Pre-order Your Box Office Blockbuster or Bomb!

I’m looking through the Sunday bundle of advertisements and I see that you could order The Smurfs 2 for DVD right now. I’ve also seen boxes for other films that were not necessarily bombs but were up for pre-order like Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Lone Ranger, and Despicable Me 2. Call me pessimistic but does it seem that some studios are so sure of themselves that they have a hit, despite of the fact that a film hasn’t even been released? Sure, some films that can be pre-ordered have proven themselves to be successful, like Despicable Me 2 and Star Trek: Into Darkness. That’s because that they come from a successful franchise, one where the studios were confident enough that they would bring in enough money to warrant a pre-order.

Back in the day, a pre-order would just be a copy of the movie and an extra disc of exclusive bonus features, a plush toy or figurine, a lithograph, or even a coupon for $5 off a certain food product, depending on where you pre-ordered. Now, a pre-order kit seems to consist of a physical copy, a digital code for the digital copy, a free ticket to the film you pre-ordered, and/or something else starting days before the official theatrical release. I go the old-fashioned way and wait to see the film in a theater before I consider whether or not I want it for my library. By the time I do purchase a copy, the pre-order goodies are gone. I’ll survive.

I understand that the studios, sensing a hit especially after a successful first installment in terms of money and word of mouth, will greenlight a sequel, regardless of whether or not it was really needed. I die a little inside when I hear that not one but two sequels are greenlit for a movie that was lacking in story and character development and that a trilogy can be made as it seems to be the new thing this decade. Could they improve? Sure, but the odds are never really good.

With the recent string of failing tentpoles we had this summer, I wonder and hope that some people are taking notice and realize that just because you have a big budget and star power doesn’t mean it will be a big success. You can have all of the special effects in the world but unless they aid the story, they mean nothing. You could have a thrilling, incomprehensible chase scene with lots of explosions but it’s pointless if the story never called for it. Every element in a movie has to be important and work together, regardless of budget. If any part is neglected, the whole movie suffers.

If anything, just hold off on when to start allowing pre-orders and look at the results. It’s not that hard.

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What Happened to the Bonus Features?

As someone who watches movies on DVD, I find it increasingly difficult that the practice of including bonus features is becoming very limited. Blu-rays usually have more bang for their buck than a DVD of the same film. I also find it hard that DVD re-releases of movies that at one time were filled with hours of bonus material are now reduced to maybe an hour plus if it has commentary. What happened?

To put this issue into perspective, let me take you back to the days of yore: VHS vs. DVD. For the longest time, I had grown up with VHS. It was the only format my family had. My parents gave me the task to rewind a stack of tapes when my younger brother and I were finished watching them. At the time, I didn’t see it as a problem. But then, I would see ads on TV where the movie would come out on DVD (always billed first) and VHS on the upcoming Tuesday. I was not aware of how great the DVD was until we got our first player in 2003. It seemed that we were late to the game.

In my opinion, the best years for the DVD in terms of bonus features were from 2002 to about 2007, around the time the HD-DVD/Blu-ray battle was going on. I could not only watch a movie (90+) but also go behind-the-scenes, audio commentary, multiple trailers, and more, keeping me entertained for four hours or more depending on the movie and how much effort was put into making the experience last. But then something happened as the new battle emerged for Blu-ray and DVD. The bonus features, and quality to an extent, began to disappear.

More bonus features would be included on the Blu-ray than on a regular DVD, similar to the VHS/DVD battle back then as there was the push for the VHS to become obsolete. Was I envious? A little, but I did not care that much until recently. It was not until I received a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of The Muppets that the difference became more apparent. On the inside, the Blu-ray disc on the left had full color and more features. On the right, the standard DVD (the one I use since as of now I still do not have a Blu-ray player) was a cold, uncaring gray with one bonus feature. This was a slap in the face of sorts as I took it as “If you don’t adapt soon, you’ll be left in the dark.” But that’s not as bad as when I got the DVD-only print of Wreck-it Ralph. There were two bonus features on the disc (again, a lifeless gray) instead of one that the back had mentioned. The first one was Paperman. The second, unmentioned one was a short video on how to set up the digital copy of the movie you have. This video would have been useful if I had a digital copy that was not included. Yes, I understand the video can be used for other movies where you have a digital copy but to include it on a movie where it’s not needed is rather lazy and pointless.

My second gripe as I mentioned earlier is the re-release of movies to the Blu-ray and DVD format. I will use Monsters, Inc. as the example. When the DVD and VHS came out in September of 2002, we bought the VHS for a birthday present. I had borrowed the DVD at my library and was amazed by the hours of bonus content. Now that the Blu-ray and DVD have been released, I’ve looked at the bonus feature listings on both formats. Both fall way short of what was offered on the first DVD print. I have not purchased any of the current versions yet so I’m not sure how long the bonus content is but I know for certain that I will need the 2002 DVD version if I want as much information as possible.

Let me ask you this: are bonus features important to today’s moviegoer or are they a waste of time? I’m talking about what’s being offered today, not anything from the advent of the DVD when interactive menus and scene selection were touted as positive, must-have things.