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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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15 Mar, 2010

New on Disc: 'Broken Embraces' and more ...


Broken Embraces

Street 3/16
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $4.7 million, $28.96 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for sexual content, language and some drug material.
Stars Penélope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Bianca Portillo.
2009.
Taken as a brief for the rarified view that cinema is life’s highest calling, here’s one of the stronger arguments, given what happens to its blinded filmmaker protagonist, for the sanctity of the “director’s cut.” Simply calling it a reasonably good time falls a tad short because the portions that Penélope Cruz dominates are pretty potent.
Extras: A Variety Q&A with Cruz, a short film by director Pedro Almodóvar, deleted scenes and some red carpet material from last fall’s New York Film Festival.
Read the Full Review

The Brothers Warner

Warner, Documentary, $19.98 DVD, NR.
2008.
To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, the business of this documentary is business, which is why the limited utilization of classic Warner Bros. scenes isn’t a problem here. This one is about blood kin. And, at least figuratively speaking, blood.
Read the Full Review

Paris

MPI, Drama, $19.98 DVD; $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and some sexual references. In French with English subtitles.
Stars Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini.
2009.
The story undeniably takes place in one of the world’s photographic cities, and the DVD had a richer sound mix than I expected (which can pull you into the action in subliminal ways). Oscar winner Juliette Binoche is merely the best-known name in a large cast, deglamorized to play a no-frills social worker and single mom whose dancer brother (Romain Duris) needs a heart transplant.
Extras: Minor making-of and background featurettes.
Read the Full Review

Building Alaska

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, Unrated
2009.
Putting politics aside, you can’t find a more apt keyword for this 87-minute documentary to have in its title than “building.” So much of it deals with primitive highways, railroads, bridges and trestles — all constructed over land that tends to buckle some due to seasonal weather change.
Read the Full Review

Gambit

Available Now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
Universal, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Herbert Lom.
1966.
Gambit was never more than agreeable fluff, but agreeable easily trumps disagreeable, right? The plot hinges on the physical resemblance of a Eurasian nightclub entertainer (Shirley MacLaine) to the dead wife of an Arab multimillionaire played by (longtime Inspector Clouseau nemesis) Herbert Lom. The Amazon print is a little grainier than I’d like, but I think this is due less to it being an on-demand DVD-R than the fact that Gambit was shot in cost-cutting Techniscope, whose inherent grain was better suited to Sergio Leone Westerns than escapist comedies. But this is still a handsome couple hours of entertainment, having earned Oscar nominations for costumes and art/set decoration and sound.
Read the Full Review
 


11 Mar, 2010

‘Drawn Together’ Movie Heading to Comic-Con


Not that Comic-Con.

Paramount Home Entertainment and Comedy Central will screen The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! during the Anaheim Comic-Con Saturday, April 17, at 7 p.m. The movie hits DVD a few days later, on April 20.

The screening will be followed by a panel with creators Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser.

Anaheim Comic-Con runs from April 16-18 and is organized by Wizard Entertainment as part of its Wizard World series of conventions held throughout the year across the country.

With the big show, San Diego Comic-Con International, quickly outgrowing its current venue, the San Diego Convention Center, speculation has run rampant over where the show will be held after its contract ends in 2012. Several cities have thrown their hat into the ring, such as Las Vegas. San Diego could expand its convention center and maintain its hosting duties. Anaheim with its convention center has made a play as well, and attracting top talent with fanboy-type programs such as movie screenings are a positive step in showing it can handle higher-profile events.

The Drawn Together Movie is a continuation of the raunchy animated series that lasted three seasons from 2004-07, and featured parodies of cartoon stereotypes in a reality-show setting.

Extras on the DVD include commentary, deleted scenes, “Drawn Together” minisodes and the featurettes “Drawn Together: True Confessionals,” “Drawn Together: The Legacy,” “Anatomy of an Animated Sex Scene,” “Re-Animating Drawn Together: From the Small Screen to the Slightly Bigger Screen” and “D.I.Y. 3D Glasses.”

Additionally, the movie will be available April 20 in HD and standard-def on download-to-own platforms such as iTunes, Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune, Sony PlayStation Store and Amazon Video on Demand.
 


10 Mar, 2010

Trailer Wars: 'Iron Man 2' vs. 'Tron Legacy'

This past week, fanboys were treated to not one, but two new trailers for some highly anticipated blockbusters due in cinemas this year.

First up, after the Oscars, came the Iron Man 2 trailer:

 

It looks awesome and oh-so-cool, especially seeing Tony Stark deploying the new Mark V suitcase armor. The movie hits theaters May 7.

Also out this week is the new Tron Legacy trailer:

 

Looks like a slick CGI re-imagining of the computer world created in the original Tron from 1982. I don't know if it can be as groundbreaking as the first one but it still looks like a fun ride with a hefty heap of nostalgia. Tron Legacy hits theaters Dec. 17.


9 Mar, 2010

Terry Gilliam Talks 'Imaginarium,' 3D

Terry Gilliam on the set
Terry Gilliam on the set

Genre: Fantasy
Studio: Sony Pictures
Street date: 4/27
Prebook date: 3/25
Price/Format: $28.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray

Reserve on Netflix
Reserve for purchase (DVD or Blu-ray)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a delirious dream ride, with Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys) at the helm. Gilliam spoke with me and other journalists about, among other things, where he comes up with his ideas ("little elves," he says), how he brings them to life without a mammoth budget and what he thinks about 3D.

“I don’t think technology changes or saves anything,” Gilliam said. “3D is interesting, but you’re going to need more money to make a film. And if you need more money to make your film, you’re going to be limiting what you can say and do because that’s just the way it works. The more money, the more you’re constricted in what you say. You’re not out there to disturb people when you’re playing with $200 million dollars, you’re there to reassure them, stroke them, ‘ahhh, come back to my world, it’s going to be like you’ve seen before.’”

Take that, Avatar!

Read the whole story here.

 

 

By: Billy Gil


9 Mar, 2010

Busy Post-Oscar Week at Stores

Wal-Mart's <i>Planet 51</i> with lunch bag
Wal-Mart's <i>Planet 51</i> with lunch bag

With awards season behind us, the bulk of the contenders not yet on disc are finally making their way into stores. March 9 saw the release of two six-time Oscar nominees: Precious (which won two Oscars) and Up in the Air (which was shut out).

Barnes & Noble was among the few retailers setting up an Oscar display, even using its Web site, BN.com, to list the winners, and offer a link to buy those that were on disc.

Most retailers weren’t keen on offering exclusives with the bigger new releases. Of the theatricals new to disc, only Planet 51 generated any action, with Wal-Mart offering the DVD packed with a lunch bag emblazoned with the movie’s logo.

As far as exclusives go, retailers took more interest in Universal’s new Barbie in A Mermaid Tale DVD. Wal-Mart offered the direct-to-video movie with a charm necklace, while Target offered a Barbie beach doll with purchase of the DVD. Target also took the opportunity to promote a $14.99 Barbie mermaid doll.

Wal-Mart also offered Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s new Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day DVD in a steelbook case with an exclusive bonus disc.

Among other interesting displays, Best Buy offered previous “South Park” seasons on DVD at $18.99 apiece, in advance of the March 16 release of the 13th season on disc.

A Barnes & Noble in Costa Mesa, Calif., had a display cross-promoting DC Comics movies and comic books.


8 Mar, 2010

New on disc: 'Up in the Air,' 'Precious' and more …


Up in the Air

Street 3/9
Paramount, Drama, B.O. $82.1 million, $19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and some sexual content.
Stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman.
2009.
An instant milestone in the career of George Clooney dealing with the recently laid-off economic underclass, Jason Reitman’s adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel is topical to eerie extremes — yet also funny at times and always psychologically deft.
Extras: Commentary, a featurette, a music video, and deleted scenes that deliver more entertainment than most major studio releases from last year.
Read the Full Review

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Street 3/9
Lionsgate, Drama, B.O. $47.1 million, $29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.
Stars Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz.
2009.
Despite the inevitable high-test squalor of any story about a 450-pound Harlem teenager being twice impregnated by her own father and left HIV-positive, director Lee Daniels takes some chances with fantasy sequences, occasionally even eliciting an intended chuckle or two. Somehow, it all works and even becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Extras: Commentary with Daniels, Gabourey Sidibe’s audition, a deleted scene and several featurettes full of the usual back-patting, which, in this case, seems earned.
Read the Full Review

Capitalism: A Love Story

Street 3/9
Anchor Bay, Documentary, B.O. $14.4 million, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some language.
2009.
The swath cut here is wide, even for Michael Moore, and when he’s denouncing capitalism wholesale, one senses that the subject is likely beyond the scope of the kind of movies he usually makes.
Extras: As per usual for a Moore documentary, the DVD and Blu-ray versions come with a lot of extra featurettes.
Read the Full Review

We Live in Public

IndiePix, Documentary, B.O. $0.04 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2009.
Though his accomplishments never matched his own inflated view of them, Internet pioneer Josh Harris’ warped mindset can’t be totally discounted, which is what gives this hard-to-shake yarn its tension.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes backgrounders, with director Ondi Timoner relating her own interesting story.
Read the Full Review

The List of Adrian Messenger

Available Now via Amazon.com CreateSpace
Universal, Mystery, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars George C. Scott, Kirk Douglas, Dana Wynter.
1963.
Sprinkled throughout John Huston’s mystery movie are brief appearances by well-known actors with faces buried under mounds of makeup (starting with Kirk Douglas), and at least part of the mystery has to do with our guessing who they are.
Read the Full Review

 


5 Mar, 2010

‘Up in the Air’ Should Win Best Picture


The greatest works of literature tend to have an indelible quality rooted in their ability to present a multifaceted story that both entertains and enlightens. Such classics are bound to mean different things to different people, who interpret them as they see fit.

Which brings me to Up in the Air, my favorite movie of 2009. (It takes this position over Inglourious Basterds and The Hangover, two films that had been perched near the top spot for a while.) Jason Reitman’s third directorial outing is easily his best. And when your first two films are as good as Thank You for Smoking and Juno, topping them is no easy feat.

The setup is simple enough. Professional journeyman Ryan Bingham (George Clooney in a classic leading-man performance) is the corporate hatchet man whose company hires him out to downsizing businesses that lack the temerity to fire their own employees. He relishes his time on the road, but his free ride is threatened by up-and-comer Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who proposes using Internet chat services to fire client employees from afar, thus creating huge savings on the travel budget.

As a mosaic of the travel industry, the only other film I would think comes close to capturing the isolation of living in a state of perpetual motion is Fight Club, which of course only touches on those themes before veering in a radically different direction. (One of Up in the Air's deleted scenes echoes Fight Club's theory of the single-serving friend, met on a flight and then forgotten, so I'm glad it didn't make the final cut, lest it invite the inevitable comparisons to the earlier effort.)

Since Ryan is not grounded, he has nothing to hold on to. His only goal seems to be accumulating enough miles on his travel account to earn a mythical elite status, but can such a journey sustain him without anyone to share in it?

To show Natalie the ropes of their industry, she is paired with Ryan for one last road trip. Along the way, Ryan encounters Alex (Vera Farmiga), another wayward traveler who appears to be a female version of himself.

The arrangement gives Ryan a chance to learn how to care for others, and Natalie a chance to learn about life. After all, life is better with someone to share the experience, right?

Ryan seems more comfortable in the artificial hospitality created by the travel industry to put its customers at ease, which probably forms the core of his personality, letting him remain charming and persuasive as he’s tearing people from their livelihood without a second thought.

In one discussion I had about this film, I suggested that Ryan was a metaphor for the Grim Reaper, given a chance at life only to be forced to understand his own tragic role in the cosmic ballet. The comparison was met with some skepticism, but consider this pitch Ryan makes when describing the essence of his job to Natalie:

“We are here to make limbo tolerable. To ferry wounded souls across the river of dread and to a point where hope is dimly visible. And then we stop the boat, shove them in the water and make them swim.”

Up in the Air is as much about the idea of its characters as it is a story of their lives. The film lets viewers project their own traits onto whichever parts of the film with which they most identify, raising questions but never providing the hard answers. Like great literature, Up in the Air has so many layers you can watch it multiple times and achieve a different experience with each viewing that is just as fulfilling as the last.

Is it a movie about people on the road? Is it a tragedy about a lost soul or a positive message about embracing who you are? Is it about Ryan and his slow emergence from a self-imposed banishment from the real world? Do you follow Natalie as she comes to the realization that life is more than theories and routines? Is it a treatise on the nature of feminism in the career cycle? Is it a buddy movie in which Ryan and Natalie can learn from each other about the holes in their lives? Is it an examination of the role our careers and families play in defining us? Is it an expression of the importance loved ones play in filling the voids of life's shortcomings? Is it the story of harsh economic realities and the people who nonetheless can take advantage of the system? Is it about a quest that is ultimately meaningless? Is it a warning about the dangers of fantasy escapism? Or do you see it as a parable about a world that has ironically grown more isolated despite the technological innovations that should keep us more connected?

Up in the Air is all these things and more, tightly wrapped in a tidy package at under two hours. So many moving parts, yet under Reitman’s skilled guidance they all manage to come together perfectly. At a time when far too many films try to be about a state of being and forget to tell a story, it’s refreshing to see a movie such as Up in the Air that reminds us it’s possible to do both. While individual scenes may lack the bravura of sequences from Inglourious Basterds or The Hurt Locker, the totality of purpose that Reitman has carved from Walter Kirn's original novel delivers more than enough substance to compensate.

Even the extras on the DVD and Blu-ray add something to the equation. The deleted scenes are so good they play like short films based on the movie, adding character depth and additional meaning. (To see all the deleted scenes you have to get the Blu-ray version. The DVD has only about half of them.)

Up in the Air hits DVD and Blu-ray Disc March 9 from Paramount Home Entertainment. Be sure to check it out.

 


4 Mar, 2010

HBO Brings the Blu With a Side of ‘Seinfeld’


HBO Home Entertainment is bringing three of the cabler’s comedies to home video in June.

Due June 8 (order date May 4) is a two-DVD set for Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season ($39.98). This is the season in which Larry David orchestrates a reunion of the “Seinfeld” cast to make a special episode 10 years after the show ended. The season-long arc is a great nod to the fourth wall and a clever way around the usual criticisms and pitfalls of a sitcom reunion show. We get all the fun of a “Seinfeld” reunion without any of the overhyped expectations. And it all leads to perhaps the most surreal moment in “Seinfeld” lore, in which David (playing the show’s fictionalized version of himself) actually tries to play George, the character that was based on him and played by Jason Alexander.

June 22 (order date May 18) comes Hung: The Complete First Season and Entourage: The Complete Sixth Season on both DVD ($39.98 each) and Blu-ray Disc ($49.99 each).

The two-disc “Hung” sets include commentary and a featurette. The show stars Thomas Jane as a well-endowed high-school teacher who moonlights as a gigolo.

The three-disc “Entourage” sets include commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. The Blu-ray release represents a first for the series.
 


3 Mar, 2010

Top 5 Best-Picture Oscar Snubs


While an Oscar can be a valuable marketing tool for a winning film, sometimes movie fans are left scratching their heads over which films the Academy chooses to honor as best picture. Here are some examples of the Academy losing sight of its sensibilities.

1.    Citizen Kane

Warner
1941. Rumor has it media mogul William Randolph Hearst cost Kane best picture in favor of How Green Was My Valley. It is now widely considered the greatest film ever made

2.    Network

Warner
1976. This satirical look at media corruption gone wild took best actor, best actress, best supporting actress and best screenplay, but somehow lost to Rocky for best picture and best director.

3.    Apollo 13

Universal
1995. The Academy recognized Ron Howard’s achievement in winning the Directors Guild Award by not even nominating him for best director. Adding insult to injury, the film not only lost best picture to Braveheart, but best visual effects to the talking pig movie Babe!

4.    Star Wars

Fox
1977. George Lucas’ space opera fundamentally changed the film industry, but Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was more in league with the tastes of Academy voters. The debate rages on.

5.    The Dark Knight

Warner
2008. After earning accolades from critics and audiences alike, the Academy didn’t even bother to nominate it for best picture. The ensuing backlash prompted the academy to expand the nominee field to 10.
 

Other Great Films That Didn't Win Best Picture:

Apocalypse Now (Paramount) 1979
Boogie Nights (Warner) 1997
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Fox) 1969
Fargo (MGM) 1996
Goodfellas (Warner) 1990
The Insider (Disney) 1999
L.A. Confidential (Warner) 1997
Pulp Fiction (Miramax) 1994
Raiders of the Lost Ark
(Paramount) 1981
The Right Stuff (Warner) 1983
Saving Private Ryan (DreamWorks) 1998
Traffic (Universal) 2000

 


2 Mar, 2010

Go Online for ‘Ponyo’ Plush

<i>Ponyo</i> with plush, available online
<i>Ponyo</i> with plush, available online

Shoppers looking to buy Ponyo, the latest Hayao Miyazaki animated film, could get either a two-DVD special edition or a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores. But online presented a third purchasing option: a copy of the DVD with a plush toy of the Ponyo character.

The special package is offered at just a few dollars more than the standalone DVD but is not necessarily cheaper than the Blu-ray. The only catch is that shipping may take longer from some of the brick-and-mortar sites.

The new-release week of March 2 was otherwise quiet for in-store exclusives, with the exception of several promotions concerning the disaster flick 2012.

Wal-Mart offered copies of the 2012 DVD packed with The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition.

Target had copies of the 2012 deluxe Blu-ray edition with a copy of the Discovery Channel documentary 2012 Apocalypse. The set was labeled as a “Special Edition 3 Disc Blu-ray” to distinguish it from the widespread two-disc Blu-ray deluxe edition.

A check of the Barnes and Noble Web site (BN.com) revealed an interesting sales pattern for 2012, with the two-disc Blu-ray actually offered for a couple dollars cheaper than the single-disc Blu-ray. The site listed the single-disc version as a low-in-stock item, in line with the bookseller chain’s reputation for favoring the type of premium product the two-disc Blu-ray version would be considered.

Staying on the Blu-ray front, Best Buy is taking preorders for the April 6 “Lord of the Rings” trilogy Blu-ray by offering a free steelbook case in exchange for a $5 deposit. The deal also includes a $50 Sideshow Collectibles coupon code.

Best Buy also had a display to clear out $9.99 Blu-ray catalog titles such as A Few Good Men, Donnie Brasco and Into the Blue.

The Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., also unveiled its new Magnolia Design Center Feb. 26, filled with premium home entertainment options such as a 103-inch Panasonic HDTV, projection screen home theaters, patio displays and even the option to convert a home to solar power.