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.
Best Buy's CinemaNow station
Just as Walmart has been heavily promoting preorders of upcoming DVDs and Blu-rays with a tie-in to its Vudu digital service, Best Buy has been offering similar deals through its CinemaNow streaming site.
Without much else to promote during the May 14 new-release week, Best Buy touted the June 4 Blu-ray for Fox’s A Good Day to Die Hard. Shoppers who preorder the title in stores or at BestBuy.com/DieHard can watch it early in Digital HD on CinemaNow, and get the Blu-ray combo pack when it comes out with an exclusive beverage opener.
Also, Best Buy offers preorders of HBO's May 21 True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season DVD or Blu-ray with a $5 CinemaNow credit.
The in-store preorders at Best Buy require a $14.99 deposit.
Taking its commitment to CinemaNow a step further, Best Buy stores have set up CinemaNow kiosks in the home video section, with CinemaNow gift cards for consumer purchase and video displays to demonstrate the service.
Walmart-exclusive 'Jack Reacher' DVD
One of Walmart’s go-to exclusives of late has been to strip a new-release DVD or Blu-ray of any extras and offer it to consumers at a discount from the widely released editions. May 7 Walmart employed the strategy for both Paramount’s Jack Reacher, offering a bare-bones DVD edition (though it did include a Vudu digital copy), and Fox’s Safe Haven, offering not only a vanilla DVD but also an extras-free Blu-ray.
Target went the opposite direction for both titles. For Safe Haven, Target offered an additional 70 minutes of bonus content with the Blu-ray, and offered a $5 savings when the movie was purchased at the same time as the original novel (offered at $11.99). For Jack Reacher, Target packaged the Blu-ray with an exclusive novella of “Reacher” adventure The Second Son. Target also had all “Reacher” books for sale.
Walmart was not without its add-ons on certain titles. For Warner’s Superman Unbound, Walmart had an exclusive two-DVD special edition not yet available elsewhere (it streets June 18). And for the indie faith-based DVD release of Deep in the Heart, Walmart offered a bonus CD soundtrack.
Best Buy offered the Superman Unbound Blu-ray with a Brainiac figurine, and promoted an exclusive 20-minute Jack Reacher strunt-driving featurette available via streaming through its CinemaNow service.
Target's 'Guilt Trip' audio gift card
Target kicked off its big pre-Mother’s Day promotions with an exclusive edition of Paramount’s The Guilt Trip DVD and Blu-ray. The Target special edition offers the disc gift-wrapped, with an audio greeting card featuring the voice of star Barbra Streisand.
Copies of The Guilt Trip DVD at Walmart came with a special digital copy from the chain’s Vudu digital streaming service.
For Mother’s Day, Walmart set up a huge endcap display of $5 DVDs of such titles as Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Love Story, and $7.50 DVDs such as Magic Mike. Walmart also trotted out two new animated adventures exclusively on DVD at its stores: Universal’s Small Potatoes at $9.96 and Fox’s Koala Kid at $12.96.
Target offered a few discount deals on other new releases. Shoppers who bought Silver Linings Playbook on DVD or Blu-ray along with the paperback book (offered at $12) upon which the film is based could save $5. And the joint purchase of Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season Three Blu-ray ($59.99) with the Best of Both Worlds Blu-ray ($14.99) included a $10 savings.
Best Buy's 'Gangster Squad' cover and Target's 'Super Friends.'
For the biggest new release of April 23, Warner’s Gangster Squad, Best Buy offered a special version of the film’s Blu-ray combo pack with unique box art and an exclusive 30-minute bonus featurette, “Meet the Gangster Squad.”
Target had exclusive availability of Warner’s The World’s Greatest Super Friends DVD, presenting eight episodes from the 1979-80 fourth season of the “Super Friends” cartoon franchise.
(L-R): The Best Buy and Target 'Django' exclusives
After a slow start to the second quarter, retailers weren’t going to let Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained go by without some attention.
In a move destined to drive collectors nuts, the big three of Walmart, Target and Best Buy all offered Django Unchained with an exclusive bonus disc of content.
At Best Buy, which offered the bonus disc in a Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive packaging for a $2 upcharge, the extra material consisted of “Around the Globe With Django Unchained: Conversations With the Filmmakers and Cast.”
Walmart’s bonus disc, included with both DVD and Blu-ray versions, consisted of the making-of documentary “Django Unchained: Reimagining the Spaghetti Western.”
Target’s bonus disc came in the chain’s exclusive steelbook version of the BD combo pack, and included highlights of the cast at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Also at Target, its DVD copies of Shout! Factory’s A Monster in Paris came with a digital copy of the animated film.
With the second quarter off to a slow start in terms of new releases, Walmart applied a few special promotions to some of the lower-profile titles for the April 9 titles.
For Comedy Central’s Gabriel Iglesias: Aloha Fluffy, Walmart paired the DVD with a previous Iglesias DVD, I’m Not Fat … I’m Fluffy, for $14.96. The standalone DVD was $12.96. The DVD also came with a Vudu digital copy.
Walmart also offered a Vudu copy with Magnolia’s The Sorcerer and the White Snake DVD and Blu-ray.
For Arc Entertainment’s Ring the Bell, Walmart tossed in a bonus CD of Christian songs, all for $9.96.
Target had exclusive availability of two Universal TV DVDs: Necessary Roughness: Season Two and Fairly Legal: Season Two, at $19.99 each, with a $5 savings if both were purchased at the same time.
Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert: Two Thumbs Up in Heaven
Anyone who considers themselves a film critic at any level would be lying if they said they weren’t in some way influenced by Roger Ebert, who passed away April 4 at age 70 after a long bout with cancer.
For many people, Ebert defined the art of film criticism and took it to a new level because of all the people he was able to reach. Beginning as a critic for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, Ebert’s columns were syndicated to hundreds of newspapers and formed the basis for dozens of books. One of my favorites was Ebert’s Movie Glossary, a handy guide to clichés, plot contrivances and other observations that were commonplace in movies. (He would even invite readers to submit their own entries, the best of which were published in subsequent editions).
An Ebert review was part criticism, part essay, and their true value was not just that he was offering an opinion, but the way he could succinctly lay out the reasons for why he came to the conclusions he did. Not that everyone, including myself, wouldn’t disagree with him on at least a semi-regular basis, but at least he would make an argument. He could be serious, he could be funny, but he was rarely uninteresting.
According to RottenTomatoes.com, Ebert agreed with the Tomatometer 77% of the time, a statistic based on 7,202 reviews of his posted on the site.
Ebert’s influence as a critic became so great that he became a pop culture institution unto himself.
In 1970, he collaborated with director Russ Meyer on the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, an ‘X’-rated spoof not only of the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, but of Hollywood in general. The film became a cult hit, eventually earning a DVD release in 2006 from Fox.
Ebert’s immense popularity as a critic was undoubtedly spurred by the revolutionary idea in 1975 to pair him with another Chicago critic, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, to talk about the movies on television. By the 1980s, “Siskel & Ebert” was a weekly institution, and their style of giving films “two thumbs up” or “two thumbs down” had entered the lexicon. I was a regular viewer, curious about which new movies were worth my time, and keenly interested in seeing how my views on a film aligned with theirs.
Personally, I tended to prefer Siskel, who seemed to take a working-class approach to movies in contrast to Ebert’s more erudite nature. That wasn’t just a casual observation. While Siskel would spend his non-critic days covering Chicago Bulls championships for Chicago TV stations, Ebert would host film festivals and lecture students with frame-by-frame examinations of classic movies.
It wouldn’t be unfair to label Ebert a film historian, either, and those not fortunate enough to hear him speak in person could always pick up one of the movies for which he recorded a commentary for the DVD (most of which have carried over to the Blu-ray version of said films).
Naturally, he recorded a commentary for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but his commentaries are also available on Casablanca (DVD and Blu-ray from Warner), Citizen Kane (DVD and Blu-ray from Warner), Dark City (DVD and Blu-ray from Warner), Crumb (DVD and Blu-ray from Criterion), and 1959’s Floating Weeds (on DVD from Criterion).
It wasn’t unheard of for a bad Ebert review to earn the wrath of a filmmaker or two. The 1998 Godzilla remake from Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich took delight in presenting the buffoonish New York mayor and his assistant as thinly veiled Ebert and Siskel parodies, after the duo had mocked Stargate and Independence Day on their show. (Similarly, famed critic Pauline Kael’s harsh reviews of the “Star Wars” movies inspired George Lucas to name a villain in 1988’s Willow after her.)
Ebert and Siskel (whose name came first on their show because he won a coin flip) weren’t above poking fun at themselves, either, as evidenced by their numerous appearances on late-night talk shows, or the episode of “The Critic” called “Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice” (readily available on DVD from Sony Pictures) in which they play themselves in animated form, splitting up only to be drawn back together.
Siskel’s death due to complications from a brain tumor in 1999 was one of the first times I can remember being not just shocked by a celebrity death, but also disappointed for the loss. Ebert tried out a revolving door of replacements until settling on his Sun-Times colleague, Richard Roeper. And while Roeper grew into the role, and is one of the country’s top critics now, “Ebert & Roeper” seemed more a show about a master and an apprentice, rather than the clash of equals that “Siskel & Ebert” had been.
Soon after, Ebert would experience his own cancer diagnosis, spurring a decade-long decline that forced him out of the spotlight. Robbed of his ability to speak, but not to write, he kept on in earnest, turning more toward the Internet and Twitter (something of a twist, I suppose, given how much online ubiquity has dampened the impact of the individual critic). These last few years of Ebert’s career were marked by a variety of bizarre, nonsensical statements and reviews that would leave me scratching my head wondering if we had watched the same film. Whether this had something to do with his cancer I couldn’t say, but I was always a bit saddened that the Roger Ebert “of old” seemed to be gone.
Still, that should not diminish an enduring legacy fueled by a love of going to the movies, and a spirit that lives on in each of us who drew inspiration from his efforts to spread the gospel of film to the world.
Walmart's 'G.I. Joe' preorder
Walmart’s program to offer in-store preorders of recent theatrical and television hits has expanded to the point where the placeholder cases for several different titles are taking up entire segments of a store’s home entertainment shelf.
Among the latest batch available for preorder is Paramount’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which just hit theaters a week earlier. No release date was listed on the display, but the preorder includes home delivery of both Retaliation and its predecessor, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, on either DVD ($19.96) or Blu-ray ($24.96) upon Retaliation’s eventual release date. The deal includes exclusive Vudu content for Reitaliation, plus instant streaming access to Rise of Cobra and Retaliation on Vudu two weeks before its street date.
Walmart is also taking preorders for the just concluded third season of Anchor Bay’s “The Walking Dead,” with the DVD ($34.96) and Blu-ray ($42.96) expected in August. The deal includes exclusive Vudu content and instant streaming access to season-three episodes, plus a CD soundtrack.
Also available for preorder is Anchor Bay’s Spartacus: War of the Damned, the concluding chapter of the Starz series, coming in September on DVD for $26.96 and Blu-ray for $32.96. The preorder includes instant Vudu access to the season, plus the first episode of “Da Vinci’s Demons” starting April 15.
Finally, Walmart offers a preorder of the True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray for $34.96, in advance of its May 21 street date. The Vudu tie-in includes the entire fourth season and the first episode of the fifth.
The latest batch of titles available exclusively at Walmart includes a couple of direct-to-video sequels and an international hit making its way stateside.
On the sequel front, the most notable is Return to Nim’s Island, the DVD ($12.96) and Blu-ray ($14.96) of which arrived on Walmart shelves March 19 from Arc Entertainment (it’s slated for wide release May 21). Starring Bindi Irwin (daughter of the late Steve Irwin, a.k.a. The Crocodile Hunter), Return is a follow-up to a 2008 theatrical film that starred Jodie Foster, but with a whole new cast. It aired on the Hallmark Channel March 15.
Another Walmart exclusive, which streeted March 26, is A Turtle’s Tale 2 ($12.96 DVD), from Gaiam Vivendi, a sequel to a 2010 Belgian film.
Walmart also has exclusive distribution of Sony Pictures’ Adventures in Zambezia ($12.96 DVD, $17.96 Blu-ray/DVD combo), a South African animated film featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum, among others. It also streeted March 26.
Turning to promotions at other retailers, Target offered season two of Showtime's "The Borgias" with two episodes of season seven of "Dexter," while Best Buy touted $8 in movie cash for tickets to see Jurassic Park 3D with the purchase of any "Jurassic Park" Blu-ray.
Target's 'Les Misérables' Deluxe Edition
The same week Warner sends The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to shelves (March 19), Universal is bringing two of its better-known titles to disc on a Friday (March 22).
There’s the comedy This Is 40, but the one attracting the retail buzz is the movie adaptation of musical Les Misérables.
Target is pulling out the stops with its exclusive special edition of the Les Misérables Blu-ray combo pack, offering variable covers, a bonus disc with 40 minutes of additional extras, as well as collectible cards and a booklet, all for $24.99 — just $2 more than the standard Blu-ray combo.
Best Buy offers the Les Misérables Blu-ray combo pack in an exclusive steelbook case for $19.99.
That’s not the only steelbook offered by Best Buy for the week. The chain also has Sony Pictures’ Zero Dark Thirty as a Blu-ray combo with steelbook packaging and a Medal of Honor: Warfighter Zero Dark Thirty map pack for $22.99.
Turning back to The Hobbit, Best Buy offered exclusive Gollum box art on the Blu-ray combo pack, which included an exclusive 30-minute documentary, A Hobbit’s Tale Part 1: The Journey Begins.
Walmart offered The Hobbit Blu-ray in exclusive booklet packaging, while Target packed on an exclusive Bilbo Baggins Lego figurine.