Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/1/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $358.95 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references and thematic elements.
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Maria Bakalova, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion, Sylvester Stallone.

The release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 represents the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With writer-director James Gunn jumping ship to lead rival DC’s production slate, the MCU loses one of its strongest creative voices, and the results are becoming evident.

As the MCU flounders trying to regain the narrative momentum it had prior to Avengers: Endgame, Gunn’s concluding chapter to his “Guardians” trilogy caps off what is probably Marvel’s last reliable sub-franchise in terms of consistent quality. (Losing a key player off the bench should make Disney all-the-more desperate to secure a deal with Sony for more Tom Holland “Spider-Man” movies, but time will tell).

Picking up after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Gunn’s latest tale of the ragtag group of offbeat interstellar adventurers delves into the backstory of the wisecracking talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Rocket turns out to be the result of the cruel experiments of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a megalomaniacal geneticist cursed with delusions of godhood who dreams of creating perfect societies. As Rocket was his only creation to ever develop the gift of technological inventiveness, the Evolutionary wants to study him to learn how to use that spark of insight to create the perfect life form.

However, when Rocket is critically injured by the efforts of the Evolutionary’s minions to capture him, the Guardians’ only hope to save him is to steal the Evolutionary’s proprietary technology, setting up a cataclysmic final battle that could destroy the entire team.

The premise provides not only for some emotional character dynamics, but allows Gunn to indulge his penchants for inventive but unconventional visual designs. The film is equal parts bright and colorful and gooey and grotesque, providing for a splendid 4K experience. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for laughs despite the heavy subject matter.

The “Guardians” movies are also known for their iconic needle-drop soundtracks of classic 1970s rock, and while the third film isn’t as memorable in that regard, it still offers a great array of tunes, this time expanding the selection into the 2000s.

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Gunn in the bonus materials delves into how each film in the trilogy relates to the theme of family. With Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord’s mother and father weighing heavily on the events of the first two films as the Guardians come together to form their own ersatz family unit, the third film deals with each coming to terms with their own sense of self — particularly Rocket, whose story is told in flashbacks as he lies dying on a medical bed.

The highlight of the extras is the full-length commentary with Gunn, who provides a lot of insight into the story and characters, and how much it meant for him to be able to close out a franchise that has defined his life for a decade.

Fans will also be interested in checking out the deleted scenes. There are eight included on the Blu-ray, each running about a minute. They include a number of interesting character interactions, including what might be Kraglin’s funniest line (as delivered by James’ brother Sean Gunn) in the series. Also included is the cameo appearance by Pete Davidson that was ultimately cut for stalling the momentum of the final act (the commentary details how Davidson ended up being given a CGI alien head after his dialogue was cut).

There’s also a fun five-minute gag reel, and two behind-the-scenes featurettes that contextualize the making of the film within the trilogy as a whole. The nine-and-a-half-minute “Creating Rocket Raccoon” looks at the process of bringing the character to life, while the 11-minute “The Imperfect, Perfect Family” focuses on the legacy of all the characters.

All told, the behind-the-scenes footage is a bit sparse considering what was being released online during the film’s theatrical run. And it would have been nice if the studio found a way to include the Holiday Special as part of the package, given how much it sets up this film. But maybe it will find its way onto disc eventually as part of a “Guardians” boxed set, since keeping it relegated to a Disney+ exclusive just accentuates the hole that exists in fans’ physical media collections.

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.

Imax Screening ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Movie Triple Feature May 3

Ahead of the May 5 North American theatrical debut of Disney/Marvel Studios’ superhero actioner Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Imax is set to screen the movie, along with the original 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) as part of a triple-header presentation on May 3.

As part of the “filmed for Imax” program, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was shot with Imax-certified digital cameras, featuring expanded aspect ratio that claims to provide 26% more picture on an Imax screen.

Again directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finds the band of misfits settling into life on Knowhere. But it isn’t long before their lives are upended by the echoes of Rocket’s (voice by Bradley Cooper) turbulent past. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), still reeling from the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), must rally his team around him on a dangerous mission to save Rocket’s life

Other cast members include Dave Bautista (Knock at the Cabin), Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff, with Vin Diesel (F9: The Fast Saga) as Groot, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter and Oscar-nominated Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm).

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The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Maria Bakalova, Michael Rooker, The Old 97’s.

Checking in on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s adventures within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is usually a fun time, and their new Disney+ holiday special is no exception.

Written and directed by the Guardians guru himself, James Gunn, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special avoids the cheesy pitfalls of most Christmastime larks, while still managing to inject a dose of sweet sentimentality thanks to Gunn’s offbeat sense of humor and a story that stays true to the characters.

It also serves as a bit of a preview for next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as it was made as a side project during production of the film. It quickly gets the audience up to speed on what the Guardians have been up to since their last appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, as well as introduces Maria Bakalova as the voice of Cosmo the Spacedog, heretofore a background character but sure to be an audience favorite.

Just because the Guardians are the stars doesn’t mean the special isn’t packed with Christmas cheer. The focus is primarily on Mantis and Drax (Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista), who decide that their leader, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) needs some cheering up, as he is overwhelmed with work since the Guardians took over administration of Knowhere, the space colony inside a giant alien head as seen in the first “GOTG” film. Their plan is to travel to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon, one of Quill’s childhood idols, whom they believe is a true hero and not just a movie actor. Drax and Mantis are a good pairing within the group, and their misadventures on Earth as they search for Kevin Bacon (who plays himself) are hysterical.

Gunn has delivered one of the MCU’s better forays into television, complete with a hilarious new Christmas song (imagine the holiday as interpreted by weird aliens), and a soundtrack infused with solid holiday tunes.

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Peacock to Stream ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ Starting Sept. 2

Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World Dominion will begin streaming exclusively on Peacock Sept. 2.

The return of the franchise directed by Colin Trevorrow reunites two generations of “Jurassic” heroes, including Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, B.D. Wong and Omar Sy. The blockbuster dinosaur epic is the sixth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise and third in the “Jurassic World” trilogy.

The service will stream an all-new extended edition, featuring 14 extra minutes of the film and an alternate opening. In addition to the extended version, the exclusive special edition includes behind-the-scenes content chronicling the making of the movie, the original short film “Battle at Big Rock” and more. 

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The extended edition of the film — which has earned $373.3 domestically and $974.7 million worldwide at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo — was released on digital and disc Aug. 16. The film first became available for rental and purchase on digital platforms July 15.

Peacock will also stream Jurassic Park, The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 starting Sept. 1.

Extended Edition of ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ Heads to Digital, Disc on Aug. 16

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on Aug. 9 announced it is preparing a new extended edition of Jurassic World Dominion for release on Aug. 16.

The extended edition, featuring 14 additional minutes of the film and an alternate opening, will be available digitally as well as on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Disc.

The blockbuster dinosaur epic, the sixth in the “Jurassic Park” franchise and third in the “Jurassic World” trilogy, earned nearly $372 million in North American movie theaters, with a worldwide gross of over $960 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

The film first became available for rent and purchase on digital platforms on July 15.

The movie, which co-stars franchise regulars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, along with original Jurassic Park cast members Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, was directed by Colin Trevorrow and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, the director of the first two “Jurassic Park” films. Jurassic World Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nublar’s destruction, when dinosaurs roam the Earth again. 

Prime Video’s ‘Terminal List’ Top New Show, Netflix’s ‘Virgin River’ Top Returning Show Anticipated in July

Prime Video’s “The Terminal List” was the top anticipated new show, Netflix’s “Virgin River” was the most-anticipated returning show, and Disney’s latest Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder was the top anticipated movie on the Whip Media charts for July.

“The Terminal List,” which starts streaming July 1, is an action thriller series starring Chris Pratt as a Navy SEAL who, after his platoon is ambushed, has conflicting memories of the incident.

“Virgin River,” season four of which debuts on Netflix July 20, is based on the novel series of the same name. It follows Melinda “Mel” Monroe, who goes to work as a midwife and nurse practitioner in the Northern California town of Virgin River.

Thor: Love and Thunder is the latest installment in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe focused on the superhero Thor, and his fourth solo movie. Directed by Taika Waititi, the film takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) recruits friends to defeat a villain intent on eliminating all gods.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 million global users, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Most Anticipated New Shows for July:

  1. “The Terminal List” (Prime Video) — July 1
  2. “Resident Evil” (Netflix) — July 14
  3. “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” (HBO Max) — July 28
  4. “Black Bird” (Apple TV+) — July 8
  5. “Moonhaven” (AMC+) — July 7

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for July:

  1. “Virgin River” (Netflix) — July 20
  2. “American Horror Stories” (Hulu) — July 21
  3. “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX) — July 12
  4. “Solar Opposites” (Hulu) — July 13
  5. “Overlord” (ATX) — July 5

 

Most Anticipated Movies for July:

  1. Thor: Love and Thunder — July 8
  2. Nope — July 22
  3. Minions: The Rise of Gru — July 1
  4. The Gray Man — July 15
  5. DC League of Super-Pets — July 29
  6. Where the Crawdads Sing — July 15
  7. Persuasion — July 15
  8. Mr. Malcolm’s List — July 1
  9. Not Okay — July 29
  10. The Sea Beast — July 8

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

 BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/7/19;
Warner;
Animated;
Box Office $105.73 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some rude humor.
Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman.

Picking up directly where 2014’s The Lego Movie left off, the sequel finds the Lego characters under siege by the Duplo invaders for five years, eventually forming a post-apocalyptic settlement a la “Mad Max.”

When Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and a handful of other characters are whisked away in the latest invasion to a far-off planet in the “Systar System,” it’s up to Emmet (Chris Pratt) to try to rescue them, with the help of an adventurer named Rex he meets along the way.

Lego Movie 2 follows the same conceit as the first film that the adventures of the Lego characters are the manifestations of the imaginations of the children playing with them, with more puns about how real-world situations can threaten their existence (this time they fear ending up in the “Bin of Storage”). The film once again hints at the toys being alive, and idea it can only take so far before it starts to delve into “Toy Story” territory.

The war with the invaders stems from a sibling rivalry, as the little sister of the kid from the first film wants to play with her brother, only to be rebuffed. So, there’s a nice little message about sibling cooperation at the heart of the story for good measure.

The animation is as stylish and colorful as the first film, the story works in a few more catchy songs (many by YouTube star Jon Lajoie, who played Taco on “The League”), and the franchise continues to make smart and funny observations about its nature as essentially a Lego toy commercial. But after following up the first movie with “Batman” and “Ninjago” Lego spinoffs, the concept is a bit played out.

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The Blu-ray features the movie in an “Everything Is Awesome” sing-along mode that showcases facts about the movie, on-screen lyrics, trivia games and more.

There’s also a full-length commentary from director Mike Mitchell, writers/producers Phil Lord and Chritopher Miller, and animation director Trisha Gum.

Additional behind-the-scenes material includes the 9-minute “They Came in Pieces: Assembling The Lego Movie 2,” featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

The Blu-ray also offers 12 minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes, including some interesting footage showing parts of the story from the point of view of the kids playing it out.

Just as a reminder that these are toys you can buy at your local store, there’s a two-minute “Lego Sets in Action” video of animations of the new products featured in the movie, and a three-and-a-half-minute featurette that interviews Lego toy designers about the toys created for use in the movie.

The disc also includes four additional minutes of promotional material, including the actors talking about their characters’ minifigs.

On the musical side, there’s a music video for the “Super Cool” song by Beck, featuring Robyn and comedy team The Lonely Island.

Finally, there’s a three-minute Christmas-themed short film called “Emmet’s Holiday Party.”

‘The Kid’ Shoots to Disc and Digital June 4 From Lionsgate

The Western The Kid rides to Blu-ray (plus digital), DVD, digital and on demand June 4 from Lionsgate.

The new take on the infamous American Old West story of Billy the Kid and Sheriff Pat Garrett stars Ethan Hawke (Training DayBoyhoodThe Magnificent Seven), Dane DeHaan (LincolnThe Place Beyond the PinesLawless), Jake Schur, Leila George and Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, “The Avengers” franchise, Jurassic WorldThe Magnificent Seven). Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s “Daredevil,” The Magnificent SevenJurassic World) The Kid reunites D’Onofrio and Hawke for the first time since their performance in The Magnificent Seven.

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In the Western, a young boy, Rio (Schur), is forced to go on the run across the American Southwest in a desperate attempt to save his sister (George) from his villainous uncle (Pratt). Along the way, he encounters Sheriff Pat Garrett (Hawke), on the hunt for the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid (DeHaan). Rio finds himself increasingly entwined in the lives of these two legendary figures as the cat-and-mouse game of Billy the Kid’s final year of life plays out.

Bonus features include a making-of featurette.

DEW Speakers: Authenticity, Accessibility Key to Marketing Content

Authenticity and accessibility were two of the top themes for speakers on the “View From the Top: The Future of Content Marketing” panel at the Digital Entertainment World conference in Marina del Rey, Calif., Feb. 5.

“We’re in a very admirable position in that our content, movies, movie trailers, people view it as a form of entertainment,” said Sandro Corsaro, SVP and chief creative officer, Fandango. “Not many people here would watch three or four car commercials for entertainment, but people love trailers.”

He noted how entertainment has a natural viral nature.

“Our influencers, if you will, if you look at Chris Pratt on Instagram yesterday or the day before, he posted about The Lego Movie 2, he posted about the Rotten Tomato score (Rotten Tomatoes is a sister company to Fandango) and that pushed to Fandango,” he said. “We don’t pay him to do that. We don’t tell him to do that. He has a vested interest obviously in the success of the content, so we’re fortunate in that sense.”

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Fandango also uses branded marketing.

“We had a program over the summer called Fanticipation with Microsoft Surface where we had a bunch of influencers get together and talk about movies using the Surface Pro to kind of diagram and design and talk about superhero movies,” he said.

Both instances involve authenticity and accessibility that make the campaigns more relevant for digital audiences.

“The expression of authenticity and the expression of accessibility through content marketing — those are the core tenets that we think of all the time when we talk about movies,” Corsaro said.

Kym Nelson, SVP of Twitch, noted that the gameplay live streaming service is one that tends to “resonate with Gen Z and the millennial audience, and [advertisers] recognize that that is their current and future consumer.”

Twitch has gathered those streamers into a force that brands can utilize.

“We’ve created a tool that automates the ability for all of our streamers to participate in a bounty if you will and we’re able to collect data on the backend and for any data we can match the information from the brand and the information from the streamers,” she said.

For instance, with Dollar Shave Club, Twitch utilized appropriate streamers to review and talk about the product. “We had them play with it and we knew it was a roll of the dice,” Nelson said.

Suffice it to say, there were unexpected streamed responses.

“They are laugh out loud funny,” offered Russell Arons, SVP and GM of Machinima.

Fandango, too, has been able to leverage comedy.

“Kevin Hart has been obviously on this meteoric rise,” noted Corsaro. “I think he’s what 135 pounds so we made him a belt that said, ‘Pound for Pound, Biggest Movie Star in the World.’ We gave him that belt in front of the Rock and we kind of watched it matriculate on the Internet.”

Authenticity, often proffered by comedy, is not the only thing marketing in the digital age requires; accessibility is also important.

“Experiential is the thing right now,” said Arons, referencing events such as Comic-con and the interaction with fans there.

“This desire to find their communities in person that they’ve been interacting with online is incredibly powerful,” she said.

Twitch’s Nelson added that “integrating [experiential] with a live stream platform so that that experiential experience can be broadcast to a wider audience so people in Mississippi, who may not be at Comic-con or South by Southwest, have that live experience [is also important].”

Tim Sovay, COO of CreatorIQ, noted the Feb. 1 event featuring DJ Marshmello and the Fortnite game platform.

“There was no brand involved in this, but it was just the power of the platform with the right artist and the right audience,” he said. “10 million confirmed viewers on a 10-minute concert took place live on the platform.”