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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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1 Dec, 2009

A Few ‘Terminator’ Surprises

(L-R): Target's and Best Buy's 'Terminator' exclusives
(L-R): Target's and Best Buy's 'Terminator' exclusives

With stores transitioning into full holiday shopping mode following Black Friday, Dec. 1 saw a sparse new-release slate topped by two major films, both sequels — Terminator: Salvation and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

With 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment offering Museum in a special Monkey Mischief DVD configuration in addition to the regular DVD and Blu-ray releases, most retailers looked to the fourth “Terminator” film as fodder for exclusives.

Target had the most notable exclusive, offering a two-DVD special edition set at $22.99, which includes the director’s cut, a few featurettes and a digital copy. Otherwise, the only way to get the director’s cut is on the wide-release Blu-ray version, which also includes the theatrical cut and several extras. The regular Terminator: Salvation DVD has the theatrical cut and no extras.

Best Buy offered a $34.99 version of the Blu-ray that comes in an exclusive Terminator endoskull case. The No. 1 consumer electronics retailer also had the Terminator: Salvation — The Machinima Series spinoff at $4.99, or free with purchase of the Terminator: Salvation video game ($19.99).

Wal-Mart didn’t have any exclusive editions, but a check of several Southern California stores revealed some pricing anomalies. A Wal-Mart in Huntington Beach had the Terminator: Salvation DVD for $14.96 and the Blu-ray for $19.96, while a store in Long Beach had the DVD for $19.96 and the Blu-ray version for $15.96.

23 Nov, 2009

How to Reboot a Franchise

Star Wars made Hollywood history when it was released in 1977, and its influence hasn’t exactly let up since then. George Lucas’ space epic has become the textbook model for how to make and market a franchise.

It’s not hard to imagine those tasked with re-launching “Star Trek” would turn to “Star Wars” for inspiration. In fact, director J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, recently released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, is practically a blow-by-blow remake of Star Wars.

Consider — you have the eager but directionless farmboy who yearns for adventure but is haunted by memories of his father. When he finally makes it into space, he has to take out an evil machine that can destroy planets. There’s even a scene with an old mentor who saves the young hero (on an ice planet, no less), gives him instructions on how to meet his destiny, and then announces they must go their separate ways.

Granted, Star Wars is dealing with motifs and themes that are common to mythological archetypes dating back hundreds of years. It wasn’t until I saw the extras on the Blu-ray when I realized just how blatant Abrams and his team were being. In the making-of featurette, there’s actually a chapter called “What Can We Learn From Star Wars?” Part of the strategy included bringing in longtime "Star Wars" sound designer Ben Burtt to do sound effects for Star Trek (Spock's future ship looks and sounds like it came right out of the "Star Wars" prequels).

And in the commentary, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman describe in detail how they wanted to copy the structure of Star Wars: Episode IV.

The results are obvious. Not only is this Trek much faster in pace than its methodical predecessors, but it also has earned the most money of any film in the franchise.

But if you really want to know how much the filmmakers had Star Wars on the mind when making the new Star Trek, then check out this Easter Egg at the 47:39 mark of the film. Pause it just when it cuts to the viewscreen and keep an eye on the space just above Sulu’s head as you advance the image frame-by-frame.

Yep, that’s R2-D2 floating through the debris. Those guys at Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic are such kidders.

It isn’t the first time Star Wars' and Star Trek’s destinies have intertwined. The success of Star Wars in 1977 motivated Paramount to abandon its attempts to revive the series and instead make an effects-heavy feature film (though Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with its endless sweeping shots of various starships, seems more tonally similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey).

In the mid-1990s, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” introduced a war storyline that seemed to borrow elements from the “Star Wars” model (including a religious element similar to The Force), albeit played out over a much longer narrative.

Lucas, for his part, seemed to take a jab at “Star Trek” in 1999’s The Phantom Menace, referring to the bad guys in the film as a Federation (the line “We may have to accept Federation control for a while” seems like a reference to the proliferation of “Trek” shows after Return of the Jedi).

“Stargate” and “Battlestar Galactica” be damned, the realm of sci-fi is certain to be dominated by these two great franchises for ages to come.

19 Nov, 2009

‘Fight Club’ BD Pranks Fans

Those watching the new Fight Club 10th anniversary Blu-ray edition might be surprised to find the disc loads the menu screen for Never Been Kissed.

It’s all part of a gag by director David Fincher, who thought it would be funny to fool fans with a fake menu of a romantic comedy released the same year as Fight Club, 1999. Never Been Kissed was his top choice, but the menu only was included with the blessing of Drew Barrymore, who starred in the film.

After a few seconds, the Never Been Kissed menu gives way to the actual menu for Fight Club, which seeks a target demographic that is a bit more macho than for Barrymore’s film.

Both films were distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

I laughed out loud when I first saw the gag, but I don't think it goes far enough. It would have been funnier if the Never Been Kissed menu stayed the menu for Fight Club, at least until you selected an option to get the real menu. Imagine the look on the faces of those saps who went to the bathroom while the disc loaded, only to return to the horror of a sweet rom-com menu, and thinking they have the wrong disc!

I guess you can only be so cruel.

17 Nov, 2009

Beaming Up ‘Star Trek’ Exclusives

Star Trek
Star Trek

“Star Trek” fans have plenty of options when it comes to picking up the new movie on disc.

For those out there willing to look past the film’s complete disrespect for previous “Star Trek” history (and judging by the Internet response, that’s most of you), several retailers are offering up exclusive versions of the movie containing collectibles you won’t want to miss.

Best Buy, which is selling the DVD at $14.99, the two-DVD deluxe edition at $22.99 and the three-disc Blu-ray at $23.99, has a Blu-ray gift set for $39.99 that also includes a set of four insignia badges.

Fans of steelbook casing (which I am not) can head over to Transworld-owned f.y.e. and Suncoast stores and pick up the deluxe DVD edition in metal packaging for $34.91.

Target offers a neat little package that has a plastic replica of the U.S.S. Enterprise that contains the discs in the saucer section. Both the two-DVD ($26.99) and Blu-ray ($29.99) configurations are available, in addition to the regular packaging assortments (DVD $15.99; two-DVD set $22.99; Blu-ray $24.99).

Amazon.com offers its own Enterprise replica, but theirs will run up the bill a bit. The online retailer has an exclusive Blu-ray boxed set containing a hand-cast pewter replica of the ship, limited to a run of 5,000 copies, which is listed at $130 but selling for $99.99.

13 Nov, 2009

Fans Speak Out, Warner Listens

Scarecrow and Mrs. King
Scarecrow and Mrs. King

Back in September, we ran a list of the top 10 TV shows not yet on DVD. The list came courtesy of our friends at TVShowsOnDVD.com.

No. 6 on that list was the 1980s spy romance “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” starring Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, “Babylon 5”) and Kate Jackson (“Charlie’s Angels”). One reason given for its lack of a DVD release: a perception by the studio that consumers weren’t interested.

Well, I can attest to the fan interest. After running that item, I personally was inundated with calls and e-mails asking for my help in getting the show on DVD.

Apparently someone at the studio listened. I'm happy to report that Warner Home Video will release Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Complete First Season March 9 (prebook Feb. 2) as a five-DVD set for $39.98.

If only the 1960s “Batman” series were that easy to get on DVD.

9 Nov, 2009

Take a Trip to ‘Planet Hulk’

<i>Planet Hulk</i>
<i>Planet Hulk</i>

The folks at Lionsgate are pretty excited over their latest direct-to-video animated movie based on Marvel Comics superhero characters. Planet Hulk hits shelves Feb. 2 (prebook Jan. 6) and comes in single-DVD ($19.98), two-DVD special edition ($24.98) and Blu-ray Disc ($29.98) configurations.

Based on a Marvel storyline from a few years ago, the plot involves the forces of Earth declaring the Incredible Hulk too dangerous and exiling the big green guy into space. He eventually crashes on the distant planet Sakaar, ruled by the tyrannical Red King. Lots of fighting ensues.

I’m more of a DC guy myself, but this looks like a pretty exciting title for comic-book fans to check out.

Extras include a digital copy, a featurette, a “Wolverine and the X-Men” episode, “Spider-Woman” and “X-Men” music videos, and “Spider-Woman” and “X-Men” motion comics.

30 Oct, 2009

Warner Discounts DC Comics Merchandise

The Warner Bros. online store, WBShop.com, is offering up to 40% savings off select branded DC Comics merchandise, including DVDs and Blu-ray Discs featuring such superheroes as Batman and Superman.

Featured items include the Watchmen DVD for $11.36 (40% off) or the Blu-ray for $18.96 (37% off), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies — Special Edition DVD for $16.30 (26% off) or Blu-ray for $19.13 (20% off), The Adventures of Aquaman animated series for $17.66 (23% off), Smallville: Season 8 for $36.27 (24% off), a "Batman" four-film set for $11.36 (40% off) and much more.

The offer expires Nov. 12 and excludes digital downloads.

Other merchandise includes costumes, watches, shirts, sweatshirts and collectibles.

19 Oct, 2009

‘Transformers’ Imax Footage Comes to Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart's Exclusive "Big Screen" Editions
Wal-Mart's Exclusive "Big Screen" Editions

Before Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hit theaters, director Michael Bay told us he hoped to include the special Imax extended scenes on the Blu-ray Disc of the film.

Turns out, fans will have to buy the movie from Wal-Mart to see the footage on disc.

Wal-Mart is offering a “Big Screen” edition of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, which apparently will offer the same bonus content as the regular retail releases, but with the Imax version of the movie instead of the wide theatrical cut. We’ll know more once the discs are on shelves tomorrow.

In other retail exclusives, Best Buy is offering the Blu-ray with an Optimus Prime head replica for $44.99 ($41.99 at midnight sales). This box also includes a $50 gift card to sideshowcollectibles.com, so for hardcore collectors, it practically pays for itself.

Target will offer the two-DVD edition in an exclusive transforming Bumblebee case.

For more details and other exclusives, check out Transformers fan site Seibertron.com.


15 Oct, 2009

Backed Into a Corner

In speaking with a well-known DVD producer the other night, I was told that the age of the DVD extra is all but over. The shame of it is that formats such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc are ideal for bonus content, which really provides added value to a movie on disc.

Wanting to cut back on producing the extras is understandable in many ways, as cash-strapped studios are hoping to improve their bottom line by cutting what they don’t see as essential expenditures. And sometimes, producing DVD extras such as behind-the-scenes documentaries and retrospectives costs a lot of money. If they don’t think the added value will translate to sales, they won’t bother. Or they don’t want to risk spending the money only to see it wasted on a rental title.

For many fans, I think, extras may be the difference between buying the movie or waiting for it on cable VOD. But instead of trumpeting the primary benefit of disc — the extra room to include good bonus material — studios seem to be bypassing this key selling point in favor of cost-cutting measures that I think ultimately might devalue their product in the long run. And this is after spending millions to get the Blu-ray format off the ground.

Without the bonus content, the studios might as well just release the movies online or through VOD. And that just opens the door for more piracy.

Then again, a lot of people I talk to don’t care about the extras. This underscores the fact that, ultimately, the primary selling point of any disc is the movie or show itself. If people don’t want to make that investment because the quality of the films isn’t as good, maybe studios need to start looking there.

7 Oct, 2009

Retailers Offer ‘Oz’ Exclusives

The rise of Warner Home Video’s The Wizard of Oz re-release to the No. 2 sales spot the week ended Oct. 4 was no doubt aided by a number of special configurations exclusive to the major retail chains.

Warner released the film Sept. 29 as a four-disc Blu-ray Ultimate Collector’s Edition in a box containing a watch, production booklet, replica artwork and the documentary MGM: When the Lion Roars at $84.99. A five-disc DVD version was offered at $69.92. Extras for both the DVD and Blu-ray UCE included commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, a new documentary on director Victor Fleming, sing-alongs, the TV movie The Dreamer of Oz and a digital copy.

A two-DVD set of the film contained the movie, commentary, sing-alongs and some behind-the-scenes material for $24.99.

Target offered a special three-disc Blu-ray set of the film at $39.99 (discounted to $34.99 its first week), containing the MGM special, but without the digital copy or the bigger UCE box, booklet, watch or other collectibles. Target had the non-UCE DVD version at $19.99.

Wal-Mart offered a single-disc Blu-ray version containing just the first disc of the UCE, consisting of the film and a few extras, for about $20. The DVD version was offered for about $17. Online the UCE was offered at $44.86 for the DVD and $51.86 for the Blu-ray.

Neither Wal-Mart nor Target offered their exclusive configurations online. Customers seeking the slimmer versions on Blu-ray had to visit the stores to get them, though copies of the Wal-Mart version were being offered on the Amazon.com user marketplace.

Best Buy offered the UCE on DVD at $49.99 and on Blu-ray at $54.99, and offered four exclusive lenticular post cards with the Blu-ray version. Best Buy had the two-DVD set for $16.99.