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page updated: 5/29/07



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 5/14/07 - 4/23/07)


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5/14/07

Okay... we've got a lot of ground to cover over the next few days, folks. We've got reviews, news, Rumor Mill stuff, an interview, new columns - lots of things to post for you this week. So let's get right to it.

First, a quick movie comment: Matt and I attended a late screening of 28 Weeks Later on Friday night, and let me tell you... it's a pretty great little sequel to the original film. It's gutsy, dark and every bit as intense as the original 28 Days Later. If you liked the first film, trust me, you definitely don't want to miss this one. And the film leaves no doubt that a 28 Months Later is already on the way. 'Nuff said.

Now then... we've once again updated the Upcoming DVD Cover Art section with more new DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc cover art. There's lot of new stuff to see, so be sure to check it out. And don't forget that purchasing titles through our Amazon links helps support our work at The Bits - as always, we appreciate it.

In release news today, Sony has confirmed that Reign Over Me will street on 7/24.

Universal has moved the street date for Dead Silence on DVD and HD-DVD to 6/26 (from 7/10).

And Warner has set The Still Life for release on 8/7.

In The Rumor Mill today, we've got more upcoming street dates for Universal HD-DVD titles through the end of September. Be sure to check it out.

Also, we've got a bit of new cover art to show you today. Here's Anchor Bay's Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (both the standard and limited editions, due on 7/3) and Fox's M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (5/15)...

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society - Limited EditionGhost in the Shell: Solid State Society - Standard EditionM*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

We'll be back tomorrow with more, including a review of Warner's new The Ultimate Matrix Collection in HD-DVD format, as well as reviews of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest in Blu-ray Disc format.

Stay tuned!

5/11/07

Afternoon, folks!

As promised, we've got a new disc review for you today, and it's kind of a special one for us. Why? Well... we're very pleased to welcome the return of Greg Suarez to The Bits staff, after a few years' hiatus. Greg checks in today with his first high-definition review... 20th Century Fox's Speed on Blu-ray Disc. And it's going to be just the first of many new DVD and high-def reviews, as you'll start to see next week. There's lots of good stuff coming, so be sure to watch for it.

Okay, now for some disc announcements: First up today, Magnolia Home Entertainment has revealed that they plan to release director Bong Joon-Ho's wonderfully creepy The Host on DVD on 7/24. You can read Adam's review of the film in this installment of his Electric Theatre, and it's every bit as good as he says. The DVD will be available in two versions - a standard edition (SRP $26.98) featuring the film in anamorphic widescreen video with audio commentary by the director, and a 2-disc collector's edition ($29.98) that adds deleted scenes, storyboards, casting video, a gag reel, 7 featurettes (The Making of the Host, Designing the Creature, Puppet Animatronix, Memories of the Sewer, The Film Departments, Special Effects and Sound Effects and Training the Actors) and more. Better news still: the collector's edition will also be available in both Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats the same day (SRP $34.98 each). The only thing we're a little concerned about is that there are some indications that the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is English dubbed, rather than the original Korean with English subtitles. That would suck, but we'll see if we can clarify this.

In other news today, Fox has announced the DVD release of The Darwin Awards for 7/31. They've also set an Al Pacino Collection for release on 6/19 (including Looking for Richard, Chinese Coffee and The Local Stigmatic, along with the Babbelonia bonus disc), and have announced a series of new western catalog titles as well for release on 5/22, including Broken Arrow (1950), Convict Stage (1965), Fort Courageous and Fury at Furnace Creek.

Meanwhile, MGM as revealed a new Steven King DVD Collector's Edition box set for release on 7/3 (distributed by Fox) which will include Misery, The Dark Half, Needful Things and the Carrie TV movie.

Warner has set Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! for release on 9/4 (SRP $19.98). For the BBC, they've revealed that Doctor Who: Ep. 75 - Robot and Doctor Who: Ep.159 - Survival will both street on 8/14.

Disney has set Dinosaurs: The Complete Third & Fourth Seasons for release on 5/1 as a 4-disc set (SRP $39.99). This final set in the series will include several episodes never aired on network TV during the original broadcast run. Also coming from Disney on 11/20 is the Pooh's Super Sleuth Movie.

Lionsgate has announced their June release slate, which will include The Dead Zone: The Complete Fifth Season, Clifford's Schoolhouse, Clifford Saves the Day, Happy Birthday Clifford and Clifford: Big Fun in the Sun (each in new Kid Case editions), Comedy Club Greats: Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler and Dave Attell, The 4 Musketeers and Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck on 6/5, DishDogz, Daddy's Little Girls, a Daddy's Little Girls Blu-ray Disc and a Diary of a Mad Black Woman: Special Edition on 6/12, The Abandoned (an After Dark Horrorfest: Films to Die For title), Harrison's Flowers, Ginostra, The Manhattan Project: Special Edition, Honor Among Thieves, The Nightcomers, The Tomb and Fire Serpent on 6/19, and Pride, Hijas de su Madre: Las Buenrostro, Mujeres Revolucionarias, Grandes Compositores: Volume 2 and Haunted Forest on 6/26.

For the record, The Manhattan Project: Special Edition (SRP $19.98) will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, audio commentary with director Marshall Brickman and actors John Lithgow and Robert Sean Leonard, 2 featurettes (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: The Making of The Manhattan Project and Home Made Apocalypse), a subtitle trivia track and special foil "O-card" packaging.

And finally today, Paramount has set Soul Food: The Series - The Second Season for release on 8/7.

Here's a look at the early cover art for Disney's Roving Mars: IMAX (7/31) and The Muppet Show: The Complete Second Season (8/7), as well as final art for Lionsgate's The Manhattan Project: Special Edition, both versions of Magnolia's The Host and Criterion's La Jetée/San Soleil...

Roving Mars: IMAXThe Muppet Show: The Complete Second SeasonThe Manhattan Project: Special Edition

The HostThe Host: Collector's EditionLa Jetée/San Soleil (Criterion)

Okay, here's hoping that 28 Weeks Later is better than Spidey 3 was last week. Don't forget Mother's Day on Sunday. Everybody have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/10/07 - 4:30 PM PDT)

Okay, we've just heard back from Universal on a couple of issues. First, here's the official statement from Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau on that format neutrality rumor:

"Rumors circulating that Universal has switched allegiances to support Blu-ray are totally false. We are committed to a line-up of incredible HD DVD titles worldwide this year and continue to be a vocal participant in the promotion of HD DVD. The reality is that HD DVD continues to offer better value for consumers with the lowest prices for hardware, the highest quality content and superior interactive experiences."

So there you have it. Now, as to the playback issues with Children of Men, The Good Shepherd and select other Universal DVD/HD-DVD Combo titles recently, it seems that the problem is related to the adhesive thickness on select copies of these discs. Universal says that they've fixed the problem and are already in the process of replicating new discs. They'll offering a replacement program for anyone with a defective copy. We'll update this post as soon as we have all the details on how to arrange to have your discs replaced.

As we said a little while ago, Toshiba also appears to addressing the issue in their next firmware updates, so between the two approaches, the problem should soon be resolved. We appreciate both Universal and Toshiba for responding to this issue on behalf of our readers.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/10/07 - 3:15 PM PDT)

As long as we've been talking about Universal HD-DVD today, we might as well give you a brief update on the potential resolution for the problems people have been having with their DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs of Children of Men and The Good Shepherd. We've got a Toshiba HD-XA2 here at The Bits which is having problems playing back both titles. We're still waiting to hear back from Universal, but we did speak with a representative of Toshiba today, who indicated to us that the solution will likely involve a firmware update that's expected to be released soon. The HD-XA2, HD-A20, HD-A2, HD-A2W and HD-D2 are all currently on version 1.5 of their firmware, while the HD-XA1, HD-A1 and HD-D1 are all up to version 2.2 at the moment. The new updates that will address the Universal Combo disc problem will be available online via the Ethernet connection, and you'll be able to order them on CD as well. If you're having problems playing the discs on any of these players, we suggest that you contact Toshiba Customer Solutions at (800) 319-6684. We'll be sure to let you know here at The Bits when the new firmware updates are available.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/10/07 - 2:15 PM PDT)

We're checking back in this afternoon with a MAJOR update of The Rumor Mill, featuring anticipated street dates for a ton of upcoming titles including new releases, catalog films and TV titles from the likes of Paramount, CBS, MGM, Fox and more. There's something in there for everyone, so you're definitely not going to want to miss it. Think Zødiac, The Outer Limits, The Simpsons... even Shrek the Third.

We're saving those disc reviews for tomorrow, when we hope to be able to check in with a few all at once. Have a great afternoon and we'll see you then.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/10/07 - 12:15 PM PDT)

Well... it's certainly been an interesting 24 hours around here, folks.

While we spent the morning and part of the afternoon yesterday up in L.A. for a special feature story that we're working on for you, rumors broke online that Universal was considering going HD format neutral, and that they'd being supporting both Blu-ray Disc as well as HD-DVD with movie titles. That would mean that every major Hollywood studio would finally be releasing Blu-ray Disc titles, and it would effectively end the format war. We received dozens of mostly thrilled (but also a few panicked) e-mails from enthusiasts of both formats asking us if the rumor was true.

We've said before that The Digital Bits would welcome a move like this by Universal. This format war just isn't good for anyone, and Universal would instantly become the good guy to both retailers and consumers alike by ending it. People waiting for the war to end before jumping into high-def could finally do so worry free with Blu-ray, and those who already enjoyed HD-DVD could no doubt still enjoy new releases on that format as well (it's unlikely that every HD-DVD supporting studio would stop supporting the format entirely even if Universal went neutral). Everybody wins. Such a move would also be smart for Universal economically. They have to be watching the numbers like everyone else, and the numbers don't lie. Blu-ray is already outselling HD-DVD in software by at least a 2 to 1 margin, and there are several cheaper name-brand, fully-featured BD player models on the way. On top of that, when you consider that AACS has already been compromised, the extra layer of protection afforded by Blu-ray's (soon to be finalized) BD+ starts to look more attractive to the studios (for better or worse). Most indicators seem to show that Blu-ray has the momentum right now. And we know that Universal has, rather prudently, investigated Blu-ray authoring and replication. All of that said, however, the rumor sounded just a little too convenient to be true. And strangely, it also sounded just a little too "truthy" not to have at least a grain of substance to it.

We've made our own inquiries with Universal, but in the meantime the folks at Engadget have reported that they've heard directly from Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau that the rumors are false. Interestingly, however (judging by their post on the subject), even they don't seem to quite believe it. We'll certainly keep our eye on this fascinating situation to see what comes of it. When we hear back from Uni ourselves, we'll be sure to let you know.

By the way, while we're talking HD format support, we've spoken once more with reps from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, who say in no uncertain terms that their studio is NOT wavering in its support of Blu-ray Disc, despite the continued delay of those catalog BD titles (from both Fox and MGM) that were first announced at CES in January. Some of our other industry sources have informed us that work IS ongoing on additional, as-yet-unannounced catalog titles for BD release from both studios, which seems to confirm Fox's on-the-record statements to us. Given this, we do fully expect all of these titles to be rescheduled and announced for release in the weeks ahead. We would certainly expect Fox to have something more substantial to say on the subject at the EMA Expo in July, if not sooner. Rest assured, we will post the official details here as soon as they're available.

Okay, we'll be back this afternoon with a big Rumor Mill update... and maybe a review or two as well. Stay tuned...

5/9/07

Evening, folks!

It's a little later in the day than we expected, but we're still pleased as punch to present you with our own Adam Jahnke's latest installment of The Bottom Shelf. In this edition, Adam reviews 6 animated titles on DVD, including Warner's A Scanner Darkly, 20th Century Fox's Broken Saints: The Animated Comic Epic, Starz/Anchor Bay's Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms and Stan Lee Presents The Condor, Manga's Tokko 1 and BCI's Filmation's Ghostbusters: Volume One!. Enjoy!

There's one quick new announcement to report this evening: Paramount has revealed that it will release The Rainmaker: Special Collector's Edition on DVD on 7/24. Additional details will follow when we have them. Meanwhile, here's a look at the cover artwork...

The Rainmaker: Special Collector's EditionHamlet: Special EditionShakespeare Collection

As you can see, we've also posted the brand-spankin' new DVD cover artwork for Warner's just-announced Hamlet (1996) and the Shakespeare Collection box set (both due on 8/14).

Back tomorrow with more (and earlier too)! Stay tuned...

5/8/07

As promised, we're pleased today to bring you the complete transcript of last night's Home Theater Forum chat with Warner Home Video on the subject of TV and animation DVD releases. There's some good news in there, and a little bad news too (regarding poor sales of previous TV titles), but either way it's worth a read. Do check it out. Thanks to Ron and everyone at HTF for all their hard work and for the transcript.

Also today, we've got a new column from our own Adam Jahnke, but we're pitching a change-up: Today it's a new installment of his Electric Theatre, featuring reviews of Spider-Man 3, Hot Fuzz, Payback: Straight Up and more. Then tomorrow, we'll be back with his latest edition of The Bottom Shelf, so be sure to watch for that. For the record, Jahnke didn't seem to enjoy Spidey 3 much more than Todd did. Matt and I are up next, later this week, so we'll let you know what we think about the film then.

In announcement news, MGM has set a RoboCop: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition for release on 8/21 (SRP $22.98) as a 2-disc set. Disc One will include the theatrical cut of the film in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 audio, audio commentary by director Paul Verhoeven, writer Ed Neumeier and executive producer Jon Davison, 4 featurettes (Flesh and Steel: The Making of RoboCop, Shooting RoboCop, Making RoboCop and The Boardroom: Storyboard with Commentary by Animator Phil Tippet), 4 deleted scenes, a 6-subject photo gallery, the film's theatrical trailer and a TV spot. Disc Two will add the extended cut of the film (also anamorphic with 5.1 audio), 3 featurettes (Villains of Old Detroit, Special Effects: Then and Now and RoboCop: Creating a Legend), a "Paul Verhoeven Easter egg" and more trailers and TV spots.

We have a small update on Universal's Serenity: Collector's Edition (due 8/21): Look for a 2-disc set with 60 minutes of all-new bonus material, including never-before-seen footage and collectible packaging.

In other Universal news, the studio has set The Bourne Identity, In Good Company, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Scent of a Woman and Streets of Fire for HD-DVD release on 7/24 (SRP $29.98 each).

The studio has also announced the standard DVD release of Peaceful Warrior on 6/26, and a Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers: Circle of Trust Collection (SRP $19.98) as well as a Carlito's Way: Crime Saga Collection (SRP also $19.98, containing Carlito's Way and Carlito's Way: Rise to Power) both on 8/28.

Here's good news for you Muppets fans... Buena Vista has finally announced the DVD release of The Muppet Show: The Complete Second Season on 8/7 (SRP $39.99). The 4-disc set will contain all 24 digitally remastered episodes, including the rarely seen 1974 The Muppets Valentine Special, along with the Keep Fishin' music video by Weezer and the Muppets and The Muppets on the Muppets interview featurette.

Also newly announced by Buena Vista for DVD and Blu-ray Disc release on 7/31 is Roving Mars: IMAX, which follows the 2003 NASA mission to land twin rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) on Mars. Both versions will include the vintage 1957 featurette Mars and Beyond, hosted by Walt Disney, as well as the new Mars: Past, Present and Future, which features interviews with the filmmakers and the NASA/JPL team behind the missions. The DVD will SRP for $29.99, while the Blu-ray will SRP for $37.99.

Here's a little bit of cover art: Fox's Picket Fences: Season One (6/19), MGM's RoboCop: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition and Disney's Bridge to Terabithia (6/19)...

Picket Fences: Season OneRoboCop: 20th Anniversary Collector's EditionBridge to Terabithia

Stay tuned...

5/7/07

Hey everybody! Hope you had a fine weekend. Anyone out there see Spider-Man 3? We've got family in town right now, so I haven't had the chance yet. But then Todd calls on Saturday to say don't even bother. He and some friends apparently went to a screening in Atlanta on Friday night, and ended up asking for their money back. Yikes. I think the best rule of thumb for superhero movies is not to let the number of villains match the sequel number. The Batman films fell into that trap, and the result was lots of underdeveloped and underused bad guys. Ah well. Here's hoping the rest of the summer films are better. By the way, we hear the first trailer for New Line's The Golden Compass (due in theaters on 12/7) is going to be attached to prints of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on 5/25.

Now then... we've got a bit of housekeeping for you: Based on some of the feedback sent in by our readers, we've once again updated our Upcoming DVD Cover Artwork section, and this time we've refined it with a few new features. You can still see ALL of the titles streeting on a given day, and sort them by bestselling or alphabetically, but now we've also added the ability to see just the Top 40 titles (all formats) as well as just the High-Def titles (both formats). These can again be shown by bestselling or alphabetically, so all you guys who obsess that the Blu-ray version of a film is selling better than the HD-DVD (or vise versa) can now keep an eye on that here with our cover art. And once you make your sorting choice (say the high-def), you can click from date to date and the choice will stay for your convenience. I think you guys will appreciate the new options. As always, our own Russell Hammond deserves much thanks for all his hard work on this. Hope you like the new features!

In other news today, our friends over at The Home Theater Forum are going to be hosting another live chat with the folks at Warner Home Video TONIGHT, on the subject of TV and animation on DVD. The chat will be held from 5 to 8 PM (Pacific). You can click on this link to sign up and participate (be sure to bring lots of questions) and as usual, we'll have a full transcript of the chat available here at The Bits tomorrow morning.

In industry news today, there's a bit more shuffling over at Universal. Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau has just been placed in charge of the company's worldwide digital efforts in addition to his current role as video chief. Click here for more at Video Business.

Also, Wal-Mart is reportedly working with HP on its own video-on-demand style movie download service. Seems like EVERYONE'S trying to get in on that game. You'll find more on that via this link at Home Media.

There's only a couple of new title announcements to report this morning so far, but the big one is that Warner has just finally confirmed the release of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet: 2-Disc Special Edition on 8/14 (SRP $26.99). The set will contain the remastered film in anamorphic widescreen video (transferred from the original 70mm elements) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a new introduction to the film by director/star Kenneth Branagh, audio commentary by Branagh and Shakespeare scholar Russell Jackson, the To Be on Camera: A History with Hamlet featurette, the 1996 Cannes Film Festival promo and a Shakespeare movies trailer gallery. We expect high-def versions on both formats to be announced in the weeks ahead as well.

You'll also find the Hamlet: 2-Disc Special Edition packaged as part of Warner's The Shakespeare Collection box set (due 8/14 - SRP $59.92), which will also feature Max Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Sir Laurence Olivier's Othello and the MGM version of Romeo and Juliet starring Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer (also available individually for SRP $19.97 each).

Warner has also set Gold Digger Killer for release on 7/24 (SRP $19.97), with the classic animated Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show following on 8/7 (SRP $26.99) as a 2-disc set.

Meanwhile, HBO has set Longford for release on 6/19 (SRP $26.98), including audio commentary with director Tom Hooper and writer Peter Morgan, as well as the For the Record: Firsthand Accounts of the Moors Murders featurette.

You'll find a small pamphlet inside Paramount and DreamWorks' new Dreamgirls Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases promoting the future high-def release (both formats) of David Fincher's Zødiac and the catalog classic Saturday Night Fever. No dates are yet available, but watch for them to be announced soon.

Finally, Sony is releasing Aaron Spelling's 70s cop drama The Rookies: The Complete First Season on 7/17 ($49.95), featuring all 23 episodes of the show's debut year on 5-discs.

Here's a little more new cover art - the titles for all of the individual Sergio Leone SEs due from MGM (via Fox) on 6/5, including the box set art itself (which we've posted previously - note that the art for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Collector's Edition is the same as the previous release), as well as Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes from Warner (6/26). Then all you have to do is pick up a copy of Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West: Special Collector's Edition from Paramount and Once Upon a Time in America: Special Edition from Warner and you're all set.

The Sergio Leone Anthology Box SetA Fistfull of Dollars: Collector's EditionFor A Few Dollars More: Collector's Edition

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Collector's EditionDuck, You Sucker: Collector's EditionThe Colossus of Rhodes

Back tomorrow with a new edition of The Bottom Shelf from Adam Jahnke, as well as that HTF chat transcript and lots more news. Stay tuned!

5/4/07

We've got a bit more DVD news to report today, but first another bit of sad news: Bits reader Robert C. was kind enough to point out that actor Gordon Scott passed away on 4/30. Scott starred as the title character in several classic Tarzan films, including Tarzan's Greatest Adventure. He later appeared in a number of Italian genre films. He'll be missed.

Now then... the big DVD news today is that Universal has finally announced that Serenity: Collector's Edition we revealed in The Rumor Mill a couple months back for release on 8/21 (SRP $26.98). The 2-disc set will include a number of new special features (still TBA) and will offer both Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 audio.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set Picket Fences: Season One for release on 6/19. The 6-disc set (SRP $59.98) will contain all 22 episodes in the original full frame video (with 2.0 stereo audio) including the series pilot, plus the All Roads Lead to Rome featurette.

Fox and MGM are also re-releasing a number of catalog sci-fi and action DVDs on 6/5 with new lenticular covers (SRP $14.98 each), including Alien, Aliens, Alien vs. Predator, The Abyss: Director's Cut, I, Robot, Predator, RoboCop and Independence Day. Also coming from the studios are 2-disc SE re-releases in new "SteelBook" metal covers (SRP $22.98 each), including Cast Away, The Day After Tomorrow, Die Hard, Fight Club, Hannibal, Man on Fire, Platoon, The Omen and X2: X-Men United.

In other release news today, Paramount has set The Wood: Back in the Day Edition for release on 6/19 and The Executioner's Song for 8/14. Paramount will also release (for CBS) Perry Mason: The Second Season - Volume One on 6/19 and a Star Trek: Fan Collectives 5-pack (including all previous Fan Collective sets plus the new Captain's Log set) on 7/24, as well as Dexter: The Complete First Season (for Showtime) on 8/21.

Also, Warner and the Cartoon Network have announced the DVD release of the Cartoon Network Movie: Re-animated on 8/21 (SRP $14.97), as well as Samurai Jack: Season 4 on 8/28 (SRP $29.98).

Around the site today, we've updated a lot of the DVD & HD format stats we track (above), including the high-def software sales stuff.

Finally today, here's something amusing: Proof that the Chinese will bootleg ANYTHING... even theme parks. What, it isn't enough to just pirate movies and handbags anymore? Amazing. The BALLS, man. It boggles the mind. [Editor's note: The link's been spotty all day, but keep checking back - it's worth it.]

Okay, that's all she wrote. Go forth and enjoy Spidey 3 to kick off the summer movie season. Have a great weekend!

5/3/07

Afternoon everyone. We've got some sad news today I'm afraid. There are reports, though strangely few in the mainstream media yet, that actor Tom Poston has passed away. Poston was probably most famous for his role as George Utley, Bob Newhart's handyman on Newhart, but his TV and film career goes all the way back to regular appearances on The Steve Allen Show and even a role on the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet TV series back in the 50s (click here for his lengthy list of IMDB credits). Tom was 85.

Also today, I'm also sad to report that retired NASA astronaut Wally Schirra has died at the age of 84. Schirra was one of the first seven astronauts selected for the pioneering Mercury program back in the early 1960s, and he later commanded the Gemini 6 flight and the first manned Apollo mission (Apollo 7). Some older readers may also remember him for teaming up with CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite to cover the subsequent Apollo moon landings on TV.

Now then... in DVD and high-def news today, there's a major brouhaha shaping up over at Digg.com. Hackers apparently posted stories in which they revealed the 16-digit HD-DVD AACS Processing Key, that unlocks all current HD-DVD software titles to potential copying. The story was "dug" online, as these things are, at which point Digg.com received a cease and desist order from the AACS Licensing Administrator (AACS stands for Advanced Access Content System, one of the anti-piracy systems used in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray), claiming that the posts were a direct violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So the staff at Digg complied, pulling the stories or removing references to the key itself. Thousands of Digg's readers revolted, demanding that the references be restored and asking Digg to make a stand legally. And so that's what Digg has apparently decided to do. Something tells me this is going to backfire bigtime on the AACS and Hollywood folks. Something also tells me that their lawyers are not going to give up even so. You can read more here at Gizmodo and here at CBS News.

In announcement news today, Buena Vista has set The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Friendship Edition for release on 6/19 (SRP $29.99). This is, as you know, the character's first ever feature film, featuring the classic stories The Honey Tree, The Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Extras will include a bonus episode of My Friends Tigger and Pooh, The Story Behind the Masterpiece featurette, the A Day for Eeyore short, the 100 Acre Woods Challenge interactive game, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers sing-a-long, the film's theme song performed by Carly Simon, an art gallery and the Pooh's Shadow Disney's Story Time feature.

Also today, we have details on MGM's Red Dawn: Collector's Edition due on 7/15 (SRP $19.98). The 2-disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. There will also be an optional "carnage counter" you can activate as you watch the film. Disc Two will add 4 featurettes (Red Dawn Rising, Building the Red Menace, Military Training and WWII Comes to Town).

And Warner has announced the DVD, DVD/HD-DVD Combo and Blu-ray Disc release of We Are Marshall on 9/18 (SRP $28.98 for the DVD, $39.99 for the HD-DVD and $34.99 for the Blu-ray). Extras are TBA.

Warner has also announced the DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of IMAX Blue Planet on 7/31. It's about time someone started releasing more IMAX titles in high-def. The cool thing is, not only does the disc include Blue Planet, you also get the IMAX space film The Dream Is Alive. Now that's right up my alley. Both high-def versions (SRP $28.99 each) will include Dolby TrueHD audio (a.k.a. Dolby Surround 5.1 MLP).

Other new announcements by Warner today include the Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection (SRP $49.92 - including Double Wedding, Evelyn Prentice, I Love You Again, Love Crazy and Manhattan Melodrama), The Thin Man Goes Home, Song of the Thin Man, After The Thin Man, Another Thin Man and Shadow of the Thin Man all on 8/7, All Creatures Great & Small: The Specials (which we mentioned yesterday), All Creatures Great & Small: The Complete Series 7 Collection and All Creatures Great & Small: The Complete Collection on 8/14 (for the BBC), and Legion of the Superheroes: Volume 1 on 8/28. Warner will also release ThinkFilm's Traci Townsend on 7/17.

Here's the cover art for MGM's Red Dawn: Collector's Edition, CBS's Hawaii Five-0: The Second Season (7/31) and Warner's We Are Marshall on Blu-ray Disc...

Red Dawn: Collector's EditionHawaii Five-0: The Second SeasonWe Are Marshall (Blu-ray Disc)

Finally this morning, our friends over at From Script to DVD have posted a list of all the places you can go see Spider-Man 3 in IMAX format this weekend. You can't miss that!

Stay tuned...

5/2/07

Hey guys! Anyone interested in joining us for a few days in Vegas?

To help celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the DVD format, The Digital Bits is proud to join The Home Theater Forum in sponsoring a group trip to The EMA Home Media Expo in Las Vegas, July 17-19th 2007! You may recall the Expo under it's previous name, the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) convention. Representatives from every major Hollywood studio will be in town, and many of them will be holding private VIP events open only to Bits readers and HTF members, at which they'll preview many of their new and upcoming DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles. At least a few hardware reps will on hand as well to show off their latest players. You can attend the show, join us for all the private events, meet, dine and hang out with fellow DVD and home theater enthusiasts and then hit the Strip for all-night debauchery. EMA is offering a special hotel rate to readers of The Bits and HTF members ($119 a night at The Venetian - less than half the usual $300 a night rate), but we only have some 30 slots left open in our group, so you need to act now if you'd like to join in all the fun. You can visit our official event page for more information, or contact Ron Epstein and me to sign up (be sure to use the words 'HTF/BITS EMA REQUEST' in the header). We hope to see you there!

One other thing I wanted to mention today: The feedback has been fantastic on our new Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. People really seem to appreciate the flexibility it offers. And again, keep in mind that ordering titles from our Amazon links helps support our work here at The Bits. Again, we appreciate it very much. Every little bit helps. Please take a moment to check the new section out and let us know what you think!

In news today, Paramount has announced Black Snake Moan for release on 6/26 as expected. Look for DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions to street on the same day. Each will include audio commentary with writer/director Craig Brewer, deleted scenes and 3 featurettes (Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan, Rooted in the Blues and The Black Snake Moan).

Paramount has also announced the DVD release of The Fugitive: The First Season, Volume One for release on 8/14. They also have J.A.G.: The Fourth Season due on 8/21.

And Warner and the BBC have set All Creatures Great & Small: The Specials for release on 8/14 as well. This will include both the 1983 and 1985 specials.

Here's a look at the cover art for Paramount's Black Snake Moan and The Fugitive: The First Season, Volume One, along with Warner's Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (8/14). Below that, you'll also find a look at the packaging for Fox's Land of the Giants: The Complete Series - Limited Edition (7/24)...

Black Snake MoanThe Fugitive: The First Season, Volume OneAqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Land of the Giants: The Complete Series - Limited Edition

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/1/07 - 2:45 PM PDT)

We've got a couple more cool DVD release announcements to report today.

HBO has set Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Animated Collection - The 10th Anniversary Edition for release on 7/24 (SRP $39.98). The 4-disc set will contain all the episodes along with a host of great bonus features (details TBA) including commentaries, featurettes and more.

HBO will also deliver Rome: The Complete Second Season on 8/24 (SRP $99.98). This will be a 5-disc set containing all the episodes with additional features as well (including commentaries and featurettes - we'll post details when they're available).

Also this afternoon, Fox has just announced The Practice: Volume One for release on 6/12. The 4-disc set will contain all 13 first-season episodes of the series along with the Setting Up The Practice featurette, which includes new interviews with creator David E. Kelley and execuitive producer Robert Breech.

Here's the cover art for all three releases...

Todd McFarlane's Spawn: The Animated Collection - The 10th Anniversary EditionRome: The Complete Second SeasonThe Practice: Volume One

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/1/07 - 11:30 AM PDT)

Wow, is it May 1st already? Can you believe it? 2007 is certainly cruising along.

Now then... it seems like every single day we get new e-mails about our Upcoming DVD Cover Art section. It's one of the most popular sections of the site, as it provides an at-a-glance look at DVD titles being released on any given day, and it's a convenient place for our readers to make pre-orders. But it's been difficult to keep the section updated and to include as many titles as we'd like... until now. Starting this afternoon, we're relaunching our brand new Upcoming DVD Cover Art section in a very BIG way. Now, not only will you be able to find and pre-order the latest DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray titles via our Amazon links as usual, EVERY single title streeting on a given day will be listed, along with its cover art if available! What's more, you can sort these titles alphabetically (so that titles available on multiple formats appear together) or by sales (showing the best selling titles first). Best of all, with this new layout, our own Russell Hammond expects to be able to continuously update the section each week much more easily, so as to keep the list fresh and immediate. One thing we should note in advance: Since every title available on a given day appears, that may include the occasional unrated horror or semi-adult title. So just be aware that, from time to time, you might see a bit of cover art that disagrees with your sensibilities - something that we wouldn't post on the front page here. That one issue aside, we think you'll find the new section VASTLY more useful. As always, whenever you pre-order your favorite titles through our Amazon links, you're helping to support our work here at The Bits in a very real way, so we greatly appreciate it. Enjoy all the art, and be sure to let us know what you think!

In other news today, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has shuffled CEO Ken Kutaragi to other duties after suffering a slow start for its PlayStation 3 game console. During his tenure, Kutaragi was responsible for all versions of the PlayStation, including the successful PlayStation 2, which some say is undercutting the more advanced (and expensive) iteration. No doubt price cuts are in the offing to spur sales. You can read more here at Home Media.

Speaking of Sony, the studio has announced the DVD release of Bewitched: The Complete Fifth Season, The Contractor and The Last Time for 7/10.

Universal has announced a large slate of double and triple feature catalog releases for 8/14. The double features (SRP $14.98) will include Bean/Johnny English, The Bone Collector/Sea of Love, End of Days/Virus, The Family Man/EDtv, Far and Away/The River, Halloween II/Halloween III: Season of the Witch, How to Be a Player/Trippin', Mask/Lorenzo's Oil, Mr. Baseball/Ed and Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood/Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight. The triple features (SRP $19.98 each) will include Blue Crush/Honey/Josie and the Pussycats, Peter Pan/Thunderbirds/The Borrowers, Prince of Darkness/They Live/Village of the Damned, Psycho II/Psycho III/Psycho IV: The Beginning, The Sentinel/The Legacy/Ghost Story and Trespass/Judgment Night/New Jersey Drive.

Also announced by Universal are more catalog HD-DVDs for July, including Billy Madison, Dante's Peak, The War and The Wedding Date. Look for those on 7/10 (SRP $29.98 each).

And Buena Vista has announced the DVD release of the sci-fi noir/thriller Renaissance on 7/24 (SRP $29.99). The digitally-animated won Best Picture at the Annecy International Film Festival film features the voices of Daniel Craig, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce. The DVD will include The Making of Renaissance. Sounds interesting - we're looking forward to checking it out.

Stay tuned...

4/30/07

Okay, we've got a few interesting things for you this afternoon, so let's get to it...

First of all, we have a quick update for you on the Universal HD-DVD disc/player problem we mentioned last week. The studio has sent us this official statement today:

"Universal is currently investigating reports that Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, and select other discs not playing properly in some HD DVD players. While we believe this is limited to a small number of HD DVD discs, Universal is offering a replacement service for any customers who are experiencing this problem. We are still investigating the cause and will provide further updates as we get them. Any customer problems should be directed to USHE.ConsumerRelations@worldmarkinc.com.”

In terms of standard DVD announcement news today, New Line has set The Last Mimzy for release on 7/10 (SRP $28.98) as an Infinifilm Edition title. Separate full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions will be available, each with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and 2.0 Surround audio. Extras will include audio commentary from director Bob Shaye, Roger Waters' Hello (I Love You) music video, deleted scenes with introduction and commentary by Shaye, 5 All-Access Pass featurettes (including Adapting the Story, Bob Shaye: Director Profile, Casting the Kids, Real is Good: The Visual Effects and Editing and Music), a production design and concert art gallery with optional commentary by Shaye and production designer Barry Chusid, 6 Beyond-the-Movie featurettes (including The Mandala: An Imaginary Palace, The Looking Glass: Emma and Alice, Sound Waves: Listening to the Universe, DNA: The Human Blueprint, Nanotechnology: The Human Revolution and Wormholes: Fantasy or Science), an interactive game and the film's theatrical trailer.

In other DVD release news, Warner has set Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres for release on 8/17 (SRP $29.98). The disc is expected to include alternate endings (including the Fake.com ending), deleted scenes, the Round Table Discussion featurette on the making of the movie, a music video, additional behind-the-scenes featurettes, a photo gallery and the film's theatrical trailer.

Additional new announcements from Warner include National Geographic's Deadly Dozen: Africa and India, Full House: The Complete Seventh Season and a Full House: The Complete Seasons 1-7 box set on 8/7, along with NFL Chicago Bears: NFC Champions, NFL History of the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL History of the New York Jets. National Geographic's Gabon: The Last Eden is set to follow on 8/21.

On the high-def front today, it appears that Sony has confirmed that both Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 will be released on Blu-ray Disc format before the end of the year (street date TBA), and it seems likely that Spider-Man 3 (which hits theaters this coming weekend) will be as well. Sony has made available a Best Buy-exclusive Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray bonus disc (free with the purchase of any other Blu-ray title) that includes the film's teaser trailer, both theatrical trailers and a 3-minute sneak peek featurette for the film, as well as a trailer teasing the first two films "Coming Soon Only to Blu-ray" and the standard Blu-ray promotional trailer. All are in 1080p video with Uncompressed PCM 5.1 audio. Likely all three discs will street day and date with the DVD release of Spider-Man 3 in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year. In any case, here's a look at the cover art for the bonus disc. Thanks to Bits reader Steve for the heads-up.

Spider-Man 3: Best Buy bonus disc (Blu-ray Disc)The Last MimsyBreach (HD-DVD)

As you can see, we've also included DVD art for New Line's The Last Mimzy and Universal's Breach DVD/HD-DVD Combo format (6/12).

Finally today... we've kicked off THREE new Contests here at The Bits, giving each of you the chance to take home copies of Universal's The Hitcher and Ironside: Season 1, a vinyl black-suited Spider-Man 3 doll from Sideshow Collectibles, and a mystery grab bag giveaway as well. The contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday May 6th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/27/07 - 4:15 PM PDT)

Okay... here's some more DVD release news for you: Fox has set Land of the Giants: The Complete Series - Limited Edition for release on 7/24 as a 9-disc box set. Extras will include interviews with the cast and crew, galleries of episode, publicity, actor and merchandise photos, the MAD Magazine parody and more. Fox has also set a 3-disc special edition of M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (the series finale) for release on 5/15. Extras will include a blooper reel, the My Favorite M*A*S*H featurette, the A&E Biography special M*A*S*H: Television's Serious Sitcom documentary and more. Also newly announced by Fox for release on 6/5 are a Fantastic Four: Extended Edition, The Neptune Factor, a Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition and a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition.

The Fantastic Four: Extended Edition is a 2-disc set (SRP $26.98) that will include both the original theatrical edition (105 mins) and a new extended edition (126 mins) on the same disc via seamless branching. Extras will include a cast commentary, a director's commentary, 19 deleted/extended scenes, 2 alternate main title sequences, trailers, TV spots, a trailer for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the Silver Surfer featurette, the Heroes Are Born: The Making of Fantastic Four documentary, 5 more featurettes (The Baxter Building: Declassified, The World's Greatest Comic Magazine, Jack Kirby: Storyteller, Visiting the Stately Ross Museum and From Comic Book to Film), multi-angle animatic-to-scene studies for 6 scenes and extensive still and artwork galleries.

The Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition (SRP $19.98) will include audio commentary by film/music historian Jeff Bond, the film's isolated score, commentary on the score by Bond, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redham, the Lava Lamps & Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects of Fantastic Voyage featurette, a storyboard comparison for the whirlpool scene, a deleted scene, additional storyboards, video of original props, the film's theatrical trailer and TV spots.

The Neptune Factor (SRP $19.98) will include the theatrically released isolated score & FX track by Lalo Schifrin, a never-before-released isolated score by William McCauley, a TV featurette, the film's theatrical trailer and TV spots, and a gallery featuring the international press book, ads and production photos.

And Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition (SRP $19.98) will include an isolated score, audio commentary with author Tim Colliver, the Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality documentary, an interview with Barbara Eden, video of original props, the film's theatrical trailer and extensive stills galleries.

Here's a look at the cover art for Fox's Fantastic Four: Extended Edition, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming Edition, Fantastic Voyage: Special Edition and Reno 911!: Miami - The Movie - Unrated (6/19), along with Warner's Babylon 5: The Lost Tales (7/31) and Sony's The Patriot (Blu-ray Disc - 7/3)...

Fantastic Four: Extended EditionVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Global Warming EditionFantastic Voyage: Special Edition

Reno 911!: Miami - The Movie - UnratedBabylon 5: The Lost TalesThe Patriot (Blu-ray Disc)

Also today, Trinity Home Entertainment has announced the DVD release of Kill House on 5/29 (SRP $14.99).

In high-definition news, some of you may recall how a few days ago, much ado was made of a supposed leak on AVS Forum that Wal-Mart, TDK and the Chinese manufacturer Fuh Yuan were working to bring 2 million $199 HD-DVD players to Wal-Mart stores later this year. The news, despite being unofficial and unconfirmed by any of the parties involved, spread widely and led to editorials around the Net on how Wal-Mart has decided the format war (click here for a typical example). Unfortunately, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart had this to say to PC Magazine yesterday: "The article... was full of inaccuracies and we had no participation in it. Most of the facts, including the purchase, were untrue. Not sure how it originated." Fuh Yuan has also issued this statement on their website: "We are sorry to correct the statement that we have two million HD-DVD players order from Wal-Mart and manufactured by China Great Wall Group. The actuality is that we had not received yet. We are asked to provide the schedule to Wal-Mart and cost to determine the quantity even more than two million, if the cost is good enough and timing is correct. So the capacity is under consideration. Any qualified manufactured base group will be welcome."

It's no surprise that Wal-Mart is investigating making available in their stores the cheapest players possible, whether they be HD-DVD or Blu-ray. Driving prices in their stories down as low as possible is what they do. But here's the problem with cheap Chinese HD-DVD players that a lot of people are glossing over. The kind of people who might buy a $199 HD-DVD player at Wal-Mart are not the kind of people who are likely to want to have to deal with software glitches, firmware updates and disc/player incompatibility problems. Right now, Toshiba and Universal can't yet tell me why the HD-DVDs of The Good Shepherd and Children of Men aren't working in Toshiba's top of the line player. If Toshiba is having issues with their BEST player, does anyone really think a $199 Fuh Yuan player won't have even MORE problems? Who's going to do tech support for Fuh Yuan? Wal-Mart? One would also expect the kind of people who want a $199 high-def player are also going to be the kind of folks who might also want Disney movies for their kids. That's not going to happen on HD-DVD. Not to mention, with cheap Chinese players available at $199, what other major hardware manufacturer is going to want to try to compete with that? There's no profit margin. LG and Samsung are making combo HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc players available because they rightly perceive that there's a market for such players with high-end enthusiasts. But those players are going to cost in excess of $1000. There's no incentive at all for companies like LG or Samsung to try and compete with the likes of Fuh Yuan on budget players at Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, the prospect of $199 HD-DVD players will force Sony, Pioneer, Samsung, Panasonic and the other major Blu-ray Disc player manufacturers to lower their prices faster (which, as Home Media editor T.K. Arnold pointed out in a recent editorial, may be an unexpected advantage of the HD format war). By the end of the year, a number of name-brand Blu-ray players will be available for $399 or less, with even cheaper models likely to follow in 2008. Cheaper players that WILL play those Disney high-def movies.

And while we're talking high-def movies, let's take a look at the biggest titles people are likely going to want to buy in high-def in the next 12 months or so, and which format(s) they'll MOST LIKELY be released on: Transformers (Paramount/DreamWorks = likely both formats), Shrek the Third (Paramount/DreamWorks = likely both), The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal = HD-DVD), The Kingdom (Universal = HD-DVD), 300 (Warner = both formats), Spider-Man 3 (Sony = Blu-ray), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Disney = Blu-ray), Next (Paramount = both), Blades of Glory (Paramount = both), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Fox = Blu-ray), The Simpsons Movie (Fox = Blu-ray), 28 Weeks Later (Fox = Blu-ray), Meet the Robinsons (Disney = Blu-ray), Hostel: Part II (Lionsgate = Blu-ray), Ratatouille (Disney = Blu-ray), Live Free or Die Hard (Fox = Blu-ray), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner = both), Rush Hour 3 (New Line = possibly both or neither), Evan Almighty (Universal = HD-DVD), The Invasion (Warner = both), Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony = Blu-ray), Saw IV (Lionsgate = Blu-ray), His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (New Line = possibly both or neither), Blade Runner: Special Edition (Warner = both), I Am Legend (Warner = both), Alvin and the Chipmunks (Fox = Blu-ray), National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Disney = Blu-ray), Alien vs. Predator 2 (Fox = Blu-ray). This obviously doesn't include a lot of catalog releases, but the major new release picture isn't exactly favorable for HD-DVD. And all of this comes on the heels of Blu-ray having just dominated 70% of high-def software sales in the 1st quarter of 2007 (click here). Of course, one should keep in mind that the overall sales numbers for both formats are still but a tiny blip in the overall home video market.

Whichever format you happen to prefer, these are all reality check issues you ought to consider when you're thinking about this HD war, how it might play out through the rest of 2007 into 2008, and which format you might want to bet on (or not) if you're thinking of jumping into the fray at this point. 'Nuff said.

By the way, speaking of Universal, the studio has informed us this afternoon that they ARE hard at work investigating the problems some people have been having playing the DVD/HD-DVD Combo format editions of The Good Shepherd and Children of Men. They expect to have something to report on this next week and they've promised to get back to us on this issue, so we'll post the all details as soon as they come in. We certainly know that some technical glitches are inevitable with both HD-DVD and Blu-ray as new formats, but we (and our readers) appreciate the effort to solve these problems quickly to avoid confusion and frustration.

Now then... we'll have new columns and disc reviews from many of our regular staffers for you next week, and of course all the latest DVD and high-def news. So, as always, have a great weekend and we'll see you Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/27/07 - 2:15 PM PDT)

"Hey, where's your Thursday post? What's up with you guys disappearing on Thursdays anyway?" That's how a few of the e-mails we've gotten since yesterday go. So here's the deal: The reality is, Thursday has become a good day for us to head on up to La La Land for studio visits, meetings, news follow-up and "behind-the-scenes" reconnoitering for future special features here at The Bits. Normally, we try to get a quick post up the night before, but sometimes the need to catch a few hours of sleep wins out. Needless to say, we were doing something DVD-related yesterday and you guys will get the benefit of it in the not too distant future. 'Nuff for now.

Okay... we've got a bunch of news updates for you today, so we're going to be making at least two posts. Let's get started catching up on things...

First, Universal has sent over the specs on their new Flash Gordon DVD. We posted some of the details on Wednesday. The good news is that the film is presented in remastered anamorphic widescreen quality. The bad news is that the special features are... far less than special. Included on the disc will be 2 featurettes (Alex Ross, Renowned Comic Artist, on Flash Gordon and Writing a Classic: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr.) as well as Chapter One of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial with Buster Crabbe. And that's it. No commentary, no art galleries, no deleted scenes... none of the material that's on the current and previous U.K. and French DVD releases. As The Dude might say, "That's a bummer, man!" At least we'll finally have the film on DVD here in R1 in anamorphic widescreen, but that will be cold comfort to U.S. fans of the film. Told you the DVD wasn't going to match up to that cover art.

Here's some better news at least: Anchor Bay has sent over the first details on Bandai's forthcoming DVD release of Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. - Solid State Society. The film will be released on DVD on 7/3 in two versions. There will be a Standard Edition (SRP $19.98) that includes the film in anamorphic widescreen video with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio (English and Japanese with English subtitles), as well as the Uchikoma Days featurette, interviews with the English production team, a storyboard gallery and the trailer. There will also be a 3-disc Limited Edition (packaged in a "steel book" case) that includes everything on the standard edition along with 3 more featurettes (World Work File, Anime+Car Design: Designing the Future Car and Making of Tachikoma Robot), an interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (of Production I.G) and the film's soundtrack on CD. We'll post cover art as soon as it's available.

In other news, Warner has revealed that they're going to release a Get Smarter: Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control direct-to-DVD film on 7/1/08, just days after the theatrical release of the new Get Smart film staring Steve Carell. We presume this means that HBO will finally release the original Get Smart TV series (now only available on DVD direct from Time Life) later this year or next spring, leading up to the debut of the new film. You can read more here at Video Business.

Something we should probably address today, given the dozens of e-mails we've gotten in the last couple days about it: You may have heard rumors about reshoots to Blade Runner that leaked out on actress Joanna Cassidy's website (scenes which are reportedly for the forthcoming special edition DVD release). We've checked around and there's really not much to say except this: People are making a much bigger deal out of this than it deserves. So everyone just relax - the film/DVD is in good hands. Warner will no doubt have more to say in the weeks and months ahead. The best news to take from it is that the DVD is still in the works and should be pretty special when it's finally released.

Also today, we should take a moment to acknowledge the passing of former MPAA head Jack Valenti. Valenti had a long and fascinating career, which began as an assistant to President Lyndon Johnson. He was in the motorcade in Dallas when President Kennedy was killed in 1963. After coming to Hollywood, Valenti took over as the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, where he abolished the outdated Hays code and instituted the familiar ratings system we know today. In recent years, he was an outspoken advocate of anti-piracy issues. Valenti was 85.

Back with more in a little bit. Stay tuned...

4/25/07

We've learned today that Universal's Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition (8/7) will include digitally remastered anamorphic widescreen picture, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, new bonus features and collectible cover art by Alex Ross (which should come as no surprise to you guys). There's no specific word yet as to what those extras are. We're hoping at least for some of the extras that were on the Studio Canal French DVD release, including audio commentary track by director Mike Hodges, an on-camera interview with Hodges and an introduction to the film, the film's trailer and a production art gallery. We'll see what Universal's come up with soon.

Meanwhile, Fox has announced the 5/22 release of Constellation, followed by Sweet Land on 7/10 and Gray Matters on 7/19.

We've got a big update of The Rumor Mill today, which includes expected street dates for a number of upcoming titles, as well as a glimpse of what to expect on Disney's forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean Blu-ray Discs (due 5/22).

Speaking of Disney, here's some great news for fans of traditional hand-drawn Disney animation: Under the supervision of Pixar's John Lasseter, the recently resurrected Disney animation division is working on a new series of shorts, including the return of Goofy to theaters in How to Hook Up Your Home Theater. The Animated Views website has a great interview up with animators Andreas Deja and Mark Henn on the new short and Disney's other great forthcoming animated projects. Don't miss it.

And while we're talking Blu-ray, the BD Association has issued a statement clarifying the compliance of current and forthcoming Blu-ray Disc players with the BD-Java spec. Here's the text:

"From Andy Parsons, U.S. Promotion Committee Chair, Blu-ray Disc Association:

Based on recent coverage, there appears to be some confusion about the implementation of BD-Java on Blu-ray Disc.

All Blu-ray Disc players must support BD-Java (BD-J) and every one shipped to date does. The confusion surrounds an announcement by the [Blu-ray Disc Association] setting an Oct. 31 deadline for implementation of several secondary features. The deadline applies to:

– Secondary video, also known as picture-in-picture (PiP).
– Secondary audio.
– Persistent memory storage (a minimum of 256MB, 1GB for players with an Internet connection).

Of these, the PiP requirement is receiving the most attention. The PiP feature is a specific hardware function that must be built into a player, and BD-Java is simply used to operate this feature if it's present. No player shipped to date supports PiP at this time, although it's always possible that a given model has been designed to switch it on later (no company has announced this yet as far as I know).

My point is that it's important to separate picture-in-picture and the other items listed above from BD-Java. BD-Java is one of two interactive modes that can be used on a Blu-ray Disc (the other being "HDMV" or high definition movie mode, which is similar to DVD navigational structures). All BD players must support both environments.

If a studio offers a PiP function or other features that require the persistent memory or the ability to playback secondary video or audio streams on future BD titles, current players will not support those specific features. However, movie playback, as well as other interactive features not using these functions would be unaffected and should work as they normally would."


Finally this afternoon, our MusicTAP crew has recently posted a number of new music DVD reviews, including Capitol's The Band: The Best of a Musical History (CD/DVD), Reprise's Stevie Nicks: Crystal Visions - The Very Best of Stevie Nicks (CD/DVD) and Legacy's Anjani: Blue Alert (CD/DVD).

We've got more disc reviews coming soon, so stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/24/07 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Oh, man... you want to see something cool? Well, try this on for size: the new Alex Ross cover artwork for Universal's Flash Gordon: Savior of the Universe Edition DVD (just announced for release on 8/7). This rocks so f---ing hard that we couldn't just post it regular size and call it a day. No way. So here's the biggest size Universal has available on their press site for your viewing pleasure. I tell you right now, I've GOT to get my hands on a one-sheet sized print of this baby to hang in The Bits home theater...

Flash Gordon: Savior of the Universe Edition

There's no way the DVD is gonna be THAT good, but what the hell. I bet this will be wallpapered on hundreds of desktops within the hour... ;)

Enjoy!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/24/07 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Here's a bit of great news: At long last, Universal has finally announced a title we first revealed in The Rumor Mill a couple months back - the Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition! The single-disc DVD release will street on 8/7 (SRP $26.98). I'll admit, I was actually hoping for an HD-DVD version as well, but one isn't currently planned. In any case, the film will be presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There will be at least some special features and the title will come in "premium" packaging. No other details are yet available, but we'll tell you more as its revealed by the studio.

Also today, Sony has announced the DVD release of Driving Lessons on 7/3.

Paramount has set Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season and Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Second Season for release on 7/31.

Fox has announced some great new catalog DVDs, including a Von Ryan's Express: Special Edition and The Sand Pebbles: Special Edition on 6/5, as well as Charlie's Aunt, The Jeeves Collection (including both Thank You, Jeeves! and Step Lively, Jeeves!) and The Three Musketeers (1939) on 6/12. I sure wish Fox would release The Wild Geese. Nevertheless, check out this badass cover art. I love that Von Ryan cover...

Von Ryan's Express: Special EditionThe Sand Pebbles: Special EditionThe Three Musketeers (1939)

Meanwhile, Shout! Factory and some of the writers and stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are teaming up to release a new series of B-movie DVDs under the The Film Crew moniker. The first, The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark, will street on 7/10 (SRP $19.99) and will feature "a built-in ‘crew’ commentary track and live-action interstitials." The Film Crew: Killers from Space will follow on 8/7. Also in the works for release later in 2007 are Giant of Marathon and The Wild Women of Wongo. You can find out more at the official Film Crew website.

Also, Warner has released a few more details on their direct-to-DVD film Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, which is due on 7/31 (SRP $24.98). The film stars Bruce Boxleitner, Tracy Scoggins and Peter Woodward. The DVD will include the Straczynski Diaries, which the press release refers to as "a multi-part series of vignettes as filmed by J. Michael Straczynski as he documents every phase of pre-production, production and post-production for The Lost Tales. Viewers are given a first person, inside look at the creative process of making the Babylon 5 film." We'll post specs and cover art when they're available.

And Warner has also announced the release of The O.C.: The Complete Fourth Season on 5/22 (SRP $59.98). The 5-disc set will include the final 16 episodes of the series in anamorphic widescreen video. Extras will include unaired scenes and 2 featurettes (The Magic of Chrismakkah and Summer Roberts: Coming of Age).

On the high-def front today, Sony has revealed a trio of new Blu-ray Disc releases for 7/3, including Flatliners, Wild Things: Unrated and The Patriot: Extended Cut.

Here's a look at the cover art for Sony's Ghost Rider: Extended Cut (Blu-ray - 6/12) as well as Lionsgate's Ultimate Avengers Collection (Blu-ray - now available) and Universal's The Big Lebowski (HD-DVD - 5/29)...

Ghost Rider: Extended Cut (Blu-ray Disc)Ultimate Avengers Collection (Blu-ray Disc)The Big Lebowski (HD-DVD)

Finally today, we've gotten several reports from readers who attended the Star Wars screening in Hollywood last night (for the record, it was the 2004 SE version digitally projected, much to the disappointment of many in attendance). Sadly, the panel afterwards was moderated and there was no audience Q&A unfortunately, so the subject of DVD and high-def never came up. Lucas also bailed early, but Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher apparently made surprise appearances. Just in case you were wondering.

Stay tuned...

4/23/07

Afternoon, folks. As usual, we hope you enjoyed the weekend. We're drying out here after some rainy weather that was a nice change of pace from hot, sunny and smoggy.

It's a pretty slow news day 'round here, but there's a little tiny bit of standard DVD news today, as well as a bit of high-def news. Let's start with DVD...

First, Universal has announced Dead Silence for release on 7/10 in anamorphic widescreen and unrated anamorphic widescreen editions (SRP $29.98 each).

And Genius Products has set Alone with Her (staring Colin Hanks) for release on 5/22 (SRP $19.95). The DVD features an alternate ending and additional never-before-seen bonus footage.

Told you it was slow.

Now then... the high-def news. Warner has set Music and Lyrics for release on both DVD/HD-DVD Combo format and Blu-ray Disc format on 6/12 (SRP $39.99 for the HD Combo and $34.99 for the BD). Extras will be the same as the DVD version and will include deleted scenes, a gag reel, The Making of Music and Lyrics featurette and the Pop Goes My Heart music video.

Meanwhile, Universal has also set Dead Silence for release on 7/10 as a DVD/HD-DVD Combo format disc (SRP $39.98). We're still waiting to hear back from Universal about the playback problems with some of their recent Combo format titles. We'll let you know when we do.

Here the big news on the HD front: In a story whose headline ("Blu-ray burning its high-def DVD rival") is sure to stir the pot in certain online forums, The Hollywood Reporter and Home Media are reporting that Blu-ray Disc won the format war in the first quarter of 2007 at least, with 70% of all HD software sales in Blu-ray format. There's also evidence from Nielsen VideoScan that when given a choice between the two formats on the same title, consumers are picking the Blu-ray version, as was the case with Warner's The Departed (see the links for details). Make of all this what you will.

Of course, HD-DVD fans are crowing about something else today: Possible news from last week (see the Home Media story we linked to on Friday) that Wal-Mart has paid a down payment on 2 million $299 high-definition players from China of the HD-DVD format. TDK and Chinese manufacturer Fuh Yuan have reportedly teamed up to manufacture the players, though none of the parties involved are commenting on the record so far. We've requested official confirmation from TDK. This news would certainly not be unexpected in the wake of announcements at CES by the HD-DVD Promotion Group that less expensive Chinese players were on the way. In any case, it's certainly evidence (if true) that the HD-DVD camp is far from throwing in the towel.

There's never a dull moment on the front lines of the HD war these days, that's for sure.

Around the site today, we've updated all of the DVD and HD formats stats we track (above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers.

In other news, there's an interesting story on MSNBC today that has nothing to do with DVD or high-def, but we saw it and found it interesting anyway. As if part of some X-Files conspiracy, it seems that bees are disappearing in droves all around the globe. Is it a simple fluke of nature or a sign of the impending Apocalypse? You decide... ;)

Finally today, director George Lucas is going to be attending a special 30th Anniversary screening of Star Wars tonight at the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences in Hollywood (click here for more), which will be followed by audience Q&A. Tickets are sold out, but if you are going to be attending, someone be sure to ask George if that mega bombad, 9-disc Star Wars Ultimate Box Set is going to be coming out this year on DVD. Ask him what he thinks about the whole Blu-ray/HD-DVD thing too if you get the chance. And, of course, be sure to let us know what he says.

Stay tuned!


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