The Muppet Christmas Carol theatrical trailer
The Muppet Christmas Carol debuts on high definition home video this coming Tuesday, and it's by far one of my favorite holiday movies and movie versions of Dickens' classic novel. There are two Blu-ray Disc editions coming out this week, the standard version and an exclusive Amazon edition that adds a DVD of the film with your purchase.
Now while doing my normal due diligence researching stuff about this new Blu-ray, I learned something new about the movie itself. I found discussion going on at the boards on Blu-ray.com that was ablaze many angry and upset posts from fans who wanted --- in fact, demanded! --- that Disney add back a scene to the movie that was cut from the film.
There was a scene cut from the film?! Apparently, there was, and it was news to me.
The scene in question involves the song "When Love Is Gone"
. It was included when director Brian Henson submitted his final cut of the film to Disney. But when Disney screened it, they apparently felt the scene, featuring young Ebenezer's fiancee singing a ballad as she ends their engagement, slowed the pacing of the story down quite a bit and worried that the youngest kids in the audience wouldn't enjoy it. So, Disney elected to cut it. And with the scene removed, that's how the film was shown when it first debuted in theatres at Christmas time in 1992.
However, when the movie was first released on home video a year later - on VHS and on Laserdisc - the "When Love Is Gone" scene was added back in!
Years later when it debuted on DVD, "When Love Is Gone" continued to appear in the newest release. The only difference was that while the Laserdisc presented the film in its full widescreen glory, the VHS and DVD versions presented it in (that really awful, icky, waste of space) Pan & Scan (or Fullscreen) format
. So for years, fans of the film grew up enjoying The Muppet Christmas Carol
with "When Love Is Gone" in the movie, just as the director intended, without realizing they were watching essentially the extended Director's Cut of the film, not the actual, original theatrical cut.
But apparently, the same will not be the case when it debuts on Blu-ray this week.The official discussion thread for The Muppet Christmas Carol on Blu-ray.com's forum board
is filled with posts from fans who are livid
that the upcoming Blu-ray release will feature just the original theatrical cut, with no inclusion whatsoever of the "When Love Is Gone" scene on the Blu-ray, not even as a deleted scene. And many of those upset fans have gone so far as to post email addresses and snail mail addresses of those to contact at Disney and let know their disappointment about the omission of the scene, even tho' Disney is technically accurate when it claims to be releasing the original theatrical cut
Now, Disney and Muppet fan that I am, I don't actually own a copy on DVD. I passed on getting any of the DVD releases because I saw that "Fullscreen" notice on the back of both titles, and I am just not a fan of the Pan & Scan format. But I have seen the film several times over the years and even own a rare original CD copy of the soundtrack
. And I was looking forward to finally owning it on Blu-ray. But I'll be honest, with all the brimstone and fire being spewed at Disney from rabid, admittedly uber-geeky, diehard fans online, I've pushed the pause button on buying it right away. I wondered, "Would I prefer the extended cut on Blu-ray or would I be fine with the theatrical cut on it (for now)?"
And of course, I couldn't think it through without watching the "missing" scene in question. So here it is.
So if everything I've read so far is true, this scene will be missing when you buy the Blu-ray Disc this Tuesday. Instead, those watching the original theatrical cut will apparently reach a jarring transition as that scene is edited out, perhaps someplace after the dialogue scene between young Ebenezer and Belle outdoors at the park. But again, it is the version that Disney first released when it went out to theatres.
Like I said, I have the soundtrack, so I'm very familiar with that song, having played it more times than I've actually watched the movie. And being the collector-type guy that I am, it probably goes without saying that I'd prefer to have the scene included, as a deleted scene at the very least. At this point, I haven't yet found a review of the new release online to offer anymore insight. But rest assured I'll be looking forward to reading those reviews. And maybe you will too.
Or not! :)
P.S. - While doing research for this blog, I came across a great video explaining the difference between Widescreen and Pan & Scan or Fullscreen format. I linked to it up above, but I felt it was too good a video not to force feed to you. Even as we adopt the widescreen format flatscreen TVs, I still read about folks annoyed by the black bars on the top and bottom or sides of movies they watch on DVD or Blu-ray. Here's why that happens, and why I absolutely love widescreen and understand and accept the black bars thing. Learn and enjoy!
This week's retailer exclusives gives me a great opportunity to talk about SteelBooks
(SB) and my own SteelBook collection and the little bit of drama (for Bond Blu-ray enthusiasts anyway) that surrounded the original debut of Secret Agent 007 onto high definition.Quantum of BluI've mentioned before
that I'm not an enthusiastic SB fan. But just for the sake of having some examples of them in my Blu-ray collection (which ultimately came in handy during some product design assignments I got to work on), I ended up finding a fun motivation to pick a few up. The motivation: The name is Bond. James Bond.
The year was 2008, but unlike the release that took place earlier this month when the Bond 50
box set debuted, the films were released in two waves of smaller groups three or four films at a time over a period of several months.
But some retail chains were allowed to offer exclusive SB packaging for selected titles. I love me some James Bond every now and then, so I figured this would be a fine way to get some SBs in my library. And since this is a film series, I realized having all my James Bond films sharing the same SB packaging would look nice on my shelf.
So that's how I started my SB and James Bond collection.SteelBook Royale
The first wave was released on October 21, 2008. And Best Buy was the first retailer to offer them exclusively in SBs. I picked up Dr. No
, From Russia with Love
and For Your Eyes Only
The second wave of Bond Blu-rays debuted on March 24, 2009 and this time, Amazon offered them in SBs exclusively. I picked up two more, Goldfinger
and The World Is Not Enough
By this time, 11 out of the 20 total pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films were out on Blu-ray. The titles that were out that I didn't add to my collection were Live and Let Die
, The Man with the Golden Gun
, Licence To Kill
and Die Another Day
. Casino Royale
(2006) and Quantum of Solace
(2008) both debuted on Blu on October 21, 2008 and March 24, 2009 respectively, but were not offered on SB in the US. I figured that Craig's Bond films defined an entirely new era of 007 movies, so I was content to own those two in the standard plastic Blu-ray cases.
But of the original Bond classics, there were nine left still to come out. Did they release them? No. Why not? For the same reason it took four years for there to be a Bond film made between Quantum of Solace and the upcoming Skyfall. MGM was broke.
Licence to Blu - Uh...NOT!
Even as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were being produced, MGM, a co-distributor with Columbia Pictures of the James Bond films, was mired by over $3 billion in debt. This prevented any more home videos releases until their financial state was resolved.
After spending several months soliciting bids from studios and other investors to buy itself, MGM finally filed for bankruptcy on November 3, 2010. It came out of bankruptcy the following month and was able to finaiize distribution deals that not only allowed production of Skyfall to proceed but eventually lead to the January 2012 announcement of a new 22-movie Bond 50 box set and further releases of each of the movies separately.
For Your Blu Eyes Only...
The new Bond 50 box set went on sale October 2, 2012 in both Blu-ray Disc and DVD formats. It includes 22 James Bond films produced by EON Productions plus a bonus disc exclusive to the box set. Two other well-known James Bond films, Never Say Never Again
and the 1966 spoof Casino Royale
, were not produced by EON, so they are not included in this set. But they each have been released on Blu-ray already.
The remaining nine classic Bond films that we were waiting for when the other eleven were released finally got their individual releases on Blu-ray. However, for a short period of time, you'll need to do some hunting to find them as they are all retailer exclusives, each available only either at Best Buy, Target or Walmart.
Target Retailer Exclusives - Available Now
Walmart Retailer Exclusives - Available Now
Best Buy Retailer Exclusives - Available October 23, 2012
This exclusivity is a limited time thing. I expect in about three or four months, the titles will be available to buy from other retailers. And of course, the previous eleven titles that debuted back in 2008 and 2009 have also been re-issued individually with updated packaging art....but not on SteelBook
However, none of the nine new individual releases will arrive in SteelBook packaging in the US. There will be one title released on SB this December, GoldenEye
, from an online UK retailer Play.com
. But it's a Region B disc
, and like we talked about last week
, this UK release will only play on Region B Blu-ray players.
So for GoldenEye
, On Her Majesty's Secret Service
, Tomorrow Never Dies
and maybe The LIving Daylights
(just to have a token Dalton Bond even tho' I really didn't enjoy his Bond), I will have to be patient and wait maybe until next year to see if somebody finally offers these on SB in the US. I mean, I just can't have my classic Bond collection not be all SteelBooks now, right?
Thanks for the feedback and the "likes" for those of you who enjoyed last week's first installment of my articles about Blu-rays. I really enjoyed putting it together, and there'll be lots more entries like that that I think you're find helpful and interesting.
This week I didn't find any new retailer exclusives to point out. But there are a couple titles debuting on Blu-ray this coming Tuesday October 16 that some of my friends might like to know about., in particular those who are of the Disney persuasion and those who are classic Looney Tunes enthusiasts.
The Disney Blu-ray release is Pete's Dragon
. I've yet to see this, and I can already hear my friends yelling at me as they read this that I "...must watch it NOW!"
It's a combo pack
meaning it includes both a Blu-ray Disc and a DVD, the idea being that for those who haven't yet added a Blu-ray player to their homes can conveniently begin building their Blu-ray Disc library in advance of ultimately getting one yet still watch the DVD on their current equipment.
This also brings up an interesting fact about certain combo pack titles. Sometimes, studios will release it in both the shorter Blu-ray-sized packaging and the taller DVD-sized packaging. That's the case Disney chose here with Pete's Dragon
, releasing it DVD-size format
as well. This lets those same folks just entering the world of Blu-ray but who really, really want to have their DVD cases on the shelf be all the same height have their wish!
Beyond that, I wondered what other Blu news I could talk about today. Then an idea finally came to me last week as I was reading through discussion threads at Blu-ray.com's forum boards
. Someone had posted information about a recent Blu-ray release that influenced my decision to buy it, even tho' I'd already known about the release months ago and decided to pass on it. The new info, especially in the way it was shared, made me second-guess my original decision. It was also then that I realized that that experience would be a great chance to show you a tool that Blu-ray enthusiasts use today, something I'm sure many of you didn't know about. It involves making videos and posting them on YouTube.Unboxing videos
are made by online news sites and Blu-ray enthusiasts all over the world. What they do is shoot video while opening a fresh, new Blu-ray Disc release that they've just received. Sometimes goofy, always geeky, and often done by amateurs aspiring to make a reputation for themselves among niche YT viewers, they're meant to not only share the enthusiasm they have for their latest and greatest addition but also provide some insight to fellow fans about new and distinctive releases who might be wondering how a particular title is packaged or what exactly is included inside. The video below is a brief (which is rare that it's so brief!) example of a typical unboxing.
Pretty basic, but because this was a non-standard type of packaging, fairly informative too. If you were on the fence about what you were getting when you looked at the non-standard, bulky, oversized Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set
, and the beauty shot of it shown at left didn't really answer all your questions about it, this video becomes very helpful.
Now, what about a different type of Blu-ray release. Say, one of those big huge box sets, like the ones Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has done for Gone with the Wind
or 20th Century Fox for The Sound of Music
? You can find beauty shots of their contents also, but like in above video wouldn't it be more helpful if someone opened it up for you to show you how it looks inside and see them holding all of the swag items in their hands? That post I mentioned earlier featured an unboxing video of a box set and after watching it, I immediately became more enamored of it.
And what was that set? It was Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray Collection
. But not the standard release
that can be purchased anywhere. It was an exclusive box set, a retailer exclusive actually, available only from Amazon UK.
That's the Amazon on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the United Kingdom, in an entirely different continent. An international retailer exclusive
The ABCs of Blu
Now here's something about buying Blu-rays and DVDs from another country. They don't automatically play in PS3s and other Blu-ray players made for the good ol' U S of A.
The international home video industry follows region coding standards
, a practice started years ago with DVDs and continued with the introduction of Blu-ray Discs. It has to do partly with licensing rights. Rights for different regions of the world may not necessarily be owned by the same distributor. And to keep folks honest, video players around the world are manufactured differently enough to allow Blu-rays and DVDs for one region to play only in players built for, say, Region A
but not for players built for Region B
or Region C
. In fact, for Blu-ray Discs, there are only three region codes and they are Regions A, B, and C. For you regular international travelers, it's just like you having to buy a completely new thingamabob because the plug for your original thingamabob that you can use here in the US won't work in those European electrical outlets. They simply don't play nice with each other at all.
So, back to the Indiana Jones set and Amazon UK. I could buy the standard collection here in the US and have no doubt whatsoever that I can play the discs and watch them just fine. But theirs is a limited edition version with really cool swag included
, not available from any other retailer except Amazon UK. Here is that unboxing video I watched. And it's pretty tempting to own...if only I knew it would play in my PS3.
Cool, huh? Especially that diary!
To the left is the beauty shot I found earlier this year of the set. I knew about the set's existence early enough. But my inclination at that time to not get it was swayed not just by the possible region code conflict, but also from someone's comment on the forum boards that for the extra money, we're just getting a lot of extra paper. Made sense. And that helped convince me at the time to keep my money in my credit card.
Then, last week I watched the above video and I was screwed.
Or maybe not! Perhaps it being released in the UK, it might strictly be a Region B disc, and not play on US's Region A players, ending further buying consideration permanently. I did some checking, and at first Blu-ray.com's listing for it identified it as "Region B (untested for A,C)". "Untested" refers to the fact that there are some Blu-ray titles that are manufactured to play in all regions; they're Region Free
. So now, there was a possibility that the version from the UK might play in my PS3.
Now there are Blu-ray players that actually play BDs from all regions
. They play Region A discs, Region B and Region C. My PS3 is not one of them. But there was bound to be someone on Blu-ray.com's forum boards who not only has an all regions Blu-ray player but would go ahead and test it for the rest of us wanting to know and share their results. (One of the reasons why I love visiting the forum boards!) In fact, I added a post myself
to ask someone to do that. I went to sleep, and the next morning, I saw the following posted by "srinivas1015" as a direct reply
to mine.I just tested my UK set. It's Region Free. I set my PowerDVD software to region A and it played the disc perfectly. I also tested it in my Region C Playstation 3 and there was no problem.
Great googly moogly! I went to Amazon UK's listing for it
and coincidentally their info was updated now stating it as ""Region Free" there too.
I did some quick exchange rate conversions online and to make matter worse - or I guess, better - it turned out that even with international shipping, the Amazon UK set was about the same price as buying the US version here - usually priced around $79.99 - with sales tax added.
So the fact is I'm eighty bucks poorer now. The set is already on its way via DHL and due to arrive to me before the end of the month. But I guess for all the digging around I did related to this holy grail-like quest to find my answers about a famous archeologist's records, I tell myself it was meant to be. But along the way, I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to unboxing videos and region codes. And if you feel like exploring on your own, there are many more unboxing videos to be found on YouTube
As a postscript, I end this article with the only other Amazon UK exclusive collector's set in my collection. I bought it when it was released in 2010. That time, it was the metal OUTATIME license plate that I couldn't live without. And was I glad it was Region Free too!
Until next time...
Today begins a new series I'll be writing from time to time highlighting new and unique Blu-rays releases, in today's case, retailer exclusives
This series was inspired last week after creating and sharing the info sheet you see on the left. I did for my Disney friends, particularly those tending to aspiring Disney princesses. These Blu-ray titles come in special storybook packaging, meaning the case itself is a Disney read-along storybook, but each would only be available from one retailer. So I shared the infographic to make sure my friends were aware of their options in case they'd prefer these versions to add to their Disney video collection over the standard versions would could be bought from any store or online retailer. Friends voiced their appreciation, some telling me they added the dates on their calendars to make sure they wouldn't miss them.
Then, I realized I could do this for other future retailer exclusives that come out on Blu-ray. I look up this stuff for myself anyway, so why not share it? It would be a great regular feature to write about. So here goes!
But first, a bit of background.How I Got Blu
I started buying Blu-ray Discs
in 2008. That was the year I took the big financial plunge and invested in both a new 37" Samsung HDTV and a PlayStation 3 (PS3). I remember vividly the Christmas season before while out shopping at Best Buy for presents seeing one of the Pirates of the Caribbean
movies playing on several HDTVs on display inside the store. Those flatscreen demos did their job. They got me intrigued and finally hooked on the notion of upgrading my home entertainment experience from age-old standard definition to high definition
. Several weeks of online research uncovering the difference between 420p, 1080i and 1080p (including many visits and much debt owed to Blu-ray.com's FAQ page
) plus a call into Chase Visa to request a reduction of my annual percentage rate to further encourage me to charge more $$$ on my Disney Visa (a reduction Chase granted!) paved the way to this silly little habit I now embrace: building my Blu-ray collection.What To Blu
My first Blu-ray Disc
Now geared up for high def at home, I continued my search on the web for more movies to watch on Blu-ray. Remember, this was the infancy period of Blu-ray. And Blu-ray Disc had just then only won the war it fought against another high definition format, HD-DVD
. Studios had been releasing titles on one, the other, or both formats, and for such a risky investment until a clear winner was declared, the number of films that were released on either format then were just drops in the bucket compared to the number of titles released today, when consumers have learned much more about Blu-ray, become comfortable with all the inherent techno-babble, and the cost of HDTV coming down.
I ended up visiting two websites a lot during this time, High-Def Digest
. Their most important assets were the Blu-ray Disc reviews, and I pored through them often. First I looked for films out on Blu-ray that I was familiar with or had seen. For the few titles out on Blu-ray that I owned on DVD and was willing to upgrade, I traded in my old DVDs at my local FYE
for store credit to offset some of the costs to buy them on Blu-ray now. (By the way, this habit of upgrading your DVD copies to Blu-ray is known among Blu-ray enthusiasts as "double-dipping", and we put it out there just to say we're both stupid but passionate about the need to re-buy the better version of something we love. Wait until I post a blog about my years buying and re-buying Star Trek on home video - Sheesh!)
But except for Disney films, which supported the Blu-ray Disc format during the HD format war and thus released a fair amount of their titles on Blu to help the cause, there wasn't a lot of my favorite films out yet on Blu-ray that first year, particularly my genre and geek favorites like Star Trek
(Paramount chose to debut the original TV series on HD-DVD first; it didn't come out on Blu-ray until a couple years after) or Star Wars
. So I looked at other titles that were fairly unknown or previously unseen by me, those which rated very high by reviewers in their video or picture quality (PQ), because frankly high definition video was the eye candy that I fell in love with. And that is when I learned of the term "blind buy".Blind Blu Buying
My first Blu-ray digibook
I started looking through what folks talked about on Blu-ray.com's discussion boards
. There, I found many others new to Blu-ray diving in to watch whatever movies was out on Blu-ray at the time and posting their armchair reviews about their PQ. I obviously felt a kinship with these other people who've embraced Blu-ray, so I was very interested in what they shared on the boards.
Those who took a chance to watch a movie without ever having seen it before coined the phrase blind buy
, that they would blindly select a movie to buy and watch it with the hope that it would turn out to be a good choice, telling on the boards what they thought about the Blu-ray either way. To fill my appetite to regularly use my new PS3 and watch new stuff in HD on my new HDTV that first year I owned it, I ended up doing the same thing, blind buying Blu-ray movies. Some of those early purchases included films and documentaries I'd never seen before like Baraka
, How the West Was Won
, Band of Brothers
, and the documentary series Planet Earth
. Because of the feedback from the boards and reviews from the home pages, I chose these almost purely because of the high praise their PQ received. Turned out that I loved these choices, and I was more than pleased to discover that not only was their PQ excellent, but their content overwhelmingly entertaining too!Limited Blus: The Retailer Exclusives
My first SteelBook case
Now I learned other Blu-ray Disc details during my time as a Blu-ray collector, including the main reason that's inspired this particular premiere blog entry.
As the popularity of Blu-ray Disc grew, some U.S. retailers were given the opportunity by studios to offer unique, limited edition versions of more popular titles and make them available only through their chains. These retailers were mainly Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon and for a time FYE aka Sam Goody aka Suncoast Motion Picture Company. And as a collector who enjoys unique packaging and bonus material, I discovered I needed to pay really close attention to what "retailer exclusives" might be offered in addition to the standard versions that every store in the country would sell, because I just might prefer getting one of these retailer exclusives that include an extra bonus disc of material or include a unique action figure or coming a neat new packaging appropriate to the movie than just a plain ol' plastic Blu-ray case. Just like the Disney storybook packaging I discussed at the top of this article.
So whenever there's a new title coming out that I "must buy", I make sure to do some due diligence and see whether any of the store chains listed above are offering their own exclusive. This week, there happens to be a number of retailer exclusives coming out for one popular family film debuting on Blu-ray that may also be worthwhile choices for some early bird Christmas shopping. What a perfect opportunity to showcase retailer exclusives for you!
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial debuts on Blu-ray Disc & DVD on October 9, 2012
Standard edition Combo Pack
is debuting on Blu-ray Disc this week. Now to be candid, I own E.T.
on DVD and I don't really go back and re-watch it very often, altho' there were a few of times I pulled it out because I was assigned an E.T.
-related design job. But in looking over what retailer exclusives there were for this title, I was surprised to find as many as I did. And I have to admit a couple naturally caught my eye.
Amazon's exclusive features a replica of the spaceship from the movie. Press a button on the side and not only does the top split open to reveal where your Blu-ray Discs are located, but a ramp in the bottom half slowly opens to reveal E.T.
standing on it. Plus it actually lights up and even plays John Williams' "Flying" theme from the movie. Here's a video of it in action.
But if you want to get it, I think it might already be sold out
cases are made of metal with plastic trays fitted inside to hold the discs. They're very popular with collectors, but it's a popularity I don't share. SteelBook is a patented design too, and collectors know that. There've been knockoffs produced that aren't true SteelBooks but similar-looking metal media cases. But the difference only matters to SteelBook fans. Most likely, you don't care a hill of beans or Blus about it either! But if you want your E.T.
Blu-ray to come inside an authentic SteelBook case, Target is the only place for you to go.
Best Buy's retailer exclusive of E.T.
comes inside a digibook. A digibook is essentially a hardcover book, and the Blu-ray Discs are contained inside, either located on plastic trays mounted on either or both of the front and back inside covers or within specially-designed, reinforced pages. Being a book, a digibook naturally provides the opportunity to include 20-40 or more pages of content with the purchase of your Blu-ray that you nornally couldn't get with just buying it inside a standard plastic Blu-ray case, which might
come with an insert if you're lucky. However, some Blu-ray enthusiasts criticize digibooks for being a tad taller than those standard plastic Blu-ray cases, effectively ruining
that perfect, even height you achieve when you stand a digibook among your neat row of plastic Blu-ray cases on your shelf. Whatever.
The last retailer exclusive I found for E.T.
comes from Walmart. In promotional jargon, it's what's called an "in-pack" because the premium item, in this case a plush toy of E.T.
, is packed inside of a larger box holding the standard Blu-ray release.
Prometheus also debuts on Blu-ray Disc & DVD on October 9, 2012
In additional to E.T.
, there is another high-prolife title debuting on Blu-ray this week. It's Ridley Scott's summer faux-prequel to his 1979 sci-fi classic Alien
The only retailer exclusive I found for it will be at Target. It will include a "photo booklet," essentially a softcover pamphlet, that will be packaged with the standard Blu-ray Case packaging of the film. The material presented in the photo booklet is taken from an amazing book called Prometheus: The Art of the Film
. I first flipped through this book at the San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, and it not only has gorgeous art and photographs surrounding the making of Prometheus
, but also a lot of notes and concepts by Scott that further explain what he might have meant in the movie that he didn't necessarily explain in the movie.
Naturally, all of these retailer exclusives are limited to what quantities each chain elected to produce. Most times, they sell out in the first week or two. Other times, you might still find them even a month later (which likely means the chain ordered way too many). It depends. There are also options to preorder online and have it shipped to your home or perhaps arrange to pick it up in person from a store location near you. I usually elect to go out and get the bloody thing in my greedy little hands on the first day of sale (which 99 times out of a 100 is on a Tuesday for DVD and Blu-ray titles). It also allows me to look through the copies out on the shelves to pick one that looks the best. This is especially important to me in cases like if it includes a slipcover sleeve (I want one that ain't dinged up!) or a premium toy figurine inside (I want the one that's painted perfectly!). It's the anal-retentive collector in me, and I make absolutely no apologies for it.
Most titles' prices may be discounted significantly the week they go on sale. This is as much to stimulate sales as better a studio's chances of getting to say a week later that "Our (insert movie title here) was the number one selling title last week!" But who cares about that. For any title, a good sale price on week one makes for a good idea to get the best price at all when buying it when it first comes out.
Also note that all of these editions including the standard edition includes the movie on both a Blu-ray Disc and a DVD. So if you don't own a Blu-ray player yet, the studios thought of you (to buy their movies) as well.
This time around, my votes goes to the Best Buy digibook for E.T.
and picking up Prometheus
at Target. I love digibooks and even generic booklets, way more than SteelBooks and plush toys. And while as a product designer, it would've been great to own the Amazon exclusive, I think that one's simply out of my budget right now even if Amazon would let me place an order for it. Of course, I could always order it from Amazon UK. And theirs includes the digibook
that I love. In additional, Amazon UK even has a plussed out retailer exclusive for Prometheus as well
. But let's save talking about international Blu-rays for a later time, shall we?
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this helpful. Definitely more news about future Blu-ray retailer exclusives to come!
Last month, I entered a contest sponsored by SuperHeroHype for a chance to win a ticket to the West Coast premiere screening
of the latest DC Universe animated film, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
. Last week, an email arrived in my in-box, from one "Alfred Pennyworth". it said:Warner Home Video, MTV Geek and The Paley Center for Media proudly present the World Premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, the highly anticipated next entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies.
Congratulations! You have been approved for one ticket to attend the West Coast premiere on Monday, September 24 at the Paley Center for Media (465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills).
Now to be candid, I wasn't really too hopped up on this movie. I'm a huge Batman fan, and this was an adaptation of a highly-praised graphic novel
that I read as each of its four issues were first published. It's influenced Batman stories written since its 1986 debut and Batman films from Batman
in 1989 to this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises
But the trailer (at right), while including a lot of images inspired by the novel, didn't excite me for some reason. In hindsight, I was probably that fact it was just a quick-cut style of trailer, lacking a narrative and thus boring me.
Geez, I've gotten really picky in my old age. :p But, free ticket? Sure, I'll go watch it!
In fact, the afternoon of the screening, I popped in my Blu-ray of a previous DCU Animated Movie to warm me up. I watched Batman: Year One
. It's another movie based on another Frank Miller-written classic from 1986
. I wasn't very pleased with Benjamin MacKenzie's work as the voice of Bruce Wayne/Batman. I understand the character is lost, trying to find direction in his life. But it sounded too hollow, too dispassionate for me. That was the only fault I had with it.
I've never been to the Paley Center
, but I have seen Q&A panels that have been held there for the TV shows Glee and Castle
. I assumed it would be in the same screening room. My email from "Alfred" said to arrive no later than 5:45 p.m. I got there by 5:30 p.m. There was a line outside, but I soon learned a good portion of the line included Media who were allowed in twenty minutes before us. We finally got in after 6:00 p.m. Off to the side was a glass-walled room where we could see all of the Media grouped, assuming waiting for their individual chances to interview the evening's VIPs: voice actors Peter Weller
(Batman/Bruce Wayne), Ariel Winter
(Robin/Carrie), and Peter Selby
(Commissioner Gordon), director Jay Oliva, writer Bob Goodman, voice casting director Andrea Romano
, and producer Bruce Timm
I left briefly to move my car from one parking lot to the one across the street. The first structure I found charged nothing for the first two hours and then $3.00 each 1/2 hour afterwards. But both lots I found offered a flat rate of $5 if you enter after 6p. Since the one across the street closed at midnight, not 9pm like the first, it was well worth the car re-parking drama. (And the event didn't end until 9:45p!)
I entered the screening room and was surprised at how small it was. Looked so much larger in the Q&As I'd previously seen
. It had about 120 seats. The two front rows were reserved as were much of the back four rows. Estimating there were only about 40 or 50 of us in line out, I realized just how lucky I was when I won my free ticket!
There was one brief announcement just after 7pm when the screening was scheduled to start to let us know that they were just finishing up with the Media portion and would begin running the movie soon. A marketing rep from Warner Bros. finally greeted us and acknowledged some folks from the Paley Center before the screening started. The lights were lowered and a short promo for the Paley Center played as the panel VIPs snuck in to take their seats in the front rows.
The movie was amazingly great! The pacing, tone, voice casting, sound design, musical underscore and animation were all perfect! And I laughed out loud with the rest of the audience a lot through the movie. Most times they were with the movie. But there were a few, rare moments when the details in the original novel didn't play as well in a movie. The big, hulking Batman running effortless across a wire between buildings being one of those scenes. But the fight scenes were bone-crushing and well choreographed. There's a lot of firepower in the story, Batman battling a mob army armed with all sorts of military weaponry - automatic machine guns, grenades, bazookas - and seeing it acted and sounded out was incredible! And there was a moment when I teared up. I grew up watching Batman and Robin and reading about their adventures together. When Batman is introduced to his new Robin after a dicey battle that went wrong, I don't deny I got really choked up!
As the credits rolled at the end, the sound was dialed down, the curtains were drawn closed and the lights came up. It was at this time that the VIPs were introduced as they took their seats at the front of the screening room for the panel discussion. And we were all allowed to take pictures, just without using any flash.
Some of the things revealed:
• The lines in the second scene between Peter Weller and David Selby were taken about a month apart. But viewing the film, you'd never have guessed that.
• I did not know Peter Weller was a professor. He has a Masters in Renaissance Art and considers comic books an American art form. He said he grew up reading Batman comic books and was happy that he got the chance to add to Bob Kane's legacy.
• I did not know that David Selby was in the original Dark Shadows
• I did not know that Ariel Winter is some famous sitcom star. But since I don't watch Modern Family and missed watching the Emmys over the weekend, I can be forgiven. :) I also thought she was darn cute, but then later found out she's 14.
• Peter Weller praised the film score and complimented the composer personally when he was told that the composer, Christopher Drake
, was in the audience. He told us the music was inspired by the types of scores that came out when The Dark Knight Returns was first published in the late 80's. So it was done analog, including having to locate old, out-dated synthesizers to use on the recordings.
• Bruce Timm told us the voice actor cast to play the Son of the Batman,Yuri Lowenthal
, brought him a photo of himself to show to Timm. It was from 1986 of Lowenthal dressed up for Halloween as a Son of the Batman, straight from the graphic novel.
• Of the voice cast there, Peter Weller was the most vocal and enthusiastic about how great the film was.
• One surprise visual gag in the movie is discovering a bookshelf in a shop with familiar DC Comics titles for sale on it. Director Oliva was asked about that and he said it was his idea, because that's how he remembered comic books displayed when he started reading them. He emailed his staff for suggestions of DC titles to show there from the late 1980's, and DC came back to him with clearances on the ones he could use.
• The cast have already done their recordings for The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
• Bruce Timm and the DC Marketing guy who hosted the panel strongly hinted that a release combining Parts 1 and 2 together is in motion. They said to watch for their 2013-2014 release slate to be announced during the New York Comic Con
• Peter Weller is friends with Frank Miller
. Asked for what he thought Miller would say about the movie, Weller basically said Miller would just be pleased we were talking about him.
• Bruce Timm said it wasn't very easy to come up with the final character design style for this movie. Studying the original graphic novel, they found that Miller had drawn Batman differently throughout the whole novel. But they did notice that when in combat, Batman was drawn leaner than when he's standing still and can made to appear like a giant of a man.
We were told that anyone asking good questions would received a gift. Damn if I didn't raise my hand every time. But I just didn't get picked. Looked like winning questioners received either an autographed The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
poster or an autographed Blu-ray of the movie. Here are the rest of my photos from the evening. Can't wait for "early 2013" to come around to see Part 2
"The Enterprise Incident"
Over the weekend, Star Trek
turned 46 years old.
On September 8, 1966, NBC first aired an episode of Star Trek
at 8:30 p.m. The episode was titled "The Man Trap", and it was television audiences' introduction to Captain James T. Kirk, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy and the missions of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise
. Forty-six years later, people the world over recognizes these names along with the phrases "Beam me up, Scotty," "Space, the final frontier," and "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise."Star Trek
originally ran on NBC for three seasons. I didn't discover the show until the 1970's when it aired in syndication. I would've been a pre-teen at the time. And I ate it up! It wasn't just the atmosphere and adventure of the show that reeled me in or its optimistic view of the future, but the look and structure of it too. There was no Internet back then, but I found books like The Making of Star Trek
, the Star Fleet Technical Manual
, the Star Trek Concordance
, and magazines like Starlog
. And the background information they offered on this show that aired just in reruns Mondays through Fridays fed my youthful, voracious interest in the show, schooling me on the meaning of the uniform colors, rank braid on the sleeves, insignias worn by the crew and what all the details about the classic starship were called and used for. I was always drawing as a kid, and I doodled my fair share of starships, phasers and Starfleet officers back then.
Original 1966 broadcast trailer (left) and the 2007 trailer to promote the Remastered version of "The Man Trap" (right).
Neil Armstrong was just months away from taking mankind's first steps on the moon when Star Trek
's last episode aired in primetime on 1969. Ten years later, Star Trek
was reborn in a series of motion pictures featuring the original cast and later spun off into four new television series. With another motion picture due out next summer
, Star Trek
continues to thrive with the support of its trend-setting "trekkies" (or "trekkers" if that's your preference).
Waking up last Saturday morning, my only plan to celebrate Star Trek
's birthday was simply to pull out my Blu-ray set of Season One of Star Trek
that evening and watch "The Man Trap" right at 8:30 p.m. But another notion popped into my head after stimulated by a couple of sips of coffee, a desire to do something else to celebrate. And being that guy who is always taking pictures, I thought about what photos I could possibly take. Looking around my living room that could be a set for The Big Bang Theory
, my brain flashed with the idea of calling a row of Star Trek
books sitting on a shelf a "return to tomorrow"
, the significance being that the books documenting the science fiction show's history would be poetically titled after an actual episode of Star Trek
"Return to Tomorrow"
my idea, thank you very much! And the rest of my morning was dominated by a mix of brainstorming other original episode titles that could inspire other photos and setting up those Star Trek
collectibles into pretty pictures. Out of 79 episode titles, I used six. And I am pretty pleased with myself and the results.
I've included two here. The rest you can see in their own collection, or menagerie
, on Flickr
And Live Long and Prosper.
The last time I attended a screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
was just this past December at the Egyptian Theatre
where they screened a 70mm print of the 1963 comedy classic
. My good friend Perry let me know about it, and I met him and his family there for what would turn out to be a really enjoyable movie theatre experience!
It was my first visit to the Egyptian. It has a quaint but historic cinema vibe about the place, especially once you enter the theatre itself with its high, curved ceiling, beautiful wall paintings, and warm decor, much like the El Capitan Theatre
down the street and the Avalon Theatre
on Catalina Island.
Before the screening, the audience was treated to a brief Q & A session with two stars from the film, Barrie Chase
, who played the bikini babe dancing with Dick Shawn
in the film, talked about how she got cast and how it was working with Shawn, and Marvin Kaplan
, the familiar character actor, shared funny anecdotes playing one of the two gas station attendants relentlessly assaulted by Jonathan Winters
' character in the movie. Then the screening began, but not before a bit of drama beforehand. After the Q & A moments, the theatre manager came to the front of the house to announce that they had been stalling the start of the movie because they realized at the last minute they did not receive Reel 5 of the film! Explaining that they're back up plan was to fill in the missing reel by playing an advance copy of the Blu-ray Disc of the film
that one of their employees happened to have, he returned a second time to tell us they found where Reel 5 was and hoped to have it delivered in time to drop it in at the right time during the screening. We enjoyed the entire movie in its original film glory as planned and it was hilarious!
The film, which I hadn't really seen in a long, long, long, long time, featured so many famous comedians of the Golden Era of Hollywood and popular actors in early roles that the screening also doubled as a Where's Waldo-like game, identifying faces as they appeared in their small roles or wordless cameos. If you've never seen the film and intrigued with whom I'm talking about, click the movie poster at the top or see this list on Wikipedia
of actors, comedians and celebrities who appeared in the film. But obviously I recommend you seek out a copy on DVD or Blu-ray to watch the entire film yourself.
Now flash forward seven months later to sometime a couple of weeks ago when Perry again tells me about a screening of the same 70mm print, this time at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theatre
in Beverly Hills. The first installment of the Academy's film series entitled "The Last 70mm Film Festival"
, this screening
advertised a panel discussion to include cast members Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Marvin Kaplan, Stan Freberg, Barrie Chase and Carl Reiner! And not only that, there was this eye-catching bit of detail in the press release: Tickets are $5 for the general public.
Five bucks? Really!?
My standby ticket in front of Academy building.
So, Perry spread the word and plans were made to go. A hiccup occurred when Perry found out that tickets had sold out shortly after they went on sale. But a call to the box office let us know that standby tickets might be available the day of the show. We'd have to arrive two hours before the event to receive a number, and then return again at showtime to find out whether tickets were available to buy or not. The day of the screening, without a solid guarantee that we'd get in to see the panel and movie, we headed to Hollywood and made it to the Academy building before 5pm. To our good fortune, there was only one person ahead of us in line when we arrived. By the time standby numbers were handed out at 5:30pm, there were about 30 others who had gotten in line behind us.
After getting dinner
across the street at a place called Lazy Daisy Café
, we arrived back at the box office to see if we'd have good luck. (It would've been fun to see a huge "W" over the box office, eh?) We were encouraged to see that they were still handing out standby numbers to folks arriving at showtime. And by about 7:15p, numbers 1 through 6 (Mine!) were allowed to buy tickets.
And again, tickets were only five dollars! What. A. Deal!
Leaving the box office, we entered the main entrance where they scanned our tickets for admission and immediately I thought to myself, "Yea, I get to keep a pristine ticket as my souvenir!" Then, I waited until one of four security guards was available to empty my pockets in front of and make sure I wasn't carrying a bomb. I retrieved my belongings to follow my friends upstairs (which gave my stiff, achy thighs from yesterday morning's workout some unwelcome displeasure) where at the top we all received programs and immediately I thought to myself, "That five buck price is getting better all the time!"
Front of souvenir program and event ticket.
We entered the theatre and eventually found seats in the center left section for the four of us in our group. I was pleased to find they offered a very decent view of the screen. And it was great timing too because the lights just began to dim, signaling the start of our evening at the screening.
A gentleman took the stage to mention the screening of the short film "The Miracle of Todd-AO"
that those who arrived earlier had apparently just seen. Then, he read an introduction, acknowledging this was the first in their "The Last 70mm Film Festival" series. He quickly took note of the packed house (the theatre seats 1,012) and guessed that this would likely not
be the last 70mm film festival and the audience, mostly aduits in their 40s and older, applauded in agreement. He went on to share factoids about 70mm film in general and about the aspect ratio of the film we were about to see tonight. (It was 2.75:1, with the tops and bottoms cropped so that the very left and right edges of the film would fit on their projection screen.
But before we'd see the film, it was time for the panel discussion, and to host this part of the evening, the gentleman introduced Billy Crystal
He was great as emcee! He started off telling us a humor-filled anecdote about his father's love of comedies and also how he and a childhood friend of his, with the principal's help, organized a school outing across town to watch the film. That evening, he invited that school friend and he stood up in the audience when Billy called him out. Then, he introduced the evening's guests: script supervisor Marshall Schlom
, casting director Lynn Stalmaster
, director Stanley Kramer's wife Karen Kramer, Barrie Chase, Marvin Kaplan, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney
, Stan Freberg
, and Carl Reiner
L to R: Emcee Billy Crystal, Carl Reiner, Stan Freiberg (seated), Barrie Chase, Karen Kramer, Marshall Schlom (seated), Lynn Stalmaster (seated), Marvin Kaplan (seated), Jonathan Winters (seated), and Mickey Rooney.
Theatre lighting > iPhone's abillty to focus
To say it was a special evening is a great understatement. With some like Freberg frail and not in the best of health and Winters and Kaplan in wheelchairs, when they and the others spoke, they were back in performance mode and entertained us with their stories and their they've-still-got-it quick wit! Mickey Rooney was wheeled out in a wheelchair only to stand up to take a seat he was wheeled to. He was surprisingly animated throughout the event, proving he still loved the limelight and tried out some one-lines about his marriages for the audience. Kaplan related the same story he told us at the December screening with the same life and enjoyment as before, and the ever-beautiful Chase repeated her experience working with Dick Shawn again, with Karen Kramer sitting next to her assuring her that Stanley did indeed enjoy working with then young dancer. Carl Reiner told a funny tho' possibly suspect story about filming the tower scene which allowed him to inadvertently touch the plane that soared past. He also remembered seeing Winters whittling a 3" x 3" block of wood during the production that would ultimately be transformed in a perfect egg shape. When asked whether he still had that wooden egg, Winters deadpanned he'd laid a lot of rotten eggs in his day or something to that effect. Besides Crystal, Winters was clearly still at the top of his game, charming everyone with his wit and humor. Crystal used Winters' rotten egg line as the perfect cue to end the half hour discussion. The panel received a standing ovation and thinking of just those past thirty minutes, I thought to myself, "Best five bucks I've ever spent!"
The screening of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" rounded out the rest of the evening. It still genuinely made me laugh out loud, plus this time I was able to find Stan Freberg in the film thanks to the anecdote he shared earlier in that evening. On the ride home, Perry and I noticed the screening had a darker look to it than when we last saw it together at the Egyptian. When I got home, I popped in my Blu-ray copy of the movie for the first time, to see the opening and a couple of other scenes fresh after seeing the 70mm film on the big screen. The picture's not distractedly crisp and sharp thankfully, but it does has a much brighter look to it. For example, in the opening scene during the highway chase, it looks like how bright the desert region would naturally look if the morning sun beat down on it on a cloudless sky. And I noticed age spots on Jimmy Durante
's head in his close-ups that I hadn't noticed before seeing it two previous times plus a fly that skittered over the hand that would be Jonathan Winters' hand in the same scene.
Anyway, that's what it was like to attend "The Last 70mm Film Festival" screening of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre last night. The series continues
through the summer with screenings of "Sleeping Beauty," "Grand Prix," "The Sound of Music," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Spartacus." Most are sold out now, but so was ours and we got in! So fortunate that I got to go. As a fan of their work and legacy, it was big deal to get to see this now rare gathering of so many from Hollywood's comedy history. Below are more photos of the souvenir program to enjoy. And thanks again, Perry!