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.
The arrival of Fox’s A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in the “Die Hard” action franchise, attracted some decent retail attention in an otherwise crowded week.
Best Buy offered a deluxe version of the Blu-ray combo pack with an exclusive beverage opener for $2 more than the regular combo pack. Best Buy also offered a $5 savings when the new film was bought with earlier movies in the franchise on Blu-ray, offered at $9.99 each, with a set of the first four films offered at $29.99.
Walmart continued its practice of offering bare-bones versions of new movies, offering A Good Day to Die Hard as both a single-disc Blu-ray and a DVD with no extras, in addition to the configurations available everywhere else.
Walmart also had an exclusive Die Hard Legacy Collection of all five films in one Blu-ray boxed set for $39.96.
Another Fox title, the direct-to-video 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, was the focus of a different promotion at Best Buy. This one offered a $10 coupon for pay-per-view cable purchases.
A slow week for new releases coming off the Memorial Day weekend has given stores a big excuse for promoting older titles with huge savings.
Target set up several deep-discount shelves, such as $4.75 for 1980s and ’90s hits on DVD, and $10 for more recent fare such as The Expendables 2 and The Perks of Being a Wallflower on DVD or several “Star Trek” movies on Blu-ray.
Target also offered a $10 savings when two Universal TV DVDs were bought together: the second season of “Suits” and the third season of “Covert Affairs.”
Best Buy touted a $10 discount coupon for Disney/ABC’s Red Widow DVD, bringing the first-week price down to $9.99. The coupon could be found at ABCTVonDVDCoupon.com.
In addition, Best Buy offered a free $10 gift card with the purchase of $50 or more of TV titles on DVD or Blu-ray.
Walmart offered pack-ons with two Nickelodeon titles: a puzzle and crayon pack with Peter Rabbit and a beach ball with Bubble Guppies: Sunny Days.
Also, Walmart packed Arc Entertainment's DVD of the movie Space Warriors, which looks to be a 21st century update of Space Camp, with Return to Nim's Island for $16.96. Space Warriors is available separately for $12.96 on DVD and $14.96 on Blu-ray.
Amazon's 'Star Trek Into Darkness' exclusive
The reality of the home entertainment market has made the synergy between theatrical and home video more pronounced than ever. Iron Man 3 caused a few eyebrows to raise when several retailers began taking preorders of the DVD and Blu-ray just as the film hit theaters.
The latest blockbuster subjected to this trend is Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness. The same weekend the film hit theaters, Amazon began offering several configurations for preorder, including an exclusive replica-phaser gift set of the 3D Blu-ray combo listed at $99.99 (discounted to $79.99).
Best Buy devoted a significant portion of its weekly ad circular and shelf space touting preorders for Star Trek Into Darkness. Shoppers who paid the $14.99 deposit on the Blu-ray or 3D combo packs were given $8 off the cost of a ticket purchased on Fandango.com, as well as instant access to exclusive content on CinemaNow.
Best Buy also offered $8 movie coupons for The Hangover Part III and Fast & Furious 6 with the purchase of previous Blu-rays in those franchises, among other select titles.
Walmart offered exclusive availability of the family film The Lost Medallion on DVD ($12.96) and Blu-ray ($14.96) from Bridgestone.
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.