News and Commentary: August 1999

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Tuesday, 31 August 1999

The saga continues: In a free-market economy, you should be careful what you ask for -- you just might get it at a higher price. Disney announced yesterday that they have raised the suggested retail for their nine animated DVD releases from $34.99 to $39.99 each, effectively sticking conventional street prices somewhere around $35. And while many fans of these films are hoping the hike means that the extra material due to arrive on Disney's upcoming VHS counterparts will be included on the DVDs as well, the official line at the Mouse House is still something along the lines of "You'll get nothing and like it." (Of course, we'll let you know if that changes.)

Pissed off? Then don't buy the DVDs. But considering the incessant demands for the past two years from DVD fans around the Internet to get classic Disney animation on disc, the only thing that surprises us is that The Mouse isn't selling these discs for $50 or more. And congratulations to all of our readers who managed to snap up's pre-order price of $20.99 for these titles, because a visit last night to our favorite online store revealed that they have raised the pre-order prices to $23.99 per disc. As far as pre-orders go, it's on the high end, but at least it's still close to what most other DVDs sell for nowadays.

And for those of you still interested: Undaunted by the unwelcome news, we've just obtained the boxcover art for all nine Disney DVDs -- click here to get a sneak preview.

Correction (well, sort of): Regarding our recent attempt to dispel confusion about a special edition DVD of The Matrix, Warner surprised us by announcing late last week that a "special edition" of sorts will indeed by released in November, but as we stated previously, the DVD itself won't be any different. Instead, a planned DVD box set will include additional items, including the soundtrack, a film cell, and a few other "collectable" bits and pieces. It's not the sort of package that gets us all that excited (we really just want the disc), but for those of you who want the extra goodies -- and are willing fork out as much as $60 retail for it -- you may want to wait. The Matrix box set is due to arrive on Nov. 9, along with additional Warner sets of The Exorcist and Enter The Dragon, all just in time for the holiday shopping season.

On the Street: Titanic Tuesday has arrived! Here's this morning's notable street discs, Big Boat Flick included, courtesy of

  • 200 Cigarettes
  • Adventures Of Milo And Otis
  • The American President
  • The Bedroom Window
  • The Best of Chris Rock
  • The Cassandra Crossing
  • Cleopatra (1999)
  • Faust
  • Idle Hands
  • Lost Horizon
  • Milk & Money
  • Night Fire
  • Office Space
  • Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
  • Othello (1952)
  • Public Access
  • Rickie Lee Jones: Live At The Wiltern Theatre
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
  • The Shanghai Gesture
  • A Soldier's Story
  • Spring Symphony
  • Titanic
  • Tribute To John Coltrane

"Sixth Sense" on a roll: We already know that The Sixth Sense, which has been cleaning up at the American box office for the past month, will be one of the hot DVDs in 2000, not least in part because its take last weekend was $20.1 million, making it only the third film in history to score more than twenty-huge four weeks in a row. The other two? Titanic and The Phantom Menace.

Quotable: "I watched Titanic when I got back home [from the hospital] and cried, and I knew that my I.Q. had been damaged."

-- Stephen King, discussing his recent life-threatening
man-vs.-van accident in an interview with
the Bangor Daily News.


-- Ed.

Monday, 30 August 1999

boxcoverDisc of the Week: "L.V." (Jane Horrocks) is a soft-spoken girl from East London. Well, actually, she doesn't speak much at all. Since the death of her father, she has lived above the family record shop with her man-chasing mother Mari (Brenda Blethyn), never going out, but just staying in her room playing classic records from her father's collection. Mari doesn't understand L.V., regarding her as an indecipherable little git and the chief burden of her existence. It is only when Mari starts dating sleazy talent manger Ray Say (Michael Caine) that the tacky impresario discovers something about L.V. that Mari never bothered to notice -- namely, that the young lass has listened to so many classic records that she can perfectly mimic all of the great singers, including Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and Marilyn Monroe. Ray smells money, and Mari realizes she could use her prodigious offspring to lead him to the altar. The only problem is that L.V. doesn't want to sing in public, and it takes all of the shifty machinations that Ray can muster to get her in front of a big band and a money-paying crowd. Featuring splendid performances from the entire cast, Little Voice is another wonderful Brit-com, following on the heels of such other crowd-pleasers as The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine, but it manages to find more heart at the center of its Cinderella-esqe story, in addition to broader performances from those who surround L.V., as the selfish mother and boyfriend cajole, threaten, and pander to their young prodigy. Blethyn is both funny and incredibly vulgar, and Caine hits on one of the best roles he's taken in a long time, letting loose with his rough-around-the-edges Cockney charm. Ewan McGregor gives an original turn as an introverted telephone installer, who is just as soft-spoken as L.V. and the only person who wants her to stand up for herself. But Horrocks (a familiar figure to fans of "Absolutely Fabulous") walks away with the entire movie, performing all of her own singing impressions with astonishing skill. You have to hear it to believe it -- and even then, you may not.

Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

  1. The Sixth Sense
    $20,100,000 ($138,800,000 to date)
  2. The 13th Warrior
    $10,300,000 ($10,300,000 to date)
  3. Runaway Bride
    $6,900,000 ($124,500,000 to date)
  4. Bowfinger
    $6,600,000 ($48,400,000 to date)
  5. Mickey Blue Eyes
    $5,470,000 ($19,778,000 to date)
  6. The Thomas Crown Affair
    $4,700,000 ($49,878,000 to date)
  7. The Muse
    $4,212,820 ($4,212,820 to date)
  8. In Too Deep
    $4,100,000 ($5,700,000 to date)
  9. The Blair Witch Project
    $4,100,000 ($128,000,000 to date)
  10. The Astronaut's Wife
    $4,012,000 ($4,012,000 to date)
  11. Dudley Do-Right
    $3,000,000 ($3,000,000 to date)
  12. Deep Blue Sea
    $1,846,000 ($66,164,000 to date)

On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Cruel Intentions, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Go: Special Edition, Little Voice, The Mod Squad, Raising Arizona, and The Andromeda Strain, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.

-- Ed.

Friday, 27 August 1999
Weekend Dispatch

Python returns!: As more and more Monty Python stuff finds its way to DVD, the British Broadcasting Corp. has announced that the four surviving members of Monty Python's Flying Circus will reunite later this year for a TV special that will feature new sketch material. Before the announcement, the Pythons -- John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones -- had consistently refused to perform together on television since the death of fellow Python Graham Chapman in 1989. The sixth Python, animator and director Terry Gilliam, was not mentioned as a participant in the event. Here's hoping he also makes a contribution.

You want hi-def?: Japanese researchers, along with Sharp Corp., have announced a prototype for an amazingly large laserdisc that will hold as much as 40 times more data than a conventional DVD, packing in no less than 200 gigs on a 12-inch platter, compared to 4.7 gigs on our beloved 5.25-inch discs They also say that 40 average-length movies could fit on the new LP-sized format, and hope to have working prototypes within the next three years, but let's get real -- the studios would rather we buy our videos one at a time. If the new disc does come to fruition, we're betting its primary application will be for backing up industrial-sized computers.

boxcoverCommentary Clips: "Billy (Crystal) sent me the script, and I read it and I called Billy up and I said, 'Well, why don't we have a reading of it?' which I like to do a lot of times because it sort of lifts it off the page a little more, it gets you closer to kind of hearing it and seeing it, and so we did. We had a reading and talked more and said, "Well, maybe this could be good....' I had always been concerned I would be a little more real than the way it was. Some of the jokes were funny and this and that, but it just didn't have a more substantial weight to it, the character, because that's what really to me would be funny, these heavies with Billy's character, but him really dealing with it, these guys as real as you could make them would make it, like I say, funnier because there would be funny situations in it without playing the cliché stuff and all of that... We had talked to some directors and I was trying to get Scorsese to do it. He had something else and I'm not sure he really wanted to, but I thought, y'know, Marty understands the humor and would love the humor and get it, of course. The humor of real behavior, that's funny, not just yuk-yuk stuff. But he wasn't available or whatever the reason was, and then there were other directors we spoke to, and finally we came up to Harold (Ramis), and Harold wanted to do it and actually turned out really well because Harold was a good person for the whole production as far as being an easy person to work with and smart and able to balance everybody's input and at the same time have a point of view of his own."

-- Robert De Niro, Analyze This

"So I sent Bob the script, and we knew each other a little bit socially, and we spoke on the phone and he goes [De Niro voice], 'Uh, yeah, yeah, y'know, I like this, this is all right... ahh, this is okay, I like this, there's somethin' here, there's somethin' very good here. Very good here.' So we arranged a meeting. We had a lot of great actors come out to Los Angeles to read Analyze This. We had terrific people there. And in walks Bob De Niro. This was the first time I'm actually going to act with him, and I was ready. I was up all night, I was training, I worked out on the treadmill, I beat up four guys, I threatened four others -- and there he is. Quiet, unassuming Robert De Niro. And there I am, nervous. And we read it and it was great and he was loving it, and laughs, I mean big laughs. And afterwards he called me over and said, 'I think there's somethin' here.' It still didn't happen. We went through another rewrite, another rewrite, another rewrite, there was another director involved for a while, and then we finally hit on Harold Ramis, who was the perfect choice to do this movie -- funny, really smart, had a good fix on it, and we all said, 'This makes sense.' So that's when Analyze This really started to happen, about two years ago."

-- Billy Crystal, Analyze This

Quotable: "When Jack Valenti became the third president of MPAA in 1966, a vacuum existed. The State, City and County Censorship Boards rated movies and enforced the ratings laws and ordinances. Imagine what would happen if that existed today! Valenti counteracted with a movie industry self-regulation system and a classification ratings design. This enlarged freedom of the screen and made a pledge to parents to enable them to select movies for their children. All these government boards are gone. We don't want them to return... There seems to be an absence of criticism by the folks for whom the movie ratings system was intended: parents."

-- Kirk Douglas, in a recent letter to Variety

Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Go: Special Edition, The Mod Squad, Raising Arizona, and others, so be sure to check back on Monday for all the latest. And don't forget, this is the last weekend you can enter this month's Free DVD Contest, so if you get the chance, be sure to drop by our contest page and take our Monthly DVD Poll while you're there.

Have a shagadelic weekend, gang.

-- Ed.

Thursday, 26 August 1999

More on the Mouse: It seemed like the Internet was brimming with bile over yesterday's news that Disney's Pinocchio DVD, one of nine animated titles due to arrive this year on disc, will not include a "making-of" documentary that will be found on the corresponding VHS release. Folks in the Mouse House have been tight-lipped on the matter, but DVD Insider is reporting that the apparent snub to digital die-hards everywhere is a result of Disney having already planned to re-release the classic titles on VHS before the DVD issue was decided. Therefore, the official line at Disney appears to be a classic as well, i.e., there wasn't time to add the stuff on disc. And if that's got you cheesed off, be aware that all nine videotapes reportedly will have supplements that will not be on the DVDs.

Well, we smell a rat. And one in funny red shorts, in fact. Magic Kingdom mantras aside, it's difficult to believe that the DVDs can't include the VHS supplements because of time issues. And if it were the case, surely DVD fans would be willing to wait a few more months to get their hands on genuine special editions of these titles.

Our theory? Basic Marketing 101. Each of the nine titles has previously been released on VHS, which means that the additional content will give those who already own the tapes a reason to buy the virtually identical items all over again. However, none of these titles have ever been released on DVD, which makes the movie-only discs special in their own right. After all, what DVD lover wouldn't buy a hi-res Jungle Book or Lady and the Tramp on disc simply because they don't have "making-of" shorts? Furthermore, people with DVD players tend to be in the expendable-income demographic. By only putting the extra stuff on tape, The Mouse has now given the folks with deeper pockets a reason to buy both the VHS and DVD editions in order to have the complete package. Add in a 60-day release window to create a sense of urgency, and -- ch-ching!

You may be incensed over the whole thing, but hey -- you didn't think the Disney people were stupid, did you?....

boxcoverJust what is the "Matrix" DVD?: It seems that some confusion is brewing out there over the upcoming Matrix DVD -- we've received several letters over the past two weeks like the following:

  • When I went to to take a look at their Matrix pre-order deal, I noticed that there was a VHS "Special Edition" of the Matrix listed for release in late November. Will this be released on DVD? Should I wait till November to buy this one in the hopes that I'll get more extras?

    -- Bill

  • Regarding the Matrix disc being released Sept. 21, will it be the Special Edition? I heard something about another disc being released Nov. 23 or something. I am trying to decide whether or not to pre-order it and I want the best one. If you could take the time to figure this out for me I would appreciate it.

    -- Markus

    So let's settle this once and for all. There is definitely no such thing as a "movie-only" Matrix DVD from Warner with a special edition to follow. Period. While some studios have experimented with separate movie-only and special-edition discs (Universal and Buena Vista, to name two), this has never been a Warner practice, and Warner has a very good reputation for releasing feature-heavy discs at rock-bottom prices. The Sept. 21 Matrix disc is indeed a full-fledged special edition, and along with the film it will sport 26 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, along with Web-accessible DVD-ROM content which will include the entire screenplay and 700 storyboards. A live Webcast in October (similar to MGM's Ronin DVD-ROM Webcast) will feature additional footage, reportedly shot during production of the film by the Wachowski brothers with the DVD in mind. We know that's $12.49 pre-order price is a reality-bender, but seriously, there is only one Matrix disc.

    As for the "Special Edition" VHS due on Nov. 23, this is actually the sell-through video, which currently is a wholesale item that rental shops pay upwards of $100 for. After Nov. 23, folks with VCRs will get to buy their own copy of The Matrix at a retail price. And some of you will doubtless remember that Warner originally claimed that they wouldn't retail The Matrix on tape (which had something to do with teenagers, black trenchcoats, and a high school in Colorado), but they reversed course earlier this month. Perhaps the Matrix VHS will have special content like the DVD. Or perhaps they're just calling it a "Special Edition" for the sake of hype. But since we barely remember which side of the videotape goes in the machine first, don't look to us for the answer to that one.

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: There are really only a few staples in American film: the gunfight, the song-and-dance number, the screen kiss, and of course, the car chase. And directors love these things, because it gives them the opportunity to re-invent the wheel (rather than, God forbid, do something authentically original). Most film historians agree that Peter Yates' 1968 Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, was the movie that first introduced the extended car chase to audiences around the world, and that early effort -- a lengthy, gorgeous amalgam of rubber, steel, and roaring engines -- still remains one of the best in existence, largely because Yates decided to forego a musical score and let the booming V-8s set the pace. Since then, the car chase has been a ready standby for Tinseltown scribes suffering from writer's block, and while most of them nowadays are routine (and at times, even boring), there have been a few more notable sequences to reach the screen, including in such favorites as To Live and Die in L.A, The Blues Brothers, and Ronin. You all can argue about which one is best, but which one was the longest? If you think the hyperbolic conclusion to The Blues Brothers wins the prize, you're close, but in fact, actor/writer/director H.B Halicki's low-budget 1974 indie flick Gone in 60 Seconds holds the record, with an unbroken 40-minute car chase that forms the extended conclusion to his cult classic.

    To sit through Gone in 60 Seconds is an unusual experience. The events leading up to final chase are merely perfunctory, chronicling a ring of L.A. car thieves and insurance swindlers who only have a few days to steal more than 40 expensive automobiles in order to complete their biggest job ever. It's mostly dull stuff, and it's hampered by some very low-budget production qualities. Dialogue is muffled and occasionally indecipherable, and since it was shot in the early '70s, there's lots of big hair, plaid trousers, and leather jackets, and it seems that everybody's wearing sunglasses. It's the sort of filmmaking that Paul Thomas Anderson adoringly mocked in Boogie Nights -- seriously, you almost expect John Holmes to appear at any moment.

    But eventually the monumental car chase gets underway. Two undercover cops find Halicki pilfering a souped-up '73 Mustang, and what was a boring porn film without the sex turns into a compelling multi-car chase across Long Beach and the suburbs south of L.A, as crisp editing and compelling sound design suddenly invade the proceedings. Halicki was a self made auteur who actually owned several junk-yards and loved nothing in life more than four-wheeled thunder, and many would say that a movie camera only gave him an excuse to demolish Detroit's finest. And lots of 'em -- no less than 93 cars are smashed for the sake high-octane cinema.

    After making a couple more low-budget flicks, Halicki undertook Gone in 60 Seconds II in 1989, in which he planned to crash 400 cars, including 80 police cruisers. Tragically, he was killed in a freak accident on the set, leaving only the original for high-speed fans to savor, and that isn't easy anymore -- the videotape has long been out-out-print and hard to find in local rental shops, and original copies currently sell for upwards of $60 on eBay. But we have reason to hope that this forgotten curio will arrive again on home video, and even on DVD, because Gone in 60 Seconds is currently being re-made as a Hollywood A-project starring Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (you know, the guy behind Armageddon, Enemy of the State, The Rock, Con Air, Crimson Tide, et. al.). And since Cage's salary alone is reputedly higher than the entire budget for the original, we're confident that the upgrade will make enough of an impact to generate renewed interest in Halicki's film. Expect one of the independent home-video companies to acquire the rights to Gone in 60 Seconds not long after the retooled flick arrives in 2000, and let's hope for a DVD as well.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 25 August 1999

    Diz disses DVD!: We really weren't surprised when Disney announced yesterday that their upcoming Pinocchio DVD would be one of the nine new discs scheduled to be deep-sixed after 60 days (and as we told you yesterday, is currently listing all nine as "limited editions"). But what we didn't expect is that a "Making of Pinocchio" documentary from The Mouse House would be available on the accompanying VHS edition -- and only on the VHS. Here's the relevant excerpt from the press release:

    Accompanying this momentous occasion, a new VHS edition of "Pinocchio," fully restored and THX-certified, will be available "day and date" with the DVD version, on Oct. 26, 1999. A special "Making of Pinocchio" bonus section, available only on the VHS edition, provides a fascinating look at how Walt Disney and his team of artists created Walt's 2nd Animated Masterpiece.

    The 60th Anniversary Edition of "Pinocchio" features a special "Making Of" program, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the creative process that brought Disney's 2nd Animated Masterpiece to life. This bonus footage includes rare production shots, early ideas for the film that Walt Disney conceptualized, and a look at the amazing group of artists who helped turn Walt's dreams into reality.

    Are we being stroked by reading that a VHS is "day and date" with a DVD, instead of the other way around? No matter. It looks like The Mouse is about to burn up some of the goodwill with DVD die-hards that it only acquired a week ago....

    boxcover"Titanic" rides high: As the fight for DVD bragging rights between Paramount's Titanic and Warner's The Matrix continues, the James Cameron epic has struck the first blow, with Paramount announcing yesterday that Titanic is the first DVD to ship more than one million copies in advance of its Aug. 31 street date. It's entirely possible that The Matrix, due on Sept. 21, will also ship a million (Warner is betting on it, in fact), but even if it does, the Paramount announcement has left the Wachowski brothers in the big boat's wake. In addition, the record-setting mark completes a hat trick for the blockbuster disaster movie, which is also the highest-grossing film in history ($1.8 billion) and the best-selling VHS as well (with a staggering 60 million units). And to think, the extras on the forthcoming disc consist of nothing more than a trailer.

    Meanwhile, Variety is reporting that Keanu Reeves is near completing negotiations to appear in two Matrix sequels, for which he could earn as much as $30 million for his computer-enhanced efforts. However, estimates based on intricate profit-sharing arrangements indicate that the K-boy could reap a personal fortune of more than $100 million by the time The Matrix trilogy is complete. On the other hand, Big Jim Cameron has no plans for another Titanic. Instead, he is hoping to re-team with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold for a sequel to a different sort of blockbuster, True Lies, which is in early pre-production and could reach the theaters within the next two years. Look for a Cameron-produced IMAX flick in the meantime.

    Mailbag: Wednesday is mail day here at The DVD Journal, so let's get to it:

  • Regarding your story that Steven Spielberg is waiting for three million DVD players to sell before releasing his major films on DVD, according to The Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association (CEMA), three million players have already been sold to dealers (meaning they'll eventually fall into consumers' hands). The projection is actually three million by year's end, and this might be what Spielberg meant. I find this frustrating because at first the figure was 1.5 million, and now they say three or four million. I'm just anxious to get that copy of Jurassic Park or The Lost World and blow out my windows when the T-Rex makes his/her displeasure known. :-)

    BTW, I've added your site to the list of daily sites I visit. Keep up the great work!

    -- Andrew

    Thanks for your comments, Andrew. You are correct that three million DVD players have sold through to dealers (the milestone occurred just last week), but we have interpreted Mr. Spielberg's apparent comments at the recent Smithsonian event to mean that he'd like to see at least three million installed players, i.e., in the homes of end-users, before giving the green light. And yes, the first permutation of this rumor was that The Man only wanted around one million decks to sell before committing to DVD. Either that bit of gossip was true and he later changed his mind, or it was never the case at all.

    Our Spielberg story has sparked a great deal of interest from our readers, and we have made a point of following up with a few of our most reliable sources since first posting it. We can't tell you anything concrete, but let's leave it as this -- nothing we have heard since we posted the story has contradicted Spielberg's reported exchange with DVD Journal reader Todd Dupler, which only makes us think that the incident really did happen as reported. But as for when Spielberg's choice titles will hit the street, your guess is as good as ours.

  • I have been a Laserdisc fanatic since 1978 and resisted DVD until I could stand it no more. Anyway, I just learned, after hooking up my player last night, that DVDs are copy protected! Is this true? All DVDs? Is there anything I can do? This means that I can't run the player through my VCR, right?

    -- Bryan

    DVDs are indeed copy-protected, just like most new VHS releases are today, with a technology called Macrovision. This is why if you try to copy a retail VHS you get that awful picture quality (see our section on Macrovision in our DVD Lexicon for more info). This also means that you cannot use your VCR to tape DVDs. But if you think that sucks, bear in mind that the studios would never release anything on DVD if it could be easily copied -- they'd actually lose money on DVD and have no choice but to keep their product on tape. You don't have to like Macrovision, but it's the current arrangement between content providers and DVD fans, and it isn't going to change. In fact, you can expect additional copy-protection technologies to arrive as the DVD market grows.

  • I think your website is one of the best on the net and hopefully it will be around for a while. My suggestion: Why not create a message board so readers can ask questions and make comments? I think it would be a viable and essential addition to your site.

    -- Alex

    We'd love to have a message board for all of our readers, but, like everything else around here, it all comes down to resources. We spend a great deal of time trying to compile up-to-date DVD information for all of you, including our Release Calendar, Stat Sheet, Missing in Action Page, and the more than 300 DVD reviews that can be found on this website as well. A message board would require constant moderation, and nobody in the office has yet to volunteer for the job. In the meantime, we recommend that all DVD chat-addicts visit the Home Theater Forum or Peter Bracke's new discussion board at the almighty

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. There's Something About Mary
    2. Analyze This
    3. Shakespeare in Love
    4. Payback
    5. Apollo 13
    6. Dune
    7. Heat
    8. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
    9. Star Trek: Vol. 1 - The Original Series
    10. Frankenstein (1931)

    The skinny on plasma: If you've been curious about those bitchin' super-flat plasma TVs that are just now making their way into the high-end shops, E-Town has posted an in-depth article on shallow-screen technology, and they will also be posting reviews of six plasma sets over the course of this week.


    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 24 August 1999

    Disney pre-orders are here: Our friends at have posted their pre-orders for the nine Disney animated titles due to arrive later this year, and the good news is that they're all going for $20.99 each. However, the bad news is that is listing all of them as "limited editions," meaning that every one of them could only be available for a mere two months before they are withdrawn for the next 10 years -- it's the only time we know of that DVDs have been available as pre-ordered items for longer than their actual shelf-life. To visit's DVD page, click here.

    "Shawshank" will street: Or so we're told. The latest release date from Warner for their on-again, off-again DVD (which has been pulled from the release schedule three or four times now) is Oct. 26. However, we wrote a news item just like this one for the previous Shawshank street-date, which was last April 6 -- so we'll suspend the celebration for now.

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

    • The 39 Steps: The Criterion Collection (!)
    • And The Ship Sails On: The Criterion Collection
    • Charade: The Criterion Collection (!)
    • Color of Night
    • Cool Runnings
    • Dirty Work
    • Dreamlife of Angels
    • Earthly Possessions
    • Fled
    • Go: Special Edition
    • Hell Night: Special Edition
    • I Love Trouble
    • Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland
    • Jules and Jim
    • Mr. Holland's Opus
    • The Mod Squad: The Movie
    • Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Special Edition
    • Nights of Cabiria: The Criterion Collection
    • Retroactive
    • Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
    • Sanjuro: The Criterion Collection
    • Sense and Sensibility: Special Edition (!)
    • Space Ace (DVD-ROM)
    • The Three Musketeers
    • Ulee's Gold
    • What's Love Got To Do With It
    • Yojimbo: The Criterion Collection (!)

    See ya tomorrow.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 23 August 1999

    Exclusive!: We gave Universal's upcoming The Mummy: Collector's Edition a spin over the weekend, and our exclusive sneak preview can be read by clicking here.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: A favorite of such contemporary filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, the highly praised 1947 British classic The Red Shoes has been released on DVD from Criterion (based on their previous Laserdisc edition) with wonderful results, and if you have yet to see it, you're missing out on a beautiful, groundbreaking bit of cinematic history. Two ambitious artists, composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and ballerina Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), gain positions with the legendary Lemontov Ballet Company, under the auspices of Boris Lemontov (Anton Walbrook), a man so committed to his craft that he excludes everything else from his world, including love, which he regards as a false emotional experience that compromises the artistic ideal. Lemontov discovers that both Victoria and Julian are extremely gifted artists -- perhaps capable of being among the best the world has ever known -- and produces a ballet for both of them to display their talents, The Red Shoes, bringing all of them worldwide renown. But when Lemontov fears that a budding romance between Victoria and Julian may harm the company, a bizarre rivalry develops between the composer and the impresario over the ballerina, as one wants to love her while the other insists she forsake all love and only live to dance. Directed by Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger, The Red Shoes is a delight on several levels. The script addresses its many themes with a wonderful economy, moving the intricate plot along at a brisk pace, and the underlying issues of artistic commitment, the aesthetic battle between music and dance, and the value of human love offer up timeless debates that the film never tries to solve. All of the performers are perfectly cast, and especially Walbrook, who conveys a cool restraint in all of his affairs that is both intimidating and inscrutable. The early three-strip Technicolor production uses a wide color palette, and Powell and Pressburger's visuals -- especially in the 15-minute production of The Red Shoes ballet -- are unforgettable, rivaling later Technicolor musicals such as An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain. The solid transfer is from an acceptable source print in the original 1.33:1 ratio and mono soundtrack, and the feature-packed disc includes a commentary track with film historian Ian Christie, stars Goring and Shearer, director of photography Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Martin Scorsese; excerpts of the novelization of The Red Shoes on another track read by Jeremy Irons; memorabilia, sketches, and storyboards (some from Scorsese's personal collection); a gallery of promotional photos from the film; and the original theatrical trailer. It's a film that every budding cineaste should study, and The Red Shoes is simply one of the best Criterion packages yet to reach DVD.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Sixth Sense
      $24,100,000 ($107,700,000 to date)
    2. Bowfinger
      $10,700,000 ($35,900,000 to date)
    3. Mickey Blue Eyes
      $10,400,000 ($10,400,000 to date)
    4. Runaway Bride
      $9,300,000 ($113,600,000 to date)
    5. The Blair Witch Project
      $7,100,000 ($120,500,000 to date)
    6. The Thomas Crown Affair
      $7,075,000 ($42,300,000 to date)
    7. Universal Soldier, The Return
      $4,700,000 ($4,700,000 to date)
    8. Inspector Gadget
      $4,300,000 ($83,200,000 to date)
    9. Deep Blue Sea
      $3,800,000 ($63,700,000 to date)
    10. Teaching Mrs. Tingle
      $3,500,000 ($3,500,000 to date)
    11. Mystery Men
      $2,600,000 ($24,400,000 to date)
    12. The Iron Giant
      $2,400,000 ($16,700,000 to date)

    On the Board: Our new sneak preview has been posted for The Mummy: Collector's Edition, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Analyze This, The Red Shoes: The Criterion Collection, Virus, She's All That, and Going Overboard, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

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

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 20 August 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    boxcoverWord on the Street: We have not been able to confirm this information, but the Coming Soon website has listed March 28 as the home-video release date for The Phantom Menace. However, the Video Software Dealers Association website doesn't have any corresponding info yet. If it's true, does this mean a DVD will arrive along with the VHS edition? Don't get your hopes up -- we're still talking about George Lucas here....

    "Tarzan" will swing: After the welcome news that Disney will release nine animated classics on DVD by the end of the year, DVD Insider is now reporting that Tarzan will be the next disc from The Mouse, arriving probably sometime early next year. Upon announcing their first wave of animated DVD titles earlier this week, Disney noted that their future animated films would arrive on disc day-and-date with VHS releases, making this summer's Tarzan the first viable candidate for a dual street-date. However, even though Disney has warmed to digital video, their well-known habit of releasing popular titles for a limited time and then placing them on moratorium hasn't changed, and since several of Tuesday's announced Disney titles will disappear in early 2000, we have no idea if the upcoming Tarzan will swing from a short vine or a long one.

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: "At one point [actor Aaron Eckhart] looked over to me, he was reading the script, and he said, 'Do you think there's any joy in this?' I said, 'I hope not.' It's like we were looking to find something that just played out how despairing people can get in their relationships -- in all kinds, because you have a couple living together, a couple married, two singles, and all the mixes that they try... There's this thread that runs through the movie of people saying, 'Is it me?' Especially the men. You know, it's like that's enough, they think, to just say it. They don't want to hear that it is them."

    -- writer/director Neil LaBute,
    Your Friends and Neighbors

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Analyze This, Virus, and even Universal's The Mummy: Collector's Edition. And if you think The Mummy isn't due to arrive on DVD until Sept. 28, you're right. But we're screening our extras-packed copy this weekend, and we'll give you the skinny on Monday morning.

    It's time to drink some cold Oregon microbrew. Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 19 August 1999

    "The Wall" comes down: It's no secret that Columbia Records has been planning to street a new DVD of Alan Parker's film Pink Floyd: The Wall, based on the epic album by the legendary Brit band, but the official press release was distributed yesterday. The new disc will feature a new 5.1 audio mix of the classic score from the original master tapes, a commentary track with Roger Waters and animator Gerald Scarfe, a 25-minute documentary of behind-the-scenes footage called "The Other Side Of The Wall," an additional 45-minute documentary called "Retrospective," featuring interviews with Waters, Scarfe, Parker, and others, the original trailer, production stills, and even some Easter eggs. Floyd fanatics can expect the new disc to arrive in October.

    "Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: You didn't think that we could let the Hitchcock Centennial pass us by without talking about Missing in Action Hitch-flicks, did you? Well, we thought we might have to, simply because the vast majority of The Master's 53 films have yet to arrive on DVD, and even though a few notables are on disc (Psycho, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train) and others are scheduled for release in coming weeks (Notorious, Suspicion, Rebecca), singling out just one Hitchcock film as the one we most want on DVD is an unwelcome job. After all, there's Shadow of a Doubt, and Saboteur, and To Catch a Thief, and Lifeboat, and The Man Who Knew Too Much -- and everybody knows damn well that The Birds is seriously missing as well. It seemed an impossible task.

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week:But after some shouting matches and a few rounds of arm-wrestling, the staff decided that, bar none, North By Northwest is the one Hitchcock classic we want on disc most. Well, it's actually bar one -- Rear Window is a superior film (probably Hitchcock's best ever), but it's currently undergoing a print restoration and will return to the theaters next year before appearing again on home video, so we decided to eliminate it from the running for now. And North By Northwest is easily a top-five Hitchcock title, a rousing crowd-pleaser from 1959 that is Hitch's most sublime rendition of his favorite plot: the innocent man who is framed for a crime and must pursue his antagonists, while the law pursues him, in an attempt to clear his name. In this retooling of both The 39 Steps and Saboteur, Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a Madison Avenue advertising executive who lives a carefree life as an affluent Manhattan bachelor. It is when he is mistaken by espionage agents as G-man that his Hitchcockian journey begins, as the spies kidnap him and demand that he reveal information he simply cannot provide. After escaping an attempt on his life (who can forget that big bottle of bourbon?), he flees west, first to Chicago, and then to South Dakota, hoping to contact the CIA operative the spies are looking for and gain his protection. Grant is brilliant here, in one of the roles that came to define his career, and the supporting cast is just as wonderful, including Eva Marie Saint as the mysterious woman Thornhill falls for, James Mason as the menacing head of the espionage ring, and Martin Landau, in one of his first film roles, as Mason's obsessive (some say homosexual) sidekick. Leo G. Carroll, the only actor to appear in no less than six Hitchcock films, shows up as well in a role that pre-dates The X-Files by a few decades, and Jessie Royce Landis gets in a few laughs as Thornhill's cynical mother, even though the actress was a mere three years older than Grant. If you've never seen this one -- even on VHS -- you have been missing out on one of the great treasures of American film.

    Okay, there's one more reason we decided to write about North By Northwest this week -- the majority of Hitchcock's later films are owned by Universal, but this one is actually owned by Warner, who acquired it from MGM earlier this year, and Warner has a much better track record of releasing classics on disc than Universal. And, barring another print-restoration, we can't help but think that we will see this one on DVD within the next year.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 18 August 1999
    -- Newsroom Code Red --

    Diz on Disc: Rumors have been swirling for months that one or two classic Disney animation titles would be released on DVD before the end of the year, but nobody predicted the windfall announced yesterday by The Mouse: No less than nine animated titles will arrive in the coming months, some in a limited-release window and some for good. Here's the rundown:

    • Pinocchio (Oct. 26.)
    • 101 Dalmatians (Nov. 11)
    • Hercules (Nov. 11)
    • Mulan (Nov. 11)
    • Lady and the Tramp (Nov. 23)
    • Peter Pan (Nov. 23)
    • Simba's Pride: The Lion King II (Nov. 23)
    • The Jungle Book (Dec. 7)
    • The Little Mermaid (Dec. 7)

    Disney has also announced that future animated films will be released on DVD day-and-date with VHS editions. And we aren't complaining, even though some of these titles will only be available for a scant two months and then placed on moratorium for as long as ten years, much like Disney VHS releases have been since they were first introduced in 1985 (Pinocchio was the first animated sell-through VHS release, by the way). The Mouse has yet to say which of the above titles will become prized collector's items, but if we were betting folks we'd wager that the films made before 1980 (Pinocchio, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book) are the ones due for a deep-sixing.

    It's good news for DVD, and yet we can already hear some bitchin' and whinin' from DVD fans on the horizon. Most of these are bonafide Disney classics, but some of the most cherished Disney titles (i.e., Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, et. al.) are notably absent from the list, and most people can probably find a childhood favorite among the films still Missing in Action. Furthermore, since some of the announced titles will return to Missing in Action status by early 2000, we're guessing that those could become the highest-priced DVD items on eBay not long thereafter, perhaps in time even eclipsing the $200 or more that the out-of-print Little Shop of Horrors currently fetches. But at least those of you willing to spend the bucks will be able to get them.

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. Shakespeare in Love
    2. There's Something About Mary
    3. Payback
    4. Apollo 13
    5. Dune
    6. Star Trek: Vol. 1 - The Original Series
    7. Star Trek: Vol. 2 - The Original Series
    8. Heat
    9. True Crime

    Hitchcock gets a "Clue": Independent cinemas and cable television channels have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth with lengthy screenings of his work these past few weeks, but our favorite bit of memorabilia has to be Parker Brothers' new edition of their classic board game Clue, based on characters and weapons from classic Hitch-flicks. Among the murder suspects in the new game are Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) from The Birds, Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) from Torn Curtain, and even "Mother" from Psycho, while the "rooms" are actually taken from the sets of such classics as Saboteur, Frenzy, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. You Hitch fans can find the game in stores right now.

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 17 August 1999

    Did Spielberg really say that?: Apparently he did -- at least that's our conclusion after following up with DVD Journal reader and digital die-hard Todd Dupler of Alexandria, Va., who managed to get a brief moment with Steven Spielberg at last Thursday's Smithsonian Tribute and ask him when he will embrace DVD. After receiving a letter from Todd last week on the event (see Friday's update), we asked for all of the juicy details. Here's his comments:

  • It happened very quickly. The reception was in the main hall of the Smithsonian Castle (following an award presentation and interview that took place in an auditorium at the Natural Science Museum). There was a mid-size crowd around Mr. Spielberg almost instantly once he arrived at the reception.

    I worked my way in, stuck out my hand, and as he shook it I asked my question: "When will we get more DVDs?" He answered it quickly, saying he was waiting for a platform of three million players, and that it is expected to reach that by the end of the year (I took that to mean he was relying on industry estimates that three million would be sold by the end of the year); and then they would start to release titles early next year, which I interpreted as "if and when three million is reached by end of 1999." He specifically cited Men in Black and Saving Private Ryan as examples -- which I interpreted as "We'll release the more-recent titles first."

    I guess I was a little puzzled knowing that both Spielberg-directed films like 1941 and Spielberg-produced films like The Mask of Zorro have been released to DVD, so it would have been nice to engage in a little bit more Q&A as to why he has released a few but is holding out on the bulk. But alas, my moment with the Master was a brief one. After our exchange (which took all of 10 seconds), I got out of the crowd and enjoyed some food. Mr. Spielberg left the reception about 10 minutes later.

    So there's Todd's detailed account of his Brush With Greatness. And with DVD player sales expected to break three million units any month now, perhaps we all can expect some major Spielberg films in 2000....

    In the Works: Here's a whole bunch of new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment:

    • Fox has finally dug into their vault and will street a number of classics, including All About Eve, Miracle on 34th Street, and Gentleman's Agreement. Look for all three on Oct. 5.
    • Fox also has some popular library titles on the way, including Big, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, the 1992 The Last Of The Mohicans, and Mrs. Doubtfire. Also look for Never Been Kissed and Pushing Tin. All are due on Oct. 5 as well.
    • Horror fans can look forward to MGM's release of The Rage: Carrie 2: Special Edition (Oct. 12), which will include a commentary with director Katt Shea and crew members, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a trailer.
    • Disney is working on new discs of the television special Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Oct. 12) starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, and Jason Alexander, David Cronenberg's Existenz (Oct. 19), Ten Things I Hate About You (Oct. 12), and A Walk On The Moon (Oct. 19).
    • PolyGram will street a new disc of Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune: Special Edition on Sept. 28, featuring a commentary with Altman and a trailer.
    • Columbia TriStar wins this week's award for "Films That Don't Need Special Treatment" with their upcoming release of The Blue Lagoon: Special Edition (Oct. 5), which will include a commentary with director Randal Kleiser, scenarist Douglas Day Stewart, and loincloth-clad child stars Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, a Brooke Shields photo album from the film's shooting, and a "making of" featurette. But we can still look forward to Sleepless In Seattle: Special Edition (Sept. 28), featuring a commentary by Nora and Delia Ephron, Hard Eight: Special Edition (Oct. 5), featuring two commentary tracks with director Paul Thomas Anderson and the cast and the crew, and Night Of The Living Dead: Special Edition (Sept. 28), with a commentary by George Romero. Also expect new Columbia TriStar discs of Alvarez Kelly (Sept. 28), Heavy: Special Edition (Sept. 21), Immortal Beloved: Special Edition (Sept. 28), Someone To Watch Over Me (Sept. 21), The Who's Tommy (Sept. 21), and Lost and Found (Oct. 5).
    • Monty Python fans can nudge 'n' wink each other over eight new Python discs from A&E that will cover the first two seasons of the British television show Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-70), featuring such classic skits as "Nudge Nudge," "The Lumberjack Song," and "Dead Parrot."
    • Anchor Bay is working on a new disc of Something Wicked This Way Comes (Sept. 21), starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce
    • Cool stuff on the way from Criterion includes Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter and Michael Powell's controversial Peeping Tom. Expect both on Sept. 21.
    • After cringing our ass-cheeks over the idea of Barney the Didactic Dinosaur on DVD with the recent release of Barney, Let's Play School, Lyrick has announced another in what apparently will be a legendary DVD series: Barney's Night Before Christmas. Feed it to your kids on Sept. 28.

    DVD takes flight: In-flight movies are about to become a lot better looking, at least on American Airlines, who have announced that they will be installing personal DVD players in first-class seating. The Panasonic portable players will be introduced next month on international routes between the U.S. and Europe and South America, and more AA planes are expected to be rigged with the spendy decks in coming months. Each passenger with a DVD-equipped seat will also be offered their choice of 20 discs, and we'd be surprised if AA wouldn't allow you to bring along some of your favorites as well, so if you're planning a long flight in the near future, you now have no excuse not to finish the three-and-a-half-hour director's cut of Das Boot.

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

    • 3 Days Of The Condor
    • 54
    • American Pimp
    • Analyze This: Special Edition
    • Ed-TV: Special Edition
    • Everyone Says I Love You
    • Frankenstein: Special Edition
    • Grace Of My Heart: Special Edition
    • Lady Of The Lake
    • Medicine Man
    • One Man's Justice
    • Playing By Heart
    • Pop Up Videos '80s
    • Priest
    • Rocketeer
    • Short Cinema Journal #1:5
    • Simply Irresistible
    • Star Trek TV #1
    • Star Trek TV #2
    • Virus (DTS)
    • Wishmaster/Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies

    See ya tomorrow.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 16 August 1999

    Fox vs. Fox: Fans of The X-Files shouldn't get their hopes up for too many more TV shows, movies, or DVDs -- at least not with David Duchovny in them. The popular actor who, along with co-star Gillian Anderson and creator Chris Carter, helped make the low-budget cult series a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon, has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Fox, alleging that the studio behind The X-Files has their own little conspiracy going, partly by selling X-Files re-runs to their own F/X cable channel rather than placing them on the open market. Since Duchovny shares in the residuals from TV re-runs of the series, he claims that the lost revenue has cost him millions -- $25 million, in fact, which he's seeking in court as damages, according to Variety. Neither Gillian Anderson or Chris Carter has commented, but Duchovny's suit claims Carter was paid "hush-money" to overlook the deal (Carter is not named as a defendant, however).

    Where does The X-Files go from here? With Duchovny in the final year of his contract for the series, it is expected that he will not re-sign, and it's possible that the show will conclude after this season. And if that's a shame, its also conceivable that there will be no more X-Files movies if Duchovny is unwilling to participate, leaving the promising franchise that started with Fight The Future with only one entry, instead of the numerous films that were predicted in the tradition of the Star Trek series, another television program that successfully made the transition from the living room to the big screen.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: As the theaters of 16th Century London have been closed by the plague, struggling playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) believes that he has lost his "muse," unable to create anything more than the title for his non-existent play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Separated from his wife, he drinks, dodges his responsibilities, and has affairs with several women, until he happens upon Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young lady who loves the theater but cannot be an actor because she is a woman, and thus adopts the garb of a boy to join Shakespeare's company. Their subsequent romance plays tongue-in-cheek like one of the Bard's comedies, with the illicit lovers masquerading as members of the opposite sex to further their affair while Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), Viola's suitor, tries to determine who has "plucked" his bride-to-be. With a history-bending script by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard that overflows with in-jokes for Shakespeare fans and theater buffs, Shakespeare in Love slipped out of the 1999 Academy Awards with seven statuettes, including the one for Best Picture, beating out Saving Private Ryan, which, for all its merits, didn't muster the accessible, crowd-pleasing quality that Academy voters like. The supporting cast includes such favorites as Geoffrey Rush, Simon Callow, Ben Affleck, Rupert Everett, and Judi Dench, who, as Queen Elizabeth, snagged the Best Supporting Actress award (although she is only on screen for about eight minutes). This new Buena Vista DVD of the Universal/Miramax co-production is a gorgeous edition, with a 16x9 transfer that offers fabulous color and detail. We'd tell you to buy it right away, were it not for the fact that a "special edition" disc is rumored to arrive sometime in 2000.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Sixth Sense
      $26,100,000 ($70,000,000 to date)
    2. Bowfinger
      $18,200,000 ($18,200,000 to date)
    3. The Blair Witch Project
      $15,300,000 ($108,000,000 to date)
    4. Runaway Bride
      $14,200,000 ($98,400,000 to date)
    5. The Thomas Crown Affair
      $10,200,000 ($31,100,000 to date)
    6. Deep Blue Sea
      $6,700,000 ($57,200,000 to date)
    7. Inspector Gadget
      $6,200,000 ($76,100,000 to date)
    8. Mystery Men
      $4,900,000 ($19,300,000 to date)
    9. Brokedown Palace
      $4,000,000 ($4,000,000 to date)
    10. The Iron Giant
      $3,800,000 ($12,600,000 to date)
    11. The Haunting
      $3,300,000 ($83,600,000 to date)
    12. American Pie
      $2,800,000 ($90,800,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for Fargo, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Shakespeare in Love, Affliction, Murder at 1600, Claire's Knee, and a look at the out-of-print, hard-to-find Platoon disc. All can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 13 August 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    Mailbag: Here's a letter we received yesterday from a DVD Journal reader, and even though we can't confirm this information, we figured we'd let you know about it anyway:

  • Hi guys! I live in DC and went to a reception at the Smithsonian last night in honor of Steven Spielberg. I was blessed enough to get to shake the man's hand and ask him a question: "When will we get more DVDs?" He said he has been waiting for the platform to expand to 3 million units, which he said it should do by the end of the year, so by early next year we should start to see a few new titles, like Saving Private Ryan and Men in Black. Hope this is of interest.

    -- Todd

    Yes, that's very interesting Todd, and it's similar to what we've been hearing about Spielberg for more than a year now. However, the last variation of this rumor said that Spielberg was waiting for an installed base of only 1 million DVD players, so we'll take his comments with the proverbial grain of salt. Actually, we just think it's pretty cool that a DVD fan got to meet Spielberg and confront him on the issue -- it probably doesn't happen to him very often.

    And not long after we originally posted Todd's note this morning, we got this additional letter:

  • Just wanted to report that I was also lucky enough to have attended the Smithsonian event honoring Steven Spielberg on Wednesday and indeed heard The Man answer Todd's DVD question just the way he reported it. Just FYI.

    -- Matt

    So there you go, folks. We should also point out that Matt has an e-mail address with the U.S. Senate, so our second confirmation didn't come from the middle of Iowa or anything....

    The Hitchcock Centennial: On August 13, 1899, Alfred Hitchcock was born in London, and around here that qualifies as an international holiday. Hitchcock films have been playing around the clock for the past few weeks on several cable channels, and independent cinemas around the country have been hosting special Hitch tributes, but perhaps most exciting is the news that The Venice Film Festival will screen 20 minutes of never-before-seen footage next month from Hitchcock's final, uncompleted film Kaleidoscope, and we are desperately hoping that this footage finds its way to home video. Really, it doesn't even have to be on DVD, it can be on tape. We'd even buy a goddam Betamax if we had to.

    Myers joins the $20 million club: After the smash success of this summer's The Spy Who Shagged Me, which is now the 28th-highest-grossing film of all time at the U.S. box office (and the fifth-highest comedy), Mike Myers has signed a $20 million contract with Universal and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment that will see his Saturday Night Live skit "Sprockets" reach the silver screen, with Myers in the role of the pinched-lipped, black-garbed German talk-show host Dieter. In addition to the huge chunk of change for merely appearing in the film (he's already been paid for writing the Sprockets script), the arrangement will see Myers snag a further $20 million for an as-yet-undetermined project. "His biggest successes have been projects he hatched, making him much more than an actor for hire," Imagine chairman Brian Grazer told Variety. "I'm proud to be the guy who gets to pay him the big dollars."

    Um, gross: Unlike The New York Times, we at The DVD Journal are willing to report the news that isn't fit to print, including the somewhat distressing fact that many viewers of The Blair Witch Project have been succumbing to motion sickness and chundering movie food in the cineplexes -- so you may want to take along some Dramamine if you're planning to see the herky-jerky horror flick this weekend.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Shakespeare in Love, Affliction, and a quick look at the hard-to-find Platoon disc, so check back on Monday for all the latest stuff.

    Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 12 August 1999

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: Okay, we tend to bitch like all of you about the lack of DVD releases from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, but with Titanic scheduled for Aug. 31, almost every film from box-office champ James Cameron will have arrived on disc, including Terminator 2, Aliens, and True Lies. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the methodical director has built his blockbuster reputation on the basis of only seven films to date, and if you think we're writing this column because we want Piranha 2: The Spawning on DVD, you are hereby banned from visiting this website. We want what every Cameron fan wants -- 1989's The Abyss, which by September will be the only major Cameron flick still Missing in Action. Starring Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, The Abyss concerns a team of deep-sea oil drillers who are enlisted by the Navy to recover a sunken submarine because they are the only folks who have equipment that can go that deep. However, once the team starts digging around the ocean floor, they discover that there are forces in the depths who may be friendly or hostile, but are definitely alien, creating a stormy conflict between the blue-collar drillers and the Navy SEALs who watch over them. The Abyss is trademark Cameron, with a story that goes on too long and some weak transitions between the action sequences-- but what action. The initial collapse of the drilling rig is a white-knuckle ride, and the scene where Harris and Mastrantonio are stranded in a mini-sub with only one oxygen tank between them is unforgettable stuff, infused with a dramatic urgency that is impossible to forget. Unfortunately, DVD fans were mercilessly teased by Fox when they announced that The Abyss would be one of their first DVDs, only to be pulled from the schedule not long thereafter. Fox never said if their hypothetical disc would be the original theatrical release or Cameron's 171-minute "director's cut," but we know that most of you want the latter. However, we're willing to go against the grain on this one, because we'd rather see the original, which is a much tighter production that leaves the most obvious questions unanswered. Action films are pretty straightforward stuff, but good mysteries are only good because they remain mysteries.

    Which reminds us.... Does anybody remember what happened in DVD Land one year ago this week? That's right, digital die-hards, on the morning of August 10, 1998, DVD holdouts Fox and Paramount announced that they would enter the DVD market, causing a celebration on the Internet that was as excessive as the death of Divx a scant two months ago. In fact, the tight-lipped Fox trumped Paramount with an early-morning press release that took some wind out of Paramount's sails, as Paramount's forthcoming announcement was expected by many pundits while Fox was still considered a holdout. And it was on that August morning that Fox announced The Abyss would be one of their first discs, although it was soon dropped and has yet to re-appear on the schedule.

    Connery tops the century: As 007 fans everywhere look forward to MGM's forthcoming special editions of the entire James Bond series on DVD, word now comes that none other than Sean Connery himself has been voted the Sexiest Man of the Century by New Woman magazine, beating out contenders such as Paul Newman, Mel Gibson, and Brad Pitt (Brad Pitt?). The honor follows Connery's nod last week from Modern Maturity magazine as one of 50 "sexy stars" over 50, where he was dubiously described as "Sexy Sans Hair", along with fellow Brit and Next-Gen Captain Patrick Stewart. Perhaps there's hope for us all.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 11 August 1999

    Mailbag: It's time to clean out some of the reader mail here at The DVD Journal:

  • There is no good reason to release films on DVD as slowly as the studios have been doing -- they are supposed to be in the business of making money. Get everything that is out on VHS on to DVD as quickly as possible!

    -- Robert

    Yours is perhaps the most common complaint we get in our reader mail, and while it would be nice if every movie ever made was on DVD, even getting all the classics on disc "as soon as possible" would take quite a long time. For starters, production capacity at DVD manufacturing plants is running at a maximum right now, with consumer demand outstripping producers' ability to build more facilities. And even though we wouldn't complain abut more facilities, bear in mind that only 1 or 2 percent of U.S. households currently have DVD players, with a scant 10% forecasted by 2002 at the earliest. That's a far cry below the more than 70% of U.S. households that have VCRs, and VCR sales are still outperforming DVD -- especially those cheap $100 models, which American consumers can't seem to get enough of. The home-video divisions of the major studios are still focused on VHS releases, and unless there is an unexpected paradigm shift over the next several years, DVD will remain a videophile product that the studios will continue to support, but probably not evangelize with the fervor of this and many other DVD websites.

    In addition to the basic issues surrounding production capacity, the studios know where the money is, and that's in new releases on both VHS and DVD. This is why as many as two-thirds of all new DVD releases are new movies -- there just isn't a whole lot of money to be made from library titles or classic films. When classics are announced for DVD release, we are overjoyed, and we're grateful that such evergreens as Casablanca and West Side Story have already arrived. However, a quick glance at our Stat Sheet reveals that less than half of both Academy Award Best Picture winners and films on the AFI Top 100 list have yet to reach the street. With the studios' need to maximize their profits with new releases that still have a lot of buzz around them, this process will be slow going (in fact, since we launched our DVD Missing in Action List last January, the page has increased, not decreased). Furthermore, such classics as The Third Man will be ignored by the major studios altogether, leaving it to a specialty producer like Criterion to announce the title. And while The Third Man is an undeniably brilliant work of cinema, we'd be surprised if Criterion's DVD makes the sort of money that Buena Vista's Armageddon has, for example.

    Finally, we admit that (unlike many of you), we're not overly disappointed with the current release schedule. Perhaps we've finally learned what our mothers told us and grown more patient with age. There may be a few thin Tuesdays here and there, but for the most part, it seems like there's something worth watching (and writing about) every week. And if every great classic was on disc right now, we wouldn't only be overwhelmed -- we'd probably be out of work.

  • In your review of A Streetcar Named Desire you write that when the movie was originally released it was censored. You also say that a recent re-release restored the censored scenes. Can you please tell me how long is the original version, and how long is this uncut version?

    -- A.

    Upon release in 1951, Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire ran 122 minutes in the theaters. The 1993 restoration included three additional minutes of footage that Kazan was forced to cut from the original release, and it is this restored edition that can be found on Warner's excellent DVD.

    Top of the Pops: Here's the top-selling DVDs last week from our friends at Click the links to read our reviews of these discs:

    1. Ghostbusters
    2. 8MM
    3. Mallrats
    4. La Femme Nikita
    5. Patch Adams
    6. A Few Good Men
    7. Brazil: The Criterion Collection
    8. The Replacement Killers
    9. The Stanley Kubrick Collection
    10. A Civil Action

    Word on the Street: Fans of Boogie Nights, get excited, because Columbia TriStar is planning to release a disc of Paul Thomas Anderson's first film, Hard Eight, on Sept. 21.

    Spielberg decorated: For all of you who are still steamed that Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan has yet to be announced for DVD (and may not be for a long time to come), don't try to get his attention today -- he's in Washington to accept the U.S. military's highest civilian medal, the Defense Department Public Service Award, which will be presented to him by Secretary of Defense William Cohen. The award is in recognition of Spielberg's Oscar-winning SPR, which "[encouraged] a national dialogue about World War II," according to Department of Defense spokesman Ken Bacon, "and [improved] conversations in families about the contributions that veterans made." That's all well and good, but if Spielberg thinks he's going to get a medal for his meager contributions to digital home-video, he had better not look for it on the Internet.

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 10 August 1999

    In the Works: We have a slew of exciting new disc announcements this morning from Image Entertainment, including lots of "Missing in Action" titles, so let's get to it:

    • Fans of classic horror can look forward to Anchor Bay's new disc of Halloween: Special Edition (Sept. 28), which will include a fully restored print and new 5.1 track, a documentary, behind-the-scenes material, and trailers, television commercials, and radio spots. Anchor Bay will also release a "limited-edition" version of Halloween with additional footage, but only 30,000 copies will be made, so you had better pre-order the damn thing now if you want it.
    • The first wave of James Bond special editions have been officially announced by MGM, and will include For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, Goldfinger, License To Kill, Live and Let Die, and Tomorrow Never Dies. All are due on Oct. 19, and the entire Bond series should be on DVD by the end of '99.
    • MGM also has several other titles on the way, including A Fistful Of Dollars (Oct. 5), Carnal Knowledge (Dec. 7), Child's Play (Sept. 28), and The Falcon and The Snowman (Dec. 7). The release of A Fistful of Dollars also completes Sergio Leone's "Man With No Name" trilogy on DVD, and MGM will street a box set of all three films (the other two being For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) on Oct. 5 with an MSRP of $59.98.
    • Some discs previously released by PolyGram but deep-sixed after MGM acquired much of their library have also been re-announced, including The Graduate, Dead Man Walking and The Usual Suspects, all of which are expected on Dec. 7. However, there's no word yet if the new Usual Suspects disc will include the commentary track by Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie that was on the original PolyGram release.
    • As reported previously here and elsewhere on the Web, Universal will release discs for both the 1932 The Mummy and the 1999 remake. The first disc will include an original documentary, a commentary by film historian Paul M. Jensen, a gallery of posters and photographs, and the theatrical trailer. Features on the 1999 version will include a commentary by director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay, documentary footage of the special effects with the crew at Industrial Light and Magic and director Stephen Sommers, a look at the history of Egyptology, deleted scenes and outtakes, and a trailer. A separate pan-and-scan edition of the latter film will also be released and will include all the extras as well. Look for 'em on Sept. 28.
    • As we told you a couple of weeks ago, Criterion will release new editions of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and Stanley Donen's Charade. The new Hitch-disc will include a commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane, the complete 1937 broadcast of the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation, a Janus Films documentary on Hitchcock's British films, and excerpts from the original 1935 press book. The special features for Charade have not yet been announced. Look for the pair on Aug. 24.
    • Columbia TriStar has announced a new disc of The Buddy Holly Story: Special Edition, which will include a commentary with Gary Busey and director Steve Rash, scheduled for Sept. 7.
    • Hard-rock fans can look forward to a new Sony disc of Alice In Chains: Unplugged, a live concert recorded in 1996 that features such FM classics as "Would?" and "Rooster." Get it on Sept. 14.
    • Only days after we bitched about "Missing in Action" Hitchcock films, Anchor Bay has announced that they will street four Hitch classics from the '40s on Sept. 7: Notorious, The Paradine Case, Rebecca, and Spellbound (you Hitch fans will recognize these as "The Selznick films").
    • What, you want more Hitchcock on disc? Okay. Delta/LaserLight has lined up 17 early, public-domain British Hitch-flicks, along with two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, to be released individually and in two box sets. All will have introductions by Tony Curtis (who was never in a Hitchcock film, by the way) and trailers from later Hitch features. Like you, we have been wary of some "budget" DVD producers, but if LaserLight's excellent edition of The 39 Steps is anything to go by, we have high hopes for many of these titles. And if you're curious, you won't have to wait -- they're all on the street right now. Titles include The Ring (1927), The Manxman (1929), The Skin Game (1931), Number 17 (1932), The 39 Steps (1935), The Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), Jamaica Inn (1939), The Lodger (1926), Easy Virtue (1927), The Farmer's Wife (1928), Blackmail (1929), Murder! (1930), Rich and Strange (1932), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Sabotage (1936), and The Lady Vanishes (1939). Of course, Criterion has already released The Lady Vanishes and has announced The 39 Steps, but the rest of these sound like a Hitchcock fan's treasure-trove of lost classics.

    On the Street: Here's this morning's notable street discs, also from Image Entertainment:

    • Celebrity
    • The Deep End Of The Ocean
    • Finding Graceland: Special Edition
    • Halloween 4
    • Iron Eagle 1
    • King Cobra: Special Edition
    • Powder
    • Red Rock West: Special Edition
    • Return To Oz
    • Shakespeare In Love
    • Tale Of The Mummy
    • True Crime

    "Blair Witch" underway: It seems the rumors are true -- the forthcoming DVD of The Blair Witch Project has been given the early release date of Oct. 26, just in time for your Halloween parties. Or was it given that particular date because Oct. 26 has a very special meaning in the film?....

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 9 August 1999

    Region 2 snafu: After telling you last week about the hit-and-miss nature of some Region 2 DVDs, we now hear that the Japanese edition of Armageddon has been hamstrung by serious errors that cause some DVD players to freeze during playback. Pioneer, the disc's producer (having obtained the the Japanese rights from Buena Vista), says that they have identified the problem and will release a corrected edition. However, Japanese DVD fans can't be happy -- Armageddon is the third-highest-grossing film in the country's history.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) is a successful master thief, due to his adherence to a simple philosophy: Never become attached to anything that you're not ready to walk out on in 30 seconds should you feel the heat around the corner. For McCauley, that heat is Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a swaggering police detective who gives every fiber of his being to the pursuit of criminals. The two men are different versions of the same song, and they come into conflict at crucial times of change in each other's lives. Typically monkish, and wary of the strain of relationships, McCauley nevertheless finds himself becoming involved with a young book clerk (Amy Brenneman). Hanna's obsession with pursuit is fracturing his third marriage (why don't wives of movie cops prepare themselves for this in advance?) and threatening the fragile psyche of his troubled stepdaughter (Natalie Portman). For both men, however, the thrill of the chase is too strong and each must straighten their twisted priorities to stay alive. Writer-director Michael Mann, known primarily as creator of Miami Vice, is not so interested in crime itself -- although the film is filled with fascinating details and intricate heists -- but in the soul of crime. Heat, like Mann's other brilliant film Manhunter delves deeply into the hearts and minds of those on both side of the law. He couldn't have found better actors: atypically reserved, DeNiro exudes a burning power, and Pacino is electric, cutting loose in an at-times wild and deeply empathetic performance. It's one of his very best. Lots of people have been waiting for this one to arrive on DVD, and this new disc of Heat is visually stunning, and always compelling, despite its near-three hour running time. Besides a lack of substantial extras, the only real shame is that this is the original theatrical version, and does not include 17 minutes of deleted scenes that Mann once offered to re-include the film's TV broadcast -- but we're betting that most fans of the film aren't complaining too loudly.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Sixth Sense
      $25,800,000 ($25,800,000 to date)
    2. The Blair Witch Project
      $24,500,000 ($80,200,000 to date)
    3. Runaway Bride
      $21,000,000 ($74,100,000 to date)
    4. The Thomas Crown Affair
      $14,600,000 ($14,600,000 to date)
    5. Deep Blue Sea
      $11,000,000 ($45,300,000 to date)
    6. Mystery Men
      $10,000,000 ($10,000,000 to date)
    7. Inspector Gadget
      $8,400,000 ($64,000,000 to date)
    8. The Haunting
      $6,300,000 ($77,200,000 to date)
    9. The Iron Giant
      $5,710,000 ($5,730,000 to date)
    10. American Pie
      $4,000,000 ($85,400,000 to date)
    11. Dick
      $2,200,000 ($3,400,000 to date)
    12. The Phantom Menace
      $2,200,000 ($412,800,000 to date)

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for The General, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Heat, There's Something About Mary, My Left Foot, Sniper, and The Pelican Brief, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    We'll be back tomorrow to let you know about this week's street discs.

    -- Ed.

    Friday, 6 August 1999
    Weekend Dispatch

    boxcover"Psycho" supreme: To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth (which will fall on Aug. 13), an international panel of film directors assembled by the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine voted the 1960 Psycho the greatest film made by The Master, followed by Vertigo and Notorious. With all due respect to both Psycho and the panel (which included Martin Scorsese and Milos Forman), it seems pretty clear to us that the 1954 Rear Window is actually the most sublime Hitch-flick, even though it didn't even finish in the top ten, but we'll agree that the 1947 Notorious is a damn close second, and we are patiently waiting for both masterpieces to arrive on DVD. Thankfully, Psycho has already been released on disc as a Universal Collector's Edition, a package so comprehensive that it will likely be the definitive home-video edition of this proto-slasher for years to come.

    Sight and Sound's top ten Hitch-flicks:

    1. Psycho (1960)
    2. Vertigo (1958)
    3. Notorious (1947)
    4. The Birds (1963)
    5. North by Northwest (1959)
    6. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
    7. Foreign Correspondent (1940)
    8. Frenzy (1972)
    9. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
    10. Marnie (1964)

    Frenzy is better than Rear Window? And Marnie and Foreign Correspondentas well? Is this for real? And where the hell is Strangers on a Train?

    Hitachi does digital: Jumping on the boat a bit late but better than never, Hitachi Home Electronics has announced that they will street their first DVD player, the DVP250U. Undoubtedly aware of the fact that many CE manufacturers (including Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic) are already developing their fourth-generation of DVD decks, Hitachi hasn't cut back on the features for their debut, including Dolby Digital and DTS capability, dual-laser pickups, component-video output, 96/24 audio, a zoom function, and lots of other stuff. MSRP for the new deck will be about $450, and models should be in the stores by the end of this month.

    Downey-ed by Law: Robert Downey Jr., Tinseltown's top naughty boy, garnered a three-year jail sentence yesterday for consistently violating the terms of his probation for drug possession. Judge Lawrence Mira, described by sources as visibly angry, slapped the maximum sentence on the Academy Award-nominated actor and star of Chaplin and U.S. Marshals, telling Downey's lawyers that "I don't believe your client is committed to not using drugs. You may call that addiction. But there is some level of choice." Downey, 34, has failed to complete seven (!) drug-treatment programs since his first arrest for heroin possession in 1996, perhaps causing him to become desperate in his search for a skilled lawyer to keep him out of jail -- one of his current defense attorneys is Robert Shapiro, who was last seen helping O.J. Simpson beat the rap. With credit for time served and time off for good behavior, Downey could be out of the slammer as soon as 12 months from now, but he told Judge Mira that he still has great difficulty keeping off the smack. "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger," he said, "and I like the taste of the gun metal."

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: "We got a lot of criticism from some of the movie critics that was laced with their moral indignation. That's always very amusing to me, because most people don't accept the Pope as their moral arbiter, or certainly not the President of the United States. Many of us don't even accept our parents or our peers as a moral arbiter, so the concept of a movie critic being a moral judge is particularly amusing to me. Especially since some of the ones in the media were just weather people the day before. Nothing against weather people, but I always feel it's the role of anyone who's doing creative work to cause trouble now and then. I've done that in the past, and I have to say that I enjoy it, because it makes me laugh at the hypocrisy in our culture."

    -- Joel Schumacher, 8MM

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including There's Something About Mary, Heat, The General, and others, Check back on Monday morning for all the latest.

    Have a great weekend.

    -- Ed.

    Thursday, 5 August 1999

    Diz on disc?: We've been hearing the rumors for weeks that Disney may be release one or two of their classic animation titles on DVD in time for Christmas, and now it appears that the forthcoming announcement The Mouse has been promising is growing nearer. However, while lots of folks are expecting good news, nobody has yet to predict just what Disney features are on the way. Don't look at us -- we don't know either. But it looks like something is about to happen, and maybe soon.

    boxcover"Missing in Action" Flick of the Week: When a reader wrote us recently wondering why Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky IV are all on DVD, but Rocky III is missing in action, we scratched our heads along with him. Now don't jump to conclusions -- we certainly aren't about to suggest that the films of Sly Stallone are for the serious cinaste -- but at the same time, at least the first three Rocky films are viable guilty pleasure, and every once in a great while (like if we're snowed in during a winter weekend), grabbing some popcorn and zoning out to the saga of Sly's Philly slugger is a fabulous waste of time -- all you need is a natural rooting interest for the underdog and the willingness to overlook some of the more obvious defects of the series (e.g., thin characters, repetitive plots, Sly enunciating English with the back end of this throat, etc., etc.). So we'd love to have at least the first three Rocky films on DVD, but after some snooping, we discovered a surprising fact: Rocky III isn't just MIA on DVD, it's been withdrawn from home video altogether. We have yet to find out why, so your guess is as good as ours, but until a miserly VHS copy of this one returns to the shelves, we all can consider the DVD as missing as Mr. T's acting career.

    The Who debuts: Columbia TriStar has just announced that Ken Russell's Tommy, based on the rock opera by Pete Townshend and starring members of The Who, will hit the street on Sept. 14.

    On the Block: Back by popular demand! Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare DVDs from online auctions at eBay :

    1. Little Shop of Horrors -- $275.00
    2. Live at Knebworth -- $201.00
    3. The Killer: The Criterion Collection -- $126.00
    4. Platoon -- $102.50
    5. Salo: The Criterion Collection -- $86.00
    6. Leon (aka, The Professional), Region 2 -- $83.00
    7. This is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection -- $76.00
    8. The 400 Blows: The Criterion Collection -- $66.00
    9. Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection (first edition) -- $66.00
    10. Re-animator -- $56.00

    By the way, we also noticed that some guy was selling a bogus Region 1 Shawshank Redemption DVD, which he claimed was released and then pulled by Warner. In fact, Warner has never released a Shawshank DVD (although a pan-and-scan disc is available in Region 2), and it looks like some eager fool sent him $76.00 for the non-existent item. Caveat emptor.

    -- Ed.

    Wednesday, 4 August 1999

    Mailbag: It's time to clean out some of the reader mail here at The DVD Journal:

  • Will The Phantom Menace come to DVD? I don't care about the other three Star Wars films, I just want The Phantom Menace -- it's got awesome sound effects and visuals, and would sound great on a Dolby Digital system!

    -- Shawn

    At the risk of starting some nasty debate, we're going to go on record with this one. The answer is No. In fact, we'll go even further and say No, Not likely, Don't hold your breath, Keep dreaming, and Fuggedaboutit. We base this opinion on two facts. First, George Lucas is on record saying that all six Star Wars films will not appear on DVD until 2005, and while some conspiracy-minded folks out there think that Lucas is just kidding, we don't think he is. Secondly, Lucas is planning to release all three Indiana Jones films with digitally remastered transfers this fall -- on VHS. The Man from Marin clearly is not interested in putting his valuable film property on DVD at this time, and he's the only one who knows why. If we're wrong about The Phantom Menace, we'll be the first to admit it. But we think we're right about this one.

  • I love your site. The only thing missing is some type of reference to the Laserdisc counterparts. As an owner of both formats, I would like to know if there are any differences between the DVD version and the Laser version. For example, the Mallrats DVD is a must where as the widescreen collector's edition of the Laserdisc doesn't have anything special on it. It would just be a helpful touch if it can be included.

    -- Rob

    We also have a Laserdisc player as part of our review system, and whenever we get some juicy Laser info (or VHS for that matter), we don't hesitate to post it -- for example, news about the widescreen Laser and the limited-edition videotape of Saving Private Ryan, neither of which have been announced for DVD. Another example are a few Criterion lasers that probably will never arrive on DVD (e.g., Seven, Taxi Driver, Boogie Nights) because of rights issues. That said, we try to track our readers' tastes and preferences with our Monthly DVD Poll, and most of our readers don't own Laser and probably never will, so we make an effort not to blather on too much about the big disc. Furthermore, there's only a handful of Lasers out there that may not have DVD counterparts in time, and we believe that there are only three categories of Laserdisc that are worth investing in right now -- The Star Wars trilogy (we prefer the original THX remaster to the "Special Editions"), Steven Spielberg films, and Criterion titles that will never see the light of day again. With so many new DVDs arriving every week, we're willing to wait for everything else.

  • Hello from France. Yesterday I bought a DVD because I think DVD is the new standard for films (because of the choice of language and others things), but my message is not to speak about that. It is about the very low quality of the Fifth Element on DVD in Region 2. The sound is very good, but not the picture, especially at the end of the film. I can see the very bad compression. Not a good job at all. I don't understand, because Luc Besson is a perfectionist. Did he see the DVD master? I don't think so. I can't tell you the mastering studio, because there is no information on the package, but the Region 1 version is a reference -- unfortunately, the Region 1 doesn't have French subtitles, so I will have to work my English. ;-)

    -- Vincent

    We haven't spent any substantial time with Region 2 DVDs (and we've never even seen anything from Regions 3-6), but you've confirmed what we've been hearing -- some of these discs are pretty good, but others don't stack up to their North American counterparts. For those of you who are thinking about buying a code-free deck (and they aren't hard to find -- click on our DVD City banner on this page to get a look at a few), you should try to read a few online reviews from the UK or European DVD websites before buying Region 2 discs.

    DVDs Done Dirt Cheap: has posted a few new DVDs currently selling for 50% off, so don't pay retail -- punch this link instead and get the goods. Here's their current rock-bottom discs:

    • Titanic (pre-order) -- $14.99 (!)
    • There's Something About Mary -- $17.49 (!)
    • Apollo 13 -- $17.49 (!)
    • The Prince of Egypt (pre-order) -- $17.49
    • Payback -- $14.99
    • Dune -- $12.49
    • Pretty Woman -- $14.99
    • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) -- $12.49
    • Return to Paradise -- $14.99
    • K-9 -- $12.49

    And don't forget, DVDs at ship for less than two bucks.

    Now it's gone too Far Far: Are American retailers really so overwhelmed by 800 tons of Jar Jar Binks merchandise languishing on their shelves that they've marked all of it down by an astonishing 70%? Well, according to The Onion, it isn't just a fact -- it's a national crisis.

    See ya

    -- Ed.

    Tuesday, 3 August 1999

    boxcover"What is the Matrix?": Kicked up two weeks from early October to a new release date of Sept. 21, Warner's Matrix DVD could be their biggest seller yet, with more than one million copies due to hit the street. Warner has announced that the disc will contain 26 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, and Web-accessible DVD-ROM content will include the entire screenplay along with 700 storyboards. A live Webcast in October (similar to MGM's Ronin DVD-ROM Webcast) will feature additional footage, reportedly shot during production of the film by the Wachowski brothers with the DVD in mind. Warner is hoping that The Matrix will become the highest-selling DVD title ever, taking the top spot from MGM's Tomorrow Never Dies, but it's going to be an uphill battle -- Paramount's Titanic streets three weeks earlier, on Aug. 31, and we're betting it will be top dog by the end of '99.

    In additional news, Steve Tannehill at The DVD Resource Page is reporting that Warner has reversed course on their refusal to street a sell-through Matrix VHS, and will now let VCR owners buy their own copies along with DVD fans. The flip-flop has yet to be explained, but apparently Warner isn't so worried after all that teenagers will see the film and subsequently riddle their high schools with automatic weapons. The whole brouhaha may smell like well-planned hype, but it may also be due to other factors, including the fact that longtime Warner executive Barry Meyer was named the new CEO yesterday, replacing Terry Semel and Bob Daly, who resigned in July. However, Meyer's possible involvement in the matter is nothing more than speculation.

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

    • The Alfred Hitchcock Collection
    • American Pimp
    • And Now For Something Completely Different
    • And The Ship Sails On: The Criterion Collection
    • Christine
    • Cruel Intentions: Special Edition
    • Doctor Dolittle
    • A Life Less Ordinary
    • Little Buddha
    • Message In A Bottle: Special Edition
    • Nights Of Cabiria: The Criterion Collection
    • Orlando
    • The Pallbearer
    • Raising Arizona (!)
    • Restoration
    • Tango: Special Edition
    • There's Something About Mary: Special Edition (!)
    • Unbearable Lightness Of Being: The Criterion Collection
    • Welcome To The Dollhouse

    Dim projections: Two high-end video-projection manufacturers, Vidikron and Ampro, have hit the skids in the face of ongoing financial losses in the high-end home-theater market. Vidikron was planning to file a Chapter 7 liquidation last week, but managed to find a new source of funding and keep the company afloat for the time being. However, Ampro has filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will reorganize their operations. Specializing in projection units that run in the $10,000 - $15,000 range, both companies, along with other high-end manufacturers like Runco and Faroudja, continue to fight for market share in a competitive demographic that is pretty much limited to wealthy HT buffs -- which only tells us that HDTVs and plasma screens don't stand a chance with the general public as long the sets still cost about as much as new Honda.

    Very cool: If you haven't bought Buena Vista's Rushmore DVD yet, you might want to hold off -- Criterion recently got a license, and a new DVD is expected later this year.

    -- Ed.

    Monday, 2 August 1999

    "Ryan" missing in action: It's now official, or at least as official as it can be without a press release -- there will be no Saving Private Ryan DVD this year, and perhaps for a long while after that. DreamWorks has announced that the sell-through edition of SPR on VHS will arrive on Nov. 2 as a two-tape limited edition with additional supplements, but no DVD is planned at this time. SPR, which has earned $44 million as a rental item after a monumental $216 million at the box office, was anticipated by many DVD pundits to be the first major Spiel-flick to arrive on disc, but such now seems as likely as another German invasion of France. However, the widescreen Laserdisc edition of SPR has been in release for several weeks now, which only tells us that the big platter won't be dead and buried until Speilberg starts putting his catalog on DVD -- the Laser is of near-DVD quality and far superior to the pan-and-scan tapes on the rental shelves.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), the hard-boiled captain of the USS Caine, has a reputation for running a tight ship, and his battle-record during the Second World War has earned him the respect of both his men and the Navy brass. But the men who work closest to him suspect that something is wrong -- his violent mood swings, his erratic orders, and the creepy way he rolls those cast-iron balls in his hand while offering up his squinty-eyed stare. The Captain has not been himself lately, and three of his officers come to the conclusion that he's suffering from battle stress and may need to be relieved from duty. But after they are unable to arrive at a course of action, the ship becomes lost in a typhoon, and Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) assumes command of the Caine from Queeg, who is paralyzed from fear. The ensuing court martial finds Maryk on the defense, trying to justify actions that seemed reasonable at the time but may constitute mutiny according to Navy law. Columbia TriStar has done a commendable job of bringing the classic 1954 The Caine Mutiny (based on the novel by Herman Wouk) to DVD, with a good transfer from an attractive source print with rich color. The lead performers are outstanding, especially Johnson as the even-tempered Maryk, Fred MacMurray as the writer/sailor Lt. Keefer, and the too-cool José Ferrer as Lt. Greenwald, the Navy lawyer who can't stand Maryk but still chooses to defend him. But Bogart is the most memorable of all, and his performance ranks up there with his other great roles, including Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. For Bogie fans, this one's not to be missed.

    Word on the Street: Apocalypse Now. November.

    And the winner is: Tal Margalith of Santa Barbara, Calif., wins the free DVD of A Bug's Life from our July contest. Congrats, Tal!

    Our Free DVD Contest for the month of August is up and running, and we have a copy of Warner's Devil's Advocate up for grabs. Be sure to drop by our contest page and send us your entry, and don't forget to take our Monthly DVD Poll while you're there.

    Box Office: Here's the top-grossing films at American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Runaway Bride
      $34,500,000 ($34,500,000 to date)
    2. The Blair Witch Project
      $28,500,000 ($35,400,000 to date)
    3. Deep Blue Sea
      $18,600,000 ($24,700,000 to date)
    4. The Haunting
      $15,100,000 ($63,800,000 to date)
    5. Inspector Gadget
      $14,000,000 ($47,700,000 to date)
    6. American Pie
      $6,700,000 ($77,100,000 to date)
    7. Eyes Wide Shut
      $4,400,000 ($48,700,000 to date)
    8. Big Daddy
      $3,500,000 ($152,600,000 to date)
    9. The Phantom Menace
      $3,400,000 ($408,600,000 to date)
    10. Tarzan
      $3,000,000 ($158,300,000 to date)
    11. The Wood
      $2,550,000 ($20,600,000 to date)
    12. Wild Wild West
      $2,500,000 ($108,900,000 to date)

    Divx dupes: The editors of E-Town have posted the results of an amusing new reader poll about what Circuit City owes every consumer who was conned into paying premium for a soon-to-be-defunct Divx player. Check it out if you get the chance.

    On the Board: A new full review has been posted for The Killer: The Criterion Collection, and can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include 8MM, Payback, Alien Resurrection, October Sky, Hilary and Jackie, and The Caine Mutiny, and can be accessed under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

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

    -- Ed.

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