DVD: This So-Called Disaster—MGM/UA
This avant-garde documentary traces the weeks of rehearsal leading up to a 2000 play by playwright and director Sam Shepard, based on his relationship with his own alcoholic father. Shepard assembled a cast that included Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, and Woody Harrelson, and while it's interesting to watch these pros prepare for their curtain call, they all seem to get along too well to make this more than an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at live theater. The best drama—whether fiction or reality television—comes from conflict, but there's none to be found here, despite the disc jacket's claim that the play's characters "set off a powder keg of emotions so explosive that the actors themselves are drawn into the fray." This is just dull, and even Shepard appears to be dozing off during some of the script-reading sessions. The best moment comes when Harrelson and Penn, apparently competing with Nolte for the title Most Scruffy Looking Actor, bust each other's chops on some of their past film choices (yes, Shanghai Surprise comes into the conversation).
Considering that TiVo first announced its HDTV plans two years ago and now offers a high-def version of its hard-disk recorder (HDR) exclusively for DirecTV satellite subscribers, devotees of TiVo who subscribe to cable TV have been increasingly turning to high-def cable boxes with HDRs.
The final day of CES always brings a little sadness with it - sadness that you didn't bring more comfortable shoes. Yet, when all is considered, CES is still one of the most exciting times for consumer electronics geeks (and the Consumer Electronics Association counted over 140,000 of them at the Show). Since all the press conferences and nearly all of the scheduled meetings are over, it's a great day to wander the 1.5 million square feet of the show floor and catch up on all the things you missed (and find some nice surprises, too).
One of the main reasons why dealers and press types come to the Consumer Electronics Show every year is to see first hand the just-released and soon-to-be-released electronic gadgets and home entertainment gear. But, if you've got "connections", the best thing about CES - other than free dinners and drinks - is the chance to get an up close and personal look at technology that's still in the development stage. These "revealing" meetings generally take place in an unassuming hotel room off the beaten path, are bereft of any glowing press releases, and require a secret handshake (or sometimes a signed non-disclosure agreement) to gain access. HP, for example, showed us some things that we could tell you about, but we'd lose the ability to use our knee caps if we did. (I'm just kidding about the knee caps, but we did swear ourselves to secrecy until they're ready to let the electronic cat out of the bag.)
<B>Thomas J. Norton</B><BR>
Finally, news from the audio side of CES. My coverage of the limited surround-sound demos at the official specialty audio venue of the Alexis Park Hotel will have to wait for our upcoming in-depth show report. Today's report will catch up on a few important demos held at hotels near the Las Vegas convention center, plus one surprise discovery at the Alexis. And the news it hot.
Something is funny in Las Vegas today, and I don't mean the Penn & Teller show. Just as CES is ready to open for another delightful day, the light rain - rather unusual for this dry, desert town - begins turning into snow (really unusual for around here). Veteran CES-goers scratch their heads in amazement as they run from the taxi drop off area to the doors of the Convention Center. It's hard to remember the last time it snowed in Las Vegas during CES. It was a surprising, albeit wet, beginning to a day full of much nicer surprises.
<B>Thomas J. Norton</B><BR>
Time was when CES meant small, unexciting televisions lining the back isles of the convention center. Those times are well past, as manufacturers both large and small vie for the sexiest video presentation. The winner this year was clearly Samsung, with their 102-inch plasma (as before, all screen sizes here are diagonal unless stated otherwise). How they got this monster to Las Vegas and into the convention center free of damage and fully functional remains one of the seven mysteries of the show (another was who distributed all of those pornographic calling cards around the men's restrooms—but let's not go there).