True Lies

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

20th Century;
Action;
$39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for a lot of action/violence and some language.
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov, Charlton Heston.

Director James Cameron’s True Lies is fondly remembered as one of the best action films of the 1990s, though its long-awaited release on Blu-ray (arriving in a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo pack) has caused a bit of a stir.

Based on the 1991 French spy comedy La Totale!, 1994’s True Lies stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as American secret agent Harry Tasker, taking on dangerous missions to infiltrate terrorist lairs. However, his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Eliza Dushku in one of her early roles) believe he’s just a boring computer salesman.

Harry becomes distracted from his current case when he learns his wife might be cheating on him with a slick ladies man (Bill Paxton) posting as a spy to introduce some excitement into her life. Diverting his spycraft to track her instead, Harry’s personal and professional lives intertwine when he and his wife are kidnapped by the actual terrorists he’s supposed to be investigating, forcing him to go into action movie mode to save their family.

The movie offers some nice nods to the James Bond films, which at the time served to film a void in the over-the-top action spy genre. The Bond series had been dormant for five years at this point following 1989’s Licence to Kill, and wouldn’t pick up again until Goldeneye a year later in 1995.

The plot mechanics involving the setup of Harry’s double life tend to cause the middle section of the plot to drag out as all the pieces are being set up for the finale. Luckily Cameron compensates with the bulk of the film’s comedy, primarily involving the interplay between Harry and his partner, Gibs (played hilariously by Tom Arnold). There’s also a memorable cameo by Charlton Heston as the spy chief, whose eyepatch and gruff demeanor are clearly inspired by Marvel Comics’ Nick Fury (the original white version of the character, before he was reintroduced in 2001 to look like Samuel L. Jackson).

The setup and payoff would seem to naturally lend themselves to a sequel, though a proper one never materialized. Cameron would go on to make Titanic for release in 1997, but by the time the pieces were in place for a follow-up to True Lies, the terror attacks of 9/11 sapped his enthusiasm for the concept. He moved on to make the “Avatar” movies instead, while Schwarzenegger in 2003 was elected governor of California.

Tom Arnold in 2005 starred in a film called The Kid & I in which he’s hired by his billionaire neighbor to make a sequel to True Lies to star the man’s son, who has cerebral palsy — Schwarzenegger and Curtis make cameos.

A series remaking the movie debuted on CBS in 2023. The pilot essentially rehashed story arc of the film to get Harry’s wife involved in his spy business, setting up the series to be about a husband-and-wife spy team engaging on missions, which is more or less what the movie had set up. However, the show was pretty terrible and was canceled after two months on the air.

Schwarzenegger himself in 2023 would make Netflix series called “FUBAR” that, while nominally unrelated to True Lies could serve almost as a spiritual sequel to the film. The premise involves Arnold as a spy keeping his career a secret from his family, but then learns his daughter is also a spy who has been keeping her double life secret from him.

While the show might have left some fans pondering what might have been, it also called attention to the fact that the original film had still not been released on Blu-ray Disc in the United States nearly 30 years after its debut in theaters. It might pop up for streaming here and there, but the most widely available physical media options thus far were the 1999 DVD release or defunct formats such as VHS.

The new 4K and Blu-ray discs are certainly a step up over those — colors are more vibrant and details are more defined. But some fans have been complaining about the 4K transfer since its digital release in December. The remastering process supposedly used an AI process to smooth out the image to eliminate grain, which tends to leave surfaces, particularly skin, preternaturally smooth. The image also tends to look a bit soft at times. But the action looks great, the sound mix is effective, and overall, it’s probably better to have these than nothing at all (especially since remastering these again isn’t likely to be a priority anytime soon).

The new combo pack includes the film on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray, with a handful of extras included only on the Blu-ray. These include the 43-minute retrospective featurette “Fear Is Not an Option: A Look Back at True Lies” that was released a few months ago when the digital edition of the film because available. This offers a pretty good overview of the making of the film and its legacy, though a number of interviews were seemingly conducted a decade ago for a featurette that had been planned to go with an earlier rumored Blu-ray release that never materialized.

There is also an archive of various production and marketing materials, including the film’s trailer, a digital copy of a screenplay marked with notes, and galleries of storyboards, set blueprints, production photos and promotional posters.

 

‘The Creator’ Makes No. 1 Debut on U.K. Home Entertainment Weekly Sales Chart

Twentieth Century Studios’ sci-fi thriller The Creator topped the weekly U.K. home entertainment sales chart based on only digital downloads. The film stars John David Washington (Tenet) as an ex-special forces agent, recruited to hunt down and kill ‘the Creator’, an elusive AI architect who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war between humans and the forces of artificial intelligence – and humankind itself.

Meanwhile, bouncing back up the chart is 20th Century Studios’ A Haunting In Venice (2), also on digital downloads only, while last week’s No. 1, Paramount Home Entertainment’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 dropped to No. 3. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Barbie — the No. 1 theatrical release in 2023 — continued its chart run at No. 4. 

The week’s biggest release on physical formats is DC Studios’ Blue Beetle, flying up 12 spots to No. 5 following its release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD Blu-ray.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Gran Turismo sped back up two spots to No. 6, while Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s former chart-topper The Super Mario Bros. Movie finished at No. 7, and Lionsgate U.K. action movie The Expendables 4 dropped four spots to No. 8.

Universal’s Fast X retained its spot on the chart at No. 9, and rounding out the Top 10 this week is Jennifer Lawrence’s summer rom-com No Hard Feelings (Sony) making a re-entry at No. 10.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Official Film Chart Top 10 – Nov. 22, 2023

Last Week Position Movie Distributor
NEW 1 THE CREATOR WALT DISNEY
3 2 A HAUNTING IN VENICE WALT DISNEY
1 3 MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PT 1 PARAMOUNT
2 4 BARBIE WARNER HOME VIDEO
17 5 BLUE BEETLE WARNER HOME VIDEO
8 6 GRAN TURISMO SONY PICTURES HE
6 7 THE SUPER MARIO BROS MOVIE UNIVERSAL PICTURES
4 8 THE EXPENDABLES 4 LIONSGATE
10 9 FAST X UNIVERSAL PICTURES
RE 10 NO HARD FEELINGS SONY PICTURES HE

© Official Charts Company 2023

A Haunting in Venice

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/28/23;
20th Century;
Mystery;
Box Office $42.45 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.
Stars Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, Jude Hill, Camille Cottin, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Riccardo Scamarcio.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s third film based on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective stories blends a bit of horror into the proceedings for an effective Halloween-themed mystery.

The sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2022’s Death on the Nile is loosely based on Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, retaining elements of the basic premise and some of the character names, but relocating the story from England to Italy and reworking much of the plot.  

The film takes place in 1947, 10 years following the events of Nile. Jaded from the events of that film, Poirot (Branagh) has sheltered himself away from the world in Venice, but is coaxed out of retirement by his old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), an author who is basically a stand-in for Christie herself.

Oliver wants help in exposing as a fraud a psychic named Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) who will be conducting a séance at a Halloween party being held at a former orphanage that is rumored to be haunted. The palazzo is now owned by a former opera singer (Kelly Reilly) who has hired Reynolds to contact her daughter, who allegedly committed suicide a year earlier.

After an unnerving sequence of apparent demonic possession, Reynolds begins channeling the daughter’s spirit, claiming she was murdered. With almost everyone in the room on the verge of believing in the supernatural, Poirot vows to uncover Reynolds’ methods. In short order, however, an attempt is made on Poirot’s life, while Reynolds is thrown off a balcony and impaled on a statue.

With a storm preventing the police from arriving until morning, the elements are now in place for a classic murder mystery, as an annoyed Poirot locks everyone inside and vows to solve the case. This in turn rouses the amusement of Ariadne, who is portrayed by Fey as the perfect sassy foil to Poirot’s stuffiness.

As usual, almost everyone involved has a labyrinth of secrets to navigate for Poirot to reach the truth, though his efforts are seemingly complicated by the unsettled spirits of this most creepy of locales.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The primary extra offered on the Blu-ray and digital versions of A Haunting in Venice is a 26-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that while focusing on the production of the third film also looks back at the first two.

Also included are 11 short but superfluous deleted scenes that run a total of about nine minutes.

‘Prey’ Scores No. 1 Spot on DVD and Blu-ray Sales Charts

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Prey debuted at No. 1 on the Circana 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 Oct. 7.

The film, a prequel to the “Predator” franchise, finds an alien hunter squaring off against a Comanche woman on the Great Plains of North America in the 18th century. Prey debuted in 2022 on the Hulu streaming service.

No. 2 on both charts was Lionsgate’s Talk to Me, which sold 47% as many copies as the top seller. The horror movie follows a group of friends who discover how to conjure spirits with an embalmed hand, but unleash terrifying supernatural forces. It earned $48 million at the domestic box office.

HD formats accounted for 67% of first-week Prey sales,with 34% coming from regular Blu-ray and 33% from 4K Ultra HD disc. For Talk to Me, all available copies were some variety of Blu-ray combo pack; 41% of its total sales were of the 4K edition.

The previous week’s top seller, Disney’s Elemental, slipped to No. 3 on the overall sales chart and No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Rounding out the top five overall disc sellers were a pair of previous top titles: Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at No. 4, and Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid at No. 5. Spider-Verse was No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart, and Mermaid was No. 9.

The Blu-ray chart saw two catalog titles jump into the top five thanks to new 4K editions: Lionsgate’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist was No. 3, and the 2000 horror sequel Scream 3 from Paramount was No. 4. (Overall, The Mist was No. 6, Scream 3 was No. 8.)

The dedicated 4K disc sales chart had Prey at No. 1, The Mist at No. 2, Scream 3 at No. 3, Talk to Me at No. 4, and Spider-Verse at No. 5.

Follow us on Instagram

The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Oct. 8 had Universal’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken at No. 1. Universal’s Fast X was No. 2, followed by Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 4, Universal’s Sick at No. 4, and Screen Media’s Monsters of California at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 10-7-23
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 10-8-23
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray and 4K Discs for Week Ended 10-7-23
Top HD Formats Disc Share Per Title for Week Ended 10-7-23
Sales Report for Week Ended 10-7-23Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 10-9-23

20th Century Studios’ ‘A Haunting in Venice’ Eyes Weekend Box Office Win

The return of actor/director Kenneth Branagh as Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot in another Agatha Christie novel turned into a theatrical release — A Haunting in Venice — is set to top the weekend box office, according to new data from Box Office Pro. The movie, which like previous releases Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022), features an ensemble cast (headlined by Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh), is projected to sell north of $17 million worth of tickets.

That should be enough to best last weekend’s No. 1, Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Nun 2, with almost $12 million in projected revenue in its sophomore weekend. Sony Pictures’ The Equalizer 3 should round out the podium with more than $7 million in projected ticket sales.

Other returnees include Focus Features’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 ($5.5 million in projected revenue); Warner Bros. Pictures’ enduring Barbie with more than $4 million in additional projected ticket sales, followed by the DC Comics superhero film Blue Beetle (projected $2.8 million); Sony Pictures’ Gran Turismo ($2.4 million); Universal Pictures’ Oppenheimer ($2.2 million), and Paramount Pictures’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem ($2.1 million).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Bob Iger: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Tracking to Become Disney’s All-Time Best-Selling Digital Retail Title in the U.S.

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Avatar: The Way of Water is tracking to become the company’s best-selling digital retail release in the the United States, CEO Bob Iger told investors on an Aug. 9 fiscal call. The movie already is the best-selling digital release ever in the United Kingdom.

Disney’s acquisition of the Fox’s former movie studio assets resulted in the company assuming ownership of James Cameron’s “Avatar” film franchise. Disney has already partnered with Cameron for an “Avatar” land at its Animal Kingdom theme park in Florida.

The 2022 theatrical follow-up to 2009’s Avatar, the all-time No. 1 box office release with more than $2.9 billion in global revenue, ranks No. 3 all-time with $2.32 billion in ticket sales behind Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame with $2.79 billion.

Iger highlighted The Way of Water to reiterate Disney’s push to maximize a movie’s revenue potential across all distribution channels, including home entertainment.

“We’re maximizing the full impact of our titles by embracing the multiple distribution windows at our disposal, enabling consumers to access their content in multiple ways,” Iger said, adding that future Disney theatrical release would be headed to alternative retail channels, in addition to streaming.

“Certain other titles will be sold in the download-to-own window as well,” Iger said, adding that by focusing on big franchises and tentpole films, Disney will be better able to generate interest in the company’s legacy movie library.

“We’re seeing tremendous engagement on Disney+ with the previous ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films, the original Avatar and the first four ‘Indiana Jones’ movies,” he said. “But the value of our Disney entertainment studios and the reason this will be a key growth business for us extends far beyond our library and new releases [i.e., theme parks and consumer products].”

Horror Thriller ‘The Boogeyman’ Headed to Digital Aug. 29, Disc Oct. 10

The horror thriller The Boogeyman arrives on digital Aug. 29, and on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 10 from Disney-owned 20th Century studios.

Based on the story by Stephen King, the film follows two sisters — along with their therapist father — who are reeling from their mother’s death. When a desperate patient comes to their home, he leaves behind a terrifying entity that feeds on its victims’ suffering.

The film earned $67 million at the global box office.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Bonus features include the “Into the Darkness” featurette, with the cast and crew sharing how the tale was crafted, and outtakes.

 

Nielsen: Disney+ Scores Rare Weekly Chart Win With ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Debut

The Disney+ debut of 20th Century Studios’ box office hit Avatar: The Way of Water proved a hit with household TV streamers, generating more than 1.9 billion minutes of consumption for the week ended June 11, according to new data from Nielsen. The minutes included concurrent The Way of Water access on Max.

The No. 1 ranking marked a rare Nielsen top 10 streaming co-win for Disney+. Rival Netflix, which has dominated the chart since its 2020 inception, saw its previous chart topper “Manifest” finish at No. 2 with more than 1.6 billion minutes streamed across 62 episodes, which includes new and catalog seasons.

New and catalog episodes of “S.W.A.T.” rounded out the podium with 1.25 billion minutes streamed across 128 episodes on Netflix, Hulu and Paramount+.

Netflix, again, dominated the chart, tracking seven of the top 10 most-viewed programming for the week either solo or combined with rival streaming services.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Rank SVOD Provider Program Name No. of Episodes Minutes Streamed (Millions)
1 Disney+ / Max Avatar: The Way of Water 1 1,941
2 Netflix Manifest 62 1,628
3 Hulu / Netflix / Paramount+ S.W.A.T. 128 1,257
4 Netflix Never Have I Ever 40 917
5 Netflix FUBAR (2023) 8 819
6 Hulu / Netflix/ Peacock Heartland 232 795
7 Disney+ Bluey 129 738
8 Netflix / Paramount+ NCIS 443 698
9 Apple TV+ Ted Lasso 34 641
10 Netflix All American 91 625

Source: Nielsen Streaming Content Ratings (Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock and Netflix), Nielsen National TV Panel, U.S. Viewing through Television

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Returns Atop U.K. Weekly Home Entertainment Sales Chart Following Disc Release

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Avatar: The Way of Water returned to the top of the weekly U.K. home entertainment sales chart through July 5 — a sixth non-consecutive week at No. 1 — following its release on on DVD, Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray 3D and 4K UHD Blu-ray.

The previous week’s No. 1, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Fast X, dropped to No. 2 , while Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 4 (No. 3), Universal’s animated adventure The Super Mario Bros. Movie (No. 4), Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (No. 5) and SPHE’s Russel Crowe horror starrer The Pope’s Exorcist (No. 6) all moved down one spot on the chart.

Former chart topper Dune (Warner) also returned to the top 10, up 15 spots to No. 7, following the release of the second trailer for sequel, Dune: Part Two, which is set for release in November.

Director James Cameron’s 1997 romantic drama Titanic — starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, entered the top 10 chart for the first time to No. 8, while Paramount Home Entertainment’s Top Gun: Maverick remained in the No. 9 spot. SPHE’s sci-fi horror movie 65 rounded off the chart at No. 10.

The Official Film Chart Top 10 – July 5, 2023

Rank Previous Week Movie Distributor
1 14 AVATAR – THE WAY OF WATER 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS
2 1 FAST X UNIVERSAL
3 2 JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 LIONSGATE
4 3 THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE UNIVERSAL
5 4 SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE SONY PICTURES
6 5 THE POPE’S EXORCIST SONY PICTURES
7 22 DUNE (2021) WARNER
8 12 TITANIC 20TH CENTURY
9 9 TOP GUN: MAVERICK PARAMOUNT
10 6 65 SONY PICTURES

© Official Charts Company 2023

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Tops DVD and Blu-ray Sales Charts

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Avatar: The Way of Water debuted at No. 1 on the Circana 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 June 24.

The new visual effects blockbuster from director James Cameron, which features a return to the alien moon of Pandora and a storyline on ocean-dwelling Na’vi tribes, and was the top-earning global box office draw of 2022 with more than $2.3 billion.

However, the No. 2 disc seller, Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 4, down from the top spot a week before, still managed to sell about 74% as many copies as the sci-fi sequel despite having been available for more than a week. The margin over the second-place title would typically be much larger for such a high box office earner. Way of Water also sold only about 61% as many copies in its first week as John Wick: Chapter 4 did as the top seller the previous week. This could be a factor of demand for the new “Avatar” movie on physical media being abated by the long lead time of the title being available in digital formats. The highly publicized Way of Water digital sellthrough release became available March 28, nearly three months before its June 20 physical media release. In addition, it has been streaming on Disney+ and Max since June 7.

The No. 3 seller on both charts, Universal Pictures’ animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie, sold about 62% as many total copies as the top title during the week.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The No. 4 overall disc seller, and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart, was director Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant from MGM, distributed on disc by Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment. The war film, in which Jake Gyllenhaal plays a U.S. soldier trying to rescue his interpreter during the war in Afghanistan, earned $16.94 million at the domestic box office.

No. 5 on the overall disc sales chart was the original 2009 Avatar, boosted by Disney’s re-release of the film on 4K Ultra HD disc. It was No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart and No. 3 on the dedicated 4K Ultra HD disc sales chart.

Way of Water and the “John Wick” sequel were the top two sellers, respectively, on the 4K disc chart. Super Mario was No. 4.

HD formats accounted for 62% of total Avatar: The Way of Water first-week unit sales, with 29% from 4K disc, 7% from 3D disc, and 26% from regular Blu-ray. That essentially means that when buying a film that used some of the most advanced visual effects techniques of all time, 38% of shoppers decided that image quality didn’t matter.

By comparison, the original Avatar with its new 4K version front-and-center had nearly 95% of its total unit sales come from 4K disc, with 3% from regular Blu-ray and less than 2% from DVD. The 3D edition of the film is out of print and thus didn’t wasn’t tracked.

Covenant, without a 4K release, had 56% of its total unit sales come from its Blu-ray Disc edition.

Follow us on Instagram!

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 25, The Super Mario Bros. Movie remained No. 1 for a second week, with Sony Pictures’ 65 at No. 2.

Paramount’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves rose a spot to No. 3, followed by Universals Renfield at No. 4, and Warner’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-24-23
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-25-23
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray and 4K Discs for Week Ended 6-24-23
Top HD Formats Market Share for Week Ended 6-24-23
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-24-23
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 6-26-23