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.
Jane Eyre (Blu-ray)
Available at www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Peggy Ann Garner, Margaret O’Brien.
1944. Just by itself, Bernard Herrmann’s score goes a long way toward at least suggesting that this fairly renowned Charlotte Bronte adaptation might be an unofficial Orson Welles film from his early 1940s directorial heyday — as opposed to the Robert Stevenson achievement it is. Welles as the tormented Rochester dominates even Joan Fontaine as the tough-luck servant Jane. This has to be the closest Welles ever came to cutting a dashing figure on screen. Meanwhile, an incredibly unbilled Elizabeth Taylor gets everything there is to get from a handful of scenes.
Extras: Includes Julie Kirgo’s peppy liner notes and two commentaries. Herrmann’s score can be enjoyed as an isolated experience on a separate track.
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Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and airplane crash realism.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez.
1993. Based on a novel by Rafael Yglesias, who also wrote the screenplay, this is an eerie, under-your-skin story of survivor trauma: specifically, an airplane mishap but a situation easily as applicable to combat or a mass killing where one is spared when others are not. A plane crashes in a cornfield — a setpiece staged expertly by director Peter Weir. A survivor played by Jeff Bridges begins thinking he’s indestructible. There’s some compelling support-group material involving an airline psychiatrist, and it’s instructive to witness the different ways in which the survivors react to the experience.
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By: Mike Clark
1. Dexter: The Complete Series Blu-ray Collection (Paramount/CBS): One of the hottest and most-talked-about TV series ended its run this fall after eight seasons, and Paramount has packaged the entire show in a cool wooden slide box inspired by the one Dexter himself uses to catalog his kills. The 25 discs come in individual one-sided jewel cases decorated with a huge blood spatter on the other side. The box is a bit pricey at $460 for the Blu-ray Disc version, but it’s readily available at retailers in the low $200s. And at that price it’s a deal. There’s also an Amazon exclusive gift set, packaged in a white human head, for a C-note more, but I’ll take the slide box anytime — less money and more compact for storage.
2. Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures): This is the other hugely popular TV series that ended its run this fall, and my hunch is there are very few people out there who wouldn’t appreciate finding the complete series — packaged in a “money barrel” — under their tree. Again, it’s quite pricey ($300), but could be had at a steep discount ($209 at BestBuy.com), although word on the street is it’s nearly sold out and may no longer be available by the time this story runs (Amazon already had it only through its secondary marketplace, where sellers were listing it for at least $500).
3. X-Men: The Adamantium Collection (20th Century Fox): At an average street price of $130, this one’s a real bargain: You get all six “X-Men” films on Blu-ray Disc, including the recently released The Wolverine, in a package topped with a replica of Wolverine’s claw. There’s also a bonus disc and an extra slot in the case for the seventh “X-Men” film, X-Men: Days of Future Past (scheduled to open theatrically in May 2014).
4. James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner): I love Warner’s stuff — the studio consistently outdoes itself with its premium “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” line, and this $99.98 SRP boxed set (around $70 in stores) commemorates the brief career of the fabled actor who has come to symbolize 1950s cool with Blu-ray Disc versions of his three films — East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) — as well as a glorious 48-page photo book with lots of behind-the-scenes photos.
5. The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner): Another of Warner’s new UCEs, this one packages all three films of Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot in a $99.97 SRP boxed set that also includes two new features and exclusive collectible memorabilia, including Mondo art prints, three toy vehicles (the Tumbler, the Batpod and the Bat) and a behind-the-scenes booklet.
6. JFK: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner): Yet another Warner UCE, this one centers on Oliver Stone’s controversial film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a conspiracy-laden thrillfest that makes you question everything you’ve ever heard about the notorious killing. The timing couldn’t be better (Kennedy was killed 50 years ago), the set sells for less than $50, and there are all sorts of cool collectibles, including reproductions of the late president’s inaugural address, a campaign poster and various photos and correspondence. There’s also a photo book and six postcards.
7. Anchorman Ultimate Blu-ray Fun Pack (Paramount): In a brilliant marketing ploy, the genuinely funny original has been repackaged into a Walmart-exclusive gift set on the eve of the theatrical debut of the sequel. The package costs less than $20 but includes not just the spruced-up “Rich Mahogany Edition” two-disc Blu-ray Disc edition, but also a T-shirt, a 16-page booklet and coupons for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s Anchorman Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream and a movie ticket to see the sequel in theaters (it opens Dec. 18).
8. Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga (Lionsgate): A great compact gift set that includes the entire teen-vampire saga, spread out across 10 Blu-ray discs (or 12 DVDs) with ample bonus content, including a comprehensive multi-part documentary. If you’re a “Twilight” fan, I can’t think of a better gift — even if someone you know already owns all the movies, it’s worth the upgrade, given all the extras. And the price won’t bust your wallet: the DVD set is readily available at retail for less than $40.
9. Futurama: The Complete Series (20th Century Fox): One of the greatest animated series of all time is presented here in its entirety — all 124 episodes, plus four feature-length epic adventures, for more than 50 hours of whacked-out hilarity from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening. And while I liked the robot head packaging that came out in 2009, this neat rectangular box is so much easier to stash away in the movie closet. It’s priced below $200, but for diehard Futurama fans — my three sons included — price really doesn’t matter (especially when dad’s paying for it).
10. Beverly Hills, 90210: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS): I was addicted to this show — essentially a soap opera about high schoolers growing up in ritzy BH — until my own kids started being born and I had to wean myself away from primetime TV, and honestly have been waiting for a complete-series set for years. It finally arrived last month, a dozen years after the original series went off the air, in an elegant white-and-fuchsia boxed set filled with 72 discs and 215 hours of drama. The list is $350, but I’ve seen it go for about $150 on Amazon and elsewhere.
Comedy Central’s “South Park” Dec. 4 completed a trilogy of episodes satirizing the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
The plot centered on the town’s children dividing into separate camps devoted to Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One video game consoles. Under the assumption that only one faction could emerge victorious, and set up that console as the dominate video game system for a generation, the two sides prepared for war in an elaborate “Game of Thrones” parody.
Meanwhile, the local mall security guards prepared for the onslaught of shoppers by unveiling a memorial wall to all the guards killed during previous Black Fridays. At one point, a character laments seeing a character getting killed off after knowing and liking them, a jab at shows such as “Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” where killing main characters at unexpected times has become routine.
The local news covered the hordes of people gathering at the mall, and interviewed a man who declared he ate his 5-year-old son because he was too hungry while waiting in line for his chance to buy a Blu-ray player for 96% off, or “about $20.” He then sang a little song to commemorate his actions.
When the moment arrived for the shoppers to storm the mall, the scene transformed into a literal bloodbath, with footage from actual Black Friday riots spliced into the montage for good measure.
As for the console wars? After gathering at the mall’s Red Robin for a fake wedding and a round of betrayal (a spoof of the infamous Red Wedding of “Thrones”), the children eventually decided it was all marketing hype to encourage them to buy video games. Their refusal to participate in the Black Friday rush forced Bill Gates and a Japanese Sony CEO to have a bare-knuckle brawl to decide the future of the video game industry.
Of course, it wouldn’t be “South Park” if creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t turn the joke back on themselves, plugging their oft-delayed video game South Park: The Stick of Truth, recently rescheduled for March 2014.
The entire trilogy of episodes can be watched at SouthParkStudios.com.
"The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart
Blu-ray’s synonymous relationship with Black Friday gained additional traction when Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” used the high-definition format in a Dec. 2 video skit lampooning the retail holiday’s oft-ignored underbelly.
Showcasing clips past and present of consumer frenzy at stores on Black Friday, Stewart picked on the usual human foibles (greed and exploitation), as well as the holiday’s biggest retail name: Walmart.
Focusing on the fact Walmart’s website temporarily malfunctioned on Black Friday, which didn't stop the retail behemoth from having its best day-after Thanksgiving retail event ever, Stewart used the incident (and others) to highlight the fickleness some put on the troubled rollout of Healthcare.gov, the website for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“So, if a website crashes trying to get people healthcare, it is a national travesty, but if Walmart’s site crashes while their stores are filled with people disemboweling each other to get Skyfall on Blu-ray…,” Stewart joked.
Watch the video.
By: Erik Gruenwedel
Another Black Friday has come and gone, and as I joined the madding crowd both the day before, after a hearty Thanksgiving Day dinner, and in the early morning hours of BF itself I made a mental note of various thoughts, observations and comments I’d like to share with you in this space.
For starters, the big news was that while consumer transactions were up, consumer spending was down. Welcome to our world, I thought. This is something we’ve seen time and time again, as the actual selling price of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs has gotten lower and lower.
This Black Friday, we must have hit bottom. I honestly don’t see how we can go any lower, with high-profile blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises and various “Harry Potter” movies selling for $1.96 on DVD and $4 on Blu-ray Disc and hundreds of more recent hits, such as The Great Gatsby, World War Z and Pacific Rim, priced in the same neighborhood. Even top-rated TV series such as “Dexter” and “Family Guy” were readily available for less than 10 bucks for a complete season.
Years ago, we’d talk and write about the “race to the bottom” and devaluing our precious product. No one’s talking about devaluation any more. As for the race to the bottom, we’re there, baby. It’s gotten to the point where at least on Black Friday, it’s oftentimes cheaper to buy a disc than it is to stream the same film over the Internet. Packaged media can’t help but survive under those circumstances.
I also noted quite a bit of rumbling about Walmart, in particular, opening on Thanksgiving Day. Lots of people complained it wasn’t fair to Walmart’s employees, and that we should boycott Walmart for not letting their workers stay home on the holiday with their families. Heck, I even heard talk of legislation to prevent retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day.
Whoa. The same people who complained about Walmart opening Thanksgiving night — long after most holiday meals, I might add — probably went to the gym in the morning and stopped by the supermarket on the way home to pick up some extra gravy or cranberry sauce on their way to the family meal. No worries about poor exploited gym workers or supermarket checkers, I guess. Walmart has become something of a piñata, and if I can get up on my soapbox for a minute let me opine this is because Walmart, unlike many grocery chains, is a non-union shop — a singling out I find monstrously unfair.
If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don’t. If enough people stay away, Walmart and the other big-box stores may rethink their decision. That’s the beauty of the free market, of supply and demand. But talk of boycotts and legislation is simply ridiculous. That’s just not how America works.
Best Buy's 'Wolverine' Gift Set
The big title the first week in December was Fox’s The Wolverine, a typical big-name title for retailers to attach exclusives to attract customers in the wake of Black Friday sales.
Best Buy offered the 3D combo pack of The Wolverine with exclusive packaging and a collectible card set. The special gift set was offered at $1 less than the regular 3D combo pack.
Walmart offered the Wolverine 3D combo pack with a Vudu download of a previous "X-Men" movie. The chain also offered bare-bones DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film.
Target offered the Wolverine 3D and Blu-ray combo packs with an exclusive 24-minute downloadable featurette, "The Legendary Wolverine."
Other exclusives at Target included two titles from Sony Pictures: an exclusive bonus disc with a 30-minute "Inside the Magic" featurette with the BD combo pack of The Smurfs 2, and 45 minutes of bonus interviews with the Blu-ray of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
Walmart offered Smurfs 2 Blu-ray gift sets with either a Papa Smurf or Smurfette plush.
Best Buy offered BBC’s Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special a week early on DVD ($17.99) and Blu-ray ($21.99). It goes wide Dec. 10.
'Breaking Bad: The Complete Series'
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment rolled out the red carpet treatment for its comprehensive “Breaking Bad” series set last week. Lead star Bryan Cranston showed up along with other talent from the series, including Vince Gilligan, the series creator, to acknowledge the end of an era in their respective careers as well as to promote the release of the gigantic series set.
Before the advent of disc, perhaps most of the reminiscing about a series happened at the wrap party and was lost to time. But Sony, via a feature-length documentary about the final season — allowing each actor to say a final goodbye — has given one of the seminal TV series of this era a truly proper sendoff.
I’ve written previously about the historical value of disc as a medium, and in the TV realm, disc offers a particular service when it documents the entire work of a series, almost as if it were an extended feature film. In the documentary, “Breaking Bad” is compared to feature Westerns of yesteryear. Like classics such as Stagecoach and The Searchers, “Breaking Bad” is an American Western, albeit a modern one, in which bad guys and good guys fight it out and in the end it is unclear what “good” and “bad” mean anymore. Another contemporary series, “The Walking Dead,” is exploring similar themes, and when it comes out in a complete series set, no doubt it will delight both rabid TV fans and media historians.
Like extended Westerns, both series may best be remembered as a whole, rather than piecemeal.
It’s been said recently that television as a medium is garnering increased creative attention. I recently talked to an aspiring writer who, rather than looking to write the next big feature film, was focusing his attention on writing for television because it afforded a better creative outlet.
While streaming episodes may be a great way to initially consume this flourishing creative format, it will be on disc, in full series sets, that these series will be preserved.
By: Stephanie Prange
All the President’s Men: Two-Disc Special Edition
Warner, Drama, $19.98 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards.
1976. The brand new Blu-ray of a benchmark of newspaper-pic royalty includes the automatically essential All the President’s Men Revisited documentary, which aired earlier this year on the Discovery Channel. Revisited’s standout “wow factor” is the reunion we get between Men leads Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman plus another one with Redford, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, plus former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, the bullet-biter Jason Robards won an Oscar for portraying. Everyone I knew spent a minimum of 90 minutes every day reading the Post Watergate coverage, and the movie brings it all back with an immediacy that still touches anyone who was there.
Extras: The documentary extras from the previous Men Blu-ray are carried over.
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Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room
Milestone, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2012. Vera Iwerebor’s main-event documentary chronicles the story of Diana Serra Cary — stage name Baby Peggy — a child star who, unlike so many, didn’t let the downward spiral of her career destroy her life. Cary, who is still alive at 95, was born a couple weeks before the World War I armistice and became one of the biggest movie stars of the early 1920s. The elephant part of the title refers to Peggy’s vanished stardom and its effect on the rest of her family — a subject that was apparently and incredibly never discussed at the dinner table or anywhere else.
Extras: The bonuses include three shorts and the 1924 feature Captain January.
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By: Mike Clark
Reading the bios of our 2013 Women of Home Entertainment, I was struck by how involved our industry’s women executives are in the digital evolution/revolution that’s transforming our business.
Kelley Avery of DreamWorks played an instrumental role in crafting a groundbreaking deal with Netflix to bring DreamWorks Animation titles to the streaming service.
Janice Marinelli, the new president of Disney Studio Global In-Home and Digital Distribution and Disney-ABC North American Content Distribution, has an enviable track record on the digital side. It was under her leadership that Disney a year ago struck a licensing deal that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription TV service for the studio’s first-run films in the pay window, beginning with 2016 theatrical releases.
Over at Sony Pictures, senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong gets much of the credit for making the studio a pioneer, and leader, in such digital initiatives as UltraViolet and early electronic sellthrough.
And 20th Century Fox’s chief marketing officer and president of worldwide marketing, Mary Daily, has played a key role in expanding the studio’s product portfolio to include Digital HD.
This marks the sixth consecutive year in which Home Media Magazine is saluting the women of home entertainment — but what began as a way for us to honor the industry’s top women executives now reads almost like a who’s who of cutting-edge and visionary leaders who are forever changing the way studios deliver, and the general public consumes, entertainment.
Home Media’s Women of Home Entertainment, class of 2013, is smart, determined, tenacious and sensible. They’re taking our industry into uncharted territory with confidence, competence and zest.
We’re in good hands, the best hands.
I’d also like to again give a nod to the Home Media group’s own women of home entertainment: Stephanie Prange, Angelique Flores, Julie Savant and Ashley Ratcliff. I couldn’t ask for a better team.
A slew of new titles Nov. 19 didn’t attract much in the way of retailer exclusives, with the only notable ones coming from Target. For Universal’s 2 Guns, Target offered an exclusive graphic novel with the Blu-ray combo pack.
Target offered the Blu-ray editions of Disney’s Planes with an exclusive bonus disc, not advertised in the chain’s weekly circular, that touted a deleted scene and an “Extreme Air Challenge” featurette hosted by Disney Channel’s Karan Brar.
Target also offered 50% off one Pull & Fly Buddies toy (sold for $9.99 each) with the purchase of the Planes Blu-ray.
At Best Buy, Planes could be had with a $10 discount when purchased at the same time as any Planes Nintendo video game.
Best Buy also offers an exclusive steelbook packaging and $5 CinemaNow credit with preorders of Universal’s Fast & Furious 6, arriving Dec. 10.
Walmart’s latest exclusively available title is the Hallmark Channel movie Pete’s Christmas, on DVD with a Vudu digital copy from Arc Entertainment for $12.96.