP $24.98). As many animation fans know, the film was the first directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. The new DVD will include the original Japanese audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 (with English subs) along with an interview with animation director Yasuo Ohtsuka, complete animatic storyboards (with feature soundtrack), additional original storyboards, original character and set drawings, a "fans' gallery" and theatrical trailers.

Not done yet... Media Blasters has informed us that they're hard at work on Voltron: Collection One - Blue Lion (street date TBA). It will be a 3-disc set containing the first 15 episodes of the series, along with the original pilot The Voltron Trilogy, staff interviews, a featurette on the making of the DVDs, new 5.1 surround mixes, and a booklet insert featuring episode synopses and original air dates. All of this will be contained in a special molded tin case that will be stackable with the subsequent volumes. As I said, the street date isn't available yet, but Richard York of Media Blasters had this to say via e-mail: "Everything's moving forward but, as you might imagine, it's a lot of work. The editors are re-assembling the episodes frame-by-frame from the best available sources (mostly from original Japanese film negatives), and video and audio imperfections are being wiped clean wherever possible. It's going to be quite a set!" Here's a look at the prototype for the packaging...

Voltron DVD packaging

Meanwhile, Warner has announced the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection, Volume 1 for release on 10/3 (SRP $59.92), due to include the Casablanca: Special Edition, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Special Edition, High Sierra and They Drive by Night. That same day, they'll also release the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection, Volume 2 (SRP also $59.92), set to include Across the Pacific, Action in the North Atlantic, All Through the Night, the 3-disc The Maltese Falcon: Special Edition and Passage to Marseille.

For the BBC, Warner will release Gormenghast on 9/26 (SRP $34.98), along with a box set of Walking with Dinosaurs, Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (SRP $59.98). And for the Cartoon Network, Warner will bow Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Volume 2 on 10/10 (SRP $29.98).

By the way, all three of New Line's new Lord of the Rings: Limited Editions will be available in a new box set on 8/29 (SRP $86.94) as well as the individual 2-disc sets. For the record, we've been told by those in the know that the new editions will actually look BETTER than the original 2-disc theatrical edition DVDs, due to advances in MPEG-2 compression (though they won't look better than the 4-disc extended edition sets). Interesting...

Now then, let's have some cover art, shall we? Here's a look at those Lord of the Rings: Limited Editions from New Line, along with temp art for Universal's United 93 (9/5), Fox's Taps: 25th Anniversary Special Edition (9/12) and Universal Music's U2: Zoo TV - Live from Sidney (TBA)...

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring - Limited EditionLord of the Rings: Two Towers - Limited EditionLord of the Rings: Return of the King - Limited Edition

United 93Taps: 25th Anniversary Special EditionU2: Zoo TV - Live from Sidney

We'll have that Upcoming DVD Cover Art update later today or tonight as well, so be sure to check back for that. We've just got to get all the art uploaded to the server and make sure it's all working.

Finally, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Aaron Spelling, the veteran TV producer of such classic series as Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Hart to Hart, Fantasy Island, Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat, T.J. Hooker, Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, Charmed and many, many others. We'd love to see more of his shows released on DVD. Unfortunately, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place are tied up by music clearance issues, but hopefully something will happen sooner rather than later. Sony did just recently announce the release of Charlie's Angels: The Complete Third Season for 7/4. In any case, Spelling was 83. He'll certainly be missed.

Stay tuned...

6/28/06

So, anyone want to hear a little about Superman Returns? Yeah... turns out it's a pretty good movie. I'm not going to say it's a home run or a knock-out punch or anything. And don't worry, I'm not going to give away any spoilers in this review. I'll just comment in general. The main thing to know is that director Bryan Singer and his team have largely succeeded in returning the Man of Steel to the big screen in such a way that the franchise is alive and well again, and the future is wide open.

I'm pleased to say, and with absolutely no hesitation, that newcomer Brandon Routh deftly assumes the mantle as the big screen's newest Superman. He simply owns the role now. Before seeing this film, I wondered how ANYONE could make me forget Christopher Reeve in the cape and tights. Routh cleverly manages the feat by not even really trying to make you forget. He simply honors Reeve's performance in any number of ways and then gradually, over the course of the film, adds his own sensitivity to the character. His Superman feels a little different than Reeve's, and yet also the same, at least in all the important ways. Whereas Reeve played the role with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, Routh goes for a more straight-laced calm. In any case, Routh absolutely pulls it off.

The rest of the casting is excellent top to bottom. Kevin Spacey, as you'd expect, is simply the PERFECT Lex Luthor. His performance is less campy than Gene Hackman's and significantly more sinister, but he's no less funny and engaging, which is exactly what the character needs. James Marsden (you might recall him as Cyclops from Singer's X-Men), Parker Posey and Frank Langella are all very solid in their respective roles. Sam Huntington quietly shines in a number of scenes as Jimmy Olsen. There's a very young actor here as well, Tristan Lake Leabu, who I think gives one of the best performances in the film. So often child stars overact or come off as precocious, but this kid is just... you know... a sweet kid. It's nice to see.

I must say that Kate Bosworth really surprised me as Lois Lane. She's a very different kind of Lois than the one played by Margot Kidder. She's more mature, more together, she's a capable parent now... and yet she still has trouble spelling (a nice homage to the Donner film). Bosworth has a very sort of wide-eyed, 1940s movie star quality that I think works particularly well in this sort of film. This is the bit of casting that was the most risky, but I think it paid off by and large. It's the one performance in the film that I think fans might have the most difficulty with, but it worked for me. (Without getting into too much detail, I should also briefly note here that I appreciated the tactful way the film's romance, and particularly its romantic triangle, was handled. I think most of you will agree that it's nicely done - intelligent and surprisingly satisifying in its way.)

Actually the only truly jarring bit of casting - the one that pulled me out of the moment every time I saw him - was Kal Penn as one of Luthor's henchmen. He's not bad in any way, but I just can't stop thinking of him as Kumar from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Ah well. I guess Kumar's just turned to a life of crime, poor kid.

Speaking of references to director Richard Donner's Superman, there are many here, not the least of which involve the use of Marlon Brando's likeness and voice from outtake footage from the original 1978 film. There are nice cameos by Jack Larson and Noel Neill (the original Jimmy and Lois from the 1950s TV series, starring George Reeves). There are also lots of great little visual touchstone moments, honoring the comics or other iconic Superman imagery. At one point, Superman holds a car over his head in a classic recreation of the cover of Action Comics #1. In another moment, Superman floats in space over the Earth in a shot inspired by a well-known Alex Ross painting of the character. There's even a nifty little reference on a TV news report to events in Gotham City, presumably setting up the possibility of a future big screen meeting between Routh's Superman and Christian Bale's Batman.

The special effects in this film are absolutely spectacular. Trust me when I say that you have NEVER seen the Man of Steel in action like this before. I don't want to give away any of the film's major action moments, but there are a couple that will leave you gasping and they're entirely believable - a real surprise considering the fact that we're talking about a guy flying around in blue and red tights. The film is very impressive on this score. The only thing I didn't love effects-wise was the opening flight through space back to Earth. It's the same sort of sequence we saw in Contact, only in reverse. Except that in Contact, it actually looked like we were flying through space. The imagery here is just a bit too cartoonish for my taste. Maybe that was the point, but the lack of visual realism just didn't work for me when compared to the high calibur of digital effects in the rest of the film.

As for the music, it's certainly nice to hear some of the original John Williams score again, as sampled by composer John Ottman. You'll hear the famous opening fanfare and other classic Williams themes reused here and there, but Ottman adds some of his own flare to them. The opening theme presented in this film is crisper, tighter and more 'sparkly' sounding, if you will, than I remember it from back in 1978. It's good work, but I'm looking forward to hearing Ottman branch out more thematically for the next film.

All of this is not to say that Superman Returns is perfect. First, the religious metaphor is carried a little too far, I think. It certainly works, and it's always been part of the character's mythology, but it's a lot more hit-you-over-the-head than anything we've seen in the previous films. Returns is also... well... very predictable. If you're surprised by any of the twists, I'LL be surprised. Clearly pattered after Donner's original, I don't think this film is necessarily too long, but there are some pacing problems here and there, especially in the first half. Some of the intercutting between the Clark/Superman and Lex storylines doesn't work as smoothly as it should. At times the film begins to build real momentum only to let it slip away again. If anything, it felt to me as if we were missing moments here and there. We know that a significant opening scene, showing Kal-El on the remains of Krypton, was deleted, and there are other bits of footage as well - material that we'd seen in the trailers - that were missing from the final cut of the film. I hope that Warner lets Singer release his ultimate director's cut of the film on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc later this year, because I really want to see it.

If I had any single major complaint about this film, it's that Singer and company are trying so hard to thread the needle of respecting the previous Superman films, while also rejuvenating the franchise for a new generation of film-goers, that they sometimes forget to be bold. Luthor's criminal plot, in particular, is evidence of this. Sure, it's epic in size and scope. If it's successful, billions of people will die. And it ties in nicely to the first film in a couple of ways. But somehow, I want to believe that Lex's need for revenge against Superman would trump his desire for riches and power, such that he'd cook up something a little more sinister than his scheme here. The logic of his plan doesn't quite work either... for if he kills billions of people, who's going to be around to...? Eh. You just can't think too hard about it, I guess.

Still, Superman Returns offers warmth, optimism and savvy in spades. It largely manages to overcome what I think was one of the most difficult hurdles of recent film history. It successfully returns the Man of Steel... the Last Son of Krypton... to the big screen, where he belongs and where we've missed his presence all these years. In this era of ubiquitous digital trickery and jaded movie audiences, Singer's film simply makes you believe again... and that's a very neat trick indeed. I'm happy to say that there's plenty to like here. This isn't quite as good as Batman Begins or Spider-Man 2, but then I think it was a significantly harder challenge, and it's a LOT closer to those films than the ranks of such 'classics' as Catwoman and Batman and Robin. Despite some flaws, Superman Returns is a solid film. It's entertaining. It works. I'm definitely interested to see what happens next. Something truly daring, I hope. Superman Unleashed, anyone? My grade: B

Okay... we'll be back later tonight (for tomorrow) with an Upcoming DVD Cover Art update and some new DVD news as well. Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/27/06 - 5 PM PDT)

As promised, we're back with Todd Doogan's latest installment of Doogan's Views, just in time for the biggest blockbuster of the Summer to hit theaters! Appropriately, in this edition, our ol' pal Doogan offers you all some sage advice to help make the most of your Summer blockbuster experience. So without further yammering, here's Doogan's Views Presents... The Digital Bits "How To" Series: Chapter 11 - How To Watch a Summer Movie (and Not Get Lost In The Shuffle). Enjoy!

Well... that's it for now. Matt, Sarah, Adam, Todd and myself (and other Bits staffers too) are all off to see wee-early first showings of Superman Returns tonight, in each of our respective geographic areas. Maybe we'll see you in line. If not, whereever you may be, we hope you all have a great time!

Be back tomorrow with more... but probably not until late in the afternoon. Gotta sleep sometime, right? Stay tuned!

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/27/06 - 1:45 PM PDT)

I love the smell of Kryptonite in the morning.

Yes... tonight at 11:59 AM (10 PM in some places), audiences at large will get their first look at Bryan Singer's Superman Returns... the official return of the Man of Steel to the big screen. For my part, I can't wait. Matt and I are already planning to head down to the Irvine Spectrum, tickets in hand, for the Midnight show. It's the biggest movie of the Summer and the reviews have all been pretty kind so far. Sure looking forward to it, and I know a lot of you are too. Matt, I'll bet, will be wearing his White Sox baseball cap, so if any of you are going to be at the same theater, be sure to look us up and say hello.

Anyone up for some new standard DVD release news?

Let's start with Universal. The studio has announced the release of the animated Curious George on 9/26 (SRP $29.98). The film will be available in anamorphic widescreen and full frame DVD versions, as well as a VHS full frame version too. VHS? Set the Wayback Machine, Sherman...

Due on 9/5 from Universal is Paul Greengrass' controversial but well made United 93, in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions (SRP $29.98). Extras will include audio commentary with Greengrass, as well as the United 93: The Families and the Film documentary.

On 9/12, look for Universal to release The Land Before Time: 2 Tales of Discovery and Friendship, with Players following on 10/3.

And on the high-def front, Universal will release HD-DVD/DVD combo versions of Army of Darkness and Fast Times at Ridgemont High on 10/3 as well (SRP $34.98 each). We've updated the High-Def Release List accordingly.

By the way, Universal is also delaying the 7/11 DVD release of Brick until mid-August. We'll post the new date when we have it.

Meanwhile, Bandai Visual USA and Image Entertainment will be showing off their recently announced DVD release of a 2-disc Patlabor 2: The Movie - Limited Edition at Anime Expo in Anaheim, CA next week. The title, limited to 10,000 units, will street on 7/11 (SRP $89.99). A single-disc movie only version will also be available (SRP $29.99).

In other news, Sony has set Broken Trail, Clive Barker's The Plague and Population 436 for release on 9/5, along with Mike Nichol's Family: The Complete First and Second Seasons (that's right, that show with Kristy McNichol - can James at 15 or Apple's Way be far behind?). Also due on that date is a repackaged All the King's Men and a new Jim Henson Fantasy Film Collection Box Set (which includes Labryinth, The Dark Crystal, Mirrormask and a booklet).

Paramount has set the re-release of its first DreamWorks DVDs under the new distribution arrangement for 8/29. The first titles include Chicken Run, The Road to El Dorado and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Paramount has also set Queer As Folk: The Complete Third Season and Diagnosis Murder: The Complete First Season for release on 9/12, Criminal Minds: The Complete First Season for 9/19, and Ghost Whisperer: The Complete First Season for 9/26.

Buena Vista will release Kinky Boots on 9/5. The studio has also added Stay Alive to its 9/19 release slate, along with Stick It.

And for you music fans, U2.com has just announced that U2: Zoo TV - Live from Sydney will be released on DVD by Universal Music in September (exact street date TBA). Click the link for more details.

Back on the HD front, any of you guys see The Colbert Report on Comedy Central last night? In his All You Need to Know Segment, host Stephen Colbert actually mentioned the HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc format war, and I about fell out of my seat laughing. Here's his exact comments:

"Last week, Sony released the first movies on Blu-ray, which will battle with Toshiba's HD-DVD to be the next-generation DVD format. All you need to know? The winner will be the one you DON'T buy."

Awwww SNAP! See folks? This is what comes of a format war. If anyone spots the clip online, please let me know so we can link to it.

On a related note, Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida is again claiming that they're STILL not ruling out the possibility of creating a united high-definition format: "We have not given up on a unified format. We would like to seek ways for unifying the standards if opportunities arise." Isn't that a little bit like closing the barn doors AFTER the cows have run loose across the south forty? Yikes, man.

Back with Todd's new Doogan's Views in a little while. Stay tuned...

6/26/06

Okay... hope you guys all had a great weekend. Hot as blazes here in The OC, but that seems to be the trend everywhere these days.

I wanted to check in this afternoon with a bit of an update on Blu-ray Disc. As I reported on Friday, I was having troubles with the HDMI output on the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player. Actually, I was having three separate issues. The first was what I consider to be subpar picture quality on several of the first Blu-ray Disc releases. The second was a problem with the HDMI output feeding video to my Panasonic projector properly at 1080i resolution. The final issue, is what I consider to be a problem with the BD-P1000's HDMI output video quality in general. All of these were rather vexing.

Fortunately, on Friday afternoon, I was able to spend a couple hours at Pioneer Electronics with Chris Walker, the company's Manager of New Technology. He invited me to bring my Samsung player and a few of the first Sony and Lionsgate discs over to their offices here in The OC, to take a closer look at some of the quality issues. Pioneer is understandably concerned that people don't judge the quality potential of the Blu-ray Disc format by just a single player and the first few discs, and I was happy to have a chance to compare the performance of the Samsung Blu-ray player to Pioneer's yet-to-be-released Elite BDP-HD1.

We began by connecting both the BD-P1000 and the Elite BDP-HD1 to a pair of side-by-side, matching 50-inch plasma displays - Pioneer's new Pro-FHD1 Elite plasma, that's fully 1080p compatible. We connected the players to the monitors first via HDMI, selected full 1080p resolution (which both the Samsung and the Pioneer are capable of delivering), and used an identical test disc in each player to play back MPEG-2 encoded footage of Disney's Chicken Little (we photographed a nearly identical setup playing the same disc at CES in January). I had told Chris that my first impression of the Samsung player was that the video image lacked some of the detail I had expected to see, and that it wasn't fully delivering all of the color and contrast information encoded on the disc either. He had also experienced this on another production BD-P1000 that they in the office, by the way. Sure enough, that was the first thing we both noticed. Colors and contrast (particularly color) from the BD-P1000 just seemed more subdued compared to the same image delivered by the BDP-HD1, and some of the fine detail in the image was also missing. The difference was rather dramatic. It's almost as if some kind of high-frequency filter is being applied, or as if the Samsung player is doing some kind of extra signal conversion before it sends the signal out via the HDMI connection. It's not the connection itself, because as Chris confirmed, both players use the same HDMI hardware and chipset. So it has to do with the way the Samsung player is processing the signal. By the way, to confirm that what we were seeing was really an issue with the Samsung player, and not the plasma displays, we swapped the displays connected to each player and sure enough, the video quality issues migrated to the new display.

To test something that I suspected might be the case based on my experiences with the Samsung player, we next connected the BD-P1000 to the display via the component output, and selected 1080i resolution. As I suspected, and to Chris' surprise, all of the problems with the video signal just disappeared. Suddenly, the video being displayed by the Samsung was MUCH closer in quality to the 1080p HDMI output of the Pioneer. Colors and contrast were VERY close to identical - colors just popped off the screen - and fine image detail was significantly improved on the Samsung side (although still not quite as good as the Pioneer - the difference was about what you would reasonably expect between analog component and digital HDMI connection, along with an interlaced image versus progressive scan). The upshot is, if you own a Samsung BD-P1000 and you want to experience the best possible image quality - quality that closely approaches the full potential of the video signal encoded on the disc - you NEED to be viewing via the component output. Now, that's troubling given that protected digital HDMI is what everyone in the industry is encouraging people to use. Yes... the Samsung is capable of delivering full-resolution 1080i video to your display via component. Like all Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, the player must be able to read the Image Constraint Token flag on the software if the studios choose to turn it on (and thus disallow full-resolution analog playback). However, the good news so far is that neither Sony or Lionsgate has chosen to exercise this option yet (for that matter, neither have any of the HD-DVD supporting studios either).

By the way, the scaling problem I was having between the Samsung and my Panasonic LCD projector via HDMI at 1080i resolution wasn't happening with the Pioneer plasma. It also isn't happening at any resolution via the component outputs, so it's definitely something endemic to the way the Samsung and my projector handshake via the HDMI connection. I'm hearing a few reports from other Panasonic projector owners who are having the same problem, so it's not just confined to my specific model of projector.

While we were conducting our tests, Pioneer's Senior Vice President Andy Parsons joined us for while. We continued sampling various Blu-ray Disc titles from Sony and Lionsgate, along with some other film demo material, including one clip that was encoded in VC1 format. Those of you who are interested in how Blu-ray displays VC1 material will be pleased to know that it looks absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately, I can't talk about the specific clips we saw, but it wouldn't be fair to compare Blu-ray's VC1 quality to that of HD-DVD at this point anyway, especially not from a single short clip. I will tell you, however, that one specific piece of test footage we looked at (in MPEG-2) was hands-down the single most stunning high-def video I've ever seen. I've seen a lot of HD video in my day, but NOTHING this good in terms of detail, color, contrast and lack of compression artifacting. I have no doubt that both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are capable of delivering video quality of this level eventually, but I'm betting full-length movie discs this good won't start hitting store shelves until mid-to-late next year... when the authoring and compression folks have had enough time to really hone their wizardry with these formats. The same was also true in the early days of DVD, of course, and compression quality has only gotten better since 1997. I suspect the same will be true with HD. Suffice it to say that when the average video DOES get that good on HD-DVD and Blu-ray, there's going to be something said for the argument that once you experience that kind of HD quality, it's hard to go back to regular DVD.

For the record, and for those who may be interested, I've been told that one of the chief advantages of using MPEG-2 over VC1, at least in the near term, is that it's easier to encode quickly in high quality. A good MPEG-2 encoding can be done in, say, two passes, whereas VC1 right now can take as many as five or six passes to achieve high quality. Still, that will certainly change over time as the VC1 compression software gets better.

Anyway, I left Pioneer feeling a LOT more confident about what I was seeing from the Samsung player. I know now that the picture quality the player delivers via HDMI is significantly inferior to that of its component output, and I know that Samsung's 1080i component output comes very close to delivering the full image quality encoded on the discs. I also have a better handle on the software quality issues - what's related to disc compression or to transfer issues. As a result of this, I've begun to evaluate the first wave of Blu-ray titles with all this in mind. I'm also going to compare the Toshiba's HD-A1 player's HDMI output with its component quality, and begin seriously reviewing the first several waves of HD-DVD titles with a more confident eye as well. Chalk it all up to the kinds of critical re-training you need to do with any new video format. C'est la vie in this industry in the 21st Century!

Rest assured, however, we'll check back tomorrow with a full update of all the latest standard DVD release news, and we've got a number of standard DVD reviews on the way as well. Also, we've got a big (and long overdue, we know) update of the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section nearly ready, and Todd checks back in with a new Doogan's Views column this week as well. So stay tuned...!

6/23/06

We have another a quick DVD release announcement for you. Universal has set Heath Ledger's Roar: The Complete Series for 9/19 (SRP $39.98). Look for 3 discs with all the episodes in the original full frame.

We also have a pair of new HD-DVD announcements to report from Warner today. The studio will deliver Dukes of Hazzard and Enter the Dragon on the high-def format on 7/11 (SRP $28.99). All standard DVD extras will be included on the new HD-DVDs, and Dukes of Hazzard will also include Warner's In-Movie Experience feature (which was also included on Constantine). Think of it like a picture-in-picture video commentary track.

Also on the high-def front today, we're getting word that Sony's PS3, which is expected to feature full Blu-ray Disc functionality, will also include an HDMI 1.3 spec output, meaning it should be fully compatible with all of the latest audio options being offered by the new high-def formats. You can read more here. The HDMI 1.3 spec, we should add, has just been officially finalized.

Also, Toshiba is apparently preparing to release an HD-DVD recorder in Japan, but there's no word of a U.S. release yet. The device will reportedly be able to record as much as 130 hours of high-def video on to its internal hard drive, then burn it onto blank HD-DVD media. Wouldn't that be handy? You can read more here at Video Business.

I've gotten a lot of nice e-mails from people who are experiencing similar problems with the HDMI outputs on the Samsung, and/or who have suggestions on the matter. So thanks for all your kind words and assistance. I'll have more to say about Blu-ray on Monday, and hopefully I'll have ironed out what's happening with the player by then too.

One last thing today... we've got a Comic-Con panel update for you! Here's the description we've just submitted to the show for their event catalog:

DVD Sneak Peek 2006 - Join Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan, editors of The Digital Bits.com, and a panel of some of Hollywood's leading special edition DVD producers as they give you a first look at lots of great movie and TV DVDs on the way for 2006 and 2007! They'll talk about the new HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc high-definition formats and answer lots of audience questions as well. Scheduled to participate are Robert Meyer Burnett (Superman Returns, Free Enterprise: SE, Chronicles of Narnia), JM Kenny (Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder, Zoom, Rocky Balboa), Charles de Lauzirika (Kingdom of Heaven, Monster House, Blade Runner), Andy Mangels (He-Man, She-Ra, Dungeons & Dragons) and Javier Soto (Pan's Labyrinth, The 4400).

For the record, our panel is going to be held on Friday, July 21st from 2:00-3:30 in the San Diego Convention Center, Room 6B. It's going to be a lot of fun, so we hope to see you there!

Okay... a great weekend to all of you and we'll see you back on Monday!

(LATE UPDATE - 6/22/06 - 7 PM PDT)

Well... it looks like the scaling problems I've been having with the BD-P1000 at 1080i are specifically related to the HDMI output. I've switched to component and BAM... not only are the scaling problems gone at 1080i resolution, but now I'm seeing more vibrant color reproduction. Significantly more vibrant color, that really pops off the screen. Go figure.

Let me just say, that I'm more excited to look at Blu-ray Disc material now, that's for sure. After some calibrating, I'm going to dive right into watching some discs. I'm taking back my snap judgement from last night on being less than impressed with Blu-ray, until I've had more time to look at FINALLY decent 1080i video out of this Samsung player. However, I am fully ready to pass judgement on the BD-P1000's HDMI output. Ugh... nicht gut.

Okay, enough for now. Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/22/06 - 6 PM PDT)

Okay... a little bit of follow-up on my experience with Blu-ray Disc and this Samsung BD-P1000 player. First, the good so far. Let me just say that the PCM 5.1 Uncompressed audio on these Blu-ray Discs is absolutely spectacular. Smooth, rich, enveloping... these audio tracks are just really impressive. It's a lovely experience listening to these discs.

Now for the... well, troubling. I will say right up front that I think most of the problems I'm seeing with the video are related to the Samsung player itself, rather than anything indemic to the format. Upon much consideration, I believe that The Fifth Element Blu-ray Disc suffers from problems with the source material - at times it looks good, at times it looks pretty bad. Specifically, the print itself is of questionable quality, with obvious dust and dirt, grain issues and other problems. Again, it seems to vary from reel to reel. The opening credits and the shots in the desert are really awful looking - blotchy, lacking in detail. Later, it improves a great deal, but the image quality overall really suffers in comparision to the other titles I've now seen.

But back to the issues with the player... I'm going to be attending a demo soon of the Samsung player compared side-by-side with another forthcoming player model to confirm my suspicions, but it appears to me that the BD-P1000 in general isn't showing all of the detail that's in the image encoded on the discs, and it's not reproducing all of the color either. The bigger problem I'm having however, is that the HDMI output on the player looks fine on my Panasonic PT-L500U LCD projector at 720p resolution. But when I try to switch over to 1080i, I'm seeing major scaling errors - errors that I don't see at 1080i resolution from any other source via HDMI, including the Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player, which tells me that it's something to do with the BD-P1000's HDMI output specifically. It's extremely frustrating not to be able to evaluate this material at close to its best intended resolution.

In any case, such is the state of things when you're looking at the first player on a new format. I'll have more to say tomorrow or Monday.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/22/06 - 5:30 PM PDT)

We've got some interesting standard DVD release news to report for you today.

First up, Universal has announced the DVD release of NBC's The Book of Daniel: The Complete Series on 9/26 (2 discs, SRP $29.98). On 10/13, look for a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels: Locked 'N Loaded Unrated Director's Cut (SRP $19.98) in anamorphic widescreen. Extras are TBA. Also on 10/13, the studio will release a 2-disc Scarface: Platinum Edition (SRP $29.98). Again, no word yet on extras.

Fox has announced the DVD release of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales from the Hellmouth on 9/5 (SRP $29.98). This is a 2-disc "best of" set containing the episodes The Pack, Halloween, Passion, The Wish, Helpless, Fear Itself, Hush and Same Time Same Place.

Fox has also announced the separate DVD release of Mel Brooks' To Be or Not to Be and Robin Hood: Men in Tights on 9/5 (SRP $14.98 each). To Be or Not to Be will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, a "making of" featurette, characters profiles and interviews with Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning.

FYI, Fox's Taps: 25th Anniversary Edition (due 9/12, SRP $19.98), will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by director Harold Becker, the Sounding the Call to Arms: Mobilizing the TAPS Generation and The Bugler's Cry: The Origins of Playing Taps documentaries, theatrical trailers and TV spots.

Also newly announced by Fox are Remington Steele: Season 4 & 5 for 8/15 (5-discs, SRP $49.98) and a Romancing the Stone/Jewel of the Nile 2-Pack (SRP $29.98), both of which are new special editions with never-before-seen deleted scenes and behind-the-scene featurettes.

Meanwhile, BCI's Ink & Paint panel has officially announced the DVD release of the animated Blackstar on 8/22 (SRP $19.98). The 2-disc set will include all 13 episodes of the series, interviews with creators Lou Scheimer, Michael Swanigan, Marc Scott Zicree, Michael Reaves, Robert Kline, Robby London and Ted Field, The Magic of Filmation documentary, audio commentary for 2 episodes, an image gallery of original "heroes and villains" model sheets and sketches, a gallery of presentation artwork and backgrounds uses in the series, trivia and the scripts for all 13 episodes via DVD-ROM. Also due from BCI's Ink & Paint label on 8/22 (SRP $19.98) is Space Sentinels & The Freedom Force: The Complete Series. The 2-disc set will include all 13 episodes of Space Sentinels, all 5 episodes of The Freedom Force, interviews with creators Lou Scheimer, Buzz Dixon, Darrell McNeil, Michael Reaves, Robert Kline and David Wise, the The Magic of Filmation documentary, Young Sentinels audition tapes, the original Young Sentinels storyboard presentation, galleries of model sheet art and Young Sentinels early presentation images, trivia for both series and the scripts for all 13 Space Sentinels and 3 Freedom Force episodes via DVD-ROM.

Finally, Warner has announced the release of Avenger, staring Sam Elliott, on 10/3 (SRP $19.98).

And on the high-def front today, it seems as if Samsung is considering the prospect of releasing an HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc combo player late this year or early in 2007, according to a report at TG Daily. According to the story, the information comes from recent quotes by Kim Du-Hyon, an assistant manager in Samsung's home-platform product planning division.

By the way, on the subject Blu-ray Disc, we've confirmed with our industry contacts that pre-release 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray titles have been pressed and are working just fine with prototype hardware in testing. What's apparently happening now is that the replicators are working to be able to reliably manufacture them in high quantities. As I posted last night, many titles on dual-layered HD-DVDs (HD-30s) have already been released. In fact, most of Warner's first waves of titles are on dual-layered discs.

Speaking of high-def, I'll definitely have more to say about the Samsung player and Blu-ray Disc tomorrow afternoon, so be sure to check back.

Also, around the site today, we've kicked off FIVE new Contests IN ADDITION TO THOSE ALREADY RUNNING, giving each of you the chance to win copies of Warner's Lois and Clark: The Complete Third Season, Adventures of Superman: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons and the Clark Gable: The Signature Collection box set, Universal's Coach: The First Season - Limited Edition and The Rockford Files: Season Two, Paramount's Failure to Launch: Special Collector's Edition and ThinkFilm's When Stand-up Stood Out. All of these contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, July 2nd. Not that the previously running contests will end on Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, June 25th. Click the links to get started and good luck!

Back with more tomorrow. Stay tuned...


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