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page updated: 5/5/03



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 4/21/03 - 4/7-8/03)


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(EARLY UPDATE - 4/21/03 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Hope you all had a nice holiday weekend! And just to keep the fun going for one more day, we've got some great news for your DVD Easter basket today.

New Line Home Entertainment has officially announced the DVD release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers! The 2-disc theatrical cut will street on August 26th (SRP $29.95) in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions. The set will include audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, along with the On the Set: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return to Middle-earth documentaries, 8 featurettes on the people and places in Middle-earth, a 10-minute behind-the-scenes sneak preview of The Return of the King (due in theaters on December 17th), Sean Astin's short film The Long and Short of It, a documentary on the making of the short film, the Gollum's Song music video by Emiliana Torrini, previews of the Return of the King video game and the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Two Towers and more.

That will be followed by... you guessed it... The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Special Extended DVD Edition on November 18th (SRP TBA). As with extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, this will be a massive 4-disc affair, including a 40+ minute longer version of the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital and DTS audio. You'll also get audio commentary and a massive bounty of extra features beyond what you'll find on the 2-disc version.

Further details on these two editions should be announced shortly, and we'll post the cover art here as soon as it comes in. In the meantime, you can read more at Video Store magazine.

Also today, just FYI, our friends over at the Home Theater Forum will be holding a live chat with representatives from Warner Home Video tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 22nd) at 5 PM PST. Click here for details and instructions on how to participate. We'll post a complete transcript of the chat on Wednesday morning, so be sure to watch for that.

Not a bad way to start the new week, eh?

4/18/03

Okay... just two things for you today. First up, we've got a new Trivia Contest for all of you to check out. It's pretty easy (a three-part Easter themed contest), and the prizes are great. There will be FIVE winners in all. Three will win Artisan's Speed Racer, Fox's Drumline, Family Guy and Darkwolf, and MGM's Evelyn on DVD! And two of our winners will win those DVDs, PLUS Disney's Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky! You'll have until 12:01 AM on Tuesday, April 22nd to enter. So click here to get started and good luck!

Now item Number 2... fans of Lord of the Rings have been getting this graphic in their e-mail this week. It seems that our friends at New Line are soon to officially announce the DVD release of The Two Towers. You can be sure we'll have the details on that as soon as they come in!

Two Towers DVD announce tease

Have a great weekend, Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate... and we'll see you back here on Monday!

4/17/03

We thought we'd get an early start on things today. We've got a bunch of stuff for you this morning, so here goes...

First up, we have details on 20th Century Fox's Solaris DVD. Due on 7/29 (SRP $27.98), the disc will feature anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, audio commentary with producer James Cameron and director Steven Soderbergh, the HBO First Look special, Steven Soderbergh's The Making of Solaris special, production stills, the screenplay, 2 theatrical trailers and teaser trailers for Master & Commander and Le Divorce. Here's the close to final cover art...

Solaris

Speaking of Fox, we've confirmed that the studio will NOT be replacing the disc from The X-Files: The Complete Sixth Season which contained the episode Triangle (thought to be defective in terms of its poorer video quality). Apparently, series creator Chris Carter wanted the quality to be lousy. Here's the official statement from Fox and Ten Thirteen:

"Please note Ten Thirteen's response to Consumer complaints about the quality of episode 6X03 TRIANGLE:

6X03 TRIANGLE was an experimental episode in which Creator Chris Carter shot in low light (sometimes only 1 candle power in a given frame). Each of the five acts were shot as one continuous take. Because of the low light, the image appears grainy and is hard to see at times. Also note that the aspect ratio varies for each of the five acts. This was intentional.

Both Fox and Ten Thirteen feel that this episode has been released in the best quality possible for the DVD format and that the image you are seeing is intentional."


Frankly, I'm as surprised as the rest of you. This looks to me like a problem with the video master, because not only is the filmed footage of poor quality, even the episode titles look like crap compared to those on the rest of the set. It's much softer looking, almost like it was transferred from an analog source tape. But hey... I guess if Chris says that's the way it's supposed to be, there's not much to be done for it. Very disappointing nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has announced a great new slate of classic films on DVD. On August 5th, look for The Haunting, The House of Wax/Mystery of the Wax Museum (unfortunately not in 3D), Of Unknown Origin, The Omega Man (finally), Soylent Green, Howard Hawks' original The Thing from Another World and Wait Until Dark. On August 17th, watch for Memoirs of an Invisible Man. And finally, on September 2nd, look for a spate of new Clint Eastwood titles, including City Heat, Honkytonk Man, Pink Cadillac, The Rookie, Tightrope, Where Eagles Dare, White Hunter, Black Heart. Here's the cover art for The Thing from Another World, The Omega Man and Where Eagles Dare...

The Thing from Another WorldThe Omega ManWhere Eagles Dare

Also today, Columbia TriStar has announced a series of new titles for release on 7/8. Look for a Basic: Special Edition, a Basic 3-pack (including the Basic: SE, Formula 51 and A Few Good Men: SE), Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, Fear of a Black Hat, Loose Cannons and The Mouse that Roared.

In other news, we have tentative word that Universal has delayed their expected DVD releases of Weird Science and Sixteen Candles (which had been due on 4/1) indefinitely. There's no official word as to why, but we've heard rumors that there may be plans for more elaborate releases in the future. We'll update you when we know more.

And finally today, our own Barrie Maxwell has turned in another Classic Coming Attractions column. This time around, Barrie reviews four recent classic films on disc from Artisan - A Lady Takes a Chance, Pursued, Flame of Barbary Coast and Copacabana. He also introduces a new online database of upcoming classic titles. And, as always, he runs down the latest classic title release news. Don't miss it!

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/16/03 - 10:45 AM PDT)

We've got very good news for you Alias fans. I've just gotten official word from those in the know at Buena Vista that the Alias: The Complete First Season DVD box set (due on 9/2) WILL be presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and will be enhanced for anamorphic displays. So all you angry Jennifer Garner fans can stop e-mailing me now. ;-) Here's a look at the final DVD cover art for the 6-disc set...

Alias: The Complete First SeasonLost in La Mancha

Now then... we've got news to make you fans of director Terry Gilliam happy too (and who isn't a fan of Gilliam? Seriously?). As many of you know, Gilliam recently set out to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote... and things went horribly bad. A documentary crew on hand to document the production for TV and DVD ended up catching an insider's view of a doomed production. The result is the award-winning documentary Lost in La Mancha. And now it's going to be released on DVD from A&E. The 2-disc set (no kidding) is due on 6/24 (SRP $29.95). Look for interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes, video soundbites, storyboards and production stills from The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Terry Gilliam interviews with Salman Rushdie and Elvis Mitchell, behind-the-scenes featurettes, biographies, original theatrical trailers and more. Very, very cool. Just FYI, that cover art is temp only. We'll have final soon.

Finally this morning, thanks to all of you who politely reminded me that Lady and the Tramp was the first Disney animated film released in Cinemascope, and that Sleeping Beauty was, in fact, the first to be released in 70mm Super Technirama format. Darned if I trust Disney press releases again. I've corrected the info below.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/16/03 - 12:01 AM PDT)

We've got officially announced details for you on Disney's upcoming The Lion King: Platinum Edition today (street date: 10/7 - SRP $29.99). The 2-disc set will include two different versions of the film, both in anamorphic widescreen - the original theatrical version and a new special edition cut that includes an all-new musical number, The Morning Report. You'll get audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, presented in an "enhanced home theater mix". The set will feature all-new 3D menu animation, a look at the making of the new song, numerous interactive games (including the first 2-player set top game on DVD), the all-new Circle of Life music video, a sing-along track, 3 deleted and abandoned scenes ("Bug Football", "Hakuna Matata" and "Wharthog Rhapsody"), an abandoned concept for Can You Feel the Love Tonight, audio commentary, a documentary on the animal inspirations for the film (hosted by Roy Disney), several behind-the-scenes featurettes on the Broadway stage show, featurette looks at the animation process for the film, new interviews with Sir Elton John and Tim Rice and much more.

The Lion King: Platinum EditionLa Femme Nikita: Special Edition

Also today, we have new details on Disney's forthcoming Sleeping Beauty: Special Edition (9/9 - $29.99). The 2-disc set will feature both full frame and anamorphic widescreen video (presented at 2.35:1 - Sleeping Beauty was one of the first Disney animated films released in 70mm Super Technirama), with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The film has been restored frame-by-frame using the same process that revitalized Snow White for DVD. Extras include Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty documentary, a 3D virtual production art gallery, original story reels for 2 scenes, the original Grand Canyon short that accompanied the film during its theatrical release, a widescreen to full screen comparison (very cool - a first for a Disney disc!), 8 production featurettes (The Design, The Music, The Restoration, Four Artists Paint One Tree, Creating the Backgrounds, Helene Stanley Dance Reference, Live Action Reference (Prince Phillip) and The Peter Tchaikovsky Story), 3 theatrical trailers, interactive games and more.

Whew! Now then... our own Adam Jahnke's checked in today with a new entry in his The Bottom Shelf column. This time around, in a piece called The Limey Side of Noir, Adam takes a look at a trio of new British film noir titles recently released on DVD from Anchor Bay, including Hell is a City, The Criminal and The Frightened City. Be sure to check it out.

And finally this morning, Amazon is reporting that Fox's The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season will street on 8/26. Thanks to Bits reader Jeff A. for that.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/15/03 - 2:30 PM PDT)

We're pleased to be able post a new DVD review for you today. Our own Jeff Kleist offers his thoughts on Disney's new 2-disc edition of Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, the film that just won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. I can tell you personally that this is a film every Bits reader should see at least once. It's a truly stunning work of animation - a modern animated film that at long last lives up the legacy of classic Walt Disney. Absolutely don't miss it.

And just FYI, we're working on reviews of the other new Miyazaki DVDs as well, so watch for them soon. Stay tuned...!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/15/03 - 11:15 AM PDT)

Morning all! We've done some archiving of The Rumor Mill and the My Two Cents column archives, so pages ought to be loading a little quicker around here.

Speaking of The Rumor Mill, we've got a new post today with comments from director Peter Jackson about his upcoming extended DVD cut of The Two Towers. We've also got an update from Disney sources on the next Platinum animated titles to expect from them. It's definitely worth a read, so don't miss it.

We have official word from 20th Century Fox that their Daredevil will find its way to DVD on July 29th, in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions. Each will be a 2-disc set (SRP $29.99), including audio in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 (along with French and Spanish Dolby Surround). Additional features will include production audio commentary by writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and producer Gary Foster, 2 new documentaries (Beyond Hell's Kitchen: Making Daredevil, with optional enhanced viewing mode, and The Men Without Fear: The Art of Daredevil), 6 multi-angle scene studies, an enhanced viewing mode for the film, the HBO: First Look special, the Shadow World featurette (on Daredevil's unique vision), bios on the heroes and villains, the Kingpin featurette, Jennifer Garner's screen test, 3 music videos (Bring Me to Life by Evanescence, Won't Back Down by Fuel and For You by The Calling), a still gallery, original theatrical trailers and the full-length screenplay. Here's the cover art again...

Daredevil (widescreen)Tears of the Sun: Special Edition

And we have new details on Columbia TriStar's Tears of the Sun: Special Edition as well (street date 6/10 - SRP $27.94). The DVD will include anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, director's commentary, 8 deleted scenes, "writer's observations", an on-screen "factoid track", the Journey to Safety: Making Tears of the Sun featurette, the Voices of Africa featurette, an interactive map of Africa and theatrical trailers.

Also today, we're hearing from sources that 20th Century Fox will now NOT be offering a replacement disc for The X-Files: Season Six. As many of you know, Fox at first say they would be doing this. One of the discs in the set includes the episode Triangle in markedly inferior quality to the rest of the episodes on the set (I've seen this myself, and there is absolutely no doubt that this is the case). We'd been told there was a problem with the master used for the DVD. But apparently, they went back to series creator Chris Carter, and Chris sees no problem with it. We suspect there's a little more to this story and we'll look into it.

Finally this morning, we have word that both Microsoft and Apple are interested in buying Vivendi's on-the-block Universal Music division (click here for more on that). And there's also news that Fox News Corp has purchased the DirecTV satellite service (click here for that). What all of this means for UniMusic consumers and DirecTV subscribers, we'll have to wait and see. But you can be sure that these dealings will have other implications.

By the way, a LOT of those titles we mentioned last week are now available for pre-order at our software sponsor, DVD Planet.com. Click here and scroll through the page of last week's daily columns to see the cover art for all the titles (just click the covers to go to the Planet pre-order page). We'd appreciate it if you did. ;-)

Back with more this afternoon...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/14/03 - 4:30 PM PDT)

We've got more new DVD cover art for you - a look at Warner's new The Chaplin Collection, Volume One (street date 7/1), which includes 2-disc special editions of The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, Limelight and Modern Times. The individual titles will be available separately, as well as in the box set.

The Chaplin Collection, Volume OneThe Gold RushThe Great Dictator

LimelightModern Times

We're also very pleased to be able to bring you the latest column from our own Robert A. Harris. This time around, Robert addresses the subjects of the VistaVision process, Warner's new Cole Porter Collection, Miramax's Three Colors Trilogy and other interesting odds and ends. So here's Motion Picture High Fidelity and More. Enjoy!

We'll be back tomorrow with a trio of new DVD reviews, another new column and more. See you then!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/14/03 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We've got a bunch of stuff for you today. First of all, some new upcoming DVD announcements.

ADV Films will release Farscape: Season 3, Volume 3 on 7/1, with Andromeda: Season 2, Volume 3 following on 7/15. Ardustry Home Entertainment has The Apocalypse, The Boy's Club, Bram Stoker's The Mummy, Breeders, Dark Planet, Fetishes, Strip Search and Sweet Evil (all former Simitar titles) set for 6/3. Blue Underground will release Emanuelle in America on 6/24. Columbia TriStar has added Tears of the Sun to its 6/10 slate, with Breakaway following on 6/17. Dreamworks will release Biker Boyz and Old School on 6/10 (in both full frame and widescreen versions - Old School will also have an unrated version). Kino has added Sebastiane to its 5/13 slate and Dead or Alive to 5/27. On 5/13, Madacy will release Dick Tracy (15-chapter serial), yet another Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (12-chapter serial), The New Adventures of Tarzan (12-chapter serial), The Painted Stallion (12-chapter serial) and Zorro's Fighting Legion (12-chapter serial). Paramount has added Soul Food: Season 1 (5-disc set) to its 6/24 slate, with Flight of the Intruder, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (full frame and widescreen) and I Love Lucy: Season 1, Volumes 7 & 8 following on 7/1. 20th Century-Fox will officially release Anastasia on 7/1, Inn of the Sixth Happiness on 8/5 and Titanic (1953 version) on 9/2. And Universal has added Deliver Us from Eva (full frame and widescreen) to its 6/17 slate.

Those of you who loved Roman Polanski's The Pianist will be happy to learn that a 3-disc version Limited Edition of the film will be released in Region 1... but to Canadian consumers only. It will be a 2-DVD special edition, along with a 3rd disc - the CD soundtrack. That's a much more elaborate version than we'll get here in the States from Universal (which will be only a single disc). The title streets on 5/27 in Canada, and demand is sure to be high. So click here to pre-order the title from ThunderDVD.com if you're interested.

Now then... with all the so-called "HD-DVD news" that's been flying around lately, we thought it was time for an update on the status of the HD-DVD format. A lot of people have been wondering what's happening with HD-DVD. And after my trip to NAB last week, and some Q&A with several industry insiders, the answer is not much... despite recent reports in the news to the contrary.

As many of you know, Sony and its consortium of Blu-Ray advocates (Sony, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Philips Electronics, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp and Thomson Multimedia) have debuted the first Blu-Ray high-definition disc recorders in Japan already. The first model went on sale in Japan on 4/10, priced at about $3,800 U.S. dollars. The Blu-Ray system uses blue lasers and a new cartridge-based physical disc format to encode as much as 27GB of data per disc (at about $30 per disc). That's the equivalent of 2 hours of HD video recording time (via MPEG-2, like existing DVD), or 4 hours of standard definition video. I've heard that at least some Blu-Ray players will be able to play existing DVDs, but I have no official confirmation of this. A professional data storage media version of Blu-Ray should also be available later this year. There are no announced plans yet to bring Blu-Ray video recorders to market here in the States, other than vague "later in 2003" pronouncements. And there is no software licensing yet in place, which means no studios have agreed to release pre-recorded movies on the format - critical to ANY new consumer video format's success.

But there's an important distinction to be made here. Blu-Ray is NOT HD-DVD, despite the fact that MANY news reports recently have called it that (including a new article by Lee Gomes in The Wall Street Journal). Current DVD and future HD-DVD is the sole responsibility of the DVD Forum, which crafted the existing DVD spec. The various Forum members are hard at work on the spec for the future HD-DVD format, and I've been told that it will likely be based on blue-laser technology (and not just a more compressed video with red laser, as was favored by the Warner group). I've also been told that HD-DVD players will be backwards compatible to existing DVD, and probably CD and VCD as well (like current DVD players). But an official spokesperson for the Forum told me last week that they do not expect to have a final Version 1.0 of the HD-DVD spec ready until sometime in 2004 at the earliest.

The bottom line is that true HD-DVD is still at least a year away, and probably more. The studios aren't eager to cannibalize a thriving standard DVD market, which has revitalized the home video industry, and there are many issues of copy protection that need to be addressed to everyone's satisfaction. That doesn't mean that HD material isn't available right now - you can watch movies on Showtime and HBO HD channels today, along with material broadcast by the major TV networks. For those of you who are dying to watch HD-quality movies on your computer, Artisan has been experimenting with exactly that on their recent Standing in the Shadows of Motown and the upcoming T2: Extreme Edition DVDs (both titles include 1080p versions of the film playable via Microsoft's Windows Media 9 software). I can tell you that I've checked out Motown personally. But while it's cool, it's still not likely to make me watch a whole movie on my PC. And there's always D-VHS, which Artisan also supports, for those who absolutely can't wait for pre-recorded HD content in their home theaters.

But my feeling is that the vast majority of Americans CAN wait. In his WSJ article, Lee Gomes makes this comment:

"I have a feeling, though, that HD-DVDs will catch on faster than people think. Americans will put up with all sorts of major and minor inconveniences in life. But television that's less than picture perfect? Never!"

Apparently he's never to an electronics showroom, filled wall-to-wall with new TVs (even Digital and HD ones) where the contrast is set high enough to cause burn-in and the picture is badly red-shifted because consumers "think that means a good picture". People want good looking TV, sure. But Americans have been living with regular old NTSC television for a half-century. And NTSC is known joking to engineers as "Never Twice the Same Color" for a reason.

Our advice here at The Digital Bits: Don't start selling your existing DVD collections just yet. ;-)

Finally, here's a last little treat to whet your whistle for this post... cover art for Fox's TBA Daredevil 2-disc set. We'll have official details on the title soon I'm sure, but it will be available in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen versions. And rumor is an even more elaborate director's cut edition will street in the 4th Qtr.

Daredevil (widescreen)

Back with more later this afternoon. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/11/03 - 5:30 PM PDT)

You late afternoon/early evening readers are in for a treat. We've got three last pieces of new upcoming DVD cover art for you to close out the week, including Fox's The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (TBA) and Universal's Old School: Unrated and Out of Control (6/10). But...

The Simpsons: The Complete Third SeasonOld School: Unrated and Out of ControlThe Iron Giant: Special Edition

...the best of the lot, as I'm sure you'll agree, is the art for Warner's long awaited The Iron Giant: Special Edition. The disc is set to street on 8/26 (SRP $19.98), with anamorphic widescreen video, English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and all-new special edition materials. We expect to have specific details next week. Cool cover, no? ;-)

Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/11/03 - NOON PDT)

Good news for all you fans of Sergei Bondarchuk's original 1968 Russian version of War and Peace. Image Entertainment has finally received the finished discs from RUSCICO. It's the real deal this time - I have a copy of the 5-disc set in front of me as I write this. The set contains the 431-minute original version of the film, in anamorphic widescreen video (2.35:1), with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in Russian, English and French. There are some 14 sets of subtitles available. The film is presented on Discs 1-4, with Disc 5 containing most of the bonus material. This includes cast & crew interviews, an interview with the president of Mosfilm Studio, a video featurette on the director, a documentary about Tolstoy, a look at the making of the film and a photo album. Additional material on Discs 1-4 includes text essays, set sketches and additional cast & crew photos. Now that the set is finally put to bed, Image is setting a street date of 6/3. SRP will be $79.99. We'll post a review as soon as we can.

War & Peace

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/10/03 - 3 PM PDT)

We're very pleased to give you a look at the cover artwork for Warner's upcoming Once Upon a Time in America: Special Edition 2-disc set today (street date 6/10). Also, we've got a look at Buena Vista's 25th Hour (5/10) and AnimEigo's Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (5/13, presented uncut and in anamorphic widescreen)...

Once Upon a Time in America: Special Edition25th HourZatoichi Meets Yojimbo

For those of you wondering why AnimEigo is releasing Zatoichi films, when Home Vision has so many on the way, you should that AnimEigo has the DVD rights to seven of the twenty-six total films in the series (and will be releasing them in 2003): Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, Zatoichi the Outlaw, Zatoichi and the Fire Festival, Zatoichi and the One-Armed Swordsman, Zatoichi at Large, Zatoichi in Desperation and Zatoichi's Conspiracy (aka Zatoichi at the Blood Festival). Note that these are the Americanized titles.

Home Vision has so far released The Tale of Zatoichi, The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, New Tale of Zatoichi, The Fugitive and On the Road, with Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, Zatoichi's Flashing Sword and Fight, Zatoichi, Fight all due on 5/15. Nine more titles in the series will be released by Home Vision over the next year or two, for a total of seventeen from the company (based on what has been shown on IFC recently, Todd and I believe these are Adventures of Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman's Revenge, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi's Cane Sword, Zatoichi Challenged, Zatoichi and the Fugitives, Zatoichi's Vengeance and Samaritan Zatoichi - again Americanized titles). The U.S. DVD release status of the remaining two films, Zatoichi's Pilgrimage and 1989's Zatoichi (the last film in the series), as well as the 100 or so Zatoichi TV series episodes, is unknown.

For the record, in case you were wondering, the character of Zatoichi is a blind masseur (played by the late Shintarô Katsu), with little stature in the feudal hierarchy of Japanese society in the 1800s. He wanders the land with his infamous cane walking stick (which hides his sword), always mindful of the opportunity to make a little money, either as a masseur or by gambling. But when trouble finds him (and trouble ALWAYS finds him), Zatoichi reveals himself to be an incredibly skilled swordsman, capable of besting even the most experienced samurai. What makes him so likable is his self-deprecating humor and his strict code of honor. He may be blind, but he misses nothing. He's quick to defend those in need and he's an expert in human nature. You can sort of think of the Zatoichi films has the Japanese equivalent of the John Wayne westerns, or even the Indiana Jones films, in terms of their popularity. As we mentioned above, twenty-six films in the series were made between 1962 and 1989 (all starring Katsu) and there was a popular TV series in Japan as well (the series ran from 1974-1979). They're an absolute blast to watch. We dare you to watch just one and not get hooked.

So there's you're little primer on Zatoichi on DVD. Didn't plan to write one today, but what the hell? Sometimes you've just got to go with it. And as we've said many times here at The Bits, you can NEVER have too much Zatoichi on DVD. ;-)

Finally today, there's word from the official Bob and David website that HBO will release Mr. Show: The Complete Third Season on DVD in early August. According to the site: "It will include the usual ANNOYING AUDIO COMMENTARY with the full cast and writers blathering endlessly, apologizing, celebrating their own minor achievements. And there will be EXTRAS. One being the appearance of David Cross as "hot college comic" Brad Stein at the HBO Aspen fest, where he is interrupted by a professional heckler. Should be fun." Here's the cover art for that...

Mr. Show: The Complete Third Season

That's all for now. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/10/03 - 11:45 AM PDT)

Morning, folks. We're doing some housekeeping today. We've updated several of the data charts we keep related to DVD (above), including the top sale and rental titles, the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the 4th week of last month, the number of DVD titles in release, etc.

And there's an interesting bit of HDTV news today. Word out of the NAB show we attended earlier this week, is that there's little headway in the impasse between broadcasters and cable operators over the issue of cable carrying local broadcast HD signals. Broadcasters want to charge cable operators a fee for allowing them to carry these local signals and deliver them to their customers. The broadcasters feel that they've had to spend a lot of money to upgrade their equipment in order to broadcast these signals, and so these signals have a certain financial value. Cable operators want none of this, of course, and are upset because they've had to invest capital to upgrade their equipment as well. In addition, cable operators don't want to have to carry both the analog and digital signals for local broadcasters, which would eat into their existing channel capacity.

Now... you and I might say, "So what? You mean cable operators can't give up a few of the 300+ crap channels they carry so I can get high def?" But as much as many of us can't stand having to pay for the Home Shopping Network, Trinity Broadcasting and other vacuous cable offerings (and forgive me if you're a devoted viewer of either), the reality is that cable operators make a lot of money from those sort of channels - money they make in the form of payments from the producers of those channels and that they're not likely not give up to carry another free channel for a local broadcaster. This is a HUGE problem and has ground the adoption of high-definition almost to a halt. The reality is that the vast majority of you U.S. consumers reading this can go out right now, buy a Digital TV and tuner, and get beautiful high-definition signals today with the use of a small, over-the-air antenna. BUT... the vast majority of U.S. consumers don't use an antenna - more than 70% of all households in the States get their TV signals from cable operators. And until cable operators start offering digital and HD signals, a lot of consumers feel that there's little reason to upgrade their TVs. On the other hand, if you ask your local cable operator why they aren't offering digital and HD signals (no so-called "digital cable" but true Digital TV compatible signals), they'll tell you it's because consumers don't seem to care - very few of them have Digital TVs. In other words, you have a classic chicken and egg situation. And until some kind of agreement is reached between broadcasters and cable operators... or the FCC forces one... the Digital TV rollout is going to continue at a snail's pace.

Anyway... one last interesting bit of info for you: we've got a look at MGM's tentative DVD release schedule for the rest of 2003. You'll find that in The Rumor Mill today, along with a little more word on Fox's recently cancelled Firefly heading to disc.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/9/03 - 2 PM PDT)

We've got word on several new DVDs just announced for release by Paramount. On 7/1, look for Flight of the Intruder, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (in both widescreen and full frame versions), and I Love Lucy: Season One, Volumes 7 & 8.

Also Matt's sent word of new details on Warner's upcoming Led Zeppelin DVD (street date 5/27). This comes from a music industry source who was able to see some of the material on the set at a recent screening (thanks to that person for the info):

"The selected performances I saw were from Royal Albert Hall (1970), which consisted mostly of early blues-ier material, including a part of Dazed and Confused (rumor has it the full DVD version is around 25 min long); Madison Square Garden - 1973 (alternate and outtakes from the Song Remains the Same movie, including a SMOKING version of The Ocean (how this got left out of the movie is beyond me), and Misty Mountain Hop); Earl's Court - 1975 - superb version of Going to California with Jones on mandolin and Page on acoustic (no Bonham) as well as a great In My Time of Dying; and Knebworth 1979 (incl. Nobody's Fault but Mine and Kashmir). There was some other footage from venues I couldn't identify (incl. a bootleg video w/ prof. quality-audio Immigrant Song). Picture quality ranges from good on the older stuff to completely professionally shot on the stuff from MSG-forward, incorporates some bootleg footage and good still images to fill in space where footage was unavailable due to technical limitations of the time (it works to good effect - the editing on this is well-done); sound quality is excellent. I have no details on any extras, menus, sound options, packaging, etc. as they showed us a preview copy of just performances. The bottom line (and I'm not just shilling for my company's product here): There are going to be many Zeppelin fans who are going to be VERY happy come the end of May when this comes out. I walked out of that screening genuinely excited about getting a copy of this and watching it on my home system, and the people I spoke with agreed with me."

Good news indeed! While we're talking about these titles, how about some cover art? Here's a look at Flight of the Intruder and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (widescreen), as well as the Led Zeppelin DVD...

Flight of the IntruderHow to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (widescreen)Led Zeppelin DVD

Back tomorrow. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/9/03 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning all! Hope the switch back to Daylight time didn't mess anyone up too bad. As you've probably guessed by now, we're back from NAB. So it's time to catch you all up on the latest DVD news.

First up today, NBC has announced a major push to license more of its vast library of TV titles to a variety of studios for release on DVD. As part of this deal, Lions Gate will release Will & Grace: Season One on 8/12, the Kingpin miniseries on 7/22 and Saved by the Bell: Seasons One & Two on 9/2. Lions Gate will also release more Saturday Night Live product on DVD in July, including a 5-disc 25th Anniversary set. Little House on the Prairie: Season One will be delivered to retail from a company called Imavision Direct. MGM will release NBC's It's a Very Muppet Christmas Movie in October (unusual, given that Columbia TriStar has the Henson contract). A&E is delivering Homicide: Life on the Street: Seasons 1 & 2 on 5/27, along with Profiler: Season One in June and the complete, classic Victory at Sea documentary series (release date TBA). NBC is also preparing to license Providence: Season One in October (through a company yet to be named).

In other news today, a LOT of readers have been reporting that Universal is finally shipping those replacement discs for Back to the Future II & III (properly framed). Many people have e-mailed us to say they've finally gotten their copies. Click here for details on the exact problem and how to go about getting your discs replaced.

And while we're at it this morning, how's about some more new upcoming DVD cover art? Here's A&E's Homicide: Life on the Street: Seasons 1 & 2 (5/27), Columbia TriStar's Tears of the Sun: Special Edition (6/10), Buena Vista's Heaven (6/17), Universal's Old School (also 6/10 - available in both R and unrated versions), Warner's Empire Records: Remix - Special Fan Edition (6/3) and Columbia TriStar's Cowboy Bebop: The Movie - Special Edition (6/24).

Homicide: Life on the Street: Seasons 1 & 2Tears of the Sun: Special EditionHeaven

Old SchoolEmpire Records: Remix - Special Fan EditionCowboy Bebop: The Movie - Special Edition

And just a quick update - we're up to more than 25,000 signatures in the Original Trilogy on DVD Campaign. Not bad for just three weeks. If you haven't yet signed the petition, please do so now! And get all your friends to sign the petition as well. Every signature makes a difference.

Back later with more. Stay tuned...

4/7-8/03

Hope you all had a great weekend! Today's post is going to cover both Monday and Tuesday, because we're off to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas. We're going to be doing a little research into HDTV and DTV for future activities here at The Bits.

In the meantime, we're very pleased to announce that The Digital Bits and our MusicTAP affiliate have established a new retail partnership with Acoustic Sounds. They're a great online retailer that specializes in high resolution audio (particularly DVD-Audio and SACD) titles. All of our audio reviews now feature a special purchase link at the Acoustic Sounds website. And as is the case with our DVD Planet partnership, by purchasing discs from Acoustic Sounds, you're helping to support our work here at The Digital Bits. So we encourage you to give them a try (and tell 'em The Bits sent you). And please be sure to continue supporting Planet as well. Much appreciated!

Now then... in honor of our new audio partnership, we're very pleased to bring you four new music reviews from our TAP staffers! Up for your reading enjoyment today are reviews of Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde and Hilary Hahn: Mendelssohn & Shostakovich - Violin Concertos (both on SACD), as well as The Band: Music from the Big Pink (on DVD-Audio). And best of all, we've also got a review of the fantastic new SACD release of Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon! If you're new to SACD, this is absolutely THE must-own disc on the format to date.

We've even got a pair of new DVD-Video reviews for you today: Adam Jahnke's take on MGM's The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course - Special Edition and Graham Greenlee's thoughts on Warner's White Oleander (widescreen version). We'll have more new DVD-Video reviews later this week.

Finally, we've announced the winners of our Trivia Contest, so be sure to check that out if you entered. Congratulations to all of you who won, and thanks to everyone who entered. We've got more great contests on the way later this week as well.

That's all for now! We'll be back on Wednesday morning. See you then!


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