Mission: Impossible — Fallout

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/4/18;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $220.16 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Alec Baldwin. 

The latest entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise brings together elements from all the movies to craft a top-notch, high-energy action adventure that could go down as a benchmark in the genre.

Central to the film’s success is star Tom Cruise, who took on many of the most dangerous stunt sequences himself. This emphasis on practical stunts lends a verisimilitude other contemporary action movies would be hard-pressed to match, as they so often resort to frenetic editing to mask underwhelming stuntwork or visual effects.

What’s even more remarkable about this is that Cruise is now 56 years old. By comparison, Roger Moore was 58 by the time he walked away from James Bond, when critics were saying he seemed way too old for the part. Even more astonishing, as has been pointed out online, perpetual old guy Wilford Brimley was five years younger in the quintessential senior citizen movie Cocoon than Cruise was in this movie. And yet Cruise shows no signs of slowing down (though a broken ankle during one of his stunts does raise the question of how far is too far).

In Mission: Impossible — Fallout, the sixth film in the franchise based on the classic TV series, Cruise personally executes a lengthy skydiving sequence, pilots a helicopter through a narrow mountain pass and races a motorcycle without a helmet through the streets of Paris. Not to mention his signature running scenes that have become a staple of the franchise. All this comes, of course, after he learned to hold his breath for five minutes for the previous movie.

In Fallout, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has to track down stolen plutonium that got into the hands of terrorists because his personal attachment to members of his team led him to save them instead, compromising the safety of the world (and highlighting a big reason why James Bond usually works alone).

Hunt’s IMF squad is then saddled with a CIA observer (Henry Cavill) as they attempt to recover the plutonium again, which now involves a group that wants to free Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the bad guy from the previous film who ran a covert network of rogue secret agents looking to undermine world governments.

Another subplot deals with Ethan’s relationship with Julia (Michelle Monaghan) from Mission: Impossible III, and how they had to part ways so he could continue to save the world without putting her at risk. (Cleaning up this storyline was one of Cruise’s main goals for the film, he says in the supplements).

What’s clear from the bonus materials is that, aside from the flexibility Cruise doing his own stunts being a huge advantage for the film’s editors, director Christopher McQuarrie and the writers were still making up the story as they were filming (which isn’t unlike Ethan’s methodology for completing the mission).

McQuarrie is the first person to direct a second “Mission: Impossible” movie, and even though this film is very much a direct sequel to his Rogue Nation, he insisted on bringing in a new production team to give the film a different style than his previous work, and the results speak for themselves. McQuarrie’s action is kinetic and thrilling while maintaining a clear sense of space and geography so the audience can easily track where the characters are and what is going on.

A number of the action sequences were shot using Imax cameras, and the Blu-ray aspect ratio adjusts to fill the full screen during these scenes.

The Blu-ray comes loaded with bonus materials, including three audio commentaries — a rarity in a day and age when most new home videos are reluctant to include even one.

McQuarrie is involved in two of the commentaries — sharing one with Cruise and another with editor Eddie Hamilton. The McQuarrie/Cruise pairing, amusingly dubbed “Tom Cruise University” at one point, is more an exercise in self-praise and an affirmation of how much fun they were having crafting the film. The track with Hamilton gets more into the filmmaking process in general.

The third commentary involves composer Lorne Balfe, who discusses his creative process and how he went about incorporating the iconic “Mission: Impossible” theme. Fittingly, there’s a score-only audio option to show off the terrific music.

The disc also includes an introduction of sorts in the form of a PSA-type video with Cruise and McQuarrie discussing motion-smooting settings on new TVs and telling viewers they should turn it off to avoid the movie looking like glossy videotape.

All the featurettes and behind-the-scenes material are on a bonus disc, with the main piece being “Behind the Fallout,” a grouping of seven featurettes that run a total of 53 minutes.

Balfe returns in a five-minute featurette to discuss mixing the music for the foot chase sequence. There’s also a three-minute featurette called “The Ultimate Mission” in which Cruise offers his own reflections on the franchise.

The bonus disc also includes the theatrical trailer and storyboards for several sequences, plus a four-minute montage of deleted scenes, offered with or without the director’s commentary.

The deleted scenes are alluded to frequently in the commentaries, but the montage is mostly just the visuals of the scenes set to music, with minimal sound effects and no dialogue. McQuarrie says he usually prefers not to show deleted scenes but decided to present them in a musical montage as a compromise because he really wanted audiences to see the hard work that went into them.

While a couple work fine without sound, it probably would have been more effective to just present the scenes as a disc typically would, rather than make a music video out of them.

‘Hell Fest’ on Digital Dec. 21, Disc Jan. 8

Lionsgate will release the horror movie Hell Fest through digital retailers Dec. 21, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 8.

The slasher film deals with a group of friends being hunted by a serial killer during a horror-themed Halloween event at a local amusement park. The cast includes Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Tony Todd.

Hell Fest earned $11 million at the domestic box office.

The disc includes a “Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest” featurette and the film’s trailer. The 4K Blu-ray includes Dolby Vision HDR.

Best Buy Extends Holiday Deals With ’20 Days of Doorbusters’

On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Best Buy has unveiled yet another promotion for the holidays starting Dec. 1: “20 Days of Doorbusters.”

Consumers can sign up to receive text alerts for each day’s “doorbuster,” which they can select on the Best Buy website.

Best Buy will offer doorbuster deals for big screen smart 4K TVs on Dec. 4, Dec. 12 and Dec. 18, and for a game console on Dec. 8. The website doesn’t specify brands.

Stankey Discusses Advantages of Leveraging Licensed Content

As Disney and WarnerMedia ready flagship over-the-top video platforms for launch in late 2019, SVOD services such as Netflix are scrambling to minimize their risk to third-party content obligations.

Witness Netflix’s decision to cancel “Daredevil,” which was foreshadowed last month by the SVOD behemoth’s termination of original Disney/Marvel series “Iron Fist,” and “Luke Cage.”

Netflix’s exclusive pay-TV access to Disney theatrical titles ends this year.

While Netflix hinted that more adventures of Daredevil could eventually materialize in other mediums, the service took the high road saying — in a statement — that the three existing seasons would remain on the platform “for years to come,” while the Daredevil character “will live on in future projects for Marvel.”

To John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia, which owns Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, the move by Netflix to distance itself from third-party license agreements in favor of proprietary fare underscores ongoing changes in the OTT video landscape.

“A lot of those incumbents [i.e. Netflix] should expect that their libraries are going to get a whole lot thinner,” Stankey said Nov. 29 on AT&T’s analyst day event. “They are not going to be the same size they are today.”

Indeed, WarnerMedia and Disney can enhance the consumer value of their pending SVOD services simply by denying their content brands to Netflix & Co. — in effect depriving competing OTT services streaming access to valuable IP.

Stankey said the challenge for Netflix and other OTT services is to get their subs to pivot away from licensed content (about 70%, according to Stankey) to proprietary original fare. Regardless, Stankey said WarnerMedia wins as both a producer and distributor of original content.

“Maybe it sits in our library and maybe it sits in Disney/Fox,” he said.

The executive contends OTT video platforms will be structured differently in the next couple of years, including incorporating third-party content providers looking to piggyback on AT&T/WarnerMedia’s scale.

“I think structurally that is likely what will happen,” he said. “I believe we can play in that world going forward.”

 

AT&T Looking to Sell Off Hulu Stake

When AT&T acquired Time Warner for $85 billion, the purchase price pushed the telecom’s net debt skyward to about $170 billion by the end of the year.

Corporate debt (debt-to-pre-tax earnings ratio) is a relative thing. Too little and investors worry a company isn’t maximizing revenue potential. Too high and concerns about financing the debt and or worse loom into the picture. Wall Street looks for a company to have a debt ratio between 0.3 and 0.6, according to some analysts.

AT&T will end 2018 with a debt ratio of 2.8.

For CFO John Stephens, who is tasked with decreasing that ratio, the solution involves scrutinizing internal overhead costs, reducing redundancies and liquidating non-core assets — such as WarnerMedia’s 10% stake in Hulu.

WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, acquired the Hulu stake in 2016 for $583 million when it was Time Warner. The SVOD and online TV platform with 20 million subscribers is co-owned by Disney, Fox and Comcast and reportedly valued at more than $9 billion.

With WarnerMedia planning to launch proprietary SVOD service in late 2019, co-owning a rival service makes little sense.

Indeed, eliminating corporate headquarters, minority investments in Sky Mexico and Hulu, among other options, could generate AT&T upwards of $8 billion in cash, according to Stephens.

“If we’re successful in that, that would bring us down to that 2.5 [debt ratio] range [by the end of 2019],” Stephens said on AT&T’s Nov. 29 analyst day event. “We’re going to focus on getting that done. With our [$500 billion] balance sheet, we are in a very good position.”

The CFO contends AT&T will have free cash flows approaching $12 billion at the end of the year, which he said will be applied to reducing the debt. The company expects to generate $26 billion in free cash flow in 2019.

AT&T expects to generate $1.5 billion in cost savings (corporate overhead, procurement purchasing, marketing, etc.) and another $1 billion in revenue savings (churn reduction, cross-selling products) by 2021, including $700 million in savings by the end of 2019, $2 billion by the end of 2020.

“People who know our company, know we’re pretty good with cost synergies,” Stephens said. “Sharing assets and capabilities across the business, we can learn from them and WarnerMedia can hopefully learn from us.”

 

 

Netflix Continues Marvel Housecleaning, Cancels ‘Daredevil’

Faced with the impending launch of a rival Disney streaming service next year, Netflix appears to be eager to get out of the Marvel business.

The streaming service pioneer Nov. 29 canceled “Daredevil” after three seasons, the third of its shows based on Marvel Comics to get the axe in the past two months.

Netflix Oct. 12 canceled “Iron Fist,” followed a week later by “Luke Cage,” which it canceled the same day as the premiere of the third season of “Daredevil.”

The rapid elimination of its Marvel-based properties has led to increased speculation that Netflix was washing its hands of the franchise as Marvel owner The Walt Disney Co. prepares to launch its own direct-to-consumer video service, Disney+, late next year.

“Daredevil” had been the flagship of a heralded distribution deal between Disney and Netflix announced in late 2013 that would see the production of four series based on Marvel characters set in the same cinematic universe as the “Avengers” films.

The show, which premiered in 2015, focused on blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who used his acute senses to fight crime as a vigilante on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.

“Daredevil” was followed by “Jessica Jones,” about a super-powered NYC private investigator; “Luke Cage,” which focused on the bulletproof hero of Harlem; and “Iron Fist,” about a wealthy heir who returns to New York after a long absence having gained mystical martial arts abilities.

After a second season of “Daredevil” in 2016, the four title heroes joined forces in 2017 in the miniseries “The Defenders.” In 2017 “Daredevil” spun off “The Punisher,” about a veteran seeking revenge for the death of his family. “Jessica Jones” received a second season early in 2018.

The series were produced for Netflix by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.

“Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” were both given two seasons on Netflix. While the first season of “Iron Fist” was generally derided by fans, its second season was praised as a positive turnaround by most critics, although its cancellation wasn’t seen as much of a surprise given lingering animosity toward the show. The elimination of the better-received “Luke Cage” was more eye-opening to industry observers, with the lack of renewal of “Daredevil” leaving little doubt as to the eventual fate of Netflix’s remaining Marvel shows.

A second season of “The Punisher” has completed production and is expected to debut early next year. A third season of “Jessica Jones” is currently in production.

Netflix never formally renewed or canceled the “The Defenders,” though in September it rebranded its “Defenders” Facebook page into “NX,” a label more encompassing of Netflix’s wider array of genre-based properties. Many fan sites interpreted this move as a sign that no further crossover adventures were in the works, especially since the first “Defenders” miniseries garnered a lukewarm critical reaction (its 77% Rotten Tomatoes critics score was the lowest of any of the preceding seasons, save for “Iron Fist,” and ranks it eighth among the 11 Marvel Netflix seasons).

Rotten Tomatoes listed the third season of “Daredevil” as the best-received Marvel Netflix season in terms of both critic (94% positive) and fan (96%) response since the first season of “Daredevil” three years ago (which earned 99% and 96%, respectively).

Global data measurement firm Parrot Analytics reported that “Daredevil” was the No. 4 most in-demand show in terms of online activity the week ended Nov. 24, more than a month after its third season debuted. However, Business Insider Nov. 28 speculated that the fate of “Daredevil” was uncertain, despite a #RenewDaredevil Twitter campaign advocating a fourth season, citing data from consumer-insights company Crimson Hexagon claiming interest in all the Marvel shows was down significantly since the franchise debuted.

At the same time, Netflix has been putting more emphasis on its own proprietary content, rather than licensing shows from third parties, as they do with Marvel.

In a statement to Deadline, Netflix stated that it was “tremendously proud” of the third season of “Daredevil” and felt “it best to close this chapter on a high note.”

Netflix also hinted that more adventures of Daredevil could eventually materialize in other mediums: “While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.”

What form this may take remains to be seen, given the apparent creative split between Marvel Studios, which handles the films, and Marvel Television. Disney+ has confirmed a new series based on the “Thor” and “Avengers” villain Loki, and rumors are swirling about additional series based on film characters such as The Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Falcon, the latter two being sidekicks of Captain America. But these series would be handled by Marvel Studios and its executive producer, Kevin Feige, and not Marvel Television.

The 2015 separation of Marvel’s film and TV divisions left many fans wondering about how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television incarnation would remain. Thus far, MCU-set TV shows such as the Netflix group, ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Freeform’s “Cloak & Dagger” have referenced events from the films, but have not received reciprocal acknowledgement from any of the movies (though the Russo Brothers did acknowledge discussions about the feasibility of using characters such as Luke Cage in Avengers: Infinity War).

With Marvel Studios seemingly handling the Marvel programming on Disney+, industry observers have expressed skepticism about the pending service’s willingness to pick up Marvel Television productions that have already been canceled by other networks.

 

Black Friday Fuels Return of ‘Deadpool 2’ to No. 1 on Disc Sales Charts

Post-Thanksgiving retail sales typically give older titles a chance to make hay on the home video sales charts, and 2018 was no exception.

Only one new release debuted in the top 50 the week ended Nov. 24,  as Warner’s Crazy Rich Asians landed at No. 36 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sellers, and No. 23 on the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.

The No. 1 title on both charts was 20th Century Fox’s ‘R’-rated superhero comedy Deadpool 2, which reached the top spot for the fourth time since it was released in August (having spent its first three weeks atop the charts as well). It had been the No. 27 overall seller the week before.

The resurgence of Deadpool 2 comes as a ‘PG-13’ re-edit of the film, dubbed Once Upon a Deadpool, is slated for a limited theatrical re-release just before Christmas.

No. 2 on the overall chart was Sony Pictures’ Hotel Transylvania 3, which was No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart for the week.

The previous week’s top seller, Disney’s Incredibles 2, slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom rose to No. 4 overall and No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart.

Fox’s The Greatest Showman sang its way back to the No. 5 spot on both charts.

Despite being swamped by Black Friday catalog, Crazy Rich Asians had 58% of its first-week unit sales come in the Blu-ray format, with 2% of its tally coming from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Crazy Rich Asians was also the top title on the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Nov. 25.

The previous week’s top rental, Warner’s The Meg, slipped to No. 2, followed by Universal’s Mile 22 at No. 3, Incredibles 2 at No. 4 and Sony Pictures’ Alpha at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 11-24-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 11-25-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 11-24-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 11-24-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 11-24-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 11-26-18

 

‘Galveston’ on Disc Dec. 11

RLJE films will release the thriller Galveston on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 11.

Based on the novel by Nic Pizzolatto, creator of HBO’s “True Detective,” Galveston tells the story of a heavy-drinking mob enforcer (Ben Foster) trying to protect a young woman (Elle Fanning) from the criminals who double-crossed him. Beau Bridges, Lili Reinhart and Robert Aramayo also star in the film, which was directed by Mélanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds.

The disc includes a making-of featurette.

‘After Darkness’ Due Jan. 15 From Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the futuristic thriller After Darkness on DVD, digital and on demand Jan. 15.

The film deals with a family’s fight to survive a solar disaster, trying to stay sane in a lavish home as the skies grow dim. The cast includes Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”), Natalia Dyer (“Stranger Things”), John Patrick Amedori (“Dear White People”), Valerie Curry (“House of Lies”) and Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”).

Cinedigm Makes Deal to Put CONtv Digital Channel on OONA Indonesia TV

Cinedigm, in conjunction with global distribution company JungoTV, will launch its fandom-focused digital channel CONtv on the mobile platform OONA Indonesia TV as an AVOD offering.

The deal gives OONA TV’s 185 million users free access to the channel’s library. The subscription-free OTT OONA mobile app provides interactive entertainment and customizable live linear and VOD content for users on the go. It is on course to provide content to billions of people in other parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America, the U.S. and Europe, according to a Cinedigm release.

CONtv, devoted exclusively to fandom, showcases an eclectic catalog of cult films, classic TV shows, and genre movies encompassing sci-fi, horror, fantasy, anime, grindhouse and martial arts action.

“OONA TV has quickly emerged as a major power in the digital entertainment landscape,” said Erick Opeka, Cinedigm’s president of digital networks, in a statement. “Through partnering with a truly cutting-edge platform such as OONA TV, Cinedigm continues its commitment to redefining and revolutionizing the traditional viewing experience for users across the world. Indonesia is a beacon for the fandom lifestyle, and we’re excited to provide OONA TV’s 185 million subscribers with classic fan-favorites, rare television series, and original programming that they can only find on CONtv when we launch.”

“Cinedigm is synonymous with entertainment magic,” said Dominique Ullmann, head of content partnerships at OONA, in a statement.