Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/1/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $358.95 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references and thematic elements.
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Maria Bakalova, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion, Sylvester Stallone.

The release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 represents the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With writer-director James Gunn jumping ship to lead rival DC’s production slate, the MCU loses one of its strongest creative voices, and the results are becoming evident.

As the MCU flounders trying to regain the narrative momentum it had prior to Avengers: Endgame, Gunn’s concluding chapter to his “Guardians” trilogy caps off what is probably Marvel’s last reliable sub-franchise in terms of consistent quality. (Losing a key player off the bench should make Disney all-the-more desperate to secure a deal with Sony for more Tom Holland “Spider-Man” movies, but time will tell).

Picking up after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Gunn’s latest tale of the ragtag group of offbeat interstellar adventurers delves into the backstory of the wisecracking talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Rocket turns out to be the result of the cruel experiments of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a megalomaniacal geneticist cursed with delusions of godhood who dreams of creating perfect societies. As Rocket was his only creation to ever develop the gift of technological inventiveness, the Evolutionary wants to study him to learn how to use that spark of insight to create the perfect life form.

However, when Rocket is critically injured by the efforts of the Evolutionary’s minions to capture him, the Guardians’ only hope to save him is to steal the Evolutionary’s proprietary technology, setting up a cataclysmic final battle that could destroy the entire team.

The premise provides not only for some emotional character dynamics, but allows Gunn to indulge his penchants for inventive but unconventional visual designs. The film is equal parts bright and colorful and gooey and grotesque, providing for a splendid 4K experience. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for laughs despite the heavy subject matter.

The “Guardians” movies are also known for their iconic needle-drop soundtracks of classic 1970s rock, and while the third film isn’t as memorable in that regard, it still offers a great array of tunes, this time expanding the selection into the 2000s.

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Gunn in the bonus materials delves into how each film in the trilogy relates to the theme of family. With Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord’s mother and father weighing heavily on the events of the first two films as the Guardians come together to form their own ersatz family unit, the third film deals with each coming to terms with their own sense of self — particularly Rocket, whose story is told in flashbacks as he lies dying on a medical bed.

The highlight of the extras is the full-length commentary with Gunn, who provides a lot of insight into the story and characters, and how much it meant for him to be able to close out a franchise that has defined his life for a decade.

Fans will also be interested in checking out the deleted scenes. There are eight included on the Blu-ray, each running about a minute. They include a number of interesting character interactions, including what might be Kraglin’s funniest line (as delivered by James’ brother Sean Gunn) in the series. Also included is the cameo appearance by Pete Davidson that was ultimately cut for stalling the momentum of the final act (the commentary details how Davidson ended up being given a CGI alien head after his dialogue was cut).

There’s also a fun five-minute gag reel, and two behind-the-scenes featurettes that contextualize the making of the film within the trilogy as a whole. The nine-and-a-half-minute “Creating Rocket Raccoon” looks at the process of bringing the character to life, while the 11-minute “The Imperfect, Perfect Family” focuses on the legacy of all the characters.

All told, the behind-the-scenes footage is a bit sparse considering what was being released online during the film’s theatrical run. And it would have been nice if the studio found a way to include the Holiday Special as part of the package, given how much it sets up this film. But maybe it will find its way onto disc eventually as part of a “Guardians” boxed set, since keeping it relegated to a Disney+ exclusive just accentuates the hole that exists in fans’ physical media collections.

Marvel Studios’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Coming to Digital Retailers July 7, on Disc Aug. 1

Marvel Studios will release the sci-fi comic book movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 through digital retailers on July 7, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 1.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is currently the year’s No. 2 theatrical movie, with estimated domestic box office revenue of $346.4 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The film’s theatrical take is only surpassed by The Super Marios Bros. Movie, which has generated $572.4 million in North American theaters since its April 5 opening.

Guardians opened May 5 and was released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Written and directed by James Gunn, who is now co-CEO of DC Studios at Warner Bros. Discovery, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finds lead character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) rallying his team of misfits to embark on a dicey, action-packed mission to defend the universe against an unpredictable force that threatens to bring the Guardians down for good.

 

The home-viewing releases include myriad bonus material (depending on format release and retailer) such as deleted scenes, a gag reel and audio commentary by Gunn.

Featurettes include “The Imperfect, Perfect Family” showcasing the evolution of the Guardians through the cast and crew’s passion for each other and the entire franchise, and “Creating Rocket Raccoon,” in which Gunn talks about bringing the Rocket character to life and how personal the character is to him. The featurettes include behind-the scenes footage, the research and development of the visual effects process, and the inspiration for Rocket through conversations with cast and crew.

Deleted scenes include:

  • A Bit Much — Adam Warlock explains to Ayesha what he plans to do with the Guardians.
  • A Lending Hand — Peter lends a hand to an injured humanimal on Counter-Earth and shows he means no harm.
  • Drax’s Analogies and Metaphors — Drax gives Peter some interesting life analogies and metaphors.
  • The Perfect Society — The High Evolutionary reveals his mission to perfect the universe.
  • The Search for 89P13 — Behemoth brings not-so-good news to The High Evolutionary.
  • Annoyed Peter — Peter gets annoyed while altering the shield.
  • A Burning Escape — Peter runs back to grab his music player before escaping a blazing inferno on the Arête.
  • Knowhere After the Battle — The High Evolutionary is brought back to Knowhere and locked up while Kraglin recruits Adam Warlock.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Maria Bakalova, Michael Rooker, The Old 97’s.

Checking in on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s adventures within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is usually a fun time, and their new Disney+ holiday special is no exception.

Written and directed by the Guardians guru himself, James Gunn, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special avoids the cheesy pitfalls of most Christmastime larks, while still managing to inject a dose of sweet sentimentality thanks to Gunn’s offbeat sense of humor and a story that stays true to the characters.

It also serves as a bit of a preview for next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as it was made as a side project during production of the film. It quickly gets the audience up to speed on what the Guardians have been up to since their last appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, as well as introduces Maria Bakalova as the voice of Cosmo the Spacedog, heretofore a background character but sure to be an audience favorite.

Just because the Guardians are the stars doesn’t mean the special isn’t packed with Christmas cheer. The focus is primarily on Mantis and Drax (Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista), who decide that their leader, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) needs some cheering up, as he is overwhelmed with work since the Guardians took over administration of Knowhere, the space colony inside a giant alien head as seen in the first “GOTG” film. Their plan is to travel to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon, one of Quill’s childhood idols, whom they believe is a true hero and not just a movie actor. Drax and Mantis are a good pairing within the group, and their misadventures on Earth as they search for Kevin Bacon (who plays himself) are hysterical.

Gunn has delivered one of the MCU’s better forays into television, complete with a hilarious new Christmas song (imagine the holiday as interpreted by weird aliens), and a soundtrack infused with solid holiday tunes.

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This Week’s MPN Podcast: ‘Battle of the Super Sons,’ ‘By Candlelight’ Reviews; Weekend Box Office Report; New DC Movies Creative Director

On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley dive deep into the DC universe, starting with a review by John Latchem of the animated movie Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. Charles recommends it, seconding the sentiment of the review. He also saw Black Adam during its premiere over the weekend and gives a two-minute, spoiler-filled micro review on the show’s new segment, “Charles rambles on a subject until Charlie stops him.” The second full review of the week is for “By Candlelight,” written by Scott Marks.

At the box office, exceeding expectations and blowing away the last several weeks of premieres, was, of course, Black Adam, marking Dwayne Johnson’s largest domestic opening ever. Meanwhile, in spite of Halloween getting closer and closer, Halloween Ends saw a massive drop in revenue from its previous weekend’s opening, earning a gross of only 20% of what it drew during its first weekend on the big screen.

Wrapping up with some industry news is word that James Gunn, known for superhero movies Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad, and “Peacemaker,” has been tapped by DC to serve as its creative lead for the next four years. He will co-lead along with Peter Safran and the hosts are very intrigued by this new direction for DC movies.

Warner Bros. Discovery Names Industry Veterans James Gunn, Peter Safran Co-Chairmen/CEOs of DC Studios

Industry veterans James Gunn and Peter Safran have been appointed to the new roles of co-chairmen/CEOs of DC Studios, overseeing the overall creative direction of the DC Universe across film, TV, and animation under a single banner. Gunn and Safran will report to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, and will work closely with Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, co-chairpersons/CEOs of Warner Bros. Film Group.

James Gunn

The appointments, which will be effective on Nov. 1, are significant since Zaslav is staking much of Warner Bros. Pictures’ future on mining fiscal gold from DC superhero IP. Indeed, Warner’s biggest box office hits in recent years have come from DC, including Wonder Woman 1984, DC League of Super-Pets, The Batman and the just released Black Adam.

In their new roles, Gunn and Safran will spearhead the development and execution of a long-term plan for the many properties licensed from DC Comics, including building a sustainable growth business (i.e., box office hits).

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Peter Safran

In addition to their executive responsibilities, Gunn and Safran will develop, direct, and produce projects. In their new roles, they will also work collaboratively with Channing Dungey, chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group; Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max Content; Kathleen Finch, chairman and Chief Content Officer for US Networks Group; Pam Lifford, president of Warner Bros. Discovery Consumer Products; and David Haddad, president of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Throughout his decades-long career, writer/director/producer Gunn has been responsible for a vast portfolio of critically acclaimed films and series, including Warner Bros. live-action movies, Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2; a remake of George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead; the horror comedy Slither; the dark superhero comedy Super; Marvel movies Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; DC’s The Suicide Squad and the spin-off series for HBO Max, “Peacemaker.” With the release of The Suicide Squad in 2021, Gunn became the first filmmaker to direct a movie for both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe.

Safran has produced numerous films for Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, and other film studios, including DC’s highest grossing movie, Aquaman and its upcoming sequel, Aquaman and the Lost KingdomShazam and its upcoming sequel Shazam: Fury of the GodsThe Suicide SquadAnnabelle; and the entire “Conjuring” universe, the most successful horror franchise of all time at $2 billion in worldwide box office and counting.

Safran’s production company, The Safran Company, recently re-upped its long-term production deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, and has four theatrical releases scheduled for 2023, including The Nun 2, which is the sequel to the highest grossing title in the “Conjuring” universe, The Nun. Prior to forming his own company, Safran was President of Brillstein-Grey Management, which represented some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

“I am thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter joining our world-class team and overseeing the creative direction of the storied DC Universe,” Zaslav said in a statement.

The executive said Gunn and Safran have decades of experience in filmmaking, close ties to the creative community, and proven track record thrilling engaging with superhero fans around the globe.

“[That] make[s] them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, TV, and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling,” Zaslav said.

Peacemaker: Season 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

HBO Max;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, Robert Patrick, Annie Chang, Lochlyn Munro.

Writer-director James Gunn’s talent for blending obscure comic book references with subversive humor and strong character dynamics is on full display in “Peacemaker,” a fantastic series that pulls no punches when it comes to deconstructing its source material.  

Spinning off from the end credits scene of The Suicide Squad, “Peacemaker” focuses on the title character played by John Cena, an expert marksman who promises to kill anyone who stands in the way of peace. However, his recovery from the events of The Suicide Squad have led him to re-evaluate his vow just as he’s recruited for a new mission that will put it to the test.

For his new assignment, Peacemaker joins a team tasked with assassinating a U.S. senator who may be under the control of aliens known as Butterflies. He also finds his confidence shaken by the lack of approval of his father (Robert Patrick), a massive racist who blames him for the death of his brother when they were just kids.

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The eight-episode series mixes characters established in The Suicide Squad with some memorable new additions, most notably Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), a cold-blooded killer who idolizes Peacemaker, and Eagly, Peacemaker’s pet bald eagle.

“Peacemaker” is filled with Gunn trademarks, such as dialogue that steers into mundane yet hilarious topics, and a soundtrack of killer tunes, including the iconic opening credits dance sequence set to Wig Wam’s “Do You Wanna Taste It.”

The show’s harsh language and graphic violence make it strictly for adult viewers, with a tone akin to “The Boys” in that it steers fully into exploring the psychological flaws of its protagonists, who are not exactly paragons of society.

The central plot even steers into questions about justice and free will that make it ripe for philosophical and political analysis as it heads into a second season.

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HBO Max Renews ‘Peacemaker’ for Second Season

HBO Max has renewed “Peacemaker” — written and directed by James Gunn and starring John Cena — for a second season.

The eight-episode first season of the DC spinoff series premiered on Jan. 13 and will have its finale on Feb. 17. 

Gunn will direct and write all episodes for season two.

“Peacemaker” debuted as the No. 1 new original streaming series for social engagement on Twitter across all of television and remains the No. 1 social show year to date across Max Originals on multiple social platforms, according to HBO Max.

The series follows the explosive escapades of the character that Cena reprises in the aftermath of Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad — a compellingly vainglorious man who believes in peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it.

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“The brilliance of James Gunn once again shines with ‘Peacemaker.’ He took this character, brought to life by the inimitable John Cena, and created an exceptional series that’s simultaneously thrilling, hilarious and heartfelt, showcasing the humanity beneath this team of misfits living in a superhuman world,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said in a statement. “As the first original DC show to have its series premiere on HBO Max, we are thrilled that the viewers agreed to give peace a f***ing chance.”

“Creating ‘Peacemaker’ has been one of the true highlights of my life, both professionally and otherwise, with John Cena and the incredible creative team around me, as well as our partners at HBO Max,” Gunn said in a statement. “To have something we all love so much be loved by the audience in turn has been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait for folks to see where Team Peacemaker goes in season two!”

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by the response to ‘Peacemaker’ and the experience of playing this character,” Cena said in a statement. “Thank you to James Gunn, Peter Safran, HBO Max, the crew, and my castmates who worked tirelessly to make this unforgettable series.”

In addition to Cena, the season one cast includes Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Chukwudi Iwuji, Steve Agee and Robert Patrick. Gunn wrote all eight season one episodes and directed five, including the first. Gunn, Peter Safran and Matt Miller serve as executive producers on the series, with Cena as co-executive producer and Stacy Littlejohn as consulting producer.

Based on characters from DC, “Peacemaker” is produced by Gunn’s Troll Court Entertainment and The Safran Company in association with Warner Bros. Television.

‘The Suicide Squad’ Easily Tops Disc Sales Charts

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad debuted at No. 1 on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales charts by a wide margin the week ended Oct. 30.

The superhero sequel from director James Gunn is based on the DC Comics team of supervillains who are extorted into performing dangerous covert missions for the U.S. government. A sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, it is the 10th movie in the DC Extended Universe, and earned $55.8 million at the domestic box office. A spinoff focused on John Cena’s Peacemaker character from the film is set to debut on the HBO Max streaming service in 2022.

The top title the previous two weeks, Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, dropped to No. 2 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart. In its third week, Free Guy sold about one-third as many copies as the newly released The Suicide Squad.

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Two other newcomers also cracked the top 10.

No. 4 on both charts was Sony Pictures’ horror film Don’t Breathe 2. The sequel to the 2016 original features the return of Stephen Lang as Norman, whose attempts at a quiet life in an isolated cabin is shattered when criminals kidnap his adopted daughter. It earned $32.6 million at the domestic box office.

No. 9 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart was Universal Pictures’ Stillwater, a drama starring Matt Damon as an Oklahoma oil worker who moves to France while searching for evidence to exonerate his daughter, who is serving time in prison for murder. It earned $14.5 million at U.S. theaters.

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No. 3 on both charts, down a spot from the previous week, was Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. The No. 5 overall title (No. 17 on the Blu-ray chart) was Disney’s 1993 spooky family comedy Hocus Pocus, for which a Disney+ sequel is now in production.

The No. 5 Blu-ray (8 on the overall chart), was Warner’s direct-to-video animated superhero movie Injustice.

Blu-ray Disc formats for The Suicide Squad comprised 69% of its total unit sales (18% from 4K disc and 51% from regular Blu-ray). Don’t Breathe 2 had 56% of its sales come from Blu-ray (16% 4K and 40% BD). Stillwater had 45% of its sales come from Blu-ray ; it wasn’t released on 4K disc.

The Media Play News rental chart the week ended Oct. 31 had Don’t Breathe 2 at No. 1 and The Suicide Squad at No. 2.

Free Guy grabbed the No. 3 spot after a couple weeks of delayed availability at Redbox rental kiosks, while Stillwater debuted at No. 4.

The previous week’s top rental, Unviersal’s M. Night Shyamalan thriller Old, slipped to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 10-30-21
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 10-31-21
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 10-30-21
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 10-30-21
Sales Report for Week Ended 10-30-21
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 11-01-21

‘The Suicide Squad’ Available for Premium Digital Ownership Sept. 17, on Disc Oct. 26

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will make director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad available for premium digital ownership starting Sept. 17, followed by a Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release Oct. 26.

Written and directed by Gunn, the film is based on the DC Comics series about imprisoned supervillains who are recruited by the U.S. government for covert operations, and have a bomb implanted in their heads that will explode if they don’t comply.

A sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad and the 10th film in the DC Extended Universe franchise, the film finds government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sending the team to infiltrate the island nation of Corto Maltese to eliminate a potentially dangerous weapon.

Among the recruits this time around are Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the sharpshooter Bloodsport (Idris Elba), the jingoistic Peacemaker (John Cena), team leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone).

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The cast also includes Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney and Pete Davidson.

The Suicide Squad earned $54.7 million during a domestic box office run in which it was simultaneously available for streaming on HBO Max for a month.

The Blu-ray, DVD and 4K editions will include the featurette “The Way of The Gunn.”

The Blu-ray and 4K combo packs will also include a digital copy of the film and additional extras such as a commentary with Gunn; deleted and extended scenes; a gag reel; “War Movie,” “Horror Movie” and “Buddy Cop” retro trailers; “It’s a Suicide Mission,” “My Guns Bigger Than Yours,” “Harley’s Great Escape” and “The Fall of Jotunheim” scene breakdowns; and the featurettes “Gotta Love the Squad,” “The Way of the Gunn,” “Starro: It’s a Freakin Kaiju!” and “Bringing King Shark to Life.”

A spinoff series about Cena’s Peacemaker character is set to debut on HBO Max in January.

Warner’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ Falls Below Weekend Box Office Projections

Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Suicide Squad generated around $26.5 million across 4,000 screens through the Aug. 8 weekend — tops at the domestic box office for an ‘R’-rated title, but below industry expectations.

Observers believe the film’s performance was impacted by both the spread of the Delta variant and the fact that the movie is simultaneously screening on HBO Max.

The standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, directed by Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran James Gunn, had been expected to top $30 million in North American ticket sales. It is the latest DC Extended Universe theatrical release since Wonder Woman 1984 opened on Christmas Day 2020.

The benchmark is based in part on opening weekend box office results for Warner’s other pandemic/HBO Max releases such as Godzilla vs. Kong, which earned $31.6 million its opening weekend at theaters while released concurrently to Max subscribers for 31 days. Suicide Squad spinoff Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey opened with $33 million in February 2020 just before the pandemic.

In its third week of release, Disney’s Jungle Cruise generated $15.7 million in North American ticket sales, bringing its domestic total to $65.3 million ($121.8 million worldwide).

M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller Old, distributed by Universal Pictures, brought in an estimated $4.1 million after three weeks, bringing its total to $38.5 million domestically ($68.1 million worldwide).

Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow topped $4 million in its fifth week of release to become the top-grossing domestic release so far this year, passing Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga. Sister company Focus Features’ Stillwater generated $2.8 million, followed A24’s The Green Knight with $2.6 million and Warner’s Space Jam: A New Legacy with $2.4 million. The LeBron James-starrer has generated $65.6 million in U.S. theaters while concurrently streaming on Max.