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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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14 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte' and more …

Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
Taken as a kind of spiritual sequel to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, director Robert Aldrich’s pandemonium-packed melodrama (both on and behind the camera) holds up better than I expected. Even without the wall-to-wall bonus extras here, this disc would be worth it for fans because visually, it improves on the DVD beyond compare.
Extras: The infamous offscreen tension between Bette Davis Joan Crawford, which may have led to Crawford’s being replaced on the film by Olivia de Havilland, is one reason why there’s enough material to support two voice-over commentaries, as well as a making-of featurette titled “Hush … Hush, Sweet Joan.” Film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros offer a lively new commentary that complements a carried-over 2007 one from “DVD Savant” Glenn Erickson.
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One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Documentary, $21.99 DVD, NR.
An inside-baseball examination of the fallout from an almost unspeakable personal tragedy, One Day Since Yesterday’s primary focus is on how director Peter Bogdanovich and his friends and family were affected by the experience of making 1981’s still relatively unseen They All Laughed, the movie he had just filmed when the featured player who was also the love of his life (Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten) was brutally murdered.
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8 Nov, 2016

Retailers Hold a 'Sausage Party'

Target's 'Sausage Party' Steelbook Blu-ray
Target's 'Sausage Party' Steelbook Blu-ray

Sony Pictures' Sausage Party presented a few options for retail exclusives Nov. 8.

Target offered the Blu-ray version of the 'R'-rated animated comedy in a Steelbook edition.Best Buy offered a free T-shirt with the Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray; the shirt was available separately for $9.99.

Target also had exclusive packaging with Paramount's release of Showtime's Billions: Season One DVD.

Target also offered 10% off a title from the week before, Paramount's Star Trek Beyond, via the chain's Cartwheel app.

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7 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Under the Cherry Moon' and more …

Under the Cherry Moon (Blu-ray)

Warner, Romantic Comedy, $14.97 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, Morris Day, Steven Berkoff.
In his flop follow-up second feature to Purple Rain, Prince plays a piano-playing gigolo whose relationship with a rambunctious rich-girl (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her feature debut) runs afoul of her father. Prince, in a truly terrible performance, goes full-throttle lounge lizard here in a story with a French Riviera setting in next-to-unheard-of ’80s black-and-white. It helps — along with the visual cosmetics, some of the supporting casting and overall affability — that not a whole lot of time passes until there’s another musical number.
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Strategic Air Command

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan.
1955. The equally gorgeous and lumbering Strategic Air Command must be the only Air Force movie whose opening scenes are set against the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training, with Jimmy Stewart as a baseball player called back into military service.
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1 Nov, 2016

Retailers Go Beyond 'Star Trek' Exclusives

'Star Trek Beyond' exclusive box art at Target and Best Buy
'Star Trek Beyond' exclusive box art at Target and Best Buy

Retailers were awash in exclusive content for the Nov. 1 home videos, especially Target, which had special promotions for most of the new releases.

The biggest title of the week was Paramount's Star Trek Beyond, which had exclusive editions at each of the three major brick-and-mortar national retail chains. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray combo pack in Steelbook packaging. Target offered character cards with the Blu-ray combo pack and an exclusive Blu-ray bonus disc with 45 minutes of additional featurettes, including a look behind-the-scenes at the visual effects, costumes and props. Walmart had the BD combo pack as part of a gift set containing three toy models of spaceships from the film. And Amazon.com had a deluxe gift set containing the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, a 3D Blu-ray disc and a model of the U.S.S. Franklin.

For Warner's Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack with a Steelbook case. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray with a pack-in graphic novel movie tie-in.

For Universal's Bad Moms, Target offered the Blu-ray with a $5 Target e-gift card.

Target's Blu-ray of Sony Pictures' Outlander: Season Two came with a coloring set. Best Buy offered discs of the show with $10 in My Best Buy rewards points. Amazon offered a deluxe edition with a booklet.

Walmart had free pack-in toys with the Nickelodeon DVDs of Blaze and the Monster Machines: Fired Up and Shimmer and Shine: Welcome to Zahramay Falls.

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31 Oct, 2016

Talent Talking High Dynamic Range

Many home entertainment industry executive heavyweights have espoused the virtues of 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), which offers greater contrast and deeper, more life-like colors, and produces brilliant highlights and deeper blacks. But that’s perhaps what one would expect from executives trying to sell the latest software or hardware format. However, when you talk to the filmmaking talent — cinematographers, directors, etc. — they too see it as a leap forward.

“I truly thought it was the best-looking version of the movie by far,” Deadpool director Tim Miller said at a presentation about the UHD HDR release of his film on the Fox lot in May, noting its “amazing level of detail.”

“The amount of detail that you get in the flames, you see so much more,” added colorist Tim Stipan. “It all of a sudden has more dimension to it. It almost becomes more 3D.”

“It’s like suddenly the sky was not a white mass the way it had been in all the other formats, but had this beautiful detail,” Miller added.

“I think this is the wave of the future because you’re seeing more of what the camera captured,” he added, noting “a lot of the shots had this almost painterly quality.”

“I truly thought it was the best-looking version of the movie by far,” Miller said.

In October, talent talked about the upgrade for both Fox’s 20-year-old Independence Day and its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, released Oct. 18 on Blu-ray Disc in 4K Ultra HD with HDR.

HDR “allows us so much more range than what’s available in standard theatrical and standard home theater viewing environments,” said colorist David Cole.

“[Director Roland Emmerich] wanted to update a 20-year-old film,” cinematographer Markus Forderer said. “He wanted to be true to the original but also show an updated version, show the film in its best quality. And I think it looks better than what you saw 20 years ago in the theater because now with HDR you see much more detail in the blacks and the highlights.”

When artists are praising a format, I listen. I don’t think there could be better advocates for a leap forward in viewing quality.

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31 Oct, 2016

Is Content Still King?

I read an interesting article the other day on the Bloomberg website, from a columnist who argues that content is no longer king.

Shira Ovide, a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist who used to write for The Wall Street Journal, argues that with distributors buying content owners — first Comcast buying NBCUniversal and now AT&T proposing to buy Time Warner — and not the other way around, distribution is now king.

“We’re awash in content,” writes Ovide. “Sure, most of it is garbage, but this ubiquity splits people’s time and money into a zillion pieces. What is scarce is any company that has the attention or money of hundreds of millions or billions of people. Today, those giant human aggregators are distributors … that are the gatekeepers to digital information, communication and entertainment. Own the distribution, and you decide what content matters.”

I’m normally a big fan of Ovide, but in this case I think she’s wrong. I can point to her own argument: Yes, distributors are buying content owners, but doesn’t that underscore the importance of content? It certainly does not diminish it. Distributors know they need content more than anything; no matter how many pipes you have, if they’re empty, they are useless.

AT&T is ready to spend $85 billion to buy Time Warner because it’s the biggest content empire around — and AT&T is out to build the biggest distribution empire.

Ovide maintains that without distribution, content isn’t nearly the draw it once was, thanks to the proliferation of cheap, user-generated content like farting cat or Russian dash-cam videos on YouTube or your neighbor’s rant about traffic on Facebook. “Time Warner’s epic ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO isn’t a hit unless it reaches people,” Ovide writes. “Today that’s mostly over TV pipes controlled by the likes of Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV; tomorrow that may be over internet and mobile pipes controlled by the likes of … Comcast and AT&T.”

She certainly has a point. But at the same time, it could be argued that good content will always find its audience — and that audience will use whatever distribution channels it needs to in order to consume that content.

The history of entertainment has been driven by content and consumers’ quest to get it. The more content that became available, the more content we wanted to consume — and in an easier, faster, and better way. In music, we went from records to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs and then downloads — the latter, a key factor in Apple iTunes’ success. On the filmed-entertainment front, we went from broadcast-TV to pay-TV and now direct-to-consumer streaming — the latter, driving ongoing media consolidation.

Without content, AT&T and Verizon would be content to remain phone companies.

And if content is no longer king, then why are Netflix and Amazon making so much of it?

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31 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition' and more …

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition

Sony, Comedy, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Douglass Dumbrille.
The new Blu-ray of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town looks stunning, further reminding us that for all of director Frank Capra’s defining common-man sentiments and ability to direct actors, his films were enduring advertisements for the trademark luminosity of cinematographer Joseph Walker. Capra never considered anyone other than Gary Cooper for the title role, figuring he was the only choice to bring off a whopper premise about a small-town Vermont tuba player considered crazy because he wants to dispense an unexpected $20 million inheritance to the Depression downtrodden as a grub stake for the family farms his largesse will make possible.
Extras: The digibook utilizes glossy paper for still photo reproduction and includes both a good backgrounding essay and a two-page layout of lobby cards. The movie includes a commentary with the late Frank Jr.
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Abilene Town (Blu-ray)

Panamint, Western, $29.99 Blu-ray, Import, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, Edgar Buchanan, Rhonda Fleming, Lloyd Bridges.
Everything about ‘Abilene Town’ is on the high side of boilerplate, which presumably explains why so many people who take a flyer with this onetime United Artists indie have a better time than expected, assuming they have a tolerance for Westerns in the first place.
Extras: This British import is accompanied by a 16-page booklet that provides bios of the film’s cast and crew.
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25 Oct, 2016

Best Buy Touts 'Inferno' Ticket Deal

Best Buy has been promoting discounts for a theatrical ticket to Sony Pictures' Inferno available in select home videos.

The deal includes a $7.50 Movie Cash coupon in select titles, most notably new Blu-ray releases of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, the two predecessors to Inferno. The trilogy, based on novels by Dan Brown, stars Tom Hanks as a professor solving ancient mysteries by interpreting cryptic symbols and other clues.

Best Buy also touted sales of several Halloween titles, such as Hocus Pocus on Blu-ray for $9.99.

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24 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation' and more …

Hot Type: 150 Years of 'The Nation'

First Run, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s portrait of spiritually old-school stalwarts laboring in the digital age at America’s oldest continuing weekly magazine is predominantly for political junkies.
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On Dangerous Ground (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner Archive, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond.
An unusual movie for its day that it addresses police brutality, the first half of director Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground is a grimy noir cop drama, the kind that RKO did better than anyone.
Extras: Includes expert commentary from Glenn Erickson.
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18 Oct, 2016

'Independence Day' Pushes Retailers Through the Looking Glass

'Independence Day: Resurgence' Blu-rays: Target digibook and Best Buy Steelbook
'Independence Day: Resurgence' Blu-rays: Target digibook and Best Buy Steelbook

The retail exclusives for the Oct. 18 new releases may not have been as interesting as what wasn't available.

At Amazon.com, for example, the DVD version of Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass was available only through the online retailer's secondary market, where it was offered at a higher price than the readily available Blu-ray (which also includes the DVD version).

But something more bizarre might have happened at Best Buy, which didn't list Universal's Barbie & Her Sisters in A Puppy Chase as available until Nov. 1. It was readily available at other retailers, and even tied to some exclusive promotions. Target offered a free doll with the purchase of the movie and another toy. And Walmart offered a DVD two-pack with Puppy Chase and Barbie & Her Sisters in The Great Puppy Adventure.

For the week's biggest title, Fox's Independence Day: Resurgence, Target offered a Blu-ray combo pack with a 48-page booklet and free popcorn. Walmart offered a DVD two-pack of the movie with the DVD of the 1996 original Independence Day. Best Buy offered an IDR Blu-ray Steelbook and a $5 discount with the purchase of both Steelbooks.

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