Tenet

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
Box Office $57.9 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.
Stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Martin Donovan, Clémence Poésy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh.

Christopher Nolan’s films often employ time-shifting narrative techniques that challenge the viewer to pay attention in order to be rewarded with a compelling entertainment experience.

With Tenet, is it possible that Nolan has crafted such a bizarre premise that even his smartest fans will have trouble wrapping their heads around it?

If there were a movie or TV show in which the characters were watching a “Christopher Nolan-style” movie, and then the makers of that program had to create a fake film to both represent and satirize a Nolan movie, something like Tenet is probably what they would come up with.

The story involves a CIA agent (John David Washington) who finds himself caught up with a super-secret organization on a mission to stop World War III from being started by enemies from the future who are able to invert the entropy of objects so that the travel backwards in time. The main enemy in the present is a Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh) who wants to assemble a device that will wipe out time itself, causing a paradox.

A common trait to Nolan’s films is how much they seem to be meta-commentaries on the art of filmmaking, and Tenet is no exception. In addition to the editing techniques that alter the flow of time much like the way a viewer can jump around a movie using a home video player, Washington’s character is referred to only as “The Protagonist,” a word that literally the word that means the main character of a story.

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At its simplest level, the film could be described as a time travel spy thriller, but that does little to convey just what a viewer is in for. Characters fight other characters who move backwards through the scene, then discover inversion machines that allow them to revisit earlier scenes, forcing characters in two different time frames to interact with each other, culminating in one of the most cinematically engaging, if utterly nonsensical, battles one is likely to witness.

Unlike Nolan’s earlier movies, such as Memento, Inception or Interstellar, where the time-shifting techniques have a certain logic to them, the exposition in Tenet would seem to defy all sense of rationality, yet they still work within the confines of the story as long as one doesn’t think about it too hard.

When a scientist character in the film trying to explain inverted time tells the hero, “Don’t try to understand it … just feel it,” she’s basically giving instructions to the audience, too.

And that’s pretty much the only way a viewer can make sense of what’s going on — by not trying to. Just enjoy the film in the moment, accept the notion that the characters have a handle on it, and take it in as an expression of pure cinema.

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There have been some grumblings about the sound mix favoring background noise and music to the point of making the dialogue hard to hear, and requiring subtitles, but I was able to make out what the characters were saying just fine. Perhaps it’s just a factor of getting used to it after multiple viewings.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive, multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary that runs about an hour and 15 minutes and covers the production from Nolan’s conception of it, to casting it, to crafting the action scenes, to post-production, editing and music. Viewers who’ve just watched the film and are still trying to make sense of it can take some satisfaction in seeing the stunt coordinator breaking his brain trying to conceive of how to depict a fight between two characters moving in opposite directions through time, and know they aren’t alone.

‘Tenet’ Arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD; Other New Home Releases Include ‘War With Grandpa,’ ‘Echo Boomers,’ ‘Infidel’

Warner Bros.’ Tenet, the closest thing to a theatrical blockbuster  since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, becomes available on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 15.

Despite the raging virus, the film was released theatrically over the Labor Day weekend and wound up generating around $50 million in domestic ticket sales, a far cry from what had been expected for the high-profile  espionage thriller from The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan.

Also newly available for home viewing is the Universal Pictures comedy The War With Grandpa, starring Robert De Niro, which becomes available Dec. 15 through digital retailers such as FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Google Play and Microsoft a week ahead of its Dec. 22 disc debut.

Tenet stars John David Washington as a secret agent, known as “the Protagonist,” who manipulates the flow of time to stop a third World War. The film’s international ensemble cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

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The War With Grandpa stars De Niro as a grandfather who tangles with his grandson over rights to the young boy’s room after he moves in with his family. The film also was released theatrically amid widespread closures and restrictions and pulled in around $18 million in the United States and Canada.

The week’s slate of new home releases also includes Warner’s The Wolf of Snow Hollow, on DVD and Blu-ray Disc (with digital code); Paramount’s Echo Boomers (DVD + digital); and Universal Pictures’ Infidel (DVD and Blu-ray Disc).

Written and directed by, and starring, Jim Cummings, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a reimagining of the werewolf legend about a small-town sheriff who, while struggling with family problems and a lackluster department, is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring on the full moon. The cast also includes Riki Lindhome, Jimmy Tatro, Marshall Allman, Chloe East, Annie Hamilton and the late Robert Forster in one of his final roles. The Blu-ray and DVD include the featurette “The Story and the Genre.” The Blu-ray also has the featurettes “The Impetus,” “Working With Jim Cummings” and “The Design of the Werewolf.”

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Echo Boomers is a crime thriller about a recent college graduate (Patrick Schwarzenegger) who leaves school in debt and is pulled into a criminal underground operation with a group of modern-day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and give to themselves.

Infidel is a thriller about an American journalist (Doug Rawlins) who is kidnapped while attending a religious conference in the Middle East and held hostage by the Iranian regime, which accuses him of espionage. His wife (Claudia Karvan) takes matters into her own hands and tries to find her husband and bring him back home.

Director Christopher Nolan Blasts WarnerMedia’s Movie Streaming Release Strategy

Acclaimed movie director Christopher Nolan is not happy about WarnerMedia’s decision to release all 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical releases concurrently on subscription streaming video platform HBO Max. And he’s not afraid to say so publicly.

In interviews with entertainment media, Nolan called WarnerMedia’s decision “a real bait and switch,” contending major theatrical releases are being used a loss-leader lures for HBO Max.

“There’s a lot of controversy,” the 50-year-old director told “Entertainment Tonight.” “It’s very, very, very, very messy.”

Nolan, whose latest release, Tenet, was one of the few major theatrical releases during the pandemic, has a long history with Warner Bros. His “Dark Knight” trilogy with Christian Bale in the title role is widely viewed as the best movies ever in the Batman franchise. Other Warner releases include award-winning Dunkirk, Inception and Insomnia.

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Warner is bowing the new HBO Max release strategy on Christmas Day with Wonder Woman 1984. It will apply to such films as the Dune remake, The Matrix 4 and The Suicide Squad, among others, which will be available for 30 days on the streaming service as they play in theaters.

The hybrid model was created as a strategic response to the impact of the ongoing global pandemic, particularly in the United States. Following the one-month HBO Max access period domestically, each film will leave the platform and continue theatrically in the U.S. and international territories, with all customary distribution windows applying to the title.

“No one wants films back on the screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of the WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group (of which Warner Bros. is part). “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021.”

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Nolan doesn’t care. His belief in big-screen releases, Imax, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD Blu-ray packaged media underscore an appreciation of tradition and high-resolution art. WarnerMedia says all films will be available in 4K Ultra HD and HDR on HBO Max.

The director’s clout helped push the Tenet theatrical release over Labor Day in the midst of a pandemic. The movie has made $57.6 million in the U.S., and $360 million worldwide.

Nolan said directors and actors are having their work devalued by streaming.

“Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before [WarnerMedia’s Dec. 3 announcement] thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter. “Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing.”

‘Tenet’ to Debut on Digital and Disc — Including 4K — Dec. 15

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will arrive on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and digital Dec. 15 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Written, directed and produced by Nolan (Inception, Dunkirk), Tenet opened globally in August 2020 and has grossed $350 million to date, with anticipated theatrical openings in the major markets of New York and Los Angeles still to come. Tenet will be available to preorder from digital and physical retailers beginning Nov. 10.

In the film, armed with only one word — Tenet — and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist (John David Washington) journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time — not time travel, inversion.

Tenet features an international ensemble cast led by Washington (BlacKkKlansman, TV’s “Ballers”). The film also stars Robert Pattinson (the “Twilight” films, The Lighthouse, upcoming The Batman), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Great Gatsby), Dimple Kapadia (Angrezi Medium), Martin Donovan (Ant-Man, Fahrenheit 451), Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky), Yuri Kolokolnikov (The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Himesh Patel (Yesterday), Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), with Michael Caine (Inception, The Cider House Rules, The Dark Knight) and Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Murder on the Orient Express).

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Extras include“Looking at the World in a New Way: The Making of Tenet,” an hour-long exploration of the development and production of the film as told by the cast and crew.

Warner’s ‘Tenet’ Tops $20 Million at Domestic Labor Day Weekend Box Office

Warner Bros.’ major box office release Tenet generated $20.2 million at the weekend U.S. box office through Sept. 5 — the majority ($11.1 million) on high-definition Imax screens, according to industry data. The Christopher Nolan espionage thriller, which is seen by many as a harbinger to theatrical normalcy, has tracked almost $150 million worldwide.

“There is literally no context in which to compare the results of a film opening during a pandemic with any other circumstance,” Warner said in a Sept. 6 statement. “We are in unprecedented territory, so any comparisons to the pre-COVID world would be inequitable and baseless.”

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With many theatrical chains operating for the first time following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, key regions such as California and New York still have many screens shuttered, which led observers to project a $20 million opening box office — one of the worst for a Nolan movie.

Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said that despite AMC Theatres re-opening 70% of its domestic screens, COVID-19 worries among exhibitors would limit seating capacity, undermining the fiscal impact of Tenet.

“Pent up consumer demand with 50% [social distancing seating] capacity and 60% of moviegoers afraid of dying [of COVID-19]. I think [Tenet] will be a [U.S. box office] embarrassment,” Pachter said ahead of the weekend box office.

Warner Bros. ‘Tenet’ to Get Early Theatrical Release in Select Cities

Warner Bros. Aug. 18 announced it would release Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet on Aug. 31 in select cities with re-opened theaters. The much-anticipated movie, along with Disney’s Mulan, is seen as a catalyst to jumpstart the exhibition business following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Warner Bros. is proud to support our partners in exhibition as they reopen their doors. And there could be no better film to welcome audiences back to a true big-screen experience than Tenet,” Jeff Goldstein, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Domestic Distribution, said in a statement.

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With Disney moving Mulan to premium VOD in September, Tenet is now the go-to theatrical release for exhibitors hoping to instill a sense of normalcy to the the cineplex. Warner is launching the movie in Canada on Aug. 27.

But early screenings of Tenet will have little impact on the film’s box office without the contribution of California, New York and New Jersey markets. All three states remain up in the air regarding theatrical re-openings. And a New Jersey judge just ruled against major chains AMC Theatres and others re-opening screens in the Garden State.

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“It’s the level of risk,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an Aug. 17 media conference. “If you look at our metrics, we started with the most essential business that posed the least risk. And then it was the gradation to the least essential businesses that posed the most risk. I am sure there is a whole group of people who say, ‘I cannot live without going to the movies.’

“But on a relative risk scale,” Cuomo continued, “a movie theater is less essential and poses a high risk. It is congregant. It is one ventilation system. You are seated there for a long period of time. Even if you are at 50% capacity with one or two seats between the two of you, this is a risk situation and movie theaters are not that high on the list of essentials.”

James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

Warner Pulls ‘Tenet’ From Theatrical Release Schedule

In another of unending blows to the theatrical business model, Warner Bros. has pulled director Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller, Tenet, from its oft-changed release slate. The studio has not announced a new release date. The movie, which had originally been scheduled for July 17, was pushed back to July 31, then Aug. 12 as coronavirus infections began to surge in parts of the country.

The movie, along with Disney’s live-action Mulan a week later, were supposed to jumpstart the exhibition business following its mid-March worldwide shutdown. But with infections up across the country, and tepid consumer response in China to theater re-openings, Warner is not treating Tenet like other box office titles.

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“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman, said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world.”

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Emmerich said the pandemic continues to cause us to “re-evaluate our release dates.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom July 13 announced that all movie theaters in the state should remain closed. Warner said it is vacating release dates for its next two box office titles. The Conjuring 3, Warner’s most-successful horror franchise has been pushed back to June 4, 2021.

“We are not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that,” Emmerich said.

‘James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction’ Coming to Disc July 28 From RLJE

The sci-fi documentary series “James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction” will come out on DVD and Blu-ray July 28 from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films.

The series originally aired on AMC Networks in 2018 as part of the AMC Visionaries series.

The show, an intimate look at science fiction’s roots, its futuristic vision and our fascination with its ideas, is hosted by Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic). It features interviews with ‘A’-list storytellers, stars and others whose careers have defined the field of science fiction movies and television. Interviewees include Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), George Lucas (“Star Wars” franchise), Ridley Scott (The Martian, Blade Runner), Christopher Nolan (Tenet, Interstellar), Will Smith (Men in Black, I Am Legend), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Terminator) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense).

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Bonus features include extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Scott, Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro and Schwarzenegger.

Warner Bros. Re-Releasing ‘Inception’ in Theaters July 17

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending science-fiction film Inception, Warner Bros. will re-release the movie in theaters July 17. It’s the same date Warner originally planned to debut Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet. That release — like most studio movies — has been delayed due to the ongoing shutdown of most movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Written and directed by Nolan, who also produced the film with Emma Thomas, Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals information by infiltrating the subconscious of his targets. He is offered a chance to have his criminal history erased as payment for the implantation of another person’s idea into a target’s subconscious. The ensemble cast includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.

The movie’s original release generated more than $832 million at the global box office.

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The special Inception theatrical event will also offer moviegoers unseen footage from Tenet, which will now debut worldwide on July 31. Consumers will also be given an exclusive preview of select films on Warner Bros.’ upcoming slate.