Lionsgate’s ‘The Last Full Measure’ A True-Blue American Hero’s Tale

It’s the tale of a true-blue American hero, one who didn’t have superpowers, but was exceptional nonetheless.

Sebastian Stan (left) and William Hurt

The Last Full Measure, its title echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln about the ultimate sacrifice, is based on the true story of the three-decade effort to have William H. Pitsenbarger recognized for an act of selflessness in the Vietnam War that cost him his life on April 11, 1966.

The film is available now on Digital, and arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD and On Demand April 21 from Lionsgate.

The story follows Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan), who investigates a Congressional Medal of Honor request made by Pitsenbarger’s mission partner and parents to posthumously recognize the U.S. Air Force medic (played in flashback by Jeremy Irvine) who saved more than 60 men before making the ultimate sacrifice in the bloody Vietnam battle Operation Abilene. Huffman interviews Army vets to learn more about Pitsenbarger’s courageous acts — and uncovers a high-level conspiracy behind the medal’s denial.

Christopher Plummer (left) and Diane Ladd play parents looking to honor their son.

“We never know in life when we show a random act of kindness or a random act of sacrifice what the effect might be 20, 30 years down the line,” says writer-director Todd Robinson in the extras.

“There’s a lot of remarkable courage out there, but Bill’s story is one at the top,” adds historian William Chivalette.

In addition to Stan, the star-studded ensemble cast includes Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Peter Fonda (in his last big screen performance), Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson. Plummer and Ladd portray Pitsenbarger’s long-suffering parents, who wait patiently for their son to be properly recognized. Jackson, Hurt, Fonda and Harris play former servicemen who witnessed Pitsenbarger’s heroism and are still haunted by their war experiences.

Peter Fonda plays a haunted vet in his last big-screen performance.

“This is the struggle that all of our veterans face every day, is finding purpose and reason, and that’s really what the movie is all about,” says writer-director Todd Robinson in the extras. “I wanted to tell a story that transcends the Vietnam War — and frankly transcends war. They had a search for purpose that took 32 years, and in that purpose, came their healing.”

A featurette among the extras explores the film’s original score by composer Philip Klein, who felt the music had to match the heroism of its subject.

“The story deserved an orchestral score. It deserved something big and powerful,” he says in the featurette. “There was this enormous amount of responsibility that we all felt to make this worthy of this man.”

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Other extras include interviews with the servicemen who actually witnessed Pitsenbarger’s actions in 1966, awed by his selflessness. Even three decades later, his choice to stay and help the wounded mystifies.

“There’s not a one of us that wouldn’t have left there if we could, and the only guy that could leave was Pitsenbarger, and he didn’t,” comments serviceman Ron Haley in the extras.

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Also included in the extras is footage of a screening for veterans of Operation Abilene and Pitsenbarger’s family at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“Our wish for you is simply that, when you leave here tonight, this picture has cracked the door open just a little wider for communication, that if you are a veteran, you either tell your part of this story or one like it, or that the rest of us might do our part to be good, patient witnesses and listen,” Robinson tells them.

BLU-RAY/DVD/DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:

  • “The Women of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” Featurette
  • “That Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” Featurette
  • “USAF Museum Screening with Veterans & Pitsenbarger Family” Featurette
  • “The Music of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “William Pitsenbarger Tribute” Photo Gallery

Drama ‘The Last Full Measure’ Due on Digital April 7, Disc April 21 From Lionsgate

The drama The Last Full Measure will arrive on digital April 7 and Blu-ray (plus digital), DVD and on demand April 21 from Lionsgate.

The film is inspired by the courageous acts of Vietnam War hero William H. Pitsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force medic who personally saved more than 60 men before making the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam’s bloodiest battle. Three decades later, Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman investigates a Congressional Medal of Honor request made by Pitsenbarger’s mission partner and parents. Huffman interviews Army vets to learn more about Pitsenbarger’s courageous acts — and uncovers a high-level conspiracy behind the medal’s denial.

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The ensemble cast includes Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: Civil War, I, Tonya), Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer (2011, Actor in a Supporting Role, Beginners), Academy Award winner William Hurt (1985, Actor in a Leading Role, Kiss of the Spider Woman), and Academy Award nominee Peter Fonda (1997, Actor in a Leading Role, Ulee’s Gold) in his last big screen performance. The film also stars Academy Award nominee Diane Ladd (1991, Actress in a Supporting Role, Rambling Rose), Academy Award nominee Amy Madigan (1985, Actress in a Supporting Role, Twice in a Lifetime), Golden Globe nominee Bradley Whitford (2001, 2002, 2003 Best Supporting Actor – Television, “The West Wing”), with Academy Award nominee Ed Harris (2002, Actor in a Supporting Role, The Hours), and Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson (1994, Actor in a Supporting Role, Pulp Fiction).

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Extras include five featurettes and a photo gallery.

Knives Out

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/25/20;
Lionsgate;
Mystery Comedy;
Box Office $163.71 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material.
Stars Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Noah Segan, K Callan, M. Emmet Walsh, Frank Oz.

Director Rian Johnson’s penchant for subverting expectations has manifested itself in the delightful Knives Out, a modernized take on the classic murder mystery format.

The set-up is familiar. In a quirky mansion in the countryside of New England, the maid discovers the body of her wealthy employer — crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) — dead from seemingly cutting his own throat.

As Harlan’s family comes out of the woodwork for the funeral and reading of the will, the police initially rule it a suicide. Yet the case remains open at the behest of private sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Johnson’s southern-flavored homage to the likes of Columbo and Hercule Peroit. Hired by an anonymous party to ensure all aspects of Harlan’s death are explored, Blanc quickly uncovers dissension within the family, several members of which having had loud arguments with Harlan in the day leading up to his death.

The expertly-crafted, Oscar-nominated screenplay toys with the conventions of the genre, revealing what actually happened within the first 30 minutes or so, then uses the next hour-and-a-half to clue the audience in the fuller context of the events viewers have already seen, thus providing the true focus of the mystery.

Blanc recruits Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), to aid in his investigation, though she is more aware of what happened than she lets on. A unique physical tic causes her to puke whenever she lies, providing one of the film’s central running gags but also lending a fair amount of tension to the proceedings as Marta has a fair number of secrets she’d rather not help expose either. The pairing of Craig and de Armas must have been agreeable enough for them, as she’s slated to appear in his next James Bond movie. And for Craig, tapped to reprise Blanc investigating new cases in future sequels, the role offers a nice new franchise once he wraps up his tenure as the super spy.

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This is the kind of film that not only invites multiple viewings, but practically demands them. Luckily, the Blu-ray offers a couple of nice options for the rewatch in the form of audio commentaries that dissect the story structure and reveal many of the details layered into the film’s intricate construction. Both are well worth a listen. One is a solo commentary by Johnson, originally released online while the film was still in theaters so fans could listen to it through headphones when they returned to their local cinema to partake in a fresh viewing. The second commentary, recorded for the home video release, features Johnson, cinematographer Steve Yedlin, and actor Noah Segan, who plays one of the cops investigating the murder.

Visually, Knives Out is gorgeous, shot digitally yet rendered to evoke the feeling of classic film, bringing forth textures and color that immerse the viewer in the story’s uneasy atmosphere while making one wish they too could be crawling around that quirky old mansion searching for clues.

The Blu-ray includes the outstanding “Making a Murder,” an eight-part, feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary that provides in-depth details on all aspects of the production, from writing it, to casting it, to making the costumes and sets, and recording the music. It runs a shade under two hours in total.

The “Rian Johnson: Planning the Perfect Murder” featurette supplements this a bit, with a six-minute video on how Johnson created the story to be, as he describes it, a Hitchcock thriller within a whodunit. There’s also a 42-minute Q&A from a SAG screening in November that gives the massive cast a chance to sing their own praises while recounting their joy in making the movie.

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The Blu-ray also includes two deleted scenes comprising about five total minutes, with optional commentary by Johnson. These add some interesting subtext to some of the film’s subplots, but it’s easy to understand the decision to omit them from the final cut.

Finally, the disc offers a trove of marketing materials, including trailers and viral ads starring several of the characters in the film.

All-in-all, it’s an impressive package that harkens back to the glory days of DVDs that really gave fans a lot of bang for their buck.

‘Knives Out’ Coming Home on Digital Feb. 7, Disc — Including 4K — Feb. 25

The murder mystery Knives Out, which earned writer-director Rian Johnson an Oscar nom for Best Original screenplay, is heading home.

Lionsgate will release the whodunnit on digital Feb. 7 and 4K Ultra HD combo pack, Blu-ray combo pack, DVD and on demand Feb. 25.

The film, which has earned $278 million at the global box office, also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy (Ana de Armas) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy (Daniel Craig). Written, produced, and directed by Johnson (Star Wars: The Last JediLooper), Knives Out also has received awards from AFI, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics, Philadelphia Film Festival, The Hollywood Critics Association and Rotten Tomatoes’ Golden Tomatoes Awards.

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In addition to Craig and de Armas, the film’s ensemble cast includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer. It follows the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Plummer). There’s one thing that renowned Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) knows for sure — everyone in the wildly dysfunctional Thrombey family is a suspect. Blanc must sift through a web of lies and red herrings to uncover the truth.

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Special features include an audio commentary and in-theater commentary by filmmaker Rian Johnson, two deleted scenes, the eight-part “Making a Murder” documentary, the “Rian Johnson: Planning the Perfect Murder” featurette, and a Q&A with the director and cast.

The Star

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 2/20/18;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for some thematic elements.
Voices of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Aidy Bryant, Anthony Anderson, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Phil Morris, Roger Craig Smith.

This fluffy faith-based animated adventure frames the tale of the Nativity from the point of view of a group of animals whose lives intersect with the coming of the Messiah.

The Star follows a little donkey (Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”) with big dreams who befriends the pregnant Mary (Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” playing another woman pregnant by unusual means here) before she leaves for Bethlehem, then sets off with his animal friends to protect her after learning King Herod (Christopher Plummer) has sent hunters after her in his attempt to prevent the birth of the King of the Jews. The camels (Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey) of the Three Wise Men also seek out the impending birth of Jesus to protect him.

Lest anyone worry about the film straying too far from scripture with its talking animals, one of its best running gags involves the fact that the animals can communicate freely with each other, but just sound like animals to the humans around them.

It’s a testament to the earnestness of The Star, and a sign of how it expects its audience to approach the film, that an early scene involves Mary returning home to her husband, Joseph, after being away for an extended period of time. Visibly pregnant, she explains it’s the Son of God and that it’s his duty to help her bring the child into the world, and he embraces the calling. Were this not a faith-based movie aimed at children, I suspect most men being told that story by their wife might have a different reaction.

The film’s screenplay was originally intended for a live-action production of the Jim Henson Company, which reportedly would have employed a style similar to Babe, using visual effects to make the animals appear to talk. When that didn’t pan out, the project was revived at Sony Pictures Animation by DeVon Franklin, a prominent Christian preacher and motivational speaker who has produced a number of notable faith-based films, such as Heaven Is for Real.

The end result is a cute adventure that, despite some broad Looney Tunes-type humor, remains grounded in its piety. While not a musical, the film relies heavily on a soundtrack consisting of modern renderings of some classic Christmas songs.

The songs are the subject of a good portion of the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, which include several “lyric videos,” two sing-alongs and a dance-along video.

The Blu-ray also offers some typical behind-the-scenes featurettes, such as the 13-minute “An All Star Cast” and the two-minute “Creating the World of 9 Months B.C.” There’s also a commentary with executive producer Franklin and director Tim Reckart.

But the Blu-ray also has ambitions to serve as a faith-based teaching tool, and to that end it includes the 10-minute “Faith All Year Round With DeVon Franklin,” in which the producer discusses the film’s message with a group of children. For those who prefer something more interactive, there are three arts-and-crafts videos.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a bit of background art for special occasions in the form of an animated Nativity scene that runs on a 21-hour loop.