Director John Woo’s 1997 action epic Face/Off, which stars Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, is the next big studio film to get the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray treatment from independent film distributor Kino Lorber.
The film will be released Dec. 12 under Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics line.
In the film, FBI agent Sean Archer (Travolta) knows how to stop elusive terrorist Castor Troy (Cage). He’ll become him. Archer undergoes a futuristic surgery and has Troy’s face mapped onto his, then infiltrates the terrorist’s world to discover his deadly secrets.
But as much as Archer looks and acts like Troy, he doesn’t really know him. He never figures Troy will retaliate and force doctors to transform him into Archer. Now the agent faces a shattering nightmare: his archrival is living with his family.
As with other Kino Lorber 4K releases, Face/Off is coming to market in a combo pack that also includes the film on regular Blu-ray Disc. The 4K version is on a triple-layered UHD100 disc, and was created from a new HDR/Dolby Vision master made from a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The release includes 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 stereo sound. Bonus content includes a new audio commentary by action film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, along with existing extras such as an audio commentary by director Woo and writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary.
The Blu-ray Disc — a dual-layered BD50 — also comes from a new HD master from a 4K scan of the original camera negative and includes the same extras, as well as a third audio commentary by writers Werb and Colleary; seven deleted scenes with a combined length of eight minutes and 26 seconds; a making-of documentary; and featurette on Woo.
Rated ‘R’ for violence, and language throughout. Stars Shiloh Fernandez, John Travolta, Stephen Dorff, Kevin Dillon, Timothy V. Murphy, Ashley Benson.
Somewhere in the 1990s, the names John Travolta (Face/Off), Stephen Dorff (Blade) and Kevin Dillon (True Crime) splashed across a giant marquee would have been a casting agent’s wet dream. The closest our digital age gets to marquees are entranceway mylars — slung over the auditorium doors solely for the purpose of differentiating between cookie-cutter multiplex boxes — or worse: a satellite provider’s on-demand menus. Mob Land is a heist movie reunion tour of sorts, a trio of OG heavy-hitters plus a new front man, in this case Shiloh Fernandez (Evil Dead) as Shelby, brought on board by brother-in-law Trey (Dillon) with the promise that no crooks will be hurt during the making of this film.
Green behind the ears though Nicholas Maggio may be, the first-time director and first-time scenarist (with Rob Healey) follows the action genre’s first rule of thumb ad verbum: venality and villainy go hand-in-hand. The more coolly unprincipled and gleefully debauched the antagonist, the better the picture. (Note to Maggio: if you can afford this cast, surely you can pop for a tripod.) That’s no doubt why the first character seen in Mob Land is Shelby, but the first voice we hear is that of Clayton Minor (Dorff), a chatty, lower-than-dirt contract killer who regales victims with pages of raspy-throated Tarantino-ish dialog before a bullet air conditioner puts character and viewer alike out of their misery. Sadly, the characters don’t possess the depth required to make this more than passable entertainment.
Shelby is a salt-of-the-earth type, a down-on-his-luck family man, out of work and open to suggestions. (The intimate scenes between Shelby and his young daughter are a surefire indication the kid will either turn up dead or kidnapped by the end of reel two.) It’s Trey who breaches the subject of a stickup as a means of picking up a few yards of walking green. The Happiness Fun Center located in the strip mall next to karate school is an opioid mill that, according to Trey, is owned and operated by a pair of fentanyl-soaked zombies. In a moment of near patriotic fervor, Trey argues that he and Shelby invested blood and sweat in the town. Better they should be the ones to profit off their hard work, not a couple of low-class drug dealers. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen a crime film in the past 50 years: it’s a mob storefront. Trey shrugs off the two fatalities incurred during the botched hold-up with, “They were drug dealers.”
The only way prattler Clayton can get people to listen to his wild imaginings is at gunpoint, but it’s the more subdued Bodie who scores the biggest laugh with, “I’d slap you to sleep then slap you for sleeping.” The woman in the picture is Shelby’s adoring wife (Ashley Benson), conveniently shipped out of town with the kids days ahead of the foolproof robbery, only later to be held hostage and terrorized (off camera) by a mob sideboy should hubby decide to misbehave. The four leads hit their marks and stay true to their characters without overplaying. The sheriff in these parts is Bodie Davis (Travolta) a soft-spoken, contemplative peace officer whose mortality is hinted at — something about an oncologist report — just long enough to shade the character in a tragic light. Dorff displays an unexpected soft side, a mercy killing that eschews gunplay in favor of a couple of pills and a shot of whiskey.
The only leading man vainer than John Travolta is Robert Redford. Claudette Colbert changed her hairstyle with greater frequency than Redford. His shingling in The Way We Were spans over three decades yet at any given period, the actor’s thatched coiffure screams Santa Monica Pier c.1972. After finally having the guts to go full Burt Reynolds by doffing his “hair apparent” toupee, Travolta turned his attention to the lawn on his face. The nothing short of miraculous stubble-sculpting makes Crockett and Tubbs look like Otis the Drunk. One guesses the time spent manicuring his putting green whiskers netted his groomer 10 times more than the average sheriff of a small southern town pulled down in a year.
Special features include a commentary track with Nicholas Maggio, Shiloh Fernandez, and cinematographer Nick Matthews in addition to the behind-the-scenes featurette “Walking the Line: The Characters of Mob Land.”
Lionsgate will release the thriller Mob Land, starring John Travolta, on Blu-ray (plus DVD and digital) on Oct. 3.
The film was released Aug. 25 on VOD and digital from Saban Films.
In the film from director Nicholas Maggio, deep in the heart of Dixie, in a small town struggling with the ravages of addiction, a local sheriff (Travolta) tries to maintain the peace when desperate family man Shelby (Shiloh Fernandez) robs a pill mill with his reckless brother-in-law Trey (Kevin Dillon). But the supposedly easy score takes a violent turn, alerting the New Orleans mafia’s revenge-seeking enforcer (Stephen Dorff), who threatens Shelby’s wife (Ashley Benson) and daughter.
Street Date 7/4/23;
Rated ‘R’ for intense sequences of strong violence, and for strong language.
Stars John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Harve Presnell, Margaret Cho, Nick Cassavetes, John Carrol Lynch, CCH Pounder.
The name John Woo conjures up images of rhythmically decelerated violence expressively stretched to its limits. Shell casings chicly beat down against rain-soaked pavement while the gunslinger, mindfully pumping ammo, doesn’t bother to remove the toothpick from his mouth. By the time Hong Kong’s often imitated, never duplicated master of balletic action made the move to Hollywood in 1993, he had pretty much shown us everything he had, only this time his efforts yielded a well-deserved mountain of greenbacks. Hollywood began pitching Woo shortly after the international success of The Killers (1989) made him a cult favorite in the States. Woo, the first Asian filmmaker to direct a mainstream Hollywood picture, was sold to Universal execs by none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme, who hailed him as “the Martin Scorsese of Asia!”
With Hard Target (1993), his first American film, Woo achieved what many thought to be impossible: a vigorously watchable Van Damme movie! Broken Arrow (1996) was a stiff, but a follow-up John Travolta picture, Face/Off (1997), demonstrated that Woo could handle a think-free blockbuster without compromising too much integrity. As delightful as it was to reconnect with the film some 26-years after its initial release, the question remains, was this Blu-ray re-release really necessary?
Woo spent a decade working on American soil. Of the seven films he signed between 1993 and 2003, Face/Off remains artistically unbeaten. Mission: Impossible II was the highest-grossing film of 2000, but Woo has yet to make an American film that is a patch on any of his Hong Kong hits. Oddly, my favorite of the director’s Hong Kong films, Hard Boiled, was his least successful in China. The locals slammed it as too American.
The Face/Off script by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary is constructed around a premise so silly that it makes Magnificent Obsession (1954) — millionaire playboy Rock Hudson studies to become a surgeon so as to restore sight to a woman he accidentally blinded — look like a paragon of plausibility when compared to what Woo and company cooked up.
Released at a time when Nicolas Cage and John Travolta ruled the box office, the biggest appeal was the stars’ and filmmakers’ commitment to making a hard ‘R’-rated movie, no matter how silly a premise they’ve concocted. Castor Troy (Cage) stands positioned on a grassy knoll, sucking down a soft drink and focusing his rifle scope on a nearby carousel. His aim is to take out Sean Archer (Travolta), but his bullet passes through the FBI agent killing his young son. Five minutes into the picture and a child’s corpse kicks off the body count. Six years later the cop and killer reconvene. Before being beaten to a comatose pulp, Troy confesses that he’s planted a bomb capable of spreading biological warfare of biblical proportions across Los Angeles. The only other person aware of the bomb’s whereabouts is Troy’s younger brother (Alessandro Nivola), and his lips are sealed. Archer undergoes an experimental surgical procedure that allows good and bad guys to swap mugs. Troy is kept alive in a vegetative state waiting to be revived at the precise moment the script needed a swift kick in the ass.
Cage playing Travolta playing Cage falls short of Being John Malkovich, but credit the filmmakers for having the courage of their conviction to play it straight, give or take a moment or two of sickening maudlinism. (The running gag of actors face-palming one another as a token of affection lost its charm after the third of what would amount to a dozen or so swipes.) And all things considered, these guys are two of the worst shots in movie history. If you had in your bank account what they spent on expended bullets, you could afford to put a family of 10 through college.
So what’s behind the pressing need for a 2023 pressing? The commentary tracks and special features are the same ones that were minted on Paramount’s 2008 release. Why should this version be different from all other home video copies? This one comes with access to a digital copy. How is this a selling tool? Why would anyone in possession of a Blu-ray, a flat-screen, and their right mind need a digital code to watch a film on their laptop or, even worse, a cell phone? And while we’re doing away with digital copies, why not put an end to Blu-ray/DVD combos? Who is the DVD copy for? Are you going to invite friends that you don’t like over for dinner followed by a screening of an inferior pressing? Last year Kino Lorber announced a 4K restoration and my guess is this is Paramount’s way to milk every last cent out of the title before it becomes obsolete. Sit tight. Kino Lorber is poised to cast the film in a different light that’s bound to be brighter than Paramount’s dingy face-lift.
The action thriller Paradise City, starring Bruce Willis and John Travolta, arrives on Blu-ray (plus digital) and DVD Dec. 20 from Lionsgate.
Directed by Chuck Russell (The Scorpion King, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Mask), Paradise City is Travolta and Willis’s first on-screen reunion since Pulp Fiction.
In the film, when bounty hunter Ian Swan (Willis) is shot and presumed dead after disappearing in Maui waters, Swan’s son Ryan (Blake Jenner), his ex-partner (Stephen Dorff) and a local detective (Praya Lundberg) set out to find his killers. After being threatened by a ruthless power-broker crime boss (Travolta), it appears Ryan and his team are out of options — until an excursion to the closely guarded island community of Paradise City unites them with an unforeseen ally.
Mill Creek Entertainment will release a 20th anniversary Blu-ray Disc of the 2000 sci-fi movie Battlefield Earth Sept. 15.
Based on L. Ron Hubbard’s best-selling book, the story takes place in the year 3000 where Earth is ruled by a vicious alien race known as the Psychlos that have stripped the planet of its resources and eradicated most the human population. One of the few surviving humans, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) is in pursuit of a better place to live, but is soon captured by a Psychlo slavemaster to join fellow “man-animals” in mining efforts. Jonnie eventually gains the attention of the evil Psychlo security officer Terl (John Travolta) and his assistant Ker (Forest Whitaker) who have discovered a vein of gold which they are unable to recover without the assistance of humans. While Terl attempts to makes Jonnie his personal slave, Jonnie uses his position to rally the other humans and unite in a plot to destroy the aliens and restore the human race to its former glory.
A notorious box office flop in its day, Battlefield Earth received seven Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture.
One positive trend that has emerged during the pandemic, home entertainment studio executives say, is that consumers seem to be gaining a better understanding of the difference between transactional and subscription streaming and are realizing that not everything they might want to see is available on Netflix or the other big SVOD services.
“Because consumers are spending so much watching digital video at home, they are acutely aware of which titles are available on the various platforms,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution.
“It has become clear that consumers sheltering at home not only have become increasingly engaged in our catalog offerings to keep entertained, but also have progressively grown to become more savvy in navigating the spectrum of formats,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “As such, we have continued to invest and reward consumers to stay engaged in the category and have been working in lockstep with our digital and physical retail partners to ensure that we remain hyper-focused on delivering the broadest access and best possible in-home experience.”
“Consumers have become much more receptive to different price points,” adds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong. “They realize not everything’s on Netflix, and it’s worth it to them to pay a transactional amount for something they really want to watch. They really have embraced all the ways to consume digital video.”
That includes the physical disc. “We are encouraged by the resilience,” Spivak says. “When you think of the structural impediments, stores being closed, online ordering taking longer to fulfill — consumers who love the physical disc are persevering and that business is holding up quite well.”
Studios were fortunate that two of the biggest retail sellers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Walmart and Target, were able to remain open throughout the pandemic because they also sell groceries and thus were deemed “essential” businesses. Alanna Powers, SVP of brand marketing, catalog, at Paramount Home Entertainment, says studio marketers have already met with Walmart to discuss fourth-quarter plans, with a focus on catalog.
“We went through a whole planning session with the Walmart team,” Powers says.
But the biggest lift to DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, studio marketers say, comes from e-commerce sellers such as Amazon.
“We’ve seen quite a boom in e-commerce,” Powers says. “Initially we were unsure about the supply chain and how retail would react, but we kept all our new-to-Blu-ray titles on the calendar and saw a very positive response so we’ve continued to fill the slate with additional titles.”
Indeed, in addition to monthly waves of “Paramount Presents” releases, Paramount recently has come out with a 25th anniversary edition of the Alicia Silverstone comedy Clueless and 40th anniversary editions of horror classic Friday the 13th and John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy. Clueless and Friday the 13th also are available in limited edition steelbooks.
“We’re really leaning more into the collector’s market,” Powers says. “That’s where e-commerce really shines.”
It’s not just movies, either. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment enjoyed a banner spring with TV product, says Jeff Brown, EVP and GM, Television. “The second quarter was a panacea for transactional television content, physical as well as digital,” Brown says. “Our business grew over 40%, year on year. And if you exclude ‘Game of Thrones,’ which had an extraordinary performance last year with the final season broadcast and transactional release, our business nearly doubled. This really shows peoples’ appetite for television content, and while obviously stay-at-home behavior contributed to this, there were several other opportunities we were able to capitalize on.”
One was the fact that Warner now distributes TV content from HBO and Turner digitally as well as physically.
Another is a strong slate of product, released just in time for viewers to enjoy while encouraged by state and local governments to stay in their homes. “Our top drivers included ‘Rick and Morty,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ as well as the animated original movie titles Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was probably our best-performing DC animated movie since Batman: The Killing Joke and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” Brown says.
The third factor behind Warner’s strong TV quarter is a series of “Entertaining the World” promotions, Brown says, with a menu of promotional actions for digital retailers such as Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.
“We promoted shows such as ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire,’ and Hanna-Barbera and DC animated classics,” Brown says. “We were able to look at the total Warner-HBO-Turner TV and animation library and come up with compelling retail programs, and we coordinated this on a semi-monthly ‘wave’ basis to provide an abundance of promoted content to retailers in a timely manner.”
Editor’s Note: This is part three in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’
Lionsgate will release the car-racing drama Trading Paint on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally May 21. The film is current available on demand.
John Travolta and Toby Sebastian star as a father and son racing duo who have a falling out after their winning streak ends. The rift grows when the son takes an offer to race for a rival team, pitting the two against each other in a high-stakes showdown.
Universal Pictures continues its run on top of the Redbox charts, with the latest installment in the gruesome “Halloween” horror movie franchise debuting at No. 1 on both charts the week ended Jan. 20.
Halloween, the 11th installment that began with the 1978 original also called Halloween, topped both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming.
The new Halloween earned nearly 160 million in North American theaters. It comes full circle, following Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after she survived Michael Myers’ initial killing spree chronicled in the first movie.
Halloween bumped another Universal Pictures film, Night School, out of the No. 1 spot it had held for the past three weeks on the Redbox disc-rental chart and two weeks on the Redbox On Demand digital chart.
The Kevin Hart-starring comedy, which earned $77.3 million in North American theaters, slipped to No. 3 on both charts.
Debuting at No. 2 on both charts was another new release, Goosebumps 2, from Sony Pictures. Like Halloween, Goosebumps 2 was released theatrically in time for Halloween. A sequel to 2015’s Goosebumps, the followup racked up a $46.7 million domestic gross.
Venom, a superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, slipped to No. 4 from No. 2 on the kiosk chart, and to No. 6 from No. 4 on the digital chart.
Rounding out the top five on the Redbox disc-rental chart was a third new release, Speed Kills, from Lionsgate. The film stars John Travolta as a rich speedboat racing champion who leads a double life that gets him in hot water with both the police and a team of drug lords. It’s the latest in a string of theatrical flops starring the one-time ‘A’ list star.
On the Redbox On Demand digital chart, Lionsgate’s A Simple Favor moved back up to No. 4 from No. 6 the prior week, while the No. 5 spot went to 20th Century Fox’s Bad Times at the El Royale, down two spots from the previous week.
A fourth new release, Warner’s A Star is Born, debuted at No. 8 on the Redbox digital chart. The film – which received eight Oscar nominations, including a nod for “Best Picture,” won’t be available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc until Feb. 19.
Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending January 20
Halloween (2018, new)
Goosebumps 2 (new)
Speed Kills (new)
White Boy Rick
The Equalizer 2
The House With a Clock in its Walls
Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending January 20
Lionsgate will release the notorious biopic Gotti on Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 25. The Blu-ray will include a digital copy.
The film, which stars John Travolta as New York mobster John Gotti, earned $4.3 million at the domestic box office. The film was famously acquired by MoviePass prior to its release and stirred some controversies when it hit theaters June 15 by how it was marketed.
After Gotti earned a 0% critics score on RottenTomatoes.com, the site began to receive a large number of positive audience reviews of the film, prompting an ad campaign that claimed critics were wrong. After the audience score began to drop, some industry observers noticed that many of the positive reviews came from recently created accounts that reviewed only MoviePass-owned films, prompting speculation that the site was being manipulated for marketing purposes (any involvement in which MoviePass has denied).