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Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.



January 18, 2011
Justifying a Blu-ray Purchase



With the debut of the direct-to-video prequel Death Race 2 Jan. 18, only Best Buy was allowed to sell a boxed set containing the Blu-ray versions of both “Death Race” movies, offered at $29.99.

Target, on the other hand, didn’t bother to put Death Race 2 in its weekly ad circular. Instead, it made a big deal about the new movie version of Freakonomics, which it offered at $17.99 bundled with a paperback version of the book upon which it is based.

In what might not be a good sign for TV on Blu-ray at retail, only Best Buy stocked the Blu-ray version of Justified: The Complete First Season, while other retailers had the DVD set on shelves (at about $19.99). But Best Buy still didn’t bother listing the $24.99 price in its weekly ad.

Best Buy also included a copy of the first episode of the second season through its CinemaNow service with purchase of the season one boxed set.

Other Best Buy deals included double Reward Zone points with a purchase of Despicable Me and a selection of recent hits from $12.99 to $14.99 on DVD and from $16.99 to $19.99 on Blu-ray Disc.

By: John Latchem


January 17, 2011
New on Disc: 'Howl' and more …



Howl

Oscilloscope, Drama, B.O. $0.06 million, $29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Bob Balaban.
2010.
Though the idea behind it was never going to be inherently filmable, this barely released slice of anti-nostalgia can’t help but seduce, within severe screen limitations, as a cheeky screen concept for grown-ups. Here’s James Franco playing Allen Ginsberg a couple years after the poet had penned the sexually frank Howl, which ended up spurring a famous 1957 San Francisco anti-obscenity trial against poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The rendering of the legal fracas is split into halves: the Ferlinghetti trial, which Ginsberg did not attend, plus life/autobiographic ruminations taken strictly from Ginsberg’s writings.
Extras: Along with the standard environmentally friendly Oscilloscope packaging that threatens to crumble in your hands, the release has lots of extras that include a Franco/filmmakers commentary and some cool backgrounders on how the production designer and costumers managed to do a lot with what had to have been a limited budget.
Read the Full Review

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Criterion, Sci-Fi, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, Adam West.
1964.
This Blu-ray is worth noting and even savoring for a couple standout reasons. It’s gorgeous — a prime example of how brilliant Paramount’s designers and labs could make Technicolor look in the early 1960s, even with a release shot in the economizing Techniscope process, whose trade-off was to make movies look grainier than anyone wanted (though not in this case). It’s actually a pretty solid movie about making do with isolation and one that’s still a dream to gaze upon, despite the primitive special effects of the day. According to the production principals, no one really wanted to retain a moniker, for public consumption, that was basically just a working title — though it does describe the movie, in which a U.S. astronaut (Paul Mantee) crash-lands you know where.
Extras: Criterion long ago issued a laserdisc of this sleeper and has basically replicated the initial release (and the standard DVD that followed years later), and did a wonderful job with the commentary track, covering the movie from all angles. There’s also a featurette by a space historian, a music video and a booklet of essays and factoids.
Read the Full Review

Phffft!

Sony Pictures, Comedy, $14.94 DVD, NR.
Stars Judy Holliday, Jack Lemmon, Jack Carson, Kim Novak.
1954.
Its historical distinction as the second big-screen feature of both Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak is, by itself, enough to make screenwriter George Axelrod’s marital comedy a conversation piece. But chalk up another footnote as well, given the title’s unofficial status as the box office employee’s No. 1 headache of the era. Lemmon is a lawyer and Judy Holliday a writer for NBC who’ve tired of their marriage but quickly become wary of the dating scene. Last fall, Sony brought out a box of Columbia Lemmon comedies that included Phffft!
Read the Full Review

Good-bye, My Lady

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Walter Brennan, Phil Harris, Brandon de Wilde, Sidney Poitier.
1956.
Good-bye, My Lady is never as good as one would like it to be, though it has an appealing story and a most interesting cast. It’s a little pokey, takes a while to get rolling, overdoes its harmonica backing and is obviously shot on a set — yet the basenji dog who’s its centerpiece is extraordinarily lovable, and the cast is never less than intriguing. Warner’s DVD-R version is letterboxed (which even the old laserdisc wasn’t) and has been remastered — though here and there, the print shows some minor wear.
Read the Full Review

By: Mike Clark


January 14, 2011
Read Any Good DVDs Lately?


Chasing Zebras


When I fall in love with a movie or TV show, I generally want to learn as much about it as possible. It’s always fun to pop in a DVD and keep an eye out for hidden details or bits of trivia about which you might not have known.

The Internet has proved to be a great resource for that (thank you Wikipedia), but one shouldn’t overlook the volumes of published tie-ins that inevitably find their way to the market in the wake of a pop-culture phenomenon, some of which are officially sanctioned, and some of which are not.

I’m not just talking about episode guides that were once a staple of the tie-in market. For any popular movie or TV show, you may find dozens upon dozens of books seeking to analyze the stories and characters, or the science or philosophy behind the show.

Take the show “House,” for example. Over the holidays I was given a copy of the book Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. by Barbara Barnett, published by ECW Press. It’s an exhaustive resource to the show filled with essays that explore the various themes and ethical issues portrayed week to week on the medical drama, as well as an episode guide for the first six seasons that keeps track of the medical mysteries, the complications that ensue, to whom House is mean in a given week, and other trivia and observations. (The book’s title refers to how House thinks outside the box to diagnose his patients, alluding to a med-school axiom that suggests when one hears hoofbeats, one should think horses, not zebras.)

Any “House” fan (as I am) would find a book like this immensely entertaining.

So next time you’re heading home from the video store, be sure to stop by the bookstore too. You might learn something new.
 

By: John Latchem


January 11, 2011
Plenty of Early Year Bargains



Not much fanfare greeted the few new releases that hit shelves Jan. 11. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s The Social Network was the biggest new release, but most retailers shied away from any major promotional deals.

Best Buy and Amazon.com, however, did offer Social Network at an incredibly low price typically reserved for a holiday sale: $12.99 for the DVD and $16.99 for the Blu-ray.

Best Buy also offered a deal on a couple of other recently released Sony Pictures titles: a $10 discount with the purchase of the Blu-ray versions of both Resident Evil: Afterlife and Salt.

Another sale at Best Buy offered Blu-ray two-packs at anywhere from $12.99 to $16.99 each, and recent TV DVD releases at $19.99 each.

Target offered the new Chuggington: Ride the Rails kidvid DVD at $12.99 with exclusive soundbook packaging: a case that plays sounds associated with whatever button is pressed.

Other deals at Target included Disney Blu-ray/DVD combo packs offered at $19.99, an assortment of catalog titles at $4.75 and $10 each, and a selection of TV DVD seasons from $8.99 to $14.99.

By: John Latchem


January 10, 2011
New on Disc: 'The Films of Rita Hayworth' and more …



The Films of Rita Hayworth

Sony Pictures, $59.95 five-DVD set, NR.
Stars Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Glenn Ford, Stewart Granger.
1944-53.
As a World War II pinup icon, Betty Grable was undeniably a cutie, but it’s tough to imagine the heads of servicemen doing 360-degree spins the way they did for Rita Hayworth during her too-abbreviated prime. This five-title box, with newly spiffed-up prints from Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, contains three new-to-DVD titles and a pair that were previously released. Better prints are better prints, but be aware going in that the two retreads (color Cover Girl and black-and-white Gilda) are the collection’s high points. Cover Girl (1944) did as much for the career of Gene Kelly as it did for his co-star. For the most part, it’s Hayworth’s picture, if one has to choose, but there is one spectacular Kelly solo in which he dances with “himself” (or his character’s alter ego) that may be even more of a special effects marvel than the dance Kelly would do with animated Jerry Mouse. Tonight and Every Night (1945) is just about Girl’s Technicolor equal, dealing with a London theater that continues performances throughout wartime bombing. Gilda (1946) exploits Hayworth’s signature role for some signature film noir. To enjoy Salome (1953), you have to have a taste for religious epics, though Hayworth still looks fabulous enough to convince as a Biblical figure who probably didn’t have to bankroll her own veils. Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) fared better as previous vehicles for Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford, but Hayworth has one standout scene: her once-notorious “The Heat Is On” number.
Extras: The presentations include intros by Martin Scorsese, Baz Luhrman and redheaded soul sister Patricia Clarkson.
Read the Full Review

Frontline: The Spill

Street 1/11
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2010.
You can’t buy the caliber of publicity BP got from its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and this typically taut “Frontline” documentary, which aired on PBS this past October, adds to the negative ballyhoo. It’s one of those chronicles that shows how a major disaster was far from an isolated occurrence in terms of a corporate culture — the kind of look-back that recalls dreadful previous incidents from the past you may have half-forgotten, unless you lived in the geographical area affected. One such incident involves the Texas City, Texas, refinery BP acquired from Amoco in 1999 that already had been regarded as “troubled”: It was built in 1934, there was lots of corrosion and it suffered about a fire a week. The culmination was the biggest industrial accident in decades: an explosion on March 23, 2005, that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others — the result being then-record fines for safety violations numbering into the hundreds and $1 billion paid out to families as long as they signed an agreement to remain silent. The Spill runs an hour with nary a dull moment, though someday, after more perspective, one can imagine its subject getting the full-scale treatment that, say, Spike Lee gave Hurricane Katrina in When the Levees Broke. Certainly, anyone who works for an arrogant employer will empathize with what they see.
Read the Full Review

Just Tell Me What You Want

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Ali MacGraw, Alan King, Peter Weller, Myrna Loy.
1980.
This brittle romantic comedy has a scene that just about everyone remembers if they know the movie — even if they blank on its title. I’m talking about the set piece where Ali MacGraw attacks Alan King inside and out front of Bergdorf Goodman’s in New York City. By just squeaking in as an ‘80s release, Just Tell Me enabled the great Myrna Loy — who is spottable on screen at least back to films from the mid-1920s — to have been a movie presence in seven different decades. She’s wonderful here in her final big-screen feature, so if your taste doesn’t run to department store slugfests, Loy is a reason to see it as well.
Read the Full Review

By: Mike Clark





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