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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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29 Oct, 2013

A 'Monster' of an Exclusive

Walmart's 'Monsters University' Gift Set
Walmart's 'Monsters University' Gift Set

The retailers were out in force to offer fans of Disney’s Monsters University an extra enticement to pick up a copy in their store.

As far as exclusive bonus content goes, Target offered the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo pack and 3D combo pack with a “College Days” featurette. Target also offered $5 off any Monsters University Blu-ray with the purchase of a Scare Student figure, priced at $9.99.

Best Buy offered a free Mike plush with any Monsters University Blu-ray combo pack. The chain also touted Disney Infinity figures based on the movie for $13.99 each.

At Walmart, shoppers could pick up the Monsters University Blu-ray/DVD combo as part of a gift set that included a Disney Infinity Mike or Randall figure (priced on its own at $12.96).

Walmart also had exclusive availability of the DVD of the family movie Coming Home for Christmas, which included a limited-edition Norman Rockwell print. The DVD, offered at $9.96, also included a bonus Vudu digital copy.


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22 Oct, 2013

Retailers Ride Barbie's 'Pony'

Walmart's 'Barbie' DVD with plush pony
Walmart's 'Barbie' DVD with plush pony

Direct-to-video animation based on toy lines is a natural fit for exclusive add-ons, and retailers didn’t miss a beat with Universal’s new Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale.

Target offered a free Chelsea doll with the purchase of either the movie or the tie-in Barbie doll (priced at $11.99).

Walmart offered the DVD packed with a free plush pony.

Among other new releases, Walmart had copies of Fox’s The Internship DVD packed with the DVD for another Vince Vaughn starrer, Dodgeball.

Best Buy decided to help shoppers for Halloween with a free Despicable Me 2 minion trick-or-treat bag with the purchase of select titles, including the original Despicable Me, ParaNorman and Monster High: Ghouls Rule.

For The Internship, Best Buy offered a $5 discount when the Blu-ray was purchased at the same time as the Blu-ray for The Heat.

Target is ramping up promotions of its Target Ticket streaming service, setting up an endcap of ticketed titles among the other DVDs and Blu-rays.

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21 Oct, 2013

New on Disc: 'Fantastic Voyage' and more …

Fantastic Voyage (Blu-ray)

Fox, Sci-Fi, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Arthur Kennedy, Edmond O’Brien.
A dual Oscar winner for art/set decoration and special effects in a far more primitive technological era, Fox’s hit howler about a journey through a human body is a prime example of a mostly terrible movie being sometimes mistaken for a better one simply because it is what it is (i.e. something any movie lover would covet, at least on paper). A world-renowned scientist with unique knowledge barely survives an assassination attempt, and to save him, a small crew of experts must be miniaturized along with their submarine and injected into the victim’s bloodstream. But there’s a hitch — if the participants, who include Raquel Welch in her first major role, can’t accomplish the feat in an hour, they begin reverting to normal size. You just have to go with it because it was a remarkable achievement for the day, and at least Leonard Rosenman’s score remains effective. Fox’s Blu-ray is a notable leap over the old DVD version. 
Read the Full Review

Plunder Road

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Raymond, Wayne Morris, Jeanne Cooper, Elisha Cook Jr.
This is hardly a film to be oversold, but it easily fills the bill if you like your ‘50s cinema grimy and kind of gamey. It deals with a motley assemblage of not-quite-hoods who rob a train of government gold and split the stash into the back of large highway-bound trucks. Director Hubert Cornfield shot this fairly taut little toughie in about two weeks, and indeed, it’s mostly minimalist aside from the visual excitement cinematographer Ernest Haller brings to the imposing trucks that dominate his Regalscope framing. 
Read the Full Review

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20 Oct, 2013

Remembering Lou Scheimer

Animation legend Lou Scheimer died Oct. 17. He was 84.

Scheimer, as co-founder of the Filmation studio, was responsible for many memorable cartoons from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The one that stood out most to me growing up was the “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” cartoon, one of the first shows with a toy-line tie-in. In addition to serving as executive producer, Scheimer voiced Orko on the series.

He also had a significant impact on the “Star Trek” franchise, as Filmation produced the “Star Trek” animated series in 1973 and 1974. While it lasted only 22 episodes, it included the voices of most of the original series cast and proved there was still a demand for new “Star Trek” adventures, which paid off later when the franchise expanded into films and spinoff TV series.

I had occasion to interview Scheimer back in 2006, one of the first feature interviews I did for Home Media Magazine. The piece, heralding the arrival of “She-Ra” on DVD, was included with the first issue of Agent DVD and distributed at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con International.

Scheimer was friendly and inviting and willing to talk about almost every aspect of his career in animation. He was 77 at the time and demonstrated great recall of many of the various series he had worked on, from “Star Trek,” to Superman and Batman cartoons in the 1960s and 1970s, “He-Man,” “The Archies,” “Fat Albert,” “The Groovie Ghoulies” and more. Filmation also produced a number of live-action kids’ shows in the 1970s, including “Shazam” and “The Ghost Busters” (which wasn’t related to the better-known 1984 Ghostbusters movie, which had to license the name from Filmation).

We spoke during two phone calls that lasted about an hour each. I later had a chance to meet Lou in person at Comic-Con, where he was signing copies of the “She-Ra” DVD at the booth for Tower Records (which still existed in 2006). He was gracious enough to sign a copy of the article I had written, which I still have hanging on my wall.

Lou will be missed, but his legacy and influence will live on through the DVDs and reruns of his work, and the countless children he entertained.

Here’s me at Comic-Con in 2006 with Lou Scheimer and his daughter, Erika, who provided many voices for Filmation series.


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11 Oct, 2013

In Defense of 'Raiders'

Get the Blu-ray already, Sheldon!
Get the Blu-ray already, Sheldon!

The Oct. 10 episode of “The Big Bang Theory” featured an intriguing premise. Primary geek Sheldon (Jim Parsons) treated his girlfriend, Amy (Mayim Bialik) to her first-ever viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark, she suggested the film suffered from a major plot flaw, that Indiana Jones was ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of events.

She’s not altogether wrong. Even with Indiana Jones there, the Nazis found the Ark of the Covenant, took it to their secret island lair, opened it and died. And all of this would have happened if Indiana Jones had never showed up. And this little news sent Sheldon and his friends into a funk when obsessing over the detail, thinking it ruined the movie, and ultimately the franchise (aside from the fourth movie, which Sheldon said was bad on its own).

To their credit, the guys did try to punch holes in Amy’s theory. First, the suggestion that the Nazis were digging in the wrong spot, and only found the Ark because of Indy; this was countered by the assumption that without Indy, the Nazis would have gotten the medallion from Marion when the first tried, and would have found the right spot to dig. Then there was the idea that Indy’s presence at the opening ritual was how the U.S. government ended up with the Ark at the end; but then it was pointed out (somewhat incorrectly) that Indy actually failed because he wanted the Ark to go to a museum.

Surprisingly, they couldn’t figure out that Amy had missed the point. Amy’s primary mistake is that Indy’s so-called non-role is a “story problem.”

Remember that the movie is called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s not Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, despite whatever promotional materials the Lucasfilm marketing department has put out over the years.

The title raiders are the Nazis, and the film’s story is their attempt to find the Ark, only to be hampered by a pesky archeologist and the mysterious forces surrounding the title artifact. One could argue that Indy failing to actually stop the Nazis from doing anything (or at least making them work harder to do it) wasn't a problem with the movie, it was, in its ironic charm, actually the whole point. He was also the audience surrogate, there to explain why the Nazis were ultimately destroyed by the Ark.

As for Indiana Jones not being essential to the story, that depends on your point of view. True, he didn't stop the Nazis from doing what they were trying to do. But so what? It's not a plot hole, by any means. Even so, to say that Indiana Jones had no impact on the story is like saying the losing team in a football game had no impact on the outcome.

Or, to use another sports analogy, take a look at Bobby Thomson’s home run in the 1951 playoffs. It’s often listed as the most famous home run in history. Is it ultimately inessential because the Giants didn’t go on to win the World Series?

Of course not. Try telling that to Ralph Branca.

The whole point of the movie is to accompany Indiana Jones on an adventure. Our liking of the character is based more on his demeanor and daring-do, not whether he actually succeeds at his goal. This tone is established almost immediately, as Indiana escapes the temple in the opening scene with the idol and then loses it to Belloq, only to escape with his life with nothing to show for it. The rest of the story is just an excuse for Indy to engage in a series of spectacular action setpieces, and that's why the movie is so fun.

Then again, without Indy there, the Nazis probably would have killed Marion as a loose end. Because of Indy, she’s still alive. That has to count for something, especially if you like watching the film for its love story.

What I will say about the plot structure is something I noticed when rewatching the films when the Blu-rays came out last year. In both Raiders and the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy only joins the quest after the real heavy lifting has been accomplished. The key clue in Raiders are the map room, and the Nazis already discovered that, and the headpiece of Ra, previously uncovered by Marion’s father, Abner. In Last Crusade, most of the major clues have already been revealed by Henry Sr. Indy kind of swoops in to be a disruptive force, hired not to go on a quest, but to pick up the pieces.

Speaking of the Blu-ray, I was a little disappointed to see that Sheldon only had the DVD version. Any Raiders fan worth his salt would have picked up the Blu-ray boxed set of the trilogy.


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8 Oct, 2013

Extras That 'Transform'

Shout! Factory’s new Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters — Predacons Rising DVD arrived at retail with several exclusive variations available.

Target offered the DVD for $12.99 with an exclusive commentary and three bonus shorts. Walmart offered the DVD for $12.96 with three collectible trading cards and a bonus featurette.

Of the major releases for Oct. 8, the only one garnering the retail exclusive treatment was Sony Pictures’ After Earth. Target offered the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing the new After Earth: Innocence motion comic. Walmart packaged the Blu-ray with the Blu-ray for the Karate Kid remake, which also starred Jaden Smith.

In addition, Target offered a steelbook case with the Blu-ray for Warner’s animated The Dark Knight Returns: Deluxe Edition, and slapped promotional stickers for its new Target Ticket digital service on select new releases, such as Lionsgate’s Much Ado About Nothing.

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7 Oct, 2013

New on Disc: 'From Here to Eternity' and more …

From Here to Eternity (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Drama, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed.
The film’s five principal actors represent one of the ultimate historical examples of white-heat star power, having earned merited Oscar nominations (with wins for Frank Sinatra and Donny Reed), before we even get to the fact that the story’s standout heavy is played by Ernest Borgnine. Daniel Taradash’s script remains a model of how to telescope a sprawling literary source into a two-hour movie. Eternity got the Oscar for Burnett Guffey’s black-and-white cinematography, and the Blu-ray has significant grain but doesn’t overdo it and is especially effective in some of the close-ups.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a super-nifty new picture-in-picture feature in which on-the-ball younger historians guide us through the entire production. There’s also a carried-over making-of featurette and a vintage short about director Fred Zinnemann.
Read the Full Review

A Letter to Three Wives (Blu-ray)

Fox, Drama, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, Linda Darnell, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas.
Delivering on what is essentially a plotting gimmick, the movie traces the Saturday afternoon gut-punches three suburban wives receive when they get a joint letter from a so-called friend informing them that she has run off with one of their unnamed husbands — setting off a trio of flashbacks to explain how any one of the men might credibly be the unfaithful party. The Blu-ray essentially upgrades the standard Fox DVD, and it gets a nice, if not staggering, boost in the superior format.
Extras: Includes the “Biography” episode devoted to Linda Darnell.
Read the Full Review

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2 Oct, 2013

A Drinking Game for Every Movie

Pop culture has inspired its fair share of traditions over the years, with one of the most enduring stalwarts being the drinking game. You know how it works … gathering around the TV with your friends and a favorite cocktail, and imbibe that beverage when the program reaches a particular occurrence, such as the utterance of a well-worn phrase.

For example, if you’re watching “The Big Bang Theory,” you could take a sip every time Sheldon says “Bazinga,” or a shot every time Raj talks to a girl.

It can literally be anything agreed upon by the group. If it can be put on a screen, then someone can figure out a drinking game for it.

If it helps, come up with a few standing rules that could apply to anything you watch. My brother and I years ago came up with a standing rule to drink every time a performer who has died in real life appears on the screen (call it a show of respect, if you will).

We dubbed it the "Benoit Rule," after pro wrestling superstar Chris Benoit. Shortly after Benoit tragically killed himself and his family in 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment reportedly started editing him out of the archive footage they used on TV and released on DVD, with the notable exception of the 2004 Royale Rumble, which he won. (For those who don’t know, the Royale Rumble is one of the WWE’s biggest matches of a given year, so it would have been difficult to leave off the whole match from the anthology DVD sets released in 2008.)

Like many a young American, my brother and I had been fans of pro wrestling in our youth (I was fascinated by the storytelling aspects of it), and though our interest waned in adulthood, the DVDs released en masse over the past few years were always good for nostalgia. So the original idea behind the Benoit rule was that, if he was going to be cut out of the shows, then when he did appear we would take a drink. And then we noticed other wrestlers on the DVDs had since passed away (Mr. Perfect being a notable example), so we expanded the rule to include the appearance of any wrestler who was now dead. And so on and so forth, until we just started doing it for any movie or TV show we were watching.

That’s just one example of a rule people could come up with if they want to play a drinking game while watching something. And for those who don’t want to think too hard about it, there are plenty of variations to be found online.

In fact, Ulysses Press just put out a book called Lights Camera Booze: Drinking Games for You Favorite Movies, which should be a good starting point for anyone looking to liven up their movie nights at home. The book offers rules for 33 movies, plus a cocktail recipe tailored for each film, as well as trivia and other activities.

Some of the movies include Back to the Future, American Pie, Ghostbusters, The Hangover, The Goonies and Pulp Fiction. The rules themselves are listed with stylized text and sketches that can be a little distracting, but they should do the trick.

Or, make up your own. You never know what new details you might uncover about your favorite movies or TV shows when the conditions are right.


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1 Oct, 2013

Goodies for 'Mermaid,' 'Wizard,' 'Croods,' 'End'

Target's 'Little Mermaid' Edition
Target's 'Little Mermaid' Edition

Target and Best Buy seemed determine to one-up each other in offering exclusives for four new titles that arrived Oct. 1.

The biggest of the new titles would seem to be the new Blu-ray edition of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Target offered a special version of the Blu-ray/DVD edition with a 32-page storybook for $24.99. Target also offered $6 off with purchase of the disc with a Sparkling Priness Ariel doll. Best Buy offered $5 off a special Little Mermaid lunchbox (regularly $9.99) when purchased with the Blu-ray.

For Warner's The Wizard of Oz 3D Blu-ray, Target offered the disc with a special lunch bag, while Best Buy offered the clasic with an exclusive collector's case.

Turning to recent theatricals heading to disc, Sony Pictures' This Is the End at Target came with an exclusive bottle opener, while Best Buy presented the Blu-ray with an exclusive bonus disc.

For Fox's The Croods, Target offered the widely available Blu-ray/DVD boxed set that included a plush toy, while only Best Buy had the special plush pack-on with the 3D version.

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24 Sep, 2013

Retailers Let 'IM3' Stand on its Own

The past few weeks have seen the top new Blu-ray releases splitting exclusive content among the major retailers. However, the big new title of Sept. 24, Iron Man 3, arrived on shelves without such retailer exclusives.

Among the few special promotions for the title, Best Buy offered discounts off earlier films in the franchise.

On the other hand, Target didn’t bother stocking the 3D version of Iron Man 3 in stores or online.

The most notable retail exclusive was tied to Fox’s Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season. Target offered a free pillowcase with purchase.


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