10/16/2006

Super Ultimate Deluxe Collector’s Box

Posted in Side Topics at 10:23 am by Sam

It’s not even news anymore. Standard practice for DVD releases seems to be to throw out a “regular” version of a movie on DVD first — ideally but not necessarily with restored picture and sound and anamorphic widescreen unless it’s not a widescreen movie to begin with, the trailer, blurbs on the cast and crew, and a worthless 10 minute promotional doc — and then release a collector’s edition later with extra goodies, and then maybe even *more* goodies as part of a boxed set.

Remember the days of VHS tapes, and how, when you bought a movie, you got the movie? That was it, and that was the end of it. Oh, once in a while a restoration effort would warrant a subsequent rerelease, but the inferior quality of VHS tapes in the first place didn’t inspire a need to replace an old copy.

Somehow, media companies figured out how to turn what should be a static product into something you have to stay “current” with, upgrading periodically over time, if you want to own the best. Stranger still, they did this with DVDs when they could not do this with tapes, despite tapes being the product that degrades over time, while DVDs seem to have more permanence.

Thing is: those collector’s DVD boxed sets really *are* nice sometimes. And even a “regular” DVD feels like more value for the money than a video tape, which you have to fast forward and rewind, which gets fuzzier after every viewing, and can get chewed up by old or dirty VCRs.

I don’t know anybody that would rather own a VHS Tape of a movie if they could have a DVD instead. But I also know many people, including myself, that just hate buying a DVD for fear that a better version will come out later. The question is, from a consumer satisfaction standpoint, have we made any progress from the 80s and early 90s, or have we regressed? Do the superior home video products of today make us happier in general with our purchases, or was the ignorance of yesteryear really bliss?

26 Comments »

  1. ThePhan (128) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 10:39 am

    This doesn’t affect me very much, since I hardly ever buy DVDs. In fact, the family continues to buy VHS tapes when they’re available. I personally prefer DVDs, since I can watch them on my laptop in my own room, with subtitles and all manner of cool things… but my mom actually prefers VHS, mostly because she’s been fed up with DVD players going kaput on her. I have to say I am occasionally frustrated when I put in a DVD, get right to the climax, and suddenly it freezes up on me, or registers that there’s no disc in the drive, no matter how often I clean the disc or the player… and then I have to jump from DVD player to DVD player trying to watch the end of my movie.

    Also, in a house with lots of little ones running around, VHS is actually a better option for us because they’re harder to lose, harder to accidentally destroy, and easier for the kids to handle.

    But this is a bit of a bunny trail, isn’t it? I didn’t intend to do that, but I really am not affected by the “Super Mega Ultimate Special Director’s Cut Edition” trend. I’ve only bought five or six DVDs in my entire life, and those mostly at garage sales where they were $5 or less and I thought, “Sure, might as well own that.” I hardly ever rewatch movies, so owning one gives me little more than being able to say, “Yeah, I’ve got that movie.”

  2. Stephen (221) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 10:44 am

    I think the majority of people aren’t that concerned. My brother, who watches a ton of movies but isn’t that interested in them except as pure entertainment, was telling me the other day about a bunch of good movies he picked up for $10, including Saving Private Ryan.

    I asked him which version he got, as SPR has been released a couple of times. “The movie version,” he said in disgust. He explained that he doesn’t care at all about extras or picture quality except maybe for director’s cuts.

    As for those of us that are buffs, I don’t know that I care too much about extras either. I’ve rebought a few DVDs for a restored picture quality, but I almost never do it just to get extras. Most of them are pretty lame, and there are a lot of movies I like enough to rewatch but not enough to really want to learn about the making of.

    If I am really into a specific movie, I’ll generally wait for the ideal release. If it matters to you, then it’s not hard to poke around Google and find out if there’s another release planned. It’s why I waited to buy Sin City on DVD and why I still haven’t bought either Kill Bill disc, despite being tempted to every time I walk into the store.

    The bright side of the double or triple or whatever dipping is that you can often pick up the original release for a song after the special edition is out.

  3. Stephen (221) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 10:52 am

    ThePhan: If you’re concerned about wear, in a sense DVDs are the best option, since it’s relatively easy (though not as easy as it should be) to make perfect copies of them.

    As for not watching movies more than once, I think that’s a habit you should try breaking. One thing that didn’t get mentioned in Sam’s “Movies That Evolve in the Head” thread is how differently a movie can play on a second viewing.

    The first time you see a film you often have false expectations for it that I think can cloud how you perceive it. A second viewing will often help with that, and since you don’t have to concentrate on the story as much you’re free to look at the film from a more technical angle. One thing I like to do on repeat viewings is just pick a specific technical thing to look for: the dialogue, the editing, the lighting, the camera moves, etc. and just try and figure out why the decisions were made the way they were.

    It’s also intersting how your mood can affect how you experience a movie. A fairly recent example for me was the movie “Collateral,” which I didn’t much like in the theater. I saw it again on HBO early in the morning recently when I couldn’t sleep, and I really enjoyed it. I got into the mood and atmosphere perfectly and was able to forgive the plot flaws that had previously gotten in my way.

  4. Dave (130) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 11:39 am

    I personally don’t buy many movies, so I’m not very much affected by the whole multiple release thing. However, I remember this one time going to the store with a guy from work who wanted to buy Fight Club. We go in, and they have the “regular” version for $14.95 and the “super mega ultra better” version for $21.95 or whatever. He grabbed the regular version and I said “Don’t you want the other one? It has all sorts of extras and stuff that I hear are good.” And he said “Screw that, I’m not paying $7 more for some crap I’m not going to watch. It’s all just a scam anyway to make you pay more.” I had to admit he had a point there. If he already knew he wasn’t interested in the extras, there’s no point in paying more money for them.

    The only time I remember consciously waiting for the next release of a movie before buying it was with the Lord of the Rings movies. The extended cuts of those movies are just plain *better* than the theatrical cuts, plus everyone in Hollywood needs to check out those “extras” discs to see how those things *should* be done. Talk about value for the money–I *still* haven’t watched all the extras and stuff on the bonus DVDs because there’s just so much stuff. But it’s all really interesting and I never feel like I got ripped off paying more for those versions.

    As for repeat viewings, I gotta say I hardly ever watch a movie more than once. Even movies that I know would benefit from repeat viewings, like Memento, I hardly ever bother to watch more than once. Mostly it’s because I have a hard enough time mustering up the interest to watch a movie even once, so it ends up being more than twice as hard to convince myself I should sit through it again. It’s also why I have yet to listen to any commentary track all the way through–that requires watching the movie a second time. Of course, I’ve seen The Princess Bride like 60 times or something.

  5. ThePhan (128) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    There are a few movies I have deliberately watched over to see if my perception changed. Sometimes it does (as was the case with Finding Nemo, which I was bored by in the theaters and liked much better on subsequent viewings) and sometimes it doesn’t (as was the case with Being John Malkovich - I thought the plot started off great and then fizzled both times). If I *really* like a movie, I’m actually more hesitant to watch it again for fear I’ll find I didn’t like it as much the second time.

    Couple extra thoughts on the original topic: I don’t tend to watch DVD features, either. I occasionally sit through a fourth of a commentary (if it’s boring at that point, which it often is, I turn it off). And, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I don’t notice picture or sound quality all that much, so that’s not much of a bonus to get the super special editions.

  6. Dave (130) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    I totally agree about being hesitant to watch a movie I liked a second time. Too often it turns out I just have really bad taste. So instead of having a pleasant hazy memory of a movie I liked, I then have a distinct memory of a movie I now dislike, *plus* the knowledge that I was an idiot previously for liking it. So, yeah, that’s another reason I dont’ rewatch a lot of movies.

  7. Sam (405) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    For me, it largely depends on what the movie is. Most movies I only watch once, because I’d virtually always rather watch a movie I haven’t seen than watch one a second time. There are too many unseen movies out there that I’m interested in.

    However, a lot of the really great movies are *intended* to be seen multiple times. A lot of movies have a lot going on in them that you can really only appreciate after seeing them more than once. Robert Altman’s movies tend to be like this. Currently I’m discovering that the same is true of Jacques Tati, who can be thought of as a silent comedian even though his movies are heavily dependent on sound for their atmosphere. His movie “Playtime” is almost entirely in long shots, where all kinds of different things are going on in different parts of the frame, and you really have to see it more than once to pick up on all the neat little details.

    Then there’s another kind of movie that warrants multiple viewings, and that’s the “twist” movies — movies with surprise endings that belie all that has come before. The good ones are best seen twice: once to be surprised by the ending, and once after you know the secret and can appreciate how the movie hides its secret but is (hopefully) consistent with it. The Sixth Sense is a good example. I’m convinced that if Fight Club is even a good movie at all, it’s still a bad movie until you learn the secret revealed at the end. Either way, it still takes two viewings for the movie to have the full effect it’s supposed to have.

    But, let’s face it. The vast majority of movies are made to be disposable. They’re made to sit on the New Release shelf, get seen within a couple of months of their release, and vanish into the ether. So I may only rarely rewatch movies, but only rarely is it called for.

  8. ThePhan (128) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Definite agreement with “There are too many movies out there I’m interested in.” Whenever I rewatch a movie, I always have this panicked sense of, “There are so many movies out there to watch, and you’re watching this one again???”

    Twist movies are indeed good to rewatch, though. When I watched Fight Club, I actually already knew the twist at the end, but if I hadn’t, I most likely would have rewatched it to check and see if it all checked out consistently. But for things like that, that’s where watching it on my laptop at twice the speed with subtitles comes in handy.

  9. Grishny (156) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    For my part, I think progress has been made. I don’t purchase movies very often, but I am much happier with DVDs than VHS, even without the “bonus features.” If the special features on a DVD are any good, then that’s just gravy to me… I bought it because I liked the movie enough to own it, and not because I wanted to see how they made it or what-have-you.

    That said, I will still admit that I’m very picky about what movies I’ll purchase to own. My parents have, or at least had for a few years, gotten into the habit of buying movies on DVD sight-unseen. Every time we visit them we find more DVDs added to their collection, and many of them have never even been opened! I do not understand this. For one thing, it seems like a colossal waste of money… a new DVD is a significant investment for me, and I’m not going to buy one unless I plan to watch it, probably repeatedly.

  10. Stephen (221) said,

    October 16, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    I own 5 or 6 movies I haven’t seen, mostly because they were part of box sets I really wanted and just haven’t had felt the need to see yet (and I’m purposely putting off The Godfather Part III for as long as possible).

    As for rewatching movies, I understand what Sam and ThePhan are saying about wanting to watch unseen films, but sometimes I feel like I watch a movie once just so I can watch it a second time — I often like a movie much better on second or third viewing than I did the first.

    Sam, you’re right that the vast majority of movies are disposable entertainment, but then again I don’t watch the vast majority of movies. I’d say I watch significantly more good-to-great movies than I do bad-to-mediocre films because I generally avoid watching movies that I don’t think will have some value. Unlike some people, I don’t feel the need to watch every Rambo movie just because I saw First Blood…

    I also sort of disagree about twist movies. Often I think they’re a little worse on multiple viewings, because you no longer get the fun of being surprised. Certainly The Usual Suspects is nowhere near as fun the second time, and while you can pick up all kinds of clues watching The Sixth Sense a second time I’m not sure how much knowing the twist really affects most of the movie. Sometimes, with a film like Memento or Usual Suspects, knowing too much hurts the movie because you realize the narrative is unreliable to the point where you can’t really decipher all the puzzle pieces.

    It’s not to say that Memento or Sixth Sense don’t improve on second viewings, but I think it’s for the same reason any great film does, not because of the twist.

    On the other hand, I will agree that Fight Club is completely different on second viewing. When you watch it a second time, a few of the characters are cast in completely different lights and the movie takes on a texture and richness that was completely hidden upon first viewing. I didn’t even really like the film until I saw it a second time. But I think Fight Club is the exception rather than the rule (it’s probably the best of the recent twist movies).

    Watching a movie at 2x speed is just pure wrong, by the way.

  11. Darien (88) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    On the longevity of DVDs: don’t put TOO much faith in that; well-cared-for videocasettes don’t exactly break down in the total length of time DVDs have existed for, so technically the jury’s still out, though theory certainly favours them. The real benefit of DVD is that digital copies are lossless, so the data will live forever even after the media dies. If only the various media companies would get their heads out of their eject slots and stop trying to cripple their product’s most worthwhile feature, we’d be set. :-P

    I don’t watch a lot of movies simply because watching a movie is a significant time investment that I’m highly liable to spend on something else instead. I find I’m actually much *more* likely to watch a movie I’ve seen already, because then I don’t feel pressured to be paying attention so I don’t miss anything; I can turn it on and read something, or play a game, or work on INTERNET or what-have-you. Of course, it’s up to you and the State of Alabama to decide whether or not that actually qualifies as “watching a movie.”

    Oh, and Stephen, I love the haughty-taughty “I don’t watch just anything” routine. That’s hawt. How was Bubba Ho-Tep, anyhow? I remember you were all revved up to catch that on opening night.

  12. Stephen (221) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    Bubba Ho-Tep is a good movie. I mean that honestly. I would give it 4/5 stars in a serious review.

    And I am serious that I actively avoid movies I do not think I will like. I don’t know that it’s haughty — I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I only watch great art — but what I like is generally stuff that is interesting and well-made enough to warrant a second viewing.

  13. Darien (88) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    Oh, I completely agree with you - watching a movie you have every reason to believe you’ll hate is a total waste of time. I am not so dedicated to the art of criticism that I’ll sit through a film that sucks, nor do I think anybody but Sam is who isn’t getting paid for it. ;-)

    I just thought your tone was funny. AND UR FASElol

  14. Sam (405) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    I did see Pearl Harbor so I could hate it with authority, but that’s sort of the exception. The reason I saw Rambo III is subtly different. Uh. Stuck on how to explain why.

    Ok, it’s like this. I saw First Blood. It was a good movie. There are two more Rambo movies (soon to be another!), and if I’d not seen them, I’d always be aware of that ignorance. It’s easier just to spend the four hours to satisfy my curiosity. Now I know what Rambo was all about, and the ability to talk about it from a knowledgeable standpoint is a bonus that, occasionally, isn’t as trivial as it often is. Plus, it’s a cultural thing. Rambo III says a bit about the cultural mindset at the time, and certainly it was a cultural artifact of its time. I dig that stuff. Ok, I get it — you’re not convinced. But I’m not trying to convince you.

    Occasionally I do see movies I regret I ever saw, but, all the usual joking of that sort aside, those are few and far between. Far more frequently, I discover a welcome surprise and wind up liking a movie I never thought I would. Sometimes finding a good movie is worth a few bad ones.

  15. Stephen (221) said,

    October 24, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    Everyone sees movies they regret they saw. You, however, intentionally watch movies you don’t think you will like because you are a compulsive nutjob. Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery!

  16. Darien (88) said,

    October 31, 2006 at 11:56 pm

    You know, no matter how many times I read that sentence in my post there - you know, that one what starts with “I am not so…” - I *still* think there are words missing. AND I WROTE IT. Maybe this is a sign that my prose could use to be less opaque.

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