‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

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The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.

Kino Lorber Releasing ‘Hannibal’ on UHD Blu-ray

Kino Lorber will release Hannibal on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray through its Classics line April 30, marking the first 4K release for the indie distributor.

Kino made the announcement Feb. 6 via its @KLStudioClassic Twitter feed.

The 2001 film, a sequel to 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, was directed by Ridley Scott and features Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Julianne Moore takes over the role of FBI agent Clarice Starling, originally played by Jodie Foster. Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, the story involves Hannibal’s attempts to evade capture while a former victim seeks his own form of revenge.

The disc will include a new 4K restoration, plus HDR and SDR color-graded by cinematographer John Mathieson. Extras include an audio commentary by Scott and three hours of bonus materials that were previously available with MGM’s 2001 DVD release of the film but were not included in subsequent Blu-rays released in the United States. International Blu-rays have been released that included the bonus material.

Amazon Bowing Prime Original Series ‘King Lear’ Sept. 28

Amazon Aug. 23 announced that its original Prime series, “King Lear” – starring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson – will begin streaming on Sept. 28.

Other Prime Originals coming to the service in September include series premieres of “Six Dreams” (Sept. 7) and “Forever” (Sept. 14) as well as season 1a of “Pete the Cat” (Sept. 7) and season 2b of “Wishenpoof” (Sept. 7).

Additionally, Prime Video will begin streaming season two of PBS’s British series, “Victoria,” starting Aug. 25.

Meanwhile, Prime Video’s entire September release slate of licensed third-party content includes:

September 1 series:

Asylum, Season 1

The Blue Rose, Season 1

The Broker’s Man, Seasons 1-2

The Field of Blood, Seasons 1-2

Golden, Season 1

The Kevin Bishop Show, Season 2

London Irish, Season 1

The Palace, Season 1

Parents, Season 1

Rocket’s Island, Seasons 1-3

Sam’s Game, Season 1

Texas Rising, Season 1

The Triangle, Season 1

Trust, Season 1

Westside, Seasons 1-3

Wild at Heart, Seasons 1-8

Movies

1492: Conquest of Paradise(1992)

A Field in England(2013)

A Good Woman (2006)

A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)

A Murder of Crows (1999)

A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (2010)

A Turtle’s Tale 2: Sammy’s Escape from Paradise (2012)

All You Can Eat Buddha (2017)

Bandits (2001)

Beowulf (2007)

Big Top Pee-wee (1988)

Blow Out (1981)

Bolero (1984)

Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (2012)

Chinatown (1974)

Cool It (2010)

Double Impact (1991)

DragonHeart (1996)

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Fall Time (1993)

Fighting Temptations (2003)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Going Overboard (1989)

Gutland (2017)

Hard Rain (1998)

Harry and Paul’s History of the 2s (2014)

Harry Price: Ghost Hunter (2015)

Hotel for Dogs (2009)

House of D (2004)

Hustle & Flow (2005)

Ingenious (2009)

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Joyride (1997)

Kill Me Again (1989)

Lea to the Rescue (2016)

Luk’Luk’I (2017)

Miami Vice (2006)

Over the Top (1987)

Paycheck (2003)

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Prancer (1989)

Primal Fear (1996)

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1994)

Resurrecting the Champ (2007)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Roger Dodger (2002)

Rustlers’ Rhapsody (1985)

Senorita Justice (2004)

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Small Town Saturday Night (2010)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Stealth Fighter (1999)

The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Dark Half (1993)

The Eagle (2011)

The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Longest Yard (1974)

The Man Who Lost His Head (2007)

The Perfect Weapon (1991)

The Score (2001)

There Will Be Blood (2007)

Tonightly (2008)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

 Sept. 2

Movies

Future World (2018)

Sept. 4

Movies

Beirut (2018)

Crescent (2017)

Strangers Prey at Night (2018)

Sept. 6

Movies

Pistorius (2018)

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Sept. 8

Movies

From Paris with Love (2009)

Stronger (2017)

Sept. 12

Movies

Grace Unplugged (2014)

Sept. 14

Movies

High Fantasy (2017)

Sept. 15

Movies

On Chesil Beach (2018)

Sept. 16

Movies

Baby Mama (2008)

I Am Wrath (2016)

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Sept. 20

Movies

Jugnu (1973)

This is Home: A Refugee Story (2018)

Sept. 21

Movies

My Little Pony (2017)

Sept. 22

Movies

For Colored Girls (2010)

Hot Summer Night (2018)

Sept. 27

Movies

Escape Plan 2 (2018)

Sept. 28

Movies

Hannah (2017)

Plonger (Diving) (2017)

Suburbicon (2017)

Sept. 29

Movies

Jigsaw (2017)

New in September – Available to purchase on Prime Video:

Sept. 4

Movies

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Sept. 11

Movies

Uncle Drew (2018)

Sept. 26

Series

This Is Us, Season 3, NBC

Sept. 27

Series

Modern Family, Season 10, ABC

Sept. 28

Series

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 14, ABC

The Good Place, Season 3, NBC

New in September for streaming on Prime Video Channels

Sept. 8

Live Sports

UFC 228: “Woodley vs Till,” UFC

Sept. 9

Series

Kidding, Season 1, Showtime

Shameless, Season 9, Showtime

Sept. 14-16

Live Sports

AVP – Honolulu

Sept. 16

Series

Warriors of Liberty City, Mini-Series, Starz

Sept. 21-23

Live Sports

Laver Cup – Chicago

Sept. 24

Series

Magnum PI, Season 1, CBS All Access

Sept. 25

Series

FBI, Season 1, CBS All Access

Sept. 27

Series

Murphy Brown, Season 1, CBS All Access

Live Sports

Thursday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings vs Los Angeles Rams, Game 4, Prime Video

Sept. 30

Series

God Friended Me, Season 1, CBS All Access

 

 

Thor: Ragnarok

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 3/6/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $314.97 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch.

As with any movie franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become adept and finding formulas that work and sticking to them.

As a case in point, the first two standalone “Thor” movies are generally regarded as among the weaker of the Marvel films. It’s not that they’re bad per se, it’s just that they really didn’t establish themselves much beyond a general space-fantasy epic that connected to elements of the larger Marvel films. As a character, Thor worked better in the “Avengers” films, when he had other heroes to play off of and the films could take advantage of his other-worldly nature for moments of levity and comic relief.

Over the course of 10 years, the MCU as a whole has tended to take itself less seriously, embracing the sense of fun that a comic book movie franchise should have without sacrificing the emotional connection the audience needs to have with its characters.

One of the major contributors to this change in attitude since the second “Thor” movie landed in 2013 was the arrival of two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, which are not only the most comedy-driven of the Marvel films, but they also tread in the cosmic setting that should have been Thor’s bread and butter. Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming further demonstrated that the MCU could embrace a lighter tone while still remaining true to the source material and the overarching storylines being established for the crossover films.

So, it should really come as no surprise to see Thor: Ragnarok really deconstruct the elements of the MCU’s success, what has worked for Thor in the past, and let director Taika Waititi throw them into a blender to whip up his own unique cocktail for a hilarious big screen comic book thrill ride.

The secret ingredient, as far as Waititi is concerned, it seems, is a healthy pinch of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia, as Thor is essentially re-imagined as a Saturday morning cartoon hero akin to “He-Man” accompanied by a rockin’ techno-synth soundtrack, (from Mark Mothersbaugh, whose name popping up in the credits as the composer certainly elicits a “yeah, that makes sense” reaction).

Waititi does a masterful job of re-focusing the efforts of the “Thor” films while both wrapping up previous storylines (without much fuss) and positioning the characters for the next big crossover, Avengers: Infinity War, which arrives April 27.

Thor himself is now much more irreverent, with the script playing to Chris Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents. As for finding others for Thor to play with, this film offers a brief encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, but really hits a home run by pairing Thor with Hulk, taking advantage of a long-running rivalry between the two characters. A battle between Thor and Hulk in the gladiator pit of an alien world (inspired by the popular “Planet Hulk” comic book storyline) perfectly positions this film as a counterpoint to Captain America: Civil War, in which neither character appeared (as they were off conducting adventures in space, it would appear).

Thor’s only fighting Hulk, though, in order to escape from confinement and recruit a team to take back Asgard from his sister, Hela, the goddess of death. Hela (Cate Blanchett in a juicy performance that borders between menacing and sexy) had been imprisoned by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for being too cruel, but manages to escape to claim her father’s throne.

The setting of the gladiator planet lets the filmmakers indulge themselves in the colorful renderings of legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby’s designs, and also provide an excuse to just insert Jeff Goldblum into the film (as the Grandmaster of the games) and allow him to just be his zany self, much to the delight of the audience.

The film is a visual spectacle, reminiscent of cult favorites such as Flash Gordon or Heavy Metal, and would be a spectacular showcase for home theater 3D effects were the format not being phased out (at least in the United States. All-region 3D Blu-rays are available from overseas markets such as Europe and Australia).

The home video offers extensive bonus materials, with some exclusive to the digital versions.

The highlight of the presentation on all platforms is probably the six-minute “Team Darryl” short film, the third installment in a spoof series about Thor’s roommate on Earth. This time, with Thor off the planet, Darryl’s new roommate is the Grandmaster, and any excuse for more Goldblum in any setting is a good one.

Also included are about 40 minutes of behind the scenes featurettes, with a three-minute video about the Thor-Hulk relationship presented as a digital exclusive. Other featurettes profile the new female characters, and look at many of the new elements this film brings to the franchise. There’s also a five-minute appreciation of the 10th anniversary of the MCU.

Offering digital exclusives is fine in this case, since the disc comes with access to the digital copies, but the extras are structured differently depending on where you try to watch them, particularly where the deleted scenes are concerned.

On disc, the deleted scenes are pretty straightforward, offered one at a time. Many of them are extended sequences from an earlier conception of the film before story elements were streamlined. So the glimpse of that alternate version is fascinating on its own. The deleted scenes run about 15 minutes, compared with less than six minutes on the disc.

Note that Vudu presents the deleted scenes as a single featurette with them strung together, ending with the fun Easter Egg reference to another Marvel movie that has created some online buzz.

Lastly, there’s an introduction and solo commentary by Waititi, in which he offers a few insights about the making of the film, but mostly maintains the jokey nature he often displays in public. He describes many scenes with tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, hypes up his own skills as both a director and actor, and spends considerable time allowing his young daughter onto the microphone and reacting to her rather than what’s on the screen. No doubt fans of Waititi’s brand of performance art will eat this up, but for general MCU fans, it seems like a missed opportunity to offer a good, in depth discussion about the film.