It's a funny thing about new releases in the digital and DVD business — some weeks you get nothing particularly interesting, and some weeks you get everything under the sun.
A recent flood of titles suggests the variety of options in that realm we can still call, with relative accuracy, home video. The landscape is changing rapidly these days. Popular Hollywood movies no longer just "come out on video." Instead, they're rolled out in waves, in various retail packages — single disc DVD, multi-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo packs — and digital formats. ("Digital" is the emerging catch-all term for titles you can get via online streaming or download, via your PC or mobile device, cable box or game console.)
Digital is the coming thing, certainly. As more and more people get comfortable with online distribution, movies are gradually going the way of music. But those shiny little discs will be around for a while. Studios and distributors have concluded that there's a market for both digital and disc (at least for now) — and they're angling their offerings accordingly.
Take, for instance, the recent teen-romance-meets-sci-fi movie The Host — a big wide-release title in March and a would-be franchise from the author of the Twilight books. For the discerning but impatient teenager who can't wait to see this one — or perhaps see it again after its theatrical run — Universal has arranged for an early digital release this week. So if you're in a hurry, you can go purchase and download the movie via iTunes or Amazon Instant Video, right now.
You won't get any extras or bonus materials, though. For those, you have to wait until July 9, when the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack hits retail shelves, for purchase or (less often) rental. By keeping the bonus materials exclusive to the retail package, the studios hope to attract a different stratum of buyer — those who want the deluxe treatment, with behind-the-scenes details and a permanent, physical copy of the movie on the shelf.
What's more, The Host — like most DVD/Blu-ray combo packs — also includes a digital copy of the film. This digital version isn't actually in the shrink-wrapped DVD case you just bought. Instead, it lives in the Cloud and you use a special promo code to stream it to your smart phone, tablet, etc. Forever and ever, ostensibly. Or until the Skynet android revolution.
It's no secret that the way we watch movies and TV is changing radically, and rapidly. Even as how we watch is shifting, what we watch — the sheer volume of what we can choose from — seems to be expanding exponentially. For example, just this week, two specialty distributors released DVD/Blu-ray sets from the vaults that suggest the ridiculously wide spectrum of home video offerings at any given time.
From the scholarly archivists at the Criterion Collection, the nine-hour Holocaust documentary Shoah has been reissued in a three-disc Blu-ray edition. Also included in the package: new bonus materials, a 60-page booklet of critical essays, and three additional films from director Claude Lanzmann — A Visitor from the Living, The Karski Report and Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m.
On the other end of the spectrum, the pop culture recyclers at Shout! Factory have assembled the 15-disc DVD set, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: The Complete Series. That's 110 episodes, if you're counting along at home, with an accompanying documentary and commentary tracks from Dr. Cosby himself.
And if those two aren't enough to keep you busy, consider some of these other titles that are ...
… Also New This Week:
A stylish but familiar British crime thriller, Pusher chronicles seven days in the life of a small-time London drug dealer, each day much worst than the last. Veteran UK actor Richard Coyle plays Frank, spiraling into desperation after a coke deal goes bad. Director Luis Petro cranks up the tension, and the throbbing techno score, but there's nothing new here — just Slavic mobsters, junkie strippers and Brit grime cliches. Yes, drug dealing is a lousy occupation. We've heard.
The Chilean film No, concerning the campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 referendum, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards.
The 2012 documentary A Place at the Table examines the disturbing particulars of hunger in America.
Halle Berry headlines the 911 thriller The Call.
The chilly, psychosexual thriller Stoker stars Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska as mother and daughter. They have issues.
Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey play rival Vegas stage magicians in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. This can't miss, right?
For the kids, Jack the Giant Slayer stars Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies) as the titular hero, with supporting turns from Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci and Ian McShane.
The Last Exorcism Part Two continues the story from the pretty-good first film, concerning the demonically possessed and impressively flexible teenager Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell).
Lisa Kudrow's very funny Showtime series returns with Web Therapy: The Complete Second Season.
From the writers of The Hangover, the one-crazy-night comedy 21 & Over is 90-some minutes of witless sex and gross-out jokes, if you're into that sort of thing.
Plus: As Luck Would Have It, The Brass Teapot, Crawlspace, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked, The Rambler and Supporting Characters
TV on DVD: CSI: NY — The Ninth Season and, for you Anglophiles, the British TV series Inspector Lewis, Season Six; New Tricks, Season Nine; Jack Taylor, Set One; and Honest.