The New Shape of Movies on Video
Terence tells me this is old news, but I just saw this for myself on Tom Brokaw the other night and I'm horrified: apparently a chain of video-processing outlets---I'll call them that for lack of a better name---is in existence for the sole reason of censoring Hollywood movies for sex, violence, and profanity and re-selling them to the public as "safety" versions.
Further, there's some new kind of software (unclear on whether it's related to the outfit described above) that takes things like weapons out of films and substitutes other objects! The one example I saw had spots of light substituting for bullets, and--sit down for this----the fencing swords used in Rob Reiner's film, "The Princess Bride", were replaced with LIGHT SABERS!! (I needn't remind everyone that in the re-release of ET, policemen's guns were replaced with walkie-talkies.)
The aforementioned video-processing outlet (I'm sorry I don't remember their name) has expanded its operation to several states. The spokemen smuggly state the demand for this kind of thing requires their rapid expansion. Pro-family-types interviewed for this report state their relief at being able to watch films with their families without fear of trauma via sexual or violent content.
TRUE STORY: Way back when when I was a starving musician---that's after I was an established starving artist and well before I became a starving webmeister and TV producer---I remember many jams and practices played at such high volume we all wound up putting cotton in our ears for the duration. Observing the foolishness of this, we agreed we should just turn the volume down and take the cotton out. That didn't last. In short order we were playing louder than before and the cotton went back in our ears.
I'm telling you this story because this is what this movie-censoring-middleman thing reminds me of. Directors will contine to load up on what they see as justifiably sexual and violent (and competitive) content, while these moral mavens take it right back out again.
OK, fine. Let's go back to the ratings board and tell 'em we don't need 'em anymore. ALL MOVIES SHOULD GO OUT UNRATED. Why bother? We'll have these watchdogs make everything safe for those who can't handle it. The rest of us will watch movies as they were intended to be seen by their creators.
D-VHS, The True Story
In the now-legendary first installment of The Unapologetic DVD Enthusiast, columnist Drew Reiber said, among other things, that the development of D-VHS, or Digital VHS, was a pathetic attempt to keep videotape alive, and it was too late to rescue this dinosaur of technology that can't possibly compete with DVD, yada, yada, yada. He further noted that only a handful of movies were even playable in this format and that the players themselves were bloated $2000 machines, too expensive for such a ridiculous application.
Well.....I did a little reading. Apparently Drew, while certainly outspoken in his hatred of VHS as an archival medium, didn't exactly get the story straight about Digital VHS.
I've since learned the point of D-VHS was never about competing with DVDs. It was about being the only format capable of recording and playing HDTV!! Yes, as in "High Definition Television". As in twice the resolution of DVD. Same stuff George Lucas used to shoot SW: Episode 2. The High-Def Digital content those incredibly expensive TVs with the postcard-shaped screens you've seen at Best Buy and Circuit City have been waiting for for the better part of a decade. Now, because of D-VHS, HDTV owners can see movies bigger and clearer than ever before--even superior to DVDs. Oh sure, we still don't have The Nightly News being broadcast in HDTV yet (do we?), but at least we have a new standard and an available way of seeing it. And true, there aren't all that many movies packaged this way (they run about $35 per movie), but more are on the way.
The lowly VHS cassette lives on!
Twilight Zone, Family Affair, Haunted.
I am woefully behind in my Fall series TV-watching, and meant to review the premiere episodes of the new Twilight Zone and Family Affair in last week's PCR. New episodes have already been broadcast I haven't even seen which renders these first two reviews a bit stale, but to recap briefly:
The Twilight Zone. PREMIERE EPISODE: new narrator, Forest Whitaker--OK, I thought if they were going for a soul brother they should've gone for Michael Dorn ("Worf" from ST: Next Generation) or James Earl Jones (Voice of Vader). I now stand by that conclusively; whatever Whitaker's film credits, he just doesn't have the weight behind his voice for this job (altho he has plenty of weight otherwise..snark, snark). More frustratingly, Whitaker appeared to be doing a half-hearted imitation of Rod Serling, which made my skin crawl. First chapter: "Evergreen". Terrific story about a family with a rebellious teen (stand-out Amber Tamblyn) moving to Evergreen, the restricted-deed community from hell. Shocker ending was in the best tradition of TZ.
Same cannot be said for "A Day at Mercy" where Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") does a take on Death in this pale "Death Takes a Holiday" rip-off. Appeared to me to be rushed out the door to flesh out the hour.
Family Affair. PREMIERE EPISODE: Oh sweet jesus on horseback, was this torture to get through. Tim Curry is both wasted and miscast (how f*&ked up is that?) as French the butler (formerly a more-or-less career-defining role for Sebastian Cabot). Mugging along is Gary Cole as Bill Davis in what is a lower-key remake of what I remember as an already sleep-inducing original series. In this episode Mr Davis is frustrated trying to find the kids (Jody and Buffy) an exclusive private school, so experiments with French home-schooling them. Awful. This will likely not last the season.
Haunted. PREMIERE EPISODE: Matthew Fox stars as Frank Taylor ex-cop-turned private detective with leanings towards the paranormal. In the first episode, a nasty run-in with a homicidal criminal causes Frank to have a near-death experience that appears to have changed more than just his outlook on life. Frank seems to have the ability to receive clues of a sort from the "other side". Making this even more personal is the fact the Frank's son was kidnapped two years ealier and the body was never found--but Frank thinks he sees him "over there". In his first case with this enhanced ability, Frank investigates another couple's missing son. He gradually learns the plot and the identity of the kidnapper as the ghosts of the past speak to him.
I give the series' stars an "A" for effort, they certainly worked hard. They are attractive, but unfortunately, they have near-zero chemistry. The show is too dark, brooding, and humorless to compete with the memory of one of its obvious inspirations: The X-Files. Interestingly, the music, which is excellent, is by the same guy who scored The X-Files: Mark Snow.
Let's pep up the sexual tensions, get a little cerebral now and then (but in a fun, X-Files kind of way) and you might have something.
My Dentist, Animal Hero!
Of all the stories I've run this year, this one is one of the strangest, yet one of the most moving. And it concerns my dentist. Yes, my dentist, one of the nicest guys in the world, Jan Craddock, DDS: practitioner of "Miracle Dentistry". Earlier this year, Dr. Craddock did a root canal on a 180-pound Siberian Tiger. Yes, that's tiger, as in a huge cat with stripes!
Dr. Craddock was recently featured on a local TV news story that showed close-ups of his work as he put caps on the tiger's teeth! Beautiful chrome work, that. It's truly remarkable what he's done. ("Jaws'" pet tiger in a new James Bond film?) Thanks to Cheryl Ford [Craddock] for the head's up about the TV report and for the pictures below (fuller story appears in "Letters to the Editor", below!--N):