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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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12 Apr, 2010

New on Disc: 'Pirate Radio' and more …

Pirate Radio

Street 4/13
Universal, Comedy, B.O. $8 million, $29.98 DVD; $36.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language, and some sexual content including brief nudity.
Stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh.
Writer-director Richard Curtis’ fictional extrapolation of British pop history never quite mines potential that could have been the foundation for a classic. And yet, if you love rock and roll, there’s no way you should fail to check out this rendering of how official BBC blue-noses tried to pretend the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who didn’t exist. There are at least three reasons to give it a look:  Philip Seymour Hoffman as an imported American DJ; Kenneth Branagh, the film’s biggest laugh-getter, as a pasty BBC prig; and a brief appearance by “Mad Men” lovely January Jones.
Extras: Commentary and deleted scenes, and the Blu-ray adds six featurettes to the mix.
Read the Full Review

The Natural (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Drama, $24.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey.
With the passage of time, one appreciates even more the bang-up cast director Barry Levinson assembled and how much of an iconographic role that aging slugger Roy Hobbs now seems in the career of lead Robert Redford. But why in the world would Sony not release the superior 2007 director’s cut?
Extras: Several featurettes from the 2007 DVD. But missing is the wonderful 44-minute featurette from the very first DVD of The Natural (it wasn’t on the two-disc 2007 edition, either) in which Cal Ripken Jr. discussed his affection for the film.
Read the Full Review

The Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers

A&E, Sports, $29.95 four-DVD set, NR.
Game 5 of the 1968 World Series is the jewel that kicks off this set, which also contains the 1984 World Series Game 5 clincher in which Kirk Gibson hit two home runs, the 1999 final game at old Tiger Stadium, and Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS.
Extras: Per always with these A&E baseball boxed sets, extras are bountiful.
Read the Full Review

The Bombing of Germany (American Experience)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Narrated by Joe Morton.
Historians debate the bombing or at least present it in skeptical grays. But what’s missing is a real sense of the devastation’s horror and scope. 
Read the Full Review

The Best Man

Available via Amazon.com CreateSpace.
MGM, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Lee Tracy, Edie Adams.
The movie of Gore Vidal’s Tony-nominated play is too smart and un-dated in certain regards to be called a museum piece, but for those used to seeing elections determined by the primary process, here is perhaps a revelatory window into how the political game was once played.
Read the Full Review

9 Apr, 2010

Moverman’s ‘Messenger’ Hits Home

Oren Moverman
Oren Moverman

Oren Moverman doesn’t aim to convince viewers of one particular thing with his film The Messenger (on DVD/Blu-ray May 18 from Oscilloscope Laboratories), which tells the story of two soldiers who notify next of kin that their family member has died in battle.

“I think that people come into the film with certain kinds of biases and maybe walk out with certain biases enhanced and others changed,” Moverman says of the film, which he says has seen support both from left-wing anti-war activists and the U.S. Army itself, which approved the film and allowed a colonel to be a technical advisor on the film, helping gain access to military bases and learning the language of the military.

“It didn’t interfere with the creative process,” Moverman said. “It really kind of saved the day a lot of times.”

The $29.99 DVD and $34.99 Blu-ray Disc contain a short film called “Notification,” a companion piece to the film directed by late filmmaker Joe Kelly, in which real Casualty Notification service members are interviewed.

“When I saw [“Notification”], knowing that it was going to be on the DVD, I almost thought, as emotional as The Messenger is, there’s something about seeing the real people and listening to them … that is, in a way, more emotional than the film itself,” Moverman said.

The DVD and Blu-ray also will include a commentary with Moverman, stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, and producer Lawrence Inglee; behind-the-scenes footage; and a Q&A with the cast and crew. What the releases will not contain are deleted scenes.

“I do have to say the film is the cut that I wanted and the cut we all felt strongest of,” Moverman said of the half an hour or so of scenes that were cut from the film for aesthetic reasons and for time. (The film, as it stands, is nearly two hours.)

Moverman says he has not yet seen The Messenger on Blu-ray but that extensive, subtle sound-work was done on the film that could be greatly enhanced by high-definition.

“The thing that’s exciting to me about [the DVD and Blu-ray release] is there’s a whole new audience exposed to the film, and it if it’s on Blu-ray, this kind of technology is giving them a more enhanced experience,” Moverman said.

Indeed, The Messenger made just more than $1 million at the U.S. box office, but with Oscar nominations both for Moverman (best original screenplay) and Harrelson (best supporting actor), the filmmaker said the film has gotten much more attention that it would have normally. He hopes with the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release, more people will see the film and draw their own conclusions about the film’s message.

“I think what [the film] does is present [its subject] as objectively as possible,” Moverman says. “What that does is open debate.”

“I think a big thing in The Messenger is this question we kept asking ourselves, ‘how do you get through life, knowing there’s grief and hardships, how do you go on living?’ The answer is through the simplest thing — love, friendship, humor and finding things in other people that make their lives better.”

By: Billy Gil

6 Apr, 2010

‘Rings’ Still Reigns at Retail

Best Buy's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> with sword
Best Buy's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> with sword

Nearly a decade after its debut, the impact of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is still being felt. With the Blu-ray disc boxed set of the theatrical version of the trilogy hitting retail April 6, studios kept the shelves relatively clear of any groundbreaking new releases.

The only new theatrical title was the Nicolas Cage-starrer Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which barely made a blip in theaters. It had enough star power, however, to earn decent placement at most retail outlets.

Another title earning some unsuspecting attention was Party Down: Season One, which most retailers didn’t bother including in their weekly ad circular. Best Buy offered a $25 gift card deal to buyers who also ordered the Starz cable channel on which the show airs. And Wal-Mart gave fans a treat with a bonus disc containing two episodes from the upcoming season of the show.

As for Rings, while the boxed set was a featured title at most locations (a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., devoted only a single slot for it in its Blu-ray section, and it was sold out), most shied away from any special promotions.

Best Buy offered the trilogy Blu-ray with an exclusive letter opener shaped like the Andruil sword from the films. This deluxe set also includes a $10 coupon for the purchase of Weta collectibles.

5 Apr, 2010

New on Disc: 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,' 'The Abbott and Costello Show: The Complete Series' and More …

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Street 4/6
First Look, Drama, B.O. $1.7 million, $28.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for drug use and language throughout, some violence and sexuality.
Stars Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Fairuza Balk, Xzibit, Jennifer Coolidge.
Director Werner Herzog’s loose remake of 1992’s Bad Lieutenant had me from the get-go. What makes the movie increasingly funny (and intentionally so, make no mistake) is that the further we go, the more we see we’re on the way to a tidy and even happy resolution.
Read the Full Review

The Abbott and Costello Show: The Complete Series — Collector’s Edition

Street 4/6
E1, Comedy, $59.98 nine-DVD set, NR.
Stars Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Sid Fields, Hillary Brooke, Gordon Jones.
The 52 syndicated episodes of the famed comedy duo’s half-hour television series — which Jerry Seinfeld has cited as an inspiration for his own show — have been remastered and restored from 35mm materials to look and sound outstanding for their day.
Extras: The set comes with a 44-page book, a 1978 TV documentary on the team, interviews with daughters Chris and Paddy Costello, a restored 1948 short on Lou’s philanthropic work, rare home movies and more. 
Read the Full Review

Jesse James’ Hidden Treasure

A&E, Documentary, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Now, here’s a wild one that sometimes plays like the product of an overactive imagination, as controversial historian Ron Pastore treks through strange caves in Kansas in search of a rumored $1.5 million of buried J.J. booty. As a story of personal obsession, it separated my upper jaw from my lower for at least some of its length.
Read the Full Review

Masters of American Music: Count Basie — Swingin’ the Blues

Euroarts, Music, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Buoyed by archival footage and then fresh interviews with the likes of Joe Williams, Jay McShann and Harry “Sweets” Edison, this portrait makes the points that even though Count Basie always swung, he was always doing some variation on the blues; that he went for a relaxed atmosphere and was just about the only big band leader who didn’t change with success; and that he got more music out of the sparest piano playing than anyone else. 
Read the Full Review

Too Much, Too Soon

Available now via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Dorothy Malone, Errol Flynn, Ray Danton, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Alcohol figures prominently in this biopic about Diana Barrymore (John’s daughter and half-sister of actor John Drew Barrymore — Drew’s dad) and her famous family, which is what makes this very spotty film worth a look. It’s based on Diana’s tell-all book released in 1957. She died in 1960.
Read the Full Review


30 Mar, 2010

Making a Squeak at Retail

Target's <i>Sherlock Holmes</i> with comic
Target's <i>Sherlock Holmes</i> with comic

March 30 saw the release of two $200-million hits to disc, with Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel generating considerable retail interest. But both titles were rather light in the exclusive content department.

Those who bought the Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Blu-ray at Best Buy could get Alvin and Brittany beanie babies for $2.99 each. On their own, the dolls were $6.99 apiece.

At Target, fans could get an exclusive deluxe edition of Sherlock Holmes that had a limited-edition cover and a collectible comic book, a re-creation of the comic used to pitch the movie to the studio.

A lot of the promotions for the week were centered on the Disney’s new “Un-Anniversary Edition” of the animated Alice in Wonderland, a title the studio’s home entertainment department kept under the radar in terms of press promotions.

Barnes & Noble, which remains among the most overpriced retailers despite a nominal percentage discount on new titles, was nonetheless one of the few stores to display details for a sweepstakes for Alice in Wonderland for the ultimate play home. Details are available at DisneyMovieRewards.com/Alice.

Best Buy offered a savings of $6 with the purchase of two select Disney hits on DVD, or $15 off two on Blu-ray. And Target had a display of such recent DVDs as The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo listed at $13.99 and tagged as “Fresh-Picked DVD Hits for Kids.”

Target also extended through May 1 its offer of a $5 gift card with purchase of The Twilight Saga: New Moon with Twilight in Forks, Astro Boy or Bandslam.

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had an interesting display piece. A display shelf of new releases carried a large sign touting the titles as $24.96, yet none of the DVDs on the shelves were more than $20. (The “Toy Story” Blu-rays were $24.96, but the spaces for them were empty).

29 Mar, 2010

New on Disc: 'An Education,' 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel' and more …

An Education

Street 3/30
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $12.5 million, $28.96 DVD, $38.96 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking.
Stars Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike.
The core story is a good one, about  a 16-year-old (most deserving Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) being swept off her feet by a thirtysomething man of mystery (Peter Sarsgaard), who is not what he seems.
Extras: The bonus featurettes are the usual back-patting boilerplate, though I liked getting the chance to see screenwriter Nick Hornby. The deleted scenes, which include what appears to be an alternate ending, are well above average.
Read the Full Review

Mad Men: Season Three

Lionsgate, Drama, $49.98 four-DVD set, $49.99 three-disc Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery.
Along with “The Colgate Comedy Hour” in the 1950s and “Later With Bob Costas” in the 1980s, “Mad Men” is my favorite TV show of all time. This season of the 1960s ad agency drama puts into motion plot points that were subtly seeded in previous years.
Extras: In addition to some period documentaries (including one on civil rights figure Medgar Evers and another on cigarette advertising), every episode offers group commentary by cast or crew members.
Read the Full Review

Collateral (Blu-ray)

Street 3/30
Paramount, Thriller, $29.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo.
It now seems this underrated drama of a professional hit man and a hostage L.A. cabbie trekking him to nocturnal “appointments” represents some kind of recent peak for both Tom Cruise and director Michael Mann. Collateral was shot in high-def video, then kind of a novelty, and its rough, occasionally grainy look transfers effectively to Blu-ray as one of the best movies I know to convey “night.”
Read the Full Review

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Street 3/30
Fox, Comedy, B.O. $218.7 million, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 two-DVD set, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for some mild rude humor.
Stars Jason Lee, David Cross, Zachary Levi, Wendie Malick. Voices of Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris.
This isn’t exactly a conventional “pick,” but it does provide an opportunity to reflect on just how amazingly long the Chipmunks have been with us.
Extras: The costlier DVD/Blu-ray Squeak-Along editions predictably milk it some with added featurettes.
Read the Full Review

Wyatt Earp (American Experience)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
At 60 minutes, it’s short for an “American Experience,” but a lot is packed in. You can’t make this kind of stuff up, even though a lot of Hollywood movies based on the Old West lawman concocted material that wasn’t this interesting.
Read the Full Review

23 Mar, 2010

Goats, Toys and Wolf Boys

<i>New Moon</i> Exclusives
<i>New Moon</i> Exclusives

A busy March got a bit busier March 23, with several hit films arriving on disc. This comes in the wake of a busy slate the week before, and of course the March 20 event known as the release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

New Moon exclusives were plentiful. Best Buy had steelbook packaging. Target had a bonus disc with deleted scenes and more featurettes. Wal-Mart offered a bonus disc with a preview of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and more featurettes. Borders had special packaging with a collectible medallion, and Barnes & Noble offered a dreamcatcher bag clip.

Stores also offered savings on purchasing New Moon with other Summit titles — Twilight in Forks, Astro Boy and Bandslam. Target gave a $5 gift card with purchase of New Moon with one of the other three, while Best Buy offered a $5 savings with the additional purchase of one, $10 off two, and $16 off New Moon with purchase of all three.

As far as goodies for other titles, Best Buy had a goat bobblehead with The Men Who Stare at Goats. And both Best Buy and Target gave $10 in savings with the purchase of both “Toy Story” Blu-rays. Target also had an exclusive “Toy Story” DVD-ROM game.

Target also has the exclusive distribution of the Law & Order UK: Season One DVD set, which it is selling at $26.99. This is the British version of the long-running American legal drama and stars Jamie Bamber of "Battlestar Galactica."

22 Mar, 2010

New on Disc: 'The African Queen,' 'The T.A.M.I. Show' and more …

The African Queen

Street 3/23
Paramount, Adventure, $25.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $50.99 DVD Boxed Set, $57.99 Blu-ray Boxed set, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley.
The easy verdict is that director John Huston’s adaptation of C.S. Forester’s novel has never looked anything close to as great as it looks now (especially on Blu-ray).
Extras: The hour-long documentary is outstanding. The pricier boxed sets include a reprint of Hepburn’s popular memoir The Making of the African Queen, as well as a 1951 Lux Radio
Theatre broadcast of Forester’s yarn.
Read the Full Review

The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition

Street 3/23
Shout! Factory, Music, $19.93 DVD, NR.
Featuring The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, James Brown.
Serving up two hours of sheer exuberance, The T.A.M.I. Show is among my favorite movies ever. It captures so many performers at their peak and certainly in their youth.
Extras: The commentary by director Steve Binder and music historian Don Waller is packed with info. Filmmaker John Landis, in an enthusiastic voiceover with the movie’s original trailer, informs us that he was at the actual concert as a teenager.
Read the Full Review

Days of Heaven

Street 3/23
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Gere, Sam Shepard, Brooke Adams.
Seeing director Terrence Malick’s pastoral masterpiece on Blu-ray is the same kind of event it’ll presumably be when the recent restoration of The Red Shoes makes it to home release.
Extras: The Blu-ray basically replicates Criterion’s 2007 standard DVD, though adds a DTS-HD master audio soundtrack to make it even more visceral — the word cast member Sam Shepard uses to describe the movie in the first place on one of several outstanding extras.
Read the Full Review

Bigger Than Life

Street 3/23
Criterion, Drama, $39.95 DVD or Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau.
The first movie I know to deal with a prescription drug nightmare in the suburbs.
Extras:  Typically savvy for Criterion, with commentary by critic Geoff Andrew, a 1977 interview with director Nicholas Ray, a new interview with the director’s widow and more retrospectives.
Read the Full Review

Super Bowl XLIV Champions: New Orleans Saints

Warner, Sports, $24.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
These overviews are generally as interesting as the season was. Novelist Anne Rice even appears early on.
Extras: The Super Bowl halftime show featuring The Who.
Read the Full Review


19 Mar, 2010

Fess Parker: A Class Act

Fess Parker
Fess Parker

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to interview many stars from the golden years of Hollywood, and they exhibit a class that you often don’t see in the Hollywood set anymore.

In June 2006, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fess Parker, star of the “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone” series. Sadly, he passed away March 18.

Parker gleefully recalled the title tune from the “Daniel Boone” series, joining former co-star Ed Ames.

“Daniel Boone was a man. He was a BIG man,” they belted in announcing the video release of the series.

Parker had invited stars of the series, a cadre of press members and fans to his Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara, Calif., to celebrate and kick off “Boone” on DVD. We visited with his family and took a tour of his vineyard.

Parker was delighted to help preserve the series for fans on disc, and like so many of the classic film and TV stars, relished promoting his work.

It was a pleasant experience, and one I will never forget — like the day in 1994 I interviewed Gene Kelly, since passed, and listened to him gleefully grouse about “the suits” at the studios who had given him such a hard time (meanwhile he was sharing more than half his day with a group of reporters just to push the release of That’s Entertainment III on home video). At the same event, I met Cyd Charisse, another legend since passed, who looked as glamorous that day as when she first graced the screen dancing with Kelly.

They will all be sorely missed.

17 Mar, 2010

A Guide to 'New Moon' Exclusives

The Twilight Saga: New Moon hits stores March 20 at midnight, and some retailers are staying open late Friday night so dedicated fans can be among the first to get a copy. Here's a handy guide detailing where to go for retailer exclusives and the best price.

Title: The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Street Date:
March 20, 2010
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
List Price: $32.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray
Extras: The regular edition includes commentary, a behind-the-scenes documentary and four music videos

Also due March 20 is the companion DVD Twilight in Forks: The Saga of the Real Town, which lists at $19.99.

The guide is based on online promotions and the weekly ad circulars of some retailers. Prices may vary.


Regular Edition: $16.99 DVD, $19.99 Blu-ray
Twilight in Forks: $9.99


Best Buy


Regular Edition: $19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray; Doorbuster price (midnight sales): $16.99 DVD, $21.99 BD
Steelbook edition w/cell phone skins: $24.99 DVD, $29.99 BD; Doorbuster price: $19.99 DVD, $24.99 BD
Twilight in Forks: $14.99



Regular Edition: $16.99 DVD, $19.99 Blu-ray;
Target-exclusive Deluxe Edition (extra featurettes, deleted scenes): $19.99 DVD, $24.99 BD;
Twilight in Forks: $9.99;
$5 gift card when New Moon DVD or BD is purchased with Twilight in Forks, Astro Boy or Bandslam


(prices reflect online listing)

Regular Edition: $17 DVD, $19.96 Blu-ray;
Ultimate Fan Edition (Eclipse preview): $24.96 DVD, $29.96 BD;
Twilight in Forks: $12.86
Gift pack of regular New Moon DVD w/Twilight in Forks: $29.96

Barnes & Noble

(prices reflect online listing)

Regular Edition: $23.09 DVD, $27.99 Blu-ray
Barnes & Noble version with collectible dreamcatcher bag clip: $27.19 DVD, $39.99 BD
Twilight in Forks: $15.99


(prices reflect online listing)

Regular Edition: $22.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray
Borders exclusive with medallion: $29.99 DVD
Twilight in Forks: $16.99

Toys R Us

(prices reflect online listing)

Regular Edition: $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray

(Trans World, Suncoast)


Regular Edition: $22.99 DVD, $27.99 Blu-ray
Twilight in Forks: $12.99

Fry's Electronics


Regular Edition: $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Twilight in Forks: $14.99


Regular Edition: $26.06 DVD, $27.99 Blu-ray



Regular Edition: $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Twilight in Forks: $11.99