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Moriarty's DVD Shelf! THX-1138 At the Arclight! Buena Vista Special Event! Foreign Classics And Prince!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

More and more often these days, this column is my favorite part of working at AICN. It’s not just because of my unbridled affection for the DVD format. I think mainly it’s because writing about DVDs means I get to write about a far wider spectrum of films at any given time. When you’re reviewing new theatrical releases, everything becomes political, especially once you’ve been doing it for as long as I have now. What you cover... what you don’t cover... people will read hidden meaning into everything. With DVD, one column can take me from the earliest days of cinema to brand-new releases, and I can follow my own particular interests and whims. It just feels more pure, and as a result, it remains fun each and every time.

This week, I had my first official interaction with the folks at Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and I’ll write about the big party they threw to woo reporters from all over the country. I’ll look at a baker’s dozen of DVD titles as well as a review of something I got to see theatrically that will be hitting the shelves in the weeks ahead. It’s been an endless month of new releases already, and I’ll be hitting the store today in search of FORBIDDEN ZONE, INVADER ZIM: VOLUME 2, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, ROCKY & BULLWINKLE: THE COMPLETE SEASON TWO, STAR TREK - THE ORIGINAL SERIES: SEASON ONE, VIDEODROME: THE CRITERION COLLECTION, and Phil Kaufman’s THE WHITE DAWN. Since VIDEODROME was the title that got me to buy a DVD player in the first place (“What the fuck?! They letterboxed this!?”), it feels like things have come full circle.

Before we get going, I wanted to print a letter I got from Don May over at Synapse Films. I have had a number of opportunities to meet Don, and he’s a pure film fan. When he releases a title, you’d better believe there are hundreds of hours of research and legwork and blood, sweat, and tears involved. He cares about the films he puts out. He wants to preserve titles that no one else seems willing to go to bat for.

Right now, he’s getting ready to release THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE, better known to most geeks as THEY CALL ME ONE-EYE, one of the films that inspired KILL BILL. Now he’s dealing with a pissed-off and possibly crazy director who... well, let me let Don explain:

On September 28, 2004, Synapse Films, Inc. (Synapse) will proceed with the worldwide release of Thriller–A Cruel Picture (Thriller) aka They Call Her One Eye on DVD. In late 2001, Synapse was approached by Chrome Entertainment, Inc. (Chrome) who paid producer/director Boarne Vibenius $10,000 U.S. Dollars for worldwide distribution rights to Thriller. Chrome told Synapse they could not complete their production work on Thriller and they had total confidence in Donald May, Jr. and Synapse to successfully release a DVD version. Fortunately, the distribution agreement between Boarne Vibenius, Channel 1 and Chrome allowed assignment of the distribution agreement to Synapse upon purchase of all of Chrome’s assets. In early 2002, Synapse purchased all the assets of Chrome and received an assignment of the distribution agreement which remains legally in effect.

For over two years, Synapse has been ruthlessly and relentlessly defamed and harassed by Vibenius. Simply put, Vibenius does not want Synapse to release Thriller. These attacks intensified after the increased publicity for Thriller due to the release of Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) and from fine comments made about Thriller from director Quentin Tarantino in various press articles and interviews. Synapse has, in good faith, responded to numerous letters from Vibenius explaining that Synapse has full legal worldwide rights to release his film. Vibenius refuses our letters and correspondence. Just today, we received a pack of documents we had sent Vibenius via Federal Express that came back to us with a note stating “Return to Sender”. Vibenius also blocks our faxes and refuses our e-mails.

Vibenius’ latest tactic is hiding behind an alias named “Otto van der Leyfen”. He is now emailing false accusations from an anonymous Hotmail email address, to many of our loyal distributors, defaming Donald May, Jr. and Synapse Films. “Otto” (aka Vibenius) is also emailing the editors and webmasters of publicly accessible film and DVD information websites with attacks against Synapse.

Synapse intends to assert all legal means to protect and defend its rights to the film Thriller. Despite all these accusations and threats, Synapse fully intends to pay Vibenius royalties which will be in addition to $10,000 U.S. Dollars he has already received.

Please visit the Synapse Films, Inc. website here for more information on Thriller, and other Synapse releases.

Okay, then. It’s amazing when you’re actually trying to put money in someone’s pocket, and they’re going out of their way to stop you. I’ve got a copy of this disc right next to the TV in the front room right now, and I plan to screen it for friends later this week, so expect a review of it to show up in the next column. For now, let’s get to the business at hand. As always, I’ve got my entire DVD collection set up at DVD Aficionado, a great site that I’ve enjoyed working with. With very few exceptions, I’ve been able to find all my titles in their archives. You can check it out right here if you’re curious, and I’ve made sure to point out what was purchased, what was sent as a screener, and what was a gift, since so many of your e-mails seemed to think that was so urgently important.

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I’ll say this for the Mouse: they sure can throw a party.

Last week, they hosted hundreds of reporters from all over the country at an event at The Highlands, a high-falutin’ nightclub that’s part of the Hollywood and Highland complex, the same place that is the home of the Kodak Theaters (venue for the Oscars) and the Mann’s Chinese Theater. I’ve never been on screening lists for Disney’s films theatrically or on review lists for the home video department, so I was frankly surprised to be invited to attend this event. At the check-in, I saw page after page of custom-printed nametags with people’s names and outlets written in Disney cursive. And, of course, mine wasn’t there. I almost took that as a sign, but they let me in without me having to twist anyone’s arm.

On the way in, I saw posters for ALADDIN, ALIAS and CLERKS. Just inside the door, they had animation legend Eric Goldberg seated at a table, drawing the Genie for people. They also had an open bar and three separate buffet lines. One was Mediterranean, one was Asian, and one was Jersey-style. The most ridiculous part of the set-up was two opaque screens in front of windows. Behind them, dancers dressed up like Jay and Silent Bob threw down their best Solid Gold moves while everyone sat and ate. At least, I hope they were dancers. I knew Mewes hadn’t been working lately and Kevin will do anything to sell his movies, but... seriously...

I had great conversations as I walked around checking out the monitors where the various titles were playing. I met reporters from all over the country, all of them AICN readers, all of them friendly. Most just wanted to grill me for more details about the JURASSIC PARK 4 script. Eventually, we all made our way into the main room where the stage and the video screens were set up.

Two Chinese dancing lions, like you’d see on New Year’s Day, marched through the audience and kicked things off as we saw a trailer for the DVD release of MULAN. Disney execs Gordon Ho and Andy Siditsky came out to start the evening, presenting the trailer and discussing how well the film did with critics and audiences. They also brought out Ming Na, who voiced Mulan. I worked with her onstage ten years ago, and she was really young at the time. Then again, so was I. Seeing her now, on the other side of her work on ER, I was impressed by the mature woman she’s become. She introduced the trailer for MULAN 2, another of Disney’s ubiquitous direct-to-video sequels. Whoever stepped in to do the voice of Mushu in place of Eddie Murphy sounds spot on.

The belly dancers that worked their way through the room to kick off the ALADDIN presentation were certainly more fun to look at than the Chinese lions. All the pomp and circumstance about the release of this title on DVD seems justified to me. For one thing, it’s been ten years or so that this one’s been on moratorium. It was amazing to watch the initial theatrical runs of BEAUTY & THE BEAST and ALADDIN at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. Remember... Disney was coming out of a long dry spell. THE LITTLE MERMAID had started the turnaround for them, and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT seemed to confirm the general audience’s hunger for animation. With those first two films of the ‘90’s, Disney turned their movies into giant events. The atmosphere in those sold-out theaters was more like going to a concert or the opening of a Broadway play. It was electric, exciting. I still think ALADDIN is one of the crown jewels of the company, and it looks like they’ve put together one hell of a package to celebrate the first DVD release.

For one thing, they’ve done a giant restoration, cleaning up the sound and picture to such a degree that it actually looks and sounds better now than it did theatrically. For one thing, there’s no film involved in this new transfer. It’s a pure digital presentation. Terry Porter, who was the original sound mixer for the film, was brought back in to do a new Enhanced Home Theater mix, the same way they did with THE LION KING. They had a tent set up at the event you could walk into for a demo of the sound, and it was duly impressive. This’ll give any sound system a serious test drive.

Also impressive was Alan Menken’s live performance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him sing his own material before, and it was great. He just sat at the piano and played a medley of ALADDIN songs. Afterwards, he talked about the development of the film. Because of the way the story kept shifting, they ended up writing enough material for three films. One song in particular, one of the very first casualties in the process, has had a life of its own, turning into an enormously popular audition piece. Now, finally, Disney let Menken supervise a brand-new orchestral recording of the song, and if nothing else, I’m confident my wife will play it enough times to wear the data right off the DVD since they got Clay Aiken to record it. They played us the video for the song “Proud Of Your Boy,” and it’s unmistakably an Ashman/Menken tune. The overall behind-the-scenes video is enormous and comprehensive-looking, and I can’t wait to dig into it when the disc comes out. One bit they showed us is something I’ve heard about for a long time now, and actually laying eyes on it was a pleasant surprise. When they were courting Robin Williams to voice The Genie, Eric Goldberg actually took a track from Robin’s album REALITY... WHAT A CONCEPT and animated it. Even in pencil-test, it was obvious that Goldberg knew exactly what he was doing with the character.

The ALIAS presentation began with two hot spy chicks doing cartwheels down the main aisle of the room, throwing kicks and punches at each other the whole time. Sort of cuts right to the heart of the show’s appeal, doesn’t it? Writer/director/producer JJ Abrams came out to talk about the Season Three box set, and he was incredibly engaging in doing so. People still bring up my now-infamous script review of his SUPERMAN draft and figure I must have it in for the guy. Not true. Far from it, in fact. I’ve fallen head-over-heels for ALIAS while watching it on DVD, and I’m looking forward to LOST this fall. Hell, I’m excited to see what he’s going to do with M:I3. Besides... I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been humbled by my own experiences in the last year. I spent a good chunk of last fall working on a large-scale SF film at Revolution, only to watch Spielberg and Cruise effectively hamstring the project with their announcement of WAR OF THE WORLDS. Turnaround is good for the soul, I figure. Besides, I’d have to be crazy to expect that I’d be a threat to the plans of guys like Cruise and Spielberg. I could learn a lot from Abrams, who was totally self-deprecating and hilarious as he talked about Season Three of ALIAS, a season that seems to have hotly divided fans. He sounds like he’s his own harshest critic, and he had the audience laughing by the time he introduced a clip from the new ALIAS animated adventure that’s included in the box set, and which serves to explain some of what happened to Sydney during the two years she lost. He also talked about how the ALIAS DVDs helped him get the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE job. He gave the DVDs to Tom Cruise, who was not familiar with the series, and Cruise ended up watching every episode straight through. I know the feeling. That’s the same way I fell in love with the program, and it’s one of the reasons I think ALIAS is a show that stands as a perfect example of how well TV can work in this format.

The evening’s last speaker was Silent Bob himself, writer/director Kevin Smith. He’s got two titles hitting the shelves on September 7th, but he seemed primarily interested in discussing CLERKS X, the 10th anniversary edition of the film that first put him on the map. Hard to believe it’s been that long. Smith seems totally unaffected, the same funny guy he’s always been. “As a New Jersey native, allow me to say that I... am a Gay American,” he began. “It’s just something in the water out there.” He pushed self-deprecating to a whole new level with his hilarious presentation. “I thought I’d come tonight to represent Miramax while they still exist.” He explained that his films traditionally do far better on home video than they do in the theater. “Basically, I’m just a glorified direct-to-video director. I’m essentially Shannon Tweed.” I think one of Kevin’s great charms is his absolute bluntness. At one point, he plainly exhorted the audience to “Please pimp my shit.” I’m looking forward to digging into the CLERKS set. The clips they showed us from “The Snowball Effect,” the documentary that traces Smith from childhood to the release of CLERKS, were great, funny and honest and in-depth.

The evening wrapped up with a Q&A where Smith, Abrams, and Ming Na all took the stage together. I can’t say I really learned much, but it was very entertaining. One reporter scolded Smith for his foul language. Another one pointed out that both Smith and Abrams had written failed SUPERMAN drafts. “Well, to be fair, I failed years ago,” Kevin replied, “while JJ just failed recently. Tell me, JJ... what went wrong?”

Abrams smiled and shot back, “I just followed your advice, Kevin.” Smith went on to talk about how disastrous the entire process so far has been, laying much of the blame off on the directors involved. “One guy’s afraid to get on a plane, the other guy wants to turn him into a sensitive Superman with scissorhands.”

Another reporter asked if we’d see Jay and Silent Bob onscreen again. Keep in mind... this was before the CLERKS 2 announcement. Smith talked about the reception to JERSEY GIRL and how he didn’t want to have the pressure of something huge budget like THE GREEN HORNET hanging over him. He mentioned that film has to be shooting by April ’05, so he’s going to have to finish the script soon. Harvey Weinstein won’t let him officially refuse the director’s chair until he finishes writing, though, just in case he falls in love with the script. “I’ve pretty much figured out what I’m good at,” Kevin said, “so you should expect to see JAY AND SILENT BOB TRY TO PAY THE MORTGAGE soon.” Sounded like a joke then, but now that CLERKS 2 is coming, one can’t help but wonder how Kevin’s feeling about it.

As we left at the end of the evening, Disney gave us all overstuffed swag bags filled with things like a magic carpet mouse pad from ALADDIN, framed lithos from ALADDIN and MULAN, an oversized CLERKS jersey, a JERSEY GIRL bath towel, and more. In addition, they gave us the new DTV animated feature THE THREE MUSKATEERS and Smith’s JERSEY GIRL. THE THREE MUSKATEERS turned out to be better than I expected. When the animators started writing to us about how proud they were of the film and how they wish Disney was releasing it theatrically, I took it to be an indication that they liked the work they’d done, but I still was skeptical about the film. If you’ve got kids, though, this is a great compliment to the old Disney shorts which I hope you’re buying as they’re released in the tin box collections. There’s a lot of respect paid to the tone and the sensibilities of those original cartoons, and the overall effect is pretty charming. The extras on the disc are appropriately geared toward children, and for an original direct-to-video film, there seems to be a lot of care taken with how this was presented.

Now that I’ve finally seen JERSEY GIRL, I think people were unduly cruel to it during its brief theatrical run. Considering this is not the special edition version, there are a lot of extras jam-packed onto the disc, including two commentary tracks, an interview with Smith and Affleck, and all of the Roadside Attractions shorts from THE TONIGHT SHOW. The movie itself is a confection, a sweet-natured film about a guy who falls in love with fatherhood. Affleck’s more relaxed here than he has been in his last five big-budget action films, and it’s easy to forget that he can be really funny when he’s working with Smith. Liv Tyler is gorgeous, a complete figment of Smith’s imagination as a college student with a dirty mind and the face and body of an angel. George Carlin is surprisingly effective as Affleck’s father. I never really think of Carlin as an actor, but he does nice work here and brings a nice caustic edge to all the sweetness. Overall, it’s not a terribly important film except in the sense that it may turn out to be a signpost of the moment Smith retreated into his View Askewniverse for good, and that would be a shame. For the first time, his work with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond pays off with a film that’s actually enjoyable to watch, not just to listen to, and there are some inspired comic touches like having the whole family perform a scene from the way-too-adult SWEENEY TODD at the school pageant. I enjoyed the film, and the commentary tracks are hilarious and profane and, in some ways, even more enjoyable than the movie, particularly the one with Smith, Scott Mosier, and Jason Mewes. Watching the interview where Affleck and Smith bust each other’s balls mercilessly is also pretty damn funny. If you skipped JERSEY GIRL because of all the near-deafening Bennifer hype this spring, catch up with it on DVD. You may enjoy it more than you expect.

Overall, it was a duly impressive evening that served to remind me of the one truth in this business: no one outmarkets the Mouse.


A few weeks ago, I ran a review by cult filmmaker Scooter McCrae for the new digitally-revamped release of THX-1138, George Lucas’s first film. I understand why someone might react so passionately against any alterations Lucas makes to his film at this point. I’m actively dreading the STAR WARS DVDs next month, despite hearing that the clean-up on the prints is breathtaking. When I was invited to see THX-1138 at the Arclight in Hollywood, I invited my writing partner Obi-Swan to come along. I figured it would be interesting to have the single most shameless Lucas apologist I know along so we could dicuss the film afterwards, especially if I ended up hating it.

Funny thing happened, though. Lucas got it right. Really, really right.

I may be going against every single complaint I normally have with these special editions, but I think this is a case of a film that actually benefits from the treatment. All told, there are maybe 50 or 60 new shots or CGI-enhanced moments, and they do a nice job of filling out the edges of the dystopian future that Lucas created. In addition, the restoration they did on the original film elements is amazing. The prints is flawless now, pristine and perfect, and seeing it projected digitally was impressive. Walter Murch’s remarkable sound montage work remains just as innovative as it must have seemed in 1971 when the film was first released. Another thing that hasn’t become dated in the last 33 years is the film’s message. If anything, it feels more relevant now. This is a serious sci-fi film, one of the greats, and it represents a personal milestone for Lucas as a filmmaker. STAR WARS is a fantasy story, through and through, and it’s much more accessible than this. THX-1138 is the real deal, a powerful allegory about alienation and loneliness and the numbing influences of technology. Once the actual DVD shows up here at the Labs, I’ll review the entire package. For now, I’ll just say that this is an experience well worth having on the bigscreen. I still wish the original version of the film were also going to be available, but this may be the first edition I can genuinely “special.”


Both of these films confound me. You know what’s really frustrating? When you root for someone to make a good movie, and it just doesn’t happen. I really like D.J. Caruso’s theatrical debut, THE SALTON SEA, and I think he’s a stylish filmmaker. In this case, he was saddled with a script by Jon Bokencamp (based on a novel by Michael Dye) that only works in fits and starts. There are elements of the movie that I enjoyed, including the notion of a killer who slips into the personalities of his victims, like a more aggressive Tom Ripley, and it certainly looks great. The film starts well as we see the killer’s first lethal moment, but as soon as we leap forward into the present day to meet Angelina Jolie as FBI Profiler Illeana Scott, aka Clarice Starling Variation #4723, the film starts stacking on the narrative improbabilities. Ultimately, it feels like a waste of a really good cast. Gena Rowlands, Ethan Hawke, and Kiefer Sutherland do what they can with their roles, and Jean-Hughes Anglade and Tchecky Karyo are two of my favorite French actors, but neither of them is given anything to play. Anyone familiar with thrillers is going to stay several steps ahead of this one, at least until it reaches the bizarre final fifteen minutes, where it suddenly turns into a DEATH WISH-style revenge picture that has nothing to do with justice.

I’ll say this for Warner Bros, though... they did a great job putting this disc together, and if there’s any company that seems to be gaining ground consistently in terms of treating the consumer right, it would be them. They used to be one of the most annoying overall home video departments, with those miserable paper covers and the flip-side discs, but these days, they seem determined to add value to even a lackluster title like this one. Four documentary features and a gag reel (surreal considering the dour tone of the film) seem more than generous, and both sound and picture reproduction are excellent. If nothing else, TAKING LIVES is an example of how gifted craftsmen like Caruso, his composer Philip Glass, his photographer Amir Mokri, and editor Anne V. Coates can all offer up their considerable skills, but without a great script, the film just doesn’t work.

Color me puzzled regarding Robert De Niro’s involvement in GODSEND. Does someone have compromising photos of him that they’re threatening to release to the press, or does he just not give a shit anymore? I can understand some of his recent comedy choices like ANALYZE THIS and THAT as him just wanting to have some fun, but there’s nothing fun about this empty exercise in suspense. Then again, there’s nothing suspenseful about it, either.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the film’s premise. Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) and Paul (Greg Kinnear) are proud parents with a beautiful, bright kid named Adam (Cameron Bright). Everything in their life seems charmed right up to the moment Adam is killed, just after his eighth birthday. They are devastated, with Jessie taking it particularly hard. While they’re still mourning and vulnerable, Dr. Crazy PlayGod (De Niro) shows up to hatch a nefarious scheme. He wants to clone Adam and have Jessie carry him to term again. They’ll get the exact same child back. Sounds great, right? Except they’re in a horror film (allegedly), so you know there’s going to be more to it than that. The first eight years of the new Adam’s life go perfectly, but when he reaches the age he was when he died, things change. Once the reason for that is revealed, you’ll realize that it makes no sense for it to be tied in to his age, but very little about the film makes sense, so maybe no one noticed.

I wish I could pick out some element of this film that works, something I could praise, but this thing’s a misfire from start to finish. I can’t think of a single scene in the film that connects, or an emotional beat that rings true. Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos have no chemistry, De Niro’s too boring to be fun as a loony, and Cameron Bright’s given nothing to do beyond opening his eyes real wide to look scared. I’m curious to see if he’s any better when we see him later this fall in Jonathan Glazer’s similarly themed film BIRTH.

If you want a clear indication of just how uninspired the film is, watch the four alternate endings on the disc. They’re all equally toothless, and the fact that they shot this five different ways without ever once resolving anything suggest that they were never really sure what story they were telling. Screenwriter Mark Bomback and director Nick Hamm didn’t make a terrible film... just an indifferent one. In some ways, that can be even harder to sit through.


This month marks the 50th anniversary of the original release of Satyajit Ray’s timeless masterpiece PATHER PANCHALI, and seeing it now, preserved so impressively on the Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment release of the film, I’m struck by the way the film still speaks directly to us, no matter what our background or our experience is. The reason international cinema is such an important part of my film diet is because it reminds me of how connected we all are, how some things are simply part of the universal human experience. The best of these films feel like windows into lives we can imagine as our own if we’d been dealt a slightly different hand at birth. PATHER PANCHALI was a landmark when it was released because it introduced Indian film to an international audience, but its enduring qualities have nothing to do with that. Instead, it is the remarkable poetic heart of Satyajit Ray that makes this film as compelling now as it was 50 years ago.

This is one of those depressingly brilliant first films, like CITIZEN KANE, that sets the bar impossibly high for everyone else. Ray wasn’t the only one who was new to film, either. Most of his crew was learning as they went, and you can actually see the learning curve over the course of the movie. The second half is muscular, accomplished, drunk on the language of film, but the first half has its own hypnotic draw. If you’ve never seen the film, it’s the story of Apu, played in this film by Subir Bannerjee. The character also appeared in two more films by Ray (APARAJITO and THE WORLD OF APU), but in this movie, he’s just a child. This is essentially a point-of-view piece about a boy growing up in rural India. His father Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee) is a poet who has trouble finding other work, but whose optimism never fails. On those occasions when he does find work, he gets taken advantage of, strung along, his pay endlessly stalled while his family struggles not to starve.

Most of the burden falls on his wife Sarbojaya (Karuna Bannerjee), who deals with the day-to-day frustrations of the family. Her greatest source of difficulty is the family’s ancient Auntie, played unforgettably by Chunibala Devi, who she sees as a drain on the family. She teaches bad habits to Durpa (Uma Das Gupta), Apu’s older sister, including stealing mangoes from a neighbor’s grove. This brings shame on the family and ignites Sarbajaya’s fury, and she throws Auntie out. There’s a remarkable stooped dignity to the work that Devi does. She’s pathetic, bowed by age, and she does her best to put a humble face on every action, barely keeping her own anger in check. Apu takes all of this in, a child still trying to figure out how the world works, torn between all of these role models, and the work that Ray gets out of this young actor is exceptional, among the best child performances in any film.

Subrata Mitra photographed the film for Ray, and he was a still photographer before this. Evidently, Ray had to talk him into working in 16mm. The results are luminous, an ode to the natural beauty that is part of even the poorest sections of India. There’s a scene during a rainstorm involving one character’s struggle with illness that is primal, nightmarish, one of the purest expressions of fear I’ve ever seen in a film. Special mention must also be made of the film’s score, written and performed by the great Ravi Shankar. I’ve been lucky enough to see Shankar perform live, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. Here, the music grounds what we’re watching, wraps it up in Indian tradition, and adds emotional heft all at once. It’s not typical film music, but then again, this is hardly a typical film. You owe it to yourself to own this film and revisit it often, and this disc, part of the Merchant-Ivory Restoration Project, is as beautiful a presentation as even the most demanding film fan could ever want.

Family is also important in two other foreign-language gems I recently watched. Wolfgang Becker’s GOOD BYE LENIN! not only serves as a touching story about one son’s desire to do anything in order to please his mother, but also as a fascinating glimpse of what life was like in East Germany at the moment the Berlin Wall came down. When Alex (Daniel Bruhl) was very young, his father took a trip to West Germany, never coming back. His mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) fell apart for a few months at the time, then rededicated her life to the Socialist East German state. Alex grows up admiring his mother but deeply curious about this absent father. When 1989 rolls around, Alex is starting to wake up politically, and he attends a mass demonstration. While he’s there, he meets a Russian nursing student named Lara (Chulpan Khamatora). He’s also spooted by his mother, who promptly has a heart attack, slipping into a coma for eight months and sending Alex into a spiral of guilt. During that time, the Wall comes down and everything changes. When Christiane wakes up with no memory of what happened to her, Alex is told that any shock could cause a relapse. He decides to shelter her from the world she wouldn’t recognize. He and his sister Ariane (Maria Simon) have to strip their apartment of the Western conveniences they’ve already become accustomed to, and they manage to make the apartment look exactly the way she remembered. That’s just the first part of the lie, though, and the more Alex enlists other people to help him keep the illusion alive, the more they all realize how much things have changed and how far they’ve come from the dream of what their country could have been.

GOOD BYE LENIN! balances humor, heart, and social commentary in equal measure, and it’s an impressive juggling act. The performances are uniformly good, and Becker’s done a wonderful job of recreating a particular time and place. This DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment gives a glimpse at what went into that. There’s one featurette about visual effects, another about the physical production of the film, and two separate commentary tracks. When Alex’s mother begins asking for a TV to watch while she’s recovering, he panics. A friend of his comes up with the idea of creating a fake news broadcast they can show her, and one of the best extras on the disc is the uncut “Aktuelle Kamera” broadcasts. You can’t help but be struck by how idealized these newscasts are, how they are marked by longing for a world that never quite existed, the dream of what could have been. This one’s well worth picking up, and I’m sorry I missed it in the theaters.

I feel the same way about Denys Arcand’s profound and profane THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS. This time, it’s a father-son relationship that serves as the engine of the piece, but it’s also got bigger topics on its mind. Remy (played by Remy Girard) is an old scoundrel, a professor with a nihilistic world view who has systematically driven away everyone who ever loved him. He’s a life-long womanizer who finds himself alone as an old man. Now, diagnosed with cancer, he’s been hospitalized and his ex-wife calls his son Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau) to come home to reconcile with Remy before he dies. That sums up the story, but it just barely describes the experience. It’s a beautiful movie that isn’t afraid of darkness, and there are some wonderful digressions over the course of the film. Sebastien’s done quite well for himself financially, so he spares no expense in trying to make Remy’s last days memorable and full. He tracks down Remy’s best friends and brings them all back together, but the film never becomes a cute or cloying BIG CHILL knockoff. Instead, Arcand pushes the film into unexpected corners of the lives of these people, and he does a great job of showing you both the pain and the pleasure of Remy’s final days. Much of this cast appeared as these same characters in Arcand’s earlier THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, but this is hardly a typical sequel. You can step in and see this without any knowledge of the earlier film and simply appreciate the way they all feel like they’ve got real, shared history, making the film’s conclusion even more powerful. One of the most haunting details in the film is the way Remy traces his life through his erotic obsessions, starting with Ines Orsini in 1949’s CIELO SULLA PALUDE. It’s an incredible scene, punctuated perfectly by the use of vintage film clips. It speaks to the way memor and fantasy commingle, and it’s deft filmmaking by Arcand.

There’s a behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD, but I haven’t bothered to watch it yet. I have, however, played the movie twice, and I’m sure I’ll see it again. It’s worth showing to people, sharing with friends, and if you open yourself to the experience, you’ll be rewarded with a rich, emotional meditation on the ties that bind.


When am I going to learn? When The Dude tells me there is a film I should see, then damn it... that is a film I should see. No questions asked.

Jeff Dowd, a longtime friend of AICN’s, is a producer’s representative, and he picks and chooses his films carefully. As we’ve noted on this site before, Jeff was the real-life inspiration for The Dude in THE BIG LEBOWSKI, and there’s something blissfully random about the way he pops up and brings you some new and fascinating movie he wants you to see. Timing isn’t always on my side, though, and sometimes I don’t get to see the films he calls about.

When he first mentioned the film TOM DOWD & THE LANGUAGE OF MUSIC to me, I’ll confess my ignorance. I had no idea who Tom Dowd was. If I had, maybe I would have made a better effort to get to one of the screenings. Instead, I just caught up with the film on the PalmDVD release, and I thought it was inspirational. Dowd (no relation to the Dude) was a legendary music producer and recording engineer who not only worked with some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century on some of the most important recordings in music history, but who also revolutionized the way music was recorded by the entire industry. The film by Mark Moormann traces Dowd’s entire life, and it’s like watching a real-life FORREST GUMP. Of course, Dowd is every bit the genius that Gump was a moron, so his intersections with history are kind of staggering. As a young physics student, he became part of the Manhattan Project, and he speaks quite frankly about the moral responsibility of that. When he left the military and science behind to become a recording engineer, you get the sense that it was good for his soul, a form of professional salvation. When you see all the people he worked with and all the classic tracks he helped bring to life, you realize that he may have done a lot of good for other people’s souls, too. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, the Allman Brothers Band, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Booker T & The MG’s are just some of the artists he worked with, crafting one amazing song after another.

There are two songs in particular that the film highlights that I consider essential, part of the fabric of my life. Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” is an explosive slice of R&B that I’ve never gotten tired of, and the film shows a live performance of it that blew my mind. I ended up playing it back three times in a row because of the way Otis kept turning up the intensity, affecting me on a chemical level. The emotional highlight of the film, though, involves the Derek & The Dominoes masterpiece “Layla.” Dowd sits at a mixing deck with all the original elements of the song running at once. He starts out explaining how he went about highlighting this part of the song or that, but as he talks, he gets lost in the memory. It’s like he conjures up Eric Clapton and Duane Allman right there in the studio with him, and it’s like he’s listening to those remarkable performances for the very first time. It’s a stirring example of the intoxication that comes from the act of artistic creation, and I was deeply moved by it.

The disc is worth buying even if you’ve already seen the movie thanks to well over an hour’s worth of extended interviews and deleted scenes, all of it just as interesting as the stuff that made the film. It looks and sounds great, so when you play it, play it loud and celebrate the legacy of this remarkable spirit.


And speaking of DVDs that should be played very, very loud...

I was fourteen years old in 1984. Michael Jackson and THRILLER were the absolute biggest thing on the charts, but as far as my friends and I were concerned, it was all about Prince and PURPLE RAIN that summer. Rock’n’roll shouldn’t be safe, and when you see grandmothers doing the moonwalk, it was obvious that Michael Jackson was as safe as it got. There was no “Darling Nikki” on THRILLER. Tipper Gore wasn’t calling for Congressional hearings about “Billie Jean.” Prince was dangerous. Prince was forbidden. And no matter how big Jackson’s videos were, he didn’t have a movie playing in theaters.

Warner Bros. releasing all three of Prince’s narrative features at once was like a wave of nostalgia I couldn’t wait to ride. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since PURPLE RAIN was in theaters. The 2-disc set is enormous fun, and it’s the best print I’ve ever seen of the film. It still looks like it was shot for about $11, but they’ve done everything they can to clean it up. There’s a commentary on the film by director Albert Magnoli, producer Robert Cavallo, and cinematographer Donald Thorin, but the majority of the extras are on the second disc. There are three documentaries, including one about First Avenue, the club that inspired the movie. I loved watching the MTV Premiere Party with guests like Lionel Ritchie, a bible-thumping Little Richard, Sheila E., Weird Al, and a half-naked Eddie Murphy. That’s the MTV of my childhood, and it’s great to see that they also included all eight of the videos that were released from the film by Prince, The Time, and Apollonia. I own “Sex Shooter” on DVD, fer pissakes! How cool is that? It’s kind of amazing to look at what used to be the cutting edge and realizing just how low-budget it all was.

The film is still definitely one of the best rock movies ever, walking the fine line between camp and cool. Prince is at his doe-eyed freakazoid best as The Kid, and Morris Day proves to be a perfect foil for him. The interplay between Day and his sidekick Jerome is still loads of fun. Apollonia is plush and lovely eye candy, but a bit of a zero onscreen. The plot of the film is slight, but doesn’t matter remotely. It’s all just an excuse for the music, and time hasn’t diminished that one little bit. From the opening blast of “LET’S GO CRAZY” to the final epiphany of “Purple Rain,” the film delivers the goods, and the DVD is a thing of beauty when cranked up loud enough to make the neighbors cry.

UNDER THE CHERRY MOON is a bit more of a mixed bag, although I think it’s far from the disaster that most people paint it as. There’s a lot to like about Prince’s directorial debut, but I’m still not sure how much of the film he actually directed. Mary Lambert was the film’s original director, and left at some point during the production. This is the film where I wish they had a commentary track to help answer some of the questions I have, but I wonder how forthcoming Prince would be on the subject. One thing’s for sure: it’s a more visually striking film than PURPLE RAIN, thanks to collaborators like production designer Richard Sylbert and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. It’s also a little more of a stretch for him as an actor. He plays Christopher Tracy, a gigolo/piano player working the south of France with his best friend and partner Tricky. The nice thing about this is that Jerome Benton, who plays Tricky, gets plenty of screen time here without having to play second fiddle to Morris Day. Tracy makes the cardinal mistake of falling in love with one of his targets, a spoiled young heiress played by Kristen Scott Thomas in one of her earliest film roles.

The film works best as a comedy with music, and when it tries to get serious in its second half, it just doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. It either needs to get a lot uglier than it does, or it needs to stay light and fun. The schizophrenic tone of the film is what ultimately undoes it. Thankfully, the soundtrack is still pretty damn great. One of the best Prince songs ever, “Kiss,” sums up what works about the film... playful and sexy and adventurous. There are four music videos included on the DVD, and it looks and sounds wonderful.

And then there’s GRAFFITI BRIDGE. Ugh.

It’s little wonder this was the last feature film that Prince has directed so far, and this time he wasn’t working from a screenplay by someone else. All the blame for this mess falls squarely on his shoulders. It’s an awful film, nearly incomprehensible, and it’s hard to believe this is the official sequel to PURPLE RAIN. What a difference those six years made. This was about the time I lost interest in the music Prince was putting out. He was still technically proficient as a musician, and he could still build a groove, but he became more consumed by the spiritual than the carnal, and it just wasn’t any fun. As a result, this movie is a bizarre mix of angels and band battles and muddled messages about... well... I’m not actually sure what the message of the film is. For a little while, I thought he was trying to say something about artistic integrity in the face of commercial pressures or being true to your muse or maybe just making Morris Day look bad. I don’t even like the songs from this one, but if you’re a New Power Generation fan, there are four music videos on the disc. As with the other two films, this is probably the best possible presentation of sound and picture for this particular film.

Hats off to Warner Bros. for making all three of these available at once. It was one heck of an afternoon, and I’m sure I’ll revisit PURPLE RAIN many times 2 cum.


Since I started this week’s column with a look at George Lucas’s first film, it feels somehow appropriate to close it out by discussing to of the earliest efforts by Steven Spielberg. This is another one-two punch where a studio gives us several related titles at once. In this case, credit Universal for finally getting these onto shelves. I’ve got a real fondness for this era of Spielberg’s career. There was such a palpable hunger to the way he handled both of these scripts, a sort of hypereagerness to the filmmaking. DUEL was shot in 12 days, and it feels like it. There’s not an ounce of fat on the film. Spielberg’s Hitchcock fetish has never been more pronounced, and it’s never paid off any better. Richard Matheson’s teleplay is a perfect example of economy, smart and lean, and any suspense writer can learn from his example.

David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is driving through the desert. He finds himself playing a bit of cat-and-mouse with a tractor trailer truck that escalates into a deadly race for his life. It’s just that simple. There’s no trick, no padding, no pointless subplots. All that Spielberg has to rely on is his own remarkable sense of visual invention and the efforts of his creative collaborators. These days, of course, everyone brings their A-game when they work with Spielberg, but this was a TV movie where he was still cutting his teeth. He had to show producer George Eckstein an unfinished COLUMBO episode just to get a meeting about the film. Whatever energy Spielberg brought to the movie must have been infectious, though, because his editors and his composer and his star all kicked in with extraordinary efforts. Universal’s included some great extras on the disc, the best of which is a 35 minute conversation with Spielberg by Laurent Bouzereau. He speaks frankly about how he got the film, how he shot it, and what it meant to him. In another featurette about his television work in general, Spielberg is enormously likeable, and any young filmmaker could learn some important lessons about humility from listening to what he has to say. Even better, there’s a featurette devoted to the great Richard Matheson, who talks about the origins of the short story and the eventual teleplay. It’s great being able to listen to him talk about his process. The greatest notion of the film – never seeing the truck driver’s face – turns out to have been Matheson’s invention, and this featurette emphasizes just how important he was to the picture, which speaks well of Spielberg’s motives even after all this time.

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS is devoid of special features, but they’ve done a magnificent job of transferring it to DVD. Goldie Hawn plays Lou-Jean Poplin in this “based on a true story” tale of a woman who is in danger of losing her child into the foster care system while her husband Clovis (William Atherton) is in jail. She breaks him out and they end up in a cross-country chase to try and reach their little girl before it’s too late, both of them doing rich, moving character work. Again... this isn’t a plot-heavy film. What makes the movie such a pleasure is the detail, the authentic sense of time and place, and the careful attention that screenwriters Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins paid to their characters. Spielberg used to be in love with faces, the anonymous people who filled out the edges of every frame, and never more so than here. Ultimately, my love of this film boils down to one moment in which Atherton and Hawn are parked so they can see a drive-in screen. They’re talking about the likelihood that they may not get their daughter back, and it’s almost too much for Hawn to take. She turns her attention to the screen, but they can’t hear it, so Atherton ends up supplying his own soundtrack to a Road Runner cartoon. It’s a tender, funny, beautiful moment, and it serves as a clear indicator that this filmmaker, even in his first feature film, had something special going on.

Taken together, these two discs are like an early promise that Spielberg more than lived up to in the decades since, and any fan must have these as part of their collection.

That’s it for this time. I’ve still got a ton of other stuff to review and a rare lull in my other work, so as soon as I turn in my FANTASTIC FOUR and MARIE ANTOINETTE script reviews and write early reviews of a few of this fall’s big prestige titles, I’ll be back with another DVD column packed even more full than this one. Look for coverage of OUT OF THE PAST, CLERKS X and ALIAS SEASON THREE, the final FUTURAMA box set and the first BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES collection, FREAKS, THE BAD SEED, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE DREAMERS, box sets of Hitchcock and Scorsese films, Blue Underground’s amazing Alan Clarke box set, and much, much more.

Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 31, 2004, 9:07 p.m. CST

    No Region 2 : Shaun of the Dead Mention?

    by NZGUY

    Come on Mort, you're slipping if you don't mention this dvd.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 9:48 p.m. CST

    In 15 months, HD-DVD will appear

    by Hercules

    and you will have to replace ALL your horrible DVDs. I'm not kidding. I have HDTV. It makes DVD look like dogshit. The smelly kind. Stop sqandering your money for 15 months.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 9:54 p.m. CST

    Under The Cherry Moon

    by morningstar321

    Yuck. Under The Cherry Moon was nice to look at and was Prince when he was still a decent pop artist, but I can never watch the movie again because watching that man kiss was the most distubing thing I've ever seen (and I've seen Audition). Is'nt he supposed to be a big sex symbol (or at least a squiggly one)? Also, I thought Taking Lives was pretty good. Looked good and had Angelina nude (never hurts). And every twist had me. Of course, I never try to figure out what's going to happen (may dad used to do that and it always pissed me off). Anyway, not great but worth watching.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 9:59 p.m. CST

    Herc's HD-DVD lust

    by Creamery Butter

    The way Herc's been pushing HD-DVD, you'd think Joss Whedon invented it.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Don't let Moriarty fool you...

    by koomoReborn

    The DVD of Panther P SUCKS!! Get the BFI version and a region-free player.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Moriarty always delivers the goods!

    by Lance Rock

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 10:40 p.m. CST


    by Spike Fett

    What the FOCK? Hitting the STORE? Did you suddenly forget that you're's BITCH?

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 10:41 p.m. CST

    I liked how MULAN went from a typical Disney film in the first h

    by FrankDrebin

    And it gave Eddie Murphy practice for Donkey.

  • were released well within the decade known as the 80's. Weren't they? I could have sworn they came out in 1988 and 1987.

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 10:54 p.m. CST


    by MartinBlank

    I pre-ordered my copy back on July 29 and it just arrived yesterday

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 11:16 p.m. CST

    Also, Spielberg is really a class act...

    by SK909

    It's funny that Mori mentions how young filmmakers could learn a lesson in humility from Spielberg, cause I was just saying the same thing to a writer friend of mine the other day. The guy is a certified genius. Jaws is still, I think, one of the three or four best films EVER made, and every time I watch it, it goes up a notch. I love Scorsese and I love Kubrick and at least three or four other filmmakers, but I really believe that Spielberg is an effortless genius and that HE HIMSELF doesn't know where his brilliance comes from. He's like a Brando among film directors... although, obviously not as erratic. What I mean is that he is SO good when that genius shines through that it really just comes from nowhere. Richard Schickel explains it a lot better concerning Brando, but I don't think it's ever been applied to Spielberg. Anyway... his consistency also has to do with the fact that he's a director(the controlling force) and Brando was an actor. But how many directors pull something like that Omaha beach scene out of their ass that late in their careers? Or even Catch Me If You Can? And have you EVER seen him in an interview and thought - Well that guy has a big head about himself... ? Have you ever? (cough, cough - Vincent Gallo, David O. Russel, Alexander Payne, David Fincher, Chris Nolan, P.T. Anderson, TARANTINO - cough, cough, cough... sorry, something caught in my throat).

  • Aug. 31, 2004, 11:16 p.m. CST

    Also got my "Thriller..."

    by Frank Black

    ...and have also had positive communications with Don May, (a movie lover's God and a great guy.) The Thriller DVD was another great selection and production from Synapse Films. Thriller is an incredible movie and the DVD made the wait worth it. (I have purchased almost every single Synapse release just to support this fantastic company. They have great taste and treat the movies with care.)

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 12:07 a.m. CST

    HD-DVD will never replace DVD, it'll be the lazerdisc to the VHS

    by Tall_Boy

    you know this to be true. DVD is here to stay, its gonna ride out the VHS 20 year wave. Everyone has converted to DVDs and it has mass acceptance. There is No. Friggin. Way. People will convert to another format so soon. I'm tired of people screaming BLU-RAY and HD DVD like little chicken littles. You want to enjoy it? Fine. Just don't cry that the sky is falling, ok?

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 12:07 a.m. CST

    Here's The Problem, Herc...

    by drew mcweeny

    ... and I see it as a two-part issue. One, there will ALWAYS be some new format just around the corner that I'm supposed to wait for. That's ridiculous, though. I don't want movies in some hypothetical future. I don't want to watch them 15 months from now. I'd like to be able to watch and enjoy films now. The second part of the issue is that the industry doesn't seem to share your mania for HD-DVD. Right now, there's a nasty format war brewing, and the loser is going to be any consumer who gets heavily invested on either side at this point. DVDs aren't going anywhere in the near future, so I'll keep enjoying the films now while I can, and when the time comes to upgrade... when there's something with a library of titles truly worth upgrading to... I'll do so with a smile. But not until.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 12:08 a.m. CST

    Hey Mori, we just posted pretty much the exact same argument at

    by Tall_Boy

    JINX! Seriously, love the work. And, in a total geek moment, there gonna be a Jedi Council when the SW DVDs hit? Answer: oh fuck ya.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 12:59 a.m. CST

    Well, Hell...

    by SonOfJorel

    I was going to jump on the anti-HD-DVD/Blu-Ray bandwagon, but my point's been made already. Twice.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 3:21 a.m. CST

    Well Bless My Garters!

    by ZeroCorpse

    It rarely happens in such a pressed-and-fit manner, but Mori and I actually agree on something 100%, re: HD-DVD. I'd only add that from a retail point of view, as a former member of the retail video industry (translation: I managed video stores) I can say that the big companies won't be switching their on-shelf product to HD-DVD any time soon. It took Blockbuster and Hollywood, the Big Two, absolutely AGES to give in and accept DVD as the common medium despite most mom & pop stores (those that are left) hopping right on the DVD bandwagon almost immediately. Now that the Big Two have sold off or destroyed a large chunk of their VHS collections in order to planogram DVDs on to their shelves, they will NOT abandon the "common people" who only recently switched to DVD after going to Blockbuster, seeing DVDs on the shelves, and saying "Gosh darn it, mother, it looks like we have to get ourselves one of them there 'Dee Vee Dee players!" and then busting out $100 to get it (not realizing that a year later they'd be selling the same players for about $40 in all the major retail chains). NOT TO MENTION the fact that in America, about 95% of the population has yet to switch to HDTV even though we're still supposedly on schedule for the "big switch" as mandated by the FCC. Simply put, the average American either can't or won't afford a HDTV when they're still commonly priced from $1400 to $5000 and aren't available in any size smaller than 26" at this point. Hell, half of the home video-viewing public are still using standard TVs that are under 26" in their den! When I was a lad, my family still had a 19" BLACK AND WHITE television until the latter 1970's! My family wasn't alone in this resistance to owning the best TV in town, either. It's no different now. I'd love an HDTV, but I'm not selling my spleen to be able to afford it, and it's not as if I could even justify to my wife that I'm just going to pop on over to Circuit City or Best Buy and drop a grand on a TELEVISION. She'd baste me alive in my own blood for such a suggestion! $500 I could possibly get away with spending for the new technology, but any more and I'm asking for trouble (not to mention giving up other things to pay for it). When they get HDTV down to the price of old-fashioned analog TV sets, it will be believable that HD-DVD will oust the current DVD format, as people will actually own the televisions to be able to take advantage of the technology, but right now the FCC is pretty sure that unless Sony starts giving away free HDTV sets, the majority of American citizens are going to COMPLETELY MISS the switch-over time limit, and still watch their old analog TV sets until the things finally break down.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 8:12 a.m. CST

    Duel kicks Joyride in the ASS!

    by Judge Doom

    More money, big (sorta) stars, and still it was ligth years away from spielberg

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 8:19 a.m. CST

    jersey girl: an alternate view

    by speed

    i would love to see the 2 commentary tracks as smith/affleck are always good value. but to those (anyone?) considering the purchase option on jersey girl ought to rent the bugger first. the film is pretty bad... even for a romantic comedy.there were way too many cringe-worthy moments. i think the problem is that smith had to restrain himself far too much and wasn't able to include all the stuff that makes his other films such fun. and i really don't care what his films look like. just listening to the fella talk is good enough for me. actually i think they need to add Jersey Girl to the Clerks the Animated Series episode where randall asks for his 8 bucks back on a few flicks. i would love my eight bucks back on this one! seriously, WTF was smith thinking??? i know fatherhood changes you, but if that is how it changes you then count me the fuck out.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:11 a.m. CST

    I'm not sure releasing "The Passion of the Christ" on DVD is suc

    by rev_skarekroe

    After all, we don't want a repeat of all the horrific anti-Semitic violence that erupted as a result of the theatrical release, do we? Oh wait. None of that actually ended up happening. Could it be that people are actually able to tell the difference between a group of people who lived 2000 years ago in a story and their modern-day religious descendants? Hmmm... sk

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Goodbye Lenin

    by godric

    My wife is Russian, and grew up in the Soviet Union, which collapsed when she was about 14, and so it was fun watching Goodbye, Lenin with her. Some of the humor is really obvious to anyone (the Coke sequence), but some of it is so much funnier if you know Communism well. Interesting movie, though.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:41 a.m. CST

    Just one more note on the DVD format wars

    by filker-tom

    Remember DIVX (and I don't mean the file format)? Remember the 48-hr DVDs they tried, what, only this year? DVD is way too entrenched for "the next big thing" to knock it out. People barely remember Beta now, and it was neck-and-neck with VHS for awhile. The audience for this stuff has, largely, got their hardware installed, and don't want to mess with it for awhile. Any new format will be unable to compete against that for at least five years, and wait another five after that to be accepted.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:57 a.m. CST

    filker-tom, you're just trying to convince yourself that the mon

    by Hercules

    Divx and 48-hour DVDs had the same picture quality as regular DVDs. Play some HD media on an HD set (buy a 60-incher at Fry's for $1,500 now), and the picture quality makes regular DVD look like fuzzy dogshit. Head over to Sears and have a look already.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 10:36 a.m. CST

    DVD is a fad. And coming soon will be an all new format. Mark my

    by TheGinger Twit

    think thats a long way off? 15 years ago was almost 1990

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 10:49 a.m. CST

    HD-DVD are just this decade's video version of the DAT and Super

    by Trav McGee

    How many people have DAT player-recorders? That's been around for, what 15 years now? Anyone else upgrade their 20-years-in-the-making CD collection to SA-CD? That's been around for a while, too, and sounds frigging amazing. But I only know that from a store demo, and I bet the same is true for all but a handful of audiophiles. ...The only way a new audio or video medium is going to grab hold of the market share is going to be if it provides a MAJOR leap in ease of use (reel-to-reel to cassette tape; LP to CD) and/or sound/image quality (LP to CD; VHS to DVD). It's going to take a hell of a lot of selling to get people to jump on the HD-DVD or Blu-Ray wagon, so soon after DVD. These are always generational shifts, not 5-year upgrades like a video game console. Besides, since both the new-technology players are going to be backward-compatible, why worry about getting DVDs now?

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 11:08 a.m. CST

    Folks, people are only going to put up with new formats with mar

    by rev_skarekroe

    If picture quality were really all that important to the general public we'd all be watching Betamax tapes. What are people replacing their cd collections with? DVD-audio? Gold CDs? Nah, they're replacing them with mp3s which actually sound WORSE than cds. Why? Because what people REALLY want is convenience (which is why they're not ready to ditch all the DVDs they just bought) and value (which is why downloading a lesser format is so popular - it's free). I didn't proofread this, so forgive me if it doesn't make sense. sk

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 11:21 a.m. CST

    You all must have shares in DVD.

    by TheGinger Twit

    A word on someone who mentioned Beta being knocked down by VHS in the same kind of DVD / HD-DVD wars. HD-DVD is better than DVD. It is. You see HD-DVD on a HD tv and you think you're looking through a plate glass at something on the other side... with super vision... in 3D. Ok the 3D was a bit far. Back to Beta and VHS. Beta IS a far superior format over VHS. The thing is that Beta was run by a tight arse company that wouldn't give the viewing public what it desired. VHS came along and wiped it out... or so you would think. Beta remained the standard tape format for Broadcast Television station. With all this new digital video it has only just recently become obsolete. I'm talking 3 years. Most film festivals still require a Beta copy for their screenings. And what is Mini DV compared to? "The quality is comparable to Beta". I bet your jaw would drop if you were to learn how many of your most favourite films of the 80's and 90's had their special effects done on Beta and transfered back to film. Ow yeah! But enough about this. This argument is as dosile as whats better, HD or film? Well, film is more beautiful, but HD can be just as beautiful - especially when you transfer a well shot HD image to film. But enough arguing, Film looks better than ever now with HD transfers. And films can now be shot 16mm, transfered and edited HD, output back to film and the results are BETTER than an optical print where generation loss can be apparent. Enough of this arguing. DVD is the consumer norm. But it aint the best there is.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 11:57 a.m. CST


    by Mafu

    Good discussion going on here. I'll bring a new angle into it, which is: has anybody heard about the format Peter Jackson said he will use to film "King Kong"? Apparently, it's some sort of HD 3D prototype format that floored him when he watched examples of it. James Cameron intimated he also would like to film his new project using this technology. I've searched for information about this format, though only half-assedly, but does anyone here know what this technology is or what it looks like? I'm interested.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Peter Jackson and HD

    by TheGinger Twit

    There really is no reason for him not to shoot HD. Especially a NEW HD format. Here are the facts. HD has TWICE the resolution of film. While film may have a more 'fantasy' look and feel, it's important to remember that a well shot HD image transfered to film takes on the asthentisity (sp?) of film. LOTR was shot on film, but here are some interesting facts for you. The image was shot on super 35mm. An almost square frame. That frame was then taken, transfered to HD tape which was then digitized into a computer where it was put together and then out put back to film. But if you noticed while you were gazing up at the beautiful imagery of LOTR, the film was in anamorphic wide screen. the top and bottom had been cropped! The almost square film frame, transfered to tape had been transfered back to film effectilve the size of an imax screen. So what you are seeing is half a digital image. I don't know about you but I was trained in the old school film making and to me, this is just madness. Wonderous uncontrollable madness. And the CCD's the image are captured on are smaller than a 16mm film gate. Think about that. All they have to do is increase the size of the CCD'S and hey presto, the quality just keeps going up and up and UP! This is the answer to any question "what is this new and better format?"

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 2:01 p.m. CST

    Prince is better than ever now

    by Bryan

    Seriously... I agree that Grafitti Bridge is terrible, and those NPG albums were marred by his Freedom Williams-like rapper protege. But after that, outside of the spotlight, he went into a brilliant experimental period. Unlike Michael Jackson, who spends years trying to figure out how to reignite his flame with one hit album, Prince goes out there and makes a slew of underground releases without ever worrying about being a megastar. Abandoning Warner Bros. and MTV, he got heavily back into the songwriting and the funk. He started touring with Larry Graham and Maceo Parker (Maceo's still with him now). I think albums like Rainbow Children and the all instrumental N.E.W.S. will be retroactively declared classics years from now when the world catches up with them. There are also some great whacked out outtakes on the collection Crystal Ball. And although Musicology is a calculated attempt at a comeback, it's a great album in the classic Prince sense. Only Prince could make songs like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Call My Name," which make mention of the Patriot Act and the "War on Terra" in the context of a "Little Red Corvette" style love song... and have it actually work! Yes, I think Prince is really on a roll right now, but I also can't be objective on this today because I just saw him live for the first time yesterday and it was one of the most spectacular shows I've ever witnessed. I can't believe he can play songs like "Alphabet Street" with just his voice and an acoustic guitar, and make it sound funky as hell. So there. The end.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 7:17 p.m. CST

    roccenstein is asking because HE is a HUGE Prince fan

    by wash

    hint hint

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 7:47 p.m. CST


    by DocPazuzu

    ...dude, you lost all format cred way back when you were pimping high-def videotapes(!) and screaming about how these tapes (!) were superior to DVD. I'll bet you were hollering back in 1980 about how much better betamax was than other tape systems. "Go on, squander your hard-earned dollars on the inferior flash-in-the-pan that is VHS! You'll see! It is you who are the ball-lickers! Bwahahahahahaha!!!" You obviously don't know a stop-gap technology when you see one. Yes, the quality may be better, but what difference is that going to make when blu-ray comes out in a couple of years and you're sitting there without DVDs but with a bunch of very nice but pointlessly obsolete mvoies? Not everything that's shinier and newer is necessarily better or even here to stay. I actually have an old Philips V2000 videotape recorder, the kind with reversable tapes. It provoked lots of ooohs and aaaahs when it came out in the early 1980s, but ultimately it was ass.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:12 p.m. CST

    Other Disney Stuff

    by yggdrasil

    Greetings Just wanted to add that Disney is releasing the 1st season of Gargoyles on December 7th, 2004. I can't remember all of the details, but there will be commentary on the first five episodes, as well as a few docs as extras.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 9:44 p.m. CST

    Doc, my DVHS tapes look wayyyyyy better than the best DVD you ev

    by Hercules

    I was thumping for HD, and the only medium you could record HD at the time was DVHS. HD-DVD will be even better, and so will BluRay. --- Here's the good news for DVD lovers: once HD-DVD comes out you'll be able to buy every DVD you ever craved for a dollar. Maybe 80 cents. All you have to do is wait 15-30 months. --- Those who disparage HD are those who have invested thousands in the VASTLY inferior regular DVD format. --- Jesus Christ, you guys, if you saw what my X2 DVD looks like next to my X2 DVHS we would not be having this argument!! It's. Not. Even. A. Close. Call. --- If you must have a movie on your shelf sooner than November of next year, yes, absolutely, buy it on DVD. Just know that, two years from now, you will need to buy the much better HD version to stop your filmgeek pals from making fun of you.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 10:27 p.m. CST


    by Thing-Fish

    HDDVD is SO MUCH better than DVD! Yes, it is. But why would I care how good HDDVD is? I'm not going to spend $1500 (let alone more!) on my entertainment, when I already have a functioning TV, and that's final. Period. And I really, really don't understand people who do wnat to spand that amount of money.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 10:49 p.m. CST

    Herc seems to harbour the illusion that we're all millionaires l

    by Tall_Boy

    not EVERYONE can have a high-paying TV website review job like YOU man. Seriously, the quality may be better but DVD is too engrained in mass consciousness and consumers by this point. A few people will buy them. That's all. DVDs are here to stay for a lonnnngggg time.

  • Sept. 1, 2004, 11:09 p.m. CST

    TallBoy, your argument is wacky

    by Hercules

    $1,500 is not so much. It's 100 $15 DVDs or 15 $100 DVDs. I'm certain you've spent more than that over the last two years. Of course, Harry now pays me $1.10 per hit and $6.60 for every talkback so I might be all mixed up! Keep complaining. I wouldn't mind a third HD bigscreen.

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 12:54 a.m. CST

    Are you fucking serious Hercules?

    by TheGinger Twit

    Dude, can I send you and Harry my resume. I get all the big movies before any of you guys. Granted they're all copies but damnit, I am always ahead of you guys, and I am in the industry!

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 4:36 a.m. CST

    nobody REALLY needs to own PURPLE RAIN, regardless of how many e

    by beamish13

    just buy the damn album and leave it at that. The movie is sexist BS with horrible performances and no real plot.

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 4:46 a.m. CST


    by DocPazuzu

    again, you're missing the point. HD-DVD looks great -- but it's a technological mayfly. Enjoy it while you can, but I put it to you that YOU'RE the one wasting money at the moment, NOT those of us still buying regular DVDs. I'll wait for blu-ray, thank you very much. Besides, I have a PAL system so I'm sure my regular DVDs look as good, if not better than your NTSC HD-DVDs.

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 7:37 a.m. CST

    "Doc, my DVHS tapes look wayyyyyy better than the best DVD you e

    by DocPazuzu

    Now, yes. In five years time? Not a chance. It's still VIDEOFUCKINGTAPE.

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 9:36 a.m. CST

    Blu-Ray technology is going to be great.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    It's versatility alone makes it a must have. Better yet, you can still watch your regular DVDs on it while you upgrade to the new ones. Has anyone here heard what the prices for the recorders and disks (blank and pre-recorded) are going to be like when they hit the stores?

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 11:39 a.m. CST

    F Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon and Grafiti Bridge...

    by Wungolioth

    When are they going to release Sign 'O the Times on DVD?

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Chili Sauce

    by Pallando Blue

    How the hell Prince got his midget self on the poster of a Morris Day & The Time movie, I will NEVER understand.

  • Sept. 2, 2004, 3:19 p.m. CST

    Passion of the Christ

    by stvnhthr

    I'm not sure how you missed it, but a little film called Passion of the Christ came out this week as well on dvd.

  • Sept. 3, 2004, 5:47 p.m. CST

    that shit is so gay

    by satansteve

    fuckin 80s style

  • Sept. 3, 2004, 5:49 p.m. CST

    ok, call me a retard with some semblance of a normal life...

    by satansteve

    but what the FUCK is blu ray and hdvhs and hdvd and all this other fuckin bullshit? i buy dvds cuz there easier to lug around than vhs, and they have cool extras. fuck picture quality, its the MOVIES that matter. dumbasses.