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page updated: 12/30/03



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 12/16/03 - 11/20/03)


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12/16/03

At long last, Trilogy Tuesday has arrived! For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few months, New Line is screening the ENTIRE Lord of the Rings trilogy today, one time only, in selected theaters around the world. Both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers will be shown in their longer, extended edition versions, followed by the theatrical debut of The Return of the King. Matt and I were lucky enough to score a pair of tickets during the scant hour they were available, so we're off to the AMC 30 at the Block in Orange, CA for more than 12 hours of Rings goodness. Our asses will be dearly sore at this time tomorrow, but as we'll be well into Return of the King by then, you can bet neither of us will be complaining. Thousands of people around the world will line up to catch Midnight shows of the film as well this evening. Yessir, good clean fun at the movies is definitely the air and you just can't beat that for our two cents. A quick check of the trusty Tomatometer shows the film is 100% fresh, with 37 reviews in the can, so we're betting the farm that the wait was worth it. We'll let you know. ;-)

We're not going to leave you high and dry though. We've got a quick Rumor Mill post up today, and I think you Matrix fans are going to like it. Nuff said.

Also today, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers to include the final week of November, ending 11/21. Some 945,775 players were shipped from manufacturers to retailers here in the States during the week, taking the monthly total for November to a whopping 3,682,691. That's a single month record for the DVD format. That also pushes the total for the year to 18,967,306 (also a record for a single year) and the format total to date to a hefty 62,686,044 units. All that with still a month to go.

We'll be back tomorrow with a new DVD review, an interview and more. Maybe we'll even post a Return of the King review, if we can shake off the exhaustion induced stupor by then. See you Wednesday... unless we see you at the theater first!

12/15/03

There's great news for you Chaplin fans today. Warner has just announced the DVD release of The Chaplin Collection, Volume 2 for 3/2 (SRP $99.92). The multi-disc set will include new special editions of The Chaplin Revue, The Circus, City Lights, The Kid, King in New York/A Woman of Paris and Monsieur Verdoux, as well as the Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin documentary.

New Line has also announced the DVD release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) for release on 3/30, in single disc and 2-disc Platinum Series editions. The single disc edition (SRP $22.99) will include and anamorphic widescreen version of the theatrical edition of the film, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio, the theatrical trailer, 7 TV spots and the Motorgrater Suffocate music video. The 2-disc edition ($39.92) will include anamorphic widescreen video of the theatrical edition of the film, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES audio, deleted scenes, an alternate opening and ending to the film, the Making of the Film documentary, the Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield - The True Story Behind the Movie featurette, 3 filmmaker commentaries (with Michael Bay, Marcus Nispel and more), cast screen tests, art galleries, 7 TV spots, the theatrical trailer, the Motorgrater Suffocate music video and more.

Also today, we have word that Disney's Brother Bear: Special Edition will street on 3/30. The 2-disc set will SRP for $29.99, and will include both anamorphic widescreen and full frame video, audio commentary with the "moose" co-stars of the film (Rutt and Tuke), animated outtakes exclusive to the DVD, deleted scenes, the all-new Fishing Song sung by Phil Collins, the Paths of Discovery: The Making of Brother Bear documentary, 2 interactive games and much more.

In other news today, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has now said in interviews that he expects The Return of the King: Special Extended DVD Version to be MORE than 4 hours and 15 minutes long (this particular article is in Danish). Thanks to Bits reader Michael N. for the spot. Still more on this comes from the latest edition of Video Store magazine (the December 14-20 issue) in which Jackson says there's about a hour of finished deleted scenes, at least half of which will go into the extended cut. These include a 7-minute sequence with Saruman at Isengard, a scene with Frodo and Sam disguised as orcs (and actually ending up in the orc army for a time), and a funny scene between Legolas and Gimli involving a drinking game. So could we be looking at a 5-disc set, with the movie spread over 3 discs? Even with the best MPEG-2 compression in the business, that's a LOT of film to try to squeeze on 2 discs, given that you'll probably also have Dolby Digital and DTS sound as well as multiple audio commentary tracks. Regardless of what ends up in the extended DVD, no doubt the remaining shot but unused scenes will still find their way to DVD eventually in some new incarnation. Can you imagine The Lord of the Rings Trilogy in HD-DVD? ;-)

We've got some new announcements for you today. Columbia TriStar will release Motives, My Life Without Me, Just One of the Guys, The Chase and The Kiss on 2/24. Paramount will release Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Permanent Record and We're No Angels on 2/17, with Brother Sun, Sister Moon and The Ten Commandments: Special Collector's Edition following on 3/9. And 20th Century Fox will release Black Widow, Crimes of the Heart, Dying Young, The Good Son, Judgement in Berlin and Nell on 2/3, Peyton Place on 3/2, Futurama: Volume 3 on 3/9 and Happily Ever After on 3/16.

We've got some new cover art for you this afternoon as well. Here's The Chaplin Collection, Volume 2, Brother Bear: Special Edition, Northfork (12/30), In the Cut: Unrated Director's Edition (2/3), My Life Without Me and Kung Fu: The Complete First Season (3/16)...

The Chaplin Collection, Volume 2Brother Bear: Special EditionNorthfork

In the Cut: Unrated Director's EditionMy Life Without MeKung Fu: The Complete First Season

Finally today, we've kicked off three new Contests. We have a Warner contest in which we're giving away the new 2-disc special editions of JFK, The Color Purple, Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and The Right Stuff. We have another with Disney in which we're giving away copies of the Frank and Ollie: Special Edition. We've also got an MGM contest featuring the new Escape from New York: Special Edition. The contests run until Noon PDT on Saturday, December 20th, so get your entries in fast! As always, you'll find the winners of the previous contests in The Winner's Circle.

Stay tuned...

12/12/03

Here's a cool little detail for you folks who have been waiting to see 3-D tackled on DVD on a major title. Buena Vista's upcoming Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over will have two version of the film - one normal and one in 3-D, complete with 4 pairs of 3-D glasses in every package! Plus, there's more 3-D footage on the DVD than was seen in theaters. Other extras will include director's commentary and more behind-the scenes footage. Street date is 3/3 (SRP $29.99).

I would really love to see, for example, IMAX Space Station, which was in amazing 3-D in its theatrical release, issued on DVD with this kind of 3-D treatment. Warner - you guys have the IMAX space thing going. How's about a DVD with full frame and anamorphic widescreen version of the film, both in 3-D? Get working on that, okay? Universal, what about Creature from the Black Lagoon in its original 3-D? Hell, all of the Universal Classic Monster titles need to be re-released again, with some new additions to boot.

Speaking of Universal, we have a rundown for you of all the studio's titles announced so far for 2004. On 1/2, look for American Wedding in rated and unrated versions, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, and several DVD "value packs" featuring 2 Fast 2 Furious/Spy Game, 8 Mile/How High, Biker Boyz/Head of State, The Hulk/Jurassic Park III, The Mummy Returns/The Musketeer, Scarface/The Fast and the Furious and The Scorpion King/Brotherhood of the Wolf. On 1/6, look for The Anarchist Cookbook and lower prices on a whole range of titles including A.I., Meaning of Life and MANY other titles. 1/13 will see the release of Bring It On Again, Johnny English and Swimming Pool. Then on 1/20, look for An American Tail, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island, Biloxi Blues, Flipper, Judgment Night, The Little Rascals, Repo Man, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Tresspass.

Moving on to February, on on 2/3 look for Lost in Translation and A Wedding for Bella. 2/10 will see Intolerable Cruelty, The Shrink is In, Sitting Ducks, Sylvia, a re-promotion of previous Best Picture winning films from the studio, and those "franchise collection" titles including The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle: Volume 1, Airport Terminal Pack, The Best of Abbott and Costello: Volume 1, Franklin: Favorite Turtle Tales, Good Morning Maisy, Good Night Maisy, Imitation of Life: Two Movie Collection and Play Time Maisy. Then on 2/24, you'll get Fear of the Dark.

Titles announced so far for March include King Ralph, Mad Dog and Glory, Melvin and Howard, and more "franchise collection" titles including Dragonheart: 2 Legendary Tales, Problem Child Tantrum Pack and The Flintstones Yabba Dabba 2 Pack on 3/2. On 3/9, you'll get No Turning Back. Rounding things out on 3/23 will be Beyond the Mat Ringside Special Edition, The Rundown and The Skulls III.

You can also expect Schindler's List on 3/9 according to Amazon, but it hasn't officially been announced yet by the studio.

In terms of other studios, from Showtime look for Queer as Folk: The Complete Third Season on 2/24. And from Fox, Futurama: Season Three on 3/9. Futurama will feature audio commentary with the show's creators on every episode, plus storyboard images, deleted scenes, international clips, Easter eggs and more.

By the way, if you want to see our own Adam Jahnke trying his hand at a music CD review, check how his thoughts on Leon Redbone's Christmas Island over at our MusicTAP site. Just so you know, now that most of us are past this flu, we'll get back to posting DVD reviews next week. Never fear. ;-)

See you back here on Monday! Have a great weekend!

12/11/03

This would technically qualify as Rumor Mill worthy, but for ease of posting, we're going to mention it here. The Hollywood Reporter ran a story yesterday on videogame licenses of Hollywood movies. The story focuses on Electronic Arts, and in particular mentions their recent Lord of the Rings games designed to tie into the film releases. Here's the interesting passage DVD-wise:

"Looking ahead to next year, EA has The Lord of the Rings Trilogy game shipping next fall, which should fit in nicely with the anticipated DVD release of The Return of the King."

Previous rumors have a DVD release of the film set for May 2004, which would make sense if that's referring to the 2-disc Theatrical Version. Then, say August or September (read "next fall"), New Line releases the 4-disc Special Extended DVD Edition of the film. So that's a pretty good guess as to when you might expect to be enjoying the King on DVD.

Our friends over at the always excellent TVShowsonDVD site are reporting that Columbia TriStar's News Radio: Seasons 1 & 2 has being delayed. No word yet on a new street date. They also have details on Kung Fu: The Complete First Season (due to street on 3/16 from Warner), as well as a possible A-Team release and information on The Dick Van Dyke Show: Season Three (due on 2/24 from Image). Do check it out.

Interested in Anchor Bay's new Time Bandits: Divimax Special Edition? The 2-disc set streets on 1/27 for an SRP of $24.98. It includes anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX audio, an interview with Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, The Directors: The Films of Terry Gilliam career retrospective documentary, a Terry Gilliam bio, theatrical trailers, a collector's booklet with liner notes, a fold-out "Map of the Universe" and the original screenplay accessible via DVD-ROM. By the way, a Divimax edition of Dead Heat (1988) is coming from the Bay on the same day.

Here's the cover art for Time Bandits, along with a pair of great upcoming titles from Image Entertainment: Sarah McLachlan: VH-1 Storytellers (due 1/6) and the aforementioned Dick Van Dyke Show: Season Three.

Time Bandits: Divimax Special EditionSarah McLachlan: VH-1 StorytellersDick Van Dyke Show: Season Three

We have some more new DVD announcements for you. New March and April catalog DVD releases from Buena Vista will include The Gnome-Mobile, Miracle of the White Stallions, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, American Dream and Picture Bride on 3/2 (we expect more titles to be announced soon). On 4/6, you'll get Angels in the Endzone, Angels in the Infield, Before and After, Blaze, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, Deceived, The Doctor, Father Hood, Hello Again, Jefferson in Paris, A Pyromaniac's Love Story, Shoot to Kill and Son of Flubber.

Finally this morning, Columbia TriStar will release Mambo Italiano, Masked and Anonymous, The Front, Nina Takes a Lover and Under Pressure on 2/17.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/10/03 - NOON PST)

Thanks to all you loyal Bits readers, we have some updated Zatoichi DVD release information. We've learned that Media Blasters will release Zatoichi (1989) on DVD on 2/24, while Miramax will release Beat Takashi's Zatoichi (2003) into theaters in the U.S. in June 2004, with a DVD release to follow later in the year. We're still trying to learn more about Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966) or the TV series, so if you know anything, please drop us a line. Our Zatoichi DVD Primer has been updated, so be sure to give it another look. Thanks to the many readers and industry insiders who have e-mailed us so far.

Congratulations once again to all the winners of this year's DVD Exclusive Awards, which were shown last night on FX. Darned if it wasn't a pretty nicely produced show. Special congratulations to DVD producers Charles de Lauzirika and Michael Pellerin, friends of The Bits both, who were recognized for their stellar work on the Alien Quadrilogy and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Special Extended DVD Edition respectively. Hats off guys!

Hey... while I've got your attention, how about a little more DVD release news? Expected from Columbia TriStar on 2/17 are The Front (SRP $24.96), Nina Takes a Lover ($19.95), Under Pressure ($24.96), Mambo Italiano ($26.96) and Masked and Anonymous ($24.96).

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/10/03 - 12:01 AM PST)

We've said it before and we'll say it again. It's the little things that make life grand. The little pleasures... like steaming hot rhubarb pie, killer klowns, spaghetti westerns or a good giant robot flick. But nothing, and we mean nothing, is better than watching a blind samurai kicking all kinds of ass in the comfort of your own home theater. Todd knows it's true, I know it's true... we've even gotten Matt to see the light recently.

Of course, there's only one blind samurai worth his salt... the legendary Zatoichi, as only the late, great Shintaro Katsu could play him. Several Zatoichi films are now available on DVD, and if they're not part of your video library already... well, that's why we're your friends here at The Bits. It's our responsibility to remind you of the importance of such things, so your other so-called friends don't shake their heads in sadness and just give up on you.

Anyway, as I was saying, several Zatoichi films are now available on DVD, and more are on the way from both Home Vision and AnimEigo. So here's a freshly updated list of the DVD release status of the 26 films in this series. Titles in white are available now from Home Vision. Titles in yellow are available now from AnimEigo. Titles in gray are coming soon - street date and distributor are listed if known. The titles listed in red do not yet have a U.S. distributor. Note that these are the U.S. titles/street dates:

1 - The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)
2 - The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962)
3 - New Tale of Zatoichi (1963)
4 - The Fugitive (1963)
5 - On the Road (1963)
6 - Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (1964)
7 - Zatoichi's Flashing Sword (1964)
8 - Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964)
9 - The Adventures of Zatoichi (1964)
10 - Zatoichi's Revenge (1965)
11 - Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965)
12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965) - coming 5/18 from Home Vision
13 - Zatoichi's Vengeance (1966) - coming 5/18 from Home Vision
14 - Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966) - available on DVD in R2, R1 distributor/status unknown
15 - Zatoichi's Cane Sword (1967) - coming 5/18 from Home Vision
16 - Zatoichi the Outlaw (1967)
17 - Zatoichi Challenged (1967) - coming in late 2004 from Home Vision
18 - Zatoichi and the Fugitives (1968) - coming in late 2004 from Home Vision
19 - Zatoichi the Samaritan (1968) - coming in late 2004 from Home Vision
20 - Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
21 - Zatoichi at the Fire Festival (1970) - coming 12/19 from AnimEigo
22 - Zatoichi and the One-Armed Swordsman (1971) - coming 4/19 from AnimEigo
23 - Zatoichi at Large (1972) - coming 1/5 from AnimEigo
24 - Zatoichi in Desperation (1972) - coming 3/8 from AnimEigo
25 - Zatoichi's Conspiracy (1973) - coming 3/31 from AnimEigo
26 - Zatoichi (1989) - coming on 2/24 from Media Blasters

Z1 - Zatoichi Monogatari (1974-1979) - Japanese TV series/100 hour-long episodes - status unknown
Z2 - Zatoichi (2003) - film remake by Beat Takashi - coming in 2004 from Miramax
Z3 - The World of Zatoichi (2003) - hour-long Japanese TV documentary - R1 status unknown

As we've shown in the list above, Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966) is currently available in Region 2, but not in Region 1. We do not know who holds the DVD release rights in R1.

We've learned that Media Blasters has obtained the DVD release rights to Zatoichi (1989) and plans to release it on DVD on 2/24, in anamorphic widescreen video (1.85:1). Audio will be Dolby Digital in Japanese with English subtitles. Extras will include a photo gallery and liner notes by Inside Kung-Fu columnist and Martial Arts Movies author Ric Meyers. That comes straight from Media Blasters president Carl Morano. All of the other titles coming soon from Home Vision and AnimEigo will be released in anamorphic widescreen video, and all of the currently available DVD are anamorphic save for The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) and The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962). We'd love to see those remastered in anamorphic at some point by Home Vision, as they are (to our knowledge) available in Japan in 16x9.

In addition to the original 26 films, there was a Japanese TV series in the 1970s, featuring Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, we believe called Zatoichi Monogatari. Some 100 hour-long episodes in all were aired from 1974 to 1979. VHS copies of the TV series episodes are occasionally available on eBay, although the legality of these is probably dubious at best. We'd like to see restored, legal copies of the series released on DVD for all to enjoy.

More recently, a new "remake" film has been shown in theaters in Japan, called simply Zatoichi. It's written and directed by Takeshi Kitano (also known as Beat Takeshi), and stars him in the title role. We have learned that Miramax has obtained the U.S. theatrical and DVD rights to the film, and will release it in theaters on 6/4 (with a DVD likely to follow later in the year). The film is already set for DVD release in Region 2 (from Bandai) on 3/11 as a 2-disc set. If you're interested in this film, there's a great article on how Kitano got involved in the project at Time Asia online.

In conjunction with the new film, an hour-long documentary on the Zatoichi films was shown on TV in Japan, called The World of Zatoichi (a.k.a. Zatoichi no Sekai). It's available in Japan on DVD (Region 2), but unfortunately is not subtitled in English to our knowledge. We have no knowledge of a U.S. release. A series of three, limited edition Zatoichi Collection (Zatoichi Zenshu) DVD box sets is also currently available in Japan (Region 2). They each contain 6 films from the series remastered in anamorphic widescreen, but are again not subtitled in English to our knowledge. Together the three sets contain 24 films from the series, save for (we believe) Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966) and Zatoichi (1989). Each box also contains the documentary. Again, there is no planned U.S. release for these sets.

If anyone out there knows who holds the Region 1/U.S. DVD release rights for Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (1966), and the Zatoichi Monogatari TV series, please let us know. In addition, anything you can tell us about the Japanese documentary and the three Japanese DVD box sets would be greatly appreciated.

While we're on the subject, here's a little trivia for you. Star Shintaro Katsu himself directed Zatoichi in Desperation and the final film in the series, Zatoichi, but he choreographed nearly all of the sword fights in the films himself. He also produced several of the films, and he produced the popular Lone Wolf and Cub series of films as well, which starred Katsu's older brother, Wakayama Tomisaburo. It may surprise you to learn that Katsu was originally to have played the title role in Akira Kurosawa's 1980 Kagemusha (the role was written for him). It was eventually played by Tatsuya Nakadai, when Katsu and Kurosawa were unable to resolve a conflict in their work methods. Another long time Kurosawa collaborator, Toshirô Mifune, starred with Katsu in two films: the 1970 Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (produced by Katsu, in which Mifune reprised his role from Kurosawa's original 1961 Yojimbo) and the unrelated Incident at Blood Pass (which Mifune produced). For those who may be interested, both the Lone Wolf and Cub series and Incident at Blood Pass are distributed in the U.S. by AnimEigo, and will eventually be released on DVD.

So there you go... everything you need to know about Zatoichi on DVD. When we learn more about those titles that remain in question, we'll post it here. I think maybe our next DVD book needs to have a special chapter called "Zatoichi Kicks Ass". What do you think? ;-)

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/9/03 - NOON PST)

We have a few more interesting items for you today. First up, Universal is finally shipping the corrected V2 replacements for the defective Disc One in their Monty Python's The Meaning of Life release. As you may remember, the first batch of replacements contained the same error as the original disc, causing problems for viewers with progressive scan DVD players. You'll be happy to know, however, that the new replacements are perfect. I've received my copy and have checked it myself - the picture looks great. We've been getting e-mails from many other readers who have also gotten the new fixed versions and are satisfied with them. If you haven't yet sent in your defective copy for replacement, now's the time to do it. You can contact Universal's customer service people to arrange the exchange at 972-293-5903 or universalstudios&dreamworks@leemarketing.com. That's a mouthful, but it'll get the job done. ;-)

Also today, IGN Filmforce has posted a good interview with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. In the text, Jackson talks about the extended DVD versions of his films (including Return of the King), as well as the cuts he made to the final chapter of his film trilogy. It's well worth a read.

Speaking of Return of the King, we've been getting TONS of e-mails from readers who have seen the film at various early press and charity screenings held by New Line. The buzz is, this is the best film of the trio and the perfect way to round out the trilogy. Matt and I are waiting to see the film on 12/16, when we'll brave the 12+ hour Trilogy Tuesday screening in Orange, CA. Maybe we'll see you there!

We have a little more upcoming DVD cover art for you to check out today. Here's a look at Universal's Johnny English (1/13) and Intolerable Cruelty (2/10), as well as Columbia TriStar's The Gods Must Be Crazy I & II (2/3)...

Johnny EnglishIntolerable CrueltyThe Gods Must Be Crazy I & II

We have a few more upcoming DVD release announcements for you today as well. Artisan Entertainment has set American Chopper: The Series - Black Widow, American Chopper: The Series - Fire Bike and Babar: The Movie for release on 1/20. Buena Vista will release Only the Strong Survive on 2/3, with Cold Creek Manor and Duplex following on 3/2. Elite Entertainment has Monsturd set for 2/3. Fantoma is releasing One from the Heart on 1/27. Image Entertainment has added Emperor Jones and Import Flava to its 11/25 slate. MGM has announced Pieces of April for 2/17, with Camp following on 2/24, and Carbon Copy, Clifford, Mad Dog Time, Spacecamp, Take This Job and Shove It, Walk Like a Man and Without a Clue all due on 3/2. New Video will release My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertranspots and Radio Bikini on 12/30. New Yorker has Underground due on 12/23 and Boys of St. Vincent following on 2/17. 20th Century Fox will release Le Divorce on 1/27, Vanishing Point on 2/3, Runaway Jury on 2/17, and Belles on Their Toes and Cheaper by the Dozen on 3/16. Finally, Wellspring will release Madame Sata on 1/13.

Don't forget that the DVD Exclusive Awards will be broadcast tonight on FX (at 8 PM ET/PT).

Stay tuned...

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

I wanted to drop in here with a quick update this morning to let you all know that Amazon.com is now showing Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List as set for release on March 9th. There's been no official word on a street date yet from Universal, but you can expect that to follow soon. In the meantime, Amazon is reporting three versions of the film on DVD... separate full frame and anamorphic widescreen releases priced at SRP $26.98 each, as well as a limited collector's edition gift set containing (presumably) the widescreen version plus other extras (SRP $79.98). Just thought you'd like the heads-up. Thanks to Bits reader Carlen D. for the spot.

By the way, did any of you sit through part one of Sci-Fi's new Battlestar Galactica miniseries last night? Gods... I haven't been that bored watching TV in a very long time. What a total snore fest. Two hours and almost nothing happened... then, when it did, it was all off screen. The shaky, gun camera cinematography to the battle footage was cool, but that's about it. Don't think I'll be tuning in for part two. What's the deal with Sci-Fi these days anyway? It's all this pseudo-science reality-style crappola. Bryant Gumbel tracking down UFOs, some half-baked schmoe guessing the names of your deal loved ones, or watching people get the piss scared out of them by Shannon Doherty. Plus the occasional B-grade "original" film... and about a hundred hours of that Stargate TV show every week. Yikes.

We've got another new TAP SACD review for you this morning - Grey Cavitt's take on the Dylan classic Love and Theft, newly reissued in high resolution by Columbia Records.

More later. Stay tuned...

12/8/03

Well... flu season's hit The Bits with a vengeance as it always seems to in December. Matt's been under for a few days now, Todd's down but good and, at the moment, I'm lucky to have good hearing in one ear. I've spent most of the last weekend buried under a mountain of blankets, trying to sleep it off. Some of the rest of the staff has struggled with the flu in recent weeks as well. Hey... at least it only seems to happen once a year.

Anyway, sick or not, we've got some ground to cover today, so let's get started.

First up, 20th Century Fox has revealed two great upcoming DVD releases. On February 17th, they'll release Runaway Jury in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions. There's no word yet on SRP or extras (Amazon.com has it priced for rental at the moment, but that will no doubt change soon). On January 27th, the studio will release Thirteen (SRP $27.95), which will include both anamorphic widescreen and full frame on the same disc, along with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras will include audio commentary by director/co-writer Catherine Hardwicke and co-writer/actress Nikki Reed, another commentary featuring actors Evan Rachel Wood and Brady Corbet, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a making of featurette, a theatrical trailer and 2 Easter eggs. Here's cover art for both:

Runaway JuryThirteenZatoichi the Outlaw

Richard III (Criterion)Maîtresse (Criterion)Pickup on South Street (Criterion)

As you may have noticed, we've also included art for AnimEigo's Zatoichi the Outlaw, now available from the company's website, as well as a trio of new Criterion titles, Richard III, Maîtresse and Pickup on South Street (all due in February).

Speaking of Zatoichi, I've just gotten word from Home Vision that three more titles in the series will street on May 18th (we'll post the specific titles soon).

Also today, I wanted to post a couple of fun pictures. On Friday night, Warner Brothers held a special cast reunion screening of A Christmas Story at the Pacific Arclight theater in L.A.. Thanks to this flu, I was unable to attend (and it killed me, let me tell you - I love this film), but I wanted to share a group shot taken at the event. Left to right, here's R.D. Robb (Schwartz), Ian Petrella (Randy Parker), Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), Bob Clark (director/co-producer/co-writer), Scott Schwartz (Flick) and Zack Ward (Scut Farkus).

Christmas Story reunion

Then on Saturday night, one of my best friends on planet Earth, David Hovde (you Santa Barbara area readers might recognize him as the chief meteorologist for KSBY TV), got to co-host a Unity Shoppe telethon on KETY TV... with none other than John Cleese (among others). So here's a pic you Python fans will appreciate.

John Cleese and David Hovde

In other news today, Broadcast Engineering.com has a story on the approval of the HD-DVD format that's worth a look. Video Business is carrying a story on Blockbuster calling for an end to region-coding... if you can believe that or not. You'll need to register for that second story, but it's free and the piece is definitely worth reading.

We also have a couple of interesting links in The Rumor Mill today, which will definitely be of interest to fans of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Babylon 5. Don't miss them.

We've kicked off FOUR new Contests today. You'll have the chance to win copies of Warner's The Ben Stiller Show, A Christmas Story and other great holiday titles, MGM's To Live and Die in L.A. and Fox's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fifth Season and Firefly: The Complete Series. We've also announced the winners of our previous contests, so be sure to check that out.

Finally today, don't forget to check out our Artist of the Month for December - Emily Hare from the UK. She draws great portraits of Lord of the Rings characters and does animal portraits as well for those of your who are looking for gift ideas. The pencil sketches for both start at only $86, so it's very affordable. I know you Rings fans are always looking for that unique item to add to your collection. Enjoy!

Back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned...!

12/5/03

Here's a little something to get you Lord of the Ring fans even more excited than you probably already are. The theatrical edition of The Return of the King reportedly clocks in at 210 minutes - or 3 and 1/2 hours long. Still not enough for you? Well, director Peter Jackson, speaking to the press in New Zealand this week (according to The Hollywood Reporter) reportedly hinted that The Return of the King: Special Extended DVD Edition, due to be released next year, could clock in at over 4 hours long! Set to be added back into the film are a number of scenes, including one (much talked about online recently) involving the fate of Saruman at Isengard. This is also being reported at TheOneRing.net (which just so happens to be a great site to visit for the latest Rings information these days).

Around the Net this morning, there's a good roundtable discussion at The Hollywood Reporter on the future of the DVD format. The discussion features the home entertainment presidents of five major studios (Universal's Craig Kornblau, Buena Vista's Bob Chapek, DreamWorks' Kelley Avery, Artisan's Steve Beeks and Fox's Mike Dunn). Of note is mention by Chapek that Buena Vista studio projections predict that the DVD format will peak in 2007: "Hopefully somewhere around that time we'll have the next generation DVD format." Fox's Mike Dunn adds a reassurance we've been told by industry insiders as well, specifically that the next generation format will be backwards compatible with existing DVD.

Finally this morning, we have a quick heads-up for all you L.A. area Bits fans. Our own Adam Jahnke is going to be appearing with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman at Borders Books in Santa Monica tonight, to sign copies of Make Your Own Damn Movie!: Secrets of a Renegade Director (Adam was a coauthor on the book and has been a Troma insider for many years). The fun begins at 7:30 PM. Borders is located at 1415 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401 (310) 393-9290. Drop on by and say hello! For more information on this and other upcoming appearances with Lloyd, be sure to visit this link at the Troma website.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 12/4/03 - 2 PM PST)

Okay... we want to start this morning by congratulating the big winners of Tuesday night's DVD Exclusive Awards, held here in Los Angeles. You'll be able to watch the program yourself on cable's FX network on Tuesday, December 9 (at 8 PM ET/PT). Fox's Alien Quadrilogy and New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Special Extended DVD Edition both won two awards, while Disney and Pixar's Finding Nemo took home three. Alien Quadrilogy won Best Overall DVD, Classic Movie and Best Audio Commentary, while Two Towers took home Best Overall DVD, New Movie and Best New Movie Scenes. Nemo walked away with Best Menu Design, Best Games and Interactivities and Best Deleted Scenes, Outtakes and Bloopers. Other winners on the night included MGM's West Side Story for Best Behind-the-Scenes Program and Image's The Dick Van Dyke Show - Season One for Best Overall DVD, TV Program. Additional awards were given in several "direct to DVD" categories as well, and director Ridley Scott received a special Director's Focus Award for his contributions to the DVD format. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners from everyone here at The Digital Bits. You can find on this event at dvdexclusive.com. And be sure to tune in next Tuesday night to see host Jenny McCarthy appear on stage in a dress made of nothing but DVDs. No kidding. Here's a sneak peek...

Jenny McCarthy's DVD dress

My, my, my... this format's sure come a long way, hasn't it? Anyone remember when some major studios were still claiming DVD would be just a passing fad?

On to DVD release news. You Penn & Teller fans will be happy to know that the first season of Showtime's Penn & Teller: Bullshit! will be released on DVD in the the 2nd Qtr of 2004. The news comes direct from the duo's official website.

In other DVD announcements, 20th Century Fox will release Runaway Jury on 2/17, with Futurama, Volume 3 following on 3/9. To capitalize on all the Paris Hilton infamy, The Simple Life will debut on DVD from Fox on 1/20. And on 3/23, look for Cops: Bad Girls, Cops: Caught In the Act and Cops: Shots Fired.

Columbia TriStar will debut Radio on DVD on 1/27. The film will be presented in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include deleted scenes, a blooper reel, audio commentary with the director, producer and cinematographer, 3 featurettes (Football: It Ain't All Fun and Games, Righting Radio and Tuning In: The Making of Radio), and the theatrical trailer.

Other Columbia TriStar titles on the way include Lucky Seven, Sin, The Gods Must Be Crazy I & II, The Animal: Uncut Special Edition, Labyrinth Collector's Edition Box Set, The Best of the Muppets Show: George Burns, Cyborg 009: The Battle Begins, Cyborg 009: Good vs. Evil, Cyborg 009: Unedited and Uncut, Good Times: The Complete Second Season, News Radio: The Complete First and Second Seasons and What's Happening: The First Season, all on 2/3. Following on 2/10 are In the Cut (R-rated) and In the Cut: Director's Edition (Uncut), Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and Returner.

Also today, just announced from Criterion are DVD releases of Maîtresse (catalog no. 223), Diary of a Country Priest (222), Tunes of Glory (225), Pickup on South Street (224), Le Corbeau (227), Salvatore Giuliano (228) and Richard III (213), all set for February.

Here's a look at the cover art for Radio, News Radio: The Complete First and Second Seasons and 20th Century Fox's new Planet of the Apes: 35th Anniversary Special Edition (due on 2/3).

RadioNews Radio: The Complete First and Second SeasonsPlanet of the Apes: 35th Anniversary Special Edition

Around the site today, we've updated all the DVD sales and rental data charts that we keep track of above, including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers.

In other DVD news around the net, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has an article up on the Alien Quadrilogy that's worth taking a look at. You can find that here (you have to register to read it, but it's free). Thanks to Bits reader Kal K. for the link.

There's another story by the Dow Jones on the recent DVD Forum vote to go forward with NEC and Toshiba's AOD spec for HD-DVD. There's also a good piece on this at the EE Times, as well as another on China's EVD format.

And here's a bit of non-DVD news that we think you'll find interesting. With the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, on its way to theaters everywhere on 12/17, word has leaked that New Line is officially pursuing the film rights to the prequel story The Hobbit. Apparently, director Peter Jackson would like to shoot The Hobbit after he finishes his forthcoming King Kong remake. Rings actor Ian McKellen (Gandalf) has expressed interest in participating. The unfortunate stumbling block in this pursuit, however, is none other than the Tolkein estate. Cross your fingers, Ring bearers.

Back with more tomorrow. Stay tuned...

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

Morning everyone! We're finally back from our break... a day later than expected, but here we are. Sarah and I spent an extended weekend in Lake Tahoe, just relaxing. Of course, while relaxing, I somehow managed to wipe out in the snow and ice at 9,100 ft at the Heavenly Mountain ski resort and screw up my back (and no, I wasn't even skiing). I also managed to return from said relaxing vacation with the mother of all head colds. There's a reason I only take a vacation once in a blue moon, you know?

Anyway, we've got some catching up to do, so we'll get started on that later this morning. We've got lots of news updates on the way, and more new reviews from the guys later this week. Just wanted to let you know that we hadn't completely disappeared off the face of the Earth. ;-)

In the meantime, Grey Cavitt of our TAP crew has a new SACD review for you to check out... Bob Dylan's Another Side of Bob Dylan. Enjoy!

Back later with our normal post. Stay tuned...

11/28/03

Okay... hope you all had a great holiday yesterday. Here in the U.S., a lot of you are probably out shopping for Christmas gifts or maybe even putting up the Christmas tree today. So enjoy the rest of your weekend. Our best to you and your family!

We're going to be dark on Monday and Tuesday, due to the holiday, to give our staffers a well deserved break for a couple of days. But we do have a couple of things for you first.

We've gotten updated word from Universal on the problem with those still-defective Meaning of Life replacement discs. It seems that the first batch of replacement discs were mistakenly pressed using the same defective master as the originals. The good news is, people who sent in their discs have been getting e-mails from the studio's customer service department over the holiday. Here's the exact text:

Re: "Monty Python's: The Meaning of Life" DVD Replacement

Please disregard the replacement version 2 disk for "Monty Python's: The Meaning of Life" you recently received. A new updated version will be sent to you shortly. For further information please email or call toll-free: universalstudios&dreamworks@leemarketing.com 888-304-0608

Sincerely,

Universal Studios Home Video
Consumer Relations Department


We don't know the exact timeline for the mailing of the new discs, but you can bet the studio is working hard on this. Thanks to Bits reader Sean K for sending that in.

Also today, we're very pleased to bring you the latest edition of Barrie Maxwell's Classic Coming Attractions. This month, Barrie reviews 11 recently-released classic titles on DVD, including Black Sunday, A Christmas Wish, The Comancheros, Dark Passage, High Sierra, They Drive By Night, To Have and Have Not, both versions of The Italian Job, the Lon Chaney Collection and The Ox-Bow Incident. He also runs down a list of recent classic title announcements and rumors of titles in the works. There's some really great stuff in this column, including word on Warner's Meet Me in St. Louis, the Forbidden Planet: Special Edition and (at long last) DVD releases of The Flintsones and The Jetsons. You definitely don't want to miss this.

Finally today, there's an AP press release up over at Yahoo with more details about the recent DVD-Forum vote to adopt the AOD platform as the basis for the future HD-DVD format. It's definitely worth a look.

So there you go! Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Wednesday, December 3rd. Best wishes!

11/26/03

We've been getting a lot of reports in the last few days from frustrated readers who had sent their Monty Python's Meaning of Life DVDs back to Universal for replacement. As you may remember, there was a problem with the coding of the disc, such that those with progressive-scan DVD players were experiencing severe video artifacts. Universal created an exchange program to take care of the problem, and a lot of people took advantage of it. Unfortunately, many who have gotten their replacement discs in the mail are telling us that the "fixed" disc has exactly the same problem as the first one did. We'll try to get some kind of official response on this, and we'll post it when we do.

In other news, there's a great story up at Video Store magazine on the elaborate restoration work that was required to bring Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West to DVD looking as good as it does. If you love the film (and the disc) as much as we do, I think you'll be impressed with the work of all involved. By the way, we've updated our review of the disc with word on an Easter egg readers have reported on the disc - a pretty cool trailer for the film, edited in a more modern style. Nice.

A couple of quick new announcements... Warner will release The Sunshine Boys, Prisoner of Second Avenue, The Late Show and Going in Style on 3/30 (SRP $19.98 each). Also, MGM has added Camp and Pieces of April to its February slate (street dates 2/17 and 2/24 respectively). Camp will feature The Making of Camp featurette, outtakes and extended scenes, a live cast performance of How Shall I See You Through My Tears, a soundtrack spot and the theatrical trailer (SRP $29.98). Pieces of April will include a behind-the-scenes featurette, audio commentary by writer/director Peter Hedges and a trailer (SRP $25.98).

Here's a surprise for you Quantum Leap fans... Universal has informed the show's executive producer, Deborah Pratt, that they're going to be releasing the entire first season on DVD. You can read more in a recent interview with her at the Project Quantum Leap website.

Just for sh!ts and giggles, here's a scan of the cover art for the new Ed Wood: Special Edition (due 2/3) from Buena Vista. It's mostly B&W and, we think, very cool.

Ed Wood: Special Edition

Finally today, we're pleased as punch to be able to present another great Bottom Shelf column from our own Adam Jahnke. In this edition, Adam takes a look at 10 great films that have yet to grace the DVD format, and 6 more that are in dire need of re-release as better editions. As you've come to expect from us here at The Bits, they aren't necessarily the films you'd expect. Enjoy.

Okay... with that, we're done for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to all you Yanks out there. Don't forget... gravy is the ultimate food lubricant, so if you're having trouble getting that last bite of turkey and stuffing down, douse liberally. And watch out for the tryptophan rush. ;-)

See you back here on Friday. Best wishes!

11/25/03

Well... we have some news for you today about HD-DVD. As we mentioned a few days ago, the 17-member steering committee of the DVD Forum was expected to vote in New York last week on whether or not to adopt Toshiba and NEC's Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) proposal as the basis for the eventual HD-DVD format. In a previous vote earlier this year, the proposal failed to pass because members of the Blu-ray group, who are also DVD Forum members, either voted "no" or abstained. While AOD was developed within the DVD Forum, Blu-ray is being developed outside it, and is being positioned as a direct competitor for HD-DVD. By voting AOD down, or abstaining, the Blu-ray group members were effectively working to kill momentum for AOD, and thus give an advantage to their own rival product. For last week's vote, however, the DVD Forum changed its rules so that abstaining votes no longer counted as "no" votes. In the resulting ballot, the steering committee voted to adopt AOD as the basis for HD-DVD by an 8-6 majority. That moves HD-DVD a step closer to becoming a reality, and a step closer to eventually replacing existing DVD (although there are still a number of technological issues to be addressed, including the creation of a more robust copy protection scheme, before the high-definition format could be launched).

Meanwhile, the Blu-ray group continues to develop its high-definition disc format, and now China's EVD had entered the fray as well. It's worth noting, however, that EVD is a red laser based format that uses greater digital video compression, while both AOD/HD-DVD and Blu-ray use blue lasers and higher capacity discs.

You can read more about this vote (and EVD) here at Video Business (you'll need to register, but it's free). You can also bet that we'll be talking a LOT more about these next-generation, high-definition disc formats in the months ahead. In the meantime, our best guess is that the first hardware and software could start appearing in the U.S. in late 2005. Keep in mind that everything we've been told by manufacturers and industry reps is that both AOD/HD-DVD and Blu-ray hardware will be backwards compatible with existing DVD software.

Now then... moving on today, we've got a new Doogan's Views column from Todd for you to enjoy. Todd's starting a 3-part DVD journey, featuring reviews of great films from around the world. In this first piece, Todd reviews Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss and Lola, compiled by Criterion in The BRD Trilogy - an amazing new box set and perhaps their best release to date. Also reviewed on disc is The Cathedral, the Academy Award nominated animated short film from Tomek Baginski. All the titles in the column this week are German films and are well worth your time.

We also have a few upcoming DVD announcements to tell you about. Paramount has added Marci X to its 1/20 release slate, with MTV's Wut-hering Heights following on 1/27 and Fighting Temptations due on 2/3. VCI will release The Great Train Robbery: 100th Anniversary Edition on 12/16, along with King of the Royal Mounted and Zorro's Cliffhanger Collection. Warner will release American Experience: Bataan Rescue and American Experience: MacArthur on 2/3, with Superbowl XXXVIII and Emmanuelle in Rio (rated and unrated) following on 2/24. Finally, Warner Music's Blue Man Group: Complex Rock Tour Live streets today (11/25), in case you're in the mood for a little something... you know... blue.

Finally today, we've updated a number of the DVD format stats we track (above), including the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers. For the record, some 708,501 DVD players shipped to retailers in the week ending November 7th here in the States.

We'll be back tomorrow with a new Bottom Shelf column from Adam and more. Stay tuned!

11/24/03

Hope all of you had a great weekend! One thing's for sure - the weather is getting colder. I know some of you are probably seeing serious snow on your doorsteps these days. November is definitely winding down and the holidays are almost upon us. I can almost smell the turkey and stuffing now.

Cold though it may be this morning, I suggest you fill up your coffee cups and get a load of this... we've got a long awaited update of our Upcoming DVD Cover Art section for you to enjoy. You guys have been begging for us to get that section updated for a while now, and with the server move, it's been on the back burner. But now we've got nearly a 100 new cover scans for you to check out. You may have noticed that we've switched all our purchase links to Amazon.com. Our affiliation with DVD Planet has come to an end, with Planet having recently been bought out by another company. So right now, Amazon.com is where we're recommending our readers buy DVD software. Each purchase through our links to Amazon helps to fund our efforts here at The Bits, so we appreciate your support.

Moving on today, Lindsay Planer's reviewed the new Grateful Dead: The Closing of Winterland DVD over at our MusicTAP site, so be sure to check that out. More reviews are on the way.

We've also kicked off a trio of new Contests today. You've got the chance to win X-Files, great NFL titles and more. As always, you can find a list of winners for the just completed contests in The Winner's Circle.

One last thing for you this morning. Judging by the amount of e-mail we've been getting, a lot of you are wondering if Warner and the BBC's MI-5: Volume One (due on 1/13) will feature the original, longer versions of the episodes originally seen on TV in the U.K.. The answer is yes. Each episode on the DVD set is some 15 minutes longer than what was shown here in the States on A&E. So there you go.

Stay tuned!

(LATE UPDATE - 11/21/03 - 5:30 PM PST)

It's official... Matrix Revolutions will NOT be released in January has had been rumored. I've just heard from a representative of Warner Home Video, who explained that the DVD will, in fact, be released later in 2004. Expect an official announcement in January, but no disc.

This next bit is Rumor Mill worthy, but to save time, I'm going to post it here instead. Word is, Columbia TriStar next week will announce Radio for release on DVD on January 27th (SRP $28.95). Look for audio commentary, deleted scenes and three featurettes.

Finally today, we have at long last completed our review of Fox's Alien Quadrilogy, with a detailed look at Disc Eight, which contains the bonus features for Alien Resurrection. This awesome 9-disc box set streets on 12/2 (SRP $99.98), and you can pre-order it now from Amazon now for only $69.99. We'll tell you this in all honesty... Quadrilogy is right now the odds-on favorite to be our pick for the best special edition DVD release of 2003. If you're a fan, you definitely don't want to miss it.

With that, another week bites the dust! Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here on Monday!

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/21/03 - 12:30 PM PST)

Okay... we've got a bunch of things to post today, so let's get started.

First of all, we're pleased to present the newest of our own Robert A. Harris' regular columns here at The Digital Bits. In this installment, A Traveling Column, Robert talks about a wide range of recent DVD releases from a variety of studios, and discusses their quality. He also talks about the films of directors David Lean and Carol Reed. It's another great piece and is not to be missed.

Next up, we present a complete transcript of the live chat our friends over at the Home Theater Forum held about a week ago with DVD producers J.M. Kenny and Jeff Lerner of New Wave Entertainment. I've met these guys before many times - they're both very talented and I think you'll be surprised how many great DVDs they've been involved with. Kudos to them and thanks to Ron and the guys at HTF for sending over the transcript.

Also this morning, we've excited to announce that the DVD format has officially passed the 60 million players mark here in the United States. Some 1,278,839 players were shipped from manufacturers to retailers here in the last week of October, pushing the total number of units in the States to exactly 60,282,192 according to CEA. Anyone who doubts that DVD is mainstream now has been drinking too much extra strength cold medicine. ;-)

And we've got one last thing for you for now... a look at the cover art for the individual film, 2-disc special edition releases of the Alien films, which Fox has planned for 1/6 (SRP $26.98 each). These are the same awesome discs that will be available next month in the Alien Quadrilogy (on 12/2), with the sole exception of Disc Nine, which is only available in the box set. The first film is available for pre-order now on Amazon, and the others should be up soon.

Alien: Special EditionAliens: Special EditionAlien3: Special Edition

Alien Resurrection: Special Edition

Speaking of the Quadrilogy, we'll be back to wrap up our review of the set later this afternoon (finally)! And just to let everyone know, we've got a big Upcoming DVD Cover Art update due on Monday. I know a lot of you have been waiting for it, so it's coming.

Back later. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 11/20/03 - 12:30 PM PST)

Just one last update for you today - Warner Bros has officially announced the DVD release of Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men for 2/24. The disc will be available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions (SRP $27.95) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary with Scott and writers Nicholas Griffin and Ted Griffin, the Tricks of the Trade: Making Matchstick Men documentary (described as an "intimate, day to day account of the filmmaking process with director Ridley Scott, from pre-production through the film's final edit"), the theatrical trailer and more. Here's a look at the cover artwork...

Matchstick Men: Special Edition

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 11/20/03 - 11 AM PST)

Well... as some of you probably noticed over the last 48 hours, the new server's experienced a few bumps. The site has been very slow the last couple of days, our web address was directing to another site for a brief time yesterday morning, and we've been unable to sign in to make updates until now. All of this was due to some work that was going on behind-the-scenes here at The Bits. The good news is, we now have a brand new T3 line attached to the server. You should already be experiencing the benefits in terms of access speed. We've got a little more work to finish up, so naturally our post today is a little thin until we can get it all done. As always, we do appreciate your patience. Keeping The Bits free for all of you to access is our number one goal, but unfortunately it doesn't come cheap, so that means a little more advertising (including some pop-ups) and the occasional server work to make it all happen.

On that note, we'd like to announce a new on-going partnership between The Digital Bits and an old friend of ours... Doc DVD. You long-time readers might remember him from the early days of The Bits. We're teaming up with the good doctor in a number of exciting ways, which you'll be seeing more of in the coming weeks. One of the benefits to you right now is the availability of free DVD tech support for readers of The Digital Bits and MusicTAP (available by clicking on the logo at the top of this page). He can help you with problem discs, player glitches and other issues. Doc DVD, through his DigitalAudioVideo.com website, can also help you with ISF Calibration of your home theater equipment, and even discounted pricing on the latest DVD players, audio receivers and more with local retailers in your area. This new partnership is going to help us keep The Bits both free and fast, so we'd appreciate it if you'd check his service out. Watch for more news about this in the weeks ahead.

Now then... there is one bit of news that we wanted to address today, and that's this announcement of China's new EVD video disc format. It seems that a Chinese firm, backed by the Chinese government, is trying to launch a next-generation replacement for existing DVD. It's called Enhanced Versatile Disc (EVD), and it would provide high-definition video to consumers. The reason for this development is that China wants to provide a home-field advantage for Chinese manufacturers in the lucrative video disc business, and alleviate them from having to pay videodisc technology royalties to foreign companies (mostly Japanese). What the Chinese government doesn't get, is that even if China adopts the format, the rest of the world is VERY unlikely to follow suit, especially given that HD-DVD (AOD) and Blu-ray are already in development to replace existing DVD. Not only that, the Hollywood studios would have to agree to release films on EVD, which is somewhat unlikely given the difficulties the studios have had with digital piracy in China. So while this is an interesting wrinkle on the technology landscape, our advice is that it's nothing any of you should be too concerned about. EVD is not likely to replace current DVD anywhere but China, and it's extremely unlikely to be a viable competitor to either HD-DVD or Blu-ray (again, except possibly in China). So there you have it.

Also today, we've got some interesting information in The Rumor Mill concerning a possible release date that's being reporting for Matrix Revolutions, along with more changes that we've been told are being made to the original Star Wars films, possibly for next year's DVD release. You definitely don't want to miss it.

We have a quick music review for you this morning as well. Marco Passarelli has given the new Megadeath DVD-Audio version of Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? a look over at TAP. Little something for you metal heads out there. ;-)

Finally this morning, in a sad note, we would like to take a moment to recognize the passing of composer Michael Kamen. Kamen's work included involvement with some Rock music's biggest bands, as well as numerous film scores. He'll most definitely be missed.

Okay... we'll be back tomorrow morning with a bunch of stuff we've been meaning to post this week, server issues permitting. Thanks for hanging in there, Bits faithful.


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