8 - The Michigan Daily -- Friday, January 22, 1999
old video format
'Diaries' DVD includes
By Erin Podoisky
Daily Arts Writer
Fans call it the next revolution in
home movie viewing. Detractors call it
the '90s version of the failed Betamax
video format. So what's the truth about
The truth is actually pretty simple.
Remember back in the day when you
had your oh-so-cool cassette boombox
and bought those clunky, hard-to-navi-
gate, easy-to-tangle tapes? Remember
when you bought your first compact
disc, a new media format that offered
clear sound, no deterioration of quality
over time and the ability to play your
favorite song over and over without wait-
ing for rewind?
Imagine that kind of power when
you're watching the latest video release.
No more tape rewinding, no more track-
ing static and garbled audio.
Laserdiscs once tried to be to video-
tape what CDs are to cassettes. But they
failed in the mass market because of
high prices and the need to handle
record-sized discs several times per
movie. Now DVD (digital versatile disc)
video has arrived in force at electronics
and computer stores across the nation,
and the features and quality it offers are
making it the next big thing in home the-
atre at affordable prices.
Merely the size of a CD, DVDs can
store more than four gigabytes of data.
Because they're digital, and not analog
like videotapes, DVDs can be used for
both software and movies - which is
why many computers now come
equipped with DVD drives, enabling
you to watch movies on your monitor or
patch the signal out to a television.
The huge amount of space available
on a DVD also means that much more
content can be put on the disc than on a
videotape. Quite a few DVD releases
contain extra audio tracks that viewers
can access during the movie, allowing
one to listen to a director or star talk
about making the film.
Some discs also include deleted
scenes, music videos, behind-the-scenes
featurettes, TV spots and trailers for the
film, among other wonderful features.
Most of the movies released on DVD are
presented in a "letterboxed" format or
offer both widescreen and "pan-and-
scan" (standard) versions, giving view-
ers a choice about how to view a movie
- choices that videotape never could
But the crisp, clear picture provided
by a DVD would never justify the price
of a player ($300-600 average for the
player; $20 average for movies) without
the final piece of the movie puzzle:
Nearly every DVD being produced
offers sound in the Dolby Digital format,
which means theatre-quality sound with
five discrete channels (front left, center,
front right, rear right, rear left speakers)
and a dedicated output to a subwoofer.
Titles such as "Air Force One,"
"Contact" and "The Fifth Element" will
give most sound systems a workout com-
parable to any first-run movie theater.
Watch out for DVD's ugly step-sister
DIVX, currently being thrust upon con-
sumers at Circuit City stores nationwide.
This so-called "enhanced" format costs
$4.50 per disc (never mind that a DIVX
player costs a good $100 more than a
DVD player), but does not include the
extensive extra content available on
many DVDs. Most notably absent is the
DIVX allows you to watch the movie
as many times as you want in a 48-hour
period. After that, the DIVX player uses
a modem line to charge your credit card
every subsequent time you want to watch
the movie. DIVX purports to replace
rental in that you can just throw out the
DIVX disc when you are done watching
it instead of returning it to a store, but
with major video store chains like
Hollywood Video now stocking DVDs
(at prices much lower than $4.50 and for
five-day rentals) DIVX looks like an idea
that was over before it even began.
All of the major studios are now
putting out movies on DVD, and 1999 is
shaping up to be the year that the format
comes into its own in the mainstream
with titles like "The Princess Bride"
"The X-Files," "Ghostbusters" and a
rumored Christmas release of the "Star
Wars" holy trilogy scheduled (and yes,
that barge that swept the Oscars last year
should be out by summer).
If you've got a few bucks to spend or
still need to send your belated Christmas
wish list to the guy in the red suit, think
about picking up DVD player. It will
blow your VCR back into the stone age
and take your home video experience
into the 21st century.
courtesy of United Artists
Pierce Brosnan Is Bond. James Bond.
Bond never dies on
By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
Definition of irony: River Phoenix
was supposed to star in "The
Basketball Diaries," a loose adapta-
tion of Jim Carrol's book, which was
an actual diary of his drug life. Well,
before shooting could start Phoenix
overdosed on drugs and died.1
Replacing him was Leonardo
DiCaprio, who would later sign to
play Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights."
DiCaprio would eventually drop out
of this role, to be replaced by his
"Basketball Diaries" co-star Mark
Walhberg, while he played Jack
Dawson in "Titanic."
And you thought six degrees of1
Kevin Bacon was a mess.
Nevertheless, "The Basketball
Diaries" is a solid film, and seeing it
in the widescreen format on DVD
really brings to life the film's beauty.
Though the film has very little to do
with Carrol's actual "Basketball
Diaries," the film captures the spirit of
the book quite nicely.
Bonuses on the DVD include the
film trailer (the cop out when the stu-
dio can think of nothing else to add to
the DVD), an anti-drug message (bet
River was wishing he'd seen that
before he overdosed) and interviews
with the cast and director.
The best part of this DVD is watc.
ing DiCaprio explain why the fil'
makers had to alter the diaries in order
to make the film work. You'll laugh so
hard you'll want to watch it again.
If you're one of those people whb
think actors and actresses are above
the common man, smarter and more
refined, watch this and come back to
Even if you don't watch the bonus
material, however, there is mu
enjoyment to be taken from the fill
By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
Bond. James Bond. Yes, Pierce
Brosnan is back as the alcohol-swigging
secret agent in "Tomorrow Never Dies."
Bond is set against Elliot Carver
(Jonathan Pryce), a media tycoon
obsessed with making headlines for his
various news outlets. Of course, no Bond
film would be complete without the
ladies, and the Bond girls appear in the
form of Teri Hatcher as his ex-love and
martial arts expert Michelle Yeoh as his
The Special Edition DVD, which fol-
lows a normal edition, has numerous
extras that should appeal to fans of the
series. There's a "Secrets of 007" fea-
turette that includes some history on the
James Bond franchise and the interesting
tidbit that Cary Grant was originally
desired for the part of Bond.
Along with the trailer and a few other
basic features, there are two commentary
'E xor cist'si
tracks, one with director Roger
Spottiswoode and the other with the
film's stunt director and producer.
The biggest thing to come out of the
commentary tracks is the fact that world'
renowned sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay
used playing cards as weapons in some
scenes that didn't make the film's final
cut. It's cruel to tease the audience with
this info and never show it, but maybe the
second special edition will have these
By far, the best of the bonus material is
the feature that allows viewers to play the
storyboards for the film simultaneously
with some of the action scenes. This pro-
vides a very worthwhile look into the
construction of the scenes and how high
octane sequences are first visualized.
With or without Jay's card antics,
"Tomorrow.Never Dies: Special Edition"
is stocked with enough special features to
make the DVD a must have for all fans of
the Bond series.
25 years after release
By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
More than 25 years ago, William
Friedkin's "The Exorcist" made movie
history by sending viewers running
from the theatre straight into the bath-
room to vomit, just like the charming,
sweet demon-possessed girl in the film.
WB has rereleased "The Exorcist" as a
special edition DVD with such goodies
as a director's commentary and full-
length documentary on the bone-chill-
ing, gross-out of a horror flick.
"The Exorcist" deals with the blas-
phemy-spewing, scenery-chewing pos-
session of young Regan MacNeil
(Linda Blair), and her mother's (Ellen
Burstyn) quest to restore her daughter's
health. She seeks counsel and ultimate-
ly exorcism from various quarters, most
importantly from priests Karras (Jason
Lift your voice and share ur deas
with women from across the Midwest
Miller) and Merrin (Max Von Sydow).
Death, pea soup-esque vomit, masturba-
tion with a crucifix and house-shaking
convulsions pepper the film, making it a
scary excursion into the supernatural
with effects worthy of today's comput-
ers - even though the movie was
released in 1973.
The special edition content of the disc
includes two audio commentary tracks,
one by Friedkin and the other by screen-
writer/producer William Peter Blatty.
Both are interesting, with megalomani-
cal Friedkin telling tales of casting the
film and various anecdotes, while Blatty
spends much of his time telling tales of
Friedkin. The documentary is more of
the same, with interviews of cast mem-
bers and tons of information about how
many of the effects were done.
The video transfer of the film itself is
spotless, although the soundtrack is per-
haps a bit more understated than it
should be in the effects department.
"The Exorcist" is one of the greatest
horror movies of all time, and this spe-
cial edition is a worthwhile addition to
(gp Ocan& for
Pageant at M.S.U. on 3-12-99; age 17-21.
Prizes $500.00 and a free trip to Houston,
Texas. Call Judy Schmaltz at 248-627-4556.
courtesy of Miramax Fimg
Minnie Driver and Matt Damon look Intellectual In "Good Will Hunting."
'Good Will Hunting'SJ
DVD hitsth mark
By Matthew Barrett
Daily Arts Writer
And the Oscar for Best Original
Screenplay goes to "Good Nate
Hunting." Scratch that, "Good Will
Hunting." Believe it or not, the title
character was named Nate in some of
the early drafts of the film's script.
This tidbit of information comes cour-
tesy of the commentary track by writ-
ers and stars Matt Damon and Ben
Affleck on the DVD version of the
film, a must have for all "Good Will
In the film, Damon plays Will
Hunting, someone who can slice
through the toughest math problems
with ease and yet has no desire to rise
above his current position as janitor at
M.I.T. Will gets in trouble with the law
and as a result he has to work with a
professor (Stellan Skarsgard) and a
therapist (Robin Williams).
Complicating Will's life is whether or
not he should leave his best friend
Chuckie (Ben Affleck) to follow
Skylar (Minnie Driver), who could be
the girl of his dreams.
The DVD of "Good Will Huntin*
comes stocked with plenty of features
and information of interest to fans of
the film. The aforementioned com-s
mentary track with Affleck, Damon
and director Gus Van Sant is a joy to
listen to as all three participants feel a
great deal of passion for the filt
Topics covered include how actor§
approached certain scenes, improvisa-
tions, ideas for the film that didnT'
make the final cut and a boatload of
interesting production stories. *
Also included is a production feae
turette with brief interviews of
Damon, Affleck, Van Sant, Driver and
Williams, the trailer, several televisions
commercials for the film, and deleted
scenes. The disc also contains the
Elliot Smith "Miss Misery" musict'
video for those of you who didn't
catch it on MTV
With excellent performances fro
the cast and a bevy of bonus materia'
the "Good Will Hunting" DVD hits the
mark like a Carlton Fisk flyball.
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