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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 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

July 26, 2010
Two Half Seasons Make a Whole

The 'SGU' Season 1 Slipcase

Stargate Universe: Season 1.5, in stores July 27, includes a little surprise for fans who get annoyed at DVD and Blu-ray releases that split up the season. The three-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets come in a single case that includes a pouch gummed to the back. In the pouch is a fold-out box for the Complete First Season. The slip case offers enough room for the SGU 1.0 and 1.5 sets.

It's interesting to note that Fox and MGM haven't yet offered a true complete first season of "SGU" for sale (as they did in England), so fans will need to buy the two halves separately for the time being. The "SGU" sets contain $10 coupons for "SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis" boxed sets, but the offer doesn't extend to "SGU" sets.

But at least it's some acknowledgement that the need to do things to generate revenue can sometimes put a crimp in the style of the collector.

By: John Latchem

July 22, 2010
‘The Simpsons’ Top 10 Supporting Cast Members

Sure, everybody loves Homer Simpson. He did, after all, top Entertainment Weekly’s list of the top characters of the past two decades. And Bart, Lisa, Marge and Maggie all have their time to shine on a weekly basis. But “The Simpsons” is nothing without its huge cast of great secondary characters. During the course of the show’s 21 seasons, some of members of this supporting cast have become almost as iconic as the family itself. Here’s our list of the top 10 “Simpsons” supporting characters whose contributions to our weekly dose of laughter cannot be overlooked.

1. C. Montgomery Burns

Voiced by: Harry Shearer
Centenarian owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns is not only one of the most enduring villains of the series, but also the perfect symbol of corporate excess and apathy. Equal parts Charles Foster Kane and Howard Hughes, Burns enlivens any scene with his trademark distaste for the common man.
Key Episodes: “Homer at the Bat” — Season 3, Episode 17
“Rosebud” — Season 5, Episode 4
“Who Shot Mr. Burns” — Season 6, Episode 25

2. Moe Szyslak

Voiced by: Hank Azaria
Owner of Moe’s Tavern, where Duff beer flows like honey, Moe the bartender is often associated with the vices that plague Springfield. He will sell out anybody when it suits him, lacks basic social skills and is considered repulsive by most respectable citizens, especially woman. That only makes Moe all the more pitiable, and thus endearing. Never count out Moe for a catchy one-liner to set the comedy tone.
Key Episode: “Flaming Moe’s” — Season 3, Episode 10


3. Krusty the Clown

Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta
Herschel Krustofski epitomizes all that is wrong with show business. A self-centered, burnt out performer who makes his living entertaining children as a television clown, Krusty is perhaps the last person you’d want around your kids. He nonetheless controls a huge marketing empire based on slapping his image on countless cheap products. His antics are legendary, including betting on the Washington Generals to defeat the Harlem Globetrotters because he thought they were due.
Key Episodes: “Kamp Krusty” — Season 4, Episode 1
“Krusty Gets Kancelled” — Season 4, Episode 22
“Homie the Clown” — Season 6, Episode 15

4. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Ph.D.

Voiced by: Hank Azaria
Apu is the proprietor of the Springfield Kwik-E-Mart, where he is safe to embody every foreign stereotype known to man (he is not, however, safe from criminals, having been shot numerous times during robbery attempts). Still, no matter the circumstance, Apu is always ready to deliver a “Thank you, come again” to his customers, even as he gouges them out of their money with high prices and expired food.
Key Episode: “Homer and Apu” — Season 5, Episode 13


5. Comic Book Guy

Voiced by: Hank Azaria
Jeff Albertson, otherwise known as the Comic Book Guy, is the acerbic owner of the Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop and is best known for his catch-phrase, “Worst episode ever!” The character lets the show’s creators take subtle jabs at their own obsessive fans who sometimes take things a bit too seriously.
Key Episode: “Worst Episode Ever” — Season 12, Episode 11


6. Sideshow Bob

Voiced by: Kelsey Grammer
Robert Underdunk Terwilliger, better known as Krusty’s former sidekick Sideshow Bob, is typical of highbrow elitists who see the world as beneath them. He has sworn to kill Bart Simpsons for always meddling in his schemes, which include framing Krusty for robbery to take over his show, and rigging an election to become mayor of Springfield. Bob is proof that a well-timed rake to the face is always good for a cheap laugh.
Key Episode: “Cape Feare” — Season 5, Episode 2

7. Seymour Skinner

Voiced by: Harry Shearer
The principal of Springfield Elementary school was born Armin Tamzarian but assumed the identity of an old Army buddy he believed had died in Vietnam. He is known for rigid discipline, frugalness and mangling classic Abbott and Costello routines. His tendency to take jokes literally has proved an endless source of laughs over the years, even as he pathetically attempts to curb Bart’s wicked ways.
Key Episodes: “Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song” — Season 5, Episode 19
“The Principal and the Pauper” — Season 9, Episode 2

8. Waylon Smithers

Voiced by: Harry Shearer
Smithers is the ultimate whipping boy sidekick. As Mr. Burns’ personal assistant, he keeps the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant running smoothly, from melting down, mostly operational. His unrequited puppy love for Mr. Burns is at once cute and sad. Smithers’ hobbies include collecting Malibu Stacy dolls and staying in the closet.
Key Episodes: “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” — Season 5, Episode 14
“Homer the Smithers” — Season 7, Episode 17

9. Troy McClure

Voiced by: Phil Hartman
You may remember Troy McClure from such parodies as Planet of the Apes: The Musical and The Muppets Go Medieval (what the hell is a Muppet?). Springfield’s hardest-working actor was perfectly embodied with charm and bavura by the late Phil Hartman, who also distinguished himself as blowhard incompetent attorney Lionel Hutz. No list would be complete without at least one of his characters.
Key Episode: “A Fish Called Selma” — Season 7, Episode 19


10. Itchy & Scratchy

Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer
They fight and fight so we laugh and laugh. This ultra-violent send-up of Tom & Jerry consists of a homicidal mouse named Itchy and his elaborate skills to butcher an unsuspecting cat named Scratchy — a relentless assault on the senses from which we don’t want to recover. Their antics and complicated backstory have since provided the perfect template to skewer all things Disney or set the stage for a quick spoof, adding yet another layer to a show so rich in detail there’s no way to absorb it all.
Key Episodes: “Itchy & Scratchy Land” — Season 6, Episode 4
“The Day the Violence Died” Season 7, Episode 18
“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” — Season 8, Episode 14

The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season will be available Aug. 24 on DVD (four-disc set $49.98) and Blu-ray (three-disc set $59.99) from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Fans at Comic-Con can buy the set a month early and will receive an exclusive lithograph at the Fox booth (4313).



By: John Latchem

May 27, 2010
'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Season 2 on Disc Oct. 26

It looks like “Star Wars” just won't go away. Even 33 years after the debut of George Lucas' blockbuster space epic, the franchise continues to grow. The Empire Strikes Back recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, “Star Wars” merchandise is still a top seller, and Cartoon Network's CG-animated “Clone Wars” series continues to perform well in the ratings.

Warner Home Video will release the second season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Oct. 26 (order date Sept. 14) as a four-disc set on DVD ($44.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($59.99). The discs will include all 22 episodes from the recently concluded season, plus audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and a 64-page production journal. Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition will be “The Jedi Temple Archives,” an extensive database of special effects footage, concept art, 3D renderings and more.

The show takes place in the time frame between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, with the action-packed second season dubbed “Rise of the Bounty Hunters.” One of the highlights was the return of Boba Fett, the badass bounty hunter from the original trilogy, who is still learning the ropes here, as he is still a child seeking revenge for his father's death in Episode II. Longtime franchise fans should appreciate many of the subtle nods to the expanded universe established in novels and comic books.

By: John Latchem

April 30, 2010
Trading ‘Galactica’

The new BSG DVD packaging

Universal Studios Home Entertainment recently re-released Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series in newer packaging that is much simpler than the limited edition released last July. That set offered a Cylon action figure, but the discs were housed in flimsy cardboard sleeves that made scratching the discs more of a problem.

The earlier version of Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, released July 2009.

Except for a few minor details, the new packaging is basically an outer box wrapped around season sets that already exist (which is the usual Universal strategy for complete series).

Other than the streamlined design, the biggest difference between the two versions is the new set includes The Plan, the BSG TV movie released late last year. Such re-releases are often the focus of fan ire, since many who bought the first iteration might like the second version better and would have waited had they known it was coming. (A majority of fans had to expect the re-release, since that’s how the industry works. But the specific packaging design was the variable.)

Kudos to Universal, then, for quietly offering fans a chance to obtain an empty (no discs) version of the new packaging to which they can transfer the discs from the old. The trade-in offer expires May 31, and you can get details by e-mailing universalcanadahomevideo@nbcuni.com.

Be warned, though. To get the new packaging you have to cut up the boxed set you already have — Universal is asking fans to send in the top and triangular flap of the first-season box contained in the set.

I was lucky enough to get the updated Blu-ray boxed set directly from Universal, so I decided to trade in for the new DVD packaging. The studio estimates two to four weeks for shipping, but my set showed up about a week after I sent the request.

At first glance the DVD version doesn’t appear to contain the TV movie The Plan as promised. You can tell the Blu-ray version comes with The Plan since the movie’s case is slotted after all four seasons. But when you look at the DVD version of the set in stores, it seems to be the four seasons without the extra movie.

Well, it turns out the DVD complete series contains a disc for The Plan in the fourth season, but not any separate packaging (which is kind of a bummer). The replacement set I received didn’t have an empty peg for it among the season four discs, but it turns out the box as a whole offers enough room to slide in the entire packaging for The Plan that I already had, after the four season boxes (just like the Blu-ray).

On further inspection, the Blu-ray box art indicates it’s a 20-disc set, while the DVD set indicates 25 discs, the same configurations as the limited edition, though The Plan should have added one disc to both totals. So confusion about the movie’s inclusion is understandable, but it turns out to be only a minor quibble, as the final product looks great on the shelf. These new complete series sets also have single boxes for the second and fourth seasons, which originally split in half for DVD sales, so that’s a plus.

BSG Complete Series DVD configuration

BSG Complete Series DVD Set with The Plan inserted


By: John Latchem


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