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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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30 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'Best of Enemies' and more …

Best of Enemies

Magnolia, Documentary, B.O. $0.89 million, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some sexual content/nudity and language.
This super-crisp documentary by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon chronicles how a Hail Mary pass by basement-dwelling ABC to team William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal for a series of televised debates in 1968 helped lead to the kinds of political-donnybrook talk shows that prevail today.
Extras: Enemies has a full hour of interviews that are as good as the documentary itself. Here’s a case where, without the extras, you’re only getting maybe 60% of the package.
Read the Full Review

The Hurricane

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jon Hall, Dorothy Lamour, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, Thomas Mitchell.
Director John Ford’s solemn tale of a Polynesian unfairly imprisoned by a French colonial governor in the South Seas is all island foreplay for the main event: a 14-minute hurricane sequence that has a few technically dated bits but still plays remarkably well by today’s standards.
Extras: Preeminent Ford biographer Joseph McBride provides a commentary, which alone is worth the price of admission.
Read the Full Review

24 Nov, 2015

A 'Sheep'-ish Week for Newcomers

Heading into the Thanksgiving weekend, studios didn't put many major new titles out on Nov. 24.

Among the most notable new releases, the only big retailer exclusive was a bonus holiday DVD included with copies of Lionsgate's Shaun the Sheep Movie at Target.

Interestingly, a Target in Tustin, Calif., didn't have most of the week's new titles stocked in the new release section. In fact, some of the DVD space was actually devoted to copies of Adele's new CD. Target copies have three exclusive tracks.

Target also had the relatively recent Terminator: Genisys Blu-ray for just $11.

23 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'The Devil’s Disciple' and more …

The Devil’s Disciple

Street 11/24/2015
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Janette Scott.
The Devil’s Disciple is an engaging and indisputably all-star (if rather odd) screen take on George Bernard Shaw’s set-in-1777 play about the Revolutionary War.
Read the Full Review

Broken Lance (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Earl Holliman.
A revamping of the 1949 family-oriented banking drama House of Strangers into a Western setting, this compact 96-minute rouser features booming echoes of King Lear and a mighty solid told-in-flashback yarn about a cattle baron played by Spencer Tracy and his sons.
Extras: Appearing with Twilight Time chieftain Nick Redman on one of the year’s most unusual bonus commentaries is actor Earl Holliman, who is now 87.
Read the Full Review

17 Nov, 2015

'Hunger Games' Joins the 'Battlefront'

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games

A new promotion at Best Buy offered $8 movie coupons for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 with the purchase of earlier titles in the franchise on disc. The coupons can also be found in DVD and Blu-ray copies of Divergent and Insurgent. Lionsgate releases the new film in theaters Nov. 20.

Otherwise, the Nov. 17 week was mostly devoid of new releases on DVD and Blu-ray disc, with Warner's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and an extended cut of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies being the only major new titles on shelves among a slew of smaller fare.

In fact, one of the most anticipated new releases for the week was the new Star Wars: Battlefront video game, which attracted a slew of exclusive deals.

Target offered a $10 gift card with purchase of the game in conjunction with a six-pack of Coke Zero bottles. Target also offered $100 off an LG 42-inch TV with purchase of a PlayStation 4.

Best Buy offered free "Star Wars" Pop! character figurines with the purchase of the new game or a PS4 bundle containing the game.

16 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'Pitfall' and more …

Pitfall (Blu-ray)

Street 11/17/15
Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt, Raymond Burr.
This much admired but underseen Andre de Toth jewel frequently undermines expectations, is lifted by spectacular casting and is one of the relatively rare noirs to feature a heavy family angle.
Extras: Mr. Noir himself Eddie Muller offers a spicy commentary.
Read the Full Review

Deep in My Heart (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon, Helen Traubel.
A last-ditch effort to rekindle its ’40s commercial successes with all-star composer biopics, this holiday release from MGM was designed in part to showcase the versatility of lead Jose Ferrer.
Read the Full Review

16 Nov, 2015

Fighting Over That Crown

By now everyone in our industry has heard the saying “content is king” with regard to digital distribution. But considering the powerful rise of over-the-top distribution companies such as Netflix, I’ve begun to wonder if that saying is really true.

Certainly the fact that Netflix, Amazon and others have moved to distribute exclusive content is an argument in the favor of giving the crown to content. I remember when Netflix touted its famous recommendation engine as what made it unique. (As an aside, my mom once got frustrated that after watching one depressing drama, Netflix kept recommending the same depressing stuff. “I like to laugh, too!” she said.) Now, I don’t hear much about that engine as the driving force for Netflix’s success. Netflix is too busy pushing its own original content, such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and theatrical releases such as Beasts of No Nation. Amazon, too, has gotten in on the originals game with such acclaimed series as “Transparent.” Score a point for content being king.

On the other hand, as evidence in favor of giving the crown to distribution is the growing dominance of OTT channels, which are helping consumers cut the cord on the studios’ cable revenue stream. Cable subs are down, and the research evidence of millennials’ cord-cutting is growing. Home entertainment sellthrough and rental, as well as theatrical revenue, are also under threat as OTT services help consumers bypass traditional revenue streams. Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes in that company’s most recent financial call noted that his studio may have to revisit its content deals with SVOD services such as Netflix and widen those windows, while Disney’s Bob Iger said his studio could make “different decisions” with regard to OTT services as millennials cut the cord. Heck, even World Wrestling Entertainment Network’s OTT service is taking off after an alarmingly shaky start. Score one for distribution.

So which is king? Content or distribution. I think the kingdom is up for grabs.

13 Nov, 2015

Blu-ray Disc Resurgence Likely — But Not Overnight

Now that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) has become the second studio to announce Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases, two months after 20th Century Fox became the first, we’re likely to see most if not all the other majors follow.

It reminds me of the Blu-ray Disc launch 10 years ago, although back then the studios waited until the days leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show in January to issue their proclamations of support.

Of course, back then there was a competing format, HD DVD, that was stealing much of Blu-ray Disc’s thunder. With Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, there is no rival packaged-media format, at least none that I am aware of. The competition will be other methods of Ultra HD delivery, including hard drives and, of course, streaming.

Still, the good old Blu-ray Disc certainly has an advantage over its competitors, which is why a growing number of analysts and observers, me included, expect a resurgence in sales once Ultra HD takes hold — particularly if, as rumored, Sony is considering an enhanced PS4 capable of playing Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs.

As HD Guru observed in an Oct. 9 post, “What seems clear is that the Ultra HD Blu-ray system will stand as the reference-quality playback standard for 4K Ultra HD, high dynamic range and wide color gamut content delivery going forward.”

The Ultra HD Blu-ray specification, finalized last May, addresses a range of factors beyond simply increasing resolution that will significantly enhance the home entertainment experience for consumers. In addition to delivering content in up to 3840x2160 resolution, the Ultra HD Blu-ray format enables delivery of a significantly expanded color range and allows for the delivery of high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame-rate content. Next-generation immersive, object-based sound formats also will be delivered via the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification. Additionally, with the optional digital bridge feature, the specification enhances the value of content ownership by giving consumers, through an enabling technology like Vidity, the ability to view their content across the entire spectrum of in-home and mobile devices.

As for the future of Ultra HD, let there be no mistake: This is no tangent, like 3D, but, rather, the next step in our natural progression toward true movie-theater quality. DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group recently reported that Ultra HD TV set sales shot up 494% in the third quarter, with nearly 2 million sets sold so far this year. The Consumer Technology Association (until Nov. 9, the Consumer Electronics Association) has forecast 4K Ultra HDTV shipments of 4.5 million units for 2015, up from the 1.4 million units shipped last year. And according to IHS DisplaySearch, sales of 4K Ultra HDTVs are expected to reach 100 million units by 2019.

But studios and retailers won’t realize the benefits of this until 2017, at the earliest. While Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc software and hardware will begin appearing in stores next year, initial player prices of more than $3,000 (for the Panasonic DMR-UBZ1, which went on sale in Japan Nov. 15) will keep the lid on sales, mostly likely through next year’s holiday season.

But that’s the normal consumer electronics pattern. The first DVD players to hit the market, in 1997, cost more than $1,000; it took three years before prices plunged below $100. Similarly, back in 2006, the first two Blu-ray Disc players, from Sony and Pioneer, retailed for $1,000 and $1,800, respectively.

How long will it take Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players to reach the “affordable” mark, generally considered below $300? It’s hard to tell — but if consumer electronics companies are smart, they will do so quickly, in light of the continued proliferation of home entertainment options.

Once they do, a Blu-ray Disc resurgence will be almost unavoidable — almost, because of the PS4 factor.

The fact that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is one of the first studios to say it will release Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs is certainly an encouraging sign, but in this business I think we’ve all learned to take nothing for granted.

I will keep my fingers crossed — and I encourage you, all of you, to do the same.


10 Nov, 2015

Finding a 'Terminator' Among a 'Trainwreck'

Best Buy's and Target's 'Terminator: Genisys' covers
Best Buy's and Target's 'Terminator: Genisys' covers

Retailers Nov. 10 doubled down with exclusives for Paramount's Terminator: Genisys and Universal's Trainwreck.

The fifth "Terminator" movie came with a variety of packaging configurations from which consumers could choose (not an unusual strategy for Paramount). Best Buy offered the 2D Blu-ray combo pack with a lenticular cover and more than 90 minutes of exclusive behind-the-scenes content. Target offered the Blu-ray with a steelbook case. Walmart offered the Blu-ray packed with a copy of the original "Terminator" film.

For Trainwreck, Best Buy offered the Blu-ray of the raunchy comedy with 30 minutes of exclusive deleted scenes. Target offered a one-year subcription to Entertainment Weekly. Walmart offered the Blu-ray in a gift pack with a T-shirt.

Among other titles, Best Buy offered a $20 gift card with the purchase of both the first season of "Better Call Saul" and disc and a Best Buy-esclusive DVD set of the first three seasons of "Breaking Bad" that came with six coasters.

9 Nov, 2015

New on Disc: 'One Deadly Summer' and more …

One Deadly Summer (Blu-ray)

Street 11/10/15
Bayview, Drama, $24.99 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Isabelle Adjani, Alain Suchon, Suzanne Flon.
Ultimately, this revenge saga belongs to Isabelle Adjani and a vibrant “look” with a color quality that rocks on Blu-ray. The story takes a lot of tasty twists and turns, though at 133 minutes, the picture is a tad long and lumpy.
Extras: Included here are interviews with Adjani and director Jean Becker.
Read the Full Review

Matchstick Men (Blu-ray)

Warner, Drama, $14.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman.
When Nicolas Cage is good and has watchable material, he’s really good, such as his memorable turn here as an obsessive-compulsive con artist who likes leaving his lair only a little more than Dracula does during the daylight hours. This is, of all things, a Ridley Scott movie — one of those (like, say, Someone to Watch Over Me or The Good Year or The Counselor) that don’t seem to go with the usual or at least frequent program.
Read the Full Review

3 Nov, 2015

Retailers Turn Goodies 'Inside Out'

Disney's Inside Out arrived at retail Nov. 3 with several exclusives.

Target offered the latest Pixar animated film with 20 minutes of exclusive content and deleted scenes included with the Blu-ray combo packs, such as a "Drawing With Your Inner Child" featurette.

Best Buy offered The Blu-ray versions of Inside Out with five character cards.

Best Buy also offered $10 discounts on a couple of TV titles new to disc when purchased with earlier seasons: Fox's A.D. — The Bible Continues when purchased with The Bible on DVD or Blu-ray, and Anchor Bay's Black Sails: The Complete Second Season when purchased with the first season.

Speaking of A.D., Amazon, possibly as a result of other ongoing irregularities with Fox titles, wasn't directly selling the ttile on its debut date, but did have copies available via its third-party Marketplace sellers. Amazon listed its own availability the next day but posted the Blu-ray version at full suggested retail price.

As for "Black Sails," Target offered the second season with exclusive steelbook packaging on both the DVD and Blu-ray.

With the new Blu-ray steelbook editions of the first and second seasons of "Game of Thrones," Target offered $10 off a tie-in POP figure ($8.99) with the purchase of one of the seasons (at $39.99 each).

Warner announced that Target would have exclusive availablility of The Lego Movie: The Special Special Edition ($19.99), featuring a bonus Blu-ray disc with more than two hours of new special features, including a commentary, deleted scenes, "How It Should Have Ended" clips and more. All the new bonus features are also available digitally on iTunes Extras and Vudu.