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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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17 Apr, 2014

RIP Gabo

Today we lost one of the greatest writers of our time. Gabriel García Márquez died at age 87 of pneumonia in Mexico City.

The Nobel Prize-winning author from Colombia ignited the explosion of Spanish-language literature and magical realism. Many of us have read or at least heard of his great novels One Hundred Years of Solitude, which led to the author’s Nobel Prize, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

I implore you to read García Márquez’ work. But if you are more inclined to watch movies than read, then check out some movies based on some of his novels or his screenplays. 

Love in the Time of Cholera is available on DVD from Warner and stars Oscar-winning Javier Bardem and Benjamin Bratt. (How I would have loved to be the female lead in that movie!)

Other films available are Oedipus Mayor (Facets) and No One Writes to the Colonel (Maverick), starring Fernando Luján, Marisa Paredes and Salma Hayek. Released just last year on DVD (Distrimax) is Memoria de Mis Putas Tristes, which is based on my friend’s favorite García Márquez novel (you know who you are).

Many other movies have been made based on his writing — Eréndira, Cartas del Parque, María de mi Corazón, Of Love and Other Demons, In Evil Hour and Milagro en Roma — but unfortunately, they are not available on DVD or Blu-ray. Hint, hint, studios…

15 Apr, 2014

A 'Ride Along' With 'Mitty'

Target's 'Secret Life of Watler Mitty' Exclusive
Target's 'Secret Life of Watler Mitty' Exclusive

The April 15 title getting the most retail attention was Fox’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, although Universal’s Ride Along also got at least one major promotional effort thrown its way.

For Mitty, Target offered an exclusive 30-page book with Life magazine photos. Walmart offered the title as a bare-bones DVD without extras, as well as a deluxe Blu-ray combo pack with a copy of the film’s soundtrack.

Walmart also offered the Ride Along Blu-ray combo pack with a pack-on T-shirt.

Best Buy offered a $5 savings off Anchor Bay’s Philomena when purchased with August: Osage County. Best Buy also offered a Despicable Me 2 Minion lunchbox for $2.99 with purchase of select titles.

Titles exclusive to Walmart include Cinedigm’s animated Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings on DVD ($9.96) and Blu-ray combo ($14.96); Lionsgate’s The Dog Who Saved Easter on DVD ($9.96); and Gravitas Ventures’ Red Wing on DVD ($12.96), starring Luke Perry and Frances Fisher.

14 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Swimmer' and more …

The Swimmer

Grindhouse, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG.’
Stars Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule.
Imperfect as it is, this troubled adaptation of the deservedly famous John Cheever short story is still haunting and not a little creepy — and if you love Burt Lancaster, there’s no way you can miss one of his major performances.
Extras: Includes five exceptionally good featurettes.
Read the Full Review

Young at Heart

Olive, Romance, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone.
Frank Sinatra’s first post-comeback romantic lead deserves attention even today, though the market for Young at Heart is probably limited to those whose hearts have never fully left the 1950s.
Read the Full Review

10 Apr, 2014

There’s Still Life in Them There Discs….

It was encouraging, for those of us who still love physical media, to hear that the disc will be with us for quite some time.

During a presentation at the Ultra HD Physical and Digital Media Conference at NAB in Las Vegas, Michael Arrington, senior analyst with research firm IHS, predicted that consumers will still be shelling out a respectable $10 billion or so on Blu-ray Discs and DVDs in 2015 — half what it was a decade ago, but hardly an amount to be dismissed.

“People … like to have [content] in their hands,” he said, while home hardware storage and bandwidth aren’t quite yet where they they need to be for everyone to go full-blown digital.

I’m certainly one of those who likes to have content in his hands. One of the great joys in life is walking into the closet where I keep all my discs, neatly filed, alphabetically, Blu-ray Disc on one side, DVD and TV on the other, and picking out something to watch that night.

Of course, I keep getting told it’s a generational thing. I still like to read an actual newspaper in the morning, and I have eschewed e-readers for paperbacks — new and used, which I devour during my daily spinning sessions at the gym.

But I wonder — will physical ever go completely away? Despite the ease of downloading and storing music electronically, CDs are still around. So are books and magazines. Is this merely pandering to a generation — my generation — that will one day die out, or is there in an inherent need in human nature to at least on occasion reach out and touch something real?

My boys are 18, 16 and almost 12,  and while they’re knee-deep into YouTube and Hulu and streaming, they, too, are frequent visitors to the media closet, especially when they have friends over and want to watch a movie on the big TV in the family room. In those cases, quality still matters, and I don’t care what anyone says — you still can’t beat Blu-ray Disc for clarity and sound.

It sort of makes you wonder.

8 Apr, 2014

Combining Lego and 'The Hobbit'

Target's 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' with Lego figure
Target's 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' with Lego figure

Target offered Warner’s new Blu-ray combo pack of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with exclusive box art and a Legolas Lego figurine with accessories.

That was one of the few tie-in promotions on that or any other April 8 title offered at major retailers.

Most retailers didn’t carry the deluxe limited-edition of Smaug, consisting of the 3D Blu-ray packed with two dwarf-statue bookends. This set was available on Amazon.com for $79.96. Target’s and Walmart’s websites also offered the set at that price.

Walmart offered a two-pack of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, with the DVD of the new film packed with the DVD of the original Paranormal Activity.

Target offered $8 in AMC coupons to apply to a theatrical ticket to see Fox’s Rio 2 in theaters, with the purchase of marked packages of Fox titles such as Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Epic and the first Rio.

Target used its weekly ad circular to heavily promote a sale of $10 and $15 catalog and recent-release DVDs and Blu-rays.


7 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'Cry Danger' and more …

Cry Danger

Street 4/8
Olive, Mystery, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Erdman.
Like a lot of noirs from the era, this one affords some welcome location work, which often times did turn out to be of L.A. — sometimes one that no longer exists.
Read the Full Review

Conrack (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, PG.
Stars Jon Voight, Paul Winfield, Madge Sinclair, Tina Andrews.
Conrack’s feel-good message steers clear of white-guy-helps-a-bunch-of-black-kids clichés. A lot of the film is devoted to the entertaining, event-packed classroom scenes, while the cinematography makes the grand outdoors a major character that looms just outside these glorified bull sessions.
Read the Full Review

2 Apr, 2014

"Mom, Remember When TV Began?"

“Mom, remember when TV began?”

That’s what my 16-year-old said to me the other day.

“No,” I replied. “I’m not quite that old. I do remember when cable started, kinda. I remember when MTV still played mostly music videos.”

“Well,” she said, “YouTube is sort of like that for me. I watch shows on the web.”

Some of her favorites are a gal in Austin who tests product claims and recently toured the new Trader Joe’s store. (My family in Texas has been waiting for that for years! It’s one less reason I can gloat about living in California — still got the weather though.) 

She also watches various gamers comment as they play games, which is a phenomenon I confess I don’t much understand. It seems similar to watching paint dry. But then I doubt my parents got why we watched music videos.

What I’ve come to realize is, not only are kids watching entertainment on different screens — tablets, phones, laptops — they are watching a radically different kind of entertainment.

I first noticed this with the “Fred” phenomenon a few years back. For those not “in the know,” Fred was an online nerdy character who basically talked in a squeaky, childlike voice about his life in short, sketch-like segments. Imagine if the characters Urkel from “Family Matters” or Screech from “Saved by the Bell” had an online forum. The YouTube channel even spawned a feature based on the character created and played by Lucas Cruikshank. It came out on disc after airing on Nickelodeon.

In one sense, my daughter is correct. YouTube and other online outlets are similar to the advent of TV. They are spawning new forms of entertainment, rather than just a way to transmit traditional formats such as feature films and episodic TV.

It makes the job of the creative community even more difficult. They have to cut through the clutter. But my hope is it will focus the attention of studios and creators on making better entertainment. That, I think, never goes out of style.

1 Apr, 2014

'Anchorman' Anchors Deals

Walmart's 'Anchorman' double-feature steelbook
Walmart's 'Anchorman' double-feature steelbook

Two of the April 1 new disc releases attracted some big retail promotions, led by Paramount’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Best Buy offered the Anchorman 2 Blu-ray for a special $16.99 price only on Tuesday, April 1, while giving My Best Buy members 100 bonus points with the purchase of the film. Target’s exclusive featured special talking Blu-ray packaging. Walmart had a special two-pack of both “Anchorman” films as a four-disc Blu-ray set in steelbook packaging.

Costco offered the Anchorman 2 Blu-ray packed with a Ron Burgundy bobble-head doll for $29.99.

For Disney’s The Pirate Fairy, Target offered an exclusive bonus storybook, Best Buy had a free bonus wall decal set with the Blu-ray combo pack, and Walmart packed the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 10 “Pixie Hollow” short films, including Bake Off.

Walmart also had exclusive availability of DVDs of Lionsgate’s animated Birds of Paradise and Phase 4’s family drama God Save Our Farm, both for $12.96.

Target presented a by-three, get one for $1 deal on $5 value DVDs.

31 Mar, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Front' and more …

The Front (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Woody Allen, Andrea Marcovicci, Herschel Bernardi, Michael Murphy.
There’s surprising humor to be had in this very grown-up look-back at the early 1950s Hollywood and TV Blacklist about individuals who “fronted” and took credit for the scripts of blacklisted others.
Read the Full Review

The First Time

Available via Sony Choice Collection
Sony Pictures, Comedy, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Cummings, Barbara Hale.
This view of life for young marrieds who are barely making it is a certified hoot for all its obscurity.
Read the Full Review

30 Mar, 2014

Happy Birthday, Batman!

March 30, 2014, marked the 75th anniversary of one of the great milestones in comic book history.

March 30, 1939, saw the release of “Detective Comics” No. 27, a little comic book that happened to introduce the character of "The Bat-Man" to the world, featuring artwork by Bob Kane and a script by Bill Finger. Copies of the issue, which bore a cover price of 10 cents, now sell for north of $1 million at auction.

At the time, the book was an anthology of detective stories, and the flagship book for what we now know as DC Comics. Before long, the book became devoted entirely to stories about Batman (dubbed the “World’s Greatest Detective”), and over time was one of several comics devoted to the adventures of the Caped Crusader, and the ways millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne devoted his life to fighting crime after witnessing the senseless murder of his parents. His sidekick, Robin, would debut a year later, in “Detective Comics” No. 39 in 1940, quickly followed by “Batman” No. 1, featuring Batman’s origin story and his first battles against The Joker and Catwoman.

Batman stood out from the early superheroes for a couple of reasons. He quickly emerged as a darker counterpoint to the optimism of Superman, who debuted a year earlier. Batman blended equal parts Zorro and Sherlock Holmes in the form of a masked vigilante with no superpowers, relying on the strength of his own intellect, and trained to the peak of physical perfection. Batman was one of the first antiheroes of comic books, a darker figure emerged from the shadows to fight the criminal elements in corrupt Gotham City, where the cops would often look the other way.

“Batman is one of the greatest characters ever created, in comics or elsewhere, and even after 75 years he continues to wildly fascinate fans. He is an integral part of pop culture and has successfully captured the imagination of the entire world,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment, and president and chief content officer of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. “The origin of Batman, Bruce Wayne and the famous citizens of Gotham are legendary and likely a story you know inside out, even if you’ve never picked up a comic book in your life, and that speaks volumes to the character’s immense popularity and the constructs of the original mythology.”

The character has been reinvented several times throughout the generations to adapt to the era, always maintaining the same core elements and reigniting his popularity with the fans. The 1966 “Batman” TV series focused on the campy aspects of the character, while Tim Burton’s 1989 film focused on his darker side, and both were responsible for huge bouts of “Batmania.” Christopher Nolan took the character to new cinematic heights with his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” the second film of which, The Dark Knight, is often cited as the greatest comic book film ever.

The nine theatrical movies based on Batman (two from Burton, two from Joel Schumacher, Nolan’s trilogy, the 1966 TV tie-in movie and a 1993 animated film) are more than any other comic book character (and that’s not counting two movie serials from the 1940s).

“From billion-dollar blockbuster films to TV, home entertainment, video games and consumer products, the Dark Knight continues to resonate with audiences worldwide and rightfully deserves his place as a global pop culture icon for the ages,” said Kevin Tsujihara, CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.

To mark the milestone, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have prepared a year-long celebration of product releases and special events.

• DC Entertainment recently released a special edition of the “New-52” version of “Detective Comics” No. 27, commemorating Batman’s first appearance in the book 75 years ago. A new weekly comic book series, “Batman Eternal,” launches April 9, and DC plans several exclusive Batman variant covers for San Diego Comic-Con International in July.

• DC Entertainment is also partnering with thousands of comic retailers, book stores and libraries for “Batman Day” on Wednesday, July 23. Each location will host a Batman 75th anniversary celebration and offer fans a free, special-edition Batman comic.

• Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has invited fashion designer Asher Levine to create a cape and cowl based on the Batsuit of the recently announced Batman: Arkham Knight video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. Favorite contemporary artists will have the opportunity to use the replicas as a blank canvas to produce their own, original interpretations of Batman’s iconic attire for an all new “Cape/Cowl/Create” art exhibit that will be showcased at Comic-Con.

• Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will bring fans an array of new Batman titles throughout the year, including the first DVD release of the 1966 “Batman” TV series later this year. New direct-to-video animated films include Son of Batman May 6 and Assault on Arkham in the summer. In addition, a 25th anniversary edition of Burton’s 1989 Batman film will be released in the fall.

• Warner Bros. Animation has created two all-new Batman animated shorts set for debut in April, with producers Bruce Timm (“Batman: The Animated Series”) and Darwyn Cooke (“Batman Beyond”) each presenting a unique and familiar take on the Batman animated universe. In addition, Timm will participate in a Batman 75th all-star panel at WonderCon in Anaheim on Saturday, April 19, which will also feature an exclusive premiere of Cooke’s animated short based upon “Batman Beyond.”

• Warner Bros. Television is in production on the pilot episode of “Gotham,” a potential one-hour drama for the Fox network that explores the origins of eventual police commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the villains that made Gotham City famous.

• Warner Bros. Pictures will begin production of Zack Snyder’s untitled Superman/Batman film starring Henry Cavill, who reprises his role as Superman/Clark Kent from Man of Steel, and Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The film is slated for release in summer 2016.

• Warner Bros. Consumer Products has partnered with an array of licensees to celebrate Batman’s 75th Anniversary through special-edition and limited-release products.

DCComics.com offers a Batman 75 Sweepstakes that offers one lucky fan a unique prize package. More information about the anniversary events is available at www.Batman75.com.