Men in Black: International

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

 Street Date 9/3/19;
Sony Pictures;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office: $79.66 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson.

The fourth film in the “Men in Black” franchise was supposed to freshen up the franchise with a new cast and creative team. But old habits are hard to break, and Men in Black: International ends up coming across as a bland rehash of the formula established by the original film.

It’s not the fault of the cast, who are doing their best to milk laughs out of the material. And the film looks great, with all the weird aliens, slick gadgets and kooky visual effects one would expect from a “Men in Black” movie.

The issue is that the “MIB” movies don’t seem concerned with the kind of worldbuilding needed to create a viable sci-fi mythology, like establishing a set of rules for how things work. Instead they rely on familiar gags and situations that hint at a bigger picture but ultimately don’t yield many consequences for the characters or the fictional organization they work for that is tasked with secretly defending the Earth from intergalactic threats.

The fourth film kicks off with not one but two flashbacks. In one, a young girl witnesses her parents’ memories erased by MIB agents, causing her to become obsessed with learning the secrets of the organization, which she finally stumbles upon decades later and earns a chance to prove herself as an agent. Played as an adult by Tessa Thompson, she’s dubbed agent M and assigned to the London branch, where MIB boss O (Emma Thompson) thinks something’s not quite right with the operation.

The London branch is run by High T (Liam Neeson), who a few years earlier (in the other flashback) joined agent H (Chris Hemsworth) in fighting off an alien invader named The Hive, and once you hear why they’re called that it pretty much telegraphs every potential plot twist in the movie.

Anyway, back in the present, M and H work together to investigate a potential new threat from the Hive, involving a pair of alien assassins who are looking for a superweapon on Earth, taking them on an adventure through exotic locales in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth work well together, as we’ve seen in the “Thor” and “Avengers” movies. But their pairing here seems more an attempt to coast off that buzz than come up with fresh ideas.

The shift to London, the globetrotting story and addition of Hemsworth as a suave secret agent are undoubtedly meant to give the film a “James Bond meets Men in Black” vibe, which might have been better served if the film embraced the tone such a mashup would imply, rather than lazily resorting to the familiar buddy cop vs. aliens boilerplate we’ve seen before.

The bonus materials on the Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions mostly reinforce the notion that this is merely the next iteration of a familiar franchise, with a half-hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes about the cast, stunts, production design and gadgets showing how “MIB” is being taken to the next level. But nostalgia isn’t left behind, as there’s a three-minute video recapping the earlier movies.

There’s also a bizarre three-minute NBA crossover video in which M and H discover a number of top NBA superstars are actually aliens. While these were produced as promos for the NBA playoffs around the time of the film’s theatrical run, without that context they play more as a prequel for a “Space Jam”-type movie.

The home video editions also come with a two-minute gag reel.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray are 11-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, some of which shed new light on elements in the movie. There’s also a pair of amusing faux commercials for “MIB”-style products, one for a consumer-approved memory-wiping neuralyzer, and another for a parody ancestry website for people to discover their alien heritage. However, the Alien-cestry.com URL just leads back to the Sony Pictures home page.

UMC Releasing ‘Master P’s I Got the Hook-Up 2’ on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Sept. 3

AMC Networks’ UMC (Urban Movie Channel) will release Master P’s I Got the Hook-Up 2 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Sept. 3.

The film is the sequel to the popular 90’s classic. Executive produced by Master P (Percy Miller) and his son, Romeo Miller, the DVD will be available for an SRP of $27.97 and the Blu-ray for an SRP of $28.97. The DVD and Blu-ray also feature deleted scenes and bloopers.

I Got the Hook-Up 2 was written by Michael Ballard (“Chi-Raq the Series”), Ramello Barnes (Note to Self), Corey Grant (Dysfunctional Friends), and Master P, who also stars in the film along with Romeo, D.C. Young Fly (“Wild ‘N Out”), Anthony Johnson (Friday), Clifton Powell (Ray), Jess Hilarious (“Rel”) and Sheryl Underwood (“The Talk”).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In the original 1998 film, Master P and Johnson star as Black and Blue, two small-time scam artists who sell boom boxes and broken TVs from their van. When a shipment of cellular phones gets to them by mistake, it doesn’t take long before the FBI and crime bosses are after them.

Reprising their roles, I Got the Hook-Up 2 picks up with Black and Blue running a local restaurant.

When an incident results in their restaurant being shut down, Black needs to find some cash – fast. He gets several boxes of stolen phones to sell but the boxes also have a stash of Molly that belongs to the Colombian cartel. Now, he has to sell the phones and repay the cartel before time runs out.

Report: Comcast Plans to Drop Starz Platforms

In what could be a major blow for Lionsgate and its Starz business unit, Comcast has reportedly told the service that it plans to drop the multilevel video distributor at the end of the year.

Should Comcast sever ties with Starz and Starz Encore, the loss of subscribers to Starz would be significant — about 33% of the service’s domestic members.

More importantly, with Starz accounting for about 70% of Lionsgate’s profit, the sub loss could undermine Lionsgate fiscal fortunes, according to The Information, which broke the news citing sources familiar with the situation.

A Lionsgate representative was not immediately available for comment.

Indeed, news of the potential split sent Lionsgate shares freefalling before rebounding to close Aug. 30 down about 5%.

The stock rebound was in part due to Starz separately inking a carriage agreement with AT&T, including AT&T Now, DirecTV and U-verse.

While the scuttlebutt could be nothing more than Comcast attempting to negotiate a better fee agreement in the media, the nation’s No. 1 cable operator is reportedly interested in MGM Holdings — owned Epix filling the void.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The moves come as Comcast navigates a rapidly changing home entertainment world with consumers increasingly switching to loss-leading subscription video-on-demand and online TV platforms instead of the traditional cable bundle.

With premium pay-tv services such as HBO, Showtime and Starz bowing standalone services, pay-tv operators such as Comcast, Dish Network and others are reconsidering their distribution agreements with the channels.

Regardless, the situation comes at a delicate time for Lionsgate, which is increasingly relying on Starz to buttress an uneven studio business and television production bottom line.

Earlier this year, Lionsgate reportedly rebuffed a $5 billion offer for Starz from CBS — the latter looking to acquire subscriber growth for its CBS All Access and Showtime OTT ventures.

Lionsgate has licensed Starz to Apple’s pending Apple TV+ launch, in addition to marketing the service via Amazon Prime Channels and expanding globally into 48 countries through Starz Play.

Meanwhile, MGM has been looking for a fiscal partner for Epix to help expand the platform’s reach internationally — a goal Comcast and its Sky subsidiary could help fulfill.

Thriller ‘Tone-Deaf’ Coming to Disc and Digital Oct. 22 From Lionsgate

The genre-bending thriller Tone-Deaf arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, and digital Oct. 22 from Lionsgate.

This film is currently available on demand.

Tone-Deaf  follows Olive (Amanda Crew, TV’s “Silicon Valley”), who after being dumped by both her boss and her boyfriend, flees the city for the weekend and rents an ornate country house from a widower named Harvey (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, TV’s “The X-Files,” “True Blood”). She’s hoping for a few days of peace. What she gets is a weekend of sheer terror, as Olive awakens Harvey’s darkest urges — and is plunged into a blood-soaked fight for her life.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Disc special features include a making-of featurette.

Report: Euro Broadcasters Must Up Content Spend to Compete Against American OTT Video

With Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia all launching subscription video-on-demand services by the end of the year and into 2020, most platforms have European distribution strategies similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

That looming reality is putting pressure on local and regional pay-tv operators to match or at least up original content spending to retain and lure subscribers.

New data from Deutsche Bank found, for example, that German broadcaster RTL would have to significantly increase its €300 million ($330 million) annual original content spending to remain competitive.

ProSieben, ITV, TF1/M6 and the Spanish broadcasters have all reportedly pledged modest increases in original content spending.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

A shot in the dark considering Apple reportedly is budgeting $6 billion for original content, while Netflix has pledged a $2.5 billion uptick on — largely — original movies.

Deutsche Bank contends RTL would have to increase original content spending to at least €400 million ($440 million).

“They will also need to raise spend or see a further acceleration in the decline of their core linear advertising revenues,” Deutsche Bank wrote in a note.

The bank noted that while RTL added a respectable 200,000 SVOD subs in the first half of 2019, about half of its 1.2 million subs are in Holland where its €7.99 ($8.79) pricing looks vulnerable against Disney+ pricing announced pricing of $7.99.

“Even the TV Now offer in Germany from RTL at a lower price of €4.99 ($5.49) looks vulnerable versus with 3-year Disney+ subscriptions being offered at $3.92 per month,” read the note.

Deutsche Bank said Disney content spending of $4 billion [annually) within the platform’s first three years looms large over RTL’s incremental content spend of €100 million and ITV’s £30 million ($36.5 million).

AT&T, Starz Ink New Carriage Agreement, Including OTT Video

AT&T and Starz, a Lionsgate company, Aug. 30 announced a new multiyear content carriage agreement. The deal secures rights for AT&T to offer the full suite of Starz and Starz Encore premium linear and HD channels, on-demand, HD on-demand to subscribers of DirecTV, AT&T TV (formerly DirecTV Now) and U-verse video platforms.

“Our customers want more choice and value in addition to compelling entertainment in our channel offerings,” Daniel York, chief content officer, AT&T Communications, said in a statement.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Starz is pleased to have found a mutually beneficial way to extend our relationship over the next several years to give millions of AT&T subscribers access to our acclaimed premium original content and vast library of blockbuster films,” said Jeffrey Hirsch, Chief Operating Officer of Starz. “By working together, both companies are in a position to continue to deliver great value to our shared customers.”

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Remains at No. 1 on Home Video Charts

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame held the top spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Aug. 24.

The Disney-distributed superhero blockbuster had debuted in the top spot on both charts a week earlier.

Warner’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu held onto the No. 2 spot on both charts in its third week, selling about 16% as many copies as the top title.

The top newcomer of the week, at No. 3 on both charts, was Sony Pictures’ Brightburn, a superhero-themed horror movie. It earned $17.3 million at the domestic box office.

Universal Pictures’ A Dog’s Journey, the sequel to 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, debuted at No. 4 on both charts. It earned $22.6 million at U.S. theaters.

No. 5 on the overall disc sales chart was the Universal comedy The Hustle, a female-centric remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that earned $35.4 million at the domestic box office. It was No. 6 on the Blu-ray sales chart.

Disney’s Captain Marvel was the No. 5 Blu-ray seller.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The only other new release in the top 10 was Lionsgate’s The Walking Dead: The Complete Ninth Season, which was No. 8 overall and No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart.

Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 75% of Brightburn sales, 42% of Dog’s Journey, 47% of The Hustle and 42% of Walking Dead.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Aug. 25, Avengers: Endgame took over the top spot after debuting at No. 2 a week earlier.

The Hustle debuted at No. 2, followed by A Dog’s Journey at No. 3. Detective Pikachu dropped to No. 4, while Brightburn debuted as the No. 5 rental.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 8-24-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 8-25-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 8-24-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 8-24-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 8-24-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 8-26-19

More Fox, Disney Layoffs — Five Months After Closure of Sale

Two days after Media Play News reported head of marketing Julia Howe as the latest high-profile 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment departure, multiple sources Aug. 29 said the company — now owned by the Walt Disney Co. — has been racked by more layoffs, including division veterans Jennifer Chai and Kavita Smith.

Jennifer Chai

Chai held the title of SVP of worldwide brand marketing for the home entertainment arm. She led worldwide brand marketing and strategy for the entire Fox new release theatrical slate and third-party titles for both the physical and digital business. She also was involved with the cross-studio Movies Anywhere service as well as other digital strategic initiatives. Chai has been at Fox since 2000, joining after three years as brand manager at what was then Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the Walt Disney Co.’s home entertainment arm.

Smith was VP, global marketing communications and publicity. According to her LinkedIn profile, she joined Fox as director of publicity in November 2005 and was elevated to executive director in September 2012. She was promoted to VP in August 2014. She will stay on through October, sources said.

Reports say the layoffs — nearly 60 — have occurred in both the home entertainment and TV distribution divisions, encompassing both Disney and Fox employees. 20th Century Fox TV Distribution EVP of worldwide marketing Greg Drebin also is exiting.

Fox president of worldwide home entertainment Keith Feldman is staying on with Disney, sources told Media Play News, although his contract has not been finalized.

Howe is said to be leaving the company in November.

The new departures come on the heels of previous high-profile exits in the wake of the Disney acquisition.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Mike Dunn, for years the top home entertainment executive at 20th Century Fox, was among a handful of high-ranking studio executives to leave the studio on March 21, a day after the acquisition closed.

A short time later, Janice Marinelli, head of home entertainment at Disney, set up an office at Fox, reportedly to acquaint herself with the studio’s home entertainment team and see how they operate. But July 16 the 34-year Disney veteran announced her exit.

Also in July, veteran division publicist James Finn, who recently had become co-head of marketing, quietly announced his departure in an email to friends and colleagues. “For nearly 20 years I’ve called Fox my home,” he wrote. “Thank you to my colleagues, my mentors, my family, my friends and my team for making it so much fun.”

After Fox’s sale to Disney closed in March, reports surfaced that as many as 4,000 people could ultimately lose their jobs.

Amazon Partners With Sinclair to Buy Stake in Yankees’ YES Network

Amazon Aug. 29 quietly teamed up with Sinclair Broadcast Co., private equity groups and The New York Yankees to acquire the latter’s flagship Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network for $3.47 billion from The Walt Disney Co.

The Yankees previously owned 20% of the regional sports TV network, which broadcasts the Yankees (MLB), Brooklyn Nets (NBA), New York City FC (MLS) and the New York Liberty (WNBA).

Disney acquired majority ownership of YES with its $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Since the acquisition, Disney has sought to sell-off Fox’s RSNs to pay down debt and focus on film and over-the-top video.

The Yankees will own 26% of the new joint venture, followed by Sinclair (20%) and Amazon (15%), with private equity groups controlling the other 39%.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

For Amazon, the deal furthers the ecommerce behemoth’s interest in live sports, which currently includes Thursday Night Football broadcasts, select MLB games and Premier League  soccer in the U.K., among others.

In a press conference, Yankees president Randy Levine said the combination of Amazon and Sinclair provided a “dream team” of investors.

“We believe we’re going to take it to the next level,” Levine told Bloomberg.

D23 Members Offered Free Year of Disney+

Members of official Disney fan club D23 can get a free year of Disney+ through an exclusive promotion that runs until Sept. 2.

D23 members who order a three-year Disney+ subscription will receive the third year for free, a savings of 33% or $23 per year. The subscription rate for the pending streaming service is $69.99 annually or $6.99 monthly. The deal brings the three-year rate from $209.97 to $140.97, which must be paid up front. The D23 deal makes the effective monthly rate $3.92 for the three years.

The offer is extended to all three levels of D23 membership: general, gold and gold family. General membership in D23 is free; gold membership is $99.99 per year and gold family is $129.99 per year.

Fans can sign up for D23 memberships at D23.com. The free membership includes an e-newsletter subscription and website access, including a limited array of discount offers, including the Disney+ subscription. Paid memberships include a pin set, more discount offers and greater access to D23 events.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Disney+ deal can be redeemed through a redemption link available on a D23 member’s account info page, or through a redemption offer email. It may take several hours for the link or email to appear for new D23 members, depending on how busy the site is.

Disney+ will launch Nov. 12.