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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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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.
 


6 Oct, 2009

Taking Advantage of the 'G.I. Joe' Movie


DVD releases of two “G.I. Joe” animated properties are being timed for retail release around the same time the live-action movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra heads to DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Paramount Home Entertainment Nov. 3 releases G.I. Joe: Resolute, the same day as Rise of Cobra. Resolute is a harder-edged version of the 1980s cartoon, featuring many of the same characters. It was designed as a series of animated Web shorts that later were shown on Adult Swim. The $19.99 DVD includes all the webisodes edited into a movie, plus a “Now You Know” teaser promo, interviews with filmmakers, storyboards and “Joe Files.”

Nov. 10, Shout! Factory releases to retail its G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero — The Complete Series at $179.99. The set previously was available exclusively online through Shout! Factory’s Web site. The awesome 17-DVD set includes all 95 episodes from the original 1980s cartoon, plus original PSAs, toy commercials and several retrospectives. The set does not include the animated movie from 1987, but does include an empty DVD tray that can hold the out-of-print Rhino release of the movie, or a future version that may be released by Shout! Factory.

Shout! Factory has already released the first of three volumes of the first season of the 1980s "G.I. Joe" cartoon, as well as a single-DVD version of just the pilot miniseries.

Oct. 20, Shout! Factory releases its "Transformers" animated series boxed set to retail, the same day the live-action movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen hits DVD and Blu-ray Disc.


28 Sep, 2009

Fans Demand ‘Scarecrow and Mrs. King’ DVD

Last week we ran a list of the top 10 TV shows not yet on DVD, which I got from our friends at TVShowsOnDVD.com. No. 6 on the list was “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.”

The 1983-87 series starred Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson as a spy and a housewife who fall in love and embark on fantastic adventures (forgive me if my summary is at all imprecise).

The article included a quote from the founder of that site, Gord Lacey, who cited a “perceived lack of interest” as one reason the show is not yet on DVD.

Well, since the story hit our Web site last Friday, I have been deluged with e-mails from fans of the show looking to counter the notion that there is no interest in a DVD release.

First, I’d like to thank readers of scarecrowandmrskingforum.yuku.com for their impassioned responses. Second, I’d like to assure everyone that Lacey was not saying there isn’t a fan base for the show. Clearly there is, judging by all the e-mails I received, the comments posted below the original story, and the fact that it was on the list to begin with.

No, I think the point is that there is clearly a fan interest, but that the studio, in this case Warner Home Video, might not understand the level of interest. Lacey told me he once saw Boxleitner at Comic-Con pleading with a Warner executive to release the show. If Tron can’t get it done, there must be some other rights issue or musical hold-up.

Still, I think the fans can rest assured that their message has been received, and perhaps Warner or a third-party licensee will get the issues worked out and finally put this series on DVD. My inbox can’t handle anything less.
 


25 Sep, 2009

Let Michael Bay Sign Your ‘Transformers’ Discs


“Transformers” fans looking to up their obsession to the next level have a chance to get autographed Blu-ray copies of the first two films.

Director Michael Bay announced through his blog (www.michaelbay.com/newsblog/newsblog.html) that fans can order the set of Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen autographed by Bay and star Tyrese Gibson.

The sets cost $105 each, or $110 for international orders, with proceeds benefiting the Make a Wish Foundation.

Orders are being taken at Bay’s site through Oct. 16. The site informs buyers to expect shipment two to three weeks after the Oct. 20 street date of ROTF, and that those who already ordered the Blu-ray from the site will be given a chance to upgrade to the autographed version.
 


23 Sep, 2009

Emmy Analysis, Kanye Style

For a moment I thought the Emmy broadcast was just a rerun of last year, what with all the top awards going to the same people and shows. I’m sure all the winners were more or less deserving.

But I thought I would point out some alternate choices, which I have dubbed my “Kanye” Emmys — awarded based on personal preference, gut reaction and without regard for the selection process.

Check them out on DVD (and check out the actual winners, too).

Best Comedy: Yo, “30 Rock” is a funny show, but “The Big Bang Theory” is a hilarious nerd fest week in and week out. Not even nominated? Get on that, Emmy people.

Best Drama: I’ll let “Mad Men” keep racking up the awards, but “Battlestar Galactica” is one of the best sci-fi shows I’ve ever seen.

Best Actor, Drama: No offense to Bryan Cranston, but Hugh Laurie (“House”) plays one of the best characters of all time.

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy: Sorry Jon Cryer, I loved you in Superman IV, but Kevin Dillon as Johnny Drama on “Entourage” is awesome.

Best Web-based programming: Just so you know, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is one of the most innovative uses of other media ever. Wait, Dr. Horrible actually won this category? Oh yeah. Joss Whedon now has an Emmy. Justice is served.



 


17 Sep, 2009

Leno, Late Night and the DVR Future

As Jerry Seinfeld noted on the Monday debut of “The Jay Leno Show,” Leno and Conan O’Brien had their goodbye shows and now are back. O’Brien of course moved from “Late Night” to take over “The Tonight Show” from Leno, who moved to 10 p.m. weekdays.

Seinfeld quipped that when he left his show, he didn’t come back a few months later doing the same thing. (The timing of his statement is somewhat ironic considering the upcoming “Seinfeld” reunion on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)

The gag, of course, is funny in the context of the traditional TV model, where many pundits are watching with anticipation to see how a late-night talk show performs in primetime.

From the perspective of my DVR, I have to ask: Why does it matter?

If I’m time-shifting the programs, it doesn’t matter when they are supposed to be on, and thus it doesn’t matter if someone left one show to take over another. Basically, just the titles are different.

A year ago, I could watch Leno, then I could watch Conan. I can still do that. DVR just removes the usual expectations of when the shows air. So Leno is on at 10. If I’m watching it at 6:30 p.m. the next day, it still seems like his old show.

Conan’s “Tonight Show” isn’t too different in tone from his “Late Night,” but I’ve got to say, as a long-time fan, something seems off, as if Conan is trying to hard to be a bit more epic to match his new time slot. It’s almost like the stage is too big for his brand of comedy, which feels like it would be more at home in a more intimate club-like atmosphere, which his old show seemed to provide.

But these are the necessities of old-school network politics, which focused on time-slots and competition for ad-revenue. As DVR, and eventually VOD, becomes more prevalent in the home, these concerns will go away. Someone like Conan wouldn’t have to worry about time slots or ratings drops. Talented people would just have their own channels. We’re already seeing on Hulu and YouTube how comedy shows are being broken down into their particular segments for easy Web distribution.

Will DVR and VOD mean the end of the comedy/variety show as we know it? Probably not completely. But it will put more emphasis on who is doing the performing, not when and where.
 


14 Sep, 2009

DVD, Blu-ray and the Vanishing Extra


Once upon a time, with DVD was shiny and new, the prospect of bonus features was more than enough incentive to pick up a title, especially one a potential buyer might already have owned on VHS.

The extras weren’t too fancy back then. The basics included a commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. A lot of discs had little text-based biographies about the cast, and some even used these text screens to describe the making of the movie.

Back then, listening to the filmmakers dish on their movie was a fun add-on, and for a lot of people provided not only new insight into the world of filmmaking but inspiration to want to be a filmmaker.

Commentaries had been included on Laserdiscs, of course, but who really bought those? No, DVD made the concept of bonus features widespread, and, eventually, kinda tiresome.

Nowadays commentaries are routine, behind-the-scenes extras are usually done on the cheap and deleted scenes are expected, if not already incorporated into a longer “director’s cut” or whatever.

When people started growing apathetic toward extras a few years ago, studios began separating the value-add. With a lot of films, consumers could choose between a bare-bones movie-only disc or a single-DVD version with just a few extras, or they could get a two-disc set that had even more extras on it. Batman Begins comes to mind. The idea made sense from a business perspective. Just take the movie disc, throw it in a package with more features and call it a “Limited Edition” for $5 more. Collectors would go for that.

Now with Blu-ray, we are seeing the same kind of strategy. A number of current titles, such as Observe and Report, are being put out as movie-only single-DVD versions or on Blu-ray with a ton of extras. Again, this seems to make sense, as the collectors who are interested in bonus material have probably upgraded their systems to Blu-ray. And those that haven’t upgraded, well, the obsessive personality type that drives one to want so many extra features (most of which probably aren’t watched anyway) will nag at them to get that Blu-ray player.

It also fits with the combo-disc concept. You can get a DVD with just the movie and the Blu-ray with the movie and all the extras when you want to watch those.

Personally, I think every disc should have some kind of option for the viewer to glean some insights from the filmmaker, be it through a commentary or featurette. Even BD Live could be useful in this area.

I lament what seems like the loss of good DVD extras in lieu of making them exclusive to Blu-ray. But if Blu-ray is the future of packaged media, studios had better figure out how to get consumers to adopt it, and saving the extras for BD makes sense for now.

Unfortunately, if widespread apathy toward extras keeps up, and studios don’t want to invest in them, it won’t matter which disc they’re on.
 


10 Sep, 2009

The Salvation of a ‘Terminator’ Flick


So, Warner Home Video is releasing an ‘R’-rated director’s cut of Terminator: Salvation on Blu-ray Dec. 1. The ‘PG-13’ version released in theaters didn’t exactly get the warmest of reception from fans, but maybe on disc the fourth installment of the franchise will find its second wind.

I thought the film did a decent job of depicting the post-apocalyptic world of the Skynet war, only hinted at in the previous films. And the film isn’t lacking for action, even if the story takes a beating for it.

It’s too early to guess what’s in the extended cut, but the MPAA blurb cites “some violence and brief nudity” as reasons for the ‘R’ rating. This probably means actress Moon Bloodgood’s much ballyhooed nude scene has been reinserted into the movie.

I’d also be curious to see what remains of the rumored original intended (and ill-conceived) ending, in which John Connor is killed and replaced by a Terminator altered to resemble him. While that would qualify as reinventing the franchise, I don’t think audiences would have accepted that much of a change to the storyline. As it was, the ending we got was pretty weak, but serviceable.
 


8 Sep, 2009

Award-Winning ‘Sopranos’ Set Gets New Look


HBO Home Entertainment is doing everything it can to keep “The Sopranos” fresh in people’s minds. And why not? It was one of the cable network’s most successful shows.

The limited-edition complete-series boxed set just earned the title of the DVD Critics Awards’ top DVD of the year, as well as best multidisc collection.

Nov. 17 (order date Oct. 13), HBO is releasing a slimmer version of the complete-series DVD set at $299.95. The new packaging seems to have more economical accordion sleeves as opposed to the bulky coffee-table style of the collector’s edition. Personally I think the collector’s edition is a bit more elegant, but at $100 less, the new configuration should help the show find its way into many more homes.

HBO also is putting the first season of the show on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 24 (order date Oct. 20) at $69.98. Since some of the later seasons are already on DVD, the studio is getting around to completing the set. At this rate, don’t be surprised to see a complete-series Blu-ray set by next Christmas.


1 Sep, 2009

When Marvel Meets the Mouse

Disney Spidey
Disney Spidey

So, what can we expect from Disney’s buyout of Marvel Entertainment? Probably nothing too earth-shattering. The deal should help Disney target the young male demographic, but Marvel’s prior agreements with other studios aren’t going to net Disney many film rights to the characters for a few years.

Still, the merger is fertile soil for imaginative ideas:

• Pixar presents The Incredibles vs. The Fantastic Four — After all, The Incredibles are basically a thinly veiled copy of Marvel’s super foursome.

• Darkwing Duck joins the Avengers

• Scrooge McDuck attempts a hostile takeover of Stark Industries, gives the Iron Man suit to Launchpad McQuack. Hilarity ensues.

• Galactus devours It's a Small World — hundreds of randy teens take their make-out sessions to Pirates of the Caribbean instead.

• Doctor Doom takes over Sleeping Beauty’s castle, adds missiles.

• Namor the Sub-Mariner proposes marriage to The Little Mermaid, learns she has a thing for Aquaman.

• Captain America hosts a new DVD of Disney's World War II propaganda films — just because it’s the patriotic duty of all steroid-enabled American superheroes (I’m sorry. Cap isn’t on steroids. It’s “super soldier serum.” My bad.).

• Remy LeBeau (Gambit from the X-Men) opens a Poker House in New Orleans Square

• Spider-Man starts dancing down Main Street during the parade

• ESPN Friday Night Boxing: Donald Duck vs. Howard the Duck — Why not aim high?