Apple Announces Titles on Upcoming Film Slate Headed to Theaters, Apple TV+

Apple has unveiled a glimpse at its slate of Apple Original Films set to premiere globally in theaters and on Apple TV+ over the next year.

The 2022 slate features filmmakers and stars including Alfonso Cuaron, Antoine Fuqua, Dakota Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, Octavia Spencer, Bill Murray, Russell Crowe and many more.

Cha Cha Real Smooth, winner of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, will premiere globally on Apple TV+ June 17. In the film, writer-director Cooper Raiff also stars as a recent college graduate stuck back at home with his family and working as a party-starter for bar and bat mitzvahs who strikes up a unique friendship with a young mom (Dakota Johnson) and her teenage daughter.

Additional Apple Original Films set to debut this summer include a documentary executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Reginald Hudlin about the career and life of the late Sidney Poitier; and Luck, a new animated feature from Skydance Animation about the unluckiest girl in the world, starring Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Flula Borg, Lil Rel Howery, Colin O’Donoghue, John Ratzenberger and Adelynn Spoon, premiering Aug. 5.

This fall comes the premiere of the feature documentary Black & Blues: The Colorful Ballad of Louis Armstrong, a look at the master musician’s life and legacy as a founding father of jazz, produced under Apple’s first-look agreement with Imagine Documentaries; Raymond & Ray, which follows half-brothers Raymond and Ray (Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke) who have lived in the shadow of a terrible father; and Peter Farrelly’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever, a new dramedy starring Zac Efron and Russell Crowe based on the true story of John “Chickie” Donohue, who in 1968 left New York to track down and share a few beers with his childhood buddies now in the Army — fighting in Vietnam. The documentary feature The Sound of 007 will also make its global debut this fall, to mark the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film series.

For the holidays comes Spirited, a modern musical rendition of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story “A Christmas Carol” starring Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer.

Available before the end of 2022 is Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith’s new film Emancipation, which tells the story of a man who escapes from slavery.

Also coming soon is the premiere of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow and more, the film follows the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror.

Matthew Vaughn’s next spy thriller, Argylle, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Henry Cavill, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, Dua Lipa and Ariana DeBose with John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson, will also soon be added to Apple’s lineup, as will Sharper, a New York City-set suspense-thriller from writers Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka starring Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, Briana Middleton and John Lithgow, and Tetris, starring Taron Egerton, which follows the extraordinary journey of one of the most iconic computer games in the world.

Also due are Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the French military leader and emperor alongside Vanessa Kirby as Josephine; a pair of complementary documentaries entitled Number One on the Call Sheet, celebrating Black leading women and men in Hollywood; Ghosted, a high concept romantic action adventure film starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas; Skydance Animation’s Spellbound, which follows a young girl who sets out to break the spell that has divided her kingdom in two; and The Beanie Bubble, inspired by the story behind one of the biggest speculative crazes in American culture in the 1990s and starring Elizabeth Banks, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Snook and Geraldine Viswanathan.

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Apple Original Films is also currently in development on Adam McKay’s Bad Blood, about the rise and fall of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, with Jennifer Lawrence producing and starring as Holmes; the genre-bending film Bride, produced by and starring Scarlett Johansson; Snow Blind with Jake Gyllenhaal attached to star; a new Sue Mengers biopic starring  Jennifer Lawrence; Dolly, a new feature film written by Vanessa Taylor and Drew Pearce with Florence Pugh attached to star; an adaption of Judy Heumann’s bestselling memoir Being Heumann from Siân Heder; an Audrey Hepburn biopic; and a thriller with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, written and directed by Jon Watts, about two lone fixers who are assigned to the same job.

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Apple has landed overall deals for feature films from studios and production companies including Martin Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, Adam McKay’s Hyperobject Industries, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, Richard Plepler’s Eden Productions, Siân Heder, Tracy Oliver, A24, Imagine Entertainment, Skydance Animation and Skydance Media.

Dakota Johnson to Star in Jane Austen Adaptation ‘Persuasion’ for Netflix

Dakota Johnson will star in the Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion for Netflix.

The film, produced in partnership with MRC Film, takes a modern, witty approach to the story while still remaining true to Austen’s classic novel, according to a Netflix release.

The story follows Anne Elliot, a nonconforming woman with modern sensibilities who is living with her snobby family on the brink of bankruptcy. When Frederick Wentworth — the dashing suitor she once sent away — crashes back into her life, Anne must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances.

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Acclaimed theater director Carrie Cracknell, who directed Jake Gyllenhall and Tom Sturridge to Tony nominations last year in Sea Wall/A Life on Broadway, will make her feature directing debut.

Dakota Johnson recently starred in the drama Our Friend.

MRC Film recently announced The Mothership starring Halle Berry, also with Netflix; and most recently released the Oscar-nominated film Knives Out from writer/director Rian Johnson, and The Lovebirds starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae with Netflix.

Gravitas Ventures Drama ‘Our Friend’ Due on Digital March 23, DVD March 30 From Universal

The Gravitas Ventures drama Our Friend will come out on digital March 23 and on DVD March 30 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film tells the true story of the Teague family — journalist Matt (Casey Affleck), his wife Nicole (Dakota Johnson) and their two young daughters — and how their lives are upended by Nicole’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. As Matt’s responsibilities as a caretaker and parent become increasingly overwhelming, the couple’s best friend Dane Faucheux (Jason Segel) offers to come and help out. As Dane puts his life on hold to stay with his friends, the impact of this life-altering decision proves greater and more profound than anyone could have imagined.

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The release includes a behind-the-scenes bonus feature in which filmmakers and cast, including Segel, Johnson and Affleck, discuss why they were drawn to this true story and how they worked together to honestly portray the real people at its center.

‘The High Note’ Soaring to Disc Aug. 11 From Universal

The comedy The High Note will come out via on demand July 21 and on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 11 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film is available now for digital purchase.

Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner Tracee Ellis Ross (“Blackish”) stars as Grace Davis, a music icon who elevates her career to the next level with the help of Maggie, her ambitious assistant (Dakota Johnson; Fifty Shades of Grey franchise). Directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night) and written by Flora Greeson, a former personal assistant in the music industry, The High Note also stars Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Luce), Bill Pullman (“The Sinner”), Zoë Chao (Where’d You Go, Bernadette), and June Diane Raphael (The Disaster Artist) with Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen) and Ice Cube (Ride Along).

Set in the dazzling world of the L.A. music scene is the story of Grace Davis (Ross), a superstar whose talent, and ego, have reached unbelievable heights. Maggie (Johnson) is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands, but still aspires to her childhood dream of becoming a music producer. When Grace’s manager (Ice Cube) presents her with a choice that could alter the course of her career, Grace must choose between playing it safe or listening to her heart in a decision that could change her life forever.

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The soundtrack, produced by Grammy Award winner Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins (Michael Jackson, Beyoncé), features new recordings by cast members Ross and Kelvin Harrison Jr., as well as classics from Donny Hathaway, Maxine Brown, and Aretha Franklin.

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Bonus features include deleted scenes; “The Dream Team: Inside the Creation of The High Note,” a behind-the-scenes look at how the film came to life including screenwriter Flora Greeson’s story and experience as a real Hollywood assistant, how filmmakers created the look of the film, the musical team behind the original tracks, and some of the iconic Los Angeles locations; “Making A Legend: The Grace Davis Story,” featuring behind-the-scenes footage of Ross as she becomes Grace in the recording studio, on stage and at home; and the “Like I Do” original song music video.

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Peanut Butter Falcon’ Home in November

Lionsgate will release the inspirational comedic adventure The Peanut Butter Falcon through digital retailers Nov. 5, and on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 12.

The film follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from a residential nursing home to fulfill his dream of attending the pro wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). On the road, Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a small-time outlaw who becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together, they set out on a wild, life-changing journey and try to convince Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a kind nursing-home employee charged with bringing Zak back, to join them.

The cast also includes John Hawkes and Bruce Dern.

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The Peanut Butter Falcon has earned $16.8 million at the domestic box office.

Blu-ray and DVD bonus materials include a photo gallery and the featurette “Zack’s Story: The Making of Peanut Butter Falcon.”

Bad Times at the El Royale

While Drew Goddard’s latest directorial effort isn’t as memorable as his horror deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods, the neo-noir thriller Bad Times at the El Royale still offers a solid showcase for its talented cast, a soundtrack fueled by a dynamite selection of period-appropriate songs, and a quirky setting that serves the story well.

 

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 1/1/19;
Fox;
Thriller;
Box Office $17.84 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Shea Whigham.

Writer-director Drew Goddard scratches an itch to play in the noir sandbox with Bad Times at the El Royale, a breezy mystery that coasts on some nice directorial touches and the strength of its cast.

Not as engrossing or genre-bending as Goddard’s previous directorial effort, The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is more of a Tarantino-esque thriller that brings a group of strangers into a remote location and then reveals they aren’t quite who they claim to be.

Bad Times at the El Royale

The caper takes place at the El Royale hotel of the title, a former hotspot straddling the California-Nevada border that lost its popularity after losing its gambling license. The setting is apparently based on the real-life Cal-Neva Lodge, a Lake Tahoe hotspot that has seen its own troubled history. It also brings to mind the hotel managed by Tony Curtis in 40 Pounds of Trouble that was situated close enough to the stateline so he could see the Cali detectives waiting to nab him for missing alimony payments.

In the first scene we bear witness to Nick Offerman tearing up the floorboards in one of the rooms to stash a bag of what is presumably money, then restoring everything to its original condition before he gets shot by a shadowy associate.

Several years later, in 1969, a disparate group of travelers arrive, including a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), a priest (Jeff Bridges), a runaway (Dakota Johnson) and a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo).

Thanks to flashbacks, a non-linear story structure, and a hidden corridor that looks into all the rooms unbeknownst to the guests via a two-way mirror, we soon learn their true identities, and what brought them to the El Royale (including who is after that floorboard cash).

Things heat up a bit with the arrival of a cult leader (Chris Hemsworth) looking for some missing “property” of his own.

In a good 29-minute behind-the-scenes featurette included as the only extra on the Blu-ray, Goddard discusses several reasons why he wanted to make this film. One was to assemble a talented cast and give him an excuse to pitch something to Jeff Bridges.

Another was the chance to explore the music of the genre and experiment with ways to tie the songs into the story. Goddard even refers to the film as a love letter to music and an appreciation for the ways it changed his life.

The featurette also provides some great insights into the production design and look of the film, such as how the filmmakers built the entire hotel on a soundstage in order to accomplish the shots they needed to get. There’s also some fascinating tidbits about the film’s use of (and in some cases, omission of) color — a subtle touch that helps establish the mood for a story that at times can get extremely dark.

We also get to see some of Bridges’ on-set photography, a tradition of his dating back to the production of 1984’s Starman.

Bad Times at the El Royale

‘Suspiria’ Remake Due on Digital Jan. 15, Disc Jan. 29 From Lionsgate

Luca Gudagnino’s re-imagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror cult classic Suspiria arrives on digital Jan. 15 and Blu-ray (plus digital) Jan. 29 from Lionsgate.

Starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth and Chloë Grace Moretz, Guadagnino’s directorial follow-up to his Oscar-winning Call Me by Your Name (Best Adapted Screenplay, 2017) follows young American dancer Susie Bannion, who arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Company and stuns the troupe’s famed choreographer, Madame Blanc. When she vaults to the role of lead dancer, Olga, the previous lead, breaks down and accuses the company’s female directors of being witches.

Special features on Blu-ray and digital include the featurettes “The Making of Suspiria,” “The Secret Language of Dance,” and “The Transformations of Suspiria.”

‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Due on Digital Dec. 18, Disc Jan. 1 From Fox

The thriller Bad Times at the El Royale will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Dec. 18 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 1 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film earned $17.7 million in theaters.

In the film, seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption before everything goes to hell. Stars include Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth.

Bonus features on Blu-ray and DVD include “Making Bad Times at the El Royale” and a photo gallery.

Universal Pictures Q2 Home Entertainment Revenue Falls

Box office and retail success of movies is often difficult to replicate year-over-year.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment July 26 reported second-quarter (ended June 30) revenue of $225 million, down more than 38% from revenue of $334 million during the previous-year period.

Through the first-half of the fiscal year, home entertainment revenue reached $473 million, down less than 24% from $620 million last year.

The studio attributed the decline to the success of several releases in the prior-year period, including Fifty Shades Darker, Sing, Split and Get Out, partially offset by Fifty Shades Freed in this year’s quarter

Indeed, Freed, the third installment in the Fifty Shades franchise co-starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, has generated $15 million in sales of more than 784,000 combined DVD/Blu-ray Disc units – 11thbest-selling title thus far in 2018, according to The-Numbers.com.

By comparison, however, sequel Darker, Sing, Split and Get Out combined for more than $111.3 million in disc revenue in 2017.

Theatrical revenue decreased 35.5%, also primarily due to the strength of releases in last year’s second quarter, including Fate of the Furious, and timing of this quarter’s releases, including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom– released just eight days before the end of Q2.

Total studio revenue decreased 20% to $1.7 billion from $2.1 billion, reflecting lower theatrical, home entertainment and content licensing revenue. Pre-tax earnings decreased 52% to $138 million, reflecting lower revenue, partially offset by lower programming and production costs.

Through the first six months of the year, studio revenue is down more than 18% to $3.3 billion from $4.1 billion last year. Pre-tax earnings are down more than 48% to $341 million from $658 million last year.

 

Unrated ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Coming to Digital April 24, Disc May 8

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release Fifty Shades Freed through digital retailers April 24, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray May 8.

The conclusion to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as newlyweds Christian and Ana exploring new levels of their relationship after their sexually charged past. The film earned nearly $100 million at the domestic box office.

The home video version includes both the ‘R’-rated theatrical version and an unrated version.

Extras include a deleted scenes, “The Final Climax” behind-the-scenes featurettes, and the featurette “Christian & Ana By Jamie & Dakota,” in which the actors look back at their characters.

Digital and Blu-ray-exclusive bonus materials include music videos and a conversation between actor Eric Johnson and “Fifty Shades” novelist EL James.