9/19/99 Looks like it has been a good news/bad news week for Laserdisc. On one hand, The Matrix is coming out on Tuesday (9/21) and it will contain most of the extras contained on the Special Edition DVD. The Matrix will have the commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, editor Zach Staenberg and special effects supervisor John Gaeta and three documentaries including "Making the Matrix," and two special effects documentaries entitled "What Is Bullet Time?" and "What Is the Concept". The laserdisc will also contain b-roll footage. The Laserdisc will not contain the commentary by the composer and the DVD-ROM content due to the fact that it can't fit. However, kudos to Image for expanding the Matrix to an extra side (to a total of four sides) in order to fit all the extras although it would have been nice if they had announced the extras when the Laserdisc was announced last month instead of waiting to now to do it . . .
Pioneer has announced South Park (The Movie): Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. It will street on November 23 for $29.98. Unlike the Matrix, don't expect extras to be added to this movie at the last minute. Paramount usually doesn't add extras to their laserdiscs (or DVDs).
Now for the bad news. The Indiana Jones Trilogy (ironically a Paramount movie with some extras) has been put on hold so they won't be coming out on October 26. The LDs were delayed at the request of Lucasfilm and Paramount Home Video and by Pioneer because of production problems (see story in next paragraph). I hope the LDs weren't delayed because George Lucas wants to further tamper with the trilogy (he has already renamed Raiders of the Lost Ark). Personally, the addition of CGI Nazis does not make me want to buy the Laserdiscs any more than I do now. In addition, I though the additional scenes added to the Star Wars Trilogy added nothing to the movies (and actually made it worse in some portions).
Also, Image Entertainment has stated that they will no longer use Pioneer to press their laserdiscs since the Pioneer factory is closing. However, when I asked Pioneer's PR department about this they replied that they had no knowledge of any Pioneer factory closing or ceasing Laserdisc production!?! Also, the South Park movie was just announced indicating that Pioneer will continue to release laserdiscs even if they won't manufacture them. What is probably happening is that Pioneer is ceasing production of LDs at one of their factories (probably the US one) while keeping the other (Japanese) one open. Anyway, I will continue to investigate this issue and get to the bottom of this story.
Finally, some miscellaneous information: The Madona Video Collection will have a slight change, Erotica will be replaced by the Power of Goodbye. Also, I have added more links to my links page (particularly in the Laserdisc Retailers section) so take a look.
9/8/99 Looks like I was a little hasty in pronouncing the October schedule set since The Blair Witch Project is scheduled to come to Laserdisc (courtesy of Pioneer) on October 26 for $29.98. Furthermore, it will include a commentary, an additional scene, and the Curse of the Blair Witch documentary that aired on the Sci-fi channel a short while back. Come to think about it, The Blair Witch Project is still in theaters. It'll probably still be in the buck theaters when the LD comes out. This is one quick video release! I have adjusted the October schedule below to reflect this new announcement.
To complement Free Enterprise, which was announced last week, Pioneer is also releasing Trekkies. Trekkies is a documentary about some of the more "interesting" Star Trek fans. Trekkies is narrated by Denise Crosby (who probably regrets giving up the Tasha Yar role on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Trekkies will carry a MSRP of $29.98 when it is released on November 9th.
Image Entertainement also announced additional November titles since my last update. Joining Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Notting Hill, Jack Frost and Wild Wild West is Caligula and Madonna: The Video Collection 1992-1999. Based on a script written by Gore Vidal, Caligula is a controversal (due to its high sexual content) movie about the Roman empire that features such acting talent as Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud and Helen Mirren. Furthermore, this laserdisc edition features the compete, unrated 156 minute version. The R rated version is only 115 minutes - 41 minutes were cut out! As if having the 156 minute version isn't enough, Caligula also includes a 1 hour making-of feature. Caligula is obviously not for everyone, but I'm sure fans will be glad to have such a feature packed release.
The Madonna Video Collection contains 14 music videos (The Power of Good-Bye, Bad Girl, Fever, Rain, Secret, Take a Bow, Bedtime Story, Human Nature, Love Don't Live Here Anymore, Frozen, Ray of Light, Drowned World/Substitute for Love, Nothing Really Matters, Beautiful Stranger) for $29.99. I remember some of these videos also caused a little controversy due to their sexual content when they were released. I wonder what is in Image's drinking water this month . . .
Caligula is scheduled to street on November 26 with a MSRP of $39.99. The Madonna Video Collection will follow on November 30th.
9/1/99 It appears that the October release schedule is pretty much set since the November announcements are just beginning to trickle in. I think the October releases have something for everyone with a good blend of classics (Indiana Jones Trilogy, Star is Born), TV shows (Deep Space Nine) and comedies (Life, Election). Of course, this month's (September) releases are nothing to sneeze at either with summer blockbusters like The Mummy and The Matrix (both with extras) mixed in with a few notable older movies such as Gypsy (This movie along with West Side Story helped transform Natalie Wood from child actress to adult star - a must buy for Natalie Wood fans), Trog (Joan Crawford's last role), The Silver Chalice (Paul Newman's first appearance) and The Beatles' Yellow Submarine (remastered with restored footage). The October release schedule is listed below:
October 5, 1999
Also, a few titles have been announced for November. So far Image has announced Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me (LBX/DD), Jack Frost (DD) - the film where Michael Keaton turns into a snowman, Notting Hill (LBX/DD) and Wild Wild West(LBX/DD) will be coming to Laserdisc. Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me and Notting Hill will carry MSRPs of $29.99. Jack Frost and Wild Wild West will carry MSRPs of $39.98. Note that Jack Frost and Wild Wild West are Warner Bros. films. Lately, $39.98 has been WB/Image's price for special edition laserdiscs (i.e., True Crimes and Analyze This). Does this mean Jack Frost and Wild Wild West are going to have extras? You can bet I'm going find out if they do.
Pioneer has also announced a release for early November - Free Enterprise (LBX) starring William Shatner. Free Enterprise is a film about two Star Trek fans (Rafer Weigel, Eric McCormack) who finally get to meet their hero, William Shatner. Unfortunately, they find out Mr. Shatner is nothing like Captain Kirk (in a bad way). Free Enterprise was co-written by ex Sci-Fi Universe editor and current Cinescape columnist Mark A. Altman (Cinescape has a pretty good website - take a look). The Laserdisc features writer/director commentary, 15 min. of deleted scenes, bloopers, screen tests/storyboards, a featurette and a music video. Moreover, the MSRP of the LD is the same as the DVD ($29.98).
Speaking of identical prices and features, when I told my brother (who is pro-DVD) about how most recent LD releases are the same price and/or contain the same features as the corresponding DVDs he said, "Then why would anyone buy the Laserdisc?" That question got me thinking. Why would anyone buy one format or the other? In spite of all the arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of each format, in the end, both are about the same. The picture quality is roughly the same on standard (4:3) TVs (Sure LD is slightly softer but DVD has compression artifacts) and the digital sound formats (PCM, DD, DTS) are available on both formats. The price gap between the LDs and DVDs have, for the most part, disappeared. WB titles on DVD may be $19.99 but Fox titles on DVD are $34.95, classic Disney animation is $39.99 (about the same or more than the CLV LD releases) and Universal Signature Collections are usually the same price on both formats. Title selection is about the same on recent releases (although LD still rules for older movies). LDs have side and platter breaks but DVDs have layer changes, etc., etc.
So why don't I buy DVD or have a DVD/LD website? The answer to that question is simply I don't like DVD. Don't get me wrong, I have a DVD player and when I'm at the rental store, I'll choose DVD over VHS any day of the week. However, when the time comes to add a title to my own personal library, I prefer laserdisc. For some reason DVD leaves me cold. In spite of all the hype about DVD's features, I've seen most of them before on Laserdisc. Letterboxing, chapters, director's commentary and the like may impress the VHS crowd, but most debuted on Laserdisc (letterboxing debuted on the long defunct RCA CED system). The "features" DVD adds (animated menus, macrovision, etc.) actually annoy me. In the time it takes to navigate some DVD menus, I can change discs on an LD machine. Also, I wish I could loop my DVD player through a VCR without resorting to black boxes and "gray market" players (my LD player is looped through 2 VCRs!!! - my TV doesn't have enough inputs) . In addition, some of DVDs coolest features are never used. I can't tell you times I seen my Pioneer DVD player give me the "finger" icon indicating the program provider has decided I don't have access to that feature or the feature is simply absent. All of these add up to the feeling that DVD isn't any better than LD. Rebuilding my video library on DVD seems redundant. In addition, something about Laserdisc is . . . cool. When I pull out a DVD, no one blinks an eye. When I pull out a big shiny Laserdisc, it gets everyone's attention. "Is that a record? Wow. Cool. I heard of Laserdiscs but I've never seen one. Hey, the picture isn't that bad." DVDs seem like something I would get free through the mail like AOL software (actually I have gotten DVDs free but that's another story). In addition, I'm a sentimental fool by heart. Laserdisc was king of the hill way before DVD and I fell in love years ago with Laserdisc. To me Laserdisc will always be king of the NTSC formats and DVD a transition format between NTSC and HDTV.
Of course some of you would probably disagree with me (and you can too since the above is just my opinion). In fact, I think LDers and DVDer fight so much because the formats are so similar. No one argues that VHS has a better picture than LD and DVD since it obviously doesn't. However, LD and DVD are so similar that you end up quibbling over small details like whether your TV is calibrated or not. Quite frankly, I think you need to own both and evaluate each title on a case by case basis.
Unfortunately, there probably isn't enough room for two similar formats and Hollywood would choose the format that makes more money and exhibits more control (well maybe not DIVX like control) over consumers. That format is DVD. However, I love laserdisc too much and DVD isn't good enough to change my mind. Therefore you can count on me to deliver weekly dispatches until the last laserdisc is pressed.