This year is the first time in my life that the Winter Olympics and the Academy Awards have fallen in the same month. Because I grew up with a great love for watching both figure skating and movies, it seems like 2014 should be a banner year for me to tune into the events that represent the highest level of competition in these two pastimes. Instead, 2014 is the first year that I watched neither. (more…)
Growing up, Saturday morning television meant cartoons and nothing but cartoons. By the 1970s, though, live-action bits crept in, starting with Christopher Glenn’s In the News interstitials on CBS along with silly things like The Banana Splits and H.R. Puffenstuff. In 1974, though, Filmation cleverly blended the two as it took the Big Red Cheese from comics to television. Shazam! debuted in the fall of 1974 with Michael Gray as Billy Batson, charged by the animated gods with their powers to fight crime in the adult body of Captain Marvel.
Last year, Warner Archive released the complete series on DVD and it is as charming as ever in its simplicity. In a mere thirty minutes, Billy and Mentor (Les Tremayne) rode the highways of California in their RV and when danger struck, the magic lightning let Bill become the hero (Jackson Bostwick). The effects were little better than when George Reeves donned the red and blue costume as Superman twenty years earlier. Both fought evil with similar solemnity and everything was put back to order by the time the end credits rolled.
Throughout the 3-disc, 28-episode collection, nary another character from the comics are used, divorcing it from the source material, which is a shame since it could have used a Dr. Sivana or animated Mr. Talky-Tawny. Also, the wizard Shazam is absent and Billy gets advice directly from Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
Bostwick was an earnest and likeable Captain Marvel and when he was replaced by John Davey, it’s fairly seamless. Gray’s Billy is easily five years too old to be a convincing youth but he’s very likeable while veteran character Tremayne does a fine job with little material.
Unfortunately the series aired from 1974-1976, a time when parent groups pressured the networks into cleaning up the level of violence the precious children were exposed to which undercut what could have been a fine kid’s action series. There’s fun stuff going on but a lot of missed opportunities as each case became a teachable moment instead of a thrilling thirty minutes of action. Still, the show was a cut above its competition which is why it is so well remembered. There’s a crossover with Isis (Joanna Cameron), who helmed a spinoff series of her own that was collected some time back and worth seeking out.
It would have been nice to have some extras but the Warner Archive program brings things to smaller audiences at the cost of no money invested in such bonuses,. We do, though, get a lovely cover from artist Jerry Ordway, who did a memorable run with the character in the 1990s.
We have Frank Miller to thank for reminding us of the valiant tale of the Battle at Thermopylae as 300 Spartans fought off an invading force from Persia. His 300 graphic novel is a wonderful retelling of the tale and a pretty damn fine film from Zack Snyder. With the film sequel forthcoming any second now, 20th Century Home Entertainment has wisely issued the Blu-ray debut of the film that inspired Miller when he first saw it as a kid. The 300 Spartans may lack the visual panache of Snyder’s version but it makes for compelling viewing.
Oh, the script is nowhere near interesting although it does a nice job of sticking to the historic facts as Leonidas (Richard Egan) is asked by Themistocles of Athens (Ralph Richardson) to lead the army against King Xerxes (David Farrar). Not a single soldier is as ripped as Snyder’s army nor is Gorgo (Anna Synodinou), Leonidas’ wife, given as much to do as Lena Hedley, but fills the screen nicely. There is some other soap opera elements, though, as Leonidas’ niece Ellas (Diane Baker) learns her fiancée Plylon (Barry Coe) has been dishonored and cannot marry her. And Xerxes has a gal pal of his own, Artemisia (Anne Wakefield).
An interesting historic note here is that a religious holiday kept many of the soldiers at home so Leonidas takes his person squad of 300 to defend all of Greece, a suicide mission under any circumstances.
The pacing is slower but it gives cinematographer turned director Rudolph Maté a chance to make the landscape beautiful to watch. He’s ill-served by the script and its leaden expository dialogue although we get the immortal “Then we’ll just have to fight in the shade!” Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography is gorgeous here, displaying all his skills making you long for more of the European locales to be better used.
This presentation of the cult film is sharp, which makes up for a lot. Like the 2004 DVD release, it has rich colors and excellent sound. Unfortunately, like the DVD, the bonuses are limited to a trailer and television spots.
BURBANK, CA (February 14, 2014) – The caped crusader continues to conquer Gotham City’s villains with the Blu-ray™ and DVD release of Beware The Batman: Shadows of Gotham, Season 1 Part 1 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment. Batman and his trusted friends Alfred and Katana band together in the series’ first 13 episodes to face the twisted machinations of Gotham City’s criminal underworld.
Beware the Batman Season 1 Part 1 is available for the first time on both Blu-ray™ and DVD next Tuesday, February 18, 2014. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment offers a two-disc DVD set ($19.97 SRP), while the single-disc Blu-ray™ is available from Warner Archive Collection for $19.95 via shop.warnerarchive.com and wbshop.com.
Batman swings into an exhilarating new age, teaming with a powerful allies old and new for a thrilling new take on the classic Dark Knight franchise in Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham, Season 1 Part 1. The new action-packed detective thriller incorporates Batman’s core characters with a rogue’s gallery of criminals as the Caped Crusader faces some of Gotham City’s most despicable villains. Through the show’s first 13 animated adventures of this two-disc collection, ex-secret agent Alfred and lethal swordstress Katana join Batman to takes on an array of evildoers including the likes of Anarky, Professor Pyg, Mister Toad and Magpie. This thrilling series redefines what we have come to know as the “Batman show” and is sure to excite fans with cutting-edge CGI visuals.
“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is delighted to begin this exhilarating animated Batman series with the release of Beware The Batman: Shadows of Gotham, Season 1 Part 1,” Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Vice President, Family & Animation and Partner Brands Marketing. “Fans will be excited to see their favorite super hero up against a whole new set of villains from the DC Universe to continue the expansion of the Dark Knight franchise!”
Beware the Batman Season 1 Part 1
Women’s Lib was perhaps the last great social movement of the 20th Century, a logical outgrowth of a changing society that finally brought equal rights to African-Americans and saw the last wave of Baby Boomers create an identity all their own. Women spoke up, beginning in the 1960s with Betty Freidan’s The Feminist Mystique, coupled with the arrival of birth control pills. By the end of the 1960s, women were increasing playing larger roles in the workplace, mirrored soon thereafter on television. They were competent at work and at home, able to stand on their own without benefit of a man. While CBS quailed at the notion that Mary Richards was happily divorced, they were fine to let her be a successful producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a series that ushered in a new era for powerful women.
Dramatic prime time series followed suit, most notably with Angie Dickinson’s Police Woman. It was a no-brainer than to imagine that if one powerful woman would work, more would work better. Fred Silverman, then head of programming at ABC, commissioned Aaron Spelling to create a show about three tough but beautiful women. The successful producer conceived of three women working as private investigators for a mysterious employer in a series to be called The Alley Cats. ABC and Spelling first contacted Kate Jackson, who previously appeared on the network’s The Rookies to be a lead. She refused to audition, was cast anyway, then suggested Angles instead of Alley Cats and so Charlie’s Angels was born.
Today, the show is seen as the beginning of a trend of dumbing down prime time programing, ushering in “jiggle television” that emphasized their breasts over their brains. It’s also the launching pad for the pop culture phenom known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, whose hair started a trend all its own and her bathing suit poster, with a hint of nipple protruding, made her the decade’s superstar. Initially, though, the series was merely an attempt to entertain at the 8 p.m. hour, appealing to all ages with some action some adventure, and three beautiful women to while away sixty minutes with.
It was never meant to be great television or even trend-setting television but it lucked out and became a ratings hit that transformed the cast, anchored by Jackson, but also featuring Fawdfcett0-Majors and model turned actress Jaclyn Smith into celebrities. Mill Creek Entertainment has been vacuuming up rights to some of the most important series across the decades and releasing them in affordable, no-frills season sets including the just out Charlie’s Angels Season 1. Just listening to the music and watching the title credits with those three silhouettes shows how often imitated became, even today.
John Forsythe got pressed into services to voice the never seen Charlie while their onsite handler John Bosley (David Doyle) is there to look serious and congratulate the girls on a job well done.
Spelling’s series rarely allowed his characters depth and this show is no exception despite the pedigree of the writing staff including john D.F. Black. Much of the tone was established by Spelling veteran Edward J. Lakso who wrote seven that season. Directors who helped clinch the look and feel include George McCowan (3) and Georg Stanford Brown (2), Bill Bixby, and Cliff Bole.
The first season (September 22, 1976 to May 4, 1977) has fairly routine plots including the obligatory “Angels in Chains” that not only put the Angels in a women’s jail, but wisely used the great Mary Woronov as the warden and a young Kim Basinger as a fellow inmate. Other noteworthy guest turns include Rene Auberjonois, Fernando Lamas, Ida Lupino, Frank Gorshin, Tom Selleck, and Tommy Lee Jones.
All 23 episodes are included here in standard definition DVD on four discs without any of the extras that appeared on previous collections.
Taking a popular property from book to big screen is always risky. The bigger the characters are, the bigger the problems. We continue our look at VAMPIRE ACADEMY’s film debut as actors Lucy Fry, Zoey Deutch and Dominic Sherwood talk about how VA creator, Richelle Mead, reacted to the movie. Plus DC Comics’ newest original DVD feature, JUSTICE LEAGUE WAR is yet another set of familiar characters tweaked differently. How will fans react? Director Jay Olivia and others tell us just what to expect.
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With Riddick now available on Blu-ray and DVD release, Universal Home Entertainment shared an imagining of the Riddick universe in an easy to use, interactive star map. Each of the planets on the map has hotspots that contain facts, images, and other content that gives fans a more in depth look at the setting of the trilogy. While the map doesn’t reflect every aspect of the Riddick universe – and we certainly wouldn’t advise it as a navigational tool – it definitely presents a jumping-off point for fans to discuss their favorite characters, scenes, and moments from the action-packed, sci-fi franchise! We’d love for you to share the map with your users and to read their thoughts on how they see the awesome Riddick Universe.
Los Angeles, CA (January 22, 2014) – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) announced today a yearlong global campaign to honor the studio’s storied 90-year legacy. Founded in 1924 when theater magnate Marcus Loew bought and merged Metro Pictures Corp. with Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions, MGM and its legendary roaring lion logo signify the golden era of Hollywood to film lovers around the world. Since its inception, the company has led the industry in creating some of Hollywood’s greatest stars and is home to over 175 Academy Award®-winning films, including 14 Best Pictures.
“What a supreme honor it is to preside over a company with such an unparalleled legacy. It’s remarkable to have this opportunity to reflect on MGM’s amazing achievements in film history while also looking ahead to MGM’s bright and promising future,” said Gary Barber, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
The celebration of 90 extraordinary years kicks off today, as the MGM icon, Leo the Lion, is immortalized with a paw print ceremony at the world famous TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, cementing his place in Hollywood history. Sylvester Stallone, writer and star of Rocky (1976), one of MGM’s most iconic and enduring characters, is also on hand to commemorate the special occasion, along with Barber.
MGM is debuting a special 90th anniversary trailer which will play in theaters, on MGM channels – including MGM’s 24/7 movie network, MGM HD; its action-themed VOD channel, Impact; and its premiere multicast programming service dedicated to movies, THIS TV – as well as on DVD products and across social media. The trailer includes a tapestry of iconic images and scenes from films in MGM’s library, evoking a deep emotional connection and celebrating the company’s extensive contributions to the entertainment world.
Additionally, several of MGM’s signature films including Rocky, Rain Man, Fargo, RoboCop and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, have been meticulously restored in 4K resolution (four times the clarity of HD) and will be presented on Blu-ray™ for a beautiful, high-definition home viewing experience. These re-releases will be issued through MGM’s home entertainment partner, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and are now available for pre-order on Amazon.
Other initiatives to mark the company’s 90th anniversary include:
|MGM will complement its already vast collection of films currently available on Blu-ray™ by releasing new titles across all genres throughout the year. Upcoming titles for release include In the Heat of the Night, A Chorus Line, and The Birdcage.
|MGM has created a one-of-a-kind collector’s book and bonus video disc companion commemorating 90 amazing years, featuring interviews from award-winning filmmakers, directors, and actors discussing the significance of their contributions to MGM’s legacy. The book and video highlight the evolution and history of the legendary studio and provide an extensive look into the studio’s golden years, classics, iconic franchises and much more. Interviews include Sylvester Stallone on Rocky, Clint Eastwood on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis on Thelma and Louise, and Walter Mirisch on The Pink Panther. The bonus disc will also be available accompanying select DVD offerings.
|Fans can also relive their favorite film moments at www.mgm90th.com, a unique Tumblr website and the first Tumblr integration to feature a studio’s full library. The MGM 90th Tumblr site’s dynamic design encourages fans to explore and immerse themselves into rich content celebrating 90 years of MGM filmmaking. As fans integrate socially with the yearlong celebration, the Tumblr site will serve as an active aggregator showcasing all of the current sharing and postings. This fresh approach to syndicating content to fans allows a seamless integration appealing to all ages within Tumblr’s rapidly growing platform and beyond.
They’re going to have to make a difficult decision with the pricing on the release of Batman on DVD – do they go high and run the risk of people choosing not to buy it, or go low and maximize sales?
Let’s comparison shop. There’s 120 episodes. How much are other classic / cult TV series charging?
[[[The Wild Wild West]]] had 104 episodes, and its box set list price is 100 bucks (and used to be a lot higher), but currently discounted to $50. That’s 96 cents an episode, 48 discounted.
[[[The Man From U.N.C.L.E.]]] was 105 episodes, and its box set lists at TWO hundred dollars, currently discounted to $140. or $1.90 / 75¢ an episode.
[[[Get Smart]]] had 138 episodes, and its box set is $125, marked down to $79 – 90 ¢/57¢ per episode
And [[[Star Trek]]] (TOS) had only 80 episodes and it’s getting 140 dollars, marked down to $75 – $1.75 /93¢ per episode.
[[[The Twilight Zone]]] had a whopping 156 episodes (including a season of hour-long ones), and its box set is three hundred dollars, marked down to $161. You’d expect it to be more, and it is, but it still comes out to a rather high $1.92 / $1.03 per episode. But the TZ set offers a LOT of extras, including complete episodes of the recently produced radio series, adding value. They made a no-frills set with no extras that comes out at only $1.08 / 82¢ per episode
So there’s no single formula. If you go the high end of UNCLE at two bucks an episode, you’re looking at nearly two hundred and fifty dollars for the set, down to about a hundred if you go with Get Smart‘s ninety cents an episode.
We’re not sure how many special features they’ll be able to include either. Adam West, Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig are all still around and happy to talk about the show, so they can do commentary. But save for Julie Newmar and Eli Wallach, none of the actors who played the major Special Guest Villains are around any more. There’s a number of second-tier folks who are still around – Lesley Gore if you want to reach a bit, and Sid Haig played one of King Tut’s henchmen. Our own Glenn remembered a few more – John Astin and Joan Collins both played one-time villains – Astin played the Riddler when Frank Gorshin wouldn’t appear, and Collins played the enchanting Siren, and Glynis Johns as Lady Peasoup, but whether or not they’ll be available for commentary is questionable. Personally, I hoped that some clever-dick went and got some interviews with some of the actors under the assumption the DVD would happen some day, but odds are we’d have heard about them.
Odds are there’s not too much behinds the scenes footage, so save for an interview format documentary with the heroes (and almost certainly one called “Bat-Mania”), not too much else could be added.
Here’s the thing: Bat-fans have been clamoring for this series to come to video for decades. The audience is guaranteed. Only an exorbitant price could scare them away, convincing them to wait to the inevitable price drop.
My prediction? They’ll go for “Collector Sets”. There will be a “basic” set with just the discs, which may still be upwards of $100, almost certainly over $75. The special collectors sets will include a mini-statue, a prop replica, or maybe a special box. I can envision a fold-out box designed to look like the utility belt. That’s the one they’ll try to get two hundred and up for,
Assuming you’re not one of these hard-liners who swear you never watched the show (i.e., a liar) or just think it was too campy to warrant owning (i.e., another liar), what’s the top price you’d pay for the set?