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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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16 Sep, 2014

'Godzilla' Smashes Into Stores


Warner's disc release of the new Godzilla remake burst onto retail Sept. 16 with promotional exclusives at most of the major retailers.

Best Buy offered the Godzilla Blu-ray for $19.99, or $9.99 with the purchase of a TV title $14.99 or up. Best Buy also offered the prequel graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening for $2.99 with the purchase of the film.

Walmart offered a special single-disc Godzilla DVD, as opposed to the two-DVD special edition DVD available everywhere else. The $14.96 Walmart DVD offered only a couple of the bonus featurettes from the array of extras found on the other disc versions.

Target presented the Godzilla Blu-ray with the exclusive 30-minute featurette Godzilla: Rebirth of an Icon.

Target also had exclusive content with Fox's Sleepy Hollow: Season One, as well as a digibook of artwork based on the show.

In addition, Target offered a free mini doll with the purchase of Universal's Barbie and the Secret Door. For Fox's The Fault in Our Stars, Fox offered a $5 savings with the purcase of the film with its CD soundtrack or the original book.

Other extras at Walmart included the exclusive titles The Perfect Wave on DVD ($12.96) or Blu-ray ($17.96) from Anchor Bay, and Lionsgate's animated Jungle Master ($12.96). For The Fault in Our Stars, Walmart offered two bonus song downloads, and for Sony Pictures' Think Like a Man Too, Walmart offered the DVD packed wih the first film for $19.96. In addition, Walmart offered the Barbie and the Secret Door DVD packed wih a Sing-along With Barbie DVD ($14.96). Walmart also had a $14.96 two-pack of Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave — The Movie available through Vudu with the five-episode Thomas & Friends: Engines to the Rescue DVD.


15 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Casting By' and more …


Casting By

Street 9/16
First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.02 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2013.
This irresistible documentary primarily concerned with the late Marion Dougherty includes anecdotes by several big names, be they other casting directors, former production chiefs, directors and all kinds of actors.
Read the Full Review

Juggernaut

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, Anthony Hopkins.
1974.
This suspense thriller, an atypical genre for director Richard Lester, breathes noteworthy life into an old formula.     
Read the Full Review
 


14 Sep, 2014

Good News About Great TV


There’s a scene in the classic film All About Eve in which Marilyn Monroe, playing a young actress who’s just flubbed a Broadway audition, is advised by her mentor to try television, implying that the talent threshold for the small screen is much lower. That joke doesn’t pack as much of a punch in the current entertainment environment. It’s been widely acknowledged that the quality of TV content is often on par with, or superior to, feature films. Episodic TV is attracting top talent that used to be seen exclusively at the movies.

Many factors have created the new rise of TV, not the least of which is binge watching that began with TV DVD and continues on such streaming services as Netflix. The bad news for the home entertainment business is that consumers who watch episodic TV on Netflix aren’t buying as many movies on disc and funneling money into the sellthrough business, which is more lucrative for the studios. But the good news, I think, is that many of the new episodic series feature continuing storylines and play almost as if they are extended, gripping feature films as analyst Richard Greenfield has pointed out — and that makes them highly collectible.

While home entertainment executives at the studios may be bemoaning a poor summer box office, the bright spot is the enormous amount of collectible quality content coming from the small screen. The fact that The Wizard of Oz or the “Star Wars” films pop up on TV on a regular basis does not hurt their collectibility, and I don’t think that streaming on Netflix does as much damage to the sale of truly collectible TV content as we think. Fans of “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” want to collect those series, and that makes them a vital addition to the sellthrough business. When the hot series of the moment cycles off of Netflix or Amazon Prime to make way for newer content, fans will want to own their favorite series either digitally or on disc in the highest possible quality.


11 Sep, 2014

The Five Forms of 'Defenders' Rallying Behind Disc


I’ll call them the disc defenders.

Lately, I’ve been running into people who are talking up the benefits of physical media — Blu-ray Disc as well as DVD — to anyone who will listen, often citing their own disappointing experiences with digital delivery.

And the more I listen, the easier it is to categorize these disc defenders into groups — groups that appear solidly committed to discs for some very valid and logical reasons.

The first group is made up of diehard Blu-ray Disc fans. They never cut back on buying discs, and they’re the ones most likely to ultimately replace the bulk of their DVD libraries with high-definition discs, even if half those old DVDs are still shrink-wrapped. They are driven chiefly by the quality of the picture and sound and more than likely have invested big bucks in elaborate home theater systems that really show off what high-definition discs are capable of. Despite advances in digital technology, they say, the fact remains that for the optimum high-definition viewing experience nothing can match Blu-ray Disc.

The second group is the gift-buying market. They love to give — and receive, for that matter — movies as gifts, which they later trade among family and friends. They’re the ones at Best Buy or Walmart or Target on Black Friday with a shopping cart full of discs; they use the cheap ones as stocking stuffers and the heavily discounted movie collections, new releases or TV series as gifts. Giving someone a digital download, often through an email notification, simply isn’t the same as giving someone a neatly gift-wrapped box with a movie or two inside, they say.

The third group is the collector. Yes, even though everything’s now on the Web or in the cloud, these people still like to collect physical things. They have their photos printed out and put into albums; they still have a rack of CDs in the family room, by the stereo; some of the rooms in their houses, by God, even have bookshelves filled with books with actual paper pages. And while I can’t swear to it, I’ve heard some members of this group also collect Franklin Mint plates.

The fourth group is the shell-shocked downloaders who due to a hard drive failure have lost their entire music or movie collection, generally back in the days before everything could be backed up into the cloud. They’ve never gotten over their loss, and they’re not about to be burned again.

The fifth and last group is what I’ll call the disenfranchised Netflixer. Like so many of us, they jumped at joining Netflix for subscription streaming. But after a while, the novelty wore off. Maybe it was the lack of current product — you can only watch so many ‘B’ movies from 2005 or long-canceled TV series. Maybe it was the incessant buffering problems. But whatever the case, the honeymoon’s over and the old Blu-ray player’s being fired up, once again.

The disc is dead. Long live the disc!


9 Sep, 2014

Target Ticket Misfires on 'Captain America' Bonus


I understand the appeal for content producers and retailers to offer bonus materials digitally. It saves on disc space and production costs. But Target seems to have a headache to deal with regarding the decision to offer an exclusive Captain America: The Winter Soldier behind-the-scenes featurette through its Target Ticket digital streaming service.

The “Behind the Lens” featurette is touted on a sticker on the cover of the 3D Blu-ray for the film at Target. The packaging is otherwise identical to the wide-release version. This separates Target from Walmart’s and Best Buy’s offerings on the title, which didn’t include bonus content but instead offered the 3D version in exclusive packaging.

Target’s version is also $19.99, far and away the best value among the major retailers for the 3D edition, so I decided it was worth picking up a copy to check out the exclusive.

I should mention that before I bought the title, it wasn’t quite clear the exclusive was only available digitally, since it’s not uncommon, especially on Marvel titles, to include an exclusive bonus disc.

There wasn’t a bonus disc on this one, so the first warning sign should have been that the inserts containing the code didn’t contain any special instructions specifically for the Target content. The only hint of what to do was on the cover sticker, which stated “Download your digital copy at targetticket.com/redeem.” This is easy enough for regular Target shoppers to overlook since many of the discs in their electronics section contain stickers with similar messaging, simply trying to push shoppers to use its digital service as opposed to Walmart’s Vudu or Best Buy’s CinemaNow to redeem UltraViolet copies. Being a Disney title, Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn’t offered via UltraViolet, but via the Disney Movies Anywhere app and participating retailers.

The URL on the sticker just redirects to the regular Target.com retail site, so no help there.

At TargetTicket.com, a title search brings up two versions of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with one labeled as offering the exclusive content, available as a standalone digital purchase (at $14.99 for standard-def or $19.99 for HD). Unfortunately, this one doesn’t offer a button to redeem the code. After hitting the “Redeem a Code” button on the main page, then selecting the option to redeem a Disney code, the site asks to search for the title, and doing so came up with one version of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I entered the code, and the movie appeared in my TargetTicket library without the extras promised on the box.

After searching through the site for other options and finding none, I clicked on the link to contact customer support and called their hotline. The customer service rep said that the exclusive version should have popped up after I hit the redeem button and searched for the title, and that her computer showed four versions of the movie (maybe she was looking at the disc versions on the regular site — but the exclusive disc isn’t offered there anymore). After saying that only one version showed up on my computer, she seemed confused about the possibility of a technical snafu, but said that since I had already redeemed the code for the regular version (the only version available to me, since there were no instructions in the package telling me what to expect), there was nothing she could do, other then recommend I buy another copy to get a new code to try (or, at the very least, exchange my copy for another one with a fresh code).

Given the technical issues with the title not showing up as redeemable, I said this wasn’t a very good plan, and the inconvenience it would cause was extremely irksome. I pointed out that other digital streaming sites, such as Flixster, have the ability to bypass the code system when there is a problem and just add the title to the user’s library, but she said she couldn’t do that. After a few more minutes of conversation that seemed to go in circles, in which she said she’d report the problem with their technical team, I finally suggested they give me an account credit so I could just buy the version with the extras on the site and add it to my library that way. She finally got permission from her supervisor to do this, and with a $20 account credit I was finally able to get the correct version of the title in HD and watch the bonus video.

The exclusive featurette is just six minutes but turned out to be pretty interesting, delving mostly into how the filmmakers used CGI to enhance the film’s reality by artificially aging actress Hayley Atwell to appear as the older Peggy Carter, and the use of digital doubles for the actors to create some of the stunts.

But the frustration caused by the process to finally see this video is obviously a big problem, especially as studios and retailers attempt to convince consumers of the value of synergy between disc and digital (which such exclusive promotions are meant to highlight), and as Target tries to rehabilitate its digital reputation following its credit card database being hacked.

A check of the message boards later in the day (this is on Sept. 9, the day the disc first hit shelves) showed several shoppers were having similar troubles trying to access the video, but most seemed to either give up looking (happy enough with the $19.99 price) or resolved to take back the video for a refund so they could go to another retailer to get the special packaging (another potential headache for Target).  Posters at some message boards reported their stores were out of the exclusive edition, either sold out or possibly pulled from shelves until the issues are resolved.

Hopefully Target gets this mess cleaned up soon, as I doubt they’re thrilled at the prospect of offering $20 digital credits to thousands of their annoyed customers.

P.S. — The code was still good via Disney Movies Anywhere, which offers several other promotional goodies for the title, such as digital comic books and discounts on toys. These are offered with the wide release too, not just the Target exclusive. The DMA copy links to iTunes, which offers its own digital exclusive featurette.

UPDATE (9/10/14): Apparently Target has consolidated its multiple digital versions of Captain America: The Winter Soldier at Target Ticket, so that the only version that pops up under the redeem search is the version with the extras, and some users reported receiving an email informing them that their previously redeemed version of the film would now include the extras. This would appear to resolve the issue, though it's unknown if this means that codes from any version of the film, including those from other retailers, can be used to access the Target exclusive.


9 Sep, 2014

Retail Covers 'Captain America'

Display touting Walmart's 'Captain America' character disc covers
Display touting Walmart's 'Captain America' character disc covers

The Sept 9 retail release of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, distributed by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, was accompanied by a few retailers offering exclusive covers for the hit action title.

Walmart went all out with five variable character-based covers for the 3D Blu-ray combo pack. Consumers could choose from box art containing Captain America, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Falcon or Nick Fury.

Best Buy offered the 3D Blu-ray of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with exclusive steelbook packaging.

Apple's iTunes offered the movie with an exclusive four-minute featurette about the film's elevator fight. This is available not only to people who buy the film at iTunes, but also those who redeem their Disney Movies Anywhere digital copy code included with the disc.

Target promoted an exclusive six-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with the 3D Blu-ray, redeemable through its Target Ticket digital streaming service. However, the site wasn’t configured to redeem the digital copy code for the version of the film with the extras, leaving many consumers frustrated and complaining on message boards that the content they wanted wasn’t available on the release date (Sept. 9). TargetTicket.com did credit some accounts that already burned the code on the non-extras version to let them directly buy the correct version of the digital copy containing the exclusive featurette, or added the extras to those who already redeemed the code. The redemption problems were resolved by the next day when Target made the extras version the only one available at TargetTicket.com.

Target also offered exclusive bonus content with discs of the fifth season of “The Vampire Diaries” and the first season of Sony Pictures’ “The Goldbergs.”

Target has also been promoting Target Ticket with stickers on select Blu-ray and DVD packages offering a $5 credit with a new digital purchase at the site.


8 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'All That Jazz' and more …


All That Jazz (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Musical, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking.
1979.
Jazz is probably the only musical with graphic footage of open-heart surgery. Protagonist Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider, perfect) is a filmmaker editing a movie about a standup comic while he’s simultaneously mounting a stage musical while also mounting ladies of the chorus and also smoking too much. This is unmistakably director Bob Fosse’s own story.
Extras: There’s an array of extras here that dazzle even by Criterion standards, and three of them are Fosse interviews.
Read the Full Review

The Winning of Barbara Worth

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky, Gary Cooper.
1926.
Gary Cooper’s first credited non-bit screen role was fairly substantial in this film about a romantic triangle with a lot going on for anyone who likes stories where Mother Nature is in a really bad mood.
Read the Full Review


2 Sep, 2014

'Investigator' Comes to Walmart


The Screen Media faith-based title The Investigator is available on DVD exclusively at Walmart for $9.96. The film tells the story of a disgraced police sergeant who finds redemption after taking a teaching job at a Christian high school and takes on a student's challenge to investigate the existence of Jesus Christ.

Walmart also has exclusive availability of the DVD of Disney Mickey Mouse: Season 1, with 19 shorts and bonus material.

Best Buy is offering 100 Best Buy bonus points with $19.99 preorders for several upcoming Blu-rays, including Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction, Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sony Pictures' 22 Jump Street, Warner's Godzilla and Universal's Neighbors.

Best Buy also will offer exclusive lenticular packaging for Warner's The Big Bang Theory: Season 7 and Arrow: Season 2, both also available for preorder.

By:


1 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Man Hunt' and more …


Man Hunt (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine.
1941.
This significant hit in Fritz Lang’s career is a most entertaining suspense thriller with a dramatically tantalizing table-setter: How might the life of a sportsman/hunter played by Walter Pidgeon have changed in 1939 had he squeezed the trigger when he had Adolf Hitler in his rifle site?
Extras: The isolated music track, a Twilight Time staple, showcases Alfred Newman’s score, which makes some use of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”
Read the Full Review

High School Confidential

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Barrymore Jr., Diane Jergens.
1958.
This pot-inevitably-leads-to-heroin exposé howler often has enough going for it not to be one of those movies in which production trivia turns out to be far more interesting than what we see on screen.
Read the Full Review
 


29 Aug, 2014

Trouble Zones


The belly, booty and thighs are often named as trouble areas for women, especially as we get older. We want a flat tummy, a tight and lifted booty, and firm and sculpted thighs, right?

For those who choose yoga to get their sweat on, there are only a few yoga DVDs that target those trouble zones. And you have to pick just one among those zones. But Chrissy Carter has a new DVD that targets all three.

Gaiam releases her new Yoga for Belly, Butt, and Thighs Sept. 2 on DVD for $14.98. The program will also be available on iTunes.

The DVD features three practices — at about 20 minutes each — to target each area.

The Belly segment targets the abs, while the Butt segment helps sculpt the glutes as well as the hamstrings and hips, which help boost the gluteal muscles. The Thighs section help tone both the quads and hamstring muscles.

There’s also a 15-minute Complete Core practice that combines various poses from the three practices along with new poses to target the abs and lower back. After doing this practice just once, my tight, achy, sore back felt great for days.

Carter gives clear and easy to follow instruction. Her poses are not complex, but they’re still challenging and effective, and you can feel your muscles working while doing the exercises.

Gaiam worked with Carter to develop a series of practices that combine complex poses and deep breathing exercises with a workout to tone muscles, eliminate fat, build body awareness and awaken core muscles.