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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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9 Feb, 2016

'Spectre' Reigns Over Retail

Walmart and Best Buy 'Spectre' cover variants
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.

8 Feb, 2016

New on Disc: 'All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records' and more …

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

FilmRise, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
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.
Read the Full Review

The Wrong Man (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive 
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle.
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.
Read the Full Review

2 Feb, 2016

Retailers Bring Special Packaging for 'Batman,' 'Snow White'

Best Bey's 'Batman: Bad Blood' and 'Snow White' exclusives
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.

1 Feb, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Last Detail' and more …

The Last Detail (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James.
The richly episodic story, adapted from Darryl Ponicsan’s novel, deals with two Navy lifers (Jack Nicholson and Otis Young) transporting a prisoner (Randy Quaid) through locales that would seem to have potential for mayhem. Perhaps befitting director Hal Ashby’s editing room experience, the movie looks and feels patched together, which may have been intentional, though the result plays very well regardless of the filmmaking methodology.
Extras: According to some of Julie Kirgo’s zestiest Twilight Time liner notes, this is Nicholson’s favorite career performance.
Read the Full Review

Station West

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Jane Greer, Agnes Moorehead, Raymond Burr, Burl Ives.
More than one interested party has called this Luke Short adaptation “Western film nor,” and, let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of those around.
Read the Full Review

26 Jan, 2016

Deals Designed to Give Shoppers 'Goosebumps'

Retailers were quick to attach exclusives to Sony Pictures' Goosebumps upon its Jan. 26 DVD and Blu-ray release, but PBS's Downton Abbey: Season 6 also got some love.

For Goosebumps, Best Buy offered the Blu-ray combo pack (not the 3D version) with a pack-on "Goosebumps" book, A Shocker on Shock Street.

Target offered Goosebumps with a $7.50 coupon for movie tickets. Walmart offered a DVD triple-feature that grouped Goosebumps with Jumanji and Zathura.

For the final season of "Downton Abbey," Target offered the DVD and Blu-ray with a free notepad with character quotes. Barnes and Noble offered the DVD and Blu-ray with a pack of notecards on "Downton Abbey" stationery.

Walmart is touting the digital release of the James Bond movie Spectre with a combo deal attaching access to the film via Vudu.com with DVD versions of previous Bond films. Spectre with Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall was offered at $22.96 each combo, with Spectre and the whole Daniel Craig collection offered at $27.96.

Target offered recent DVD releases Minions and Hotel Transylvania 2 for $10 each.

25 Jan, 2016

New on Disc: 'Bitter Rice' and more …

Bitter Rice

Criterion, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Vittorio Gassman, Doris Dowling, Silvana Mangano, Raf Vallone.
An almost perfect blend of genuine Italian neo-realism and art house sexploitation.
Extras: Includes a remembrance of director Giuseppe De Santis and an essay by journalist/academic Pasquale Iannone.
Read the Full Review

The Detective (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset, Ralph Meeker, Robert Duvall.
For all its narrative sputters and misses, the once popular movie version of Roderick Thorp’s sprawling novel remains something of a grabber, in part because it’s both retro and progressive.
Extras: The Blu-ray has a particularly lively commentary by Twilight Time guru Nick Redman, his frequent bonus track partner Lem Dobbs and David Del Valle in an entertaining court jester role.
Read the Full Review

25 Jan, 2016

Quality Assurance at CES

This year’s CES event highlighted two facets of the home entertainment business: the exploding streaming video service of Netflix (which is more about instant access that top-quality picture and sound) and the premium-quality of 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR).

In a press conference prior to the show, the Ultra HD Alliance made the case for premium viewing on 4K Ultra HD with HDR. Meanwhile, in the opening day keynote, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made the case for the wide distribution footprint of Netflix, announcing international expansion with a flourish, while chief content officer Ted Sarandos mingled with stars such as Chelsea Handler on the stage to tout Netflix’s growing library of original content.

Our industry has often stressed the quality of picture and sound in the home theater as its key advantage, and the UHD Alliance is once again defining quality for home entertainment viewing with its new Ultra HD Premium logo and specs, announced at the show. Blu-ray as the delivery mechanism in the Ultra HD Premium home theater system really “lights that bad boy up,” as Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, so colorfully put it. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment president Ron Sanders said the picture was so good that it looked almost 3D.

Meanwhile, Netflix executives at CES touted their unmatched international reach and burgeoning quirky and unusual content targeted at niche audiences. With its data insight, Netflix can create content for the myriad tastes of an international audience, unhampered by the quest for mass market ratings, executives argued.

In reaching for quality in home entertainment, I think both facets of the business are benefitting consumers. While 4K Ultra HD with HDR is widening the highlight, color and contrast gamut on home theater systems — offering a top-notch picture — Netflix is increasing the variety of content for niche and international audiences. It’s a great time to be a consumer of home entertainment, as the industry expands in picture and content quality.

25 Jan, 2016

A Visionary Alliance for a Clearer Picture

4K Ultra HD was once again the star of the CES event in Las Vegas this year, just as it was in January 2015.

But the twist, this time, was two-fold: The appeal to consumers promised not just more pixels (four times as many as HD), but better pixels, thanks to high dynamic range (HDR), a technique that is used in imaging and photography to produce brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays — and that much more closely mimics what the human eye actually sees than conventional imaging and photography.

To deliver this vastly improved viewing experience to consumers, at least initially, content owners and consumer electronics companies are looking to the Blu-ray Disc, which has the capacity to do the format justice, whereas electronic delivery — in particular, streaming — still has bandwidth issues to contend with.

Two days before the show opened, the year-old Ultra HD Alliance (UHDA) held a packed press conference in which the consortium unveiled specifications and a new logo to identify to consumers devices, content and services capable of delivering the premium viewing experience.
And in a panel discussion after the press announce, Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, excitedly said he believes the transition to 4K Ultra HD will be smoother than the introduction nearly 10 years ago of Blu-ray Disc, which has a launch that was marred by a brief format war with HD DVD. He said development of the logo and specifications are critically important “because we have to be careful not to confuse the consumer.”

In just a year, the UHDA has made a significant step toward combatting that confusion. The mission won’t be easy. The overwhelming success of Netflix shows that consumers are willing to give up quality and choice if they can get content cheap enough and easy enough. But the UHDA is leading the charge to remind consumers of just how wonderful their home theater systems can be if they can watch the latest hit movies at a level of quality that far surpasses even HD and rivals what they see in the movie theater.

It is for this reason that Home Media Magazine is honoring the UHDA with its 2016 Home Entertainment Visionary Award. In the coming year, the association will be on the front lines of the 4K Ultra HD launch, a launch home entertainment executives believe will revitalize their industry — our industry.

As Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, said at the UHDA event, 4K Ultra HD is “going to become ubiquitous,” with analysts expecting full household penetration within 10 years.

He added, “The exciting thing about this is that we are going to be first – there is not a lot of broadcast out there.”

With a partner in the UHDA, the industry has found yet another way to deliver top quality home entertainment to consumers.

20 Jan, 2016

These Exclusives Are 'Straight Outta Compton'

Target's 'Straight Outta Compton' Steelbook
Target's 'Straight Outta Compton' Steelbook

Fans of Universal's Straight Outta Compton had a choice of several retailer exclusives when they went to pick up their copy on Blu-ray.

Target offered the Blu-ray in a steelbook case, plus a $5 gift card when the movie was purchased in conjunction with the CD soundtrack (offered at $13.99).

Best Buy offered a free T-shirt with the purchase of the film on Blu-ray. In a slight switch from Target's soundtrack deal, Best Buy offered a $5 discount with the joint purchase of both the Blu-ray and the CD (also at $13.99).

Walmart touted an exclusive special-edition of the Blu-ray with 30 minutes of additional bonus content available through its Vudu.com streaming service.

Both Target and Walmart neglected to offer in stores some of the new TV on disc titles, such as Universal's 12 Monkeys: Season One and Continuum: Seaosn Four. Both were readily available at Best Buy.

12 Jan, 2016

Checking In With 'Hotel Transylvania 2' Exclusives

Best Buy's 'Hotel Transylvania 2' Blu-ray with Squishy Blobby toy
Best Buy's 'Hotel Transylvania 2' Blu-ray with Squishy Blobby toy

The Jan. 12 new releases offered plenty of retail exclusives for consumers, most notably with Sony Pictures' Hotel Transylvania 2 and Universal's Mr. Robot: Season 1.

For Hotel Transylvania 2, Best Buy offered a pack on Squishy Blobby toy with the film's Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray combo packs. Best Buy also offered a $5 discount with the puchase of both "Hotel Transylvania" movies (with the Blu-ray combo pack of the first one for $14.99).

Target offered the BLu-ray combo pack of Hotel Transylvania 2 with glow-in-the-dark stickers, and gave free popcorn and a medium soda at the Target café with the purchase of any version of the film on disc.

Walmart had a Hotel Transylvania 2 Blu-ray combo pack gift set with a lunch box.

Target's version of the "Mr. Robot" DVD included 20 minutes of exclusive bonus material, while Best Buy offered the Blu-ray of the show with a free decal.

Paramount's Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension didn't seem to be available at Target, with the horror sequel not even showing up on the chain's website on its first day of availability.

Also interesting, Amazon.com didn't seem to have any copies of Fox's The Martian on DVD, referring instead to Amazon Marketplace sellers. Amazon does have the 4K UHD version of The Martian listed for a March 1 release.