True Lies

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

20th Century;
Action;
$39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for a lot of action/violence and some language.
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov, Charlton Heston.

Director James Cameron’s True Lies is fondly remembered as one of the best action films of the 1990s, though its long-awaited release on Blu-ray (arriving in a 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo pack) has caused a bit of a stir.

Based on the 1991 French spy comedy La Totale!, 1994’s True Lies stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as American secret agent Harry Tasker, taking on dangerous missions to infiltrate terrorist lairs. However, his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Eliza Dushku in one of her early roles) believe he’s just a boring computer salesman.

Harry becomes distracted from his current case when he learns his wife might be cheating on him with a slick ladies man (Bill Paxton) posting as a spy to introduce some excitement into her life. Diverting his spycraft to track her instead, Harry’s personal and professional lives intertwine when he and his wife are kidnapped by the actual terrorists he’s supposed to be investigating, forcing him to go into action movie mode to save their family.

The movie offers some nice nods to the James Bond films, which at the time served to film a void in the over-the-top action spy genre. The Bond series had been dormant for five years at this point following 1989’s Licence to Kill, and wouldn’t pick up again until Goldeneye a year later in 1995.

The plot mechanics involving the setup of Harry’s double life tend to cause the middle section of the plot to drag out as all the pieces are being set up for the finale. Luckily Cameron compensates with the bulk of the film’s comedy, primarily involving the interplay between Harry and his partner, Gibs (played hilariously by Tom Arnold). There’s also a memorable cameo by Charlton Heston as the spy chief, whose eyepatch and gruff demeanor are clearly inspired by Marvel Comics’ Nick Fury (the original white version of the character, before he was reintroduced in 2001 to look like Samuel L. Jackson).

The setup and payoff would seem to naturally lend themselves to a sequel, though a proper one never materialized. Cameron would go on to make Titanic for release in 1997, but by the time the pieces were in place for a follow-up to True Lies, the terror attacks of 9/11 sapped his enthusiasm for the concept. He moved on to make the “Avatar” movies instead, while Schwarzenegger in 2003 was elected governor of California.

Tom Arnold in 2005 starred in a film called The Kid & I in which he’s hired by his billionaire neighbor to make a sequel to True Lies to star the man’s son, who has cerebral palsy — Schwarzenegger and Curtis make cameos.

A series remaking the movie debuted on CBS in 2023. The pilot essentially rehashed story arc of the film to get Harry’s wife involved in his spy business, setting up the series to be about a husband-and-wife spy team engaging on missions, which is more or less what the movie had set up. However, the show was pretty terrible and was canceled after two months on the air.

Schwarzenegger himself in 2023 would make Netflix series called “FUBAR” that, while nominally unrelated to True Lies could serve almost as a spiritual sequel to the film. The premise involves Arnold as a spy keeping his career a secret from his family, but then learns his daughter is also a spy who has been keeping her double life secret from him.

While the show might have left some fans pondering what might have been, it also called attention to the fact that the original film had still not been released on Blu-ray Disc in the United States nearly 30 years after its debut in theaters. It might pop up for streaming here and there, but the most widely available physical media options thus far were the 1999 DVD release or defunct formats such as VHS.

The new 4K and Blu-ray discs are certainly a step up over those — colors are more vibrant and details are more defined. But some fans have been complaining about the 4K transfer since its digital release in December. The remastering process supposedly used an AI process to smooth out the image to eliminate grain, which tends to leave surfaces, particularly skin, preternaturally smooth. The image also tends to look a bit soft at times. But the action looks great, the sound mix is effective, and overall, it’s probably better to have these than nothing at all (especially since remastering these again isn’t likely to be a priority anytime soon).

The new combo pack includes the film on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray, with a handful of extras included only on the Blu-ray. These include the 43-minute retrospective featurette “Fear Is Not an Option: A Look Back at True Lies” that was released a few months ago when the digital edition of the film because available. This offers a pretty good overview of the making of the film and its legacy, though a number of interviews were seemingly conducted a decade ago for a featurette that had been planned to go with an earlier rumored Blu-ray release that never materialized.

There is also an archive of various production and marketing materials, including the film’s trailer, a digital copy of a screenplay marked with notes, and galleries of storyboards, set blueprints, production photos and promotional posters.

 

Jamie Lee Curtis Crime Drama ‘Blue Steel’ Debuts on Blu-ray Nov. 14

The Jamie Lee Curtis crime drama Blue Steel arrives Nov. 14 for the first time on Blu-ray (plus digital) from Lionsgate.

The classic ’90s thriller — written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break) — stars Curtis as newly minted NYPD officer Megan Turner, who responds to a grocery store robbery — and kills the perpetrator — her first day on the job. But Megan’s uncorroborated story of the shooting gets her suspended from active duty when the stickup gun mysteriously vanishes. Enter a charming-but-disturbed commodities trader (Ron Silver), whose obsession with Megan threatens to destroy everything she holds dear, pushing her into a desperate fight to salvage her reputation — and save her own life.

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The release features updated artwork and new special features, including:

  • •Audio Commentary with film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • “A Hired Gun” with editor Lee Percy
  • “The Phallic Woman: Deconstructing Blue Steel” with film historian professor Jennifer Moorman
  • “Staring Down the Barrel” with production designer Toby Corbett
  • “A Profound Emotional Response – A Video Essay by Film Historian Chris O’Neill”
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Vintage promo
  • Still gallery 

JustWatch: Original ‘Halloween,’ ‘House of the Dragon’ Top Weekly Streaming Through Nov. 6

Universal Pictures’ enduring “Halloween” movie franchise continues to have strong legs. The original 1978 Halloween, which introduced moviegoers to teenager Laura Strode and sociopath killer Michael Myers, was the top streamed movie for the week ended Nov. 6, according to new data from JustWatch — the Berlin-based company that tracks the SVOD streaming habits of 20 million users across 59 markets, including the United States.

The movie topped Netflix’s original slasher Barbarian, and Terrifier 2, which is distributed by Cinedigm’s Bloody Disgusting business unit.

The Roku original movie Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, starring Daniel Radcliffe as the eccentric comedian, finished No. 4 in its debut.

Among episodic programming, HBO Max’s “House of the Dragon” and “The White Lotus” topped weekly streaming, followed by Peacock’s “Yellowstone.”

‘Halloween Ends’ Tops North American Weekend Box Office Despite Concurrent Release on Peacock Streaming

Universal Pictures/Blumhouse’s Halloween Ends, the third movie in the rebooted franchise starring Jamie Lee Curtis as eternal Laurie Strode (now an avenging grandma) fighting sociopath killer Michael Myers, easily topped the North American weekend box office with an estimated $41.2 million in revenue through Oct. 16.

That’s well below industry estimates that pegged Curtis’ reported final “Halloween” movie appearance generating upwards of $49 million. The movie sold another $17.1 million worth of tickets across 77 foreign markets, for $58.4 million gross worldwide.

Notably, selling more than $41 million worth of tickets for a movie that is available for free on the Peacock streaming platform is impressive. At the same time, last year’s Halloween Kills also was also released concurrently on Peacock.

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The NBCUniversal hybrid SVOD/AVOD platform ended the most recent fiscal period with 15 million paid subscribers. It is also available for free to more than 17 million Xfinity pay-TV subscribers.

Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ sleeper horror hit Smile continues to impress. The move collected an estimated $12.5 million in ticket sales to move past $71 million in North American revenue. The movie had already topped $100 million globally entering the weekend.

Rounding out the podium was Sony Pictures’ live-animated family film Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, which generated $7.4 million in revenue to up its global tally to $22.7 million after two weekends.

Finally, Columbia TriStar Pictures’ period actioner The Woman King, starring Oscar winner Viola Davis, sold another $3.7 million in tickets to elevate its North American haul near $60 million after five weekends.

Imax Begins Advance Ticket Sales for Universal Pictures’ ‘Halloween Ends’

3D theatrical operator Imax has begun selling tickets to the Oct. 14 debut of Universal Pictures’ Halloween Ends. The film purportedly marks Jamie Lee Curtis’ last turn as Laurie Strode, whose decades-long nightmare with demented killer Michael Myers first began in 1978 with the franchise’s inaugural release of Halloween.

Imax says it will screen Halloween Ends for one week only. That is due in part to the fact that the movie will begin streaming on the same day as its theatrical debut on NBCUniversal’s Peacock subscription/ad-supported platform.

NBCUniversal employed the same strategy in 2021 for the release of Halloween Kills, which still generated $92 million in North American theatrical revenue and $131 million globally on a $20 million production budget. More importantly, the movie sold nearly $50 million worth of tickets in its weekend debut while streaming for no additional cost for Peacock subscribers.

“We discovered there are people who want to go to the theater and scream their guts out. We also discovered that there are people who want to stay at home and scream their guts out,” Curtis said on a social media post last month.

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The release strategy comes as theater operators endured one of the worst September box office results on record. The month’s North American ticket sales rank the worst in 25 years with just $275 million in revenue.

At the same time, Peacock remains stagnant with around 15 million paying subscribers. The platform is available for free to all Xfinity pay-TV subscribers.

Universal Pictures Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Halloween Kills’

Halloween Kills, the big theatrical horror hit of this year’s Halloween season, will be released through digital retailers on Dec. 14, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD a month later, on Jan. 11, 2022.

The Universal Pictures film, the 12th installment in the “Halloween” franchise, earned a domestic gross of nearly $92 million. 

The Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release of Halloween Kills features the original theatrical release, an extended cut with an alternate ending, and exclusive bonus content that includes extended and deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at creating the film, a gag reel and several short documentaries.

These include “Haddonfield’s Open Wounds,” which takes a look at some of the returning characters and why their past traumatic encounters made them natural candidates to defend their town against Michael; “Strode Family Values,” in which filmmakers discuss the three generations of Strode women who have been terrorized by The Shape; and “1978 Transformations,” about how the filmmakers shot new footage that matches the iconic 1978 original.
 

‘You’ Top Streaming Original, ‘Halloween Kills’ Top Streaming Movie on Whip Media Charts

Netflix’s “You” led the Whip Media chart of top streaming originals and Halloween Kills the chart of top streaming movies among U.S. consumers for the week ended Oct. 17.

Season three of the psychological thriller series “You,” which started streaming Oct. 15, features the continuation of Joe Goldberg’s fraught relationship with Love, who is pregnant with his child in a new suburban home.

Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills, the latest entrant in the long-running “Halloween” horror series, is available for streaming to Peacock Premium SVOD subscribers as well as in theaters. The sequel to the 2018 reboot from Blumhouse has Jamie Lee Curtis again reprising her original teen (now grandmother) role as Laurie Strode intent on ending the murderous reign of Michael Myers.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 18 million global users. The streaming originals chart rankings are determined by streaming original TV series with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app. The movie rankings are determined by theatrical or streaming movies with the greatest share of views in the given week, among a balanced panel of U.S. users of the TV Time app.

At No. 2 on the streaming originals chart was “Squid Game,” a South Korean series that follows a group of desperate and cash-strapped people competing in a blood-thirsty survival game. It started streaming Sept. 17.

The bronze on the streaming originals chart went to Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.” Viewers may have been catching up with the series in the week leading up to the finale, which debuted Oct. 19.

Coming in at No. 2 on the streaming movies chart was the Marvel feature Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson. It became available at no additional cost to Disney+ subscribers Oct. 6.

Repeating at No. 3 on the streaming movies chart was Netflix’s stand-up comedy special Dave Chappelle: The Closer, which started streaming Oct. 5. The show has created controversy over Chappelle’s comments about trans people.

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Top Streaming Originals Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended Oct. 17:

  1. “You” — Netflix (season premiere)
  2. “Squid Game” — Netflix
  3. “Only Murders in the Building” — Hulu
  4. “Ted Lasso” — Apple TV+
  5. “Titans” (2018) — HBO Max
  6. “The Morning Show” — Apple TV+
  7. “On My Block” — Netflix
  8. “Maid” — Netflix
  9. “Another Life” — Netflix (season premiere)
  10. “Doom Patrol” — HBO Max

 

Top Streaming Movies Among U.S. Consumers for the Week Ended Oct. 17:

  1. Halloween Kills — Peacock
  2. Black Widow — Disney+
  3. Dave Chappelle: The Closer — Netflix
  4. The Guilty — Netflix
  5. Halloween (2018) — Fubo TV
  6. Scream 2 — AMC+
  7. Tusk — Showtime
  8. There’s Someone Inside Your House — Netflix
  9. Halloween (1978) — AMC+
  10. Muppets Haunted Mansion — Disney+

‘Halloween Kills’ Domestic Box Office With $50.4 Million Debut

Universal Pictures’ sequel Halloween Kills didn’t disappoint, generating an estimated $50.4 million in opening weekend box office revenue across more than 3,700 North American screens.

The sequel to the 2018 reboot from Blumhouse, with Jamie Lee Curtis again reprising her original teen (now grandmother) role as Laurie Strode, intent on ending the murderous reign of Michael Myers, is the highest-grossing theatrical bow for a movie concurrently available on streaming at no extra cost to Peacock subscribers.

Halloween Kills‘ opening did not match the $76 million opening for 2018’s Halloween, which heavily marketed the return of Curtis to the role that launched her career. Kills is expected to resonate strongly at the box office through Oct. 31, before it will be made available on premium VOD.

Jamie Lee Curtis as grandmother Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills

MGM/United Artists Releasing’s James Bond title No Time to Die was the week’s runner-up with more than $24.3 million, reaching nearly $100 million at North American screens ($447 million globally) in Daniel Craig’s last run as Agent 007.

Another hyped new release, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), failed to match its $7 million to $10 million box office estimates, with less than $5 million in ticket sales. The result is disappointing for a film that reportedly cost $100 million to make — and features Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer.

Finally, Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage saw $16.5 million in ticket sales to bring its three-week total to $169.1 million, while MGM/United Releasing’s The Addams Family 2 realized $7.2 million in ticket sales ($42.3 million overall).

Box Office Forecast: Will It Be a Case of ‘Halloween Kills’ James Bond?

This weekend’s (through Oct. 17) box office battle finds James Bond being challenged by the murderous Michael Myers, who has been tormenting moviegoers since 1978 — 16 years after the first Bond movie. While both characters have survived being shot, blown up, stabbed, drowned, hacksawed and torched (Myers), the box office is a wholly different beast.

MGM/United Artists Releasing’s No Time to Die, featuring actor Daniel Craig in his supposed last performance as Agent 007, opened a week ago to a strong, yet unspectacular, $56 million North American box office. Myers’ return in Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills marks the third release in the Blumhouse reboot that brought back original teen (now grandmother) Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

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Unlike the previous release, which was a box office and critical success, Kills will be the first in the franchise to have concurrent availability on a streaming platform. Universal is making the movie available at no extra charge to Peacock subscribers — a marketing move that could undermine ticket sales similar to the impact of HBO Max on recent Warner Bros. Pictures’ releases.

As a result, Kills is tracking to generate more than $35 million domestically, according to Universal, far below the $76 million Halloween opening weekend in 2018 — but still ahead of the projected $25 million for No Time to Die in its sophomore weekend. Interestingly, women made up nearly 50% of Halloween moviegoers in 2018.

Meanwhile, Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel (20th Century Studios) makes its theatrical debut across more than 3,000 screens — featuring Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The period actioner is projected to generate more than $8 million in ticket sales.

Other returns include Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($25 million), The Addams Family 2 ($7.3 million) from MGM/UA Releasing, and Disney/Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($2.9 million).

Lionsgate Teams With Fandango and YouTube on Free Streamed Movies Benefit

Lionsgate is presenting “Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies,” a program of four Fridays of free movies streaming live on YouTube hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis, to help benefit theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The studio is mounting the campaign to “honor the communal experience of watching movies in movie theaters and support the people who make those places great with a special program that reminds everyone how much we love going to the cinema,” according to a Lionsgate press release.

Beginning Friday, April 17, and continuing every Friday spanning four consecutive weeks, the studio will team with Fandango and YouTube to livestream four of Lionsgate’s most popular library titles — The Hunger Games, Dirty Dancing, La La Land and John Wick — on Lionsgate’s YouTube page and Fandango’s Movieclips YouTube page.

Host Curtis will share her own movie memories as she is joined by special guest celebrities and YouTube personalities, according to the release. Each week’s night at the movies will feature programming and interactive opportunities for fans, such as real-time fan chats via YouTube Live, live tweeting @Lionsgate and partners, and shared fan engagement opportunities in-show, including movie trivia and movie-themed challenges.

Lionsgate’s initial donation as well as audience and partner donations throughout the event will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping workers throughout the motion picture industry. The event will link to the Foundation’s charitable page so that viewers can donate. The Will Rogers Foundation is currently providing financial assistance to theater employees furloughed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The schedule of free movies that will livestream Fridays at 6 p.m. PST/9 p.m. EST is as follows: The Hunger Games April 17, Dirty Dancing April 24, La La Land May 1 and John Wick (age registration required) May 8.

To present the live movie event, in addition to Fandango Lionsgate is joining with exhibition partners such as the National Association of Theatre Owners, AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres, among other regional circuits.

Popcornopolis, purveyors of gourmet popcorn, will support the event with a consumer movie night offer, with 10% of sales donated to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation. SnackNation will curate a movie-themed snack box with a special price and free shipping.

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“There’s nothing that will replace the magic of seeing a movie together with your fellow moviegoers in a theater on a big screen, but this is a chance for America to come together to recreate the experience,” said Joe Drake, chairman, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, in a statement. “This is a great chance to show the country’s theatrical employees how much we miss going to their theaters and how much we support them. Jamie Lee Curtis — a woman who literally grew up with the movies and movie theaters — is one of the world’s biggest movie fans, so it’s a real thrill that she’ll be our host for this event. Let’s have some fun watching some classic movies together at home while celebrating moviegoing!”

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“Throughout the 125-year history of the cinema, this is the first time that movie theaters have been shut down across the country,” said John Fithian, president and CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners, in a statement. “Whether it was the Depression, wars, disasters, or local calamities, movie theaters have always been a gathering place where audiences can come together to laugh and be moved, reacting as one, to put their troubles behind them or forget about their hard week at work, and just get lost in the amazing stories on the big screen. Until we can gather again in our nation’s theaters, we’re grateful to Lionsgate for honoring the theatrical moviegoing experience and we are thrilled to join together with them over these next four Fridays, not only to see four classic movies for free, but also to allow fans and celebrities to share their own moviegoing memories. We love that so many people will be talking about what makes going to the movies so unique and memorable.”