Latest ‘Secret Garden’ Remake Due Digitally Sept. 22, on Disc Oct. 6

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release STX Films’ The Secret Garden through digital retailers Sept. 22, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Oct. 6.

The film offers a new take on the 1911 fantasy novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Set in England in 1947, the film follows a young orphan girl (Dixie Egerickx) who, after being sent to live with her uncle (Colin Firth), discovers a magical garden on the grounds of his estate. The cast also includes Julie Walters, Isis Davis and Amir Wilson.

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This is the fourth filmed adaptation of the book, following versions in 1919, 1949 and 1993. It was also the subject of BBC television miniseries in 1952, 1960 and 1975, plus a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie in 1987, and an animated special in 1994.

The new film has been available through premium VOD since Aug. 7.

Extras include the featurettes “Characters,” “Concept to Reality” and “Page to Screen,” plus the film’s trailer.

1917

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $ 159.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, some disturbing images, and language.
Stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Director Sam Mendes’ 1917 puts viewers in the midst of World War I with a personal story about two messengers sent to the front lines to prevent a slaughter. Or, at the very least, delay it.

Mendes co-wrote the film, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, based on stories his grandfather told him about serving in the trenches. The plot is simple enough. With the German army having moved its lines to set up an ambush, two British messengers are sent with intelligence from aerial surveillance to call off an attack by another division before 1,600 men are needlessly killed in a battle they have no chance of winning.

The journey proves a harrowing one, filled with booby traps, dogfights, snipers, and stray enemy soldiers lurking about. Of course, the underlying threat is always the nature of war itself, and the prospect of those potentially saved being killed anyway the next time they’re ordered into an attack.

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The main gimmick of the film is that it is presented in one continuous shot for the two hour-duration, following the soldiers as they receive their orders and throughout the ordeals they encounter. Technically it’s more like two shots, given there’s a very clear break in the story to allow for a time jump, though the camera seemingly holds its position for the duration while it waits for the action to resume.

The key to the film is its technical mastery, from the camerawork to the visual effects, in re-creating a French countryside devastated by the effects of one of the bloodiest wars ever waged. The set design and lighting are impeccable, making this one of the most beautiful war films to hit screens in a long time.

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Pulling off the single take involves some visual trickery in stitching together sections of footage blended by wipes and pans, and trying to identify the transition points on subsequent viewings is part of the joy of it.

Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins points out the seams in a very technical-minded solo commentary in which he discusses in great detail the processes used for filming. This is a must-listen to anyone interested in the process of filmmaking.

The other commentary is by Mendes, which also delves into some of the technical details but focuses more on the origins of the story and the performances of his actors. Interestingly, Mendes advocates anachronisms that reflect the time in which the film is made, admitting to purposefully depicting racial minorities serving alongside white soldiers in a segregated army because he wanted to reflect the diversity of modern times.

The only other extras on the Blu-ray are five making-of featurettes that run a total of 38 minutes, and can be played individually or using the disc’s “Play All” option. These cover pretty much all aspects of the production, from Mendes’ conception of the story to creating the WWI period, with extensive interviews from the cast and filmmakers, including a video about Thomas Newman’s amazing musical score.

Sub Drama ‘The Command’ Coming to Digital and Disc Aug. 6 From Lionsgate

The Command arrives on Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD and digital Aug. 6 from Lionsgate.

The film is currently available on demand.

Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Léa Seydoux, and Academy Award winner Colin Firth (2010, Best Actor, The King’s Speech), The Command is based on Robert Moore’s book A Time to Die. It follows the true story of the 2000 nuclear submarine disaster in which the K-141 Kursk sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. As 23 sailors fought for survival aboard the disabled sub, their families desperately battled bureaucratic obstacles and impossible odds to find answers and save them.

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Special features include the “Human Costs: Making The Command” featurette.

Mary Poppins Returns

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/19/19;
Disney;
Musical;
Box Office $171.69 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘
PG’ for some mild thematic elements and brief action.
Stars Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, David Warner, Jim Norton, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke.

There’s a lyric at the beginning of the original 1964 Mary Poppins in which Dick Van Dyke sings “what’s to happen all happened before.” It’s a line that hints at the mysterious nature of the magical nanny but seems a bit curious in the context at the beginning of a story in which we as an audience have yet to witness any of Mary Poppins’ adventures.

Rather, that prophetically tinged turn of phrase would seem to have more meaning when applied to this new installment, which bears fruit for the notion that Mary Poppins’ adventures are somehow cyclical.

The sequel that has been 54 years in the making has been carefully crafted for each story beat to resonate with an equivalent scene from the first film. Indeed, such echoes of the original are even reflected in the musical score, which always seems to play a few nostalgic notes when appropriate.

In the new story based on author P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, the nanny returns some two decades later when the now grown Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) find themselves in a bit of a financial crisis. Michael’s life is in disarray a year after the tragic death of his wife, and the financial toll exacted by her loss have put their famous house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in danger of being seized by the bank. As Michael seems ready to given in to cynicism and despair, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) reappears to ostensibly take care of Michael’s three children while infusing a new sense of joy and imagination into everyone’s day.

Mary Poppins Returns is an effective follow-up to the original classic, capturing its spirit of whimsy with a slate of catchy tunes, even if its story could use some fine-tuning at points. While every sequence more or less serves a central premise of approaching life with a variety of perspectives, some moments seem less relevant to the primary narrative than others. Colin Firth’s bank executive, for example, seems to want the house just for the sake of typical movie villain greed, where the plot could have given him a more personal stake in the Banks family story by, say, establishing he had a grudge against their father, George, who was a senior partner at the bank.

Likewise, the film’s most eccentric musical number, “Turning Turtle,” seems to exist only to provide an outlet for interesting ideas from the books the filmmakers wanted to use couldn’t infuse elsewhere in the story, resulting in a superfluous guest appearance by Meryl Streep. ‘

Much more effective is a practically perfect appearance by the iconic Angela Lansbury as the magical balloon lady, whose perfectly “Nowhere to Go but Up” number is the most memorable of film while most effectively reminding young and old alike to never lose sight of their childlike sense of wonder.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray are mostly focused on the creation of the various musical numbers, from the 23-minute “The Practically Perfect Making of Mary Poppins Returns” to the 18-minute “Seeing Things From a Different Point of View: The Musical Numbers of Mary Poppins Returns.” And the five-and-a-half-minute “Back to Cherry Tree Lane: Dick Van Dyke Returns” delves into the now 93-year-old actor’s cameo in the new film.

The disc also includes a deleted song sequence that was replaced by another piece early enough so that the version presented here is a scratch track set to animated storyboards. The total sequence, called “The Anthropomorphic Zoo,” runs about five minutes.

There are also two true deleted scenes that run about a minute each that are extensions of musical sequences that are in the final film, as well as a two-minute blooper reel.

The disc also offers the movie in a sing-along mode that shows the lyrics during the various song sequences (as opposed to closed captioning showing all the dialogue).

The digital edition, which can be accessed using the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the Blu-ray combo pack, offers an informative commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

Movies Anywhere also has two more vignettes, each running more than a minute. “Different Worlds: Creating Mary Poppins Returns is a shorter clip from the longer making-of featurette about the making of an animated sequence. And “What Is Your Favorite Disney Musical?” is a promotional video in which the title question is asked to various cast members.

Finally, the digital version on Vudu offers a three-minute featurette about the cameo of actress Karen Dotrice, who played young Jane in the original film.

‘The Happy Prince’ Explores Playwright Oscar Wilde’s Tragic Exit

Many may recall Rupert Everett from his turn as Julia Roberts’ comically supportive gay friend in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding, but they may have a hard time recognizing him in his latest project, The Happy Prince, due on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Feb. 12 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

For the film — which traces the final years of disgraced gay playwright, author and wit Oscar Wilde — Everett transformed his appearance.

“It was quite a simple series of tricks I used to make myself look different,” he says. “I had a wonderful suit made underneath my clothes, and I had these braces made for my teeth that widened my jaw and cheeks, and that was really it. I had wonderful wigs.”

The transformation was part of his process for becoming Wilde.

“There are two kind of major schools in acting, in a nutshell, from the outside in and from the inside out,” he says. “And the old kind of Lawrence Olivier English school, from the outside in, finds a look of the character and then works in from there, whereas the American Stanislavski one is to find the character and work out from there, and I suppose for me getting the look of Wilde, the walk of Wilde, the kind of elephantine gate, was my way in.”

In tackling Wilde’s later years, after his infamous prison term for sodomy and “gross indecency,” The Happy Prince treads new ground, exploring his life in exile in Europe.

Other portrayals “always stop short of the prison and the kind of crucifixion inflicted by society on Wilde for being homosexual, so I felt that period — apart from being virgin territory — for me is the most exciting part, this portrait of the last great vagabond in the 19th century, this incredible jailbird brought down, one of the most brilliant minds of the times reduced to living in relative penury on the streets.”

Not only did Everett play the lead, but he also directed and wrote the screenplay for The Happy Prince.

“My acting career kind of collapsed by 2005, 2006, and so I thought I would have to take it into my own hands and decided to write myself a really juicy, great big role as an actor,” Everett says.

Taking on the directing role was out of “desperation really,” he says.

“I hadn’t really dreamt of directing it at first, but all the directors I approached either had tons of other things to do or just didn’t respond to the material,” he says.

The story of Wilde also spoke to him as a gay man. (Everett also starred onstage in Wilde play The Importance of Being Earnest and in the Wilde biopic The Judas Kiss.)

“Oscar Wilde seemed to be the correct, perfect character,” he says. “For me, he’s a kind of Christ figure. He’s the patron saint of the gay liberation movement and the now LGBTQ movement, and his life in Paris in 1900 really is a kind of portrait of the first openly gay man in modern history.”

The tragedy of Wilde’s end is also a story of unrequited, and ultimately misplaced, romantic love. The playwright famously went to jail as a result of an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, running afoul of his lover’s father in court. Wilde accused the father of libel for calling him a “sodomite,” but instead ended up being convicted himself.

“He brought everything on himself,” Everett says. “He brought himself down completely, but that doesn’t stop him from being a hero. It just means he’s not a conventional modern hero. Yes, of course he was undone by vanity, snobbery, all the human frailties that we all suffer from and most of us get away with all our lives. He didn’t.”

In The Happy Prince, Wilde comes to the realization that he sacrificed his reputation and wealth for a insubstantial and inconstant lover.

“I think the thing about the lover who betrayed him is he realized one of the hugest mistakes he made after prison was, when there was a chance for him to possibly rehabilitate himself, he chose instead … to go back to Alfred Douglas, ‘Bosie,’ and once that happened, really the whole world sets up against him and he could never get back in, and it was an enormous mistake, and once he realized, finally, he had a moment of truth I think,” Everett says. “He realized that this person that he had given everything to was simply not who he thought he was. He wasn’t the great love of his life. The great love of his life in my story is offered to him by Robbie Ross, and I think he realized that by the end of his life, too.”

Ross (Edwin Thomas) is the literary executive who stuck by him through his troubles. Colin Firth plays Wilde’s friend Reggie Turner, and Emily Watson plays the haunting figure of Wilde’s wife Constance. Everett was able to collect such a strong supporting cast through the many connections he has made over the years, he says.

“I have a lot of friends, and I forced all of them to be in the movie,” Everett quips. “One of the good things about the movie is how brilliant the smaller roles are in the film. They are all wonderful, wonderful. They are much too overqualified actors, but who very kindly did me the favor of being in the film.”

Everett says Wilde’s story still resonates with the LGBTQ movement today.

“In three quarters of the planet, it’s still a life and death challenge, day-by-day, to be in this community, so in that sense I think the story is very relevant,” Everett says. “He sacrificed himself and martyred himself for this cause to be born and to have a face and to have an identity.”

Sony Pictures Releasing ‘The Happy Prince’ on Home Video Feb. 12

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release The Happy Prince on Blu-ray, DVD and digital on Feb. 12.

Written, directed by and starring Rupert Everett, the film chronicles the  final days of writer Oscar Wilde. The cast also includes Colin Firth, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson.

Extras include a Screen Actors Guild Q&A with Rupert Everett, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with Colin Firth, and deleted scenes. 

‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ Dancing to Digital Oct. 9, Disc Oct. 23 From Universal

The Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Sing-Along Edition will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Oct. 9 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Oct. 23 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film earned more than $118 million in theaters.

Ten years after Mamma Mia! The Movie, the prequel/sequel set to the music of ABBA features returning stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski alongside new additions Lily James, Cher and Andy Garcia. The film follows two stories: present day as Sophie Sheridan (Seyfried) prepares for the grand reopening of her mother Donna’s (Streep) hotel and 1979 when young Donna (James) first arrives on the island. Sophie learns about her mother’s adventures with the young Dynamos, Tanya (Jessica Keenan-Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies), and how young Donna first met her three possible dads Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine).

Bonus features, some exclusive to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital, include deleted/extended songs and scenes with commentary by director/screenplay writer Ol Parker; enhanced sing-alongs; cast meets cast, in which those playing young and older versions of certain cast members discuss their parts; cast chats between those playing the three young Dynamos and the young dads; a featurette on the choreography; featurettes on the development of the story, the character of Sophie, on Cher’s joining the cast, the costumes and more; and feature commentaries with Parker and producer Judy Craymer.

The film will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD disc will include the same bonus features as the Blu-ray version, all in 4K.