The Super Mario Bros. Movie

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Animated;
Box Office $572.97 million;
$34.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action and mild violence.
Voices of Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Keegan-Michael Key, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kevin Michael Richardson, Khary Payton, Charles Martinet.

Most movies based on video games tend to be unsatisfying because the process of Hollywood writers digesting the essence of the game for mainstream audiences usually makes the final product unrecognizable to the games’ fans.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie bucks that trend by essentially just putting a video game on the big screen. The film takes iconic elements straight from several video games connected to the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise and condenses them into a single narrative. And in doing so, the film isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is — an adaptation of a series of video games about a pair of plumbers fighting a fire-breathing turtle king in a land of magic mushrooms.

It gets away with such a distillation because the animation lends itself to the bright flashy visual splendor of the games and doesn’t create an expectation of realism, which is the trap most game adaptations fall into. The 1993 live-action version of Super Mario Bros., for instance, was an unmitigated disaster because it reinterpreted the concept into an action sci-fi movie.

The animated version features brothers Mario and Luigi (voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) struggling to establish their own plumbing business when by happenstance they find themselves sucked through a pipe into a fantasy realm of strange creatures where the laws of physics no longer apply. When Luigi is captured by Bowser (Jack Black), Mario teams with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) to rescue him and prevent the king of the Koopas from dominating the magical realms.

Everything in the fantasy kingdoms works just like it does in the video games, with power-ups that give characters boosts in strength and speed that come from floating bricks with question marks on them. The film doesn’t dwell on why everything looks like it does from the video games because it’s easy enough to accept that the Mario Bros. have simply been sucked into Nintendo World.

From there, the film features a ton of references to various “Mario” properties over the years, from his 1981 debut in Donkey Kong to Mario Kart, more than enough to satisfy most fans of the games. For older fans, there’s a reference to the rap intro of the 1989 “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” starring Capt. Lou Albano, so what’s not to love? The score is even design to incorporate beloved musical themes from the “Super Mario” games, which only adds to the nostalgia factor.

And since the Mario Bros. have had a ubiquitous presence in pop culture for the past 40 years, being a hardcore fan of the games isn’t a requirement to enjoy what turns out to be an entertaining movie in general.

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The “Power Up Edition” Blu-ray includes a number of fun featurettes about the making of the film.

The 18-minute “Getting to Know the Cast” offers several vignettes profiling the voice actors and the roles they play. The 27-minute “Leveling Up: Making The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a six-part look at the production, which was overseen by Nintendo to make sure it didn’t stray too far from its video game roots; included is a look at various Easter Eggs in the film, particularly to some of the non-“Mario” Nintendo games referenced.

The seven-minute “The Super Mario Bros. Movie Field Guide” features various cast members explaining elements from the game depicted in the film, while the three-minute “Leadership Lessons” has Anya Taylor-Joy describing five lessons that make Peach an effective princess for her people.

Rounding out the package is a sing-along music video of Jack Black singing Bowser’s song “Peaches.”

In the 4K combo pack, the full extras are included on both the 4K disc and the regular Blu-ray.

JustWatch: ‘The Menu,’ ‘The Last of Us’ Top Weekly Streaming Through Jan. 22

Dark comedy The Menu may have been snubbed by the Oscars, but the Golden Globe-winning movie, co-starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, resonated with consumers as the most-streamed movie for the week ended Jan. 22, according to new data from JustWatch,  which tracks the streaming video habits of 20 million users across 59 markets, including the United States.

Menu beat out Oscar-nominated and perennial chart topper Everything Everywhere All at Once (Paramount+, Prime Video, Showtime), the original 2019 Knives Out movie (Hulu) and fellow Oscar nominated The Banshees of the Inisherin (HBO Max, Prime Video).

Among episodic programming, HBO Max’s “The Last of Us” knocked off longtime chart topper “Yellowstone,” reruns of “That ’70s Show,” and recent hits “The White Lotus” (HBO Max), “Wednesday” (Netflix) and “Your Honor” (Showtime).

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Amsterdam

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

20th Century;
Mystery;
Box Office $14.95 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for brief violence and bloody images.
Stars Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Zoe Saldaña, Anya Taylor-Joy, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Taylor Swift.

Director David O. Russell’s Amsterdam may have been slammed by critics and flopped at the box office, but can any movie that features Taylor Swift being run over by a car really be all that bad?

Amsterdam tells the story of three friends from World War I who reconnect in 1933 when they are embroiled in a murder mystery. Christian Bale plays Dr. Burt Berendsen, who spends his time crafting cosmetic prosthetics for war veterans and experimenting with developing more-potent painkillers. He’s contacted by a war buddy named Harold (John David Washington) who now serves as a lawyer, regarding the death of their former commanding officer.

Swift plays the general’s daughter, who suspects foul play and enlists Berendsen to conduct an autopsy despite the authorities ruling he died from natural causes. After being warned to drop the inquiry, she’s pushed into the street by a hitman (Timothy Olyphant), who immediately pins the blame on Harold and Burt when she’s immediately mangled by a passing vehicle.

As the police investigate the pair, they reveal that the general was indeed poisoned, and set forth to clear their names. The clues lead them to their old friend Valerie (Margot Robbie), who they haven’t seen since the war, when she was their nurse helping them recover from war wounds in Amsterdam.

With her help, they learn about a plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a famous general (Robert De Niro) as dictator.

The story is based on a real conspiracy from the 1930s called the Business Plot, though the names of the real-life particulars have been changed for the purposes of this fictionalized recount.

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The film offers some engaging performances and glitzy visual style, but the meatiness of the fascinating source inspiration for Russell’s screenplay is lost a bit in the breezy way it tells the story, touching on themes of racism and corporate politics for good measure.

What ends up on screen is more of a muddled conflagration of eccentric characters and a hyperkinetic obsession with the trappings of the period, coming across like the underwhelming love child of Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers.

The lone extra on the Blu-ray is the 15-and-a-half-minute “Welcome to Amsterdam” featurette, a typical assemblage of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and filmmakers praising each other for their skill and craftsmanship. It’s not unearned, but there’s too much unrealized potential given the level of talent involved.

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 agrees 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).