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Short Takes
Grading from A-F

Stupidity runs amok in the latest effect-filled disaster thriller as every character seems hell-bent on proving the theory "survival of the brightest." B-

Mark Wahlberg shines as a misunderstood and manipulated hitman. Ridiculous situations and tongue-in-cheek action sequences blend perfectly with the hitman who craves love. B+

Bruce Willis with a twist -- this time he's a troubled "FBI" agent. C

Neve Campbell, as you've never seen her before, stars in this hormone-ladden, sex-driven mystery. Cookie-cutter teen thriller. B

--Kevin Ridolfi


ROB GALLO | Well positioned, the DVD waits -- poised and ready to strike. DVD, which stands for digital video disc, and the DVD player is threatening to overthrow the VCR's reign and transform the home theater experience.

Speaking from a scant two week experience with DVD, I am already a convert. Now, without a doubt, let it be known that I am a movie buff not a techno junkie. I have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly, I reviewed movies for my college newspaper, and I can think of nothing better to do on a sunny Friday then to watch a couple of new releases at the local multiplex.

"Fine, enough about you," you sneer smugly, "tell me more about this conquering hero, the DVD."

To start off, a DVD looks just like a CD, but the DVD combines the high quality sound of a CD with a picture quality that up until now was only available at the movie theater. In addition, a DVD can hold much more information than your typical CD or videotape -- easily fitting a three hour movie, plus a commentary track, the movie's theatrical trailer and a documentary about the movie on one disc. "I'm intrigued by this so-called DVD," you shrug, "but I'm still not convinced."

Is the picture and sound that much better than my VCR, and is this just a newer version of Laserdisc?

Yes and No.
The picture and sound on a DVD is far superior than anything on a videocassette. Because DVD offers both digital picture and sound it comes closest to duplicating the movie theater experience. The picture is much clearer and brighter and the sound is also clearer and louder with surround sound capability. DVD is not laserdisc. The technology is better, the picture is clearer, and most importantly the price is much cheaper. Where the average laserdisc costs over $50, the average DVD costs about $25.

What do I need to experience DVD and is it going to cost me a fortune?

The only real requirements are a television, a DVD player and some DVD's. Assuming you have a television, a DVD player can run anywhere from $400 for a good basic model up to $900 for a top of the line model. When you get more money you might want to add a high quality digital receiver and a good set of speakers, but DVD's played on your existing television will look and sound better than any videotape.

Is there a large selection of movies available on DVD now and can I rent DVD's?

Yes and Yes.
There are over 900 DVD titles currently out on the market, and with more new releases every week this number is rapidly growing. The prices range from about $20-$35, and the higher priced DVD's are usually labeled special editions and loaded with such extras as director commentaries, cast bios and interviews, and documentaries on the making of the film. One additional advantage is that DVD's are released by most studios on the day and date of their rental release. This means that you can buy a copy of your favorite movie on DVD without waiting the several months it now takes for the vast majority of videotapes to be priced to buy.

Blockbuster has recently embraced the DVD format, and will begin renting DVD's at over 1,000 of their 4,000 locations this summer. Currently, DVD's can be rented via the internet at www.netflix.com (7 day rental from the time received, postage paid return envelope, $5 per movie). In addition, many local video stores are renting DVD's.

Have all of the movie studios embraced DVD?

With the exception of Fox (Star Wars trilogy) and Stephen Spielberg (Jaws, E.T., etc.) all of the major studios, including Disney, Warner Brothers and Paramount, have embraced the format. And even Fox and Spielberg have indicated that they will release their movies on DVD as soon as the format reaches a wider audience. With Blockbuster now in the DVD mix and brisk DVD sales nationally, it is my guess that Fox and Spielberg will not be able to hold out much longer.

What are the best movies currently available on DVD?

Sorry, but I can't answer this one with a Yes or No. Of course it depends on your taste for movies, but my personal favorite is L.A. Confidential. The DVD is almost a perfect digital transfer, the picture is crystal clear and the sound is excellent, plus the disc includes loads of great extras such as a virtual tour of Los Angeles, interviews with the cast and creator, three behind the scenes documentary features, and a music only soundtrack. All of this for a retail price of $20. Other great DVD's include Terminator 2, Air Force One, Glory and Contact.

What about Titanic?

No release date has been announced yet, but rumors place its release as early as September. It is a Paramount title so it will be released on DVD. It has the potential to sell one copy per owner of a DVD player, and will be able to fit on one disc unlike its release on video which will take two tapes.

Where can I get more information on DVD?

An article of this size can only scratch the surface of a topic such as DVD. Therefore I recommend the DVD Resource Page at www.dvdresource.com. The site is operated by Steve Tannehill who does an excellent job keeping all of the information up to date. The site includes a user forum, including such topics as what players and movies to buy, movie reviews and frequent updates. I learned a lot from the site before I decided to purchase my DVD player, and I highly recommend it.

ROB GALLO of Wethersfield, CT, is a staff writer and the movie guru of Renaissance Online Magazine.

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