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.

Apple TV+ Reveals Trailer for Season Three of ‘Slow Horses,’ Due Nov. 29

Apple TV+ has revealed the trailer for season three of “Slow Horses,” the espionage drama starring Academy Award winner Gary Oldman and adapted from Real Tigers, the third novel in the CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning Mick Herron spy series “Slough House.”

The six-episode third season of “Slow Horses” will make its global debut on Nov. 29 with the first two episodes, followed by one new episode weekly, every Wednesday through Dec. 27. 

Winner of Best English-Language Drama Series at the 2022 C21 International Drama Awards, “Slow Horses” is a darkly humorous espionage drama that follows a dysfunctional team of British intelligence agents who serve in a dumping-ground department of MI5 known un-affectionately as Slough House. In season three, a romantic liaison in Istanbul threatens to expose a buried MI5 secret in London. When Jackson Lamb and his team of misfits are dragged into the fight, they find themselves caught in a conspiracy that threatens the future not just of Slough House but of MI5 itself. 

Oldman stars as Jackson Lamb, the brilliant but misanthropic leader of the spies, who end up in Slough House due to their career-ending mistakes as they frequently find themselves blundering around the smoke and mirrors of the espionage world. The ensemble cast also includes Academy Award-nominee Kristin Scott Thomas, BAFTA Scotland Award-winner Jack Lowden, Saskia Reeves, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung, Freddie Fox, Chris Reilly, Samuel West, Sophie Okonedo, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Kadiff Kirwan and Academy Award-nominee Jonathan Pryce. Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù joins the season three cast as Sean Donovan, the former head of security at the British embassy in Istanbul, along with Katherine Waterston who plays Alison Dunn, an MI5 agent who uncovers a dark secret at the heart of the agency.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Since its premiere, “Slow Horses” has received BAFTA Television Award nominations, including Oldman’s first for Best Lead Actor, and co-star Jack Lowden picked up a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The series has also been recognized with BAFTA nominations for Best Editing: Fiction (Katie Weiland); Best Original Music: Fiction (Daniel Pemberton and Mick Jagger); and Best Sound: Fiction (Martin Jensen, Joe Beal, Duncan Price, Craig Butters, Sarah Elias and Andrew Sissons). 

The first two seasons of “Slow Horses” are streaming now globally on Apple TV+. In addition to the upcoming third season, Apple TV+ previously announced a fourth season set to be adapted from the fourth novel Spook Street.

 

‘Air Force One’ and ‘The Mask of Zorro’ Due on 4K Ultra HD Steelbook March 7

The action classics Air Force One and The Mask of Zorro will be released on 4K Ultra HD Steelbook March 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Both titles feature Dolby Vision HDR.

Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman star in director Wolfgang Petersen’s (Das Boot, In the Line of Fire) thriller Air Force One (1997), about a steadfast U.S. President who has just told the world he will not negotiate with terrorists. When Russian neo-nationalists hijack Air Force One, the President is faced with a nearly impossible decision — give in to terrorist demands or sacrifice not only the country’s dignity, but the lives of his wife and daughter. Special features on the 4K disc include the theatrical trailer. Special features on the Blu-ray disc include commentary with Petersen.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Mask of Zorro (1998) is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In the film, when a power-crazed despot schemes to buy California from Mexico, it takes two Zorros — the legendary Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) and his chosen successor Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), a dashing bandit-turned-hero — to battle the tyrant’s unscrupulous plans. Can even their combined skills, bravado and derring-do be enough to achieve de la Vega’s ultimate goal: revenge against the man who killed his wife, kidnapped his daughter and held him prisoner for 20 years? Special features on the 4K disc include 10 deleted scenes and theatrical trailers. Special features on the Blu-ray disc include commentary with director Martin Campbell; the “Unmasking Zorro” documentary; two additional deleted scenes; and a music video by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena.

Apple TV+ Orders Two More Seasons of ‘Slow Horses’

Apple TV+ has ordered two more seasons of the espionage series “Slow Horses,” starring Gary Oldman, to be adapted from the next two novels in the CWA Gold Dagger Award-winning Mick Herron spy series “Slough House.”

The six-episode first season of “Slow Horses” launched globally on Apple TV+ April 1, with the second season set to premiere globally later this year.

In season three of “Slow Horses,” Jackson Lamb’s disgraced spies work together to foil a rogue agent when one of their own is kidnapped. Season four opens with a bombing that detonates personal secrets, rocking the already unstable foundations of Slough House.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Slow Horses” is a darkly humorous espionage drama that follows a dysfunctional team of British intelligence agents who serve in a dumping-ground department of MI5 known un-affectionately as Slough House. Oldman stars as Lamb, the brilliant but irascible leader of the spies, who end up in Slough House due to their career-ending mistakes as they frequently find themselves blundering around the smoke and mirrors of the espionage world. The ensemble cast includes Academy Award nominee Kristin Scott Thomas, BAFTA Scotland Award winner Jack Lowden, Saskia Reeves, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung, Freddie Fox, Chris Reilly, Samuel West, Sophie Okonedo, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Kadiff Kirwan and Academy Award nominee Jonathan Pryce.

Slow Horses

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Apple TV+;
Thriller;
Not rated.
Stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jack Lowden.

This darkly funny spy thriller series is based on the 2010 novel of the same name and gives Academy Award-lauded star Gary Oldman another shot at playing a grumpy old mentor following his Oscar-nominated turn in Mank and his Oscar-winning performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

Needless to say, Oldman has the role of crusty crank down to a science.

He plays Jackson Lamb, the alcoholic ringleader of a band of misfit MI5 agents relegated to Slough House (not-so-affectionately called “Slow Horses”) after they have bungled their spying assignments. The irascible boss Lamb is bent on making their work lives insufferably tedious and pointless until the band of quirky secret agents is unwittingly drawn into a real spy caper involving the MI5 ‘A’ team and its boss Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Recalling great old spy movies of the 1970s with all their grime and grit — albeit set after the fall of the Berlin Wall — “Slow Horses” succeeds in offering a mystery through-line for its first season (another is on the way) while also introducing characters that keep the viewers’ interest. In addition to Lamb (Oldman) and Taverner (Thomas), we meet River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), the young spy determined to make good, as well as his grandfather and retired MI5 officer David Cartwright (the venerable Jonathan Pryce), among other intriguing personalities. Like any good characters, they are fun to watch and leave viewers wanting to spend more time with them — no matter what the next assignment may be.

People of Color, Women, Streamers Dominate 93rd Oscar Nominations

Netflix’s Mank led a set of nominations reflecting increased diversity for the 93rd Academy Awards, which honors movies released in 2020.

In a livestream from London March 15, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and her musician-actor husband Nick Jonas read the nominees covering 23 categories for the Oscars, which will air on ABC TV on April 25 from both Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Mank, starring Gary Oldman — a film about scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote Citizen Kane — earned 10 nominations, including best picture and best director (David Fincher). Oldman was nominated for best actor, while Amanda Seyfried earned a nom for best supporting actress.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

For the first time, a record nine non-white actors were nominated for awards, including Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah), Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), the late Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Steven Yeun (Minari), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday).

Notably, two women, Emerald Fennell (for Promising Young Woman) and Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), were nominated for best director for the first time.

Six movies earned six nominations each, including Netflix’s Judas and the Black Messiah; Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7; A24’s Minari; Sony Pictures Classics’ The Father;  Searchlight Pictures’ Nomadland (available on Hulu); and Amazon Studios’ Sound of Metal. Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman received five nominations.

Mank

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Netflix;
Drama;
Rated ‘R’ for some language.
Stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Sam Troughton, Toby Leonard Moore, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tom Burke, Charles Dance.

David Fincher’s Mank is as much a rebuke of the politics of Hollywood as it is a peek behind the scenes at the creative process that led to Citizen Kane, which is often regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

The film’s look and feel is definitely an homage to Kane, from its black-and-white photography, to the framing of specific shots, to a time-shifting narrative structure, and a sound mix that seems to emulate classic films. The only thing Fincher seemingly didn’t do was crop the film to a 4:3 aspect ratio.

The docu-drama focuses on the career of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who won an Oscar co-authoring the Kane screenplay with Orson Welles. In the film, Mank (Gary Oldman) works on the Kane script while recovering from a car accident at a retreat in California’s Mojave Desert, and recounts to those around him who inspired the characters in it, leading to flashbacks to the events in question.

Citizen Kane, of course, is famously based on publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies, played here by Charles Dance and Amanda Seyfried. For Oldman’s Mank, Hearst’s coziness with Hollywood generated enough resentment to inspire him to pick him apart in his screenplay.

The inciting event in particular seems to be the 1934 California gubernatorial election, in which Hearst and Hollywood backed Republican incumbent Frank Merriam over the Democrats’ nominee, socialist author Upton Sinclair. Mank sympathized with Sinclair’s anti-poverty positions and took offense to Hearst’s bankrolling of propaganda films by MGM, Mank’s home studio.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Fincher’s depiction of classic Hollywood will be catnip for film fans, particularly viewers with an affinity for Citizen Kane, but also history buffs in general. On the other hand, ruminations about Mank’s health, his alcohol dependency and frictions between him and the studio system tend to drag on a bit.

The depiction of Hollywood’s attempt to exert its influence over voters is one of those “the more things change, the more they stay the same” kind of moments, and certainly gives the film a timely quality despite its period setting. While some might see Mank’s moral stance as a left-wing defense of the little guy against the big bad corporate machine, it’s hard not to look at the unseemly alliance between Hearst and MGM chief Louis B. Mayer and not see parallels with the media and entertainment establishment’s distaste for Donald Trump (despite whatever message Fincher intended to relay).

The film’s relationship between politics and screenwriting in some ways brings to mind another recent film about a legendary screen scribe, 2015’s Trumbo, about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Oldman’s attempts to capture the affectations of a mid-20th-century Hollywood screenwriter are in many ways similar to Bryan Cranston’s efforts to do the same as Trumbo.

Follow us on Instagram!

The other aspect of Mank that will have historians poring over it is the question of how much of the Citizen Kane screenplay can actually be attributed to Welles. Mank seems to want to give most of the credit to its title subject, depicting Welles as a collaborator who earns a contractual credit but mostly calls to check in on Mank’s progress and edits the final product for being too long.

The screenplay for Mank was originally written in the 1990s by Jack Fincher, David’s father who died in 2003. He based the premise on an article from the 1970s that questioned whether Welles had anything to do with the Kane screenplay, a notion at Welles supporters have attacked vociferously.

The subject of the making of Citizen Kane was previously the focus of the 1999 HBO movie RKO 281 (a reference to Kane’s production number). However, that movie focused more on the collaboration between the two men, and attributed the rancor toward Hearst more toward Welles, while Mank, played there by John Malkovich, wanted to ease up — a stark contrast to Oldman’s version. Interestingly, the RKO 281 DVD is actually included as a bonus with some Citizen Kane boxed sets.

Lionsgate Announces ‘Hunter Killer’ Home Release

Lionsgate’s Summit Premiere will release the action-thriller Hunter Killer digitally Jan. 15, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 29.

Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini, Common and Toby Stephens star in the story of an American submarine captain (Butler) who gets caught up in an effort to rescue the Russian president from a coup.

The film earned $15.8 million at the domestic box office.

Extras include a “Surface Tension: Declassifying Hunter Killer” featurette and an audio commentary with director Donovan Marsh.

The 4K Ultra HD combo pack will include Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.

‘Air Force One’ Coming on 4K UHD Nov. 6 From Sony

Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford at the President of the United States, debuts on 4K Ultra HD and on digital in 4K Nov. 6 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the 1997 film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the president (Ford) fights to save his family and the hostages aboard Air Force One when communist radicals led by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) hijack the plane.

Fully restored in 4K from the original camera negative, the 4K Ultra HD disc features high dynamic range with Dolby Atmos audio. Bonus features include audio commentary with Petersen.

Best Picture Winner ‘Shape of Water’ Among Oscar Honorees Ready to Score on Home Video

The Shape of Water won the big prize at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony March 4, taking Best Picture among its four trophies, in addition to Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Original Score and Best Production Design. The film is available now digitally and comes to Blu-ray and DVD March 13 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Fox’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Best Actress for Frances McDormand (who previously won 20 years ago for Fargo) and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, available on disc and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, won three Oscars — Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Actor went to Gary Oldman for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, available on home video from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film also won best Makeup & Hairstyling, primarily for the work transforming Oldman into Churchill.

Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for I, Tonya, which was released digitally March 2 and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD March 13.

Pixar’s Coco, available on home video from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Netflix’s Russian-doping documentary Icarus won Best Documentary Feature. It’s Netflix’s second-ever Oscar, after winning Best Documentary Short last year for The White Helmets.

Universal’s Get Out won Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele.

Sony Pictures’ Call Me by Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory, who became the oldest-ever Oscar winner at age 89.

Warner’s Blade Runner 2049 won two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins, his first win in 14 nominations.

Phantom Thread won for Best Costume Design. Universal releases the film digitally March 27 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 10.

A year following one of the biggest snafus in awards-show history, which saw the announcement of the wrong Best Picture winner, the Oscar ceremony offered a measure of atonement for presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (now marking the 51st anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde), who were brought back again to give out the top award of the night. This time things went off without a hitch, no doubt helped by envelopes with the correct categories written on them twice in big bold gold letters.

A complete list of winners is available at Oscars.com.