Madame Web

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/30/24;
Sony Pictures;
Action;
Box Office
$43.82 million;
$34.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence/action and language.
Stars Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor, Tahar Rahim, Mike Epps, Emma Roberts, Adam Scott, Kerry Bishé, Zosia Mamet, José María Yazpik.

Campy at best, confusing at worst, but mostly tepid bordering on dull, Madame Web represents yet another misguided attempt to expand the live-action cinematic world of Spider-Man without actually involving the web-slinger. However, unlike the surprisingly popular “Venom” movies (who has his own following from the comics) and the unfortunate Morbius, Madame Web at least technically includes an appearance of Peter Parker.

The story takes place in 2003, which would make the film a prequel to the others if they are meant to connect to each other, and centers on Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson), a New York paramedic who becomes clairvoyant after a near-death experience. Her powers relate to mystical spiders in the Amazon jungle being researched by her mother (Kerry Bishé), who died giving birth to her in 1973 after being betrayed by another explorer, Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who was seeking the secrets of an ancient tribe of spider-people.

In the film’s present, the older Ezekiel, who now has spider powers, has a vision of being killed by three girls (Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, Celeste O’Connor) in spider-themed costumes. So he sets about hunting them down. In a moment of serendipity, he finds them all on the same train, which coincidentally Cassie happens to be on as well. When Cassie has a vision of his attack, she kidnaps the girls to protect them, setting her down a path of learning to understand her own powers and the secrets behind them.

Really, any attempt to describe the film doesn’t do it justice. It really has to be seen to be believed. Between Johnson’s aloof performance and a screenplay that buries itself in illogical plot threads, Madame Web is the kind of film that drinking games are made for, which should draw in any number of viewers curious to see if the film is as big of a train wreck its critical and box office response make it out to be.

Among the bonus materials included with the film’s home release are 26 minutes of rote behind-the-scenes footage spread across four featurettes: 

The seven-minute “Future Vision” offers a general making of the film; the nine-minute “Casting the Web” profiles the film’s stars; the five-and-a-half-minute “Fight Like a Spider” details the film’s stunts; and the five-minute “Oracle of the Page” delves into the influence of the Marvel Comics source material. Supplementing these is a four-minute featurette that points out numerous references to the comics.

Also included are a single brief deleted scene and a four-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

The Hunt

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Thriller;
Box Office $5.81 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for some strong bloody violence and language throughout.
Stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Glenn Howerton, Emma Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Amy Madigan, Reed Birney, Justin Hartley.

While conceived as a political allegory, The Hunt works just fine on its own as a straightforward comedic action thriller.

The film, about a group of wealthy left-wing elites who kidnap conservatives to hunt them for sport, is like a modern version of The Most Dangerous Game, meshed with The Purge and The Hunger Games for good measure.

The film uses misdirection to put the audience in the position of those being hunted, constantly guessing about what is really happening. After a brief opening in which a group of friends jokes about looking forward to “The Manor,” an assortment of people awaken in a forest, their mouths gagged. They discover crates in a clearing filled with weapons and the means to free themselves. But the games begin in earnest with a deliciously bloody body count.

One of them, Crystal (Betty Gilpin of Netflix’s “GLOW”) seems to be a step ahead. She wants to find the ringleader, Athena (Hilary Swank) and put an end to these shenanigans once and for all.

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In the primary featurette on the Blu-ray, the five-minute “Crafting The Hunt,” producer and co-writer Damon Lindeloff discusses how the film is meant to satirize how political opponents get locked into assumptions about the other side, threatening to plunge into a never-ending war rather than attempt to get along.

Rounding out the sparse extras on the Blu-ray are two more featurettes running just over two-and-a-half minutes. “Death Scene Breakdowns” is a self-explanatory video about how the filmmakers staged some of the scenes of gory violence. “Athena vs. Crystal: Hunter or Hunted?” details the making of a key fight scene involving Gilpin and Swank.

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Lionsgate Releasing ‘Little Italy’ Nov. 20

Lionsgate will release the romantic comedy Little Italy on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally Nov. 20. The film is currently available on demand.

Little Italy stars Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen as childhood friends whose budding romance is threatened by their parents’ rival pizzerias. The cast also includes Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello, Jane Seymour and Andrea Martin. The film was directed by Donald Petrie (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality).

Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette and trailers.