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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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5 Jul, 2010

New on Disc: 'Film Noir Classics II,' 1927's 'Chicago'

Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II

Street 7/6
Sony Pictures, Drama, $59.95 five-DVD set, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Fred MacMurray, Kim Novak, Gloria Grahame.
This boxed set contains, in order of personal preference: Human Desire (1954), Pushover (1954), City of Fear (1959), Nightfall (1957) and The Brothers Rico (1957). All five are correctly presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Extras: Martin Scorsese introduces one of the selections, and there are further bonus cameos from Shutter Island colleague Emily Mortimer (talking about noir women and situations), plus Memento/The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan on “Pulp Paranoia” and the fact that noir is as much a state of mind as it is a means of shadowy photographic expression.
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Street 7/6
Flicker Alley, Comedy, $39.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Phyllis Haver, Victor Varconi, Robert Edeson.
Thought to be lost for so many years, the first screen version of Maurine Watkins’ play is more sober than that of its follow-ups, ultimately presenting a more jaded view of press fickleness.
Extras: A booklet contains three informative essays, enticing on-screen supplements and a half-hour featurette that explains the flapper phenomenon by interviewing women who offer first-hand remembrances. The standout bonus is the inclusion of an obscure but lively 63-minute “March of Time” documentary The Golden Twenties, which RKO distributed in 1950.
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It Came From Kuchar

IndiePix, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
In the great scheme of (non-cineaste) things, we are talking about the fringe of the fringe here — back from the days before DVD democratized everything, and there was a certain quaint excitement and daring in watching underground movies (even by the most rigid underground standards) in some storefront or other makeshift venue. If you want to see who was capable of influencing John Waters in his formative years (and this is nothing to be high-hatted about), you need go no further than Bronx-bred twins George and Mike Kuchar. Jennifer M. Kroot’s documentary is a good introduction that doesn’t probe too deeply into a subculture.
Extras: There are 40 minutes of deleted scenes, the same length as the actual film. We see George making it to Telluride (earning a tribute, in fact), where he hob-knobs with Leonard Maltin, Todd Haynes and even Ken Burns.
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Two on a Guillotine

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Connie Stevens, Dean Jones, Cesar Romero.
For those who like horror movies where the principal characters take a break in the action to visit an amusement park and disco (showcased in Panavision, no less), this movie is for you. Artistically, the movie isn’t the stuff of shelf lives, except for in one regard: You sense pretty quickly that a superior cinematographer must have photographed it. And though one can argue that Guillotine’s puppy-loving (really … a roller coaster ride?) waters down the horror and inflates the 107-minute running time, it’s unexpected enough to get the movie out of the predictable ‘B’-movie rut in which director William Conrad (one and the same as the portly actor) was laboring in during this period.
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30 Jun, 2010

‘Avatar’ Push Exemplifies Fan Frustration Over Double-Dipping

Watching the NBA Finals recently, I was struck by how many ads were being run for the Avatar Blu-ray/DVD combo. This was nearly two months since the April 22 debut of the disc, which signifies a rather aggressive marketing effort on behalf of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The commercial urged viewers to pick up the disc quickly because it would only be available “for a limited time.” This is a bit of industry speak for “we have too much product still on the shelves, and we want to clear as much of that as we can before we introduce a deluxe special edition in a few months.” Of course, the upcoming beefed up edition of the film was not mentioned in the ad.

While I can appreciate the marketing effort (after all, several retailers I visited within the past few weeks are only now downgrading their Avatar displays), I have to wonder about its effectiveness in the long run. How many people who would have purchased the sure-to-be-more-expensive special edition in five months bought the bare-bones version and now won’t buy the new version when it hits?

It’s not just Avatar. We’re already getting announces for other major films from last year that are receiving a big special-edition boost later this year, such as a new deluxe edition of The Hangover Oct. 12. This kind of double-dipping has been studio practice for years, but judging by the sales data, it seems that frustrated consumers just aren’t going to take it anymore.

With some titles, at least, the studios recognize this frustration and offer a rebate to anyone who bought the previous version. Paramount did it with Blu-ray upgrades for titles such as The Godfather, and Fox is planning a rebate with the first season of “Glee.” Given this pattern I can only assume they would do something similar with Avatar.

But it raises a question about the efficacy of good marketing in the face of diminishing returns. Is the practice of double- and triple-dipping more effective than, say, putting extra effort into the DVD or Blu-ray presentation the first time around? The Blu-ray from last year’s Star Trek movie, for example, was absolutely loaded.

I understand if some movies don’t meet expectations and studios don’t want to pay for extensive extras. But I don’t think the audience will mind if movies that make more than $200 million (or $700 million) are put on ice for a month or two to really pump up the bonus content.

I think any edition of a movie that is put on disc should be the definitive presentation of it for at least 10 years. There is something to be said about an anniversary edition because a good retrospective documentary fueled by hindsight can yield insights not available during the production (I’ve certainly seen enough bad movies in which the actors while on set talk about it as if it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done). Plus it gives studios a chance to re-release the title in a new format that may have emerged.

Even then, there’s no reason to leave off the old extras (at the very least, put a slot for the old disc in the new packaging so fans can keep their collections nice and tidy and keep all the extras from the old disc).

Of course, with Avatar that might not be much of a problem.

Update, July 1, 2010: Based on some comments I received, let me clarify a few points. First, the idea of waiting a month to release the DVD or Blu-ray would only apply to studios that get caught off guard. Since every movie is released on DVD, there should be enough lead time to prepare for the extras. If a movie becomes a bigger hit than expected, use the grace period to prepare the extras.

As for shortening the window to address piracy, well, that argument could be used to justify a one-week window, let alone 3-4 months. The people who are willing to pirate a copy of a film probably don't care about buying the DVD anyway.

However, the key issue here is double dipping. I have no problem if a studio releases a bare-bones disc and an extras-laden disc on the same day, since the consumer would have a choice. It's the idea that someone buys a disc only to be blindsided by a bigger badder edition a year later. So the solution to assuage piracy concerns is to release the bare-bones edition but make it well known that the deluxe edition is coming a month later, if the extra time is needed to prepare one.

I'll admit that Blu-ray vs DVD throws a bit of a wrinkle into the plan, but I've said before that if studios are going to include a DVD in the Blu-ray package, they might as well not even sell a standalone DVD edition. I think that's a separate issue that has more to do with ensuring the long-term viability of Blu-ray by subtly building consumer Blu-ray libraries to encourage hardware sales, and thus Blu-ray catalog sales down the road.

29 Jun, 2010

‘Inception’ of ‘Twilight’ Fever


Though new June 29 releases Hot Tub Time Machine and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief garnered a fair amount of retail promotions, a lot of stores were turning their attention toward some of the big titles hitting theaters this summer.

Timed for the July 16 release of Inception, Best Buy offered a display filled with Blu-ray Discs of previous movies directed by Christopher Nolan and earlier movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio at $16.99 each. These titles came with a coupon for $5 off a concession purchase at the theater.

Target went into “Twilight” mode for the theatrical release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, offering DVDs and Blu-ray Discs of the first two movies at a discount, as well as tying in promotion for Remember Me, a recent movie starring “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson.

Best Buy also ran an interesting promotion called “Flashback to the ’80s,” offering such favorites as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun, The Goonies and E.T. on DVD for as low as $4.99 apiece.

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.
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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.
Read the full review


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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review


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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review

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.
Read the Full Review

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.
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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.