John Wick: Chapter 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/13/23;
Lionsgate;
Action;
Box Office $187.07 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive strong violence and some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada, Lance Reddick, Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins, Natalia Tena, Ian McShane.

The “John Wick” movies can always be depended upon for an intense thrill ride, and John Wick: Chapter 4 has no trouble sustaining a consistent pace of nearly non-stop action. That’s saying something, considering the film, at 169 minutes, or just shy of three hours, is more than 40 minutes longer than any previous “Wick” film.

On the other hand, that’s a lot of story from the previous films to pay off, and star Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski are damn well going to take the time it takes to bring the story to where they want it to go.

The plot is well engineered to facilitate the action. Wick (Reeves), having been excommunicated from the ultra-elite High Table after the events of the first three films, plots his revenge on the supposedly super-secret organization (which everyone and their mother seems connected to by this point in the series). The Table, in turn, has hired the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) to eliminate Wick, which sets the tables for more hordes of assassins to futilely attack Wick in hopes of collecting a multi-million-dollar bounty.

To lead the attack, the Marquis sends Caine, played by Donnie Yen as another martial arts master who is blind, which will draw some comparisons to his character in Rogue One. Caine and Wick are old pals, but their grudging respect won’t stop them from eliminating the other for the sake of their mission.

For help, Wick turns to an old buddy in Japan, giving the first half of the film the flavor of a 1970s martial arts flick, with characters trading out guns for swords and arrows, while Wick is pretty handy with a set of nunchucks.

It’s basically like watching a hyperkinetic video game, as Wick must embark on side quests in order to set in place the pieces for a final confrontation with the main boss, the Marquis himself, in order to secure his ultimate freedom and some redemption for his allies.

But everything that came before pales in comparison to an extended action sequence in Paris in which Wick must evade wave after wave of assassins sent to thwart his final encounter with the Marquis. The action spills out into the streets, where the speeding cars themselves become weapons, and heads inside for an inventive bird’s eye view of the hunt through numerous rooms of a building.

The film is long and brutal, which should delight action fans to no end, as viewers will practically feel every blow along with Wick.

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The Blu-ray includes 11 featurettes for a total of 67 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, mostly dealing with the stunts, the action choreography, and the elaborate set designs, which fans should find interesting.

There are also two theatrical trailers and a three-minute action sequence from the upcoming prequel series “The Continental.”

 

Horror Movie ‘Barbarian’ Set for Pre-Halloween Digital Release

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution has set an Oct. 25 digital home release date for Barbarian, the horror film from 20th Century Studios and New Regency.

The film, from writer-director Zach Cregger and noted horror producer Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge, and It), will become available on all major digital platforms. Barbarian was released theatrically Sept. 9 and earned a domestic gross of more than $36.5 million.

The film is about a young woman who, upon arriving in Detroit for a job interview, books a rental home. But when she arrives late at night, she discovers that the house is double booked and a strange man is already staying there. Against her better judgement, she decides to spend the evening, but soon discovers that there’s a lot more to fear than just an unexpected house guest. 

Barbarian stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long. 

Bonus features on the digital home release include the featurette “Behind Barbarian,” in which writer-director Cregger and the cast and crew discuss the horror elements that make Barbarian so scary, and four deleted scenes.
 

Eternals

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/15/22;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi Action;
Box Office $164.87 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for fantasy violence and action, some language and brief sexuality.
Stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård.

For 25 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gradually adapted disparate concepts from various comic books that wouldn’t seem to mesh in a live-action setting and somehow made it seem to it together cohesively.

But the 26th film, Eternals, pushes the boundaries of the franchise’s formula so far that it almost seems too bizarre even for the MCU. Following the massive “Infinity Saga,” Eternals is something of a restart for the MCU, telling a story that challenges what audiences already knew about it.

Based on characters from Jack Kirby, who had a knack for outlandish cosmic adventures, Eternals tells the story of 10 alien heroes sent to Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from predators called Deviants. They were sent on this mission by Arishem, a god-like being called a Celestial who tells them that allowing life to flourish on Earth is the key to the creation of a new Celestial who will in turn go on to create new stars and planets.

These concepts aren’t presented metaphorically. The Celestials are shown as literally creating new stars and solar systems and constructing the cosmos as if it were a Lego playset.

Having aided in the development of human civilizations since the dawn of written history, the Eternals survive into modern times awaiting news that they can return home, despite seemingly defeating the Deviants hundreds of years prior and having gone their separate ways to integrate into humanity. However, when the return of the Deviants seems to portend apocalyptic news for Earth, the Eternals must reunite to stop them once again.

The Eternals themselves each have unique powers reflective of archetypal superhero abilities: flight, super speed, super strength, energy blasts, etc.

Director Chloé Zhao, coming off an Oscar win for Nomadland, has crafted a beautiful-looking comic book movie that honors Kirby’s legacy. The story, on the other hand, is often ponderous on the verge of being dull, as if the MCU suddenly decided to get so pretentious about its own success that it’s trying to win a dare about its ability to put anything on screen.

A big problem is that in trying to be its own thing and setting up a bold new direction for the MCU, Eternals raises a lot more questions than it answers about how it fits in with the previously established storylines. Why the Eternals didn’t intervene in the battle against Thanos, for example, gives rise to a tepid explanation at best. A bigger issue fans might have is, when the Earth is seemingly endangered, why the Eternals alone must deal with it without a single one of the remaining Avengers turning up to investigate what is going on.

And it’s not as if audiences don’t know those other heroes are still hanging around out there, since the MCU has already presented other movies and TV shows about what some of the established characters have been doing following Avengers: Endgame. These projects, owing to dealing with the more familiar aspects of the MCU, have been better received by fans, with the massive success of the 27th MCU film, Spider-Man: No Way Home being the epitome of that. One can only imagine Eternals being better received over time as its revelations about the history of the MCU begin to bear fruit.

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The Blu-ray and digital editions include a smattering of extras, starting with four deleted scenes that total about six minutes but don’t really add much to the story.

The making of the film is covered in the eleven-minute “Immortalized” featurette, supplemented by a commentary with director Chloé Zhao and visual effects supervisors Stephan Ceretti and Mårtin Larsson that provides an insightful look at the technical craft employed in making the film.

Less useful is the five-minute “Walks of Life” featurette in which the filmmakers and cast pat themselves on the back over the diversity of the cast, gushing over having a superhero team that reflects the demographics of the modern world despite the characters being aliens who are thousands of years old.

Rounding out the package is a two-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

‘Assassination Nation’ Coming to Digital and Disc Dec. 18 From Universal

The horror-thriller Assassination Nation will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere), Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Dec. 18 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The action-satire stars Odessa Young (The Daughter), Hari Nef (“Transparent”), Suki Waterhouse (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and singer Abra as four best friends living in a suburban town where chaos simmers under a façade of lies. High school senior Lily (Young) and her friends live in a world controlled by social media, filled with selfies, emojis, snaps and sexts. When their small town of Salem experiences a massive data hack outing citizens’ private information, the community descends into anarchy. When Lily becomes the target after being falsely blamed for the hack, her squad bands together to save themselves and survive a blood-soaked night.

The supporting cast includes Bella Thorne (Midnight Sun), Bill Skarsgard (IT), Joel McHale (“Community”) and Maude Apatow (“Girls”).

Bonus features on Blu-ray, DVD include deleted and extended scenes and a gag reel.