Greenland

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/9/21;
Universal/STX;
Thriller;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of disaster action, some violence, bloody images and brief strong language.
Stars Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, Hope Davis, David Denman, Andrew Bachelor.

The excellent Greenland plays like a cross between Deep Impact and 2012, but manages to be better than both by stripping away the traditional trappings of the disaster film genre. Where most films about a potentially world-ending event would focus on the people trying to prevent it, or how it impacts a wide variety of stock characters, Greenland stands apart by personalizing the doomsday scenario to its effect on a single family and their efforts to survive it.

Gerard Butler (who in 2017 starred in the lousy Geostorm as one of the people trying to stop the global disaster) plays John Garrity, a building engineer who is estranged from his wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), with whom he has a 7-year-old son, Nate (Roger Dale Floyd).

The news is buzzing with reports of a comet field passing close near Earth, and when a smaller fragment is projected to hit the middle of the Atlantic, several families, including the Garritys, hold parties to watch it.

However, the fragment misses the mark and ends up wiping out Central Florida instead. In the confusion, the Garritys receive a message from the government to head to a military base for transport to a shelter, leading to one of several heartbreaking scenes as they leave the other families of the neighborhood behind.

Soon the news turns much more grim. The comet field is larger than anticipated and will slam into Earth over the next few days, culminating with the impact of a giant comet bigger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

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Those familiar with the general framework of these kinds of disaster films can guess what happens next, as similar depictions of the breakdown of society in the face of extinction have been the subject of many a project, but as noted earlier, the ones that seem most similar to the story of Greenland are 1998’s mostly well-regarded Deep Impact, about society preparing for a comet impact, and 2009’s awful 2012, an action spectacle about various people trying to reach shelters to survive a global disaster.

Director Ric Roman Waugh for the most part eschews the big-budget visual effects sequences these kinds of movies have become known for, instead focusing on the humanity of the situation, reminding us what it means to be a family when times get tough.

John, Allison and Nate make it to an airbase, but their plans to board a plane hit a snag because Nate is diabetic, and the military doesn’t want to take sick people. When the base is overrun by a mob, John is separated from Allison and Nate, and separately they begin to make their way to a fallback meeting place — a ranch in Kentucky owned by her father (Scott Glenn).

Through their journeys we get street-level experiences of the societal impacts of the global disaster, from gun-toting gangs taking over stores, to desperate strangers trying to steal John’s travel credentials or kidnap Nate to further their own survival plans. By keeping the focus on a single family, the audience feels every moment of heartbreak and triumph.

Ultimately, John, who learns he was selected because his profession was deemed desirable to rebuilding the world, gets word of private planes smuggling people to the shelters, which the U.S. military has built in Greenland, and becomes determined to get his family there.

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The film is beautifully shot, from simple shots of the comets haunting the night sky, to the devastating effects their impacts have on the landscape. It’s a bit surprising the film isn’t being made available on a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in its U.S. retail debut.

The Blu-ray includes a smattering of extras, including a simple, one-minute featurette called “Humanity” in which the filmmakers and cast discuss the movie.

A bit more substantial are a couple of deleted scenes and the film’s original ending, which run a total of about five minutes. Each includes an optional introduction with Waugh discussing why they didn’t make the final cut. The original ending is a bit more hopeful, which didn’t sit too well with test audiences, leading to the final version that takes a bit of a cue from 2012, but not in a bad way.

The best extra is the commentary with Waugh and producer Basil Iwanyk, in which they discuss the whole process of making the movie and conveying the motifs they wanted to explore with it.

 

Brightburn

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $17.3 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $38.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for horror violence/bloody images, and language.
Stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Gregory Alan Williams, Annie Humphrey.

The common description of Brightburn paints the film as something of a dark superhero tale, a speculation about what would have happened had Superman turned out to be evil.

Such a summary is a bit of an oversimplification, both in terms of what the movie is trying to achieve and in the implication of what Superman is.

For the most part, though, the film is an effective thriller with a killer hook — what if Superman was the slasher in his own horror film?

The superpowered alien central to Brightburn is not Superman, of course, but a close enough stand-in given the circumstances involved. A childless couple wishes for a baby only to have one fall out of the sky in a spaceship. They adopt the child and raise him as their own, only for him to discover that he possesses wondrous powers.

After living a relatively normal childhood, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) quickly develops the powers of super strength, flight, superspeed and heat vision. Unlike Superman, he can also emit EM pulses to interfere with electronics.

Brandon’s alien nature has begun to assert itself, and his instincts tell him he was sent to Earth to take it over.

So he slowly embarks on his campaign of terror, first tormenting a young classmate he has a crush on. As the locals begin to shun him for his oddness, he grows more willing to kill in order to conceal his true nature. Even his adoptive father (David Denman) begins to distrust him, though his mother (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to give up on him.

The key difference with Superman, of course, is that Clark Kent was never driven by a preordained alien instinct for dominance. He was simply raised as a child with superpowers, and developed the moral lessons imparted upon him by his adoptive parents into his desire to pursue truth, justice and the American way.

But that’s neither here nor there as far as Brightburn is concerned. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and written by his brother and cousin, the film relishes its chance to demonstrate how terrifying the prospect of a superpowered child can be once he realizes he is subject to no mortal constraints. Brightburn is creepy, disturbing appropriately gory in the best traditions of practical horror effects (with a modern assist from CGI).

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The idea at the heart of Brandon’s sudden turn toward bloodlust gives rise to the five-minute “Nature vs. Nurture” featurette included with the Blu-ray, which explores the film’s family dynamic and suggests the film is something of a parable for parenting a difficult child.

The sentiment is echoed by director David Yarovesky in a short “social vignette” and the film’s commentary track, in which he recalls his own troubled upbringing and calls the film a tribute of sorts to his mother for putting up with him.

Yarovesky shares the commentary with his wife, Autumn, who serves as the costume designer, and cinematographer Michael Dallatorre. Their lighthearted and often crude discussion comes across like a group of friends making fun of each other and reminiscing on their shared experiences in relating the story of the making of the film. There are some pretty good insights offered for fans interested in knowing more about the film, as well as a fair share of poop jokes.

The five-minute “Hero-Horror!” featurette takes a look at how the film puts a dark twist on the telling of the usual superhero origin story. It’s mostly a standard-issue behind-the-scenes video of the cast and filmmakers discussing the movie, but it doesn’t go much deeper into really analyzing the influences on the film from among the greater pantheon of superhero mythology.

Rounding out the Blu-ray are the aforementioned social vignettes. Labled “Quick Burns Social Vignettes,” they consist of three videos running a total of two–and-a-half minutes. One video features Elizabeth Banks plugging the movie’s virtues, another offers James Gunn singing the praises of director Yarovesky, and the third is the interview with Yarovesky in which he discusses how his background influenced his vision for the film.