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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.

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28 Jun, 2010

New on Disc: 'Leave It to Beaver,' 'The White Ribbon' and more …

Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Series

Street 6/29
Shout! Factory, Comedy, $199.99 37-DVD set, NR.
Stars Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow.
The show was and is so well-written that it almost certainly helped thousands of youngsters to develop their senses of irony — the kind that comes from observing an adult world through youthful eyes.
Extras: A revealing bonus disc includes the original pilot, which had a few different actors in the cast. There also are several anecdotes spun in an outstanding talking-heads documentary in which enthusiastic participants Billingsley, Mathers and Dow make it obvious that they still like and see each other.
Read the Full Review

The White Ribbon

Street 6/29
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $2.2 million, $28.95 DVD, $38.96 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some disturbing content involving violence and sexuality.
In German with English subtitles.
Stars Ulrich Tukur, Burghart Klaussner, Rainer Bock.
The continually absorbing German film The White Ribbon won the Golden Palm at Cannes but may have been too grim (despite a Golden Globe win as well) for Oscar voters.
Extras: Though the Blu-ray contains a making-of featurette and a couple more on writer-director Michael Haneke, the standard DVD has no extras.
Read the Full Review

Night Train to Munich

Street 6/29
Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Margaret Lockwood, Rex Harrison, Paul von Henreid.
No fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic train mystery The Lady Vanishes should deny themselves director Carol Reed’s unofficial follow-up.
Extras: Briskly compact at 95 minutes, it’s slighter than it’s made out to be in Criterion’s accompanying essay by critic/
historian Philip Kemp and video interview with critics Peter Evans and Bruce Babington.
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Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story

Street 6/29
Infinity, Documentary, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Narrated by Patricia Clarkson and packed with voiceovers of germane writings by Federal Writer’s Project employees whose later fame eclipsed their years tiling in crummy makeshift WPA offices, the story is almost inevitably entertaining because it deals with attempts to bring order to a Depression-era endeavor.
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Fog Over Frisco

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $14.95 Download, NR.
Stars Bette Davis, Donald Woods, Hugh Herbert, Lyle Talbot, Margaret Lindsay.
Society types and the lowlifes they attract (the press included) are perpetually zipping around in this 68-minute stallion of a movie that serves as an example of how whodunits and screen melodramas in general should move.
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21 Jun, 2010

New on Disc: 'A Star Is Born,' 'She's Out of My League' and more …

A Star Is Born: Special Edition

Street 6/22
Warner, Drama, $20.97 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, Tommy Noonan.
Until the very last frame can be found and assembled — and rumors still exist that a full print is out there — this is about as good as one of my favorite movies ever is likely to get. The movie always had a harsh, orangey tint that I can’t quite recall being replicated in any other movie, but the restoration and 6K resolution — just smashing here — has a much warmer, cleaner look.
Extras: The copious bonus extras (including the Blu-ray’s essay by John Fricke) include one of the most amazing features I’ve ever seen: take after alternate take — the approach is to put one on top and one on the bottom — of the “Man That Got Away” sequence.
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She’s Out of My League

Street 6/22
Paramount, Comedy, B.O. $31.6 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and sexual content.
Stars Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Lindsay Sloane.
If you never caught him in such TV series as “Undeclared” and “Just Legal” — or didn’t particularly notice him in Million Dollar Baby, Knocked Up or Tropic Thunder — here’s a chance to see actor Jay Baruchel in action. But the main selling point is co-star Alice Eve and a premise advancing the theory that maybe, just maybe, a stunning woman might get so sick of the egotistical male “10s” she’s used to dating that she’d prefer the calming influence of a “5.”
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Green Zone

Street 6/22
Universal, Drama, B.O. $35.1 million, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson.
As grown-up entertainment, Green Zone isn’t bad, and the second hour is directed as if it were another “Bourne” action pic (certainly, it was sold like one) as a prelude to some cringe-worthy speechifying near the end.
Extras: Matt Damon shares DVD commentary labors with director Paul Greengrass. It also includes some deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
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Mystery Train

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nicoletta Braschi, Steve Buscemi.
Writer-director Jim Jarmusch’s quirky three-parter does, say those in the know, capture Memphis’ low-rent-district ethos from the era in which it was filmed.
Extras: There’s a lovely featurette on the depressed sections of Memphis from the time of shooting, plus a Q&A with Jarmusch.
Read the full review

Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country

Oscilloscope, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $29.99 DVD, NR.
Under likely threat of imprisonment or death, these VJs (“video journalists”) secretly recorded street protests against the brutal military government of Myanmar. The video quality is remarkable given the raw circumstances under which it was shot.
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15 Jun, 2010

Some ‘Family Guy’ Deals

With some big theatricals hitting shelves June 15, retailers nonetheless turned their attention to a couple of television stalwarts: “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”

At Target, fans of the Seth MacFarlane animated comedies could get a $10 gift card with purchase of both Family Guy Vol. 8 (at $32.99) and American Dad Vol. 5 (at $29.99).

Target also had an exclusive 50-minute Q&A with MacFarlane included with the “Family Guy” DVD.

Best Buy gave an instant $10 discount with purchase of both titles (offered individually at the same price as Target), with digital copies of four episodes included in each set.

Best Buy is now touting its CinemaNow download service in its weekly ad circular. The Book of Eli, When in Rome and Youth in Revolt all were marked with the option to download to own for $15.95 each.

Walmart began gearing up for the theatrical release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse by moving DVDs of the first two movies back to the new-release section and offering them at $17 apiece. The deluxe edition of New Moon was offered at $24.96.

14 Jun, 2010

New on Disc: 'Youth in Revolt' and more …

Youth in Revolt

Street 6/15
Sony Pictures, Comedy, B.O. $15.3 million, $28.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for sexual content, language and drug use.
Stars Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ari Graynor, Rooney Mara, Zach Galifianakis, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi, Mary Kay Place,
M. Emmet Walsh, Fred Willard.
Michael Cera’s Nick Twisp takes on an alter ego to win the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday). Any movie that gives us a bare-chested Fred Willard lying face down on the living room floor after ingesting psychedelic mushrooms earns at least enough points to get in the front door.
Extras: You can see from Doubleday’s screen test, which is included with others on the DVD/Blu-ray bonus section, that she came naturally to what can’t have been the easiest role.
Read the Full Review


Street 6/15
MPI, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Featuring Michael Ruppert.
Director Chris Smith’s must-see interview of the controversial Mike Ruppert, who predicted the recent economic collapse and now thinks the depletion of the oil supply will reset society’s definition of advanced technology to the wheelbarrow.
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Flash Gordon (Blu-ray)

Street 6/15
Universal, Sci-Fi, $26.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max Von Sydow, Timothy Dalton.
This good-looking lark remains a guilty pleasure, and as a massage on the senses it has its moments. The Blu-ray is basically just a format upgrade from the 2007 “Saviour of the Universe” DVD but a better BD job than Universal did with Spartacus and Out of Africa.
Extras: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. is kind of funny when being profiled on a bonus featurette, which, like the other extras, are carried over from the “Saviour” DVD.
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Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection

Universal, Comedy, $39.98 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Bing Crosby, Jane Russell.
This set includes the DVD debuts of Thanks for the Memory (1938), The Cat and the Canary (1939) and Nothing But the Truth (1941), as well as longtime favorites The Ghost Breakers (1940), The Road to Morocco (1942) and The Paleface (1948).
Extras: Bonus featurettes deal with Hope entertaining the troops during World War II.
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Available Now via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive.
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $14.95 Download, ‘PG.’
Stars Anthony Quinn, Shelley Winters, Claude Akins, Tony Bill.
Director Carol Reed’s next-to-last movie, a curiously comic modern-day Western based on the novel Nobody Loves a Drunken Indian.
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8 Jun, 2010

Bringing on the Deals

Best Buy's 3D Bundle
Best Buy's 3D Bundle

In a week with only a few new releases and no major exclusives tied to them, retailers offered a slew of deals on catalog product and hardware to attract customers.

Best Buy used a page in its weekly circular to tout a 3D home theater system at $2,919.94 for a 46-inch TV or $3,549.94 for a 55-inch TV package. The bundle includes a Samsung 3DTV and 3D-capable Blu-ray player, an HDMI cable, four pairs of 3D glasses, a copy of the Monsters vs. Aliens 3D Blu-ray and set-up by the Geek Squad.

Best Buy shoppers also can get $50 worth of free Blu-ray movies with purchase of a $399.99 Panasonic 5.1-channel BD home theater system, or $30 worth of movies with a $179.99 Panasonic BD player.

A Walmart in Long Beach, Calif., recently upgraded its electronics department to a more upscale footprint, though it is still working out the kinks of getting product onto shelves on time. The store still has plenty of Avatar displays and now offers a Father’s Day display of DVDs at $9 and under. The store also has a selection of Fox titles at $15 and under that contain $7.50 movie cash toward theatrical releases The A-Team, Knight and Day or Predators.

7 Jun, 2010

New on Disc: 'Shutter Island' and more …

Shutter Island

Street 6/8
Paramount, Thriller, B.O. $127.8 million, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for disturbing violent content, language and violence.
Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer.
Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Dennis Lahane’s period mystery about all kinds of mental instability on an island asylum in 1954 is an impressive pro job with bull’s-eye performances and masterful cinematography by the great Robert Richardson. The movie improves on Lahane’s very respectable book — especially with the ending.
Extras: A commentary would’ve been nice, but the DVD/Blu-ray extras we get are better than the usual boilerplate: We really get a sense of what the director and cast were trying to do here plus a lot of insights as to where psychiatry was in 1954.
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My Lai (American Experience)

Street 6/8
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Pressure-packing a prodigious amount of information into just over 80 minutes, this “American Experience” presentation is a huge sock to the gut — though, of course, you’d have to deem this particular documentary a failure were it not — chronicling still controversial events that resulted in the massacre of between 347 and 504 Vietnamese civilians in 1968.
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Reds Memories: The Greatest Moments in Cincinnati Reds History

Street 6/8
Shout! Factory, Sports, $19.93 DVD, NR.
Here’s a feel-good cheerleading set about a baseball team that has often given me that feel-good sensation — which means this isn’t the place where we’ll hear about Pete Rose’s banning from the sport or about some of the outlandish public comments one-time Reds owner Marge Schott used to make. There’s much more here than the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, but the Big Red Machine will do quite nicely, thank you.
Extras: The finale to Tom Browning’s perfect game, Seaver’s no-hitter, milestone home runs, Johnny Bench’s funny Hall of Fame speech and more.
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Word Is Out

Street 6/8
Milliarium Zero, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, NR.
As a landmark gay documentary worthy of its reception at the time yet with equal or surpassing power today, this intense labor of love from San Francisco’s Mariposa Film Group collective benefits from eerie historical placement that wasn’t evident at the time.
Extras: Generous bonus material includes an outstanding update.
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No Orchids for Miss Blandish

VCI, Drama, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Jack La Rue, Linden Travers.
This notably lurid underworld melodrama was one of the all-time misconceived howlers — a British attempt to re-create the American gangster movie. Well, yesterday’s camp classic can occasionally become today’s “expressive” cinema, especially with VCI’s handsome-looking DVD.
Extras: A commentary and a lengthy interview.
Read the Full Review

1 Jun, 2010

A Wolfman Wonderland

Best Buy's <i>Alice</i> and <i>Wolfman</i> exclusive sets
Best Buy's <i>Alice</i> and <i>Wolfman</i> exclusive sets

Sometimes studios seem to antagonize fans of a particular movie just to appease certain retailers. Case in point: the remake of The Wolfman, which contains a trove of extras on the Blu-ray but only a few deleted scenes on DVD.

At first glance this strategy seems geared toward pointing fans to buying the Blu-ray. But it also lets the studio throw some of that Blu-ray content toward a DVD exclusive. In this case Best Buy has a special two-DVD set of The Wolfman with the extra behind-the-scenes footage.

Walmart also has a Wolfman special edition, but the value-add is just 10 MP3 downloads — not exactly germane to the subject matter.

The biggest title released on disc June 1, though, was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Target offered a $5 gift card with purchase of an Alice disc and an Alice video game or CD. Again, Best Buy had the more elaborate exclusive: a combo pack with exclusive packaging and character cards.

Best Buy also held special midnight madness sales for Alice, giving away free posters and $5 off the exclusive combo-pack edition.

31 May, 2010

New on Disc: 'The Eastwood Factor,' 'MLB Bloopers' and more …

The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version

Street 6/1
Warner, Documentary, $14.97 DVD, NR.
The Eastwood Factor is a pleasing afternoon chat with a legendary filmmaker. The documentary has been expanded from a version that was included in the 35 Films 35 Years at Warner Bros. boxed set from February. Several Eastwood films also are being released on Blu-ray, such as Heartbreak Ridge, Absolute Power and The Rookie.
Read the Full Review

MLB Bloopers: Baseball’s Best Blunders

Street 6/1
Shout! Factory, Sports, $14.97 DVD, NR.
You go into one of these amusing grab-bags — this one seems like the millionth since the dawn of the VHS era — wondering if it will pay deep and deserved homage to the May 23, 1993, Indians-Rangers game in which a fly ball hit Texas outfielder Jose Canseco in the head and bounced into the stands for a home run. The bounce heard ’round the world is, in fact, the funny DVD’s opening selection. The DVD also, for better or ill-focused worse, includes more than bloopers: think song-time in the dugout during rain delays or players tarp-sliding in the same situation.
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Bing Crosby: The Television Specials Vol. One

Infinity, Musical, $29.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Edie Adams, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee.
Bing Crosby was unquestionably the most important American entertainer from the first half of the 20th century, but he didn’t plunge into his TV specials until the Sunday night after New Year’s in 1954. This is the first of four shows on this spotty mix of curios and the genuinely super.
Extras: It was rare to see Crosby interviewed in any depth, but there’s a 1967 beauty in this set’s outstanding bonus section. The other standout — in an array that even includes a 1964 pitch for a Thermo-Fax machine — is a spring 1952 episode of religious show “The Christophers.”
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Silver Lode: Special Edition

VCI, Western, $14.99 DVD, NR.
Stars John Payne, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea.
One of the better Westerns that rode in on High Noon’s buckboard, Silver Lode exhibits the limitations of low-budget filmmaking, which reduces its effectiveness as a political tract opposing McCarthyism.
Extras: VCI previously released Lode early in the decade but here gives it a fresh spiff-up, fine-tuning the film’s inherently expressive Technicolor and cleaning up wear that detracted from its DVD predecessor’s print.
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Which Way to the Front?

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, ‘G.’
Stars Jerry Lewis, Jan Murray, Steve Franken, John Wood.
A band of American World War II draftees, played by predominantly but not exclusively Jewish actors, invades Italy to take on the Germans. This gives Jerry Lewis, sporting a distinctive mustache/beard combo, the opportunity to impersonate a lookalike general in the German high command. I dare you to watch.
Read the Full Review


27 May, 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.

25 May, 2010

A Retail ‘Blood’-Letting

The release of HBO Home Entertainment’s True Blood: The Complete Second Season received most of the attention at retail May 25, even over a couple of theatricals debuting on disc.

Best Buy essentially offered its own “True Blood” store, with discounts off the first season on disc, as well as other merchandise, such as souvenir T-shirts and bottles of a Tru-Blood branded soda.

Target offered a $5 gift card to customers who bought season two on DVD or Blu-ray with any book by Charlaine Harris, author of the novels upon which the TV show is based. Target also had exclusive bonus content: a 45-minute cast Q&A, available with either the DVD or Blu-ray. Target also had the DVD of the first season at $39.99.

Also available at Target was an exclusive Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Dear John.

Walmart offered copies of the Dear John DVD packed with DVD copies of Sleepless in Seattle for $19.96 a set.

Best Buy also is taking preorders for season six of “Lost,” on DVD and Blu-ray Aug. 24.