Okay, it's a little later than we expected, but we told you we'd have
something cool for you today, and we're making good on that. How about
your very first look at Tim Burton's
of the Apes: Special Edition from 20th Century Fox? Whether
you like the movie or not, this 2-disc DVD release (which streets on
November 20th) is absolutely worth checking out. It's got some of the
coolest interactivity we've seen on DVD to date. And that spiffy
metallic cover artwork is nice too! Don't miss it.
We'll be back tomorrow with some cool Halloween-themed reviews... a
little earlier this time! ;-)
(LATE UPDATE - 10/26/01 - 4 PM PDT)
All right - we've just posted our in-depth review of Paramount's new
Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition for all you
Trekkies our there. The 2-disc set streets on November 6th, and it's
well worth a look for fans.
We've also got
from the San Francisco Gate that the Star
Wars: Episode I DVD did indeed break first week sales
records, with an estimated 2.2 million copies of the disc finding their
way into Region 1 living rooms.
Okay... another busy week bites the dust. Don't forget to set your
clocks back on Sunday morning - Daylight Savings Time is upon us again.
Have a great weekend, and we'll be back on Monday with some cool stuff
we're sure you won't want to miss. See you then!
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/26/01
- 10:45 AM PDT)
We've just heard back from our sources at Lucasfilm. It's official -
there will be no 3rd bonus Episode I
disc. I had a feeling this was someone's wishful thinking. I have been
assured by the fine folks up at Skywalker Ranch that there are some very
good things coming in terms of Star Wars.
I'm sure most of you are probably aware that the Episode
II trailer will make its debut next Friday in theaters with
Monsters, Inc.. A second version
will then be available for download on 11/9 if you have the Episode
I DVD (via the special DVD website). And an even longer
version will appear with Harry Potter
later in November. Get those lightsabers warmed up, folks. The Star
Wars insanity is about to start all over again...
We've just posted
List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week in the
Views section. And we've also posted that
of the John Landis chat over at Home Theater Forum. It's
well worth checking out if you love his movies.
MGM has just announced the DVD release of Martin Lawrence and Danny
Devito's What's the Worst That Could Happen,
as a special edition on January 1st. The disc will feature full frame
and anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, deleted
scenes, an alternate ending, 2 commentary tracks (one with the director
and producer and another with Devito and other cast members), a music
video, outtakes and a behind-the-scenes featurette among other things.
SRP will be $26.98. Also coming on February 5th are more Vintage
Classics titles (SRP $14.95), including After
the Fox, Cast a Giant Shadow,
Girl with Green Eyes, Halleluja
I'm a Bum!, Kings Go Forth,
Saturday Night and Saturday Morning
and Town Without Pity. Each will
feature a trailer. On February 19th, MGM will release a Grizzly
Adams movie on DVD - no kidding. Remember that show? Ben and
Old Number 7? Escape to Grizzly Mountain
will SRP for $14.95. The Greatest Story Ever
Told will also be repriced to $19.98. And a trio of DVD
2-packs will be made available for $19.99 each, including The
Black Stallion/The Black Stallion Returns, Fluke/Napoleon
and All Dogs Go to Heaven 2/The Secret of
Finally this morning,
word about the recent stellar DVD software sales from Reuters (via
Yahoo). By the end of the year, industry experts expect that some
400 million DVDs will have been shipped to retailers in 2001. That's
almost double last year's total.
Back soon with a special DVD review for you Trek
fans. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 10/25/01 - 12:30 PM PDT)
We promised you a look at the cover artwork for Buena Vista's upcoming
Tombstone: Director's Cut - Vista Series
and The Sixth Sense: Vista Series
discs, so here they are. Damn, I haven't been this excited for a disc in
quite a while - can't wait for Tombstone!
(EARLY UPDATE -
10/25/01 - 10:45 AM PDT)
We've been hearing a lot of rumors from readers that Lucasfilm is
creating a 3rd disc for Episode I
that would, in effect, become a 2nd supplemental materials disc. The
idea is that it would include more deleted scenes, more TV spots and the
like - stuff that wouldn't fit on Disc Two The rumor apparently started
Horizons, and is circulating wildly. I would be very surprised
is this turns out to be true. It really doesn't make much sense, and
sounds like a case of wishful thinking on some fan's part. But we've got
inquiries in with Lucasfilm and the disc's producer, so we'll let you
know what they say.
In other site business, we've corrected a couple of errors posted in
the last couple of days A&E's Thunderbirds
press release listed all the Set 3
episodes incorrectly, so we've fixed that. We also mistakenly listed the
street date for Tombstone as 1/8.
We should have looked at our own
Mill - it should be 1/15 (we've fixed that as well).
Also around the site this morning, we've updated the AFI
Top 100 Films on DVD list to include several titles we now
know to be in production for DVD, and a few that have finally been
released. We've also updated
Official DVD FAQ to the most recent version, dated October
Now then... we've just posted the first of the
Theater Forum chat transcripts.
one is from Tuesday night, with the staff of The Criterion Collection.
Landis transcript has yet to arrive, but look for it this evening or
tomorrow morning at the latest.
Back with more this afternoon...
(LATE UPDATE - 10/24/01 - 2:30 PM PDT)
We've just updated the
Views section of the site with
new column, in which he looks at three spooky DVDs that are just
perfect for Halloween. You've got all three Coffin Joe DVDs from Fantoma
Midnight I'll Take Your Soul,
Night I'll Possess Your Corpse and
of the Beast. You may also have noticed that we've brought
back our Halloween-themed logo again this year. More Halloween reviews
are on the way.
We've also just updated
Rumor Mill with details on more Star
Trek DVD releases from our friends at Paramount, along with
word on a forthcoming School House Rock
disc and even a bit on the upcoming re-release of E.T.
in theaters and on DVD.
Tomorrow we'll kick off a new Trivia Contest,
post transcripts of the
chats with Criterion and director John Landis (Landis is scheduled for
tonight - don't
miss it) and we might even have a new DVD review or two.
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/24/01 - 12:15 PM PDT)
Yes indeed... details have finally emerged on Buena Vista's forthcoming
Tombstone: Director's Cut - Vista Series
DVD - a title I've been looking forward to for a very long time! The
title streets on January 15th, 2002, for an SRP of $29.99. The 2-disc
set (yep - 2-discs) will include a new anamorphic widescreen transfer of
the film, audio in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, THX-certification, 3
production featurettes (An Ensemble Cast,
Making an Authentic Western and
The Gunfight at the O.K. Coral),
audio commentary by director George Cosmatos, a Tombstone Timeline, the
Tombstone Epitaph, the director's
original storyboards for the O.K. Coral sequence, a collectible
Tombstone map and the Faro at the Oriental
That same day, Buena Vista will also release The
Sixth Sense: Vista Series DVD, also for $29.99. The 2-disc
set will feature anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1
audio, THX-certification, the Reflections
from the Set featurette, an On the
Paranormal documentary hosted by M. Night Shyamalan, a
feature called M. Night Shyamalan:
Storyteller and a "special collectible". We'll have
artwork on both of these titles very soon.
In other Disney news, the studio has also announced that it will
discontinue 4 titles on January 31st - Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition (they DID say it
would be limited), Pinocchio, Mulan
and Tarzan (both the collector's
and Gold editions). Get 'em while you can if you want them and haven't
already pulled the trigger.
Hey - we're not done with the Mouse yet. On February 12th, 2002 the
studio will release their Peter Pan: Special
Edition on DVD (SRP $24.99). The disc will include a new
digital transfer of the fully restored film, THX-certification, The
Making of Peter Pan documentary, The
Peter Pan Story featurette, all new audio commentary hosted
by Roy Disney (featuring Walt Disney and veteran animators Frank Thomas,
Ollie Johnston and Mark Davis along with Leonard Maltin), a still
gallery, the Following the Leader
sing-along song, a Peter's Playful Prank
interactive storybook, the Pirate Treasure
Hunt game and webinks.
This is a really great batch of discs, no doubt. But you know... a
title I'd really love to see find its way to DVD from the Mouse is a
great little documentary called Frank and
this link at IMDB), all about the lives of the aforementioned
Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who are two of the original Disney
animators. Now that would make my day... ;-)
In other news this morning, Fox is claming that their Episode
I DVD had first-day sales of more than $17 million. There are
no unit sales numbers yet, but Fox claims that the title is the fastest
selling DVD to date. I'm sure we'll hear more soon.
And speaking of soon... we'll be back soon with more!
We've got word on more Thunderbirds
DVDs from A&E today. Thunderbirds, Sets 3
& 4 will arrive on November 20th. Each set will contain 2
discs each, and 6 episodes each. Set 3
will contain the episodes Terror in New York
City, End of the Road,
Day of Disaster, Edge
of Impact, Desperate Intruder
and 30 Minutes After Noon. Set
4 will feature The Imposters,
The Man from M.I. 5, Cry
Wolf, Danger at Ocean Deep,
The Duchess Assignment and Attack
of the Alligators. SRP for each set will be $39.95.
Columbia TriStar's also announced the DVD release of The
Long Gray Line for January 2nd, 2002. Directed by John Ford,
the film on DVD will feature anamorphic widescreen and full frame video
options. SRP will be $29.95.
By the way, on the widescreen TV show front, we're also told that NBC's
ER and WB's Angel
are broadcast in letterbox. And we've been told that the Cartoon
Network's animated Justice League
will be in widescreen, at least for the premiere.
You know, this whole thing about video not filling up your TV screen is
just something we're all gonna have to live with. Right now, TV screens
are full frame, while most feature films are shot widescreen, and
require a letterbox to be presented complete and uncut as the director
intended. But in 10 to 15 years, when we all have digital TVs, the
format for digital TV is widescreen. So then, you can bet we'll be
hearing these same people complaining that they hate the gray bars on
the sides of their TV. Yep - that's right. On a widescreen digital TV,
anything that was shot full frame (like older TV programming and older
movies) will only fill up a square in the middle of your screen, and
they will have to be gray bars on the sides of the TV to fill up the
unused screen area. That's why most current TV shows are shooting in
widescreen (even if you don't see them in widescreen now) - so you'll be
able to see them widescreen in the future on digital TV reruns.
So will the same studios that are now caving in to demands for "pan
& scan" versions of widescreen films on DVD in the future
release "zoom & crop" versions of full frame programs on
DVD to make them fill your widescreen TV? Of course not - that's just
plain stupid. So why is this pan & scan thing even an issue now? We
at The Digital Bits reject any
argument that widescreen programming - even "1.85 Flat Comedies"
and family fare - should be presented on DVD in full frame only. And
we'll fight any efforts to do so by any of the studios. The future is
widescreen, folks. And the writing's on the wall.
Don't forget tonight's live chat with Criterion over at
Home Theater Forum.
this link for times and to participate, and watch for our
transcript coming soon.
One last note this morning - Remember that
we posted a few days ago about the RIAA trying to attach invasive
anti-piracy measures to the recent anti-terrorism legislation? Well, the
RIAA e-mailed me this morning to let me know that they've posted an
official response to the original story (which appeared on
calling it a "false Internet rumor". I'm not so convinced of
that, but in the interest of fairness,
a link to the RIAA's spin on things.
Well... it's been an interesting weekend. I went and caught From
Hell, which I personally think rocked, but which is gonna
freak out a lot of folks (in my humble opinion). We've been working to
finalize all of the issues related to having moved The
Bits to a new server (e-mail should be working okay, but
there are still a few banner/search engine things to work out). My
Vikings beat the Packers yesterday which, if you're a Viking fan, you
know is critical to any good season (if the Vikings win no other games
all season, they damn well better win both Packers games). And while I
was going through my e-mail this morning, some guy claimed that The
Digital Bits is biased against gays because we haven't
mentioned the fact that Showtime's Queer as
Folk is debuting on DVD on January 8th (SRP $119.98). The
nerve of some people...
A lot of readers have asked us about many of the titles we listed on
Friday in The
Rumor Mill as in the works for 2002 and beyond. The e-mails
usually read something like: "I see you've posted that ???? is
coming next year - give me all the details you have!!" All I can
tell you is that we DID give you all the details we have - everything we
know at the moment is in the update. When more information becomes
available, we'll be sure to post it. And much of this is in the "tentative
plans" category, so file it accordingly.
A few other bits of DVD news today - Journey fans will be happy to
learn that Journey 2001 will
arrive on DVD on December 11th. It will feature a live show by the band
recorded in Las Vegas during their most recent tour. Sting also has a
new DVD on the way on December 4th, called All
This Time. It's a live performance that was recorded "in
a moonlit courtyard in Tuscany, on the evening of September 11th, in
front of some 200 fans and friends." The event was to be webcast
live, but this was cancelled due to the events earlier that day. A CD
version of the performance will be available on November 20th.
is The Phantom Menace might break first-week DVD sales records
(currently held by Universal's The Mummy
Returns, which recently sold 2 million copies in its first
We've been doing a little research, and have been hearing from
employees of both Best Buy and Target stores. It seems that both Target
and Best Buy are making efforts to stock both full frame and widescreen
copies of films on DVD (and, according to store employees, always have).
Sure enough, on follow-up visits to my local stores, I discovered lots
of copies of each for several titles released in dual versions. So
Blockbuster and Walmart seem to be the biggest offenders when it comes
to short-stocking widescreen versions on DVD. Just FYI.
Speaking of widescreen, I want to take a moment to send a note of
acknowledgment and thanks to NBC, UPN and HBO, not to mention many other
cable networks. Why you ask? Well, if you watch The
West Wing, Enterprise,
Band of Brothers or The
Sopranos, you may have noticed that all of these shows are
being broadcast in letterboxed widescreen. Let that be an example to
those at the Hollywood studios who would say that people don't care
about widescreen on DVD. Raise the bar, guys.
And on the subject of widescreen, those of you who read
Warner chat may have been struck by this comment by someone at the
studio: "Is there a great demand for 1.85 Flat Comedies to be seen
widescreen?" The obvious answer to that question is "YES!!"
But trust me - The Bits is gonna
follow up on this.
And finally, speaking of chats, out friends at the
Theater Forum have two more slated for this week - one on
Tuesday (10/23 - tomorrow) with The Criterion Collection and one on
Wednesday (10/24) with director John Landis. Don't miss 'em (but if you
do, we'll have transcripts)!
Right on! If you're able to read this post, that means you're looking
at The Digital Bits on the brand
new server. E-mail should be back online over the course of the weekend,
certainly by Monday. In the meantime, we've just posted
List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week in the
Views section. And you definitely don't want to miss our
massive upcoming DVD update, which we've just posted in
Rumor Mill. It's an up-to-the-minute, studio-by-studio list of
everything that's currently scheduled for DVD from the Hollywood majors
(which includes many newly announced titles), along with a look at TONS
of great titles that are in the production or planning stages for 2002
and beyond. It's definitely a must read.
So enjoy that, have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on
Okay - a couple of things today. First of all, we've just updated the
Views section with
new column for this week, in which he muses on the little losses
of life and reviews 7 more new and recent discs: Universal's
Blob (1988), Criterion's
Through the Ages, Synapse's
Special Edition and Universal's
The Killer Compilation. Be sure to check it out.
Also today, we've just posted the
transcript of the Warner Home Video chat from last night over at
Home Theater Forum. Thanks to Ron, Parker and the guys for
sending it over. A word of advice - it's WELL worth a read, as Warner
leaks all kinds of upcoming DVD info. Don't miss it.
Now then... we're going to be moving The
Digital Bits to a new server over the next couple of days. So
there MAY not be any more updates until we're settled in - a day or two
perhaps. And there may be occasional down time. We'll try to minimize
the disruption as much as possible, and post if we can. Note that our
e-mail will also be down for a few days. We should be completely back to
normal on Monday. So thanks for your patience as always.
(LATE UPDATE -
10/16/01 - 2 PM PDT)
So... I'm back from DreamWorks. And I can safely say that I've just
seen what I think is going to be the biggest-selling DVD to date. Yep...
it's Shrek (street date November
2nd). Bigger than Gladiator you
say? Yes indeed, bigger than Gladiator,
Episode I, Snow
White and even The Godfather
(terrific DVDs though they all are). I'm not the kind of guy who goes to
these studio PR events and swallows the party line. But I really think
this disc is gonna be the biggest DVD of the year. Let me tell you
DreamWorks' Shrek has been far
and away the biggest film of 2001, with a box office take of over $266
million thus far (only New Line's Rush Hour 2
comes close with $223 million). Part of the reason for that success is
the film's universal appeal - there's just as much in the film to
entertain adults as there for kids. So in creating the DVD, DreamWorks
has paid attention to that broad market, resulting in a 2-disc set that
offers even more for everyone than the movie itself - more than 11 hours
of entertainment (or so the studio says and, based on what I've seen, I
If you're just a casual movie fan, Disc One of the set offers a full
frame version of the film, a behind-the-scenes featurette, character
interviews, a preview of the studio's next animated feature Spirit:
Stallion of Cimarron, and tons of features for kids. In fact,
DreamWorks has created a whole Kids Zone section of the disc, which
features music videos and numerous interactive games. Several of these
can be played on your set-top DVD player, including one where you ask
the magic mirror "yes" or "no" questions and get
randomly generated answers (think the old Magic 8-Ball game), another
where you can decorate the Gingerbread Man however you like and still
another where you can mix and match the heads and body parts of the
major characters in various combinations. Kids will love this stuff.
There are also a number of great DVD-ROM games - more on that in a
If you happen to be a more advanced film fan, Disc Two will be more to
your liking. It includes the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with
Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio options, filmmaker commentary and
numerous featurettes (and other extras) on the making of the film and
the technology that made it possible. Among these are multi-angle videos
of the pitch sessions for various scenes that didn't make the film (some
of which are very funny), character design progressions and a
never-before-seen, extended ending to the film that was created just for
the DVD. And that's just the highlights of Disc Two - there's much more
that I'm not mentioning here.
Whichever version of the film you choose to watch, you're getting it in
the highest possible video quality. The Shrek
DVD uses the same kind of direct-digital transfer process that Pixar
took advantage of for the Toy Story
discs - no film was involved. PDI went straight from the digital
animation files to DVD. All of the menus - every single page - feature
some kind of new CGI animation, all of it created by the same people who
worked on the film itself (and featuring new voice work by Mike Myers
and the other original cast members). And then there's those DVD-ROM
Now... if you've read The Bits
for any length of time, you probably know that I'm no big fan of DVD-ROM
bonus material. All too often, it's crap like screensavers and weblinks
to the studio's site online. Very rarely do you get anything of real
value, and most of it involves installing something on your PC, which is
bound to go wrong, crash or otherwise conflict with your system's
settings in some way. But Shrek
offers something new. A lot of somethings in fact. I counted at least 10
interactive games on this DVD, that are designed for use in PC DVD-ROM
drives. NONE of them needs to be installed on your computer - they all
play right off the disc itself. Much of these are for kids, but there's
games that will appeal to adults too. There are film-themed versions of
Tic Tac Toe, Hangman and Pinball. There are features that let your kids
print out scenes from the movie to color, print out character masks that
they can cut out and wear - even a Pin the Tail on the Donkey game that
they can print out and play.
But the best DVD-ROM feature is the Shrek
ReVoice Studio, that lets you take 12 scenes from the film
and replace the actors' dialogue with dialogue that you record yourself
via the software and your computer's microphone (most PCs these days
include them - if not, you can buy them for as cheap as $10). I was
extremely skeptical about this feature when I first read about it in the
studio's press release. But I'll be damned - not only does it work, it
works so well that it's a helluva lot of fun. We were given a hands-on
demonstration of this feature this morning. It's very easy to use (dare
I say, almost idiot proof?), and the software ADR (Automated Dialogue
Replacement) engine that makes it work is so good, that even the most
amateur voice talent is made to sound professional. In fact, the engine
is based on a piece of actual, professional ADR software that's in use
today at many major sound recording studios. It analyzes the sine waves
and natural "rhythms" of the recorded speech to match it as
closely as possible to the characters' lip movements. ReVoice
is a proprietary DreamWorks DVD feature, and you can expect to see it on
more discs in the future. Trust me on this - it's damn cool. And
DreamWorks has arranged an 800 customer assistance line for those who
need help getting any of the DVD-ROM features to work.
Not convinced yet that Shrek is
gonna be the biggest DVD of 2001 (and perhaps of all time)? Well...
here's one last piece of information to chew on. The DVD carries an SRP
of only $19.95. Enough said. Look for our complete review of the disc
about a week or so before street date, when the studio provides us with
One other thing that I wanted to mention today, and that's a very
disturbing trend by retail chains (including Target, Walmart and others)
to favor stocking full frame DVD product over widescreen, on titles
where two versions of a title are available. Case in point - I recently
went looking around my local Target store to see how The
Mummy Returns was selling. There was not a single copy of the
widescreen version of the DVD to be found anywhere, while TONS of full
frame copies were collecting dust on the shelves. When I inquired about
the discrepancy, I was told by the head of the electronics department
that only a small percentage of the DVDs they got were widescreen, and
that they had sold out the first day. I found this same situation at
Walmart. It seems retailers are short stocking widescreen deliberately,
in an attempt to stave off complaints from their customers about "black
bars" on their TVs. Blockbuster, too, seems to have many more
copies of the full frame version of this film available for rent than
widescreen. And The Mummy Returns
is not an isolated case. Couple this with the fact that some studios
(Warner anyone?) have recently tried to omit releasing widescreen
versions of certain titles on DVD altogether, and this may become the
next battle we DVD advocates will have to fight for the future of the
format. Thankfully, Warner and most of the studios seem to have gotten
the message that DVD fans demand anamorphic widescreen releases of all
widescreen films. Releasing full frame versions as well is fine, either
on the same disc or in a separate release. But what good does this do if
stores simply stop carrying the widescreen copies?
Our suggestion - start calling your local retailers ASAP. Talk to the
store managers and complain about the situation. Call corporate customer
service numbers and let them know how you feel, or send them e-mail or
feedback on their online sites (here are links to online e-mail forms
to name a few). It's time for DVD fans to act to make sure that
anamorphic widescreen on our favorite format doesn't go the way of the
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/16/01 - 7 AM PDT)
Well... today's the day many of you will finally get your hands on a
Star Wars movie on DVD. I think
you'll agree after spending some time with the 2-disc set that it was
well worth the wait. I'll be curious to see what you all think. Just a
in-depth coverage of the title is still available, including a
complete review of the DVD, a look at the menus and a Q&A with Lucas
And while you're all having fun with Episode
I, I'm off to DreamWorks this morning for a sneak peek at
another big upcoming DVD... Shrek.
So be sure to stay tuned to The Bits
for more on the big green ogre, coming very soon... ;-)
(LATE UPDATE - 10/15/01 - 4:30 PM PDT)
A pair of new DVD reviews are now available - Dan's look at Disney's
Emperor's New Groove: The Ultimate Groove and Greg's take on
Anchor Bay's 3-disc
Limited Edition. Both titles are now available in stores, so
check 'em out while you're waiting in line to pick up Star
Wars: Episode I tomorrow. ;-)
Meanwhile, here's a digital frontier story that you can file in the
bizarre and scary category - it seems the
Industry Association of America) tried to take advantage of the
terrorism scare last week by attempting attach an amendment to the
anti-terrorism legislation (just approved by Congress) that would have
given them immunity from damages sought as a result of their hacking
into personal computers to remove or delete pirated files. The effort
failed, but just the fact that they tried should concern all of us. The
idea is that the RIAA wants to be able to go exploring through private
computers, delete anything they deem to be illegal pirated material
(your MP3 files, for example) and then be immune from being sued for
damages if they happen to delete or damage anything else in the process.
Sound a little like Big Brother? It should. I was pretty shocked when I
heard about this, but it's true.
can read more on this via Wired.com.
In other news,
Today has a big article in today's issue about the release of
Episode I on DVD. Be sure to check
it out. We've even got a quote in there somewhere.
Also, one last note - our friends over at
Home Theater Forum are going to be hosting a live chat
tomorrow night (Tuesday) with DVD staffers from Warner Home Video (9 PM
Eastern, 6 PM Pacific).
here to participate. With any luck, they'll answer all your
questions about their DVD work and the titles they're working on for
next year. Don't forget - we'll have a complete transcript of the event
(LATE UPDATE - 10/15/01 - 11:30 AM PDT)
We've just done a bunch of housekeeping kinds of updates to the site,
including the CEA
DVD Player Sales numbers and the
Top 100 Films on DVD list. We've also announced the winners of
the current Trivia
Contest. And we've got some reviews coming soon.
One other note this morning. We've confirmed with 20th Century Fox that
their Moulin Rouge DVD will have a
DTS 5.1 audio track, in addition to the Dolby Digital. Just FYI. ;-)
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/15/01 - 1 AM PDT)
It's live, folks! In anticipation of tomorrow's release of Star
Wars: Episode I on DVD, Lucasfilm has launched the DVD
website. If you have the disc and a DVD-ROM drive, you can access
exclusive content on the website right now. The site currently has a
short video available for viewing that includes a few new still images
from Episode II. AND... if you
check back on November 9th, you'll be able to download the official
teaser trailer for Episode II!
How's that for a cool way to kick off the week?
(LATE UPDATE - 10/12/01 - 4 PM PDT)
Okay... our review of
is now online. The disc streets on October 23rd, so after you pick up
your copies of
Wars, save a few bucks for this one. Think of it as the third
film in this quasi-Star Wars
trilogy on DVD. Staroids is well
worth a spin.
We've also just updated the
Views page with Todd's
List of 10 DVDs Coming Next Week. Be sure to check it out.
Don't forget that our Trivia
Contest ends on Sunday - get your entries in quick! Now
then... go forth, be safe, be fruitful and multiply and have a great
weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. Peace.
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/12/01 - 11 AM PDT)
So have you heard it yet? We've been getting flooded with e-mails from
Bits readers telling us that our
review of the
Wars: Episode I DVD is getting quoted in radio spots for the
disc, along with quotes from other DVD websites. We understand from
Lucasfilm that our review quote may appear in some of the upcoming TV
spots as well. Boy - we've come a long way since the
Wars on DVD Campaign, haven't we? Thanks to everyone at
Lucasfilm - we're flattered. And to all those of you who already have
your copy pre-ordered... you're gonna love the disc. It might not be the
movie we all would have chosen, but the disc was worth the wait. ;-)
Speaking of waiting, we're hearing that a lot of people aren't having
to wait until Tuesday to get their hands on the disc. Many retailers
(including some Blockbusters, it seems), have broken street date on the
title. Given all the anticipation, I suppose that's to be expected.
In other Star Wars DVD news, our
friends over at The
Force.net posted this picture of what you see right now if you
try the Episode I DVD weblink.
This site launches officially on Tuesday and will eventually be filled
with exclusive content. It's also rumored to be the place where we'll
get our first look at the teaser trailer for Episode
II. But right now, all you see is this message from
And speaking of the Episode II
teaser trailer, we don't have to wait long for that at least. Lucasfilm,
and Lucas himself, have quietly let it be known that the trailer will be
out in time for Thanksgiving, along with a teaser poster for the film. I
can see the lines already forming in front of theaters now. Maybe this
time the teaser will be attached to a good film. If I have to sit
through Meet Joe Black again...
On the subject of waiting in line for a Star
Wars film (dig the neverending segues here at the Bits
this morning!) we'll be back later this afternoon with a review of the
new DVD release of Dennis Przywara's Starwoids,
which documents the experience of those who stood in line for 42 days at
the Mann's Village and Chinese theaters in Hollywood for Episode
I. I know someone who stood in that line... (don't worry, man
- I won't blow your identity here). Anyway, the film is a lot of fun,
Dennis is a great guy (I met him at Comic-Con and again recently at
Studio Day) and the disc is worth a look. Back with our review soon.
And one last thing this morning - nothing to do with Star
Wars, I promise. Universal's
a poll going online where you can actually help determine some of
the bonus features that are going to be included on their upcoming American
Pie 2 DVD. Universal's also reporting great sales of its The
Mummy Returns DVD (check
out that story via Yahoo). Too bad most of the copies I'm seeing
on store shelves at Target, Wall Mart and Blockbuster are in full frame.
Okay... this isn't DVD related in any way. But given the stress and
tension of recent events, I think this will help take the edge off a
bit. I know I was in need of a good laugh, and I think you'll enjoy this
too. It's a link to
story from Fox News that Todd sent me this morning. Check it out
and let me know if you find it as funny as I did.
Meanwhile, we're working on lots more reviews and features here at The
Bits, so stay tuned! And be sure to check out
Views in case you missed it last night.
(LATE UPDATE - 10/10/01 - 11 PM PDT)
All right - we're launching a new feature this evening! Or maybe it
would be better to say we're relaunching an old feature. Our own Todd
Doogan will now be doing a weekly column here at The
Views! The column will include news, disc reviews, previews of
upcoming discs, Todd's favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, a list of
his late-fees for overdue porn tapes - pretty much whatever he feels
like talking about. Uncensored. Off the cuff. Politically incorrect.
It's Todd in all his bare-ass glory. Or something like that. Basically,
we're not too sure what it is, but he promises to review a few discs
each week, so what the hell. To kick off his first column, Todd's taking
a look at some great Halloween flicks, including Criterion's
Vanishing, Columbia TriStar's
Forsaken, and Paramount's Friday
the 13th: A New Beginning and
the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives. Why? Well... ask Todd. Check
out his Doogan's
Views for all the fun.
Stay tuned... ;-)
(EARLY UPDATE -
10/10/01 - 11 AM PDT)
Hey Rings fans! Some of you may
already be aware of this, but New Line and JVC have an interesting offer
online at the moment. If you purchase
JVC DVD player from the New Line Studio Store (sale price $199),
they'll include a free promotional DVD for the upcoming Fellowship
of the Rings (see below).
The disc comes in a cardboard sleeve, and includes a 17-minute "behind-the-scenes"
featurette on the production of the upcoming films. The featurette
includes interviews with director Peter Jackson, many of the production
artists and much of the cast. It also gives you a look at some of the
sets, locations, costumes and creatures that will be featured in the
films. Following the featurette is the second teaser trailer for the
film in letterboxed widescreen (non-anamorphic) with Dolby Digital 5.1
audio. Finally, there's a gallery of 16 character photos. The disc is
very simple in terms of interactivity and the video and audio quality
are less than stellar. But it's a cool little bonus item if you're a
Rings fan and you haven't already
got a DVD player.
In other news, we've been hearing from a lot of DVD fans who took
advantage of that offer to get their defective Jurassic
Park DVDs exchanged. It seems that they're finally starting
to get their replacement discs, so if you sent in for one, watch your
mailbox for it.
One other thing this morning - we've been having a LOT of people asking
us about Pacific Family Entertainment's The
Final Countdown DVD. We've contacted PFE in the past about a
potential release date for this, and keep getting the stock answer: "We're
working on it and should have more to talk about soon..." Well,
many months have gone by and still no word. I'm just hoping that when
they finally get around to releasing this film on DVD, it's worth the
wait. Does PFE even know what anamorphic widescreen is? Any chance that
the video won't be full frame only? Any chance of remixed 5.1 audio?
I'll try to find out all I can, but until PFE is a little more
forthcoming with information on their DVD plans for The
Final Countdown, it's hard to know what to think.
We're a little behind in our news coverage, because we've been
concentrating on getting reviews up. But we're working to be all caught
up this week, so stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 10/9/01 - 5 PM PDT)
Okay... we've got reviews for you! We've just posted Todd's two cents
on Paramount's spiffy
Godfather DVD Collection, which streets today. I've also
Wars: The Phantom Cuticle (street date: 10/16) and Warner's
Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit (a more
elaborate version of an earlier Fox release). And we round things out
this afternoon with Brian's take on Universal's recent
Joe Black: Ultimate Edition. Enjoy!
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/9/01 - 11:30 AM PDT)
Wow - we've just gotten our hands on the revised and final list of
specs on MGM's upcoming The Adventures of
Buckaroo Banzai: Special Edition (street date 1/1/02), and
you guys are gonna flip for it! These come straight from the amazing
Mojo, who was an associate producer on the project. The disc was
produced by Michael Arick, whose other recent work includes Forrest
Gump and The Magnificent Seven.
So here goes... special features on the DVD will include a brand new
anamorphic widescreen transfer (presented for the first time on home
video in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio), remixed Dolby Digital 5.1
audio, 2 versions of the movie (the theatrical cut plus a special
extended version with restored opening sequence starring Jamie Lee
Curtis), feature audio commentary from director W.D. Richter and Reno
from the Banzai Institute, a behind-the-scenes documentary and
retrospective, 14 deleted scenes, the original teaser trailer, an
all-new "Jet Car" special effects trailer, extensive
interactive menus with new material from Buckaroo
Banzai screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch, special 'watermelon'
Easter eggs, Pinky Carruther's Unknown Facts
subtitle track, the Banzai Institute Archives, a Banzai Radio segment,
original production designs, Jet Car secrets revealed and a still
gallery with never-before-seen photos. SWEEEEET! I actually ran into
Mojo at the recent Studio Day event here in L.A., and from what he told
me, this may be one of the coolest discs in a long time! Everything on
this thing is done up as if the disc was produced by the Banzai
Institute itself, and there's a ton of new and original film-themed
material produced by the folks who worked on the movie. If you love Buckaroo
Banzai as much as we do here at The
Bits, this is a must have title if there ever was one. And if
you've never seen it... what are you stupid? What are you waiting for?
Kidding! It's a adventure/sci-fi/comedy in the same vein as Big
Trouble in Little China, and it's just plain fun. Don't miss
it. Now if we could just get that tacky DVD cover art changed. Anyone
wanna come up with a cool custom cover? Fire up your copies of Photoshop
and go to work, guys...
We've got a couple of great reviews on the way for this afternoon, so
Welcome back to the work week, DVD fans! And Happy Thanksgiving to all
you folks in Canada! Well... looks like another strange and tense week
is brewing here on Planet Earth. Even as I write this, bombs are falling
on Afghanistan. So our goal here at The
Digital Bits is to provide you all with a little DVD-style
distraction. In that spirit, we've got a bunch of great content for you
We're starting things off today with a new special feature story. Our
Jahnke recently talked with Columbia TriStar DVD guru Javier Soto,
about the studio's upcoming Final Fantasy
DVD, which streets on October 23rd. So you should definitely check that
out if you're eagerly anticipating the 2-disc set. We've also got Adam's
in-depth review of the
Fantasy: The Spirits Within - Special Edition, so don't miss
Also this afternoon, we've updated the
DVD Player Sales numbers to include the last two weeks of
September. Some 1,768,821 players were shipped from manufacturers to
retailers last month, bringing our grand total for the format to date to
over 21 million players! All charts have been updated accordingly.
Lots more goodies are on the way, so stay tuned!
We've got a couple of reviews for you this afternoon. First up, Adam
Jahnke's tuned in a review of Columbia TriStar's
of Arabia. Our review of that title is long-overdue, but there
it is at last! And I've given Palm Pictures'
a spin and have plenty to say about it, believe me!
The Bits' staff is working hard on
a lot of new content for next week, including special features and lots
more DVD reviews. There's a ton of big new titles we have yet to review
here at the Bits, and we're going
to try to remedy that ASAP.
So stay tuned and have a great weekend!
We're pleased today to give you a first look at the final cover artwork
for MGM's upcoming Mad Max: Special Edition,
which streets in January...
You may also have noticed the cover art for New Line's Rush
Hour 2: Infinifilm Edition, which streets on December 11th.
You'll want to read more about that particular title in today's update
Rumor Mill, especially if you're a Lord
of the Rings fan. 'Nuff said.
In the meantime, here's a rundown of MGM's complete January DVD slate:
Madly, Deeply, Lonely Hearts,
Maria's Lovers, Jack
& Sarah, China Moon,
Echo Park, Fires
Within, Mannequin, Withering
Heights (1970), Speechless,
Romantic Comedy, The
Russia House, The Good Wife,
The Favor and, of course, the Max
Max: SE and Buckaroo Banzai: SE.
Not a bad slate, but I sure wish they'd get Wim Wenders' Wings
of Desire on DVD. And how about that long awaited Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang: SE?
Also this afternoon, we've just kicked off the new
- the first of two for October. You've got a chance to win great prizes
from MGM and ShowOff Displays, so be sure to enter right away!
(LATE UPDATE - 10/2/01 - 4 PM PDT)
As you may have noticed, we've posted Todd's review of Universal's
Mummy Returns: Collector's Edition this afternoon. And you
might want to check it out before you rush out to buy the disc today. He
isn't too kind to either the film or the disc, although it's not for
lack of audio and video quality. Seems there's enough marketing material
on the disc to spoil anyone's DVD appetite...
Also this afternoon, we've posted a new special feature interview. Our
Suarez recently had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Simpsons
writer Al Jean, about the new DVD release and the show itself. So
if you're a fan of all things Springfield, don't miss it!
(EARLY UPDATE - 10/2/01
- Noon PDT)
Okay... we've got a few things to post today. But none of them are the
panel transcript - that's DEFINITELY gonna take a few days to complete.
I'd like to think I'm pretty good at these things, but listening to an
analog recording made using the condenser mike on my cassette recorder
for the comments of a guy who was non-miked on the far side of the
room... that's a major chore! Still, today, we've going to start with
official details on a bunch of just revealed titles from 20th Century
Fox. First, the artwork...
Let's start at the top, shall we? Buffy the
Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season streets on January
15th, 2002. The 3-disc set (SRP $39.98) will include all 13 first season
episodes of the show in their original full frame aspect ratio with
English and French Dolby Surround audio. Extras include full-length
commentary on Welcome to Hellmouth
by Joss Whedon, an interview with Whedon and David Boreanaz, discussions
with Whedon about Welcome to Hellmouth,
The Harvest, The
Witch, Never Kill a Boy on the
First Date, Angel and
Puppet Show, the original pilot
script, a Buffy trailer,
biographies, a photo gallery and DVD-ROM links to Buffy
Next up is Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge:
Special Edition, which streets on December 18th (SRP $29.98).
This 2-disc set will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video,
with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. Extras will include two audio
commentary tracks featuring Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Don McAlpine
and Craig Pierce, extensive branching footage, an audio track for the
visually impaired, an exclusive "Behind the Red Velvet Curtain"
version featuring a little green fairy that leads the viewer
behind-the-scenes into the making of the film, multiple featurettes on
the production process from conception to release - The
Writers Gallery, Creating the
Intro to the Film, The Actor's
Gallery (featuring Kidman, McGregor, Leguizamo, Richard
Roxborough and Jim Broadbent discussing their characters), Dance
Gallery (uncut choreography sequences), Editorial
Gallery (extended scenes), Music
Gallery (the scoring of the film and an interview with Fat
Boy Slim), and Animating The Green Fairy
- more than 10 Easter Eggs, the HBO First
Look special, multiple extended scenes, several key
choreography-laden scenes featuring multi-angle options, the Come
What May and Lady Marmalade
music videos, MTV Movie Awards
live performance of Lady Marmalade,
2 theatrical trailers and a still gallery (featuring artwork by Ellen
Von Unwerth, Mary Ellen Mark, Douglas Kirkland, Sue Adler and Merrick
Then we've got Fox's M*A*S*H: Five Star
Collection, which arrives on January 8th, 2002 (SRP $26.98).
This 2-disc set will include the restored original, uncut version of the
film in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
Supplements include audio commentary by director Robert Altman, a
15-minute AMC Backstory
featurette, 2 documentaries (Enlisted: The
Story of M*A*S*H and M*A*S*H:
History Through the Lens), the M*A*S*H:
30th Anniversary Reunion, a film restoration segment, a still
gallery, the theatrical trailer and an Easter Egg.
But if that isn't enough M*A*S*H
for you, then that same day you can also pick up the M*A*S*H:
TV Season One 3-disc set. All 24 episodes of the series'
first season are included in their original full frame aspect ratio,
with audio in English and French (you also have the option of watching
each episode with or without the canned laugh track). SRP is $39.98.
And finally, this title isn't from Fox - it's filmmaker Dennis
Przywara's hilarious Starwoids.
Przywara spent 42 days in line with Star Wars
fans of all ages, waiting for the premiere of Episode
I. And he captured it all on film - the rivalry between the
Mann Chinese and Westwood lines, a Boba Fett DJ, a high school
production of Star Wars: The Musical,
a tour of the A New Hope locations
and more! The DVD even features narration and opening interview footage
with director Kevin Smith. I actually met Dennis at the recent Comic-Con
and saw him again on Saturday at Studio Day. He's a funny guy and this
disc should be a lot of fun. It streets on October 16th (the same day as
Episode I) for an SRP of $19.95.
Don't miss it!
Now then... the latest
DVD Player Sales numbers are in. Some 175,920 players shipped
to retailers in the U.S. in the week ending September 14th. That takes
the monthly total up to 711,431 players shipped thus far. All the charts
have been updated accordingly.
Back with more soon...
Well... I'd say our DVD producers panel at Studio Day was a huge
success. We went for a full two hours, and there was plenty of good
discussion. We also did a LOT of Q&A with the audience. The scene
was much more conducive to interaction than Comic-Con - we had more
panelists, a smaller audience and a much more intimate setting. So
that's the good news. The bad news is that we only had 2 microphones,
which we had to pass around a lot. So most of what was said was said off
mic. That's making doing a good transcript of the event a real bear. But
I'm giving it my best shot. At the very least, I can do highlights of
the discussion. It's going to take a couple of days, however, so I ask
you to be patient while I pull it all together.
One note - I'd like to ask anyone who took digital photos of the panel
to e-mail them to me for use with the transcript:
In the meantime, I suggest you check out
roundup of the news from the event. Pete went around to speak with the
studio reps while I spent the morning getting ready to moderate the
panel. And I'll be back in an hour or two to post the winners of our
Contest, which ended on Sunday. So stay tuned...
Here's a reminder this morning - don't forget that tonight is the
charity DVD signing with American Werewolf in
London director John Landis and FX make-up guru Rick Baker at
Dave's Video (12144 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, CA) from 7 to 9 PM.
Get there early, 'cause the lines will probably be long. I won't be able
to make it tonight, because I'm going to be preparing for Dave's Studio
Day tomorrow. Studio Day starts at 10 AM, giving you a chance to speak
with representatives involved in DVD from most of the major studios. And
again, our DVD producers panel will run from 1 to 3 PM in the store.
I'll be moderating, and scheduled to participate are David Prior,
Charles de Lauzirika, Van Ling, Alita Holly, Jeff Lerner, Jeff Kurtti,
Steve Gustafson, Perry Martin, Jeffrey Schwarz and David Naylor. We will
be doing plenty of Q&A as part of the panel, so bring your DVD
questions and hope to see you there.
Also, I've spoken with Columbia TriStar this morning, and we will be
reviewing all of the new SuperBit DVDs next week, so watch for that. Our
initial impressions from yesterday are that SuperBit is definitely aimed
at the true high-end, home theater-phile. But those of you who
appreciate DTS audio (and higher bit rate Dolby Digital sound) may also
find interest in these discs.
And finally this morning, our
Contest ends on Sunday, so be sure to get your entries in. The
prizes are DEFINITELY worth it.
Well... I've finally gotten a look at one of Columbia TriStar's new
SuperBit discs. And I've got some first impressions to share with you.
First of all, though, we're pleased to announce that we've added an
additional domain name address here at The
Digital Bits. You can now reach this site by going to either
www.digitalbits.com. You'd be
surprised how many people forget about the "the"! ;-)
Okay... on to SuperBit. To start with, let me just say that I've ONLY
had a chance to look at one title - The Fifth
Element. I also requested Air
Force One and Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon, but was only sent the one disc. It seems that
Columbia is being stingy with them, and that's a shame. Without looking
at several titles as a whole, it becomes very difficult to tell, across
the board, how much improvement results from SuperBit's higher bit rate
itself. That said, based on Fifth Element,
I've drawn some conclusions.
To do this comparison, I used Pioneer's AX-10 DVD player and
Mitsubishi's Diamond series WS-65908 rear projection display, connected
using progressive scan, component video. Know that I've spent my whole
professional life looking at video quality, first a video director and
editor and later as editor of The Bits.
And I spent several hours doing back and forth comparisons between the
new disc and Columbia TriStar's original Fifth
Element DVD. So does SuperBit's higher video bit rate make a
difference? The answer is yes... but it's extremely subtle. So subtle,
in fact, that the average user will NEVER notice it. The greatest
difference seems to be in rendering fine picture detail. The very slight
digital artifacting that was occasionally apparent on the original DVD
(in the most finely detailed areas of the picture) is gone on the
SuperBit disc, thanks to the higher bit rate. The video image on the new
disc is rock-solid, virtually everywhere you look, at all times. But
since most consumer display devices (particularly non-anamorphic
displays) aren't capable of rendering such fine detail, most will never
see this improvement. To be sure of this, I then compared the discs on a
standard, 4x3 consumer television - no difference was distinguishable. I
did notice that the color seemed to be very slightly more vibrant on the
new SuperBit disc, but that's likely due to a difference in the color
timing work done on each disc, and has nothing to do with the added
video bit rate. Don't get me wrong - the disc looks amazing. But so does
the original DVD. Video quality is not a reason to invest in a SuperBit
disc, in my opinion.
If you're an audiophile, however, SuperBit's DTS audio option is the
real justification for purchasing one of these discs. The improved
clarity and smoother soundscape of The Fifth
Element's higher-resolution DTS 5.1 track added tremendously
to the viewing experience. And that's about what we expected. Without
any extras, it's going to be very hard for most DVD consumers to justify
buying a SuperBit title. But for fans of DTS, the decision will be
When I was up at Skywalker Ranch recently, THX's Rick Dean reminded me
that video quality is much less a factor of video bit rate, as it is the
efficiency of the digital video encoder itself. Sony's HD Center has
always had, in my opinion, one of the most (if not THE most) efficient
video encoding processes in the business. It seems a surprise then that
Columbia TriStar would see the need for a SuperBit line of discs at all
(other than as an additional marketing product line). I'd rather see
them keep the video bit rate where it was, add the DTS 5.1 track to as
many discs as they can and continue delivering solid extras. Or, if they
stick with the SuperBit line, why not make all SuperBit titles 2-disc
sets and have the second disc be supplemental materials (so people
actually get their additional money's worth)? But hey... if we ran the
world, things would be different, wouldn't they?
So that's SuperBit. We'll try to get reviews up of all these titles,
provided we actually get our hands on the others at some point.