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The Latest on DVDs

Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Movies Editor and DVD Columnist
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; 12:00 PM

Is "The Incredibles" worth buying on DVD? What TV shows are coming to DVD in the coming weeks?

'The Incredibles': Pretty Super (washingtonpost.com, March 15)

Jen Chaney, washingtonpost.com's movies editor and DVD columnist, answered those questions and more during an Tuesday, March 15, at Noon ET.

Chaney has written the "Bonus Points" column, which reviews the latest DVDs, since 2003.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Jen Chaney: Hi, everyone. I'm eager to answer questions and talk about DVDs in general. In fact, I'd love to hear some recommendations from all of you. Heard any commentary tracks that others should check out? Have you come across any DVDs that were surprisingly excellent? Now's the time to let us know.
OK, let's get started.


Rockville, Md.: Could you explain to me how "East of Eden," one of three films that James Dean ever made, is not avilable on DVD (atleast Netflix doesn't have it, which I equate with being the same thing)?

Jen Chaney: I have good news for you, Rockville. Warner Bros. is putting out "The Complete James Dean Collection" on May 31. And yes, it does include "East of Eden." It also comes with, sadly, the only other films in which he starred: "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant." Presumably you'll be able to get it on Netflix then. James Dean was the coolest, wasn't he?


Olney, MD: I gave my Mom a gift subscrption to Netflix over a year ago. She can have up to 5 DVDs out at a given time and she enjoys them very much. She has 490 titles in her queue. I try to put in titles that are now in the theaters as well as past titles I have found from Leonard Maltin's books.
She enjoys both the latest flicks, especially romance as well as the older ones. Has "Never on Sunday" ever been released on DVD? That is her particular favorite movie and I can't find it on DVD.
Also will there be more movies coming out like "The Notebook," which she loved very much?

Jen Chaney: What a nice gift for Mom. "Never on Sunday" does appear to be out on DVD; I found it on amazon.com. It's possible Netflix doesn't have it for some reason, though I'm not sure why that would be.
As far as other recommendations, I'm thinking your mom would really like "Finding Neverland." It comes out on DVD next Tuesday and is a nice, pretty traditional, three-hankie drama. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are quite good in it, but that little Freddie Highmore (who plays the part of Peter) is a heartbreaker. Put that one at the top of Mom's queue.


Silver Spring, Md.: We all know that the "Incredibles" DVD comes out today. I've seen the DVD, but wanted to show it to a group of 10 to 12-year olds. I know that some of the jokes are very adult in the movie. Do you think 10 to 12-year-olds will get some of the jokes - or will it go over their heads?

Jen Chaney: Wait, "The Incredibles" is out on DVD today?
Just kidding. It's impossible not to know with all the cross-promotion surrounding the DVD. I already have a copy, but I almost contemplated buying it just to get some free water from Target.
To your question: I think it's totally appropriate for 10 to 12 year olds. Even if some of the jokes go over their heads, they'll still laugh at 90 percent of it. I'm not sure it's appropriate for very young viewers -- those around 7 or younger -- because it has some gunplay and explosions in it. "The Incredibles" is the first Pixar movie to get a PG rating, and there's a reason for that. But the kids you're talking about should enjoy it.


Germantown, Md.: Are they doing anything about getting these synthetic DVD's off the streets??? I have a friend who bought a DVD movie and it didn't play in his DVD player ...The player kept saying no disc ... Is it the movie, or the DVD player itself??? Thank you...

Jen Chaney: Without knowing where your friend bought the DVD in question, it's hard to know. However, if his or her DVD player plays every other disc except that one, I'm guessing there's an issue with the DVD. If I were your friend, I'd try to exchange it for another and see if it happens again.


Washington, D.C.: You asked about commentary tracks -- if it hasn't been mentioned before, the absolute best commentary track is on "Spinal Tap."

Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer stay in character as David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls, only 20 years later.

Their constant complaining about the outrages suffered upon them by Marty DiBargi makes the disc a whole new movie.

Jen Chaney: We have mentioned this in previous chats, but it's worth mentioning again. Frankly, I don't think enough can be said about the genius of "Spinal Tap." Thanks, D.C.


Oscar night: No question. Just wanted to say thanks again for hosting the Oscar night chat. It was quite amusing. Much more entertaining than the show.

Jen Chaney: You're very welcome. The discussion was particularly fun this year, perhaps because everyone was so bored by the show. In any case, I'm glad you enjoyed it. (P.S. I still don't think Chris Rock was as bad as everyone said he was.)


Re: Synthetic DVDs: Interestingly, I received "Spider-Man 2" for Christmas, but only the extra disc would work in my player. So I ordered a copy for myself from DVD Empire and had the same result. Only movie in my collection that doesn't play in my player. (Yes, both were Region 1). Do the latest DVDs require certain "newness" of DVD player, sort of like computer software?

Jen Chaney: That's really bizarre. I have a pretty old DVD player (circa 1997/98) and both "Spidey" discs played in mine without a problem.
I'm certainly no tech head about some of this stuff, but newer DVDs should still work in your player regardless. That will change when they start putting out high-definition DVDs, which, I believe, will only work in HD-DVD players. That's part of the reason I haven't upgraded my player; I'm waiting for that whole changeover to take place.


Washington, D.C.: Why do DVDs (and CDs, VHS tapes, etc.) come out on Tuesdays only?

Jen Chaney: This is a great question. For as long as I can remember -- we're talking back when I used to beg my mom to take me to Erol's so I could rent "The Breakfast Club" the day it was released -- videos and DVDs always came out on Tuesdays. I assume this is to give some breathing room to theatrical releases, which traditionally come out on Fridays. But why Tuesday as opposed to Monday or Thursday? I'm not sure. Anyone have any theories?


Nowheresville: Girl, you slow.

Jen Chaney: Dude, you mean.
Seriously, I'll try to pick up the pace.


Harrisonburg, Va.: Hi Jen,

I enjoy your columns but hadn't noticed the chat before. You said there had been prior chats but I can't find them on the site. Do you do these regularly?

By the way, my Netflix queue is heavily influenced by your column!


Jen Chaney: That's so nice, Harrisonburg. Thanks.
I do the chats periodically, but not on a regular basis. If there's interest in doing them more regularly, maybe it's something we could try.
The last one I did was around the holidays and you can read that transcript here.
(Ignore that photo from "Sideways," by the way. No idea why that appears on the discussion; must have been a glitch when we archived it.


Annapolis, Md.: With all of the marketing hoopla for films such as "The Incredibles," it is clear that there is a big push for consumers to purchase DVD films rather than rent them from Blockbuster, Netflix, etc.

What implications do you think this will have on the rental companies?

Jen Chaney: More and more people are buying DVDs, which is something I mentioned in this piece. Companies like Blockbuster are already concerned, which is why they've tried to follow in Netflix's footsteps and start a rental-by-mail service.
I don't think the idea of renting DVDs and videos will die in the immediate future. Who can afford to buy every movie they want to watch? But we'll probably access those films differently. With services like Netflix and OnDemand, there's no reason to leave the house and stand in a video store anymore. So I think the bricks and mortar model will eventually become obsolete. But not for a while.


Olney, Md.: Any word on "Polar Express" being released on DVD? I loved that movie; my daughter and I went to see it at least half a dozen times. I'd love to add it to our collection.

Jen Chaney: I liked "Polar Express," too. Though I do concede that the animated people sometimes looked a little creepy.
I haven't heard any word about it coming to DVD soon. My guess is that they'll hold off until closer to the holiday season, when more people will be inclined to buy a Christmas-oriented movie for themselves or as a gift. Keep your eyes peeled.



1-Most shipping/receiving departments work Monday-Friday, because that's when UPS/FedEx runs. This way they have all day Monday to receive the product, and ready it for Tuesday.

2-Sales are slow in the middle of the week, and it gets people into the stores.

Jen Chaney: Thanks for this, Laurel. Hadn't thought about the shipping aspect. And clearly they want people in stores on off-days, so that's a sensible, obvious reason, too.
You ask, Laurel answers, everyone.


Washington, D.C.: Two questions, what determines the price of DVDs, usually the first week most DVD's are $14.99, I see The Incredibles is $15.99, why is that? I saw "The Incredibles" and its an incredible movie for people of all ages!!!!! And when is Dave Chapelle's second season coming out on DVD, and why the delay??

Jen Chaney: The studios usually set a standard retail price (for "The Incredibles," it's close to $30). But the stores mark down those prices for big releases because they know they'll move a high volume. Most of the stores price them under $20, and there's slight variation between them. You won't see "The Incredibles" being sold for $10 just yet, in other words. Do the studios have a say in how low the stores can go? A good question and one I don't know the answer to. Might be fodder for further exploration on my part.
To your second question: The second season of "Chappelle's Show" comes out May 24. It was postponed because the third season of the show on Comedy Central also was postponed and they want to put out the DVD at the same time the new season starts. It's a little thing marketers like to call synergy.


Laurel, MD: In response to your call for recommendations, I'd like to mention the new DVD release of _A Letter to Three Wives_ from 1949. One of the commentators is the son of writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and the commentary itself is uniformly enlightening: how the director got a look of derision from Linda Darnell when she was gazing at a photograph, what military figure had an aide call the studio to get an explanation of the ending, and why TV stations usually censor out Kirk Douglas's rant.

Jen Chaney: Haven't caught this one, but sounds really interesting. Thanks for the tip.


Syracuse, N.Y.: When will they come out with HD-DVDs? I know there's some kind of battle in the industry about which standard to adopt, Sony's or what everyone else and certain movie industries are backing. Could you briefly breakdown the debacle for us?

Jen Chaney: I'm not a tech reporter, so bear that in mind (this may be a better question for Rob Pegoraro). But as I understand it, two formats have been developed, one of which is Sony's blu-ray model. Ideally for consumers, there would be one standard HD format but I think there's been disagreement among the studios about which of the two developed formats is superior. I don't think it's been fully resolved. Personally, having two formats strikes me as confusing to consumers so I hope this is resolved soon.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Jen.
I'm thrilled with my recent purchase of "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut," which, as I recall, you recommended when it was released a few weeks back. I just love the "Number One Fan" special feature; I can really relate to that guy, having seen this film more times than I can count. The feature about the fact that "Donnie Darko" was more popular in the U.K. when it was first released than it was here in the U.S. is also interesting, although some of the Brits who appear on screen seem a little arrogant at times in their assertions that U.K. audiences are smarter and more likely to "get" the film compared with Americans (but I'll forgive them; most of them are pretty young and will probably cringe when they see themselves on film in a few years' time).
Love your chats (and your column), by the way. You are always so polite, friendly, and upbeat in your responses. Keep up the good work!

Jen Chaney: I can't say enough good things about "Donnie Darko." (Here's my review). So glad you liked it, too. The "Number One Fan" doc is one of the funniest DVD extras I've ever seen. Truly inspired.
Thanks for your supportive words. I will never doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.


Dunkirk, Md.: Jen, I'm sure you've had this question before, but I've never seen a definite answer to it. Is there any hope of a complete "Twin Peaks" DVD set ever hitting the market?

Jen Chaney: A reader after my own heart.
I heard somewhere that more "Twin Peaks" might be coming, but I've heard nothing about a definitive date. I hope that at least the second season comes out. How are people who discovered the show on DVD ever supposed to find out who killed Laura Palmer?


Kingstowne, Va.: I'm not much for TV on DVD. I only have BtVS and a few PBS shows. When the old classics are constantly recycled on cable and the networks and superstation's 7:00 hour, what do the DVDs offer for someone who has seen a show so many times already? What kind of extras for TV show DVDs are the most popular?

Jen Chaney: I'm going to take a few TV-related DVD questions now...
The popularity of TV shows on DVD was probably the big story of last year. People in the industry were shocked by how well that category did and continues to do. Part of the appeal is that older shows that don't appear in syndication can be seen on DVD. I'm thinking of "Freaks and Geeks" or "My So-Called Life" or even "Doogie Howser, M.D.," which comes out later this month. So there's that.
Even if you can watch the episodes regularly, the DVDs (at least the good ones, anyway) add something interesting to the experience. "Seinfeld," for example, has tons of commentaries and interviews that provide viewers with more of a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the shows were made. It's also worth noting that the syndicated versions cut out elements of the original broadcasts. On DVD, we can see these shows in their entirety without edits or commercials. It's a pleasure to see programs like "The Simpsons" completely uncut. Some of the funniest moments on that show are extraneous asides that don't relate to the plot and may get left out of syndicated versions.


Silver Spring, Md.: I have been watching every season of The Sopranos on DVD since I never had HBO. Do you have any idea when Season 5, this last season, will be available? I have a Netflix membership, which has allowed me to watch older movies. I recently watched the Godfather I and II. All of my expectations were exceeded especially for Part II. Every frame in that film is an absolute gem. I am hoping it will be shown somewhere on the big screen.Thanks.

Jen Chaney: The fifth season of "The Sopranos" comes out June 7. Make your Netflix plans accordingly.
Glad yuo enjoyed the "Godfathers." That's the beauty of DVD: Being able to discover all these great films for the first time. If you want to see it on a big screen, the AFI (right in your neighborhood) has shown it a couple of times. They may do it again in the future, so keep checking their schedules.


Trumbull, Conn.: I notice a lot of old tv shows that had fairly minor popularity (WonderWoman, The Night Stalker) have come out on DVD. How about the availability of more popular shows such as The Fugitive and Maverick?

Jen Chaney: I don't know about plans to release "The Fugitive" or "Maverick" specifically, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them come to DVD . I've noticed that a lot of the TV releases, especially the more random ones, are shows that appeal to the Gen X demographic (a.k.a. people like me.) I suspect the twenty- and thirty-somethings are the ones spending the most on this category, which may explain why we're seeing not just one, but two seasons of "Punky Brewster" and "The Greatest American Hero." "Who could it be? Believe it or not, it's on DVD."


Alexandria, VA: I think one of the more interesting commentaries on DVD is John Frankenheimer's for the movie "The Train" which starred Burt Lancaster. BTW, I think this movie has one of the greatest "lucky shots" around with the train wreck and the locomotive skidding towards the camera.

Jen Chaney: Another great recommendation. Thanks, Alexandria.


Washington, DC: I'm always amazed at the truely horrible TV shows that have made it to DVD. But there are some great ones that will probably never see the light of day: WKRP (because of music licensing issues), seasons 2-7 of Mary Tylor Moore; Newhart; Scarecrow and Mrs. King. There's no justice!; Thanks for the chat.

Jen Chaney: I love "WKRP in Cincinnati." Not only does it have a great theme song, the show really holds up well. It's still very funny 20-plus years later.
The same music licensing issues were a concern about "Miami Vice," but they managed to resolve those. (The money they had to spend on the music may explain why the DVD itself looks sort of crummy.) Hopefully they could do the same for "WKRP." Everyone should be able to watch the Thanksgiving episode where Les Nesman broadcasts live as turkeys fall from the sky. That's classic comedy right there.


Washington, DC: Donde esta Andy Richter? The control of my universe depends on it.

Jen Chaney: It's not coming, as far as I know. But that doesn't mean it won't. Since Fox put out "Greg the Bunny," I would think "Andy Richter COntrols the Universe" is also on their radar.


Re: Twin Peaks: Viewers of the first season might be better off NOT knowing who killed Laura Palmer. I wish I could unlearn. It was lame.

Jen Chaney: Maybe so. I don't know, I found those episodes leading up to the reveal pretty chilling. For weeks, I checked to see if Bob was hiding in the back seat of my car.


Washington, DC: You know what's sad, and always makes me feel old? It seems like hardly anyone has even heard of Erol's Video. I hope your family wasn't one of the ones suckered into paying the hefty lifetime membership, that was prompty dropped the second the first Blockbuster's opened up.

Jen Chaney: No, we didn't pay the lifetime membership as far as I know. But I still have some previously viewed videos from Erol's floating around. Yeah, those were the days...
Okay, we're officially old.


Centreville, VA: I have seen the advertisements but can you tell me if Netflix is worth the money to join? I would say that I tend to rent 1-2 movies a week. What is the value in becoming a Netflix customer?

Jen Chaney: If you rent that much, then yes. The membership fee is $18 or so. In other words, the equivalent of what you'd pay to rent between four and five movies per month. As long as you watch movies frequently, I think it's worth it.


Nashua NH: Recently, a major movie studio (MGM) announced that some of the DVDs that it had "mastered in widescreen" were actually not in the same aspect ratio as the original theatrical release. The studio only admitted this after they had been found liable in a class-action lawsuit (http://mgmdvdsettlement.com/notice.pdf).

Their offer was simple: turn in your old DVD for pennies on the dollar, and go buy a new copy.

My question: how do I know that "widescreen" really means "theatrical release aspect ratio" when I buy a DVD?

Jen Chaney: I had not heard about this, so thanks for letting us know.
If you read the back of the DVD cases carefully, they usually offer more specifics, specifying the ratio or noting that it's in anamorphic widescreen. If it doesn't say, that's usually a clue that it's not the kind of widescreen you're looking for.


White Oak, MD: Are there any plans to release a "Little Mermaid" DVD from Disney?

Jen Chaney: I believe it was put out on DVD several years ago, but there hasn't been a special edition yet. Since this is Disney we're talking about, I'm pretty sure one will come out eventually, I just don't know when. Disney's very smart about maximizing profits from its catalogue releases.


Kingstowne, VA: As more and more classic movies are being released on DVD, the studios should be looking for the next delivery mechanism (videotape, DVD) so they can start all over again and make another killing for the same product (movie). What is the next big thing after DVD?

Jen Chaney: I think HD-DVD might be it. If that catches on, everyone who has an HD set will want to rebuy all of their movies in HD so they can watch them on their HD-DVD players.
Yes, we are all suckers (myself included).


Clarendon, VA: Music. There are some great DVD concerts out there. King Crimson Deja Vroom, Led Zepplin has an amazing double DVD of old (but great sound quality) stuff, and anything by Hudson Records which includes The Drummer's Collective and several Jazz Festivals.

Jen Chaney: I'm way over my time, so I'm going to try to take a few more quickly, then wrap up.
Since we don't talk much about music DVDs, I thought this was worth sharing. Thanks, Clarendon. I'd also add the U2 Elevation tour DVD to that list of recommendations; if you like U2, it's fabulous. And despite its flaws, I like Live Aid, too.


WKRP - Flying Turkeys Episode: That episode is based on fact. A station in Georgia had a promotion where they tossed turkeys to folks, unawares that turkeys couldn't fly. Just thought you'd want to know....

Jen Chaney: I didn't know this. Or if I did, I forgot. See, this is the sort of useful tidbit that would be included on a "W.K.R.P." DVD set!


Herndon, VA: Twin Peaks V2 in late-2005:

Jen Chaney: I knew I heard something about this somewhere. Thanks, Herndon. tvshowsondvd.com is a very good resource for this sort of stuff; I refer to that site all the time.


Vienna, Va.: I'm amazed at what still isn't out there on DVD--hardly any Lubitsch films! Is there any place to go on-line where one can get a sense of what DVDs are in the works and/or where people can weigh in on what should be done? I'd love to see "The Gumball Rally" on DVD, for instance.

Jen Chaney: There are lots of sites that list upcoming releases, including onvideo.org and dvdexclusive.com, among many, many others. I'm sure there are some that specialize in classic films as well.
You also can weigh in on amazon in certain cases. My advice: Find out which studio originally released "Gumball Rally," then send an e-mail to that studio to inquire about its release. All the home video studios have their own sites, and most list an e-mail address where they can be contacted.


Netflix: The real advantage to Netflix isn't so much the price, for those who enjoy movies frequently, but the SELECTION!; Thousands more than you can find in a local Blockbuster. The only real frustration is the poor way in which they list films on their website--you can never find out exactly the entire universe of films available.

Jen Chaney: Good point. Thanks. And that ends our Netflix commercial for today. (Royalty checks can be sent directly to me...)


Baton Rouge, La.: RE: "Do the studios have a say in how low the stores can go?"

Yes, it's called a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). It's why you'll often see new titles advertised in the Sunday circulars as "Low Low Price!" instead of the actual dollar amount.

Jen Chaney: You guys are very smart. That's why I love having these discussions. You (hopefully) learn something, I learn something ... It's like a DVD-themed "Afterschool Special."
Speaking of, it's definitely time for recess. Sorry I couldn't post everyone's questions and comments. Hopefully we can do this again in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, if you ever have a question, you're always welcome to e-mail me. I love to get feedback on my columns, both good and bad.
Thanks for another great discussion, everyone.


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