Street Date 5/12/20;
Box Office $84.16 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material.
Stars Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ewan McGregor.
The most significant aspect of the 2016 Suicide Squad movie was undoubtedly the popularity boost it gave to the character of Harley Quinn, as played by Margot Robbie. While she had always been a fan favorite, the film made her a pop culture sensation, as Harley Quinn cosplay dominated the comic book convention circuit more than ever before, and there was little doubt the character would be popping up in her own movie soon enough.
Those plans hit a bit of a snag, however, as the creative direction of the DC Comics shared movie universe began to unravel a bit following the disappointment of 2017’s Justice League. Subsequent projects would put more focus on the individual films while de-emphasizing the potential for interconnected stories.
And with that, Harley Quinn would end up fronting a loose adaptation of the “Birds of Prey” comic book that shined a spotlight on some of the female heroes of Gotham City. Being the girlfriend of the Joker, Harley was usually cast as an antagonist, but her popularity spurt resulted in her being positioned as more of an anti-hero.
As such, the film finds Harley (Robbie) having just broken up with the Joker, a change in relationship status that makes her an open target for every criminal in Gotham City with a bone to pick with her. In her efforts to establish herself as an underworld authority in her own right, and find a quiet moment to enjoy an egg sandwich, Harley finds herself protecting a teenage pickpocket (Ella Jay Basco) who stole a jewel encoded with the account numbers of a vast mafia fortune, attracting the attention of a mob boss nicknamed Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
Along the way, and with nary a mention of Batman, Harley tussles with a hotshot cop (Rosie Perez) who treats her job like an ’80s action movie; the Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a lounge singer with sonic powers; and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a crossbow-wielding vigilante who seeks vengeance on the crime lords who killed her family.
Described by one of the visual effects supervisors in the bonus materials as Pulp Fiction meets Clockwork Orange, the film seems trying to set itself up as something of a girl power version of Deadpool, intersplicing some decent action scenes with broad comedy in service of several story threads connected by narration from Harley that jumps back and forth through time. Also like Deadpool, the film tries to play in the ‘R’-rated playground, but the attempt seems more like an excuse for excess rather than anything intrinsically necessary for the characters, story or humor.
Unfortunately, in an effort to be quirky, the film was saddled with the mouthful of a title Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, which when shortened to the obvious Birds of Prey doesn’t speak much to Harley’s involvement in it. So, after the film’s initial disappointment at the box office (also not helped by limiting the audience with its ‘R’ rating), the studio tried to re-christen it Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey for marketing purposes (a move further made understandable by the fact that they couldn’t get the full name right in their own press release for the home video). They probably just should have called it Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey to begin with.
With the coronavirus pandemic cutting the film’s box office run short, it made an early debut through digital retailers, which offered a variety of bonus features that also made their way to the Blu-ray edition.
The primary extra is the Birds Eye View Mode, a viewing option that plays the film with a mix of filmmaker commentary, pop-up trivia and picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage.
More behind-the-scenes details are offered in six featurettes that run a total of 42 minutes, with some repetition of material between them and with the viewing mode. Most of the emphasis is on the physical look of the film, such as the production design and the costumes. There’s also a significant amount of time devoted to the style of the characters and finding the right actors to play them. One of the more unintentionally funny clips involves Winstead heaping praise upon the talents of McGregor — who reportedly left his wife for her while they were co-starring on the “Fargo” TV show just before signing on for this movie.
Finally, there’s a two-minute gag reel that, while amusing, is hard pressed to make an impact given all the silliness that ended up in the movie.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD May 12.
Margot Robbie reprises her role from Suicide Squad as Harley Quinn, the Joker’s former girlfriend who sets off on her own and finds the entire criminal underground of Gotham City is out to get her. She ends up protecting a girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from the gangster Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). The cast also includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz.
The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of Birds of Prey will feature Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10+. The 4K and Blu-ray discs will also include a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Bonus materials include a “Birds Eye View Mode” with pop-up facts and video while the movie plays, a gag reel, and the featurettes “Birds of Prey: Birds of a Feather,” “Grime and Crime,” “Wild Nerds,” “Romanesque,” “Sanity is Sooo Last Season” and “A Love/Skate Relationship.”
The film was released early through digital retailers March 24.
Warner; Horror; Box Office $31.58 million; $28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. Stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood.
It’s not exactly a secret that Stephen King didn’t much care for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of King’s 1977 novel The Shining. King’s distaste for the film was even a plot point in the 2018 film version of Ready Player One.
So it’s a bit remarkable, then, that King, serving as executive producer of the adaptation of his 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep, would allow the film to quote so much of Kubrick’s work.
Somehow, director Mike Flanagan has managed to make a film that both faithfully follows Kubrick’s version of The Shining while reconciling the differences between the source material and the film that irked King to begin with. The result is one of the better King adaptations, a terse game of supernatural cat-and-mouse that manages to be far more interesting than other recent King-to-screen efforts such as the bloated It: Chapter Two.
Like the book, the film picks up the story of young Danny Torrance, the little boy tormented by his father in The Shining, as he grows into a troubled adulthood (where he’s played by Ewan McGregor). Like his father, Dan has descended into alcoholism, turning to booze to drown out the traumas of his experiences at the Overlook hotel.
But he has also learned to deal with the ghosts that sought him due to his telepathic powers, and after reaching rock bottom manages to sober up and get a job at a hospice, where he uses his powers to help the terminally ill die peacefully, earning the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”
His telepathy also puts him into contact with others with the shining power, including a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran). She alerts Dan to a cult of shiners led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who seek immortality by murdering innocent children to claim their youth.
Dan then must take steps to protect Abra when the cult decides to come after her next.
Flanagan re-creates sequences from The Shining, albeit with different actors embodying the spirit of the original film, to effectively bridge the time gap between the two stories. The use of different actors can be a bit uncanny for those familiar with Kubrick’s film, especially if watched back to back with The Shining, since Flanagan admits he didn’t feel the need to go down the rabbit hole of digital re-creations of the original actors as long as he stayed true to the characters. He does a nice job matching Kubrick’s visual style, however, re-creating specific scenes and even using the original film’s music to good effect. Flanagan’s script also references plot elements of the second book that weren’t fully carried over into the film version.
As much as the film is a journey for Danny to reconcile traumas of his youth with the potential for using his abilities to help the world, so too it seems is it a chance for King to embrace the legacy of Kubrick’s version, which is often considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. In interviews before the theatrical release of Doctor Sleep, he spoke to elements of Flanagan’s screenplay that redeemed Kubrick’s version for him, and he echoes those sentiments in the home video bonus materials, in which he seems very much to have softened his stance toward the original film.
Indeed, the sequel does provide some deeper context for what transpired at the Overlook in the first film while giving Dan a chance to atone for his father’s demons.
The Blu-ray includes a three-hour director’s cut, which runs about a half-hour longer than the theatrical cut. There aren’t really any scenes that change the meaning of the work, but the new material does give the story a chance to breathe by developing the characters a bit more. There are also more scenes of young Danny and his mother that take place shortly after The Shining, deepening Danny’s personal story and enhancing the film’s effectiveness as a psychological thriller while making it more of a bridge between King’s and Kubrick’s interpretations of the first novel.
Really, the director’s cut is the definitive version of the film, so anyone who hasn’t seen it should probably just start there.
The Blu-ray combo packs of Doctor Sleep include the theatrical cut on one disc and the director’s cut on another — so the 4K Ultra HD combo pack has just the theatrical cut on a 4K disc, with the director’s cut on a standard Blu-ray. The bonus materials are presented on the theatrical cut disc in both the 4K Ultra HD and standard Blu-ray combo packs. Each combo pack is only two discs, so the 4K pack doesn’t have a theatrical cut or extras on a standard Blu-ray.
However, the digital redemption code gives access to both the theatrical and the director’s cut, and all the extras as well, with the digital code from the 4K Ultra HD combo pack providing a 4K digital copy of the director’s cut.
Included are three featurettes running a bit more than a half-hour in total that are aimed at fans intrigued by the prospects of a King-approved sequel to Kubrick’s Shining. The 14-minute “The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision” deals with the general making of the film, the five-minute “From Shining to Sleep” provides an overview of how the filmmakers went about trying to connect the disparate movie and film versions of King’s vision, while the 15-minute “Return to the Overlook” focuses on re-creating the iconic sets of the first film.
Disney+ unveiled six series in development, a slate of original series and films, and details about the service during a showcase presentation at Disney’s D23 Expo Aug. 23 in Anaheim, Calif.
The Disney+ app made its debut on the show floor, with features and functionality confirmed for theglobal launch dates in November. Disney+ ($6.99 per month; $69.99 annually in the U.S.) offers viewers:
• Unlimited Downloads: Subscribers have access to unlimited downloads of shows and movies on the Disney+ app to watch offline later on up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded per year. Once downloaded, subscribers can watch on the go and without an internet connection. The number of titles stored at one time on a device is dependent upon the available storage space on a subscriber’s device.
• High-Quality Viewing: Subscribers can get ultra-high-definition viewing with up to 4K Ultra HD video playback in Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio on supported devices for available programming.
• Commercial-free Viewing: Subscribers can access unlimited viewing of Disney+ content without having to watch commercials.
•Profile Customizations: Subscribers can set up to seven different profiles and choose an avatar tailored to their favorite Disney, Pixar, Marvel or “Star Wars” characters, with more than 200 avatars available.
•Concurrent Streaming: Disney+ allows subscribers to concurrently stream video content on up to four registered devices with no up-charges.
• Multiple Languages: At launch, Disney+ will offer support for English, Spanish, French and Dutch languages, including both user interface as well as audio support and/or subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney+ originals.
• Accessibility: The app offers support for closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance for subscribers with disabilities.
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who stars in the Disney+ original film Lady and the Tramp, hosted the content presentation, welcoming Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international.
“With less than three months until launch, Disney+ will soon entertain and inspire audiences of all ages for generations to come, and we’re excited to preview some of the amazing original content being created for the service exclusively from our world-class brands today at the D23 Expo,” said Mayer. “Storytelling is the cornerstone of The Walt Disney Company and we’re thrilled to unveil a new slate of original shows from the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes, along with popular television franchises set to return with all-new series streaming only on Disney+.”
Executives behind the Disney+ content slate also appeared, including Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production; Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios; Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm; and Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channel Worldwide.
The executives discussed the status of previously announced content as well as introduced additions to the slate:
• Ewan McGregor was on hand to confirm his return as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a new series from Lucasfilm, presumably set between the events of the “Star Wars” prequel and original trilogies, when the character was exiled on Tatooine watching over young Luke Skywalker. Alec Guinness played the role in the original “Star Wars” in 1977, as well as 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of the Jedi. McGregor played the younger version of the character in the prequels from 1999 to 2005. Reports about the series had been swirling in the week leading up to the D23 Expo, following years of speculation that McGregor would return to the role in a spinoff movie;
• Feige announced that Marvel Studios is developing three new live-action series, “Ms. Marvel,” “Moon Knight” and “She-Hulk,” all derived from Marvel comics;
• Hilary Duff surprised the audience with an appearance to announce she will reprise the role she made famous in an all-new Lizzie McGuire series from Terri Minsky; and
• Forty years after leaving the swamp in his big screen debut in The Muppet Movie, Kermit the Frog along with the Muppets gang will appear in their first-ever unscripted short-form series, “Muppets Now.”
Disney+ also showcased original movies and shows set to stream when the service launches on Nov. 12.
• For Lucasfilm’s “The Mandalorian,” executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni joined series stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers and Giancarlo Esposito, along with Taika Waititi, who brings the droid IG-11 to life, to premiere the teaser trailer for the first Star Wars live-action series. Earlier in the day at the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony, Robert A. Iger,chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Co., announced that new Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen will join the cast of the series. Set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, “The Mandalorian” follows the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.
• The cast of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” participated in a live performance of the multi-platinum hit song, “We’re All In This Together.” Following the presentation, cast members Joshua Bassett, Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Julia Lester, Larry Saperstein, Dara Reneé, Frankie A. Rodriguez, Kate Reinders, Mark St. Cyr, and Showrunner Tim Federle invited 3,600 fans to watch the first episode in the D23 Expo Arena and revealed the series’ teaser trailer. The 10-episode scripted series, set at the real-life East High, where the original movie was filmed, follows a group of students as they countdown to opening night of their school’s first-ever production of “High School Musical.”
• Host Brown joined fellow Lady and the Tramp cast members Rose (“Lady”) and Monty (“Tramp”) — the canine stars of the film — to premiere the first trailer of the live-action remake of the 1955 animated classic, In the film, a pampered house dog and a tough but lovable stray embark on an unexpected adventure and, despite their differences, grow closer and come to understand the value of home.
• Noelle stars Anna Kendrick and Billy Eichner joined Sean Bailey to announce their film will premiere on Disney+ Nov. 12 before sharing a new trailer. In the holiday comedy, Kris Kringle’s daughter is full of Christmas spirit and holiday fun, but wishes she could do something important like her beloved brother Nick, who will take over from their father this Christmas. When Nick is about to crumble from all the pressure, Noelle suggests he take a break and get away. When he doesn’t return, Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas.
• Jeff Goldblum, who stars in and hosts 12-episode “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” from National Geographic, gave fans a peek inside the series including a new trailer for the show.
• Executive producer Kristen Bell shared a first-look trailer and a taste of what’s to come in the unscripted series “Encore!” that brings together former castmates of high school musicals, tasking them with re-creating their original performance years after they last performed it.
• Tony Hale, who reprises role as Forky from Toy Story 4 in the new collection of Pixar animated shorts “Forky Asks a Question,” premiered the first short (“What is Money?”). In the 10 shorts, Forky explores important questions about how the world works, such as: What is love? What is time?
Disney+ also detailed titles set to premiere after the service launches:
• The audience was treated to a scene from the Disney+ original film Togo, an untold true story set in the winter of 1925 in the Alaskan tundra. The film, which will launch on the service in December, stars four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe and is directed by Ericson Core. It also stars Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Richard Dormer, Michael Greyeyes, Michael McElhatton and Michael Gaston.
• Director Kari Skogland introduced Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, the stars of Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which finds Falcon and the Winter Soldier teaming up after Avengers: Endgame. Emily VanCamp came on stage and Feige revealed that she will reprise her role as Sharon Carter. Then, he introduced the crowd to Wyatt Russell who will play John Walker — a character from the comics coming to the screen for the first time. Head writer Malcom Spellman was also on hand to greet the crowd. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will launch on Disney+ in 2020.
• Stars Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen were on hand for their new series, Marvel Studios’ “WandaVision.” Bettany returns as Vision and Olsen as Wanda Maximoff — two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems. Feige surprised the audience by bringing to the stage Kat Dennings and Randall Park who will reprise their roles from Thor and Ant-Man and The Wasp, and then he introduced Kathryn Hahn who has been cast as a new character in the series. Director Matt Shakman and head writer Jac Schaeffer joined everyone on stage to reveal that the streaming series will blend the style of classic sitcoms with Marvel Cinematic Universe. “WandaVision” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
• Feige welcomed the director, Kate Herron, and head writer, Michael Waldron, of “Loki” to the stage. In Marvel Studios’ series “Loki,” Tom Hiddleston returns as the mercurial Loki, the god of mischief, in stories that take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame. “Loki” debuts on Disney+ in 2021.
• For Marvel Studios’ “What If …?” Hayley Atwell was on hand to greet the audience. Atwell will voice Peggy Carter in Marvel Studios’ first animated series that focuses on different heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and imagines what would happen if the events in the films worked out differently. Feige also introduced director Bryan Andrews and head writer Ashley Bradley to the crowd. “What If…?” premieres on Disney+ in 2021.
• Kennedy announced that the new season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will stream on Disney+ in February 2020. The Emmy award-winning animated series will be returning with 12 new episodes and will mark the return of classic characters Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex.
• Stars Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk joined Kennedy to introduce the audience to the second Lucasfilm live-action series for Disney+, which is now in development. Both actors are reprising their roles from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the stories follow Cassian Andor’s adventures as a rebel spy during the formative years of the Rebellion, before the events of A New Hope.
• Executive producer and recurring guest star Gina Rodriguez joined “Diary of a Female President” lead Tess Romero to announce the series will premiere on Disney+ in January. Told using the narration from her diary, the half-hour single camera comedy follows 12-year-old Cuban-American girl Elena’s journey through the trials of middle school, which set her on the path to ultimately become president of the United States.
• Bailey shared a first look at the original film Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made based on the best-selling book series by Stephan Pastis and launching on the service in early 2020. The film follows the exploits of a quirky, deadpan hero, Timmy Failure, who, along with his 1,500-pound polar bear partner Total, operates Total Failure Inc., a Portland detective agency.
• The stars of Stargirl, Grace VanderWaal and Graham Verchere, helped introduce the coming-of-age film based on the New York Times best-selling young adult novel. The film also stars Karan Brar, Maximiliano Hernandez, Darby Stanchfield and Giancarlo Esposito. It will launch on Disney+ in early 2020.
• “Monsters at Work” stars Ben Feldman and Aisha Tyler unveiled the latest design of their characters Tylor and Millie. Inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning feature film Monsters, Inc., the new series from Disney Television Animation returns to Monstropolis and follows a new cast of monsters with special appearances from Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman).
Street Date 11/6/18;
Box Office $98.87 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for some action.
Stars Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss.
Voices of Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones.
Disney’s live-action version of “Winnie the Pooh” takes a cue from Hook in a child revisiting a fantasy realm after he’s grown up and discovering it’s important to never let go of that childhood sense of whimsy.
The film picks up as Christopher Robin preparing to go off to boarding school and saying goodbye to Pooh and his other pals of the Hundred-Acre Wood (depicted at the conclusion of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). Then the film gives us a taste of Christopher Robin’s life as he was growing up by cleverly presenting moments of his young adult life as new chapters in a book of his continuing adventures. He eventually marries, has a daughter and begins to forget all about Pooh.
The adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor, who’d be making an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie by now if the stubborn bosses at Lucasfilm figured out how to decipher their audience) becomes absorbed in his work as an efficiency expert at a luggage manufacturer and becomes isolated from his family. When tasked with spending a weekend finding a way to cut costs to keep the company open, he is forced to stay behind as his family goes on vacation to the family cottage of his childhood. But his daughter (Bronte Carmichael) has discovered his childhood drawings of Pooh and friends, and the old memories seem to stir Pooh from a long slumber.
Not finding any of his friends, Pooh journeys into the real world to ask Christopher Robin for help.
The live-action designs of Pooh are somewhat of a cross between how they looked in the Disney cartoons and the vintage stuffed animals that originally inspired the stories. Thanks to some terrific visual effects, they are textured and unmistakably doll-like in their appearance, but just as lifelike as they ever were in animated form.
The storyline veers into some darker tones as it establishes Christopher Robin’s grown-up troubles and how sad it makes Pooh and the others that their old friend seems to have drifted away from them. But then they find his daughter, and she whisks them off to help Christopher Robin solve his problems at work (even if the ultimate solution turns out to be rather simplistic and a bit bizarre).
There are chases and mischief and the usual laughs to be expected from transplanting these magical living dolls into a real-world setting. Really, though, the film is at its best when it’s focused on the fun times to be had in the Hundred-Acre Wood and is basically just the live-action version of the old animated shorts.
The Blu-ray is rather light on extras, including just four behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about 15 minutes in total.
The family film Christopher Robin will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) and on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 6 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
In the live-action adventure, A.A. Milne’s characters from the Hundred Acre Wood — Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl —venture into mid-century London to help grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and remind him to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.
The film made $98.3 million in theaters.
Bonus features on Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital) and digital include: “In Which … A Movie Is Made for Pooh ,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie; “In Which … Pooh Finds His Voice,” featuring voice actors; “In Which … Pooh and Walt Become Friends,” exploring the legacy of Walt Disney’s first encounter with Pooh; and “In Which … Pooh and Friends Come to Life,” about the special effects of bringing the stuffed characters to life. The digital release includes the exclusive bonus feature, “In Which … We Were Very Young,” about the original teddy bear given to Christopher Robin Milne 98 years ago. Bonus features may vary by retailer.