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Classic Front Row, Sofa articles from the days.


Lock Down

It's been two years since the DVD format was first introduced to the general public. Many of the promises of the DVD format have been fulfilled, but many of the touted features of DVD are not yet being used.

Things like anamorphic widescreen DVDs and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks have become the norm (well, except in Disney and Fox's cases), as have interactive menus and for the most part, subtitles.

Some other DVD features have never really been utilized, though. For example, most DVDs are still provided in only one language per region, and if multiple languages are supported, it's usually through the use of subtitles rather than alternate audio tracks.

A few of the DVD spec features which have remained under utilized are seldom used for understandable reasons. Multi-angle, for example, is only useful on live concert titles (where it has been used), and apparently adult titles. Multi-angle has also found use in some other strange ways, most notably with the overlaid story boards on the Tomorrow Never Dies: Special Edition DVD.

Another seldom-supported feature of DVD, which should be more widely in use, is the ability to have different versions of the same movie on one disc. I'm referring to the ability to have, for example, a PG-13 and an R rated version of the same movie on one disc, having the DVD player discern which version will be played based upon its internal settings.

Until recently, I assumed this feature had been primarily ignored due to problems with slow seek times on DVD players, and difficulty in mastering the discs. That was until I actually viewed a demonstration of this very useful feature.

Simitar Video recently distributed a demonstration DVD called, simply, Ultimate DVD Demo. The video was given away free with any DVD purchase at Music World outlets across Canada, and by freaky coincidence I managed to obtain one.

The DVD does a great job of showing off the various features of the DVD format, including multi-angle, multiple aspect ratios, multiple audio formats and languages and subtitles. It also has a demonstration of the Parental Lock feature, and the abilities of the player to edit down a sequence.

The sequence they used for the demonstration is from John Woo's Once A Thief television series. It involves an action sequence where several people are shot and killed. In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of this feature, your DVD player must have its parental lock feature switched on.

When you watch the clip without the parental lock feature off, you can watch as several people are shot and then as a result, die. With the parental lock turned on, the sequence has several moments edited out. You still see the guns being fired, but the bullets hitting people and the resultant dead bodies are edited out. Consider it the "A-Team" version, where lots of bullets are flying, but nobody gets hurt.

The effect is surprisingly seamless. Not much different than watching a version of a movie which has been edited for television. If you're familiar with the material, it's pretty obvious something is missing, but if you've never seen it, you'd never know anything was gone.

I had expected there to be slight pauses as the player skipped from video bit to video bit in an effort to clip out the violence. Not so. The clip played just as seamlessly as if it was encoded that way on the disc in the first place. Turning the parental lock back off, and then replaying the same clip confirmed that the editing was indeed being done, on the fly, by the DVD player.

So, in this era of increasing concern over violent images in entertainment, why isn't this feature not only being used more, but touted as one of the great features of DVD? Why not release, for example, the Matrix in it's original R-rated and a PG-13 version on one disc?

Like the V-Chip, the parental lock feature included on ALL DVD PLAYERS allows parents to once again be in control of what their children are watching. It not only allows them to lock out questionable content, but it also allows them to set the level of content which is appropriate for their own children. It moves the responsibility for the safety of America's children (and Canada's) off the shoulders of the studios, and onto the shoulders where they belong, parents.

It's also worth noting that every DVD player I've seen supports setting the viewing standards based on American or Canadian rating systems. I suspect overseas units support appropriate standard for their region.

So...studios get with it! Use the parental lock feature to your (and our) advantage. Give the responsibility for parenting back to the parents. They want the job. Really, they do.

For something totally unrelated, those of you who read regularly will know that I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Wells' column over at Well, the bad news is that Mr. Wells is moving on, and this Thursday's column will be his last for the popular entertainment site.

Being a consummate professional, Mr. Wells cannot mention where he is moving on Mr. Showbiz, but I am not a part of the Mr. Showbiz site and as such, feel no need to keep a secret. As of August 20th, he will be writing for the very popular on-line movie buying site

Last week's quote of the week went unanswered. I'm not surprised given the relative obscurity of the quote, and the (I suspect) youthful audience for this column. The quote was from the 1963 version of The Haunting. A much better film than it's 1999 counterpart, but no shining moment in itself.

This week's quote is from something a little more popular.

"They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"

As usual, if you know the name of the movie, email me at

Until next time...



Metallurgy is the mythical science of turning Lead into Gold. Everyone from the wizard Merlin to inventor/artist Leonardo Da Vinci has attempted it in some form or another, but it took two guys making a tiny, experimental, independent film to pull it off.

In the past few weeks, The Blair Witch Project has taken North America (and soon the world) by storm. A film which cost a mere $35,000 to produce looks like it’s well on the way to the $100 million mark. If the film succeeds in hitting that mark (and it isn’t slowing down any time soon), it’ll become the most profitable movie of all time. That isn’t counting the other revenues that will be coming in.

When Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez set out to make their experimental film, I doubt they had any idea it would make any money. At best I’m betting they were hoping it would recover its nominal production costs.

When the film was selected for the Sundance Film Festival last year, it became the surprise hit of the show. The midnight screening was an instant sellout, and the film had easily the biggest buzz around it of any film shown. Seeing the potential for an amazing hit, Artisan Entertainment wisely snapped up the distribution rights for $1.1 million.

When Artisan paid that much for Blair Witch, several analysts thought they were a little crazy. After all, this was a small horror film, shot mostly on video (with some 16MM footage) which did well at a film festival, but didn’t seem like the kind of thing to play to mass audiences. The filmmakers, I’m sure, were very happy with the deal. With the kind of buzz the movie was generating, they could probably get their million dollar investment back, but the odds of actually turning a profit were pretty slim.

Artisan was a lot smarter than people thought.

The Blair Witch Project probably would’ve faded into indie film oblivion had it not been for a very deliberate, very concentrated marketing plan on the part of Artisan. Blair Witch is a low budget film, so the marketing campaign would be low-key, but that didn’t mean invisible, it meant the Internet.

Blair Witch already had an Internet site, so Artisan wisely took it over. They ran with the “is it real or not?” idea, and marketed the film as a documentary. Only if you looked closely could you tell the film was a work of fiction.

The second phase of the marketing campaign was a limited release roll out. Instead of behaving like most studios, and unveiling the film for audiences in New York and LA, they decided to release the film in very few theaters across North America. This created a “hot ticket”. People who got in to see the film were so hyped about actually having a ticket that the movie could’ve been Godzilla and it still would’ve gotten good buzz. Luckily for the movie going public, Blair Witch is no Godzilla.

They let the movie run in those select theaters for a few weeks, and then rolled out the movie nationally along with a modest newspaper and television advertising campaign. They also ran cross promotions with a number of cable stations, offering prize pack giveaways consisting of things like hats, T-shirts and posters. It all added up to a box office tally of $50 million so far, and much more to come. The last time I heard buzz like this about a film, it was Titanic. I’ll go on the record here, and say the $100 million estimate is low. It won’t break Titanic’s $600 million gross, but it will do much better than $100 million. It’ll easily surpass the total box office gross of Wild Wild West, and could approach the numbers of the Mummy and the Matrix. Pretty impressive when you consider that production costs on Wild Wild West were $175 million, the Mummy $80 million and The Matrix $65 million.

Artisan hasn’t been letting the tie-ins fall by the way side either. There’s no Blair Witch Happy Meal, but there are posters, T-shirts, hats, a related television special and a forthcoming book. And because the film was mostly improvised, there’s a ton of extra footage for the inevitable DVD release. And lastly, it was announced today that the filmmakers have already submitted treatments for two prequels and two sequels to the Blair Witch Project. The irony is that because of the hype, the Blair Witch Project has become exactly what it shouldn’t be: A summer event movie. Artisan Entertainment and Haxan Films will both become very rich companies off the back of this film. And don’t forget that all three stars of the film were not paid up front. They were instead offered a percentage of the back-end gross of the film. All three of them will be millionaires when this thing is done, and will probably receive residual paychecks for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, the success of The Blair Witch Project may be its ultimate downfall. The movie has received so much press, and so much good hype now that it can’t possibly live up to audience expectations. Couple this with the fact that many people are not prepared for the shaky, amateurish production of the film, and that equals the beginnings of a backlash. The movie will polarize people, much like that other blockbuster with the big boat, and people will either love it or hate it. Still, no matter how you slice it, Artisan and Haxan have managed to do what many deemed impossible. Turn Lead into Gold.

Last week’s quote of the week was correctly answered by two people at almost exactly the same time. They both correctly identified the quote as being from Wes Craven’s classic horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street. The people with all the answers were Ben Menix (yes, the same guy who came up with a title for this column) and Sean DeWitt (who got last week’s quote right, as well).

In talking about genuinely scary movies last week, one of the suggestions I got from many readers was The Changeling. I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch this film previously, and the title was a turn off for me. It sounded like another damned body snatchers movie, but boy was I wrong. It’s essentially a haunted house tale, and it stars George C. Scott. Very creepy stuff, and if you went to The Haunting looking for a scare, I’d highly recommend renting this one to help you get over the trauma. This weekend brings yet another scary film to theaters, Bruce Willis’ The Sixth Sense. This film has literally popped up out of nowhere, but it looks interesting. I’ll be trying to see it on Friday night, so I’ll let you all know what I think afterwards. The limited advance buzz has been very good, which makes its low key release all the more baffling. Maybe they’re hoping word of mouth will carry it?

This week’s quote is from yet another horror movie. This one is an old one, and a genuine classic. I have a funny feeling this one will probably throw some people off, but what the heck!

"I haven’t seen a damn thing! I just don’t like the way it looks."

If you know the name of the movie, email me at


Wish I Was Scared

We went and saw Dreamworks' The Haunting the other night, and the one question everyone was left with was what the hell ever happened to scary movies?

The horror movie has been on a fast downward spiral for several years now, with a few rare exceptions, but for some strange reason, truly frightening movies are more of a rarity now than ever before.

This caused me to start turning the question over and over in my head. What happened? Where did all the scary movies go? Whatever happened to the genuine shocks represented by a film like Alien or Halloween or even the original Nightmare on Elm Street?

One problem (which is ever so brilliantly illustrated in The Haunting) is the overuse of special effects, and now, digital effects. Literally seeing everything happen in front of our eyes has taken half the fun out of horror flicks. At the same time, due to the increased sophistication of theater sound systems, the films could be that much scarier. You see, the first half of The Haunting has some of the most disturbing sound effects I have yet to hear in a film. It's not until they break out the computer graphics that the film falls apart.

At the same time as The Haunting was scaring up big business with people hoping to be scared (and walking away disappointed - watch next weekend's box office tallies for proof), a little tiny independent film is getting ready to make a huge roar by scaring the shit out of people (The Blair Witch Project). Blair Witch has already cashed in to the tune of $5 million, and considering the budget was less than $100,000, that isn't too bad of a return on their investment. Once BW hits 1,000 or so screens this Friday (it's been playing on anywhere from 20-30 screens over the last few weeks), expect it do some VERY big business. Why is Blair Witch so scary? Because they don't show you ANYTHING except the reactions of the actors, and your imagination fills in the details.

If you don't believe me about the fear factor in Blair Witch, download the trailer (it's available on our home page) and watch it. It's easily one of the most tense trailers I have yet to see...and once again, it shows you NOTHING.

Imagine combining the psychological fear factor of something like The Blair Witch Project with the sound design in The Haunting. You'd have people dying in the aisles they'd be so scared.

In honor of Blair Witch's rightful place in horror movie history, I thought I'd rattle off a few of my favorite scary movies. If you haven't seen a film on the list and you like scary movies, by all means rent the film.

John Carpenter's The Thing - a movie which was almost universally hated at the time of its release, watch it now and revel in its absolute terror. Its effect is a bit diminished by the release of an X-Files episode which essentially lifted its plot, though.

David Fincher's Seven - another film which shows just how frightening words can be. After watching this movie, you'll swear you saw some of the freakiest things you can possibly imagine, and that's because you did imagine them.

Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street - the sequels degraded into schlocky comedy-horror (but were still fun for some strange reason), but the first film left Freddy in the dark, and he's much scarier that way.

Nosferatu - just look at the box. That guy is FREAKY!

Poltergeist I and III - The first film had some cheesy effects (like that stupid kid-eating tree), but it also had some terrifying moments. The third film's use of mirrors is incredibly unsettling. The second film sucked, unfortunately - but that old guy is scary.

Creepshow I and II - The Creepshow flicks not only made you laugh, but made you scream as well. Both had moments of high tension mixed nicely with comic relief.

These few films are just a sampling of some of the genuinely scary films out there. Got a suggestion for a scary film? Send it in ... I'll post some reader comments on horror flicks in next week's issue.

My repeated calls for a title for this column seem to have paid off. Ben Menix sent in a suggestion for a title, and I've thought about it for a week and I still like it. So, from this point forth, this weekly editorial shall be know as (drum roll, please): Front Row, Sofa. It's a nice play on words, and it suits the theme of the column well. Thanks, Ben!

Ben also guessed the quote of the week correctly (as did several others), but the person who got their guess in first was Sean DeWitt. Apparently I made last week's quote too easy, because about a billion people got it right. By another strange twist of coincidence, it was from a horror film, Halloween H20.

This week's quote is from a classic horror film (maybe it's listed above, maybe it's not), and I'm thinking this quote will be fairly easy for real horror movie buffs. I've kept it short, but it should still be recognizable.

"I'm your God now!"



One of the huge advantages of having a home theater is not having to actually go out to a real movie theater. This means that you don't to put up with the crowds, the lineups, the ludicrous ticket prices and the even more ludicrous concession prices. But all those things are minor compared to the one true evil presence at the local multiplex - Movie Theater Morons.

Movie Theater Morons (or MTMs, for short) are those people who inevitably end up sitting directly behind you and to the left who do nothing but annoy and distract you and other movie theater patrons. You know who they are, maybe you even were one at one time (though I doubt it if you're smart enough to be reading this --- if you are a reformed MTM reading this, congratulations for going back to school and getting that grade three education).

MTMs are found most commonly in discount theaters, as they are usually in a low income bracket and can't afford a "real movie". Also, an entire family of MTMs can go to a cheap theater for about the price of renting a video from Blockbuster, and if you're going to behave like you're on your couch at home, you may as well pay the same price, right? Sadly, there is no way to easily identify MTMs outside the theater (aside from missing teeth), so you usually don't know they are there until it's too late.

MTMs, like most sociological groups, can be broken down into handy categories.

I. The Loud Talker

We're all familiar with this one. He or she is the person who sits behind you and jabbers through the whole movie. They're not necessarily talking about the movie, but maybe about what they had for lunch, or what little Bobby put in the electric socket last week. Repeated requests from other audience members (i.e. "Ssshhhhhh!!!") to please be quiet go unnoticed and unheeded, and a direct confrontation (i.e. "Excuse me, could you please be quiet, we're trying to watch the movie") results in The Loud Talker becoming offended and segueing their conversation into how rude people can be.

II. The Repeater

The repeater is the idiot who insists on repeating every single line in the movie. Especially common at comedies. Every time a character in the movie lets off a one-liner, they insist on repeating it for those audience members who may have missed it the first time around. Repeaters are also fairly common at Arnold Schwarzneggar films, and insist on attempting to imitate his Austrian accent when performing their parrot act. Repeaters are almost always members of category III, as well.

III. The Reader

The Reader is the person who will read every bit of text on the screen out loud in an attempt to narrate the film for those audience members who are illiterate. The reader is the smartest of all the MTMs because they have the ability to read, albeit only in short phrases. The reader will usually insist on reading any road sign or building identification in the film out loud as well (i.e. "Chicago, sixty miles").

IV. The Shifter

The shifter can never sit still during the damned movie. They get into a position, then shift a little to the left, slide down in their seat, kick the seat in front of them, then stand up, get back in their seat and start all over again. The shifter is only annoying to those people in his or her immediate proximity, and utilizes their enormous skill at fidgeting to get either directly into your line of sight or kick the back of your seat repeatedly.

V. The Pee-Wee

The Peewee is named after actor Paul Reubens (aka Peewee Herman) who was caught polishing his doorknob outside his playhouse a few years back. These people do exist, and are most commonly seen in adult theaters. Sadly, these people have been known to creep into mainstream movies from time to time (i.e. Basic Instinct or Sliver), and can be quite distracting. The moaning and kicking of your seat is especially distracting when they sit behind you. My advice? Get up and change seats unless you like extra butter on your popcorn.

VI. Other

The other category is reserved solely for those MTMs who can't fit into any other category, or who may defy all rules of logic and simply cannot be categorized. As an example of this, there was a fellow who was speaking rather loudly through Star Trek: First Contact when I saw it. When an usher came into the theater to ask him to leave because he was disturbing the other patrons, he stated that he was explaining the movie to his mother who didn't understand English very well. All the seats around him were empty.

As you can see, the MTM is quite an interesting beast, and deserves a research grant to study their behavior patterns. Just tonight, as a matter of fact, I was at a showing of Muppets from Space and saw a family which had three categories of MTM within it. Right in front of us were a Loud Talker, a Repeater/Reader (who insisted on repeating everything the loud talker said as well), and their daughter, a Shifter. Quite an amazing anthropological find, if I do say so myself. Sadly, they escaped in their '74 Gremlin before I could capture them for further study.

Sadly, this weekly column still has no title. I hope naming a kid isn't this hard...otherwise I'll never be able to start a family. Of course, I've always had a hard time with names. My cats were named "Purple" and "Green" for the longest time (the colors of their collars), and it almost stuck. Thankfully (for them, and me) we stumbled across some appropriate names for them before they would only answer to colors.

Last week's quote of the week went unanswered. The quote was from the excellent Bill Paxton/Billy Bob Thornton film, A Simple Plan. The film is newly available on DVD, and if you haven't seen it, get out there and rent it now!

This week's quote is from a movie which was originally supposed to come to DVD day & date, but was pushed back. It now has a new release date, but features for the disc haven't been announced. I chose this film because it had one of the classiest MTMs I've ever seen in a theater during the film. When she was told flat out to SHUT UP during the movie, her response (in a smoker's voice) was "I'm just having a conversation!". The guy who told her to shut up cracked me up, though. His response to her? "Thank god they made you leave your cow bell outside!". As we say around here, she had a side order of class!

Woman: "My brother killed my sister."
Man: "How did he do that?"
Woman: "With a really big, sharp kitchen knife."

If you know the name of the film (or a name for this column!), email me at

Until next time...


MPAA, eh?

The Motion Picture Association of America has been under a lot of fire lately. For those of you who don't follow the industry that close, the MPAA is the group of individuals who rate movies, movie trailers and posters in the United States. They also have divisions dedicated to preventing film piracy, and speak on behalf of the film industry to Washington from time to time. The MPAA was founded in 1922 as an answer to moral criticism of American movies. At the time, film was still in its infancy, and because there was no rating system there were two major problems. The first problem was that filmmakers were putting everything and anything into their films, including full frontal nudity at a time when an ankle was considered risqué. The second, and more serious problem, was the fact that people couldn't tell what kind of content a movie had before they had seen it, and they could be unknowingly susceptible to content which may offend them. Essentially, it was a voluntary moral group implemented by the studios to keep the government from stepping in and messing with their movies. On paper, it doesn't sound like a bad idea, and to be honest, it has worked pretty effectively for the past seventy-seven years.

The reason the MPAA has been under the microscope lately is multi-fold. First, there have been a number of arguably bad decisions in the past few months in regard to ratings. Second, there is a lot of shouting for a new rating which is higher than "R", but lower than "NC-17".

The bad decision argument stems from several movies. In the past, directors have complained that their film received an NC-17, when they needed an R, or an R when they needed a PG-13. Most of the time, these directors (and studios) are more worried about audience share than the actual rating, because an NC-17 movie gets almost no distribution (NC should stand for No Cash), and a quick glance of the top 100 grossing movies of all time will reveal very view R rated films (19, to be exact). Of the top ten highest grossing films, none are R rated. Over the years, I've seen several of the films in both their rated and unrated (or NC-17) forms. Sometimes the differences are incredibly small.

For example, in Bruce Willis' flop, Color of Night, there's a scene with frontal nudity of Willis. The MPAA decided that the male form couldn't get an R, whereas the female form (there's female nudity in the film as well) could. I've always been baffled by this one. It's perfectly fine to show full frontal female nudity, and show it often, but as soon as someone's pecker makes it on screen, it's a no-no? As a straight male, I'd like to make it clear to the MPAA that I do not find the male form offensive (if I did, how would I ever look in the mirror?). Not only are these decisions baffling, they destroy the artistic integrity of the film and are insulting to women (and men) everywhere. I have no problem with nudity on film, as long as it's called for. Personally, I find the gratuitous use of tits and ass in most R rated films to be more offensive than someone's dick. Only in America is the sight of a penis on film offensive enough to force a film out of distribution, and only because of the MPAA.

It's not only garbage Hollywood films which get the knife because of the MPAA, though. At the recent press screening of the late Stanley Kubrick's last film, Eyes Wide Shut, viewers were treated to two versions of the film. One was the international version, and the other was the North American version. Both versions are identical with the exception of an orgy scene, where the American version has had several objects digitally inserted into the frame to cover up "naughty bits". Roger Ebert has taken to calling it the "Austin Powers" cut. This change was Kubrick's answer to the MPAA's NC-17 rating for the film, and it worked. It dropped it to an R, but at what cost to the artistic integrity of the film? How can these objects not stand out like a sore thumb to those people who are familiar with Kubrick's work? How can they NOT be damaging to the film?

Very few films have ever been released with an NC-17 rating since it was implemented, and it is commonly associated with the kiss of death because a lot of theater chains won't play an NC-17 film. To understand the stigma attached to the NC-17 rating, one has to know a little bit of the history of it. The NC-17 rating was essentially devised as a replacement to the old "X" rating, which itself was associated with pornographic films (even though it could be used to cover violent situations as well). Unfortunately, just changing the name didn't change the stigma attached to it. The prime reason comes down to, I think, one film. Paul Verhoeven's trashwork, Showgirls. Showgirls was one of the first major films released with an NC-17 rating, and it flopped...big time. Sadly, theater chains and Hollywood seemed to associate this failure with the NC-17 rating. They completely forgot that the film sucked. Since that time, a few other films have been released with NC-17 ratings, but were doomed to failure because either they sucked as well (a very common thing with Hollywood pictures, as we all know), or because they couldn't get the distribution necessary to become even a minor success. Thus, expect almost no pictures to be released with an NC-17 rating, and those few which are released will fail because nobody will be able to see them. It's a catch-22.

As a double-whammy, if a film receives an NC-17 rating, Blockbuster won't rent it once it hits video. As we all know, without video, a lot of movies would never break even these days, never mind turn a profit.

A quick side note: the MPAA also rates movie posters and trailers. They recently decided that a poster for Tim Burton's upcoming film Sleepy Hollow could not be displayed because it portrayed the Headless Horseman with his head under his arm, holding it like a football. The image (which is a painting) was deemed "too graphic" for public display. I'd like to point out to the MPAA that Disney's animated version of the story contains similar imagery, and was rated "G".

As a defense to the MPAA's rating system, several filmmakers have added content to their films to deliberately irk the MPAA. This film was never intended for release, but is instead inserted as a diversionary tactic. One of the best documented examples of this was in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. When a character is accidentally shot, there's a lot of splatter, and this splatter makes up one of the subplots of the movie. Tarantino had the foresight to realize that the chunks of brain in Samuel L. Jackson's hair might be a problem for the MPAA, so in order to keep his film rated "R", he shot an effects sequence of the head exploding. In the original cut he submitted to the MPAA, it came back with a (surprise, surprise) NC-17 rating. Tarantino deleted the exploding head sequence, and "viola". Rated R. He never intended to leave the exploding head sequence in the film, but created it solely as a diversionary tactic. Too bad Kubrick never did the same with Eyes Wide Shut, shoot some REAL hard core porn, then delete it to get "down" to an R rating. Of course, any rating system which can be manipulated in this way is seriously flawed, and should be changed.

As a last blast of irony to the whole rating system argument comes the fact that it's all a moot point. Once a film is released on video, it's almost always restored to the director's original vision if that vision was modified for theatrical release. If the original cut received an NC-17, then the filmmaker might add one frame or delete another to change the film, and then release it as "unrated" (which Blockbuster will carry). Having unrated films on video store shelves absolutely defeats the purpose of having a rating system in the first place.

Also, as more films come to DVD, we're seeing more and more deleted footage. I'm betting that when the DVD for Eyes Wide Shut is released by Warner Brothers, it'll contain both versions of the offensive scene. If all the "offensive" stuff in a film is going to be included as supplements on the DVD, where does the rating system fit in? All the supplements I've seen have been unrated, and thus far, nobody has raised a kafuffle about it.

As proof that this is happening, we only need to look as far as the planned DVD for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The filmmakers originally intended to insert a scene with Rob Lowe and Robert Wagner in bed together, along with a line that said "the best part is, technically it's not cheating!". If you've seen the movie, you know where the joke would've fit in, and you know it would've been hilarious. Unfortunately, the scene pushed the film from PG-13 territory into an R, and we all know what that means. So, when the scene was cut, the filmmakers immediately released a statement that it would be an extra on the DVD.

Roger Ebert's solution is to insert a new rating, like an "A", between R and NC-17. Quite frankly, this is what should have been done with NC-17 in the first place. Instead of being a replacement for X, it should've been inserted between R and X. Sadly, I think the damage is done and it's too late to fix it. Make a new "A" rating, and it'll soon have the same stigma that NC-17 films have right now.

The solution is to change the rating system itself. Instead of having a simple letter to explain to moviegoers what type of film this is (and then having the stigma of that letter attached to it), use a more complicated rating system. Use, for example, a rating system which delineates an appropriate age for the material (i.e. simply state "13"), then attach a series of submodifiers to that rating (i.e. "17VVV" for extremely violent content or "16N" for some nudity). This way the moviegoer gets the information they need, and there's no stigma attached to the film. Who will protect America's children? How about their parents. If you're under the age of the rating, you don't get in without a parent. Period. MPAA chairman Jack Valenti put it best when he said, "we (have) a duty to inform parents about film content." The duty is to inform the parents, not to dictate to filmmakers what should (or shouldn't) be in their films.

To move onto DVD news for the week, the biggest news has to be the DVD File ( scoop about Star Wars coming to DVD. Sadly, nobody at Lucasfilm is willing to confirm it, and it sounds like it may have been inadvertently "leaked" by someone at Lucasfilm. I suspect we'll see an announcement, but not until after Titanic hits video (which is, after all, being distributed by 20th Century Fox as well). Regardless, if this news is true, it's very good news for DVD indeed. Wherever Star Wars goes, millions of people follow (as witnessed by The Phantom Menace being the number four film of all time right now).

I do have to say, though, in doing research for this week's article, I had another look at the top 100 films of all time. It's sad to say that of the top ten, only one has been confirmed as coming to DVD (Titanic). The problem seems to be that most of the top ten films have one of the dreaded DVD names attached. Paramount, Fox, Disney or Spielberg. Hopefully this will all change after this Christmas season, when I suspect DVD will become a true mainstream product.

Last week's quote of the week was correctly answered first by Dylan Oliver, who correctly identified it as a line from Waking Ned Devine (now available on DVD). As if in a bit of psychic forethought, the film from the prior quote of the week has made it back into the news. It looks like Tom Cruise is considering a role in a remake of Death Race 2000 called, appropriately enough, Death Race 3000. Even though this news is coming from very respected publications, I would tend to take it with a grain of salt. Cruise is no idiot, and he's well aware of the current ruckus around gratuitously violent films. DR2000 is a Roger Corman property, and as such, it's gratuitous and exploitative. Not exactly Cruise's territory. Besides, no matter how you slice and dice Death Race, it'll always be a B-movie, and Cruise is not a B-movie star.

This week's quote is from another film which is relatively new to DVD.

"We don't have anything in common, me and him, except maybe our last name."

I'm also still seeking suggestions for titles for this column. I've received a few, but nothing which has really leapt out and grabbed me. I really need some help here, so if you have any suggestions, email them in!

You can email column title suggestions, and guesses for the quote of the week to

Until next time...

Ken Pierce
Contributing Editor,

--- sources for this week's column --- <--- thanks to Jeffrey Wells for his column on Eyes Wide Shut. <--- The Motion Picture Association of America
My own faded memory...

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