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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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4 Dec, 2014

Women and Wisdom

Dec. 3 I attended a wonderful and informative holiday event sponsored by the Canon Club, held by DEG: the Digital Entertainment Group and hosted by Deloitte at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. 

The DEG created the forum, "Canon Club: Where Women in Home Entertainment Meet," for women in home entertainment to come together to learn, share and engage, and the holiday event certainly delivered on that promise.

The event’s featured speaker, Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, offered some compelling statistics on the state of female representation in the media, both domestically and internationally ().

Di Nonno told the assembly progress has been very slow. As the study says of the United States, “Research reveals that the percentage of female speaking characters in top-grossing movies has not meaningfully changed in roughly a half of a century.”

The focus on women in media seems to be on their physical attributes.

“Female characters just can’t escape an emphasis on appearance,” she said, adding that females 13-39 are “equally sexualized.”

Still, some progress has been made. The Institute has been able to get more female characters included, if only in the background on various animated films. But it’s hard to get Hollywood to change the mindset that men won’t go to female-driven films, while women will go to male-centered films. With regard to that, I think Di Nonno made a great point, saying that if female characters are written compellingly, both men and women will flock to content. Case in point: Disney’s Frozen.

“Boys loved Frozen,” she said.

And girls loved it, too, for its strong female characters. “I want the sparkle, but I want the Jedi thing,” Di Nonno said of the Institute’s research on the attitude of today’s young girls.

Perhaps it’s not so much that consumers don’t flock to see female-oriented films as it is that they want to see well-written female characters, characters as well-written as the male ones. And that will probably require more female involvement in the writing, producing and directing of content.

I commend Di Nonno and the Geena Davis Institute for tackling this problem, and I think the Institute’s research and outreach is important to Hollywood as it looks to attract consumers with stories that are new and effectively target more than half the population. I think progress will be both rewarding for women and profitable for the industry.

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2 Dec, 2014

An 'Ape' of a Good Deal

Walmart's 'Planet of the Apes' Blu-ray 2-Pack
Walmart's 'Planet of the Apes' Blu-ray 2-Pack

The Dec. 2 disc release of Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the latest high-profile title to secure exclusive deals at the big retail chains.

Walmart probably had the most substantial exclusive, offering a special Blu-ray double feature of Dawn with its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (in lieu of the regular Blu-ray edition at some stores, where the 3D version wasn't offered at all).

Best Buy had the 3D version of Dawn packaged in an exclusive metalpak case.

Among other titles, Walmart had an exclusive edition of the Jingle All the Way 2 DVD packed with a toy bear, and Target had the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown in Dimension X DVD from Nickelodeon with a sneak peek at Paramount's upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action film Blu-ray (due Dec. 16) and coupons for $2 off the movie and Pop Secret popcorn.

Speaking of Paramount, some of the studio's distributed titles appear to be delayed to some Best Buy stores. The chain's weekly circluar touted availablility of the Blu-rays for Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season Seven, Star Trek: The Next Generation — All Good Things and The Legend of Korra: Book Three — Change, but the store in Costa Mesa, Calif., didn't have any copies on shelves when the store opened the morning of Dec. 2 (the aforementioned "TMNT" Dimension X DVD also was missing). A clerk said the shipment hadn't come in but expected it within the hour. By afternoon, the titles still weren't available, nor were they stocked at a Tustin, Calif., location, and were listed online as unavailable for store pickup at many Southern California locations.

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1 Dec, 2014


One of the most popular forms of exercise right now — and probably my favorite — is high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. To get in on that trend, Gaiam is distributing a new DVD series from SPRI, just in time for the upcoming fitness season.

The “Ignite” series from SPRI, which makes exercise products, is the first DVD series from the company. Ignite launched its new line of home-gym exercise products earlier this year at Target.

And now the series has just released the first two DVDs: Hi-Intensity: The Ultimate Body-Weight Training Workout and 900 Calorie Burn: The Ultimate High Intensity Training Workout.

Hi-Intensity features Brett Hoebel, a trainer on season 11 of “The Biggest Loser.” The DVD contains four workouts: HIIT Intense, HIIT It With Weights, HIIT 30/30 and Abs & Booty Burn. Along with the high-intensity exercises that get the entire body moving, Hoebel sprinkles in some capoeira and boxing moves, which is nice departure from some of the usual exercises like burpees and lunges.

In 900 Calorie Burn workouts are led by Ashley Borden, who has worked with professional athletes and such Hollywood celebrities as Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera. The DVD features four workouts: Upper Body HIIT, Lower Body HIIT, Hard Core HIIT and Head-to-Toe HIIT.

Each workout is short — 25 minutes each — but they’re intended to push you to your limit, so you can maximize on burning calories and fat, and tone your body. And each workout is different enough that you could also combine a couple, if you're up for a full hour of exercise. Though the workout might be more for those at intermediate level, Hoebel and Borden offer modifications for beginners.

These aren’t easy DVDs, but it’s workouts like these that will get you results. Be prepared to get out of breath and sweat. And during this season of holiday parties and sugary treats, I know I could use a boost like this to keep me on track.  

The DVDs are priced at $14.98 each and available on Amazon.com and iTunes as a digital download. 900 Calorie Burn is also available at Target.

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1 Dec, 2014

New on Disc: 'It Happened One Night' and more …

It Happened One Night (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly.
The first movie to sweep the five major Oscars has been readily available for so long that it’s easy to take for granted, and yet Criterion’s definitive home release is almost like seeing the movie for the first time.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a 38-minute featurette in which critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate go to town on the film’s endless virtues (photographically as well). Also included is a very crisp essay by film writer Farran Smith Nehme; director Frank Capra’s 12-minute screen debut from 1921 (Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House), which turns Rudyard Kipling verse into a festival of fisticuffs and other hustle-bustle; the feature-length documentary Frank Capra’s American Dream; plus a slightly edited version of Capra’s AFI Life Achievement Award.
Read the Full Review

Sands of Iwo Jima

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Adele Mara.
The movie said to have been responsible for more Marine enlistments than any other picture in history boasts not only one of the most prototypical John Wayne roles and performances, but one of only two (Wayne’s ultimate win for True Grit was the other) to have earned him a best actor Oscar nomination. Olive’s release has no frills but is the standard bump-up from regular DVD.
Read the Full Review

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25 Nov, 2014

Easing Into Black Friday

Most retailers focused less on the new releases of Nov. 25 and more on kickstarting this year's Black Friday deals.

Target, for example, used its weekly circular to tout $5 holiday movie DVDs, and some stores had many DVD displays set up throughout the venue, not just in the electronics section, with $5, $6, $7, $8 and $13 titles.

For new or upcoming home videos, Target offered a $5 gift card and mail-order delivery of the eventual The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 Blu-ray with preorders at Target.com/mockingjay. The film hit theaters the weekend before.

Best Buy promoted up to 45% savings on select gift sets, and buy-one-get-one $9.99 Blu-rays.

Walmart offered exclusive availability of Hallmark Christmas movies A Royal Christmas and Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas for $9.96 each, from Cinedigm.

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24 Nov, 2014

Honoring Women

I am so delighted every year to publish this issue honoring the top women in home entertainment. I have two young girls, and I am always encouraged by the accomplishments of the women in our industry, as they are blazing the trail.

These women are forging the path to a new entertainment ecosystem, in which digital delivery is an ever-growing branch. Kelley Avery has been key to DreamWorks Animation’s moves on the Netflix platform. Disney’s Janice Marinelli has spearheaded the cloud-based Disney Movies Anywhere platform. Mary Daily is using her marketing expertise to tap social media. And Lexine Wong is expanding movie extras into the digital realm with Walmart’s Vudu Extras+ for UltraViolet titles.

These women, along with their distinguished teams, are at the forefront of devising a strategy to deliver digital entertainment in the home, while managing a still important physical disc business that continues to bring in revenue for their respective studios. Meanwhile, women at independent content operations are helping to develop delivery of documentaries, independent films and quality television product. On the retail and digital distribution front, women play key roles at Walmart, Redbox, Netflix and Comcast, getting content to the consumer in many different ways.

On this occasion, I would also like to honor another woman in this industry who, after 23 years at Warner Bros., is retiring — Ronnee Sass. Ronnee is one of those rare publicists in the entertainment business who is unfailingly kind and generous, while also being effective at her job. Warner Home Video executive Jeff Baker couldn’t have said it better: “This individual is — and I can speak from first hand knowledge because I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Ronne Sass for 12 years that I’ve been here — this individual is the best publicist in the history of the home entertainment business. She had a remarkable career here, and she is going to be missed.”

Yes, she will.

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24 Nov, 2014

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

Portrait of Jason

Milestone, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $35.96 Blu-ray, NR.
Director Shirley Clarke’s once unique one-man-show is a verbal all-nighter with a black and gay male hustler (and also aspiring stand-up comic). Subject Jason Holliday knows how to work the room when it comes to relating his experiences with a tough, hard-ass father, white employers who’ve hired him as a domestic assistant and those he’s hustled for money and sex.
Extras: This release’s copious bonus section includes a live comic album (or part of it) to indicate that Holliday’s skills as an entertainer were publicly shared with more than just Clarke and interviewer Carl Lee.
Read the Full Review

Viva Maria!

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Star Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, George Hamilton.
A prime “it is what it is” comedy that just misses wearing out its welcome until expectedly lurching into fourth gear during the final half-hour, this one’s about a pair of anarchist Marias who earn their living on stage while traveling from town to town via covered wagon transport.
Read the Full Review

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21 Nov, 2014

Welcome to Black November

It used to be you had to scrounge the Web for an advance peak at Walmart’s Black Friday circular, to get an eyeful of what the huge discount chain had in store for those post-Thanksgiving bargain hunters.

This year I didn’t have to look far at all — a copy was emailed to me by Walmart itself, and it came in my email on Thursday, Nov. 14 — two full weeks and a day before The Big Event.

I should say, events. Black Friday is no longer limited to one day. A few years ago, it crept into Saturday, then it expanded the other way, into Thanksgiving Day.

This year’s Walmart circular is the biggest yet, which explains, perhaps, why it was emailed out, as a PDF — and its 40 pages of rock-bottom prices are broken up into three separate Black Friday “events.” The first is 6-8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, the second starts at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and the third and final “event” is Friday, Black Friday proper, beginning at 6 a.m.

The best deal is a 32-inch LED TV for $98, about half what my boxy 14-inch Toshiba ran me a decade ago. Consumers can pick one up during Event No. 2, Thanksgiving Day, beginning at 8 p.m. — while supplies last, of course.

I am hesitant to marvel at the wide assortment of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs available this year for the price of a super-size candy bar. The race to the bottom? We’re there, baby … I think it was 2011, maybe 2012, when DVDs first broached the dollar mark. And yet from the looks of the circular, the novelty of ultra-cheap discs has yet to wear off for Walmart, which I suppose is a good vote of confidence in the continued viability of the packaged-media business.

Bargain-priced discs go on sale at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, during Event No. 1 — which suggests Walmart has plenty of inventory and hopes to blow it out in a fast and furious manner.

All told, Walmart is offering 214 different DVDs at $1.96 and another 165 at $3.96. Among the former are Sherlock Holmes, Magic Mike, Titanic and Meet the Fockers; the latter group include more recent hits such as Fast & Furious 6, Grown-Ups 2, The Expendables 2, Bad Grandpa, Man of Steel and World War Z.

Blu-ray Discs start at $3.96, with “over 113 titles available at this price!” according to the Walmart circular. Among them are Men in Black 3, Horrible Bosses, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Flight, 300 and Robocop. Another 104 Blu-ray Discs will be on sale for $6.96, including Man of Steel, Lone Survivor, The Mummy, Despicable Me, Scarface: Limited Edition and The Wolverine.

Another 42 DVD and 34 Blu-ray Disc titles are priced at $7.96, with the Blu-ray Disc crew including such recent hits such as Godzilla and Transformers: The Age of Extinction. Another 34 Blu-ray Discs top out at $9.96 — the cream of the crop, including Frozen, Divergent, Heaven Is for Real and Hercules. And then there’s 89 “complete-season” sets of popular TV shows, from The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season to American Horror Story: Asylum.

We may have hit a new low for fresh product — some of these $9.96 Blu-ray Discs are less than a month old — but hey, moving huge quantities has always been Walmart’s modus operandi. And if the world’s biggest discount chain continues to use DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to lure people into its stores, who am I to complain?

Clearly, there’s still plenty of consumer demand. And for that, the staff of Home Media Magazine — and, if I can speak for them, the studios that pay our bills — truly have something for which to be thankful.

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18 Nov, 2014

Extras From 'Street' to 'City'

'22 Jump Street' and 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' steelbook covers
'22 Jump Street' and 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' steelbook covers

Two sequels generated the bulk of retail promotional interest among the Nov. 18 new releases: Sony Pictures’ 22 Jump Street and Anchor Bay’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

For 22 Jump Street, Target offered the title in exclusive steelbook packaging, while Best Buy offered a bonus disc with 25 minutes of exclusive bonus content — a behind-the-scenes featurette with Ice Cube and a look at the action and stunts. Walmart offered the DVD of the film packed with the DVD of its predecessor, 21 Jump Street.

For Sin City, Best Buy offered the steelbook packaging, while Target offered the exclusive bonus content on a bonus disc. Walmart offered the Blu-ray combo pack with a copy of the first Sin City.

Target also has an exclusive Blu-ray edition of the 1982 film Annie, timed with the Dec. 19 theatrical release of Sony Pictures’ remake. The Blu-ray comes with an $8 movie ticket voucher and a bracelet.

Shoppers could get a free copy of Disney’s new Frozen: Sing-Along Edition DVD at Target with the purchase of at least $50 of Frozen products.

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17 Nov, 2014

'Frozen' Sing-Along Spotlights Cool Songs

If you have daughters (I have two) or noticed a particularly popular Disney princess costume this Halloween (Elsa), you probably know Frozen is one of the hottest properties for girls.

“I saw about six Elsas,” noted my 16-year-old, who “volunteered” (with a little push) to escort the younger kids around the neighborhood Oct. 31.
Even before Frozen won Oscars for Best Animated Feature and for Best Original Song for “Let It Go,” the tide of praise from the pint-sized set had been building — and they had been singing the songs. In addition to award-winning music and lyrics, what also makes Frozen’s songs so hot is that they are easy to sing. In addition to “Let It Go,” the film includes such hits as “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “Love Is an Open Door” and “For the First Time in Forever.”

My girls know the tunes by heart, but often stumble over the lyrics. That’s why Walt Disney Studios’ all-new, full-length Frozen Sing-Along Edition, coming Nov. 18 on DVD and Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere, will satisfy many a budding singer. They’ll be able to follow the lyrics with a bouncing snowflake to sing along with Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), the goofy snowman Olaf and the other characters. In addition to sing-along and original theatrical versions of the film, the release also includes an all-new extra “Breaking the Ice” and the Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse!” The Frozen sing-along will likely light up the holidays for many families, as adults patiently, but happily, listen to their kids’ rendition of “Let It Go” for the umpteenth time.

As a parent of two girls who really like to sing, I appreciate the fact that the tunes in Frozen offer an empowering message. It’s also what attracted my daughters to the film, about two sisters who must overcome a dangerous gift and plotting prince to save their kingdom and themselves. As much as they identified with the sisters’ tendency to annoy each other, my daughters also liked the loving relationship between the siblings that drives the plot.

Predictably, my youngest said, “A lot of younger siblings can relate to it, because the older sibling is shutting you out.”

The older one saw common ground in  “the idea of everyone expecting something from you.”

Of the climax of the film, “I liked how instead of a kiss from a boy, it was a hug from a sister,” said my youngest (and sweetest) — and the older one admitted she liked the whole sisterly love thing, too.

Aah … it warms a mother’s heart.

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