Anyone But You

BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Comedy;
Box Office $88.14 million;
$22.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Sydney Sweeney, Glen Powell, Alexandra Shipp, Hadley Robinson, GaTa, Michelle Hurd, Bryan Brown, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel Griffiths, Darren Barnet, Charlee Fraser.

The romantic-comedy is a genre so fraught with clichés that it actually takes a little effort now to distinguish them from any run-of-the-mill Hallmark movie. Anyone But You decided to set itself apart with a fair amount of nudity, foul language and raunchy gags.

The story involves the potential pairing of Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell). They meet cute at a coffee shop and form a connection during an amazing first date, but then go their separate ways after a misunderstanding leaves them thinking the other was just using them. They meet again months later at a destination wedding for some mutual friends, but their constant bickering gives everyone around them the idea to conspire to help them hook up just so they’ll stop fighting. But therein lies the twist, as Ben and Bea realize what everyone is trying to do, so they start pretending to be a couple to get everyone to leave them alone.

As both a rom-com and a comedy of errors the plot unfolds pretty much as one would expect, and it’s a bit of a slog to get through. On the other hand, the film isn’t subtle about employing the ample physical assets of Sweeney and Powell, which should go a long way toward maintaining viewer interest.

The Blu-ray presentation includes a sparse array of bonus materials that run only about 16 minutes combined.

The making of the film is conveyed in two typical behind-the-scenes featurettes that run four minutes each: “He Said She Said,” in which the cast discuss the joys of making a romantic comedy, and “Everyone Down Under,” about shooting the film in Australia. Then there’s a three-minute reel of outtakes and bloopers presented as a retrospective from several cast members.

There are three deleted scenes that run a total of a minute-and-a-half; one is a minute-long dance number and the other two are just a few seconds of character comedy.

Rounding out the extras are two viral marketing ploys. One is a two-minute video of co-stars Alexandra Shipp and Hadley Robinson tasting Australian snack foods. The other is a minute of Sweeney and Powell performing ASMR by whispering filthy pickup lines at each other, which is probably funnier than anything in the actual movie.

 

‘Anyone But You’ Available to Buy Digitally Feb. 20

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the romantic comedy Anyone But You for digital purchase starting Feb. 20.

The film has earned $189.3 million at the global box office.

In the edgy comedy, Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell) look like the perfect couple, but after an amazing first date something happens that turns their fiery hot attraction ice cold — until they find themselves unexpectedly thrust together at a destination wedding in Australia. So they do what any two mature adults would do: pretend to be a couple.

The film features the revitalized hit single “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.

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Extras include the “He Said She Said” featurette; “Everyone Down Under”; outtakes and bloopers; deleted scenes; “ASMR Pickup Lines”; and “Aussie Snacks.”

Devotion

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
Box Office $20.51 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $35.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong language, some war action/violence, and smoking.
Stars Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, Daren Kagasoff, Joe Jonas, Spencer Neville, Nick Hargrove, Boone Platt, Dean Denton, Thad Luckinbill, Serinda Swan.

The story of Jesse Brown, one of the U.S. Navy’s first black aviators, is told in Devotion, a film that could almost pass for a 1950s version of Top Gun were it not based on actual events with some tragic overtones.

Jonathan Majors stars as Brown, the first African-American aviator to finish the Navy’s basic flight training program and the first black naval officer killed in the Korean War.

The film begins with Brown’s time training with his squadron in Rhode Island, where he meets fellow pilot Lt. Tom Hudner, played by Glen Powell. They are assigned as each others’ wingmen, sparking what would become a brief but strong friendship.

The fact that Powell appears as a pilot here in such proximity to his role as an aviator in Top Gun: Maverick is one source of the film’s proto-Top Gun vibes; the other is that Devotion used Top Gun: Maverick’s stunt coordinator to create fantastic aerial footage using vintage fighter planes such as the F4U Corsair, with the actors filmed in real planes in flight, just like Top Gun: Maverick.

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The biggest chunk of the movie is their time training for potential conflict with the Soviet Union during the early days of the Cold War. Brown, who is married and raising a young daughter, must also contend with the racism of the day. Another pilot raises a comparison to Jackie Robinson, and it wouldn’t be too out of line to liken the film to an aviation version of 42.

Soon enough, the squadron is called to duty in the early days of the Korean War, where Brown’s eagerness to demonstrate his skills as a combat pilot get him into trouble on more than one occasion.

Most of the first two-thirds of the film, however, are fodder to set up the emotional stakes of Brown’s final mission, in which he is forced to crash land behind enemy lines, while Hudner tries to rescue him.

Well shot, acted and backed by a strong musical score, Devotion is both an entertaining film and a solid depiction of military history that should appease aviation enthusiasts and general audiences alike.

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The home video editions include two informative featurettes: The 11-minute “The Aviation of a Forgotten War” focuses on the making of the film and the use of real planes, while the 12-minute “The Legacy of Jesse Brown” is more of a profile of the central character and what his legacy meant to those making the film.

War Film ‘Devotion’ Due on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 28

The war film Devotion will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 28 from Paramount Home Entertainment

Jonathan Majors (Creed III) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) star in the true story of two elite U.S. Navy fighter pilots who helped turn the tide in the most brutal battle in the Korean War: Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history, and his fellow fighter pilot and friend Tom Hudner. Their heroic sacrifices and enduring friendship would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

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Bonus content on digital, 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray includes “The Aviation of a Forgotten War,” a deep dive into the world of 1950s U.S. Naval aviation and the epic aerial action brought to life in Devotion, and “The Legacy of Jesse Brown,” about the extraordinary life of Jesse Brown, the first African-American Naval Aviator.

Top Gun: Maverick

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/1/22;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $716.58 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of intense action, and some strong language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Bashir Salahuddin, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer.

Among the many considerable plaudits earned by Top Gun: Maverick during a historic box office run, one of the most remarkable might be the degree to which it retroactively makes its predecessor a better film.

The long-awaited (and pandemic-delayed) sequel to 1986’s Top Gun finds Pete Mitchell, callsign Maverick, the hotshot fighter pilot played by Tom Cruise, older but not much wiser — still flaunting the rules and refusing to evolve beyond his core identity as a naval aviator.

Tucked away from official duty while serving as a test pilot for a new stealth fighter called the Darkstar, Maverick is summoned back to Top Gun with orders to train a group of elite graduates from the famed dogfighting school for a mission to bomb an illegal nuclear facility in an unnamed rogue nation (which is definitely not Iran, wink wink). The mission is said to be nearly impossible to pull off, with the pilots forced to contend not only with GPS jamming and anti-aircraft missiles, but also the threat of new technologically superior fifth-generation enemy fighters. The key to survival will be how could the pilot in the cockpit truly is.

The film is essentially what it would feel like if the entirety of the first “Star Wars” movie were focused just on the pilots training for and carrying out the attack on the Death Star.

As to Maverick’s own personal growth, one stumbling block may be that he still blames himself for the death of his best friend, Goose, in the original film. The sequel, thus, provides some measure of a pathway to atonement in the form of Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), who is among the new generation of pilots vying for a spot in the mission, and who resents Maverick for trying to impede his own career.

In his return to San Diego (even though in real life that’s not where Top Gun is located anymore), Maverick even gets a chance to catch up with old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), whose character is mentioned in the original film as a prior dalliance for the young pilot.

Thus, the two films, when taken together, tell the grand arc of Maverick learning where he fits in the world — and either adjusting to the new reality or testing its limits until it kills him.

While it also succeeds on its own merits, the sequel is evocative of the original but not a straight retread. There are scenes and characters that echo what came before, but the screenplay uses such nostalgia to enhance the story, rather than rely on it. In turn, circumstances of the original film take on greater meaning now that we know how they pay off.

That’s because Top Gun: Maverick works on so many levels, from an emotionally exhilarating story of an ersatz family coming together, to an eminently watchable, fist-pumping patriotic thrill ride.

Joseph Kosinski proves to be a deft choice for the director’s chair, bringing his reputation for strong visual dynamics to bear in making the film seem like a tribute to the late Tony Scott, whose work helming the original helped redefine the action genre. Fittingly, Top Gun: Maverick is a throwback to the heyday of action films that didn’t try to be more than they needed to be — entertaining crowds with charismatic movie stars, exciting combat, a love story to raise the stakes, and some chart-topping pop tunes (which in the case of this film should give Lady Gaga a chance at another Oscar).

The aerial photography is breathtaking, with the only potential drawback from a visual standpoint being the use of the F-18 Superhornet as the primary hero fighter. The F-18 has been featured in a lot of movies before, but it looks like a generic assembly line fighter jet and just doesn’t have the sexy big-screen presence of the F-14 Tomcat, which was featured in the original film.

Of course, switching from the F-14 to the F-18 was pretty much mandated by the constraints of reality, as the Tomcat was retired from active service in 2006, replaced by the F-18 as the primary naval fighter (with the F-35 set to take on more prominence going forward). The only country today still flying the F-14 in their fleets is Iran (just like the “fictional” enemy in the film, wink wink).

Cinematically, the film takes the original’s catchphrase of “the need for speed” to the next level, putting the actors in real F-18s to pull legit G-forces that you can see on their faces and practically feel through the screen. With the F-18 coming in both single and dual-pilot configurations, the production could stick the actors in the backseat and film them as if they were flying the single-seat version.

The earnestness of the filmmaking and cinematography gives the film an unmatched level of verisimilitude that makes it effortless to enjoy — despite what seems to be a cottage industry of former fighter pilots popping up on YouTube to analyze the technical inaccuracies of the film.

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The key question of the film is, as an aging pilot, where does Maverick belong? To many film fans, the answer to that question isn’t just that he belongs in the air, but in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, which is perhaps the most iconic fighter plane of all time thanks in no small part to being featured in 1980s films such as Top Gun.

Being well aware of this, it’s a good bet the filmmakers will find a way for Maverick to find his way back to the F-14. And when they do, it’s a pure hit of that sweet sugar we all crave.

The filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing, taking full advantage of basic screenwriting lessons of setup and payoff. This is a screenplay that tells you exactly where it’s going, and it’s a ride you want to take.

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The 4K presentation of Top Gun: Maverick is simply stunning, with reference-quality visuals and sound that should really push the boundaries of what home theaters can do. The HD presentation features a shifting aspect ratio, expanding to fill the screen during the aerial scenes to take advantage of the Imax photography used during production.

The film is offered in standalone 4K, Blu-ray and DVD editions — frustratingly, none of the wide releases are combo packs, aside from a code to access a digital copy being included with the 4K and Blu-ray sets. There is a limited-edition Steelbook with both 4K and Blu-ray included. A gift set of both films on both 4K and Blu-ray is due Dec. 6.

Only the Blu-ray editions include bonus materials, which are also accessible through the digital copy at some retailers.

These include several insightful behind-the-scenes featurettes. The eight-minute “Breaking New Ground” delves into the challenges of finding the techniques to make the film as realistic as possible, including creating new cameras for the cockpits; the nine-minute “Cleared for Take Off” invites viewers into the training the actors received to film the aerial sequences; the five-minute “A Love Letter to Aviation” deals with Cruise’s passion for flying and how he piloted his own World War II-era P-51 Mustang plane in the film; and the seven-and-a-half-minute “Forging the Darkstar” looks at the filming of the fictional plane prototype in the opening sequence, for which the the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works development team was brought in to lend an air of authenticity.

Also included are music videos for the songs “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga (the new love theme that in tandem with the original film’s theme serves as the basis for the new film’s musical score), and “I Ain’t Worried” by Onerepublic (the song that accompanies the beach football scene that is this film’s version of the original’s volleyball scene).

Exclusive to the 4K disc (and digitally) is “Masterclass With Tom Cruise,” a terrific 50-minute discussion with Cruise at the Cannes Film Festival about his career.

Among the extras available digitally are a 26-minute promotional video of comedian James Corden going through pilot training with Cruise. There’s also a short video from CinemaCon of Cruise introducing a screening of Top Gun: Maverick while filming an aerial stunt for the upcoming Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, a trailer for which also is included.