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My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 12/30/03 - 12/17/03)


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(LATE UPDATE - 12/30/03 - NOON PST)

Okay... we've just updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the first three weeks of December (ending 12/12). Some 2,227,357 players were shipped from manufacturers to retailers in the U.S. in that time, taking the Format to Date total very close to 65 million units. There's still two weeks of numbers to go, so you can expect that figure to climb. All charts have been updated accordingly.

We've also updated our authorized mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ to its most recent version, dated 12/13.

In other news, there's word from our friends over at TVShowsOnDVD.com that the classic Combat! might be headed to disc in 2004, either from Buena Vista or Image Entertainment.

Speaking of Buena Vista, you'll be surprised to learn that a new and completely hidden bonus feature has been discovered on their R1 DVD release of Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky. You can't access it from the menus at all, but there's a hidden video file (a .VOB file) on the disc featuring a 20-minute Japanese TV documentary on the making of the film. You can only access it via DVD-ROM by searching through the individual VOB files. Unfortunately, it's not subtitled, so our best guess is that it was originally intended to be included on the disc as a regular feature, but was "dropped" at the last minute for unknown reasons (so the menu links and subtitles were left off). Very strange, but cool if you can speak Japanese I suppose. Thanks to Bits reader Chris M. for the information on this.

Also today, we got the cover artwork for Rhino's upcoming DVD release of H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series, which streets on 2/10. Thanks to Johnnie Y. for that.

H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series

Finally today, we're having some e-mail problems at the moment that we wanted to make you aware of. My address is working fine, as is Todd's and the Contest, but some of the other staffers' mail is getting bounced. We hope to get this corrected by the end of the week. Chalk it up to the gremlins you have to work out when you settle into a new server.

Don't forget that the Bits Power Buy for the Sharp XV-Z12000U DLP Front Projector ends tomorrow night, so be sure to take advantage before then if you're interested (drop us an e-mail for more details). The other power buy on the Pioneer Elite 50" Pro-1110HD plasma display with the new DV-59AVi DVD player will remain in effect until sometime in January, just FYI.

And that is officially all she wrote for 2003! Have a happy and safe New Year and we'll see you back here on Friday (January 2nd)!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/30/03 - 12:01 AM PST)

As promised, we're back this morning with a massive update of our Upcoming DVD Cover Art section! We've got so much new art we can't even list it all, including new covers on every page of the section - more than 100 new scans in all! Just for fun, and so you have a better idea what's coming farther down the line, we've also added unofficial cover images of as-yet-unannounced titles that are known to be in the works for DVD release later in 2004. As always, all the titles can be preordered from Amazon.com, and doing so helps keep us going here at the Bits (which we sincerely appreciate). Enjoy the cover art!

Also today, Matt's posted another SACD review over at TAP - John Mayall & Friends' Along for the Ride, newly released by Audio Fidelity.

Back to update the DVD stats later this afternoon. Stay tuned...

12/29/03

Afternoon, everyone! We sincerely hope you all had a great holiday. Sarah and I had family visiting, so we watched a lot of movies and ate way too much food, capped off by viewing the Minnesota Vikings' annual end-of-season collapse. So you could say the holiday around here was perfectly normal, I suppose. ;-)

First up today, we've got an update on the Seinfeld DVD situation. It seems Jerry Seinfeld spoke with DVD holdout Michael Richards over the weekend, and got him to agree to participate in the production. Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are still on the outs, but there's hope that will change before all is said and done. We'll keep you updated.

Now then... we've got a bunch of upcoming DVD release news for you today. Let's start with Paramount. Look for Jimmy Neutron: Jet Fusion, The Fairly Odd Parents: Superhero Spectacle and The Fighting Temptations on 2/3, The Pentagon Papers, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star - Special Collector's Edition, Permanent Record and We're No Angels on 2/17, and Chappelle's Show Season One: Uncensored DVD Box Set and Star Trek: Voyager - Season One on 2/24.

Confirmed by Paramount to be coming in March are Sightings: Heartland Ghost, Dora the Explorer: Dora's Egg Hunt, Nick Jr. Celebrates Spring, SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob Goes Prehistoric, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, The Ten Commandments: Special Collector's Edition (3/9), Resurrection Blvd.: The Complete First Season, Beyond Borders, The Singing Detective and The School of Rock. We're hearing 3/2 as the street date on School of Rock, featuring audio commentary with Jack Black and director Richard Linklater, commentary with the kids in the film, an interactive Dewey Finn's History of Rock and the featurettes Lessons Learned in School of Rock, Jack Black's Pitch to Led Zeppelin and Kids' Video Diary: Toronto Film Festival Piece. We're also expecting C.S.I.: The Complete Third Season in March (we're hearing 3/30 on that).

This is just FYI (consider this next paragraph Rumor Mill worthy), but we've been told by sources that more Comedy Central product is on the way from Paramount in 2004. For next summer, look for Reno 911!: The Complete First Season, The Joe Schmo Show: Uncensored, The Comedy Central Roast of Dennis Leary and That's My Bush!. And in the fall, you'll get Strangers with Candy: The Complete Third Season, Crank Yankers: The Complete First Season and South Park: The Complete Fourth Season. Plus, there's still a Top Gun: Special Edition in the works as well.

Lion's Gate will release more TV product in March. Look for The Dead Zone: Season Two on 3/16, with Shattered Glass and Will & Grace: The Complete Second Season following on 3/23.

Columbia TriStar has announced the DVD release of Starsky and Hutch: The Complete First Season for 3/2, along with Hustle and Heat, Doctor Faustus, The Prisoner and The Three Stooges: Stooges and the Law. On 3/9, they'll release Red Water, Anne Frank Remembered, The Slugger's Wife and The Berenstain Bears: Bears Team Up.

Buena Vista has some new catalog material on the way for 1/6, including Ciao, Professore!, Get Bruce!, I've Heard The Mermaids Singing, The Innocent, The Little Twins: The Magic of Giving, The Lovers on the Bridge, Moondance, Revenge of the Musketeers, Ridicule, Strawberry & Chocolate, Talk of Angels, Torrents of Spring and Unzipped.

Warner Brothers has a massive slate of titles set for February (note that some of these titles are by Warner's distributed labels, including New Line, HBO, BBC, National Geographic and more). On 2/3, look for The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy/The Penguin, The Adventures of Batman & Robin: The Joker/Fire & Ice, Batman Beyond: School Dayz/Spellbound, Batman Beyond: Tech Wars/Disappearing Inque, The Best of Ground Force: Garden Rescues, The Big Bounce (1969), Changing Rooms: Trust Me, I'm a Designer, The Chaplin Collection, Volume 2 (including The Chaplin Revue, Monsieur Verdoux, The Circus, City Lights, The Kid, King in New York/A Woman of Paris and Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin), Larceny, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, The Snow Queen, A Tale of Cinderella, Timeless Tales: Rapuznel/Rumpelstiltskin/Thumbelina, Zorro: First Encounter/Beastly Battles/High Seas Hero, Doctor Who, Episode 48: Seeds of Death and Doctor Who, Episode 65: The Three Doctors. Then on 2/10, you'll get Reflections on Ice, Undefeated and What I Want My Words to Do to You. Following on 2/17 are Absolutely Fabulous: Series 5, Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story, Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story/Building the Great Pyramid (2-pack), Empires: The Roman Empire in the First Century, The Hitchhiker (HBO) and Kung Fu: The Complete First Season. Finally, on 2/24, look for Chased by Dinosaurs: 3 Walking with Dinosaurs Adventures.

For March, Warner and its affiliates have another big batch on the way, starting with Going in Style, The Late Show, Pope John Paul II: Collector's Set, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Ripley's Game, The Sunshine Boys and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (New Line) on 3/2. On 3/9, you'll get the Ancient Evidence Collection, Ancient Evidence: Mysteries of Jesus, Ancient Evidence: Mysteries of the Apostles, Ancient Evidence: Mysteries of the Old Testament, The Lost Prince, Police Academy, Police Academy 2, Police Academy 3, Police Academy 4, Police Academy 5, Police Academy 6 and yes... Police Academy 7. Finally, on 3/16, look for Babylon 5: The Complete Fifth Season.

Around the site, we've got more new Contests started for you today, thanks to our friends at Warner Bros. and MGM. You'll have the chance to win one of 5 copies each of Warner's Babylon 5: The Complete Fourth Season and MGM's Jeepers Creepers 2: Special Edition. Don't miss it!

We've also updated some of the stats we track today (see above), and we'll have the rest updated tomorrow, including the CEA DVD Player Sales charts and Jim Taylor's Official DVD FAQ.

Finally today, our own Matt Rowe has posted a new DVD-Audio review over at our MusicTAP affiliate... Chicago's Chicago V from Rhino Records. Enjoy.

We'll be back tomorrow with a massive Upcoming DVD Cover Artwork update to close out 2003. See you then!

12/24/03

Happy holidays, everyone!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/23/03 - 2 PM PST)

Before we sign off for the Christmas holiday, we've got another new Classic Coming Attractions column from our own Barrie Maxwell. In this edition, Barrie looks at great holiday films over the years, runs down the latest classic DVD release news and reviews some 11 new classic releases on DVD, including Phantom of the Opera (1925), Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Out-of-Towners, Ship of Fools, Crime of Passion, The Looking Glass War, The Honeymooners: "Classic 39" Episodes, Plaza Suite, Star Spangled Girl, He Walked by Night and Odds Against Tomorrow.

Also today, we've got another new Bits Power Buy for you. Pioneer Elite's new 50" Pro-1110HD plasma display is garnering reviews as the very best of the HDTV bunch, and it's going to be in extremely high demand. It features individual color control, blacker blacks, a virtually silent fan, and HDMI inputs. Also, as many of you know, Pioneer is releasing the most highly anticipated new DVD player of the year, the DV-59AVi. This player features 14 Bit Video DACs, iLink (1394 Firewire) for DVD-Audio and SACD as well as an HDMI interface that will connect with any DVI-D input using a DVI-HDMI cable. The result? The very finest picture quality and sound reproduction available today. The Pro-1110HD is one of the very first plasmas with the new HDMI input, so together they're the perfect match. We've arranged a special Power Buy discount on the Pioneer Pro-1110HD, with the new DV-59AVi DVD player, just for you loyal Bits readers, in conjunction with DocDVD's Discount Prescription program and authorized dealers across the country. If you're interested, please click here to learn more. And just so you know, the Power Buy on the Sharp XV-Z12000U DLP Front Projector will end on New Year's Eve, December 31st, so if you want to take advantage of it, now's the time.

That's all for now! We'll see you back here on Monday, December 29th! From all of us at The Digital Bits, a happy and safe holiday to you and yours!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/23/03 - 10 AM PST)

Yes... you read that right. Three of the cast of TV's Seinfeld have declined to participate in the production of the DVD release of the series, because they're not being offered a share in sales of the discs. Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards were offered recording fees only, and so have jointly decided to boycott the production. The DVD is being produced by Castle Rock for distribution by Columbia TriStar, however due to complicated ownership of the show, Time Warner, Columbia TriStar Television, Castle Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David will all take profits from the DVD release. Frankly, we can't blame these three for feeling a little put off. Complicated ownership or not, the sales of old TV shows on DVD is arguably the fastest growing segment of the market right now. A lot of other people are going to make money on this... why shouldn't all of the featured cast share in that? Reportedly, Jerry Seinfeld is hoping to talk with them next year, to convince them to participate. You can bet, however, they'll be a little skeptical given that Jerry's already got a nice piece of the pie lined up. Here's a link to more on this at CNN and the New York Times (requires registration). Seinfeld: The Complete First Season is being tentatively planned for release in December of 2004. There's no word on how this boycott will affect that schedule, but we'd certainly hope that Castle Rock doesn't decided to just push ahead without these three.

Remember that Norwegian kid who cracked DVD's CSS encryption scheme a few years ago? Well, DVD Jon (alias Jon Johansen) has finally been cleared of wrong-doing by an appeals court in Oslo. The MPAA and DVD Copy Control Association (DVDCCA) had filed a lawsuit against him in 2000, but they lost. They then appealed, but now the appeal has been rejected as well. You can read more on this at Video Store.

Here's something to give you a good laugh this morning: there's a great story on a rather disappointing Hanukkah gift over at The Onion. I think many of you DVD fanatics out there will be able to relate. Hats off to our own Brad Pilcher for spotting this. ;-)

Back with more later. Stay tuned!

12/22/03

Morning, everyone! I'll bet you all had a great weekend. Probably a lot of last minute shopping for the holiday season, movie going and the like. Sarah and I have family in town, so that's always nice. We hope your holiday is a happy one!

We've just gotten word that 20th Century Fox is planning to release a Raquel Welch Collection DVD Box Set on 3/9. Titles include Bandolero, Myra Breckinridge, Mother, Jugs and Speed, One Million Years B.C. and the previously released Fathom. Each will also be available separately (SRP $14.98). Myra Breckinridge will include Raquel Welch audio commentary among other extras, while One Million Years B.C. will include a 5-minute restoration comparison. All the new titles will be in anamorphic widescreen video, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and mono audio. Here's the cover art for One Million Years B.C.. Not bad for your father's caveman movie...

One Million Years B.C.

Also coming from Fox in March will be The Commitments: Collector's Edition on 3/16. Look for the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85), audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, commentary by director Alan Parker, the 22-minute The Making of The Commitments featurette, the 45-minute The Commitments: Looking Back documentary, a "making of" featurette, the Dublin Soul: The Working Class & Changing Face of Dublin featurette, the Treat Her Right music video (with introduction by Alan Parker and Robert Arkins), 2 original songs by cast members: Before the Next Tear Drop Falls (Andrew Strong) and Taking on the World (Robert Arkins), 6 TV spots, 4 radio spots, the theatrical trailer, and a still gallery. In case you're interested, set for 3/30 from Fox is Hangman's Curse.

Universal is now showing slightly different cover artwork for their Schindler's List DVD (3/9). Be advised that the studio is now reporting these extras: the Voices From the List and The Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg featurettes, cast and filmmakers bios and something called About Oskar Schindler (a featurette or text essay). There may also be trailers and the like. The art on the left is the standard, widescreen edition. The art in the middle is the gift set.

Schindler's List (widescreen)Schindler's List - Collector's Widescreen Gift SetThe Rundown

And yes, Universal has also announced The Rundown for release on 3/23, available in both anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras will include commentary by director Peter Berg and The Rock, another commentary by producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham, several featurettes (Rumble in the Jungle, The Amazon, Hawaii Style, Appetite for Destruction, The Rundown Uncensored, Running Down the Town and Walken's World), deleted scenes, DVD-ROM features and cast and filmmakers bios. SRP is $26.98.

While we're showing you cover art, we thought you might like a look at MGM's forthcoming Stargate SG-1: Season Six and Spacecamp (both 3/2).

Stargate SG-1: Season SixSpacecamp

Finally today, we have a new Contest for you that gives you a chance to win copies of Warner's National Geographic: Beyond the Movie - The Return of the King on DVD. That runs until Saturday, so get your entries in fast Tolkein fans!

Don't forget, our brand new DVD book, The Digital Bits: Insider's Guide to DVD, is now available at your local book stores and at Amazon.com. It's been getting great reviews, so if you're looking for that perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite DVD fanatic, look no further. ;-)

Spacecamp

We'll be back tomorrow with a new column from our own Barrie Maxwell. See you then!

(LATE UPDATE - 12/19/03 - 9 PM PST)

We've got an interesting bit of information in The Rumor Mill about New Line and the forthcoming Return of the King: Extended Edition DVD. It comes from Ain't it Cool News, so we can't vouch for the details, but it's worth a look if you're a fan. If it's true, it's worth getting a little steamed about. We'll look into this and post more when we know it.

Have a great weekend!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/19/03 - 11:30 AM PST)

We've had so many people e-mailing us about Zatoichi, after we posted that primer last week, that we've decided to post reviews of all the films now available on DVD. We've created a Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman on DVD index page that we'll update regularly, and Todd's posted reviews of 8 of the films released on DVD thus far (the rest will follow shortly). So here's links to his reviews of The Tale of Zatoichi, The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, New Tale of Zatoichi, The Fugitive, On the Road, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Zatoichi the Outlaw and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo. Enjoy!

Also today, we've got a little more information on the extras you can expect to find on the Schindler's List DVD we mentioned yesterday. Word is, more than 90 minutes of bonus material will be included. Among the extras will be an introduction to the film by director Steven Spielberg, and the featurettes Voices from the List and Behind the Shoah Foundation with Steven Spielberg. Look for more details to be announced soon.

There's word that the folks at Lowry Digital are working to restore George Lucas' THX-1138 for DVD release next year. Apple.com has posted a good article on the restoration Lowry did on the Indiana Jones films for DVD. In a second piece called Removing the Veil, they reveal that they're now working on THX-1138 in conjunction with Lucas and Warner Bros.

We have details from Fantoma on their upcoming release of Francis Ford Coppola's One from the Heart (street date 1/27, SRP $29.95). The 2-disc set will feature the film in its original full frame aspect ratio (from a new high-def transfer supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro), along with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras will include audio commentary by Coppola, an isolated music-only track featuring Tom Waits score in Dolby Digital 5.1, 4 documentaries (The Dream Studio, The Electronic Cinema, Tom Waits and the Music of One from the Heart and The Making of One from the Heart), previously unreleased demo recordings and alternate takes of Tom Waits' music in CD quality 24-bit PCM stereo, deleted and alternate scenes, videotaped rehearsals, a photo gallery, rare footage from the Zoetrope vaults and more. Here's the cover art for that, as well as New Line's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (due 3/2).

One from the HeartThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Finally today, we have official word that Warner is planning on releasing the entire Police Academy series on DVD on 3/9.

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

(LATE UPDATE - 12/18/03 - 2:30 PM PST)

We're back this afternoon with a couple of interesting items for you. First up, our own Adam Jahnke has just posted his interview with DVD producer Michael Gillis of MogoMedia, the company that was recruited by MGM to produce the new Escape from New York: Special Edition. We think you'll enjoy the interview.

The Making of the Escape from New York: SE

Also today, Jeff Kleist has reviewed an interesting new music DVD from Japan - T.M. Revolution's Sonic Warp: The Visual Fields. T.M. Revolution has been a contributor to the soundtracks of such anime projects as Gundam Seed and Rurouni Kenshin, so some of you may know his work already. The disc is cheap, and yet pretty nice in terms of quality. It's just the kind of off-beat title that we try to expose you to here at The Bits every now and again. Enjoy!

Back tomorrow with more DVD reviews. Don't forget to check out our earlier post if you missed it, with the announcement of Universal's Schindler's List DVD. See you tomorrow!

(EARLY UPDATE - 12/18/03 - 11:30 AM PST)

It's official folks! As we reported last week, Universal studios will release Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List on 3/9 (SRP $26.98). The single-disc set will be packaged in both Digipak and keep case packaging (the disc will be DVD-18 - dual sided, dual layered). Separate anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions will be available, both with audio in English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as English DTS 5.1 audio (along with English captions and French and Spanish subtitles). Extras are still TBA. There will also be a gift set version available (SRP $79.98) that will include the anamorphic widescreen version of the DVD along with a coffee table book, the CD soundtrack, a senitype cell and a certificate of authenticity. Reportedly, this title is being co-marketed with the DVD release of the Steven Spielberg-produced TV miniseries Broken Silence, although we have no details yet on that. Here's a look at the cover art and the gift set.

Schindler's ListSchindler's List Gift Set

Back with a review and interview later this afternoon. Stay tuned...

12/17/03

Well... Matt and I are back from our 12+ hour Trilogy Tuesday experience, though it's probably going to take us a couple of days to recover fully. That's a long time to sit in a theater seat, but I'll you this... we'd do it again in a heartbeat. Simply put, this was the best time either of us have ever had in a movie theater. The experience of seeing the extended cuts of the first two films back to back on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience, followed by the conclusion, was truly amazing.

What I'm sure you all really want to know today, is what we think of The Return of the King. Frankly, I'm going to need to see it a few more times just to really get my brain around it fully. But I will tell you that there's a reason almost every review of this film has been through the roof - it is every bit that good. My own expectations were very high, and I'm pleased to say that not only were they met, they were blown away.

Nothing can really fully prepare you for what you're about to see when you go into this film - not even the previous films in the series. If you thought the battles in Two Towers were epic, you've seen nothing yet. The scope of what you're going to experience, the emotional heft to the character arcs and the attention to even the tiniest onscreen detail is simply astonishing. Of special note is Sean Astin, who steps to the fore in this film as the stalwart Samwise in a performance that should earn him serious award consideration. This is definitely the best film of the trilogy, and there's simply no question whatsoever that The Return of the King is the best film of the year. There isn't even any room for argument, and I don't say that lightly. This film, and this trilogy, is a monumental achievement of the cinema, not just for 2003 but for all time. Failure to recognize it as such would be beyond shameful. If The Return of the King doesn't win the Best Picture Oscar, the Motion Picture Academy will make a mockery of itself. Peter Jackson has earned himself a place in the ranks of the best directors ever to work in the medium.

I'm sure there will still be a few critics, who will list all the usual complaints: the film is too long... it doesn't stand on its own... I can't believe they cut this or that scene from the books... there's too many endings. Anyone who says this film is too long needs to just move along. Go watch Dances with Samurai or something and leave this film to the big kids. Despite the fantasy subject matter, this isn't a film you watch casually - the Rings movies demand commitment and attention. They are, of course, not meant to stand on their own individually. Those who would complain about scenes that were cut need to give Jackson a little more credit. He's earned a little leeway at this point. Trust that he isn't going to disappoint you with this film, and know that much will be added back in for the extended DVD next year anyway. And if there are a few more endings that a normal film might have... well, I think the characters, the fans and certainly the director have earned each and every one of them. Just as Fellowship by necessity took a while to start this trilogy, King needs to take a little extra time to wind it all down.

There's a line that Theoden, the King of Rohan, says to Aragorn in The Two Towers: "If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance." Without question, Peter Jackson and his filmmaking fellowship have crafted a worthy finale to their The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's absolutely not to be missed.

We're very pleased today to be able to bring you a review, from our own Adam Jahnke, of MGM's new 2-disc Escape from New York: Special Edition - a disc we think you'll find largely worthy of the long wait. Adam also interviewed the disc's producer, and we'll bring that to you tomorrow morning.

Stay tuned...


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