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.
The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates
Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1960-64. The four JFK-oriented documentaries here are Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, Crisis and Faces of November. This is one of those home releases where viewers should take the mammothly rewarded time to watch all the bonus features.
Extras: In addition to still-gripping background material on how the once unlikely Kennedy presidency came to be, there’s a lot of interview footage with the filmmakers, plus outtakes.
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The Gong Show Movie (Blu-ray)
Shout! Factory, Comedy, $24.97 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Chuck Barris, Robin Altman, Jaye P. Morgan.
1980. Chuck Barris (playing himself) questions whether or not his career as a game show host has been worth the time and effort — due, in part, to all of those novelty acts who insist on auditioning for him when he’s standing at the urinal.
Extras: Includes a commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball.
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(L-R): Special 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' packaging at Best Buy, Target and Walmart
The home video debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens April 5 brought with it a flood of merchandising displays tied to the movie, as well as several retail-exclusive editions.
Target devoted two pages in its weekly ad circular to "Star Wars," including a coupon for $10 off $50 of "Star Wars" merchandise and $25 off $100 in merchandise. Target billed its version of the film as a "double exclusive," as it includes both special fold-out packaging and exclusive bonus featurettes, including an interview with film stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. The bonus features are accessible digitally through the Disney Movies Anywhere redemption code.
Best Buy had the Blu-ray in a steelbook case with Kylo Ren on the cover. This kind of matches the earlier-released individual Blu-rays of the first six films, although the design is slightly different, mostly in how the titles are presented.
Walmart offered the Blu-ray with a special slipcover with fold-out BB-8 art, plus a Star Wars Galactic Connexions trading disc.
Toys "R" Us offered a free Kylo Ren decal with the purchase of the film on DVD or Blu-ray.
Stores also set up elaborate cardboard displays for the title, with Best Buy and Walmart showing off a large BB-8 with DVD shelves. Some Targets had a large cardboard display themed around the film's characters.
Best Buy's 'Hateful Eight' steelbook
Sandwiched between the disc debuts of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, March 29 proved to be a rather slow week for new home video releases. Still Anchor Bay's The Hateful Eight was available with a couple of exclusive retail editions.
The latest Quentin Tarantino film was available at Best Buy in an exclusive steelbook edition.
Target offered the Western with collectible lenticular packaging and an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette.
Speaking of "Star Wars," Target is particularly ready for the April 5 DVD and Blu-ray arrival of The Force Awakens. Many Target stores have "Star Wars" merchandise displays set up next to the new-release section, as well as other decorations around the store, such as life-size Stormtrooper decals greeting guests at the front doors.
Best Buy's Ultra HD Blu-ray display
The official debut of Ultra HD Blu-ray didn't get much fanfare at retail, with Best Buy the only big chain really promoting the new 4K format.
Some Best Buy stores have been selling the Fox UHD BDs for a few weeks, and a store in Costa Mesa, Calif., did set up a dedicated section for the titles, which expanded on March 1 to include Warner, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate titles, all for $29.99 each. Clerks on the floor, however, weren't very helpful in guiding customers toward it. One clerk, while standing less than 10 feet from the rack containing the titles, said the store hadn't set up a display, and suggested checking the UHD display in the TV department. A clerk there wasn't aware of a display either, suggesting a few titles were distributed with the new releases (they weren't), though one of the customers there was able to say where the actual display was, nestled next to the 3D Blu-ray section in a middle aisle.
In terms of retail exclusives for the weeks' new titles, Warner's Creed came with a steelbook Blu-ray at Target, while Walmart once again offered its bizarre extras-free DVD option without bothering to stock the regular edition, even though their vanilla version is the same price with different box art. Given how few extras were actually on the disc to begin with, it's a wonder why Walmart thinks such a thing is still a worthwhile exclusive, or why the studio bothers giving it to them.
Walmart also offered a two-pack of Sony Pictures' The Night Before DVD with a double feature DVD containing The Interview and This Is the End.
Another Walmart exclusive involved a special edition of Cinedigm's God's Not Dead, containing an exclusive preview of the sequel accessible through the Vudu.com streaming service. The DVD cost $12.96.
Target offered a couple of exclusive deals with some new kidvid titles. Those who purchased Universal's Barbie: Spy Squad DVD ($9.99) or Blu-ray ($14.99), or a $17.99 doll based on the movie, could get a free Spy Squad Pet toy valued at $3.99. And, Target gave a $5 gift card with the purchase of Nickelodeon's Paw Patrol: Brave Heroes, Big Rescues DVD ($7.99) with a $9.99 Air Rescue pup toy.
I Knew Her Well
Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stefania Sandrelli, Mario Adorf, Jean-Claude Brialy.
1965. This vastly underseen Italian import, about someone without too much ammo at her disposal trying to exploit the one commodity she has (looks) to survive in a pool of male sharks, is enough of a discovery to make one wonder how many other submerged treasures there are out there from the ’60s. The 4K spiff-up is so easy on the eye that we’re again reminded of Criterion’s consistent prowess at rendering black-and-white.
Extras: There’s a good backgrounding essay by journalist/author Alexander Stille about the societal changes in ’60s Italy that led to a cinematic re-emphasis from the rural to the metropolitan; a Stefania Sandrelli interview plus her original screen test; and an interview with scholar Luca Barattoni on the career of writer/director Antonio Pietrangeli.
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Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD
Stars Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, Joel McCrea, Bonita Granville.
1936. Long cited as one of the more artful end runs around the Hollywood Production Code, this first of eight pictures in the fruitful Samuel Goldwyn-William Wyler association is an unacknowledged (at least in the credits) first screen version of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour.
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Disney's The Good Dinosaur didn't arrive at retail with the same level of excitement as previous Pixar movies, but that didn't stop some retailers from hooking it up with some exclusive content.
Target offered the Blu-ray versions of the film with an exclusive featurette and a deleted scene accessible via the Disney Movies Anywhere website.
Best Buy offered a special lenticular cover for the Blu-ray (non-3D) combo pack.
Target devoted most of its home entertainment space in its weekly ad circular to plugging preorders. Target is offering a $5 gift card with preorders of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and a $10 gift card with preorders of HBO's Game of Thrones: Season 5, at Target.com/preorder.
In another interesting move, Target used the upcoming debut of Netflix's "Fuller House" to plug the DVD of the first season of "Full House" for $9.99.
The new home video releases for Feb. 16 were dominated by a slate of docudramas and a couple of high-profile HBO comedy series, once again ceding a majority of the new-release section shelf space to Fox's Spectre. New titles include Universal's Steve Jobs, about the Apple Computer co-founder, and Trumbo, about the blackblisted Hollywood writer, and Warner's Black Mass, about mobster Whitey Bulger, and The 33, about the Chilean mining disaster.
Interestingly, Best Buy, Target and Walmart all relegated Universal's Trumbo Blu-ray to an online-only title, stocking only the DVD version on shelves.
And a Walmart in Tustin, Calif., didn't even carry the new HBO releases in stores: Girls: The Complete Fourth Season and Togetherness: The Complete First Season.
For the most part, stores touted sales of catalog titles. Best Buy offered DVDs for $3.99 each and Blu-rays for $6.99 each, with many Fox titles including coupons for discounts off movie tickets to the new hit film Deadpool. Best Buy also had TV seasons as low as $14.99 each.
There were several reports that Best Buy would start offering new Ultra HD Blu-rays from Fox on Feb. 14, but the store in Costa Mesa, Calif., didn't have any copies on display (though the chain's website does indicate a few titles available for pickup). The bulk of the first wave of UHD Blu-rays from Fox, Lionsgate and others are due March 1.
Walmart and Best Buy 'Spectre' cover variants
The latest James Bond film, Spectre, arrived at retail Feb. 9 with several options for retail exclusives of the Fox-distributed title.
Best Buy offered an exclusive steelbook Blu-ray case with the film, with a $5 savings when purchased with a previously released Bond Blu-ray steelbook.
Target offered the DVD and Blu-ray with an exclusive bonus DVD containing 20 minutes of content, including a featurette about the title sequence and a music video for the theme song. The disc also included the "Shadow of Spectre" featurette that was available in the Bond collection boxed set released last year, but updated to include the new film.
Walmart went with its usual gimmick and offered a bare-bones DVD version of Spectre with special box art, which is kind of a head-scratcher since the only extra on the regular DVD is a 10-minute bundle of video blogs, and Walmart's vanilla DVD was offered at the same price as the other stores were offering the standard DVD (or, in Target's case, a DVD with a bonus disc). At least Walmart also offered the regular DVD as well for a few dollars more.
Best Buy also had the exclusive Blu-ray version of Broad Green's critically acclaimed 99 Homes.
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
FilmRise, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
2015. I’m not sure how it came to be that Colin Hanks (son of Tom) took on Tower’s story as a screen project, but on some level it was out of love because there’s just too much wistful adoration in every frame here.
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The Wrong Man (Blu-ray)
Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle.
1956. This is a powerful fact-based movie and definitely one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s stronger achievements. It tells of how a financially strapped family man got picked up for a series of neighborhood armed robberies after trying to borrow some money on his wife’s insurance policy for her dental work.
Extras: In addition to retaining a smooth making-of short that appeared on the long-ago Man standard DVD, Warner has given the picture a new transfer with a surprising amount of grain that suits the picture’s semi-documentary style.
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Best Bey's 'Batman: Bad Blood' and 'Snow White' exclusives
At least three of the major Feb. 2 new releases were offered with retail exclusives presenting some sort of packaging variant.
Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Signature Edition Blu-ray came in special storybook packaging at Target, while Best Buy had the re-release of the animated classic with a slip-cover adorned with lenticular artwork.
Warner sent the direct-to-video animated movie Batman: Bad Blood to retailers with three configurations: a DVD, a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and a deluxe Blu-ray combo pack with a Nightwing figurine. Best Buy offered the deluxe edition with a pack-in Batman: Battle for the Cowl graphic novel. Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack with a steelbook case.
Best Buy also offered Lionsgate's The Last Witch Hunter Blu-ray in a steelbook case.
As part of its incentives for pre-orders, Best Buy offered $5 in My Best Buy membership rewards for several titles, as well as special exclusives for each. Lionsgate's The Hunger Game: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Fox's Spectre Blu-rays will come with steelbook cases; Disney's The Good Dinosaur Blu-ray will come with lenticular packaging; and Fox's The Peanuts Movie will include a Snoopy toy. The membership rewards deal also includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens.