Friday, 26 February 1999
Coming Attractions: We're taking a three-day weekend here at The DVD Journal and are catching up on some more DVDs. Look for new reviews on Monday, including Ronin and The Replacement Killers. But before we go, we'd like to take this moment to thank our readers for dropping by every day and sending us mail and all that... we really love you guys, dammit.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 25 February 1999
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: There's sci-fi, and then there's good sci-fi. Being fans of the remarkable 1985 film The Quiet Earth, we have no problem placing it in the latter category. Directed by New Zealander Geoff Murphy, The Quiet Earth offers an unusual premise -- a scientist (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up one day to discover that he is apparently the only human being alive, and while there are a few bodies here and there (all of whom appear to have died violently), there is little evidence that people even existed, save for the empty cities that were densely populated just the day before. The Quiet Earth is a bit of a mystery as well as a sci-fi tale, as the story follows Lawrence in his search to discover not only what has caused the obliteration of humanity, but to see if he can find any other survivors as well (he does, but that's as much as we are going to tell you). The Quiet Earth has a cult following with sci-fi aficionados, offering more ideas than special effects, as well as one of the most stunning closing shots in recent memory. All of which causes us to despair when we note that Fox has the rights to this film, and at the rate they're producing DVDs lately, we don't expect a new disc anytime soon.
Here's a premise: An employee of Fox Home Video arrives at work one day to discover that every member of upper management has vanished...
Hands across the water: Image Entertainment and RM Associates, a UK entertainment firm, have signed a distribution agreement that will result in 50 new classical music and fine arts DVDs to be released in the coming year. Musical programs in the RA roster feature artists such as Marilyn Horne, Maria Callas, and David Hockney, and opera productions on the way include Wagner's Lohengrin, Bizet's Carmen, and Puccini's La Boheme. If you're curious, don't stress too much, because we are assured that these discs will feature subtitles (we're gonna need 'em). Image Entertainment also has distribution agreements with Universal, Orion Pictures, and Playboy Entertainment.
Tanking: Predicting the American box office after the Academy Award nominations is like determining what happens when moths see a light bulb -- attendance soars. And while the re-released Saving Private Ryan and the low-budget Euro-imports Elizabeth and Life is Beautiful can all be found in the Top 20, for some reason Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line has bottomed out. "I don't think there's any question that [attendance is] a disappointment," Tom Sherak, a 20th Century Fox executive, told the Associated Press. Spielberg's war shoot has cracked the magic $200 million mark, while the Malick movie has grossed a mere $34.4 million to date (it cost $52 million). Theories abound regarding the drove dropout, but here's ours: The word on the street beat the Oscar nods, and The Thin Red Line has earned the reputation of being overlong, cameo-ridden, and even a tad boring. Meanwhile, look for the ebullient Shakespeare in Love, a top-10 fixture in recent weeks, to continue surging -- up to and beyond award night.
See ya later.
Wednesday, 24 February 1999
In the Works: Music seems to be today's theme as we run down some new disc announcements, courtesy of Laserviews:
'Nuff tunes. Here's the flicks:
File under "No Thanks": We love fat-ass A/V systems, but C-3D Digital, a Salt Lake City company, has announced plans to market a 3-D set-top box that will convert TV signals (including DVD signals) to 3-D images -- just as long as you wear those funky glasses. Considering that we sit through numerous bad movies every month on your behalf, we figure we're close enough as it is.
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Reel.com, and if you see a few previous Academy Award Best Picture winners in the mix, it's doubtless due to their current ten-buck special:
We'll see you tomorrow.
Tuesday, 23 February 1999
Divx Watch: Divx Entertainment (a division of Circuit City) have announced that sales of Divx discs have now topped one million units, although it would seem that depends on how we define the concept of "sales," since all new Divx players include five Divx discs, meaning that (in theory) if 200,000 decks sell, CC could claim that they have also "sold" a million discs without ever collecting money for those discs. Of course, the CC press release doesn't do anything to clear up this confusion, nor do they reveal what we'd really like to know, namely how many Divx accounts have been opened? If a customer is convinced to buy a Divx player, but never gets around to stringing that 30 feet of phone cable into the living room and instead finds that they enjoy the widescreen, extra-packed beauty that is open DVD, then Divx goes bust. Let's not scare the CC stockholders with that little tidbit though.
The Divx Entertainment press release also notes with a strange sort of pride that "the number of titles available on Divx disc has more than doubled, from 150 to more than 350." Is 350 movies supposed to be a wide selection?
On the Street: Here's a big-ass list of notable street discs available this morning, courtesy of Laserviews:
DVD-ROM takes flight: Multimedia 2000, producers of numerous flight simulators, have announced a DVD-ROM version of "F/A-18E Super Hornet Attack!", and it will be the first DVD-ROM flight-sim to hit the market. How good will it be? When we consider the increased storage capacity that DVD offers, it's sure to be a stunner, but you can buy it when it reaches the shops on March 15 and find out for yourself. Get the scoop at DVD Insider.
Distribution Deal: Universal and Columbia TriStar, both producers of excellent DVDs, have announced a joint-distribution agreement for DVDs outside of North America. The press release also confirms that discs for Shakespeare in Love and Patch Adams are on the way, although no firm dates are included.
See ya tomorrow.
Monday, 22 February 1999
Shakespeare's Celebration: The 51st annual Writers Guild Awards were held in Los Angeles over the weekend, and Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard won top honors for Shakespeare in Love, a film our staff enjoyed immensely. Look for this Brit indie to be the stalking horse at next month's Academy Awards, and let's hope for a DVD release by late spring.
Disc of the Week: If you don't have it, try to snag it this week, because PolyGram's disc of The Usual Suspects has been discontinued. After selling off their film library last year, virtually all PolyGram titles will be going MIA until new editions are released by their new owners (pre-1996 films have gone to MGM, while Universal gets the rights to all PolyGram titles from The Game onward). This includes The Usual Suspects, a profound neo-noir with Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak and Benicio del Toro as five New York hoods who are blackmailed into making a big score on behalf of notorious gangster Keyser Soze. Chazz Palmenteri joins the ensemble as the cop who thinks he knows what's going on, and Pete Postlethwaite shows up as the enigmatic Mr. Kobayashi, Soze's representative. Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie contribute an excellent commentary track on the PolyGram disc, wherein they share lots of behind-the-scenes stories and gleefully point out numerous continuity errors in the film (errors that none of us are bound to find on our own), and the commentary track is what makes the PolyGram disc one of our favorites. Will the new MGM disc have the track? We certainly don't want to make a guess, so we'll hold on to our copy until The Usual Suspects re-appears.
Hi-Def Horizon: HDTV would be a more appealing format were it not for the fact that many sets currently go for $10,000 or even higher. However, Konka -- a consumer-electronics manufacturer from China -- is now planning to enter the U.S. market this December with HDTV sets for around three large. For now it's just an announcement from an upstart CE manufacturer, but if the Konka strategy is successful, look for prices on hi-def sets to take a nosedive. Get the details at E-Town.
Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films in the U.S. from last weekend:
Divx Watch: If you've already entered our monthly contest in the hopes of winning a free South Park DVD, you might want to drop by the Divx Lover website and enter the love-man's contest to win two free Divx discs! (Although it's a shame that the contest is nearly as complicated as the Divx users agreement).
On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Sliding Doors and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include The Client, Dead Ringers: The Criterion Collection, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Moonstruck, and can be accessed via the New Reviews menu here on the main page.
We'll be back here tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.
Saturday, 20 February 1999
R.I.P.: We are sorry to report that Chicago Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel has died. We enjoyed his film reviews and appearances on the syndicated TV show "At the Movies." He will be missed by film lovers everywhere.
Friday, 19 February 1999
In the Works: Here's a short update of DVD announcements, courtesy of Laserviews:
Hi-Def Horizon: E-Town has posted a story by David Elrich on professional DTV equipment (including the surprising fact that Panasonic is currently outpacing the normally dominant Sony in sales to television stations), and some notes here and there on the slow but steady progress of DTV and HDTV as the formats make inroads in major American cities.
All you Star Wars nutsacks can read this: We know a lot of you are drooling over the Second Coming of Film, i.e. Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and in order to keep you kids under control, big George and pals are working on yet another trailer, this one due in March. According to LucasFilm, it it will be longer than the previous two-minute teaser, and will offer seating a little closer to the plot.
Commentary Clip: "I was born and raised in the Bronx in an Irish and Italian neighborhood. I was fascinated by my friends' -- who were Italians -- households, because they were so different than mine. My household was extremely Irish, so it was little repressed sexually, and clothes were kind of boring, and the food was very predictable. We had mashed potatoes like six days a week and a roast. When I went over to the Italian families' households, they were yelling, they were trying to sell me clothes at breakfast, they were having meatballs and Coke for breakfast, they were openly talking about their sexuality and what they wanted to do with it, and I was just floored. I thought it was a peek into a world I wished I were a part of."
-- John Patrick Shanley, screenwriter, Moonstruck
Monthly Contest: What, you haven't entered our February contest yet? There's still ten days left, and we have a DVD of South Park, Vol. 1 up for grabs, so if you haven't done it yet, drop by our contest page and answer the ridiculously easy trivia question.
Coming Attractions: More DVD reviews are one the way, faithful readers, including Sliding Doors and The Client. Look for these and others on Monday morning.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 18 February 1999
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: What will be the best war film of the year at this year's Academy Awards, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan or Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line? Our money is on the Spielberg flick, but if you like both of 'em, don't worry, because it's very likely that both will appear on DVD sometime this year. However, another excellent war film, Apocalypse Now, is MIA from DVD, and we haven't even heard a rumor about when it will appear. Starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now was widely considered the "greatest war film ever made" of its day when it first arrived in 1979, and the passing of twenty years has done nothing to diminish its impact. Chronicling the story of an Army Special Forces assassin (Sheen) tasked with finding a renegade Army colonel in Cambodia (Brando), Apocalypse Now is a penetrating vision of war, and while the plot may meander at points, the numerous vignettes serve to illustrate Francis Ford Coppolla's overall themes of sanctioned violence and collective insanity. We paid thirty bucks for the widescreen VHS of this masterpiece a few years back, but we just can't bear to watch the scant 240 lines of resolution anymore. Paramount has the home-video rights to Apocalypse Now, and they are in the DVD business, but as of yet, they won't confirm or deny their intentions with the title -- or even if it exists, it would seem.
DVD for Mac: After reporting yesterday on VITEC Multimedia's new MPEG-Toolbox for Windows-based PCs, we thought we'd let our Macintosh readers know that Sigma Designs and Wired, Inc. have announced "Wired 4DVD," a new DVD and MPEG-2 playback card for Mac owners. The first demonstration will be at the Macworld Expo, being held this week in Tokyo, and the gadget is due to hit the streets here in the States sometime in March. Get the skinny over at DVD Insider.
O'Connor improving: After a near-lethal bout with pneumonia, song 'n' dance legend Donald O'Connor was removed from a ventilator last weekend in a Los Angeles hospital, and is said to be improving. The star of Singin' in the Rain' and other Hollywood classics will remain hospitalized for the time being. O'Connor, 73, maintained a busy schedule of live performances until taking ill three weeks ago.
See ya later.
Wednesday, 17 February 1999
Divx Watch: Tobi Elkin of E-Town recently took a trip to four New York-area Circuit City stores and voluntarily suffered the pitches of various CC shills, who he knew were going to steer him towards buying a Divx player and pass over an open DVD deck. Check out the dirty details, some of which Elkin characterizes as "misinformation and disinformation," including the novel selling point -- offered by one CC salesperson -- that no more open DVD players are even being manufactured (!). Can you say "bullshit," kids?
Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs from last week, courtesy of our friends at Reel.com:
Toast your own discs: Got an urge to make your own discs with MPEG-2, the encoding format for DVD Video? Those of you with a Windows-based PC and an AVI capture board can now get your hands on VITEC Multimedia's MPEG Toolbox-2 (a Macintosh version has not been announced). "Anyone equipped with a standard AVI capture board will be able to convert a large AVI file into a smaller MPEG-2 file," says Lionel Zajde, Sales and Marketing Manager for VITEC. "That file can then be saved on the hard drive, burned onto a CD-R or recorded on videotape." Look for this new MPEG-2 package to hit the streets before the month is out.
Commentary Clip: "For those of you who are looking closely and are stricken with fear that George [Clooney] is wearing a hairpiece: If you look at his hairline there -- it was George's idea, and it was a good idea -- he actually shaved his hairline up to make himself look a little bit older. I was always paranoid that audiences would be staring at that all the time, but nobody ever mentioned it to me... George actually has a descending hairline. I've never seen hair this thick. It's actually growing towards his eyes."
-- Steven Soderbergh, Out of Sight: Collector's Edition
Thumb replacement: With movie critic and television personality Gene Siskel recuperating from recent brain surgery, Tom Shales of The Washington Post will pitch-hit for the time being in the syndicated movie-review TV show At the Movies. Look for his first appearance opposite longtime balcony denizen Roger Ebert this weekend.
We'll be back here tomorrow with more stuff.
Tuesday, 16 February 1999
On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Laserviews:
Blame your credit-card debt on Tom: Thomas Edison's birthday was last week, and E-Town has posted a story Edison and his favorite invention, the phonograph. Edison knew that he had a money-maker on his hands, but surprisingly enough, he thought that the new technology would have more success as a business application than as an entertainment device, and he didn't even regard the recording and playback of music to be its primary function. Of course, Edison's low-fi cylindrical phonograph launched what we call "home entertainment" today -- not to mention that Edison invented both the motion picture and, with the later addition of his phonograph technology, the first talking picture, and even the light bulbs we extinguish before spinning our DVDs.
Box Office: Here's the top grossing films in America from last weekend:
See ya tomorrow.
Monday, 15 February 1999
DVD Audio Update: The DVD Audio format, known simply as Version 1.0, has been finalized, and Dolby Digital has been added as the sound standard for all video clips within DVD-A. Like you care. All you want to know is if your DVD Video player will play DVD-A discs. Well that depends. The DVD-A format is based on the Meridian Lossless Packing technology, so if you happen to own a Meridian 800 DVD player (which goes for about 12 large), you're all set. Otherwise, plan on getting a new deck with DVD-A built-in sometime next year, or finding DVD-A discs from manufacturers that also offer 24/96 audio in two channels (the standard many DVD-V players currently support). Those of you with a burning need to learn all sorts of other stuff about the DVD Audio format can get the skinny over at E-Town or The EE Times.
Disc of the Week: The impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton is finally over, and with it what will likely be the historical apex of his presidency. And now that our leaders have returned to "the people's business," you may want to give the new DVD of The War Room a spin to see how Clinton launched his national political career. Directed by noted documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, The War Room begins at the 1992 New Hampshire primary, when the American public was first hearing about the smooth-talking governor from Arkansas, and the charges that he had an affair with Gennifer Flowers, dodged the draft, and protested the American government on foreign soil as a college student. Many pundits viewed Clinton as non-starter in '92, but what they didn't know was that he had James Carville and George Stephanopoulos running his campaign -- two of the most gifted spin doctors in contemporary American politics. Pennebaker's cameras were granted an extraordinary degree of access to the '92 Clinton campaign team, and watching his handlers spin the various scandals is both engaging and a little unsettling, since they essentially call from the same playbook that we have endured for the past 13 months. Sure, they yammer on and on about the economy and health care, but forget about Clinton policy -- The War Room is about Clinton-style politics, and no matter how you view the man, the president, or the administration, it is impossible to deny his gift for political survival, and the formidable talents of his campaign team. A tip to the current Republican leadership -- watch this DVD and take some notes if you'd like to get into the White House (and out of the doghouse) by 2000.
(Can't find The War Room at your local retailer? We couldn't either, so here's another tip: Reel.com has it in stock for less than $20).
AFI backlash: Bold move, those American Film Institute folks, to list the 100 greatest American films last year, and plot a list of the 50 greatest movie stars (due to be released later this year). It was only a matter of time before The Golden Raspberry Foundation (creators of the "Razzies," Hollywood's anti-Oscars) got around to drafting the 100 worst films of the 20th century, known simply as 100 Years, 100 Stinkers. John Wilson, founder of the Golden Raspberry Foundation, thinks films by Madonna and Pia Zadora may be due for the dubious honor, and who could overlook the likes of Showgirls? If you know a few miserable motion pictures, you can vote at the Razzies website, www.razzies.com. The honors of Worst Actor and Actress of the Century also lie in wait for two lucky recipients. Look for the results in March of 2000, just in time for next year's Academy Awards.
On the Board: A new full-length review of Disturbing Behavior has been posted on the Full Reviews index. New quick reviews include Rounders, Bugsy, Logan's Run, The War Room, and Donnie Brasco, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.
We'll be back here tomorrow with this week's notable street discs.
Friday, 12 February 1999
In the Works: Even more new DVD information was posted yesterday on Laserviews, to wit:
Warner News: Warner Brothers has posted two press releases regarding upcoming DVDs, one dealing with price reductions for some upcoming titles, and another on new DVD titles for 1999. We have already reported most of this information in previous weeks, so we'll skip the summaries this time.
Coming Attractions: The DVDs never stop spinning here at The DVD Journal, and you can expect new reviews on Monday morning, including Rounders, Donnie Brasco, and a full-length review of Disturbing Behavior. We'll see you then.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 11 February 1999
In the Works: Here's more new DVD information posted earlier this week at Laserviews:
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Any movie starring Jimmy Stewart is worth watching, but when pressed to determine what is our favorite Jimmy Stewart film, we're overwhelmed with choices. There's the Hitchcock classics, of course, and It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most popular films ever made. But we have to pick Otto Preminger's 1959 Anatomy of a Murder as our top Jimmy flick. Playing a country lawyer in rural Michigan who takes on a complicated murder case, Stewart delivers a mature performance in this courtroom classic that abandons much of the "well, shucks" patter that defined his career while remaining the common man who fights the system -- which is the sort of typecasting that made him a star in the first place. Joined by a fine supporting cast that includes Ben Gazarra, Lee Remick, and Eve Arden, Anatomy of a Murder is still a remarkable courtroom drama after all these years. None other than Duke Ellington contributed the smoky jazz score (he also appears briefly), but the real kicker is watching George C. Scott, in one of his first film roles, as the state's attorney who battles Stewart in his effort to gain a conviction. While only appearing in the second half of the film, Scott dominates his screen time, and it's not hard to see why he became a legendary movie star in his own right.
So where's the DVD? Frankly, our hopes are not high. Columbia TriStar has the rights, and they do make great DVDs, but much of their focus has been on new releases of late, and while Anatomy of a Murder is an extraordinary film, it probably doesn't have enough sales potential in the current DVD market to warrant a new transfer anytime soon. We're arguing that it should be released early for good behavior.
See ya later.
Wednesday, 10 February 1999
In the Works: Here's some new DVD information posted yesterday on Laserviews:
Oscar Overlooks: Get the feeling there's more than a little disconnect between the critics' favorite films from 1998 and yesterday's Oscar nods? Not that we think There's Something About Mary should be nominated as best picture, but the near-total omission of Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight from this year's ceremonies is a complete stunner, and we were planning on rooting for it like last year's excellent underdog, L.A. Confidential.
Telling you that Saving Private Ryan will win the Best Picture award is about as difficult as predicting snow in Saskatchewan, but if we need an underdog, let it be Shakespeare in Love. Among 1999's Best Picture nominees, it's got small chances (it's a comedy, after all), and it would make a great DVD.
See ya later.
Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Oscar Nods: Here's the top categories from this morning's 1999 Academy Award nominations:
Shabby Spice?: The nominations for the 19th annual "Razzies" awards, the anti-Oscars honoring infamy in film arts and sciences, have also been announced, and our fave Brit bimbos, The Spice Girls, have been nominated as a group in the categories of "Worst Actress" and "Worst New Star," with the addendum that they are "a five-member girl group with the talent of one bad actress between them." In addition, Les Femmes de Spice recent entry into the realm of cinema, Spice World has been nominated as Worst Film of 1998, joined by the similar masterpieces (and top-selling DVDs) Armageddon, The Avengers, and Godzilla. John Wilson, who created the Razzies (short for "Raspberries") has described 1998 as "the worst movie-going year ever." (Doesn't he say this every year?) Reuters has posted a rundown of the nominations.
On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, via Laserviews, and it's a short list today:
Commentary Clip: "We shot all this in a rain forest right outside Manila. We had a kung fu ninja film shooting next door, so occasionally we'd look over and see a Chinese guy flying through the air in a black pajama off a trampoline."
-- Oliver Stone, Platoon: Special Edition
Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films in America from last weekend:
We'll see you tomorrow.
Monday, 8 February 1999
ROM "Ronin": TWICE is reporting the buzz on MGM's coming DVD of Ronin, which will not only feature numerous DVD Video extras, but DVD-ROM content as well, including an interactive chat session with director John Frankenheimer. DVD-ROM users with an Internet connection will be able to access the Ronin website at 8 p.m. EST on March 14 as Frankenheimer fields questions from visitors and utilizes segments of the DVD-ROM to illustrate his comments (hence, none of that fuzzy streaming video that plagues so much Web content). Dave Miller, video marketing manager for MGM, says Ronin could become the best-selling title in the MGM catalog.
"Verbal" nominations: The nominations for this year's Academy Awards will be announced tomorrow morning at 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific, and we're glad that Kevin Spacey will be on hand for the event, announcing nominees with Robert Rehme, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. This year's Oscar ceremony will be held on March 21 at -- where else -- the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in sunny L.A.
Disc of the Week: Our thoughts are with Donald O'Connor today as he battles pneumonia in a Los Angeles hospital. Over the weekend, we had another look at MGM's Singin' in the Rain and it wasn't a tough decision to make it our disc of the week. Okay, so maybe the storyline is a little thin, but Hollywood musicals with trenchant plots are few and far between. However, Singin' in the Rain features some amazing singing and dancing from O'Connor and his cohorts Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds, playing three 1920s L.A. performers who face the transition from silent films to the new "talkies." Kelley's performance of the title tune seems to turn up on every Hollywood history reel, and the "Broadway Melody" segment is an epic dazzler. MGM has done creditable work with this disc, which features great audio and a flawless, colorful source print. If you haven't seen it lately, you owe it to yourself to check out a piece of Hollywood history.
Top DVDs: The DVD Pro conference has announced their Second Annual DVD PRO Discus Awards for Creative Excellence. The categories include Best Consumer DVD-Video, Best Educational DVD (ROM or Video), Best Consumer DVD-ROM (Technical Achievement), Best Corporate DVD (ROM or Video), Best DVD Packaging, and Best of Show. Winners will be announced during the March 14-16 DVD PRO Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco.
Studio scrutiny: Think the Justice Department has gotten a little heavy-handed with anti-trust investigations lately? Now a number of Hollywood studios have become the subject of a preliminary investigation to determine if they have used illegal tactics to distribute their films. "We are looking into certain, possibly anti-competitive practices in the distribution of motion pictures," says Clinton Justice Department spokeswoman Jennifer Rose. Among studios to receive a JD letter of inquiry are Warner Brothers, MGM, Universal, Disney, Sony (Columbia TriStar), 20th Century Fox, and Paramount. Let's see... yep, that would be just about everybody.
On the Board: New reviews this week include The Apostle: Collector's Edition, The Long Good Friday: The Criterion Collection, Singin' in the Rain, and Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country. Check 'em out under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.
We'll be back tomorrow with this week's notable street discs.
Friday, 5 February 1999
Star Wars rumors: It isn't the first time we've heard it, but various Internet sources are now saying that they have received unofficial word from Fox that the Star Wars Trilogy will arrive on DVD in May, just in time for the theatrical release of Episode One: The Phantom Menace. Again, this is unconfirmed, but we first heard rumors of this scenario many months ago, and the editorial staff of The DVD Journal has concluded that, with George Lucas's clear pro-DVD stance, a release of Star Wars this year is more likely than not.
Furthermore, we are also hearing that the Indiana Jones Trilogy (also owned by Lucas, but released to home video by Paramount, not Fox) is due sometime in December. Again, an unconfirmed rumor, but with Paramount in the game, there seem to be few barriers standing in the way of some new Indy discs eventually. And when discussing DVD releases in December, you're pretty much in "eventually" territory anyway.
Divx Watch: Circuit City (and their subsidiary CarMax) have released an earnings statement for January 1999, claiming that sales compared to the same period one year ago have increased 17%, up to $943.4 million compared to $807.1 million in January 1998. So what are their sales figures for Divx in the month of January? Get ready for a shock -- they don't say. The numbers suggest that Divx isn't quite the financial albatross that many pundits have predicted it would be, but without a direct statement from CC it's all guesswork.
New from Image: Image Entertainment announced that they have reached an agreement with Eagle Rock Entertainment that will result in 28 music titles on DVD. Among performers to be featured in the new releases are Chick Corea, The Manhattan Transfer, Rickie Lee Jones, Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra, and Carmen McRae. Other program suppliers with whom Image has licensing agreements for DVD include Orion, Universal, and Playboy.
International Mailbag: Christoph Wewer from Frankfurt, Germany dropped us a line just to let us know that we don't have it all in the States:
We are still waiting for Escape from New York to appear in Region 1, but for some reason we think watching Snake Plissken kick some ass while talking in German would be kind of... well... wunderbar.
One thumb up, one thumb out: Movie critic and television personality Gene Siskel has announced that he will take an indefinite sabbatical from his various duties to recuperate from recent brain surgery. It is expected that balcony buddy Roger Ebert will carry their popular syndicated television show alone for the time being, although Siskel noted in a statement that "I'm in a hurry to get well because I don't want Roger to get more screen time than I."
Coming Attractions: The DVD Journal staff has been diligently watching more DVD movies on your behalf, and new reviews are on the way, including Robert Duvall's The Apostle: Collector's Edition and the Criterion disc of the UK gangland classic The Long Good Friday. Look for these and other new reviews on Monday morning.
Time to crack open a beer. Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 4 February 1999
In the Works: Here's some new DVD information posted yesterday at Laserviews:
Fight for your right: It wasn't listed on Laserviews, but the 1998 Amnesty International concert is due to appear on DVD from Image sometime this year. Performers at last year's concert, held on Dec. 10 in Paris, included Radiohead, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Alanis Morissette, Tracy Chapman, and Shania Twain.
"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: So you're starting to think that all the really good movies have found their way to DVD, and it's nothing but the new releases from here on out. Wrong. John Huston's The Maltese Falcon is so missing in action we're lobbying to put it on cartons of milk. Was Bogart ever cooler than when he played private dick Sam Spade? Many pick Casablanca as his best performance, but we love watching him in The Maltese Falcon as he beats up Peter Lorre, berates Mary Astor, and haggles with Sydney Greenstreet over "the dingus," a statuette of a black bird that could be worth a fortune for the right seller. MGM/UA has the home-video rights to this 1941 classic, and we love their DVDs, so your guess is as good as ours as to why it has yet to materialize. As of now, a new disc is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Author Appreciation: The Writers Guild of America have nominated their top screenplays of 1998, as follows:
The Writers Guild of America is seen by many as the most reliable bellwether for the Academy Award nominations for screenwriting, so forget about the Golden Globes -- these films look like the real contenders.
We'll see you tomorrow.
Wednesday, 3 February 1999
Disney day-and-date: From DVD Insider comes the news that a DVD of Disney's immensely popular A Bug's Life will appear day-and-date with the VHS edition on April 20, which is a first for the Mouse. In another breakthrough, the film will be the first digital-to-video transfer on DVD, as opposed to the traditional film-to-video process. It's bound to look stunning.
Papal approval: When he was known as Karol Wojtyla, he was a Polish playwright, actor, and soccer goalie, in addition to his day job with the Church. You probably know him better as Pope John Paul II, and he's not just God's supreme representative on earth -- he's also a film buff who, according to the Italian newspaper La Republica, has his own list of greatest films. Among Il Papa's fave flicks are Schindler's List, Ben Hur, A Man For All Seasons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Modern Times. Not bad picks if you ask us -- although we're not really going to disagree with His Holiness on this issue.
Top of the Pops: Our friends at Reel.com have announced their top-ten-selling DVDs from last week:
See ya later.
Tuesday, 2 February 1999
On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Laserviews:
Hack Attack: Andy Patrizio at TechWeb has posted a story on that alleged Divx hack we reported on last week. Patrizio managed to speak to one of the creators of the box, who claims that the device is entirely legal. However, Josh Dare of Divx says any such device would violate the Divx customer agreement. If you're thinking of buying it, we have one question: Why would you want to own a Divx deck in the first place?
Hardware Wars: E-Town has a new story on the three-way format war that is recordable DVD. We still are perhaps five years away from a viable technology (and who knows when it will be affordable), but you may want to take a couple of aspirin before reading anyway.
Sundance: Many films at this year's Sundance Festival are now picking up distribution deals from such art-house firms as Fine Line, Artisan, and Sony Pictures Classics. Reuters has the play-by-play from Park City, including what films have scored million-dollar deals and some guesses on which could be mainstream breakouts. Fine Line (a division of New Line), Artisan, and Sony all support the open DVD format.
Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films in the U.S. from last weekend:
See ya later.
Monday, 1 February 1999
In the Works: Here's some new DVD announcements that Laserviews posted over the weekend:
Discs of the Week: We've got two discs for you this morning, and they make an unusual double-feature. You've probably seen Good Will Hunting, the film that shot both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's careers into the stratosphere. Fortunately, it holds up to a second viewing. Damon is good as Will Hunting, the young mathematical prodigy who chooses to sit on life's sidelines, and Robin Williams, as his counselor, gives perhaps the most restrained performance of his career. The Miramax Collector's Series disc includes a commentary track with writers Damon and Affleck and director Gus Van Sant, deleted scenes, a "making-of" featurette, "behind-the-scenes" footage, and numerous trailers and TV spots. Feel bad about shelling out the high street-price for this one? Don't worry -- it's not your fault.How many films can be made about a reclusive, somewhat paranoid mathematical genius? After watching Pi, we'd have to say at least more than one. Shot for a mere $60,000 by director Darren Aronofsky, Pi is simply one of the best independent films to arrive in a long while. Sean Gullette plays Maxamillian Cohen, a math whiz who believes that everything in the universe can be explained with numbers, even chaos systems. But when he finds predictable patterns in the stock market, a Wall Street firm attempts to lure the secret away from him. Meanwhile, a sect of Hasidic Jews, who are also aware of Max's abilities, want him to decode the Torah, which they believe is a numerical message from God. Shot in high-contrast black-and-white and with some great montage editing, Pi is deeply disturbing, hard to forget, and worth more than one viewing. The Artisan disc features a good transfer, commentary tracks with Aronofsky and co-writer Gullette, deleted scenes, "behind-the-scenes" footage, and two trailers.
Hi-Def Horizon: The Washington Post has released a new story on analog vs. digital video. It may be a bit rudimentary for our DVD Journal readers, but as a comprehensive look at current digital video formats it's worth a read anyway.
Divx Defense: We've already said everything we need to about Divx, and if you haven't read it, be sure to visit our Divx Information Page. But, as a special feature of The DVD Journal, we are happy to share all pro-Divx comments that we get through the e-mail. An unsigned reader fired us this missive over the weekend.
Thanks for your letter. We're not concerned that you have purchased a Divx player. However, we are very worried that you are depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
On the Board: New quick reviews this week include Good Will Hunting, Pi, The Truman Show, West Side Story, and The Great Train Robbery. We enjoyed all of this week's selections, so check 'em out under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.
We'll be back tomorrow with this week's street discs.