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"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"

Today I'm going to hit some bits and pieces that I haven't had time to cover so expect some random stuff...

First some upcoming DVDs:

Warner has officially announced the release of the Ben Hur: 4-Disc Collector's Edition (1959) for 9/13. The film has been carefully remastered from the original 65mm film elements. You'll find that on Disc One and Two of the set, in anamorphic widescreen video (2.76:1 aspect ratio) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. These first two discs will also include audio commentary by film historian T. Gene Hatcher (with scene specific comments from actor Charlton Heston), a music-only track showcasing Miklos Rozsa's score, screen test footage, a vintage newsreels gallery, film highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards ceremony and a theatrical trailer gallery. Disc Three will include the 1925 Silent Version of Ben-Hur, presented in the Thames Television Restoration, complete with stereophonic orchestral score by composer Carl Davis. Finally, Disc Four will include a new documentary Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema (featuring interviews with current filmmakers like Ridley Scott and George Lucas reflecting on the importance and influence of the film), the 1994 documentary Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic hosted by Christopher Plummer, the 1986 Directed by William Wyler documentary (featuring the last interview with Wyler before his death) and Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures ( a new audiovisual recreation of the film via stills, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue). All told, the 4-disc set includes more than 10 hours of bonus material. Of course this film has been out on DVD for a few years, but this new one should be an improvement as the current one is a double-sided disc (dual side/dual layer), is supposedly framed incorrectly, and has a so-so audio mix. The Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic docu that's on the new set is on the current DVD (and is a good docu actually). So, if the 4 disc Gone With the Wind DVD is any indication, this should be really good (and having the 1925 version is a nice extra).

Universal has announced The Office: Season One for 8/16.

Kung Fu Hustle will be out on 8/9

Paramount has the Airplane: Don't Call Me Shirley Special Collector's Edition coming on 11/15.

The much-overrated Gladiator will be reissued on 8/23 as an "Extended Edition." Apparently Russell Crowe has recorded a commentary track...where he throws a phone at the microphone!

Disney is going to reissue Chicago as a 3 disc SE. It will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio, audio commentary with the director and screenwriter, extended musical performances, song rehearsal footage, a behind-the-scenes featurette, the deleted musical number Class performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah, a VH1: Behind the Movie episode, 5 new featurettes (including Chita Rivera's Encore, From Stage to Screen: The History of Chicago, An Intimate Look at Director Rob Marshall, Academy Award-winning Production Designer John Myre and Academy Award-winning Costume Designer Colleen Atwood)

I just read an interesting article from the NY Times about how theatrical movie ticket sales are in decline. The reasons stated are the usual: crappy movies, the Internet, video games, Tivo, and of course, DVD. While the theatrical moviegoing experience isn't always great, (annoying people, rather than techincal problems are my peeves) I would miss it if it went away. I have an OK home theater system, but it really isn't the same as seeing a film on a huge screen. Sure, a lot of stuff is served just fine by a good DVD but there are still movies that really benefit from the theatrical showing. I'm sure this will even out at some point; probably involving fewer theaters. Let's hope that the ones that survive are decent.

Robert Harris has a short new column where he gripes, with reason I think, about the quality of extras on many DVDs. Worth a read, find it here.

sonyspspwithmovie.jpg

The Digital Bits site has a short piece on the movie discs available for the new Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). The piece can be found here. These movies, on what's called a Universal Media Disc (UMD), allow you to watch full length movies on their PSPs. Apparently the movies look OK, if not quite DVD quality and have stereo sound. Now I don't doubt that the PSP is a cool little device and is probably very fun for games, but I just have to wonder: is there much value in watching movies on a 4.3 inch screen? I have a PDA with a color screen and I don't really like web surfing on it, never mind watching a movie. Maybe if you had some cool video goggles that simulated a giant video screen, this would be more attractive, but for now it doesn't seem like more than a novelty (the movie part that is). And Bill Gates thinks we're all going to be watching movies/TV on our cell phones? Uh, yeah...