Nobody

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/22/21;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $26.1 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use.
Stars Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon.

Bob Odenkirk makes for a likable but unlikely action star in Nobody as an unassuming family man pushed to the limit.

Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) seems like a typical suburban husband and father stuck in the daily routines of his boring job. However, the monotony masks a deep-seeded rage that lingers from a mysterious past that he thought he left behind but always suspected would catch up to him.

After he interrupts burglars robbing his house, he puts his skills to use tracking them down hoping to recover his daughter’s kitty-cat bracelet. This sets off a chain of events in which Hutch’s frustration boils to the surface, drawing him into a confrontation with a deadly Russian gangster as he seeks any excuse to unleash his repressed fury.

As a man with a dangerous past trying to live a normal life but drawn back to a world of violence, Hutch shares a lot of traits with John Wick, which shouldn’t come as much surprise given that the Nobody screenwriter was “John Wick” creator Derek Kolstad.

The two characters even face off with Russian baddies, though that may be more a matter of happenstance since the script originally called for Korean gangsters before director Ilya Naishullar signed on and, since he’s Russian, felt more comfortable depicting his own countrymen as the villains.

The end result is a gritty yet effective actioner highlighted by some brutal close-quarters fight sequences.

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The genesis of the story, according to the bonus materials, came from Odenkirk, who looked back at the traumatic experience of his home being robbed in real life and wondering how someone with explicit combat training would have handled it. The project itself came about because Odenkirk hoped to leverage his popularity from “Better Call Saul” into a modestly budgeted action movie that would center on him as the unassuming hero — an intended departure from his comedic background.

This breaking from expectations also led to the casting of Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s shotgun toting father, a retired former FBI agent who eventually gets drawn into his son’s street war, as does RZA as Hutch’s adopted brother.

These facets of the production’s history are discussed at length by Odenkirk in a commentary track shared with Naishullar, and in several of the behind-the-scenes featurettes. Naishullar also goes solo on a second commentary that goes more into his own personal reasons for making the movie.

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Among the featurettes are the four-minute “Hutch Hits Hard,” about Odenkirk’s training for the role; four “Breaking Down the Action” featurettes totaling about 19 minutes, focused on the bus fight, a home invasion sequence, a car chase and the final battle; and the 13-minute “Just a Nobody,” which covers the origins and making of the story, most of which is also discussed in the commentaries.

The Blu-ray also includes five minutes of deleted scenes.

The 4K disc includes the same extras as the regular Blu-ray.

‘Nobody’ Due on Digital June 8, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD June 22

The suspense actioner Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk, will come out on digital June 8 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD June 22 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From the writer of John Wick, it’s the story of an ordinary family man (Odenkirk, “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul”) who will stop at nothing to defend what is his. Hutch is a suburban husband who takes life’s indignities on the chin and never rocks the boat. But when his daughter loses her beloved kitty-cat bracelet in a robbery, he hits a boiling point no one knew he had, and he flips from regular dad to fearless fighter on a wild ride of explosive revenge.

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Bonus content includes deleted scenes, a look inside director Ilya Naishuller’s style and sensibility in creating the film, a breakdown of the stunt choreography, and feature commentaries with the director and Odenkirk.

‘Nobody’ Tops Domestic Weekend Box Office as ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Slays the World

It’s fitting that in a pandemic-challenged domestic weekend box office with limited seating capacity, a movie called Nobody would reign supreme.

Universal Pictures’ vigilante justice drama — starring unlikely action hero Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) — generated a reported $6.7 million across 2,460 screens the weekend of March 26-28. That would be a dud during normal times, but reason to celebrate in a market undermined by weary moviegoers waiting to get vaccinated.

Nobody, which follows the industry trends of Lionsgate’s John Wick with Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson’s Taken and The Marksman, among others, generated another $5 million in international ticket sales.

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That pales in comparison to Warner Bros. Pictures’ Godzilla vs. Kong, the big-budget CG-generated action film opening in the U.S. on March 31. The title generated more than $70 million at the Chinese box office — underscoring the franchise’s long-running appeal in the communist country. Kong: Skull Island sold $71.4 million worth of tickets in China in 2017, while Godzilla: King of the Monsters generated $66.7 million in 2019.

Worldwide, Godzilla vs. Kong has sold more than $121 million worth of tickets.

Meanwhile, a steady bill of pandemic regulars led by Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry drove the domestic box office. Raya, despite being available on Disney+, sold another $3.5 in tickets, bringing its total box office to $28.4 million, while Tom & Jerry, which is streaming on HBO Max, added another $2.5 million, $37.1 million total.

Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking took in another $1.2 million ($11.4 million), followed by The Courier with $1 million ($3.5 million), The Croods: A New Age ($540,000; $56 million) and The Marksman ($375,000; $14.8 million).

 

Little Women (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $108.10 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for thematic elements and brief smoking.
Stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper.

The latest version of Little Women, masterfully directed and adapted by Greta Gerwig, manages to find the modern sensibilities of Luisa May Alcott’s signature work while retaining all the trappings of its mid-19th century period setting.

Gerwig takes Alcott’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel that was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and expertly translates the classic tome into the language of cinema, eschewing the linear narrative of the book and previous adaptations in favor of a flashback structure that better contrasts the childhood and adult lives of its characters.

The core of the story remains centered on the lives of the March sisters — Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) — growing up in Massachusetts around the time of the Civil War.

The film is filled with wonderful performances, anchored by Ronan’s confidence as Jo, and Pugh’s radiance as the bright-eyed Amy (both were nominated for Oscars). The exquisite period set design and (Oscar winning) costumes make for a film loaded with delightful visual touches that would make it worth viewing for those reasons alone.

But shifting the narrative back and forth between the two timelines allows Gerwig to focus on how the characters’ adult lives are practically responses to specific events of their childhoods, in a way that no doubt keeps the material fresh even for those who are fans of the novel or have seen the countless other adaptations of it.

Gerwig’s other spin on the material involves layering more elements from Alcott’s real life even more so than the original novel did. Historically, Jo is most often described as the most direct analog for Alcott in the story, as she’s the one who ends up writing about her sisters. And, as such, she remains the primary character of the film. But, according to Gerwig in the Blu-ray bonus materials, all the characters have some element of Alcott in them. In the very good nine-and-a-half-minute “Greta Gerwig: Women Making Art” featurette included with the Blu-ray, Gerwig relates that examining in her lifelong love of the novel in preparing to make the film, she realized that Jo was the hero of her childhood and Alcott is the hero of her adulthood.

Indeed, one of the best elements of the film is an ending that leaves much open to interpretation while honoring what Alcott once said was her original intent for some of the characters.

Gerwig’s script, while faithful to the original dialogue, plays up the artistic interests of its characters, emphasizing the struggles of the creative process, and how artists often face the choice of sacrificing the integrity of their visions for commercial realities (such as when a publisher declares to Jo that a novel with a female protagonist better see her married off by the end. Or dead.)

In crafting a screenplay that spoke to her as a 21st century female filmmaker, she suggests that this new film version becomes somewhat autobiographical for her as well.

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Other featurettes on the Blu-ray include the 13-minute “A New Generation of Little Women,” offering interviews with the cast and several of the filmmakers about the origins of the project, plus the nine-minute “Making a Modern Classic,” about looking at the story with a modern lens. The disc also includes a three-and-a-half-minute “Little Women Behind the Scenes” promotional video, and three minutes of hair and make-up test footage.

The best extra, in addition to the reflections from Gerwig, is undoubtedly “Louisa’s Legacy: Little Women and Orchard House” (labeled as “Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott” in the menu), a 10-minute mini-documentary about Alcott’s real life and family. Hosted by Jan Turnquist, executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (the family home where she wrote Little Women), the video discusses what aspects of the book are based on reality, and the impact of the family’s real-life stories on the film.

The video also details the story of Alcott’s house, an old country home from the mid-1600s that has been rescued from destruction at least three times, most recently in 2002 when the walls were shored up and the foundation completely rebuilt to stop the house from sinking into the ground (the pictures of the house being propped up over a giant hole in the ground is rather striking). The real home ended up serving as the basis of the March house in the film.

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Interestingly, while this is the seventh movie adaptation of Little Women, not to mention numerous television and stage productions of it, not as much attention has been heaped on Alcott’s further adventures of the characters. Little Women was the first of what would end up being a March family trilogy, followed by Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

There have been three movie versions of Little Men, two of which were notably made more than 80 years ago, and a handful of television projects. But to date, there hasn’t been a Jo’s Boys movie — only an obscure 1959 BBC miniseries, as well as part of a Japanese anime television adaptation of the trilogy in the 1980s and ’90s.

Long Shot

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/30/19;
Lionsgate;
Comedy;
Box Office $30.32 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.
Stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Lisa Kudrow, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård.

The often crude but usually charming Long Shot reframes the tropes of the romantic comedy by setting them against the backdrop of the arena of American politics, blended with a touch of stoner humor for good measure.

It’s The American President by way of Pineapple Express, as secretary of state and presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) has a chance encounter with Fred, an opinionated writer (Seth Rogen) she used to babysit, and asks him to join her campaign as a speechwriter. As they grow closer, some of her refinement starts to rub off on him while he helps her loosen up a bit, both in the pharmacological and carnal sense. This leaves the rest of her staff to wonder what the potential relationship could mean for the campaign.

Though set in the political world, the love story doesn’t get bogged down with too many political specifics, which is probably for the best as the political landscape presented in the film doesn’t bear much scrutiny. Then again, the film isn’t aiming for Sorkin levels of verisimilitude here.

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Charlotte is basing her presidential campaign on a major environmental initiative, which Fred likes, but works for an administration that Fred ultimately opposes, with a president (Bob Odenkirk) who used to play a president on a TV show and decides to forgo a second term to cash in his popularity to pursue a film career.

The president will endorse Charlotte to replace him if she doesn’t make too many waves, but his media tycoon buddy (Andy Serkis, unrecognizable in heavy prosthetic makeup) wants to chip away at the effectiveness of her activism. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s chief of staff (June Diane Raphael) wants to set her up with the equally available, but socially awkward, prime minister of Canada (Alexander Skarsgård). The more willing Charlotte is to compromise herself for political expediency, the more Fred is left to wonder where the candidate ends and the woman he may be falling in love with begins.

The satirical look at the broader strokes of the American political system are cute, but let’s face it, the odds of the nation’s chief diplomat getting away with negotiating a hostage crisis while high on Molly are slim to none. So, the only way the movie works is if the audience buys the relationship between Charlotte and Fred, and luckily Rogen and Theron work well together, finding an easygoing chemistry that helps us enjoy their adventures for what they are.

The Blu-ray includes about 100 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that cover everything from the writing to the casting to the wardrobe. The most interesting is an interview with comic book artist Todd McFarlane, who contributes a key piece of art to one of the funniest gags in the film.

Long Shot

Season Four of ‘Better Call Saul’ Coming to Disc May 7 From Sony

Season four of “Better Call Saul” will land on Blu-ray and DVD May 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the critically acclaimed show’s fourth season, the death of Jimmy McGill’s brother catalyzes his transformation into the bigger-than-life legal legend Saul Goodman.  Now, Jimmy steps into the criminal world, putting his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim Wexler — in deep jeopardy.

Bob Odenkirk (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) stars as McGill, Jonathan Banks (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Mike Ehrmantraut, Rhea Seehorn (TV’s “Franklin & Bash”) as Wexler, Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism) as Howard Hamlin, Michael Mando (TV’s “Orphan Black”) as Nacho Varga, and Giancarlo Esposito (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Gus Fring.

The disc sets contain all 10 episodes and includes cast and crew audio commentaries on every episode, a gag reel, and the featurette “Slippin’ Kimmy,” which explores the complex character Kim Wexler, whose personal and professional triumphs are threatened by the temptation to cut corners. Also included are ten Madrigal Security Training Videos with Mike Ehrmantraut and the short film “No Picnic” featuring fan-favorite characters The Kettlemans. Blu-ray exclusive content includes seven deleted scenes, three storyboard scene comparisons, a directorial walk-through, and two featurettes: “Flashing Forward, Looking Back,” which highlights the show’s use of non-linear storytelling to explore the many layers of Jimmy’s transformation, and “Constructing the Superlab,” which takes an in-depth look at the process of building Gus Fring’s Superlab both on and off-screen.

Incredibles 2

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 11/6/18;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $608.14 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action sequences and some brief mild language.
Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks.

Judging from the various anecdotes related in the Blu-ray bonus materials, one of the biggest challenges to crafting the long-awaited sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles was simply figuring out how to begin the film.

In fact, a significant chunk of the 40 minutes of deleted scenes included on the bonus disc are devoted to this challenge, with scene after scene of discarded ideas that just seem to be expanding on various story points established in the first film (such as a funeral for all the heroes killed by Syndrome) without contributing much to making the story of the second film a cohesive piece on its own.

So, after a 14-year-gap between the films, director Brad Bird and the filmmakers at Pixar finally decided to just pick up where the first film left off, with the Parr family preparing to battle the Underminer’s invasion of the city.

And that really was the best way to go, as it sets up a great action sequence right away while providing a clean entry into the story of the second film, which involves the efforts of a wealthy industrialist (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) to make superheroes legal again. Not to mention it pays off the tease of the Underminer’s attack, which I always wanted to see.

The sequel then settles into a formula similar to the first film, only this time it’s Helen (Holly Hunter) who takes up the task of superheroism, leaving Bob (Craig T. Nelson) to watch the kids. A new wrinkle is how Jack Jack develops his newly discovered powers, much to the surprise of the rest of the family. One of the highlights is bare-knuckle brawl between the baby and a raccoon that wanders into the backyard (a sequence originally created for the first film and based on an experience Bird witnessed between a raccoon and his dog).

And of course there’s a new villain who hates superheroes and wants to stop them all and the family has to unite to stop the evil scheme and yada yada. It’s a worthy sequel to the original that tries to freshen up the concept a bit with a story that when combined with the first film really ends up feeling like the second half of a whole.

The animation is an advancement from the first film, maintaining the same basic style but with improved detail as a result of more sophisticated techniques in CGI. And some of the character designs have been updated a bit as well.

The centerpiece of the extras is the fun new five-minute short film Auntie Edna, which details the events hinted at in the film in which superhero costumer and supplier Edna Mode babysits Jack Jack and creates a super-suit that can handle his powers. This makes it somewhat of a parallel piece with the Jack Jack Attack short created with the first film that details another babysitter dealing with the baby’s powers while the family is off the adventure from that movie.

Incredibles 2 can also be played with an optional audio commentary with the animators, so its focus is more on the visual designs and the experience of working on the film in general.

There are also more than 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes spread across the two Blu-ray discs. (Depending on the combo pack, the DVD or 4K UHD disc represent a third disc in the package). And a number of the 10 aforementioned deleted scenes do expand on sequences that did make it into the final cut. And there are other goodies such as character theme song videos and toy commercials that are good for a moment of amusement.

The disc also comes with the poignant short film Bao, which accompanied Incredibles 2 in theaters, and a behind-the-scenes featurette about the short.

There are also two digital exclusives that can be accessed by redeeming the digital copy code at Movies Anywhere. The first involves extensive breakdowns of two key sequences in the film (the raccoon fight and some action scenes with Helen) that run 21 minutes total. More interesting is “The Coolest Guy in the Room,” a three-minute biography of Samuel L. Jackson, who discusses what drew him to comic books.

Vudu offers an additional featurette (that seems culled from footage found in other included videos) as well as the Jack Jack Attack short, which was previously available separately at the site and not part of the digital extras of the first Incredibles.

The Post

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $81.88 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language and brief war violence.
Stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, David Cross, Zach Woods.

Even before seeing the movie, the obvious question surrounding The Post is why the filmmakers would decide to focus a story about the publication of the Pentagon Papers on the efforts of The Washington Post newspaper when the bulk of the material was broken by The New York Times.

After watching it, though, it’s a lot easier to understand some of the reasons director Steven Spielberg guided the film along the approach it took.

For one, there just seems to be much more storytelling to mine from the Washington Post perspective, whereas a Times POV would likely have been a more straightforward legal drama about the relationship between the press and government.

At the time, the Post was still seen as primarily a local D.C. publication without the broad national following it has now. Financially strapped, the paper issued an IPO that could have been threatened by any legal troubles encountered as a result of publishing the leaked documents copied from a classified report that exposed government deception in the conduct of the Vietnam War.

And that’s on top of the expected discussions of the role of journalism in a democracy and defending the First Amendment against government pushback, with the Times included in all those story points anyway.

There’s also an argument to be made that the primary interest of the film isn’t even about the Pentagon Papers to begin with.

Certainly, looking at the film from the prism of the Pentagon Papers as the subject matter makes it seem like it’s the story of a minor newspaper jumping on the bandwagon of a bigger newspaper to gain stature.

But keeping a bigger picture in mind, the film is much more about how the Post rose in prominence under the leadership of publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and that the Pentagon Papers just happened to be the catalyst.

From Spielberg’s perspective, it probably didn’t hurt that this approach also allowed him to devote significant screen time to Graham in depicting the ascension of a female publisher in a man’s world.

Spielberg also seems interested in positioning the film as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men, showing how the Post became the paper that drove coverage of the Watergate break-in.

As such, The Post is more fascinating for its procedural aspects and character dynamics for any actual history it’s trying to explore. The film also sees itself as an allegorical commentary on criticism of President Trump’s relationship to the media, and his tendency to label detractors as “fake news,” but these aspects of the film are really only going to appeal to choirs expecting to be preached to. One could be completely oblivious to such perceived messaging and still find the film immensely entertaining. The performances are terrific and the nitty-gritty details of classic print journalism are just fun to see, particularly contrasted with the digital simplicity of today.

The Blu-ray includes a number of good behind-the-scenes featurettes that detail the making of the film and explore the real-life circumstances being explored. This being a Spielberg movie, there’s also a featurette about the music composed by longtime collaborator John Williams, this being their 28th film together.