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Geared towards comic book and genre fans, Agent DVD Insider scoops DVD and Blu-Ray release announcements and news, along with commentary from industry experts and fellow comic fans.

Agent DVD Insider
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4 May, 2010

‘Iron Man’ Back in Retail Spotlight

The May 7 theatrical debut of Iron Man 2 means retailers are keen on offering “Iron Man” product this week. Not only did two new volumes of “Iron Man” cartoons hit DVD May 4, but some retailers put the 2-year-old DVD of the first movie back in the new-release section.

Wal-Mart offered the 2008 film on DVD for $13, while Best Buy offered it at $12.99 for DVD and $19.99 for Blu-ray.

Best Buy also had the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel DVD discounted 50%, to $9.99.

As Mothers Day looms on May 9, the big retailer with the most noticeable themed display was Best Buy, which offered a selection of mom-friendly hits for $4.99 or $9.99 each.

Target tagged a selection of DVDs for moms at $4.99 each and offered Blu-ray Discs at $12.99 apiece.

Wal-Mart had the exclusive distribution for Fox’s Flicka 2, offered at $13 on DVD and $15 as a two-pack with the first movie.

Best Buy exclusively offered the Blu-ray Disc version of WWE’s Wrestlemania XXVI.

30 Apr, 2010

Trading ‘Galactica’

The new BSG DVD packaging
The new BSG DVD packaging

Universal Studios Home Entertainment recently re-released Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series in newer packaging that is much simpler than the limited edition released last July. That set offered a Cylon action figure, but the discs were housed in flimsy cardboard sleeves that made scratching the discs more of a problem.

The earlier version of Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, released July 2009.

Except for a few minor details, the new packaging is basically an outer box wrapped around season sets that already exist (which is the usual Universal strategy for complete series).

Other than the streamlined design, the biggest difference between the two versions is the new set includes The Plan, the BSG TV movie released late last year. Such re-releases are often the focus of fan ire, since many who bought the first iteration might like the second version better and would have waited had they known it was coming. (A majority of fans had to expect the re-release, since that’s how the industry works. But the specific packaging design was the variable.)

Kudos to Universal, then, for quietly offering fans a chance to obtain an empty (no discs) version of the new packaging to which they can transfer the discs from the old. The trade-in offer expires May 31, and you can get details by e-mailing universalcanadahomevideo@nbcuni.com.

Be warned, though. To get the new packaging you have to cut up the boxed set you already have — Universal is asking fans to send in the top and triangular flap of the first-season box contained in the set.

I was lucky enough to get the updated Blu-ray boxed set directly from Universal, so I decided to trade in for the new DVD packaging. The studio estimates two to four weeks for shipping, but my set showed up about a week after I sent the request.

At first glance the DVD version doesn’t appear to contain the TV movie The Plan as promised. You can tell the Blu-ray version comes with The Plan since the movie’s case is slotted after all four seasons. But when you look at the DVD version of the set in stores, it seems to be the four seasons without the extra movie.

Well, it turns out the DVD complete series contains a disc for The Plan in the fourth season, but not any separate packaging (which is kind of a bummer). The replacement set I received didn’t have an empty peg for it among the season four discs, but it turns out the box as a whole offers enough room to slide in the entire packaging for The Plan that I already had, after the four season boxes (just like the Blu-ray).

On further inspection, the Blu-ray box art indicates it’s a 20-disc set, while the DVD set indicates 25 discs, the same configurations as the limited edition, though The Plan should have added one disc to both totals. So confusion about the movie’s inclusion is understandable, but it turns out to be only a minor quibble, as the final product looks great on the shelf. These new complete series sets also have single boxes for the second and fourth seasons, which originally split in half for DVD sales, so that’s a plus.

BSG Complete Series DVD configuration

BSG Complete Series DVD Set with The Plan inserted


27 Apr, 2010

Retail Gets ‘Complicated’

Wal-Mart's <i>It's Complicated</i> Special Edition
Wal-Mart's <i>It's Complicated</i> Special Edition

The April 22 mega-release of Avatar has apparently thinned out the herd a bit. Among new releases April 27, only It’s Complicated and a few Paramount TV DVDs (The Hills: Season 5 and Tales From the Dark Side: Season 3) saw a widespread retail presence. Other titles, such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, were scattershot at best, with many stores not stocking Blu-ray versions of the movies.

As far as exclusives go, Target offered It’s Complicated DVDs packed with Mamma Mia!, while Wal-Mart offered an It’s Complicated DVD configuration with a bonus disc that included a digital copy of the film and six free MP3 downloads.

Wal-Mart also had the exclusive title Little Hercules in 3D, starring Hulk Hogan.

Speaking of Avatar, Target is offering a $20 gift card with purchase of the Avatar Blu-ray at $24.99 and a Sony BDPS360 (BD Live compatible) Blu-ray Disc player at $124.99.

Best Buy is now accepting pre-orders for HBO Home Entertainment’s True Blood: The Complete Second Season, which streets May 25. Fans who order a copy in stores or at BestBuy.com/TrueBlood can get a “Real Blood Is for Suckers” poster.

Best Buy also offered a $10 savings with purchase of catalog Blu-ray titles Armageddon and Tombstone together.

24 Apr, 2010

Updating the Files: ‘Lost,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Robin Hood,’ ‘The A-Team’

Checking in with some bits and pieces from the past week:

End of the Beginning for ‘Lost’

As “Lost” rushes toward its series finale May 23, plans are already in place to release the complete series on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Lost: The Complete Sixth and Final Season (five-DVD set $59.99, Blu-ray $79.99) and Lost: The Complete Collection (38-DVD set $229.99, 36-disc Blu-ray $279.99) are slated for Aug. 24 (order date July 13).

The sixth-season set will include original scripted content that delves deeper into the stories, from the show’s creators; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes footage; commentaries; bloopers and more. The complete series will contain all the extras from the individual seasons, plus an exclusive bonus disc with at least two hours of content.

More Robins for the Hood

Just in time for the May 14 theatrical bow of Universal’s Robin Hood remake from Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment May 11 releases four vintage “Robin Hood” movies at $14.94. The selection includes 1946’s The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, 1948’s Prince of Thieves, 1950’s Rogues of Sherwood Forest and 1960’s Sword of Sherwood Forest.

These aren’t the only “Robin Hood” DVDs piggybacking the new movie. Reality Films April 27 releases the documentary Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend (reviewed here). And Classic Media May 11 offers Mr. Magoo in Sherwood Forest ($9.98), which combines into a single movie the four-part episode “Mr. Magoo’s Robin Hood” from the 1964 series “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.”

Pounding Out the Pity

Speaking of piggybacking, Anchor Bay Entertainment in June will release UFC: Rampage Greatest Hits, a collection of mixed martial arts fights featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who plays B.A. Baracus in the new A-Team movie (the role Mr. T played on the TV show). The DVD streets June 1 at $19.97, with the Blu-ray on June 8 at $29.97. Fox releases The A-Team June 11.

The Galaxy’s a Stage

Finally, an odd tidbit from the realm of so-called “legitimate” theater. It seems CBS Consumer Products is preparing an interactive stage show called “Star Trek Live” to be performed five times a day starting June 11 at the 300-seat Astronaut Encounter Theater at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Orlando, Fla.

Based on the franchise (though the plot seems more like the new movie), the 30-minute experience combines special effects and audience interaction, letting fans play new cadets at Starfleet Academy, where they will have to learn quickly about living, traveling and working in space and about the latest in communication and technology.

Sounds like a smart way to get the word out about this obscure franchise. ;-) Actually, the NASA connection makes a lot of sense.

This wouldn’t be the first interactive “Star Trek” experience for fans. Universal Studios theme parks in the late 1980s and early 1990s offered The Star Trek Adventure, which cast audience members as Starfleet officers and Klingons as they filmed an episode, and let participants buy a tape of the final result. And The Star Trek Experience operated out of the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, letting fans sip drinks at Quark’s Bar from “Deep Space Nine,” travel back in time to fight the Klingons, or fight off an invasion by the Borg. Highlights from the Vegas exhibit are available on the bonus disc of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection DVD and Blu-ray.

Maybe they should bring the whole Star Trek Experience to Florida.

23 Apr, 2010

The “South Park” Syndrome

The pop culture world is abuzz about Comedy Central censoring even the name of a certain religious prophet on “South Park,” following death threats against the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The network even bleeped the whole final speech “about intimidation and fear,” they said.

Further, Comedy Central pulled reruns of the episode and won’t let it stream on the “South Park” website. Naturally, this has sparked a whole debate over the value of free speech in our society, and how reticent some of us are to protect it. Jon Stewart devoted a lengthy segment to the subject on the April 22 “Daily Show,” denouncing anyone who would threaten violence over a political or religious disagreement.

So what now? A lot of fans are wondering what this will mean for the eventual 14th season DVD set of the show. As the DVD (and Blu-ray) won’t be released for another year, I imagine that decision is a long ways off.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the censorship carried over to home video. The character in question did appear uncensored in the “Super Best Friends” episode from the fifth season, but that was before the controversy erupted a few years ago, and that episode has since been yanked from SouthParkStudios.com, which streams every episode for free. The season 10 episode “Cartoon Wars” specifically addressed the reaction to images of him, while also censoring his appearance. This censorship carried through to the DVD. I only hope they don’t leave the latest episode off the DVD altogether. (Ironically, the character has appeared briefly in the opening title sequence of every episode for the past few years.)

After all, the whole point of these episodes has been to demonstrate how absurd the censorship was to begin with, and for a network to step on that message is to neglect the very reason it took a chance on the series in the first place.

20 Apr, 2010

‘Avatar’ Brings the Hype to Retailers

While the Thursday, April 22, release of Avatar dominates the week, promotions connected to the movie are kind of muted. Several retailers are preparing midnight madness sales, but most don't offer anything by way of specific exclusives for anyone who doesn't attend those events.

Wal-Mart, which offers Avatar at midnight, offered a 3D sticker to the first 50 buyers at each store.

Other promotions were tied to sales of existing product. Best Buy offered the Avatar soundtrack at $7.99 and Avatar video games for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii at $19.99. A total of 250 Best Buy stores will open at midnight, with 10 core major-market stores offering gaming promotions sponsored by Ubisoft. Participants can receive T-shirt giveaways at core stores, with poster giveaways at other midnight madness events. Anyone who buys the movie has a chance to have a tree planted in his or her name. More information is available at BestBuy.com/Avatar.

Target offered a $3 savings off Avatar with the purchase of select Fox titles, such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, with qualifying Blu-rays at $14.99 each and DVDs at $7.99.

Also big this week were titles that were retailer exclusives.

Best Buy scored a coup with the exclusive Blu-ray availability of The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!, while other retailers could offer only the DVD version.

Wal-Mart had the TV movie Secrets of the Mountain for $12, which included a DVD and the CD soundtrack.

Target has been offering a selection of Bravo reality show DVDs.

Since April 22 also is Earth Day, some retailers also set up displays in that direction. A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had a nice endcap display with a selection that included Planet Earth, National Geographic titles and other nature documentaries.

19 Apr, 2010

A Day at the Con

(L-R): Burt Ward and Adam West
(L-R): Burt Ward and Adam West

This past weekend’s Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con proves that not every fanboy event has to be up to the level of that show in San Diego.

The Anaheim event was the kind of quaint, low-key festival that really gives fans their money’s worth: a chance to see a handful of reasonable celebrities without the god-awful crowds bigger shows often attract.

There couldn’t have been more than a few thousand people at the Anaheim show over the weekend, compared to more than 120,000 who descend upon San Diego. Comic-Con International, of course, draws fans from around the world. Wizard World mostly caters to local audiences.

In fact, Anaheim Comic Con wasn’t even the biggest show held at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend. That honor goes to a convention of coffee industry professionals, which took up most of the floor room. Due to how the halls were sectioned off, the Comic Con show floor (which was half exhibitors and half celebrities offering paid autographs) was at the extreme south end of the convention center, while panels were held in rooms on the second floor of the north end of the hall, several hundred feet if not a quarter mile away. Covering that distance can be quite a chore, especially considering the average attendee isn’t in the best of shape, and the average panelist must have been in their 70s. (At one point I passed by an exhausted-looking Mickey Rooney, who was being dragged around in a wheelchair by his handlers.)

I know that Anaheim has been making a play for the International show (which is close to a three-year extension with San Diego, to 2015, according to Internet buzz). But if this past weekend is any indication, I have yet to be convinced the Anaheim Convention Center is an ideal venue for a show the scope of Comic-Con International.

Still, even the few hours I spent there were a reasonable experience, and a tad more mellow than the hustle and bustle of the big show, which is how I prefer it.

Of the three days (April 16-18), I attended only on Saturday and caught some of the afternoon panels. (Click here for photo gallery).

One I was really keen on seeing was a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, one of my favorite movies. At the same time, it seems, the real “Star Wars” news was emanating from the C2E2 Con in Chicago, where Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet said a Blu-ray of the saga was in the works. TheDigitalBits.com estimates a release date of October 2011.

The Anaheim panel turned out to be underwhelming, consisting only of a Q&A with Billy Dee Williams, who mostly defended Lando’s decision to betray Han Solo, and who discussed how much the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi looked like a part of the female anatomy.

ESB director Irvin Kershner was slated to appear but sadly had to cancel after being hospitalized a few days earlier due to complications from cancer.

Still, the room was packed to capacity with hundreds of guests, as opposed to the next panel, a Q&A with Superman producer Ilya Salkind, attended by only about 50 people. He was joined by Aaron Smolinski, who played the baby Kal-El in the first movie and the kid in the photo booth in the third (I said it was a low-key event). Salkind has a habit of being verbose, but he can be really insightful about the making of the franchise. He said he was encouraged by news that Christopher Nolan would oversee the next Superman movie because he thought Nolan’s Batman movies were great.

Salkind continued to justify his creative decisions for Superman II and said Superman III’s original concept involved Supergirl and traditional Superman villains Brainiac and the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk, yet the powers that be started meddling after Richard Pryor mentioned on “The Tonight Show” that he wanted to be in a Superman movie (though if anyone has seen the original plot outline for III online, you’ll probably agree it was mostly unfilmable). Remnants of the original concept that survived into the final film include Superman’s battle with the super computer, and the fight between Superman and Clark Kent (which most fans consider the best part of the movie).

William Shatner then put in a brief appearance to discuss not only the pilot he shot for a sitcom based on the Twitter meme “Sh*t My Dad Says,” but also previous projects such as Invasion Iowa, Kingdom of the Spiders and “Boston Legal” (not much talk about “Star Trek,” oddly). He also discussed current projects, such as his celebrity interview show, “Raw Nerve,” and a new show, “Aftermath,” in which he catches up with media figures years after their 15 minutes are up. In one amusing interlude, Shatner was asked about playing a villain in three “Columbo” movies, and began to memorialize Peter Falk when an audience member said he was dead. “I know he died, I just forgot about it,” Shatner commented (which isn’t a surprising sentiment, since as far as I know Falk is still very much alive, and only about 4 years older than Shatner). It’s probably a miracle Shatner could attend at all, since he was almost grounded in Europe by the Iceland volcanic ash cloud.

But the best panel involved a reunion of the 1960s Batman cast, which quickly devolved into a battle of double entendres. Describing how they got to the Batmobile, Adam West said, “his pole was bigger.” Julie Newmar (Catwoman) said her costume was like “melted licorice poured onto her body.” Lee Meriwether (Catwoman in the movie based on the show) looked so happy to be among the fans, but embarrassed by the tone of the conversation. West said Fox and Warner lawyers were trying to divvy up the DVD rights to the show and hoped it would be resolved soon (his analysis may be overly simplistic, but we might as well hope for the best, right?). He nonetheless plugged his own DVD reflections on the show. What a fun panel, and proof that you don’t need the superstars of today to have a good time at the Con.

13 Apr, 2010

Playing Retail Roulette

Target's <i>Crazy on the Outside</i> DVD
Target's <i>Crazy on the Outside</i> DVD

After a few weeks marked by several major films hitting disc, the past couple of weeks have hit a comparative lull.

The only major theatrical title released April 13, the underperforming Pirate Radio, wasn’t even stocked at a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., which classified the title as online only. Yet the store had abundant copies of smaller fare such as Lionsgate’s direct-to-video Tenderness and Sony Pictures’ indie Defendor on hand.

Target filled the new-release void with a wave of exclusive titles, led by the Fox’s Tim Allen vehicle Crazy on the Outside on DVD ($10) and Blu-ray ($19.99). The retailer also had a selection of exclusive season sets of Bravo reality shows on disc.

At Best Buy it’s all about Avatar. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was filled with Avatar preorder displays, and the Best Buy Insider circular has a cell phone code that lets fans get a special promo video. The Best Buy Web site promises midnight madness sales when the DVD and Blu-ray is released April 22.

6 Apr, 2010

‘Rings’ Still Reigns at Retail

Best Buy's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> with sword
Best Buy's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> with sword

Nearly a decade after its debut, the impact of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is still being felt. With the Blu-ray disc boxed set of the theatrical version of the trilogy hitting retail April 6, studios kept the shelves relatively clear of any groundbreaking new releases.

The only new theatrical title was the Nicolas Cage-starrer Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which barely made a blip in theaters. It had enough star power, however, to earn decent placement at most retail outlets.

Another title earning some unsuspecting attention was Party Down: Season One, which most retailers didn’t bother including in their weekly ad circular. Best Buy offered a $25 gift card deal to buyers who also ordered the Starz cable channel on which the show airs. And Wal-Mart gave fans a treat with a bonus disc containing two episodes from the upcoming season of the show.

As for Rings, while the boxed set was a featured title at most locations (a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., devoted only a single slot for it in its Blu-ray section, and it was sold out), most shied away from any special promotions.

Best Buy offered the trilogy Blu-ray with an exclusive letter opener shaped like the Andruil sword from the films. This deluxe set also includes a $10 coupon for the purchase of Weta collectibles.

30 Mar, 2010

Making a Squeak at Retail

Target's <i>Sherlock Holmes</i> with comic
Target's <i>Sherlock Holmes</i> with comic

March 30 saw the release of two $200-million hits to disc, with Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel generating considerable retail interest. But both titles were rather light in the exclusive content department.

Those who bought the Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Blu-ray at Best Buy could get Alvin and Brittany beanie babies for $2.99 each. On their own, the dolls were $6.99 apiece.

At Target, fans could get an exclusive deluxe edition of Sherlock Holmes that had a limited-edition cover and a collectible comic book, a re-creation of the comic used to pitch the movie to the studio.

A lot of the promotions for the week were centered on the Disney’s new “Un-Anniversary Edition” of the animated Alice in Wonderland, a title the studio’s home entertainment department kept under the radar in terms of press promotions.

Barnes & Noble, which remains among the most overpriced retailers despite a nominal percentage discount on new titles, was nonetheless one of the few stores to display details for a sweepstakes for Alice in Wonderland for the ultimate play home. Details are available at DisneyMovieRewards.com/Alice.

Best Buy offered a savings of $6 with the purchase of two select Disney hits on DVD, or $15 off two on Blu-ray. And Target had a display of such recent DVDs as The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo listed at $13.99 and tagged as “Fresh-Picked DVD Hits for Kids.”

Target also extended through May 1 its offer of a $5 gift card with purchase of The Twilight Saga: New Moon with Twilight in Forks, Astro Boy or Bandslam.

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had an interesting display piece. A display shelf of new releases carried a large sign touting the titles as $24.96, yet none of the DVDs on the shelves were more than $20. (The “Toy Story” Blu-rays were $24.96, but the spaces for them were empty).