Star Trek Warps to DVD

17-Nov-09 10:38 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Star Trek, JJ Abrams' successful relaunch of Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future, hits DVD today. Here's the trailer:

The movie is available in three physical editions: one-disc standard definition, two-disc standard definition, and three-disc high-definition. With wise shopping (and the previous sentence's links), you can find these formats for $10, $20, and $20, respectively. The standard def one-disc format has just the movie and gag reel, whereas the two-disc edition includes nine deleted scenes (with Klingons!), several featurettes, and a digital copy of the film you can put on your computer or mobile device. Many more features are exclusive to Blu-ray — which, despite being a higher-capacity format, needs three discs to hold it all. (Apparently the higher resolution of Blu-ray requires the digital edition to have its own dedicated disc!)

You can also download the film from iTunes for $15 standard definition and $20 HD. iTunes' online rental option won't be available until December 16, though Amazon has it now for $4.

No matter what format you get, this film is sure to be the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season — or, if you can't wait for Santa, then share it with the family next week on American Thanksgiving. Though if you don't think you'd like the film at any time of year, then RiffTrax's audio commentary will be available this Thursday.

I've been to the movies 389 times in the last 15 years. Of all those films, a few were worth seeing twice, but Star Trek is the only movie I've seen three times in theaters. I can't wait until home video lets me add even more repeat showings to my record!

Star Trek Scene It? Warps to Stores Early

03-Mar-09 5:28 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 2 comments.

In the Eighties, there were attempts to combine VCR technology with board games. The results were often cumbersome: since VCR tapes are meant to be played linearly, rewatching scenes (which gameplay often required) meant rewinding, a slow and inexact process. The advent of interactive DVDs streamlined the process greatly, with the most popular example being the party game Scene It?. Players watch movie clips, or puzzles and clues that relate to movies, then answer trivia questions. Whoever guesses the right answer first advances their token around a board; whoever gets to the end first, wins.

There are several variations: Xbox 360 versions eliminate the need for a physical component, while themed editions of the traditional DVD version offer questions and clips from James Bond, Harry Potter, or Friends. I've been waiting awhile for what seemed an obvious pairing: a Star Trek edition of Scene It? The last I heard was that such a product was to have scenes from the upcoming movie, and that the film's delay from Christmas 2008 to May 2009 had necessarily pushed back the game as well.

I guess someone didn't get that memo, or maybe there was an update I missed — either way, Trekkers have an unexpected reason to celebrate: Star Trek Scene It? is now shipping. The game comes in two varieties, Ships and Captains, but each appear to contain identical questions and components with no bonuses over the other. (Some stores will charge more for one edition; don't be fooled!)

I personally can't wait to play this game, though I fear the challenge — not of winning, but of finding opponents who will give me a run for my latinum. Recalling favorite Star Trek episodes by name is typical dinner conversation among my geek friends. Now I need to coordinate enough of us and find a single stardate on which we can all play…

Why So Serious?

10-Dec-08 2:50 PM by
Filed under Films, Humor; 3 comments.

Yesterday saw the DVD release of The Dark Knight, Batman's last cinematic manifestation. Like no one else I know, I chose not to partake of its theatrical debut, and it's not high on my home theater's priority list.

But I am always ready and eager to mock anything this popular. Courtesy RiffTrax comes this exclusive audio from a rather revealing deleted scene:

The clip is a promotion for their RiffTrax of The Dark Knight:

Despite these parodies, I actually am a fan of the Gotham Knight. I count the original Michael Keaton film, Mask of the Phantasm, and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker all among my personal library, and I am eager to add the complete animated series to my collection. If you want to read about some superheroes I actually could do without, check out IGN's top ten list, "Worst Comic Book Heroes on Film". I wholeheartedly concur with such choices as Spawn, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and <shudder> Daredevil. Sigh. Why can't all superhero movies be super?

Out of Control

25-Jul-08 12:00 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on Out of Control

It's been a month since the Get Smart movie was released, and reviews have been surprisingly positive. All the fans I know of the original television series who saw the movie have enjoyed it, which is not what I expected.

What's also unexpected is the alacrity with which Warner Bros. released a sequel — or more accurately, a spinoff. Bruce & Lloyd Out of Control, which came out on DVD the same day its theatrical sibling hit the silver screen, stars Masi Oka (of Heroes fame) and Nate Torrence as their characters from the Get Smart film. While Maxwell Smart saves the world, Bruce and Lloyd get their own adventure to recover an invisibility cloak that's been stolen from Control's tech division. Here's the trailer:

Though the film hasn't enjoyed the favorable reception of Get Smart, I consider it a creative venture nonetheless. It's ingenious that they thought to use all the film's assets and actors while they were already on the set, saving the cost and effort of recreating it later. It also rides on the coattails of its big brother, and vice versa: fans of Get Smart will recognize the brand name when they see it at the video store, while anyone who hasn't seen the theatrical film but liked this lower-budget alternative may be lured to the box office. And my reservations regarding the remake of the television show may not hold true here, since this is an original adventure with original protagonists.

By the holiday season, we may see a two-disc DVD set that contains both movies. In the meantime, the spinoff can also be purchased or rented on iTunes, where a 7-minute, 90-megabyte "making of" featurette is available for free.

Bring the Dark Knight Home Tonight

12-Mar-08 4:15 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

Combining the trend of direct-to-DVD adatations of DC comic books such as Superman: Doomsday with the multiple personalities of The Animatrix, I present to you Batman: Gotham Knight, hitting home video on July 8th:

This comes hot on the heels of the recently-released Justice League: New Frontier, which I hope to review soon:

I'm a fan of DC Comics and find their animated adaptations to be consistently above average (unlike, say, live-action Marvel films). I love how energetically DC is pursuing the home video market as a viable alternative to cinematic releases — and since I'm not a fan of Christian Bale, these DVD releases will give me an alternative to The Dark Knight this summer. Keep 'em coming!!

Once Again On This Island

24-Jan-08 11:17 AM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

The year that Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie debuted in a staggering 26 theaters nationwide, I spent the summer working my first job at Blockbuster Video. Courtesy channel surfing, I was vaguely familiar with the MST3K TV series, so when the movie received a wider release on VHS, I sought it out during my Friday night shift. Our one copy was rented out, so on my dinner break I called the local mom-and-pop store to ask if they had MST3K: The Movie. "Hmm… no, that doesn't sound like something we'd carry. You might want to try Blockbuster."

I eventually did get my hands on the VHS version and laughed until I cried. I immediately shared it with everyone I could think of, and when I bought my first DVD player three years later, MST3K was one of the first discs I bought. It's essentially a high-budget episode of the television show, but the jokes are spot-on (and occasionally a bit more risque than TV would permit), the editing of This Island Earth (featuring the Professor of Gilligan's Island) incisive, and the running time, though shorter than an actual episode, was just the right length to make for an engaging introduction to the series. I even showed it in a high school film studies course I taught, as I felt it essential for these up-and-coming geeks to graduate with an awareness of the rich heritage of B-films. I eliminated it from the course's next iteration, though, as some of the humor did not seem appropriate for the classroom, and the movie's substance was not as weighty at its curriculum brethren, such as Wit or Fail-Safe. (Its place in the course was occupied the next year by The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.)

The movie still holds a prominent place in my video library, especially since the DVD was discontinued eight years ago, with used copies now fetching triple-digit prices on Amazon and eBay. So I was happy to read yesterday's report that MST3K: The Movie will be re-released this May 6th. This is good news for MST3K fans and those curious to see this quintessential episode of a cult classic. With the promise of additional features, extras, and commentary, the lust for the movie's original edition will surely plummet — but it's better for the film to be valued by fans than by collectors, so the renewed availability of the disc is something my devalued copy will happily accommodate.

War of the Formats

07-Jan-08 1:05 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; Comments Off on War of the Formats

The current buzz of the movie industry is Warner's decision to abandon the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. That leaves almost no major studios supporting both formats, choosing one or the other exclusively. The only party left to get off the fence is us, the consumers.

I know competition is supposed to be good for business and that we always benefit from having a choice, but my limited experience suggests this high-definition trend just isn't catching on, unlike our last media storage generational leap. The move from VHS to DVD was dramatic, delivering improved audio and video, more content, and more control over how the movie is presented. I have not observed that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offer significant incentives in any of these three departments. The video quality of either compared to standard DVD is noticeable, but only to entertainment mavens whose budgets support the high-end, next-gen televisions necessary to take advantage of the player's capabilities. No other significant feature justifies the upgrade: Interactivity? Internet connectivity? This is a DVD player, not a game console! And appreciable differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray — well, nobody has demonstrated that to me yet.

What is a consumer to do while this format war is waged? We're already poor enough from the last decade. How many of us have already upgraded our VHS collections to DVD — or from DVD standard edition to DVD "collector's edition" (now with director commentary!)? I doubt I could restrain myself (or my budget) to be satisfied with standard definition if I knew I had a high-def player in the house. Do I therefore replace my highly functional 36" CRT, buy a $850 combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, and begin replacing my hundreds of movies and TV shows at the cost of house and home?

Jeff Kleist suggest it's not really up to consumers to make such decisions; it's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon. That's fine for them. If not to decide is to decide, then I guess I've chosen my place on the fence. Though HD-DVD may go the way of the dodo, giving way for the superior species of Blu-Ray, we're farther still from the extinction of standard DVD. My DVD player turns ten years old this year and should continue to serve up new films for some time yet, and this old dinosaur is still an industry behemoth.

2007: The Year in Review

04-Jan-08 12:19 PM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

It's time for a brief look back at 2007 — brief, because my theatergoing is not what it once was. The number of movies I saw in theaters has fluctuated wildly since a decade ago, though it seems relatively constant over the course of this millennium:

1995: 22 1996: 43 1997: 70 1998: 53
1999: 37 2000: 30 2001: 12 2002: 16
2003: 15 2004: 11 2005:  9 2006: 14

This past year was very similar to its predecessor, with me taking in 15 theatrical films. It is not the prohibitive cost that keeps me from seeing more movies: a genetic condition permits me free tickets to any movie, anytime. It's more a matter of the time investment and working around the theater's schedule, whereas I can watch as much of a DVD as I want, whenever I want. Theatergoing also has a more social element than sitting at home in my pajamas, so I'm further limited by other people's geography and availability. Add in the fact that I don't have TV service and thus am not exposed unwillingly to commercials and trailers, and it takes some other rare factor, such as brand recognition, to make me aware and interested enough to warrant seeing a film.

Of the 15 films I saw in 2007, the best were Live Free or Die Hard, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. (I'd include Star Trek: The Menagerie as a theatergoing experience, but it technically was not a movie.) All three were rock'em, sock'em good action flicks that may've relied on tried-and-true formulae, but executed with finesse and humor.

This year's most disappointing movies were Spider-Man 3, 300, The Simpsons Movie, and The Golden Compass. And downright loathsome was The Transformers, which I recently saw the RiffTrax version of. Sadly, even Mike Nelson and crew could not improve on The Transformers, as I found it even more tedious on a second runthrough. Again, each of these films was based on an existing property, which perhaps led to high and ultimately unfulfilled expectations.

Which of 2007's films did you enjoy the most or least? Did I miss any you recommend?