Tag Archives: DVD

Star Wars: The Choice Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed in movie houses last December and like clockwork four months later, the film is just about to roll out on home video. For fans of the franchise, the digital ‘n’ disc release to the masses means we can see The Force wake up all over again — but now with the power to fast-forward/rewind/obsess over all those little tidbits that whizzed by on the original big-screen viewing(s).

And of course, home video traditionally means: BONUS FEATURES.

Disney is not holding back with this one. Not only do most versions of The Force Awakens have extra video treats, you can also choose between delivery formats — and even the packaging for your copy.

And you don’t have long to wait. Digital high-def downloads from various legitimate sources will be available this Friday, April 1st, while physical discs — Blu-ray and DVD — hit stores Tuesday, April 5th.


So, what do you get if you buy the film? Deleted scenes, of course! These snippets from the editing-room bin have already been officially teased by Disney, spoiled here and there and leaked in various places online. There are said to be six official deleted scenes for disc buyers, and a seventh clip for the digital-only releases.

And what would a home-video release be without a few behind-the-scenes minidocs? Sure, the offerings may vary by retailer, but here are the ones most retailers are advertising (complete with original breathless blurbs from Disney):

• Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic JourneyFor the first time, discover the complete story behind the making of The Force Awakens, revealed through in-depth footage and exclusive interviews with the actors and filmmakers in this feature documentary.

• The Story Awakens: The Table ReadCast members familiar and new reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie’s script.

• Building BB-8See how the filmmakers brought the newest droid to the screen, creating an instant fan favorite in the Star Wars universe.

• Crafting CreaturesWatch movie magic as the filmmakers bring a cast of new creatures to life.

• Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow FightGo deeper into the epic, climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.

• John Williams: The Seventh SymphonyThe legendary composer shares personal insights of his work on Star Wars and The Force Awakens.

• ILM: The Visual Magic of The ForceAn insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie’s visual effects.

• Force For ChangeHeroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the Star Wars: Force for Change initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others.

Can’t wait four days for a disc and going for the digital downloads? You can get it from all the usual suspects on Friday.

You can find the film on the Google Play store, Apple’s iTunes Store, the Microsoft Store and Walmart’s Vudu service. Most are charging $19.99 for an HD download of the film with bonus content included, and $14.99 for a standard-definition widescreen edition with no extra features. Amazon of course, likes to undercut everyone in price, and is charging $17.99 for the HD download with bonus material and $14.99 for the standard. (You be you, Amazon.)

Want a hard copy of the film on a good ol’ shiny disc? You can get one of those next Tuesday — and you have some options there as well. Film buffs will probably go for the Blu-ray/DVD combo back that also gives you a digital copy for your devices. The combo pack has a list price of $29.99 but you can find it cheaper if you look around. The straight-up DVD will cost around $18.99.

Four big retailers are doing their own packaging as well. These include:

• BEST BUY. The Best Buy Blu-ray Combo pack features sturdy SteelBook packaging for $29.99.

 DISNEY STORE. The Disney Store Blu-ray Combo comes with an exclusive lithograph set. That’s all while supplies last, and the package rings in at $24.99.

• TARGET. The $24.99 Target Blu-ray Combo pack comes with its own special packaging and an added 20 minutes of bonus content. Target claims to have never-before-seen interviews with new stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, plus a deep dive into at the movie’s costumes and weaponry.

• WALMART. Wallyworld’s own Blu-ray Combo pack comes with spunky BB-8 packaging and a Star Wars Galactic Connexions trading disc. List price is $39.99, but it’s on sale for $19.98.

And all these are just for the 2D editions — a 3D version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be available later this year. Finally! Something to keep us busy until Rogue One arrives on December 16th.


(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Trailer Park

The heart of the Geek Movie season traditionally runs from late spring through the summer, with the superhero films and action flicks rolling into theaters for the warm-weather months. There are exceptions, however: The adaptation of the final installment in the The Hunger Games series arrives later this month and there’s a little flick called Star Wars: The Force Awakens that opens in mid-December. Still, the last two months of the year traditionally see the serious films, aiming for Oscars and more viewer attention span with people taking time off around the holidays. If you’ve lost track of what else is on the way to your local cineplex, here are a few sites to keep you in the loop.

ComingSoon.net not only features trailers for a huge selection of upcoming theatrical films headed your way, you can get sneak peeks for upcoming TV episodes, home video releases on DVD and Blu-ray and even videogames. ComingSoon.net also has the latest Hollywood box-office figures as well as industry news and is really a one-stop shopping trip for entertainment information. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and RSS feeds keep you up to date.


imtApple’s iTunes Movie Trailers collection focuses mainly on theatrical films, but also sports exclusive clips and early previews. The site also has a Twitter feed and RSS to alert you to new material, plus a Top 25 list. You can view the trailers on the Web, but if you have an iOS-based gadget, you can use the official iTunes Movie Trailers app. You can also watch through the Apple TV’s app. Both feature a calendar view that places each trailer on a grid, which can be helpful for planning your weekends.

YouTube, repository of almost all online video, has a trailers section with links to a lot of clips – and YouTube channels from other trailers sites.

If your tastes run toward more independent efforts, check out the IndieWire site. It does cover the mainstream movie and TV culture, but gives the smaller productions a bigger share of the spotlight.

And if you’re feeling nostalgic and have a few hours to kill, visit the Archives at Movie-List.com to see many of the Generation X Classics as they were first presented in trailer form. Airplane!, Escape From New York, Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, WarGames…they’re all here in one convenient place, waiting to take you back to the 1980s, when movie tickets were cheap and a bucket of popcorn was affordable.

And with the trailer buzz for Star Wars: The Force Awakens still echoing, how about a nostalgic trip over to the trailer for the original Star Wars from the mid-1970s? It certainly had a more low-key unveiling back in its day, and it and perfectly illustrates the power of the John Williams soundtrack — by not actually having the iconic score rumbling around in the in the background.

PTJ 103: Company’s Shopping and Records Dropping

This week we channel our inner AV club as El Kaiser reviews a USB headphone amp and digital to analog converter called the Dragonfly from Audioquest and J.D. takes a look at how to deal with DVD region codes. Yes, DVDs. You remember? Shiny disk that looked like CDs and every PC and laptop used to have a drive that could read them…

In the news Facebook officially splits off their popular Messenger feature; Foursquare looks to improve it’s new Swarm app; Yelp allows users to post videos along with their reviews; Google addresses another major Android security vulnerability; Apple goes shopping; Napster announces it has passed the 2 million user mark, Bose and Beats Electronics go toe to toe over noise cancellation; the Chinese government investigates Microsoft over anti-trust concerns; and the Mars Opportunity Rover breaks a record.

We Are Region

In this big old streaming world these days, DVD region codes seem like a quaint artifact of a bygone era. For those who don’t remember: The world is divided up into six distinct geographical regions and embedded technology on the disc and DVD player have to match up in order for the movie to play. So if you buy a French movie on Region 2 DVD during your Paris vacation, you can’t play it on your Region 1 DVD player back here in the States. Blu-Ray discs are divided into three regions of their own, although many are released as “region-free,” meaning they’ll play on any system.


Not every movie out there is available as an online stream or download, though, and sometimes, you actually want to play things on disc for various reasons – you have no Internet access, your bandwidth is puny or maybe there are groovy extras on a long-out-of-print disc you really want to see. So what can you do if you run up against the region-code lockout?

Well, as with many roadblocks in life, there are ways around it. Be aware, bypassing a region-code restriction on a disc is something of a gray area. Hollywood, which sets up these things so movies come out in certain parts of the world at a certain time, does not want people messing around with this stuff. People who have legally purchased discs on vacation — only to find them useless when they return home — probably have another opinion.

Depending on whether you’re watching on a computer or a standalone DVD player, here are three options. (Blu-ray drives are much harder to crack and can take some heavy technical lifting, so for now, we’ll focus in DVD discs.)

1. Playing DVDs on the Computer

When you stick in a DVD from a different region into your computer’s drive, you’ve probably seen the box that pops up (like the ones below), asking you to change the drive’s region setting and letting you know you can only change it 5 times total before it locks for good. In many cases, you can use software to get around this, like AnyDVD, a somewhat pricy Windows program that promises to unlock restrictions on DVD and Blu-ray discs.



But there’s another program that’s cheaper,  cross-platform and it works on a lot of DVD drives: VideoLAN’s VLC Media Player. The VLC FAQ does warn that RCP1 drives work quite well with the program, but newer RCP2 drives are problematic. If you don’t know what’s under the hood of your computer, the VLC site advises simply popping in the disc and seeing if it works on your system.


As shown below, a Region 2 disc does work on a MacBookPro with external USB SuperDrive. The video was later streamed to a widescreen TV with Apple TV and AirPlay for more relaxed viewing and a proper toasting to Dame Helen Mirren‘s superior acting prowess.


2. Playing DVDs on a Standard DVD Player

If you run up against region lock on your DVD player, you may be able to gently unlock it with a hack. Keep in mind that doing so voids any warranty you may have left on the machine and the manufacturer would rather you not go messing around in there.  End disclaimer.

In a nutshell, to do these hacks, you basically punch a specific sequence of buttons on your DVD remote to unlock it. To find out which are the magic buttons for your player, check out sites like Video Help’s DVD Hacks or DVD Exploder.

Just look up your model number and fiddle away. Again, don’t do this if you have warranty concerns or a really expensive player you don’t want to risk messing up. As you may read on the forums, some players are more finicky than others and some may have problems playing discs from certain research, so check the boards if you’re having problems.


As an alternative approach, you can also look up a DVD hack code for one to the newer models and then buy the machine, do the hack and watch your discs. Some DVD players can be purchased for as little as $20 or $30, so you can in effect, make your own region-free DVD player for a relative pile of peanuts.

3. Playing DVDs on a Region-Free DVD Player

If you just want something out of the box that’s meant to play DVDs from all over the world, you can find region-free DVD players for sale, cheap.  As shown below, Amazon sells a Philips region-free 1080p HDMI upconverting player that can handle PAL or NTSC and it’s less than $70. Sites like RegionFreeDVD.net or CodeFreeDVD.com have plenty of models to choose from too.



In a perfect world, everything ever filmed would be legally available as an instant stream, we would all have broadband at South Korean speeds and these issues would be a fading memory. Until then, if we want to watch globally, we’ll just have to act locally.