Oppenheimer

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $325.37 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Benny Safdie, Jason Clarke, Dylan Arnold, Tom Conti, James D’Arcy, David Dastmalchian, Dane DeHaan, Alden Ehrenreich, Tony Goldwyn, Jefferson Hall, David Krumholtz, Matthew Modine, Scott Grimes, Jack Quaid, Christopher Denham, Olivia Thirlby, Gary Oldman.

Director Christopher Nolan’s meticulously crafted Oppenheimer is a bit of a throwback to the kinds of epics stocked with all-star casts Hollywood used to pump out in the 1950s and ’60s.

Yet this biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, labeled by history as the “father of the atomic bomb,” is also distinctly Nolan, marked by his penchant for nonlinear storytelling and pushing the boundaries of traditional filmmaking. It’s a testament to Nolan’s skill as a director that he’s able to craft a riveting character drama from what is essentially three hours of people just talking to each other.

Based on the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Oppenheimer frames the story of its title subject through the proceedings of two political hearings. One, set in 1954, finds Oppenheimer (longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy) attempting to restore his security clearance in the face of efforts to silence him from influencing nuclear policy. The other, set in 1959, focuses on the Senate confirmation hearing of Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), a former member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission who sheds light on Oppenheimer’s ouster.

Nolan uses similar points of discussion from the testimony given at both events to explore Oppenheimer’s life through flashbacks depicting the young scientist’s study of physics in Europe and his efforts to expand the field of quantum mechanics research in the United States.

Oppenheimer is poised to pioneer the study of black holes when World War II breaks out, and he is recruited by Gen. Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to head the Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany.

Scenes stemming from Strauss’ point of view are presented in black and white and meant to convey a more objective reality, while scenes in color represent Oppenheimer’s perspective and a more subjective interpretation of events.

The highlight of the three-hour film is obviously the middle section depicting the creation of the atomic bomb, with Oppenheimer and Groves bringing many of America’s top minds to a makeshift town in the New Mexico desert in order to turn theory into reality, culminating in the Trinity test.

Oppenheimer, however, is constantly dogged by earlier associations with left-wing causes, and friendships with a number of Communist Party members and Soviet sympathizers, that will ultimately be used as a sledgehammer against him.

Nolan in the Blu-ray bonus features describes the film’s structure as moving from the beginning of the hero’s journey, to a heist movie (the recruiting of a team for a caper of sorts), to a courtroom drama.

Through Murphy’s transformative performance, Oppenheimer comes to life as a man constantly struggling to balance the accolades of his historic achievements with the moral weight of their implications.

The last hour of the film depicts this sort of tug-of-war between America’s efforts to maintain nuclear superiority in the face of Russia developing the technology, and Oppenheimer’s desire to pursue international policies to contain the genie he helped escape from the bottle.

Nolan famously shot the film using large-format Imax cameras, and the results are evident in a pristine 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation. The 4K and Blu-ray disc versions of the film take advantage of this with a variable aspect ratio that shifts between a letterboxed 2.20:1 image and an immersive 1.78:1 that occupies the entirety of a big-screen TV. The DVD and digital presentations are locked at a consistent 2.20:1 ratio.

Sound is booming but dialogue is easy to understand despite most scenes taking place in a conversational tone.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The 4K and Blu-ray combo packs include a bonus disc containing nearly three-and-a-half hours of supplemental material, led by the seven-part “The Story of Our Time: The Making of Oppenheimer” behind-the-scenes documentary.

Clocking in at more than 72 minutes, the program offers a comprehensive look at the making of the film and the exquisite level of detail employed by Nolan in re-creating the period settings, for the most part. Of note, the set of Oppenheimer’s office includes the actual clock he had in his real office, and scenes taking place at the Oppenheimers’ home were filmed at their actual house in Los Alamos. Nolan was also keen on using practical in-camera effects as opposed to CGI, which lends to the film’s air of authenticity.

The seven featurettes are also available with digital copies of the film. The remaining extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray.

The eight-minute “Innovations in Film” focuses on the use of 65mm to shoot the picture, delving into the cinematography and editing challenges presented. Of note, the production had to invent black-and-white 65mm film stock to achieve the film’s visual style. There’s also a segment on how the film was prepared for digital projection and home video, with the digital version of the film being carefully rendered to match the look and feel of the 70mm Imax presentation.

For some comparisons of the different presentation styles of the film, there’s a full package of the film’s trailers, including an Imax trailer that displays footage from the film in the square Imax ratio, plus the five-minute promo video that played during the early summer. The footage in these trailers isn’t as refined as the film presentation, which demonstrates how much care went into making the film look the best it can be.

A 35-minute “Meet the Press” episode features a Q&A from July 15, 2023, featuring Nolan, author Bird, physicist and Nolan science advisor Dr. Kip Thorne, current Los Alamos director Dr. Thom Mason, and physicist Dr. Carlo Rovelli. It’s an interesting discussion about the relationship between science and policy, and includes some tidbits about how Nolan the screenwriter went a bit deeper than the book in depicting the Strauss confirmation hearing by digging up the actual transcripts.

Rounding out the extras is the hour-and-a-half To End All War: Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb, a great biographical documentary about the real Oppenheimer that gives a better context to the events depicted in the film. Seeing the copious footage of the soft-spoken Oppenheimer — he comes across as a bit of a professorial Mr. Rogers — really crystalizes how much Murphy was able to embody him in his performance. This is the kind of bonus feature more movies about real events should include on home video but just don’t anymore.

Zack Braff-Directed Drama ‘A Good Person’ Headed to Blu-ray May 30

The drama A Good Person will be available on Blu-ray May 30 from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment.

Written and directed by Zach Braff (TV’s “Scrubs,” Garden State), the film sees Braff once again return to the director’s chair nearly 20 years after his Sundance directorial debut Garden State

A Good Person stars Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh (Don’t Worry Darling, Little Women), Molly Shannon (TV’s “The White Lotus”, “Saturday Night Live”), Chinaza Uche (TV’s “Wool”), Celeste O’Connor (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) and Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, The Shawshank Redemption).

In the film, Daniel (Freeman) is brought together with Allison (Pugh), the once thriving young woman with a bright future who was involved in an unimaginable tragedy that took his daughter’s life. As grief-stricken Daniel navigates raising his teenage granddaughter and Allison seeks redemption, they discover that friendship, forgiveness, and hope can flourish in unlikely places.

The film is produced by Zach Braff, Pamela Koffler, Florence Pugh, Christine Vachon, Christina Piovesan and Noah Segal. 

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

 

Thriller ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ to Stream on HBO Max Starting Nov. 7

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Don’t Worry Darling will make its streaming debut on HBO Max on Nov. 7.

Available now for premium digital purchase and rental, the film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 29 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons and Ari’el Stachel.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The psychological thriller follows Alice and Jack, who feel they are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950s societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank — equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach — anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives — including Frank’s elegant partner Shelley — get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. When cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why.

Thriller ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ on Premium Digital Oct. 25, Disc Nov. 29

The psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling will be available for premium digital ownership and rental Oct. 25, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 29 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The film, directed by Olivia Wilde from a screenplay by Katie Silberman, is based on a story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke and Silberman, and stars Florence Pugh (Oscar-nominated for Little Women), Harry Styles (Dunkirk), Wilde (upcoming Babylon), Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians), KiKi Layne (The Old Guard) and Chris Pine (All the Old Knives). The film also stars Nick Kroll (How It Ends), Sydney Chandler (TV’s “Pistol”), Kate Berlant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Asif Ali (TV’s “WandaVision”), Douglas Smith (TV’s “Big Little Lies”), Timothy Simons (TV’s “Veep”) and Ari’el Stachel (upcoming Respect the Jux).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In Don’t Worry Darling, Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950s societal optimism espoused by Victory CEO Frank (Pine) — equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach — anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives — including Frank’s partner Shelley (Gemma Chan) — get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All it asks in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. But when cracks in their idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and premium digital ownership releases include a making-of featurette and the “Alice’s Nightmare” deleted scene.

Whip: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Top New Show, ‘Fate: The Winx Saga’ Top Returning Show Anticipated in September

Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” was the top anticipated new show, Netflix’s “Fate: The Winx Saga” was the most anticipated returning show, and Warner Bros.’ Don’t Worry Darling was the top anticipated movie on the Whip Media charts for September.

Dubbed the most expensive TV season ever with a production budget of $715 million, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is a fantasy series based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and is set thousands of years before The Hobbit. The series debuted Sept. 1.

“Fate: The Winx Saga,” season two of which is set to start streaming on Netflix Sept. 16, is a teen drama based on the Nickelodeon animated series. The live-action series follows a group of fairies at a boarding school.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, the psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling stars Harry Styles and Florence Pugh. It follows a 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 million global users, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Most Anticipated New Shows for September:

  1. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Prime Video) — Sept. 1
  2. “Andor” (Disney+) — Sept. 21
  3. “Monarch” (Fox) — Sept. 11
  4. “Quantum Leap” (2022) (NBC) — Sept. 19
  5. “The Rookie: Feds” (ABC) — Sept. 27

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for September:

  1. “Fate: The Winx Saga” (Netflix) — Sept. 16
  2. “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu) — Sept. 14
  3. “Cobra Kai” (Netflix) — Sept. 9
  4. “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” (Disney+) — Sept. 28
  5. “Abbott Elementary” (ABC) — Sept. 21

 

Most Anticipated Movies for September:

  1. Don’t Worry Darling — Sept. 23
  2. Hocus Pocus 2 — Sept. 30
  3. Blonde — Sept. 16
  4. Bros — Sept. 30
  5. The Woman King — Sept. 16
  6. Pinocchio — Sept. 8
  7. Do Revenge — Sept. 16
  8. Smile — Sept. 30
  9. The Greatest Beer Run Ever — Sept. 30
  10. See How They Run — Sept. 16

Hawkeye

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton, Fra Fee, Brian d’Arcy James, Aleks Paunovic, Piotr Adamczyk, Linda Cardellini, Simon Callow, Vera Farmiga, Alaqua Cox, Zahn McClarnon, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio.

With 2021 bringing both a Black Widow movie and a six-episode limited series about Hawkeye, each of the original six Avengers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have finally received their own solo project.

Given how much the stories of Black Widow and Hawkeye are intertwined, it makes sense for the movie and show to arrive within months of each other, as the show carries on a pretty important story thread from the film.

Hawkeye picks up several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as the world has more or less returned to normal following the final battle to defeat Thanos. The archer Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), is vacationing with his family in New York just before Christmas. But his past comes back to haunt him when a black market auction gets a hold of the outfit he wore as Ronin, the persona he adopted to hunt down criminals who survived Thanos snapping half the population away when Clint’s family did not.

Caught up in the plot is Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a world-class archer in her own right who worships Clint and hopes to become an Avenger like him some day (and is known as the second Hawkeye in the comics). The local mafia comes to believe Kate is Ronin and responsible for attacking them, so they start to hunt her down, forcing Clint to protect.

It turns out Kate’s mother (Vera Farmiga), CEO of a security firm, has her own connection to the local crime lords, which embroils Clint and Kate in a murder mystery that only complicates his efforts to get back to his family by Christmas.

Hawkeye takes a couple of episodes to find its footing, but by part three has all the pieces in place for a solid action-adventure, fueled by the tremendous chemistry between Renner and Steinfeld, as well as a strong supporting cast and a few notable guest stars from other Marvel properties.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Black Widow

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/14/21;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $183.1 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence/action, some language and thematic material.
Stars Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenie, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Olga Kurylenko.

The 24th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon finally puts the focus on Black Widow, the enigmatic member of the Avengers whose primary character arc has been seeking redemption for past misdeeds from her life as a Russian spy and assassin.

The film is mostly set in between the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, when Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run after betraying Black Panther during the feud between Iron Man and Captain America that shattered the Avengers superhero team.

We also learn more about Natasha’s backstory, thanks to an opening flashback to her youth when she was posing as the daughter for a family of Russian sleeper agents in Ohio. When the mission ends, she and her “sister” Yelena are sent to the Red Room, a secret Russian program that has been re-conditioning young girls into deadly secret agents for decades.

Natasha believes she destroyed the Red Room when she defected from Russia, but soon learns from the adult Yelena (Florence Pugh) that not only does it still exist, but it has refined its methods for brainwashing its army of girls. Yelena has come across a chemical that can restore their free will, but is now on the run herself, pursued by the Taskmaster, the Terminator-esque enforcer of the Red Room.

To stop the Red Room once and for all, Natasha and Yelena must recruit their former “parents” (David Harbour and Rachel Weisz) for an explosive family reunion.

In both style and story, Black Widow positions itself as a sequel to Civil War and a spinoff of the “Captain America” movies. Director Cate Shortland takes a lot of cues from how the Russo Brothers established the espionage thriller tone of their corner of the franchise in both Civil War and 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

While Black Widow has a wealth of comic book source material to draw from, it plays less like a superhero movie and more like a female-centric homage to James Bond, with story points and action sequences that seem directly inspired by the long-running spy franchise (aside from an opening sequence that is more in line with “The Americans”).

This seems to have set off a divide among online fans. A number of comic book fans have been complaining about unfulfilled expectations about adapting the comics lore. Meanwhile, those who might not be as familiar with the comic books and are fans because of the movie side of things are more likely to see this as a fun action thriller, though it’s hard to deny it resorts to some narrative shortcuts in its final act.

Still, it’s a fun movie that looks great and offers some fantastic action. Johansson does a nice job fleshing out a character mostly relegated to a supporting role before now, but the MVP of the film is Pugh, whose Yelena character is now well established to carry forward in the MCU.

Be warned, though. This being the new era of MCU on Disney+ means that viewing the Disney+ Marvel shows will give a better appreciation of how the post-credits scene pushes the new phase of the MCU forward.

Follow us on Instagram

The Blu-ray includes a one-minute introduction to the film from Shortland, who discusses how she wanted to explore Natasha’s character  by giving her a family. To this end, the five-minute featurette “Sisters Gonna Work It Out” explores the relationship between Natasha and Yelena, and the actresses who play them.

The nine-minute “Go Big if You’re Going Home” featurette covers more of the making of the film in general, giving a glimpse of the film’s on-location shooting, its visual effects and its complicated stunts.

The Blu-ray also includes a three-minute gag reel, plus 14 minutes of deleted scenes that offer a few quiet character moments but mostly expand upon concepts that are already in the film.

The extras are contained on the regular Blu-ray Disc of the film included with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack. The 4K disc offers just the movie.

Originally published as a theatrical review July 12, 2021.

Little Women (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $108.10 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for thematic elements and brief smoking.
Stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper.

The latest version of Little Women, masterfully directed and adapted by Greta Gerwig, manages to find the modern sensibilities of Luisa May Alcott’s signature work while retaining all the trappings of its mid-19th century period setting.

Gerwig takes Alcott’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel that was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and expertly translates the classic tome into the language of cinema, eschewing the linear narrative of the book and previous adaptations in favor of a flashback structure that better contrasts the childhood and adult lives of its characters.

The core of the story remains centered on the lives of the March sisters — Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) — growing up in Massachusetts around the time of the Civil War.

The film is filled with wonderful performances, anchored by Ronan’s confidence as Jo, and Pugh’s radiance as the bright-eyed Amy (both were nominated for Oscars). The exquisite period set design and (Oscar winning) costumes make for a film loaded with delightful visual touches that would make it worth viewing for those reasons alone.

But shifting the narrative back and forth between the two timelines allows Gerwig to focus on how the characters’ adult lives are practically responses to specific events of their childhoods, in a way that no doubt keeps the material fresh even for those who are fans of the novel or have seen the countless other adaptations of it.

Gerwig’s other spin on the material involves layering more elements from Alcott’s real life even more so than the original novel did. Historically, Jo is most often described as the most direct analog for Alcott in the story, as she’s the one who ends up writing about her sisters. And, as such, she remains the primary character of the film. But, according to Gerwig in the Blu-ray bonus materials, all the characters have some element of Alcott in them. In the very good nine-and-a-half-minute “Greta Gerwig: Women Making Art” featurette included with the Blu-ray, Gerwig relates that examining in her lifelong love of the novel in preparing to make the film, she realized that Jo was the hero of her childhood and Alcott is the hero of her adulthood.

Indeed, one of the best elements of the film is an ending that leaves much open to interpretation while honoring what Alcott once said was her original intent for some of the characters.

Gerwig’s script, while faithful to the original dialogue, plays up the artistic interests of its characters, emphasizing the struggles of the creative process, and how artists often face the choice of sacrificing the integrity of their visions for commercial realities (such as when a publisher declares to Jo that a novel with a female protagonist better see her married off by the end. Or dead.)

In crafting a screenplay that spoke to her as a 21st century female filmmaker, she suggests that this new film version becomes somewhat autobiographical for her as well.

Follow us on Instagram!

Other featurettes on the Blu-ray include the 13-minute “A New Generation of Little Women,” offering interviews with the cast and several of the filmmakers about the origins of the project, plus the nine-minute “Making a Modern Classic,” about looking at the story with a modern lens. The disc also includes a three-and-a-half-minute “Little Women Behind the Scenes” promotional video, and three minutes of hair and make-up test footage.

The best extra, in addition to the reflections from Gerwig, is undoubtedly “Louisa’s Legacy: Little Women and Orchard House” (labeled as “Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott” in the menu), a 10-minute mini-documentary about Alcott’s real life and family. Hosted by Jan Turnquist, executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (the family home where she wrote Little Women), the video discusses what aspects of the book are based on reality, and the impact of the family’s real-life stories on the film.

The video also details the story of Alcott’s house, an old country home from the mid-1600s that has been rescued from destruction at least three times, most recently in 2002 when the walls were shored up and the foundation completely rebuilt to stop the house from sinking into the ground (the pictures of the house being propped up over a giant hole in the ground is rather striking). The real home ended up serving as the basis of the March house in the film.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Interestingly, while this is the seventh movie adaptation of Little Women, not to mention numerous television and stage productions of it, not as much attention has been heaped on Alcott’s further adventures of the characters. Little Women was the first of what would end up being a March family trilogy, followed by Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

There have been three movie versions of Little Men, two of which were notably made more than 80 years ago, and a handful of television projects. But to date, there hasn’t been a Jo’s Boys movie — only an obscure 1959 BBC miniseries, as well as part of a Japanese anime television adaptation of the trilogy in the 1980s and ’90s.

Fighting With My Family

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/14/19;
Universal/MGM;
Comedy;
Box Office $22.96 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content.
Stars Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant.

The notion that professional wrestling is “fake” is pervasive enough that most people don’t realize it’s a world just as competitive as any sport. It’s just the indicators of success aren’t strictly focused on the results in the ring.

As is made abundantly clear in the very entertaining Fighting With My Family, while the results of wrestling matches are more or less fixed as a means of storytelling and showmanship, the athleticism on display is just as genuine as any contest where the results aren’t predetermined.

The film tells the story of WWE superstar Paige, who emerged from a family of wrestlers in England to become one of the top female performers in the world’s biggest pro-wrestling promotion.

With her family’s small promotion struggling to get by, Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to a WWE tryout. But when Paige is the only one deemed worthy of potential superstardom, the siblings must come to terms with the notion that one’s dream and one’s destiny might lead to separate paths.

For Paige, that means leaving her family to train in America, and dealing with the hardships of trying to fit in when it seems she doesn’t quite fit in. For Zak, it means coming to terms with the idea that maybe his place isn’t in the spotlight, but quietly working behind the scenes to further the traditions of his family profession.

Fighting With My Family is based on a British TV documentary about Paige and her family and their passion for professional wrestling. Director Stephen Merchant has refocused the story into a rather typical sports movie underdog tale, playing fast-and-loose with the reality it for a more concise narrative.

Vince Vaughn’s character of Hutch Morgan, for example, is a composite of a variety of WWE authorities Paige would have encountered during her training in the NXT developmental program, essentially the minor leagues of wrestling.

The movie also skips over dealing with NXT’s own championship hierarchy, where using it might have giving a better sense of Paige’s progress within the company aside from her reactions to a few contentious exchanges with Hutch, and some encouraging words from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who pops in to play himself.

As such, the film’s climactic result seems a bit forced within the context of the story beats the movie itself has established, a development owing more to being a re-creation of the real event than something the film’s version of events has earned. Merchant’s comedic background serves the offbeat moments of the story well, but he admittedly wasn’t aware of the inner workings of professional wrestling before taking on the task of helming the film, and a few beats focused more on the mechanics of pro-wrestling storytelling might have been warranted.

Still, aided by some great performances by the main cast, the film offers plenty of heartfelt sentiment in celebrating the power of family to fuel the pursuit of a lifelong dream and find comfort and contentment when things don’t always go according to plan.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Home video extras include nine minutes of deleted scenes, a three-minute gag reel, a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a three-minute video about training for the physicality in the film. Merchant also provides an audio commentary for the film.

The Blu-ray also features an “unrated director’s cut” of the film, but the alterations are so minor that its inclusion seems like more of a marketing gimmick than anything of consequential artistic value. That being said, based on the few identifiable differences, my preference tends to lean toward the unrated cut, which actually runs three seconds shorter than the theatrical version.

The changes don’t alter the story in any way and consist mostly of alternate takes featuring slightly cruder dialogue to get the same message across.

I’ve managed to identify five alterations:

1) A slightly faster edit for a key joke during the dinner scene of Zak’s girlfriend’s parents meeting his family;
2) The Rock having a slightly different reaction to Paige’s shock at meeting him for the first time;
3) A more grotesque line of dialogue from an audience member reacting to Paige’s first introduction to an NXT crowd;
4) A faster edit of Zak getting into a bar fight; and
5) An obscenity as Hutch is testing Paige’s comebacks to potential crowd insults.

Also note that while Universal is distributing the Blu-ray, the film is an MGM production and thus the digital copy is not compatible with Movies Anywhere, but redeemable only through iTunes.