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*** Over 100 reviews in 9 months: Thank You for supporting me HTF membership!

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76 replies to this topic

#1 of 77 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul

  • 40,248 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 03 1997

Posted April 17 2002 - 12:25 AM

106 reviews may not seem much compared to
those archived on other DVD review sites....
that is until you consider that all these
reviews were done by one individual
at an average of 12 titles per month.

Ron's Archived Reviews

Though I had been writing laserdisc reviews
long before the internet was commercialized,
I didn't start archiving those reviews until
July 2001. I really never thought much of
anything I wrote, but felt the time I was
devoting to it should not go wasted.

It's been a rather difficult road for me as
official reviewer for Home Theater Forum.

I'll never forget a letter I received from a
professional reviewer who was just fired from
one of the major DVD review sites. He wrote
me a rather scathing letter telling me that I
had no right to be a reviewer, and that
essentially my writing style sucked. He was
very upset that the very small circle of quality
reviewers was being broken by an onslaught of
new reviewers. He basically summed it by saying
anyone can start a website and call themself
a DVD reviewer.

It was kind of sad to see that someone with a
chip on their shoulder was preaching that
my opinion was not nearly as worthy as his just
because my writing style was not as eloquent.

I think people lose sight of the fact that
Home Theater Forum was conceptualized as
a place for hobbyists to come together and discuss
their passions for Home Theater and DVD. We aren't
"elitist bastards" here. We don't look down on
anyone that comes here with limited knowledge of
the subject matter.

I took over the job of being official reviewer
for this forum because it was something I wanted
to try. I wanted the success of this forum to
lie mostly on the efforts of the owners themselves.
Parker does such an incredible job with the design
of this board. I wanted to contribute by writing
reviews. Good or bad, I was determined to take a
gamble and risk this forum's reputation on what I
contributed to it.

Posted ImagePosted Image

I decided in order to do accurate reviews on this
forum, I needed to invest some money. I bought a
Toshiba 57HX81 widescreen[/b] HD TV. I also
bought the Panasonic RP91 progressive scan
DVD player. I then had Gregg Loewen ISF CALIBRATE
my equipment so that I clearly was in a position
to give accurate video and audio assessments.

Within weeks, boxes of DVD product were arriving
here daily. To this day, I receive up to 8 new
DVD titles per week from Warner Brothers, MGM,
New Line, DreamWorks, Universal, Columbia
Artisan. I am also proud to announce that
Walt Disney Home Video will start sending
me product this week.

Nobody can just start a website and get this
kind of product from the studios. The field is
already oversaturated and the studios only provide
screeners to sites that get the most traffic. In
addition, the studios expect that everything they
send you gets a review.

In any given week, I will write up to 5 new reviews.
I dedicate an average of 3-4 hours for each review
that I write. This includes watching the movie,
taking screen shots and writing the review. Some
of the more elaborate Special Editions take longer.
It took me 5+ hours to do Fox's From Hell

Did I mention that I have another 40-hour per
week job and run a forum?

Posted ImagePosted Image

Every free moment I have is dedicated to doing
reviews for this forum. I have gained 10 pounds
in these past 9 months from either sitting in my
Home Theater or at a computer in office that never
gets cleaned. Though I still buy many DVDs each
month, I never get to watch them. I have an
obligation first to review most all the titles
that the studios send me every week. It's a job
that's not much unlike a constant homework assignment.

I am certainly not complaining. This was my
choice. The upside is that I keep the product
I review. I also have the opportunity to share
my viewing experiences with all the members of
this forum.

I accept the fact that my writing skills have
much to be desired. I accept these skills have
been the subject matter of many negative posts
in this forum as well as other forums. Since
the mid 90's, my name has been all over the
newsgroups and discussion forums either because
people either enjoyed what I had to contribute,
or didn't like the attention I was receiving.

It is those of you who have accepted my reviews
for what they are and have posted many generous
words of response that I wish to thank.

I never decided to write reviews here in order
to best anyone else. I think I have always been
up front with my readers in saying that though I
lack the ability to write in a professional manner,
what I do write comes from the very heart of
someone that is passionate about movies and their
entertainment value.

The biggest problem I face in writing reviews

How many ways can one describe how good a DVD
looks and sounds?

This format has progressed to the point where
just about every new release looks and sounds
as good as the other.

Some of the fun of writing these reviews has been
lost simply because I have to sit and think of new
ways to describe how fantastic a DVD looks and sounds.

I don't litter my reviews with technical jargon,
though I respect reviewers who do. People want to
simply know if the picture and audio lives up to
the latest standards. Most releases do. The biggest
task of writing a review is finding new ways to
eloquently say "this DVD looks as great as any other"

The Highs and Lows

The first archived review on record is Family Man.
Reading that review and something recent like From Hell
will show you exactly how far my review skills
have come.

I have had some great moments these past 9 months
that I would like to briefly talk about.

Out of all the studios whose products I have
reviewed, I have the most respect for Fox
Home Video
. Senior VP of Fox Marketing,
Peter Staddon, once said that since Fox's library
is so much smaller than most other studios, Fox
tries harder with what they have. This was the
studio that redefined Special Edition
product, and anytime I receive a copy for review,
I am just astounded by the quality that goes
into that product.

Posted Image

Of course, many of you are aware that I picked
Moulin Rouge as the best DVD of 2001.
Though my decision raised much controversy, most
of it was over personal opinions of the film. My
pick was based on the overall presentation of the
disc as well as the fact I thought Moulin Rouge
was one of the most daring projects ever brought
to the screen. Nobody can argue that Moulin
from blueprint to film to DVD was the
result of sweated relentless devotion from its
Director, Baz Luhrmann.

For better....for worse

When you get to watch so much product from the
studios, you notice trends and changes. Two of
the biggest studios that fall into this category
are Warner Brothers and MGM.

Posted Image

Over a year ago, MGM was hated by most
members of this forum. Their bare-boned DVD
releases that sported lackluster transfers became
the focal point of criticism on this forum. In
the past 9 months, I have slowly watched that
studio redeem itself with releases like The
Usual Suspects, Bull Durham, Buckaroo Banzai

and Bandits. The studio is putting great
effort into not only putting out better transfers
but in adding Special Features, animated menu
structures and elaborate packaging.

Posted Image

Warner Brothers, on the other hand, has
lost sight of the format they conceptualized.
Though the transfers coming out of this studio
are one of the best in the business, their attitude
towards this format is the worst. The mere fact
that they began releasing full-frame only
titles leaves no argument that they have deeply
hurt this format. In addition, despite numerous
complaints and petitions, the studio is mishandling
not only their South Park television product,
but other television releases as well.

Thank You

I wanted to write something to this membership that
has supported my views and reviews.

I consider the membership of this forum to be
a sort of "police force" that keeps tabs on how
the industry is doing.

All of us in this forum are here together because
we are passionate about DVD. We, more than anyone
else, understand what this format was intended to
be and how well or not it has progressed these past
five years.

Trust me when I say that the voices of this forum's
membership are known to all the studios. Your
opinions here rise louder and stronger than anywhere
else. I know, because anytime there's controversy
within these forum walls, the studios respond.

We are not here to work against the studios.
We are here to with them in order to
assist them in getting professional feedback in
order to make better product.

But make no mistake about it -- though I consider
to be friendly with a few people in Home Video, this
forum has an obligation to speak out against any
studio that we feel is hurting this format. In
the same light, we never hesitate to praise those
same studios when they do something right.

Thank You for supporting my reviews and views on
this forum. My goal is not to become someone who
likes to listen to his own voice, but rather, bring
out honest and frank assessments about where this
format stands.

Everything I write -- everything I say seems
to get critiqued in this forum or spread all
over the internet and industry. I might as
well say what I mean and mean what I say.

Thank you -- all of you -- for coming to this
forum and making it a respected voice in this industry.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 77 OFFLINE   DanC


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Posted April 17 2002 - 12:35 AM

Although I don't have time to post much, I always enjoy reading your reviews Ron. Thanks for all the time, effort and hard work you put into these reviews, you're a true asset around here!

BTW, I just went back and compared your Family Man review to some of your latest efforts...night & day! Keep up the great work! Posted Image
Go Noles!

Home Theater/DVD's

#3 of 77 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted April 17 2002 - 12:48 AM


Even when I don't agree with your reviews - and that's mostly film content, not disc presentation - I always find them interesting to read. And as someone who used to edit a team of 10 non-professional writers for a weekly magazine, I can say with certainty that your writing efforts have greatly improved over the time you've been publishing them here.

Keep up the good work!

"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"


#4 of 77 OFFLINE   Artur Meinild

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Posted April 17 2002 - 01:19 AM

Ron, I really like reading your reviews... Believe me, they're some of the more interesting and in-depth reviews on the net...
A r t u r M e i n i l d
People Strategy Consultant (M.Sc. Eng.)Semi-professional Composer & Musician

#5 of 77 OFFLINE   Ric Easton

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Posted April 17 2002 - 01:24 AM


Wouldn't your time have been better spent writing a review? Just kidding! While I don't read every review that comes down the pike, ie: films I have no interest in what-so-ever, I always check out your reviews of movies I am curious or on the fence about.

I think many folks think being a reviewer is the easiest job in the world, with great perks! I know that is not the case, and I often wish I had the talent for painting pictures with words.

Keep up the good work, Ron, and don't let your critics get to you. You perform a valuable service here and it is most appreciated.


#6 of 77 ONLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted April 17 2002 - 02:25 AM

Yes Ron your efforts are greatly appreciated by me - and I'm sure many others.

Since all DVDs are coming out with fairly good transfers the use of a blanket statement that you can cut and paste from review to another should not be a problem. You would only need to modify it if a DVD had a transfer that was outside the expected range. Just a thought.

As for gaining more than a lb a month that does not sound like a good trend! Maybe you should start watching movies on a stationary bike or treadmill!Posted Image

BTW - you might want to consider offloading reviews to some off your friends that are interested in doing reviews otherwise you are probably going to burn yourself out.

Shameless plug - I'd be interested in helping you out!:b
Every man is my superior, in that I may learn from him.

#7 of 77 OFFLINE   AndyDL


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Posted April 17 2002 - 02:29 AM


Writing skills? Who are these people?

This isn't an English forum, it's a Home Theater Forum!

All I want is your honest opinion on the quality of the DVD and the movie.

I could really care less about 'writing skills'...

Anyway, thanks for everything you do buddy. It's much appreciated.


#8 of 77 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted April 17 2002 - 02:52 AM

He basically summed it by saying,
"anyone can start a website and call themselves
a DVD reviewer".

Why I certainly agree with you Ron that there's nothing wrong with individuals having the right to express themselves in their own style, I agree with this critic in a general sense about untrained DVD reviewing...in one regard:

DVD reviewing should IMO be about the DVD which should be objective (Movie reviewing should be about the movie which is subjective), and too many reviewers don't have the eqiupment or the calibration to judge one transfer from another. Also, many DVD reviewers aren't educated about "film" enough to know that sometimes directors use film artifacts like grain (aliens) or changing the color palette (Erin Brocovich and O Brother) to express artistic themes and instead criticize the DVD transfer as not being "perfect".

Example of what I mean: We all know how horrid the "Heidi" DVD from Fox was...so much EE that the ringing actually looked like ghosting/double exposure and tons of *video* related artifacts like aliasing. A reviewer on a very respected site (I won't mention which and he has never responded to the emails I've sent him) actually said "there's no EE applied to the image" and that "Fox did their best with the source materials". This is utterly wrong. Yet this review now stands on one of the MAJOR sites as a testament for those wishing to purchase this disc (not to mention it just pats Fox on the back for an absolutely shoddy DVD).

You do all of your reviews on revealing gear that makes the most of all that the DVD has to deliver sound and picture wise. You have a fair and reasonable knowledge of film and how the film medium can be used as an artistic tool. Your assesment of AV quality always seems to reflect what I can tell on many "reference" systems I spin my discs on (not nec my own...I take my DVDs to showrooms to test AV quality quite often). Job well done.

Be an Original Aspect Ratio Advocate

Supporter of 1080p24 video and lossless 24 bit audio.

#9 of 77 OFFLINE   Tony Scello

Tony Scello

    Second Unit

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Posted April 17 2002 - 03:14 AM

Your reviews are a tremendous service to the membership here. It's always interesting to see what your going to say about a new DVD even if I'm not all that interested in the title. For those titles I am interested in, your reviews give us a thorough look at what we can expect before we plunk down our money.

Slightly off topic, but how do you like the Toshiba 57HX81? I recently bought the Toshiba 50H81.

Keep up the good work. Thanks.
"Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist."

#10 of 77 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted April 17 2002 - 03:19 AM

Ron, first off, thank you for this forum.

Secondly, thank you for your reviews. I
love'em. About the only reveiws I read.
They tell me exactly what I want to know.

Keep up the excellent work Posted ImagePosted Image

Peace Out~Posted Image
You have all the weapons you need...Now fight!

#11 of 77 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

Jack Briggs

    Executive Producer

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Posted April 17 2002 - 03:30 AM

Ron's "professional" critic wrote:

"...anyone can start a website and call themselves
a DVD reviewer."

Being a paid writer myself since 1978, I couldn't help but laugh at the grammatical lapses committed by Ron's critic. Please note the singular subject and its (incorrect) plural object. The sentence should read, "Anyone can start a Website and call him or herself a DVD reviewer." To be precisely accurate, there should also be single quotes around the phrase "DVD reviewer."

Moral? Be careful when claiming to be a professional writer while at the same time committing a basic grammatical error.

Ron's reviews are a service for the membership and a labor of love for the site's co-owner. I take his words seriously, and have let them influence my own purchases. "Iffy" titles I might have considered as a sight-unseen purchases become an automatic "thumbs down" or "thumbs up" after reading a new review by Ron.

The man's saved me a hundred clamcakes so far. I am grateful.

And this first-anniversary meditation on a year's worth of reviews is most appreciated.

#12 of 77 OFFLINE   Mark Hobbs

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Posted April 17 2002 - 03:44 AM

Great job Ron! Keep up the good work!!!

#13 of 77 OFFLINE   Keith M.

Keith M.

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Posted April 17 2002 - 04:20 AM


I have always enjoyed reading your indepth reviews. I cherish and appreciate the opinions of others. That is the essense of a "forum". You will never please everyone all of the time, but if you did, nobody would respect your opinions and views. And there would be no need for reviews. I personally dont care for so-called "professional" written reviews/reviewers. Having a degree in journalism/English does not automatically qualify your opinions as the truth. The added value of a review by your peers is enormous. This is why we are all here, we care more about the opinions of others "like us", not the "professional" opinions of magazine writers.

Please keep up the exceptional work...

#14 of 77 OFFLINE   Rain



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Posted April 17 2002 - 04:39 AM

Congratulations on the milestone, Ron.

As always, it is a great pleasure to be a member here.

Thanks for HTF! Posted Image

EDIT: Oooh, oooh, oooh, I just noticed your review for The Last Waltz. Thank you for making my day!!!!!! Posted Image

"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." - Imagine by John Lennon

#15 of 77 OFFLINE   RAF


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Posted April 17 2002 - 04:42 AM


You review DVDsPosted Image

Boy, you learn something new every day here at the HTF. I guess I should really be paying more attention.

Posted Image


Posted Image Posted Image

And you realize that your reviews have cost me a lot of money!
[Demented Video Dude since 1997]
[Computer Maven since 1956]
["PITA" since 1942]
CLICK HERE to visit My HT HTF Rules and Regulations

#16 of 77 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

Ronald Epstein

    Studio Mogul

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Posted April 17 2002 - 05:51 AM


Actually the quote is a laugh at me.

To be fair, those were not the reviewer's
exact quote. I trashed the original email
and only gave the generalized meaning of
what was said in quotations.

I will modify the original statement so
that it is no longer misunderstood.

That was my fault, and again proves that
I am full of many writing flaws.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#17 of 77 OFFLINE   Dmitry


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Posted April 17 2002 - 06:47 AM

That was my fault, and again proves that I am full of many writing flaws.

Ron, while you may have some writing flaws you seem to lack the flaw I fear most when reading a review -- biased approach. When I read your review I can count on it being an honest opinion of what you think of the DVD being reviewed. When I read a review in Home Theater Magazine... well, let's not go there. I just want to thank you for all you've done for Home Theater aficionados around the world (including myself) and please keep writing those reviews!


#18 of 77 OFFLINE   kevin_asai


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Posted April 17 2002 - 06:49 AM

I am really glad and proud to be a part of this forum.

#19 of 77 OFFLINE   Andrew_Sch



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Posted April 17 2002 - 07:07 AM

Hmm...ME making something respectable...now there's a new conceptPosted Image . Thanks for all your hard work Ron.
"Old theatres are irreplaceable. They could never be duplicated at today's costs - but more importantly, their spirit could not be duplicated because they remind us of a day when going to the show was a more glorious and escapist experience. I think a town's old theatres are the sanctuary of...

#20 of 77 OFFLINE   Reni D

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Posted April 17 2002 - 07:10 AM

I have enjoyed your reviews for the past year even thought I think Moulin Rouge was just awful. But I rather read your review with the so called "grammatical lapses " than a " Official DVD Reviewer that may get paid by Studios to always find a positive spin to a DVD and not be totally honest on there reviews.
Well keep up the great Work and look foward to many reviews to come.
Posted Image

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