Friday, 29 January 1999
In the Works: Here's some new DVD announcements from Laserviews:
Divx Watch: Thanks for a reader who pointed us to this site, which claims to be selling a Divx-buster. The site is currently down, but the operators claim they will have it up again sometime in February. And no, we don't endorse Divx-busters, Macrovision-busters, or any kind of video-piracy hardware. If this Divx-buster turns out to be a rip-off, those who send in their money deserve to lose it (and typos on websites trying to sell you something are never encouraging).
Hi-Def Horizon: As Superbowl Sunday looms, E-Town has a new story up on shopping for HDTV, which details visits to Best Buy, Tweeter etc., and Circuit City, and how well the salespeople could explain the format to prospective consumers. Those of you who thrive on tales of crappy service at Circuit City will want to give this a read.
Top of the Pops: It's not quite home video, but On Command Corporation, a leading supplier of in-hotel movies, has released their list of top ten films ordered in hotel rooms for 1998. Nine of the ten are already on DVD, and the top pick is likely on the way:
According to Mike Bailey, director of programming for On Command, most hotel guests order films where "not a lot of heavy thought [is] required."
Coming Attractions: We have some new reviews on the way, including The Truman Show and Pi. Look for these and others with Monday's update.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 28 January 1999
Bose boxes: We've sampled a couple of Bose home-theater audio systems in our time, and, truth be told, we've been a little underwhelmed. It's not that the Bose engineers can't pull the rabbit out of the hat, because they do pack a lot of sound into very little space. However, since Bose systems are all sub/sat configurations (i.e., "home theater in a box"), in our experience they rely upon the psycho-acoustic trick of implying midrange where there is none by using small speakers for most of the signal and heaping great responsibilities on the subwoofer to fill in the low end. The problem? Compared to conventional HT audio systems, Bose subwoofers have high crossovers, causing the low-end to pull either right or left. We'd place the sub in the middle of the room, but we've never seen a Bose demonstration where the sub is dead-center -- they always hide it in a wicker basket in the corner or something, which must also make it the ideal audio system for housecats.
If you've been wondering about Bose systems, here's the upside -- no other audio manufacturer puts more sound in less space, and if you live in a dorm room, a Bose HT system would probably do you a lot of good. The downside? The systems invariably retail for more than $2,000. For a similar price, you could buy a Dolby Digital HT amp from a reputable manufacturer (anywhere from $500 - $800) and have more than $1,000 left over for big-ass speakers -- midrange included.
We're not here to dump all over Bose, but the company is just as much about marketing as they are about audio, and they have been very successful at it over the years. If you're a college student and have more than two grand to blow on HT audio, go for it. We simply have chosen different equipment. As for the $350 "Wave Radio" (their spendy clock-radio with a very unconventional tweeter/woofer configuration), which Bose sells only via direct marketing, the upgrade now has a CD drive and costs $500. Check out this story from E-Town on the Wave and the Bose mystique in general.
Columbia TriStar slump: We don't have to tell you that Columbia TriStar Home Video (and parent company Sony), have done a lot for DVD, but a lack of box-office hits last year have caused Sony Pictures Entertainment's third-quarter earnings to drop 16%. Sony hasn't managed of late to duplicate their recent financial windfalls at the box office and on home video (e.g. Men in Black, As Good As It Gets, and My Best Friend's Wedding), and they entered last year's holiday season with little more than Stepmom to offer. Wait for the DVD slump from Columbia TriStar to follow around the middle of this year, which is a shame since they recently chopped many of their DVD street prices by five bucks. Let's hope Sony raids their film library for further DVD profits.
Our Free DVD Contest: Have you sent us your entry yet in this month's contest? We have a copy of South Park, Vol. 1 up for grabs, and if you're over 18 and have a U.S. mailing address, it could be yours for the price of an e-mail. If you get the chance, head on over to our contest entry page and send us your answer to this month's trivia question.
Wednesday, 27 January 1999
Hubba hubba: ShoWest, the annual PR-party in Las Vegas that movie studios throw for movie-theater owners, normally produces better photo-ops in Premiere magazine than actual news, but we're not going to dis them since they've chosen Catherine Zeta-Jones as supporting actress of the year for her turn in The Mask of Zorro, a fun film that's also great on DVD. The Welsh wonder, who is due to star in two more films this year, has stolen the hearts of every male staffer at The DVD Journal, and if we weren't so busy working on this DVD site, we'd probably start one of those pathetic "Catherine Zeta-Jones Testosterone Brigade" web pages or something silly like that.
Did we mention that Elizabeth Hurley (you have seen Austin Powers, haven't you?) won the same award last year at ShoWest? Sometimes we close our eyes and say her name over and over again until it becomes this beautiful Joycean nonsense word sort of like elilabahoowee but not really or we imagine we're in one of those perfume ads with her and the sun is shining and she asks if she can bring anybdy another beer whil Ms. Zeta-Jones is givng us foot massagessssssssssss
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: No actor runs more hot-and-cold than Kevin Costner. For every Bull Durham or Dances With Wolves he also serves up such high-and-outside pitches as The Postman and Waterworld. But we still like him, perhaps as an actor more than an auteur, and we're patiently waiting for his best flick to arrive on DVD, No Way Out. A bit of a sleeper when it hit theaters in 1987, this taut espionage thriller earned a second chance at life on cable and VHS. Not only does No Way Out have a smart script and good performances from Costner and Sean Young, but it also features none other than Gene Hackman as the heavy -- always a dependable choice.
Are we going to see No Way Out on DVD? Probably, but we can't say when. However, as an Orion film, it likely will be streeted by Image, and perhaps sometime this year.
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs from last week from our friends at Reel.com:
We'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
Tuesday, 26 January 1999
Feeding frenzy: From TWICE comes news that the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association (CEMA) is reporting record sales for home-video products in 1998. No less than 802,900 DVD players sold during the second half of the year, but don't get too excited -- a total of 1.89 million VCRs also sold during the same period, demonstrating that Americans have yet to kick their half-inch-tape habit. However, during the fourth quarter of '98, The Good Guys! (exclamation point) reported a sales decline of 31.3% from the previous fourth quarter. GG president Robert Gunst noted that sales of DVD and other high-end items were strong, while home-office and low-end audio equipment took a beating. There was no word on Divx sales though, which these Bad Guys! display prominently in all of their stores.
On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Laserviews:
Cleese... John Cleese: Every other year it never fails. We get an Olympic Games, a major election, and a new Bond Film. In Bond 19 (currently titled The World Is Not Enough), none other than John Cleese has scored a role, here as "R", a bumbling assistant to Q. It's the sort of casting that could be really, really good -- or just a very bad idea. Time will tell, but rumor has it that Cleese's R may replace Q in future Bond films, since Desmond Llewelyn has clearly earned a nice retirement by now.
By the way, if you're still jonesin' to get MGM's Tomorrow Never Dies limited-edition DVD, don't forget that the disc will officially go out of print on Jan. 31.
Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:
See you tomorrow.
Monday, 25 January 1999
This month's Free DVD Contest: We're happy to announce that February's Free DVD Contest is officially underway, and a week early at that. Visit our contest entry page and enter to win a free South Park DVD!
In the Works: Lots of new DVD announcements were posted over the weekend at Laserviews:
Disc of the Week: With the recent resurgence of World War II films, including the much-discussed Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, one would think that the genre had just been invented. Of course, the heyday of WWII epics was in the '50s and '60s, giving us such classics as The Longest Day, The Great Escape, and The Dirty Dozen. The equally powerful A Bridge Too Far was a late arrival, appearing in 1977, but it is still one of the greats. The all-star cast (remember when films advertised things like an "all-star cast"?) includes Sean Connery, James Caan, Gene Hackman, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Edward Fox, and Maximilian Schell. With the current mushrooming of A-list movie star salaries, it's unlikely we will see a group of actors this formidable ever assembled again. Director Richard Attenborough (who played "Big X" in The Great Escape before turning to directing, and was later directed by Spielberg in Jurassic Park) insisted on a level of detail in A Bridge Too Far that is unsurpassed in the history of World War II films.
The MGM disc of A Bridge Too Far features a good source print, a letterboxed transfer, and the original Dolby 2.0 audio. If you've seen the latest films from Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Malick, you will want to give this one a spin before deciding what is "the greatest war film ever made."
On the Board: New quick reviews this week include Raging Bull and Primal Fear, and can be found on our New Reviews index here on the main page.
We'll see you tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Friday, 22 January 1999
HDTV Watch: Are you losing sleep over the possibility that your standard television will be obsolete in a matter of months because everybody is going to buy those spendy HDTV sets that you can't possibly afford? Don't sweat it. Our staff found an informative article over at E-Town that lays out The State of HDTV. We've seen HDTV in action, and it's stunning. But without a common standard, a digital delivery system, and cheaper hardware, these spendy sets could go the way of Betamax, even with the U.S. government telling us we will buy them.
As for the standard 525-line analog televisions we all own right now in North America? We've had the technology for six decades now, and it's still selling big numbers. Just like VHS, in fact -- an American household staple since the '70s.
Sundance: The big indie-film event of the year, Robert Redford's Sundance Festival, has kicked off in Park City with more than 100 features on the schedule, including new films from Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, The Player), Nic Powell (The Crying Game), Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise), and Doug Liman (Swingers). Sundance seems to have been quiet over the past couple of years. Let's hope we get another sex, lies, and videotape or Hoop Dreams this year -- especially if we can get it on DVD.
Hangin' out: It's been a slow week around here, but there's a few good discs coming out next Tuesday, including The Truman Show and Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country. We also have some new reviews on the way, including Primal Fear, an excellent courtroom drama with Richard Gere and Edward Norton. And because of my previous discourse this week on Martin Scorcese and his films on DVD, we decided to haul out Raging Bull and give it another look. Great movie, great DVD. Look for a new review on Monday.
Have a good weekend, and we'll see you next week.
Thursday, 21 January 1999
You Bastards! We love our South Park DVDs as much as anybody else, but it seems the future of the show could be on shaky ground until parent network Comedy Central gets around to signing a labor contract with one of the major entertainment unions. As of now, Comedy Central claims they are negotiating with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, but they are under pressure to sign an agreement with the Screen Actor's Guild. In the meantime, SAG has ordered all of their members to not work on new South Park episodes. Until this is resolved, don't look for any more celebrity cameo voices -- at least not from actors who are also SAG members.
Divx Watch: Lots of folks on the Web seem to be getting their undies in a twist today over the possibility that Disney will be releasing one, and perhaps two, animated features on Divx. This is all very, very unconfirmed stuff, but we hate to contemplate the marketing coup for Divx if this pans out, since Disney has yet to release even one animated classic on open DVD.
In the Works: An update was posted at Laserviews yesterday, but it lacked any noteworthy new announcements. Delayed street discs include:
Wednesday, 20 January 1999
Critics' Picks: Had enough of Top Ten movie lists for 1998? If you haven't, Hollywood Online has posted no less than five critics' lists from the previous year -- and many of their picks are already on DVD.
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Did I mention that the DVD Journal staff had to suffer through Six Days, Seven Nights last weekend? Did you read our wretched review? When Harrison Ford is this bad, one wants to spin a DVD of a good Ford flick just to cleanse the palate. However, our favorite Ford movie, Witness, is very, very MIA from DVD. This 1985 Peter Weir masterpiece features Ford as a hardened Philadelphia police detective who flees corrupt members of his department and takes refuge in the Pennsylvania Amish country. Tense, lyrical, and well-paced, it is Ford's best performance and Peter Weir's best film -- yes, even better than The Truman Show, and light years beyond the maudlin Dead Poet's Society. Paramount has the rights to Witness, so we could see a DVD sometime soon, but don't look for any extras beyond a trailer, if that. We'll take it anyway.
Mailbag: Here's a bit of mail I can't pass up:
Why doesn't Martin Scorsese, a famous film preservationist, add any extras to his DVDs? It's the only thing that's kept me from buying a few of them.
Hey, I feel your pain. The short answer to your question is that Martin Scorcese does not own the home-video rights to his films, and more than one studio has done DVD releases of his most popular works. In fact, Taxi Driver is a Columbia TriStar DVD, Casino has been released by Universal, Goodfellas is a Warner disc, and Raging Bull is on DVD from MGM/UA. In my mind, those are Scorcese's four masterpieces, and it's unusual for a director of his stature that they are owned by four separate studios. As such, Scorcese doesn't have much control over how his films are released, and these studios so far have released movie-only discs, along with some trailers and textual supplements.
Does this mean that Scorcese doesn't care about DVD? That's hard to say, but it's interesting to note that almost all of the major Scorcese films were released very early on (most in 1997), perhaps because other important contemporary directors (e.g., Spielberg, Lucas), were having hissy-fits over the format and Scorcese didn't really have any comment (nor as much clout). Since there was a rush to street DVDs with some cinephile credibility in the early days, Scorcese's films must have seemed an obvious choice to the studios. My bet is that they never even picked up the phone and called him. After all, why delay Taxi Driver for three months to get a Scorcese commentary track when the fledgling DVD market needed it right away?
As DVD has continued to grow, more directors have shown an interest in contributing content to the discs. To use a recent example, on the commentary track on Out of Sight, director Steven Soderbergh and scenarist Scott Frank make several references to the DVD (they even suggest you shut off the track at points and go watch deleted scenes), and this trend is bound to continue. Perhaps Scorcese eventually will feel the need to record a track himself, or contribute interview footage or other items to future DVDs (as George Lucas did for the Collector's Edition of American Graffiti). It seems more likely than not.
But as it stands, Scorcese has had virtually nothing to do with the DVD format. When he does get around to making some sort of commitment, we have only one prediction, namely that we will see "special edition" Scorcese films -- released once again so you can buy them one more time. That's why, along with our reader, we rent Scorcese DVDs and buy "special edition" discs of other movies -- discs that are bound to have a longer shelf-life.
As far as film preservation goes, professionals in this field tend to hold home-video formats in disdain, and none of them would say that transferring a nice print to DVD is any substitute for restoring a print that can be shown in a movie theater. My suspicion is that Scorcese is so involved in the film-preservation business that he gives home video little thought at all.
Top of the Pops: Here's the nine best-selling DVDs from last week, courtesy of Reel.com. Why nine and not ten? Apparently they didn't get a number ten posted this week. In any case, note how the scarcity of popular new releases has caused DVD owners to snap up some old favorites. I'm sure you're doing the same this week.
See you tomorrow.
Tuesday, 19 January 1999
Divx Watch: Not that I'm really big on boycotting any company associated with Divx (Circuit City, Divx-aligned movie studios, etc.), but those who are will be interested to know that Divx has been using Sun Microsystems as the core technology provider for the dreaded Divx mother-ship computer. "We chose Sun servers, software and storage as the brick and mortar of our business," says Jack Cox of Divx.
Plan on boycotting Sun? Not possible -- or at least, not if you use the World Wide Web and the countless lines of Sun's Java language that can be found on most websites (including this one). It would be sort of like boycotting oxygen.
Divx Watch (audio only): For those of you who think I yammer on and on about closed distribution systems, read this. That's right, some people in the recording industry have had a look at Divx and they have seen the future because they think you're all a bunch of blockheads who can't be smart consumers. Please, please tell me you aren't, or we will all be condemned to this.
On the Street: Hey, I did warn you last week that the next few weeks would be thin for new DVD releases, so here's all the noteworthy stuff that's in the shops this morning (via Laserviews). Don't blame us:
Maybe there's something in there you'd like to have. Maybe not. We're going spin some previously released discs this week that we've been meaning watch instead.
Just because I have to bitch: Ever seen Hitchcock's 1948 Rope? The unusual 90-minute thriller was shot in one take (actually, it was eleven seamlessly cut takes). Apparently a group of independent filmmakers have decided to best Mr. Hitchcock's efforts and produce Bug Night, a 90-minute, one-shot film. Why? "Everyone doubted us and said it was impossible to do," says young actor/director Tyrone Tann. "We wanted to prove them wrong."
Have I missed something? Is filmmaking a matter of endurance records? Wasn't A Perfect Murder or Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake enough punishment? Did anybody bother to investigate why Hitchcock performed the "one-take" experiment just once?
"I undertook Rope as a stunt," Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut in 1962 (Hitchcock/Truffaut, Simon & Schuster). "When I look back I realize that it was quite nonsensical because I was breaking with own theories on the importance of cutting and montage for the visual narration of the story... No doubt about it; films must be cut." Maybe that's why that "Bermuda Triangle" episode of The X-Files a few months back was so godawfully dull as well.
In any case, the producers of Bug Night were certain to have representatives from the Guiness Book of World Records on hand to authenticate their
Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films in North America from last weekend:
See ya tomorrow.
Monday, 18 January 1999
Mailbag: Thanks for all of your letters over the weekend. We were glad to hear that pretty much all of our readers are happy with the speed of our site, so we probably won't change hosts for a little while longer. As traffic on this site continues to grow, we will have to move eventually, but since that could mean a disruption in service -- even for only a day or two -- we're going to concentrate on more pressing matters.
A lot of you wrote to tell us that The DVD Journal is the first site you visit every day, and that's great news. Just for you folks, our "Daily Links" menu is now up and running, so that you can quickly access news, sports, weather, portals, search engines, and other DVD and movie websites from right here on our main page as you enjoy that first cup of coffee.
Disc of the Week: Think Saving Private Ryan will clean up at this year's Academy Awards? We do too. However, this year's Oscar dark-horse has to be Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. George Clooney stars in Out of Sight as a bank robber on the run from the law and out for a big score. Jennifer Lopez plays a Dep. U.S. Marshal who is charmed by Clooney, even though she knows she should lock him up. But Out of Sight is so original and unique that it defies any brief summary -- it simply has to be experienced. The supporting cast is a choice group from some of the best films of the last several years, and the disc includes several supplements, including a fun commentary track with Soderbergh and scenarist Scott Frank. Out of Sight is required viewing for anybody with their eye on the Oscars this year, because, like L.A. Confidential, it may not be a box-office smash, but it's just too good to be ignored. It even cracked my own Top Ten list, landing at number eight. Check out our new Quick Review on the New Reviews index.
On the Board: Other new Quick Reviews this week include Armageddon, American Graffiti: Collector's Edition, and Six Days, Seven Nights. Check 'em out on our New Reviews index here on the main page.
We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Friday, 15 January 1999
In the Works: We got some new DVD release information yesterday, courtesy of Laserviews:
Another format war brewing?: After my little diatribe on recordable DVD vs. VHS yesterday, here's a story from CNET detailing the competing recordable DVD formats that are in development. Interesting reading.
It was going to happen sometime: Thanks to one of our readers for alerting us to this story about Blockbuster Video's entry in to the film acquisition market. How will this affect DVD? Simple, if Blockbuster owns the movie on VHS, we will have to count on them to release the corresponding DVD as well. However, it doesn't look like Blockbuster will be able to obtain many high-profile films, and will concentrate on low- to mid-budget new releases. Then again, they could wind up owning the next In the Company of Men or other indie breakthroughs. We'll keep our eyes on this and see what happens.
Upgrade: We have been debating for some time if we should move to a new server. In the early days, of course, nobody ever visited this site, but because of the increase in daily traffic, we have been talking with different Web hosters to see if we can speed things up. However, we don't want to do this, because it could mean a brief disruption in service. So we want to know: Do you think this site loads too slowly? Do you sometimes have trouble accessing our pages? Send us e-mail and tell us if we need to increase the speed. We may have a new host by the end of this month (although we will still be at www.dvdjournal.com, so don't worry about that).
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 14 January 1999
The DVD marketplace: Why were the top-selling DVDs of 1998 so different from how these movies performed at the American box office? A new TechWeb story climbs the lofty slopes of Mt. Obvious to point out that Hollywood studios who are releasing their movies on DVD with special-edition content, as well as day-and-date with VHS releases, are making the big bucks. Of the top-ten sellers in 1998, many were box-office disasters (i.e., Lost in Space), but they were such good discs that consumers still wanted to buy them. Warner, MGM, Columbia TriStar, and New Line dominated the top-sellers, and not one top-ten DVD in 1998 was released by Disney/Buena Vista, Fox, or Paramount (these studios also charge $5 to $10 more per title at retail).
Well, I'm not going to rehash Econ 101 for all of you. All I can say is that it doesn't appear the current DVD schism within the studios will disappear anytime soon, and that's a shame, because Disney, Fox, and Paramount have a lot of titles that deserve some special-edition content -- and better prices.
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-ten selling DVDs from last week over at Reel.com:
Mailbag: Just a quick note to say thanks to our readers for all of your mail. In the midst of all of the Divx news last week, one of our readers sent us a thoughtful letter:
I really enjoy letters like this. As for Divx, it's not the Divx company itself, per se, that bothers me, but rather the Hollywood studios' incessant desire to distribute home video in a closed format. So let me make that clear, because I don't want to come off like some sort of hysterical Divx reactionary. However, if Divx succeeds, consumers will have told the home-video companies that they are willing to pay-per-view. Were home video to enter a closed system, there would be little difference between theater tickets and home viewings, because the entire concept of sell-through (you own it, you watch it when you like) would disappear. That would be bad. Divx is just one method to make this possible, and I'm sure there will be others to come. So I don't hate Divx itself, any more than I hate pay-per-view cable. I just worry that consumers aren't informed enough to act in their own self-interests in a free market.
As for VHS, a few things have to happen for it to go away, and they're kind of big:
Is VHS going away in the next few years? I doubt it, but I don't care, because DVD has enough market-base to survive as a niche format. I imagine that DVD could take a position in households similar to the CD/audio cassette paradigm, where we use a ROM format for listening/viewing and a recordable format for less-important items. I could be wrong, but I see this happening long before a recordable DVD format replaces videotape altogether.
I tend to think of it another way, although this cuts against the grain of those who want the whole goddam world to own a DVD player: If DVDs were mass-market items, to what consumer demographic would the studios market their products? How many DVDs would be in widescreen? What would the quality level be like? Do you think you'd get more 16x9 enhanced transfers than now -- or less? How easy would it be to find quality widescreen DVDs at your local retailer, with so much competition for shelf space?
Frankly, I'll pay a little more and live with a niche market that embraces cinephiles. Let VHS live -- as long as it keeps VHS consumer habits from corrupting the DVD products we have grown to love over the past two years.
Wednesday, 13 January 1999
Another freakin' food fight: I thought the American Film Institute's "Top 100 Movies" list was a fun debate, if very subjective and a little mind-baffling. If you enjoyed it, get ready for an even-more subjective list, The AFI Top 50 Movie Stars, along with another television special in June called "100 Years -- 100 Stars." The TV special will feature 50 contemporary actors introducing a group of "Top 50" movie stars (hence, the "100"). The Top 50 will only include actors who have worked in films before 1950, or those who are dead, which means it will be a selective (and very interesting) list. I can probably recite my top picks right now, let's see... Cary Grant... Jimmy Stewart... Humphrey Bogart...
Okay, I know I'm only listing men, but I can't help that. An equal number of women will be included in the AFI list. But I'm sure that I'll watch the TV show just to have a few screaming thrombos when they let my least favorite Hollywood personalities do the introductions. Let's see... Robin Williams (aaaaghh!)... Michael Douglas (bluuarrgh!)... Jim Carrey (nnnooooo-ooooo!)... Demi Moore (puh-lease!)...
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Here's a DVD that we'd love to get, just so we can put our VHS tape in the microwave and see what happens. Howard Hawks' 1940 His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, is one the best screwball comedies ever made, and trust us, our videotape doesn't cut it. Judging by some recent DVD releases of classic movies (for example, LaserLight's The 39 Steps), we know what wonders DVD can do for old favorites. There are at least three different VHS editions of His Girl Friday currently available, which means the rights are probably in the public domain. If any home-video company would street a new disc of this with a nice picture and a clean soundtrack, we'd pay big money for it. How 'bout it, LaserLight?
What's up with Chip?: For those of you who think that I'm being too mean to our DVD Journal intern Chip Liebowitz, stop writing e-mail defending the little bastard, because he's just a punk teenager who gets on my nerves. And no, I didn't fire Chip, because he did show up with a Criterion DVD of Seven Samurai yesterday. I'm very happy, and this collectable DVD is now a part of The DVD Journal's library. I guess I'll let Chip stay around, because he is really handy at times like this. He also does a nice job of getting me lunch and washing my car and things like that.
We'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
Tuesday, 12 January 1999
Armageddon on Criterion: Our favorite home video company (well, along with Warner and MGM), Criterion, have announced a new disc for Armageddon. This is quite a coup for Criterion, a venerable laserdisc company that has had trouble securing the rights to many high-profile films since DVD was first introduced. Their new Armageddon disc will feature two commentary tracks (including one track with Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Bruce Willis, and Ben Affleck), video features on the special effects, and numerous other supplements. If you were planning on buying the Disney/Buena Vista DVD, you will probably want to hold off.
In other Criterion news, their DVD edition of Seven Samurai has been discontinued for legal reasons. Footage of the print-restoration process will be removed from the new disc, and it will be region-coded. If you have the original, you can consider it a collector's item. I have already dispatched DVD Journal intern Chip Liebowitz to a number of local retailers in search of a copy for our library. If he doesn't come back with one by 5 p.m. today, he's out on his ass.
Divx Watch: Bill Hunt, webmaster of The Digital Bits, spent some time at CES '99 and has posted a transcript of the Divx news conference, which is very interesting reading. We at The DVD Journal have no doubt that Bill is currently doing the best reporting on DVD (and Divx) on the Web, in the print media, or anywhere for that matter.
On the Street: Here's this morning's street discs, courtesy of Laserviews, and it's a little of thin if you ask me:
A number of new DVD announcements have been posted on Laserviews as well, but again -- THIN. Or at least, nothing that will shake up our "DVD Missing in Action" page. I suspect that the rush to street popular movies for the holiday season is over, and we will be cast into the doldrums for a few weeks.
Careful, it's catching: With so many good DVD news and information Websites on the Internet, others are starting to get into the act, including our sponsor, Reel.com, who have announced a DVD News Section on their retail site to better serve their DVD customers. Sounds cool.
I'll let you know tomorrow if Chip still has his job. See ya.
Monday, 11 January 1999
This means war!: With the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show wrapping up in Las Vegas, Reuters has an interesting story on the format war between DVD and Divx, including a pointed exchange between Circuit City/Divx CEO Richard Sharp and Warner Home Video President Warren Lieberfarb. What did you think, it would be all hugs n' sunshine between these two?
Divx Watch: A reader has directed us to another good anti-Divx site on the web, Fight Divx, which has a lot of comprehensive analysis of the recent Divx sales figures from Circuit City. Also check out Robert's DVD Page for his conclusion that only 17,000 Divx accounts have been opened for the 87,000 Divx players Circuit City claims to have sold. Very interesting, especially when you consider that Circuit City will not reveal how many Divx accounts have been opened.
Top of the Pops: VideoScan has released the top ten sell-through DVDs for 1998:
Disc of the Week: Eve's Bayou, a critical favorite of 1998, is also an excellent DVD. Included with the disc is a commentary track with director Kasi Lemmons, her short film "Mr. Jordan," upon which Eve's Bayou is based, the original theatrical trailer, and textual supplements. None of this would matter if the film wasn't any good, but Eve's Bayou is a well-paced, engrossing story with fine performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Jurnee Smollett, and Meagan Good. Also keep your eyes open for Diahnn Carroll and Branford Marsalis in supporting roles. Check out our review on the Quick Reviews index.
On the Board: Other new Quick Reviews this week include Blade, The Avengers, Suicide Kings, and Hard Boiled, and can be accessed via our New Reviews menu on the main page.We'll see you tomorrow with this week's street discs.
Friday, 8 January 1999
High-def Divx? The 1999 Consumer Electronics Show is underway in Las Vegas, and we're a little stumped. While many pundits have told us not to stress over a potential High-Definition DVD format for at least the next few years, Divx and Thompson Electronics have announced a new High-Def Divx format, suitable for 16x9 HDTVs. The new format is expected to be on sale sometime in 2000.
We're not sure exactly yet how the proposed HD-Divx stacks up in terms of quality, but it appears that Divx is continuing its journey towards self-immolation. As we have been asking for months, if Divx is a "rental" format, why would the rental customer care about quality? And why in the world would anybody with enough time, money, and videophile commitment to own a spendy HDTV buy a f*%#ing Divx player? This announcement is sure to make a splash, but trust us, it's all smoke and mirrors. It seems that Divx still doesn't understand the videophile market at all.
Divx numbers: Of course, Circuit City also announced their sales figures for the fourth quarter of 1998, including that 87,000 Divx players sold during the quarter, and 62,000 of them in December. Meanwhile, 575,000 Divx discs sold during the fourth quarter, and 375,000 of them in December.
Big numbers? Dick Sharp, Circuit City's CEO, would like for you to think so. "These extremely strong sales numbers are especially gratifying given the limited retail distribution and brand selection, as well as aggressive promotion for basic DVD," he said.
"Basic DVD"? That would be the DVDs that are in widescreen, with 16x9 enhancement, and with lots of extras? The "Basic DVDs" that cost about $2 or $3 to rent for a couple of days, or that you can watch as much as you like once you buy them for $20 or $30? The "Basic DVDs" that don't require a credit-card account if you want to watch them? The "Basic DVDs" that can't be disabled if the title is placed on moratorium or goes out of print? Let's compare those 87,000 Divx players and 575,000 DVIX discs against "Basic DVD," Dick:
And from yesterday's news, because it bears repeating:
It's called "Open DVD" -- "Dick" -- and its crushing Divx. With numbers like these, and all Hollywood studios supporting the open DVD format, who needs you?
More stuff like that: Urghh. . . I don't want this to be an anti-Divx site. Really, I don't. There's too much good stuff going on with DVD to spew bile all the time about Divx. But I swear, some days it just pisses me off. So, unless we get any more goofy Divx news during CES '99, we're going to drop the matter. Meanwhile, here's some DVD hardware news that hit the Web yesterday:
Have a good weekend. We're gonna go spin some discs in our modem-free DVD player.
Thursday, 7 January 1999
The Mouse that didn't roar: Some of the most highly anticipated movies that have yet to appear on DVD are animated Disney classics, but don't get too excited. In his annual letter to stockholders, Disney chairman Michael Eisner has made clear that he really likes DVD, but that doesn't mean you're gonna get any of the Mouse's extensive library on disc. To wit:
The coming decade? Uhhh... okay, this marks the first time we at The DVD Journal have forecasted a disc release further than a few months in advance. Look for a new disc of Fantasia sometime around 2004. . . or maybe 2005. . .
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Peter O'Toole, renowned for many dramatic movie roles, came up with the funny in the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year, also starring Mark Linn-Baker and directed by Richard Benjamin. If you love this movie on VHS (we do), don't despair, because MGM has the home-video rights, and MGM is a big supporter of DVD.
News watch: A number of DVD press releases and news stories hit the Web yesterday, among them:
Hey, maybe this DVD thing is catching on with folks. Well, unless you're a funny-lookin' Mouse in red shorts, that is.We'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
Wednesday, 6 January 1999
Divx Watch: Rumors are flying as Circuit City prepares to release their first sales figures for Divx, and one well-placed source we know says that CC will announce that Divx players have out-sold open DVD players in their stores. Preposterous? Well, it probably depends on how they slice the numbers. However, when a retailer owns a particular type of "DVD" player, and their salespeople undoubtedly work harder to sell these players to anybody interested enough to listen, it's more than plausible. Just don't let this sort of stuff fool you, because open DVD players nationwide have outsold Divx players many times over, and will continue to do so.
Upset! The National Society of Film Critics has named their Best Picture of 1998, and it isn't Saving Private Ryan. It's Steven Sodeberg's Out of Sight, which I admit I haven't seen yet. Thankfully, the DVD was released just yesterday, so we should have a new review up as soon as we get a copy.
Speaking of which: Laserviews has returned after a lengthy absence, so here's yesterday's street discs:
In the works: Also from Laserviews comes some new disc announcements:
You'll get nothing and like it: Mr. G. Lucas, a noted marketer of children's toys, has gone on the record, once and for all. No, not when Star Wars will be on DVD. Instead, he has told Vanity Fair in an interview that there will be only six episodes of the Star Wars saga, and not the total of nine he originally suggested many years ago. Those of you anticipating Episode Seven: Death of the Ewok can pretty much give it up now.See you all tomorrow.
Tuesday, 5 January 1999
Hey, thanks. No, really: We got a lot of mail from readers yesterday, and not a nasty one in the bunch. Everybody appears to like the new look and features at The DVD Journal, so it seems we'll have to keep it up on our end.
Of course, we didn't think our DVD "Missing in Action" page would be comprehensive in the least, so we just started out with about 100 films that are staff favorites or frequent reader requests. It's no surprise that a lot of you chipped in suggestions as well, so the research team is back on the job, and we'll have more MIA entries next week.
A special thanks goes to our Internet Explorer readers for your positive comments. We apologize again for not testing our site sooner on IE to make sure it was as functional is it was for Netscape, so I guess all we can say is thanks for sticking around when the site was looking a little odd.
Our friend Pheran: We'd also like to give you a heads-up to Pheran's DVD Review Index, a very cool website where you can search on titles of DVD movies and get links to reviews on several DVD websites, including our reviews here at The DVD Journal. Check it out!
Blam! Chukachukachuka! Kerpow! We finally got our hands on a review copy of Criterion's Hard Boiled, a perennial favorite of John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat fanatics. We'll have the review up next week, but here's the early skinny: It's very cool.
Still hung over? We promised to get you some info on today's street discs, but it seems Laserviews hasn't updated their site since Dec. 18. What the hell, there's only one new disc that anybody cares about this week: Armageddon. Our review copy is on the way, and we'll have some comments for you next week.See ya tomorrow.
Monday, 4 January 1999
DVD Journal '99: Greetings, and welcome to another year here at The DVD Journal. I've been whipping my staff into shape over the past few weeks, and here's some of the new stuff we have for you.
Along with our new features, we will still work on our Daily News and Commentary, Quick Reviews, Full Reviews, The Editor's Top Ten, and our Choice Web Links. There are a few more new features that we didn't complete before our 1999 redesign, but we hope to have those up and running in coming weeks.
The staff of The DVD Journal would like to say thanks for joining us for another year of DVD movies. So let's get to it!
Disc of the Week: When it comes to Warner special editions, The Exorcist: 25th Anniversary Edition may be the granddaddy of them all. In addition to a pristine transfer of this 1973 shocker, the DVD features commentaries with director William Friedkin and scenarist William Peter Blatty, an 80-minute BBC documentary on the making of the film, numerous trailers and TV spots, the original ending, and textual supplements. You can also find it on the street for around $20 at better retailers or at Reel.com. Check out our quick review on the Quick Reviews Index.
On the Board: We spent some time with Trey Parker and Matt Stone this weekend, and have new quick reviews of BASEketball, South Park, Vol. 1, and South Park, Vol. 2. Also look for a new quick reviews of Altered States and Mississippi Burning.
A Pro-Divx site?: A reader gave us a heads-up over the weekend to a new website called Divx Lover, which purports to be the website of a Divx owner. However, the daily updates report on his perpetual anguish as he tries to get his Divx player to work. Of course, it's actually a stealth anti-Divx website, and it's very amusing.
We'll see you tomorrow with this week's street discs.