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.
Best Buy's 'Wolverine' Gift Set
The big title the first week in December was Fox’s The Wolverine, a typical big-name title for retailers to attach exclusives to attract customers in the wake of Black Friday sales.
Best Buy offered the 3D combo pack of The Wolverine with exclusive packaging and a collectible card set. The special gift set was offered at $1 less than the regular 3D combo pack.
Target offered the Wolverine 3D and Blu-ray combo packs with an exclusive 24-minute downloadable featurette, "The Legendary Wolverine."
Other exclusives at Target included two titles from Sony Pictures: an exclusive bonus disc with a 30-minute "Inside the Magic" featurette with the BD combo pack of The Smurfs 2, and 45 minutes of bonus interviews with the Blu-ray of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
Walmart offered Smurfs 2 Blu-ray gift sets with either a Papa Smurf or Smurfette plush.
Best Buy offered BBC’s Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special a week early on DVD ($17.99) and Blu-ray ($21.99). It goes wide Dec. 10.
All the President’s Men: Two-Disc Special Edition
Warner, Drama, $19.98 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards.
1976. The brand new Blu-ray of a benchmark of newspaper-pic royalty includes the automatically essential All the President’s Men Revisited documentary, which aired earlier this year on the Discovery Channel. Revisited’s standout “wow factor” is the reunion we get between Men leads Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman plus another one with Redford, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, plus former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, the bullet-biter Jason Robards won an Oscar for portraying. Everyone I knew spent a minimum of 90 minutes every day reading the Post Watergate coverage, and the movie brings it all back with an immediacy that still touches anyone who was there.
Extras: The documentary extras from the previous Men Blu-ray are carried over.
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Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room
Milestone, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2012. Vera Iwerebor’s main-event documentary chronicles the story of Diana Serra Cary — stage name Baby Peggy — a child star who, unlike so many, didn’t let the downward spiral of her career destroy her life. Cary, who is still alive at 95, was born a couple weeks before the World War I armistice and became one of the biggest movie stars of the early 1920s. The elephant part of the title refers to Peggy’s vanished stardom and its effect on the rest of her family — a subject that was apparently and incredibly never discussed at the dinner table or anywhere else.
Extras: The bonuses include three shorts and the 1924 feature Captain January.
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A slew of new titles Nov. 19 didn’t attract much in the way of retailer exclusives, with the only notable ones coming from Target. For Universal’s 2 Guns, Target offered an exclusive graphic novel with the Blu-ray combo pack.
Target offered the Blu-ray editions of Disney’s Planes with an exclusive bonus disc, not advertised in the chain’s weekly circular, that touted a deleted scene and an “Extreme Air Challenge” featurette hosted by Disney Channel’s Karan Brar.
Target also offered 50% off one Pull & Fly Buddies toy (sold for $9.99 each) with the purchase of the Planes Blu-ray.
At Best Buy, Planes could be had with a $10 discount when purchased at the same time as any Planes Nintendo video game.
Best Buy also offers an exclusive steelbook packaging and $5 CinemaNow credit with preorders of Universal’s Fast & Furious 6, arriving Dec. 10.
Walmart’s latest exclusively available title is the Hallmark Channel movie Pete’s Christmas, on DVD with a Vudu digital copy from Arc Entertainment for $12.96.
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Olive, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers.
1945. Leo McCarey’s Oscar-winning Going My Way for Paramount was the most popular movie released during all of World War II, and this all-but-immediate sequel became the biggest box office movie in RKO history. This goes a long way to explain why Bing Crosby, whose film career was arguably subordinate to his Decca waxings, was easily the show-biz figure from the first half of the 20th century. Though this said, co-star Ingrid Bergman was also at the peak of her career and, in fact, both performers had just won Oscars. Olive’s print is much heavier on grain than I’m accustomed to seeing in their black-and-white releases. But I’m delighted that film historian R. Emmet Sweeney’s essay, quoting boxofficemojo.com, notes that adjusting for inflation, Bells made more money at the box office than The Dark Knight Rises.
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Magnolia, Documentary, B.O. $2.07 million, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic elements including disturbing and violent images.
2013. This almost unanimously praised documentary is the story of the orca (named Tilikum) who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau at Orlando’s SeaWorld in 2010, an episode that got a lot of play at the time because, for one thing, dramatic footage existed of the incident. There are dreadful tales related here by shamed participants in the capture of orcas and separating them from their mothers. The next step finds them utilized as fodder for kiddie amusement. This is a very powerful documentary, riveting all the way.
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Target and Walmart exclusive 'Man of Steel' packaging
Warner’s Superman reboot Man of Steel arrived on shelves with several retailers offering exclusive content, which may raise the ire of fans in the wake of grumblings over Star Trek Into Darkness.
Target offered the Man of Steel Blu-ray combo pack (non-3D) in special digibook packaging with four exclusive “X-Ray Vision” featurettes. Target also touted the film’s CD soundtrack in an exclusive red steel case for $19.99.
Walmart offered the non-3D Blu-ray combo pack of Man of Steel in a steelbook case with two exclusive featurettes: “The Iconic Characters of Man of Steel” and “The Sonic Landscape of Man of Steel.”
The final season of “Dexter” also attracted some retail attention. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray edition of the eighth season with exclusive packaging featuring a bloody sketch of the title character.
Target had a Blu-ray edition of the “Dexter” final season with a 24-page memoir of Dexter’s most iconic victims.
Walmart had a stripped-down DVD of DreamWorks’ Turbo with no extras for $14.96.
American Experience: The War of the Worlds
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Narrated by Oliver Platt.
2013. The broadcasting legend we’re speaking of is Oct. 30, 1938’s still famous Orson Welles/John Houseman production of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds for CBS Radio’s Mercury Theater of the Air — a Halloween lark that went wrong (though hardly for Welles’ reputation). This is because more people than you’d guess took the program at face value and convinced themselves that the world was about to end, courtesy of invading martians. The gripe I have with this documentary, which does put across a lot of keen history in digestible form, is its transparent re-creations, in which professional
actors portray listeners who reacted in panic and/or wrote letters to CBS or congressmen. Oddly, War’s filmmakers seem pleased with themselves over this phony approach in the disc’s bonus material (a rare instance of a PBS disc having supplemental materials in the first place). The time might have been better spent examining the broadcast’s legacy.
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Available at online retailers via
Warner, Musical, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Rosemary Clooney, Guy Mitchell, Jack Carson, Pat Crowley.
1954. Whatever else you want to say about this Western-motifed drug trip before its time, there has never been anything quite like it. Guy Mitchell and Gene Barry play a duo in competition for the same lady, and their relationship grows even more complex when it comes out that one killed the other’s brother, which sets up a gunfight that competes with a slew of musical numbers in the second half.
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It’s a common practice to commemorate certain historical events with a bevy of tie-ins, be they new movies or documentaries about the subject, or re-releases of older material on DVD or Blu-ray. But I can’t recall an event prompting such depth of material as the upcoming 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The latest entry into this pool of historical examination is National Geographic Channel’s TV movie Killing Kennedy, which airs this Sunday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m., and will likely make its way to DVD and Blu-ray in a few months. The telefilm stars Rob Lowe as Kennedy, Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Oswald’s wife, Marina.
I had the good fortune of attending the Los Angeles premiere of the Killing Kennedy, and found it to be a deft adaptation of the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The book, like Killing Lincoln before it, is structured as a parallel tale between a U.S. president and his assassin, leading to the fateful events that bring them together.
The performances are all quite good, with Lowe holding the line with a more-than-passable JFK impression. But the revelation is the grounded performance of Rothhaar, who doesn’t paint Oswald as anything more than a troubled young man with something to prove. Trachtenberg also is quite good as his suffering wife, practically unrecognizable behind a wall of thick Russian dialogue.
If anything, I might have made the movie more about Oswald’s side. While it’s necessary to portray events such as the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis to give Oswald something to respond to, the Kennedy side of events has been dramatized countless times already in movies, TV shows and miniseries, as if filmmakers just can’t resist the lure of portraying the glamour of Kennedy’s Camelot.
The Kennedys miniseries from 2011 gave us most of these scenes with Greg Kinnear as JFK (though Goodwin is a step up from Katie Holmes as Jackie). And watching Lowe during the assassination scene, I couldn’t help but think back to his “West Wing” co-star Martin Sheen in the same role in the 1983 Kennedy miniseries.
It’s the Oswald side that tends to get short shrift, more often than not buried under concurrent examinations of the latest conspiracy theory to pop up (most of which are easily discredited). Killing Kennedy demonstrates in chilling detail how easy it was for Oswald to carry out the assassination on his own, with no need for a vast conspiracy.
Funny as it seems, the closest I could think of another dramatization that tried to get into Oswald’s head this much was a story arc on “Quantum Leap.”
What struck me many times watching Killing Kennedy, and having just a few weeks ago viewed the underrated Parkland, which re-creates the immediate aftermath of the shooting, was how many scenes coexist between the two (with different actors, of course). In fact, one of the things I enjoyed about Parkland was seeing so many events that had been described in the Killing Kennedy book.
Still, for those who might not have seen any of the other Kennedy projects out there, Killing Kennedy should provide a good capsule of events that while hopefully encourage further examination into this pivotal turning point of American history.
Walmart's 'Monsters University' Gift Set
The retailers were out in force to offer fans of Disney’s Monsters University an extra enticement to pick up a copy in their store.
As far as exclusive bonus content goes, Target offered the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack and 3D combo pack with a “College Days” featurette. Target also offered $5 off any Monsters University Blu-ray with the purchase of a Scare Student figure, priced at $9.99.
Best Buy offered a free Mike plush with any Monsters University Blu-ray combo pack. The chain also touted Disney Infinity figures based on the movie for $13.99 each.
At Walmart, shoppers could pick up the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD combo as part of a gift set that included a Disney Infinity Mike or Randall figure (priced on its own at $12.96).
Walmart also had exclusive availability of the DVD of the family movie Coming Home for Christmas, which included a limited-edition Norman Rockwell print. The DVD, offered at $9.96, also included a bonus Vudu digital copy.
Walmart's 'Barbie' DVD with plush pony
Direct-to-video animation based on toy lines is a natural fit for exclusive add-ons, and retailers didn’t miss a beat with Universal’s new Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale.
Target offered a free Chelsea doll with the purchase of either the movie or the tie-in Barbie doll (priced at $11.99).
Walmart offered the DVD packed with a free plush pony.
Among other new releases, Walmart had copies of Fox’s The Internship DVD packed with the DVD for another Vince Vaughn starrer, Dodgeball.
Best Buy decided to help shoppers for Halloween with a free Despicable Me 2 minion trick-or-treat bag with the purchase of select titles, including the original Despicable Me, ParaNorman and Monster High: Ghouls Rule.
For The Internship, Best Buy offered a $5 discount when the Blu-ray was purchased at the same time as the Blu-ray for The Heat.
Target is ramping up promotions of its Target Ticket streaming service, setting up an endcap of ticketed titles among the other DVDs and Blu-rays.
Fantastic Voyage (Blu-ray)
Fox, Sci-Fi, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Arthur Kennedy, Edmond O’Brien.
1966. A dual Oscar winner for art/set decoration and special effects in a far more primitive technological era, Fox’s hit howler about a journey through a human body is a prime example of a mostly terrible movie being sometimes mistaken for a better one simply because it is what it is (i.e. something any movie lover would covet, at least on paper). A world-renowned scientist with unique knowledge barely survives an assassination attempt, and to save him, a small crew of experts must be miniaturized along with their submarine and injected into the victim’s bloodstream. But there’s a hitch — if the participants, who include Raquel Welch in her first major role, can’t accomplish the feat in an hour, they begin reverting to normal size. You just have to go with it because it was a remarkable achievement for the day, and at least Leonard Rosenman’s score remains effective. Fox’s Blu-ray is a notable leap over the old DVD version.
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Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Raymond, Wayne Morris, Jeanne Cooper, Elisha Cook Jr.
1957. This is hardly a film to be oversold, but it easily fills the bill if you like your ‘50s cinema grimy and kind of gamey. It deals with a motley assemblage of not-quite-hoods who rob a train of government gold and split the stash into the back of large highway-bound trucks. Director Hubert Cornfield shot this fairly taut little toughie in about two weeks, and indeed, it’s mostly minimalist aside from the visual excitement cinematographer Ernest Haller brings to the imposing trucks that dominate his Regalscope framing.
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