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page updated: 10/24/02



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 10/11/02 - 9/26/02)


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(LATE UPDATE - 10/11/02 - 1:30 PM PDT)

Okay... we've just posted a trio of DVD reviews for you. Matt Rowe's given a look at Image's Todd Rundgren: Live in Japan. Jeff Kleist checks in with a review of BMG's reissue of The Cranberries: Beneath the Skin - Live in Paris (version 2.0 this time - compare it with Greg Suarez's review of the original disc from 2001). And Graham Greenlee's got a look at an older, family title... Disney's The Princess Diaries (widescreen version of course).

Watch for the new Trivia Contest later this evening. And we've got a BIG review slate for next week. Monday will see our reviews of HBO's Band of Brothers and Paramount's Star Trek III: Collector's Edition. And later in the week, look for our in-depth thoughts on Fox's Ice Age and New Line's 4-disc Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings - Extended Version as well.

One quick note - we've confirmed the Suncoast R2-D2: Beneath the Dome DVD exclusive. It is happening, and may also be available at all Musicland Group stores (which include Musicland, Media Play, Suncoast and Sam Goody) as well as Best Buy (which owns the Musicland Group). We'll let you know when we have exact street date and price info.

So have a great weekend and we'll see you back here for all the excitement bright and early Monday morning. Go Twins!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/11/02 - 11 AM PDT)

Yeah, you read that right. We've been getting e-mails all morning from employees of Suncoast stores. Apparently, they've made some kind of deal with Lucasfilm to have an exclusive DVD available only at Suncoast stores (and possibly Musicland Group stores as well): the complete R2-D2: Beneath the Dome "mocumentary" (the trailer for which is on the Episode II DVD). Word is the disc will be available on 12/26. Consider this a rumor until we can confirm it. Is anyone else getting sick and tired of these exclusives?

You Star Trek fans in R4 have something to look forward to... here's the package design for Paramount's upcoming Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVDs. The R1 design will likely be similar, but without the plastic outer case (similar to The Next Generation DVDs). We'll post that cover art as soon as it becomes available.

Around the net today, there's an AP story on the "under the radar" progression of DVD-Audio and SACD. There's also a piece by Variety's Scott Hetrick on how DVD special editions are now becoming available on pay-per-view at roughly the same time they arrive in stores. As an example, the new extended cut of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings is going to available for viewing on Direct TV just three weeks after its DVD debut. And finally, there's a business story about Sony and Pioneer resolving a DVD patent dispute in China.

We'll be back in a few hours with some DVD reviews and a new Trivia Contest. And be sure to check back on Monday, when we'll post a review of HBO's awesome new Band of Brothers 6-disc set (street date 11/5).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/10/02 - 2:15 PM PDT)

Some 30+ members of the media gathered on Tuesday morning at the Robert Zemeckis Center for the Digital Arts (just off the USC campus in Los Angeles) to attend 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's press event for the DVD release of Star Wars: Episode II. The event began with a breakfast and tours of the Digital Center, followed by a THX-sponsored demonstration of the disc's picture and sound quality, as well as a walk-through of the special edition materials on the 2-disc set.

As last year, the host for the event was Lucasfilm's VP of Marketing, Jim Ward. And on hand to answer questions were several member of the film and DVD production team, including Rick McCallum (the film's producer), Rob Coleman (animation director), Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda) and DVD producer Van Ling.
Ward started by answering a number of questions related to the disc. I asked him if the DVD marketing campaign for Episode II was altered in any way given that the 4th quarter has become so crowded with other blockbuster titles. His response: "Sure, a little. But the great thing about this is that we know we can count on Star Wars fans to be there. They'll buy the disc no matter what else is out there."

Van Ling's responsibilities on this DVD included the creation of all of the animated menu screens for the set, using both film images and all new CG animation, as well as coordinating with the various technical facilities involved in the disc's production (authoring, compression, etc). According to Ling, the menus were generated in more than a dozen languages (with multiple versions of the menu sometimes done in each language), as the disc is being released worldwide simultaneously. All told, more than 200,000 frames of new animation were rendered for the menus. And work on the DVD began very early during the film's production.

Producer Rick McCallum noted this in particular. "Jim [Ward] forced George and I to start thinking about the DVD a lot earlier, and to start prepping stuff for Van and Pablo [Helman]." Many of you may remember that the Episode I DVD came out more than a year and a half after the release of the film to theaters. The goal with Episode II was to release the DVD in the "normal" time frame after the theatrical release, which meant that there was much less time to get the disc done.

On the issue of digital technology and filmmaking, McCallum noted that, "George has gone crazy. We were still shooting eight days before the release of the movie." McCallum claims that he knew it was going to be a rough day for him when he'd get to work in the morning, and the first thing George would say was, "Hey Rick... wouldn't it be great if...?"

McCallum was also asked about digital piracy, and the fact that versions of Episode II are already available on the Internet. His concern was obvious. "The issue of piracy is so deep and so profound. Once the bandwidth is there for anyone to download a movie in perfect quality, we'll have a huge problem unless we address that. Movies will change because the money will go away. The industry will implode unless we can stop the piracy."

Then Rob Coleman and Frank Oz were introduced to talk about the effort to bring Yoda to life as a fully-CG animated character rather than with traditional animation. Oz was very gracious, talking about how impressed he was that the character had been "freed up" and could now fully interact with the other actors. Coleman spoke about how nervous he was when confronted with the task. "I was there for all the fan reaction to Jar Jar, so with Yoda, I was afraid I was never going to work again. But George believed in us." I asked him if there was a moment during the production when, finally, he knew the CG Yoda was going to work. "It was when I finally saw the shot where Yoda pushes the Force lightning back at Dooku, and you can see the emotion on his face - the "wizard" battle. Yoda was actually acting. Seeing that, followed by the "gunslinger" shot [where Yoda brandishes his saber] - that was when the butterflies finally went away and I knew we could do it. But I was still a little nervous until I finally saw the film with an audience for the first time and heard them cheering."

Once the Q&A period was over, lunch was served and the gathering was treated to a special preview showing of the stage play Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes. It's absolutely hilarious and had the crowd rolling. It's definitely worth seeing when its official run begins at the Coronet Theater in West Hollywood on 10/25 (visit the official site for more). Frank Oz actually went backstage to congratulate the actors after the production. It makes you wonder if they'll eventually do the complete Star Wars Saga in 1 Hour...

So there's the DVD event in a nutshell. Click here for more on this 2-disc set via the official Star Wars website, including a look at the menus.

Okay... now I'm gettin' back into bed to sleep off this head cold. We'll be back tomorrow with reviews and maybe a new Trivia Contest too.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/10/02 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Well folks... up to my eyeballs in mucus or not, we've got some cool DVD information to cover today.

First up, Buena Vista has revealed that their Signs DVD will street on 1/7. In addition, they've got a great January slate of classic live-action Disney titles due on 1/14 (SRP $19.99 each). They include The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, Gus, The Moon Spinners, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit and my favorite... The Absent-Minded Professor.

Then in February, you'll get ESPN's Ultimate X: The Movie, The Night and the Moment, Jane Eyre, Into the West, The Star Maker and Citizen Ruth (all 2/4), Cinema Paradiso: The New Version (2/18) and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams - Collector's Edition (2/11).

An Evening with Kevin SmithxXx: Widescreen Special Edition

Columbia TriStar's also been quite busy lately. Their An Evening with Kevin Smith streets on 12/17 (SRP $27.95). It features anamorphic widescreen video, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio, and bonus trailers of other Kevin Smith films. As many of you probably know, this program was shot over the course of several events on Smith's lecture tour of college campuses, and it features many guest appearances Askew fans will enjoy.

And the xXx: Special Edition will street on 12/31 in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions (SRP $27.95 each). Extras will include audio commentary by director Rob Cohen, the A Filmmaker's Diary documentary, several production featurettes (including Diesel Powered, The GTO is Back, Designing the World of xXx and Building Speed: The Vehicles of xXx), deleted scenes, script-to-screen comparisons, multi-angle deconstructions, visual effects demos, the Adrenaline music video by Gavin Rossdale, DVD-ROM extras and more.

Back soon...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/9/02 - 11 AM PDT)

Morning, gang! I wanted to drop in here quickly to let you all know that I'm going to check back in tomorrow with more on that Episode II press event, as well as other DVD news and disc reviews. It seems in all the excitement that I've come down with a pretty nasty head cold. So I'm gonna take my Alka-Seltzer Plus cold medicine like a good website editor and try to get some rest.

Thanks for your patience and we'll see you tomorrow. ;-)

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/9/02 - 12:01 AM PDT)

As promised, we're pleased to bring you our in-depth review of Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox's upcoming DVD release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. This 2-disc set streets on 11/12, and is sure to become THE single coolest way to dazzle your friends with your home theater equipment. The set features absolutely stellar picture and sound quality. And yes, Virginia... the all-digital transfer really IS as bitchin' as you imagine.

We'll be back tomorrow to talk more about the press event and bring you other DVD news. So enjoy the review and stay tuned...!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/8/02 - 3 PM PDT)

Well... we've gotten our hands on the Star Wars: Episode II DVD (street date 11/12). Our own Matt Rowe and I have just returned from Lucasfilm's L.A. press event for the release of the 2-disc set, and we've gone over both discs top to bottom. So is the all-digital transfer really equal to all the hype? Is the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack as good as Episode I? Do the documentaries measure up to The Beginning from the Phantom Menace DVD? Tune in tonight to find out. We'll have our complete, in-depth review of the Attack of the Clones DVD posted at 12:01 AM.

See you then...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/8/02 - 6 AM PDT)

Morning gang! We've got a few things going on behind-the-scenes here at The Bits today, which we'll be able to tell you about soon. In the meantime, our own Adam Jahnke's checked in with our in-depth (and long overdue) review of Columbia TriStar's recent 2-disc Starship Troopers: Special Edition DVD. It's well worth a spin by any measure.

Around the Net today, The Washington Post has a good story up on the economic impact that DVD is having on the landscape of Hollywood these days... and the studios' accounting ledgers as well.

And there's also word of a new legal battle brewing over a company that's set to begin marketing software that can rip a DVD and create exact (or almost exact), "bit for bit" copies using a standard recordable DVD drive. As one might expect, the studios are none too pleased.

Stay tuned... and be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

(LATE UPDATE - 10/7/02 - 3:30 PM PDT)

We've heard back from New Line on those 5.1 isolated music and sound effects tracks. It's confirmed that they will not be on the disc, contradicting the information they sent us a few days ago. Apparently, they were to have been included originally, but they eventually had to be dropped for disc space. The disc spec information we were sent simply hadn't been updated. Hopefully, that explains the mix-up. The main concern we have is that the DVDs feature the highest video and audio bit-rates possible to maintain quality. All other extras are secondary to the presentation quality of the film in our minds. So while it's disappointing that the isolated tracks will not be included, it's entirely understandable.

Also this afternoon, we've received word that Columbia TriStar will release another set of SuperBit titles on DVD on 12/17. The next wave will include the film version of The Who's Tommy, Resident Evil and the animated Heavy Metal 2000. Each disc will include anamorphic widescreen video and Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio. SLP is $27.96 each.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/7/02 - 11:15 AM PDT)

Morning all! I hope this sunny Monday finds you all happy and well.

I'm in a very good mood today after my Minnesota Twins clinched a spot in the American League Championship Game yesterday. Thanks to all of you who sent kind notes about this. I know it has nothing to do with DVD, but allow me the moment. You longtime readers probably know two things about me. I'm a Twins and Vikings fans and I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve about it. Not so many months ago, during the last off-season, the Twins very nearly ceased to exist, when Major League Baseball, the team's owner and commissioner Bud Selig hatched a plan to contract them out of existence forever. Nothing could be more painful to a longtime fan. The team was eventually saved by a legal ruling at the 11th hour. And now here they are, one set of games away from the World Series. Oh, what a difference a year makes. Whatever happens - whether the Twins get to the Series or not - I know a few things. They've proven to all of baseball that money isn't everything. And they've already won something much more important than a world championship to Twins fans - respect and the right to exist. And the last thing I know, is that the ALCS is gonna be some seriously fun baseball. So hats off to the Twins. Your fans... and all of baseball... are in your debt.

Now then... this should be a fun week DVD-wise as well. We've got some good things in the pipeline for the next five days. And we're kicking it off with a couple of new DVD reviews. First up is Graham's take on Disney's new Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition, which streets tomorrow. And the second is a new review from our own Robert Smentek - New Line's Jason X: Platinum Series, which also streets tomorrow. But before you read the reviews, I'm sure you all want to know a little about Robert. So here's what we know...

As an infant, Rob Smentek, was left under the marquee of a South Jersey movie theatre swaddled in the Philadelphia Inquirer's entertainment section. Virtually raised by the cinema, Rob ingested a steady stream of films in virtually every genre. One of his claims to fame is that he is one of six Americans who actually saw Buckaroo Banzai during its brief theatrical run. As a young adult, Smentek worked in several video stores, eventually leaving the field to briefly attempt a career in punk rock.

Currently, Rob works as a editor for a major textbook publisher, and has written film and music reviews for several online and print publications. When glued to the TV watching DVDs and the Simpsons, he writes an autobiographical comic book (called Rewind) and plays bass guitar.


Sounds like a perfect addition to our motley band here at The Bits, doesn't he? Welcome aboard, Robert! Drop him an e-mail and say hello: robertsmentek@thedigitalbits.com

By the way... we're also checking today on those Lord of the Rings 4-disc specs which we posted a few days ago. The specs came directly from New Line, but now we're hearing from our sources that the isolated score and isolated sound effects tracks have been dropped from the movie discs. We'll post more as soon as we have it.

Stay tuned...!

10/4/02

Yes... you read that number right up top. DVD rental revenues continue on their record-breaking pace, having surpassed $2 billion for the current year, and continue to claim an ever-increasing percentage of the home video rental market, according to Bo Andersen, President of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA). DVD rentals now account for some 37% of all rental business.

And we have more upcoming DVD announcements today. ADV Films will release Hello Kitty's Paradise: Pretty Kitty on 11/26 and Farscape, 2.4 on 12/3. Buena Vista's new Walt Disney Treasures titles, Behind the Scenes: Walt Disney Studio, The Complete Goofy and Mickey Mouse in Black and White, are due 12/3, while Halloween: Resurrection follows on 12/10 and Final Encounter (aka: For the Cause) arrives on 12/17. Want a little X-rated anime? Try Central Park Media's La Blue Girl Returns: Shikima Lust on 11/12. Their Twin Angels #3 & #4 Cherry Red arrives on 12/3. Columbia TriStar has added Fat City, Innocence, My Wife is an Actress and Quicksilver to its 12/10 slate, with Buying the Cow following on 12/17 and XXX officially set for 12/31 in both full frame and widescreen versions. Delta Entertainment will release four volumes of New Zoo Revue on 10/22. MGM will release Happy Accidents on 12/17, with Making Mr. Right, Much Ado About Nothing, Music from Another Room, Mystery Date, Secret Admirer, Summer Lovers, True Love and Tune in Tomorrow following on 1/7. MPI will release Dark Shadows, Set #3 on 10/29. New Line has set Hairspray for 11/5 and The Invisible Circus for 12/10. Manga/Palm will release Virus #1 on 11/26. And Synapse Films will release Cold Hearts on 10/8.

And one again, we'll give Image Entertainment their own paragraph. Look for The String Cheese Incident: Waiting for Snow to Fall on 11/12, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (silent - 1929), Blockade, Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies/Quality Street (silent - 1927), Invaders from Mars (1953 - U.S./U.K. versions), John Canemaker: Marching to a Different Toon/Otto Messmer and Felix the Cat, Siddhartha, Quiet Days of Clichy and War and Peace (1965 - Russian) all on 12/3, Anna Karenina (1967 - Russian), Bride of the Gorilla, Gentlemen of Fortune (Russian), Hopalong Cassidy: Hopalong Rides Again/Heart of Arizona, Hopalong Cassidy: Rustlers’ Valley/Texas Trail, Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath (Russian), Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future (Russian), Kidnapping Caucasian Style (Russian), Momentum: IMAX, Snow Maiden (Russian), Starman #1: Attack from Space/Evil Brain from Outer Space, Starman #2: Invaders from Space/Atomic Rulers and Wonderful Land of Oz/Jack and the Beanstalk (1970)all on 12/10, and Champagne for Caesar, Exotic Erotic Ball, Hyper Police #3: Episodes #9-12, Les McCann and His Magic Band: Live in New Orleans and Yosemite: Lightdances all on on 12/17.

Finally, a lot of you have been asking about a possible special edition of Brotherhood of the Wolf from Universal. A basic, single-disc version streeted from them on Tuesday. Well... there is a special edition available, but not from Universal. There's a 3-disc Region 1 special edition available in Canada only, from TVA Films. It reportedly includes the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in French 5.1 (with English subs) and English 5.1. There are many featurettes and extras in French (with English subs), along with a director's commentary that's in French only. The set is selling for $31.99 US dollars right now at Thunder DVD. Keep in mind, however, that since we haven't seen this set ourselves, we can't confirm the spec list. Just FYI.

We may drop back in later with more, but if not, we'll see you Monday morning with reviews etc. Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/3/02 - 7 PM PDT)

Our own Robert Harris returns this evening with his latest column here at The Bits. This week, Robert's making a list (of musicals that is) and he's checking it twice. And I had to format the damn thing, so I'm sending him all my carpel tunnel-related bills. Here's Musicals and More Musings from Robert Harris. ;-)

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/3/02 - 1 PM PDT)

All right... we've got some reviews for you. Our own Graham Greenlee's taken Paramount's new Grease DVD out for a spin, and he's also looked at an older Miramax title too - The Wings of the Dove. And Matt Rowe's got his thoughts on another Image music title, Kronos Quartet: Kronos on Stage. All of them are worth a look on disc.

The Dallas Morning News has posted an online story on how companies are jumping on the DVD bandwagon to promote their goods and services. Word is ex-Beatle Paul McCartney is going to be releasing a live DVD on November 26th, Back in the U.S., featuring more than 30 songs recorded during his recent tour. And there are also reports that Monsters, Inc. sold more than 11 million videos and DVDs in a single week, making its sales second only to the video release of The Lion King (which just happens to be coming to DVD in 2003). More importantly, 7 of those million Monsters were DVDs.

We'll be back in a couple of hours with Robert Harris' new column. Stay tuned...

10/2/02

To kick things off today, we've got a more comprehensive spec list for New Line's 4-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Special Extended DVD Edition (11/12 - SRP $39.99). Here goes...

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Special Extended DVD Edition

Discs One and Two - The Extended Version of the Film

208 minutes (split over both discs), anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES, isolated 5.1 sound effects mix, isolated 5.1 music track, Commentary Track One with the director and writers (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), Commentary Track Two with members of the design team (Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger), Commentary Track Three with members of the production and post-production team (Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hull, Alex Funke), Commentary Track Four with members of the cast (Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean).

Note: Discs Two and Three can be viewed in "explore" mode with traditional menus or "tour" mode via a Play All feature.

Disc Three - The Appendices Part I: From Book to Vision

2 and 1/2 hours of documentary content, including J.R.R. Tolkien-Creator of Middle-earth featurette, From Book to Script featurette, Visualizing the Story section featuring Storyboards and Pre-viz featurette, Designing and Building Middle-earth section featuring Designing Middle-earth featurette, Costume Design featurette and Weta Workshop featurette, design galleries including The Enemy, The Last Alliance, Isengard, The Fellowship, Rivendell and Lothlorien, interactive Middle-earth Atlas with timeline, New Zealand as Middle-earth intertactive map with video, disc introduction with director Peter Jackson.

Disc Four - The Appendices Part II: From Vision to Reality

3 and 1/2 hours of documentary content, including Filming section featuring a production photo gallery and the The Fellowship of the Cast featurette, A Day in the Life of a Hobbit featurette, Cameras in Middle-earth featuette, Visual Effects section and featuette, Post-Production section featuring Editorial featuette and a multi-angle presentation, Digital Grading featuette, Sound and Music featuette and Sound Design Demo, The Soundscapes of Middle-earth featurette, Music for Middle-earth featurette, The Road Goes Ever On featuette, disc introduction with director Peter Jackson.

All told, the 4-disc set is expected to include over 30 hours of unique content created just for this release (including the film and the commentaries). The discs will also feature additional DVD-ROM content and over 2,000 photos and conceptual sketches. And let me tell you... we've seen a few of those featuettes. These aren't 5-minute EPK pieces. They're much more substantial - 20 to 30+ minutes in many cases. Good stuff.

Now then... in a feature in today's print issue of Video Store magazine, Warner reveals that they're gearing up to release an 18-title Charlie Chaplin Collection on DVD, starting in June 2003. Each title will be digitally remastered and cleaned, and will be released as a 2-disc set with numerous extras, including documentaries, outtakes, photo galleries, alternate versions re-edited by Chaplin himself and other material. They'll be available in 2-disc digipack (SRP $26.99) and collector's box ($34.99 - also containing a booklet and film frame) versions. All this is being done in association with MK2 and the Chaplin family. The first three films tentatively due next June are The Great Dictator, City Lights and The Circus. More information will be available at CharlieChaplin.com in the weeks ahead.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 10/1/02 - 3 PM PDT)

Okay... how about a couple of reviews? It's been a while since I ponied up with my thoughts on a disc, so I'm doing so this afternoon with a look at Columbia TriStar's recent Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (now available) and Fox's Life or Something Like It (street date: 10/15). Both Todd and I are going to check in a little more often review-wise, and there are some big titles to cover in the days and weeks ahead.

So check back tomorrow for more reviews, and watch for another column from our own Robert Harris as well. See you then!

(ANOTHER EARLY UPDATE - 10/1/02 - 10 AM PDT)

We'll be back later with DVD reviews, but I wanted to jump in here with word on a Paramount title that a lot of you have been asking us about. The History of Beavis and Butthead, a 32-episode collection, was originally slated for 9/24 but was recalled at the last minute. Here's the story, straight from the studio:

"The box set is delayed because we have decided to explore a new mix of B&B content with MTV and the show's creators. We do not have a release date set for this new material."

However, some copies apparently got out before the recall, and are selling on Ebay. So there you go. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 10/1/02 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning gang! Here's a tasty little Quicktime treat to get your day started right... click on the link there to download the full theatrical trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. December 18th just can't come fast enough.

Say... does anyone know if New Line's got it in their minds to get Jackson to go back and go a film version of The Hobbit when this is all said and done? Sure would make sense to us...

Back later this morning!

(LATER UPDATE - 9/30/02 - 2 PM PDT)

We've got MGM's complete slate for January 2003, which features a number of Valentine-ready titles. Look for Much Ado About Nothing, Mystery Date, The Woman in Red, Music from Another Room, Secret Admirer, Summer Lovers, Making Mr. Right, True Love and Tune in Tomorrow, all on 1/7.

MGM has also officially announced the DVD release of The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course - Special Edition for 12/17 (SRP $26.98). Look for anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a "making of" featurette, the Lights! Camera! Animals! featurette, deleted scenes with director's introduction, "behind-the-scenes" effects footage, the Baha Men music video, a "pop-up croc" trivia track, interactive games, a photo gallery and trailers.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course - Special Edition

Also today, we've got one more Rumor Mill update for you today with confirmed details on MGM's forthcoming Dances with Wolves: Special Edition, as well as a street date for their Barbershop.

Okay... given all the news today, we'll post our new DVD reviews for you first thing in the morning. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/30/02 - 12:45 PM PDT)

Image Entertainment has announced the release of a DVD version of Sergei Bondarchuk's 1968 version of War and Peace (another version is due from Kultur on 11/26). But Image's 4-disc version - due on 12/3 (SRP $69.99) - is much more loaded. Expect anamorphic widescreen video (2.35:1 aspect ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in Russian, English and French and 14 sets of subtitles on the 3 movie discs. The 4th disc contains all the extras, such as a "behind the scenes" featurette, cast and crew filmographies, an art direction and set design studies gallery, a documentary on Leo Tolstoy and interviews with the actors, cinematographer, composer and Mosfilms Studios president Karen Shakhnazarov. The film is also the longer, 431-minute version. Here's a look at the cover artwork...

War and Peace (Image)K-19: The Widowmaker

Austin Powers in Goldmember: Infinifilm

And yes... that was Paramount's K-19: The Widowmaker (12/3) and the final art for New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember (also 12/3). K-19 is expected to include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary by director Kathryn Bigelow and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, 3 featurettes, a "making of" documentary and the theatrical trailer. Features on Goldmember are TBA.


Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/30/02 - Noon PDT)

Back again for another week. We've announced the winners in the Trivia Contest. You'll find that above.

Next up, we've got a rundown of a bunch of new DVD announcements. ADV Films will release Doomed Megalopolis on 11/26. Artisan Entertainment has Two Degrees and U.S. Seals: Dead or Alive coming on 12/3 and Decoration Day, Doppleganger, Greenmail, Keys to Tulsa, Long Walk Home and Wendigo on 12/17. BMG Music had added Beneath the Skin: Live in Paris #2 on 10/1, Long Days Night on 10/8, Boonaroo Music Festival 2002, Raul Di Blasio: El Piano de America, Status Quo: Anniversary Waltz and Taj Mahal: Live at Ronnie Scott's on 10/22, Dave Matthews Band: Live at Folsom Field on 11/5, and Drowning Pool: Cinema and Uriah Heep: Gypsy on 11/19. Buena Vista will release Country Bears on 12/17. Capitol-EMI has added Blondie: Greatest Video Hits to its 10/8 slate. Columbia-TriStar debuts Happy Times and Three Stooges: The Outlaw is Coming on 12/3. HBO Home Video will release Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder and Oz: The Complete Second Season on 1/7. Ivy Video has The Fighting Sullivans coming on 12/13. New Line has announced Austin Powers in Goldmember for 12/3 (in both full frame and widescreen versions). Paramount will release Damaged Care, The Emperor's New Clothes and K-19: The Widowmaker on 12/10. Roan Group will release Zulu on 11/19, along with Helldorado/In Old Cheyenne. 20th Century-Fox has set Like Mike and The Shield: Season One for 12/10, Unfaithful on 12/17 (in both widescreen and full frame versions), The First $20 Million (Is Always the Hardest) on 12/24, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Third Season on 1/7. Warner Home Video has set Andrew Lloyd Webber: Masterpiece - Live from the Great Hall of the People for 11/12 and Juwanna Mann for 11/19. And finally, Warner Music will release Major League Baseball: 30 Most Memorable Moments on 10/22, Veggie Tales: The Star of Christmas and Veggie Tales: The Toy That Saved Christmas on 10/29 and Staind: MTV Unplugged and Usher on 11/12.

We've also got a look at Paramount's December slate in The Rumor Mill, along with a sneak peek at January and word on more Star Trek DVDs.

Now then... we'll be back this afternoon with a review or two and more.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/27/02 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Okay... before we say audios for the weekend, we just had to post this. Just when you thought it was safe for superhero movies in Hollywood again, especially with Spider-Man delivering big-time on its promise and The Hulk and Daredevil looking A-Okay to fans... along comes word that Warner Bros. is once again set to gleefully screw the pooch on a beloved comic book character. Yes, it wasn't bad enough that they put Richard Prior in Superman III and rode the Batman franchise head-first into the ground... now they've decided to "reimagine" Superman. No shit. You heard that right. They want to "reimagine" the mythology of the most beloved comic book character in American history, the legendary Man of Steel. Word is (see this story at Ain't it Cool) that J.J. Abrams' new script (which just got the green light by Warner, with Brett Ratner attached to direct) features a Superman whose powers come from his suit alone (The Man of Polyster and Spandex anyone?), and a Kryptonian Lex Luthor who also has super powers. They also fight with Matrix-style wire fu. And lemme tell ya, that's just for starters.

Hey Warner... why don't you just shove a Superman collector's spoon in the eye of every comic book fan on Earth while you're at it? If I could wish for just one super power right now, it would be the power to "reimagine" whoever thought this was a good idea at Warner right out of existance. I mean, come on! How hard to you have to work to f@#k up Superman? And how square do you have to be NOT to recognize that you're about to f@#k up Superman? Jeez Louise...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/27/02 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We're closing out the week with a trio of new DVD reviews... of new DVDs no less! 'Bout time we kicked our review output in the pants. Todd Doogan's back with a review of Synapse's forthcoming Castle of Blood (street date: 10/15). Graham Greenlee's got his review of Universal's The Scorpion King as well (widescreen edition, naturally - street date: 10/1). And Matt Rowe has delivered a look at Image's recent Deep Purple: Perihelion DVD (now available). We'll be back on Monday with a look at more new and yet-to-be-released DVDs, including my review of Columbia TriStar's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and much more.

But before we go, we've also got a quick update of The Rumor Mill for you as well - word on several big upcoming titles that are due early in 2003.

And don't forget the Trivia Contest, which ends Saturday night. Get your entries in quick.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned!

(LATER UPDATE - 9/26/02 - 1:30 PM PDT)

We've got the official skinny on those new D-VHS titles from Fox, Artisan, Universal and DreamWorks. High Crimes, Kiss of the Dragon and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes will arrive on D-VHS from 20th Century Fox on November 5th (SRP $34.98 each). DreamWorks has added The Haunting to their D-VHS slate (available now - SRP $44.99). Artisan entries in this new batch are Van Wilder and Basic Instinct (due in the 4th quarter - SRP $34.98 each). And Universal has released Ron Howard's Backdraft on D-VHS (available now - SRP $44.98).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 9/26/02 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Well... it's official. Columbia TriStar has just announced the DVD release of xXx in dual widescreen and full frame special edition versions on December 31st. Details and cover art will follow. What's more, New Line has confirmed that Austin Powers in Goldmember will arrive as an Infinifilm title on December 3rd (as reported previously).

In other news, New Line's Hairspray is also being re-released on DVD on 11/5 in (surprise) an Amaray keep case. Warner will release another live concert/music title on 11/15, this one a self-titled release by Usher, complete with discography, bios and more. Kultur Video is releasing director Sergei Bondarchuk's 1968 version of War and Peace on DVD on 11/26. The 3-disc release will contain the entire 6 1/2 hour program for an SRP of $39.95. And Synapse Films has acquired the mondo classic Brutes and Savages for DVD release in 2003 in an uncut, 100-plus-minute version.

Surprise! We also have a look at the cover artwork for Buena Vista's upcoming release of the M. Night Shyamalan extraterrstrial thriller Signs. Strangely, this isn't set to be a Vista Series release, at least initially. No word yet on street date or features, but we expect that shortly.

Signs

Also, just FYI, a number of people are reporting a problem with Disney's new Monsters, Inc. DVD. The disc freezes up during playback at about the 84 minute mark on many (but not all) brands of DVD player. Pioneer players seem most suspect to this problem thus far - we're getting a LOT of reports of this from Pioneer owners. We expect to hear something soon on this from the studio.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 9/26/02 - 11 AM PDT)

What do you know? We've got to hand it to George and the folks at Lucasfilm. They've posted a comparison on the Star Wars website, using actual frame grabs from the Episode II DVDs, to show the difference between the widescreen and full frame versions of the film. The only thing they neglect to mention is how good that anamorphic widescreen version will look on a 16x9 TV. But, given the amount of detail they do provide... you gotta give 'em credit.

In other news this morning, at the CEDIA home theater show in Minneapolis today, three major national retailers announced support for D-VHS. Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears will all carry the high-definition players and tapes in their stores. Both Best Buy and Circuit City already carried the format in some of their stores, but with this announcement, they'll now roll-out the product in all their locations by October. Sears will carry D-VHS in approximately 600 of its stores. In addition, all four D-VHS studios - Fox, Artisan, DreamWorks and Universal - will shortly be announcing new titles in the format. We'll have those details as soon as they come in.

One last item of business this morning... we've got a look at the cover artwork for Universal's The Best of Baretta and Baretta: Season One DVDs (street date for both: 10/29). Both can be ordered now at DVD Planet. Thanks to Tom S..

The Best of BarettaBaretta: Season One

Stay tuned...


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