News and Commentary: January 2001

Back to News Index

Back to Main Page

Wednesday, 31 January 2001

Mailbag: It's the last Wednesday of the month, which can only mean one thing — time for the mail dump, letters sent from DVD fans around the world to our high-tech HQ, and presented with minimal comments from your editor:

  • Hey guys, you make my day. I especially enjoy your day to day banter on the quality of DVDs. I have actually given the Gladiator DVD as a gift, twice, thinking if represented all that was right with DVD. But upon three or four viewings, I find it to be no more representative of a great battle flick than Top Gun was of dogfighting. Gladiator is a plodding, narrow movie, presenting nothing new and nothing realistic as to the real lifestyle of early gladiators (I hope George Clooney gets it more "right" on Gates of Fire than he did in Perfect Storm, another no-brainer blown). As for the deleted scenes, what is this, Casablanca? They look as though they are fourth-generation VHS copies. Did March '00 to Oct. '00 present some type of environmental storage problems on the source material? What a rip-off.

    — Mark

  • Someone please ask Anchor Bay to re-release Army of Darkness as a two-disc set. I absolutely despise this "collector-oriented" marketing, having already seen this mentality nearly destroy the comic book industry and frustrate fans and audience to no end. News flash: If there are people selling it for over a hundred bucks on eBay and you still own the rights... duh?!? Reprint it!! What the hell are they waiting for? Just consider for a moment how many more DVD players were sold since the limited two-disc set came out, many of them fans like myself who now have to fork over too much money just to have the version we want.

    — Blaine

  • It would really be nice if Universal and Paramount could see fit to release their films with decent extras on them at a decent price. The Warriors is for sale up here in Canada for $36 — no features, just the film. Learn from Fox, boys. Treat the consumers better. $30 for Planes Trains and Automobiles, a movie-only disc? Not.

    — Lee

  • I feel readers who rush to buy Criterion DVDs when they are rumored to soon be out of print are buying them for the wrong reasons. If they liked the movie, why didn't they buy it in the first place? Are they buying it just for the possibility of it increasing in value? I don't understand the logic.

    — Jack

  • Just read your response to Entertainment Weekly's Top 50 DVD list. I wanted to say, "Well said." The EW writers seem to owe more and more of their content to Internet sites like yours. This includes repeating Internet rumors without crediting their sources or classifying them as rumors. Your site is an excellent addition to the wealth of DVD resources available on the Web. Thanks for doing such a great job. It does not go unnoticed.

    — Shaun

  • I wish the major studios had a liaison appointed to tap directly into the minds (so to speak) of DVD/film buffs like us. They seem totally clueless sometimes. $29.95 for a disc with only a trailer? Oooooo, wait a minute — it has "Interactive Menus"!

    — John

  • The DVD sets of television shows are a huge rip-off. Especially considering that about five hours of material can be compressed onto one disc (The Abyss special edition for example). One should not support this wasteful marketing ploy (look ma, more discs!) for things like The X-Files and South Park, no matter how nice it would be to have. No doubt they will come out in a cheaper or deluxe edition when initial sales wane.

    — Ian

    We agree, but those X-Files boxes have four hour-long episodes per disc, which is way better than the three episodes (30 minutes each) on the South Park series.

  • With very rare exceptions ("Howdy Doody") I have no interest in DVDs of random episodes of TV shows. They should be released chronologically or not at all.

    — Kurt

    We agree again — give us stuff like the comprehensive X-Files boxes, or give us squat.

  • I'm still P.O.ed at the size of DVD packaging. Manufacturers should make cases that width of a keep-case but the height of a standard CD case. The current packages are just too darn tall.

    — Mario

  • I absolutely refuse to buy flippers and would like all interrupted DVDs to be re-issued as soon as possible. I used to have a Laserdisc player (a Pioneer CLD 2070) that would automatically flip the laser to play side two. It took about 6 -8 seconds to start playing the other side, which was all right for LD considering that you used to have to flip Laserdiscs manually. But I do not like cinema interruptus. To me it takes away from the mood of the movie, unless it a movie like Gone With The Wind that came with an intermission.

    — Mike

    Indeed, Warner's early Amadeus would be a more acceptable flipper had it included the original theatrical intermission and flipped at that point. At least they got Gone With the Wind right.

    We also received a few notes after a recent discussion on public-domain Hitchcock films on DVD:

  • Since you threw open the floor on this one, I thought I'd say that I'm extremely happy with my LaserLight Hitchcock DVDs. Don't judge them by their cover art (stock photos of Hitchcock decades apart from the films) and certainly not by their intros by Tony Curtis (which are downright embarrassing). It's the films you buy the discs for, and for the money they can't be beat. Sure, they're not Criterion-level transfers, but all the same I can certainly put them on for a friend without making apologies for their quality. I got mine all in two boxes, eight for $33.49, and another nine for $36.95. Good value. Great films.

    — Ken

  • I have Criterion's The 39 Steps and LaserLight's The Lady Vanishes. Although The 39 Steps has a marvelous (really happy to see this beautiful remastering) image and sound, I think that The Lady Vanishes' image and sound are acceptable. Criterion's package is amazing because of the cool supplements. However, we must not forget that we are paying a lot more money than we pay for LaserLight editions. I am quite happy with The Lady Vanishes DVD that I've got (except the Tony Curtis supplement) and additionally, I would not give 40 bucks for another edition that only has an audio commentary as a supplement. Thanks for this great site — just know that there are people who read it from the other parts of the world.

    — Seckin (from Turkey)

  • I actually haven't seen any of the older Hitchcock, but after seeing Madacy's DVD of Metropolis, I'll avoid them like the plague. Anyone willing to put their name on that isn't worth considering, no matter how cheap they are.

    — Mike

    Thanks for the notes guys — we were hoping for some comments about the Rykodisc/Whirlwind series of DVDs, which we hadn't seen until just last week, when we obtained the current series of ten Hitchcock films. We've only had a few days to sample them, but in terms of quality they are superior to the Madacy versions. We found the source-prints on the Whirlwind discs to be comparable (in some instances slightly inferior) to the Delta/LaserLight discs, but the audio in other places is the cleanest and most resonant we've heard yet on these titles, particularly in Young and Innocent (the best British-period Hitchcock film not yet released on DVD by Criterion). Also, the Whirlwind discs are all double features (the folios say "The Europa Film Series"), so they should have additional appeal for folks who want to save space, or those who will enjoy the genre supplements (newsreels and cartoons from the era) and eight-page fold-out booklets. Anybody planning to build a collection of vintage Hitchcock should look into the Whirlwind series — as with the LaserLight releases, only digital restorations from Criterion or another non-budget vendor will be a substantial improvement over what's found here.

    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. Me, Myself and Irene
    2. The Matrix
    3. The Kid (aka Disney's The Kid)
    4. Coyote Ugly
    5. The Last of the Mohicans: Director's Expanded Edition
    6. Battlefield Earth
    7. Se7en: Platinum Series
    8. Cecil B. Demented
    9. The X-Files: Fight the Future
    10. Bait

    See ya.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 30 January 2001

    In the Works: Here's some new disc announcements to go with that morning coffee, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • We've been waiting long enough it seems, and Columbia TriStar will release a special edition of Barry Levinson's 1984 The Natural (April 3), starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and Robert Duvall, and features will include the new documentary "The Heart of the Natural" with real-life baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., as well as a collectable booklet. Also on the way is 1983's Krull: Special Edition (April 3), starring Liam Neeson, which will feature a commentary with director Peter Yates, editor Ray Lovejoy, and actors Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony, a "behind-the-scenes" commentary taken from a Cinefantastique article, the featurette "Journey to Krull," narrated by Tom Bosley, a Marvel Comics video adaptation, 247 stills, and more. Also expect 1989's True Believer (April 3) with James and Robert Downey, Jr., Peter Yates' 1974 For Pete's Sake (April 3) starring Barbara Streisand, and a "Jackie Chan Three-Pack," with Gorgeous, Miracles, and Who Am I? (Feb. 13 – SRP $53.95).
    • Criterion has got us happy with a forthcoming DVD release of Neil Jordan's 1986 Mona Lisa starring Bob Hoskins, and the disc (sourced from the previous laser release) will include a commentary with Jordan and Hoskins, as well as some handy subtitles. Also expect Bertrand Tavernier's 1981 Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate), with an interview with Tavernier and an alternate ending. Both are slated for March 13.
    • Anime fans can look forward to what probably has become the most anticipated Anime title not yet on DVD — 1988's Akira, which has been restored (to the tune of $1 million) by Pioneer and will arrive in North American theaters this spring. It's certain a DVD release from Pioneer will not be far behind.
    • Buena Vista will release their live-action 102 Dalmatians as a special edition in two separate versions (widescreen and pan-and-scan) on April 3, and the feature-set on both will include a commentary with director Kevin Lima and animal coordinator Gary Gero, three behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a music video of puppies (yay!), and, perhaps most important of all when it comes to this Disney series, "Dalmatians 101," a look at how to actually feed and care for a Dalmatian — which is, after all, a dog.
    • We just finished watching Battlefield Earth, but there's no rest for the weary — Warner will release last year's sci-fi floperoo Red Planet on March 27. Not enough punishment? How about CNN's documentary Election 2000 (Feb. 6)? Who among us could survive such brutal torture?
    • The nutty stuff from Anchor Bay never stops, and their latest announcements include Reform School Girls: Special Edition (March 13), with a commentary by director Tom DeSimone and humorist Martin Lewis, 1990's The Unbelievable Truth (March 13), with an interview with director Hal Hartley, the 1985 Lust in the Dust (March 27), Michael Gornick's Creepshow 2 (April 10), Tuff Turf (March 13) with James Spader and Robert Downey Jr., and a new DVD series of the '60s TV show That Girl starring Marlo Thomas (April 10).
    • With no Golden Globes to its credit, it's an Oscar dark-horse but still a popular film with the critics — Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, starring Bjork and Catherine Deneuve, will arrive from New Line on March 20, although it appears the feature-set has not been finalized.
    • However, Renee Zellweger was good for a Globe for her performance in Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty, due to street from USA on April 3 as a special edition, with two commentaries (LaBute and crew, Chris Rock and cast), deleted scenes, the screenplay on DVD-ROM, and much more.
    • Those looking for an unusual documentary need look no further than Fox Lorber's The Lifestyle: Swinging in America, an up-close look at suburban sex parties from director David Schisgall, while foreign titles from FL include Gerard Depardieu's 1999 The Bridge, the Russian documentary Stars' Caravan, and Akira Kurosawa's final film, the 1992 Madadayo. All arrive on March 13.
    • Kino has Raoul Ruiz's Time Regained in the works, a 1999 adaptation of the final volume of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past — heady material, but the cast includes John Malkovich, Catherine Deneuve, and Vincent Perez. It's due on March 27.
    • Get ready for a Roger Corman classic from New Concorde — 1961's The Intruder (March 27) starring William Shatner, and the disc will sport an interview with Corman and the Shatster. Also in prep is the enticingly titled Die! Die! Die! (March 27), with the barely famous Richard Grieco and Greg Evigan.
    • You know you're getting older when a collection of Wham! videos sounds like a nice bit of nostalgia — Sony Music will release The Best of Wham! (Feb. 6), and videos include "Wham Rap!," "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "I'm Your Man," and "Freedom." Also on the way is Barbara Streisand's millennium performance Timeless: Live in Concert (Feb. 20), with such numbers as "The Way We Were," "As Time Goes By," "Evergreen," and "Send in the Clowns" (it's enough to make us verklempt).
    • Who won't add this to their DVD collection? Red has released the concert Live Cannibalism from death-metal band Cannibal Corpse, and songs include "Blowtorch Slaughter," "Fucked with a Knife," "Meat Hook Sodomy," "Hammer-Smashed Face," "I Cum Blood," and many more fan-faves. Released in time for Valentine's Day, it's what DVD was made for.

    On the Street: It's a big street Tuesday today with numerous offerings from several studios, not least of which being three jazz titles from Warner — Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker biopic Bird, along with Round Midnight and Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser. Anchor Bay has a choice limited edition with their Manhunter: Director's Cut as well as an unlimited theatrical version, and there are bare-bones and SE versions of last year's animated Dinosaur out today from Buena Vista as well. Columbia has a two-disc version of Edward Zwick's Glory on the shelves, while Spike Lee joints can be found from Universal (Mo Betta Blues) and Columbia (Get on the Bus, School Daze). Criterion has a trio of new arrivals with Black Narcissus, Double Suicide, and Fiend Without a Face, which we'll be spinning this week. Still not sick of football? Necessary Roughness, The Longest Yard, and North Dallas Forty are on the street from Paramount. Want some cheesy horror? Try DreamWorks' What Lies Beneath. But if you're in the mood for a good mascara-streaked cry, Universal's documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye charmed us. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • Aftershock
    • Bird
    • Black Moon Rising
    • Black Narcissus: The Criterion Collection (delayed from 1/23)
    • C.H.U.D.
    • Cockfighter: Special Edition
    • Cotton Mary
    • Dinosaur (movie only)
    • Dinosaur: Special Edition
    • Double Suicide: The Criterion Collection (delayed from 1/23)
    • The Eyes of Tammy Faye
    • Fair Game (1988)
    • Fiend Without a Face: The Criterion Collection (delayed from 1/23)
    • Get on the Bus
    • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
    • Glory: Special Edition (2-disc set)
    • The Great Gatsby (2000)
    • Goya in Bordeaux
    • Hysterical
    • If Lucy Fell
    • Iguana: Special Edition
    • Jesus' Son
    • The Longest Yard
    • Love and Sex
    • Manhunter (theatrical version)
    • Manhunter: Limited Edition Director's Cut
    • Mo' Better Blues
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Beginning of the End
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Wild World of Batwoman
    • Necessary Roughness
    • North Dallas Forty
    • Red Letters
    • Round Midnight
    • School Daze
    • Solomon and Gaenor
    • Space: 1999 Set #1: Volume 1 & 2
    • Space: 1999 Set #2: Volume 3 & 4
    • Street Fighter Alpha: The Movie
    • Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser
    • What Lies Beneath
    • The Women of Brewster Place

    Peace out.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 29 January 2001

    And then there were three: Savvy DVD fans have been trying to figure out if anything else is on the chopping block from Criterion in coming weeks, and more than a few have noted that both The Silence of the Lambs and Robocop are Orion films, and both due to be discontinued in the Criterion editions. And yes, there's one more Orion title — Criterion's release of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Inevitably, folks have been writing us over the past several days, asking it it's currently out of print.

    Well, yes and no. It's still available at most online retailers (at last check, only has delisted the title). But our sources tell us that Unbearable Lightness is a Criterion title released under the same license as SOTL and Robocop, and thus due to transfer to MGM at the end of March. Also, our info is that these are the only three films under the agreement — more Criterion titles could go out of print later this year, but this trio is a package deal with a March 30 deadline.

    Then again, Unbearable Lightness arguably has the least popular appeal of the three Orion/Criterion DVDs, and it's readily available for sale everywhere. We'll call it toast in April, or when bids for sealed copies start to climb on eBay. Unlike Robocop and SOTL, the market hasn't tightened up on this one yet.

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: As John Lennon once said, "Genius is pain." But then again, what did he know? He was just some long-haired rock-n-roller. Now Charlie Parker — there's genius. And pain. And jazz. And when he wasn't fucked up, that man could blow an alto sax like nobody else alive. Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, born in Kansas City in 1920, started to make his mark on the American jazz scene in the 1940s, when it was at its absolute peak. The legends, such as Basie and Ellington, were going strong, joined by a new generation of musicians such as Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis, who were pushing the edges of the genre with increasingly complex compositions and unheard-of gifts for improvisation. After joining several bands in Kansas City and elsewhere, Parker eventually relocated to New York City, where he joined a small group led by pianist Jay McShann (with whom he first performed his legendary "Cherokee"), later hooking up with Dizzy Gillespie — their subsequent studio sessions with lead sax and trumpet formed the foundation of "bebop," catching the attention of the jazz world.

    However, Clint Eastwood's 1988 Bird — a pet-project Charlie Parker biopic on an epic scale, starring Forest Whitaker — does not exist merely to instruct the audience on Parker's contributions to 20th century music. Rather, it's a story about a gifted musician who, like so many artists, is burdened by addiction — in Parker's case, prescription drugs and heroin. Operating in several flashback sequences, and opening with a suicide attempt late in Parker's life, Bird chronicles the offstage struggles that made his personal life a mess, and his professional work increasingly harder to maintain. Many flashbacks are introduced by Parker's wife Chan (Diane Venora), where we witness his mercurial live performances as he rises in the jazz world, but also the eventual breakdown of his marriage, the death of his young daughter, and the loss of his Cabaret Card in New York, which prevented him from getting gigs.

    When it comes to epic biographies on film, the most important element will always be the leading actor, who has the unenviable task of re-creating a historical figure, and often one who isn't always sympathetic. In this regard, Whitaker's performance elevates Bird beyond its sometimes-despondent subject matter, primarily because his Parker is a wholly formed figure and not just a horn-blowing washout in a junkie melodrama. As conveyed in Bird, Parker had a great love for life, a man always ready for a laugh with friends, and with unbounded enthusiasm for his craft — so much so that he hates his addictions and always wants to get the better of them, getting clean for a while, but inevitably going back to the smack. A key scene late in the film between Parker and Gillespie (Samuel E. Wright) sums up the difference between the two jazz icons: "How come when I'm supposed to hit at 9:30, I hit at 9:30?," Gillespie asks. "How come I can land on a cat I love and then fire his ass for showing up late or stoned? Because they don't expect me to. Because, deep down, they like it if the nigger turns out unreliable.... I won't give them the satisfaction of being right." It's the "answer" Parker has been looking for from his mentor, but the saxophonist can't be a reformer like Gillespie — not when the needle is a cheap, reliable way to treat his physical and mental agonies.

    Warner's new DVD edition of Bird offers a strong anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with a newly remastered soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the chief supplement is outstanding — an isolated score, which includes many original Parker solos, lifted from early recordings in 1988 and re-recorded for the film with new backing tracks. Bird is a movie that offers almost non-stop music, be it the performances or many subtle underlying tunes, which the isolated track (in Dolby 2.0) gives full clarity. After watching the film, running the disc again with just the isolated score is as entertaining — and edifying — as any commentary track out there. Bird is on the street tomorrow morning.

    Box Office: With the Superbowl keeping a lot of beer-chugging American men parked in front of their TVs yesterday, the weekend box-office was a battle of the chick-flicks, and Sony's The Wedding Planner, starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez, debuted in the top position with a $14 million bow, and despite some poor reviews it knocked Paramount's Save the Last Dance from the top spot, which it held for the previous two weeks. Also new was New Line's cheerleading crime-caper Sugar and Spice, which managed $6 million, but also was not screened for critics — a sign that it tested poorly with preview audiences. Still in continuing release, Fox's Cast Away has only slipped to third place after six weeks and has $194 million to its credit, while Paramount's What Women Want is fading, but has racked up $168 million so far. And say goodbye to Disney's The Emperor's New Groove. Finishing around $80 million would be good for most films, but as far as animated features from the Mouse House goes, it was an underperformer — particularly as a holiday-season release.

    Love is in the air this weekend, as the touching romance — er, make that slasher/horror flick Valentine goes wide. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. The Wedding Planner (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $14,000,000 ($14,000,000 through 1 week)
    2. Save the Last Dance (Paramount)
      $10,000,000 ($59,546,000 through 3 weeks)
    3. Cast Away (Fox)
      $8,936,000 ($194,088,150 through 6 weeks)
    4. Traffic (USA Films)
      $6,486,232 ($56,314,224 through 5 weeks)
    5. Sugar and Spice (New Line)
      $6,025,000 ($6,025,000 through 1 week)
    6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
      $5,074,190 ($44,439,541 through 8 weeks)
    7. Snatch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $4,800,000 ($15,800,000 through 2 weeks)
    8. Finding Forrester (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $4,800,000 ($35,900,000 through 6 weeks)
    9. What Women Want (Paramount)
      $4,300,000 ($168,303,000 through 7 weeks)
    10. Miss Congeniality (Warner Bros.)
      $3,960,000 ($93,080,000 through 6 weeks)
    11. Thirteen Days (New Line)
      $3,725,000 ($25,000,000 through 6 weeks)
    12. The Pledge (Warner Bros.)
      $3,565,000 ($11,002,000 through 2 weeks)

    On the Board: Our man Mark Bourne must be positively schizoid by now, as he sat through the excellent 1922 Nosferatu and the mind-numbingly bad Battlefield Earth in the same week — his lengthy observations have been posted, along with Dawn Taylor's look at the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Betsy Bozdech's sneak-peek at Universal's forthcoming Bring It On: Collector's Edition. Additional staff reviews this week include Death Wish, North Dallas Forty, Black Caesar, Bird, Coffy, and Cotton Mary — it's all under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, or find lots more on our Full Reviews and Quick Reviews pages.

    Back tomorrow with the street discs.

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 25 January 2001
    Weekend Dispatch

    Coming Attractions: We have another round of DVD reviews already underway, including The Eyes of Tammy Faye and (you betcha) Battlefield Earth. But before we take off, we want to note that Paramount's Wonder Boys has returned to the Release Calendar, where it's now due on March 13. Also, if you haven't entered our totally free DVD contest for a copy of The Birds: Collector's Edition, 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 morning — see ya then.

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: "There's Walter Matthau, who you see now as a 'grumpy old man.' One of the great comic actors, but what very few people know about him is that he was just a brilliant actor — he was a marvelous actor in drama as well, and we had worked together a lot in television, in the theater, and I was thrilled to be able to provide him with a part where the dramatic side of him could emerge. Walter is playing a character called Groeteschele, who is based really on (American policy theorist) Herman Kahn. This was a very peculiar time in America. There were tremendous conflicts going on, and had been going on not only after the atom bomb, but after the creation of the hydrogen bomb, and as well as scientists being on different sides, there were also a great many lay-people, political scientists, who argued about the consequences of a nuclear war. There were those who believed that nothing would survive (a war) — I was one of those — and there were people like Herman Kahn who wrote long and complicated articles about the fact an atomic war was winnable. Not much would survive, but what should survive should be 'us.' It got almost absurd, in the sense that even Kahn entitled one of the chapters of his book '60 Million Dead: Will the Living Envy the Dead?' I mean, on that kind of sophistry the arguments would go on, and they were theoretically very respectable opinions.... A great many of us who got involved with the picture got involved because we did care about the way things were going politically."

    — Director Sidney Lumet,
    Fail-Safe: Special Edition

    Quotable: "Why is it that people define me as a right-wing misogynist? It's baffling. I'm not like that at all. I guess it's because I'm Catholic, have ideas on birth control, and used to joke about keeping women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, so it seems that I'm some sort of brute, but, hey, I haven't stayed married for 20 years by being a caveman.... The feminist thing is a manufactured idea that was put out to make a lot of women dissatisfied with stuff. Of course, they should be paid equal pay for equal work, but there's a difference between the sexes, no matter what you say."

    — Mel Gibson, in an interview with the
    UK's Radio Times.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 24 January 2001

    Mailbag: Wednesday is the day we get to our reader mail here at The DVD Journal, and while we aren't able to personally respond to all of your letters, we'd like to let you know that we read everything we get. Here's a couple reader comments from this week:

  • As someone who snagged Criterion's The Silence of the Lambs and Robocop discs a mere month before they made themselves scarce (large sigh of relief here), I must first of all thank y'all for the heads-up, without which I wouldn't have known to step up quick with my plastic and add Criterion spine numbers 13 and 23 to my library. I visit several DVD-news/reviews sites and The DVD Journal was the only site, to my knowledge, that even mentioned anything along the lines of "Hey, peeps, these discs might pull a Houdini soon, so run, don't walk."

    Along with this accolade comes a request/suggestion to continue keeping your eagle-eyes open for us on this front, if possible. As noted above, nobody else seems to be in the guard tower watching for DVDs that might escape, particularly unassailably cool ones like SOTL and Robocop (or Sid and Nancy, which I managed to grab the day I read about its heading out of print — and guess where I read about that).

    Also, possibly somewhere in this here rambling, a question: Is Criterion unusually vulnerable to such "here today, gone in two years or less" problems, given that their rights to films seem to expire as quickly as milk in my fridge? Some other specialty houses seem iffy in this regard also, like Elite (are they even still around?), whose Re-Animator and Night of the Living Dead are harder to find than a pensive moment in a Michael Bay film (the former of which is promised this year or next from Anchor Bay, though who knows if it'll have the same set of goodies). Should our motto be "If it's Criterion and you want it, you better get it while it's to be had"?

    The point of this all being, y'all have saved my bacon three times now, rescuing me from that horrid empty "dammit, I was going to buy that DVD eventually!!" feeling, and if I'd been reading you a while ago, I wouldn't have had to pay $40 for the OOP Re-Animator from a Canadian e-tailer (only to discover Anchor Bay plans a re-issue... grumble mumble). Thanks for the good work, and keep it up. I'll keep looking to The DVD Journal for the scoop on which fruits of DVD may fall off the tree next.

    — Rob

    Thanks for your comments Rob — we're glad to hear we've been of service. As for your concern about Criterion DVDs and if they stand to go out-of-print eventually, it all depends on who has the rights. As you're aware, most Criterion releases are not owned by the company, but instead are licensed for DVD release, and the key to finding out what comes from where is to look in the fine print. On the back of Sid and Nancy is a New Line Home Video logo, while The Silence of the Lambs and Robocop have Orion logos. It isn't easy to see on the semi-transparent slipcase, but Brazil bears the stamp of Universal. And Buena Vista has offered Criterion several licenses, including for Armageddon, Rushmore, and Chasing Amy. Since Criterion doesn't own these, they have to share the revenue for the DVDs with the licensing studio, while proprietary rights are split — the studio owns the feature, Criterion owns any supplements they created for the title. And sometimes who owns what supplements isn't always clear. Criterion normally produces their own commentaries, but many of the extras on their Se7en Laserdisc wound up on New Line's DVD, as the studio provided them. Along the same lines, the cover-art and most of the supplements on Criterion's Boogie Nights laser re-appeared on the New Line DVD (second edition), as Paul Thomas Anderson owned them personally — including the commentary track for that one.

    But fundamentally, if you see a logo from a Hollywood studio on a Criterion disc, that studio could choose not to renew the license at some point in the future. Or when a studio acquires the rights to a film — as MGM did with This Is Spinal Tap, SOTL, and Robocop — they can choose to part ways and release their own DVD. It appears to us that the safest licenses are from overseas proprietors, so look for Toho, Rialto, Pathe, and other foreign distributors if you want to know what should have the longest lifespan. We also think most of the Buena Vista stuff is safe-ish, as they've released corresponding bare-bones discs and don't seem so interested in special editions. Ditto Brazil — Universal originally licensed the title to Criterion for the five-platter Laserdisc, and we'd be surprised if they pulled a DVD set that has become legendary in a short space of time. Finally, while a Janus Films logo appears on every Criterion DVD, titles that actually are from the Janus collection aren't going anywhere, as Janus has a financial stake in Criterion (or Criterion has a stake in Janus, or whatever).

    But we can't tell you how long each license lasts, or what licenses won't be renewed. Such details are only known by Criterion and their partners, and they are constantly negotiating not only to get more quality titles under their folio, but also to keep everything they can in print. All we can say is that the Red Phone to Criterion HQ is on your editor's desk, where most conversations are strictly off the record. But when we're told we can go public with new information, you'll be the first to know.

  • Hi. I thoroughly enjoy The DVD Journal, and check in every Monday through Thursday for your news, reviews, and entertaining comments. Keep up the great work!

    I wanted to inquire about comments you've made recently with regard to Hitchcock DVDs. You said you've been generally pleased with the quality of editions put out by Delta/LaserLight, and the comment makes me wonder if I'm missing something. I have not seen any of LaserLight's Hitchcock discs, mostly because I got their edition of Orson Welles' The Stranger, which left a bad taste in my mouth and soured me on the label. The Stranger has a horribly soft image quality, almost to the point of being unwatchable. Worse, the "Delta" logo appears in the bottom-right corner every ten minutes! The disc includes an introduction by Tony Curtis, which one might expect to be a nice addition, but even the intro disappoints, with Curtis dressed like a disheveled chauffeur, looking confused and saying nothing of consequence.

    I only paid $8 for the disc, and it does include a documentary on Welles. But the quality of the movie is so bad, not only have I vowed never to buy from LaserLight again, but I haven't even had the heart to watch the documentary!

    Is The Stranger an exception to LaserLight's usual quality, or will I be equally disappointed by their Hitchcock editions? I'd love to add more early Hitch to my collection, but I don't want to pay $8 a pop to sit through a distractingly bad transfer with "Delta" intruding on my screen at regular intervals.

    — Scott

    We haven't seen LaserLight's The Stranger Scott, and frankly we're surprised to hear it's so disappointing, as we're big fans of LaserLight's Hitchcock releases. They don't have a "Delta" logo anywhere in the transfers, and we think the overall quality is a hell of a deal for the price (as low as five bucks apiece online). However, it's hard to gauge exactly what will suit your tastes — the transfers do have a soft quality, but we think a lot of this has to do with the source prints. Nor are these prints restored, whereas Criterion's editions of The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes are. But those discs retail for around $40 — spare change for some folks, sure, but LaserLight's 39 Steps and Lady Vanishes are acceptable substitutes for the budget-minded DVD consumer.

    And before anybody buys any of the early public-domain Hitchcock films from LaserLight and then sends us letters telling us we're full of crap, a brief caveat — these DVDs are not for the causal DVD fan (or Entertainment Weekly subscriber) who is looking for an enveloping cinematic experience. They are for Hitchcock buffs, and we shower praise upon them because, before DVD, we spent years watching piss-poor budget videotapes of Hitch's British films. The source prints were half-wrecked on various transfers, and the audio was so overwhelmed by ambient noise that a lot of dialogue was unintelligible. Criterion's DVD editions of The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes set the standard for early Hitch films, but seeing a Hitchcockian gem like 1937's Young and Innocent on the LaserLight release is a revelation. The source-print isn't a distraction at all, and one can actually hear the dialogue. But for those who expect miracles from the DVD format, don't look here. These prints are still damaged to a degree, and the ambient noise simply has been contained, not eliminated. Nothing from LaserLight should be filed under "demo disc."

    As for other vendors of public-domain Hitchcock films, Madacy has released most of them, and while marginally acceptable, they are inferior to LaserLight's editions. Throw in Madacy's disc of the 1936 Secret Agent and we're getting closer to those videotapes of days gone by — muffled, scratchy audio (with a piercing high end), a bit of video noise, and a print with minimal low-contrast details. As they cost roughly the same as the LaserLight discs we don't recommend them, although they still are a step up from VHS. Rykodisc has also gotten into public-domain Hitch films recently, but we haven't seen any of these. They might be good, but clearly LaserLight has done an outstanding job with their source materials, and we'd be surprised if anybody but Criterion could improve upon them.

    But we won't claim to be authoritative on this topic — it's just our take, and many more Hitchcock collectors than us have bought loads of early Hitch films on the cheap. So we open the floor to our readers: Tell us what you think of LaserLight, Madacy, Rykodisc, et. al. when it comes to Hitchcock at and we'll post a few reader comments here.

    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. Battlefield Earth
    2. Coyote Ugly
    3. The Untouchables
    4. Oliver Stone Collection (10 DVD Set)
    5. Se7en: Platinum Series
    6. Hollow Man: Special Edition
    7. The Patriot: Special Edition
    8. Princess Mononoke
    9. The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
    10. There's Something About Mary

    See ya.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 23 January 2001

    In the Works: Let's start your Tuesday morning with some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • We have the details of Columbia TriStar's forthcoming release of Lawrence of Arabia: Limited Edition, due on April 3 in a digitally remastered version, and it appears it will be very similar to Bridge on the River Kwai, as the two-disc set will include the documentary "The Making of Lawrence of Arabia," an interview segment with Steven Spielberg, four featurettes, original newsreel footage of the New York premiere, original advertising materials, trailers, cast notes, and additional DVD-ROM features, including a map of Arabia and military strategy, as well as historic photos. Also due from CTHV is Lean's 1984 A Passage to India (March 20), although we don't have details on the feature set. We're also expecting plenty of extras on Charlie's Angels (March 27), but they are yet to be announced.
    • We love war films dammit, and Fox has another wave on the way, including 1949's Twelve O'Clock High with Gregory Peck, the 1965 Von Ryan's Express with Frank Sinatra as a crafty POW, 1966's The Sand Pebbles, directed by Robert Wise and starring Steve McQueen, and the re-issue of 1970's Tora! Tora! Tora! as a special edition with a historical commentary track and a 20-minute documentary. All four are due on May 15.
    • More catalog titles are in the works at Fox as well, including John Boorman's 1973 Zardoz: Special Edition (March 27), which will feature a commentary by Boorman and a still gallery; Mike Nichols' Working Girl (April 17) starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver; 1979's Norma Rae (April 17), featuring Sally Field's Oscar-winning turn; the enduringly popular 9 to 5 (April 17), with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman; 1996's The Truth about Cats and Dogs (April 17), starring odd couple Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo; the 1988 Alien Nation (March 27); 1985's Enemy Mine (March 27), directed by Wolfgang Petersen; Nine Months (April 17), from director Chris Columbus; and the wartime dramedy For the Boys (April 17), with Bette Midler and James Caan.
    • The catalog titles keep coming from MGM as well, in particular international films such as Pedro Almodovar's 1988 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and his 1997 Live Flesh, both the 1968 Fellini Satyricon and 1972's Fellini's Roma, Richard Lester's 1967 How I Won the War with John Lennon, Philippe de Broca's 1967 King of Hearts, and Atom Egoyan's 1992 The Adjuster, while new domestic titles include the controversial 1993 Boxing Helena and 1995's Tank Girl. All street on April 10.
    • Just one from Buena Vista this morning, last year's Reindeer Games (March 27) starring Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron, and the disc will be a director's cut, although the feature-set has yet to be determined (don't be surprised if director John Frankenheimer delivers a commentary on this one, however).
    • The 1988 Tapeheads: Special Edition, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins, and due on March 6 from Anchor Bay, will sport a commentary with director Bill Fishman, executive producer Michael Nesmith, and production designer Catherine Hardwicke, and the first 50,000 copies will include a limited-edition CD single. In the meantime, AB's recently released A Better Tomorrow (cat. DV11258) has been recalled due to a flawed soundtrack, and AB will announce at a future date how folks can return or exchange existing copies.
    • Paramount will unleash the straight-to-video Mach 2: Special Edition starring Brian Bosworth (remember him?), with a commentary from Bosworth and director Edward Raymond. It arrives on March 13.
    • Devotees of everything Ayn Rand can look forward to a DVD release of the 1999 The Passion of Ayn Rand from Showtime (Feb. 20), starring Helen Mirren, Peter Fonda, Eric Stoltz, and Julie Delpy. Also look for Brotherhood of Murder (Feb. 20), starring Peter Gallagher and a random Baldwin brother (this time it's William).
    • Three Criterion titles have been kicked back to next week — Black Narcissus, Double Suicide, and Fiend Without a Face, where the street dates appear firm. Meanwhile, Miramax's re-release of A Hard Day's Night has been postponed without a new date (giving the out-of-print MPI edition a boost on eBay), and much to our distress the definitive Who documentary The Kids Are Alright has been canceled, which means we still have to hold on to the crummy videotape.

    On the Street: MGM is back on the board with several new releases, including the excellent Babette's Feast, David Mamet's American Buffalo, the '80s cult favorite The River's Edge, and many more. In the meantime, Fox has double-dipped three more discs, with a re-vamped X-Files: Fight the Future that has a new commentary track by Chris Carter, while The Last of the Mohicans (a director's cut) and The Thin Red Line offer anamorphic transfers — all three have DTS audio on board as well. And for fans of Spike Lee, his documentary 4 Little Girls — claimed by the director to be his own favorite film — is out now from HBO. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • 4 Little Girls
    • An Affair of Love
    • Alice's Restaurant: Special Edition
    • American Buffalo
    • Babette's Feast
    • Bait
    • The Bride Wore Black
    • Camille Claudel
    • Cecil B. Demented
    • Confessions of Sorority Girls
    • Cutaway
    • Dance with a Stranger
    • Desert Hearts: Special Edition
    • An Evening with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
    • The Five Senses
    • I Shot Andy Warhol
    • Jackson Pollock
    • Jean De Florette
    • The Kid
    • The Last of the Mohicans
    • Little City
    • Longtime Companion
    • Love by Appointment
    • Mailer on Mailer
    • The Man Who Loved Women
    • Me, Myself & Irene
    • Manon of the Spring
    • Mississippi Mermaid
    • Mr. Accident
    • MVP: Most Valuable Primate
    • Nova: Faster than Sound
    • The Residents: Icky Flix
    • The River's Edge
    • Rod Stewart and the Faces: The Final Concert
    • Saint Jack
    • Simone Barbes Ou La Vertu
    • Small Change
    • Soul of the Game
    • Steal This Movie!
    • Stomp: Stomp Out Loud
    • The Story of Adele H.
    • Suture
    • That Touch of Mink
    • Thin Red Line
    • The Tuskegee Airmen
    • Twilight Zone #41
    • Twilight Zone #42
    • X-Files: Fight the Future

    Back tomorrow with the mailbag.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 22 January 2001

    'Globes' give nods: The Golden Globes, determined by balloting of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, were handed out last night. A lot of people like to say that they are a forecast of March's Academy Award winners, even though it's all speculation and never a sure bet. In any case, here's the rundown from last night's ceremonies:

    • Best Picture, Drama: Gladiator
    • Best Picture, Musical or Comedy: Almost Famous
    • Best Actress, Drama: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
    • Best Actor, Drama: Tom Hanks, Cast Away
    • Best Actress, Musical or Comedy: Renee Zellweger, Nurse Betty
    • Best Actor, Musical or Comedy: George Clooney, O Brother, Where Art Thou
    • Best Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson, Almost Famous
    • Best Supporting Actor: Benicio Del Toro, Traffic
    • Best Director: Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    • Best Screenplay: Steven Gaghan, Traffic
    • Best Foreign Language Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    • Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer, Lisa Gerrard, Gladiator
    • Best Original Song: "Things Have Changed," Bob Dylan, Wonder Boys

    Shut out from the ceremonies? Requiem for a Dream, You Can Count on Me, Dancer in the Dark, and The Contender, amongst others. The Oscar nods will be revealed next month.

    (As for Elizabeth Taylor last night, is it just us, or do you think she'd had a few?)

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: For such an unconventional, experimental director, it's not surprising that Luis Buñuel was something of a vagabond. Generally regarded as one of the founding members of the early-20th-century Surrealist school of art, Buñuel co-created perhaps the most famous short film of all time, the incongruous, brutal 1928 Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) with Salvador Dali (Buñuel described it simply as "a despairing, passionate call to murder"), but when the equally disturbing L'age d'or (The Golden Age) was banned by the French government after its 1930 release, and then his documentary Las Hurdes was banned by the Spanish Republican government, Buñuel would not make another film for 15 years, hanging on the edges of the European film industry until he emigrated to America in 1938 (the Germans at that time, like the French and Spanish, weren't too big on freedom of expression; they weren't too big on France or Spain either.) It was in Mexico and America that Buñuel continued his long, storied film career, starting with 1947's Los olvidados (The Forgotten Ones), later returning to Europe to create a rush of important works in the '60s and '70s, including El angel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel), Belle du jour, Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire), and one of his unqualified masterpieces, 1972's Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie).

    Essentially a series of dream-sequences enclosed within a larger dream of Rafael Acosta (Fernando Rey), an ambassador from the Latin American country of Miranda stationed in France, Le charme discret concerns six members of the upper class, including Acosta, who repeatedly attempt to dine together, only to have their meals repeatedly interrupted by unforeseen circumstances. At times it's for innocuous reasons, such as when guests arrive for a dinner party on the wrong night. Others are more unusual — the proprietor of a restaurant has suddenly died; because of a lunch-rush, another restaurant has run out of everything but water; a military regiment on maneuvers drops by a household and there's not enough food to go around. Throughout, Buñuel weaves his dream-sequences, with every dinner ending in a seemingly more bizarre fashion until the final meal — another abortive attempt to dine, and one that has a distinct note of finality to it.

    In-jokes are something Buñuel always delighted in to a degree, and Le charme discret has a few (Rey, as the Mirandan ambassador, is smuggling cocaine, a clear nod to his role as a heroin druglord in The French Connection a year earlier; Buñuel credits himself on the film for "sound effects," despite the fact that he was nearly deaf at the time). But Le charme discret has a clear target as well, the privileged classes that Buñuel held in disdain, and the function of eating is not a capricious centerpiece — after all, wealthier people with more leisure time and acquired tastes are more inclined to indulge in lavish social dinners, where the main function of the Bourgeois (socializing, impressing others) is radically different from the activities of the working classes (productive labor). The desire to dine with others, as opposed to simply eating for sustenance, is Buñuel's pivoting metaphor for the Bourgeois classes, and with the various dream-sequences, social meals are always interrupted, being as fruitless and pointless as their own unexamined lives (a secondary metaphor, where all six charcters walk briskly down a country road but headed nowhere in particular, is frequently repeated). However, the actual events that disrupt the meals, while somewhat political (and Marxist) in tone, have a decidedly surreal, almost Dadaist bent. Among the most comic is the scene where one couple (Jean Pierre-Cassell, Stéphane Audran), with dinner guests waiting downstairs, decides to escape outside to have sex in the bushes. But more low-key events have more gravitas, as one meal turns out to be on a theater stage (with stage-prop food), or when a political dispute between Acosta and a military officer turns violent. Throughout, Buñuel tells the story will little flash and great subtlety. Hollywood has conditioned a lot of American viewers to expect a certain flourish with plot twists, be it brisk editing or a crescendo in the score, but Buñuel is less a showman and more an illusionist in Le charm discret. Like a close-up card magician, he smoothly moves from one bit of trickery to the next, letting his material do all of the talking.

    Criterion's new two-disc DVD release of The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a stellar package that will not disappoint any Buñuel fan, with a clean transfer from a recently restored print that has rich color and little in the way of damage — it's remarkable, considering that this is a European film that's 30 years old. Audio is in the original mono (French, DD 1.0), with recently revised digital subtitles in English. The first disc also includes the original theatrical trailer (in French with subtitles) and "El naufrago de la calle de Providencia" ("The Castaway on the Street of Providence"), a 24-minute documentary from 1970 by longtime Buñuel friends Arturo Ripstein and Rafel Castanedo. But the chief feature that will delight Buñuel fans is on Disc Two, with A proposito de Buñuel (Speaking of Buñuel), a 98-minute documentary created for French television in 2000 that covers the entire course of the director's career. The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie: The Criterion Collection is on the street now.

    Box Office: With little in a way of new films arriving in North American theaters over the weekend, Guy Ritchie's Snatch had the opportunity to make a strong opening, but it only managed fourth place in its first wide weekend with $7.6 million — even though critics seem as much in love with the new film as they were with Ritchie's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. However, things did not go as well for Warner's The Pledge, as even Jack Nicholson couldn't boost the Sean Penn-directed film past 10th place with a disappointing $5.75 million debut (however, it was Penn's best directorial opening). The top three positions remained unchanged from the previous week, with Paramount's Save the Last Dance garnering $16 million and a solid $46.8 million to date, while Fox's Cast Away earned $11.3 million and is poised to break the double-century. And Steven Soderbergh's Traffic continues its steady pace with another $8.2 million, lending to a $46.6 million cume. Also in continuing release, Paramount's What Women Want is at $162.4 million, Disney's The Emperor's New Groove will finish shy of $80 million, and Sony's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is adding more theaters, boosting its totals every week — it now stands at $37.6 million. Off the charts and on the way to DVD prep is Universal's The Family Man with a respectable $70 million to its credit. But the same can't be said for this week's Stinko Award winner, as MGM's Antitrust didn't crack the top ten when it debuted 10 days ago and has since vanished without a trace.

    Save the Last Dance will have fresh competition this Friday as The Wedding Planner with Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez goes wide, while fans of Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich can look forward to the F.W. Murnau biopic Shadow of the Vampire. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Save the Last Dance (Paramount)
      $16,000,000 ($46,872,000 through 2 weeks)
    2. Cast Away (Fox)
      $11,309,000 ($182,128,000 through 5 weeks)
    3. Traffic (USA Films)
      $8,233,169 ($46,521,124 through 4 weeks)
    4. Snatch (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $7,600,000 ($7,600,000 through 1 week)
    5. What Women Want (Paramount)
      $7,000,000 ($162,389,000 through 6 weeks)
    6. Finding Forrester (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $6,700,000 ($29,200,000 through 5 weeks)
    7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
      $6,458,830 ($37,666,000 through 7 weeks)
    8. Thirteen Days (New Line)
      $6,400,000 ($20,035,000 through 5 weeks)
    9. Miss Congeniality (Warner Bros.)
      $6,170,000 ($87,215,000 through 5 weeks)
    10. The Pledge (Warner Bros.)
      $5,750,000 ($5,750,000 through 1 week)
    11. Double Take (Buena Vista)
      $5,700,000 ($18,800,000 through 2 weeks)
    12. The Emperor's New Groove (Buena Vista)
      $4,000,000 ($76,100,000 through 6 weeks)

    On the Board: Our in-depth survey of the 11-disc Oliver Stone Collection from Warner (and other collaborating studios) has been posted by D.K. Holm, and while a hit-and-miss affair, the new box does have its delights; D.K. also has added fresh looks at JFK: Director's Cut, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, Heaven and Earth, and the one-hour documentary Oliver Stone's America. Also new this week are reviews of Babette's Feast from Dawn Taylor and What Lies Beneath by Greg Dorr, and additional staff write-ups include Bait: Special Edition, Me, Myself & Irene, A Walk in the Clouds, Mystic Pizza, Autumn in New York, Steal This Movie, The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and Foxy Brown. It's all under our New Reviews menu here on the front page, while many, many more reviews can be found on our Full Reviews and Quick Reviews pages.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 18 January 2001
    Weekend Dispatch

    boxcoverCriterion's 'Robocop' on shaky ground: Just one week after a buying rush on Criterion's The Silence of the Lambs — which is currently headed out of print and on its to way to MGM for a revamped special-edition DVD release — yesterday briefly placed their standard out-of-print notice on Criterion's Robocop, another title that has been the subject of rumors over the past few months, while at last check Image's bare-bones Robocop is unavailable on the site. And in just the past few days, another major Internet e-tailer, delisted the Criterion Robocop from their database, even sending out a notice to some recent buyers (and DVD Journal readers) informing them that their purchase cannot be fulfilled. Is a conspiracy afoot?

    Not really — we got on the Red Phone yesterday to Criterion HQ in Chicago. A senior spokesperson confirmed to us last week that The Silence of the Lambs was a goner, and thanks to some quick legwork we've now been told that Criterion's licenses for SOTL and Robocop expire on March 30, 2001, when the home-video rights for both films transfer to MGM. But that does not necessarily mean that DVD fans who want to add the titles to their collections can wait until the end of March to get 'em — copies of SOTL are already scarce because, with the expiration looming in just a matter of weeks, available discs are running short. The same goes for Robocop, where online availability will be spotty at best until it's completely out of stock everywhere. Late last night we did a quick check of a few other e-tailers (including,, and that still claim to have copies on hand — not a guarantee that your order will result in a shipped DVD, but orders are still being accepted. And Amazon did reverse course (perhaps securing more copies), accepting new orders for Criterion's Robocop last night, if not the Image disc.

    It's not hard to predict what happens from here — Robocop: The Criterion Collection will have a modest increase on eBay over the next few weeks, where some sealed copies of The Silence of the Lambs are already clearing $50 and higher (some folks, its seems, would rather part with the extra cash and just get the DVD as soon as possible, rather than look for stray copies online or elsewhere). But as for the eventual MGM edition of Robocop, it's anybody's guess, and perhaps not even decided by MGM at this point. We've been reliably informed that a new special edition of SOTL is already in production, but when MGM picked up the rights to Sid and Nancy last year, the new disc was released bare-bones, making the out-of-print Criterion release the superior edition. The MGM Robocop could be bare-bones as well, particularly as so many features-spare discs are coming from the studio this year. Or it could rival the Criterion release, as their Spinal Tap re-issue did.

    And there's one big X-factor here — Criterion's Robocop is an unrated cut. Will MGM will embrace that version, or will they opt for the theatrical release?

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: "One thing that I wanted to mention here (in the first scene with Lou Gossett Jr.), and that is my cinematographer, Don Thorne... this was his second D.P.-ing gig and he was really wonderful, but at the very beginning we were just getting to know each other, and I was shooting this sequence and he came up to me and said 'Are you trying to kill me?' And I said 'Well... Don, what do you mean?' He said 'You give me a black actor, and then you set him against white buildings, and then you put a broad-brimmed hat on his head.' (laughs) 'How can I get light into his face?' In this instance, it's purely a lighting situation of course, but you need light, and when you're shooting black against white it's very, very difficult. I said 'Don, listen.... Uh, this is a (drill instructor), he has to wear that hat, and there's nothing we can do about it.' And, y'know, Lou was privy to this whole thing, y'know obviously we all understood we had to deal with this, and we did — we had bounce-boards on the floor, we were shining huge amounts of light in, and I was able to get this sequence, and it worked great, it really worked fantastic because you get this unique and terrifying figure.

    "I think the other thing to say is I collaborated with Lou differently than the other cast. Y'know, every director has little things that they do, and this was only my second feature film. But I said to Lou, 'Lou, I know everybody knows you're an actor — you're a famous actor. But in this particular instance you don't know any of these young guys — and women — and I want at the very beginning of this rehearsal program' — and up until we do this scene — 'I don't want you to talk to anyone. I want you in fact not only to not talk to them, but be totally antisocial. I want you to eat separately, I don't want you to talk with them. If they look at you, just stare them down and walk away.' And Richard Gere obviously knew there was a game being played, y'know, he'd been in the Seattle Rep, he knew this stuff. But it worked. I remember David Keith coming up to me and saying 'God! I love Lou Gossett's work but I just walked up to him and I said Hey man I'm really a big fan and he just looked at me and turned and walked away,' he says, 'God! He's a bastard!' I said 'Yeah, he's tough.' And in reality, y'know, that's a game, but when he walked down that aisle at the very beginning and saw those recruits, they didn't know — they thought it was a game, but they didn't really know, and he was a very frightening figure. Ramrod straight, bone-thin, and mean as could be."

    — Director Taylor Hackford,
    An Officer and a Gentleman

    Quotable: "For some people (media violence) was in their minds the major purpose of this report. We did not find the media to be a major factor — (just) a factor.... The most critical risk factor for violence for your children is the behavior of their peers. Know who your kids associate with and encourage healthy peer relationships."

    — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, discussing a new
    federal report on teen violence that downplays the media's
    influence on at-risk teenagers. The report was commissioned
    by President Clinton after the Columbine High School

    "I'm gonna design my own fleet of trailers. No! I'm gonna record an album like Jennifer Lopez. It'll be an acoustic version of K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Then maybe I'll design a line of clothes like Puff Daddy, but all in synthetic fur."

    — Brad Pitt, in an upcoming interview in Details magazine,
    speculating on how he will spend his eventual retirement.

    Coming Attractions: We're buried in new discs, so we'll be back next week with a new round of reviews from the team, including a survey of the Oliver Stone Collection, Babette's Feast, and plenty more. See ya Monday.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 17 January 2001

    'Perfect Storm' on the Web tonight: For those of you who have a Perfect Storm DVD handy, Warner will be hosting a "Virtual Theater" Web event tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern / 6 p.m. Pacific. All you need is a decent Internet connection and a DVD-ROM equipped PC (if you have a Mac, good luck to yer), and the full-length screening of the film via your DVD will be accompanied by a live chat with Perfect Storm director Wolfgang Petersen. Log in sometime today at to register for the event, and also to pre-submit questions if you like. And for those of you who don't have DVD-ROM, you can still participate in the chat, but not the actual screening.

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

  • As an avid reader of The DVD Journal, I'm curious of your thoughts about Entertainment Weekly's top 100 DVDs as featured in the current issue.

    — Ken

    Well Ken, actually it's the Top 50 DVDs, not 100, in the current Entertainment Weekly, and our only sensation was deja vu, as 18 of our Top 25 (a list we've maintained and updated since January of 1999) appeared on EW's list — which we figure means that most quality discs are above dispute (or the folks at EW, like us, have a taste for obscure Criterion titles). However, we didn't agree with EW's methodology on selecting discs, as they claimed in the introduction to the feature article that "This is not a list of the greatest movies ever.... it's a celebration of unique-to-disc extravaganzas that best exploit DVD's massive storage capacity and multiple-choice, chapter-surfing flexibility to somehow radically enhance whatever the main event is." But by that criteria, pretty much any porno DVD with multiple-angles and other digital goodies would have to make the list. And if family-friendly standards means adult content must be excluded, then it's pretty clear to us that the SHORT series (formerly Short Cinema Journal) must win the top award hands-down for most innovative use of the DVD format.

    But as we've noted, our Top 25 is pretty much in agreement with the EW top 50. Nonetheless, our list is meant to reflect a combination of the best movies on the best DVDs — thus, we're inclined to highlight titles like Columbia's special edition of It Happened One Night and Warner's double-cut of The Big Sleep, whereas EW included such releases as Starship Troopers and Pee Wee's Big Adventure — fine discs mind you, but hardly important films. And we were dismayed that EW's top DVD, Fight Club didn't get a glowing movie review, even though it was the number-one frickin' DVD! "...critics were divided and audiences were undecided" the magazine hedges. It's number two on our list for more reasons than it being just a great DVD, as we're on record calling it one of the best films of the '90s, and therefore entirely worthy of a stellar DVD package — no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    And okay, everybody on every DVD message board on the Internet has been picking over the Entertainment Weekly top 50 this week, so perhaps we'll jump on top of the dogpile. They're big boys — we're sure they can take it:

    • Steven Soderbergh didn't record a commentary for Universal's Erin Brockovich, which is #25 in EW's book, but Artisan's The Limey is one of the most ambitious discs ever released, with two commentaries (including Soderbergh), an isolated score, exhaustive cast notes, and even technical info on the DVD transfer. It's also a better Soderbergh film, but EW went for the prosaic Brockovich, which probably shouldn't be much of a surprise as they've got one eye on this year's Oscar race. They even admit it "doesn't offer much over tape copies," but somehow it's one of the top 50 DVDs ever. Mmm-kay....
    • Buena Vista's The Sixth Sense ranks #35, and it has about ten minutes of forced trailers on most DVD players. Not exactly a standard-setter for the format.
    • The failure to include Universal's features-packed Psycho can only be described as a gross oversight. It's a loaded platter, #18 on the AFI Top 100, and the most popular film from arguably the greatest director in the history of cinema. But alas, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure beat it out, as did American Movie, The Thing, and Criterion's Dead Ringers. Universal's The Birds and Criterion's The 39 Steps didn't warrant inclusion either — did somebody fail to notice the generous amount of features on these Hitchcock classics? Is Paul Reubens that funny?
    • Another gross oversight: Early Warner special editions like Contact and L.A. Confidential, which set the SE standard and are still among the best DVDs today, even though they are dinosaurs by DVD standards. Do we even have to defend L.A. Confidential on this website? Why not just include Titanic among the top 50 DVDs and snub this masterpiece a second time?
    • The bit on Easter eggs — while an interesting feature to the DVD neophyte — sort of undermines what's really cool about DVD, namely solid presentations of great movies, often with digital restorations, theater-quality audio, and anamorphic widescreen — and for the seasoned DVD consumer, carefully hidden Easter eggs can get annoying real fast. Much more of this, and loading a forgettable outtake reel will be like playing Riven.
    • Finally, it would have been nice if EW found the space in their feature to acknowledge some daily online DVD resources, which a few of their editors and writers likely consult from time to time. We'll excuse ourselves from present company, but hard-working sites like The Bits, DVD File, DVD Review, and others deserve a boost from one of the largest magazines in America, particularly when — almost four years after the DVD format was launched — it's been decided by the powers-that-be at EW that DVD has officially arrived.

    But for folks who just got new DVD players for Christmas, this week's Entertainment Weekly cover story will be valuable reading, and we found it to be largely entertaining. Besides, that's who the feature was aimed at, not daily visitors to DVD news and review websites, and especially not DVD journalists on the Web who will pull it apart like a freshly baked croissant. As for the small capsule on "Missing in Action" DVDs in the current EW (21 titles, 19 of which are catalogued on our long-standing Missing in Action page), we're sure that's just a coincidence.

  • Regarding the Rocky: 25th Anniversary DVD, will this disc be sold separately or just in the Rocky gift set? If separately, what version will be included in the gift set — the new SE edition, or the bare-bones edition?

    — Terrence

    The Rocky disc in the Rocky gift-set due on April 24 will be the SE, and in fact the original plan at MGM was to send the bare-bones Rocky out of print entirely. However, in recent weeks they decided to keep the original Rocky in circulation, along with the new SE as a stand-alone and the five-disc box of all five Rocky movies. Rocky III was never released on DVD (because of legal issues we understand), but as the remaining Rocky discs previously released will now only be available in the box, we think bids for the originals on eBay will remain above average for now — especially for folks who will buy the Rocky SE and only want perhaps Rocky II and Rocky III in their collections. Otherwise, we all get to own Rocky V — and ain't that exciting?

    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. When Harry Met Sally: Special Edition
    2. Hollow Man: Special Edition
    3. Se7en: Platinum Series
    4. Gladiator: Signature Selection
    5. Princess Mononoke
    6. The Cell: Platinum Series
    7. Monty Python's Flying Circus Collection
    8. The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
    9. The Art of War
    10. Road Trip (unrated version)

    Bye for now.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 16 January 2001

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

    • Yo! The original Rocky DVDs from MGM may be out of print, but the re-issues are on the way, including Rocky: 25th Anniversary Special Edition, which will feature a commentary track with Talia Shire and Burt Young, director John Avildsen, and producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, as well as a 33-minute "video commentary" by Sylvester Stallone. Other features include a "behind-the-scenes" documentary presented by Avildsen, never-before-seen rehearsal footage, tributes to Burgess Meredith and director of photography James Crabe, original advertising materials, and trailers. It arrives on April 24, along with a Rocky gift set (SRP – $89.96) with all five films in the series (including the never-before-on-DVD Rocky III), but note that nos. 2 through 5 will only be available in the box. The original bare-bones Rocky DVD will remain in print however, at a cheaper retail price.
    • Fox has gone into the vault and come out with some choice Marilyn Monroe films, including 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, the 1954 There's No Business Like Show Business, co-starring Ethel Merman, 1956's Bus Stop, and best of all, Billy Wilder's 1955 The Seven Year Itch, with Tom Ewell. All arrive on May 29, along with a six-disc box, Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection (SRP – $99.98), which will include all of the above and an additional documentary. Also in prep at Fox is last year's Bedazzled: Special Edition (March 13), which will include two commentary tracks from Elizabeth Hurley, director Harold Ramis, and producer Trevor Albert, deleted scenes, a featurette, and lots more.
    • Warner has several choice catalog titles on the way, in particular 1982's The World According to Garp (April 3) with Robin Williams, Glenn Close, and John Lithgow, Hal Ashby's 1979 Being There (April 3) with Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine, the chilling Reversal of Fortune (March 13), for which Jeremy Irons won an Oscar (look for a commentary by director Barbet Schroeder and scenarist Nicholas Kazan on this one), John Sturges's 1958 The Old Man and the Sea (March 13), with a documentary on Papa Hemingway, and Empire Records (April 3), starring Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, and other young people with perfect complexions. Two more Albert Brooks films are headed our way as well, Lost in America and Defending Your Life, both on April 3. And for fans of the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, Warner will street a 12-hour Complete DVD Collection on March 13 (SRP – $99.98) with extra goodies, or get all three seasons in three separate volumes (SRP – $29.98 each).
    • Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream will arrive from Artisan on March 20 in the unrated cut that's been playing in limited release around America, and on board will be a commentary by Aronofsky, deleted scenes, a "making-of" short, and interview footage with Ellen Burstyn and Herbert Selby Jr. We can also expect the DVD release the Sci-Fi Channel's Dune on March 20 in a two-disc set, with a five-hour running time, anamorphic widescreen, a 30-minute behind-the-scenes doc, production stills and sketches, and DVD-ROM content. Also on the way are the thrillers Eastside (March 20) and Second Skin (March 20), as well as the documentary Land of the Mammoth (March 13), which follows up on the Discovery Channel's previous Raising the Mammoth.
    • Jackie Chan takes on the role of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hong in 1994's The Legend of Drunken Master, recently released theatrically in North America and now due on DVD from Buena Vista, and an interview with Chan and outtakes will be included. Also expect last year's crime caper The Crew with Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds, as well as Po Chih Leong's Immortality, starring Jude Law. All three street on March 13.
    • Barry Levinson's 1990 Avalon, part of his "Baltimore" series of films, will arrive from Columbia TriStar on March 13, along with last year's The Tao of Steve, the Dolph Lungren actioner Agent Red, and 1990's Shadow of Doubt with Melanie Griffith. Also look for The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (March 6) with a commentary by writer/director Greg Berlanti and deleted scenes, the animated Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles (March 13), and 1974's The Story of Jacob and Joseph (March 13).
    • Just one from New Line today, The Little Vampire (March 6) with cute lil' moppet Jonathan Lipnicki, and lots of extras will be on hand for the kids, including snack recipes, interactive games, jokes, and a screen-saver.
    • The 1995 Catherine the Great starring none other than Catherine Zeta-Jones is in the pipe at A&E, due to street on Feb. 27.
    • How foul-mouthed is Martin Lawrence when he does live stand-up? HBO's comedy concert You So Crazy (April 3) will be an NC-17 cut.
    • It was here, now it's gone — Fox's Planet of the Apes and the box-set Planet of the Apes: The Evolution are currently on moratorium, possibly until the big-budget remake arrives in theaters. Also on moratorium is Fox's Tora! Tora! Tora!, most likely because of another forthcoming film about Pearl Harbor called, er, Pearl Harbor. Permanently discontinued is the bare-bones The Doors, which will be replaced by the new SE on Feb. 20. But back on the board after a long delay is Warner's The Killing Fields, now due on March 13.

    On the Street: It's an Anchor Bay street Tuesday this morning, with new releases of John Woo's A Better Tomorrow and A Better Tomorrow 2, Pedro Almodovar's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, and C.H.U.D.: Special Edition for those of you who can't get enough of cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. But Paramount's grabbed our attention with a new release of Brian De Palma's 1987 The Untouchables, along with the Charles Bronson vigilante classic Death Wish. Those of you looking to dump a few bucks can get either the six-disc or ten-disc version of Warner's Oliver Stone Collection, but if you're just looking for a cheap laugh, Battlefield Earth might do. Meanwhile, Disney has one for the whole family, Pete's Dragon, now on disc after some delay. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • And Justice for All
    • Banned and Censored
    • Battlefield Earth: Special Edition
    • A Better Tomorrow
    • A Better Tomorrow 2
    • C.H.U.D.: Special Edition
    • Coyote Ugly
    • Cypress Hill: Still Smokin'
    • Death Wish
    • Heaven and Earth
    • I'll Remember April
    • Juice
    • Mailer on Mailer
    • Natural Born Killers (theatrical version)
    • Nuremberg
    • Oliver Stone Collection 6-Pack
    • Oliver Stone Collection 10-Pack
    • Python
    • Pete's Dragon: Gold Classic Collection
    • Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie
    • Sister Sister: Special Edition
    • Sleepwalkers
    • The Soul of the Game
    • Spiders (2000)
    • Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band: Blood Brothers
    • Bruce Springsteen: The Complete Video Anthology 1978-2000
    • Stepdaughter
    • Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (delayed from 11/28)
    • Twilight Zone #40
    • The Untouchables
    • The Warriors

    See ya tomorrow.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 15 January 2001

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: Can somebody please tell us what happened to Brian De Palma? The wunderkind of next-generation American directors that arrived in the '70s, De Palma built his reputation on such horror/suspense classics as Sisters, Blow Out, Body Double, and Dressed to Kill, and delivered a cinematic landmark with 1983's Scarface. But the past decade has seen De Palma in decline, helming films like The Bonfire of the Vanities, Raising Cain, and the critically reviled Mission to Mars. Mission: Impossible from 1996 was a financial success, but some De Palma watchers thought it didn't carry his directorial stamp. And with a film like 1998's Snake Eyes — among his most technically dazzling, with asynchronous narrative, split-screens, and long tracking shots — the overall effect was hampered by a second-rate script and a lot of overacting by Nicholas Cage. The fact is that De Palma is only as good as his material and his cast, and when a shoddy sci-fi like Mission to Mars gets greenlighted by studio execs, not even De Palma's gifts can rescue it. When Tom Hanks is dreadfully miscast in something like The Bonfire of the Vanities, compelling direction won't help. But fortunately, 1987's The Untouchables had all the right ingredients — a heady rush of prohibition-era Chicago mythology written by Chicago playwright David Mamet, and a trio of sturdy leads, Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Robert De Niro. To date, The Untouchables stands as one of De Palma's best films yet.

    More a gangland fable told and retold to later generations than an actual piece of American history, The Untouchables efficiently relates the saga of U.S. Treasury agent Elliot Ness (Costner), who is sent to Chicago by the Feds to bring down the illegal liquor rackets, and particularly Al Capone (De Niro), the de facto lord of the city who has more control over the cops, judges, and juries than any elected official. Aggressive and idealistic, Ness teams up with the Chicago P.D. to go after Capone's booze, but before long he realizes that Capone will be notified of any police raid before it happens, turning hot leads into blind alleys. Thus, on a chance meeting Ness hires Jim Malone (Connery), a ruthless yet honorable cop who walks the beat despite his senior status because he's not on the take. Police recruit and top marksman George Stone (Andy Garcia) is drafted directly from the Academy, and with the addition of federal lawyer Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), the four become "The Untouchables," a group of lawmen who cannot be reached by Capone's influence, forcing the legendary ganglord to wage all-out war against them.

    With Mamet's script and talented, engaging actors in the leading roles, The Untouchables probably could have been directed by any kid fresh out of film school and been a moderate success. But in De Palma's hands it's a playground of cinematic delights. Often he needs to do little — virtually every scene with De Niro is a small Mamet masterpiece, and in Capone's famous baseball-bat allegory a single overhead zoom-back punctuates the aftermath of his violent rage. A raid on bootleg liquor crossing the Canadian border is done on horseback, even though there's no reason why Ness and the government couldn't do the same thing better with autos, but it's a wonderful excuse for cinematic flourish, and the sequence forms the thematic apex of the story. But most remarkable — and best remembered — is the train station shootout. De Palma often was accused of being a Hitchcockian acolyte in his earliest films, but here he reaches back to the earliest days of cinema and Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin to create a slow-motion montage of gunplay and fear (complete with baby carriage). But he also does the Russian one better, for Potemkin was a silent film, and title cards forced breaks in the slaughter on the Odessa steps. De Palma's sound design illustrates how crucial audio elements are in contemporary films, as he completely compresses the soundtrack during the shootout to a few small elements — gunshots, piercing violins, the squeaks and clatter of small wheels thumping down stairs. It's a few brief minutes, but it's also one of the high points of American cinema from the entire decade.

    For such a noteworthy film, Paramount's new DVD edition of The Untouchables is a bit of a letdown, as the studio did not see fit to include any substantial supplements on a DVD release at this time. However, for those who will enjoy the film on its own merits, it comes in a crisp anamorphic widescreen transfer (2.35:1) and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that captures both the dynamic sound design and Ennio Morricone's score. For fans of the movie, it's worth having. The Untouchables hits the street tomorrow.

    Box Office: The three-week reign of Fox's Cast Away at the top of the box-office chart has come to an end due to Paramount's Save the Last Dance, starring Sean Patrick Thomas and Julia Stiles, and with just a $13 million budget the dance-club romance has already turned profitable. But Tom Hanks and Fox have little to complain about, as Cast Away — in second place after the weekend — has surged to a $165.1 million gross in just a month and certainly will clear $200 million and beyond before much longer (with Oscar nominations on the way in February, we don't think $300 million is entirely out of the question for this one). Meanwhile, Stephen Soderbergh's powerful, tense Traffic is a hot ticket, earning third place with $11.1 million, adding to a $33 million gross, while New Line's Thirteen Days went wide Friday to the tune of $10.2 million, and Buena Vista opened Double Take to $10 million even.

    Still in continuing release, Mel Gibson has proved he's bankable in both action and light comedy films, as Paramount's What Women Want has earned $152.4 million so far. And Sandra Bullock has trustworthy fans as well, as Warner's Miss Congeniality has been good for $78.1 million to date. From Sony, Finding Forrester added more theaters over the weekend and boosted its total to $19.6 million, as did their Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which now has $28 million to its credit.

    Fans of British director (and Madonna hubbie) Guy Ritchie can look forward to his latest caper film, Snatch, which opens this Friday. Also due is The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson and directed by Sean Penn. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend:

    1. Save the Last Dance (Paramount)
      $24,000,000 ($24,000,000 through 1 week)
    2. Cast Away (Fox)
      $17,145,000 ($165,126,000 through 4 weeks)
    3. Traffic (USA Films)
      $11,172,892 ($33,075,645 through 3 weeks)
    4. What Women Want (Paramount)
      $10,500,000 ($152,419,000 through 5 weeks)
    5. Thirteen Days (New Line)
      $10,225,000 ($10,861,000 through 4 weeks)
    6. Finding Forrester (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $10,200,000 ($19,600,000 through 4 weeks)
    7. Double Take (Buena Vista)
      $10,000,000 ($10,000,000 through 1 week)
    8. Miss Congeniality (Warner Bros.)
      $9,355,000 ($78,176,000 through 4 weeks)
    9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
      $8,212,736 ($28,207,305 through 6 weeks)
    10. The Family Man (Universal)
      $5,900,000 ($64,500,000 through 4 weeks)
    11. The Emperor's New Groove (Buena Vista)
      $5,700,000 ($69,400,000 through 5 weeks)
    12. Antitrust (MGM)
      $5,200,000 ($5,200,000 through 1 week)

    On the Board: Kerry Fall has posted a fresh look at Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans: Director's Expanded Edition, while D. K. Holm recently spun the re-issued The X-Files: Fight the Future, and Mark Bourne is on the board with the latest from John Waters, Cecil B. Demented. Additional reviews from the staff this week include The Way of the Gun, Alice's Restaurant, The Thin Red Line, The Untouchables, and Python. It's all under the New Reviews menu here on the front page, while hundreds more DVD write-ups are on our Full Reviews and Quick Reviews indices.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 11 January 2001
    Weekend Dispatch

    On the Block: Our latest rankings of DVD auctions at eBay are in, and ultra-rare demo discs still have plenty of cachet, as a 1997 THX Theatrical Trailers demo disc crossed the board for $500 after a heated 20-bid auction. And while it's still too early for Criterion's out-of-print The Silence of the Lambs to climb the chart, many other OOP Criterion discs continue to draw top dollar, including Salo, The Killer, Hard Boiled, and The 400 Blows. It's also too early (we think) for the recently OOP Army of Darkness: Director's Cut Limited Edition to draw competitive bids, but that didn't stop one auction from clearing $127.50 for the disc. It was the same top price, incidentally, that the two-disc AoD earned from one eager bidder, but we think confusion has inflated some bids for the one-disc Director's Cut. Clearing $100 was Warner's bare-bones Willy Wonka disc (expect an SE later this year), as well as MPI's A Hard Day's Night, which will re-appear on DVD March 20 from Miramax. That Dune disc with the $96 hammer-price isn't the new one recently seen on the Sci-Fi Channel, by the way — it's a two-disc set from Japan with a three hour cut of David Lynch's film. And yes Buffy fans, even though we are not expecting Season One of Buffy the Vampire Slayer here in Region 1 until this fall, the set is already in Region 2 — that $76 top close for the multi-disc set looks like a steal.

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

    1. THX Theatrical Trailers Demo DVD
      $500.00 (20 bids)
    2. Salo: The Criterion Collection
      $350.00 (1 bid)
    3. The Killer: The Criterion Collection
      $257.50 (14 bids)
    4. The 400 Blows: The Criterion Collection
      $162.50 (12 bids)
    5. This is Spinal Tap: The Criterion Collection
      $150.00 (16 bids)
    6. Remember the Titans (promo DVD)
      $150.00 (22 bids)
    7. Army of Darkness: Limited Edition (two-disc set)
      $127.50 (21 bids)
    8. Army of Darkness: Director's Cut Limited Edition
      $127.50 (13 bids)
    9. Re-Animator
      $105.06 (7 bids)
    10. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
      $102.50 (13 bids)
    11. A Hard Day's Night
      $102.50 (5 bids)
    12. Little Shop of Horrors (first edition)
      $100.00 (1 bid)
    13. Dune: Director's Cut (Region 2)
      $96.00 (7 bids)
    14. THX Surround EX Demo DVD
      $80.00 (10 bids)
    15. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1 (Region 2)
      $76.00 (4 bids)

    boxcoverCommentary Clip: Dey: "The fight with the horseshoes was something that, when we were in Beijing and we were location scouting with Jackie, a group of martial artists put on this show, and one of the fight techniques they showed us was sort of this metal spike at the end of a rope that this guy was able to do wild things with — flying it around and whipping it off different parts of his body, and so this (scene) is an idea that I came up with, I used the horseshoe to achieve that sort of martial artistry. It's something that is thousands of years old, that they used in the Chinese navy I guess to fight between boats, they would use this weapon. I said to Jackie 'We have to put this in the movie, this rope trick.' And he just looked at me and said 'So-ooo difficult. So difficult.' "

    Chan: "Yes — the fight with the horseshoes was very, very difficult. I remember I hurt a Canadian stunt guy a few times, in the face, in the body — Boom! Boom! 'Oh! So sorry, so sorry.' It's a very, very difficult scene to shoot. It's not a fake thing. We used a very heavy metal (horseshoe)."

    — Director Tom Dey and Jackie Chan,
    Shanghai Noon

    Coming Attractions: We're off to spin more new DVDs, so we'll be back next week with the latest news and reviews, including more DTS re-issues from Fox. In the meantime, if you haven't entered our totally free DVD contest for a copy of The Birds: Collectors' Edition, 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. See ya Monday.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 10 January 2001

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

  • Thank you for your kind review of Cosmos at The DVD Journal. As one of the owners of Still In Motion, LLC, the compression/authoring facility that also handled the digital restoration of all picture elements for Cosmos, we are flattered that you find the elements "in remarkably good shape."

    There was an enormous amount of work with the original sources to get them in the condition they are in today, as Still In Motion did a full digital picture restoration that took over three solid months working around the clock with numerous artists painting out much of the dirt, scratches, and original technical flaws from the 1980 one-inch videotape masters. Many of the source tapes literally snapped or fell apart when we transferred them to DigiBeta. There was banding and edge damage, and the masters were incredibly "noisey," as all of the effects composites were done in analog video over 20 years ago. Cosmos Studios went through 200 boxes of original film and videotape, and numerous versions of the shows, in order to find the best elements to re-build the series. The final shows, with new footage added and old footage restored, were then digitally tape-to-tape color corrected. Finally, before and during compression, we used proprietary digital signal processing for noise reduction and image enhancement, which created images that are better than the 20-year-old, original one-inch analog videotapes.

    Cosmos is a labor of love for me, as I was one of the lucky folks to work on the original PBS series. I had the extraordinary experience of working, talking, and hanging out with Carl Sagan. We are very proud of our restoration, compression, and authoring here at Still In Motion. Again, thank you for your support of the Cosmos series, and of Carl's message to the world.

    — Steve Wyskocil, CEO
    Still In Motion, LLC

    boxcoverThanks for your letter Steve — a hard-copy is pinned on the wall of our newsroom, where it probably will grow tattered and faded before anybody takes it down. It is DVD releases like Cosmos that make this job worthwhile — indeed, that restores our faith in DVD. It used to be, back in the earliest days of the format, that just about any new DVD title was a revelation, as early adopters gushed over marvelous transfers of films like The Fifth Element and Starship Troopers, not to mention the seemingly endless array of new discs that offered what fans like us were looking for — clean, colorful widescreen transfers of popular films that otherwise would have languished on VHS. But now, in 2001 and with nearly four years of DVDs behind us, just about every new disc has a crystalline transfer and booming 5.1 audio, and after sitting through hundreds of commentary tracks it's become clear that some folks are a lot better in the recording booth than others — and just because a disc has a commentary on it doesn't mean that it's going to be a slam-dunk with our review team. What's more, if the general quality of films from last year is anything to go by, the first half of 2001 won't have a lot of knockout new releases. Some, sure. But not a lot.

    But for us, the promise of DVD isn't so much about high-quality home video in and of itself, but the opportunity it presents to restore and preserve important titles from the past. Last Nov. 21 when such top-selling DVDs as Gladiator, X-Men, and Chicken Run hit the street, the new disc we enjoyed most from that notable week was His Girl Friday, as Howard Hawks' 1940 classic never had a decent home-video release on VHS, and the new DVD transfer from Columbia TriStar was nothing short of a revelation. And we have several other catalog favorites on DVD as well, most that have undergone extensive digital or print restorations, like Vertigo, Criterion's The 39 Steps and Seven Samurai, and with Columbia's' Lost Horizon the restorative efforts, as well as the informative commentary, exceed the quality of the film itself. All of these films have been in various stages of neglect over the decades — from minor damage to risk of permanent decay — but both print and digital restorations, along with a transfer to a high-definition, mass-media format like DVD, means that they will survive indefinitely, even if only on video monitors and projectors.

    Maybe we're starting to become DVD cynics — slowly and regrettably, but surely enough. Too often we hear about the latest and greatest DVD, which may be of a decent action or sci-fi movie, but certainly not a high-stakes enterprise where history is on the line. And for us, too often DVD is just an "eye candy" format, ideal for folks who love nothing more than to gaze at endless CGI landscapes from the latest Hollywood spectacular. Indeed, a lot of people actually are clamoring for a Phantom Menace DVD, despite the fact that it's a remarkably awful movie. Films like Citizen Kane, The Rules of the Game, On the Waterfront, and Treasure of the Sierra Madre will be our black-and-white eye-candy when they arrive on shiny new discs.

    So we must salute you and your team at Still in Motion, as well as all the folks at Cosmos Studios, for making the effort to get Cosmos back on home video, and now on DVD, after a decade-long absence. Television has been with us for roughly half a century, and to say that Cosmos is the greatest thing to ever happen on TV is not overstating the matter — no scientist in history was able to make a connection with the public the way Carl Sagan did, and Cosmos probably did more to get Americans, and people around the world, interested in science and astronomy than any 20th century event besides perhaps the Apollo moon landings. It's distressing to hear that the condition of the source materials was so poor when your team undertook the project, but it's also a story that's been told too many times when titles are neglected in film and television archives. Fortunately for Cosmos, the story has a happy ending. Compared to the original videotapes released by Turner in the 1980s (and we have 'em here), we have nothing but praise for the remarkable improvements on DVD, and everybody who enjoys the new release is very much in your debt, ourselves included. A lot of stellar DVDs arrived in 2000, but we think Cosmos was the most important of them all.

  • I have noticed, as you have, that Criterion's The Silence of the Lambs is no longer for sale at sites like Amazon and Buy. But does that mean that the disc is really out of print as you say, or is it just out of stock? Where can I find out for sure that it's out of print before I try to buy it somewhere else?

    — Peter

    We had a few letters yesterday asking that we come up with something a little more firm than our (reasoned) speculation that Criterion's The Silence of the Lambs DVD is now out of print (see Tuesday's update). Normally when lists a title as OOP we figure there's little room for doubt, but your editor did get on the phone to Criterion HQ in Chicago yesterday, where Lambs' OOP status was flat-out confirmed by a senior spokesperson. Neither the Image Entertainment DVD database nor Criterion's own site has posted this info yet, but more and more e-tailers have run out of stock in the past 48 hours. At this point, if you manage to get an order in somewhere, or find a stray copy at a brick-and-mortar retailer like Tower Records, consider yourself very fortunate.

    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. Hollow Man: Special Edition
    2. Se7en: Platinum Series
    3. Gladiator: Signature Selection
    4. Road Trip: Unrated Version
    5. The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
    6. When Harry Met Sally
    7. The Cell: Platinum Series
    8. The Art of War
    9. Mission: Impossible 2
    10. James Bond Collection, Vol. 2


    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 9 January 2001

    boxcoverSMACKDOWN! Criterion's 'Lambs' out of stock at Amazon!: Do not say we didn't warn you. Rumors have been circulating for months that Criterion's DVD edition of The Silence of the Lambs would go out of print early this year — rumors backed up by our own sources who told us a while ago that a new special-edition disc is already in production at another studio (whose initials happen to be MGM). However, we had no idea that Lambs would disappear this early in the new year, but so it appears to be. As of yesterday, ceased accepting orders for both Criterion's Lambs disc and the bare-bones version released under license by Image (with their boilerplate out-of-print notice), which means — just at it was last October with Criterion's Sid and Nancy — the rush is on, and digital die-hards will be spending the next day or two trying to get last-minute orders in at e-tailers who still have copies on hand. As of this point, the Image Entertainment DVD database is not listing Criterion's The Silence of the Lambs as out-of-print, but the projections are in, and the news team at the Journal is calling it — this baby's toast, and nobody knows how much of the feature-set will reappear down the road.

    In the Works: DVDs come, some DVDs go, so let's get a look at some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • Universal has a Spike Lee joint on the way, 1990's Mo' Better Blues (Jan. 30) with Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, and Wesley Snipes, and a Spike box will also arrive with Mo' Better Blues, Crooklyn, and Jungle Fever (Jan. 30 – SRP $64.98). Universal also has several music titles on the street now, including video collections from Tom Petty and Sublime, as well as Patti Labelle's Live in New York and B.B. King's Blues Summit, with additional performances by Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and other blues luminaries.
    • Denzel Washington is also headed our way from Buena Vista with Remember the Titans: Special Edition (March 20), which will feature two audio commentaries — one by real-life coaches Herman Boone and Bill Yoast, the other with director Boaz Yakin, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and writer Gregory Allen Howard. Also on board will be a 22-minute documentary, two featurettes, and six deleted scenes.
    • In prep at New Line is Lost Souls: Platinum Series, the directorial debut of legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and extras will include a commentary by Kaminski, deleted scenes, a script-to-screen feature as DVD-ROM content, and more. It's due on Feb. 27.
    • Do you think Battlefield Earth, arriving on DVD this month, was the only box-office flop starring John Travolta in 2000? Then you may have forgotten about Nora Ephron's Lucky Numbers, due from Paramount on March 20, and with a commentary from Ephron as well cast interviews.
    • And speaking of major Hollywood stars who don't always deliver at the box office, Warner will street last year's remake of Get Carter starring Sylvester Stallone, with a commentary by director Stephen Kay, and deleted scenes. It's due on Feb. 13.
    • Are we still on the subject of underperforming A-listers? Columbia TriStar will release Roger Spottiswoode's The 6th Day with Arnold Schwarzenegger on March 13. Also due is last year's The Right Temptation (Feb. 27) with Kiefer Sutherland, Rebecca De Mornay, and Dana Delany.
    • Image has a normally eclectic mix of titles in their March lineup, including such psychotronic treats as Arthur Hilton's 1953 The Cat Women of the Moon (March 13), a double-feature of Herschell Gordon Lewis's 1967 Blast-Off Girls and his 1968 Just For The Hell of It (March 6), a special edition of Guido Zurli's 1971 The Mad Butcher (March 6), and zombie-flicks Oasis of the Zombies (March 27) and Zombie Lake (March 27). Old classics are also in the works with a double-feature of Cecil B. DeMille's 1915 Carmen and The Cheat (March 6), which will also include the Charlie Chaplin short parody Burlesque on Carmen, reconstructed for the first time. And fans of the silents will not want to miss the nine-hour The Origins of Film (March 13 – SRP $79.99), a three-disc set that surveys the pre-talkie era.
    • Rykodisc has a collectable for Marilyn Monroe fans, The Complete Marilyn Monroe, which includes all of the blond goddess's audio recordings, as well as film trailers, stills, and video clips, including her famous rendition of "Happy Birthday" to President Kennedy. Also in the pipe is Shadow of Chinatown, a 1936 serial starring Bela Lugosi, presented uncut and with a five-hour running time. Look for both on Jan. 30.
    • Focus released a nice box-set of four 1940s Sherlock Holmes last year, but on Feb. 13 all four titles — Dressed to Kill, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Terror By Night, and The Woman in Green — will be available individually, including four hours of radio broadcasts apiece.
    • There's something to scream about from Pioneer — Sam Kinison's HBO comedy concert Breaking the Rules (March 6), considered to be his breakout performance and never before released on home video. Additional performance footage will be on board, as well as a commentary by Bill and Sherri Kinison and production stills.
    • Lots of Sony Music titles are in the works, in particular Bruce Springsteen's The Complete Video Anthology 1978-2000 (Jan. 16), which (obviously) includes classics like "Born in the U.S.A." "Dancing in the Dark," and "Philadelphia." Also expect the documentary Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Blood Brothers (Jan. 16), which chronicles the 1995 reunion of the E Street Band. Other titles in the pipe include Oasis: Familiar to Millions (Jan. 23), a live concert recorded last year at Wembley Stadium; Babyface: A Collection of His Videos (Jan. 30), featuring the "MTV Unplugged" duet of "Change the World" with Eric Clapton; Cypress Hill: Still Smokin' (Jan. 16); and two releases from Sade, the video collection Life Promise Pride Love and Sade: Live, both on Feb. 13.
    • There have been several versions of Army of Darkness released on DVD from Anchor Bay, and the most recent one, the "Director's Cut Special Edition," is now out of print after a limited run of 40,000 units.
    • After the bare-bones release of Kevin Smith's Dogma last year from Columbia TriStar, a lot of folks have been looking forward to the two-disc special edition, originally due on Jan. 23. However, it's now been postponed with no new date.

    On the Street: MGM have no less than 21 new DVDs on the street this morning (and most other studios seem to have gotten out of the way), including Rob Reiner's long-awaited When Harry Met Sally and Norman Jewison's 1967 In the Heat of the Night, while blaxploitation flicks appearing on DVD for the first time include such classics as Coffy and Foxy Brown starring Pam Grier. Columbia TriStar has released Tsui Hark's full-length Once Upon a Time in China, in addition to Steve Buscemi's second directorial effort, Animal Factory with Willem Dafoe. And Fox has two on the board today as well, A Walk in the Clouds and Prelude to a Kiss. Here's this morning's notable street discs, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    • Animal Factory
    • Antigone: Rites of Passion
    • Benny and Joon: Special Edition
    • Black Ceasar: Special Edition
    • Black Mama, White Mama
    • Cheaters
    • Coffy: Special Edition
    • Cotton Comes To Harlem
    • Cutaway: Special Edition
    • Cutting Edge
    • Foxy Brown: Special Edition
    • Friday Foster
    • Horror Vision: Special Edition
    • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka
    • In the Heat of the Night: Special Edition
    • Kiss Me, Guido
    • Love Field
    • Man in the Moon
    • Moll Flanders
    • Mystic Pizza
    • Once Upon a Time in China
    • The Organization
    • Prelude to a Kiss
    • Sheba Baby
    • Silent Witness
    • Slaughter
    • Slaughter's Big Rip-Off
    • Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol: Special Edition
    • Survivor: Season #1: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments
    • They Call Me Mister Tibbs
    • Triumph of the Will
    • Truck Turner
    • Untamed Heart
    • A Walk in the Clouds
    • When Harry Met Sally

    Back tomorrow with the reader mail — and a special look at how much effort went into restoring Carl Sagan's Cosmos for DVD.

    — Ed.

    Monday, 8 January 2001

    boxcoverDisc of the Week: A lot of people were blown away by The Matrix in 1999, and in particular the stunning fight sequences, but aficionados of Hong Kong cinema knew the Wachowski Brothers hadn't invented a new genre — they merely imported one. The "wire-fu" of The Matrix — currently a de rigeur element of most American action films (even the frothy Charlie's Angels) — comes from a long tradition of Hong Kong films, themselves a dramatic outgrowth of the Peking Opera. The most famous practitioner of wire-fu today is Yuen Woo Ping, and while he did not contribute to Tsui Hark's 1991 Once Upon a Time in China, his stamp is on the film — after all, the action sequences were choreographed by Yuen family members Yuen Chong-Yan and Yuen Shun-Yi, in addition to Lau Kar-Wing. Combine that with the directorial skills of Tsui Hark — sometimes described as the "Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong" for his pioneering use of special effects in the HK film industry — and it's little wonder why Once Upon a Time in China is generally considered one of the best films to ever come out of Hong Kong.

    Jet Li stars in Once Upon a Time in China as Wong Fei-Hong, a 19th century healer and martial arts teacher, and a famous Chinese folk hero (whose film appearances date back to 1949, although this was Li's first time in the role). With the continuing colonization of Asia by Britain, America, France, and other western countries, Wong is charged by the leader of the Black Flag Army with training the young men in town in the art of kung fu, in order to defend Chinese sovereignty. But it isn't just foreigners who are up to no good — a local Triad is leaning on the townsfolk for protection money, and there's Master "Iron Robe" Yim (Yan Yee Kwan), who wants to open his own martial arts school, but first wants to defeat Wong in order to establish his reputation. Meanwhile, the American-owned Sino-Pacific company is involved in both labor and prostitution rackets with the Chinese underground, giving Wong a trio of troublesome groups to bring under control.

    As is the case with many Asian films, there's a generous amount of silly slapstick humor in Once Upon a Time in China, especially in the early scenes as different characters are introduced, and it must be noted that the "humor" is not very sophisticated, nor does it fare well in translation (but then again, The Three Stooges probably doesn't work well overseas either). However, some of the foreign characters are funny, if in an unintended way, as the American antagonists are uniformly evil, replete with bad dialogue and mustache-twirling bravado. But even with the odd comic bits — and a more complex plot than the majority of HK action films — there's still plenty of set-pieces that show off both Hark's directorial skills and the hand-to-hand mastery of Jet Li, in particular a brawl in a restaurant where Li makes clever use of an umbrella, and another wild fight at a local theater. But the most memorable sequence comes towards the end, as Wong does battle with Master Yim. Set in the local Sino-Pacific shipping warehouse, several ladders reaching high storage lofts are used for various purposes, be it attack or retreat, and the massive set means there's plenty of room for wire-fu — it's a fight sequence that's easily as impressive as anything in The Matrix, both for its cleverness and its length.

    Columbia TriStar's new DVD edition of Once Upon a Time in China features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a source print that has its drawbacks, but may be the best available at this time. There is some flecking and minor collateral damage, although mostly in the early going, and the color has a muted quality, which means the blacks and other dark tones are never fully saturated. Audio is in the original mono (Dolby 2.0) in either Cantonese or Mandarin, and a dubbed track in English is also included (which is pretty much as silly sounding as all English dubs of Asian films). But despite these issues with the source materials, the English subtitle track is good, and the best feature on board makes the disc worth the price of admission — a commentary track with martial arts and Hong Kong film expert Ric Meyers, a casual, witty raconteur who is full of anecdotes about this picture, the movies of Jet Li and Tsui Hark, and the history of Asian films in general. Once Upon a Time in China is on the street tomorrow morning.

    Box Office: Fox's Cast Away continues to dominate the box-office, remaining the number-one film in America for the third straight week, and with $143.5 million to date and possible Oscar recognition in coming weeks, the Tom Hanks vehicle should easily break $200 million. Also still doing boffo at the box is Paramount's What Women Want, with Mel Gibson leading the way to a $137.8 million gross for a film that has held either first or second place on the charts for a solid month. The big movie arriving over the weekend was Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, and while highly praised among the American filmerati, the nearly $15 million opening was only good enough for third place. But it was a strong debut (considering the competition), and Soderbergh's film is likely to gain more viewers as the Oscar buzz grows.

    Still in continuing release, Warner's Miss Congeniality is shaping up to be a respectable hit for Sandra Bullock (critics be dammed) with $66.2 million in the bank, while Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, Sony's Vertical Limit, and Universal's The Family Man have similar cumes. But still hot in limited release is Sony's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which has earned nearly $19 million over the past five weeks while never appearing in more than 200 venues across the country.

    Expect that Tiger and others to give Tom and Mel a run for the money this weekend — going wide on Friday are Crouching Tiger, the Coen Brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou, the Cold War thriller Thirteen Days, and Gus Van Sant's Finding Forrester. Here's the top grossing films in North America from last weekend:

    1. Cast Away (Fox)
      $24,076,600 ($143,558,000 through 3 weeks)
    2. What Women Want (Paramount)
      $15,500,000 ($137,842,000 through 4 weeks)
    3. Traffic (USA Films)
      $14,935,703 ($15,400,000 through 2 weeks)
    4. Miss Congeniality (Warner Bros.)
      $13,810,000 ($66,165,000 through 3 weeks)
    5. The Family Man (Universal)
      $9,200,000 ($56,300,000 through 3 weeks)
    6. The Emperor's New Groove (Buena Vista)
      $7,000,000 ($62,000,000 through 4 weeks)
    7. Vertical Limit (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $5,000,000 ($59,300,000 through 5 weeks)
    8. Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 (Miramax)
      $4,200,000 ($28,000,000 through 3 weeks)
    9. Dude, Where's My Car? (Fox)
      $3,828,000 ($41,381,725 through 4 weeks)
    10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
      $3,748,027 ($18,835,738 through 5 weeks)
    11. All the Pretty Horses (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $2,500,000 ($12,800,000 through 3 weeks)
    12. Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal)
      $2,400,000 ($257,700,000 through 8 weeks)

    On the Board: Our man Mark Bourne has posted an in-depth look at George Pal's 1960 The Time Machine (and a guess on how H.G. Wells would regard the adventure film), while Betsy Bozdech has a look at When Harry Met Sally, and Kerry Fall is on the board with the 1967 In the Heat of the Night. Meanwhile, new quick reviews from the team this week include Courage Under Fire, The Alamo, Once Upon a Time in China, and Animal Factory. It's all under the New DVD Reviews menu on the left-hand side of the page (along with everything from the past month), and hundreds more DVD reviews can be found on our Full Reviews and Quick Reviews pages.

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

    — Ed.

    Thursday, 4 January 2001
    Weekend Dispatch

    Coming Attractions: We're off to spin a new batch of DVDs, including In the Heat of the Night, When Harry Met Sally, and more, so we'll see ya Monday with new reviews, the box-office report, and all the latest. Enjoy the weekend.

    boxcoverCommentary Clips: "The sequence (between the two submarines) was shot in an enormous exterior tank in the island of Malta, the Mediterranean Film Studios. And these were tanks that were specifically built for filming purposes — we don't even know when they were built, we think they might have been built in the '30s by the British film industry. This for me as a filmmaker was really the most daunting aspect of the movie because here I'm making a movie where I'm trying to make everything look real, and I was really stretching the limits of what this tank was capable of doing, primarily because of the scope of what we were attempting. We have two submarines here, both of which are in excess of 200 feet, and they barely fit in this tank, and we're trying to film this sequence at night... and covering this massive set in the rain is a huge problem in and of itself — we actually had to create the largest rainstorm ever in the history of motion pictures... and we were dumping we estimated about 15,000 gallons of water per minute on these actors. And in fact that's so much water you can't just use fresh water, so we were running lines down to the ocean and pumping salt water. So these poor actors are having to act this sequence with salt water coming down in their faces, and it stings the eyes — it's very difficult. Plus the water is 50 degrees. Um, most of these actors are wearing wetsuits. I was afraid after the first night they'd mutiny on me, that they'd signed up for this picture but they had no intention of it ever turning this horrible, and after the first night of filming they all came to me, and they were ecstatic. They loved it. In fact, the more horrible I could make it for them the better, they just got off on being in the elements — I think it was so exciting for them to be in this kind of picture. Which, by the way, aside from Bill Paxton and David Keith, none of these actors had been in a real, true action picture before, so they just enjoyed the novelty of it. Harvey Keitel I was thinking would, um, refuse to be in these scenes any more, but he almost more than anybody loved it. And between takes they'd have water fights, and they just had a great time. And we spent five weeks doing this.... Myself, I was sitting in a nice little tent sipping a cappuccino with a bunch of heaters surrounding me, and talking to them over a bullhorn. But, uh, much to my surprise they didn't come throw me in the water."

    — Director Jonathan Mostow,
    U-571: Collector's Edition

    boxcoverTwohy: "See this little camera bump here? Boom! That little camera bump?"

    Diesel: "Yeah."

    Twohy: "Wish I didn't have it."

    Diesel: "Why?"

    Twohy: "It's because, the story is we only had one take there... Following you down it goes up and down and it bounces, but that's because I never thought it would be in the film. I was shooting it because you wanted that shot, and I'm thinking 'I'll give this fucker one take, it will never be in the film, I do not need it..."

    Diesel: (laughing) "That's true...."

    Twohy: "I was just going to (finish the scene), and that was it — cut! And Vin says 'No! I got more, I got more to give you! I'll go down on the ground, I'll do all this stuff..."

    Diesel: (still laughing) "That's right, that's right...."

    Twohy: "And I gave it to him, but I said 'Shyuh! Never be in the film.' And you know what? I saw it, and you sold it so well, and I said it's gotta be in..."

    Diesel: "Thank you."

    Twohy: "Camera bump and all."

    — Director David Twohy and actor Vin Diesel,
    Pitch Black: Unrated Director's Cut

    Quotable: "I really found the critics were a lot more conservative than I had imagined. It was almost like, 'Lynch him, lynch the guy.' Right-wing. I started to view critics as having sensibilities way narrower than I expected."

    — Gus Van Sant on his critically reviled remake of Alfred
    Hitchcock's Psycho. Van Sant's next film, Finding
    , goes wide this month.

    "The original promise of TV was that it was going to be our Homeric form. I take that at face value. I want to sing the epic verses of my people, not around a campfire but an electronic campfire."

    — Director Ken Burns, whose latest essay of America, the
    18-hour Jazz, is now on DVD.

    "I find those questions offensive. Everything I say gets misconstrued. We are actors fully entrenched in the business. I look at my loving, personal relationship as something separate. I want to protect it."

    — Actor Benjamin Bratt, who refuses any and all interview
    questions about his current squeeze, Julia Roberts.

    "To be asked to write songs for Disney characters meant that, if you did it successfully, those songs would become immortal and last for generations. That really appealed to me."

    — Sting, who composed music for Disney's The Emperor's
    New Groove
    . He also will perform at the Super Bowl.
    And now we are totally convinced this cannot be the
    same guy who fronted The Police.

    "You know what? I could kick the butts of all those guys driving their trucks. Come by me, man, and I'll tear you apart. And you know what? I've only got one good shoulder."

    — Tom Hanks, regarding a new Ford TV ad that mocks the
    popular romantic comedy You've Got Mail.

    "I have two words for Tom: 'Bosom Buddies.' Not exactly the essence of toughness."

    — Lew Echlin, marketing manager for Ford Motors.

    — Ed.

    Wednesday, 3 January 2001

    In the Works: It's time for some new disc announcements, courtesy of Image Entertainment and, and additional staff reports:

    • Two well-received films (and Oscar dark-horses) are in prep at DreamWorks — Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous (March 13), which will be a director's cut with 30 minutes of additional footage, and Rod Lurie's The Contender: Special Edition (Feb. 27), starring Joan Allen and Gary Oldman, which will have a commentary by Lurie and Allen on board (hmmm... wonder why Oldman didn't join them), along with a featurette and deleted scenes.
    • And speaking of actors who were a bit frustrated by final cuts, Universal will street last year's The Watcher (Feb. 20), starring James Spader, Marisa Tomei, and Keanu Reeves in a role he'd probably rather forget. Also in the pipe are the 1999 Wonderland (Feb. 20) from director Michael Winterbottom, and 1997's Tic Code (Feb. 27) with Gregory Hines.
    • Chop-sockey is on the way from Columbia TriStar in the form of The Prisoner: Special Edition, starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Tony Leung, and the chief feature will be a commentary by martial arts expert Phillip Rhee. Also due is this year's Beautiful, directed by Sally Field and starring Minnie Driver, and 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould, an episodic look at the life of the famous classical pianist. All three street on Feb. 20.
    • Sex! Violence! Nudity! Dinner! All that and more can be found in Peter Greenaway's infamous 1989 The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, due from Anchor Bay on Feb. 27 in the NC-17 cut. Agatha Christie adaptations are also in the works at AB — 1978's Death on the Nile, 1980's The Mirror Crack'd, and 1982's Evil Under the Sun, all on Feb. 13 — while additional February titles include Endless Night (Feb. 13), Madman: Special Edition (Feb. 13), and Nightwatch: Special Edition (Feb. 27).
    • There can be only one? Maybe — but not if we're talking about sequels, because Highlander 4: Endgame is in the works at Buena Vista (Feb. 20), and the two-disc set (was this film actually good or something?) will include theatrical and extended cuts, a commentary track probably with director Douglas Arniokoski (sounds like Darren Aronofsky — ain't him though), deleted scenes, a "making-of" short, Easter eggs, DVD-ROM content, and a video game entitled — yes — "There Can Be Only One." (By the way, did you folks know that there can be only one? Did you all get that memo?)
    • Hip-hop and rap titles underway at BVHE include Rhyme and Reason (Feb. 13) with Tupac Shakur, Ice T, Master P, Method Man, Dr. Dre, Lauryn Hill, and Busta Rhymes, and Backstage (Feb. 13), with performances by Method Man, DMX, Jay-Z, and more.
    • It didn't earn $140 million at the box office, but that's no reason for Artisan not to release a Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows DVD (March 13), which will include a commentary by director Joe Berlinger, and also due is a Blair Witch Experience Collector's Set (March 13), which will include the original Blair Witch DVD and the sequel, along with three video games.
    • Street date changes include Babette's Feast (Jan. 23), Disney's The Kid (Jan. 23), Urban Legend: Final Cut (Feb. 6), Whipped: Special Edition (Feb. 6), The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (Feb. 13), Bring It On: Special Edition (Feb. 13), The Original Kings of Comedy (Feb. 27), and The Queens of Comedy (Feb. 27).
    • And finally, don't worry about snapping up Paramount's Wonder Boys DVD this month — the current Golden Globe and Oscar buzz surrounding the film has delayed the DVD, and no new date is available (if you remember when this happened to Warner's L.A. Confidential disc, stamp "EARLY ADOPTER" on your forehead).

    On the Street: We have two weeks of street discs to catch up on, but as often happens right after Christmas, the studios are releasing new titles rather slowly. New from Warner on Dec. 26 was the new Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen and the Wesley Snipes shoot-'em-up The Art of War, while yesterday saw the release of Jazz, Ken Burns' latest documentary miniseries, which will run on PBS this month. Columbia TriStar kept us busy over the past couple of weeks with several notable releases, including Timecode, Hollow Man: Special Edition, Under Suspicion, and Godzilla 2000, and Fox got a series of DTS discs underway with Courage Under Fire and reissues of Predator and The Siege. And two discs are out that we're hoping to review in short order — The Way of the Gun from Artisan, and the 1922 classic Nosferatu from Image. Here's the notable street discs from the past two weeks, courtesy of and Image Entertainment:

    Dec. 26

    • The Art of War
    • Astro Zombies
    • Balzac: A Life of Passion
    • Body Count
    • Bossa Nova: Special Edition
    • Chronos: IMAX
    • Courage Under Fire: Special Edition
    • Crocodile: Special Edition
    • Earthscapes
    • Ecstasy of the Angels
    • The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
    • Fairy Queen: Purcell: English National Opera
    • Go, Go, Second Time Virgin
    • Godzilla 2000
    • Mesa of Lost Women
    • Mother and Son
    • Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon
    • Predator (DTS)
    • Race Against Time
    • Roy Lichtenstein
    • The Siege (DTS)
    • Swan Lake: Tchaikovsky: Natalia Makarova
    • Timecode: Special Edition
    • Verdi: Requiem: Claudio Abbado

    Jan. 2

    • Autumn In New York
    • Circuit #8
    • The Cranberries: Beneath The Skin: Live In Paris
    • Crime and Punishment in Suburbia: Special Edition
    • Hollow Man: Special Edition
    • Jazz (10-DVD Set)
    • Jude
    • Kon-Tiki
    • Nosferatu: Special Edition (1922)
    • Phantom Planet
    • Screaming Skull/ The Giant Leeches: Drive-In Discs #1
    • Silent Witness
    • A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries
    • Teenage Monster
    • Thursday: Special Edition
    • Twitch of the Death Nerve (a.k.a. Bay of Blood)
    • Under Suspicion
    • Vengeance
    • Woman Called Sada Abe
    • The Way of the Gun: Special Edition
    • Yes: Keys to Ascension

    Back tomorrow with more stuff.

    — Ed.

    Tuesday, 2 January 2001

    And the winner is: Niraj Sarda of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., wins the free Perfect Storm DVD and movie poster signed by Wolfgang Petersen from our December contest. Congrats, Niraj!

    Our totally free DVD contest for the month of January is up and running, and we have a copy of Universal's The Birds: Collector's Edition 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: When it comes to the sort of things we'd most like to see on DVD, there's an obvious shortlist of classic films — stuff yet to be released like The Godfather, Citizen Kane, and Lawrence of Arabia, and great movies already on disc, like Casablanca, His Girl Friday, and A Streetcar Named Desire. But as the DVD format has left its infancy, it also has become an ideal repository for television shows — series and miniseries alike. We already have box-sets of the enormously popular The X-Files and The Sopranos, numerous classic shows like The Twilight Zone and The Avengers, and even boxes for Ken Burns miniseries like Baseball and Jazz. So as we now officially journey into the 21st century (yes, yesterday was the start of the new millennium), it's wholly appropriate that the best thing to ever happen on television is now on DVD — Carl Sagan's Cosmos. At 13 hours long, it's mighty big. Covering all aspects of the natural world, from evolution to extraterrestrial life, it has never been equaled. And Sagan was one of the foremost scientific geniuses of the 20th century, a fact often belied by his desire to present the mysteries and joys of scientific exploration to the masses.

    First appearing on PBS over the course of two weeks in 1981, Cosmos was a television event only surpassed by Ken Burns' The Civil War some years later. It has been estimated that Cosmos was seen by 50 million people, and it succeeded by Sagan's storytelling instincts. Cosmos is science in bite-sized servings, with each of its 13 episodes addressing a separate element of natural history or scientific discovery. Beginning with "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue," Sagan explores the laws of natural selection and evolution, while "Harmony of the Worlds" debunks the pseudo-science of astrology and documents the life of pioneering astronomer Johannes Kepler. "Heaven and Hell" takes in comets and meteorites, while "Blues for a Red Planet" is a sober examination of Mars in light of human legends. Further episodes, addressing topics ranging from human genetics and extraterrestrial life to the once-controversial Big Bang, bring the series towards its conclusion, but we are most fond of "Journeys in Space and Time," which deftly explains Albert Einstein's special and general theories of relativity (in one of Sagan's famous metaphors, a boy on a bicycle, riding at light speed, illustrates Einstein's twin paradox). For us, Cosmos has become a magnificent documentary to enjoy again and again, and its immense length is a tonic for anybody who's bedridden for a few days with the winter flu.

    Cosmos was originally released on home video (both VHS and Laserdisc) by Turner in the 1980s, but it went out of print in the '90s, and full sets were hot items on eBay, trading into the hundreds of dollars. But the new seven-disc Cosmos: Collector's Edition, released independently by Cosmos Studios last month, is readily available and a fitting tribute to Sagan's work. All of the original materials (both video and film sources) are in remarkably good shape, and the audio for all episodes has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 (something the producers could not have anticipated in 1980 — when Sagan plays a 20 Hertz signal from a tone generator in a sequence on whales, he notes it's too low for television speakers to transmit, but it comes through loud and clear on the .1 track). The remix is wonderfully handled, with Sagan's original narration locked on the center channel and music and spatial effects spread across the soundstage, and those elements are available in a music and effects track, which eliminates Sagan's narration (although only those who have seen all of Cosmos a few times probably will want to investigate this feature).

    Also included is an introduction by Sagan's wife and co-writer Ann Druyan, and most episodes are followed by brief "updates" by Sagan, filmed in 1990, while additional scientific updates are available on a special subtitle track. It all comes in a folding seven-DVD digipak with external paperboard slip-case, but note that Cosmos: Collector's Edition is only available for sale via,, and

    Box Office: No new films were released over the New Year's weekend as the studios made sure all of their holiday fare was in theaters in time for Christmas, and the end-of-year winner is Fox's Cast Away, as a marooned Tom Hanks raked in $31.2 million from last Friday to Sunday, and took less than 10 days to break the century. Also arriving for Christmas was Warner's Miss Congeniality, produced by and starring Sandra Bullock, which had a $15.5 million weekend, pushing its total to $42.6 million, while Universal's The Family Man with Nicolas Cage has done similar business. But the Thanksgiving-to-Xmas champ was none other than Universal's The Grinch, which saw some post-holiday drop-off but still has a blistering $252.5 million gross and counting, making it one of the top 20 films in Hollywood history when not adjusted for inflation. Disney's The Emperor's New Groove hasn't done blockbuster business, currently shy of $50 million after three weekends, but Sony's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon continues to draw the crowds, earning $3.5 million on just 162 screens nationwide. Meanwhile, Warner's Proof of Life is on its way to DVD prep, as even Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, and tabloid gossip couldn't get it past $30 million before exiting first-run cineplexes.

    USA has moved Steven Soderbergh's Traffic up a week to go wide this Friday, where it will be joined by Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat, arriving from Miramax. Here's the top-grossing films at North American theaters from last weekend (Friday through Sunday):

    1. Cast Away (Fox)
      $31,196,000 ($100,846,725 through 2 weeks)
    2. What Women Want (Paramount)
      $22,600,000 ($111,953,000 through 3 weeks)
    3. Miss Congeniality (Warner Bros.)
      $15,470,000 ($42,665,000 through 2 weeks)
    4. The Family Man (Universal)
      $14,000,000 ($39,800,000 through 2 weeks)
    5. The Emperor's New Groove (Buena Vista)
      $11,800,000 ($47,900,000 through 3 weeks)
    6. Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal)
      $7,800,000 ($252,500,000 through 7 weeks)
    7. Vertical Limit (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $6,000,000 ($49,700,000 through 4 weeks)
    8. Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 (Miramax)
      $5,300,000 ($19,600,000 through 2 weeks)
    9. Dude, Where's My Car? (Fox)
      $4,621,000 ($34,405,000 through 3 weeks)
    10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Pictures Classics)
      $3,565,000 ($12,489,827 through 4 weeks)
    11. All the Pretty Horses (Sony/Columbia TriStar)
      $3,100,000 ($7,300,000 through 2 weeks)
    12. 102 Dalmatians (Buena Vista)
      $3,000,000 ($57,900,000 through 6 weeks)

    On the Board: D.K. Holm whiled away part of his vacation in the screening room, and he's posted new reviews of Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man: Special Edition and Mike Figgis's Timecode, while Damon Houx spun the delayed, improved Princess Mononoke, and J. Jordan Burke is on the board with a look at Cosmos and the life of Carl Sagan. In the meantime, new reviews from the staff this week include The Blob: The Criterion Collection, Fox's reissues of Predator and The Siege, Takeshi Kitano's A Scene at the Sea and Kids Return, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Under Suspicion, The Art of War, and (last but not least) Godzilla 2000. It's all under the New Reviews menu on the left-hand side of the page, while hundreds more reviews can be found on our Full Reviews and Quick Reviews pages.

    Back tomorrow with the rundown on this week's street discs.

    — Ed.

    Return to top of page