Netflix to Bow Linklater Animated and Live Action Film ‘Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Adventure’

Netflix will release Richard Linklater’s new animated film Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure, produced by Linklater’s Detour FilmProductions and Submarine and starring Jack Black.

Set against the backdrop of the 1969 Apollo mission to the moon, which celebrates its 51st anniversary July 20, the film, written and directed by Linklater, is inspired by his childhood in Houston. The live-action shoot wrapped in March 2020 in Austin, and the hybrid of hand-drawn and computer-animated imagery plus live action will be completed at Minnow Mountain in Austin and Submarine in the Netherlands.

Other stars include Zachary Levi, Glen Powell, Josh Wiggins, Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman and Danielle Guilbot.

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The film tells the story of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from two interwoven perspectives. It both captures the astronaut and mission control view of the moment, and the lesser-seen bottom up perspective of what it was like from an excited kid’s perspective, living near NASA but mostly watching it on TV like hundreds of millions of others. It’s both re-creation of a moment in history and a kid’s fantasy about being plucked from his average life in suburbia to secretly train for a covert mission to the moon.

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“It struck me years ago that this was my film to make, from both a chronological and proximity level — I was there, going into 3rd grade,” Linklater said in a statement. “Our unique animation style allows both the conjuring of a world long gone, and the flowing, playful expression of memory and imagination. It’s been a fun, creative journey to incorporate things like 3D graphics into a live action shoot to help bring this story to life.”

Five-time Academy Award nominee Linklater’s credits include It’s Impossible To Learn to Plow By Reading Books (1988); Slacker (1991); Dazed and Confused (1993); Before Sunrise (1995); SubUrbia (1997); The Newton Boys (1998); Waking Life (2001); Tape (2001), School of Rock (2003); Before Sunset (2004), Bad News Bears (2005); A Scanner Darkly (2006); Fast Food Nation (2006); Inning By Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (2008); Me and Orson Welles (2009); Bernie (2012); Up To Speed (2012, Hulu); Before Midnight (2013); Boyhood (2014), Everybody Wants Some!! (2016); Last Flag Flying (2017); and Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019).

Linklater also serves as the Artistic Director for the Austin Film Society, which he founded in 1985 to showcase films from around the world that were not typically shown in Austin.

Jumanji: The Next Level

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Adventure Comedy;
Box Office $316.83 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Colin Hanks, Rhys Darby, Rory McCann.

The creative team behind 2017’s surprise blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle returns to deliver a worthy sequel that is just as entertaining as its predecessor.

The new story provides a mostly familiar setting with enough new elements to freshen up the formula a bit without straying too far from what audiences came to love about the previous film.

In the new film, the teenagers who beat the game before have drifted apart a bit as they head off to college, where Spencer (AlexWolff) begins to feel out of place in the world. When he returns home for the holidays to find his grandfather (Danny DeVito) staying in his old room, he yearns to once again become the hero of the video game, which, it turns out, he salvaged from the garbage heap the group left it in at the end of the previous movie.

When his friends come looking for him and discover he re-entered the game, they follow him in to help bring him out, thinking it should be too hard considering they already beat the game and will know what to expect. This time, though, they inadvertently bring bystanders into the game, resulting in many of the players not having the same avatars they had the last time, giving the actors plenty of chances to play each other. As an added complication, the game’s story has changed, with the characters’ abilities shifting to match.

As a result, the audience knows just enough about the rules of the game to have fun anticipating what will come next, while the particulars are just different enough to keep viewers guessing. Like before, a huge part of the film’s charm is the way it spoofs both video games and Indiana Jones-type adventure serials, only this time around the audience’s pre-existing affection for the characters makes watching them take advantage of their experience of having played before all the more satisfying.

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The film also smartly takes the adventure out of the jungle for the most part, changing the scenery to deserts and frozen mountains, which at least gives the film a new visual flair to play with. And there’s also a nice little lesson about friendship and teamwork.

In pushing out two movies, though, the filmmakers have probably milked as much from the concept as they can, which is why the film sets up another sequel that promises to mix things up a bit and take the franchise back to the roots of the original 1995 film.

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The home video editions of the film come with a ton of extras that play on the winning chemistry of the cast. Many of these come in the form of promotional videos, such as the minute-long “Grow Up,” in which Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart learn how to impersonate Dannys DeVito and Glover. “Trick or Treat” features Hart arriving at Johnson’s house at Halloween dressed in The Rock’s sweater and fanny pack from an infamous 1990s photo. Other videos put the cast in a telenovela and tease Awkwafina’s thieving skills. But the most intriguing might be the three-minute “NPC Confessions: Jurgen the Brutal,” an in-depth analysis with candid insights of the film’s new villain, played by Rory McCann of “Game of Thrones” fame.

These are accompanied by a five-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

In a throwback to the extras of the previous movie, “Rhys Darby Wants to Jingle” is a two-and-a-half-minute video in which Darby, who plays the game’s narrator and guide, wants to do his own music video to match the one the cast, sans him, did for the previous film.

Three behind-the-scenes featurettes total about 23 minutes and cover the basics from the story creation to the cast dynamics and the visual effects. The Blu-ray and digital editions also include lengthy breakdowns of the ostrich chase and monkey attack sequences, plus VFX pre-vis reels of the zeppelin battle and ostrich chase compared with the final versions of the scenes. These are about five minutes each.

The Blu-ray includes a fold-out map of Jumanji with an interactive AR game.

Digital versions on Vudu also include a “Get in the Game Mode,” which uses on-screen graphics that pop up as the movie plays to offer such information as trivia, statistics and character power levels during fights. This provides an added bit of fun to the video game spoof aspect of the film.

‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ Ready to Play on Digital March 3, Disc Including 4K March 17

The actioner Jumanji: The Next Level will come out on digital March 3 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD March 17 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

It has earned $768.5 million at the global box office.

Stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillanreturn for another game-based adventure, along with Jumanji newcomers Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Danny Glover and Danny DeVito.

The story catches up with Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) three years after their first adventure in Jumanji’s mystical video game world. When Spencer goes missing inside the game ahead of the group’s planned reunion from college, his friends, along with his grandfather (DeVito) and his grandfather’s friend (Glover), once again inhabit the avatars of Dr. Bravestone (Johnson), “Mouse” Finbar (Hart), Professor Sheldon Oberon (Black) and Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan) to rescue him. As they return to Jumanji, the players have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape.

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Bonus materials include a gag reel, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, in-depth scene breakdowns and a new jingle. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD also include an interactive collectible map that employs augmented reality to bring Jumanji to life via smart phone. The experience provides up to 10 minutes of game play and allows users to create their own 8-bit avatar, navigate a series of mini games and more.

Universal Sets ‘House With a Clock in Its Walls’ for Home Release

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release The House With a Clock in Its Walls digitally Nov. 27, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 18.

Director Eli Roth’s adaptation of the children’s book stars Owen Vaccaro as a boy who goes to live in a creepy mansion with his Uncle (Jack Black), who practices magic with his neighbor (Cate Blanchett).

The film earned $66.5 million at the domestic box office.

Bonus materials include a feature commentary with Roth and Black; an alternate opening and ending, and nine deleted scenes, with commentary by Roth and Black; a gag reel; several behind-the-scenes featurettes; Roth’s “Director’s Journals”; a tour of the production with Vaccaro; a “Theme Song Challenge” as Roth and the cast are challenged to come up with a theme song for the film; a “Do You Know Jack Black?” competition among the cast; pranks and magic with Roth and Vaccaro; and a look at the film’s music.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 3/20/18;
Sony Pictures;
Adventure Comedy;
Box Office $400.25 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for adventure action, suggestive content and some language.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner.

Whatever misgivings may have emerged over the idea of a follow-up to the 1995 family fantasy Jumanji are quickly dispelled by a very funny sequel that pays homage to the original but shows impressive confidence in its own interpretation of the source material.

The first film, based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, featured the creatures of a mystical jungle-themed board game breaking into the real world, freeing a man, played by the late Robin Williams, who had been trapped in the game since he was a boy.

The new film throws some clever nods to the original while using the premise to poke fun at Indiana Jones-type adventure films. With the game’s attempts to allure a new player faltering amid a modern generation uninterested in board games, it converts itself into a video game. Eventually, a group of high school students encounter it in storage and start to play, getting sucked into the jungle world of the game.

Unlike in the first film, though, where the trapped players went in as themselves, Jumanji 2.0 puts the kids’ personalities into the avatars of the playable game characters, allowing the main cast to earn the credibility of playing the kinds of roles that usually would be associated with them while being forced act against those types.

So Dwayne Johnson plays the main hero, but has the mind of an insecure teenager. Kevin Hart is his diminutive sidekick, but controlled by an alpha-male jock. Karen Gillan is a warrior inhabited by a meek academic. And Jack Black plays a professor who, thanks to a misinterpretation of the character’s name, becomes inhabited by a self-centered, social media-obsessed teenage girl.

It’s essentially a body-switch movie without the cliché of an actual body switch. The main foursome turn out to be a perfectly matched team, oozing with chemistry to spare and milking almost every possible laugh to be had from the set-up. It’s a perfect example of a director, Jake Kasdan in this case, just putting his cast in the field and letting them do their thing. Also lurking around are Nick Jonas as a pilot needed for the later levels, and Bobby Cannavale as the slimy treasure hunter and the main villain of the game.

The script cleverly takes advantage of the rules of video gaming to advance the story, which sets the characters off on a quest to restore a large jewel to a sacred statue before the bad guys can steal it. Success means they will have rescued the land from evil forces and will be sent home. So, in addition to the Indiana Jones element, the film throws in a subtle Wizard of Oz vibe for good measure. There are moments in Henry Jackman’s boisterous musical score in which its seems to echo the famed “Over the Rainbow” refrain in the midst of perfectly establishing the adventurous spirit meant to be evoked by the jungle setting.

Even the side characters get in on the fun, with New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby turning in a brief but stand-out performance as the game’s charming narrator and primary contact for the heroes.

Interestingly, the 1990s cartoon based on the first film was also set mostly in the game’s jungle, but otherwise didn’t follow what was established in the movie, from what I can tell. Mill Creek recently put out a DVD of the complete series if you want to check it out.

As for Welcome to the Jungle, the Blu-ray bonus materials managed to absorb some of the sense of fun that clearly couldn’t be contained by the film itself. The best evidence of this is when Darby shows up, in character, to introduce the segments of the 15-minute making of featurette.

Three more featurettes, running about 15 minutes total, focus on the cast, the stunts and the visual effects. There’s also a five-minute segment that reflects on the spirit of the original film, and how the filmmakers wanted to preserve that in the sequel in order to honor Williams’ legacy. (Though, it should be pointed out, there’s no need to have had seen the first film to enjoy this one.)

Rounding out the extras are a couple more detours into humor, led by a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel. But the best is a two-and-a-half premiere of the music video for the film’s “theme song” by Black and Jonas, the two musicians of the pack, whose bizarre tribute to their characters elicits hilarious bewilderment from their co-stars.

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ on Home Video in March

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the runaway hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on Digital HD March 6 and on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 20.

A follow-up to the 1995 film Jumanji based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg about a board game come to life, Welcome to the Jungle stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan as the avatars of four teenagers who are sucked into a video game version of the Jumanji board game and must work together to beat the game and return home. The film also stars Nick Jonas and Bobby Cannavale.

The film has earned more than $355 million at the domestic box office and more than $860 million worldwide.

The DVD and Blu-ray packaging for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle will feature an augmented reality experience that fans can unlock in stores by scanning the Snapcode with their Snapchat app to bring the jungle to life in front of them. An additional Snapcode to bring the characters to life will be available on an insert inside the package exclusively for those who buy the disc. These AR features can be recorded and shared via social media.

Bonus materials with the DVD, Blu-ray and digital versions include a gag reel; “Jumanji, Jumanji” Music Video by Jack Black and Nick Jonas; and the featurettes “Journey Through The Jungle: The Making of Jumanji,” “Meet the Players: A Heroic Cast” and “Attack of the Rhinos!”

The Blu-ray and digital versions will include two additional featurettes: “Surviving the Jungle: Spectacular Stunts!” and “Book to Board Game to Big Screen & Beyond! Celebrating The Legacy of Jumanji.”

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offers the film with Dolby Vision high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound.