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.
Target Gets Dolled Up
A couple of March 25 new releases on disc came with deals for tie-in toys when bought at Target.
Those who bought Universal’s Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action on DVD ($12.99) or Blu-ray ($17.99) could save $5 off a select “Monster High” doll (priced at $18.99).
Warner’s Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery animated film came with a free WWE figure (valued at $4.99) with purchase of the disc.
Walmart had an exclusive for the new “Scooby-Doo!” WWE crossover movie, offering the DVD version packed with a John Cena “Rumbler” figure.
Target also offered exclusive Blu-ray steelbook packaging with Paramount’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Best Buy offered The Wolf of Wall Street on Blu-ray with a bonus disc featuring director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio on the making of the movie.
Hot Deals for 'Frozen'
Disney’s Frozen was easily the hottest item among the March 18 new releases on disc, with plenty of good deals offered by retailers for the animated hit.
Best Buy offered a free My Frozen Chronicles book with specially marked Blu-ray combo packs. Best Buy also had the film’s CD soundtrack on sale for $11.99.
Target offered a $5 savings off the Frozen Blu-ray when purchased at the same time as any Frozen toy valued at $20 or more. Target’s Blu-ray combo packs included a bonus disc containing the featurette “The Voices of Frozen,” an art gallery and a deleted scene.
Target also included an exclusive bonus disc with copies of Anchor Bay’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The 30 minutes of extra content included a making-of featurette with a filmmaker Q&A.
Best Buy offered a $5 coupon for the purchase of the Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray, taking the price down to $17.99.
Walmart offered 40 minutes of exclusive bonus content with Lionsgate’s Grace Unplugged.
How Studios, Theaters and TV Manufacturers All But Killed 3D
When CES 2014 ended, I half-expected to see an obituary for 3D from the press. Some TV manufacturers (such as Vizio) eliminated 3D as a feature on their 2014 models, while others (such as Panasonic) reduced the number of models with this feature. Though the number of 3D movies being released to theaters hasn’t quite diminished, the number of screens and showings has, with some of the smaller exhibitors (Starlight Cinemas chain in Southern California) getting out of 3D altogether. Some say the nail in the coffin came when Disney opted to forego the release of a 3D Blu-ray edition of one of its most successful animated films in years, Frozen (although the title is available on 3D digitally). How did we get to this point and is 3D really dead?
■ 3D-Capable Televisions Arrived Too Late: Samsung and Panasonic debuted their 3D televisions in 2010. By then close to 65% of U.S. households had already upgraded to HDTV and didn’t plan on upgrading again for at least another five years.
■ High Cost of Active-3D Glasses With No Universal Standard: When 3D TVs first arrived at retail, most sets came with one pair of 3D glasses. Up until the 2013 model year, most Panasonic active-3D sets shipped without glasses. If a customer needed more, the cost was typically around $100 each. Costs have dropped considerably for some manufacturers (Samsung’s glasses sell for $19.99 for battery operated, $49.99 for rechargeable), but Panasonic’s are still quite high at $69.99. What’s worse is that when many of the manufacturers introduced new and improved glasses, they were not backward-compatible with prior-model year TVs.
■ Public Perception of Limited Content: When I tell people I have a 3D-capable TV, they often ask why I bothered, since there’s little content. If you look, you will find it. Most people are unaware that Netflix has many movies available in 3D on its streaming service. Walmart’s streaming service, Vudu, has several titles available in 3D, as does PlayStation Network. Many cable and satellite services offer pay-per-view movies in 3D. None of this is very well publicized, hence the public perception. One thing that did get a lot of public attention, though, was the announcement of ESPN 3D going off the air, with most 3D naysayers proclaiming it was the public’s rejection of 3D. My opinion is that most people didn’t want to watch that same old game over and over again.
■ High Cost of Content: It’s understandable 3D Blu-ray titles were around $50 when the format launched. Nearly four years later, most 3D Blu-rays still have an MSRP of $49.99.
■ 3D Surcharge at the Local Cineplex: I still do not understand the reason for this, although I used to think it was to pay for the glasses. What is even more confusing is the variance in this surcharge. Most Regal Cinemas locations charge $4 more, as do AMC and Cinemark. But the smaller chains charge a lot less, some as low as $2. This surcharge often brings ticket prices in excess of $19.
■ Too Many Bad 3D Conversions: I’ve seen some great 3D conversions of films originally shot in 2D. The Nightmare Before Christmas stands as one of the best. But other, poorer conversions, soured the 3D experience for many moviegoers. What the studios don’t understand is the public is rejecting bad 3D.
So, is 3D dead? It is definitely in a state of decline, but not down for the count. I prefer to say 3D is going into hibernation, waiting for James Cameron’s much-anticipated “Avatar” sequels to help give 3D its much-deserved comeback.
By: Todd Erwin
Best Buy Offers Bonus Points With Preorders
Best Buy heavily touted several upcoming releases in its March 9 ad circular, offering 100 My Best Buy bonus points with the advance purchase of several upcoming Blu-rays for $19.99 each. Titles include Sony Pictures’ American Hustle (March 18), Disney’s Frozen (March 18), Paramount’s The Wolf of Wall Street (March 25), Paramount’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (April 1) and Universal’s Ride Along (April 15).
Best Buy also offered $7 off the e-book of The Book Thief with the purchase of the new Blu-ray of the film version, available from Fox.
Target, which seemed to quickly sell out of its exclusive deluxe Blu-ray editions of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, altered its promotion to give buyers of the film a free six-pack of Pop-Secret popcorn.
For Universal’s new animated film Barbie: The Pearl Princess, Target offered a free Barbie mini doll with the purchase of the film or the transforming Pearl Princess doll.
Walmart had exclusive availability of the Anchor Bay family film Against the Wild.
'Catching' Retail Exclusives
Target's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' exclusive set
Any momentum films might have coming after the Oscars will be completely overshadowed by the Friday, March 7, arrival of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The top-grossing film at the domestic box office from 2013 is receiving huge retail attention and arrives with a variety of exclusives from which consumers can choose.
Walmart is offering special DVD ($19.96) and Blu-ray ($24.96) double features containing Catching Fire with the first film, in addition to standalone copies of the sequel.
Helping to promote the Catching Fire home video release, several Walmarts will host stars from the film at fan events starting at 11 p.m. local time March 6. Actress Willow Shields (who plays Primrose Everdeen in the films) will at a Walmart in Orange, Calif.; Meta Golding (Enobaria) and Bruno Gunn (Brutus) will be at a Walmart in Elgin, Ill.; Stephanie Leigh Schlund (Cashmere) and Lynn Cohen (Mags) will appear at a Walmart in Secaucus, N.j.
Best Buy offers Catching Fire with a collectible Blu-ray steelbook case for $22.99, in addition to an en exclusive steelbook of the first film for $17.99. Cost is $27.99 for both when purchased together. The purchase of either steelbook includes $8 in Fandango cash for a ticket to the new film Divergent in theaters.
Target offers the Catching Fire Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 45 minutes of exclusive extras, as well as a collectible booklet for $22.99. The first film is available for $11 on DVD and $13 on Blu-ray.
Target is also gearing up for the upcoming theatrical release of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with endcap displays of new “Captain America” toys in the toy aisle, complete with DVDs of the first film.
New on Disc: 'Foreign Correspondent' and more …
Criterion, Thriller, $39.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, Albert Basserman.
1940. Joel McCrea plays an ordinary guy typical of Alfred Hitchcock films getting tossed and turned by unexpected intrigue and a polished smoothie (Herbert Marshall) who’s perpetrating it. Plus, the film has a pre-WWII call-to-arms speech that’s a lot less subtle than the rest. Foreign Correspondent was among the classier American features to get an early TV release, but was frequently exhibited via worn prints. Criterion has given the movie a new 2K restoration, and it looks better than I’ve ever seen it.
Extras: One of the typically bountiful Criterion extras is an interview with writer and film historian Mark Harris about the ways in which Hollywood contributed to the wartime propaganda effort. The other main extra is a new piece on the film’s special effects. There’s also a written essay by film scholar James Naremore, a 1942 Life war-related photo essay by Hitchcock, a 1946 radio adaptation of this yarn with Joseph Cotten, and Hitchcock’s 1972 appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show.”
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Available via Warner Archive
HBO, Documentary, $17.95 DVD, NR.
2013. This HBO documentary is a two-pronged affair that deals first with Marty Glickman’s own success as an athlete — he was a brilliant runner who got shafted out of appearing in the Hitler-hosted 1936 Olympics in Berlin — with the Olympics experience as a climactic bitter pill, and then as the storied announcer (he coined the term “swish”) for the New York Knicks, New York Giants and New York Jets. Several household names appear in interviews to praise him.
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By: Mike Clark
'Thor' Exclusives Reign
Target's 'Thor: The Dark World' Loki Cover
Each of the major retail chains offered its own exclusive promotion for Disney’s Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray release.
Best Buy offered the 3D combo pack with a steelbook case. Target offered the 3D edition with an exclusive Loki slipcover, as well as a one-month free trial subscription to the Marvel Unlimited service, which offers access to more than 13,000 digital comic books. Walmart offered an exclusive Loki featurette watchable through its Vudu streaming service.
The Walmart promotion indicated it was available with the 3D combo pack, although the stickers touting it were on the regular single-disc Blu-rays (not that it mattered; the code to access the featurette was on the sticker, not inside the package).
Amazon offered exclusive Thor: The Dark World featurettes with its digital edition of the film.
The other big film released during the week, Warner’s Gravity, didn’t offer much in the way of exclusives, although Walmart had the DVD with special box art.
Walmart also had the first volume of Warner’s “Teen Titans Go!” on DVD a week before its March 4 street date, offered at $12.96.
More 'Game of Thrones' Exclusives With Season Three
Best Buy's 'Game of Thrones' covers
A light week of new releases Feb. 18 offered almost no new theatricals on disc, with the biggest title being HBO’s third-season Blu-ray and DVD of “Game of Thrones.”
Target offered the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 90 minutes of exclusive content, including interviews with cast members and author George R. R. Martin, who wrote the books upon which the series is based. Target also touted paperbacks of Martin’s “Thrones’ books.
Best Buy offered a choice of three exclusive Blu-ray covers, each bearing the sigil of one of the families fighting for power on the show. Best Buy also offered a $50 savings off an HTC One with two-year activation, with the purchase of the third-season of “Game of Thrones.”
I Rented a Disc From Redbox — for the First Time
When it comes to movies, I have never been a frequent renter. And when the retail rental stores in my extended neighborhood became extinct, I stopped completely. It’s been several years since I last rented a movie. Renting from a red vending machine just didn’t have the same appeal compared to my recollection of wandering the aisles of titles.
Recently I gave in and decided to give Redbox a try. My usual modus operandi is to buy Blu-rays I’m interested in at Amazon or a local retailer, but for some reason I just couldn’t do it with Elysium, despite the positive review at Home Theater Forum. I’m not sure if it was budget overload from the holidays or a feeling that it wouldn’t get a lot of repeat viewings, but I just couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger at the sellthrough price. After carrying it around Best Buy for 20 minutes while shopping, it hit me: I could check it out through Redbox. For $1.50 why not give it a shot? That seemed a lot more reasonable than spending $25 for a film I may not watch again.
I went home, set up an account online, reserved a copy at my nearest Redbox and picked it up. It was pretty painless. It was a bit annoying to become reacquainted with the “watch me now or pay more later” feeling that comes from knowing you need to have a title back in 24 hours to prevent additional charges. That, combined with the fact it took me a few tries to feed my return into the machine the wrong way (I’m not good with following directions), were the only things standing in the way of me considering the experience a complete success.
Does my first successful rental mean I will be a frequent customer? Not really. I plan on renting Ender’s Game, so my local Redbox will be seeing more of me, but I don’t think we will ever be on a first-name basis. There are a few things still preventing me from switching from retail to more rental. Vending rental has limited title selections, a lack of catalog and no 3D titles. Also, the studios are releasing rental versions with limited or no special features. The biggest obstacle for me, however, is the rental blackout window many studios have — normally I’m not willing to wait an extra 28 or so days to watch a movie, and considering the instant gratification, special features (including 3D) and the usual inclusion of a digital copy, a new-release Blu-ray is a pretty good value when you take into account retailer discounting.
So even though I’m going back for another rental, blackout windows and a lack of special features on some titles deter me from renting. I think it’s telling that I’ve already purchased or preordered nine titles this month that won’t be at my local Redbox until several weeks after retail release.
By: Adam Gregorich
New on Disc: 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' and more …
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Blu-ray)
Criterion, Comedy, $49.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Terry-Thomas, Edie Adams, Dick Shawn, Jim Backus, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, Buster Keaton.
1963. Criterion’s release is the second attempt to piece together what remains of scrapped footage into something resembling the original road-show cut. Overall, I prefer the more-common shorter version (which also is included), but it’s still a treat to see what was cut.
Criterion has gone all out with this one: three standard DVDs for both versions of the film and copious extras plus two Blu-rays that replicate the same material.
To go along with its A-team cast, Criterion has assembled a gang of bonus-section backgrounder personnel. Lou Lumenick nails it when he says that “part of the genius” of the movie “is that while each of the main stars is given plenty of room to do his or her own thing, they also come together brilliantly as a team.”
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Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $1.35 million, $40.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG’ for thematic elements, brief mild language and smoking.
In Arabic with English subtitles.
Stars Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah.
2013. The irrepressible 10-year-old Saudi Arabian sass-giver here longs to own a bicycle. So she rebels against everyone who says that bikes are only for boys — something akin, perhaps, to what writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour must have done as well because this is the first feature film made by a Saudi female. This is another of those releases where the production’s backstory rivals what’s on screen.
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By: Mike Clark