News and Commentary: December 1998

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Thursday -- Friday
31 December 1998 -- 1 January 1999
Weekend Dispatch

It's 1999! We've gone back to the booze for another long holiday weekend. We want to thank all of our readers for making our inagural year here at The DVD Journal a very successful one. We are adding some new features to our site starting on Monday, including our Divx information page, our DVD Lexicon, and our DVD MIA page, which will list "Missing in Action" films that have yet to be put on DVD. We also have some new graphics for '99, and a little bit of JavaScript. And of course, we will continue our Daily News and Commentary, Quick Reviews, Full Reviews, The Editor's Top Ten, and Choice Web Links sections as well. The entire staff would like to thank you, our readers, for your questions, comments, and suggestions. We believe that 1999 will be a very exciting year for DVD, so feel free to visit us for the latest buzz.

We hope you will enjoy your weekend with food, drinks, friends, music, and maybe a movie or two on DVD. We'll see you next year.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 30 December 1998

boxcoverKnifed! Did I miss this little bit of news? A reader has alerted us that Universal's VHS version Hitchcock's 1960 Psycho has been placed on moratorium, supposedly to make way for the video release of Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake. The staff has not been able to find any further information on this, nor could we find any press releases from Universal on the matter, but a quick check of major video retailers on the Web indicates that, indeed, the recently released widescreen VHS of Psycho Collector's Edition appears to be unavailable. For whatever reason, placing a classic like Psycho on moratorium is, well -- insane.

Will the DVD be next? Maybe not, but when it comes to the home-video divisions of major Hollywood studios, I refuse to predict anything anymore. I'm just glad we got our copy a while ago. If you know anything about this that we don't, we'd like to hear about it.

Titanic pirated: Bill Hunt over at The Digital Bits has posted a comprehensive look at a pirated DVD of Titanic. The efforts that the pirates undertook to create legitimate-looking packaging belie one small fact -- according to Bill, the transfer on this disc is complete crap. Of course, when some legitimate discs are still being put out by major Hollywood studios with questionable transfers, I have no idea why pirates think they can do any better, nor why anybody would pay $20 for a disc that looks worse than a widescreen VHS.

By the way, Bill isn't buying pirated DVDs or anything, and he has turned this particular bootleg over to the MPAA for further investigation.

More Oscar Buzz: Variety has a new story on the ticking Oscar clock. The skinny? If it hasn't played in L.A. this week, it won't be on the ballots.

See ya tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 29 December 1998

Zoinks! Musicland Stores Corp. (they own and operate Sam Goody/Musicland, Suncoast Motion Picture Company, Media Play and On Cue) has announced that they sold $5 million worth of DVDs -- last week! I didn't buy anything there, but it looks like some of you did.

On the Street: We have lots of lists today, so here goes. First, the final street discs of 1998, courtesy of Laserviews:

  • The Allman Brothers: Brothers Of The Road
  • Altered States
  • The Avengers: The Movie
  • BASEketball
  • Bugsy
  • The Gospel According To Al Green
  • Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu / Spiritual Kung Fu
  • John Denver: The Wildlife Concert
  • To Kill With Intrigue / New Fist Of Fury
  • October (the silent film from Eisenstein, that is)
  • Three Musketeers / The Corsican Brothers
  • Twilight Zone #1
  • Twilight Zone #2
  • Twilight Zone #3

Kinda thin, huh? That's fine with us. We don't have to watch so many new releases this week, and instead get to watch some discs that we've been meaning to see.

The Good: has announced their best DVDs of 1998, sorted by 17 genres. They selected several discs for each category, so we're only going to list their top picks:

Not bad picks for the most part, but The Negotiator scored higher in the Suspense category with the folks at than either The Silence of the Lambs or The Manchurian Candidate (although both did place). We will respectfully disagree with our sponsors on this point.

By the way, all of's top picks are on sale. Sshhhh!

The Bad: I was watching Bill O'Reilly on Fox News last night as he had Fox News Entertainment Reporter Dana Kennedy drop by to list some of her worst theatrical movies of 1998, "in no particular order," as she said:

  • Celebrity
  • Meet Joe Black
  • Godzilla
  • The Avengers
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Krippendorf's Tribe

O'Reilly said the only two movies he liked for all of 1998 were Saving Private Ryan and Waking Ned Devine. Kennedy picked Shakespeare in Love as her best movie of the year. I'll have to get around to seeing that one I guess.

The Ugly: We are essentially a Netscape-oriented site, but some of our readers who use Microsoft's Internet Explorer were kind enough to point out that we were using some HTML code that IE doesn't recognize. We made our crack programming department put down their lattes and their comic books and get on the job, and we hope that things look better now for our IE readers. Our apologies, and thanks for reading anyway.

We'll see you all tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Monday, 28 December 1998

We're Back: We hope that the long holiday weekend was a good one for you. If you just got a new DVD player, welcome to what we think is one of the best DVD sites on the Internet. We took advantage of the weekend and watched some movies we've been meaning to see. New quick reviews are on the board for Deep Impact, Speed, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Rock, The 39 Steps, Bullitt, and The Eiger Sanction. Check 'em out on the Quick Reviews Index.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: Do you wonder about inexpensive DVDs from "budget" home video companies? We've seen a few in our time that were so bad we haven't even posted quick reviews of them. But we did get our hands on a copy of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps from LaserLight over the weekend, and we are sufficiently impressed. VHS editions of this Hitch classic have been so poor over the years that we have worried the film might be lost forever, but LaserLight found a print that, while damaged, is very watchable. Even better, many of the sound issues that have plagued this movie over the years have been eliminated, and the dialogue is crisp and easy to hear as a result. Tony Curtis shows up to give a brief introduction, and the indexing is nice, with 22 chapters. And all for the price of a CD. We'll be looking at the budget DVDs a little more closely from now on.

Box Office: Here's the Christmas weekend box office, courtesy of Yahoo!:

  • 1. Patch Adams
  • 2. Stepmom
  • 3. You've Got Mail
  • 4. Prince of Egypt
  • 5. The Faculty
  • 6. Mighty Joe Young
  • 7. A Bug's Life
  • 8. Star Trek: Insurrection
  • 9. Enemy of the State
  • 10. Jack Frost

May the Force Be Against You: A reader gave us a heads-up on this amusing Star Wars commentary at Philly Weekly. And don't get pissed at us -- we just report the news.

We'll see you tomorrow with an update on the last street discs of 1998.

-- Ed.

Thursday-Friday, 24-25 December 1998
Weekend Dispatch

Happy Christmas! We may all be face down in a punch-bowl full of spiked Kool-Aid, but the entire staff of The DVD Journal would like to wish our readers a pleasant Christmas, and we hope that your holiday gifts are DVDs, DVD players, widescreen TVs, Dolby 5.1 amplifiers, and/or fat-ass speakers. Happy holidays, and we will see you all soon.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 23 December 1998

You Could Be a Lucky Bastard: Steve Tannehill over at The DVD Resource Page is now accepting entries for his "Instant DVD Collection" contest, and the winner will walk away with enough free DVD movies to create an impressive domino tumble. We are betting that Steve will be overwhelmed with e-mailed submissions, but you might want to enter anyway.

Our site isn't nearly as popular or successful as The DVD Resource Page (which we read faithfully), but we are planning our first contest for sometime in 1999, where one lucky DVD Journal reader will get to return all of our empty cases of beer and keep the nickel deposit for each bottle! Yowza! We know you're all excited, so keep your browser pointed here for further details!

-- urp --

Not Just a Fad: The DVD Video Group has released a statement announcing a blowout in DVDs and DVD players, with sales up 22% for the holiday season. Maybe some of you will get lucky on Christmas morning. I'm planning on getting the traditional Amaray case full of coal from my ungrateful staff. Bah!

Top of the Pops: Here's the top-ten selling DVDs for the week of Dec. 13-19, courtesy of

  • Gone with the Wind
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Lethal Weapon 4
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • Deep Impact
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • City of Angels
  • Star Trek Generations
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Devil's Advocate

A few older titles seem to have cropped up amidst the new releases last week. Smells like Christmas spirit to me.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 22 December 1998

On the Street: Another street Tuesday has arrived, so if you're willing to battle the last-minute shoppers, you will find the following DVDs in the shops this morning. If you'd rather avoid the hassle, you can get 'em at

  • About Last Night
  • Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss: Special Edition
  • Blade: Special Edition
  • Bottle Rocket
  • Bright Shining Lie
  • The Graduate: Special Edition
  • The Last Don
  • Malice
  • Misery
  • Mister Roberts
  • Needful Things
  • Panther
  • The Rat Pack
  • Roxanne
  • Shallow Grave (cool!)
  • Wrongfully Accused: Special Edition

In the Works: Here's a bunch of new DVD announcements from over the weekend, courtesy of Laserviews:

  • Warner Brothers has announced a special edition of Practical Magic (Feb. 13 ), starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, which will feature audio commentary, featurettes, and no less than 11 trailers and 3 TV spots. A special edition of Soldier (March 23) starring Kurt Russell is also on the way, and will feature audio commentary and a "making-of" documentary.
  • Warners has also announced discs for Without Limits (Feb. 16), the Steve Prefontaine film starring Billy Crudup and Donald Sutherland, and Cameron Crowe's Singles (Feb. 23) with Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon.

  • Discs in the works from Columbia TriStar include Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming For Dinner (Feb. 2), The Alarmist (Feb. 2), One False Day (Feb. 2), John Carpenter's Vampires (Feb. 9), The Fisher King (Feb. 16), and The Governess (Feb. 16).

  • MGM is preparing three Frankenheimer films for early next year: The Holcroft Covenant: Special Edition, Ronin: Special Edition, and The Train: Special Edition. The trio are due on Feb. 23, and all will feature commentary tracks with Frankenheimer. Cool stuff.
  • MGM has also announced Sam Peckinpah'sThe Killer Elite with James Caan and Robert Duvall, and The Thomas Crown Affair: Special Edition, starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, which will feature a commentary with director Norman Jewison. Look for these on Feb. 23 as well.

  • Universal has announced dates for Child's Play 2: Chucky's Back (March 3), Bride Of Chucky (March 23), the Steve Martin fave Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (March 16), the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (March 16), One True Thing (March 16) with Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger and William Hurt, Wes Craven's Shocker (March 16), Winning (March 16), starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and Mercury Rising: Special Edition (March 23) with Bruce "what you talkin 'bout" Willis.
  • New DTS DVDs from Universal include 12 Monkeys, Apollo 13, The Flintstones, and Eddie Murphy'sThe Nutty Professor. All are due on March 16.

  • New Line will make Jackie Chan fans happy with a new disc of Jackie Chan's First Strike (March 2). They are also planning to release Friday (March 2), starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, and Pecker (Feb. 23), which will feature a commentary with director John Waters.

  • Tai Seng has announced two new import titles of Jackie Chan movies, Mr. Canton & Lady Rose and Project A 2. Both are due on Feb. 23.
  • More Jackie, this time from Simitar, who will release two double-feature sets: Half a Loaf of Kung Fu / Spiritual Kung Fu, and To Kill with Intrigue / New Fist of Fury. Look for these on Dec. 29.
  • Simitar is doubtless proud to present the landmark of world cinema Abraxas: Guardian Of The Universe, starring hizzoner, the Gov. Jesse Ventura, also on Dec. 29.
  • Sterling is planning a release of Jean-Claude Van Damme's Legionnaire: Special Edition (Feb. 9), which will feature an audio commentary, interviews with the cast & crew, and DVD-ROM content.

  • Street date changes include Great Expectations (Jan. 5), Oliver Twist (Jan. 5), The Seventh Seal: Special Edition (Jan. 26), A Fish Called Wanda (March 2), and The Grand Illusion: Special Edition (Sept. 9).

Divx Watch: Two of our favorite DVD sites, The Digital Bits and The DVD File, have been tracking a couple of websites that claim to be both Pro-Divx and not corporate shills for Circuit City. However, both are based out of Richmond, Va., the home of CC and Divx, so everybody smells a rat -- a desperate rat, apparently. We have added these potentially bogus pro-Divx sites to our links page, and listed them accordingly.

We'll be back tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Monday, 21 December 1998

An Apology from the Editor of The DVD Journal: Over the weekend the staff had a shouting match about what movies we should watch. Many obscenities were exchanged, and there were a few scuffles as well. As for myself, I denied throwing a glass of whiskey at a female staff member, but she didn't have her dress cleaned, and everybody agreed the next day that it smelled like 12-year-old single-malt Glenmorangie. I can only say that I was not forthcoming, I regret that I misled members of my staff, and I have accepted full responsibility for my actions.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: After all of this, in the spirit of bipartisanship, the staff cried and hugged and unanimously chose All The President's Men as our disc of the week. Both Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford are excellent in this film about Richard Nixon's fall from power. It would be nice if the disc had more extras, but it appears that Warner Brothers, while accepting that this is a good film, doesn't feel that it rises to the level of a Special Edition.

On the Board: New quick reviews have been posted for Lethal Weapon 4, The Negotiator, Patriot Games, Star Trek: Generations, Private Parts, and Top Gun. Some of these were good, and some weren't so good, but we don't want to waste people's time talking about which studios are producing better DVDs than other studios. Let's put these divisive issues aside and move on to the business of watching movies on DVD.

-- Ed.

Friday, 18 December 1998
Weekend Dispatch

1998 Box Office, Part II: As if my little rant the other day about how 1998 has been a poor year for movies wasn't enough, Reuters has posted a story on how most of this year's film crop largely consisted of remakes, most weren't very good, and the box office has gone into the tank as a result. So I guess it isn't just me who has been disappointed.

Also, the Golden Globe nominees have been announced, and my Oscar guesses seem to be validated by the front-runners of this Academy Award preview: Saving Private Ryan will likely clean up at both award ceremonies, with The Truman Show as the only film with enough traction to keep a distant second. Surprisingly, the Globes overlooked Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line, the one film that I thought could get some attention before New Year's Day. Beloved and Pleasantville were also given short-shrift (both seemed to get mixed reviews from the critics as well).

Will there even be a reason to watch the Oscars in March?

Sitting around: We're just hanging out here today watching some new DVDs. Look for new reviews next Monday of Lethal Weapon 4, Star Trek: Generations, The Negotiator, Top Gun, Patriot Games, Private Parts, and whatever else we get around to watching.

Hmmm... I smell another national holiday or something around the corner. I think I'm supposed to go shopping now. Have a good weekend.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 17 December 1998

In the Works: Here's some new discs on the way in the coming months, courtesy of Laserviews :

  • Disney has announced Il Postino: Special Edition, which will feature a commentary with director Michael Radford and other extras. Hey, a special edition from Disney! No kidding!
  • Disney has several others discs in production as well, including Halloween: H20 with Jamie Lee Curtis. The Tom Hanks breakthrough Splash, co-starring Daryl Hannah, Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, Adam Sandler's The Waterboy, and the recently-remade The Parent Trap are also on the way. Look for all of these on March 16.
  • Paramount is preparing Another 48 Hours, Black Rain, Jade, and Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes. All of these are due on Feb. 16.
  • Columbia TriStar has announced a disc for Jackie Chan's Who Am I on Feb. 2.
  • Look for a release from Rhino on Jan. 5 of Plump Fiction: Special Edition, a spoof of -- well, I'm sure you can guess. The disc will feature writer/director commentary and cast interviews.
  • Madacy is planning a five-disc set of Chaplin shorts on Feb. 2.

Too Much is Never Enough: Americans can't seem to get enough electronic toys, which isn't a bad thing if you ask me. Electronics retailer Best Buy, a strong open DVD supporter from the early days (and not Divx-friendly either), have announced record earnings for their third quarter. Total earnings for Best Buy are up 106%. CEO Richard Schulze says that DVD sales have contributed to their overall growth.

See you tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 16 December 1998

And The Winner Is: Now don't get to thinking that I'm some sort of Academy Award nut or anything, because I pretty much consider the whole thing to be a four-hour television commercial for mainstream Hollywood studios, but just the same, what's the buzz this year? It seems like 1997 was such a great year for movies. Even though the movie with the big boat won Best Picture, we still had some really great films last year, such as Contact, Gattaca, Boogie Nights, Austin Powers, and of course, the magnificent L.A. Confidential. So I'm trying to determine what the front-runners are this year, and I'm kind of drawing a blank. Well, there's Saving Private Ryan, obviously, and I would guess this will sweep a lot of awards because it's a good movie, but also because there just isn't much competition. The Truman Show? It generated a lot of buzz, and wasn't a bad movie, but it didn't seem like an Oscar contender when I saw it way back in January. Pleasantville? I've heard good things about it, but I haven't seen it yet. It's doubtful it will do anything if put up against Saving Private Ryan. I've also heard a lot of good buzz about Elizabeth, but since this is a foreign film, I don't know if it will be eligible for domestic categories, and anyway, foreign films don't do very well with the Academy.

Have I been spending all year watching DVDs and not seen the better films of this year? Or am I correct in assuming that Saving Private Ryan will win everything simply because it's the only obvious "The Academy can't ignore this" sort of movie? In any case, 1998 will not go down in my mind as one of the better years for cinema. If you want, you can e-mail me and tell me what you think.

Top of the Pops: has announced their top-ten-selling DVDs for the week of December 6 through 12:

  • South Park on DVD
  • Gone with the Wind
  • The Mask of Zorro
  • Casablanca
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Dances with Wolves
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Top Gun
  • Starship Troopers
  • The Hunt for Red October

We'll be back here tomorrow with more stuff.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 15 December 1998

On the Street: There's plenty of new DVDs for sale this morning in the shops (and at too). Here's what you can expect to find:

  • Blood For Dracula: The Criterion Collection
  • Body Double
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Cats
  • Deep Impact
  • Earth Girls Are Easy: Special Edition
  • The Eiger Sanction
  • Escape From L.A.
  • Event Horizon
  • Flesh For Frankenstein: The Criterion Collection
  • Fried Green Tomatoes: Collector's Editor
  • Hard Rain
  • Heart Of Dragon
  • Jackie Chan: 5 Hard Hitting Movies
  • Jungle Fever
  • Junior
  • Lethal Weapon 4: Special Edition
  • Lethal Weapon Gift Set
  • The Lonely Guy
  • Madeline
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery
  • The Negotiator: Special Edition
  • Patriot Games
  • The Pillow Book
  • Private Parts
  • Trash
  • Village Of The Damned
  • Wheels On Meals
  • Young Master

With all of the major studios and so many DVD producers in the market now, these lists seem to be getting longer and longer each week. And no, we won't watch all of these right away, but we're gonna watch as many as we can. New reviews will be up next Monday.

In the Works: A short update was posted yesterday over at Laserviews. Here's the highlights:

  • Trimark is planning new discs for All Of Me, starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin, The Best Of Times, with Robin Williams and Kurt Russell, and The Big Easy, starring Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, and John Goodman. Look for these on Feb. 2.
  • HBO has announced a disc for Bright Shining Lie, starring Bill Paxton and Amy Madigan on Dec. 22
  • Laserviews was listing Scream: Collector's Edition as the "unrated director's cut" DVD, but since the disc's recent release, they now note that it is not a new cut of the film, and is in fact the original R-rated edition shown in theaters.
  • Delayed discs include Bottle Rocket to Dec. 22, Mother to Jan. 19, 48 Hours to Jan. 26, Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country to Jan. 26, The Truman Show to Jan. 26, A Fish Called Wanda to Feb. 16, Kingpin to Feb. 16, The Music Man: Special Edition to Feb. 23, Rush Hour to March 2, and Doctor Zhivago all the way back to Sept. 28. Let's hope this means they will all be better discs because of the delays.

All DVD, Only DVD: Our good friends over at have announced that they are launching a new DVD-only section on their website, where customers can search and browse in a DVD-only environment, and not have to deal with those awful VHS tapes. We've had an early peek, and it looks good to us. What's extra-cool is that they have a special section dedicated to Criterion discs, and regular readers of The DVD Journal know how much we like the folks over at Criterion.

And if that isn't enough, is also having a contest. Everybody who buys a DVD before Jan. 31 will be automatically entered, or you can send your contest entry by mail. The grand prize will be a Cambridge SoundWorks Ensemble IV surround sound system, a Sony STR DE325 receiver, and a Sony DVP-S300 DVD player. We love the Sony S300, and it's part of our own review equipment here, so that's a pretty good deal for the lucky slob who gets it. Ten first place winners will get five DVD movies of their choice. All winners will be announced on March 1, 1999. Click on any of the banners you see on this website to check out the cool stuff.

-- Ed.

Monday, 14 December 1998

Divx Watch: I know us open DVD advocates are not supposed to visit Circuit City, but truth be told, I do drop in to my local shop from time to time just to see what the buzz is on Divx. Only a few months ago (before the Divx launch) I recall all of the open DVD discs were placed behind a customer service counter, where customers could not browse through them. If you wanted to see a disc, a customer service rep would hand you a print-out listing all available titles, and after looking at it you could ask for one. I suspected that it was because they didn't want potential DVD consumers to be seduced by the pure sexiness of open DVD, and that they were trying to lower the open DVD profile until the Divx launch. However, being a little irked by this, I asked one sales rep why I couldn't browse through the discs, and was told they did this because they didn't want people to steal them.

Not that questionable information from Circuit City sales reps is anything new. They still don't seem to sell any Sony DVD players, which I suspect is because Sony has refused to manufacture Divx decks. However, when I asked a CC rep many months ago why I couldn't buy a Sony DVD player, he told me Circuit City wasn't selling them because they were inferior to other DVD players, such as those from RCA. Now, I'm not knocking RCA/Thompson players, but let's check back in on Planet Earth, because everybody knows that Sony makes great DVD players. And yet, this is a true story.

So, on my latest trip to Circuit City, I was taken aback to find open DVD discs for sale, on the floor next to Divx discs, and at reasonable street prices. You could actually browse through them without permission from the staff, and I gather they would even let you buy them without too much hassle. What's up with that? I say Divx is on the way down, and changing the sales terminology from "Divx player" to "DVD player with Divx enhancement" indicates that the top brass understand they can only survive by engaging in a Faustian death-grip with their mortal enemy -- open DVD, the direct competitor to Divx silver and gold discs.

We'll see how much longer the Divx concept lasts, but I feel the war will soon be over.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: This week's choice disc has to be Primary Colors, and no, I will not be lured into a political discussion on the merits or lack thereof of the Clinton impeachment. But Primary Colors is an entertaining, somewhat disturbing take on Bill Clinton's first campaign for president in 1992. In light of current events in Washington, the film is an excellent conversation piece that neither extols Clinton nor condemns him. He may be impulsive, and he may be flawed, but John Travolta's performance as "Gov. Jack Stanton" makes Bill Clinton out to be one fascinating sonofabitch. If you haven't seen it yet, this week's as good as any.

On the Board: New quick reviews have been posted for The Peacemaker, The Man in the Iron Mask, Small Soldiers, Annie Hall, and The Wild Bunch: The Director's Cut.

We'll be back tomorrow with this week's street discs.

-- Ed.

Friday, 11 December 1998
Weekend Dispatch

In the Works: For the second day in a row, Laserviews has posted information for new discs:

  • Criterion has announced a DVD of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, due on Feb. 16. It will include commentary with Gilliam, John Cleese, and Michael Palin, a trailer, and other supplements. Criterion is also planning discs for Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. Both will feature rare interview footage with the director.
  • Image is preparing a couple of old, old classics, including D.W. Griffith's silent 1924 America, which will feature a stereo score for the music. The 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney, is also on the way. Look for these on March 9.
  • Image also has a slew of music DVDs in the works, including Fresh Live Creem (Feb. 23), a documentary on the '60s pop supergroup, and The Eagles' live concert Hell Freezes Over (Dec. 31). The Eagles disc will be released in DTS and PCM stereo versions (no Dolby Digital was announced). Yes: Live in Philadelphia is due on Feb. 16. Also look for Blues Masters, a rare 1966 Canadian television broadcast featuring such blues giants as Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and James Cotton, due on Feb. 23.

Coming Attractions: The staff is still sorting through some new DVDs, and some old ones we haven't gotten around to yet for that matter. Look for new reviews on Monday, including Small Soldiers, Annie Hall, and The Wild Bunch.

Have fun this weekend, and don't let the holidays burn you out.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 10 December 1998

Divx Watch: The Fox News Channel (y'know, "We Report, You Decide") aired a three-minute segment last night on the DVD/Divx war, and being only three minutes, it wasn't very informative. Amongst other things, it featured a Divx representative declaring that "Divx was designed to take DVD to the next level." What level would that be? Pan-and-scan movies with video-encryption noise, built-in-late fees, and no extras? While the report tried to be fair (they did note all of the Divx "features" correctly, including that a Divx player has to be plugged into a phone line), it just didn't go far enough into the drawbacks that Divx poses for consumers. Nor did they mention that Divx sales are not nearly as strong as open DVD players.

On the positive side, Fox News did point out the vociferous anti-Divx sentiment on the Internet, and featured brief screen shots of some anti-Divx pages, including Steve Tannehill's over at The DVD Resource Page. The web has always been the front line of this format war, and it was good that anti-Divx webmasters were noted in the report.

In the Works: Laserviews is reporting some new discs on the way:

  • Look for DTS discs from Universal in January and February, including Dante's Peak, Daylight, Little Rascals, The River Wild, and Waterworld. However, other new DTS discs -- Babe, Liar, Liar, and The Shadow -- will still only be available in pan-and-scan, so I labor to determine what the point of it all is.
  • Artisan has announced a "Director's Cut" disc of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor on Feb. 23. They will also street discs of Permanent Midnight: Special Edition and Bad Boys (the one with Sean Penn, not Will Smith and Martin Lawrence) on the same date.
  • HBO has announced a disc of My Left Foot, featuring Daniel Day-Lewis, on March 9.
  • Look for a disc of Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog from Fox Lorber on Jan 26.
  • Both Guncrazy and Girl School Screamers have been delayed, and are due to street next Tuesday (for those of you who have been waiting patiently for these classics of world cinema).

Euro-DVD: Businesswire has posted a report from Screen Digest stating that 125,000 DVD players will be sold in Europe by the end of this year. Which EC nation has the biggest DVD appetite? France, followed by Germany and then the UK. A total of 485,000 DVD players are expected to be in European homes by the end of 1999. We hope that these numbers will prompt the studios and other DVD producers to release more hard-to-find Euro-classics in Europe, North America, and worldwide. My favorite non-U.S. film -- Jean Renior's sublime The Rules of the Game -- cries out for a gorgeous DVD remaster.

That's it for now.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 9 December 1998

Whole Lotta Nothin': We've been busy watching movies, so today's update will be short. Nothing happened in DVD land today, so we'll check again tomorrow and let you know what's up.

Top of the Pops: has announced their top-ten-selling discs for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5:

  • 1. The Mask of Zorro
  • 2. South Park on DVD
  • 3. The Hunt for Red October
  • 4. Casablanca
  • 5. Gone with the Wind
  • 6. The Exorcist
  • 7. Tomorrow Never Dies: Limited Edition
  • 8. The Silence of the Lambs: The Criterion Collection
  • 9. It's a Wonderful Life
  • 10. Predator

We have comments on The Mask of Zorro, The Hunt for Red October, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and The Silence of the Lambs in our Quick Reviews section, so check 'em out if you're interested. Also, I have no idea how Criterion's disc of The Silence of the Lambs got up to number eight this week, seeing as it has been available for months, but it is a good disc just the same.

See ya tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 8 December 1998

On the Street: It's a very busy Street Tuesday today. New discs on sale this morning, all available at, include:

  • Earthlight: Special Edition
  • Classic Albums: Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
  • Girl School Screamers: Special Edition
  • Good Will Hunting: Special Edition
  • Guncrazy
  • The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
  • Lawn Dogs
  • Metallica: Cunning Stunts
  • Monkees: Favorite Episodes
  • Mouse Hunt
  • Mr. Saturday Night
  • My Fair Lady
  • The Peacemaker
  • Scream: Special Edition
  • Six Days, Seven Nights
  • Small Soldiers: Special Edition

Release weeks like this give us a headache, because there's no way we can watch all of these before next Monday's review update. But dammit, we're gonna try anyway.

boxcoverDisc of the Week: We still watch discs that have been out for some time, but are new to us. This weekend we had a chance to look at MGM's Annie Hall. I hadn't seen this movie for at least a couple of years, even though I frequently watched it on VHS many years ago. Anyway, what a treat this was. The 1:85 widescreen transfer was enjoyable to watch (it was the first time for me), I laughed at jokes that I already knew by heart, and when it was over I realized, once again, that this Woody Allen's best film (IMHO). Look for a new review next Monday.

Lawyer Jokes Anyone?: For those of you who have not caught on to this little brouhaha over at The DVD Resource Page, webmaster Steve Tannehill recently registered three "Star Wars DVD" domain names with Internic, the worldwide Internet registry, in the hopes of smoking out information on when any new Star Wars discs may be released. Well, now he's received a cease-and-desist letter from a law firm that represents Lucasfilm, but so far Mr. Tannehill's holding his ground. We admire his fortitude, but our best advice is simple: When lawyers get involved, watch your ass. We're behind you Steve, but please, don't got to jail. They probably won't let you keep your modem.

We'll be here tomorrow with news on top-selling DVDs. See ya.

-- Ed.

Monday, 7 December 1998

In the Works: Another update was posted by Laserviews over the weekend:

  • Universal has announced a "Collector's Edition" disc of Steven Spielberg's 1941 on Feb. 23. Along we the movie we can look forward to 28 minutes of restored footage, a "making-of" documentary with cast and crew interviews, trailers, outtakes, storyboards, promotional materials, and some home movies from Mr. Spielberg himself. So does this mean The Man is finally gung-ho on DVD? Maybe -- but then again, it's a special edition disc of 1941. We'll hit the Code Red button when a special edition of Jaws or Close Encounters is announced.
  • Another "Collector's Edition" from Universal on Feb. 23 will be The Flinstones, and will feature a "making-of" documentary with the cast and crew, trailers, and production materials. The f#*@ing Flinstones as a Collector's Edition? Is this some sort of masterwork of world cinema? Did Universal lose their copy of The Birds in the back of the vault?
  • Universal has also announced discs for Crooklyn, Drop Squad, Henry and June, The River, and How to Make an American Quilt, all due on Feb. 23.
  • Criterion comes to the rescue here, with two new discs of Henri-Georges Clouzot films: the original 1955 Diabolique and Wages of Fear. Look for them on Jan. 26.
  • New Line has announced a disc of the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker comedy Rush Hour, also for Jan. 26.
  • Fox has plans to release three new discs on March 9 with an emphasis on disaster: Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Towering Inferno, and Volcano. As a sublime act of mercy and compassion, they will also street a disc for The King and I on the same date.
  • Anchor Bay has announced discs for Duel in the Sun and Straw Dogs on Jan. 19.

Price Break: The weekend Laserviews update also featured the first price reductions yet seen by Fox, a studio that normally prices DVDs from $29.95 to as much as $34.95. They now are planning to sell four titles (State Fair, Carousel, Oklahoma, and South Pacific, all due on April 27) at $24.95, with a likely street price of around $20 at many retailers. Considering that Warner, MGM, New Line, and now Columbia-Tristar sell most of their discs with a $20 street price (and many of these have special features), we hope that Fox will continue this trend. We also hope they keep dipping into their back catalog as well.

On the Board: New quick reviews posted today include The Mask of Zorro, The Hunt for Red October, Breakdown, Wild Things, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

We'll be back tomorrow with this week's street discs.

-- Ed.

Friday, 4 December 1998
Weekend Dispatch

In the Works: A new update has been posted from Laserviews.

  • Of special note, Polygram is preparing a disc called Super Bowl XXXII: The Best One Ever, due out on Feb. 9, and football fans out there are bound to get very excited over this one. The disc will feature four audio tracks, with English or Spanish narration, or the play-by-play from either the Denver or Green Bay announcers. Multi-angle replays of some key plays will also be available, and the disc will be loaded with textual supplements. I'm not a big NFL fan (we don't have the NFL in Portland, and Seattle hasn't had a decent team forever), but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to checking this one out. I suspect, with the climbing sales of DVD players this year, sports fans will see more and more DVDs programmed in this way.
  • Polygram has also announced discs of two recent Vince Vaughn movies, Clay Pigeons and Return To Paradise, both due on April 27. Neil Labute's Your Friends and Neighbors will street from Polygram on May 25.
  • Disney has announced a disc for Rounders due out on Feb. 9.
  • Trimark will release Death Wish 5: The Face of Death on Jan. 26. There was a Death Wish 5? And why does everybody who Charles Bronson loves get murdered in the most unspeakable fashion?
  • Discs delayed from last week until this coming Tuesday include Earthlight: Special Edition and Girl School Screamers.
  • Unfortunately, The Lion in Winter has been postponed, and no new street date has been announced.

Say It Ain't So: We're not the only people who have been flummoxed over some less-than-spectacular DVD offerings from studios such as Paramount and Fox, but Bill Hunt over at The Digital Bits has a posted a thoughtful analysis of why this dragging-of-feet persists, even after these studios have announced their support of DVD. Read it.

Linda Blair World Tour: For those of you in the Bay Area who wished you could have been in L.A. this earlier this week to have Linda Blair sign your copy of the newly released The Exorcist: Special Edition, buck up, because she will be at Tower Records Video in San Francisco tonight (3205 20th Ave.) to do it all over again.

More on the Way: More DVD reviews will be posted this Monday, including The Mask of Zorro and The Hunt for Red October. And, as always, we are working on more full reviews of DVD movies, so look for those next week as well.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 3 December 1998

Big Boat:The web is buzzing over a news story in Video Business that features Jim "King of the World" Cameron talking about the long-anticipated Titanic DVD, which may include a director's cut. Too bad this is too little and way too late. Frankly, since Paramount did not release this disc day-and-date with the VHS edition, we predict that any release from here forward will make more of a ripple than a splash. That's too bad, because a Titanic DVD could have sold truckloads of players months ago. But then again, it's not like Paramount is in the electronics business.

Best of Show: The First Annual DVD Expression Awards have been announced. Best Overall went to Contact. Other discs were singled out for picture quality, audio quality, features, and menus.

Be sure to check out our ongoing DVD winners at The Editor's Top Ten. By the way, L.A. Confidential was nominated in four of the five DVD Expression categories, and won in the menu category. I think it deserves a category of its own -- one damn good film.

Top of the Pops: has announced their top ten selling DVDs for the week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28:

  • 1. The Mask of Zorro
  • 2. Godzilla
  • 3. Gone with the Wind
  • 4. Dances with Wolves
  • 5. Lethal Weapon 4
  • 6. Casablanca
  • 7. From the Earth to the Moon
  • 8. Tomorrow Never Dies (Limited Edition)
  • 9. The Horse Whisperer
  • 10. Good Will Hunting (Collector's Edition)

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 2 December 1998

Silence: Yesterday was a slow news day, so we took the time to watch some more movies. We still have not heard anything concrete about a new release date for The X-Files: Fight the Future, but when we do you'll read about it right here.

Shameless: We know we sound like a bunch of shills for, but it seems they have entered into an Internet price-war with another retailer and are now selling their top 100 DVDs up to 50% off. Really, we went and checked, and it's for real. So we apologize for yesterday's banner that said the Casablanca DVD was $17.99, because is now selling it for $12.99. Let's hope the trend catches on, because we like the idea of paying VHS prices for DVDs.

Box Office: Daily Variety has released figures for the top movies at the box office last weekend:

  • 1. A Bug's Life -- $33,258,052
  • 2. The Rugrats Movie -- $21,010,116
  • 3. Enemy of the State -- $18,114,221
  • 4. The Waterboy -- $13,601,032
  • 5. Babe: Pig in the City -- $6,162,640
  • 6. Meet Joe Black -- $5,786,830
  • 7. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer -- $4,461,455
  • 8. Home Fries -- $3,784,023
  • 9. Elizabeth -- $3,391,187
  • 10. Ringmaster -- $3,344,022
  • 11. Very Bad Things -- $3,245,853
  • 12. The Siege -- $2,498,458
  • 13. I'll Be Home for Christmas -- $1,678,703
  • 14. Pleasantville -- $1,204,095
  • 15. Celebrity $1,026,750
  • 16. American History X -- $989,684
  • 17. Antz -- $952,899
  • 18. Life is Beautiful -- $871,072
  • 19. There's Something About Mary -- $659,473
  • 20. Everest -- $643,079

See ya tomorrow.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 1 December 1998

On the Street: The Exorcist: Special Edition is due out today, and our readers in Los Angeles will doubtless flock to the Virgin Megastore (8000 Sunset Blvd.) tonight because Linda Blair will be there to meet fans and sign DVDs. We're crying in our soup because we can't make it.

Other street discs today include The Mask of Zorro, Earthlight: Special Edition, The Ghost in the Darkness, The Hunt for Red October (cool!), Sliding Doors, Switchback, Girl School Screamers (from Troma, natch), and The Devil's Advocate: Special Edition, this disc being the newly "re-mastered" one that removed all of the legal trouble they had the first time around (see November's previous news and commentary for more info on that).

Don't forget, if you'd like to get one of today's new discs you can save yourself a few bucks and a lot of hassle by clicking on one of the banners on our site.

In the Works: Laserviews claims that they missed, or didn't receive word, that Warner's My Fair Lady was coming to disc. If that's bad news, here's the good news: It will be on the street next week.

Disney has announced Mafia! and Marvin's Room for February 9. They have also announced a disc of the Tarantino flavor fave Switchblade Sisters for the same date. I'm not sure about the $40 barcode for this one though.

Fox is planning to release the faux-Woo Broken Arrow on March 9.

Columbia-Tristar has announced the classic A Man for All Seasons on Jan. 26. The Bruce Willis vehicle Hudson Hawk is also due on the same date. Guess which one I'm buying.

Mailbag: It must be the holidays, so we're going to take this opportunity to respond to a letter from a Canadian reader about everybody's favorite Christmas gift this year:


I am in the process of comparison shopping for a DVD machine for a Christmas present. I have been told that Proscan offers several excellent options. Can you tell me your opinion on this manufacturer (I found a price of $743.00 cdn for Proscan model 8610)?



Well Erin, we all got drunk and had a fistfight before arriving at an answer to your question, but in general, the staff agrees that all DVD players in the same price range are roughly equivalent, because most of the bugs that hampered some first-generation machines have been worked out. For around $400 (U.S.) today you can get a DVD player that is comparable to what $1,000 (U.S.) would have cost you at this time last year. Proscan and RCA are both brands made by Thompson Electronics, and are regarded by many as "budget" brands, unlike Sony, Panasonic, or Toshiba players, which cost a little more. But since the Thompson players are in their second and third generations, you probably will get as much bang as you want for the bucks you are willing to spend.

Of course, if you want to pay $1,000+ for your DVD player, you will likely get a fine machine. But we also agree that there is a "law of diminishing returns" when it comes to DVD players. Pay too little and you may get too little -- but if you pay more than ten Bens, you may only get a marginally better player than one that costs half as much.

Our pick for the pocketbook this holiday season? For a standard DVD player (not with Dolby Digital built-in, not a carousel, and for God's sake, not Divx), spend between $350 to $500 (U.S.) on a reputable brand. That's just enough to get decent features without paying too much for "quality" you probably don't need.

Erin also asks:

P.S.: Is Braveheart available on DVD?

Sadly, not yet. This is a Paramount title, and many members of staff like this Mel Gibson Oscar-winner a lot. Laserdisc owners can take some solace that this was put on the big platter way back in March of 1996. But we have no reason to believe that Paramount will not release it eventually on DVD, and our bet is that it will be sometime in 1999.

-- Ed.

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