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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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9 Dec, 2013

The Secret Truth of Mary Poppins


After spending a day viewing the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special and the Mary Poppins 50th anniversary Blu-ray, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that Mary Poppins is a Time Lord.

A simple Google search shows that I am not alone in this assessment. The evidence is rather overwhelming, considering all the traits she seems to have in common with our good pal The Doctor.

She seems to live forever.

Her carpet bag is bigger on the inside, a trademark of Time Lord science and their dimensional-warping capabilities.

Her umbrella is imbued with astonishing abilities, like a sonic screwdriver.

She loves taking her companions on wild adventures.

The “Doctor Who” special added another wrinkle to the argument, reminding us that Time Lord art is bigger on the inside, allowing people to actually jump inside it and move around. You know, a lot like those sidewalk drawings Mary jumped into with Bert and the children.

Speaking of Bert, he has all the hallmarks of a Time Lord companion, and it’s clear he and Mary must have shared some adventures before. It’s probably where he learned the techniques of Time Lord art to create those trans-dimensional sidewalk drawings of his (or, perhaps he’s using special Time Lord drawing sticks, which the rest of use perceive is simple chalk).

Not being a Time Lord, of course, Bert lacked the means to actually enter the artwork. But Mary was able to complete the transference, probably because her umbrella is equipped with the necessary spatial technology needed to embed people in the art.

Where’s Mary’s TARDIS, you ask? Well, maybe she keeps it hidden in the clouds, much like The Doctor did in “The Snowmen” Christmas special.

And since Time Lords are expert time travelers, Mary may be responsible for transporting the penguin waiters back to Los Angeles in 1947, where they show up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit 17 years before Walt Disney would have created them.

See. Really it makes perfect sense if you think about it.


5 Dec, 2013

South Park Skewers Black Friday


Comedy Central’s “South Park” Dec. 4 completed a trilogy of episodes satirizing the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

The plot centered on the town’s children dividing into separate camps devoted to Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One video game consoles. Under the assumption that only one faction could emerge victorious, and set up that console as the dominate video game system for a generation, the two sides prepared for war in an elaborate “Game of Thrones” parody.

Meanwhile, the local mall security guards prepared for the onslaught of shoppers by unveiling a memorial wall to all the guards killed during previous Black Fridays. At one point, a character laments seeing a character getting killed off after knowing and liking them, a jab at shows such as “Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” where killing main characters at unexpected times has become routine.

The local news covered the hordes of people gathering at the mall, and interviewed a man who declared he ate his 5-year-old son because he was too hungry while waiting in line for his chance to buy a Blu-ray player for 96% off, or “about $20.” He then sang a little song to commemorate his actions.

When the moment arrived for the shoppers to storm the mall, the scene transformed into a literal bloodbath, with footage from actual Black Friday riots spliced into the montage for good measure.

As for the console wars? After gathering at the mall’s Red Robin for a fake wedding and a round of betrayal (a spoof of the infamous Red Wedding of “Thrones”), the children eventually decided it was all marketing hype to encourage them to buy video games. Their refusal to participate in the Black Friday rush forced Bill Gates and a Japanese Sony CEO to have a bare-knuckle brawl to decide the future of the video game industry.

Of course, it wouldn’t be “South Park” if creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t turn the joke back on themselves, plugging their oft-delayed video game South Park: The Stick of Truth, recently rescheduled for March 2014.

The entire trilogy of episodes can be watched at SouthParkStudios.com.
 


3 Dec, 2013

'Wolverine' Claws Exclusives

Best Buy's 'Wolverine' Gift Set
Best Buy's 'Wolverine' Gift Set

The big title the first week in December was Fox’s The Wolverine, a typical big-name title for retailers to attach exclusives to attract customers in the wake of Black Friday sales.

Best Buy offered the 3D combo pack of The Wolverine with exclusive packaging and a collectible card set. The special gift set was offered at $1 less than the regular 3D combo pack.

Walmart offered the Wolverine 3D combo pack with a Vudu download of a previous "X-Men" movie. The chain also offered bare-bones DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film.

Target offered the Wolverine 3D and Blu-ray combo packs with an exclusive 24-minute downloadable featurette, "The Legendary Wolverine."

Other exclusives at Target included two titles from Sony Pictures: an exclusive bonus disc with a 30-minute "Inside the Magic" featurette with the BD combo pack of The Smurfs 2, and 45 minutes of bonus interviews with the Blu-ray of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Walmart offered Smurfs 2 Blu-ray gift sets with either a Papa Smurf or Smurfette plush.

Best Buy offered BBC’s Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special a week early on DVD ($17.99) and Blu-ray ($21.99). It goes wide Dec. 10.


19 Nov, 2013

Targeting 'Guns' and 'Planes'


A slew of new titles Nov. 19 didn’t attract much in the way of retailer exclusives, with the only notable ones coming from Target. For Universal’s 2 Guns, Target offered an exclusive graphic novel with the Blu-ray combo pack.

Target offered the Blu-ray editions of Disney’s Planes with an exclusive bonus disc, not advertised in the chain’s weekly circular, that touted a deleted scene and an “Extreme Air Challenge” featurette hosted by Disney Channel’s Karan Brar.

Target also offered 50% off one Pull & Fly Buddies toy (sold for $9.99 each) with the purchase of the Planes Blu-ray.

At Best Buy, Planes could be had with a $10 discount when purchased at the same time as any Planes Nintendo video game.

Best Buy also offers an exclusive steelbook packaging and $5 CinemaNow credit with preorders of Universal’s Fast & Furious 6, arriving Dec. 10.

Walmart’s latest exclusively available title is the Hallmark Channel movie Pete’s Christmas, on DVD with a Vudu digital copy from Arc Entertainment for $12.96.


12 Nov, 2013

Exclusives Made of 'Steel'

Target and Walmart exclusive 'Man of Steel' packaging
Target and Walmart exclusive 'Man of Steel' packaging

Warner’s Superman reboot Man of Steel arrived on shelves with several retailers offering exclusive content, which may raise the ire of fans in the wake of grumblings over Star Trek Into Darkness.

Target offered the Man of Steel Blu-ray combo pack (non-3D) in special digibook packaging with four exclusive “X-Ray Vision” featurettes. Target also touted the film’s CD soundtrack in an exclusive red steel case for $19.99.

Walmart offered the non-3D Blu-ray combo pack of Man of Steel in a steelbook case with two exclusive featurettes: “The Iconic Characters of Man of Steel” and “The Sonic Landscape of Man of Steel.”

The final season of “Dexter” also attracted some retail attention. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray edition of the eighth season with exclusive packaging featuring a bloody sketch of the title character.

Target had a Blu-ray edition of the “Dexter” final season with a 24-page memoir of Dexter’s most iconic victims.

Walmart had a stripped-down DVD of DreamWorks’ Turbo with no extras for $14.96.


6 Nov, 2013

Kennedy Overload


It’s a common practice to commemorate certain historical events with a bevy of tie-ins, be they new movies or documentaries about the subject, or re-releases of older material on DVD or Blu-ray. But I can’t recall an event prompting such depth of material as the upcoming 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The latest entry into this pool of historical examination is National Geographic Channel’s TV movie Killing Kennedy, which airs this Sunday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m., and will likely make its way to DVD and Blu-ray in a few months. The telefilm stars Rob Lowe as Kennedy, Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Oswald’s wife, Marina.

I had the good fortune of attending the Los Angeles premiere of the Killing Kennedy, and found it to be a deft adaptation of the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The book, like Killing Lincoln before it, is structured as a parallel tale between a U.S. president and his assassin, leading to the fateful events that bring them together.

The performances are all quite good, with Lowe holding the line with a more-than-passable JFK impression. But the revelation is the grounded performance of Rothhaar, who doesn’t paint Oswald as anything more than a troubled young man with something to prove. Trachtenberg also is  quite good as his suffering wife, practically unrecognizable behind a wall of thick Russian dialogue.

If anything, I might have made the movie more about Oswald’s side. While it’s necessary to portray events such as the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis to give Oswald something to respond to, the Kennedy side of events has been dramatized countless times already in movies, TV shows and miniseries, as if filmmakers just can’t resist the lure of portraying the glamour of Kennedy’s Camelot.

The Kennedys miniseries from 2011 gave us most of these scenes with Greg Kinnear as JFK (though Goodwin is a step up from Katie Holmes as Jackie). And watching Lowe during the assassination scene, I couldn’t help but think back to his “West Wing” co-star Martin Sheen in the same role in the 1983 Kennedy miniseries.

It’s the Oswald side that tends to get short shrift, more often than not buried under concurrent examinations of the latest conspiracy theory to pop up (most of which are easily discredited). Killing Kennedy demonstrates in chilling detail how easy it was for Oswald to carry out the assassination on his own, with no need for a vast conspiracy.

Funny as it seems, the closest I could think of another dramatization that tried to get into Oswald’s head this much was a story arc on “Quantum Leap.”

What struck me many times watching Killing Kennedy, and having just a few weeks ago viewed the underrated Parkland, which re-creates the immediate aftermath of the shooting, was how many scenes coexist between the two (with different actors, of course). In fact, one of the things I enjoyed about Parkland was seeing so many events that had been described in the Killing Kennedy book.

Still, for those who might not have seen any of the other Kennedy projects out there, Killing Kennedy should provide a good capsule of events that while hopefully encourage further examination into this pivotal turning point of American history.
 


29 Oct, 2013

A 'Monster' of an Exclusive

Walmart's 'Monsters University' Gift Set
Walmart's 'Monsters University' Gift Set

The retailers were out in force to offer fans of Disney’s Monsters University an extra enticement to pick up a copy in their store.

As far as exclusive bonus content goes, Target offered the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack and 3D combo pack with a “College Days” featurette. Target also offered $5 off any Monsters University Blu-ray with the purchase of a Scare Student figure, priced at $9.99.

Best Buy offered a free Mike plush with any Monsters University Blu-ray combo pack. The chain also touted Disney Infinity figures based on the movie for $13.99 each.

At Walmart, shoppers could pick up the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD combo as part of a gift set that included a Disney Infinity Mike or Randall figure (priced on its own at $12.96).

Walmart also had exclusive availability of the DVD of the family movie Coming Home for Christmas, which included a limited-edition Norman Rockwell print. The DVD, offered at $9.96, also included a bonus Vudu digital copy.

 


22 Oct, 2013

Retailers Ride Barbie's 'Pony'

Walmart's 'Barbie' DVD with plush pony
Walmart's 'Barbie' DVD with plush pony

Direct-to-video animation based on toy lines is a natural fit for exclusive add-ons, and retailers didn’t miss a beat with Universal’s new Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale.

Target offered a free Chelsea doll with the purchase of either the movie or the tie-in Barbie doll (priced at $11.99).

Walmart offered the DVD packed with a free plush pony.

Among other new releases, Walmart had copies of Fox’s The Internship DVD packed with the DVD for another Vince Vaughn starrer, Dodgeball.

Best Buy decided to help shoppers for Halloween with a free Despicable Me 2 minion trick-or-treat bag with the purchase of select titles, including the original Despicable Me, ParaNorman and Monster High: Ghouls Rule.

For The Internship, Best Buy offered a $5 discount when the Blu-ray was purchased at the same time as the Blu-ray for The Heat.

Target is ramping up promotions of its Target Ticket streaming service, setting up an endcap of ticketed titles among the other DVDs and Blu-rays.


20 Oct, 2013

Remembering Lou Scheimer


Animation legend Lou Scheimer died Oct. 17. He was 84.

Scheimer, as co-founder of the Filmation studio, was responsible for many memorable cartoons from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The one that stood out most to me growing up was the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” cartoon, one of the first shows with a toy-line tie-in. In addition to serving as executive producer, Scheimer voiced Orko on the series.

He also had a significant impact on the “Star Trek” franchise, as Filmation produced the “Star Trek” animated series in 1973 and 1974. While it lasted only 22 episodes, it included the voices of most of the original series cast and proved there was still a demand for new “Star Trek” adventures, which paid off later when the franchise expanded into films and spinoff TV series.

I had occasion to interview Scheimer back in 2006, one of the first feature interviews I did for Home Media Magazine. The piece, heralding the arrival of “She-Ra” on DVD, was included with the first issue of Agent DVD and distributed at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International.

Scheimer was friendly and inviting and willing to talk about almost every aspect of his career in animation. He was 77 at the time and demonstrated great recall of many of the various series he had worked on, from “Star Trek,” to Superman and Batman cartoons in the 1960s and 1970s, “He-Man,” “The Archies,” “Fat Albert,” “The Groovie Ghoulies” and more. Filmation also produced a number of live-action kids’ shows in the 1970s, including “Shazam” and “The Ghost Busters” (which wasn’t related to the better-known 1984 Ghostbusters movie, which had to license the name from Filmation).

We spoke during two phone calls that lasted about an hour each. I later had a chance to meet Lou in person at Comic-Con, where he was signing copies of the “She-Ra” DVD at the booth for Tower Records (which still existed in 2006). He was gracious enough to sign a copy of the article I had written, which I still have hanging on my wall.

Lou will be missed, but his legacy and influence will live on through the DVDs and reruns of his work, and the countless children he entertained.

Here’s me at Comic-Con in 2006 with Lou Scheimer and his daughter, Erika, who provided many voices for Filmation series.


 


11 Oct, 2013

In Defense of 'Raiders'

Get the Blu-ray already, Sheldon!
Get the Blu-ray already, Sheldon!

The Oct. 10 episode of “The Big Bang Theory” featured an intriguing premise. Primary geek Sheldon (Jim Parsons) treated his girlfriend, Amy (Mayim Bialik) to her first-ever viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark, she suggested the film suffered from a major plot flaw, that Indiana Jones was ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of events.

She’s not altogether wrong. Even with Indiana Jones there, the Nazis found the Ark of the Covenant, took it to their secret island lair, opened it and died. And all of this would have happened if Indiana Jones had never showed up. And this little news sent Sheldon and his friends into a funk when obsessing over the detail, thinking it ruined the movie, and ultimately the franchise (aside from the fourth movie, which Sheldon said was bad on its own).

To their credit, the guys did try to punch holes in Amy’s theory. First, the suggestion that the Nazis were digging in the wrong spot, and only found the Ark because of Indy; this was countered by the assumption that without Indy, the Nazis would have gotten the medallion from Marion when the first tried, and would have found the right spot to dig. Then there was the idea that Indy’s presence at the opening ritual was how the U.S. government ended up with the Ark at the end; but then it was pointed out (somewhat incorrectly) that Indy actually failed because he wanted the Ark to go to a museum.

Surprisingly, they couldn’t figure out that Amy had missed the point. Amy’s primary mistake is that Indy’s so-called non-role is a “story problem.”

Remember that the movie is called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s not Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, despite whatever promotional materials the Lucasfilm marketing department has put out over the years.

The title raiders are the Nazis, and the film’s story is their attempt to find the Ark, only to be hampered by a pesky archeologist and the mysterious forces surrounding the title artifact. One could argue that Indy failing to actually stop the Nazis from doing anything (or at least making them work harder to do it) wasn't a problem with the movie, it was, in its ironic charm, actually the whole point. He was also the audience surrogate, there to explain why the Nazis were ultimately destroyed by the Ark.

As for Indiana Jones not being essential to the story, that depends on your point of view. True, he didn't stop the Nazis from doing what they were trying to do. But so what? It's not a plot hole, by any means. Even so, to say that Indiana Jones had no impact on the story is like saying the losing team in a football game had no impact on the outcome.

Or, to use another sports analogy, take a look at Bobby Thomson’s home run in the 1951 playoffs. It’s often listed as the most famous home run in history. Is it ultimately inessential because the Giants didn’t go on to win the World Series?

Of course not. Try telling that to Ralph Branca.

The whole point of the movie is to accompany Indiana Jones on an adventure. Our liking of the character is based more on his demeanor and daring-do, not whether he actually succeeds at his goal. This tone is established almost immediately, as Indiana escapes the temple in the opening scene with the idol and then loses it to Belloq, only to escape with his life with nothing to show for it. The rest of the story is just an excuse for Indy to engage in a series of spectacular action setpieces, and that's why the movie is so fun.

Then again, without Indy there, the Nazis probably would have killed Marion as a loose end. Because of Indy, she’s still alive. That has to count for something, especially if you like watching the film for its love story.

What I will say about the plot structure is something I noticed when rewatching the films when the Blu-rays came out last year. In both Raiders and the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy only joins the quest after the real heavy lifting has been accomplished. The key clue in Raiders are the map room, and the Nazis already discovered that, and the headpiece of Ra, previously uncovered by Marion’s father, Abner. In Last Crusade, most of the major clues have already been revealed by Henry Sr. Indy kind of swoops in to be a disruptive force, hired not to go on a quest, but to pick up the pieces.

Speaking of the Blu-ray, I was a little disappointed to see that Sheldon only had the DVD version. Any Raiders fan worth his salt would have picked up the Blu-ray boxed set of the trilogy.