News and Commentary: February 1999

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Friday, 26 February 1999
Weekend Dispatch

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.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 25 February 1999

boxcover"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.

-- Ed.

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:

  • MGM is planning to release the classic 1951 An American In Paris with Gene Kelly; Vincent Minnelli's 1958 Gigi, starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier; Milos Forman's Hair, starring John Savage, Treat Williams, and Beverly D'Angelo; and the 1954 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which will include a "making-of" documentary. All four discs are due on April 27.
  • Mariah Carey fans can get happy over a new DD 5.1 concert disc on the way from Sony. Live performances will include "Butterfly," "Emotions," "Fantasy," and duets of "I'll Be There" with Trey Lorenz and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" with Olivia Newton-John. Bonus videos on the disc will include "Butterfly" and "Breakdown." Look for it on April 13.
  • Not to outdone in pop-music arena, Warner has announced a disc of Depeche Mode: The Videos '86-'98, a two-hour extravaganza that includes every music video every made by the Brit synth-pop legends, and will include a conversation with the band members and the 25-minute "Depeche Mode: A Short Film." Fans of instruments that require tuning can look forward to Paul Simon: Graceland: The African Concert, a live performance from 1987 featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo and including songs such as "Under African Skies," "Graceland," "You Can Call Me Al," and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." If Paul Simon doesn't have enough hair for you, you can look forward to a new disc from Warner of Rod Stewart: Storyteller 1984-1991, which will include videos of "Infatuation," "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and "Forever Young" (what, no "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"). All three are due on March 23.
  • Pioneer is preparing a disc of D.A. Pennebaker's documentary Searching For Jimi Hendrix (April 20), which features comments from the lyrical likes of Chuck D., Roseanne Cash, Los Lobos, Taylor Dayne, and Cassandra Wilson. (Taylor Dayne?)

'Nuff tunes. Here's the flicks:

  • Warner has announced a 16x9-enhanced disc of Terence Malick's Badlands, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. They are also planning to release Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One, starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and Robert Carradine, and Boys On The Side with Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore, Mary-Louise Parker, and Matthew McConaughey. Look for all three on April 27.
  • Discs on the way from HBO include Shadowlands (April 13), the T.S. Lewis biopic with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, and White Man's Burden (April 20) with John Travolta and Harry Belafonte.
  • Look for a disc of At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, and Kelly McGillis, due from MGM on April 27.
  • Trimark has announced discs for Another Day In Paradise (May 18) with James Woods and Melanie Griffith, the TV mini-series The Last Don II (May 25) starring Danny Aiello and Joe Mantegna, and True Crime (May 25) with Alicia Silverstone and Kevin Dillon.
  • Artisan has knocked five bucks off the prices of several discs, including Air America, The Crying Game, The Fabulous Baker Boys: Special Edition, Jacob's Ladder: Special Edition, The Piano, Sophie's Choice, Universal Soldier, and Young Guns. Look for the better street price of about $20 at better retailers.
  • Street date changes include 1941: Special Edition, which is back from indefinite postponement and sporting a new street date of March 23. Meanwhile, Monty Python and The Holy Grail has been postponed with no new date. Not a good exchange if you ask us. Other street date changes include Jerry Springer's Ringmaster (March 30), Oprah Winfrey's Beloved (April 6), and Warren Beatty's Bulworth (April 13).

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, 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:

  1. Dances with Wolves
  2. Casablanca
  3. The Silence of the Lambs
  4. The Big Chill
  5. Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country
  6. West Side Story
  7. Gone with the Wind
  8. The Truman Show
  9. The Peacemaker
  10. Driving Miss Daisy

We'll see you tomorrow.

-- Ed.

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:

  • Babe (DTS/pan-and-scan)
  • Bad Boys (1983)
  • Bjork: Volumen
  • Branded To Kill: The Criterion Collection
  • Carnival Of Souls
  • Crooklyn
  • Cry Freedom
  • Drop Squad
  • Flintstones: The Movie: Collector's Edition
  • Henry and June
  • The Holcroft Covenant: Special Edition
  • How To Make An American Quilt
  • The Killer Elite
  • The Last Emperor: Director's Cut
  • Last Year At Marienbad
  • The Little Rascals
  • Man Of The Year
  • The Music Man: Special Edition
  • My Life As A Dog
  • Paranoia
  • Pecker: Platinum Series
  • Permanent Midnight: Special Edition
  • Project A 2 (import)
  • Proud Rebel
  • Ronin: Special Edition
  • The River
  • The River Wild (DTS)
  • The Shadow (DTS/pan-and-scan)
  • Shadrach
  • Singles
  • The Thomas Crown Affair: Special Edition (1968)
  • Tokyo Drifter: The Criterion Collection
  • The Train: Special Edition
  • Urban Legend

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.

-- Ed.

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.

boxcoverDisc 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:

  1. Message in a Bottle
    $10,300,000 ($32,400,000 to date)
  2. Payback
    $10,300,000 ($57,200,000 to date)
  3. My Favorite Martian
    $6,700,000 ($19,800,000 to date)
  4. Blast From the Past
    $6,100,000 ($16,800,000 to date)
  5. October Sky
    $6,000,000 ($6,000,000 to date)
  6. Shakespeare in Love
    $5,800,000 ($54,100,000 to date)
  7. She's All That
    $5,400,000 ($49,500,000 to date)
  8. Office Space
    $4,300,000 ($4,300,000 to date)
  9. Rushmore
    $2,700,000 ($9,600,000 to date)
  10. Saving Private Ryan
    $2,400,000 ($203,200,000 to date)
  11. Life is Beautiful
    $2,300,000 ($24,600,000 to date)
  12. Patch Adams
    $1,700,000 ($129,300,000 to date)

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.

-- Ed.

Saturday, 20 February 1999
Weekend Dispatch -- Second Update --

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
Weekend Dispatch

In the Works: Here's a short update of DVD announcements, courtesy of Laserviews:

  • PolyGram is preparing a 16x9-enhanced disc of Very Bad Things, starring Christian Slater, Jon Favreau, and Cameron Diaz. Look for it on April 27.
  • Columbia TriStar has announced a disc of Thief, an Academy-Award nominee for best foreign film in 1997, which will also feature 16x9 enhancement, and is also due on April 27.
  • Shanachie has two DVD bio-documentaries on the way, one on legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh, the other on band-leader Charles Mingus. Both are due on March 23.
  • Street date changes include Dancing In The Dark (March 9), Intermezzo (March 9), A Time To Kill (March 9), Dark Star (March 16), A Boy and His Dog: Special Edition (March 30), Apt Pupil (April 20), Clay Pigeons (April 20), Henry V: The Criterion Collection (April 20), One Tough Cop (April 20), Return To Paradise (April 20), and Kingpin: Special Edition (May 18).

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.

boxcoverCommentary 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.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 18 February 1999

boxcover"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.

-- Ed.

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

  1. The Truman Show
  2. Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country
  3. Gone with the Wind
  4. The Big Chill
  5. Wild Things
  6. The Peacemaker
  7. The Man in the Iron Mask
  8. Out of Sight
  9. Sliding Doors
  10. The Wedding Singer

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.

boxcoverCommentary 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.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 16 February 1999

On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Laserviews:

  • Another 48 Hours
  • Benji
  • Black Rain
  • Fantastic Planet
  • The Fisher King
  • For The Love Of Benji
  • The Governess
  • Jade
  • The Lumiere Brothers' First Films
  • My Life As A Dog
  • Nosferatu The Vampire: Special Edition
  • Practical Magic: Special Edition
  • Snake Eyes
  • Sucker: The Vampire: Special Edition
  • Tenchi In Tokyo #2: A New Friend
  • The Tin Drum: Special Edition
  • Without Limits
  • Yes: Live In Philadelphia

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:

  1. Message in a Bottle
    $19,100,000 ($19,100,000 to date)
  2. Payback
    $18,400,000 ($44,700,000)
  3. My Favorite Martian
    $11,100,000 ($11,100,000 to date)
  4. She's All That
    $10,200,000 ($42,800,000 to date)
  5. Blast From the Past
    $9,700,000 ($9,700,000 to date)
  6. Shakespeare in Love
    $9,500,000 ($47,100,000 to date)
  7. Saving Private Ryan
    $4,000,000 ($9,100,000 to date)
  8. Rushmore
    $3,700,000 ($6,300,000 to date)
  9. Patch Adams
    $3,600,000 ($127,100,000 to date)
  10. Varsity Blues
    $3,400,000 ($48,400,000 to date)
  11. Life is Beautiful
    $3,000,000 ($21,800,000 to date)
  12. The Thin Red Line
    $2,000,000 ($33,100,000 to date)

See ya tomorrow.

-- Ed.

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.

boxcoverDisc 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: 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, 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.

-- Ed.

Friday, 12 February 1999
Weekend Dispatch

In the Works: Even more new DVD information was posted yesterday on Laserviews, to wit:

  • DreamWorks has officially announced a disc of Antz, and it will be a special edition featuring a commentary track with directors Tim Johnson and Eric Darnell, a "behind-the-scenes" short, a look at CGI animation, and a trailer. Look for it on March 23.
  • New titles on the way from Paramount include the 1953 sci-fi classic War Of The Worlds, Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier, Relic, starring Penelope Ann Miller, Linda Hunt, and Tom Sizemore, and the "Saturday Night Live" spinoff A Night At The Roxbury. All are due on April 20.
  • Laurence Olivier fans get excited, because Criterion is planning a disc of his 1944 Henry V. Unusual in the canon of Shakespeare films, Olivier decided to shoot it within a recreation of the Globe theater. Also on the way from Criterion is the original 1963 Lord of the Flies, the schoolboys-turned-savages allegory based on William Golding's novel, and a disc of the cable TV show Fishing With John, a series that follows filmmaker John Lurie as he undertakes various wildlife adventures with the likes of Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon, Dennis Hopper, Jim Jarmusch, and Tom Waits. The disc, which will comprise six episodes of the series, will also feature a commentary track with writer/director Lurie. All three DVDs are slated for release on March 30.
  • More discs on the way from Criterion include the 1948 The Red Shoes, the 1932 The Most Dangerous Game, and 1997's A Taste Of Cherry. The latter two will feature lower street prices from the normally spendy Criterion Collection. Look for all three on April 27.
  • Getting all excited over the coming release of Steven Spielberg's 1941, which was announced as the first official Spielberg flick on DVD? Don't, because the title has now been postponed indefinitely.
  • Other postponed titles include Antarctica: IMAX (March 2), Tropical Rainforest: IMAX (March 2), A Boy and His Dog: Special Edition (March 2), and A Fish Called Wanda (March 23).

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.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 11 February 1999

In the Works: Here's more new DVD information posted earlier this week at Laserviews:

  • Disney has several new discs in the works, including Beautiful Girls with Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O'Donnell, and Uma Thurman; The Pixar hit A Bug's Life; Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway; the 1991 Father Of The Bride with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton; and Four Rooms, featuring the directorial efforts of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell. All are due on April 20.
  • New Line is preparing a disc of American History X, featuring Edward Norton in a role that garnered him an Academy Award nomination earlier this week for Best Actor. The disc will sport a commentary track with producer John Morrissey and writer David McKenna, deleted scenes with commentary from Morrissey, and a trailer. Look for it on April 6.
  • The special features for New Line's Pleasantville: Platinum Series have also been announced, and will include a commentary track with director and scenarist Gary Ross, an isolated score track in 5.1 with commentary by composer Randy Newman, a short feature on the film's special effects, a music video of Fiona Apple's "Across the Universe," storyboards, the screenplay and storyboards as DVD-ROM content, color bars to calibrate your television, and a trailer. If all that isn't cool enough, don't forget that New Line's Platinum Series discs can often be had for a street price of around twenty bucks.
  • DreamWorks has announced discs for Amistad and Paulie, both due on April 13.
  • Paramount has a few classics in the works, including Danny Kaye's The Court Jester, Terence Malick's Days Of Heaven with Richard Gere and Sam Shepard, and Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, and Edward G. Robinson, and which will feature 16x9 enhancement, a digital restoration from the original VistaVision print, a new Dolby Digital track from the original sound elements, and no less than three trailers. Look for them on March 30.
  • Also due from Paramount is a disc of the immensely popular Rugrats Movie, due as well on March 30.
  • Street date changes include Tokyo Drifter (Feb. 23), The Rolling Stones: Live At The Max: IMAX (March 2), and Time Bandits: Special Edition (March 30).

boxcover"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.

-- Ed.

Wednesday, 10 February 1999

In the Works: Here's some new DVD information posted yesterday on Laserviews:

  • New DVDs due from Universal includeThe Burbs (April 13); Gorillas in the Mist (April 13); Franco Zeferelli's La Traviata (April 13); Meet Joe Black (April 6); the Doris Day/Rock Hudson classic Pillow Talk (April 13); The War, starring Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood (April 1); and The Wiz, the 1978 musical starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor (April 13).
  • Universal is also planning to release The Doors Collection (April 13), which will feature Doors concert footage, commentary with Doors members Ray Manzarek, John Densmore & Robby Krieger, outtakes, and numerous other extras.
  • New DTS discs on the way from Universal include Born on the Fourth of July, Dragonheart, For Richer or Poorer, and The Jackal. All are due on April 13.
  • Lots of good stuff is on the way from Columbia TriStar, including Bryan Singer's controversial Apt Pupil (April 13); Futuresport (April 20); a new disc of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (April 6); Monty Python & The Holy Grail (March 16); One Tough Cop starring Stephen Baldwin and Chris Penn (March 16); Passion Fish (March 16); and Poetic Justice: Special Edition, which will feature a commentary with director John Singleton (March 16).
  • No slew of new releases from Fox, but they have announced a disc for The Siege (April 20), starring Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, and Bruce Willis. What, you want extras? Are you nuts?
  • The PolyGram DVD of The Usual Suspects: Special Edition is now officially canceled, so you might want to grab a copy somewhere if you can't wait for the re-release by MGM -- and who knows when that will be.
  • Other PolyGram films that have yet to arrive at DVD (because of the handoff from PolyGram to MGM) are currently listed as "canceled," including such MIA favorites as Blue Velvet, Escape From New York, The Princess Bride, The Sure Thing, and When Harry Met Sally.
  • Street date changes include A Boy & His Dog: Special Edition (Feb. 23), Evil Dead: Special Edition (March 16), and The Lair of the White Worm (no new date).

boxcoverOscar 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.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 9 February 1999

Oscar Nods: Here's the top categories from this morning's 1999 Academy Award nominations:

Best Picture

  • Elizabeth
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Thin Red Line
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Life is Beautiful

Best Director

  • Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • Peter Weir, The Truman Show
  • John Madden, Shakespeare in Love
  • Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful
  • Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line

Best Actor

  • Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan
  • Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters
  • Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
  • Nick Nolte, Affliction
  • Edward Norton, American History X

Best Actress

  • Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare In Love
  • Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station
  • Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
  • Meryl Streep, One True Thing
  • Emily Watson, Hilary and Jackie

boxcoverShabby 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:

  • Bee Gees: One Night Only: Live
  • Come & Get It
  • Legionnaire: Special Edition
  • Mafia!
  • Marvin's Room
  • Prophecy
  • Rounders
  • Super Bowl 32: The Best One Ever
  • Trees Lounge: Special Edition
  • Vampires

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:

  1. Payback
    $21,221,526 ($21,221,526 to date)
  2. She's All That
    $11,652,050 ($30,696,541 to date)
  3. Patch Adams
    $4,407,335 ($122,377,900 to date)
  4. Varsity Blues
    $3,841,120 ($44,261,528 to date)
  5. Saving Private Ryan
    $3,609,717 ($3,609,717 to date)
  6. Shakespeare in Love
    $3,463,943 ($36,158,631 to date)
  7. A Civil Action
    $3,075,382 ($51,632,380 to date)
  8. Stepmom
    $2,513,269 ($87,193,623 to date)
  9. Simply Irresistible
    $2,232,686 ($2,232,686 to date)
  10. You've Got Mail
    $2,189,019 ($111,118,817 to date)
  11. The Prince of Egypt
    $1,921,629 ($93,389,964 to date)
  12. The Thin Red Line
    $1,912,400 ($30,426,042 to date)
  13. Rushmore
    $1,841,793 ($1,923,244 to date)
  14. At First Sight
    $1,464,879 ($20,665,440 to date)
  15. A Bug's Life
    1,417,171 ($155,959,885 to date)
  16. A Simple Plan
    $1,367,177 ($12,121,149 to date)
  17. Waking Ned Devine
    $1,340,020 ($18,590,457 to date)
  18. Mighty Joe Young
    $1,083,576 ($46,938,617 to date)
  19. The Waterboy
    $1,070,721 ($156,658,429 to date)
  20. Life is Beautiful
    $837,586 ($18,369,921 to date)

We'll see you tomorrow.

-- Ed.

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.

boxcoverDisc 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.

-- Ed.

Friday, 5 February 1999
Weekend Dispatch

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:

Hello from Frankfurt. I just dropped by and saw that Escape from New York is on your "Missing in Action" list. Escape from New York is available on DVD in Germany (Region 2 and PAL that is). Unfortunately it contains only one audio track in German.


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.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 4 February 1999

In the Works: Here's some new DVD information posted yesterday at Laserviews:

  • Fox has announced a new release date for The X-Files: Fight the Future, now due on April 20. Does the three-month delay mean that we can expect special-edition content on the DVD (like the extras on the boxed-set VHS)? Probably, but there's no official word yet one way or the other.
  • Image has a number of rare new discs on the way, including three Douglas Fairbanks classics: the 1921 The Three Musketeers, the 1922 Robin Hood, and the 1926 The Black Pirate, which will be a special edition featuring an audio commentary with film historian Rudy Behlmer. Look for all of them on May 18.
  • Also due from Image are discs for Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin -- Parts One and Two (April 13); D.W. Griffith's rarely seen 1918 Broken Blossoms (April 20), starring Lillian Gish; The Complete Uncensored Private Snafu (April 20), a collection of rare World War Two-era Warner Brothers propaganda animations featuring the voice of Mel Blanc; Presenting Felix The Cat (April 20), a collection of sixteen Felix animations, with new organ scores; Secrets Of War: Spy Games Of World War II (March 30), four Cold War documentaries narrated by Charlton Heston; Aretha Franklin: Live At Park West (April 6); and Academy Award Winners (March 2), a history of the Oscars.
  • Did we overlook any new Image titles? Maybe, but how can we overlook a DVD called Nude For Satan (April 27), an Italian flick described as "chock-a-block with lesbianism, whippings, black magic and dubious dubbing." Yowza!
  • Street date changes include Evil Dead: Special Edition (Feb. 16), My Life As A Dog (Feb. 16), One False Move: Special Edition (Feb. 23), The Gospel According To Al Green (March 9), The King and I (April 27), and John Denver: The Wildlife Concert (no new date).

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.

boxcover"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:

Original Screenplay

  • Shakespeare in Love -- Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
  • Bulworth -- Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pisker
  • The Opposite of Sex -- Don Roos
  • Saving Private Ryan -- Robert Rodat
  • The Truman Show -- Andrew Niccol

Adapted Screenplay

  • A Civil Action -- Steven Zaillian
  • Gods and Monsters -- Bill Condon
  • Out of Sight -- Scott Frank
  • Primary Colors -- Elaine May
  • A Simple Plan -- Scott B. Smith

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.

-- Ed.

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 have announced their top-ten-selling DVDs from last week:

  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. The Blues Brothers
  3. The Devil's Advocate
  4. Face/Off
  5. Altered States
  6. Armageddon
  7. Primary Colors
  8. Out of Sight
  9. Pi
  10. Kiss The Girls

See ya later.

-- Ed.

Tuesday, 2 February 1999

On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of Laserviews:

  • The Alarmist
  • All Of Me
  • Andrei Rublev: The Criterion Collection
  • The Best Of Times
  • The Big Easy
  • Chuck Berry & Bo Diddley's Rock & Roll All Star Jam
  • Crackdown
  • Diabolique: The Criterion Collection
  • The Deep
  • Final Justice
  • Guess Who's Coming For Dinner
  • How Stella Got Her Groove Back
  • A Man For All Seasons
  • My Life As A Dog
  • Nothing Sacred
  • The Seventh Seal: The Criterion Collection
  • Submitted For Your Approval: Rod Serling
  • Wages Of Fear: The Criterion Collection
  • Jackie Chan's Who Am I?

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:

  1. She's All That -- $16,065,430 -- $16,065,430
  2. Patch Adams -- $6,001,680 -- $116,507,970
  3. Varsity Blues -- $5,914,240 -- $38,982,706
  4. A Civil Action -- $4,797,967 -- $47,253,243
  5. Shakespeare in Love -- $4,037,917 -- $31,447,302
  6. Stepmom -- $3,608,549 -- $83,619,126
  7. The Thin Red Line -- $3,300,316 -- $27,272,459
  8. You've Got Mail -- $3,022,672 -- $108,174,879
  9. At First Sight -- $2,650,442 -- $18,373,276
  10. The Prince of Egypt -- $2,625,153 -- $90,829,789
  11. A Simple Plan -- $2,107,277 -- $10,069,654
  12. A Bug's Life -- $1,922,070 -- $154,152,003
  13. Mighty Joe Young -- $1,689,748 -- $45,529,281
  14. Waking Ned Devine -- $1,508,487 -- $16,735,964
  15. Virus -- $1,425,970 -- $12,266,060
  16. In Dreams -- $1,409,213 -- $10,337,697
  17. Life is Beautiful -- $926,243 -- $17,182,785
  18. Enemy of the State -- $900,422 -- $107,221,418
  19. Playing By Heart -- $838,624 -- $2,833,478
  20. Gloria -- $832,846 -- $3,615,434
  21. Elizabeth -- $654,109 -- $20,553,150
  22. The Waterboy -- $580,736 -- $155,523,746
  23. The Rugrats Movie -- $570,550 -- $94,269,189
  24. Star Trek: Insurrection -- $562,014 -- $67,191,128
  25. The Faculty -- $533,338 -- $37,512,589

See ya later.

-- Ed.

Monday, 1 February 1999

In the Works: Here's some new DVD announcements that Laserviews posted over the weekend:

  • We've already told you about this, but the official details of the Criterion/Buena Vista Armageddon DVD have been posted, and if you have a widescreen TV, don't count on a 16x9 transfer, because it doesn't look like it's going to happen. However, the two-disc set will include the extended "director's cut," two commentary tracks, deleted scenes, a featurette on director Michael Bay, storyboards, trailers, and an Aerosmith music video. Look for the release on April 20, with a suggested retail of $49.99.
  • We've also already told you about the upcoming musicals from Fox, but further information has been posted on Laserviews. Look for Carousel, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and State Fair on April 27, and with a new low suggested retail from Fox of $24.98.
  • Warner has a number of music-oriented discs on the way as well, including Bjork: Volumen (Feb. 23), Eric Clapton: 24 Nights (March 9), three volumes of Frank Sinatra music (March 9), and Madonna: Ciao Italia: Live From Italy (March 9).
  • Artisan is preparing a disc of John Wayne's 1952 The Quiet Man (March 23). Also look for The Jazz Singer (April 20), not with Al Jolson but Neil Diamond, and featuring Laurence Olivier during that time in his career when he would do any movie for a paycheck (c.f., Clash of the Titans).
  • Disney is planning to street the remake of Mighty Joe Young on March 23.
  • Passport has announced a disc of The Many Faces Of Zorro, a documentary on the history of Zorro on film that will include interview footage with the cast of the recent The Mask of Zorro. A late announcement, it is due to street tomorrow (Feb. 2).
  • Street date changes include My Life As A Dog (Feb. 9), Crumb (March 9), Desperado / El Mariachi: Special Edition (March 9), Devil In A Blue Dress: Special Edition (March 9), One False Move: Special Edition (March 9), Hudson Hawk (March 16), The Punisher (April 20), and Il Postino: Special Edition (no new date).

boxcoverDiscs 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.

boxcoverHow 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.

You are full of it! DVD is not the Best. I have never seen such a bunch of bull in my life. You seem to forget the facts when you talk about DVD vs. Divix. First, it slips your mind that any Divix player will play any DVD also.I have been totally satisfied with Divix. I am glad to say I got the facts on my own before listening to you or the the Divix folks. You must really stand to loose everything if this does not fly. Me, on the other hand will be a happy camper no matter which way it goes. I have heard of crying wolf....but you guys take the cake! I will continue to sway everyone I can.

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.

-- Ed.

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