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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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14 Sep, 2009

DVD, Blu-ray and the Vanishing Extra

Once upon a time, with DVD was shiny and new, the prospect of bonus features was more than enough incentive to pick up a title, especially one a potential buyer might already have owned on VHS.

The extras weren’t too fancy back then. The basics included a commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. A lot of discs had little text-based biographies about the cast, and some even used these text screens to describe the making of the movie.

Back then, listening to the filmmakers dish on their movie was a fun add-on, and for a lot of people provided not only new insight into the world of filmmaking but inspiration to want to be a filmmaker.

Commentaries had been included on Laserdiscs, of course, but who really bought those? No, DVD made the concept of bonus features widespread, and, eventually, kinda tiresome.

Nowadays commentaries are routine, behind-the-scenes extras are usually done on the cheap and deleted scenes are expected, if not already incorporated into a longer “director’s cut” or whatever.

When people started growing apathetic toward extras a few years ago, studios began separating the value-add. With a lot of films, consumers could choose between a bare-bones movie-only disc or a single-DVD version with just a few extras, or they could get a two-disc set that had even more extras on it. Batman Begins comes to mind. The idea made sense from a business perspective. Just take the movie disc, throw it in a package with more features and call it a “Limited Edition” for $5 more. Collectors would go for that.

Now with Blu-ray, we are seeing the same kind of strategy. A number of current titles, such as Observe and Report, are being put out as movie-only single-DVD versions or on Blu-ray with a ton of extras. Again, this seems to make sense, as the collectors who are interested in bonus material have probably upgraded their systems to Blu-ray. And those that haven’t upgraded, well, the obsessive personality type that drives one to want so many extra features (most of which probably aren’t watched anyway) will nag at them to get that Blu-ray player.

It also fits with the combo-disc concept. You can get a DVD with just the movie and the Blu-ray with the movie and all the extras when you want to watch those.

Personally, I think every disc should have some kind of option for the viewer to glean some insights from the filmmaker, be it through a commentary or featurette. Even BD Live could be useful in this area.

I lament what seems like the loss of good DVD extras in lieu of making them exclusive to Blu-ray. But if Blu-ray is the future of packaged media, studios had better figure out how to get consumers to adopt it, and saving the extras for BD makes sense for now.

Unfortunately, if widespread apathy toward extras keeps up, and studios don’t want to invest in them, it won’t matter which disc they’re on.

10 Sep, 2009

The Salvation of a ‘Terminator’ Flick

So, Warner Home Video is releasing an ‘R’-rated director’s cut of Terminator: Salvation on Blu-ray Dec. 1. The ‘PG-13’ version released in theaters didn’t exactly get the warmest of reception from fans, but maybe on disc the fourth installment of the franchise will find its second wind.

I thought the film did a decent job of depicting the post-apocalyptic world of the Skynet war, only hinted at in the previous films. And the film isn’t lacking for action, even if the story takes a beating for it.

It’s too early to guess what’s in the extended cut, but the MPAA blurb cites “some violence and brief nudity” as reasons for the ‘R’ rating. This probably means actress Moon Bloodgood’s much ballyhooed nude scene has been reinserted into the movie.

I’d also be curious to see what remains of the rumored original intended (and ill-conceived) ending, in which John Connor is killed and replaced by a Terminator altered to resemble him. While that would qualify as reinventing the franchise, I don’t think audiences would have accepted that much of a change to the storyline. As it was, the ending we got was pretty weak, but serviceable.

8 Sep, 2009

Award-Winning ‘Sopranos’ Set Gets New Look

HBO Home Entertainment is doing everything it can to keep “The Sopranos” fresh in people’s minds. And why not? It was one of the cable network’s most successful shows.

The limited-edition complete-series boxed set just earned the title of the DVD Critics Awards’ top DVD of the year, as well as best multidisc collection.

Nov. 17 (order date Oct. 13), HBO is releasing a slimmer version of the complete-series DVD set at $299.95. The new packaging seems to have more economical accordion sleeves as opposed to the bulky coffee-table style of the collector’s edition. Personally I think the collector’s edition is a bit more elegant, but at $100 less, the new configuration should help the show find its way into many more homes.

HBO also is putting the first season of the show on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 24 (order date Oct. 20) at $69.98. Since some of the later seasons are already on DVD, the studio is getting around to completing the set. At this rate, don’t be surprised to see a complete-series Blu-ray set by next Christmas.

1 Sep, 2009

When Marvel Meets the Mouse

Disney Spidey
Disney Spidey

So, what can we expect from Disney’s buyout of Marvel Entertainment? Probably nothing too earth-shattering. The deal should help Disney target the young male demographic, but Marvel’s prior agreements with other studios aren’t going to net Disney many film rights to the characters for a few years.

Still, the merger is fertile soil for imaginative ideas:

• Pixar presents The Incredibles vs. The Fantastic Four — After all, The Incredibles are basically a thinly veiled copy of Marvel’s super foursome.

• Darkwing Duck joins the Avengers

• Scrooge McDuck attempts a hostile takeover of Stark Industries, gives the Iron Man suit to Launchpad McQuack. Hilarity ensues.

• Galactus devours It's a Small World — hundreds of randy teens take their make-out sessions to Pirates of the Caribbean instead.

• Doctor Doom takes over Sleeping Beauty’s castle, adds missiles.

• Namor the Sub-Mariner proposes marriage to The Little Mermaid, learns she has a thing for Aquaman.

• Captain America hosts a new DVD of Disney's World War II propaganda films — just because it’s the patriotic duty of all steroid-enabled American superheroes (I’m sorry. Cap isn’t on steroids. It’s “super soldier serum.” My bad.).

• Remy LeBeau (Gambit from the X-Men) opens a Poker House in New Orleans Square

• Spider-Man starts dancing down Main Street during the parade

• ESPN Friday Night Boxing: Donald Duck vs. Howard the Duck — Why not aim high?


27 Aug, 2009

Head’s Up: ‘Futurama’ Set Due Oct. 13

Futurama Bender's Head
Futurama Bender's Head

“Futurama” fans rejoice. Not only is your favorite show coming back on the air, but a complete collection of all the episodes is coming to stores Oct. 13 (prebook Sept. 2).

(I guess it won’t be “complete” once the new episodes hit on Comedy Central next year, but that’s just how this game is played, isn’t it?).

The 19-DVD Futurama: The Complete Collection — 1999-2009 includes all 72 episodes that aired on Fox, plus the four made-for-disc movies commissioned by Comedy Central once the cabler picked up the broadcast rights.

The set was previewed at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International in July, when 500 copies were available for online purchase. The discs come in packaging that resembles Bender’s head. He’s the show’s main robot character, for those who don’t know. Pretty sweet.

The set is being offered at $199.98.

According to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, only 25,000 copies of the new set are being produced. It looks like the box contains all the discs that are already available, so many collectors who already picked up the seasons sets and the movies won’t miss out, unless they really want the new packaging.  However, it looks like Fox will make available limited numbers of empty Bender heads for collectors who already have everything. More details on this aspect to come.

26 Aug, 2009

No ‘Sarah Jane’ on TV? Wait for the DVD

While Britain’s rabid “Doctor Who” fanbase may have spilled over a bit into America, that doesn’t always mean network programmers share the enthusiasm.

When Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) had the rights to broadcast “Doctor Who,” it also showed the first season of the kid-friendly spinoff “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” about one of the Doctor’s former traveling companions.

But another “Doctor Who” spinoff, the more mature “Torchwood,” was shown here on BBC America, so the writing was probably on the wall for the other two series. Sure enough, the recent “Doctor Who” one shot specials aired here on BBC America, and “Sarah Jane Adventures,” which has already completed a second season in Britain and is preparing for a third, has all but vanished from American TV sets.

In the past this would be a cause for a surge of letter writing from the fans, as the means of distribution were limited. But in the DVD era, it’s not a problem. The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Complete Second Season will be released Nov. 10 (prebook Oct. 6) by BBC Video as a three-DVD set for $39.98).

Considering all the direct-to-video tie-ins we are seeing with TV shows these days, it seems this type of release strategy should only become more prevalent.

20 Aug, 2009

The Long, Strange Trip of Andy Richter

Andy Richter as Andy Barker
Andy Richter as Andy Barker

There once was a time when sidekick extraordinaire Andy Richter hoped for a solo career.

You’ll remember Richter as the pudgy second banana to Conan O’Brien on the latter’s “Lane Night” talk show starting in 1993. Richter left the show in 2000 to take on television as a leading man, starring in three short-lived sitcoms before returning to the sidekick gig with Conan on “The Tonight Show.” I’ve always enjoyed Conan’s brand of off-the-wall humor, and seeing Richter re-join him on “The Tonight Show” was a pleasant surprise. (He even serves as the announcer this time around, too … shades of Ed McMahon).


So Andy’s back where he belongs, but what a fun trip he took to get there.

After leaving “Late Night,” Richter landed the cult hit “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” which lasted for 19 episodes on Fox from 2002-03 before being canceled (it was released on DVD by Paramount/CBS earlier this year).

Next up was the family sitcom “Quintuplets,” which lasted 22 episodes on Fox from 2004-05, featuring Richter as a husband and father to five children. Richter’s role on this show always seemed weird to me, probably because I never thought of him in the context of a traditional sitcom.

After that went away, Richter ended up as the title character in “Andy Barker, P.I.,” which was co-created by his old pal Conan O’Brien. The series ran for six episodes on NBC in 2007, with Richter as a CPA who is confused for the private detective who used to occupy his storefront office. Shout! Factory releases Andy Barker, P.I. — The Complete Series Nov. 17, with several featurettes and commentaries for $24.99.

Among the übergeek crowd, the show is known for an obscure crossover with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” thanks to writer Jane Espenson (who has moved on to produce “Caprica”), making one of Andy’s cases involve the murdered founder of a fast food chain where the famed vampire slayer once worked.


15 Aug, 2009

DVD Sales and the Fate of ‘Dollhouse’


The future of “Dollhouse” may rest on how well it sells on disc, and after the first two weeks it doesn’t look too good.

TVbytheNumbers.com noted that the Internet was filled with pre-release buzz for Dollhouse: Season One, which hit shelves July 28. But actual sales data indicated it was outsold by a more than 2-to-1 margin by Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5, which debuted the same day and received no such buzz prior to its release.

Overall, “Dollhouse” still managed a top 10 showing on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales charts, and its first-week sales figures would be the envy of many a TV show. But it hasn’t had the same impact as other Joss Whedon shows on disc. In its second week, “Dollhouse” fell out of the top 50.

In discussions of the fate of “Dollhouse,” many fans point to “Firefly,” which was badly mistreated by the network, shown out of order and canceled well before its time. Yet its DVD sales were stellar, enough to inspire a follow-up movie. There is a lot of speculation that potential DVD sales are what earned a second season for “Dollhouse.” (Another theory is Whedon cutting the production budget of the series low enough for Fox to overlook its mediocre ratings).

Comparing the “Firefly” model to “Dollhouse” is really unfair to both shows. “Firefly” had some weeks years after its initial release when it sold as many copies as “Dollhouse” in week one. Granted, the industry is different now, and a large percentage of “Dollhouse” viewers watched the show through DVR or online. But looking at the sales data so far, I’d advise Whedon fans to cherish the 13 episodes already ordered for the second season, and don’t be surprised if there aren’t any more than that.

Fans might whine about network mistreatment, but if anything, the success of “Firefly” prompted the network to give Whedon more favorable treatment. Yes, the original pilot for “Dollhouse” never aired (and is on the DVD), after the network tinkered a bit with the format of the show. But Whedon is the first to say that he likes the direction the show took midway through the first season. And at least this time the network aired the episodes in order, and gave the show enough of a market push to let fans know when it was on (even if it has a crappy Friday time slot). Whether “Dollhouse” survives will be on its own merits, and while the series has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few episodes, it is still a far away from generating the kind of fan affection afforded “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Angel.”

14 Aug, 2009

'Clerks' on Blu-ray? Looks Like


One problem Blu-ray Disc faces in replacing DVD as the home entertainment medium of choice is conversion of catalog titles. Since many of these titles weren’t shot with HD in mind, an upconverted DVD is usually acceptable to most people, rather than shelling out another $20 for a few extra lines of clarity.

An example often cited as a movie that wouldn’t need a Blu-ray conversion is Kevin Smith’s 1994 indie opus Clerks. Even Smith acknowledges that there probably isn’t much point to upgrading the grainy black-and-white film, which wasn’t very visually interesting to begin with. It’s all about story, and most of the DVDs of the film have done a good job presenting the experience of the film. Is a Blu-ray upgrade really going to matter?

Well, it looks like we’re going to find out. According to Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s preliminary release calendar, Clerks is slated for Blu-ray release Nov. 17, as is Smith’s third film, 1997’s Chasing Amy. The films will be available individually and as part of a Kevin Smith boxed set, which might also contain another Smith film produced by Miramax, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Criterion released the Chasing Amy DVD, which just ported over the extras from the Laserdisc, so it will be interesting to see if any new extras made it onto the Blu-ray. Smith told a Comic-Con crowd in 2007 that he had prepared 10th anniversary extras for Amy, but later said Criterion wouldn’t double-dip the title, so he was waiting for a chance to put them on Blu-ray. Perhaps a few 15th anniversary extras might make it onto the Clerks BD as well. What else can they do, colorize it?

These releases also mean collectors are two steps closer to owning the complete View Askewniverse film cycle on Blu-ray Disc (that would be Smith’s six films featuring Jay & Silent Bob: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II). Once Clerks and Chasing Amy hit BD, only Mallrats will be lacking a Blu-ray release (Universal released it on HD DVD in 2007, so we know a high-def master is out there).



13 Aug, 2009

Galactica: Take 3


The latest "Battlestar Galactica" series just wrapped up, and already Universal is planning yet another reimagining of the franchise.

Bryan Singer has been tapped to direct a third version of the sci-fi epic, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The core storyline of the franchise involves 12 colony planets of humans being wiped out by an evil robot race called the Cylons, forcing the survivors to flee in spaceships on a quest to find a mythical 13th colony, called Earth.

The original "Battlestar" ran from 1978-79 and was among the most expensive TV series made up to that point, which was a prime factor in its cancelation after one season, despite decent ratings. A cheaper version of the show, "Galactica 1980" debuted a year later and is widely considered among the worst TV series ever made.

Ron Moore spearheaded a retooled version of the premise in 2003, which led to a four-season series that ended just a few months ago. But the saga he began is still ongoing, with the spinoff movie Battlestar Galactica: The Plan hitting DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 27, and the prequel series "Caprica" premiering on Syfy next year.

Moore's show built up quite a following (despite some misgivings about the finale), so Universal's attempt to cash in with a big-screen version makes sense. The timing may be a little soon, especially if Singer's version is going to be yet another reimagining, which might be a bit confusing to some fans. But since there's no script yet, the movie probably wouldn't hit theaters until at least 2012, by which time "Caprica" may or may not still be on the air.

Still, sci-fi fans aren't the most forgiving sort when it comes to remakes. There is still a contingent of original series fans who hate the Moore version.

And just look at the venom spewed when the announcement hit the Internet that a remake of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" without Joss Whedon was in the works.

Singer, who was originally attached to the project that eventually became Moore's "Battlestar," is a competent director who has shown a flair for genre projects, but I hope this re-imagining goes better than his last one. Superman Returns was so poorly done it actually made me yearn for Superman III.