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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 7/21/99



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 6/22/99 - 6/1/99)


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6/22/99

Well folks, sad but true, your faithful editor is sick in bed. This cold is among the worst I've ever had - one day I feel better, then the next, I'm feeling like pond scum. This really sucks, let me tell you. I've got several reviews from both Todd and I that just need to be formatted and posted, and I'll try to get that done later this evening. You may have noticed that I was able to muster enough energy last night to change that anti-Divx graphic on the button bar to our next rallying cry - the much maligned (at least at a few studios I can think of) anamorphic enhancement of widescreen DVD.

This will definitely be the focus of some major efforts here at The Digital Bits - we think far too many studios are sacrificing quality by forgoing it. Now that DVD is going mainstream, some in Hollywood are of the attitude that, "mainstream consumers don't care about anamorphic widescreen." Well, lest they forget, anamorphic is the future of television, and it is absolutely what the majority of DVD's most avid, high-end consumers demand from the format. Anamorphic enhancement can result is as much as a 33% improvement in vertical resolution - our feeling is that it ABSOLUTELY should be standard on widescreen DVDs, whenever and wherever affordable. It should certainly be included on all new films coming to DVD, AND on the most loved classic films as well. This is why Paramount's forthcoming non-anamorphic Titanic DVD has resulted in much ambivalence and even anger among some DVD fans. An anamorphic transfer of the film exists, and could have been used, but for the decision-making of a few studio executives who just don't seem to understand what DVD is all about.

Those of you who may be new to DVD (including some of you studio execs) should read this editorial I did last year on the subject, explaining the basics and benefits of anamorphic widescreen DVD in fairly simple terms. We'll be talking a LOT more about this subject in the coming weeks and months, and this is as good a place to start familiarizing yourself with it as any. By the way, as with our anti-Divx logo, our policy is that anyone who wants to steal the new anamorphic support logo for their own pages and web sites, is more than welcome to do so. The more we get people talking about it, the more likely Buena Vista, Fox and Paramount will be to get the message.

Now, I'm going back to bed. Actually, I'm going to the doctor this afternoon, then back to bed. This cold is really starting to piss me off. In the meantime, I'll try to get those reviews posted for you by tomorrow morning. Keep spinnin' those DVDs, and thanks for your patience.

6/18/99

Our own Todd Doogan's been busy over the last few days, working up a bunch of new DVD reviews. Today, we've got his take on Columbia TriStar's new Jawbreaker, as well as a look at two of MGM's new Kubrick releases, The Killing and Killer's Kiss. These 3 new reviews bring our grand total to exactly 150 unique DVD reviews here at the Bits.

We've updated the CEMA DVD player sales chart again today, with the latest sales numbers, just in this morning: 28,207 players sold in the week ending June 11th.

We've also got 20 more Upcoming DVD Cover Art scans for you today, including Witness, Smoke Signals, Wing Commander and lots more. And we've added a second navigation menu to the bottom of each of the artwork pages, making it easier to move from page to page.

Around the Internet, Image Entertainment has updated their DVD News page to include Titanic, and other new titles. This is a big update, which also includes Heat, Congo, Blast From the Past, Analyze This, Message In A Bottle and lots more, so do check it out.

I have to say, I'm still peeved that Titanic will not be anamorphic. Fox claims that they've worked closely with THX on the transfer to ensure "the highest quality possible" from the DVD format (see press release). But I've seen some pretty questionable looking THX-certified discs (True Lies just barely rated a B- from us for video quality). And anamorphic enhancement gives you some 33% more vertical resolution in widescreen on DVD. Frankly, I'd rather have anamorphic than THX on a disc any day. I think it may be time to sit some studio people down and give them a lesson on anamorphic widescreen. More on that soon, because you can BET that anamorphic widescreen will be The Digital Bits' next crusade in the post-Divx era...

Speaking of Divx, there are a few new articles on the demise of the format. Check this story over at the LA Times, and this one over at the San Jose Mercury News. And click here for a funny "retouched" picture, showing a possible new career direction for one of Divx's irritating TV spokespersons. Cudos to whoever came up with that one - it's a good laugh.

We'll be back on Monday with a bunch of new reviews. Have a great weekend!

6/17/99

NOTE: Thanks to Bits reader Ian Cameron Smith, for his contribution to the site today. He added the "We Win!" to the anti-Divx logo on our button bar, and we couldn't agree more with the sentiment. DVD fans everywhere are the winners today. Thanks, Ian!

Well, the repercussions from the death of Divx just keep coming. You should all check out Yahoo's In Depth Coverage page, with links to lots of articles on the demise of the "pay-per-dubious" format. The Washington Post and Wired both have stories up today, among many others. The rejoicing continues.

A reader who claims to be a manager of a Circuit City store reports to me today, that store managers and employees were informed of the Divx shutdown at 8 AM this morning. The stores are dumping loads of Divx software at $1.99 a disc today, and customers are being given instant $100 discounts right at the register on the remaining Divx players, so "all Divx customers are being taken care of". Also, he reports that sales people are quite happily removing all of the Divx signage in his store, and that they're glad not to have to push the technology any longer. I don't blame them.

Our friends over at NetFlix are welcoming Divx customers to the DVD fold, by offering them 5 free DVD rentals as part of a new special offer (see press release). And Digital Eyes is offering Divx customers a $4 per disc credit if they exchange their Divx discs (up to 5 a customer) for DVDs of the same title.

On to other news - no doubt you've heard the official announcement of Paramount's DVD version of Titanic. The DVD (which we first reported in the Rumor Mill late last week as streeting on August 31st) will be THX-certified, and will include English 5.1 sound, English and French surround sound, Spanish subtitles, a theatrical trailer, and a booklet. The disc will be RSDL dual-layered, and it will be in widescreen, but it will NOT be anamorphic enhanced for 16x9 displays, which is a HUGE mistake in my opinion. Keep in mind, that the film HAS been transferred for high-definition broadcast on HBO in full anamorphic widescreen, so an anamorphic master IS available. SRP on the disc is $29.99.

We've got the DVD cover artwork for Titanic in our Upcoming DVD Cover Art section, along with new cover scans from 13 other upcoming DVDs as well. We've also linked each cover scan, so that clicking it will take you to the order page for that title over at DVD Express. Organizing this section is very time consuming (just keeping track of the ever-changing street dates for some of these titles would be a major effort), but at least with these links, you can get an idea of the cost and features for each title, and order if you're so inclined.

We've also updated the CEMA DVD Sales Chart with the latest DVD player sales numbers (both the full chart and the listing above).

Finally today, we've posted a major Fall & Winter DVD title update in today's Rumor Mill, with the latest information on a host of DVD titles from several major studios. There's lots of good titles mentioned, so do check it out.

We'll be back tomorrow with DVD some new reviews, so see you then! And don't forget to keep those Trivia Contest entries coming...

(LATE UPDATE - 6/16/99 - 2 PM PDT)

In light of today's news, we've just received a fax from our friends over at Warner Home Video. The following statement comes straight from Warren Lieberfarb, the president of WHV:

"Circuit City had consistently demonstrated an outstanding ability for promoting the benefits of new technologies to consumers. We look forward to working with them in furthering the development of the DVD market."

And if you close your eyes (and concentrate REAL hard), you can just picture the grin that must have adorned Warren's face as he composed that little piece of prose! Call me crazy, but I just had a feeling you'd get a kick out of that... ;-)

A reader also just pointed out a statement that I made about Divx in this very column exactly one week ago today: "Remember that whistling sound that you always heard in World War II movies when a bomb was about to fall on your head? You get the idea." I guess that about says it all, doesn't it?

(EARLY UPDATE - 6/16/99 - 11:15 AM PDT)

Well, how do you like that? We're gone for a couple of days here at the Bits, and Divx decides to fold on us! Yes, the news you've all been waiting a year and a half for has finally come to pass - Divx today officially announced that it will be discontinuing its pay-per-use operations. The details are as follows:

1. Divx expects to provide registered owners with written notification of the details related to the system phase-out. Effective today, Divx will no longer register new customers.

2. Existing, registered Divx customers will continue to be able to view discs during a two-year phase-out period. All Divx discs, including those previously purchased by consumers and those remaining in retailer inventories, can be viewed on registered players anytime between now and June 30, 2001. Subsequent viewings also will be available during that period. Discs can no longer be upgraded to unlimited viewing, known as Divx Silver.

3. Digital Video Express will provide a $100 cash rebate to all consumers who purchased Divx-enhanced players prior to June 16, 1999. The rebate will ensure that no Divx customers have paid more for the Divx-featured player than they would have paid for the least expensive, comparable DVD player available at the time of their purchase. All Divx-featured DVD players are fully functional DVD players and will continue to operate as such.

You can read the official statements at PRNewswire, ZDNet , Yahoo (which also includes Circuit City's posted losses after halting Divx), and our favorite, Divx.com.

This announcement comes as a fortuitous IN YOUR FACE to the few studios and studio executives who saw fit to provide their films to Divx before DVD (gee... guess we wont be seeing those Disney animated Divx discs after all). And all of you Circuit City and Divx employees who started supposedly impartial Divx fan-boy sites on the Net, need to get a new hobby now, eh? Now, I'm not going to say I told you so, but... oh, hell... yes I am going to say it: The Digital Bits told you so! And DVD File told you so! And DVD Resource told you so! And The Big Picture told you so! And so did almost everyone else out there with a stitch of common sense. Divx was a format that NO ONE wanted except the more greedy in Hollywood, and it had to be shoved down consumers' throats via high-priced ad blitzes and in-store hard-sells. Well, consumers weren't swallowing, and today, Circuit City is the one having to choke down some $114 million in losses. See Divx... Joe Average consumer isn't as stupid as you thought. And I, for one, couldn't be happier. ;-)

Guess we're gonna have to change that Free DVD Fight Divx banner aren't we? Maybe something to do with anamorphic enhancement on all widescreen DVDs? I declare June 16th a yearly holiday here at The Digital Bits! We'll have to figure out something special to mark the occasion...

Finally, today, I wanted to explain our delay in posting to the site, after returning from Minneapolis. The weekend was nothing less than a whirlwind of running around, stress, and lack of sleep. Not to mention, the cottonwood trees there were shedding like mad (it looked like it was snowing) so my hayfever went nuts. By the time Sarah and I got on the plane to return home, I felt a major head cold coming on, and have been knocked out in bed on AlkaSeltzer Plus cold medicine ever since. However, I'm finally feeling human enough to do some work, and what with the news of the day... well, I think that's the best medicine of all, don't you? We will be back tomorrow with a bigger post, including a couple of reviews.

I'd like to thank you all for your many e-mails today about the good news - we've gotten some 628 so far, as of 11 AM - by far a new daily record! Seems like a lot of you are in a celebrating mood. So wherever you are, and whoever you are, enjoy this day. The format war is over. Divx has officially left the building.

Divx is dead... long live DVD!

6/11/99

The Trivia Contest is now on! We're giving away a new player this month, the Sony DVPS530, and lots of copies of The Paris Concert for Amnesty International. The contest runs until June 25th, and there will be 10 winners in all this month (1 Grand Prize winner and 9 runners-up), so do get your entries in!

We've been getting reports that some of the Alien Legacy packages are missing the coupon for the 5th documentary DVD disc, and the pack of collector's cards. One of our readers faced this problem, and found a phone number for you to call if you're missing the them too - 1-888-223-2369. They'll send replacement coupon and cards out via mail. Thanks, Philip!

Those of you who have been waiting eagerly for Anchor Bay to ship the fixed version of their Black Hole DVD (without that nasty missing audio channel), will be happy to know that the fixed discs have begun to ship. I've gotten a copy, so I can confirm that they are corrected. I have seen them on the rack at Best Buy stores, and I'm sure other retailers have them now too. You can tell the fixed discs, because they have a small red dot sticker on the back of the packaging, near the top of the case.

By the way, the winner of our impromptu spot-the-layer-switch contest yesterday, was Dean Winkelspecht. He was the first to confirm that the RSDL layer switch in Elizabeth is at 57:44 (in chapter 10). This switch is so well handled, that 8 times out of 10, there is NO VISIBLE PAUSE in the playback on my Sony 7700. I'm really impressed. Anyway, Dean... your copy of Pecker is in the mail! Hhmmm... that last sentence almost has a whole different meaning, doesn't it?

Image Entertainment has just posted a new update to their DVD News page. Several new DVD titles are listed, including Orson Wells' restored version of Othello, and Criterion's For All Mankind and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. Very cool!

The LA Times yesterday featured a 5-page pull-out section on "Digital Entertainment", and right up front was a story called "DVD: Seeing is clearly believing". The piece included several DVD-related stories on the success of the format, a glossary of technology terms, and even a small piece on Divx. Circuit City had a full page ad in the pullout, but curiously, Divx was nowhere to be seen in the ad. Warner also had a large full-color ad. Despite the brief mention of Divx, the rhetoric was overwhelmingly pro-DVD. Fascinating...

Finally today, I wanted to let you all know in advance, that there will be no update on Monday. Sarah and I are going back to Minneapolis, to attend my brother's college graduation this weekend (atta-boy, Jason!). I'll be doing some HTML tweaking from the laptop over the weekend, but that's about all. We will, however, be back on Tuesday with a bunch of new DVD reviews for you. So until then, everyone have a great weekend, get out and see the new Austin Powers flick, and we'll see you back here on Tuesday!

Smashing baby, yeah!

6/10/99

Okay, I wanted to get a quick update in to let you all know what's up around the Bits for the next few days. We're doing a lot of site maintenance and upgrading work over the next week or so, to make things run smoother. We're also doing some advance preparation for the upgrade to version 2.0 of the web site (no we haven't forgotten!).

Part of the problem, as been that it's extremely difficult to get anything accomplished with the redesign, while still keeping up with new news, reviews and the like. We definitely do not want the conversion to v2.0 to result in a reduction of the daily work we do around here. And for the longer term, we're examining features we'd like to add to the site, and how they will eventually plug into the redesign. We are definitely planning 2.0, we just want to make it as smooth and functional as we can.

In any case, we've gone through and smoothed out some glitches and bugs in our Review section. We've updated the look of the older reviews to match our current style, and done away with the "capsule review" designation. You'll notice that a few of the reviews are shorter than others, but Todd and I have pretty well settled into our style for doing reviews. Most reviews will be standard length, and special discs we think worthy of additional attention will get slightly longer coverage.

We've also gone into our reviews, and added a clickable link to purchase the disc from DVD Express, similar to our "rent from NetFlix" links. We think they have good prices on discs, which is why we've established an advertising relationship with them. Just so you know, we aren't trying to rack up commissions by mentioning this. It's just that if you DO decide you want to buy or rent a disc we've reviewed, clicking those links to do so makes our sponsors happy, which will help to ensure they continue to support our work here at the Bits. Okay... the ten-cent pitch over now!

You may also notice some weirdness with our banners over the weekend. Please be patient - we're doing some work on our banner software over the next week or so, so the tags are all being changed.

Now, on to some news. We will be starting our monthly Trivia Contest at midnight, and it's another fun one this time. We're giving away another DVD player this month - this time a Sony DVPS530. One grand prize winner will take that home, along with a copy of the new Paris Concert for Amnesty International DVD, and a Trio for DVD care kit. Nine other runners-up will take home the Paris Concert DVD as well (we wanted to spread the fun around a little more this month!). So watch for that.

Well, finding the RSDL layer switch on Polygram's new Elizabeth DVD is driving me nuts. Anyone out there have any idea where it is? Please let me know so I can update the review. In fact, the first person to tell me exactly where it is, will get a free copy of New Line's Pecker DVD. How's that for a spur of the moment contest? I'll accept entries via e-mail until 3 PM Pacific.

Back tomorrow...

6/9/99

We've got a couple more new DVD reviews up today for you to check out. I really enjoyed Polygram's new Elizabeth special edition disc (even if it isn't marked "special edition" on the package - go figure). I've also given Fox's new DVD edition of James Cameron's True Lies a spin, so do be sure to give them both a read. Todd and I are working hard to review as many discs as we can, including a good mix of new, hit titles, and some of the more eclectic stuff too - let us know what you think. The two of us have compiled nearly 150 unique DVD reviews here at the Bits, almost a third of them in the last two months. And we promise to keep 'em coming.

Ever thought about swiping a couple of DVDs from your local store? Of course you haven't - we know that you Bits readers are better than that! But think twice in any case. According to a recent report in Video Store, many of the studios are beginning to source-tag their DVD product with anti-theft tags inside the packaging, right at the factory. Wal-Mart has requested in writing that all of the studios source tag their VHS and DVD product by October, and many of them are already doing so.

Finally today, we've been seeing some interesting Divx news lately, so we figured it was time for a status report on the format. Despite a recent rash of titles appearing on Divx (the Disney animated films, the Alien series, and a few others), the format still seems to be putting along at the same lackluster pace. Circuit City has been forced to up its ownership investment in the "pay-per-useless" format, from two-thirds to fully three-quarters. This comes despite claims that CEO Richard Sharp has made of "an outstanding product launch", AND despite the company's best efforts to find equity and distribution partners for the format. Surprise - it seems no one is interested. Whodda thunk it? As of February 28th, Circuit City had sunk $207 million into the format, with lots of cash still promised to the participating studios for the next four years or so. Ouch. And despite good sales for May, Circuit City is reporting that its share in Divx will cut company earnings by some $16 million in the 1st quarter. Ouch again. Finally, do you recall that Dow Electronics had been carrying Divx product for a while? No longer - they've been purchased by the Tweeter Group, which is returning all Divx product to the manufacturers, and will not carry it again. And Future Shop closed its doors in the U.S. a few months ago. Remember that whistling sound that you always heard in World War II movies when a bomb was about to fall on your head? You get the idea.

Stay tuned...

6/8/99

Let's get right to it, shall we? We've got three more DVD reviews for you today, including my take on Universal's new Battlestar Galactica DVD, as well as Todd's look at the new Gods and Monsters: Collector's Edition (also from Universal), and Criterion's funny Fishing with John. Todd has also revised his Film-Fest DV review, to include lots of hidden production notes and audio commentary that he discovered.

Around the site, we've also got a bunch of new upcoming Fall DVD information, from 20th Century Fox and others, in today's Rumor Mill update. Among the titles mentioned there, are DVDs of X-Files and Futurama TV episodes, so don't miss it.

Add the Marantz DVD 930 to the list of players that can't play DVD-ROM/DVD Video hybrid discs, like the Alien DVD. Marantz is aware of the problem, and like Toshiba, suggests that you get player upgraded. You can call them at 1-800-654-7333.

Finally, a reminder to all you studio types and DVD producers out there: The deadline for submitting nominations for the 1999 Discus Awards for Creative Excellence is June 15, 1999. The awards ceremony will be held at the DVD PRO Conference & Exhibition Monday, August 16, 1999 at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, CA. You can submit your nominations now at http://www.dvdpro.net/awards. Get 'em in quick!

We'll have some more interesting Divx news tomorrow, as well as several more DVD reviews, so stay tuned...

6/7/99

Everybody have a good weekend? A old high school friend of mine, who now lives in Canada, dropped by for dinner and, of course, a DVD movie. In anticipation of the sequel release next weekend, we watched the original Austin Powers, which he had never seen. As they used to say in the social column of my home town newspaper, "A good time was had by all."

So we've got some new street date information in today's Rumor Mill, regarding Fox DVD titles for August. There's Something About Mary and several other good titles are listed, so don't miss it.

Finally today, we've updated the CEMA DVD player sales numbers to show the complete month of May. Some 279,756 players shipped to dealers in the entire month (157,616 in the last week alone), making it once again, another record month. Check the full chart, and the above listing for the details.

Those of you in the Los Angeles and New York City areas can start anticipating a preview of the latest in theater technology - digital projection of movies. Starting on June 18th, two theaters in each area will be showing Star Wars: Episode I via digital projection, courtesy of CineComm Digital Cinema and Texas Instruments. Check this link out via the official Star Wars web site for the skinny. Just FYI - the film earned over $200 million in its first 13 days, breaking previous records. Could it still beat Titanic? Well, this weekend, the film earned another $32.2 million, bringing its total take to $255 million in 19 days, a record which Titanic 36 days to reach. Yikes, that's a boat-load of cash...!

Speaking of Star Wars, could there be yet ANOTHER Star Wars: Special Edition in the works? The latest rumor is that Lucas still wasn't happy with Episode IV, even after the recent Special Edition was released, and has had his artists doing as many as 17 more tweaks, fixes and digital changes since then. Also, according to an "insider report", ILM is working to completely digitize every frame of all three of the original films, for preservation purposes - a task which is on-going and won't be done until next year. If true, this could be one of the reasons we're all still waiting for the DVDs. Check out this page over at Corona's Coming Attractions for the full report.

We'll be back tomorrow, with lots more reviews. See you then!

6/4/99

We've got more reviews for you today. I'm very pleased to present you with your first look at Image Entertainment's terrific new DVD of the recent Paris Concert for Amnesty International. If you're looking for cool live music performances on DVD, this disc really delivers with realistic Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and great looking video. The concert features some really terrific performances by the likes of Alanis Morissette, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Tracy Chapman and more. And the disc captures the live experience very nicely. You'll definitely want to check it out.

We've also got reviews up today of Warner's budget line Fearless disc, and the cool new Film-Fest DV 1:1. And we've posted a few new scans of upcoming DVD artwork today as well, so don't miss it.

We've been digging into those problems with the Alien DVD not playing on certain Toshiba players, specifically the 3108. Apparently, this is a problem with the player itself, and not the disc. Those of you who have this particular player, who tried to play the fourth disc in the From the Earth to the Moon set, experienced the same problem. The basic issue is that the 3108 has problems recognizing hybrid DVD discs - that is, DVD discs with both DVD Video and DVD-ROM data encoded on them. This explains why the the fourth disc of FTETTM crashes the player - it is the only disc of the set with ROM content on it. The same is true of Alien in The Alien Legacy box set - it is the only disc of the four with ROM content. There is apparently a firmware upgrade available from Toshiba that will fix this problem, for those of you who are experiencing it. Contact Toshiba's consumer electronics Customer Support service at 1-800-631-3811, or e-mail them at customer_support@tacp.com, to make arrangements for the repair of the problem on your player. You will have to either send your player back to them, or take it to a local authorized service center, to get the repair done. I gave the phone number a call earlier, and confirmed that they WILL be able to help you out.

Around the Net today, there's a great article over at Fortune.com on Divx ("the video technology geeks love to hate"). You see... Josh Dare is a heck of a nice (and highly beleaguered) guy, even if his employer does bite. Anyway, I think you'll find the piece an amusing read.

Finally today, I had a nice discussion with the folks over at Warner Home Video this morning, about their basic DVD philosophy. Among the topics covered, were their reasons for using the Snapper case, as opposed to the Amaray keep case. The basic reason is cost - using an Amaray case adds to the price of the disc (as much as .15 to .18 cents at the manufacturing level). That may not sound like much, but when you multiple that by manufacturing lots of hundreds of thousands (and eventually millions) it adds up significantly. The feeling at Warner is that if DVD is to really break out like VHS videotape did, the prices have to be kept as low as possible. This is also why they're aggressively supporting their budget line of $14.99 discs - VHS wasn't really successful until the prices came down into the $15 and under range. Warner has been by far the most ardent studio supporter of the DVD format, and certainly has been the driving force behind it from day one. Their strategy is to market the DVD format to mainstream consumers of all levels, not just the serious, laserphile-type collectors. In the long run, that strategy will probably pay off big for the format as a whole.

Lest we serious collectors feel slighted, I also asked about the recent lack of significant special edition titles from the studio. This is absolutely not a case of concentrating on the $15 line at the expense of premium titles - producing the SE discs just takes a lot of time. Warner has a number of features-loaded special edition discs in the works, including the forthcoming DVD release of their animated The King and I. I'm also assured that when The Matrix hits DVD later this year, it will be one of the most impressive DVD special edition titles to date. Wild Wild West and Deep Blue Sea are also expected to be loaded with all of the extras DVD fans crave, when they street later in the year.

We'll be talking much more with Warner in the coming months. In the meantime, rest assured that while the studio's DVD strategy may at times seem puzzling to we avid collectors, the studio is definitely thinking strategically in terms of pushing the DVD format to its fullest potential... and it's hard to argue with that.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

6/3/99

Well, we had quite the time last night. Sarah and I were fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the Alien 20th Anniversary Gala Event up at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood, and it was quite a fun evening. Lots of the cast and crew were in attendance, along with some other celebrity guests, and lots of industry and press. Sarah brought the digital camera along, so click here for a full report and lots of pictures from the evening.

Speaking of Alien, we've been getting some reports that the Alien DVD will not play properly on the Toshiba 3108 DVD player, and that some who purchased the boxed set haven't received the coupon for the 5th disc. We'll keep you up to date as we learn more.

On the way up to the screening yesterday, I had the chance to drop in over at Columbia TriStar, and get a hands-on look at their new Ghostbusters DVD. This thing is really terrific. The animated menus are a blast to surf through, and they've been set up so that you can access many features from more than one menu page - you can't miss anything. The live commentary is excellent, and was recorded on the disc using the subtitle track (yes, you can record audio and video on a DVD subtitle track). This means that you can toggle through actual subtitles, commentary (with or without the MST3K-style talking heads), and the text of a book on the making of the film, using your remote's subtitle button, while watching the film! Also the disc includes several special effects scenes in two versions - the original work print (w/o effects) and the final film - that have been matched frame for frame, so that using your remote's angle button, you can switch back and forth between them on the fly to compare the before and after. The disc is just extremely cool, and I think you'll find it well worth the wait.

While there, I also asked about those two Columbia titles that have appeared in Snapper cases recently - Taxi Driver: SE and Gloria. I've gotten lots of concerned e-mails from readers, worried that the studio may switch to the Snapper for good. You'll be glad to know that this isn't the case. These two titles were simply used as test cases, to gauge the cost-effectiveness of the Snapper case (as opposed to the Amaray keep case). Rest assured, the studio has decided that the trusty keep case is the better option. In a related note, I was also told that Dr. Strangelove WILL be in the Snapper when it appears in Warner's upcoming Kubrick Collection. According to Columbia, this had to be done to conform with the packaging Warner is using for the entire collection. Other than these three, no others should appear in Snappers.

Finally, we had a very funny moment yesterday. Before going over to the Egyptian for the Alien event last night, Sarah and I stopped by the Beverly Center for dinner. In a vast city of millions, who do you suppose we just happened to bump into? Peter Bracke, of The DVD File, who was also there for a bite before going to the Alien event! Sarah snapped a shot of Pete and I later that evening, but sadly it didn't turn out. However... so as not to disappoint either of our readers (or Pete, who knows his cover is blown), here's a "file" picture (no pun intended) of Pete and I at a Dave's Video event, earlier this year. Gotcha, Pete! ;-)

Peter Bracke and yours truly

We'll be back later and tomorrow with a bunch more DVD reviews. See you then!

6/2/99

Well, with the new Austin Powers movie ready to burst onto your local theater screens this month, we thought it only appropriate to revisit the original. Thus, Todd Doogan today brings you his 2 cents on Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Todd also takes a look at a brand new Columbia TriStar DVD release of one of his favorite films - Taxi Driver: Special Edition (here's a hint: he likes it, he really likes it...!).

Here at The Digital Bits, we think it's always nice when a major, highly-respected newspaper weighs in in favor of our favorite home entertainment format. So we've got a great article to point out to you today. Tom Shales of The Washington Post has thrown his opinions into the public arena, and I think you'll like what he has to say. His article is entitled, Shall We Dance? With DVD, Indeed. He even takes a shot or two at Divx, so don't miss it.

Finally today (and speaking of Divx), it looks like the pay-per-view format has definitely kissed some serious you-know-what over at the Mickey Mouse Club. Another Disney classic has been announced for Divx... Bedknobs & Broomsticks. And while it isn't quite an A-list classic, it still makes me mad that Disney has chosen to favor Divx with it's family titles over DVD. Hey BVHE... what the hell are you people thinking? For what it's worth, a Buena Vista Home Entertainment spokesperson had this to say on the subject today: "What can I say except be patient. The big announcement is a-comin'..." OK, so we're waiting. But all I can say to Buena Vista is, if you guys announce the release of classic animation on DVD, it damn well better be in anamorphic widescreen.

Stay tuned...

6/1/99

If it's not one thing, it's another it seems. After being sick for several days, I got to spend my weekend grappling with a non-functional cable modem. Seems that the router in my area was being upgraded last week, and decided to go down on Saturday. Go figure - it's always something.

Alas, I'm finally able to start bringing you more of those reviews today, starting with a pair of great DreamWorks titles, In Dreams and Paulie. And Todd also weighs in with his look at a nifty little horror flick from Anchor Bay, The Johnsons. We'll have more reviews tomorrow as well.

I hope all of you enjoyed the long holiday weekend. I did, at least, get to go with my wife and some friends, to see a surprisingly good little romantic comedy - Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. We really enjoyed it, and I'd definitely recommend it to everyone (and it's rare that I do that with a film that is so obviously a chick flick). In particular, keep you eyes on Spike, the scruffy roommate of Grant's character, who is extremely funny. The film also features a nice little ensemble cast of friends who are a lot of fun to watch. All in all, it's a nice little treat of a film.

Those of you who have been waiting for Saving Private Ryan to hit a better home video format than VHS, will be happy to know that the film is expected to appear on laserdisc (from Image Entertainment) on June 29th. Yes, I know it's not DVD (no word a possible street date for that yet - look for X-mas at the earliest), but the laserdisc should be great. The set will include two discs (4 sides in all), THX certification, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and a $39.99 SRP. With no DVD in the immediate offing, I'm actually quite looking forward to it.

Speaking of Image Entertainment, they've updated their DVD News page to announce Fox's Wing Commander, and a host of smaller titles from Sony Music, Fox Lorber and more.

Finally, all of you industry types should get your nominations in for the DVD Pro Discus Awards, which are due by June 15th. Any DVD-Video or DVD-ROM title that was finalized to DVD-R or replicated after July 1, 1998 and before June 30, 1999, is eligible. The finalists will be chosen by July 26th.

We'll see you back here tomorrow. And all of you suffering the back-to-work blues, hang in there - remember, it's a short week!


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