Video View

January 08, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

The big news this week is more about what's happening in the high definition market that what's available on standard DVD. (In answer to the question of when I will start "publishing" new Blu-Ray titles on the VideoViews page in addition to standard DVD releases – in another few months. I'm also going to add links to an affiliate company which will allow a direct purchase for those who have requested that convenience. Don't worry, it won't be obtrusive.) The latest rumor is that Paramount/Dreamworks has an "out" in their HD-DVD contract and they are preparing to use it. So it appears that one of my 2008 predictions will be wrong less than a month into the new year. I will not apply to replace Carnac the Magnificent. At any rate, when Paramount/Dreamworks abandons the sinking ship (sources say the official announcement will likely come tomorrow or Thursday), Universal won't be far behind. One could argue that Microsoft has already given up, considering that Bill Gates mentioned nary a word about HD-DVD during his CES keynote speech. (He mentioned just about everything else Microsoft is involved in. The silence speaks volumes.) So it appears that at long last the format war is over. Nevertheless, my concern about the economic downturn impacting potential sales remains an issue. The time to have ended the format war was before the Christmas buying season, not after it. Still, what we have now is better than what we had a week ago.

It has been a slow past two weeks on DVD with little of note being released. It's typically this way at the end of the year. Studios rush to get their big guns out a few weeks before Christmas then have nothing left. The highest profile release while this column was on hiatus was The Kingdom, a film almost no one saw in theaters but which could make for an entertaining evening in front of the TV. This week, most of what's coming out is low-profile (marginal movies like Golden Door, Eye of the Dolphin, Death Sentence, Eagle Versus Shark) and worth a rental only for those who have exhausted all the other possibilities. A Director's Cut of Zodiac is being released in standard DVD and soon-to-be-defunct HD-DVD. It's only for die-hard fans of the theatrical version. The cult hit Sunshine is coming out in standard DVD and Blu-Ray. (Curious fact - at, the Blu-Ray preorders outnumbered the standard DVD preorders. This says something about the audience for Sunshine.) Finally, the "big" release of the week is 3:10 to Yuma, which is worth at least a rental, especially if you didn't see it in theaters. It's available in standard/Blu-Ray.

This week's TV on DVD doesn't include a lot of show-stoppers. None of these titles are likely to enter the best-seller or best-renter list. (I'm still waiting for The Six Million Dollar Man, which is more high-profile than any of these, but rights issues keep it in limbo.) There's the second season of Two and One-Half Men, the sixth season of The Waltons, and the fifth season of the British series MI-5 (a.k.a. Spooks). Of those three, the only one I could envision watching is MI-5. After all, Two and One-Half Men is a bad situation comedy and The Waltons is only for those with a soft spot for sentimental nostalgia. Good night, John-Boy. Fans of British TV will also note that Season 2 of Lovejoy is available as are Seasons 1 and 2 of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (based on a character created by my favorite author, P.D. James). The inaugural season of The Riches also arrives - that's the often praised and critically acclaimed series that played on a U.S. cable network last year and which received poor ratings. Old timers will be pleased to hear that Gunsmoke has finally made it to DVD - the first season debuts today.

There are no special package DVDs out this week unless you count the re-issue of a four-disc Cary Grant pack (Indiscreet, Operation Petticoat, The Grass Is Greener, That Touch of Mink) that has been widely panned for shoddy transfers and generally poor quality control. Buyer beware.

Beginning this Saturday and continuing throughout 2008 on most Saturdays, I will be posting a new review of an older movie - something available on DVD. Initially, these will be movie-only reviews but, as the year progresses, I'll include notes about special features and DVD transfer quality. I won't get overly technical - the intent is to provide something that's useful to everyone not just technophiles. The first such review will be available on January 12 - David Cronenberg's 1986 re-make of The Fly. These reviews will be a mixture of newer films, direct-to-video fare, classics, and just fun favorites that I haven't previously reviewed. Some will be topical (such as reviews of the "missing" Indiana Jones films); others will not be.

I normally take off Wednesdays from ReelThoughts but I will post something tomorrow if circumstances in the waning days of the format war warrant it.