The Northman

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $34.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Oscar Novak, Björk.

Director Robert Eggers’ The Northman provides him a nice opportunity to deliver a Viking history lesson. Not through the film itself, which is basically Hamlet by way of Conan the Barbarian, but through a commentary track in which he points out where historical research influenced the story and look of the film.

He also spends a surprising amount of time in the commentary picking apart things he doesn’t like about the film that he wishes he could have done in better in hindsight. So, points for honesty.

The Northman is a grimy tale of revenge set in the 10th century, and is based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth — the same stories that also provided the source material for Shakespeare’s Hamlet (or, as Ethan Hawke helpfully points out in the bonus materials, The Lion King), for those so inclined to notice a few similarities in the plot.

In the film, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a Viking prince who, as a boy, was forced to flee his kingdom after witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle (Claes Bang), who subsequently also married his mother (Nicole Kidman) in seizing the throne. Growing up as a Viking warrior known as a berserker, Amleth vows revenge against his uncle, participating in raids on isolated villages until he gets a chance to strike.

He eventually learns his uncle was deposed and is living on a farm in Iceland. Amleth makes his way to the island, where he encounters a young sorceress named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), who vows to aid him as part of a prophecy.

Impressively shot with some well-staged action sequences, the film is dark and bloody, though watching it after the commentary will probably take some of the edge off it.

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The Blu-ray includes about 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that delve further into the Viking lore that influenced the movie.

The 12-minute “An Ageless Epic” focuses on the film’s story and historic accuracy; the 11-minute “The Faces of Vikings” explores the characters; and the five-minute “A Norse Landscape” shows off the film’s locations and set design.

Getting into more specific aspects of the film, the four-minute “Amleth’s Journey to Manhood” looks at the filming of a ritual early in the story; the four-minute “Shooting the Raid” deals with the film’s approach to action through the shooting of a centerpiece sequence; and the three-minute “Knattleikr Game” discusses an ancient game that is played at a key point in the plot.

Finally, there are nine short deleted scenes that run a total of about 13 minutes, most of which are inconsequential extensions to scenes in the movie.

Viking Saga ‘The Northman’ Headed to Digital June 6, Disc June 7

The Viking saga The Northman will be available on digital with exclusive bonus content June 6, and on 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition, Blu-ray Collector’s Edition and DVD June 7 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), the film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang and Björk.

In the film, after witnessing first-hand the murder of his father, a Viking prince (Skarsgård) devotes his life to avenge his father’s death, save his mother and reclaim his kingdom.

Bonus features include nine deleted and extended scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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‘The Northman’ Among Trilogy of New Releases at the Domestic Weekend Box Office

In the typical lull before the opening of what is expected to be a monstrous blockbuster, Disney’s May 6 release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse, three niche films are battling it out at the North American box office this weekend.

The showdown is something of a test to see whether smaller films can still draw audiences to theaters, amid lingering hesitancy from the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of new movies on streaming services.

The Northman, a Viking epic from Focus Features and New Regency Pictures, stars Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe, and was directed by Robert Eggers, who previously won praise for the horror films The Witch (2015) and Lighthouse (2019). The Northman has already been hailed for its production values — not surprising, given its estimated budget of up to $90 million — and enjoys an 88% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Friday (April 22) morning. The film also earned just under $1.4 million in Thursday night previews, more than the two other new releases, Dreamworks Animation’s Bad Guys (just under $1.2 million) and the latest Nicolas Cage film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent ($835,000), from Lionsgate.

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Bad Guys is an animated family film with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%. The film marks the directorial debut of Pierre Perifel and is based on the children’s book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey. The voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, and Anthony Ramos. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed Bad Guys as “a great-looking film with terrific performances, some lovely messaging and a steady parade of solid laughs — some the kids will enjoy and just as many targeted squarely at the grown-up kids in the audience.”

And The Unbreakable Weight of Massive Talent is a satire with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 89%. Cage plays a fictional version of himself, who has to accept a $1 million offer to attend a not-quite-right superfan’s birthday party. To make things worse, he’s recruited by a CIA operative (played by Tiffany Haddish) and is forced to channel his own iconic characters to save the proverbial day.

All three films are projected to finish behind two big-budget, high-profile holdovers: Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third installment in the “Harry Potter” spinoff franchise, which opened to $43 million over the Easter weekend, and Paramount Pictures’ Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which generated $30 million its sophomore weekend. The film’s total domestic take, according to Box Office Mojo, is nearly $129 million.

Last Night in Soho

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $10.13 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg.

Viewers heading into director Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho expecting to soak in more of his unique style and penchant for classic rock might be in for a bit of a shock when he veers a seemingly mundane story about a girl struggling with college life into an intense psychological horror film.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) heads to London to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. New to the big city, she finds comfort in her love of the music and aesthetics of the 1960s — imparted unto her by her late mother. After a personality clash with her roommate, she decides to rent a room from an elderly woman (Diana Rigg) whose rustic style and strict moral code seem to suit Eloise just fine.

However, Eloise soon begins to have vivid dreams in which she lives in the 1960s as an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own ambitions are quickly shattered when she’s pimped out by her potential manager (Matt Smith) to fulfill the sexual desires of potential benefactors.

When Eloise encounters landmarks from her dreams in real life, she begins to suspect she’s experiencing visions of events that really happened, and uncovering the mystery of what happened to Sandie consumes her life — even as those around her suspect she may be falling victim to the same mental illnesses that eventually led her mother to commit suicide.

The film starts innocently enough, with Eloise being something of a stand-in for Wright in terms of wanting to live in an idyllic version of the 1960s. Eloise’s seeming descent into the madness of reliving the tragedy of Sandie, however, makes for a very disturbing journey when all is said and done.

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The Blu-ray offers some rather extensive extras, including a number of in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 10-minute “Meet Eloise” focuses on McKenzie’s character and performance, while the nine-minute “Dreaming of Sandie” focuses on the performances of Taylor-Joy and Smith. The eight-and-a-half-minute “On the Streets of Soho” delves into filming on location in the real Soho neighborhood of London, while the 12-and-a-half-minute “Smoke and Mirrors” and the 11-minute “Time Traveling” focus on the film’s visual style, visual effects and re-creating the vibrant energy of the 1960s.

Also included are four animatic versions of sequences, running 13 minutes, plus hair and makeup tests, lighting and VFX tests, and some interesting footage of the rehearsal and filming of one of the film’s key dance sequences.

Viewers should also enjoy the two detailed commentary tracks, one with Wright and co-writer Kristy Wilson-Carnes, which is focused more on story development and the ideas that influenced the film, and a second with Wright alongside editor Paul Machliss and composer Steve Price, which offers more technical details.

In addition, there are six deleted scenes that run a total of just over nine minutes.

Rounding out the set are some of the film’s trailers and a five-minute music video of Taylor-Joy singing a slow-tempo version of the 1964 Petula Clark song “Downtown.”

Here Are the Young Men

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Well Go USA;
Drama;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Bu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Cole, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Travis Fimmel, Conleth Hill, Noomi Rapace.

A trio of teenagers learns the consequences of a carefree transition into adulthood in the chaotic Here Are the Young Men, an Irish production based on the same-named 2014 coming-of-age novel by Rob Doyle.

The film stars Dean-Charles Chapman, best known for playing Tommen on “Game of Thrones,” as Matthew, a sensitive but impressionable young man caught up in the antics of his pals Kearney (Finn Cole) and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Set in 2003, the story follows their misadventures during the summer after they graduate high school, facing an uncertain future with a steady stream of booze, pills and parties.

Their outlook on life is shattered when they witness a little girl hit by a car immediately after running by them. The tragedy alters their perspectives enough to lead them down a dangerous path as they confront their own personal demons.

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Kearney heads off on a vacation to America, and returns with almost no regard for human life. Rez is caught in a spiral of depression and attempts suicide. Matthew is caught in the middle, unwilling to reject the friendship of Kearney, even as it threatens his budding relationship with Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy), an ambitious, responsible girl who dreams of becoming the first female head of the United Nations.

The film intercuts between the personal conflicts the boys have with other characters in their lives, and a sort of stream of consciousness hallucination inspired by their drug-addled states as they process their own place in the world. Kearney’s story dovetails into the fantasy of a bizarre American talk show where the sadistic host pushes the boundaries of exploring peoples’ fears. This prompts Kearney to undertake an increasingly dangerous series of pranks that he videotapes for his own amusement.

His nihilism eventually leads to a shocking act of betrayal that will push Matthew to the brink of performing an unspeakable act of his own.

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The subject matter hints at the edginess of a Larry Clark movie such as Kids or Bully, mixed with the frenetic energy of a Trainspotting or Clockwork Orange. While visually interesting, the film steers away from graphic depictions of sex or violence, preferring to let the symbolism of its imagery do the talking. While it’s easy enough to root for Matthew given his predicaments, the standout of the cast is Taylor-Joy, whose vibrant presence grounds the otherwise aimless proceedings.

Drama ‘Here Are the Young Men’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD June 29 From Well Go

The Irish drama Here Are the Young Men, featuring Golden Globe winner Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”), will come out on Blu-ray and DVD June 29 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

It is already available for digital purchase.

Based on the novel by Rob Doyle, the coming-of-age story catalogs the last hurrah of three high school graduates intent on celebrating their newfound freedom with an epic, debaucherous bender. However, when a horrible accident sends them spiraling, the trio must grapple with the most daunting challenge of their lives: facing their own inner demons.

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In addition to Taylor-Joy, the film stars Dean-Charles Chapman (1917, “Game of Thrones”), Finn Cole (“Peaky Blinders,” Slaughterhouse Rulez), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (“Vikings”), Travis Fimmel (“Vikings,” Warcraft) and Conleth Hill (“Game of Thrones”). The film is written and directed by Eoin Macken (ColdDreaming for You).

Drama ‘Here Are the Young Men’ Due on Digital April 27 From Well Go

The drama Here Are the Young Men, featuring Golden Globe winner Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”), will come out on digital April 27 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Based on the novel by Rob Doyle, the coming-of-age story catalogs the last hurrah of three high school graduates intent on celebrating their newfound freedom with an epic, debaucherous bender. However, when a horrible accident sends them spiraling, the trio must grapple with the most daunting challenge of their lives: facing their own inner demons.

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In addition to Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, The New Mutants, Emma), the film stars Dean-Charles Chapman (1917, “Game of Thrones”), Finn Cole (“Peaky Blinders,” Slaughterhouse Rulez), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (“Vikings”), Travis Fimmel (“Vikings,” Warcraft) and Conleth Hill (“Game of Thrones”). The film is written and directed by Eoin Macken (Cold, Dreaming for You).

Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Watched by 62M Households

“The Queen’s Gambit” has become Netflix’s biggest limited scripted series ever, with 62 million households having watched it in its first 28 days, according to the service.

The show made the Top 10 in 92 countries and ranked No. 1 in 63 countries, including the United Kingdom, Argentina, Israel and South Africa.

“The Queen’s Gambit” is adapted by Scott Frank from Walter Tevis’s 1983 book about a young chess prodigy, Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy), an underdog who faces addiction, loss and abandonment.

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“It’s a true testament to Scott’s skill as a writer and filmmaker that he was able to bring the drama and detail of the many chess matches to life on camera — generating rave reviews and a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes,” read a Netflix press release. “Scott also had tremendous help from the series’ talented crafts team. Costume designer Gabriele Binder’s exquisite use of checkerboard patterns in Beth’s wardrobe, composer Carlos Rafael Rivera’s suspenseful score, editor Michelle Tesoro’s gripping montages, production designer Uli Hanisch’s vibrant choices that pop off the screen in every scene, and cinematographer Steven Meizler, whose work transformed every match into heart-pounding drama.”

The New Mutants

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

20th Century;
Horror;
Box Office $23.8 million;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material.
Stars Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga, Adam Beach.

Reflecting its comic book source material, The New Mutants offers a horror-infused take on the “X-Men” franchise and its penchant for finding people with bizarre superpowers.

As a spinoff of the “X-Men” comics, the “New Mutants” series focused more on younger mutants — the people born with genes that evolved to give them superpowers — who might one day be developed into full-fledged X-Men. The book’s style took on more surreal elements than the rest of the brand, though over the years it was the book that introduced characters such as Deadpool, Cable and Domino.

The New Mutants film moves away from “X-Men” style action and leans more into the realm of Stephen King thrillers and psychological horror. The story centers on a group of teenagers locked up in an asylum for evaluation of their powers, which manifest at the onset of puberty. But they seem to be under attack by an unseen force that takes that form of what terrified them as children. As discussed by director Josh Boone in the bonus materials, the film’s story draws particular inspiration from the “Demon Bear” storyline, in which one of the kids manifests her fears into a giant bear that attacks everyone.

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The film is taut in its execution and the cast is likable, but the film’s primary obstacle is its ‘PG-13’ rating, which doesn’t allow the filmmakers to take the story as extreme as it perhaps needs to go, resulting in the intended frightfest coming off as rather bland.

They also minimize any connection to the greater “X-Men” franchise, aside from a few generalized references. That it serves mostly as a standalone film is just as well, considering the film was delayed for so long its ownership in the interim transferred to Disney through its Fox studio purchase, making this the final “X-Men” film of the old regime, aside from more “Deadpool” movies that Disney-owned Marvel Studios might want to produce.

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The Blu-ray includes 11 minutes of deleted scenes that are pretty much more of the same of what the film delivers.

There are also two featurettes running just over seven minutes: “Origins & Influences,” about how the original comic book influenced the filmmakers, and “Meet the New Mutants,” a profile of the characters and the cast behind them.

Finally, the disc includes a commentary track in which Boone interviews Bill Sienkiewicz, the comic book artist who worked on the “New Mutants” story arcs being adapted. It’s an interesting conversation about the artistic pathways taken by each man, but it’s not synched in any way to the movie itself.

Disney Sets Home Release Date for ‘The New Mutants’ After $21 Million Domestic Theatrical Run

Disney Media Distribution has set a Nov. 17 home release date for The New Mutants, the 13th and final installment in 20th Century’s “X-Men” franchise.

The film, released theatrically in August despite many theaters still being closed, earned a domestic box office gross of just over $21 million.

The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, as well as through digital retailers.

The New Mutants focuses on five young people with special powers who are forced to undergo treatment at a secret institution — allegedly to cure them of the dangers of their powers. But it’s soon clear that their containment is part of a much bigger battle between the forces of good and evil.

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The film was directed by Josh Boone from a screenplay he wrote with Knate Lee. The cast includes Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt and Henry Zaga.

Bonus features on the 4K Ultra HD and regular Blu-ray include:

  • “Origins & Influences” — Legendary comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz and the filmmakers explore the origins and influences behind The New Mutants;
  • “Meet the New Mutants” — Cast members share their experiences while filming and reveal how they bonded as a family, much like the characters in the film;
  • Deleted scenes.