Death Wish (2018)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Action;
Box Office $34.02 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, and language throughout.
Stars Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, Camila Morrone.

A knee-jerk reaction to director Eli Roth’s new version of Death Wish in these politically charged times is that it’s some sort of glorification of gun culture and a celebration of vigilante justice. This would be an oversimplification of any intent the film actually has, which would be the psychological examination of what it would take to push a reasonable person to the point of wanting to take the law into their own hands. If anything, the pro-gun crowd is portrayed a bit satirically and even a bit buffoonish.

A remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film that was based on the a 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, the new Death Wish is methodical in its set-up and leans more toward character drama than the kind of intense action one might expect by the casting of Bruce Willis in the vigilante role. It’s an unexpected approach given Roth’s horror credentials, though when the action comes, Roth knows how to ramp it up, even if the middle section of the film turns into a bit of a cartoon.

The psychological elements are pretty straightforward as well. Willis plays Dr. Paul Kersey, whose wife is murdered and daughter left in a coma after an interrupted burglary at their upper-crust residence in the suburbs of Chicago. With the police seemingly unable to make any headway on the case, Paul finds himself heavily weighing the words of his father-in-law, a Texas rancher who tells him that people have to protect what’s theirs and not rely on anyone else.

At one point, Paul discovers an unregistered gun among the possessions of a shot-up thug brought into his hospital, and he uses it to train himself to shoot. Inspired, he begins to patrol the streets to take out criminals, inspiring a wave of less-than-effective copycats and prompting the city’s media, including real-life radio personalities Mancow and Sway to debate the morality of vigilante justice.

Eventually Paul uncovers clues to discovering the gang that murdered his wife, giving him a measure of revenge that was largely missing from the story of the original film.

It also, to a degree, negates Paul’s reasoning for taking the law into his own hands, given that he has to withhold the evidence the police are looking for to crack the case. But that’s a debate for another day.

Roth in his audio commentary points out many clues he subtly layered into the film to hint at what in Paul’s backstory could have led to his decision to take drastic action in dispensing his own brand of justice.

It’s a very good conversational commentary between Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum, two guys who enjoy making movies and have no shortage of things to talk about with this film, from casting to staging to influences and all the themes they were trying to explore.

The Blu-ray also includes six minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from the pair. The scenes offer some nice bits of additional emotional context to the main story of the film. The disc also includes six-and-a-half minutes of extended footage from the Mancow and Sway segments filmed for the movie.

There’s also a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. But the most fun extra is a version of the film’s trailer presented in the style of a 1970s grindhouse movie.

‘Super Troopers 2’ Hitting Home Video in July

The comedy sequel Super Troopers 2 will be available through digital retailers July 3, and on Blu-ray and DVD July 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Created by the Broken Lizard comedy team, the long-awaited sequel to the 2002 original finally came to fruition after a crowdfunding campaign generated about $4.7 million toward the film’s reported budget of $13.5 million.

The movie deals with the fun-loving Vermont Highway Patrol guys called upon to resolve a border dispute between the United States and Canada. The Broken Lizard team of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Erik Solhanske and Paul Soter are joined by a cast that includes Brian Cox, Rob Lowe, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Lynda Carter.

Super Troopers 2 earned $30.3 million at the domestic box office.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include a making-of featurette, a “Kevin Heffernan: Method Actor” featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and theatrical trailers.

Red Sparrow

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Thriller;
Box Office $46.83 million;
$29.99 DVD, 34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Joely Richardson, Ciarán Hinds, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons.

Based on the same-titled 2013 novel by Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow is a complex psychological thriller about the divided loyalties of a young woman caught amid the international intrigue of spycraft in Eastern Europe.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika, whose career as a ballerina is cut short by a leg injury. She is quickly recruited by her uncle, a Russian spy chief, to train as an elite covert operative, lest she be executed for her knowledge of an assassination.

Her mission is to root out a mole in the Russian government by seducing his U.S. contact, Nash (Joel Edgerton). What follows are a series of plot twists and turns as Dominika maneuvers through a complicated game of espionage while her true allegiances remain a mystery.

The film is more or less a slow burn that really benefits from multiple viewings. Director Francis Lawrence even helps out with an audio commentary that dissects the storylines and delves into the motivations of the characters, if they aren’t already apparent from the performances.

The subplot of a secret spy school in the heart of Russia brings to mind the backstory for Marvel’s Black Widow, and in the absence of a long-anticipated solo movie for that character, Red Sparrow plays like a bit like an ersatz stand-in, minus the dozens of obligatory references to other comic book movies.

The Red Sparrow Blu-ray includes 12 minutes of interesting deleted scenes that can be viewed with option commentary from the director.

The disc also comes with more than 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes organized in standard fashion by the various aspects of the production. The 13-minute “A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation” deals with the development of the film from the source material; “Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast” is a 15-minute round-up of the actors; “Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity” covers the look of the film in 13-and-a-half minutes; “Heart of the Tempest: Locations” is an 11-minute piece about the film’s settings; the 12-minute “Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballets and Stunts” focuses on the action sequences, limited as they may be; and the 14-minute “A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production” deals with things like editing and music.

The Post

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $81.88 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language and brief war violence.
Stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, David Cross, Zach Woods.

Even before seeing the movie, the obvious question surrounding The Post is why the filmmakers would decide to focus a story about the publication of the Pentagon Papers on the efforts of The Washington Post newspaper when the bulk of the material was broken by The New York Times.

After watching it, though, it’s a lot easier to understand some of the reasons director Steven Spielberg guided the film along the approach it took.

For one, there just seems to be much more storytelling to mine from the Washington Post perspective, whereas a Times POV would likely have been a more straightforward legal drama about the relationship between the press and government.

At the time, the Post was still seen as primarily a local D.C. publication without the broad national following it has now. Financially strapped, the paper issued an IPO that could have been threatened by any legal troubles encountered as a result of publishing the leaked documents copied from a classified report that exposed government deception in the conduct of the Vietnam War.

And that’s on top of the expected discussions of the role of journalism in a democracy and defending the First Amendment against government pushback, with the Times included in all those story points anyway.

There’s also an argument to be made that the primary interest of the film isn’t even about the Pentagon Papers to begin with.

Certainly, looking at the film from the prism of the Pentagon Papers as the subject matter makes it seem like it’s the story of a minor newspaper jumping on the bandwagon of a bigger newspaper to gain stature.

But keeping a bigger picture in mind, the film is much more about how the Post rose in prominence under the leadership of publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and that the Pentagon Papers just happened to be the catalyst.

From Spielberg’s perspective, it probably didn’t hurt that this approach also allowed him to devote significant screen time to Graham in depicting the ascension of a female publisher in a man’s world.

Spielberg also seems interested in positioning the film as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men, showing how the Post became the paper that drove coverage of the Watergate break-in.

As such, The Post is more fascinating for its procedural aspects and character dynamics for any actual history it’s trying to explore. The film also sees itself as an allegorical commentary on criticism of President Trump’s relationship to the media, and his tendency to label detractors as “fake news,” but these aspects of the film are really only going to appeal to choirs expecting to be preached to. One could be completely oblivious to such perceived messaging and still find the film immensely entertaining. The performances are terrific and the nitty-gritty details of classic print journalism are just fun to see, particularly contrasted with the digital simplicity of today.

The Blu-ray includes a number of good behind-the-scenes featurettes that detail the making of the film and explore the real-life circumstances being explored. This being a Spielberg movie, there’s also a featurette about the music composed by longtime collaborator John Williams, this being their 28th film together.

‘Greatest Showman’ Encores Atop Home Video Charts

The musical The Greatest Showman, from 20th Century Fox, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, from Walt Disney Studios, repeated as the No. 1 and No. 2 titles, respectively, on the national home video sales charts the week ended April 21.

Two newcomers took the next two spots on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.

Lionsgate’s The Commuter, an action-thriller with Liam Neeson confronting a conspiracy on a New York passenger train, too the third spot after a $36.3 million box office run in U.S. theaters.

At No. 4 was Fox’s The Post, a Steven Spielberg-directed docu-drama about the dilemmas facing The Washington Post newspaper around the time of the publication of the controversial Pentagon Papers in the 1970s. Starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the film earned $81.9 million at the domestic box office.

No. 5 on both charts went to Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in its fifth week on disc.

The only other top 10 debut was Warner’s direct-to-video sequel Deep Blue Sea 2, which landed at No. 8 overall and No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart.

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 50% of Commuter unit sales, 48% for The Post and 35% for Deep Blue Sea 2.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended April 22, The Commuter debuted at No. 1. Greatest Showman moved up to No. 2 after the end of its week-long delay at Redbox kiosks.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle dropped to No. 3 after four weeks in the top spot.

Rounding out the top five were The Post at No. 4 (skipping its week-long holdback) and Warner’s Father Figures at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 04-21-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 04-22-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 04-21-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 04-21-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 04-21-18
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 04-23-18

Fox Bows Two-Year Anniversary ‘Deadpool’ Blu-ray With Special Goodies in Time for Sequel’s Release

Just in time for the theatrical debut of Deadpool 2 May 18, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released a Deadpool: 2-Year Anniversary Edition Blu-ray April 24, featuring all-new packaging and an assortment of limited edition collectibles, including stickers, car decals, temporary tattoos and a set of paper dolls.

In addition to the extras with the national release, Best Buy will offer an exclusive 4K UHD Steelbook with new cover art and exclusive patches.

Also, May 15 at Walmart, Deadpool will photobomb the cover art of a collection of Blu-ray films, including Edward Scissorhands, Logan, War for the Planet of the Apes, Predator and Revenge of the Nerds.

Select Blu-ray titles at both Walmart and Best Buy will also include Fandango Movie Money, a coupon that can be applied toward the purchase of tickets to see Deadpool 2 in theaters. The Movie Money program runs through June 28.

Bonus materials on the Deadpool: 2-Year Anniversary Edition Blu-ray are the same as the original home media release from two years ago, and include deleted/extended scenes with optional audio commentary by director Tim Miller; a gag reel; “Deadpool’s Fun Sack”; audio commentary with Miller and Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld; audio commentary with Ryan Reynolds and writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese; “From Comics to Screen…to Screen”; and galleries of concept art, storyboards, costumes, pre-vis and stunt-vis.

‘Death Wish’ Debuts May 22 on Digital, June 5 on Disc

Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis, will come out digitally on 4K Ultra HD and HD May 22 and Blu-ray, DVD and video-on-demand 4K Ultra HD and HD services June 5 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM.

The film earned $33.9 million in U.S. theaters.

In director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller, Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Kersey hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice.

Updated from the original novel by Brian Garfield, the film also stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise.

Special features include  commentary with Eli Roth and producer Roger Birnbaum; deleted scenes with optional commentary with Roth and Birnbaum; “Mancow Morning Show” extended scenes; “Sway in the Morning” extended scene; “Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish”; and Grindhouse trailer.

‘Red Sparrow’ Coming Out on Disc May 22

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has set a May 22 release date for Red Sparrow, a suspense-driven spy drama starring Jennifer Lawrence.

The film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, and DVD.

As of April 15, Red Sparrow has earned $46.5 million in U.S. theaters.

Lawrence portrays Dominika, a former ballerina forced to enter Sparrow School, a secret government program that thrusts her into a treacherous espionage game between Russia and the CIA. She emerges trained as a lethal agent, but is trapped in a world she desperately wants to escape.

The film was directed by Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2) and features a supporting cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mary-Louise Parker, Charlotte Rampling and Joely Richardson. Bonus material takes viewers inside the making of the film, exploring source material with the author, cast and director commentary, deleted scenes and more.

All three disc releases comes with director commentary and deleted scenes (with optional commentary by director Lawrence). The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc also include the following:

  • “A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation”
  • “Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast”
  • “Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity”
  • “Heart of the Tempest: On Location”
  • “Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballet and Stunts”
  • “A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production”
  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code

    

‘Paddington 2’ Drives Q1 British Disc Sales

Live-action animated comedy, Paddington 2, co-starring Hugh Grant, topped combined first-quarter (ended March 31) Blu-ray Disc/DVD sales in the United Kingdom with 526,000 discs sold, according to The Official Charts.

The Warner Bros.-distributed sequel to the 2014 box office hit about a young Peruvian bear that travels to London in search of a home, generated $237 million at the global box office, including $40 million in the United States.

The title will be released into domestic retail channels on April 24 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The original Paddington – distributed by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment – generated nearly $22 million in domestic disc sales, according to TheNumbers.com.

Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok ranked No. 2 with 476,000-disc sales in the U.K. The title was released in the U.S. on March 6 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

Blade Runner 2049, the 35-year-old sequel to Blade Runner (1982), starring Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer, generated 325,000-unit sales. The current Warner title – with Ryan Gosling in the title role – was released domestically in January and has sold $21.7 million worth of discs.

Fox sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, ranked fourth with 306,000 units sold, with Warner’s clown-based horror film, It, ranked fifth with 237,000 units sold.

The titles sold $19.7 million and $31 million in combined disc sales in the U.S., respectively.

Murder on the Orient Express (Fox) ranked sixth with 217,000 units sold, while Warner’s Dunkirk, was seventh with 187,000 units sold. The Christopher Nolan war drama has sold more than 834,000 discs in the U.K.

Dunkirk has sold nearly $29 million in combined discs in the U.S. since its Dec. 19, 2017 retail release.

Fox: Disney Could Buy Sky News Separately

Media giant 21st Century Fox April 3 floated the prospect The Walt Disney Co. could acquire Sky News in an independent deal to assuage British regulators in its $16 billion acquisition for the remaining 61% stake of the European satellite operator.

Disney’s acquisition of Sky’s news division would be separate from its $52 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp., which includes the corporate parent’s stake in Sky, according to The Wall Street Journal. Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch owns The Journal.

British regulator Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in January issued a report critical of the merger, claiming Murdoch’s majority ownership of Sky would place too much (i.e. conservative politics) control of British media in hands of one person.

Fox contends selling Sky News to Disney (which owns ABC TV) should alleviate regulatory concerns. It has also pledged 15 years of guaranteed funding for the news division.

“The enhanced remedies we proposed to safeguard the editorial independence of Sky News addressed comprehensively and constructively the [CMA’s] provisional concerns,” Fox said in a statement.

Regardless, Fox faces competition from Comcast, which has submitted an unsolicited $31 billion bid for Sky – nearly twice that of Murdoch’s offer.

Comcast, which owns NBC Universal and DreamWorks Animation, is eying Sky for its European distribution plans. Comcast in 2004 attempted a hostile takeover of Disney, which was scuttled by the latter’s shareholders. Comcast also reportedly offered a 15% premium on Disney’s bid for 20th Century Fox, which was rejected by Murdoch over U.S. regulatory concerns.