By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Hey, you probably don't need to be sold on the DVD Experience. If you're still holding out for some unknown reason, here are five benefits you should know about, immediately:

Ivan Drago
AP
What's the difference between VHS and DVD? Check out the sound and action from a movie like "Rocky IV."

  • 1. Superior picture, superior sound. Goes without saying. Making the leap from VHS to DVD is like going from Hickory High to the L.A. Lakers.

  • 2. Unlike videotapes, you can skip from scene to scene in DVDs, the same way you jump from song to song in CDs. For sports movies, this works especially well, because you can skip right to the game sequences ("Victory" being the ultimate example here). You can also freeze frame the picture at any time for moments like: "Hey, was that Kate Hudson's right nipple?"

  • 3. Some DVDs carry extra features: bonus footage, deleted scenes, different languages, director's commentary and so on. Call me a geek, but I love that stuff. You really haven't lived until you've caught five minutes of "Karate Kid III" in French. Certain movies don't need extra stuff -- for instance, did "The Replacements" really need a director's commentary??? -- but for movies like "The Sixth Sense," "Memento" or "Boogie Nights," the extra features are invaluable. Even a dopey luxury like closed-captioning answers burning questions like: "Hey, what did Ivan Drago just say?"

  • 4. You can watch movies in standard format (fits your whole TV screen) or widescreen (shows the whole movie in rectangle form, just like a movie screen). This is crucial, because many movies -- "The Longest Yard," "Victory," etc. -- were filmed specifically for the big screen; so when they transfer the film to format it on your TV screen, they chop 25 to 33 percent of the picture by cutting the left/right sides, then they zoom around depending on which character is speaking (watch "Die Hard" on cable, and you'll see what I mean -- you practically need Dramamine to get through it). With the widescreen feature, you can see everything (crucial for sports scenes). Sounds dumb? It's not. Trust me.

  • 5. Much like CDs, DVDs are strangely enjoyable to collect. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into a Sam Goody's or a Circuit City and said to myself, "Maybe I'll just look around," and I end up walking out of there with three DVDs, including a random, inexplicable purchase like "Tango & Cash." Can you put a price on that kind of fun? Of course, drunken, late-night online DVD shopping should be prohibited in all 50 states, but that's a story for another time.

    Without further ado ...

    The best 15 sports movies on DVD

    Boogie Nights
    The two-disc version of "Boogie Nights" has to be the greatest DVD ever released.

    1. "Victory"
    Improves more dramatically on DVD than any other sports movie (splendid job remastering this one, plus the widescreen carries the day). Not only does the classical musical score unleash a parade of goosebumps, not only does the concept of "Sly Stallone, Goalie" seem even more ludicrous, not only does the Allies' first goal practically bring you out of your seat (one of my three or four favorite sports scenes of all-time) ... but the crowd in the climactic game sounds so loud, you feel like you're sitting in the stadium with all the Nazis (including the Good Nazi, the guy who applauds for Pele at the end -- I always liked that guy).

    And thanks to the widescreen picture, you see actual plays develop in the soccer game. A must-purchase, even if you despise soccer. What a flick. Please, Hatch. You must buy this DVD. You know how much this DVD means to us. Please. If you run now, you'll lose more than just a DVD. Please.

    2. "Caddyshack"
    Another Must-Purchase, not just because it's the greatest comedy of all-time, not just because it's widescreen, but because of the surreal 45-minute accompanying documentary -- filmed last year -- which features a smug Chevy Chase (with a jarring, Jerry Jones-esque eye job), That Guy who played DiNunzio (laughably overboard and self-absorbed), the girl who threw the Baby Ruth bar into the pool (she was available), and even the lady who played Lacey Underall (still looking frisky after all these years).

    (My favorite section: When director Harold Ramis explains why they hastily wrote the completely inexplicable Chase-Murray "night-golfing" scene -- one of the funniest scenes of all-time -- and tossed it into the film at the last minute. High comedy. Jeez, you mean marijuana contributed heavily to the writing of that scene? I can't believe it!)

    3. "Field of Dreams"
    Field of Dreams
    AP
    There are two types of people in this world: People who love "Field of Dreams," and people who don't have a heart.

    Great movie, well-filmed, good sound, fantastic DVD. There's also some interesting bonus footage here, including a "Making of Field of Dreams" behind-the-scenes documentary (absorbing because director Phil Alden Robinson comes off as an annoying, self-absorbed turd). Just a tour de force. Remember, the world is separated into two types of people -- people who love "Field of Dreams," and people who don't have a heart.

    4. "When We Were Kings"
    Unbelievable DVD. Since the music ties into the movie so much, the DVD experience makes it infinitely more enjoyable -- it's positively inspiring. I watch this one all the time. Ali ... boma ye! Ali ... boma ye!

    (Note: If I need an Ali fix and I'm choosing between the new Will Smith movie or "Kings," in the words of Lt. Sam Weinberg, I'd choose "Kings" every day and twice on Sunday. Sorry, Michael Mann. Good effort though.)

    5. "Rocky IV"
    Don't laugh ... maybe the best-sounding DVD out there. The sound works so well that you actually hear random fans screaming encouragement to Apollo during the Drago fight (Throw the damn towel!). Plus, has any movie ever topped the inspiring music from Rocky's training sequences in Russia? Just thinking about it makes me want to do three or four sit-ups. And is there a livelier DVD scene than James Brown singing "Livin' In America," as Apollo dances around and Drago looks confused?

    Anyway, it's worth spending $70 on the "Rocky" gift set just for this DVD and "Rocky 3." Remember, there's no easy way out ... there's no shortcut home ...

    6. "Rocky III"
    Hey, speak of the devil! Here's a film that was created for DVD -- you can fast-forward through all the dead spots (the awkward beach hug, any close-ups of Apollo's groin as he's jogging, Mickey's funeral, etc.) and get right to the good stuff (the first five minutes, Thunderlips-Rocky, Clubber sabotaging Rocky's retirement announcement, etc.).

    The Natural

    7. "Slapshot," "Hoosiers" and "The Longest Yard" (tie)
    Man, look at that trio. I think I just passed out. All three receive the long-overdue widescreen treatment, pushing their sports sequences to the next level and beyond. I don't even need to sell you on this, do I? No bonus footage in any of these DVDs though ... pretty disappointing and bordering on outrageous. What were they thinking? Still, it's always nice to have the ability to throw these in at any time and cue up any scene you want.

      Hey, Hanrahan, sorry to hear about your wife.
      One more, Ollie! One more and we're goin' all the way!
      I never thought you'd sell us out, Crewe.

    You get the idea.

    8. "Days of Thunder"
    Surprising cool. With stereo surround sound -- assuming you spend the extra dough for little speakers plunked in separate corners of your living room, and dammit, you should -- the zooming cars make you feel like you're sitting at Daytona, with the added bonus that somebody named Billy-Bob isn't sitting next to you, plus you won't get beheaded by a flying wheel. "Thunder" is also a well-filmed movie ... just suffered from a lousy plot, that's all. Cruise has rarely been cheesier, always a plus. And it's always a kick to see Nicole Kidman cast as a brain surgeon.

    9. "The Natural"
    Predictably awesome ... I didn't like the documentary that much though. Come to think of it, I haven't enjoyed many of these DVD documentaries, other than the surreal "Caddyshack" one and "The Godfather" documentaries (more on that later). Is it that difficult to throw some cash around, dredge up some old cast members and shove a camera in front of them, for God's sake? This isn't rocket science.

    Any Given Sunday
    "Any Given Sunday" is worth buying -- if only for Al Pacino's speech before the final game.

    10. "Jerry Maguire"
    This one really works. I can't explain it. Just looks good and sounds good. The widescreen helps, too. And no, I'm not a wuss.

    (Stop calling me a wuss!)

    (I mean it!)

    (You're making me angry, stop it!)

    11. "Kingpin"
    Lots of extra stuff -- deleted scenes, director's commentary and so on. Worth a purchase if you love the movie. Personally, I didn't like it all that much, because of Randy Quaid (just a brutal performance). How can you not smack a role like "Amish Bowler" out of the ballpark? Exchange someone like Will Farrell for Quaid, and "Kingpin" gets pushed to the next level, I'm convinced. But that's a story for another time.

    12. "He Got Game"
    Flawed movie, good DVD. If anything, that inexplicable blues score by Aaron Copland actually sounds more droning and out of place. But the Public Enemy songs work well. And it looks terrific. I'm still pissed at Spike for screwing this movie up (and that's another story for another time).

    13. "There's Something Inside Mary, Part 3"
    (Just kidding ... wanted to see if you were still paying attention.)

    Happy Gilmore
    "The price is wrong" for the "Happy Gilmore" DVD.

    13. "American Flyers" & "Youngblood" (tie)
    Two underrated and cheap DVDs (both under $10). I don't need to sell you on "Youngblood," and if you're not backing me on this one, well ... you wanna go, Pretty Boy? As for "Flyers," it's a bike racing film starring Kevin Costner (one of his first starring roles), Lt. Stephanie Holden from "Baywatch" (topless, no less), James from "Good Times" (one of the all-time great That Guys) and a bunch of no-names. Probably my favorite Costner performance -- I'm ashamed of the fact that there's a better chance that you have seen "Message in a Bottle" or "For Love of the Game" than "Flyers." Hollywood sucks. Just trust me on this one.

    14. "Any Given Sunday"
    Just for the football scenes and the Pacino speech. Either we heal now as a team ... or we will die as individuals. That's football, guys. Good stuff. I hated this movie and loved it at the same time. I think we all feel that way.

    15. "Karate Kid III"
    The only movie that ever scored a perfect 100 out of 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale ... and it's just $14.99? That's like stealing.

    The 10 most disappointing sports movies on DVD

    1. "The Karate Kid"
    Awful DVD ... it might have been the first one ever made. No widescreen, no features, nothing. They better re-release this with a special retro documentary hosted by Billy Zabka, Noriyugi "Pat" Morita and the kid who yelled out "Get him a bodybag... YEAHHHHH!"

    2. The "Rocky" Set (I-V)
    For years, I had been waiting for them to release a "Rocky" DVD Gift Set, just because I couldn't wait to purchase it and see the expression on the face of the guy at Suncoast Video when I paid for it, opened it right there in the store, removed "Rocky V," smashed it to the ground, stomped it to smithereens, then calmly walked out of the store. But when they finally released it last month ... I chickened out. Didn't happen. On the bright side, we use the actual "Rocky V" DVD as a coaster in the Sports Guy Mansion.

    Anyway, I was disappointed in the "Rocky" set. No deleted scenes. A 30-minute documentary in which Sly spends most of the time patting himself on the back and taking credit for anything and everything. And there's a hidden "oyster" (a DVD extra that isn't promoted on the main menu, so you have to stumble across it) in which Sly interviews Rocky with trick photography. Not only was this the worst 11 minutes in DVD history, it might have been the worst 11 minutes of my entire life. Let's just move on.

    Bull Durham
    "Bull Durham" was a terrific film, but the DVD doesn't add much.

    3. "Happy Gilmore"
    No extra stuff. Plus, it's not like the DVD experience really adds anything to a movie like "Happy Gilmore." Same goes for "Waterboy," "Major League," "Tommy Boy" and the rest.

    4. "Rudy"
    Probably a good DVD, but I wouldn't know because this movie gives me the creeps every time I watch it. Rudy was a little strange, if you ask me. Borderline wacko.

    5. "Rollerball"
    Too dated to benefit from the DVD experience. Didn't stop me from buying it though. Just as an aside, can you believe they remade this film with Chris Klein, Becky Stamos and LL Cool J? Chris Klein as Jonathan E? Just stab me in the heart.

    6. "Bull Durham"
    No extra stuff. It's always on Comedy Channel, anyway. I would have loved a behind-the-scenes documentary showing how director Ron Shelton came to the slow, painful realization that Tim Robbins threw like a girl.

    7. "Vision Quest"
    You can pick this one up for $9.99 ... which should tell you something about the quality of the DVD. It isn't even in widescreen. I mean, really. You'd think they would re-release it, since Matthew Modine's career peaked right around the time he pinned Chute. Even the classic "Louden climbing the wall with the pegs as John Waite's 'Change' blares in the background" scene doesn't work that well, because the sound isn't much better than what you would get playing music from an AM station on your alarm clock. An absolute outrage. I'm outraged right now.

    Victory
    "Victory" improves more on DVD than any other sports movie.

    8. "Hoop Dreams"
    Memorable movie ... but documentaries don't get helped out by the DVD format unless porn actresses, fluffers and multiple angles are involved.

    9. "Stealing Home"
    The Sports Gal made me buy this ... it's not even really a sports movie, but I'm still bitter about the whole thing. She should have just shot me in the head. I wish she had.

    10. "Without Limits"
    TREEEEE-mendous film, inconsequential DVD. Why wouldn't they throw a Prefontaine documentary on here? With all the video footage of him, the possibilities were limitless. Infuriating. By the way, the fact that Hollywood made not one but two movies about Steve Prefontaine remains one of the five or six strangest things that ever happened.

    Two sports movies that aren't out on DVD but have unbelievable potential

    1. "Fast Break"
    OK, it will never happen ... but can you imagine an anniversary DVD with bonus footage and director's commentary from Gabe Kaplan and Bernard King? I can dream, can't I?

    2. "Gymkata"
    I want to be the first kid on my block who owns Gymkata on DVD. If they added a director's commentary that explained sticklers like, "What the hell is this movie about?", "How did they mold a boulder to look like a pommel horse?" and "Is Rubicon really a country?", that would be a bonus.

    Three classics that should have had better DVDs

    1. "Swingers"
    Why wouldn't Vaughn and Favreau join up for some extra commentary here? Inexcusable. And you're telling me that they couldn't find 3-4 deleted scenes? GET THERE!

    2. "GoodFellas"
    The only two-sided DVD to my knowledge -- you actually have to flip over the DVD halfway through the movie. Ludicrous. Whoever OK'd that idea deserves to get wacked.

    3. "Rounders"
    They could have added a documentary on poker, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at Damon and Norton learning to play poker, maybe even actual video of the World Series of Poker that Johnny Chan captured ("Look at the patience!") ... and instead, they mailed it in. I still watch this one every time before I hit Foxwoods, though.

    While we're at it ... SG's favorite non-sports DVDs

    1. "Boogie Nights"
    The two-disc re-release (with extra deleted scenes and director's commentaries) has to be the greatest DVD of all-time. Looks the best, sounds the best, helped the most by widescreen, contains the wackiest director's commentary (from Paul Thomas Anderson, who sounds high as a kite) and the weirdest (another commentary by Anderson with a few cast members on a separate commentary, including a completely incoherent, somewhat abrasive Marky Mark, who cruises through the commentary with "I'm getting paid for this, right?" vigor).

    Duvall, Brando
    "The Godfather" set contains just about every extra you can cram into a DVD set.

    "Nights" also contains 10 quality deleted scenes, including an extended section that was deleted from the movie at the last minute (when Dirk crashes his Corvette). Usually, deleted scenes are deleted for a reason, but not these; some of them are excellent (my favorite is the expanded scene when Dirk wins "Best Actor" at the fourth-annual X-rated film awards, and it shows slow-mo reactions of all his friends -- I can't believe that wasn't included in the film). Plus, in one of the deleted scenes, you get to see Heather Graham's yabows again. Well, thank you, Eddie! I think I've watched this DVD roughly 75,000 times.

    2. "Almost Famous" (bootleg edition)
    Two-disc set equipped with a director's cut (39 additional minutes of scenes, some of them which worked really well), director's commentary (Cameron Crowe with his Mom -- strangely enjoyable), deleted scenes, interviews, trailers and even a six-song Stillwater CD. My favorite film of the last few years. The fact that "Jurassic Park III" made more money in America this year than "Almost Famous" makes me want to move to Zimbabwe. I can't heap enough praise on this movie. It's just not possible.

    3. "Halloween" (special edition)
    Everything a DVD should be -- not only is it remastered, but you can choose between the widescreen movie or the TV version (which contains additional scenes). Plus, this one offers pictures, rare photos from the set, original trailers, and tons of other goodies. If this thing were $300, I'd still purchase it. And you think I'm kidding. The evil! The evil is gone!

    4. "The Godfather" Trilogy
    Good Will Hunting
    The "Good Will Hunting" DVD contains some humorous commentary from Ben Affleck.

    They finally made Coppola an offer he couldn't refuse. Put it this way: This five-disc package includes an entire disc of deleted scenes, documentaries, trailers, interviews, Easter eggs and everything else you can imagine. In other words, everything we ever wanted short of the ability to digitally delete Sofia from "3." There's even a sequence of deleted scenes from "1" that take place right after the Godfather's near-assassination, when Team Sonny wonders if Clemenza could have been responsible (should have remained in the movie). And it's funny to hear Coppola try to defend Sofia during the commentary for "3" -- he gets pretty ticked at one point.

    5. "Fight Club"
    Mind-blowing. Let's just move on. I can't even rationally discuss this one.

    6. "Jaws"
    Near-perfect. First of all, the widescreen transfer makes the movie spring to life -- it's another one of those wide-filmed movies which can only be truly appreciated on widescreen -- and it's much easier to see some of the night footage. But the music ... oh, boy. When that first "Duh-DUH" riff comes in, it's chilling. A very informative documentary in here to boot. I never realized that the mechanical shark was almost a bigger disaster than Holyfield-Ruiz III.

    7. "Top Gun"
    Just as good as you would think (thanks to widescreen and all the planes zooming around). If you buy it and you can't find anyone to watch it with ... gimme a call, I'll fly with you.

    8. "Heat"
    A tour de force. The watershed bank robbery shootout comes off so incredibly that, when I played it for my buddy Camp two years ago, he purchased a DVD player within a week. True story.

    9. "The Doors"
    Mesmerizing. They re-released this baby last year with documentaries, deleted scenes and complimentary marijuana.

    10. "Talented Mr. Ripley" & "Cruel Intentions" (tie)
    Two fantastic DVDs -- great sound, great feel, great picture. I'm ashamed to admit how much I enjoy "Cruel Intentions"; as my buddy Hopper once said, "Buffy outshining Reese was the upset of the century." As for "Ripley," it creeped the hell out of me in the theater, and I never imagined the DVD would be enjoyable, but the Sports Gal brainwashed me into enjoying it. Hey, if you love Italy, you'll like "Ripley." Plus, it has maybe my favorite Phil Hoffman performance, which is saying something. How's the peepin'? Tommy? Howwwwww's the peepin'?

    11. "Die Hard," "The Fugitive" & "Terminator 2" (tie)
    The best three-action movies you can purchase on DVD. Unreal sound. As Dr. Richard Kimble would say, "YOU FIND THESE DVDS!" And make sure you blast the sound when you're drunk just to see if the neighbors will call the police ... always a good time.

    Swingers
    Couldn't they have gotten Vince Vaughn or Jon Favreau to do a little extra commentary for "Swingers"?

    12. "Good Will Hunting"
    All the requisites (deleted scenes, trailer, commentary with Affleck and Damon) and it looks and sounds fantastic. A classic. The commentary is especially splendid because Ben Affleck gets carried away and starts to sound like Gene Siskel about 20 minutes into the movie. At one point, he even calls his brother Casey a genius. I highly recommend this for comedy's sake.

    13. "Austin Powers" (1 & 2)
    Mike Myers knows what he's doing ... he loaded both DVDs with lots of extra stuff. The first deleted scene in the sequel is funnier than any scene in the actual movie.

    14. "This is Spinal Tap" & "Scarface" (tie)
    Both of them are loaded with tons of deleted scenes and outtakes. If you like these movies, you have no recourse BUT ...

    15. "Go"
    Don't laugh. Very good movie, fantastic DVD. Worth it just for the scene when they pull out of the Vegas garage and the Steppenwolf song kicks in.

    16. "The Matrix"
    I wasn't an enormous fan of this movie -- too much Keanu, and it gave me a headache -- but the DVD contains a crapload of cool stuff. Apparently this is the best-selling DVD of all-time. Go figure.

    17. "True Romance"
    Totally underrated movie -- one of my favorite films of the '90s -- and the DVD does it justice. Was there a funnier character in movie history than Floyd? And did Christian Slater, Michael Rapaport and Gary Oldman all peak in this movie or am I crazy?

    18. "Dazed And Confused" & "Outside Providence" (tie)
    No extra stuff, nothing exceedingly special about either DVD ... but you never know when Rashaan Salaam, Floyd and Lamar Odom might be coming over.

    19: "The Sixth Sense" & "Memento" (tie)
    Lots of helpful extras in here, including a few explanations about the movies that enhance them after you watch them. For instance, do you know the significance of the color red in "Sense"? Rent the DVD.

    20. "The Breakfast Club" & "St. Elmo's Fire" (tie)
    The premier films of the '80s, both of which look and sound fantastic and get helped immeasurably by widescreen (especially in "Club" during the scene when when we learn what happened to Larry Lester's buns). By the way, was there a more improbable scene in movie history than everyone from "Club" smoking pot in the back of the library? That ranks right up there with the Russians cheering for Rocky in "Rocky IV."

    One last question: For the "St. Elmo's Fire" DVD, which was just released last month, couldn't they have rustled up Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson for a director's commentary? Something tells me they were available.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas. And if you don't own a DVD player yet ... well, I hope I changed your mind. As Billy Hixx once said, "Let's rock!"

    Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.




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