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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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6 Jul, 2015

New on Disc: 'Dodge City' and more …

Dodge City (Blu-ray)

Warner, Western, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale, Bruce Cabot, Ann Sheridan.
A good cast, fast pacing and a gorgeous exterior go a long way toward making this a fun journey to dip into every once in a while.
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Entertaining the Troops: American Entertainers in World War II

MVD, Documentary, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Robert Mugge’s undeservedly ill-known documentary focuses on the Hollywood stars who battled the elements and puddle-jumping plane rides to provide brief R&R to those serving the country in World War II. The early going of Entertaining the Troops is fun and full of foolproof footage (probably in the public domain) of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and Judy Garland and bandleader Kay Kyser and many more doing in-person engagements and/or radio shows bee-lined for the troops. But the soul of the story comes late when its longer opening act concludes, and Mugge films a sit-around with Hope and his core troupe.
Extras: Includes a bonus outtake section that runs about 25 minutes.
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30 Jun, 2015

Free 'Minion' Money

Retailers June 30 again shied away from tagging exclusive promotions to the new releases of the week. Instead, Target touted a selection of catalog DVDs and Blu-rays containing $7.50 coupons that can be applied to tickets for new movies in theaters, including Universal's animated Minions.

Best Buy touted the $7.99 promotional price for the Blu-ray of Magic Mike as part of Warner's marketing efforts for the upcoming theatrical sequel.

Best Buy also listed $8 Fandango movie coupons with select Paramount Blu-rays.

More interesting was what was missing from the weekly promotions. Target didn't list a price for the Blu-ray of Warner's Get Hard in its weekly ad, while Walmart didn't stock the Blu-ray of Lionsgate's While We're Young, which was listed as "sold out" online.

29 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Absolute Beginners' and more …

Absolute Beginners

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Eddie O’Connell, Patsy Kensit, David Bowie, James Fox.

1986. The movie built on the emerging teen market probably bites off more late-1950s London turmoil than it can chew — which is, relatively speaking, to its credit, given the dearth of daringly ambitious screen entertainments from the mid-1980s.
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The Whistler & The Power of the Whistler

Available via Sony Choice Collection
Sony Pictures, Thriller, $20.95 DVD each, NR.
Stars Richard Dix.
Eight "Whistler" movies sprang from the popular radio show, with the first and third presented here, focused on some crime-centered pickle in which the story’s protagonist had gotten himself immersed.
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23 Jun, 2015

Summer Slowdown Yields Few Big Titles

With the calendar officially turning to summer, the June 23 release slate consisted prmarily of a handful of direct-to-video family fare and a few cult-hit cable shows.

Universal released the latest "An American Girl" movie, Grace Stirs Up Success, which came with a cooking activity book at Target.

Target also had the exclusive DVD of Thomas & Friends: Wild Water Rescue.

During the slow week, Best Buy and Target focused on promoting preorders for bigger titles coming down the pipeline, in particular Fox's Home (just released on Digital HD) and Disney/Pixar's Inside Out. Target offered a $5 gift card with disc preorders for either title.

Best Buy touted $7.50 movie coupons for Ted 2 in theaters with the purchase of select titles.

Stores also made room for the pending Friday, June 26, release of Disney's Teen Beach Movie 2. Target and Best Buy both offered it at $14.99.

22 Jun, 2015

Top 10 Favorite James Horner Scores

James Horner (1953-2015)
James Horner (1953-2015)

A good musical score can give a lot of life to a movie, but a great score can transcend the boundaries of its film to stand as a powerful work on its own.For film music fans, knowing a certain composer is attached to a project can generate tremendous interest that otherwise might not exist.

James Horner, who died in a plane crash June 22, was one of the best film composers of his or any generation.

In a career that spanned nearly four decades, Horner’s talent rested in his ability to distill the essence of a project into musical form. His music could range from epic to haunting, as adept at sweeping fanfares as quiet statements of intimate drama.

He was certainly one of my favorites when I was growing up, as his soundtracks shared a treasured space on my shelf (and still do) alongside the likes of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer and Alan Silvestri.

Horner was never afraid to try new sounds and styles, yet his work was always distinctly his.

As one of the most prolific composers of the 1980s and 1990s, Horner worked with many of the biggest directors in Hollywood, including James Cameron, Ron Howard, Mel Gibson, Edward Zwick and Wolfgang Peterson. For Cameron, he created the music for the two biggest box office earners of all time, Avatar and Titanic.

In 1986, Horner worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to provide a rousing score for Captain EO, the famed Disney theme park attraction starring Michael Jackson. Disney revived the show in 2010 as a tribute to Jackson, but I think it can serve now as an equally effective tribute to Horner’s legacy as well.

As we take the time to reflect on his career and the great joy it brought so many of us, I wanted to share my own list of my top 10 favorite James Horner scores.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Horner’s music is a perfect fit for Ron Howard’s film version of the story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission. The score drifts between flourishes of patriotism and high tension to culminate in massively inspirational movements that, when paired with the images on the screen, will leave many a viewer hard pressed not to walk away with a tear in the corner of their eye.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) & Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

I cheated a bit and linked these two together, since there is an obvious thematic link between them. Khan represents the pinnacle of Horner’s early years, highlighted by the exuberance of his youthful instincts contributing to a very nautical-sounding score that perfectly served the film’s outer space action, with dueling themes for Captain Kirk and his nemesis, Khan.

Horner rarely did sequels (he skipped The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but was set to take on the “Avatar” follow-ups), so it’s lucky he came on board to continue his contributions to the “Trek” canon. Here, Horner broke out a minor theme for Spock from Khan and made it a primary theme here, while adding new music for the Klingons.

Braveheart (1995)

For Mel Gibson’s re-creation of medieval Scotland, Horner used a lot of ethnically-appropriate instrumentation to craft a period-appropriate sound that emphasized the romance at the heart of the story.

Titanic (1997)

Horner will forever be known as the composer of James Cameron’s depiction of the doomed ocean voyage, for several reasons. It’s one of the top-selling score albums ever, it won Horner his only two Oscars, and it gave Celine Dion her signature song, “My Heart Will Go On,” which Horner (and lyricist Will Jennings) wrote on an impulse and had to convince Cameron to use it in the movie. With its wide array of instrumentation and style, the score is the perfect embodiment of Horner’s career.

Glory (1989)

Horner partnered with director Ed Zwick for this drama about black soldiers fighting for the North in the Civil War.

Field of Dreams (1989)

One of Horner’s quieter scores provides a lot of the impact for the Kevin Costner baseball drama.

The Perfect Storm (2000)

Horner returned to the ocean with a conventional arrangement that nonetheless boasts a lovely main theme and an effective underscore.

Willow (1988)

Horner delves into the world of George Lucas with the Ron Howard-directed fantasy film.

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Horner gave the adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel a very effective action score.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Horner’s most notable contribution to the exploding superhero genre allowed him to establish an energetic main theme for the web-slinger to distinguish the reboot from the methodical tones written by Danny Elfman a decade earlier.

22 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: 'Magician' and more …

Magician: The Astonishing Work & Life of Orson Welles

Cohen, Documentary, B.O. $0.016 million, $24.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, NR.
The accurate rap on Magician, including by the many to whom this brisk overview gave a good time, is its tendency toward surface skimming in dealing with a subject who directed in multiple mediums, acted, was an ubiquitous talk-show guest in his day and counted among his wives Rita Hayworth.
Extras: Includes a short interview with film historian Annette Insdorf.
Read the Full Review


B2MP, Drama, $29.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG.’
Stars Jeremy Irons, Eugene Lipinski, Jirí Stanislav, Eugeniusz Haczkiewicz.
Jerzy Skolimowsky’s political movie involves a Polish construction crew that probably thinks it’s being offered a good deal for a London assignment but is likely getting ripped off by the party official who has hired them during the days of Solidarity.
Extras: Jeremy Irons offers intermittent commentary on this release’s alternate audio track.
Read the Full Review

16 Jun, 2015

'Chappie' Makes Retailers Happy

Target's 'Chappie' Steelbook
Target's 'Chappie' Steelbook

Retailers offered a few exclusives for the June 16 Blu-ray release of Sony Pictures' 'Chappie.'

Target offered the sci-fi film with a steelbook Blu-ray case.

Best Buy offered Chappie with an exclusive bonus disc containing a featuring deconstructing the action scenes with the visual effects team. Best Buy also offered a deal in which those who bought a PlayStation 4 could get the Chappie Blu-ray and a digital copy of The Order: 1886 for free.

Walmart had the exclusive DVD of the family film The Secret Handshake, starring Kevin Sorbo and Amy Grant.

15 Jun, 2015

New on Disc: '1776: Director's Cut' and more …

1776: Director’s Cut (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Musical, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, John Cullum, Ken Howard, Blythe Danner.
The 4K restoration of this somewhat underappreciated flop, an adaptation of the Tony-winning musical about America’s Founding Fathers, rewards the work put into it.
Extras: There’s a pair of commentaries: one carry-over with director Peter H. Hunt with the now deceased screenwriter Peter Stone — plus a new one with Hunt and stars William Daniels and Ken Howard. And screen tests, as well.
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Smiling Through the Apocalypse

First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.005 million, $19.99 DVD, NR.
As heydays go, you couldn’t beat Esquire in that counterculture decade, and the Southern gentleman pulling the strings was handsome Harold Hayes out of Wake Forest. Apocalypse, which shares its title with a well-known published anthology of Esquire writings from those very days, is directed by Harold’s son Tom.
Extras: Includes three extended interviews.
Read the Full Review

15 Jun, 2015

Streaming Ahead

Netflix’s growth stepped into high gear in recent weeks, as its streaming model continued to take up a bigger chunk of online traffic, span the globe and spawn competitors.  When even Apple, the most valuable company in the world, decides to get into streaming music after years as the download leader, it seems Netflix is no longer just a very successful video distributor, but is in the vanguard of entertainment consumption. Apple is facing its own form of Netflix competition in low-cost or no-cost streaming services such as Spotify. Thus, the company has decided to expand into the access-to-music model, which is growing more than its download-ownership model. Subscription streaming service Apple Music will launch in 100 countries this month. After a three-month trial, it will cost $9.99 a month, or $14.99 for a family plan for up to six people.

While the music industry doesn’t always model the video business, it certainly has some similarities.  One similarity with the Netflix service is that shorter-form content is more conducive to streaming. A TV episode in a series is like the song on an album, a quick fix of entertainment. Thus, Netflix seems to be a bigger threat to the TV business than to the theatrical market. Case in point: Netflix executives have said episodic content represents 70% of viewing. Even so, despite its overwhelmingly episodic focus, Netflix made a big move in the film realm, signing Brad Pitt’s War Machine to be streamed to its subscribers at the same time it is released theatrically in 2016. Maybe Netflix will make its mark in longer form entertainment as well.

While OTT streaming services led by Netflix are certainly making headlines, I think there will always be a market for ownership. Humans like to collect things. Witness any of the attendees that pack the show floor at Comic-con. Whole series, such as HBO’s “The Sopranos” set or my personal favorite “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” will always be collectible. As serialized programming, these shows are like long films true fans will want to revisit long after the shows cycle off streaming services such as Netflix.

So while Netflix may be streaming ahead, that doesn’t mean ownership won’t be an important part of the entertainment business for years to come.

15 Jun, 2015

Investing in Our Digital Future

One year ago in this space, I wrote about the need for the participants in the digital video sector to work together in a cooperative manner to solve common digital supply chain problems and create efficiencies that speed the availability of content, improve the consumer experience, and drive unnecessary costs out of the supply chain.

What was desirable then is imperative now.

We are currently witnessing the explosion of the OTT market. It seems like every month there is a new entrant in the OTT marketplace, most recently Sling TV, HBO Now, and Showtime.

And PricewaterhouseCoopers recently predicted that, for filmed entertainment, spending on digital delivery (electronic sellthrough, transactional video-on-demand, and subscription streaming) would exceed that of packaged media for the first time this year.

Yet the costs of digital delivery are high, in part because digital supply chain practices have not kept pace with the development of the market. Too often, each content provider and each retailer clings to its own practice. The problem with that approach is that it creates inefficiencies that drive up costs and slow the ingestion of content.

But it needn’t be that way.

Last year I wrote about Content Availability Metadata, commonly called “avails,” to illustrate the inefficiencies in the digital supply chain. Avails are the communications from content providers to retailers about when a video will be available online and in which territories, the title, language, run-time, HD or SD, EST or VOD, etc. The avails were being communicated in a variety of different formats — including spreadsheets, emails, and PDFs — depending on the preferences of the content providers and the requirements of the retailers. And then the data was manually inputted into the retailers’ systems, which created the opportunity for errors.

I’m pretty sure that system provided no competitive advantage to anyone. It was just inefficient.

The EMA convened a working group, consisting of leading OTT retailers, which developed an avails template in both Excel and XML. The template consists of approximately 40 standardized fields that provide all the information that a retailer needs to schedule an online video offering. The EMA Avails Template was first used for movies and has now been expanded to TV product.

Most of the OTT market participants immediately saw the benefits of using the EMA Avails Template: faster ingest, less duplication of effort, and a greatly reduced risk of error. Adoption has been widespread by content providers and retailers, and the template has become the de facto standard for avails communication.

In other areas, however, the silo approach to the digital supply chain remains stubbornly entrenched.

The EMA, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, MovieLabs and others developed the DEG-EMA Media Entertainment Core Metadata (MEC Metadata). The MEC Metadata describes those points of information that are most critical to the retailer’s ability to merchandise and distribute media assets. The schema includes approximately 60 fields that provide the essential basic information about the content, such as title, runtime and cast, and information about the digital asset.

The standardized MEC Metadata format allows for automated ingestion of the metadata, speeding the availability of content and reducing the potential for bad metadata (which can result in missed sales). The common format eliminates the variety of inconsistent structures and formats currently utilized by retailers and content providers and the duplication of work processes they require.

Despite the acknowledged benefits, too often we hear that participants in the digital supply chain are reluctant to adopt the MEC Metadata because they don’t have the resources to reconfigure their systems to produce or accept it. Companies would rather stick with the inefficiencies because it would cost money to change.

That approach is shortsighted, as it is more costly in the long run not to adopt common practices that promote supply chain efficiencies.

As our industry continues to transition from physical to digitally delivered product, we must ensure that we can provide a steady stream of quality product to consumers at attractive prices and that the business is profitable. Standardization in the digital supply chain will help us achieve that.