Animated ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ to Haunt Fans on Digital Sept. 25, Disc Oct. 9 From Sony

The animated Hotel Transylvania 3 will make its debut on Digital HD Sept. 25, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Oct. 9 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The family comedy has grossed more than $425 million in theaters worldwide.

In the third installment in the series, Mavis surprises Dracula with a family voyage on a luxury, haunted monster cruise ship. The unexpected happens when Drac falls for the ship’s human captain Ericka.

The voice cast includes Adam Sandler (Grown-Ups), Andy Samberg (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers), Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), David Spade (TV’s “Rules of Engagement”), Steve Buscemi (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Keegan Michael Key (TV’s “Key and Peele”), Molly Shannon (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Fran Drescher (TV’s “The Nanny”), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms), Jim Gaffigan (Super Troopers 2) and Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein).

Bonus materials include three sing alongs, “Dennis Had a Giant Dog,” sung by Dennis & Winnie, “Monsters Like to Party Down,” sung by Johnny, and “Oh These Wolf Pups,” sung by Wanda Werewolf; the featurette “Plan Your Own Spook-tacular Sleepover,” with details on snacks to crafts to games; a “Vampire Make Over: Mavis and Drac Tutorial,” about how to turn yourself into Hotel Transylvania 3 characters; “Behind the Screams – The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3,” showing how the characters are brought to life in the recording booth; “Johnny’s Home Movies (Franchise Recap)”; “I See Love Monster Dance Party Dance Along”; “Drac’s Zing-tastic Read Along”; and two mini movies, “Puppy and “Goodnight Mr. Foot.”

Masters of Sex: The Complete Series

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Mill Creek;
Drama;
$54.98 DVD, $69.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Teddy Sears, Nicholas D’Agosto, Annaleigh Ashford, Beau Bridges, Allison Janney, Rose McIver, Julianne Nicholson.

Several shows attempted to emulate the “Mad Men” formula of exploring modern themes through the lens of the mid-20th Century, and “Masters of Sex” was one of the better ones.

The key difference between the two shows, of course, is that the primary characters on “Masters of Sex” are inspired by actual people. Based on Thomas Maier’s 2009 book, the show explores the collaboration of William Masters and Virginia Johnson and how they came together to produce their landmark sex study in the 1950s and 1960s.

The series ran for four seasons from 2013 to 2016 on Showtime.

The first season takes place in 1956 and 1957, with famed obstetrician Masters (Michael Sheen, turning in Emmy-worth work that earned nary a hint of recognition at the time) undertaking the first steps of his sexual research, conducting his observations in brothels because the university won’t sanction his methods at first. He finds a partner in Virginia (the fetching Lizzy Caplan, also worthy of awards recognition), who starts out as his secretary but takes on a much more important role in the study, especially as Masters realizes he has developed lustful feelings toward her.

Sheen manages to play Masters as if Don Draper were Sheldon Cooper, using his sex study as an excuse to pursue titillation while sidestepping the typical judgments of society. Meanwhile, Caplan’s Virginia Johnson is a modern woman trapped in the 1950s, struggling to burst free of the traditional gender roles that are constraining her.

The sex and nudity is plentiful but hardly gratuitous, often tamped down by the clinical setting, with participants in the study hooked up to wires and surrounded by medical equipment.

The central conceit, of course, is that the sexual repression being unlocked by the study is a metaphor for the time period, with subplots that tease out other aspects of constrained American life of the 1950s. Most notable among these is Beau Bridges as Masters’ closeted gay boss, struggling with his sexuality while maintaining the façade of a family life, leading to a heartbreaking performance by Allison Janney as his long-suffering wife.

Subsequent seasons find Masters and Johnson linked both romantically and professionally, as they both publish their studies and open a clinic to further their research. After the early episodes set in the 1950s, the show jumps forward in time, sometimes months and years at a time, which allows it to use the Vietnam War as a backdrop for some of the stories (Virginia’s son enlists in the Army, much to her chagrin). The show also explores the sexual revolution in general, with Masters and Johnson’s work gaining the interest of Hugh Hefner.

The further the season goes, the more it deviates from the reality of its characters as well. According to the disclaimers prominently displayed with the episodes, the show is a highly fictionalized account of Masters and Johnson’s lives, focused more on the general idea of what they represented than who they actually were. As such, their family lives are almost entirely works of fiction, no more so than a pregnancy subplot in which Virginia has another baby with her ex-husband — a subplot supposedly mandated by the production’s legal team as a way to divert the show’s storylines from the reality of the duo’s actual children.

Still, the show is mindful about the better-known touchstones of Masters and Johnson’s lives, including their eventual marriage. The show was canceled after its fourth season, ending with an episode that, while not intended as a series finale, serves as a fitting conclusion to the various arcs. Not that the show couldn’t have continued, but the prevailing feeling at the time was that there wasn’t much more it needed to say.

During the show’s initial run on Showtime, production house Sony Pictures released just the first two seasons on DVD and Blu-ray in America (seasons three and four were released on disc overseas). So this Mill Creek collection is the first chance most of the show’s stateside fans will have to complete their collections of it.

Mill Creek has ported over the extras from the Sony releases, including deleted scenes that are grouped with their respective episodes in seasons one and two. There’s also a commentary on the pilot episode that really takes advantage of the winning chemistry between the cast (especially as they tease each other during sex scenes).

On the Blu-ray, the previously released featurettes have been clustered together as the bonus material for the two discs of the fourth season. (Season one’s featurettes on are season four disc one, season two’s are on season four disc two.)

One notable difference is that the episodes include the recaps of the previous episodes, where the Sony discs made viewing these optional.

The fact that the previous bonus materials are included is great news for those who already own the first two seasons and might otherwise be hesitant on fully replacing them with this new set. Since so many third-party re-releases don’t bother to carry over the older extras (for whatever reason, be it licensing, disc space or a general lack of interest), it’s to Mill Creek’s credit that they’re all included here, making this collection a no-brainer for collector’s in the modern golden age of television.

‘Fraggle Rock’ Complete Series to Make Blu-ray Disc Debut in Time for 35th Anniversary

In time for its 35th anniversary, the classic children’s series “Fraggle Rock” will be released in its entirety on Blu-ray Disc Sept. 25 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Described by its creator, the late Jim Henson, as “a high-energy, raucous musical romp,” “Fraggle Rock” stars a cast of puppet creatures called Fraggles, quirky cave-dwellers who live in an underground world alongside their industrious green neighbors, the Doozers, and a family of enormous Gorgs. The series follows their adventures and features a unique mix of music from all genres including folk, blues, gospel, country and rock, all while embracing themes of friendship, tolerance, diversity and caring for the planet.

All 96 episodes in the 12-disc set from the show’s four seasons – which were broadcast on HBO from January 1983 to March 1987 – are fully remastered in high definition and presented with lossless audio on Blu-ray Disc. The set also is available in special limited edition “scrapbook” packaging, featuring rare behind the scenes photos and an introduction from Uncle Travelling Matt.

“Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series” offers hours of bonus content on Blu-ray, including the all-new “Fraggle Music Celebration,” with sing-alongs for every episode (100 songs). Also newly included on the Blu-ray Disc set is a rare personal glimpse behind the curtain with Henson, plus a 1993 throwback segment from “The Today Show” featuring Uncle Travelling Matt, along with more than eight hours of archival special features, including interviews with the cast and crew, featurettes, and assorted promos.

Also included is the complete “Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series,” a 13-episode spinoff that aired Saturday mornings on NBC for one season in 1987. Reruns were shown on The Disney Channel from 1990 to 1995.

“Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series” also will be available separately on digital and DVD, along with “Fraggle Rock: The Complete Animated Series.”

Season One of ‘The Good Doctor’ Due on DVD Aug. 7 From Sony

The Good Doctor: Season One is coming to DVD Aug. 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The TV series stars Freddie Highmore (“Bates Motel”) as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, who relocates from a quiet country life to join a prestigious hospital’s surgical unit. Shaun uses his extraordinary medical gifts to save lives and challenge the skepticism of his colleagues. The series also stars  Nicholas Gonzalez (“How to Get Away with  Murder”), Antonia Thomas (“Lovesick”), Chuku Modu (“Game of Thrones”), Beau Garrett (“Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce), Tamlyn Tomiat (“Teen Wolf”), Hill Harper (“Homeland”) and Richard Schiff (“Ballers”).

The set includes five discs with all 18 episodes, along with deleted scenes, a gag reel and two behind-the-scenes featurettes.

‘Final Portrait’ to Debut on DVD and Digital July 31 From Sony

Final Portrait, written and directed by Stanley Tucci and starring Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name), will debut on DVD and digital July 31 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Adapted from James Lord’s memoir A Giacometti Portrait, the film tells the story of famed artist Alberto Giacometti (Rush) who asks the American writer and art-lover James Lord (Hammer) to sit for a portrait, which takes much longer than either of them anticipate. The film also stars Tony Shalhoub (TVs “Monk,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Sylvie Testud (La Vie en Rose) and Clémence Poésy (In Bruges).

The DVD includes interview clips from the cast and filmmakers and behind-the-scenes footage from the set.

In a First, Sony and Snapchat Employ Augmented Reality With ‘Jumanji’ Release

With the March 20 release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungleon 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing the jungle to life for fans with an augmented reality experience through Snapchat.

In the first of its kind for a home entertainment release, when consumers purchase a copy of the film on disc at any retailer and scan the Snapcode on the front, the packaging elements will start to move, making their way across the retail environment and encouraging people to follow it with their camera phone. Once scanned through the app, users can explore a 360 jungle with a hippo jump-scare and a message from Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) telling consumers that the next adventure lies inside the packaging. Upon opening the packaging, consumers can scan the insert inside the box which will trigger a second experience that brings the characters from Jumanji to life.

“Given the incredible box office success with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, we are continuing the consumer excitement into the home entertainment window by partnering with Snapchat in this groundbreaking AR packaging experience to drive in-store retail engagement and physical product purchase, while giving consumers a new way to interact with the Blu-ray and DVD and share their experience.” said Nicole Longo, Sony director of marketing.

“Much like they reimagined Jumanji itself, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has thoughtfully reframed AR marketing to drive sales for their home entertainment release,” said Jeff Miller, head of creative strategy, Snap. “Their Snapchat lenses set a new bar for contextual augmented realityintegration with physical packaging.”

In addition to having the Snapcodes on the front of the product, the codes will also be on in-store retail signage and displays. Sony also will employ national TV spots, digital marketing, social media, radio and on-platform ads on Snapchat to support the AR effort.

The film earned more than $400 million at the box office.

Sony Teams With Firefighter Charity on ‘Only the Brave’

To help support firefighters like those depicted in the film Only the Brave, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is teaming with the social change platform Pixhug to raise up to $100,000 for the Granite Mountain Fund, an organization that drives donations to support firefighters.

Pixhug and its sponsor, TheBayFestival.org, kicked off the nationwide initiative with a $50,000 donation. In an effort to double the donation, fans are invited to turn their “likes” into money to support firefighters. The Pixhug app turns “likes” into donations, giving everyone the power to make a difference simply by sharing and liking photos and videos. With every photo posted to the Pixhug social platform users can then choose a charitable campaign to donate all their likes to, such as the Granite Mountain Fund. Every like is worth 10 cents, and the money is donated by TheBayFestival.org.

“With the inspiring and heroic effort to battle recent horrific wildfires and mudslides in California, we are thankful for organizations such as the Granite Mountain Fund that offer support for firefighters, first responders, and their families,” said Hans Koch, executive producer of TheBayFestival.org, in a statement. “Only the Brave is an emotionally captivating film that speaks to the dangers of the brave firefighters the Granite Mountain Fund hopes to support with this important social campaign.”

“We have reached an exciting point in time where a powerful story, like the one told in Only the Brave, not only depicts a real-life event but, through Pixhug, allows its audience to engage with and support the cause alongside the stars of the movie,”  said Mido DeSanti, founder and CEO of PixHug staid in a statement.

To use the Pixhug app to support the Granite Mountain Fund:
1. Download the Pixhug app from the iTunes store or Google Play
2. Select the “Only the Brave” campaign
3. Tap “Support this cause”
4. Take a photo and post it on Pixhug and Facebook and the sponsor will donate 10 cents for every like

Granite Mountain Fund, the philanthropic initiative of the film Only the Brave, drives donations to support firefighting as well as the towns and families connected to and impacted by their work. Donations for The Granite Mountain Fund will benefit the following organizations: Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Eric Marsh Foundation, Kevin Woyjeck Explorers Foundation, Prescott Firefighter’s Charities, California Fire Foundation and Carry the Load.

Only the Brave, available now on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and Digital, is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that gave their lives to protect their community.

Keith Le Goy to Take Over Home Entertainment at Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has a new leader, Keith Le Goy.

Le Goy, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, has been put in charge of the home entertainment unit, replacing Man Jit Singh, who is out after four years as the business unit’s president.

Singh is one of three president-level executives to leave Sony as part of a restructuring aimed at streamlining the studio’s management.

Also out are Andy Kaplan, president of worldwide networks for Sony Pictures Television, and Sheraton Kalouria, chief marketing officer for Sony Pictures Television.

Sony Pictures TV chairman Mike Hopkins (former head of Hulu) has taken charge of the international channels group.

Le Goy will report to both Hopkins and Sony Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman.

In an internal memo, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra wrote, “I am pleased to announce that Keith Le Goy, our president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, will be expanding his oversight to also include Home Entertainment.  Keith has been with SPE for over 18 years and has expertly managed distribution of Sony Pictures’ film, television and other content to all media platforms — from broadcast, satellite, and cable, to digital and electronic delivery, including video-on-demand, subscription-video-on-demand, electronic sell-through, and mobile.

“The expansion of Keith’s oversight is not only recognition of his leadership strength and success in this space, but also of the changing landscape of the home entertainment sector, which continues to shift from physical to digital, and increasingly to markets around the world.  Keith’s global experience is unmatched in our industry and he is the perfect fit to reorient our home entertainment business to align with the realities of today’s marketplace.  Keith will now have a dual report. He will continue to report to Mike Hopkins, our new SPT Chairman, for SPT distribution, and to Tom Rothman, chairman of our motion picture group, on MPG home entertainment business.

“With this move, Man Jit Singh will be stepping down as president of SPE Home Entertainment.  I want to thank Man Jit for guiding our home entertainment business through years of unprecedented change, and in helping to build our robust networks business in India, where he once served as CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India.  His efforts in India have contributed immeasurably to SPE’s current strength in that fast-growing market.”

In the memo, Vinciquerra wrote that the changes “represent a significant restructuring of some traditional business models and processes that have been in place at the studio for years.  Our decision to rethink the way we operate these units was driven by our goals to streamline SPE’s business operations, making them nimbler and better aligned with a rapidly-evolving industry.”

A few days earlier, Sony Pictures Entertainment parent Sony Corporation announced the April 1 departure of CEO Kazuo Hirai, who is being replaced by Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida.

Singh was hired by Sony Pictures Entertainment in January 2014 as a replacement for longtime home entertainment chief David Bishop.

Singh previously was CEO of Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd., the operating company that manages Sony Pictures Television’s TV networks in India.

Bishop had led Sony Pictures Home Entertainment since 2006.

At the time, Singh said in a statement, “As the ways in which consumers experience our content continue to change and multiply, our organization and its strategy for delivering content must evolve to meet the demands of the market. I look forward to building on the foundation of innovation and operational discipline at [Sony Pictures Home Entertainment] to position this business for future growth.”

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Feb. 2 reported third-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2017) revenue of $331 million, which was up $3 million from revenue of $328 million during the previous-year period. Through nine months of the fiscal year, revenue topped $692 million compared to $764 million during the previous-year period. 

SVOD, Studios Ready Super Bowl LII Ads

Amazon Studios will showcase its first Super Bowl ad for a TV show or movie when it airs a trailer for episodic series, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski (“The Office”) – the fifth actor to play the title character after Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October in 1990.

Amazon will also run a humorous ad for voice-controlled Alexa losing her voice, with baffled CEO Jeff Bezos asking, “How is that even possible?”

“People are aware of Prime video, but they’re not always aware that they get this award-winning programming as part of the membership,” Mike Benson, head of marketing for Amazon Studios, told The Los Angeles Times.

The Big Game, which boasts a domestic TV audience of 100 million, again promises to be a showcase for Hollywood studios and subscription streaming video mainstays spending upwards millions per spot.

Few studio ads have been confirmed, but online speculation is rampant.

Paramount Pictures has myriad options, including spots for Krasinski’s horror thriller, A Quiet Place, in addition to Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, among others.  Universal Pictures has spots for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper and Fifty Shades Freed.

Walt Disney Studios could run ads for Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity Wars, among others. Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox reportedly are not airing ads.

Hulu, which aired a 2017 Super Bowl ad for original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” undoubtedly will run another spot considering corporate co-owner Comcast (NBC Sports) is broadcasting the game.

Netflix might air an ad for a Cloverfield sequel. The third installment in the franchise originally was set to be distributed by Paramount, until it wasn’t. Scuttlebutt at the Sundance Film Festival had Netflix acquiring global rights.