It's extremely rare for low-budget foreign films to catch on with American audiences. Most that are lucky enough to get distribution in the States spend a few poorly attended weeks in the art houses, then quietly disappear. <I>The Full Monty</I>, a British film about a group of unemployed Sheffield steel workers putting together a "Chippendales"-type revue, has done just the opposite.
The Associated Press reported Dec. 22 that Japanese film director Juzo Itami died after jumping from the top of an eight-storey building that housed his office. Itami was director of the international hit film <I>Tampopo</I>.
Movie fans the world over are mourning the passing of Toshiro Mifune, Japan's greatest film actor. Mifune died December 24 at a hospital in Mitaka, Japan, not far from his home in Tokyo. The cause of death was an unspecified "organ failure." Mifune was 77.
Director James Cameron's <I>Titanic</I> is not only afloat but appears to be eminently seaworthy. The epic disaster drama's three-hour-and15-minute length is apparently no drawback for film fans, who packed theaters to the tune of a $51.9 million gross in the first week following the film's release, according to Exhibitor Relations Company, which tracks box-office results.
E<I>veryone with a TV has seen the traditional winter holiday fare: </I>Miracle on 34th Street<I>, </I>It's a Wonderful Life<I>, and any one of a dozen versions of Charles Dickens' </I>A Christmas Carol<I>. If you're not totally burned out on the subject, there are less-well-known films with Christmas (and other) themes that are worth seeking out. Here's a short list of recommendations from the staff that might round out your holiday viewing:</I>
Recent studies by the <A HREF="http://www.recordingmedia.org/">International Recording Media Association</A> and <A HREF="http://www.cemacity.org">Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association</A> have revealed strong sales for home-theater products. DVD-player sales are up 179% over 1997, with over 1 million players sold this year vs. 400,000 last year, while sales of DVD discs jumped 22%. VCR sales are up 7.5% in 1998, with sales in the first 11 months of the year totaling 16.5 million units. Forty four television stations have already begun broadcasting digital TV, indicating a good start for the new format. Within five years, all 1600 stations in the US are required to be broadcasting in digital.
The inherent portability and relatively simple setup and calibration of LCD projectors have allowed them to carve out a place in the home-theater market in the last several years. But state-of-the-art picture quality has never been an LCD strong suit, with critics citing lack of contrast and noticeable pixelization as the primary weaknesses.