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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.

February 01, 2011
Sundance 2010 Acquisitions Wrap

The following is a partial list of buys at Sundance and their eventual home DVD/Blu-ray/digital distributors in North America, along with a pithy description of what the films promise, courtesy of the fine folks at indieWire:

Focus Features: Pariah (urban tale about the struggles of a black lesbian teen)
Fox: Another Earth (sci-fi romance), Homework (coming-of-age story with Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts), Martha Marcy May Marlene (drama about a young woman overcoming an experience with a cult, with breakout Sundance star Elizabeth Olsen)
HBO: Project Nim (biography of a chimp raised as a human)
Lionsgate: Margin Call (financial thriller with Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons), The Future (Miranda July’s directorial follow-up to Me and You and Everyone We Know)
Magnolia: I Melt With You (drug-fueled road trip movie with Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and Jeremy Piven), Page One A Year Inside The New York Times
MPI/IFC: Perfect Sense (romantic thriller starring Ewan MacGregor)
New Video: The Flaw (documentary on the current financial crisis, to be released by Docurama), The Last Mountain (David-and-Goliath doc about a small town vs. a coal company)
Oscilloscope: Bellflower (apocalyptic drama, in theaters this summer)
Paramount: Like Crazy (Grand Jury Prize winning drama about a young couple’s long-distance relationship falling apart)
Sony Pictures/IFC: Salvation Boulevard (religious comedy starring Pierce Brosnan, Marisa Tomei)
Sony Pictures/Weinstein Co.: The Details (dark comedy with Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks and Laura Linney)
Sony Pictures Classics: The Guard (comedy/thriller with Brendan Gleason and Don Cheadle), The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock doc) and Take Shelter (starring Michael Shannon)

Also, Feb. 18-March 3 film magazine Film Comment will screen 16 films that do not have U.S. distribution, including John Landis’ Burke and Hare, in a showcase of rare and rediscovered films, as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Film Comment Selects series at the Walter Reade Theatre in New York. IndieWire has the full list of films screening, and tickets can be purchased Feb. 3 at http://www.filmlinc.com.

By: Billy Gil

December 17, 2010
Katie Aselton, Dax Shepard Deliver ‘The Freebie’

Katie Aselton and Dax Shepard

A one-night stand seven years into marriage is proposed as the solution to a couple’s doldrums in The Freebie, coming to DVD Jan. 11 ($29.99) from Phase 4 Films.

Katie Aselton, a former Miss Teen USA contestant and current writer, director and actress, said the idea for the movie came to her while shooting the breeze with a friend.

“When you're having a glass of wine with a friend, those are the sort of things you talk about,” she said. “The point of what we were talking about was, ‘Remember how easy it was to be single ... and you could just be whoever you wanted to be?’ When you're in a relationship, you owe it to that person to talk over every single thing. Sometimes you just want to give your husband a fake phone number and say, ‘Don't call me.’”

Aselton was looking for something to sink her teeth into after not getting the kind of experience she wanted to as an actress. Her husband, Mark Duplass (writer/director of Cyrus, with brother Jay Duplass), suggested taking his approach — if you’re not getting the projects you want, come up with your own.

“I was just a frustrated actor who was just sitting around,” said Aselton, who may be exaggerating a bit — she and her husband co-star FX’s fantasy football TV show “The League.” “My husband, who’s a big do-it-yourselfer just said, ‘You should just do it on your own!’”

Aselton said everything fell into place from there, with Aselton in the lead actress role, but casting her male counterpart proved more difficult after the first actor didn’t work out. Dax Shepard of “Punk’d” fame came on board at the 11th hour. His addition proved crucial, as his performance has been garnering rave reviews after the film aired at Sundance.

“I met Katie for the first time about five hours before we started shooting,” Shepard said. “Our second day of filming was all of our intimate, bedroom scenes. I have no explanation as to why we had good chemistry, but I know that if we hadn't, the movie would have been very flat.

“We got lucky. She's awfully cute though, so that certainly helps.”

The situation for The Freebie’s Annie (Aselton) and Darren (Shepard) doesn’t quite go as planned, but Shepard thinks it could work for some couples.

“There are a couple billion relationships happening around the world, and I'm sure every conceivable permutation is being played out somewhere,” he said. “I don't think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to love someone.”

Despite coming up with the concept, Aselton is dubious of the prospect of infidelity working to strengthen a couple’s relationship.

“Beyond that first night, it's work after that,” Aselton said. “One night away from what you have now is probably not worth it, especially if you like what you have. The idea of exploring this couple that is sort of over-therapied in their own minds, where they think they are the couple who could completely sort of challenge tradition and monogamy and social ideas and they’re the ones who could rise above and beyond all that — I liked watching them fall on their ass.”

Of the DVD release, Aselton said home video means “everything” to independent films such as this one.

“Most of these small films, that’s where their life is,” she said. “It's hard to do well theatrically in the market today. For the most part, most of us do a theatrical release so we can get great reviews for a DVD release because that really is where we will find our audience. I think if people are going to be spending $14 for a movie, you're going to want to go see big productions … you're gonna see Inception.

“Unless you are a part of the small few who want to support independent film, you're going want to get your money's worth and then you'll save these small movies for the small screen.”

The Freebie DVD includes a commentary with Aselton and Shepard.

By: Billy Gil

September 16, 2010
Time Warner, IFC Launch Short Film Contest

Ever wanted to go to the Sundance Film Festival? Now’s your chance.

Time Warner Cable in association with IFC (lots of IFC news this week!) has launched the Time Warner Cable Short Film Contest, which will award four grand prize winners a four-night trip for two to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Video submissions are accepted from Sept. 15-Oct. 31 through Time Warner’s YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/timewarnercable).

Entrants can submit two- to five-minute videos. Consumer voting takes place between Nov. 9-16, and winners will be chosen between the vote and a panel of expert judges, including filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs), Ti West (House of the Devil), IFC and Sundance Channel president Evan Shapiro, ad IFC News host Matt Singer.

The prize packages include hotel, air and ground transportation, two tickets to a film screening at the festival, an invitation to a VIP party, a one-year subscription to Time Warner Cable digital cable and Road Runner high-speed Internet service, and $500 in spending cash.

By: Billy Gil

May 11, 2010
Wolfe Gets 4 New Films; TLA Reprices Gay Titles

With Gay and Lesbian Pride Month coming up in June, two of the big players in gay and lesbian home video, TLA Releasing and Wolfe Video, have made separate announcements.

Wolfe has acquired the distribution rights for Sundance pick 8: The Mormon Proposition, Elena Undone, My Normal and Slamdance hit The Four-Faced Liar. 8 is directed by Emmy Award-winning journalist Reed Cowan and is an indictment of the Mormon Church’s involvement in passing California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as only between men and women in the state; the film comes to DVD in July. Elena Undone, from director Nicole Conn (Claire of the Moon) tells the story of a pastor’s wife and a troubled female writer who are drawn to one another, and the film will screen at June’s San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. My Normal tells of lesbian dominatrix who longs to become a filmmaker, and the film comes to DVD in late 2010. The Four-Faced Liar was written by, stars and is co-produced by Marja Lewis Ryan; the film will hit U.S. and Canadian festivals throughout the year before coming to DVD.

Meanwhile, TLA Releasing is repricing some of its gay-themed DVDs, such as Another Gay Sequel, A Four Letter Word (DVDs $19.99 each), Boy Culture, Clandestinos, Boystown, Tan Lines, Schoolboy Crush (DVDs $14.99 each), Bear Cub, Harry and Max, Naked Fame and Beautiful Boxer (DVD $9.99 each).

Additionally, prebook is today for Kino International’s Blu-ray release of Wong Kar-Wai’s gay-themed classic, Happy Together, starring Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung; the $29.95 Blu-ray streets June 8. And Water Bearer Films today announced two new titles streeting July 20 (prebook June 22) on DVD at $19.95: Crush, Michael J. Saul’s anthology of four gay love stories, and Altitude Failing, a futuristic tale in which a man inadvertently recruits his lover into a covert army suicide mission (whoa).

By: Billy Gil

April 08, 2010
New Indie Titles, April 8: ‘Pretty Bird’ and More

Paul Giamatti
Pretty Bird

Title: Pretty Bird
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Paramount
Street Date: 6/29
Prebook date: 5/18
Price/Format: $22.99 DVD
Reserve for purchase
Reserve on Netflix

The cast of this one alone is worth the price of admission — starring Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti and Kristen Wiig, this Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee is based on the true story of a group that seeks to invent and market the personal rocket belt.

Title: Beyond The Barbed Wire: An Artists View of the Holocaust
Genre: Documentary
Studio: ADA/Reality Entertainment
Street date: 5/25
Prebook date: 4/28
Price/Format: $19.95 DVD
Reserve for purchase
Reserve on Netflix

This documentary tells of Ben Altman, an artist and a tailor who survived numerous concentration camps in Poland, never seeing his family again. Altman eventually moves to San Francisco and becomes the tailor for the San Francisco Opera House. Upon retiring, his memories come out in the form of paintings. ADA/Reality Entertainment also release the WWI doc A War to End All Wars the same day at $19.95.

Title: Animation Express
Genre: Animated
Studio: Image
Street date: 6/8
Prebook date: 5/11
Price/Format: $29.98 DVD or Blu-ray
Reserve for purchase (DVD or Blu-ray)

A compilation of 26 animated shorts featuring award winners and other CGI, hand-drawn and stop-motion shorts, from the experimental to the traditional. The Blu-ray includes 13 additional shorts.

Title: MINE
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Film Movement
Street date: 5/4
Price/Format: $26.95 DVD
Reserve for purchase
Reserve on Netflix

From filmmaker Geralyn Pezanoski, South by Southwest winner MINE tells of animals abandoned then rescued during Hurricane Katrina. Appropriately, the short film Film Movement has chosen to include with MINE is La Vie D’un Chien, an American-made, French-language film about a potion that can temporarily change people into dogs.

Title: Squatterpunk
Genre: Documentary
Studio: Pathfinder
Street date: 6/8
Prebook: 5/4
Price/Format: $24.98 DVD
Reserve for purchase

Multiaward-winning Squatterpunk follows a young would-be gangster through the shantytowns of Manila in a wordless, hypnotic visual journey.

By: Billy Gil


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