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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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16 Oct, 2017

New on Disc: 'Portrait of Jennie' and more …


Portrait of Jennie

Street 10/24/17
Kino Lorber, Fantasy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Ethel Barrymore, Cecil Kellaway, Lillian Gish.
1948. David O. Selznick’s coffers-busting Portrait of Jennie is a favorite of many despite more lumpy moments that you’d expect from a good movie that runs just 86 minutes. It’s an ethereal, supernatural romance that wouldn’t take too many stretches to qualify for inclusion in the time-travel genre.
Extras: Film historian Troy Howarth provides a stacked bonus commentary.
Read the Full Review

Crime of Passion

ClassicFlix, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr, Royal Dano, Fay Wray.
1957. With a new true 1.85:1 rendering that has more going for director Gerd Oswald’s sometimes detail-packed framing than the old DVD, Passion on Blu-ray is still a hit-and-miss affair that wavers through a good set-up, some boilerplate courtship material and then some nasty stuff that half-compels — though in sometimes rush-job fashion that gives the impression that maybe the filmmakers aren’t getting all that’s to be had out of the material.
Read the Full Review


11 Oct, 2017

Best Buy Offers 'Baby Driver' Steelbook


In a sparse week for retailer exclusives, Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging for Sony Pictures' Baby Driver 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Target offered an exclusive bonus DVD with Paramount's new Dreamgirls: Director's Extended Edition Blu-ray with more than two-and-a-half hours of content.

Best Buy is offering $10 in rewards for My Best Buy Members with preorders and purchase of select digital and physical video games.


9 Oct, 2017

New on Disc: 'Funny Bones' and more …


Funny Bones

Kino Lorber, Drama, $14.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Oliver Platt, Jerry Lewis, Lee Evans, Leslie Caron, Oliver Reed.
1995. A good drama, despite laughs, about professional comedy that also deals with strained relationships involving progeny that goes into some very dark byways, which audiences should be allowed to sample for themselves.
Extras: Includes a very animated commentary by writer/co-director Peter Chelsom and simpatico interviewer Elijah Drenner.
Read the Full Review

Gun Fury (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Phil Carey, Lee Marvin, Leo Gordon.
1953. This Raoul Walsh Western is not much of a movie, only occasionally wallows in the 3D form and is of primary interest due when you’re “outside the picture” and simply concentrating on what was going on with careers at the time.
Read the Full Review


3 Oct, 2017

Retailers Load Up on 'Pirates' Booty

Best Buy 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Steelbook
Best Buy 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Steelbook

Retailers offered quite a few options for consumers looking to buy Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales on disc.

Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive digital bonus content in the form of featurettes "From the Depths" and "How to Steal a Bank."

Best Buy had Steelbook editions for the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray versions. Best Buy also had the first four "Pirates" movies as low as $7.99 each.

Target is giving a $5 gift card with preorders for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Blu-ray will include a comic book and an exclusive bonus disc.

Walmart had a display of Fox and MGM Halloween-themed Blu-rays and DVDs with limited-edition cover art by Mexican-Cuban-American artist Orlando Arocene. The copies at Walmart came with an exclusive coloring book featuring the designs.

 


28 Sep, 2017

Celebrating the 30-Year Legacy of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'


Today marks the 30th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which premiered in first-run syndication Sept. 28, 1987.

At the time, few put much stock in the prospects of Paramount’s attempt to bring “Star Trek” back to the small screen, despite the success the crew of the original series had been enjoying in movie theaters. However, despite a bumpy start, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” would go on to represent a significant milestone in the evolution of science-fiction on television.

By the mid 1980s, television networks weren’t interested in weekly sci-fi dramas anymore. In the 1960s, shows such as the original “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” proved there was a market for it, but advancements in visual effects over the ensuing decades would prove problematic for such productions, especially with Star Wars raising audience expectations. Space-based shows were either too expensive for networks to pursue when done right, or would seem too cheesy when done on the cheap, to the point where audiences would stay away.

For example, the 1978 “Battlestar Galactica” generated a significant fan base, but not large enough for ABC to justify its weekly budget. So, the network canceled the show, then retooled its premise to cut costs. The result, “Galactica 1980,” was widely panned as one of the worst shows of all time.

“Star Trek,” of course, had migrated to the big screen by 1979 with the first film starring the cast of the original 1966-69 show. That project had evolved from an attempt by Paramount to revive “Star Trek” on television in the 1970s by making it the anchor of a new TV network. When those plans fell through, the success of Star Wars inspired Paramount executives to bring their own vaunted space franchise into cinemas.

While the business of Star Wars may have had some influence on its existence, the creative direction of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is more of a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning ode to space exploration that was released in 1968, when the original “Star Trek” was still on the air.

While Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a box office success, it was also a troubled production that proved expensive for the studio, which overhauled the film production team to ensure a tighter budget on the sequels. This led to what most fans regard as the best of the “Trek” films, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was followed in 1984 by Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986 by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The three formed a tidy trilogy, with Star Trek IV proving to be the biggest box office hit of the entire franchise (a title it would hold until the J.J. Abrams movies).

During production of the fourth movie, the studio decided to take advantage of the 20th anniversary of the franchise with a new TV show. With production budgets of the films once again inching upward, the studio decided a cast of unknowns would be a cost-effective alternative way of carrying on the franchise. (Indeed, the fifth film to feature the original cast would fall victim to budget restrictions.)

By this time, network sci-fi was usually just a high-concept adjustment to an otherwise normal TV show — Knight Rider and its talking robotic car had just finished airing on NBC. Paramount decided to air the new “Star Trek” episodes in syndication, bypassing networks and selling the episode rights directly to stations in local markets. Syndication is typically a distribution model for reruns of old shows and movies, but using it for original content wasn’t unheard of, such as with American airings of the British show “Space: 1999” in the 1970s.

As to the problem of production costs, the show’s visual effects team decided it could save time and money by compositing the show on video tape, resulting in complex visual effects that at the resolution of televisions at the time would appear to be motion-picture quality. (This process, however, wasn’t suitable for high-definition, leading to the show being painstakingly remastered in the past few years for a Blu-ray release).

Gene Roddenberry returned to create the show, essentially reinventing the concept he had brought to NBC more than 20 years earlier, refining it to reflect changes to his humanist philosophy over the ensuing decades. Roddenberry’s involvement with the new show might be considered ironic in some circles, given how the show was a response to the movies, which didn’t achieve their measure of success until after Roddenberry’s role in their production was reduced following the first film.

Likewise, it could be argued that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” didn’t take off until many of the storytelling restraints Roddenberry imposed upon it were lifted after he took on a reduced role in its production in the later seasons. He died in 1991.

By then the show had caught on, and its success led to a glut of programming using first-run syndication, such as the long run of “Baywatch” following a brief network run. Hollywood being the hot-bed of imitation that it is, by the 1990s many shows in this new wave of syndication were low-budget sci-fi and fantasy efforts, such as “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and its spinoff, “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

Paramount itself would produce one such show in the form of “War of the Worlds,” a two-season sequel to the 1953 film based on the H.G. Wells novel.

By 1993, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was popular enough to justify its own spinoff, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was born, inverting the “Trek” formula by being set on board a space station rather than a ship.

With syndication having proved viable, distributors also began to piece together ad hoc networks for their shows, such as the “Prime Time Entertainment Network,” which aired “Babylon 5,” a space station-based rival to “DS9,” and “Time Trax,” a show about a time traveling cop aimed at the “Quantum Leap” crowd.

By the mid 1990s, deregulation would allow these syndication relationships to coalesce into new national networks, with the WB and Paramount’s UPN joining CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. With “Star Trek: The Next Generation” coming to an end in 1994 (and itself migrating to the big screen), and “DS9” proving a success amid an increasingly crowded syndication field, Paramount decided that a fourth “Trek” show, “Star Trek: Voyager,” would anchor its new network, finally realizing the plans it has previously tried in the 1970s.

As if on cue amid this resurgence, the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) launched in 1992, and over time cable channels would prove to be a viable home for televised sci-fi. “Stargate SG-1,” based on the 1994 Stargate movie, would premiere on Showtime in 1997 before itself migrating to the Sci-Fi Channel.

All these shows, but especially “Star Trek,” would prove to be a stomping ground for sci-fi writers on TV.

Prominent “TNG” and “DS9” writer/producer Ronald D. Moore and several other writers from those shows would go on to produce the 2003-09 remake of “Battlestar Galactica” for Sci-Fi Channel that many consider to be one of the hallmarks of the current age of prestige serialized television dramas. After that, Moore adapted “Outlander” for Starz.

Another notable “DS9” writer, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, went on to produce “Andromeda,” a future-set sci-fi show based on ideas by Gene Roddenberry.

“Star Trek; Voyager” alum Bryan Fuller was later responsible for the likes of “Dead Like Me,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Hannibal” and “American Gods.”

Still other “Trek” veterans would stay on with the franchise, with “Star Trek: Enterprise” airing for four seasons on UPN following the end of “Voyager.” With the end of “Enterprise” in 2005, producers felt it was only appropriate to conclude where it started, setting the finale of the 18-year run of revived “Star Trek” as another adventure for members of the “TNG” crew.

Even writers who didn’t work on “Trek” were certainly influenced by it, given “TNG” an even bigger footprint on the landscape of television over the past 30 years.

So, it’s only fitting that one of the latest entries in this legacy is “The Orville,” a loving homage to “TNG” created by long-time fan Seth MacFarlane and produced by many of talents who cut their teeth on “Star Trek” so many years ago.

And, of course, the franchise itself is back on TV with “Star Trek: Discovery,” which, in keeping with the tradition of finding new distribution models to deliver new “Star Trek,” is the flagship of the CBS All-Access streaming service.

In many ways, “Discovery” is a bold departure from the franchise fans might be used to — a reinvention of “Star Trek” for the golden age of television of the 21st century. And in that, the franchise has in its own way come full circle, as the wide-ranging impact that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” had on the television landscape will continue to be felt for years to come.


26 Sep, 2017

A Slew of 'Transformers' Options at Retail

'Transformers' Steelbooks at Best Buy: 5-film collection and 'The Last Knight' UHD
'Transformers' Steelbooks at Best Buy: 5-film collection and 'The Last Knight' UHD

The big national retailers inundated consumers with a number of exclusive versions of Paramount's Transformers: The Last Knight Sept. 26.

Best Buy offered three Steelbook editions containing the new film — Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD versions, plus a Steelbook five-film collection.

Target offered a version of the Blu-ray combo pack with special box art and an exclusive bonus disc containing 50 minutes of additional content.

Walmart offered a couple of gift sets containing the fifth live-action "Transformers" movie. One had the Blu-ray combo pack with die-cast miniatures of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in vehicle form. Another had the UHD version with an "immersive 360-degree video experience" and limited-edition viewing goggles.

Among other titles, Best Buy had a line of Marvel Cinematic Universe Blu-rays with new box art. These are slimmed down from the usual Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and contain just the Blu-ray and Digital HD for $19.99 each.


25 Sep, 2017

New on Disc: 'Festival' and more …


Festival

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1967. An impressionistic chronicle of the Newport Folk Festivals from the early ’60s golden days, this documentary features a mix of performers who were hot at the time.
Extras: The accompanying Criterion essay by music critic Amanda Petrusich does a smooth job of establishing historical context, which isn’t easy because even though the performers were unified in purpose, there were a lot of them from contrasting backgrounds and eras.
Read the Full Review

The Big Knife (Blu-ray)

MVD/Arrow, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Wendell Corey, Shelley Winters.
1955. Director Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of a Clifford Odets play isn’t a great or even totally successful film, but on a fascination/entertainment level, it takes a fairly substantial place in a good movie year.
Extras: Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton provide the most enjoyable voiceover commentary I’ve heard in a while.
Read the Full Review


25 Sep, 2017

New Format Off to a Great Start, But Still Needs Marketing


In our September issue, we examine the status of 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), a new format that — despite being quite a mouthful — seems to be taking off.

Consumers may not understand unwieldy acronyms, but they understand better quality, especially when they see it. Still, if 4K UHD with HDR is to attract the mainstream consumer, the industry it seems will need to make a concerted effort to demonstrate its virtues. The Blu-ray Disc Association has cited data from Futuresource that shows consumers in the United States are familiar with UHD TVs (75%) but that less than half (44%) are aware of high dynamic range (HDR) TVs. That lower percentage familiar with HDR holds true internationally as well. Since HDR, most industry observers hold, is the key to a higher-quality picture, providing greater contrast and deeper, more lifelike colors, it seems further marketing is in order.

Most consumers who upgrade their TVs will adopt 4K UHD (most with HDR) by osmosis, as the newer models will feature the updated format. To get consumers to spend money on content for the new format will require marketing and demonstrations.

“With 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, seeing is believing,” noted Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Educating consumers around the format’s stunning resolution, color brilliance and multi-dimensional sound is of the utmost priority across the industry.”

“Warner Bros. works very closely with our consumer electronics colleagues to incorporate 4K HDR clips and images from our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases whenever possible,” said Jessica Schell, EVP and GM for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “This is an ideal way to ensure that the consumer understands the quality of content available to watch in 4K HDR on these new 4K HDR TVs.”

I know organizations such as the BDA and the UHD Alliance, along with the studios, are working on programs to help boost the format at retail and among consumers. As the industry embarks on the holiday season, when numerous shoppers will be out sampling the latest TVs, the home entertainment industry should take advantage of this great opportunity to showcase 4K UHD with HDR content. 

 


22 Sep, 2017

Putting Perceptions in Perspective


When it comes to home entertainment sales, victories are not what they once were, but that shouldn’t diminish a win. That’s why it is so important that we temper our perceptions with perspective.

The sales business, both digital and physical, is competing with an almost unbeatable proposition, from a consumer standpoint: gobs of movies, TV shows and original content for about $10 a month. First-run movies may be conspicuously absent from Netflix’s all-you-can-eat entertainment buffet, but consumers don’t seem to mind, particularly now that Netflix has ramped up its game with compelling original content that is so addicting that “binge watching,” with apologies to baseball, appears to be America’s new greatest national pastime.

I’m saying this as an introduction of sorts to our annual report on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, which all the studios are now supporting. Walt Disney Studios made the circle complete with its July announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would be its first release in the better-than-high-def format. But for those who are wondering why sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, 18 months after the format officially launched, still represent a tiny fraction of overall disc sales — the first-week record for a theatrical new release is 14%, set by Fox’s Alien: Covenant in August — let’s put things in perspective.

We’re in a different world than we were 20 years ago, when DVD first hit the market. Even then, DVD didn’t really gather traction until two years after its launch — and we need to keep in mind that DVD was the first format to make movie and TV show ownership both feasible and affordable. The novelty of being able to buy a movie for less than $20 just three months after it bowed on the big screen was a revolutionary thing; by the time Blu-ray Disc came around in 2006 the novelty of movie ownership, and collecting, had worn off, and even then-Disney home entertainment chief Bob Chapek opined that Blu-ray was evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Since then, we’ve seen the rise of streaming and the emergence of digital ownership. In their first few months, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales may have exceeded Blu-ray Disc sales, in the comparable period, but that simply isn’t sustainable. There are too many other entertainment options, most of them tied to the Internet, for disc sales to ever approach the magnitude of what they were in DVD’s heyday. The decline in overall disc sales over the past decade is somewhat misleading — in most quarters, Blu-ray Disc sales have held steady or even gained — but the total amount of money consumers are allocating to buying physical home entertainment continues to decline, and that’s a trend that will not only continue, but also accelerate.

Similarly, digital sales are making impressive gains, percentage-wise, but it is unlikely they will ever surpass, or even come close, to the money consumers spend on streaming, chiefly through Netflix. Subscription streaming plays into those two hallowed temples of consumer wants: simple and cheap.

But that’s OK. As an industry, we need to temper our expectations and celebrate our victories, no matter how small. When digital sales go up 10% in a quarter, we should be happy — and not moan and groan because the actual dollars are a fraction of what consumers spend that quarter on Netflix. Similarly, when the DEG releases its quarterly sales estimates, we don’t have to sulk because disc sales went down another 12%. Break those numbers apart and you’ll most likely see Blu-ray Disc sales numbers holding steady and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc numbers soaring, compared to prior quarters.

For those of us who grew up with VHS rentals and then DVD sales, there’s no question that we’re living in a strange world, a changed world. We just have to adapt, both with our business models and with our perceptions.


19 Sep, 2017

Retailers Hail 'Wonder Woman' With Exclusives


Several retailer exclusives were available to consumers for Warner's Wonder Woman.

Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack of Wonder Woman with digibook packaging containing a 64-page book excerpt.

Walmart offered a DVD edition with no extras, and a Blu-ray gift set with a wearable tiara based on Wonder Woman's headgear.

Best Buy offered an exclusive 3D Blu-ray combo pack containing character traiding cards, and a Steelbook for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition. Best Buy also had an exclusive $79.99 four-pack of the UHD Blu-rays of all four DCEU films: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel.

Best Buy also had exclusive 4K UHD Blu-ray Steelbook editions for Sony Pictures' Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, the original Starship Troopers and the 40th Anniversary re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Walmart offered separate DVD releases for vol. 1 and vol. 2 of PBS's The Vietnam War documentary for $29.96 each.