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September 15, 1999 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-15

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*Jonatha Brooke
® Solo artist Jonatha Brooke performs tonight at the Ark.
A former member of the group The Story, Brooke takes his own
act on the road with a heightened essence of emotion. 8 p.m.

ZJftre £ktihdmx &ttiug

Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
U Weekend, Etc. is back with an entire issue devoted to
back-to-school days! Don't forget to check out the List, too!

September 15, 1999

*DVDs push today's home film viewing standards

By Erin Potolsky
D~aily. Arts Writer
"DVD is cool! You can get pornos
that let you see naked chicks from all
different angles at high resolution!"
Wait, that's not right.
Quick polling on the streets of Ann
Arbor revealed that DVD awareness
is up these days, although not neces-
sarily in the most user-friendly of
ways. There's a lot more to the best
video format on the market these
days than naked flesh, despite the
thousands of skin flicks available
With the arrival of the much
maligned-yet-loved "Titanic" and
immensely popular techno-orgasm
"The Matrix" both shipping one mil-
lion copies to retail outlets and irre-
sistibly priced hardware that costs
less than $300 at local electronics
stores and comes standard in nearly
all new personal computers, DVD
stands to finally leave VHS and
laserdisc in the dust and become the
video choice of a new millennium.
All major and minor studios are
now regularly putting out product on

DVD as well as current standard VHS,
priced to buy at costs generally ranging
from S15-S30 per disc. This includes
films that are released solely for rental
purposes on VHS, so DVD viewers can
often snag flicks for repeated home
viewing at significantly lower prices -
and more importantly, sooner - on
DVD. For example, "The Matrix,"
scheduled for release on DVD on Sept.
21, will not be available for purchase (or
at least, won't be available at prices less
than S99.99) on VHS until Dec. 7.
Besides the obvious advantages of
being able to own movie favorites
before those tied down to strictly a
VCR, DVD also offers what many
consider to be its main selling point:
technical aspects that put the rela-
tively poor quality of VHS to shame.
DVD boasts a clean, crisp video pic-
ture with as many as twice the num-
ber-of scan lines (meaning a more
complete, film-like pictures - film
does not have any lines at all, when
projected in a theatre). Likewise,
DVD audio provides up to six dis-
crete channels of sound. What's that
mean? In a nutshell, if your'home
theatre setup includes a Dolby
Digital decoder and you're watching
a DVD that has a Dolby Digital 5.1
soundtrack, all five speakers work
independently. With VHS tapes, the
rear speakers both operate on the
same channel. Watch a movie like
"Starship Troopers" on DVD and
you'll never go back to boring VHS.
Because DVDs store information
digitally (analogous to compact
discs, but with a lot more storage
space) rather than on physical tape
media, they can hold moregoodies
for the consumer. Discs often come
with deleted scenes, audio commen-
taries by directors or actors that run
over the full-length regular sound-
track, music videos, even computer
games. "Pleasantville" contains the
film's screenplay and storyboards for
viewing on a computer; "Dark City"
has an interactive "Shell Beach"
game derived from one of the,
movie's plot points. And most impor-
tantly for cihephiles, fully 95% of
DVDs contain a widescreen presen-


Ultra cool Keanu battles that slimy agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in the Wachowski brothers' "The Matrix," which will be released on DVD Sept. 21.

tation of the movie, as opposed to the
full frame or pan-and-scanned ver-
sions that land on VHS. Full-screen
lovers don't need to fret, though, as
most DVDs also include a "regular"
TV-sized visual presentation.
Perhaps the best thing about DVD
is that the rewind button has become

a thing of the past; like a CD, you
can skip around as you please on a
DVD, forwards and back, watch it as
many times as you want and never
worry about it wearing out. Buying a
DVD isn't required if you want a par-
ticular movie, either - Hollywood
Video, a national video store chain,

has a great selection of DVDs for
rental at every location, while online
rental store NetFlix will mail out any
DVD requested, including a handy
mailer to send the rental back
Just this week, Dreamworks
announced that the first "major"

Steven Spielberg film to be rell
on DVD would be "Saving P1
Ryan." Its release will be dal
date with its VHS unveiling, bul
any luck it will spark a mass
exodus towards the promised h
gorgeous video and pristine'
otherwise known as DVD.


A touching moment in 'Private Ryan.'

*gives new angle

Latin Universe looks toward U.S. markets

Los Angeles Times

By Julie Munjack
& Rosemary Metz
For the Daily
Following a summer filled with
Blair Witches and shagadelic spies,
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
Dead," a play produced by Basement
Arts, represents an opportunity to
imulate one's curiosities about life
in a humorous and entertaining man-
ner. A Critics' Circle Award winner,
the play offers a different view of the
popular tragedy "Hamlet". from con-
temporary British playwright Tom
Stoppard, one of the writers of last
year's Oscar-winning film
"Shakespeare in Love."

Rosencrantz and
Basement Arts
Tonight thru Friday

While the
play "Hamlet"
can occasionally
be seen onstage,
Rosencrantz and
Gui I den stern
exist in a chaotic
world, lacking
order and coher-
ence. The char-
acters are first
seen flipping a
coin continuous-
ly, only to find
the same results
regardless of the
of a coin being

himself. The characters' bewilder-
ment engages the audience, causing
them to question the truth.
Following closely in- the tradition
of Samuel Beckett, "Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern" deals with the
fundemental alienation of the char-
acters from themselves, 'others and
the world in which in they live. The
audience plays an ironic role during
the action, for they know the fate of
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and
all the characters, while those
onstage are unaware of their destiny.
Playing a minor part without a
purpose in Shakespeare's world,
Stoppard elevates these bit players to
the spotlight. While one is more
intuitive and spontaneous, the other
is driven by his intellect and reason.
Their contrasting perceptions of the
world illustrate the human conflict
between one's heart and mind.
Despite any attempt at reason or
intuition, they are still unable to
interpret the outside world.
Directing his first play, Eddie
Murray will present Stoppard's mas-
terpiece from a new angle. The
Basement Arts theater group as a
whole decided on the direction the
play would go, stressing the impor-
tance of ensemble and process,
rather than on star and production.
The casting of a female Hamlet, a
male Ophelia, and a female lead
role, serves to confound the already
complex identity of the characters.
The play also includes explicit sex
designs to titillate the audience.
Murray describes the play as a "pas-
siohate, driven, focused and playful
theatrical experience. It is a sexual,
sensual and intellectual experience.

Hoping to capitalize on the enormous
Spanish-language and bilingual moviegoing
audience in the United States, a distribution
company has been formed to bring Spanish-lan-
guage films to U.S. theaters.
Latin Universe, backed by Los Angeles-based
venture capital firm Brener International Group,
is planning to distribute up to a dozen Spanish-
language movies to U.S: theaters in the next
year. Latin Universe is filling a void formerly
held by Azteca Films, a Mexican distribution
company that for nearly four decades distributed
Spanish-language films in the United States.
With the exception of some smaller studios,
such as Miramax and Artisan
Entertainment,which distribute foreign-lan-
guage films, Latin Universe will be the only
U.S.-based Spanish-language film distribution
Its first nationwide release, targeting major
Latino markets,will be the Mexican film
"Santitos," this year's Sundance Jury Award
winner based on the novel "Esperanza's Box of
Saints." The film will be released in November.
The company intends to distribute films made in
Latin America and Spain.
Ted Perkins, a former Universal Pictures
acquisitions executive, will head up the compa-
ny - which has no relation to the studio.
Perkins, who grew up in Latin America, said the
U.S. market is ripe for modern Spanish-lan-
guage films at local multiplex theaters. The
company's ambitious plan has it expanding into
film production, licensing, talent management
and music publishing by its secondyear.
"The key for us is to set up a solid distribution
pattern in the U.S. I guess you could say we are
the new generation of Spanish-language film
distributors," Perkins said. "We want to give
Hispanics an opportunity to see films in their
own language and that speak to their cultural
Brener International has several holdings in
Mexico and Latino-related markets, including a
newspaper and a supermarket chain in the

United States. Company officials said the cre-
ation ofLatin Universe was a "multimillion-dol-
lar deal" but wouldn't give specific start-up
As the Spanish-speaking population in the
United States continues to grow, so has Latin
television and radio - industriesthat rake in
millions of dollars annually. Hollywood, howev-
er, has not caught on to this lucrative market.
Not only is it rare to find Spanish-language
films in U.S. theaters, but there are few Latin-
themed films in the works at Hollywood studios.
Despite this, Latinos spend billions of dollars
annually on entertainment and represent the
fastest-growing segment of the moviegoing
audience. According to a report released in May,
Latino consumers are more likely to patronize
films that feature Latinos.
The potential buying power of the vast Latino
population has notbeen tapped in film, said
principal investor Gabriel Brener.
"Hispanic media is a booming industry," said
Brener in a pressrelease. "Univision and
Spanish-language radio regularly beat Anglo
ratings in major markets."
More than 60 percent of Latinos in the United
States are bilingual, noted Harry Pachon, author
of "Missing in Action:Latinos In and Out of
Hollywood," a report that detailed the stateof
Latinos and the movie industry. Not only are the
majority of Latinos bilingual, but they also are
bicultural, able to move easily between Anglo
cultures and Hispanic cultures, said Pachon,who
noted that this audience's moviegoing tastes are
not being satisfied by Hollywood.
Pachon called the formation of Latin Universe
"a good entrepreneurial decision. With the vast
number of Latinos in the U.S., it will be an inter-
esting venture. A lot of us will be keeping a
close eye on this because it will have a big
impact on the future."
Latin Universe's first film,"Santitos," has the
potential to reach a crossover audience. Like the
1992 film "Like Water for Chocolate" - which.
was one of the highest-grossing foreign-lan-
guage films ever in the United States -


"Like Water for Chocolate" had great success
"Santitos' "blend of magical realism and romai
tic comedy could appeal to both Latins ar
white English-speaking audiences, said Ji
Carlos Nieto, marketing director fo Lat
Nieto, who worked for a Spanish-languag
marketing firm on such films as "A Walk in tl
Clouds" and "Desperado," said Latin Univer
intends to launch a Spanish-language radio, bil
board and television campaign for "Santitos
Nieto said he intends to show screenings of tI
film at local churches, schools and communi
centers in predominantly Latino areas - a sin
ilar approach taken to publicize the 1987 hit "L
Bamba." In the Latino community, movies oft
succeed based on word-of-mouth recommend
tions from friends and family.

seeming absurdity
tossed repeatedly.

One of the more playful takes on
Shakespeare's "Hamlet" occurs
when the tragic prince gives his "To
Be or Not To Be" soliloquy. Of
course, he is blissfully unaware of
uosencrantz and Guildenstern's
Iresence, while they are curious as
to why Hamlet is always talking to


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