New ‘Spider-Man’ Video Game Sets Three-Day Sales Record

The new Spider-Man video game for the Sony PlayStation 4 is an even bigger hit than the latest Spider-Man movie.

The game, Sony Interactive Entertainment said Sept. 20, sold 3.3 million copies in the first three days since its Sept. 7 release, making it the fastest-selling first-party game the company has ever had.

At a retail price of $59.99, that equates into nearly $200 million in consumer spending.

The latest “Spider-Man” movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, made $117 million its opening weekend.

Sony said 1 million copies of the game were pre-ordered.

Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, broke the previous three-day sales record set in May by the latest installment in the “God of War” franchise, which sold 3.1 million copies.

The new Spider-Man game, heavily promoted over the summer at Comic-Con International, is the first since 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Sony says that beginning in October, it will be releasing three downloadable stories as part of bundle called “The City That Never Sleeps.” each update will add new stories, characters and Spider-Man suits to the game. The first, “The Heist,” will be available Oct. 23.

The bundle costs $24.99; individual updates are $9.99 each.

‘The Darkest Minds’ Coming on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 30 From Fox

‘The Darkest Minds’ will come out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 30 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film made $12.7 million in theaters.

From producers of “Stranger Things,” the film follows a group of teens who mysteriously develop new abilities and are declared a threat by the government. Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), one of the most powerful young people, escapes and joins a group of runaway teens seeking safe haven. The newfound family realizes that collective power is needed to take back control of their fate and save future generations. The film also stars Mandy Moore.

The release includes more than an hour of special features including “Remember – A Look Beyond Ruby and Liam’s Last Kiss” (original animatic by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson); a deleted scene; a gag reel; “Jennifer Yuh Nelson: Heroine at the Helm”; character profiles; storyboard to screen comparison; feature commentary by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Dan Levine and Dan Cohen; “The Power of Georgia”; and “Behind the Scenes in Georgia.”

A limited-edition friendship bracelet is included in specially marked Blu-ray packages.

Report: 4K Set-Top Box Global Installed Base Reached 31M units in 2017

4K UHD content available on pay-TV and broadcast may be limited, but that has stopped proliferation of 4K-compatible set-top devices by pay-TV operators.

According to new research from Dataxis, the global installed base for 4K set- top boxes has grown more than 900% to 31 million units, at the end of 2017, compared to only 3 million units in 2015. Operators around the world are deploying 4K boxes in response to sales of 4K-compatible televisions, which is reflecting in the global numbers, according to the report.

Notably, Europe is growing at the fastest rate accounting for 52% of the total 4K boxes in 2017, followed by Asia-Pacific excluding China (32%), North and Latin America (5%), Middle-East (4%) and Africa (1%).

‘Dragnet’ Movie Gets Blu-ray Disc Date from Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory is releasing a new “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray Disc of Dragnet, the 1987 buddy-cop comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, on Oct. 30.

The “Shout! Select Blu-ray” features a new 4K UHD scan and several bonus features, including a new interview with co-star Alexandra Paul (the “Virgin” Connie Swail) and audio commentary from pop culture historian Russell Dyball.

Consumers who buy the film directly from shoutfactor.com will receive a free 18-inch by 24-inch poster with new artwork.

The Dragnet movie is a spoof of the vintage radio and TV crime drama series starring Jack Webb as the straight-talking, flat-topped Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Joe Friday and various partners.

In the film version, which grossed $57.4 million domestically, Aykroyd plays Friday’s nephew and namesake while Hanks portrays his new partner, the wise-cracking Pep Streebek. A series of misadventures ensues as the pair tries to rescue a kidnapped girl from an underground pagan cult, interspersed with comedy as Friday consistently wrecks his police car. Ultimately he is given a Yugo, which he deadpans as “a tribute to Serbo-Croatian technology.”

‘Slender Man’ Materializes in Time for Halloween on Digital Oct. 19, Disc Oct. 30 From Sony

The horror film Slender Man will be available in time for Halloween on digital Oct. 19 and Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 30 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film made $30.2 million in theaters.

The story follows a group of friends in a small town in Massachusetts who are fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man. They attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist — until one of them mysteriously goes missing. The film stars Joey King (Wish UponThe Conjuring), Julia Goldani Telles (“The Affair”), Jaz Sinclair (When the Bough Breaks) and Annalise Basso (Ouija: Origin of Evil). It also stars Alex Fitzalan (“Crash & Burn”), Taylor Richardson (A Most Violent Year) and Javier Botet (The ConjuringInsidious: The Last KeyIT).

The digital, Blu-ray and DVD releases include the featurette “Summoning Slender Man: Meet the Cast.”

Amazon Announces Fire TV Recast DVR for Recording Over-the-Air TV

Amazon has announced Fire TV Recast, a DVR that lets consumers watch, record, and replay free over-the-air TV programming on Fire TV, Echo Show, and on compatible Fire tablet, iOS and Android devices.

Consumers can connect Fire TV Recast to a HDTV antenna (sold separately) for access to free over-the-air TV content, such as live shows, local news, and sports, and from channels such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and The CW with no monthly fees.

“We are focused on making Fire TV an easy way to watch all the entertainment you love, whether it’s through streaming video services, cable and satellite providers, or even local broadcast stations,” said Marc Whitten, VP of Amazon Fire TV, in a statement. “Now with Fire TV Recast, we’ve made it simpler to find, watch, and record live over-the-air TV at home and on your mobile devices.”

Consumers can place Fire TV Recast and a HDTV antenna anywhere in their home, and all compatible devices will automatically connect, giving them access to local over-the-air TV programming, according to Amazon. Fire TV Recast allows consumers to record up to four shows at once, and stream to any two compatible devices at a time, according to the company.

“Advanced wireless technology automatically optimizes the use of bandwidth on your local network, delivering the best HD picture quality possible — even when streaming across multiple devices in a congested Wi-Fi environment,” according to Amazon.

Consumers can also take over-the-air shows on-the-go by using the Fire TV companion app for Fire TV Recast to watch live and recorded content over Wi-Fi or when connected to a cellular network. Mobile streaming for Fire TV Recast is available on all compatible mobile devices with no extra monthly charges or subscription fees.

Fire TV Recast is available for pre-order in the United States and will begin shipping Nov. 14. It is available in two models: a two–tuner model with 500GB of storage that allows consumers to record up to two shows at once and holds up to 75 hours of HD programming for $229.99, and a four–tuner model with 1TB of storage that allows consumers to record up to four shows at once and holds up to 150 hours of HD programming for $279.99. Consumers soon will be able to expand the built-in storage of their Fire TV Recast by connecting an external hard drive to the USB port on the back of the device, according to Amazon.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/25/18;
Disney/Lucasfilm;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $213.75 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action/violence.
Stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jon Favreau.

The idea of exploring what Han Solo was up to before he encountered Luke Skywalker in that dusty cantina at the edge of the galaxy is certainly not a new concept in the realm of “Star Wars” fiction. No fewer than six novels have been devoted to the subject. A young Han was even considered for a cameo in Revenge of the Sith before that ill-conceived idea was scrapped. Still, the idea of a live-action prequel film devoted to the character was not something most fans would have considered to be in the realm of possibility prior to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm.

In retrospect it’s easy for some fans to say they always thought such a movie was a bad idea, that exploring the backstory of the popular rogue would take some of the shine off his mystery and charm. But really, the prospect of a Han Solo origin movie, in the right creative hands, wasn’t without a certain appeal. It’s just, ask the average “Star Wars” fan what they would want to see covered in a spinoff film, and Young Han probably wouldn’t have been at the top of their list.

But it was at the top of the list of Lawrence Kasdan, the Hollywood veteran who in his own youth wrote the screenplays for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and was pretty familiar with the character of Han (he also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, a playground for Harrison Ford’s other most famous character). So if anyone was the right choice to write a young Han movie, it would be him (joined by his son, Jon).

That he didn’t sign on to direct it, too, may very well have been at the nexus of what the public would come to perceive as a very troubled production.

Now, two names you won’t hear mentioned throughout any of the bonus materials on a packed Solo Blu-ray are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo originally hired to direct the Kasdans’ script. They ended up leaving the project under curious circumstances very late in the production, reportedly due to their comedic sensibilities not meshing with the studios’ intended tone of the film. (They ended up with an executive producer credit on the final film.)

Arcane union rules blocked Lawrence Kasdan from taking the directing reins, leaving the studio to turn to another Lucasfilm veteran, Ron Howard (who directed 1988’s Willow), who supposedly re-shot much of the film.

The only reference made on the Blu-ray that even hints at what happened before Howard came on board is the mention of a “hiatus,” brought up during a 22-minute roundtable discussion between Howard and the cast that segues into an anecdote about “Star Wars” creator George Lucas visiting the set of the Millennium Falcon just as the new director had come on board. Lucas apparently offered some key advice on how to portray Han on screen.

As for Lord and Miller’s influences that carried over into the finished project, fans should check out some production notes posted by Jon Kasdan on his Twitter feed.

The finished movie is hardly the mess it could have been — Howard is too skilled a director to let that happen. But it’s not exactly a masterpiece, either. It’s really just a serviceable “Star Wars” movie — a slick, fun adventure that doesn’t probe much beneath the surface of Han’s backstory beyond showcasing a rundown of some of the key events we had heard about in the original trilogy.

Think of it as the “Star Wars” equivalent of the Young Indy flashback at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, stretched to feature length. Of course, that Last Crusade sequence would go on to inspire “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” TV series. So, maybe the prequelitis in the air from the similar efforts to present younger versions of two iconic Harrison Ford characters has contributed a bit to Solo feeling more like a solid episode of a “Star Wars” anthology TV series, or even a TV movie with top-notch production values. It fits in with the saga, but it’s more like something you can watch to fill in the blanks. It does cast a few scenes from the original trilogy in a new light, so it has that going for it.

Some of the initial concern about the project stemmed from the idea of trying to find an actor to embody the young Solo without drawing too many comparisons to Ford. While Alden Ehrenreich may not have been many fans’ first choice, he’s quite capable in a role that, if given the chance, he may have very well made his own. The problem, alas, is that lackluster box office might limit his chances of playing Han in further prequel adventures. And if this does turn out to be his only chance in the cockpit, then his performance is liable to be viewed in the same vein as George Lazenby’s was in his one-and-only chance trying to replace Sean Connery as James Bond.

This Lazenby effect is the biggest stumbling block to the notion that Ehrenreich’s Han is the same character Ford played, an awkwardness that may well be alleviated if audiences ever gets the chance to get used to him from several appearances that in turn retroactively improve the perception of him in his first.

This is much less of a problem for Donald Glover as Lando, who handles the chores of personifying a young Billy Dee Williams rather effortlessly. Really, though, the whole cast came to play, and the character dynamics are really the biggest strength of the film, particularly between Han and Chewbacca once they finally meet (in a fun sequence that lets the two future partners fight each other).

The story involves Han trying to escape his Dickensian upbringing as an orphan in a street gang, vowing to return to find his lost love, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). After joining the Imperial military to learn how to fly, he ends up deserting his post to take up with a crew of thieves looking to steal high-grade spaceship fuel for one of the galaxy’s roughest criminal syndicates. When it turns out Qi’ra is a top advisor to the syndicate boss, Han is given a crash course on the intricacies on life in the underworld.

Viewed within the larger context of the saga, this is really the first film to focus on the criminal underpinnings of the “Star Wars” galaxy hinted at in the other films. Thematically, then, the film is of a kind with the franchise’s other prequels, each tied to the role the original trilogy’s three main heroes — Luke, Leia and Han — represented to the story of how the Rebellion defeated the Empire. The Jedi backstory, which Luke came to embody, was explored in Episodes I, II and III. The military and political aspects of the Rebellion symbolized by Leia were fleshed out in Rogue One. And with Solo we get the flavor of the underworld and the shadier dealings of the scoundrels who might not necessarily care who’s in charge.

In addition, composer John Powell’s score imbues the film with a sense of whimsy, meshing fresh material with recognizable cues from the previous films, anchored by a new Han Solo theme composed by the maestro himself, John Williams.

The film takes a few steps to place itself within the larger shared “Star Wars” universe, with references and connections to other movies and TV shows that hardcore fans will notice and are clearly meant to set up larger storylines to pay off in other films that may or may not be direct sequels. Regrettably, the film’s underwhelming box office results caused Disney to pump the brakes on the rapidity of production of future “Star Wars” spinoff films, which would be a real shame if it meant they never made the only potential spinoff the fans actually seem to want, which would be an Obi-Wan movie with Ewan McGregor back in the role).

In addition to the roundtable discussion, the Blu-ray also includes about 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes detailing various subjects such as the writing process, the visual effects, executing key action sequences, and re-creating and re-imagining elements familiar to audiences from the original trilogy.

There are also 15 minutes of deleted scenes, including some interesting looks at Han at the Imperial Academy and an extended version of the fight between Han and Chewie.

ESPN+ Streaming Video Service Tops 1 Million Subs

The Walt Disney Co.’s direct-to-consumer and international segment Sept. 20 announced that ESPN+, the subscription streaming video service, has surpassed 1 million paying subscribers since its April launch.

The $4.99 monthly service ($49.99 per year) represents Disney’s first foray into branded standalone OTT video – a strategy Disney began implementing with the $3.75 billion acquisition of BAMTech in 2017.

“Reaching one million paid subscribers … in such a short time is an incredible testament to the teams from DTCI and ESPN who have worked tirelessly to bring this product to market,” Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, The Walt Disney Co., said in a statement.

ESPN+ is intended to complement the ESPN pay-TV network, while focusing on global sports and original programming, including new “30 for 30 documentary, “Seau” (directed by Kirby Bradley); original studio programs, “Always Late with Katie NolanDetail from Kobe Bryant, The Fantasy Show with Mathew BerryESPN FC”, “In The Crease”, “Ariel and the Bad Guy with Ariel Helwani; original series like Earn Everything” about Duke Basketball, NBA: YearOneDraft Academy and Quest for The Stanley Cup; and the entire “30 For 30” library, among other shows.

ESPN+ is part of the ESPN app available across mobile (iOS, Android) and living room devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku. ESPN+ is also available on the Web through ESPN.com.

An update to the ESPN App (v 6.2) last month integrated “ESPN Insider” into the ESPN+ service, enabling subs access to editorial analysis on players, teams, and leagues, as well as analytics tools to help users get an edge in their fantasy games.

ESPN+ subs get a differentiated advertising experience throughout the entire ESPN App or website, with no display ads and no pre-roll ads within video content (ads remain in the natural advertising breaks of live sports content).

“Combining sports, technology and the ESPN brand is a very powerful combination,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN and co-chair, Disney Media Networks.

 

‘Ocean’s 8’ Displaces ‘Deadpool 2’ From Top Spot on Home Video Charts

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Ocean’s 8 debuted at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Sept. 15.

The heist comedy, a female-driven spinoff of the “Ocean’s” trilogy with Sandra Bullock as the sister of George Clooney’s character, earned $139.4 million at the domestic box office.

Deadpool 2, which had been the top seller for the previous three weeks, slipped to No. 2 on both charts. The superhero comedy is distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War, the runner-up to Deadpool 2 the previous three weeks, slid to No. 3 on both charts.

Disney’s Hocus Pocus slipped a spot to No. 4 on both charts. The 1993 film typically enjoys a sales spike in the fall lead-up to Halloween, aided this year by a new 25th anniversary Blu-ray.

Rounding out the top five on the overall sales chart was Warner’s The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Eleventh Season. The No. 5 Blu-ray seller was a two-pack of both “Deadpool” movies.

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 50% of first-week Ocean’s 8 sales; 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray contributed 8% to the film’s unit sales total.

The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Sept. 16 also saw Ocean’s 8 debut at No. 1, pushing Warner’s Tag to No. 2.

Deadpool 2 slipped to No. 3, followed by Sony Pictures’ Superfly debuted at No. 4, and Universal’s Adrift slipping to No. 5.

Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 09-15-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 09-15-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 09-16-18
Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 09-15-18

 

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan to Receive DEG’s Vanguard Award

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group will present its inaugural Vanguard Award to Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Christopher Nolan.

The award presentation will take place during a reception at the 4K Ultra HD Summit to be held Nov. 6 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The DEG Vanguard Award is in recognition of Nolan’s place at the forefront of filmmakers using groundbreaking technology to deliver increased scale and resolution, enhanced color and immersive audio to film audiences both in cinemas and in the home theater environment. Nolan has been a longtime advocate of the best home viewing experience available to consumers.

The director, writer and producer most recently earned dual Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Picture, for Dunkirk, which in July 2017 received the largest 70mm release in the last quarter century. His filmography also includes InterstellarInception, The Dark Knight TrilogyThe Prestige, and Memento, for which he received his first Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay.

With the December 2017 release of the seven film “The Christopher Nolan Collection” in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Nolan became the filmmaker with the largest number of films available in the most advanced home-based viewing format, according to the DEG.

The 4K Ultra HD Summit, presented by the DEG and the Ultra HD Alliance, will advocate and educate about the benefits of 4K Ultra HD televisions and content while highlighting the changes to all things 4K. The goal of the Summit is to help consumers understand the benefits of 4K UHD with HDR and provide information about new hardware and software products for the holiday buying season.

The program will focus on advancements in 4K UHD technology, increasing affordability of the technology, and widening availability of content.

For information about attending The 4K Ultra HD Summit, email Shannon@degonline.org.
For sponsorship opportunities, email Andi@degonline.org.
For speaking opportunities, email Marcy@degonline.org.