News and Commentary: October 1998

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Monday, 26 October 1998

Return from the Dead: Just a quick note for my readers. I'd like to apologize for my absence from updating this page, but the recent production cycle on my print magazine took a toll, and while I have been watching new DVDs regularly, there's been some HTML burnout on my end. This week I have included four new quick reviews, Star Trek: First Contact, The Game, The Devil's Advocate, and Lost in Space. Thumbs up for the first one, but assay the other three at your own peril. I will try to do more quick reviews next week, including All The President's Men and The Right Stuff, both of which I really like. I will also try to expand some movies I like into more long reviews.

In the Works: Among new discs that are out or on the way, we can look forward to A Bridge Too Far, Last Tango in Paris, and Casablanca: Special Edition. I'm looking forward to watching all three of these.

I am happy to report that Paramount, who recently announced support for DVD, have jumped in with both feet and are producing quality discs of popular titles, including ST: First Contact, Face/Off, and Top Gun. Fox, however, is still lukewarm on Open DVD, releasing only a few titles of less-popular films. But DreamWorks/SKG, a holdout until the bitter end, has also entered the market in recent weeks, announcing discs for Mouse Hunt and Small Soldiers. Not titles to get excited about per se, but the winds indicate that Spielberg is warming up to digital video, and that we can expect to see some early Spielberg films in 1999, including Duel and perhaps Jaws. Other Spielberg films are bound to follow. I'm no Spielberg fanatic, but his commitment to DVD is important for the format.

Polygram has announced a release date for Blue Velvet in February of 1999! Since David Lynch has apparently been replaced by an incoherent, evil double (who made an incoherent film about evil doubles in Lost Highway), we can all rejoice that the super-creep-out movie of the 80s is getting the digital treatment. There is also word that Warner has finally cleared the obstacles that impeded a release of The Shawshank Redemption, and we can expect a disc in March of '99.

Two films among many I'm still waiting for: Witness and Glengary Glen Ross. I'll keep you all updated.

The Best Christmas Ever: Prices on DVD players are still dropping, and budget models can be had for $325 or less if they are on sale or out of program (discontinued). Fourth-quarter retail sales are expected to explode as prices remain low and the holiday shopping season approaches. However, the prices of discs ($20 - $30) are still a barrier to the average punter, and it is hoped that the growing rental market will help consumers accept DVD. Hell, I bought DVD for two reasons: L.A. Confidential had a street price of twenty bucks on disc (you still can't buy it on VHS yet), and I could rent at my local shop for $3. Availability of open DVD rental will cause more people to buy players.

That said, we are still looking at a niche format, and I don't expect DVD to replace tape for a long, long time. Many things have to happen before VHS fades away, and we are far from that. Current projections estimate that DVD may be in 10% of American households by the year 2002. That's a niche market folks, even years from now. It's a better laserdisc, that's all. But damn, it's good for us movie collectors.

My VHS tip for this month is Shallow Grave. Apparently a disc is in the works on this one as well, which is a good thing. Talk to you soon.

-- Ed.

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