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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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3 May, 2010

New on disc: 'Rock n Roll High School' 30th anniversary and more …


Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: 30th Anniversary Special Edition

Street 5/4 DVD, 5/11 Blu-ray
Shout! Factory, Comedy, $19.93 DVD, $26.97 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Dey Young, The Ramones.
1979.
Other than perhaps as a figment of director Allan Arkush’s self-admitted wishes, maybe the ragged but raucous Rock ‘n’ Roll High School isn’t The Ramones’ equivalent of A Hard Day’s Night. But in some ways, maybe it is. Blu-ray is only going to help a production this humble so much, but I don’t recall it looking this good in 1979.
Extras: The new and recycled DVD extras are a ball.
Read the Full Review

Ride With the Devil: Director’s Cut

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel.
1999.
Director Ang Lee’s adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s Civil War novel Woe to Live On led to the one time in his career where he didn’t control the editing process. Already leisurely and contemplative at an uncommonly long 138 minutes, this was not a movie its distributor wished to see run 160, which was Lee’s preferred cut and the one that’s presented here. Chronologically for the filmmaker, Devil comes between The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Even at the time, Lee was amassing one of the most eclectic filmographies around.
Extras: Two commentaries, a new interview with Jeffrey Wright, and a booklet of essays by Southern-bred film critic Godfrey Cheshire, who calls the 1863 Lawrence (Kansas) Massacre the worst act of domestic terrorism until the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the attacks of 9/11.
Read the Full Review

Fox 75th Anniversary Studio Classics: An Affair to Remember/Leave Her to Heaven/A Letter to Three Wives/Peyton Place

Fox, Romance, $19.98 four-DVD set, NR.
1949-57.
All four selections in this Fox set are movies for which I’ve had decades of affection — and for differing reasons. In order of preference, the set contains: A Letter to Three Wives (1949), directed by Oscar-winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starring Jeffrey Lynn, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell; Peyton Place (1957), which led to the 1960s TV show; An Affair to Remember (1957), the romantic classic with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr; and Leave Her to Heaven (1945), featuring Gene Tierney portraying a first-class sociopath.
Read the Full Review

Mammy

Available now via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive.
Warner, Musical, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Al Jolson, Lois Moran, Lowell Sherman.
1930.
If one were asked to name the No. 1 entertainer from the first half of the 20th century, the answer would have to be Bing Crosby. But judging from accounts of the day, No. 2 would likely be Al Jolson. Time has not been kind to Jolson, whose film career was spotty at best, and the blackface albatross that was a substantial part of his career is never going to go away. Michael Curtiz’s Mammy celebrates a onetime blackface tradition that wasn’t even questioned during what now seem like the prehistoric days of minstrel shows. A specialized DVD venue such as this makes sense: It tends to attract more historically knowledgeable viewers, who know what they’re getting — and Warner doesn’t have to spend a lot of promotion money to call more attention to the offensive content.
Read the Full Review

The Tiger Next Door

First Run, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, Not rated.
2009. Not a whole lot of grass grows in this remarkably even-keeled documentary before the words “Siegfried and Roy” get mentioned. This figures, because the subject at hand is people who keep dangerous wild animals in their residential backyards. Which is, of course, risky business strictly from the POV of the owners themselves — long before the gang from PETA expresses its own opinions.

Then the story gets complicated, at least in terms regarding the motivation of its central, Indiana-based protagonist Dennis Hill. He has that same scruffy (some would say mangy) white beard right out of Central Casting that brings to mind one of those used bookstore owners who always seem to have 20 housecats on the premises.

Hill has his share of adversaries, including the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who’ve cited him for unsecure cages, sub-hygienic conditions and a general disinclination to rectify infractions that go somewhat beyond a condo association telling you to get a new storm door. With one or two key exceptions, the adversaries don’t really make it personal in their attempts to end, or at least limit, Hill’s operation. In fact, we’re shown a hearing or town meeting scene where longtime friends and reluctant foes have decent things to say about him. We also see that his mother supports and loves him – feelings that are reciprocated.

But … the guy just doesn’t seem strung together too well, and then there’s the fact that he previously served time for manufacturing meth. Someone at the hearing claims this is a bogus side issue — that Hill has paid his debt to society and that this incarceration history has nothing to do with the current issue at hand. Still, I ask you: If you’re already feeling uneasy about the guy next door raising tigers in the back yard, is this last bit of news going to ease your nerves.

Horror stories get told here about others who raise exotic animals — stories of abject filth, severe malnutrition and the fact that individual body parts — that is, if you cut the animal up — can bring a lot more money than an entire creature. Though what one does exactly with a tiger liver is for someone else to explain.

There is no evidence that Hill is anywhere near this craven — and plenty of evidence that he loves animals, going way back to childhood. But this kind of love, as someone points out, can be destructive as well, and Hill’s tirades about the government interfering with him shows him to be as oblivious to the bigger picture as the ultimately eaten subject of Werner Herzog’s unforgettable Grizzly Man, who at least mingled with the beasts on their own turf.

But again, filmmaker Camilla Calamandrei plays it cool in terms of personal soap-boxing and lets us make our own decision. Though at a time when PETA is talking on an institution like Ringling Brothers, some dude with flimsy cages, limited roaming space and icky drinking water needs isn’t likely to win many PR wars.
 


30 Apr, 2010

Trading ‘Galactica’

The new BSG DVD packaging
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

 


27 Apr, 2010

Retail Gets ‘Complicated’

Wal-Mart's <i>It's Complicated</i> Special Edition
Wal-Mart's <i>It's Complicated</i> Special Edition

The April 22 mega-release of Avatar has apparently thinned out the herd a bit. Among new releases April 27, only It’s Complicated and a few Paramount TV DVDs (The Hills: Season 5 and Tales From the Dark Side: Season 3) saw a widespread retail presence. Other titles, such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, were scattershot at best, with many stores not stocking Blu-ray versions of the movies.

As far as exclusives go, Target offered It’s Complicated DVDs packed with Mamma Mia!, while Wal-Mart offered an It’s Complicated DVD configuration with a bonus disc that included a digital copy of the film and six free MP3 downloads.

Wal-Mart also had the exclusive title Little Hercules in 3D, starring Hulk Hogan.

Speaking of Avatar, Target is offering a $20 gift card with purchase of the Avatar Blu-ray at $24.99 and a Sony BDPS360 (BD Live compatible) Blu-ray Disc player at $124.99.

Best Buy is now accepting pre-orders for HBO Home Entertainment’s True Blood: The Complete Second Season, which streets May 25. Fans who order a copy in stores or at BestBuy.com/TrueBlood can get a “Real Blood Is for Suckers” poster.

Best Buy also offered a $10 savings with purchase of catalog Blu-ray titles Armageddon and Tombstone together.


26 Apr, 2010

New on Disc: 'It's Complicated' and more …


It’s Complicated

Street 4/27
Universal, Comedy, B.O. $112.7 million, $29.98 DVD, $36.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some drug content and sexuality.
Stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth.
2009.
The stars largely bail out the material, and Nancy Meyers’ film boasts a contender for last year’s single funniest movie scene.
Extras: Includes one of those no doubt sincere but nonetheless irritating featurettes where the co-stars praise their fellow actors. The non-actor personnel who accompany Meyers on the commentary include cinematographer John Toll.
Read the Full Review

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

Street 4/27
New Video, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
2009.
This documentary about prominent 1960s and ’70s attorney William Kunstler (of Chicago 8 fame) was co-directed by his daughters.
Extras: Superb stuff, such as gritty footage from Attica, home movies, a college commencement speech in Buffalo Kunstler made just four months before his 1995 death, and a funny comedy club appearance he made less than a month before he died.
Read the Full Review

The Fugitive Kind

Street 4/27
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapleton.
1959.
Certain things in life are basically a slam-dunk to elicit a risible reaction. One of them is seeing Marlon Brando in snakeskin, slinging a guitar and going by the name of “Valentine Xavier.”
Extras: A fine recent interview with director Sidney Lumet, an essay, a filmed portrait of playwright Tennessee Williams and a kinescope of 1958’s Lumet-directed Three Plays by Tennessee Williams, which aired on NBC’s “Kraft Television Theatre.”
Read the Full Review

Andy Kaufman: World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion

Street 4/27
Infinity, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Andy Kaufman.
2010.
When Andy Kaufman challenged the women of the world to pin him in the wrestling ring, the most original comic of his day proved beyond a doubt that there were no limits to his imagination.
Extras: On-screen Kaufman bio text, an “Andy Wrestles the Ladies!” featurette and home movies of Andy wrestling women at an L.A. comedy club.
Read the Full Review

The Landlord

Available now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
MGM, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, ‘PG’ for.
Stars Beau Bridges, Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey.
1970.
Hal Ashby’s directorial debut gave Beau Bridges perhaps his best big-screen showcase, as a rich kid who spruces up a run-down tenement to befriend its tenants.
Read the Full Review


24 Apr, 2010

Updating the Files: ‘Lost,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Robin Hood,’ ‘The A-Team’

Checking in with some bits and pieces from the past week:

End of the Beginning for ‘Lost’

As “Lost” rushes toward its series finale May 23, plans are already in place to release the complete series on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Lost: The Complete Sixth and Final Season (five-DVD set $59.99, Blu-ray $79.99) and Lost: The Complete Collection (38-DVD set $229.99, 36-disc Blu-ray $279.99) are slated for Aug. 24 (order date July 13).

The sixth-season set will include original scripted content that delves deeper into the stories, from the show’s creators; deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes footage; commentaries; bloopers and more. The complete series will contain all the extras from the individual seasons, plus an exclusive bonus disc with at least two hours of content.

More Robins for the Hood

Just in time for the May 14 theatrical bow of Universal’s Robin Hood remake from Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment May 11 releases four vintage “Robin Hood” movies at $14.94. The selection includes 1946’s The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, 1948’s Prince of Thieves, 1950’s Rogues of Sherwood Forest and 1960’s Sword of Sherwood Forest.

These aren’t the only “Robin Hood” DVDs piggybacking the new movie. Reality Films April 27 releases the documentary Robin Hood: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s Most Filmed Legend (reviewed here). And Classic Media May 11 offers Mr. Magoo in Sherwood Forest ($9.98), which combines into a single movie the four-part episode “Mr. Magoo’s Robin Hood” from the 1964 series “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.”

Pounding Out the Pity

Speaking of piggybacking, Anchor Bay Entertainment in June will release UFC: Rampage Greatest Hits, a collection of mixed martial arts fights featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who plays B.A. Baracus in the new A-Team movie (the role Mr. T played on the TV show). The DVD streets June 1 at $19.97, with the Blu-ray on June 8 at $29.97. Fox releases The A-Team June 11.

The Galaxy’s a Stage

Finally, an odd tidbit from the realm of so-called “legitimate” theater. It seems CBS Consumer Products is preparing an interactive stage show called “Star Trek Live” to be performed five times a day starting June 11 at the 300-seat Astronaut Encounter Theater at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Orlando, Fla.

Based on the franchise (though the plot seems more like the new movie), the 30-minute experience combines special effects and audience interaction, letting fans play new cadets at Starfleet Academy, where they will have to learn quickly about living, traveling and working in space and about the latest in communication and technology.

Sounds like a smart way to get the word out about this obscure franchise. ;-) Actually, the NASA connection makes a lot of sense.

This wouldn’t be the first interactive “Star Trek” experience for fans. Universal Studios theme parks in the late 1980s and early 1990s offered The Star Trek Adventure, which cast audience members as Starfleet officers and Klingons as they filmed an episode, and let participants buy a tape of the final result. And The Star Trek Experience operated out of the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, letting fans sip drinks at Quark’s Bar from “Deep Space Nine,” travel back in time to fight the Klingons, or fight off an invasion by the Borg. Highlights from the Vegas exhibit are available on the bonus disc of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection DVD and Blu-ray.

Maybe they should bring the whole Star Trek Experience to Florida.


23 Apr, 2010

The “South Park” Syndrome


The pop culture world is abuzz about Comedy Central censoring even the name of a certain religious prophet on “South Park,” following death threats against the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The network even bleeped the whole final speech “about intimidation and fear,” they said.

Further, Comedy Central pulled reruns of the episode and won’t let it stream on the “South Park” website. Naturally, this has sparked a whole debate over the value of free speech in our society, and how reticent some of us are to protect it. Jon Stewart devoted a lengthy segment to the subject on the April 22 “Daily Show,” denouncing anyone who would threaten violence over a political or religious disagreement.

So what now? A lot of fans are wondering what this will mean for the eventual 14th season DVD set of the show. As the DVD (and Blu-ray) won’t be released for another year, I imagine that decision is a long ways off.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the censorship carried over to home video. The character in question did appear uncensored in the “Super Best Friends” episode from the fifth season, but that was before the controversy erupted a few years ago, and that episode has since been yanked from SouthParkStudios.com, which streams every episode for free. The season 10 episode “Cartoon Wars” specifically addressed the reaction to images of him, while also censoring his appearance. This censorship carried through to the DVD. I only hope they don’t leave the latest episode off the DVD altogether. (Ironically, the character has appeared briefly in the opening title sequence of every episode for the past few years.)

After all, the whole point of these episodes has been to demonstrate how absurd the censorship was to begin with, and for a network to step on that message is to neglect the very reason it took a chance on the series in the first place.
 


20 Apr, 2010

‘Avatar’ Brings the Hype to Retailers


While the Thursday, April 22, release of Avatar dominates the week, promotions connected to the movie are kind of muted. Several retailers are preparing midnight madness sales, but most don't offer anything by way of specific exclusives for anyone who doesn't attend those events.

Wal-Mart, which offers Avatar at midnight, offered a 3D sticker to the first 50 buyers at each store.

Other promotions were tied to sales of existing product. Best Buy offered the Avatar soundtrack at $7.99 and Avatar video games for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii at $19.99. A total of 250 Best Buy stores will open at midnight, with 10 core major-market stores offering gaming promotions sponsored by Ubisoft. Participants can receive T-shirt giveaways at core stores, with poster giveaways at other midnight madness events. Anyone who buys the movie has a chance to have a tree planted in his or her name. More information is available at BestBuy.com/Avatar.

Target offered a $3 savings off Avatar with the purchase of select Fox titles, such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, with qualifying Blu-rays at $14.99 each and DVDs at $7.99.

Also big this week were titles that were retailer exclusives.

Best Buy scored a coup with the exclusive Blu-ray availability of The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!, while other retailers could offer only the DVD version.

Wal-Mart had the TV movie Secrets of the Mountain for $12, which included a DVD and the CD soundtrack.

Target has been offering a selection of Bravo reality show DVDs.

Since April 22 also is Earth Day, some retailers also set up displays in that direction. A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had a nice endcap display with a selection that included Planet Earth, National Geographic titles and other nature documentaries.


19 Apr, 2010

New on disc: 'Crazy Heart,' 'Tales From the Script' and more …


Crazy Heart

Street 4/20
Fox, Drama, B.O. $38.8 million, $29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and brief sexuality.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell.
2009.
As broken-down singer “Bad” Blake, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges looks as if his halitosis has halitosis — though the moniker he carries in writer-director Scott Cooper’s script (adapted from Thomas Cobb’s novel) is effective in its hard-consonant directness and simplicity.
Extras: The actors talk about their attraction to the project on the Blu-ray, which also has a couple alternate cuts of tunes that the regular DVD doesn’t have. Both versions contain deleted scenes.
Read the Full Review

Minority Report (Blu-ray)

Street 4/20
Paramount, Sci-Fi, $29.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for violence, brief language, some sexuality and drug content.
Stars Tom Cruise, Samantha Morton, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Neal McDonough, Steve Harris.
2002.
Director Steven Spielberg’s kinetic, futuristic take on the police procedural is still a dandy that shows how good an actor Tom Cruise can be.
Extras: Includes a newly edited mix of vintage and fresher material, plus an interview with Spielberg shot just as the movie was opening theatrically.
Read the Full Review

Tales From the Script

Street 4/20
First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.008 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2010.
“Talking heads documentary” can be a pejorative term, but when the subject is screenwriters discussing their craft and, too often, their heartbreak, the talk is likely to be on a very high level. Tales is the most telling screen portrait on its subject that we’re likely to have.
Extras: Whatever you do, don’t skip the DVD’s bonus section. The supplemental interviews have some of the juiciest anecdotes.
Read the Full Review

Vivre sa vie

Street 4/20
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot.
1962.
The movie is constructed as a dozen tableaux scenes chronicling a woman’s descent from a record store employee who can’t pay her rent into a prostitute. Like a lot of Jean-Luc Godard films, it eschews narrative fat for the so-called high points.
Extras: The DVD/Blu-ray transfers jump off the screen, and one of the many Criterion supplements is a vintage article describing how the natural sound recording here was very advanced for its time.
Read the Full Review

Arizona Dream

Available now via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Jerry Lewis, Lili Taylor.
1993.
Johnny Depp and Jerry Lewis play car salesmen. For collectors of the peculiar, this may be your day.
Read the Full Review
 


19 Apr, 2010

A Day at the Con

(L-R): Burt Ward and Adam West
(L-R): Burt Ward and Adam West

This past weekend’s Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con proves that not every fanboy event has to be up to the level of that show in San Diego.

The Anaheim event was the kind of quaint, low-key festival that really gives fans their money’s worth: a chance to see a handful of reasonable celebrities without the god-awful crowds bigger shows often attract.

There couldn’t have been more than a few thousand people at the Anaheim show over the weekend, compared to more than 120,000 who descend upon San Diego. Comic-Con International, of course, draws fans from around the world. Wizard World mostly caters to local audiences.

In fact, Anaheim Comic Con wasn’t even the biggest show held at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend. That honor goes to a convention of coffee industry professionals, which took up most of the floor room. Due to how the halls were sectioned off, the Comic Con show floor (which was half exhibitors and half celebrities offering paid autographs) was at the extreme south end of the convention center, while panels were held in rooms on the second floor of the north end of the hall, several hundred feet if not a quarter mile away. Covering that distance can be quite a chore, especially considering the average attendee isn’t in the best of shape, and the average panelist must have been in their 70s. (At one point I passed by an exhausted-looking Mickey Rooney, who was being dragged around in a wheelchair by his handlers.)

I know that Anaheim has been making a play for the International show (which is close to a three-year extension with San Diego, to 2015, according to Internet buzz). But if this past weekend is any indication, I have yet to be convinced the Anaheim Convention Center is an ideal venue for a show the scope of Comic-Con International.

Still, even the few hours I spent there were a reasonable experience, and a tad more mellow than the hustle and bustle of the big show, which is how I prefer it.

Of the three days (April 16-18), I attended only on Saturday and caught some of the afternoon panels. (Click here for photo gallery).

One I was really keen on seeing was a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, one of my favorite movies. At the same time, it seems, the real “Star Wars” news was emanating from the C2E2 Con in Chicago, where Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet said a Blu-ray of the saga was in the works. TheDigitalBits.com estimates a release date of October 2011.

The Anaheim panel turned out to be underwhelming, consisting only of a Q&A with Billy Dee Williams, who mostly defended Lando’s decision to betray Han Solo, and who discussed how much the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi looked like a part of the female anatomy.

ESB director Irvin Kershner was slated to appear but sadly had to cancel after being hospitalized a few days earlier due to complications from cancer.

Still, the room was packed to capacity with hundreds of guests, as opposed to the next panel, a Q&A with Superman producer Ilya Salkind, attended by only about 50 people. He was joined by Aaron Smolinski, who played the baby Kal-El in the first movie and the kid in the photo booth in the third (I said it was a low-key event). Salkind has a habit of being verbose, but he can be really insightful about the making of the franchise. He said he was encouraged by news that Christopher Nolan would oversee the next Superman movie because he thought Nolan’s Batman movies were great.

Salkind continued to justify his creative decisions for Superman II and said Superman III’s original concept involved Supergirl and traditional Superman villains Brainiac and the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk, yet the powers that be started meddling after Richard Pryor mentioned on “The Tonight Show” that he wanted to be in a Superman movie (though if anyone has seen the original plot outline for III online, you’ll probably agree it was mostly unfilmable). Remnants of the original concept that survived into the final film include Superman’s battle with the super computer, and the fight between Superman and Clark Kent (which most fans consider the best part of the movie).

William Shatner then put in a brief appearance to discuss not only the pilot he shot for a sitcom based on the Twitter meme “Sh*t My Dad Says,” but also previous projects such as Invasion Iowa, Kingdom of the Spiders and “Boston Legal” (not much talk about “Star Trek,” oddly). He also discussed current projects, such as his celebrity interview show, “Raw Nerve,” and a new show, “Aftermath,” in which he catches up with media figures years after their 15 minutes are up. In one amusing interlude, Shatner was asked about playing a villain in three “Columbo” movies, and began to memorialize Peter Falk when an audience member said he was dead. “I know he died, I just forgot about it,” Shatner commented (which isn’t a surprising sentiment, since as far as I know Falk is still very much alive, and only about 4 years older than Shatner). It’s probably a miracle Shatner could attend at all, since he was almost grounded in Europe by the Iceland volcanic ash cloud.

But the best panel involved a reunion of the 1960s Batman cast, which quickly devolved into a battle of double entendres. Describing how they got to the Batmobile, Adam West said, “his pole was bigger.” Julie Newmar (Catwoman) said her costume was like “melted licorice poured onto her body.” Lee Meriwether (Catwoman in the movie based on the show) looked so happy to be among the fans, but embarrassed by the tone of the conversation. West said Fox and Warner lawyers were trying to divvy up the DVD rights to the show and hoped it would be resolved soon (his analysis may be overly simplistic, but we might as well hope for the best, right?). He nonetheless plugged his own DVD reflections on the show. What a fun panel, and proof that you don’t need the superstars of today to have a good time at the Con.
 


13 Apr, 2010

Playing Retail Roulette

Target's <i>Crazy on the Outside</i> DVD
Target's <i>Crazy on the Outside</i> DVD

After a few weeks marked by several major films hitting disc, the past couple of weeks have hit a comparative lull.

The only major theatrical title released April 13, the underperforming Pirate Radio, wasn’t even stocked at a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., which classified the title as online only. Yet the store had abundant copies of smaller fare such as Lionsgate’s direct-to-video Tenderness and Sony Pictures’ indie Defendor on hand.

Target filled the new-release void with a wave of exclusive titles, led by the Fox’s Tim Allen vehicle Crazy on the Outside on DVD ($10) and Blu-ray ($19.99). The retailer also had a selection of exclusive season sets of Bravo reality shows on disc.

At Best Buy it’s all about Avatar. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was filled with Avatar preorder displays, and the Best Buy Insider circular has a cell phone code that lets fans get a special promo video. The Best Buy Web site promises midnight madness sales when the DVD and Blu-ray is released April 22.