News and Commentary: August 2000

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Thursday, 31 August 2000
Holiday Weekend Dispatch

On the Block: Our latest round of eBay DVD rankings are in, and while there are few changes in the highest closers, Criterion's The 400 Blows showed a surge over the past few weeks, coming very near the $150.00 mark after a heated 24-bid auction. Criterion's first edition of Seven Samurai also surged, going to $107.50 after 26 bids, even though a restoration demo is the only thing missing from the second edition, which seems to indicate that everything Criterion is hot lately simply because it's Criterion. Compare that to the first edition of Platoon, which, unlike the current re-issue, has a commentary track with Oliver Stone and a behind-the-scenes documentary on board. For a lot of DVD fans, that's the sort of content worth having, but the Live/Artisan disc had a top-close of $76.50 and barely made our top 15. Along with Pier Paolo Pasolini's top-trading Salo, two more out-of-print Pasolini discs are on the board this time around, The Gospel According to St. Matthew and The Canterbury Tales, and new to our rankings is a Region 2 edition of David Lynch's Dune, reportedly a three-hour cut. Meanwhile, it doesn't happen often but there was a bonafide auction for the complete Criterion Collection on DVD, titles 1 through 77 including all of the rare stuff. After 42 bids, the final close was $2,567.57. We hope the winner got insurance on the shipping.

Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare and out-of-print DVDs from online auctions at eBay:

  1. Salo: The Criterion Collection
    $385.00 (24 bids)
  2. The Killer: The Criterion Collection
    $300.00 (17 bids)
  3. THX Surround EX Demo DVD
    $203.50 (5 bids)
  4. This Is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection
    $166.01 (23 bids)
  5. The 400 Blows: The Criterion Collection
    $142.50 (24 bids)
  6. Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection (first edition)
    $107.50 (26 bids)
  7. A Hard Day's Night
    $103.50 (16 bids)
  8. Little Shop of Horrors (first edition)
    $102.50 (11 bids)
  9. Army of Darkness: Limited Edition
    $102.50 (21 bids)
  10. The Gospel According to Matthew
    $102.50 (9 bids)
  11. Dune (region 2, expanded version)
    $100.55 (10 bids)
  12. Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection
    $100.00 (12 bids)
  13. Kids
    $81.00 (14 bids)
  14. The Canterbury Tales
    $81.00 (7 bids)
  15. Platoon (first edition)
    $76.50 (11 bids)

Bargain-basement Wednesday: Everybody's looking for the best deals on new DVDs, and DVD Journal reader Joe Dimattia of Nashua, N.H., told us he found one yesterday. "I thought I would just let you know that Braveheart at Best Buy is selling for $9.99!" he wrote. "The sign says $15.99, but it rings up as $9.99!" For real? It certainly caused us some bewilderment, but a quick visit to our local Best Buy clarified things a bit, as we were told in fact there were some, er, computer issues yesterday, and in fact Braveheart was selling for $9.99 for several hours before it was corrected. But it's now ringing up correctly at $15.99, so those of you who happened to score your copies for a ten-spot got lucky — very lucky.

boxcoverCommentary Clips: "One of the things that tormented us, as the filmmakers of this movie, was we had to deliver this gorgeous Mediterranean world, this beautiful world of southern Italy, and we could never get Italy to turn beautiful — the weather was laughing at us constantly and we could never get a decent day's sunshine, and so we went out on these boat scenes God knows how many times just trying to get a moment of sun. We would divide the scenes up, often into words, and go out and get two or three words and then it would start to rain and we would have to go back in again. And it was a nightmare shooting on this boat — this is a tiny boat. There's a whole crew behind the heads of these actors, or in front of them now, swinging around and hanging off the edge. It's very, very difficult to shoot a movie on water. I don't recommend it to anybody."

— Director Anthony Minghella,
The Talented Mr. Ripley

"Our main issue was that we were doing a political campaign, and everything else that happened in the film were just a series of stories that supported a bunch of characters. And the assassination, of course — the word 'assassination' doesn't come to mind unless the word 'politics' is connected to it. Many years later, when John Lennon was assassinated, I got a call immediately from The Washington Post and they said, 'Do you feel responsible for John Lennon's death?' And I said, 'In what way?' They said, 'Well, in your film, you set up what we've come to think of political assassinations of a celebrity.' And I said, 'I don't think you should blame me for the assassination — I think you should blame yourself for not listening to my warning.' "

— Director Robert Altman,

Quotable: "Look, I love the movies. I love music. But there is still too much violence, too much sex, too much incivility in entertainment, which makes it very difficult for parents, who are working so hard to give their kids values and discipline, to do so.... I'm going to keep saying that to (the entertainment industry) and appealing to them to draw a line. And I can assure you... a Gore-Lieberman administration will be concerned about what government can do within appropriate constitutional limits to improve the moral future of America."

— Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, in
a recent interview with ABC News.

"No more Hollywood money for Al Gore. I'm a writer who likes pushing the envelope, and Joe Lieberman frightens me. Let's make Joe Lieberman accountable for his rhetoric. Not a penny more until he 'clarifies' his position to the satisfaction of our creative freedom."

— Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, in an open letter to be published
next week in Daily Variety.

Coming Attractions: Like many other folks here in the States, we'll be enjoying the super-sized Labor Day weekend, but we will return next Tuesday with plenty more new DVD reviews, including Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Edition and the entire Planet of the Apes box set. This also will be the last weekend to enter this month's totally free DVD contest for a copy of Galaxy Quest, so be sure to visit our contest page if you haven't yet, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there.

Enjoy the holiday. See ya Tuesday.

— Ed.

Wednesday, 30 August 2000

Mailbag: Wednesday is when we clean out the reader mail here at The DVD Journal, so let's take a sampling of the mailbox over the past several days:

  • Aug. 26 — I'm just dropping you line to say that a retailer here in Dallas has made all the "good" titles available well before the Aug. 29 street date. Last night I was able to get Terminator 2, Braveheart, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia at the lowest price I could have imagined. I paid $19.99 for T2. The rest were considerably cheaper.

    — Ben

  • Aug. 27 — At a local store in Rio Grande, New Jersey, they are already selling Braveheart, so I got to pick myself up a copy before most other people.

    — Kevin

  • Aug. 29 — I enjoy reading your site because it keeps me up to date with the releases of certain DVDs I wish to purchase. I live in Toronto, and I tried to buy Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition and the two-disc edition of Boogie Nights, but I was told that both were delayed. I was just wondering if you would be able to tell me when the new release date would be.

    — David

    And on, and on, and on — really, that's just a sample of what we've been getting over the past week. Aug. 29 has been the most schizo street date in recent memory, with some stuff arriving very early while other titles are hard to find, and sometimes we feel just as much at a loss as our readers. But hey, we're here to give you the info, so your editor dispatched DVD Journal intern Chip Liebowitz to three suburban brick-and-mortar retailers here in Portland, Ore., yesterday afternoon to see just how consistent DVD shipping has been this week. Trusty Chip, pen and notepad in hand, visited two large "big-box" retailers, both major national chains, as well as the electronics section of a department store that sells DVDs at competitive prices. We can say that Braveheart for one is not only in stock everywhere, it's selling as a loss-leader, as low as $15.99, and everybody appears to have piles of them. Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition was also at all three shops, but it appeared in limited supply, possibly because of production underruns that forced Artisan to release a limited two-disc version just to meet the expected demand (none of these were apparent yesterday). Nonetheless, Chip had no trouble finding T2, and even for $19.99 at one retailer. The toughest discs to find were North by Northwest and Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Edition. Two of our three sample stores did not have either, and one salesperson told Chip that they weren't even on their release calendar (and this was at, ahem, a very large electronics chain). After visiting all three locations, Chip found exactly one copy of Boogie Nights and one of North by Northwest for sale, and neither at a substantial discount. But those probably will be snapped up by tomorrow afternoon, leaving consumers in our part of town SOL for the time being.

    For those who can't find them, we only have two theories on North By Northwest and Boogie Nights — as for the Hitchcock film, it is conceivable that retailers simply didn't expect it to be a big seller (it is a catalog title, after all) and thus the in-store stock at many retailers ran out in the first hours of Aug. 29. As for Boogie Nights, New Line had to take a sharp detour a few weeks ago when they failed to get the rights to the John Holmes documentary Exhausted, which appears to have caused some delays. In both cases, all we can say is to give it a little more time and these titles should be consistently available on the street. We also know that some folks have already received their copy of North By Northwest from Amazon, so online retail is always a good option. As a rule, they ship it when they get it — you just have to get in line.


  • I just bought Titus: Special Edition. I used to respect your opinions as far as the four-star movies. Now I'm going to unbookmark your page. The movie Titus cost me $27.99 at Best Buy. It was worth about $5.99. But like I said, I trusted your opinions on movies. Not anymore. I can't believe you gave that movie four stars. It was worth about three at best. Thanks to you, I have one more movie that I have to sell in order to get rid of it. The story was great, but I could have gotten that from reading the book. What a waste. All of that drifting in and out of time periods and the different costumes with no consistency in order to anchor the story. And you gave it four stars??? That movie could never have saved itself. And all of the MTV-esque camera angles. What a steaming load. It's been nice reading your reviews, but now I know you're just like all of the other shoddy review sites.

    — Joe

    Adios amigo. Avoid "shoddy" websites like The New York Times and all the rest who gave Titus a rave, as we did. The glib Entertainment Weekly didn't care for the film, so you might take out a subscription.

  • Once in a while when I am watching a movie on DVD, all of a sudden I realize that the audio track would stop matching the speech that the person in the movie would be making. Does this have something to do with the fact that some DVDs have multiple audio tracks and somehow they got mixed up? I never bother to change the audio settings when I watch a movie, I just use the default audio track of the DVD. I would just like to know if I did something wrong that would lead to this happening. I don't have any sophisticated sound system or anything like that. I am just using the embedded speakers in the TV for audio.

    — Ernest

    Here's another question we get quite a bit, so it's always good to set the record straight from time to time, especially for new DVD fans. If you are dealing with an audio synchronization issue during DVD playback, in almost every instance the problem is with your player, not the disc you are attempting to enjoy. First and foremost, new DVDs from the major studios have to go through a substantial quality-check process, and it's unlikely that any disc that consistently failed to perform correctly would ever reach the street. However, often there are issues with the firmware in DVD players, and the best-known example of this recently was a group of Sony decks that required firmware upgrades in order to avoid the audio problems you describe. In any case, your best bet is to 1) Take the DVD in question to the retailer where you purchased it (or your player) and ask a salesperson to demo it on a machine. If it works fine (it probably will), then 2) contact the manufacturer of your DVD player to see if a firmware upgrade is necessary or on the way, or if there are any outstanding bug reports. Even better, if you purchased your player recently and have discovered this sort of problem, a reputable retailer should be willing to replace it with a different model, particularly if it falls in the normal 30- to 90-day grace-period for new purchases. As always, keep the manual and warranty for your player filed away someplace where you can find it, along with any extra service coverage you may have purchased, and don't lose your receipt. Without it you could be dead in the water, especially when attempting a return.

    boxcoverTop 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. Erin Brockovich
    2. The Tigger Movie
    3. Fargo
    4. The Princess Bride
    5. Leon: The Professional (Expanded International Version)
    6. Seven: Platinum Series
    7. End of Days
    8. L.A. Confidential
    9. The Bank Dick: The Criterion Collection
    10. Romeo Must Die

    Bye for now.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 29 August 2000
    "Fat Tuesday"

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and

    • So what if our Fantasia Laserdisc says "The Final Release of this Original Masterpiece!" on the cover? When it comes to Buena Vista, forever only lasts so long, as both Fantasia and this year's Fantasia 2000 are due on Nov. 14 in packed special editions. The 1940 Fantasia will be a "never before released" theatrical version with the original narration and intermission, and it will include both a commentary by none other than Walt Disney himself, constructed from archival interviews (and not a cryonic chamber), and a second commentary with Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, and animation historian John Canemaker. Also included will be the deleted "Clair de Lune" segment. Fantasia 2000 will feature a commentary by the producers, directors and art directors for each segment, another commentary with Levine and R. Disney, a "making-of" short, two 1953 animated shorts, and a collectible booklet. If you're likely to get them both, the Fantasia Anthology (SRP $69.99) will include a third disc full of such goodies as storyboards, conceptual art, unproduced segments, pencil tests, and just about everything else they could dig up in the Mouse House. These releases certainly will be among the most popular of the holiday shopping season.
    • Paramount has a nice special edition of Francis Ford Coppola's 1988 Tucker: The Man and His Dream in the works with an anamorphic transfer and various supplements, including a commentary by Coppola, a promotional film about Tucker from 1948 (with commentary by Coppola), and a "making-of" short. Comedy fans can look forward to both Airplane! and Airplane 2: The Sequel, and the first disc will include a commentary with David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams. This year's action-adventure Submerged will arrive as an SE as well, with a commentary by director Ed Raymond and star Coolio. Everything is expected on Oct. 24.
    • MGM is sure to scratch an itch with DVD fans, as they now have announced a new disc of John Carpenter's 1981 classic Escape from New York (Nov. 21), starring Kurt Russell & crew. Anamorphic? Yes. Extras? Fuggedaboudit this time around. Also on the way are Roger Donaldson's 1984 The Bounty starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins (Nov. 21), 1993's Malice (Nov. 21), the '80s comedy Class (Nov. 21), and the Chuck Norris asskicker Code of Silence (Oct. 3). All will be anamorphic as well.
    • After the live teleplay just a few months back, Columbia TriStar has announced a DVD edition of the 1964 Fail Safe (Oct. 31), which will include a commentary with director Sidney Lumet, a "making-of" doc, and all the usual stuff we can expect from CTHV special editions. Somewhat less somber (but perhaps unavoidable at this point) is Charlie's Angels: Angels Under Cover (Oct. 3), two episodes of the original ABC-TV series starring Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson. Cheesy television aside, some wholesome family fare can be found in Thomas and the Magic Railroad (Oct. 31), which will feature deleted scenes and the standard trailer and notes.
    • We have confirmation on some special-edition stuff on the way from Columbia TriStar, as The Lady From Shanghai will include a commentary and interview footage with Peter Bogdanovich, advertising materials, and notes, while Legends of the Fall: Special Edition now has a commentary with Brad Pitt and director Edward Zwick, deleted scenes with commentary, an isolated score, and more good stuff.
    • Cult-film fans have a treat on the way, as Penelope Spheeris's 1983 punk-rock chronicle Suburbia will arrive from New Horizons as a special edition on Oct. 24, with a commentary by Spheeris and more.
    • It looks like Universal can't avoid the crush of everything X-Men, as the animated X-Men: Phoenix Saga will appear on Oct. 24, very near the time we suspect Fox will street their X-Men special edition of the theatrical film.

    On the Street: Is it because Skynet becomes sentient on Aug. 29 in Terminator 2 that all these great DVDs are on the street today? For whatever reason, Fat Tuesday is here, which means your DVD budget is about to take a beating, if it hasn't already from pre-orders. Up first is the second edition of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the "Ultimate Edition" from Artisan, and if folks think it bears some similarity to Fox's excellent Abyss: SE, it's because a lot of the same folks were behind both releases. But even though we're betting the new T2 will be the top-seller by week's end, we still have nothing but praise for Warner's North By Northwest, which rivals many of Universal's Hitch-discs both in terms of quality and features, and there's a double-dose of Cary Grant on the board this morning with the classic black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace as well. Those who have been pleading for more than two years to get Braveheart on disc can now get the Paramount release, which offers a pleasant anamorphic transfer and a commentary from director Mel Gibson. Meanwhile, fans of Paul Thomas Anderson can snap-up his much-discussed Magnolia from New Line, which includes a video production diary, or the second edition of Boogie Nights, which has a new transfer and a few more supplements than the original pressing in a two-disc set (hence, the original 1998 disc is now pretty much obsolete). Fox has music-lovers singing with their two-disc The Sound of Music, which is certain to please the film's most ardent admirers, and Universal has gone nuts with four new additions to their "Classic Monster Collection" — The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Also, we also have an unusual Friday release this week, as Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut will arrive from Warner on Sept. 1. Did we forget anything? Probably, but the street-list is never far behind. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • 3 Strikes
    • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: Classic Monster Collection
    • After Life (delayed from Aug. 15)
    • Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut (Sept. 1)
    • The Big Kahuna
    • Battle of the Sexes
    • The Billy Jack Collection: Limited Special Edition
    • Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Edition
    • Braveheart
    • Creature from the Black Lagoon: Classic Monster Collection
    • Cyborg 2
    • Deterrence
    • Dish Dogs
    • Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn: Limited Special Edition
    • Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn: Special Edition
    • Free Tibet: Special Edition
    • Girl
    • The Girl Who Knew Too Much
    • Glastonbury: The Movie
    • The Haunting (DTS)
    • Held Up
    • In Dreams
    • The Invisible Man: Classic Monster Collection
    • I Dreamed of Africa
    • The Lathe of Heaven
    • Life Beyond Earth
    • Longitude
    • The List
    • Magnolia: Platinum Series
    • Marilyn Manson: Demystifying The Devil
    • Monty Python's Flying Circus Set #7: Volume 13 & 14
    • The Next Best Thing
    • The Night Flier
    • North by Northwest
    • Oliver Twist (1922)
    • The Phantom of the Opera: Classic Monster Collection
    • The Sound of Music: Special Edition
    • Stand By Me: Special Edition
    • Swimming With Sharks
    • Tales From the Hood
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Ultimate Edition
    • Tremors (1989)
    • Tycus (delayed from Aug. 8)

    PTA's message to us: There's been a lot of discussion about the new Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Series release, particularly as several parts of it never came off. When Paul Thomas Anderson first mulled over the idea of a new Boogie DVD last year, he indicated that he might want to include a longer cut. But that didn't come to fruition. Many features on the Criterion Laserdisc were also slated for the new disc (including the boxcover art), but the 30-minute excerpt of the John Holmes documentary Exhausted was pulled at the last minute over rights issues (it did wind up on a number of check-discs, but that's it). That said, we wanted to share PTA's comments to DVD fans, as they're on the back of the new Boogie box:

    "A note to the viewer: Hello, I'm back. Many of you have purchased something previously called "Boogie Nights." That was the past. This is Boogie Nights! A fantastic new transfer, added juice, fresh cocktails and many extras. There's some new commentary, deleted scenes, and most impressive: The John C. Reilly files. Make sure you use the color bars. Get those whites white and those blacks black — and turn it up loud, please. You'll enjoy it better. This, really I swear, is the definitive version of Boogie Nights. Accept no impostors! And still remember: keep stored in a cool, dry place under 'B' for Boogie."

    The Man has spoken.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 28 August 2000

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Sometimes Alfred Hitchcock could get away with murder. After all, directors past and present are often criticized for their repetitiveness, their inability to create new, interesting films, content rather to fall back on the same genres and plot structures as if they are admitting movies are merely consumer products rather than works of art. But Hitchcock arguably was the greatest practitioner in the history of cinema despite these ready faults. After all, he only utilized one genre, the suspense-thriller; he was renowned for working on a one-film-per-year schedule that ran like clockwork for nearly 50 years; and he often returned to his favorite yarn over and over again — the innocent man, accused of a crime and on the run from the authorities, who must prove his innocence before the bad guys whack him unawares. Even more telling is a quick comparison between Hitch's 1935 The 39 Steps — perhaps the crown jewel of his British period — and 1959's crowd-pleasing North By Northwest, as both concern a handsome, carefree bachelor who is caught up in a web of conspiracy. In both films, the initial crime involves a murder by knife, and the circumstantial evidence is damning. Pursing fragments of clues, the hero ducks out of town, taking a cross-country journey by train with uncertain goals. On the train, the hero meets a statuesque blonde who may or may not be an ally to his cause. Eventually the hero meets the head of the conspiracy and determines (or is informed) that valuable government secrets are being taking out of the country. And when it appears all hope is lost, a final confrontation at a very public place (The London Palladium, Mt. Rushmore) brings the story to an abrupt close. Need more? The sleeping car that Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint share on the 20th Century Limited in North By Northwest is number 3901. If another director did it, it would be considered an homage. The hubris of Alfred Hitchcock is that North By Northwest is both a re-working of one of his most successful films and an homage to himself at the same time.

    But everyone is quite willing to overlook a shameless remake when it's good, and North By Northwest is more than that — it's one of the best films from the Hitchcockian oeuvre, and as such that makes it one of the best American films of the past 100 years (#40, according to the AFI list). Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a Manhattan advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent by a ring of spies. Hustled off to a remote house outside the city, he meets James Mason, a charming, soft-spoken man who would be very likable if he didn't want to kill his guest. After a harried escape from his captors (via some drunk driving), Thornhill tracks his nefarious host to the United Nations, but a sudden murder has him on the run to Chicago, meeting the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) on the overnight train. But soon he's attacked by a cropduster in an Illinois cornfield, and it's only when he follows more clues to South Dakota that he finally learns why he's been marked for death. There's a neat Frank Lloyd Wright house that serves as Bad Guy HQ, a cliffhanger to end them all on Mt. Rushmore, and then a train goes into a tunnel in a manner that would make Freud blush. The End.

    Of course, nobody can say that it's easy to make an entertaining action-adventure, but what has always elevated Hitchcock's liveliest tales beyond such fare as the James Bond films, cop-buddy pictures, or even The Matrix, is the careful, detailed touches that flesh out the story, often in humorous terms. Many writers could fashion an espionage ring and even a Wrong Man scenario, but Hitch and screenwriter Ernest Lehman take special delight in the first part of North By Northwest to make Thornhill's sole ally his disapproving mother (Jessie Royce Landis), who thinks her son is making up stories about evil henchmen in order to escape a drunk-driving charge. Hitch and Lehman also are willing to slow up the story at points for the sake of humor, in particular Grant's amusing drunk scene at the police precinct ("Let me see your tongue," a doctor instructs Grant. "You'd better stand back," he mumbles), and a later sequence between Grant and Saint offers the world-famous Hitchcock embrace, as the camera pans around an impassioned couple (or in this case, they pivot for it). Small clues and leitmotifs turn up everywhere, as when Grant shows his monogrammed matchbook to Saint, which simply says "R.O.T." — "What's the 'O' stand for?" she asks. "Nothing," he says. But for all his innocence, the meanings are several, as Thornhill has become a nobody, a stranger with nebulous identity on the run in strange lands. It is scenes like these that define a Hitchcock masterpiece, which finds its greatest moments not only in the movie-poster set-pieces, but also in the small bits of comedy and dialogue that reveal, or betray, the essential humanity of his protagonists.

    Warner's new DVD edition of North By Northwest is a definitive item, with a restored print that is free of defects and a marvelous anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). Audio is in a new DD 5.1 mix, and also on board is the 40-minute documentary "Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North By Northwest," hosted by Saint; a commentary by scenarist Lehman (that is informative, if a little sparse); both the theatrical trailer and the traditionally droll Hitchcock teaser, as well as a 60-second TV spot (all three anamorphic); a stills gallery; and Bernard Hermann's unmistakable score on a isolated track. If you've already put such great special edition DVDs as Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds in your collection, North By Northwest deserves a place alongside them. It's on the street tomorrow morning.

    Box Office: Any opening weekend is a good one for a film when it earns its money back in three days — and that's exactly what Universal's cheerleader comedy Bring It On did, earning $17.4 million and immediately turning a profit on a $10 million budget. Wesley Snipes also had a good opening in Warner's The Art of War, snagging $11.2 million for second, but all was not well for Buena Vista's The Crew, as the old-timer-crooks comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds only took in $4.1 million, barely clawing its way to seventh place. It was a slow weekend at the box-office as well, with just $75.7 million in tickets for the top 12 films — way, way down from the peak weeks of early summer.

    Still in continuing release, Warner's Space Cowboys has Clint & Co. flying high with a $63.8 million gross after one month and relatively steady attendance over every weekend, while New Line's The Cell has survived several negative reviews to build a $33.7 million gross in just 10 days. But there are only two films on our dirty dozen this week that are over the century — DreamWorks' What Lies Beneath and Universal's The Nutty Professor — and with such Indian summer fare as The Replacements, Coyote Ugly, and Autumn in New York heading for the exits, we may not see another true blockbuster until the Oscar hopefuls start to arrive.

    Fans of everything Highlander can look forward to Miramax's Highlander: Endgame this Friday, while Destination will release the romantic comedy Whipped starring Amanda Peet. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Bring It On (Universal)
      $17,400,000 ($17,400,000 through 1 week)
    2. The Art of War (Warner Bros.)
      $11,200,000 ($11,200,000 through 1 week)
    3. The Cell (New Line)
      $9,600,000 ($33,700,000 through 2 weeks)
    4. Space Cowboys (Warner Bros.)
      $6,600,000 ($63,800,000 through 4 weeks)
    5. The Original Kings of Comedy (Paramount)
      $6,100,000 ($21,400,000 through 2 weeks)
    6. What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG)
      $4,500,000 ($130,800,000 through 6 weeks)
    7. The Crew (Buena Vista)
      $4,100,000 ($4,100,000 through 1 week)
    8. The Replacements (Warner Bros.)
      $4,100,000 ($30,800,000 through 3 weeks)
    9. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (Universal)
      $3,300,000 ($109,800,000 through 5 weeks)
    10. Autumn in New York (MGM)
      $3,200,000 ($26,700,000 through 3 weeks)
    11. Bless the Child (Paramount)
      $2,800,000 ($22,800,000 through 3 weeks)
    12. Coyote Ugly (Buena Vista)
      $2,800,000 ($49,300,000 through 4 weeks)

    On the Board: Greg Dorr has posted a new review of Magnolia: Platinum Series, while D.K. Holm is on the board this morning with Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut — both can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week from the staff include Braveheart, Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Ultimate Edition, North By Northwest, Cat Ballou, The Big Kahuna, Brian's Song, I Dreamed of Africa, and The Next Best Thing, and can be accessed on the Quick Reviews index. As usual, everything has been added under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 24 August 2000
    Weekend Dispatch

    A second round of Stone: After noticing that there will be a new special edition of Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July released by Universal on Oct. 31, some of the more clever members of our news team went digging into some back copies of Variety, and all we can say is get ready to junk all of your old Oliver Stone discs. A news item several weeks ago (that did not appear on the Web, it seems) notes that a multi-studio collaboration will result in a huge DVD set of nearly all of Stone's movies. According to Variety, right now Stone is recording no less than 10 commentary tracks for the project, and supervising hours of supplemental material. Conspiracy buffs will be especially excited with the new JFK, as Stone is taking the 206-minute "director's cut" version of the movie and adding yet another 45 minutes of deleted scenes as well as 190 minutes of documentary and interview footage on the second of the two-disc set. Further, an "Oliver Stone Gift Set" reportedly will be coordinated by Warner, as was the Stanley Kubrick Collection, a joint release between Warner, MGM, and Columbia TriStar. Also in the works is a further DVD, Oliver Stone's America, directed by Charles Kiselyak, who specializes in DVD documentaries. Keep it tuned here.

    Criterion watch: Okay, it's not like we're firing off a starting gun or anything, but it now appears that Sid and Nancy, recently acquired by MGM, will appear on DVD from the studio towards the end of the year. What does this mean for the 1998 Criterion DVD edition? Maybe nothing — it's still in the shops now, under a license from New Line. But MGM famously chose not to extend Criterion's license for This Is Spinal Tap when they picked it up from PolyGram/Universal, opting to release their own disc instead. Of course, Sid and Nancy could be an entirely different case. Then again, if you like the movie you just might want to snap up a copy this weekend.

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: "Jonathan Demme asked me this: How would I see the first scene (with Hannibal Lecter)? Demme's a remarkable director and a very nice man to work with. He is very open and flexible and has no ego problem about ideas that you might suggest. Jonathan said, 'How would you like to be seen? Would you like to be lying on the bed, or sitting on a chair? Writing, or drawing, or reading?' I said, 'I'd like to be seen standing upright, at attention, in the middle of the cell.' And he took that in for a moment and said, 'OK, well, let's have a look at it.' And they did a camera rehearsal, on camera, with a video monitor there which you could see. And his reaction was one of, 'Yeah! Yeah!' ... The first time the audience sees him and Jodie Foster sees him is from her point of view, with him looking straight back at her. Now, that is terrifying — in my consciousness — so I wanted them to see a very nice, charming, erudite, smiling man saying 'Good morning.' Which would be terrifying ... There's something peculiarly attractive about power. Erotically attractive about power. And I think that's what Hannibal Lecter has. He has power... I was thinking of a sequel — if it will ever be done, I don't know — and I think of something that came out of the drive, my drive across America, of this dark limousine, Lecter driving in the night through these darkened cities. America. Just prowling, a black limousine, playing Bach, the interior just so.... Those of you who are watching this movie, pleasant dreams. Bye."

    — Anthony Hopkins,
    The Silence of the Lambs: The Criterion Collection

    Quotable: "There is little room for doubting that broad dissemination of DeCSS threatens ultimately to injure or destroy (the) plaintiffs' ability to distribute copyrighted products on DVDs and, for that matter, their ability to sell their products to the home video market in other forums.... (It is necessary to create) a climate of appropriate respect for intellectual-property rights in an age in which the excitement of ready access to untold quantities of information has blurred in some minds the fact that taking what is not yours... is stealing."

    — Judge Lewis Kaplan, in his 91-page ruling last week
    that barred DeCSS from the Internet.

    "This is what we expected. I'd like to be in the U.S. Supreme Court by February. This is a case that has to go to the Supreme Court. If the judge's decision is allowed to stand, it will cripple the free exchange of information on the Internet. It also impedes and frustrates the development of new technology and software."

    — Attorney Martin Garbus, who unsuccessfully defended
    Web publisher Eric Corley in the DeCSS lawsuit.

    "In a lot of ways the entertainment industry is not seeing the forest for the trees. If you take a step back, it's easy to see that there's a huge opportunity here. Why not sit down and try and figure out a way to make it work? But history has shown that the entertainment industry reacts very predictably to any type of new reproductive technology. The same thing happened with the copy machine, the VCR, the audiocassette recorder, the Diamond Rio. Whenever something new comes out, the entertainment industry argues that they're going to suffer. But every time, their businesses end up becoming bigger businesses as a result of these new platforms."

    — president Dan Rodrigues, in an interview
    with, regarding the MPAA's pending lawsuit
    against the Scour Exchange search engine.

    "If you don't (do big-budget films), first of all, you make no money and you can't afford your own rent. Second of all, this business is not that forgiving. Unless you appear in a movie once in a while that is a box-office hit, you're out of the picture. And you don't even get the parts you want anymore in the smaller films."

    X-Men star Famke Janssen, who also noted in a
    recent Associated Press interview that she is not a
    fan of the sci-fi/action genre.

    "It was sunstroke, that makes you a little dizzy. No drugs. She was in a convertible and ran out of gas. So she was in the sun too long."

    — Film producer Mark Burg, speaking with Reuters
    regarding Anne Heche, who was discovered wandering
    and acting irrationally over the weekend in Fresno
    County, Calif.

    "She proceeded to tell me that she was God and was going to take everyone back to heaven with her in some sort of spaceship."

    — An excerpt from a sheriff deputy's report, according
    to KSEE-TV, regarding the "sunstroke"-stricken Heche.

    Coming Attractions: We have new stuff coming in every day, and plenty of new DVD reviews will be here Monday, including Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, and more, so be sure to come back for all the latest.

    Have a great weekend gang — and stay out of the sun.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 23 August 2000

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

  • Why is Criterion's Salo so hard to get? Was it short-printed? I have several films on DVD that are from the Criterion Collection, and I notice some of them "disappear" from store shelves quicker than others. What's the deal?

    — Shane

    Criterion's Salo, which has been a top-trader on eBay for many, many months, wasn't necessarily "short-printed," i.e. as a limited edition, but there weren't a whole lot of them pressed compared to the more high-profile Armageddon or The Silence of the Lambs. Our best information is that Pier Paolo Pasolini's brutal, controversial Salo was released by Criterion under license from Water Bearer, and that license ran out when the rights to the film went (reverted?) to an Italian distributor, which also happened recently to director Pasolini's Arabian Nights and The Decameron, now out of print from Image. As such, that means that Salo could easily re-appear on DVD in Region 1, perhaps under a new license, and as that's the case we think the $400-plus auctions closing on eBay are just a little short of insane. But Criterion knows how to sell the sizzle with the steak, and by numbering all of their DVD releases they make it possible for those who have deep pockets to long for a "complete" Criterion Collection. We're guessing that Salo runs so high because it did not have a wide pressing and relatively few DVD consumers bought it when it was on the street, and thus the demand from Criterion completists is outstripping supply. Then again, maybe some people pay the big bucks for Salo because they really want to watch it over and over again — but that's a thought too horrible to even contemplate.

  • Are DVD retailers stocking up on their DVDs for the assumed avalanche of new business they'll see with the release of Sony's DVD-ready PlayStation2? If the PS2 sells a million to two million units in the first weekend (Oct. 23rd? I can't remember the release date) as Sony predicts, then that's obviously a whole bunch of new customers scrounging for new DVDs. While I'm sure they're counting more on selling new video games to the consumers, I still think this is going to be a Big Nail in the coffin of VHS. After all, PS2 games will range about $40-$50, and a new DVD can cost $20; so why bother with VHS once you have a DVD player, right? I have co-workers who have specifically passed on buying a DVD player and a Sega Dreamcast just because of the versatility of the forthcoming PS2. You folks at the Journal have your ear to the ground — I was wondering if I should go on a buying frenzy before the PS2 makes it a lot harder to find the titles I want here in Georgia or at online retailers.

    — Chad

    Wow, talk about a trip in the way-back machine. We had totally forgot this, but indeed there was a time when DVDs could be really hard to find when they first came out — case in point, L.A. Confidential, released in April of 1998 and in stock at most retailers for about 48 hours until a second pressing arrived about two weeks later. There were other instances like this in '97 and early '98, but we recall this really had more to do with a limited number of DVD replicating facilities, which could not meet the unexpected growth of the DVD market. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for the industry to catch on and more DVD replicators to go online, and for the past two years or so we can't recall too many hard-to-find street discs.

    As for a "VHS Killer," we've noted before that there really is no such thing at this time, and only an easy-to-use, affordable, and recordable DVD format could ever stand a chance of displacing VHS's dominance in most American households, and those factors still seem to be a ways off. Besides, who cares about VHS anymore? Sure, back in '98 it was the enemy, but we were still waiting for 1 million DVD players to sell-through to consumers. With DVD's survival assured, we say viva la VHS! — let everybody enjoy their crappy, lo-res tapes, as long as we DVD consumers can continue to expect nice special editions with all the doo-dahs. Keep the pan-and-scan stuff off our collectables.

    Okay, sorry to digress — Sony's PlayStation2 is expected to arrive in North America on Oct. 26 with an SRP of $299, and while only 1 million units will be in the initial shipment, a few more million are sure to sell by the second quarter of 2001. It's possible that one million new PS2 consumers (assuming all of them won't have a DVD player, which ain't likely) could put a strain on DVD software stocks, but the studios nowadays tend to ship far in advance of expected sales, occasionally sending out as many as 1 million discs to retailers (cf. Titanic, The Matrix, Erin Brockovich) when only a fraction of them will sell-through in the first two weeks. Besides, we have a better idea — everybody who gets their first DVD player is hardly what we'd call a "discriminating consumer," and they often will buy just about anything in order to have another DVD (we all remember those days, don't we?). If brick-and-mortar retailers tighten their belts sometime around late October, they could stock nothing but The Avengers for $29.98 and make a killing. They could sell Virus for $34.95 and put a few needy kids through college while they're at it.

    boxcoverTop 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. Erin Brockovich
    2. Planet of the Apes
    3. Platoon
    4. Fargo
    5. Romeo Must Die
    6. The Princess Bride
    7. Buzz Lightyear: The Adventure Begins
    8. The Cider House Rules
    9. The Matrix
    10. Ghost Dog

    See ya.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 22 August 2000

    boxcover'The Patriot' is coming: We just got the details on Columbia TriStar's forthcoming The Patriot: Special Edition, and it's going to be packed. While the film was considered a mid-range performer over the summer season with $110 million overall (somewhat short of the $150 mil range the bigger summer hits have enjoyed), CTHV has moved the street date up a few weeks from an expected November release to late October. And they've filled this one full of good stuff, including:

    • Commentary track with director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin (yes, those guys behind Independence Day and Godzilla)
    • Deleted scenes with commentary by Emmerich
    • "The True Patriots" featurette
    • The battlefield featurette "The Art of War"
    • An interactive feature on the visual effects
    • Conceptual art to film comparisons
    • Photo gallery
    • Isolated score
    • Two trailers
    • Cast notes

    It's starting to look like the fourth-quarter of this year will be one of the busiest in recent memory, and The Patriot will be kicking off the holiday buying season. Pre-orders should be at most online retailers right now — The Patriot: Special Edition lands on Oct 24.

    In the Works: Let's get a look at some more new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and

    • There's a truckload of good stuff on the way from Universal, starting with U-571: Special Edition (Oct. 24), which will include a commentary by director Jonathan Mostow, a "making-of" short, interviews with the cast and crew, and various documentaries about WWII (in which it appears this DVD will actually acknowledge that the Brits captured the Enigma machine, not the Yanks). Last year's popular horror film Pitch Black (Oct. 24) will arrive in both R-rated and unrated editions (with three extra minutes), and features on both discs will include a commentary by director David Twohy, a "making-of," and the standard trailer and notes. Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July is getting re-tooled yet again (it's already appeared in DD and DTS versions), and the new special edition (Oct. 31) will feature a commentary with Stone, deleted scenes, and more. Meanwhile, Stone's 1988 Talk Radio will arrive on the same date, albeit without substantial features. This year's The Skulls will arrive as a special edition (Oct. 24), with a commentary by director Rob Cohen, deleted scenes with commentary, and more. Rounding out the group are The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas (Sept. 26), the recent comedy But I'm a Cheerleader (Oct. 3), Peter Greenaway's 8 1/2 Women (Oct. 10), Screwed (Sept. 26), and The Land Before Time 7: The Stone of Cold Fire (Nov. 28).
    • However, we have a slight change of course on Universal's Touch of Evil — it's still due on Oct. 31, but the 58-minute documentary will not be on board after all.
    • Also due for a double-dipping is Edward Zwick's 1994 Legends of the Fall, now expected as a special edition from Columbia TriStar on Oct. 17, even though no feature-set has yet been confirmed. Additional titles from CTHV include this year's Center Stage: Special Edition (Oct. 24), with a commentary by director Nicholas Hynter, extended dance sequences, and an isolated score, and the animated Heavy Metal 2000 (Oct. 17), with a short feature on the voice talents, an isolated score, and a look at the animation processes.
    • Criterion continues to fill out their 2000 schedule, starting with Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (Oct. 17), featuring a commentary with Lee, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and others, an hour-long behind-the-scenes feature, a storyboard-to-film comparison, and much more. Two are due from Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell: the 1947 Black Narcissus (Oct. 17), with a commentary with Powell and Martin Scorsese, a documentary on cinematographer Jack Cardiff, and production stills, while the 1945 I Know Where I'm Going! (Oct. 17) will feature an audio essay by film historian Ian Christie, production stills, a retrospective documentary, and more. Straight from the vaults is the three-disc Eisenstein: The Sound Years (Oct. 17), including Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, Part 1 and 2, along with several features on each disc. Finally, in what is a first for Criterion on DVD, they will release the two-disc The Beastie Boys: DVD Video Anthology (Oct. 10), with 18 favorites from Brooklyn's most famous malcontents.
    • Buena Vista is on the board with Shanghai Noon: Special Edition (Nov. 7), featuring a commentary with Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and director Tom Dey, deleted scenes, three featurettes, and stills. Edward Norton's Keeping the Faith: Special Edition (Oct. 17), co-starring Ben Stiller, will include a commentary with Norton and writer/producer Stuart Blumbert, as well as 29 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes. Also on the schedule are this year's modernist Hamlet (Nov. 14), starring Ethan Hawke, the teen comedy Boys and Girls (Nov. 14), and Hellraiser: Inferno (Oct. 10).
    • This year's surprise hit Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid, is on the way from New Line (Oct. 31), as is Love and Basketball (Oct. 10). We'll watch 'em, but not until we see Julien Temple's Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury (Oct. 10), which you can borrow from us when you pry it out of our cold dead fingers.
    • Two quick ones from MGM — the romantic comedy Return To Me, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, and Deal of a Lifetime, starring Kevin Pollak. No features to speak of, but both are due on Oct. 31.
    • Trimark has a treat for Republicans and Schwarzenegger completists (are there Schwarzenegger completists?) — the campy 1970 Hercules in New York (Oct. 24), which will feature Ah-nold's actual speaking voice for the first time, rather than the dubbed version.
    • Not to leave you Democrats out of the mix, Monterey will release both The Grateful Dead: View from the Vault and The Grateful Dead: Live Dead Box Set, which will include Vault and two other live concerts — both are due on Oct. 10. (Please note: DVDs are not suitable for tie-dying).
    • Could there possibly be a dumber sounding DVD release than Pamela Anderson Lee: Interviews with the Star? We didn't think so until we heard about Keanu Reeves: In His Own Words (whoah!). Both are expected from Passport in a matter of weeks — so hide if you must.
    • Street date changes include Scandal (Sept. 5), Hamlet: The Criterion Collection (Sept. 19), Pygmalion: The Criterion Collection (Sept. 19), and Ken Burns' Baseball (Oct. 17).

    On the Street: We're betting many of you already have your pre-orders in for the big Aug. 29 street Tuesday, so if you're nearly broke, don't worry — this week's street list is rather thin by comparison. Some delayed Criterion titles are now reported to be available, including Good Morning, Variety Lights, and W.C. Fields: 6 Short Films, while collectors of everything cool will want to seek out Anchor Bay's limited edition of Repo Man. There's no contest for our favorite disc this week, as Barry Blaustein's Beyond the Mat, now out from Universal, is one of the most surprising documentaries we've seen in a while. And for those of you who missed them the first time around, four MGM discs are now in re-release from Warner, including Westworld and Logan's Run. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • 2010 (re-release)
    • AFI's 100 Years, 100 Movies: American Film Institute (460 Minute Version)
    • Agnes Browne
    • American Cinema
    • The Bank Dick: The Criterion Collection (delayed from Aug. 15)
    • Beyond The Clouds
    • Beyond the Mat: Unrated Director's Cut
    • Beyond the Mat
    • Brainstorm (re-release)
    • Buzzcocks: Auf Wiedersehen
    • California Dreams
    • Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music
    • Dead Kennedys: DMPO's On Broadway
    • Dinosaurus!
    • Farinelli
    • Good Morning: The Criterion Collection (delayed from Aug. 15)
    • Gruesome Twosome: Special Edition
    • Kronos
    • The Last Marshal
    • Logan's Run: Special Edition (re-release)
    • Luscious (aka Vivid) (delayed from Aug. 8)
    • Yngwie Malmsteen: Live
    • A Map of the World
    • Mifune
    • Mother Night (delayed from July 11)
    • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
    • Not One Less
    • Repo Man: Limited Special Edition
    • Repo Man: Special Edition
    • Restaurant
    • Secrets of War: The Korean Conflict
    • She Devils on Wheels: Special Edition
    • Simpatico
    • Space Thing: Special Edition
    • Supernova
    • The Tigger Movie
    • Variety Lights: The Criterion Collection (delayed from Aug. 15)
    • W.C. Fields: 6 Short Films: The Criterion Collection (delayed from Aug. 15)
    • Westworld (re-release)

    Bye for now.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 21 August 2000
    -- Newsroom Code Red --

    DeCSS drop-kicked by New York judge: In the first clear-cut legal decision on DVD media and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, New York District Judge Lewis Kaplan has ruled that publisher Eric Corley cannot publish, nor link to, the DeCSS hack on his website, and that he does not have a right to do so under the First Amendment, the basis of Corley's defense. "Computer code is not purely expressive any more than the assassination of a political figure is purely a political statement," Judge Kaplan wrote in his legal opinion released last Thursday. The decision came as a surprise to many legal pundits, since during the final days of testimony last month Judge Kaplan indicated from the bench that he might find for Corley based on free-speech arguments for the defense.

    DeCSS, created by unidentified European programmers, first arrived on the Internet in late 1999 and was designed to defeat the Content Scrambling System (CSS) encryption technology of DVD, in part to allow DVDs to play on "unauthorized" players, and in particular the Linux operating system, an open-source variant of Unix. However, the hack also allows DVD Video content to be "ripped" from the disc and then translated to other digital formats, including an underground format called DivX, which is an unauthorized, downloadable variant of the Microsoft-developed MP4. It didn't take long for the Motion Picture Association of America to request a restraining order against Corley and two other defendants for posting the hack, which Judge Kaplan granted in January. The other two defendants settled out of court, but noted underground publisher Corley, 40, vowed to soldier on.

    "I don't know how much more sweeping a decision could be," MPAA president Jack Valenti said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter late last week. "I think the judge's decision in the Napster case and this case is going to have an influence for all (similar) cases to come along. Taking what is not yours is stealing, and this will send a message to all these venture capitalists that before you pour millions into any Web site remotely involved with stealing, you'd better read these decisions." But Martin Garbus, Corley's attorney, said in a statement "Judge Kaplan's decision, if allowed to stand... would cripple the free exchange of information on the Internet. It would, in interfering with free linking, stop one of the greatest hopes for the Internet."

    Meanwhile, a second DeCSS lawsuit is still in pre-trial mode in California, and while it also deals with distributing the pesky little hack, it is being brought by the DVD Copy Control Association, a legal wing of the MPAA, and has less to do with free speech and more with trade-secret laws. Meanwhile, the Corley verdict in New York already appears to have a one-way ticket — to an appellate court, where the case likely will be heard again.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Good documentaries are not about likable subjects, they are about interesting subjects, and Barry Blaustein's Beyond the Mat picks a dandy — professional wrestling. "I love the pageantry, the athleticism, even the incredibly cheesy acting," Blaustein notes in the introduction. "I look at wrestling as theater at its most base." Like soap operas, pro wrestling thrives on long story arcs, deeply held rivalries, and betrayals that simmer for months or years until they are punctuated by dramatic showdowns. Like the pornography industry, wrestling is often discredited by the mainstream press, despite the fact that it makes a whole lot of money and has a sizable fan-base. But above all, pro wrestling is about the show, the spectacle of it all, and at its loudest and brashest it is effortlessly watchable entertainment. And even though much of pro wrestling is "fake" (the top leagues employ writers, composers, costumers, et. al.), some of wrestling is pretty real. The business arrangements, the friendships, and some of the rivalries are real. The injuries — and often the blood — are real. And the men who put on the Spandex and do battle in our modern theater of pain are very real, as real as you or your friends or the people you work with on a daily basis. Beyond the Mat is about these men.

    While an expansive documentary, Beyond the Mat focuses primarily on three wrestlers, all who are at different stages in their career. Squared-circle veteran Terry Funk was a headliner for decades, and he still attracts top billing at most venues, but in his 50s his knees have almost given out and his family is pushing him towards retirement. Mick Foley — another veteran who has wrestled under several personas but perhaps is best known as the World Wrestling Federation's leather-masked "Mankind" — is a family man with a wife and two young children, and while he loves wrestling and the security it provides his family, he knows he won't do it forever. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, a top-billed wrestler in the '80s, is found by Blaustein on a regional circuit in the midwest, where he still makes a living on the canvas but has been battling with substance abuse for years and can no more keep himself in top physical shape than he can form meaningful relationships with his parents or his daughter, neither of whom he visits very often. Other subjects also find their way in front of Blaustein's camera, including Vince McMahon, the head of the billion-dollar WWF, a man who commands respect by both enthusiastic charm and a ruthless iron fist; Chyna, the top female WWF wrestler, who claims that she's a very feminine woman at heart, despite having the build of an NFL linebacker; and a wrestling school in California, which fields two students to an audition for the WWF, the wrestling equivalent of Major League Baseball.

    If, as Blaustein claims, the sole purpose of making Beyond the Mat was to put a human face on pro wrestling, then it's hard to find fault with the final product. The best documentaries seek to shine a light on often-obscured subjects, and so much attention is paid to Blaustein's past and present heroes that the viewer will eventually feel they know them as people they have met in person. The noble Funk is adored by both his family and his fans, but his dilapidated shape does not wind up on the cutting-room floor — rather, we see his awkward gait as he walks across uneven ground, propelling himself from night to night on knees that cause him chronic pain. The lumbering, affable Foley — who comes across as one of the WWF's oddest headliners with his bizarro mask and slipshod necktie — is actually the sort of guy you'd like to have as a neighbor, always with a big smile on his face and happy for his good fortune, and most telling is when Blaustein shows him footage of his children during a brutal match, as they break down in tears and must be taken away by their mother from their ringside seats. Re-playing the footage for Foley at his home, Blaustein achieves a documentary moment akin to Gimme Shelter, when Mick Jagger is shown the footage of Meredith Hunter being stabbed to death at Altamont. Despite Foley's commitment to his career, there is no question where his priorities lie when he's struck nearly speechless before uttering "I don't feel like a very good dad right now." Most troubling is Roberts, who has a taste for the camera and is willing to share his personal demons. But when a reunion meeting with his daughter goes awry, Blaustein finds him in a hotel room, stoned on crack and talking about the darkest corners of his life. It's impossible to watch Beyond the Mat and forget these oft-punished, self-punished men any time soon.

    Universal's new DVD of Beyond the Mat: Unrated Director's Cut comes in a clean full-frame transfer with Dolby 2.0 audio. Extra features include a commentary by Blaustein, a partial commentary by Foley, and a partial commentary with Blaustein and Funk, as well as a trailer and notes. The shorter MPAA-rated version is also available, and while the "unrated" edition has some additional footage, none of it looks to be of the NC-17 variety. Frankly, whatever additional stuff Blaustein threw in for the home-video release was just icing on the cake, as his remarkable documentary never fails to entertain and transfix the viewer at every surprising turn. Beyond the Mat hits the street tomorrow.

    Box Office: Being the dog-days of summer, we aren't expecting to see many more $40 million openings for a while, but New Line's The Cell did solid business at the weekend box-office, earning $17.2 million in three days and running away from the competition. The psychological thriller about a serial killer who drowns women and, uh, other stuff, has earned a good deal of buzz for its graphic nature, but next week will reveal if it has any traction. And traction is what Warner's Space Cowboys officially has, opening in the top three two weeks ago, then going head-to-head with Sony's Hollow Man last week, and now holding strong in third place with $9.9 million (the critically reviled Hollow Man, on the other hand, plummeted from first to eighth place in just seven days). Two more debuts arrived over the weekend — Paramount's The Original Kings of Comedy, Spike Lee's ode to classic stand-up comics, had a remarkable $11.7 million bow to earn second place, while Sony's Godzilla 2000 couldn't crack the top ten, earning just $4.6 million.

    Still in continuing release, DreamWorks' What Lies Beneath has powered its way to a $123.7 million gross, while Universal's Nutty Professor II: The Klumps has passed the century with $104.4 million. However, Hollow Man is quickly losing steam with just $61.7 million overall. Meanwhile, two titans of the summertime are now off our dirty dozen — Warner's The Perfect Storm, which easily cleared $170 million, and Dimension's Scary Movie, which may break $150 million before leaving the second-run circuit. A sequel for Scary Movie is all but confirmed at this point, and if such won't happen for A Perfect Storm, at least we can expect the new DVD in November.

    Wesley Snipes is back on the big screen this Friday in Warner's action-thriller The Art of War, while Kirsten Dunst can be seen in Universal's cheerleader comedy Bring it On. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Cell (New Line)
      $17,200,000 ($17,200,000 through 1 week)
    2. The Original Kings of Comedy (Paramount)
      $11,700,000 ($11,700,000 through 1 week)
    3. Space Cowboys (Warner Bros.)
      $9,900,000 ($54,200,000 through 3 weeks)
    4. The Replacements (Warner Bros.)
      $7,500,000 ($23,700,000 through 2 weeks)
    5. What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG)
      $7,100,000 ($123,700,000 through 5 weeks)
    6. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (Universal)
      $6,400,000 ($104,400,000 through 4 weeks)
    7. Hollow Man (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $6,100,000 ($61,700,000 through 3 weeks)
    8. Autumn in New York (MGM)
      $5,700,000 ($21,200,000 through 2 weeks)
    9. Coyote Ugly (Buena Vista)
      $5,000,000 ($43,800,000 through 3 weeks)
    10. Bless the Child (Paramount)
      $4,900,000 ($18,100,000 through 2 weeks)
    11. Godzilla 2000 (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $4,600,000 ($4,600,000 through 1 week)
    12. X-Men (Fox)
      $2,600,000 ($148,600,000 through 6 weeks)

    On the Board: Dawn Taylor has posted a special sneak preview of Fox's two-disc The Sound of Music: Five Star Collection, which will be on the street Aug. 29 — her write-up can be found on our Full Reviews index. Meanwhile, new quick reviews this week include Planet of the Apes, Six Degrees of Separation, Beyond the Mat: Unrated Director's Cut, Farinelli, Runaway, and the Kino Noir releases The Long Night and Strange Impersonation. All can be accessed on the Quick Reviews index, and everything has been added under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 17 August 2000
    Weekend Dispatch

    -- LATE NEWS FLASH! --

    Out of the office: Hey gang, your humble editor has taken the day off for a brief trip out of town, and as DVD news has been a little thin lately, the rest of the team is already back in the screening room going over some new discs. In the meantime, Warner has asked us to give you the details about an upcoming online chat with some of the folks in Three Kings, and Columbia TriStar only has one message for all of us lately — Men in Black is on the way (if you have a fast connection, punch that link for some fun).

    Have you managed yet to drop by DVD Tracker to start an online list of your DVD collection? We're big fans of the Tracker here, which offers an easy way to stay on top of your discs, let other people know what's in your stack, and even help you remember which deadbeats haven't returned your loaners (in fact, your editor's sizeable personal stash is on DVD Tracker, so how's that for an unbiased endorsement?). Meanwhile, if you haven't entered our monthly free DVD contest, be sure to visit our contest page if you get the chance, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there. We'll be back on Monday with a new round of reviews, the box-office wrap-up, and any new developments on the DVD legal fronts. See ya then, and have a great weekend.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 16 August 2000

    Mailbag: Wednesday is the day we clean out the reader mail here at The DVD Journal, so let's get to it:

  • I believe the Jurassic Park / Lost World "Deluxe Collection" box set (at $119.98 list) includes everything that the straightforward "collection" ($53.98 list) does, in addition to two CDs of the soundtracks and a "senitype" (is that some sort of hologram?). I don't think it contains anything else. Why would I, as someone who likes these movies, buy the larger set over the smaller one? Is this senitype worth the extra money? To me, the CDs don't add much value.

    — Allan

    Well, to begin with, a senitype is simply a film cel, and in deluxe sets such as the top-tier Jurassic Park / Lost World box, it's taken from a print of the film, so it's an original film element of sorts — and figure the math on how little material this takes: Modern films run at 24 frames per second, or 1,440 frames per minute. A two-hour film contains 172,800 frames of film. If Universal sold that many units of the JP deluxe box (an optimistic number, to be sure), only one complete print of either film would have to be sacrificed for the job. As to why the studios have recently taken to describing these "collectible" items as senitypes rather than film cels is beyond us, but it must make sense to the marketing people. Perhaps "senitype" tested better in the focus-groups.

    As for if the deluxe edition of Jurassic Park / Lost World is worth the premium to Spielberg fans, we have to call it a toss-up. As far as box-sets go, at least this one actually has something of value in the kit besides the DVDs, as many folks don't have the soundtracks and may want them. But soundtrack collectors are a curious breed, and as fanatical as they come (our own Alexandra DuPont buys more movie soundtracks than any other type of CD), so it would seem most people interested in the soundtracks already own them by now. Really, if you want to save some bucks, don't feel like you're missing out. We think most of these large boxes full of knick-knacks really aren't for DVD fans anyway, but instead are aimed at gift-giving purchases — everybody would rather wrap a big box of something rather than a little DVD to hand out at a birthday party or on Christmas morning, and we suspect that a good number of these boxes are bought with other people in mind.

  • What are the expected audiences of the "making-of" featurettes often found on DVD? A lot of them are obviously not made specifically for DVD, so who were they aimed at?

    — Ian

    Actually, there are a few original features made for DVD, most notably the documentaries on Universal's "Classic Monster Collection" discs, all running around 45 minutes and created by film historian and documentarian David J. Skal for Universal's recent horror reprisals. Universal also has done well with the original feature-length documentaries on their Hitchcock series, and we think the 60-minute "Shaking the Cage" on Easy Rider was straight-to-DVD as well. We get downright giddy when stuff like this shows up on disc, because a lot of these original documentaries are very entertaining, insightful, and largely up-to-date. And when feature-length docs are not DVD originals, they often are culled from previous Laserdisc releases (most notably — and notoriously — of late was the Jaws documentary, chopped down to one hour from a longer running time on LD). In this case they still are original docs, at least in terms that they were created specifically for home-video release.

    But it seems what you are referring to Ian are the notoriously dull "featurettes" on a great many DVD releases, and you're right, they aren't developed for the DVD demographic (after all, we are a persnickety bunch who can tell red meat from tofu). All featurettes and their ilk are just commercials, or rather infomercials, originally sent out not by the studios' home-video divisions but instead their PR depts., normally a month or so in advance of a film's theatrical debut to be shown during dead time on cable TV or other insomniac territory, or even abridged for some entertainment "news" shows. And since these items mainly attempt to plug a film rather than plumb its depths, it's rare when they are notable at all — can anybody get excited about hearing that such-and-such actor was "a real professional," or that another actor had always wanted to work with a particular director, who is "a genius"? There may not be any worse remote-tapping stuff, and the fact is that most actors really aren't interesting people without a script (or even with a script, actually), so we often just glance over featurettes on DVD before jettisoning them from our memory. However, it's important to draw a distinction between featurettes and feature-length documentaries, because the latter often are the best value-adds on a disc. We say that Universal currently does the best job with these, and the 90-minute doc on Psycho: Collector's Edition is one of our personal favorites.

  • It seems recently that the MPAA has been on the rampage to hunt down and sue companies that have products or software that bypasses Macrovision technology, i.e. actively going after the company that manufactured the Apex DVD player, or after eBay for allowing customers to trade the Apex player online. What I don't understand is how some online retail sites advertise that their DVD players are code-free and Macrovision-free. Why don't these people get attacked by the MPAA?

    — Ronda

    Er... damn good question. And before we get into this too far, we should note that the Macrovision company, not the MPAA, normally takes the lead when trying to protect their own product, as they did recently with eBay and the Apex player, which no longer trades on the site.

    In any case, our squinty-eyed lawyers have asked us to let everybody know that the editorial team here are not lawyers, and nothing even like lawyers, and in no way qualified to dispense legal opinions (and even now they're still squinting as we write). We're just going to guess by tracing over events. First, when it was discovered in late 1999 that the Apex player had a secret "loopholes" menu that could disable Macrovision and region-coding, it was reported that Macrovision and the MPAA visited with Apex Digital in California (let's assume it was a nice, friendly visit). We also understand that they visited with Circuit City, the only U.S. retailer that carries the Chinese-manufactured player (we think Future Shop sells it in Canada). Note "visited," not "sued," because there was no lawsuit, and perhaps there couldn't have been. But in any case the issue was resolved privately between all of the parties, and the Apex player continues to sell to this day at Circuit City, albeit with the "loopholes" menu disabled.

    Similarly, it was Macrovision who asked eBay to cancel all Apex auctions on their popular website (not "sued"), which they did voluntarily, in accordance with their own guidelines on copyrighted materials. Did eBay have to cancel the auctions? Again, we are not lawyers, so we don't know. But they agreed to do it without a lawsuit, nor hint of a lawsuit.

    So why is it so easy to get a code-free, Macrovision-free DVD player from an online retailer? Dare we suggest that selling these items is not illegal? If it were, they probably wouldn't exist (does anybody want to wave a red flag in front of the MPAA's attorneys lately?). To us, it appears that whatever motivations Apex Digital and eBay had in complying with the MPAA and Macrovision do not exist with small online outfits. To our knowledge, nobody's been threatened with legal action for selling a code-free, Macrovision-free DVD player, and certainly there are no jump-suited goons rounding up the pre-2000 Apex decks from our homes. Everybody can come to their own conclusions as to why Apex Digital and eBay have decided to stay in the good graces of the home-video industry. For both companies, it was an internal decision.

    Shoddy answer? We did our best, but if you have a better theory, you know what to do —

    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. Buzz Lightyear: The Adventure Begins
    2. Jaws: Anniversary Collector's Edition
    3. The Princess Bride
    4. The Green Mile
    5. The Matrix
    6. Reindeer Games
    7. The Whole Nine Yards
    8. Independence Day: Five Star Collection
    9. Army of Darkness: Director's Cut
    10. Boiler Room


    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 15 August 2000

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and

    • Let's kick things off with Universal, who have a treat in store for Orson Welles fans — the "restored" cut of 1958's Touch of Evil (Oct. 31), which was released theatrically in 1998 and is based on a memo from Welles that indicated his preferred edits. The new disc will include Welles' entire 58-page memo and an hour-long "making-of" feature, but take note — any DVD release of the original cut doesn't seem likely for some time, so hang on to your videotapes or Laserdiscs if you want to compare the two in full-form. Also in the works at Universal is Somewhere In Time: Special Edition (Oct. 31), starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and features will include a commentary track with director Jeannot Szwarc, the documentary "The Making of Somewhere in Time," a look at the fan club (there's a fan club?), and more. Universal will also re-release the musical Cats as a "Commemorative Edition" since the Broadway run is now over. However, the disc will not be any different.
    • But don't think Columbia TriStar is planning to overlook Orson Welles buffs — the 1948 The Lady From Shanghai (Oct. 3), starring Welles and Rita Hayworth, is on the way, and while the feature-set has not been confirmed at this time, we're hoping for a nice transfer. We also can look forward to Mike Figgis' experimental Time Code: Special Edition (Oct. 10), which will be a full-frame transfer of the unrated version. A commentary with Figgis will be on board along with his own video diary, and there also will be some extra DVD-ROM content. Also on the way are Jackie Chan's Miracles (Oct. 10), which will be the full-length Hong Kong cut and will have an isolated score; East West: Special Edition (Oct. 3), with a commentary by director Regis Wargnier and writer Serguie Bodrov and an isolated score; Bossa Nova: Special Edition (Oct. 3), with a commentary by star Amy Irving and director Bruno Barretto, a deleted scene with commentary, and an isolated score (it appears CTHV is leading the way again, first with commentaries on most everything and now with these score tracks); the 1962 Damn The Defiant! starring Alec Guinness, Dirk Bogarde, and Anthony Quayle; the horror film Hideaway (Oct. 3); and Look Who's Talking Too (Oct. 10).
    • Here's the final details on Fox Lorber's reissues of Hard Boiled and The Killer, long out of print from Criterion and trading big on eBay. Both new releases will include a commentary with Woo (but not the ones on Criterion's releases), along with trailers and notes. However, those Criterion editions had many more features, such as deleted scenes and other items from the depths of Woo's personal vault, so we're expecting the originals to remain valuable online traders. But for those of you who don't want to miss out again (which probably won't happen — Fox Lorber owns the rights), there will be a two-disc package with an SRP of $49.98. Everything is expected on Oct. 3.
    • Undeterred by the occasional loss of licenses, the folks at Criterion keep cranking stuff out — the most recent street dates are for 1958's schlock-horror The Blob: Special Edition, starring a young Steve McQueen, which will include a commentary track by producer, director, and actor Robert Fields and another track with film historian Bruce Eder, while Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 Kwaidan and Brian De Palma's 1973 Sisters will be bare-bones, albeit with a cheaper price than Criterion's top-tier stuff. Look for all three on Sept. 19.
    • Back when Roman Polanski was a pretty good director and didn't have to flee America after some nasty statutory rape charges, he made a nifty little psychological thriller called Rosemary's Baby, now on the way from Paramount (Oct. 3), and a "making-of" and interviews with Polanski, producer Robert Evans, and production designer Richard Sylbert will be on board. Jerry Lewis' 1963 The Nutty Professor (Oct. 17) was a horror movie of a different sort, but fans of the original Buddy Love can look forward to an anamorphic transfer of this one, along with a "Paramount in the '50s" retrospective. Also on tap is Snow Day: Special Edition (Oct. 3), with a commentary by director Chris Koch and writers Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and plenty of goodies for the kids, while late-night fare includes bare-bones editions of Friday The 13th III and Friday The 13th IV: The Final Chapter (a dubious title to be sure) — both are due on Oct. 17.
    • We'd like to take this moment to thank Warner Brothers for clearing out some of our (rather large) mailbox, as the oft-requested miniseries Gettysburg will arrive as a special edition (Dec. 5) with such features as a commentary by director/screenwriter Ronald F. Maxwell, cast and crew interviews, a "making-of" short, and more. Also in the works are Ready To Rumble: Special Edition (Sept. 19), which will have a commentary with actors David Arquette, Scott Caan and Ahmet Zappa and lots of stuff about pro wrestling; the 1950 Annie Get Your Gun: Special Edition (Nov. 14), starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel, and with a commentary by director George Sidney, four deleted musical numbers (including one with Judy Garland before she left the filming due to illness), and plenty more stuff; a special edition of How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who (Oct. 31), with a commentary by animator Phil Roman and June Foray, pencil sketches, and interviews with composer Albert Hague and vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft; the Rankin-Bass stop-motion The Year Without a Santa Claus (Oct. 31), which will include two other TV specials; William Wyler's 1956 Friendly Persuasion (Dec. 5), starring Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire; the Chuck Norris vehicle Good Guys Wear Black (Nov. 7); and Blake Edwards' Switch (Nov. 21), starring Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits.
    • Here come two more South Park discs from Warner and Comedy Central: Christmas in South Park will feature such holiday delights as "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics" and "Merry Christmas Charlie Manson," as well as the BBC documentary, "Goin' Down to South Park." Meanwhile, The Chef Experience will have "Chef Aid," "Succubus," and the video for (yes!) "Chocolate Salty Balls." Get both on Nov. 7.
    • But don't go freakin' out about Warner's new Batman Legacy four-disc box (Sept. 5 - SRP: $99.92) — the discs will not be any different than the current bare-bones editions, nor is the overall price any cheaper.
    • Fox has indie director Edward Burns in the queue with both The Brothers McMullen: Special Edition and She's The One: Special Edition — both will have commentary tracks by Burns and are due on Oct. 3. This year's Where The Heart Is, starring Natalie Portman and Sally Field, will include a music video and trailers, and is set for Oct. 31.
    • John Sturges' 1976 World War II thriller The Eagle Has Landed, starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Donald Sutherland, and based on the best-seller by Jack Higgins, is on the way from Artisan, as are 1998's The Love Letter, Steel Dawn, and Picking Up The Pieces, all on Oct. 17.
    • Finally, we and several of our readers went looking for Rhino's The Rutles last week, but to no avail. We now can report that it has been kicked back to Nov. 7.

    On the Street: Everybody's getting ready for the big Aug. 29 street date and all the great stuff due then, but today nearly rivals it, making this August one of the toughest months ever on the DVD budget. Fox has both Titus: Special Edition and The Planet of the Apes in the shops, along with Planet of the Apes: The Evolution, a six-disc set covering the entire series. Meanwhile, Columbia TriStar has gone a long way to satisfy Luc Besson collectors with both The Big Blue and Leon: The Professional in expanded cuts, Paramount has the archetypal western Shane and Robert Altman's Nashville on the street, and Universal is on the board with their new special edition of Erin Brockovich. But don't overlook Criterion — Laurence Olivier's 1948 Hamlet and the classic Pygmalion are now in release under their folio. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • After Life
    • Agatha Christie's Poirot (2-DVD Set)
    • The Big Blue: Director's Cut
    • The Cider House Rules
    • Civil War Combat: America's Bloodiest Battles
    • Crucible of Terror
    • Deep Purple - In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra (delayed from July 25)
    • The Delivery
    • Erin Brockovich
    • Fargo
    • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
    • I, Claudius (3-DVD Set)
    • Hamlet: The Criterion Collection (1948)
    • The House Of Seven Corpses
    • In the Land of the War Canoes
    • It's the Rage
    • Jason and the Argonauts (2000)
    • Jet Li DVD Collection
    • Kalifornia
    • King of New York
    • Leon: The Professional (Expanded International Version)
    • Little Rascals Collection, Vol. 1-2
    • The Love for Three Oranges
    • Mon Oncle D'Amerique
    • My Best Fiend
    • Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad: Special Edition
    • Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear: Special Edition
    • Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
    • Nashville (delayed from June 27)
    • Planet of the Apes
    • Planet of the Apes: The Evolution (6-DVD Set)
    • Platoon
    • Premonition
    • Project A II
    • Psychopath
    • Pygmalion: The Criterion Collection
    • Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie - Black Dream Hole
    • Shane
    • Six Degrees of Separation
    • Titus: Special Edition
    • Twilight Zone: Volume 30
    • Twilight Zone: Volume 31
    • Woyzeck

    Catch ya tomorrow.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 14 August 2000

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: If you're going to film a Shakespearean work, the bloody, brutal Titus Andronicus is one ballsy choice. After all, it is considered by some critics to be Shakespeare's worst play. It also was his first tragedy, and only his fifth work for the stage, which is to say that the master had not yet completely mastered the form. While believed a popular work in Shakespeare's era, it was only produced three times in the 19th century, and a 1923 performance at the Old Vic resulted in uncontrolled laughter from the audience; the play would not be performed again in England until 1955. Samuel Johnson wrote that "The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience." Fellow critic J.C. Maxwell noted "(Shakespeare) has a sense of the play as a whole, and a sense of the individual episode. It is principally in bringing the two into relation that he is still deficient." For noted Broadway director Julie Taymor, mounting a modern stage production of Titus Andronicus, and then undertaking a cinematic rendition, flies in the face of all common sense. Why not just make another version of Hamlet? (Everybody else does.) Or one of the other "safe" tragedies, like Lear, or Macbeth. Why not the popular Jacobean-era romance The Tempest, also filmed a few times in recent years?

    To Taymor's (enormous) credit, Titus Andronicus was the play she was bent on, and where others have failed over the years, her epic Titus succeeds wonderfully — and for several reasons. Anthony Hopkins stars as Titus Andronicus, a heroic, aging Roman general who returns to Rome after defeating the Goths. In his possession are the Goth Queen Tamora (Jessica Lange) and her four sons, but Titus lost 22 of his sons in battle, and thus a sacrifice must be made. As Tamora's eldest son is led away for ritual slaughter, the Queen vows revenge on the Roman military leader who has brought her so much suffering. And soon her opportunity comes, as the sons of the late Roman Emperor — decadent Saturninus (Alan Cumming) and noble Bassianus (James Frain) — are vying for the throne. Titus has the adoration of the people, and even could declare himself Emperor if he so wished, but he gives his support to Saturninus, who then says he will take Titus' daughter Lavinia (Laura Fraser) as his bride, even though she is betrothed to Bassianus. It is when Bassianus and Lavinia steal away in the night that Saturninus takes the Goth Queen as his bride, and her revenge plot is set into motion when her two sons capture, rape, and horrifically mutilate Lavinia while framing two of Titus' sons for the murder of Bassianus. The crafty old Titus then begins to plan his own revenge against Tamora and her offspring.

    For those who are not familiar with Shakespeare's play, the critics throughout the ages have largely been correct. Titus Andronicus is an incredibly violent tragedy, and it doesn't have the humanistic dimensions that transform and uplift such later works as Romeo and Juliet or Lear. But Taymor does not shy away from the material — rather, she embraces it fully. As an early tragedy, Titus Andronicus resembles the tragic masters of Shakespeare's past rather than his own mature work, Greek dramatists like Sophocles and Aeschlyus, whose tragedies did little to expand on human character but instead tried to convey immense suffering at the hands of indifferent gods. When Titus, wailing on the ground, declares "Let my tears staunch the earth's dry appetite / My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush," that's Shakespeare, but it's also Sophocles, whose famous tragic protagonists such as Oedipus would freely offer everything to the gods if it would only end their pain. By playing it straight and not apologizing for the material, Taymor succeeds by reaching back to early Shakespeare and the earliest recorded days of tragedy, and asking her actors to play the roles as such. All of the performances in Titus are solid — particularly Hopkins, who has shied away from the Bard in recent years — the more violent scenes are fittingly graphic and probably would send the nearest politician over the edge were it not Shakespeare (and thus sacrosanct), and the much-discussed art-direction wins Taymor bonus points, for again she takes an enormous risk, combining Roman and contemporary clothing, sets, vehicles, and weapons, not concerned with deciding just when Titus takes place, but instead content to let her free-form concept of "blended time" rule every scene. It would be pretentious were it not for the fact that it works.

    Fox's new two-disc special edition of Titus features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.25:1) and audio in either DD 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Features include a commentary by Taymor, a second commentary track with Hopkins and actor Harry J. Lennix (the only actor who also was in the stage production), a 50-minute "making-of" documentary, a 34-minute question-and-answer session with Taymor at Columbia University, a gallery of costume sketches, a brief segment on the special effects with supervisor Kyle Cooper, two articles from American Cinematographer magazine, and six trailers and TV spots. If you're a Shakespeare buff, you'll want to have this one in your collection — Titus: Special Edition is on the street tomorrow.

    Addendum: A new Fox DVD promo is on board Titus: Special Edition, which touts all of the extra features DVD has to offer film freaks like ourselves. What a difference a year makes, as it was not long ago that Fox couldn't be bothered with supplemental features. Now they are pimping everything they have with the tagline "Fox DVD: Get Into It." And for you Wolverine nutsacks, the new Fox promo offers the first glimpse of X-Men on disc. We're expecting the full package in November.

    Box Office: It was a photo-finish at the weekend box-office, as Sony's Hollow Man and Warner's Space Cowboys both reaped an estimated $13.1 million (final numbers will not be released until Monday night). And while it was good news for Clint Eastwood and his old-guys-in-space yarn, gaining some traction after getting bested last week by Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man, both films were popular enough to keep new arrivals out of the top positions. MGM's Autumn in New York had a surprisingly strong opening at $11.5 million, which was good enough for third, considering that the studio would not screen the film for critics last week (normally a sign that it's a stinker), while Warner's gridiron comedy The Replacements had a disappointing fourth-place opening with $11.1 million, despite the star power of Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman and a fresh football season on the way.

    In continuing release, Universal's Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is still doing strong business and has $94.1 million after three weeks, and while DreamWorks' What Lies Beneath is starting to lag, it has cleared the century with ease at $112.1 million. However, Buena Vista's barmaid-booty movie Coyote Ugly is falling fast with just $34.2 million so far. Dropping off the charts this week is Sony's The Patriot, which should clear $110 million before leaving the second-run circuit — the DVD is now expected in October.

    The big green lizard was good enough for a summer film a couple years ago, so he's coming back for more — Godzilla 2000 opens this Friday. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Hollow Man (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $13,100,000 ($50,400,000 through 2 weeks)
    2. Space Cowboys (Warner Bros.)
      $13,100,000 ($39,100,000 through 2 weeks)
    3. Autumn in New York (MGM)
      $11,500,000 ($11,500,000 through 1 week)
    4. The Replacements (Warner Bros.)
      $11,100,000 ($11,100,000 through 1 week)
    5. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (Universal)
      $10,300,000 ($94,100,000 through 3 weeks)
    6. What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG)
      $9,800,000 ($112,100,000 through 4 weeks)
    7. Bless the Child (Paramount)
      $9,600,000 ($9,600,000 through 1 week)
    8. Coyote Ugly (Buena Vista)
      $7,800,000 ($34,200,000 through 2 weeks)
    9. X-Men (Fox)
      $4,200,000 ($144,000,000 through 5 weeks)
    10. The Perfect Storm (Warner Bros.)
      $2,800,000 ($170,500,000 through 7 weeks)
    11. Scary Movie (Dimension)
      $2,500,000 ($144,800,000 through 6 weeks)
    12. Disney's The Kid (Buena Vista)
      $1,900,000 ($64,100,000 through 6 weeks)

    On the Board: Call it auteur week — Dawn Taylor has posted a new review of Robert Altman's Nashville, D.K. Holm is on the board with Luc Besson's Leon: The Professional (Expanded International Version), and Greg Dorr has a look at Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate — all can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews this week include Erin Brockovich, The Big Blue: Director's Cut, Titus: Special Edition, Shane, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and Bananas, and can be accessed on the Quick Reviews index. Everything has been added under the New Reviews menu here on the main page as well.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 10 August 2000
    Weekend Dispatch

    'Bridge on the River Kwai' due in November!: The death of Alec Guinness last weekend caused us to reflect on the actor's legendary film career, and just how few of his films are not yet available on DVD. And while we are still waiting for The Lavender Hill Mob and Lawrence of Arabia, Columbia TriStar has now announced that David Lean's 1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai will arrive this fall, and in both limited and unlimited editions. The single-DVD version (SRP $24.95) will have just a few supplements (a trailer gallery and cast-notes), although it will feature a digitally restored anamorphic widescreen transfer and audio in Dolby 2.0 or a new DD 5.1 mix. However, the two-disc limited edition (SRP $39.95) will have all the features of the cheaper disc as well as four behind-the-scenes documentaries ("The Making of The Bridge on the River Kwai," the featurette "The Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant," a short film narrated by William Holden, and a discussion with filmmaker John Milius), a photo montage of original advertising materials, a 12-page booklet based on the original souvenir book, and additional DVD-ROM content (a trivia game, maps and military strategy, and a screensaver). Both editions are due on Nov. 7, and pre-orders at online retailers should be up within a couple of days at the most.

    On the Block: Our latest round of DVD auction rankings at eBay are in, and there hasn't been much of a shakeup in the highest positions. Criterion's Salo continues to be the most sought-after DVD on earth, easily breaking the $400 mark and leaving the competition behind. The Criterion editions of John Woo's The Killer and Hard Boiled made the top five as well, even though we are expecting new DVDs before the end of the year (albeit without Criterion's supplements). But if those two films are still holding steady, fans of Spinal Tap may want to consider hunting down a few auctions for the Criterion edition, as MGM's forthcoming disc has caused prices to plummet — what used to be a consistent top-three trader on our list this time around drops to number eight, and those $250-plus high closes may be a thing of the past, as the most recent top bid was $132.50 (which means many more Spinal Tap auctions are finishing well below a crisp Benjamin). Two occasional notables surged recently, with the limited edition of John Carpenter's Halloween going for an asking price of $150.00 and the first edition of Criterion's Seven Samurai breaking the century (and them some) at $137.50 after 29 bids. Finally, Pier Paolo Pasolini may start to become something of a regular on our charts. The director of the controversial Salo also directed Arabian Nights and The Decameron — the two Image DVDs recently went out of print and are now building momentum on the auction boards.

    Here's the highest recent closing prices of rare and out-of-print DVDs from online auctions at eBay:

    1. Salo: The Criterion Collection
      $432.75 (20 bids)
    2. The Killer: The Criterion Collection
      $331.50 (21 bids)
    3. THX EX Demo DVD
      $212.50 (11 bids)
    4. Hard Boiled: The Criterion Collection
      $152.50 (34 bids)
    5. Halloween: Limited Edition
      $150.00 (1 bid)
    6. The 400 Blows: The Criterion Collection
      $143.15 (16 bids)
    7. Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection (first edition)
      $137.50 (29 bids)
    8. This Is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection
      $132.50 (13 bids)
    9. Platoon (first edition)
      $102.50 (15 bids)
    10. Little Shop of Horrors (first edition)
      $95.00 (18 bids)
    11. Arabian Nights
      $91.00 (25 bids)
    12. A Hard Day's Night
      $83.11 (8 bids)
    13. Kids
      $76.00 (13 bids)
    14. Army of Darkness: Limited Edition
      $71.00 (8 bids)
    15. The Decameron
      $69.00 (4 bids)

    Quotable: "From the point of view of the music lover, (Napster) can only be viewed as an exciting new development in the history of music. And fortunately for (the music lover), there does not seem to be anything the old record companies can do about preventing this evolution from happening.... Young people... need to be educated about how the record companies have exploited artists and abused their rights for so long and about the fact that online distribution is turning into a new medium which might enable artists to put an end to this exploitation."

    — The artist formerly known as Prince (who is now calling
    himself Prince again), in a recent statement.

    "He was a great character actor, the best we've ever had I think. It was a job to him, and how he worked at it. He was meticulous."

    — Sir John Mills, speaking of the late Sir Alec Guinness,
    with whom he co-starred in Great Expectations.

    "Hugh Grant is fantastic in bed. He always has been."

    — Elizabeth Hurley, after Jane magazine went forward
    with a story claiming she had an unsatisfactory
    sex-life with her former boyfriend.

    "I could survive all right, but I wouldn't be interested in going out there and being a part of a show like that. It seems to me that just voting people off doesn't really have anything to do with real abilities."

    — Clint Eastwood, discussing CBS-TV's "Survivor" in a
    recent interview with TV Guide.

    "I'd have killed them all in a week, and that would have been the end of that."

    — Clint's Space Cowboys co-star James Garner, also
    in TV Guide.

    "I can't believe I barfed in Harrison Ford's helicopter."

    — Sarah George, 20, who was airlifted by Harrison Ford
    from Table Mountain in Wyoming while suffering
    from extreme dehydration.

    Coming Attractions: New DVD reviews are on the way, including Fox's new two-disc edition of Titus and a double-feature of Luc Besson films. Also, final legal briefs have been filed in the New York DeCSS trial, so stay tuned — a verdict could arrive at any time.

    See ya Monday. Enjoy the weekend.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 9 August 2000

    Studios duking it out for DVD dates: While the total box-office for this summer will probably fall short of 1999's record-breaking year (led by the $430 million The Phantom Menace), there have been several more notable films to arrive in the high season of 2000, which means that all of the major home-video divisions in L.A. are jockeying to get the best fourth-quarter release dates. And as there are only so many Tuesdays between Halloween and Christmas, some unusual moves are already in the works. In particular, Columbia TriStar has earmarked The Patriot for an October release, giving it plenty of breathing room before November, which will see the arrival of The Perfect Storm, Gladiator, Mission: Impossible 2, Chicken Run, X-Men, and others. Due to follow in December are Gone in Sixty Seconds, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, and Shanghai Noon, and while some specific dates are being bandied about, chances are that some of them will change before the release schedule is solidified.

    Mailbag: Wednesday is the day we clean out the reader mail here at The DVD Journal, so let's get to it:

  • Hi guys! I pre-ordered Disney's new Buzz Lightyear DVD and, thanks to the online retailer I used, I received it a day early and was able to watch it right away. So let's get to the bad news first: It's not very good. A couple of funny jokes, but all in all, a disappointment. The animation was OK. After all, I wasn't expecting much. But I certainly expected a better script from the people at Pixar.

    But now the good news: Disney has finally wised up. When you put the disc in and it goes directly to the annoying trailer section, they have now enabled you to use the menu button to skip the trailers. As a matter of fact, they even went so far as to put a note up saying you could skip the trailers! But if you did that, and if you just threw away all the paperwork inside the case, you will have missed the fact that Fantasia 2000 is coming to DVD on Sept. 26! I have been to many DVD websites and nobody has this announced. So apparently Disney has been keeping this under wraps? Well, there's a trailer for Fantasia 2000 on the Buzz Lightyear DVD, and it does say it will be DVD, not just VHS. And if you look at the points coupon in the case, you'll see it printed there as well. I don't know why nobody has this on their sites, but I am thrilled that they're releasing it. I figure with two concrete announcements like this, it is a firm release date! No mention of features, but I can't imagine they would do anything less than widescreen and 5.1. Anything else would be icing on the cake. A "making-of" would be nice, and since the film is so short, there's plenty of room on the disc.

    — Anthony

    Actually, the Fantasia 2000 DVD news arrived in recent days, although the street date we have is Nov. 14, not Sept. 26. Therefore, if you have some promotional materials from Disney that say Sept. 26, it's a typo or the date simply was changed after the promo was printed. In any case, yes, it's pretty much confirmed that Fantasia 2000 will be a DVD item before the year is out.

    But even more interesting (and perplexing) is a recent report by Widescreen Review claiming that the original 1940 Fantasia is also expected on Nov. 14. We have not heard anything at all from Disney on this one, nor has there been a press release, but WR received a demo disc of F2K from The Mouse House, so it appears their information is coming from the official source. According to WR, the original Fantasia will arrive on Nov. 14 (SRP $29.99), and the THX-certified disc will feature Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks (no original soundtrack?), along with two commentary tracks. There also will be a three-disc Fantasia Anthology (SRP $69.99) with a third disc of supplemental materials, due on Nov. 14 as well.

    Assuming the above information is correct (and we're figuring that WR got their info from reliable authorities), the upcoming DVD release of the original Fantasia is a head-scratcher on several levels. Regular readers of this website may recall our attempt to track down an Asian DVD of Fantasia to learn if it was licensed by Disney or a bootleg (we eventually decided it was a bootleg), and in fact Disney has had Fantasia under lock-and-key for some time. Our Laserdisc copy sports a neat little sticker declaring "The Final Release of this Original Masterpiece!" and we have been under the impression that Fantasia had gone the way of Song of the South — out-of-print forever (if for different reasons). When Fantasia was not included in Disney's Platinum Collection of ten animated films scheduled to go on rotated 10-year moratoriums, we figured it was another nail in the coffin. After all, Disney certainly wouldn't lump Fantasia in with their Gold Classic Collection, would they? Forcing it to share the same folio as Pochohantas II and A Goofy Movie? What's more, Disney CEO Michael Eisner recently indicated that Disney's "Platinum" DVDs could remain on hold indefinitely, or at least until acceptable copy-protection technologies would assure the company that their digital content couldn't be pirated with impunity. He even cited Snow White — scheduled to be their first Platinum DVD in 2001 — as a flagship item for the company. If that's the case, isn't Fantasia just as much a signature movie for The Mouse House? Why hold back on the Platinum titles but push the original Fantasia to be out on DVD in just three months time, when two DVD copy-protection lawsuits have yet to reach a verdict? Are we the only people wondering what is going on at Mouse HQ?

    As for the introductory materials on Disney's DVDs, it is good to hear that they are abandoning the practice of trying to force trailers and such on their consumers, who have paid some hard-earned bucks to buy a movie on home-video, not watch commercial television. However, just how Gestapo-like the previous Disney trailers have been remains a player-to-player issue — Sony DVD players have always been able to skip the promos with a tap of the index button, whereas many other players prohibit it. Hopefully all DVD players are now able to skip directly to the movie (or menu, as it may be) on Buena Vista releases.

    Okay, your editor is getting a headache. That's what happens sometimes when we try to keep up with the Magic Kingdom's home-video policies, so we'll drop it for now. And before we go wandering in search of some Excedrin, if anybody else out there has the promo materials from Disney that say Fantasia 2000 has a street date of Sept. 26, as Anthony has, please drop us a line. Actually, everybody with any information whatsoever on the Fantasia moratorium or the upcoming DVD is invited to send us letters on this topic. We're all ears.

    boxcoverTop 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. Romeo Must Die
    2. Independence Day: Five Star Collection
    3. The Princess Bride
    4. Jaws: Anniversary Collector's Edition
    5. The Whole Nine Yards
    6. Reindeer Games
    7. The Green Mile
    8. The Matrix
    9. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
    10. Fargo

    See ya.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 8 August 2000

    In the Works: Let's get your Tuesday morning going with some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and

    • If you're looking for some slice-and-dice fun, Anchor Bay is prepping several new horror releases, including Evil Dead 2 (Aug. 29), which will come in a limited special edition of 50,000 with a commentary by director Sam Raimi, star Bruce Campbell, and others, the "making-of" doc "The Gore the Merrier," and some extra goodies in a collectable tin, while the unlimited edition will have the commentary on board. Halloween 5: Limited Edition (Aug. 22 - 15,000 units) will have a "making-of " and some goodies in the tin as well, although it appears that the unlimited DVD will be the same disc. Hellraiser: Special Edition (Sept. 19) will include a commentary with Clive Barker and others, a "making-of" doc, stills, and more, and a limited special edition of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (Sept. 19 - 30,000 units) will have a commentary and behind-the-scenes feature on Hellbound that will only be in the special box. Finally, Repo Man: Limited Special Edition (Aug. 22 - 30,000 units) will include a commentary with director Alex Cox, Mike Nesmith, and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, Del Zamora, cast and crew notes, and the soundtrack CD in the tin (but it appears that the unlimited Repo Man DVD, due on the same date, will not be any different).
    • But it ain't all horror from Anchor Bay (believe it or not), and we are looking forward to the new DVD of Michael Caton's 1989 Scandal, starring John Hurt and Joanne Whalley Kilmer, which will be the unrated edition. Also on the way is 1971's Two Lane Blacktop: Limited Special Edition (Sept. 26 - 15,000 units) starring Dennis Wilson, James Taylor and Warren Oates, and the features will include a commentary by director Monte Hellman and executive producer Gary Kurtz , a documentary feature on Hellman, and some knick-knacks in the tin.
    • Buena Vista is prepping some fat sets as well (though not limited), including The Scream Trilogy (Sept. 26), which will have an extra disc with special features (perhaps taken from the Collector's Editions?), while the From Dusk Till Dawn Collector's Box Set (Oct. 3) will pretty much just be bare-bones discs.
    • But the best box-set announcement of the day comes from Image, who will release a four-disc The Charlie Chaplin Box (SRP $99.99), featuring the classics The Gold Rush, City Lights, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator, and all with some nice supplemental features and production notes. Image has already staked a claim on the worst box-set this morning as well, with The Worst of Ed Wood (SRP $79.99), featuring Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 from Outer Space. The feature-length documentary "Flying Saucers over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion" will also be included. Both sets are due on Oct. 3.
    • Who says cool? Paramount has announced a release of David Cronenberg's 1983 The Dead Zone, starring Christopher Walken. It only has a trailer on board, but we'll take it. More Stephen King is on the way with Pet Sematary, while this year's RPM: Special Edition, starring David Arquette and Famke Janssen, will include a commentary track and more. It's all due on Sept. 19, along with two more discs from the original Star Trek TV series.
    • Two more Monty Python discs are on the way from A&E, Volumes 13 and 14 of the TV series collection (Aug. 29), while the documentary The Life of Python (Oct. 31) will feature rare Python moments and the South Park tribute cartoon. Also look for two new collections of the classic UK television series The Prisoner (Oct. 26 and 31).
    • Warner Music will street three collections of videos from REM, Parallel, Pop Screen, and This Film Is On, along with the 1989 REM documentary Tourfilm, all on Aug. 22. And in what seems to be something of a first (to our recollection), a 10-minute DVD music single of Madonna's "Music" will street on Sept. 5 (SRP $9.95), with two separate videos of the song.
    • Rock out with Rykodisc and their upcoming release of Free Tibet: Special Edition (Aug. 29), a documentary of the first Tibetan Freedom Concert featuring live performances by the Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Bjork, The Fugees, John Lee Hooker, and Rage Against The Machine. Not enough for you? A commentary with director Spike Jonze and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch will also be on board.
    • Hey '80s dude, don't cut that mullet! Music Video has Yngwie Malmsteen: Live on the street now, with 80 minutes of live performances perfectly suited for your best air-guitar histrionics! (Actually, we just wanted to say Yngwie. Yngwie Yngwie Yngwie. Hi.)
    • Sony Music wants all of you thirtysomethings to get up early on a Saturday morning in your pajamas, get a bowl of Lucky Charms and some cinnamon toast, and watch Underdog: Collector's Edition, a 70-minute collection of Joe Harris' popular children's cartoon, including the original series pilot, which has not been seen in 30 years. It's expected on Sept. 12 and will include an interview with Harris, as well as a trivia game as DVD-ROM content.
    • Okay, we're not going to take credit for this or anything, but one of our readers recently pointed out to us that Fox's Office Space was seriously overpriced at $34.98 SRP, as it has no substantial features — something we were only too happy to note in a recent dig through the mailbag. But now Office Space has been re-priced at $24.98 SRP, starting on Sept. 5, which is much more in line with Fox's current pricing policies. Pre-order with confidence — it's one of the best comedies in recent memory.

    On the Street: Okay, we know things have been thin lately (we feel your pain people), but we promise that the next few weeks are going to see some of the best DVDs ever to hit the street. In the meantime, a few notables this morning include two special editions from Columbia TriStar, Brian's Song and Cat Ballou, while Anchor Bay has released their Supergirl DVDs (limited and unlimited versions), and Buena Vista is on the board with this year's Reindeer Games. This week's big standout for us? The Rutles, now in release from Rhino. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • AFI's 100 Years, 100 Stars: American Film Institute
    • Angel on My Shoulder (delayed from Aug. 1)
    • The Beatles Collection
    • Brian's Song: Special Edition
    • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
    • Cat Ballou: Special Edition
    • Cave of the Living Dead
    • The Cement Garden
    • Da Hip Hop Witch
    • Divorce, Italian Style
    • Dragonheart: A New Beginning
    • Female Vampire
    • First International Circus Arts Festival In Budapest
    • The Grandfather
    • Here on Earth
    • Holy Smoke
    • Jerry and Tom
    • Joy House
    • Kimiko Itoh: An Evening with Kimiko Itoh
    • Komodo
    • Luscious
    • Music For Montserrat Live (Dolby Digital & DTS)
    • Nightfall
    • Reindeer Games
    • The Rutles
    • Savannah Smiles
    • Stephen Hawking's Universe (delayed from Aug. 1)
    • Supergirl: Limited Special Edition (2-disc set)
    • Supergirl: Special Edition
    • Tomb of Torture
    • Tycus
    • The War Zone (delayed from July 18)
    • The Woman in Black


    — Ed.

    Monday, 7 August 2000

    And the winner is: Igor Gavrilovic of Belleville, N.J., wins the free Out of Africa: Collector's Edition DVD from our July contest. Congrats, Igor!

    Our totally free DVD contest for the month of August is up and running, and we have a copy of DreamWorks' Galaxy Quest up for grabs. Be sure to drop by our contest page to send us your entry, and don't forget to take our monthly DVD poll while you're there.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Of all the complaints we hear nowadays about modern movies (dull characters, audience-tested plots, too much dependence on special effects), one of our favorites is the death of the screen couple. Sure, A-list Hollywood stars often are thrown together for individual projects — Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford — but it's rare when enough chemistry comes out of these to create a running series of films. In fact, the only real stab at a modern screen couple lately has been Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, who, based on the success of Pretty Woman, reunited in 1999 for Runaway Bride. But that barely counts. The great screen couples of cinema belong to the past, in a world where Humphrey Bogart is always having a drink with Lauren Bacall, where Cary Grant is giving Ingrid Bergman his best drop-dead-gorgeous grin. And there can be no doubt that the greatest ever were real-life couple Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

    Hepburn and Tracy's film career together spanned 25 years, from 1942's Woman of the Year to the 1967 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, and included such notables as Desk Set, Without Love, and Pat and Mike. Perhaps their most popular collaboration was in 1949, in George Cukor's witty battle of the sexes Adam's Rib. Hepburn and Tracy star as husband-and-wife lawyers Amanda and Adam Bonner, she a defense attorney, he an Assistant D.A. Their carefree life is sustained by a good income and many sophisticated friends, but when betrayed wife Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) shoots her husband Warren Attinger (Tom Ewell) after catching him with bimbo Beryl Caighn (Jean Hagen), Adam is assigned to prosecute her. It's bothersome enough, as he doesn't want the seedy case, but what's worse is that Amanda sees a double-standard in the law, where a man would be forgiven for protecting his family from a homewrecker but a woman could barely get a fair trial under the same circumstances. Armed with a fierce legal education and an even fiercer temperament in the courtroom, Amanda takes Doris 's case, which places her opposite her rational-minded, often grumpy hubby.

    Adam's Rib is among the smartest comedies from Hollywood's golden age, and it is made smarter with a script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, a well-regarded writing team who were married themselves. Cukor, who previously directed Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, is at the top of his form here, and with a strong cast he often relies on them to carry the film without any help from behind the camera (watch the initial interview between Hepburn and Holliday — it's a perfectly timed bit of comedy, and all done in just one take). The supporting cast is a particular treat, as they all went on to star in some classic Hollywood comedies in their own right (Holliday in Born Yesterday, Ewell in The Seven-Year Itch, Hagen in Singin' in the Rain), and David Wayne as singing neighbor Kip Lurie gets in some very funny lines, even when he's battling Hepburn and Tracy for screen-time.

    Warner's DVD edition of Adam's Rib, previously released by MGM, features a strong transfer in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the black-and-white print is very clean and has good low-contrast details. Audio is in the original mono (as Dolby Digital 1.0), and the original theatrical trailer is on board. Worth a spot in every film buff's DVD library, Adam's Rib is on the street now.

    Box Office: Three heavily hyped films went head-to-head at the weekend box-office and Kevin Bacon came out a winner in Sony's Hollow Man, the latest film from mad Dutchman Paul Verhoeven, which earned $26.8 million. Warner's Space Cowboys, directed by Clint Eastwood, and Buena Vista's Coyote Ugly, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, had solid openings as well, but neither were strong enough to bump off Eddie Murphy and Universal's Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, which had a sharp drop-off from last weekend's stunning $42 million opening, but still captured second place (we'd also like to note that reviews for Space Cowboys have been largely positive, while the vacuous, slickly marketed Coyote Ugly has received numerous critical thrashings).

    Still in continuing release, Warner's The Perfect Storm is now at $165.4 million, Dimension's Scary Movie has passed $140 million (not bad for a $19 million movie), Fox's X-Men is adding to the sequel's budget, earning $135.6 million after its first month, and DreamWorks' What Lies Beneath is still drawing crowds with $95.2 million. But falling off the dirty dozen are DreamWorks' Chicken Run and Fox's Me, Myself and Irene, both which finished just short of the $100 million mark. For Chicken Run and the Aardman animation studios, that's good news — for Jim Carrey, it's well under his batting average.

    Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman take the field this weekend with the football comedy The Replacements. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Hollow Man (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $26,800,000 ($26,800,000 through 1 week)
    2. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (Universal)
      $18,000,000 ($76,500,000 through 2 weeks)
    3. Space Cowboys (Warner Bros.)
      $17,600,000 ($17,600,000 through 1 week)
    4. Coyote Ugly (Buena Vista)
      $17,000,000 ($17,000,000 through 1 week)
    5. What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG)
      $13,900,000 ($95,200,000 through 3 weeks)
    6. X-Men (Fox)
      $6,100,000 ($135,600,000 through 4 weeks)
    7. Scary Movie (Dimension)
      $4,200,000 ($140,100,000 through 5 weeks)
    8. The Perfect Storm (Warner Bros.)
      $3,800,000 ($165,400,000 through 6 weeks)
    9. Disney's The Kid (Buena Vista)
      $2,900,000 ($58,200,000 through 5 weeks)
    10. The Patriot (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $2,300,000 ($105,700,000 through 6 weeks)
    11. Thomas and the Magic Railroad (Destination)
      $2,000,000 ($10,800,000 through 2 weeks)
    12. Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (Warner Bros.)
      $1,900,000 ($38,000,000 through 3 weeks)

    On the Board: Alexandra DuPont has posted a new review of Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, while D.K. Holm went back into the archives and came out with a fresh look at The Silence of the Lambs: The Criterion Collection — both can be found on our Full Reviews index. New quick reviews from the staff this week include the out-of-print (but trading on eBay) A Hard Day's Night, Adam's Rib, Drowning Mona, Communion, and Thick as Thieves, and can be accessed on the Quick Reviews index. And as usual, everything has been added under the New Reviews menu here on the main page.

    Adieu: It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Sir Alec Guinness, who died Saturday in England. The cause of death was not announced by a spokesperson for the King Edward VII Hospital in West Sussex, just outside of London, and the news was not made public until early Monday morning (Sunday evening in North America). Most movie fans think of Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars saga, but he was no stranger to blockbusters, having roles in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. Other silver-screen successes included several Ealing Studios productions, such as The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, and the celebrated Kind Hearts and Coronets, in which Guinness had eight speaking roles (and all of these films rank on the British Film Institute Top 100, by the way).

    But the theater was always Guinness's first love, and the Star Wars phenomenon eventually took its toll, as the actor made it publicly known that he wanted to have the Kenobi character killed off so he wouldn't have to appear in any more Star Wars movies. "I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines," he said in an interview with Talk magazine last September. "I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo." He also said that he never read any of his Star Wars fan mail, and instead threw all of it in the trash, claiming "I shrivel up every time someone mentions Star Wars to me." He may not always have loved fame, but movie and theater fans around the world loved him, and he will be missed. Guiness was 86. He is survived by his wife Merula and son Matthew.

    Alec and Merula were married for 62 years.

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 3 August 2000
    Weekend Dispatch

    DeCSS t-shirts under fire: And we thought high school was the only place somebody could get in trouble for wearing an inappropriate t-shirt. In a surprise move Tuesday (and one that's worth a snicker), the DVD Copy Control Association has charged CopyLeft, a gearhead clothing retailer, with violating the law by selling a shirt displaying the DeCSS source code, adding the company to a long list of defendants in a forthcoming DeCSS trial in California. While similar to the current Motion Picture Association of America trial against publisher Eric Corley in New York, the California case has been brought by the DVD CCA, a legal wing of the MPAA, and it concerns violations of trade secrets rather than a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Corley is charged with. But that's splitting fine legal hairs — and as far as CopyLeft founder Steve Blood is concerned, it's all lame anyway.

    "We've been marketing this (t-shirt) since last January," Blood told ZDNet News. "It seems a bit late." Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Robin Gross noted that "If you can put it on a T-shirt, it's speech. To enjoin the T-shirts as a circumvention device is ludicrous." And while it's clear how the EFF plans to handle this one, we have to disagree — if you distribute a trade secret electronically or on paper, that can be illegal in many circumstances. A white cotton garment worn about the torso is not a legally immune form of media. The real question is if the posting of DeCSS has violated industry trade secrets, and we think that will be for several courts and about three or four years of appeals to decide.

    Subtitles vs. closed-captioning: We received several comments yesterday regarding the question of subtitles on the Cats DVD (see yesterday's letters segment), but the most definitive came from DVD Journal reader David Williams — it's information worth repeating:

  • I can confirm that the Cats DVD is encoded with closed captioning, but it does not have subtitles on the disc. I believe the confusion is from the packaging, which states that it is closed-captioned by the National Captioning Institute. This does not mean the same thing as DVD subtitles.

    — David

    David confirmed our suspicions, and while it's great to know that subtitles are available on many DVDs in more than one format, everybody should be aware that a DVD with subtitles on the disc is decoded via the DVD player. However, traditional closed-captioning, while included on many DVDs, is not a function of the DVD player per se, but rather of the closed-captioning decoder in most TVs. Therefore, if you want to watch a DVD with subtitles, but the disc only has closed-captioning available, drop that DVD remote and look for your TV remote (something we had to do recently when we wanted to watch MGM's recent Henry V disc and not miss a word of the Bard's script). It's an easy mistake, but easily fixed as well.

    Quotable: "Our copyright laws must provide adequate incentive for copyright holders to distribute their works. Therefore, the new president and Congress must ensure that our copyright laws reflect the need to protect intellectual property in the broadband age.... Content creators must be permitted to take appropriate steps, such as watermarks, digital labels and other copyright protection measures, to safeguard digital content. Content owners like News Corp. are developing copyright labels to protect our content. The law must clearly and explicitly recognize our right to do so."

    — News Corp. president and chief operating officer Peter Chernin,
    in a speech before the Center for National Policy in Washington
    D.C. (News Corp. is the parent company of Fox).

    napster"There is no doubt that users are illegally copying music, but the record companies should be careful about what they ask for. Their shortsighted desire to shut down the popular Napster music site will make it nearly impossible for them to control the online trading of music. With Napster, there is a credible company with experienced management and a 20 million user captive audience in one manageable place. With Napster potentially shut down, the record companies have no one to negotiate with as distributed trading architectures like Gnuttela have no management team, facilities or place of business."

    — Stephen Bradley, a fellow at technology and media consulting
    firm Gartner Research, concerning the potential fallout of
    the RIAA - Napster lawsuit.

    "Napster doesn't even have a business plan. There's really nothing they could offer us in settlement talks except a mailing list of people who want free music."

    — A recording industry official, speaking with Reuters
    on condition of anonymity, after a last-minute court
    decision allowed to stay online for now.

    "He's served a year, and he should have been out in February. This is a sad tale."

    — Attorney Ross Nabatoff, arguing last week for Robert
    Downey Jr.'s release from prison based on previous
    time served in drug-treatment lockdown. Downey was
    freed yesterday on $5,000 bail.

    "I do not take showers. As a result of seeing (Psycho) edited, or put together, it left such an indelible impression on my mind that I cannot take a shower. And that is the truth."

    — Janet Leigh, who made a promotional appearance at
    the original Psycho house at Universal Studios
    this week.

    Coming Attractions: We have plenty of new DVD reviews on the way, including more from MGM's Woody Allen Collection. And if you haven't entered our monthly free DVD contest, this will be your last weekend to visit our contest page for your chance to win a copy of Out of Africa: Collector's Edition. We'll be back next week with our latest disc write-ups, the box-office report, and we'll have a new DVD contest and reader poll up and running as well.

    See ya Monday.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 2 August 2000

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

  • One question: A friend of mine is going to Japan in a month, and I was wondering if DVDs there will work in the U.S., and if so, how much more expensive they are, and do you have any recommendations as to what titles are worth getting? Okay, so it was three questions, but all in one sentence at least.

    — Nigel

    We've discussed this topic before, but as more and more people are just now investing in DVD and turning to the Internet for information, it bears going over again from time to time. There are always two things to consider when buying discs overseas — video standards and DVD region coding. The three major TV standards worldwide are NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, and on this count Japanese DVDs will work fine here, since both North America and Japan use the NTSC standard. However, European countries predominantly use PAL or SECAM, so a special DVD player that can convert between video formats is necessary for European DVDs to work in the U.S. and Canada (we think the current Apex players still have PAL to NTSC conversion, even though the "loopholes" menu was removed earlier this year). But even if you have an NTSC-formatted DVD from Japan, it still will be a Region 2 disc, and therefore will not operate on most DVD players purchased in the States. Thus, you will have to get a code-free player before you can enjoy any Japanese DVDs here (DVD City, who has a small banner on the left side of our front page, stocks several code-free decks, as do many other online retailers).

    As for what DVDs to get in Japan, how much they cost, etc., we certainly aren't an authority on this sort of thing, but our pal Ted Miller maintains a personal DVD gallery online, including several Region 2 titles he has purchased on his many trips to Japan. It looks like Ted's gallery isn't fully functional with Netscape, so be sure to use Internet Explorer when you visit.

  • You probably know little more than I do, but I've shopped around a bit and found some DVD retail sites that say New Line will be releasing the Seven: Platinum Series disc on Aug. 29. Has this date been confirmed? And what features have been added? (I cannot seem to find any information on this at all.)

    — Chris

    Here's another letter we seem to be getting a lot lately, so we'll offer our best information to date on what is a highly anticipated title — while the Platinum Edition of Seven was first announced for release in March of 2000, it was subsequently kicked back to summer 2000, and now it doesn't have a street date at all. It could become available around the holidays or in early 2001, and the release reportedly has been upgraded to New Line's new "Double Platinum" series (i.e., a two-disc set). As Seven: Double Platinum Edition clearly has gone through a few upgrades in the planning stages, the feature-set still is not finalized (and New Line does not list it under the "Coming Soon" section of their website), but it's possible that some of the materials on Criterion's Seven laserdisc could be included, depending on how rights shake out. The Criterion LD, now out-of-print, has a commentary with director David Fincher, actors Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, production designer Arthur Max, and makeup specialist Rob Bottin; a visual essay and commentary by Bottin; deleted scenes, outtakes, and dailies; crime-scene photographs, production-design sketches, and storyboards; a study of the opening credit sequence with designer Kyle Cooper; the killer's photographs with notes by photographer Melodie McDaniel; the killer's diaries; hundreds of stills and conceptual artwork; and a trailer and eight TV spots.

    New Line's forthcoming Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Edition will be a near duplicate of Criterion's Boogie Nights LD, but this is because Paul Thomas Anderson actually owns all of the extras, including the comic-book boxcover art. As such, it's possible that some of the items on the Seven laserdisc belong to New Line or David Fincher, and therefore could wind up on the DVD (in the case of Criterion's Spinal Tap LD and DVD, for what it's worth, Criterion owns their two commentaries, while the deleted scenes and trailers will re-appear on the MGM special edition). And the studios nowadays take great pride in their DVD product, especially marquee items like Seven. Therefore, no matter what the final features, we're fairly confident that New Line's revamped Seven will be just as comprehensive as Criterion's LD, if not more so. And it certainly won't be a flipper like the original.

    As for an Aug. 29 release date, that's absolutely incorrect. Both New Line's Magnolia: Platinum Edition and Boogie Nights: Double Platinum Edition DVDs are due on that date, which may be the cause of some confusion.

  • Though it says quite plainly that it has English subtitles, and even says "Closed Captioning provided by...", my DVD copy of Cats doesn't seem to actually have the subtitles. Is this true of all the copies, was it just (unintentionally, I assume, though that's hard to fathom) left off? Have you heard of others with this problem? It's very frustrating, as my 8-year-old and I enjoy the musical, but the lyrics are often indecipherable. I tried e-mailing the manufacturer directly, but of course I have heard nothing. Maybe you could rattle their cages.

    — Kevin

    We can do one better than that, Kevin — while we don't have a copy of Cats handy, we'll put this one to our readers. If any of you have a copy of Cats and can confirm that your disc has working subtitles, closed-captioning, or both, drop us a line at and we'll let Kevin know right away.

    boxcoverTop 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. The Whole Nine Yards
    2. Jaws: Anniversary Collector's Edition
    3. The Princess Bride
    4. Independence Day: Five Star Collection
    5. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
    6. The Green Mile
    7. Highlander
    8. The Beach
    9. Boiler Room
    10. The Talented Mr. Ripley

    See ya.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 1 August 2000

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and

    • Okay, it doesn't take much to get us excited — especially when Warner Brothers is planning to street Get Carter: Special Edition (Oct. 3), Mike Hodges' classic 1971 British gangster flick starring Michael Caine, and the extras will include a commentary with director Hodges and cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky, a "making-of" short, and a trailer. Meanwhile, fans of the animated Batman series can look forward to Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Special Edition (Oct. 24), featuring the voices of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Will Friedle, and lots of extras will be on board, including a "making- of" short, deleted scenes, a music video, character notes, and more. Some back-catalog stuff is on the way from Warner as well, including 1958's Tom Thumb: Special Edition, with a commentary by star Russ Tamblyn, the 1960 The Time Machine, and 1964's The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, all on Oct. 3.
    • Columbia TriStar is prepping 28 Days: Special Edition (Sept. 19), starring Sandra Bullock and Steve Buscemi, and the feature-set will include a commentary with director Betty Thomas, an "HBO First Look" featurette, an isolated score, notes, and more. Also on the way is James Toback's Black and White: Special Edition (Sept. 26), starring Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr., which will have a commentary and a video diary from director Toback, deleted scenes, and music videos, Me Myself I: Special Edition (Sept. 19), with a commentary by director Pip Karmel, Gladiator (Sept. 26) — a 1992 boxing film, not the DreamWorks blockbuster — Color of Paradise (Sept. 19), Rudy (Sept. 26), and Screw Loose (Sept. 26).
    • We have another fat special edition from FoxAnna and the King which will include an anamorphic transfer, a commentary by director Andy Tennant, an "HBO First Look" featurette, four additional behind-the-scenes shorts, six deleted scenes, a music video, and a trailer. It's expected on Oct. 31.
    • This year's Rules of Engagement, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, is on the way from Paramount, and extras will include a commentary by director William Friedkin, interviews with the cast and crew, and a featurette. Look for it on Oct. 17.
    • Fans of The Who can get excited about a new Rhino release of Quadrophenia (Oct. 10), the 1979 film based on Pete Townshend's experimental Mod rock opera (which also featured Sting's acting debut). Rhino will also release the 1971 music documentary Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge (Sept. 12), which has been transferred in its entirety from the only remaining print.
    • If your musical tastes tend to run industrial, Warner Music has Ministry: Tapes of Wrath on the street now, with 10 videos from the pioneering hard-rock group (including "Just One Fix," "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and a live cut of "The Land of Rape and Honey" — oh, the humanity).
    • More MGM/Warner swaps — 2010, Brainstorm, Logan's Run, and Westworld will all arrive in snap-cases on Aug. 22, while MGM's editions are now headed out of print. However, as with most all of the Warner reissues, these discs will be identical to the MGM versions.
    • The somewhat complicated deal between Warner and Columbia TriStar that licensed Dr. Strangelove exclusively to Warner's Stanley Kubrick Collection has now concluded, and CTHV has re-issued the disc in the original keep-case, although the snap-case disc will still be in Warner's box (and for those of you wondering why CTHV's Taxi Driver: Collector's Edition was originally issued in the snapper but is now on the street in a keeper, it's because it was part of the same deal).

    On the Street: August is one of the times of year (along with January) when new DVD releases start to get thin, but there are a few good discs to look out for this morning. Tops in our book is Warner's Romeo Must Die, which features some extensive behind-the-scenes material, while Warner Music has the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special on the street as well. Meanwhile, MGM has re-issued PolyGram's out-of-print Misery for fans of Rob Reiner and Stephen King, Disney has added The Rescuers Down Under to their Gold Classic Collection, along with the previous releases of A Bug's Life (movie-only) and Hercules, and Columbia TriStar's new DVD of Whatever It Takes is sure to satisfy fans of romantic teen comedies. And for those of you who just love to get your hands on something unusual, Image has The Complete Superman Cartoons in the shops today. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • Africans In America: America's Journey Through Slavery
    • Afrocentricity
    • Alexandria Again and Forever
    • Alexandria ... Why?
    • The Balcony
    • Bear in the Big Blue House: Shapes, Sounds & Colors with Bear
    • Behind Locked Doors
    • Black Sabbath
    • Breaking Out: The Alcatraz Concert
    • Bronco Billy (delayed from July 18)
    • The Brothers Quay Collection
    • A Bug's Life: Gold Classic Collection
    • Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music
    • Clint Eastwood Collection (6-DVD Set)
    • The Complete Superman Cartoons: Diamond Anniversary Edition
    • The Crush (delayed from July 18)
    • Dead Kennedys: DMPO's on Broadway
    • The Devil Rides Out: Special Edition
    • Disturbing Behavior
    • Dragon Tales: Adventures in Dragon Land
    • Elvis '68 Comeback Special
    • Elvis: One Night With You
    • Frankenstein's Daughter
    • The Frightened Woman
    • Interceptor Force
    • Institute Benjament
    • Jailhouse Rock
    • The Long Night
    • The Long Way Home
    • Man of Ashes
    • Masters of Russian Animation #3
    • Misery
    • Phantasm IV: Oblivion
    • Pumpkinhead
    • Pups (delayed from July 25)
    • The Rescuers Down Under: Gold Classic Collection (delayed from July 18)
    • Romeo Must Die
    • Ruckus: Special Edition
    • Savannah Smiles
    • Sleepaway Camp: Special Edition
    • South: Special Edition
    • Swamp Thing
    • Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
    • To The Moon
    • Trial By Jury (delayed from July 18)
    • Whatever It Takes
    • X: The Unknown

    Bye for now.

    — Ed.

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