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2 Mar, 2010

Go Online for ‘Ponyo’ Plush

<i>Ponyo</i> with plush, available online
<i>Ponyo</i> with plush, available online

Shoppers looking to buy Ponyo, the latest Hayao Miyazaki animated film, could get either a two-DVD special edition or a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores. But online presented a third purchasing option: a copy of the DVD with a plush toy of the Ponyo character.

The special package is offered at just a few dollars more than the standalone DVD but is not necessarily cheaper than the Blu-ray. The only catch is that shipping may take longer from some of the brick-and-mortar sites.

The new-release week of March 2 was otherwise quiet for in-store exclusives, with the exception of several promotions concerning the disaster flick 2012.

Wal-Mart offered copies of the 2012 DVD packed with The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition.

Target had copies of the 2012 deluxe Blu-ray edition with a copy of the Discovery Channel documentary 2012 Apocalypse. The set was labeled as a “Special Edition 3 Disc Blu-ray” to distinguish it from the widespread two-disc Blu-ray deluxe edition.

A check of the Barnes and Noble Web site (BN.com) revealed an interesting sales pattern for 2012, with the two-disc Blu-ray actually offered for a couple dollars cheaper than the single-disc Blu-ray. The site listed the single-disc version as a low-in-stock item, in line with the bookseller chain’s reputation for favoring the type of premium product the two-disc Blu-ray version would be considered.

Staying on the Blu-ray front, Best Buy is taking preorders for the April 6 “Lord of the Rings” trilogy Blu-ray by offering a free steelbook case in exchange for a $5 deposit. The deal also includes a $50 Sideshow Collectibles coupon code.

Best Buy also had a display to clear out $9.99 Blu-ray catalog titles such as A Few Good Men, Donnie Brasco and Into the Blue.

The Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., also unveiled its new Magnolia Design Center Feb. 26, filled with premium home entertainment options such as a 103-inch Panasonic HDTV, projection screen home theaters, patio displays and even the option to convert a home to solar power.


28 Feb, 2010

How to Win Your Oscar Pool

Everyone who watches movies likes to speculate as to the Oscars, whether or not they want to admit it or not. Most of the people I talk to dismiss the Academy Awards as a bunch of elitists who don't really know anything and pick stupid movies to win. But let's get real, as a marketing tool, the Oscars are invaluable, and deep down we all acknowledge they mean something. After all, those same people who like to tell me the Oscars suck are always the first to exclaim they can't believe so-and-so lost, or are so happy that such-and-such won.

And, for those of you who like to partake in unsanctioned activities related to the Oscar ceremony March 7, I give you my guide to navigating the nominees and picking the winners, based on my own observations and experiences of watching these things play out through the years.

'Regular' Categories

Best Picture

The favorite is The Hurt Locker, which has swept through most of the preliminary awards (DGA, WGA, Producers Guild). Though the film wasn’t a strong entry at the box office ($12.7 million), it was limited to a release of only 535 theaters (compared to 2,500-4,000 for most mainstream films). But it has been a strong performer on the DVD and Blu-ray charts, and its early availability on disc (since Jan. 12) should help its profile with Academy voters. Remember when Crash won in 2005 after being the only best picture nominee on disc during the voting rounds?

Of course, this year a number of nominees are on disc by now, and a lot of the buzz lately centers on a late surge by Inglourious Basterds, winner of the SAG ensemble award. The theory goes that more voters have general affection for Basterds, whereas other movies on the list are either loved or not, and with the Academy’s weighted scoring system, a film that consistently earns more second- and third-place votes could sneak into the top spot.

Personally, my affections are torn between Basterds and Up in the Air, and since I most recently saw Up in the Air, I’ve been leaning toward that one. But I’d love to see Basterds win.

For the record, if Avatar wins, it will be among the worst best pictures ever. It’s easily the worst of the best picture candidates I’ve seen (I’ve yet to view The Blind Side and An Education). Avatar may have won the Golden Globe for best picture — drama, but I tend to discount the Globes as a predictor of Oscar success since they have a limited voting pool and quirkier-than-Hollywood-normal tastes. And this year was an anomaly, since the HFPA doled out all their awards to the box office winners (best comedy GG winner The Hangover earned zero Oscar nominations).

It’s worth noting that Inglourious Basterds was somehow left off the American Film Institute top 10 films of 2009 list. In the eight previous years the AFI has honored top films, only The Departed (2006) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008) won the Oscar without a corresponding AFI nod. (Slumdog Millionaire is not an American film and thus it wasn’t eligible for AFI consideration).

Prediction: The Hurt Locker, Summit
Dark Horse: Inglourious Basterds, Universal

Best Actor

The award is Jeff Bridges’ to lose. The sentimentality factor will kick in here, as it has done with the earlier award shows, since Bridges has been around forever, is well liked, and rarely wins anything.
Prediction: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock has won all the other awards, so she’s the favorite. I haven’t seen The Blind Side, but in the previews she seems a bit over-the-top, but maybe that’s because she’s been stereotyped in the cutesy comedy roles. The only reason she wouldn’t win is the kind of snobbery that cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar for Dreamgirls. Otherwise, Meryl Streep will win.
Prediction: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Dark Horse: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Best Supporting Actor

This seems to be a lock for Christoph Waltz as the Nazi baddie in Inglourious Basterds. He clinched the Oscar in the first five minutes of the movie, and the rest is just candy.
Prediction: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress

I questioned how someone who broke up their name with an apostrophe would win an Oscar, but after seeing Precious I understand the hype. Mo’Nique’s character may be detestable, but the actress plays her with so much conviction and against type it’s impossible for voters not to take notice.
Prediction: Mo’Nique, Precious

Best Director

The Academy will not sacrifice a chance at history, especially when the nominee is deserving. Kathryn Bigelow will become the first woman to win best director.
Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Original Screenplay

This is a tricky one. The two that stand out are The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. Screenplay is sometimes seen as a consolation prize, so the Academy could give this award to the movie that doesn’t win best picture, if it is indeed between Hurt Locker and Basterds. Since I picked Locker to win best picture, I’ll take Quentin Tarantino here, but if you don’t have Hurt Locker winning best picture, you may want to take it in this category, or to hedge your bets, pick Hurt Locker in both. Hurt Locker also won the Writers Guild Award in this category. A long shot is A Serious Man, with the Coen Brothers swinging serious cred at awards time.
Prediction: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Dark Horse: The Hurt Locker or A Serious Man

Adapted Screenplay

This is an easy call. Since Up in the Air will be shut out of the other major categories after spending the early part of the awards season as the frontrunner, the Academy will have no trouble giving Jason Reitman an Oscar for adapting Walter Kirn’s novel. Sheldon Turner shares the credit for penning an early draft of the script.
Prediction: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Animated Feature Film

OK, this one seems like an easy call. Since Up was also nominated for best OVERALL picture, it seems like a no-brainer to take this category. In fact, if a nominee in this category is nominated for the bigger prize as well, is there really a need for the formality of this category at all?
Prediction: Up, Disney/Pixar

Original Score

The Academy has tended to defy logic in the music category the past few years, honoring quirky scores by composers nobody has heard of. This year seems to be a departure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Horner win for Avatar, but I think the frontrunner is Michael Giacchino for Up, which already won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and a Grammy in the category.
Prediction: Michael Giacchino, Up
Dark Horse: James Horner, Avatar; Alexandre Desplat, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Original Song

The Princess and the Frog has two songs here, neither of which I consider the best of the movie. Of the two that are nominated, I think “Down in New Orleans” has the best chance in a category Disney once owned, but I suspect the statuette will go to “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart to cap off the Bridges win for actor.
Prediction: The Weary Kind, Crazy Heart
Dark Horse: “Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog

Documentary Feature

Prediction: The Cove
Dark Horse: Food Inc.
(Hollywood loves advocacy films)

Foreign-Language Film

Prediction: The White Ribbon, Germany
(It seems to have the most exposure, but to vote in this category, members have to sit and watch all five nominees, so if you haven’t seen ’em, pick ’em.)

Other Categories

Cinematography

Prediction: The Hurt Locker
Dark Horse: Avatar

Film Editing

Prediction: The Hurt Locker

Makeup

Prediction: Star Trek

Costume Design

Prediction: The Young Victoria

Visual Effects
Art Direction
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing

Prediction: Avatar
(cleaning up the technical categories)

Short Subjects

I know nothing of these movies, so your guess is as good as mine. These are usually tie-breaker categories in most Oscar pools, since it’s blind stinking luck if you manage to pick a winner.

Documentary Short

The first rule is to look for the movies about the Holocaust. Since there aren’t any this year, I’ll go with the one about the Chinese earthquake, which resonates with the recent disaster in Haiti.
Prediction: China’s Unnatural Disaster

Live-Action Short

No idea, so go with the one about Chernobyl.
Prediction: The Door

Animated Short

Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death
(Wallace & Gromit always win this category)

For a complete list of nominees, visit oscars.org.

So there you have it. Going into this year's Oscars, it seems to be the easiest ceremony to predict in a while. But if I'm wrong, then hey, what do I know?

 


23 Feb, 2010

No BD ‘Justice’ at Wal-Mart

Amazon.com's <i>Justice League</i> Lithograph
Amazon.com's <i>Justice League</i> Lithograph

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., has resorted to some interesting strategies in positioning its new releases.

All new-release Blu-rays were put near the check-out lanes at the front of the store, forcing movie fans taking the short-cut through the garden section to cross the whole store to find the titles they want.

However, some new Blu-rays are relegated to online-only or limited-store status, such as the new Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. This Wal-Mart’s usual Blu-ray section in the electronics department was stocked mostly with Blu-ray double features.

The new policy was met with confusion by some clerks on the floor, who lamented that most of the offerings were older movies that didn’t offer the best HD experience.

Other retailers were more kind to the new direct-to-video Justice League. Target offered an exclusive bonus disc with the two-DVD special edition, Amazon.com offered lithographs with the two-DVD and Blu-ray versions for a few extra dollars, and Best Buy gave away figurines of the film’s Owlman character.

Best Buy also offered free Alice in Wonderland movie tickets (it hits theaters March 5) with the purchase of select Disney classics at $9.99 each, such as Tron or the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.


22 Feb, 2010

Head-Scratching Over the Saturn Awards


The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films recently announced its nominees for the 36th Annual Saturn Awards, to be given out June 24 in Burbank.

Granted, this isn’t exactly the Oscars as it focuses on the so-called “geek” genres. And I won’t even nitpick why some horrible movies and TV shows were nominated at all, since it’s probably hard to fill all the available slots (so I won’t ask how anyone could consider “Heroes” for best network series, when even the tepid “Smallville” is a better show at this point).

But why is Avatar nominated for best fantasy film? This is the very definition of sci-fi and should be in the science-fiction category. Need to make room for it? How about taking out Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which if anything is more of a fantasy than is Avatar.

On the same subject, The Time Traveler’s Wife and Watchmen aren’t “fantasy” in the strictest sense either, since both rely on (barely) scientific rather than magical explanations for their flights into the realm of the impossible. (Though why Watchmen and Wolverine are in separate categories is beyond me.)

And how is Zombieland a horror film? Why not put it in the action-adventure-thriller category in lieu of the god-awful 2012?

I probably shouldn’t be surprised. This is, after all, the group that gave Batman Begins best fantasy film of 2005, and then put its sequel The Dark Knight (which presumably would be the same genre) in the action-adventure-thriller category, which it won in 2008.

It’s almost as if they are cherry-picking the categories so some movies don’t cancel each other out (so don’t be surprised when Star Trek wins best sci-fi and Avatar wins best fantasy).

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. Congratulations to all the nominees, and I sincerely hope you check them out on DVD or (better yet) Blu-ray. Which ones are available are noted in the list below.

Enjoy!


36th Annual Saturn Award Nominations:

I put a star next to what I would pick, though bear in mind I don’t get an actual vote

FILM CATEGORIES

Best Science Fiction Film
The Book of Eli (Warner, not yet on disc)
*Knowing (on disc from Summit)
Moon (on disc from Sony Pictures)
Star Trek (on disc from Paramount)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (on disc from Paramount/DreamWorks)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (on disc from Fox)

Best Fantasy Film
Avatar (Fox, not yet on disc)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (on disc from Warner)
The Lovely Bones (Paramount, on disc April 20)
The Time Traveler’s Wife (on disc from Warner)
*Watchmen (on disc from Warner)
Where the Wild Things Are (Warner, on disc March 2)

Best Horror Film
The Box (Warner, on disc Feb. 23)
Drag Me to Hell (on disc from Universal)
Frozen (Anchor Bay, not yet on disc)
The Last House on the Left (on disc from Universal)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit, on disc March 20)
*Zombieland (on disc from Sony Pictures)

Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
2012 (Sony Pictures, on disc March 9)
Brothers (Lionsgate, on disc March 23)
The Hurt Locker (on disc from Summit)
*Inglourious Basterds (on disc from Universal)
Law Abiding Citizen (on disc from Anchor Bay)
The Messenger (Oscilloscope, on disc May 18)
Sherlock Holmes (Warner, on disc March 30)

Best International Film
*District 9 (on disc from Sony Pictures)
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Sony Pictures, not on disc)
Lorna’s Silence (on disc from Sony Pictures)
Red Cliff (Magnolia, on disc March 23)
Taken (on disc from Fox)
Thirst (on disc from Universal)

Best Animated Film
A Christmas Carol
(Disney, not yet on disc)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox, on disc March 23)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (on disc from Fox)
Monsters vs. Aliens (on disc from Paramount/DreamWorks)
The Princess and the Frog (Disney, on disc March 16)
*Up (on disc from Disney)

Best Actor
*Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Tobey Maguire, Brothers
Viggo Mortensen, The Road (not yet on disc)
Sam Rockwell, Moon
Denzel Washington, The Book of Eli
Sam Worthington, Avatar

Best Actress
Catherine Keener, Where the Wild Things Are
*Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Alison Lohman, Drag Me to Hell
Natalie Portman, Brothers
Zoe Saldana, Avatar
Charlize Theron, The Burning Plain (on disc from Magnolia)

Best Supporting Actor
Woody Harrelson, Zombieland
Stephen Lang, Avatar
Frank Langella, The Box
Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
*Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Malin Akerman, Watchmen
*Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
Rachel McAdams, Sherlock Holmes
Lorna Raver, Drag Me to Hell
Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones
Sigourney Weaver, Avatar

Best Performance by a Younger Actor
Taylor Lautner, The Twilight Saga: New Moon
*Bailee Madison, Brothers
Brooklynn Proulx, The Time Traveler’s Wife
Max Records, Where the Wild Things Are
Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road

Best Director
J.J. Abrams, Star Trek
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Neill Blomkamp, District 9
James Cameron, Avatar
Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes
Zack Snyder, Watchmen
*Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Writing
Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell, District 9
James Cameron, Avatar
Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, Where the Wild Things Are
Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Star Trek
*Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Alex Tse, David Hayter, Watchmen

Best Music
Brian Eno, The Lovely Bones
Michael Giacchino, Up
*James Horner, Avatar
Taro Iwashiro, Red Cliff
Christopher Young, Drag Me To Hell
Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes

Best Costumes

Colleen Atwood, Nine (not yet on disc)
*Jenny Beavan, Sherlock Holmes
Anna Sheppard, Inglourious Basterds
Jany Temime, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
Michael Wilkinson, Watchmen
Tim Yip, Red Cliff

Best Makeup
Barney Burman, Minday Hall, Joel Harlow, Star Trek
Joe Dunckley, Sarah Rubano, Frances Richardson, District 9
Sarah Monzani, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger, The Book of Eli
Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger, Drag Me to Hell
*Mike Smithson, John Rosengrant, Terminator: Salvation (on disc from Warner)

Best Production Design
Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Avatar
Scott Chambliss, Star Trek
Stuart Craig, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
Sarah Greenwood, Sherlock Holmes
*Philip Ivey, District 9
Alex McDowell, Watchmen

Best Special Effects
Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicholas Aithadi, Tim Alexander, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
John DesJardin, Peter G. Travers, Joel Whist, Jessica Norman, Watchmen
Volker Engel, Marc Weingert, Mike Vezina, 2012
Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton, Star Trek
Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken, District 9
*Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones, Avatar


TELEVISION CATEGORIES

Best Network Series
“Chuck” (NBC, on disc from Warner)
“Fringe” (Fox, on disc from Warner)
“The Ghost Whisperer” (CBS, on DVD from Paramount/CBS)
“Heroes” (NBC, on disc from Universal)
*“Lost” (ABC, on disc from Disney)
“The Vampire Diaries    “ (CW, not yet on disc)

Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series
“Breaking Bad” (AMC, on disc from Sony Pictures)
*“Battlestar Galactica” (SyFy, on disc from Universal)
“The Closer” (TNT, on disc from Warner)
“Dexter”    (Showtime, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“Leverage” (TNT, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“True Blood” (HBO, on disc from HBO)

Best Television Presentation
Doctor Who: The End of Time (BBC America, on disc from BBC Video)
“Alice” (SyFy, on disc March 2 from Lionsgate)
The Prisoner (AMC, on DVD March 23 from Warner)
*Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC America, on disc from BBC Video)
“The Tudors” (Showtime, on disc from Paramount/CBS)
“V” (ABC, not yet on disc)

Best Actor in Television
Josh Holloway, “Lost”
Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Matthew Fox, “Lost”
Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”
Zachary Levi, “Chuck”
Stephen Moyer, “True Blood”
*David Tennant, “Doctor Who”

Best Actress on Television
Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Jennifer Love Hewitt, “The Ghost Whisperer”
Evangeline Lily, “Lost”
Anna Paquin, “True Blood”
Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”
*Anna Torv, “Fringe”

Best Supporting Actor on Television

Jeremy Davies, “Lost”
*Michael Emerson, “Lost”
Aldis Hodge, “Leverage”
Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad”
John Noble, “Fringe”
Alexander Skarsgard, “True Blood”

Best Supporting Actress in Television

Morena Baccarin, “V”
Gina Bellman, “Leverage”
*Julie Benz, “Dexter”
Jennifer Carpenter, “Dexter”
Elizabeth Mitchell, “Lost”
Hayden Panettiere, “Heroes”

Best Guest-Starring Role in Television
Bernard Cribbins, Doctor Who: The End of Time
Raymond Cruz, “Breaking Bad”
Michelle Forbes, “True Blood”
*John Lithgow, “Dexter”
Leonard Nimoy, “Fringe”
Mark Pellegrino, “Lost”

DVD CATEGORIES

Best DVD Release
*The House of the Devil (on disc from MPI/Dark Sky)
Laid to Rest (on DVD from Anchor Bay)
Not Forgotten (on disc from Anchor Bay)
Nothing But the Truth (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
Pontypool (on DVD MPI/IFC)
Super Capers (on DVD from Lionsgate)
Surveillance (on disc from Magnolia)

Best TV DVD Release
Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead (on disc from BBC Video)
Torchwood: Children of Earth (on disc from BBC Video)
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles — The Complete Second Season (on disc from Warner)
Primeval Vol. 2 (on DVD from BBC Video)
*Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (on disc from Disney)
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (on DVD from Disney)

Best DVD Special Edition
Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut
300: The Complete Experience (on Blu-ray from Warner)
*Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (on disc from Disney)
District 9
Terminator 2: Judgment Day — Skynet Edition (on Blu-ray from Lionsgate)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Best Collection
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics Vol. 1 (on DVD from Sony Pictures)       
The Hannibal Lector Anthology (on disc from Fox/MGM)
Hellraiser Boxed Set (on disc from Anchor Bay)
Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
*Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection (on disc from Paramount)
The William Castle Collection (on DVD from Sony Pictures)
 


16 Feb, 2010

Retailers Anxious for 'New Moon'

Best Buy's <i>New Moon</i> Exclusives
Best Buy's <i>New Moon</i> Exclusives

Why bother with new releases when the home video debut of the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2009 is still a month away?

In its weekly ad circular, Best Buy used half the space on its DVD page to plug titles hitting disc in March, and reminding fans to pre-order their copy today. Most prominent was an ad for the March 20 release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. For a $10 deposit, fans can get an exclusive New Moon cell phone skin and steelbook packaging for their discs.

Target is taking preorders on its exclusive deluxe editions of New Moon, with a three-DVD set at $24.99 and a two-disc Blu-ray set at $29.99. Both editions come with an exclusive film cel.

Target also has recent theatrical hits on sale for as low as $9 each.

Best Buy had a selection of recent hits, both theatricals and TV DVD seasons, at $9.99 each.

Other than Law Abiding Citizen and Halo Legends, most stores downplayed new releases. A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., didn’t even offer Blu-rays of the new titles, instead stacking its Blu-ray section with cheap double-feature Blu-ray discs containing two similarly themed movies in the same package.


9 Feb, 2010

Why No ‘Serious’?

<i>A Serious Man</i> and Wal-Mart's <i>Couples Retreat</i> exclusive
<i>A Serious Man</i> and Wal-Mart's <i>Couples Retreat</i> exclusive

One of the Oscar contenders for best picture hit DVD Feb. 9, but you wouldn’t know it if you browsed through Wal-Mart’s shelves. A check of a Long Beach, Calif., store showed no copies of the Coen Brothers’ comedy A Serious Man, on DVD and Blu-ray from Universal.

Granted, the film only made $9.2 million, and doesn’t seem like it fits with Wal-Mart’s core demographic, but the nation’s top retail chain was the only major outlet not to stock the title on shelves (though Best Buy didn’t list the Blu-ray in its weekly ad circular). Those willing to wait for shipping could get it at Walmart.com at $18.86 for the DVD and $19.36 for the Blu-ray.

Wal-Mart did have the only real exclusive among any of the new releases, offering a two-DVD version of the comedy Couples Retreat (the “Ultimate Vacation Edition”) containing more than 40 minutes of additional bonus content and a contest to win a trip to Bora Bora.

Best Buy promoted Couples Retreat with a sticker touting a free subscription to the USA Today e-edition with purchase of the DVD and Blu-ray.

And most copies of the movie at various retailers offered an instant $4 savings off the purchase of Role Models, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Best Buy also ran a promotion for “Valentine’s Titles for Him & Her,” discounting to $4.99 such titles as Hitch, 27 Dresses, Talladega Nights, Minority Report, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and others that hardly seem related to the holiday of love.


 


5 Feb, 2010

Will ‘Avatar’ Have the Same Staying Power on Disc?

<i>Avatar</i>
<i>Avatar</i>

Bravo, James Cameron.

You’ve managed to top the box office record of your own Titanic, which many once believed was unsinkable.

That you did it with what is essentially an amusement park ride designed to manipulate the audience into believing the hype is beside the point (and a bit impressive). But I don’t want to talk about the irony of how you made $2 billion with a movie that bashes capitalism.

I’m mostly curious what kind of staying power the movie is going to have on disc.

See, without the gimmick of 3D or the immersion of a giant Imax screen, Avatar’s visual effects really aren’t any more impressive than something like the first Transformers movie, or even The Phantom Menace.

It’s like porn for geeks. You can throw action and special effects at the screen only so much before the brain wants to see something new. To paraphrase from Boogie Nights’ Jack Horner, maybe the light show is dazzling enough to draw a crowd, but is the story good enough to make them want to sit there long after they’ve gotten their fix?

I don’t think so. The plot is so filled with clichés it’s pretty clear it was just crafted to provide a rudimentary framework to test the new technologies that were invented for the movie. It’s basically just a glossy update of Pocahantas.

But the effects are dazzling, and Cameron takes great relish in showing them off. This is a beautiful travelogue of an alien planet, and if you get past how ridiculous the story gets in the final act, it’s not too different from an otherworldly version of Planet Earth.

It’s kind of like a really big museum exhibit that might draw a huge crowd, but is it really something you really need to see again? This could be one of those discs you pop in to see specific scenes if the mood suits you, or even as background material for a party.

Word is the film will be released on disc by June, and then will only be available in 2D. Since 3D was such a major part of its hype, anticipation for a 2D version seems a bit underwhelming. But barring some revolution in home 3D (that doesn’t seem likely for a few years), this is all we’re gonna get for a while.

Sure, Fox could start playing the double-dip game, and put out multiple versions of the movie every few months. But how long are people going to tolerate that? This movie is big enough to justify a huge extras package the first time out, they’re already talking about not being in a rush to put it on disc, and they’ve had the better part of a decade to put together extras for it.

And it’s going to need a lot of extras to placate those casual fans who might want to add it to their collection. (Forget the hardcore fans who have been gushing over the movie since the trailer … they’re already too far gone to save).

I’m talking several commentaries and a comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary just for starters, that really gives fans a keen insight into all those new technologies Cameron had to invent before he wanted to start making the movie.

And there had better be a lot of deleted scenes. I mean, just watching the movie, it seems like there was a lot that was left out. I can think of a few specific scenes that I would be surprised didn’t exist on the cutting room floor, just due to the gaping plot holes left behind by their exclusion. (For starters, where’s the scene in which Yosemite Sam Col. Quaritch chews out whats-her-name for abandoning the attack on Hometree?)

Of course, I’d be quite amused to have an alternate audio track that plays the songs and dialogue from Pocahontas or Ferngully: The Last Rainforest as one watches Avatar. The movie probably wouldn’t have to be edited much to match up the scenes.

And since it has a screensaver quality, why not put a screensaver mode on there? Make it music only, cut out the dialogue and the military hardware and just focus on Pandora.

Then, when 3D at home technology catches up, a second release would be warranted. But whatever’s on there, it’s going to sell huge and make even more money. That’s a given.

That being the case, though, why even release this movie by itself on DVD? If people are so desperate to own it, put it on Blu-ray only and force the folks to finally upgrade their system. Or, if that’s too extreme, go with a combo pack only, so that the unenlightened masses can still get it on DVD, but they’ll have that Blu-ray there nagging at them with the curiosity of what they are missing.

If Avatar really is the next generation of filmmaking, it seems like such a waste if it can’t do the same for home entertainment.
 

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4 Feb, 2010

Galactica Redux … Redux


Now that Battlestar Galactica: The Plan has officially capped off the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is taking the opportunity to re-release a complete series of the show.

You may remember that a complete-series DVD and Blu-ray collector’s set was released last July, a few months after the series finale. But since The Plan hit disc in October, that first “complete” set didn’t have it.

April 6, Universal will release a new configuration of the complete series, this time with The Plan, and at a lower cost than the first boxed set. The 26-DVD version ($199.98) and 21-disc Blu-ray version ($299.98) won’t be as elaborate as the limited-edition collector’s set, and won’t include the Cylon action figure.

Early details from Universal suggest the set will probably consist of the same slimcases the season sets came with, packed inside a larger outer box, which is how the studio usually configures its complete-series sets (“Knight Rider,” “Incredible Hulk,” “Northern Exposure,” “Miami Vice,” to name a few).

If this is the case, it would correct one of the few flaws of the first boxed set, which didn’t include an episode guide and housed the discs in flimsy cardboard slots (less of a problem for the scratch-resistant Blu-ray version, but problematic for scratch-prone DVDs). Our friends at TVShowsOnDVD.com bring news of a trade-in program for those who own the old boxed set and want the new packaging, though it seems as though you have to tear off a portion of the set to mail in to get the new packaging.

Unfortunately, the new set still will not include the “Face of the Enemy” webisodes that were first released during the fourth season, and a studio rep indicated there were no plans to release them on disc any time soon. The webisodes are readily available online.

The April 6 release date coincides with the debut of the standalone Blu-ray version of Battlestar Galactica: Season Two.

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2 Feb, 2010

Planet of Hulk and Zombies


While Zombieland was probably the biggest new release Feb. 2, most retailers still had prominent displays for Michael Jackson’s This Is It, a holdover from the previous week.

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., was playing This Is It on one of its TV endcaps, and had two big aisle displays for the movie.

The only retailer offering a Zombieland exclusive was Best Buy, which had a bonus DVD packed in with limited copies of the Zombieland DVD and Blu-ray. Extra content includes the featurette “Shootin’ Zombies With Ruben Fleischer” and behind-the-scenes footage.

Another title that generated a lot of interest was Lionsgate’s new Marvel animated adaptation Planet Hulk.

Best Buy’s weekly ad circular promoted an exclusive mini comic book on-pack with copies of Planet Hulk. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., had a nice Planet Hulk display at the front of the store, but DVD copies of the movie were marked with a sticker promoting a simple mini-poster inside the package.

The mini-comic, The Incredible Hulk and Now the Wolverine, actually came with copies of the new Wolverine and the X-Men: Fate of the Future DVD, as well as re-released versions of previous Lionsgate animated Marvel movies Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man and Hulk vs.

Best Buy was one of three major retailers offering some sort of “Hulk” comic book exclusive. Wal-Mart offered a 20-page Planet Hulk Prelude: Peace in Our Time mini-comic with copies of the two-DVD special edition of the movie, while Target presented a digital comic with the special edition. (Target didn’t bother advertising the single-DVD version in its weekly ad circular.)

Wal-Mart also is running a promotion for the TV series “24.” Through Feb. 28, fans can get a free CTU T-shirt by mail with purchase of a “24” DVD set.


26 Jan, 2010

Jacko's Final Spotlight

(L-R): Wal-Mart and Target <i>This Is It</i> Exclusives
(L-R): Wal-Mart and Target <i>This Is It</i> Exclusives

With This Is It representing the last new material generated by Michael Jackson before his death, retailers understandably gave it a grand treatment upon its release Jan. 26.

Target offered an exclusive This Is It Blu-ray combo pack that also contained the DVD, the latest Sony Pictures title to see this configuration at Target (Angels & Demons was the first). Shoppers also could get a $5 gift card with purchase of the This Is It CD soundtrack with either the DVD or Blu-ray.

In a related promotion, Target gave away 3D glasses to be used during a special Jackson tribute during the Grammys.

Best Buy listed This Is It videos in the music section of its weekly ad circular, and offered an exclusive bonus disc with the Blu-ray version, which also came with a backstage pass replica. Fans could also save $5 off the DVD or Blu-ray with purchase of the This Is It CD or the 25th anniversary Thriller CD.

Wal-Mart, which devoted a whole sectional display to This Is It and other Jackson products, offered an exclusive two-DVD special edition of the concert film, with four additional featurettes on the second disc.

Wal-Mart also give short shrift to another Blu-ray new release Jan. 26 by not offering the Whip It BD in stores, but online only, presumably to drive traffic to Walmart.com.

Wal-Mart also cut the price of a BD Live-ready Samsung Blu-ray Disc player nearly in half, from $248 to $128, the same price as its Magnavox non-Internet ready player.