Dune: Part One

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $107.35 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.
Stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem.

Efforts to adapt Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 sci-fi novel Dune have been met with mixed results over the years.

The 1970s saw Alejandro Jodorowsky envision a 10-hour movie version, and when that fell through, producer Dino De Laurentiis grabbed the rights and hired Ridley Scott to give it a go as a follow-up to Alien, though the scope of the project proved too daunting for him as well.

Then David Lynch came on board, choosing to adapt Dune over, among other projects, directing Return of the Jedi. His version finally arrived in 1984 after a troubled production and massive edits to bring his three-hour initial cut to a bit over two hours for the theatrical release, a running time that so crammed Herbert’s story that it was generally panned by critics for being incomprehensible.

The Sci-Fi Channel in the early 2000s had a bit better luck with a pair of miniseries based on Dune and a few of Herbert’s sequels to it, earning ratings success while leaving fans of the books to continue to clamor for a worthy big-screen version.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s interpretation seems to have met those aspirations.

Villeneuve’s Dune presents the narrative as a sweeping epic of galactic politics and feuding families, marked by stunning visual splendor and scope.

Covering roughly half of the first book, Dune: Part One, as it is announced on screen, tells the story of a desert world named Arrakis, thousands of years into the future when humanity has colonized the vast expanses of outer space and formed an empire to control it, led by wealthy and influential families. The planet’s sands provide the only known source of the spice Melange, a substance with mind-altering properties that makes celestial navigation possible.

The Emperor has ordered the House Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) to take over administration of Arrakis from Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). Leto’s son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), begins having visions of living among the Fremen, remnants of the tribes that originally inhabited the planet.

The Fremen are experts at surviving the harsh desert environment and dealing with the giant native sandworms that roam beneath the surface, both depositing the spice and menacing the efforts to extract it. Paul is rumored to be a prophesized messiah to the Fremen.

The Atreides will not have an easy time of it on Arrakis, however, as it quickly becomes apparent that their appointment to govern the planet is a trap by the Emperor and the Harkonnens to diminish their power, if not eliminate them altogether by a full-scale assault on the planet.

Villeneuve places the emphasis on the human and character aspects of the story, rather than the more bizarre sci-fi elements that seemed to fuel Lynch’s version.

At around two-and-a-half-hours, he also takes 20 more minutes than Lynch to tell half the story, allowing it to breathe by not trying to cram the density of the first book into a single movie, as the 1984 version did.

To make sure viewers who didn’t read the book are not left completely baffled, long early stretches of the film are very heavy in exposition, explaining who the families are, the Fremen and the culture of Arrakis. But this is all necessary worldbuilding endemic to any good sci-fi franchise and should continue to pay off with future installments.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Savvy viewers may have noticed the influence the original novel had on countless burgeoning sci-fi franchises in the years it took to get a movie adaptation off the ground, with “Star Wars” and its desert world of Tatooine being the most notable example. Because of this, some fans might find a lot of similarities between this latest Dune movie and some recent “Star Wars” shows set on Tatooine, such as “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett.”

The exposition provided in the film is expanded upon in the Blu-ray bonus materials, with an eight minute featurette about the Royal Houses, and 10-and-a-half-minutes of video encyclopedia entries similar to the ones Paul watches in the film in order to learn about Arrakis.

The Blu-ray also includes nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes as well, with individual videos focused on the usual things like production design, cinematography, costumes and visual effects

Some dig deeper, such as a creating the makeup effects used to create the Baron’s bloated physique. Another looks at the fighting styles used to give the battle scenes a heightened since of verisimilitude. Others show how the visual effects team pulled off the film’s unique vehicles, as well as the giant worm attacks; the longest is an 11-minute examination of the film’s distinctive sound design and Hans Zimmer’s musical score.

Collectively, they demonstrate the precision and craftsmanship that went into constructing the film.

Deadpool 2

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Action Comedy;
Box Office $318.37 million;
$29.99 DVD; $34.99 Blu-ray; $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.
Stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Shioli Kutsuna, Eddie Marsan, Rob Delaney.

In the age of the superhero movie, you can always count on Deadpool to take the utter piss out of the genre — and in doing so, provide a bit of the counter-balance to how seriously some of the films take themselves.

Sure, movies like “Ant-Man” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” might lighten the mood a bit with some jokes and irreverent characters, but Deadpool takes it to that next level, where there is no reference that can’t be made, and no gag that is out of bounds.

And what makes it work is that, just like the comic books that inspire it, the “Deadpool” movies are also the very thing they are making fun of — intense action, complicated plots, larger-than-life characters. It’s just a healthy dose of meta-humor can go a long way in setting it apart.

In this second film, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself trying to protect a mutant teenager (Julian Dennison) from a mutant from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) who wants to kill him before the kid fully unleashes his powers and becomes one of the world’s greatest villains.

To do that, and with the X-Men not available (thanks to one of several hilarious cameos), Deadpool forms X-Force, a team of marginal superheroes to help him rescue the kid and change the future.

With David Leitch taking over directing duties, the action is much more intense than the first film, and without the structural limitations of needing to tell Deadpool’s origin story, the script this time out doesn’t feel the need to follow any rules. (For example, with Brolin also playing Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, you can bet Deadpool 2 isn’t going to let that one slide without a comment).

Part of what makes the humor so effective is the commitment the filmmakers make to the material, putting absurd characters in the middle of a serious situation. The highlight is a pitch-perfect parody of a James Bond opening title sequence, complete with a haunting ballad sung to the hilt by Celine Dion.

The Blu-ray includes a 15-minute longer “Super Duper $@%!#& Cut” that, based on what some of the filmmakers say during the bonus materials, seems like it could have been the original version of the movie before it was trimmed for time and softened up a bit to hit the ‘R’ rating. This version has more violence, more guns, alternate jokes and some different music in parts. It’s an intriguing version but not a fundamentally different film.

The Super Duper cut is included on its own disc with no extras, as all the bonus materials are included with the disc containing the theatrical cut. And, as with the first film, the extras are a trove of Deadpool material from a hilarious marketing campaign.

This section includes several promotional spots and all the trailers, plus some international pieces such as Deadpool offering free tattoos to attendees of a Brazilian comic book convention. There are also a few music videos, including for Dion’s title-sequence tune, and a stills gallery.

The disc also offers a three-minute gag reel and a couple of deleted scenes, including the oft-mentioned scene in which Deadpool embarks on a quest to kill Baby Hitler (also included in the Super Duper cut).

The theatrical cut comes with a great audio commentary with Reynolds, Leitch, and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick, who collectively discuss structuring the story and why they chose to include the gags that they did.

Finally, the Blu-ray includes about 75 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

“Deadpool Family Values: Cast of Characters” is a 15-minute profile of the characters; “David Leitch Not Lynch: Directing DP2” is a 12-minute look at the new director’s influence on the film and cast; “Deadpool’s Lips Are Sealed: Secrets and Easter Eggs” is a 13-minute look at how the film maintained secrecy while including a ton of surprises for fans; “Until Your Face Hurts: Alt Takes” is nine minutes mixing some of the alternate line readings with interviews about what makes a “Deadpool” film such a lively set; “Roll With the Punches: Action and Stunts” is a seven-minute look at the film’s action scenes; “The Deadpool Prison Experiment” is an 11-and-a-half examination of the film’s scenes set at a prison for mutants; “The Most Important X-Force Member” is a two-minute profile of Deadpool’s new pal Peter; “Chess With Omega Red” is a minute-long revelation of one of the other prisoners; “Swole and Sexy” is a two-minute profile of some of the film’s other characters; and “3 Minute Monologue” offers two minutes of Brolin’s ruminations as he gets into his Cable makeup.

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 8/14/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $678.11 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, William Hurt, Winston Duke.

If the first “Avengers” film was the superhero movie equivalent of an all-star game, then Avengers: Infinity War has got to be the genre’s Super Bowl. This isn’t just a few heroes uniting for a fight to save the Earth from the megalomaniacal villain of the moment. This is a massive intergalactic brawl with nothing less than the fate of the entire universe at stake.

Though nominally the third film of the “Avengers” brand, Infinity War is really a sequel to the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the original Iron Man in 2008. Infinity War is the 19th film in the mega-franchise, while the 20th is the recent Ant-Man and the Wasp, whose characters are mentioned but aren’t directly involved here.

What makes Infinity War stand out, however, is how much it deconstructs the traditional “hero’s journey” arc of a typical fantasy adventure to wring suspense from the audience’s expectations of how the story will play out.

The film pits the Avengers against the alien warlord Thanos, who has made minor appearances in previous films as the mastermind behind a quest to collect the six Infinity Stones, gems of immense power that when combined can give the holder nearly godlike abilities.

Thanos is motivated by a desire to wipe out half the population of the universe in order to preserve resources and improve the quality of life for those who remain. Tired from untold years of pursuing his agenda planet-by-planet and earning countless enemies along the way, Thanos realizes that obtaining the Infinity Stones will allow him to complete his goals with the snap of his fingers. It’s not every day a comic book movie can inspire debate over the morality of Malthusian ethics.

The Avengers, on the other hand, are scattered across the cosmos and not much of a threat to Thanos following the events of Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok. While Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) can organize their own factions on Earth, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is able to bring the Guardians of the Galaxy into the fight, which pretty much finally connects all the quadrants of the MCU.

One of the strengths of directors Joe and Anthony Russo in their previous MCU films has been their ability to tell bold, complex stories with efficiency without sacrificing exciting action or engaging character dynamics. As if finding a way to involve a dozen heroes in Civil War without it feeling overstuffed weren’t enough of an achievement, with Infinity War they pull off one of the greatest balancing acts in cinematic history. Each character serves a function without seeming extraneous, while adding enough to the story to satisfy fans of each particular sub-franchise.

The plot weaves between action and quieter character moments to heighten the emotional impact of a powerful conclusion that unsurprisingly had fans lauding the film as the MCU equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back.

While it may be technically possible to follow along without having seen the previous films, one of the great joys of Infinity War is the chance to see so many of these characters that were established in earlier movies interact with each other for the first time. New viewers who want something of a primer without fully committing to the MCU should at least check out the “Avengers” movies, the “Captain America” movies, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and Thor: Ragnarok.

Infinity War’s visual style offers an eye-popping array of color that really looks spectacular on an HD screen. It should be noted that the entirety of the film is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio that doesn’t shift for the scenes that were specifically engineered for the film’s Imax theatrical presentation.

The visual effects are well rendered without overwhelming the senses, even though there is often a lot to take in, especially in the battle sequences (compared with, say, the stretched-to-the-screen’s-edge details of Ready Player One). Infinity War is as much of a science-fiction epic as anything, but in keeping with previous Marvel films, the presentation veers toward the hyper-real, fittingly evoking the feeling of fun comic book art rather than something more true-to-life.

The Blu-ray includes a nice smattering of extras that give a good sense of the scope of making the film but don’t really dive too deeply into specifics aside from a few key scenes.

The five-minute “Strange Alchemy” looks at the fun of uniting the various characters and why some were grouped together the way they were. The six-minute “The Mad Titan” focuses on Thanos and how his history in the films has led to his actions here.

Two “Beyond the Battle” featurettes explore the making of two key sequences, with nearly 10 minutes devoted to team Iron Man and the Guardians fighting Thanos on the planet Titan, and 11 minutes looking at Captain America’s and Black Panther’s squads joining forces to battle the armies of Thanos in Wakanda.

There are four deleted scenes that run a total of about 10 minutes each. Each contain unfinished visual effects but for the most part serve as fun little short films that provide some additional insights about the characters. “Happy Knows Best” features the hilarious cameo by Jon Favreau that was cut from the film. “Hunt for the Mind Stone” is an extension of the fight between Vision, Scarlet Witch and Thanos’ goons. “A Father’s Choice” offers some more Thanos backstory. And “The Guardians Get Their Groove Back” pokes a little fun at the “Guardians” films’ penchant for classic rock soundtracks. These are accompanied by an amusing two-minute gag reel.

Finally, the Blu-ray includes a feature-length commentary from the Russo brothers and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. This is a great discussion as they share all sorts of tidbits about the construction of the film, from pulling together many of the loose threads of the MCU to organizing the screenplay in a way to effectively tell the story while still giving all the characters their due.

Digital editions of the film, which can be accessed through Movies Anywhere and participating retailers using the code provided with the Blu-ray, have an exclusive half-hour roundtable discussion with eight directors of several of the MCU films. This is a great discussion about the art of collaboration on a massive franchise such as this, and how the various directors were able to evolve various characters’ storylines to the point where Infinity War could pay of so much of them. The participation of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn in the discussion does make the featurette a bit of a victim of some awkward timing, considering how recent revelations over his past Twitter postings have clouded his role role within the MCU.

The Ultra HD edition includes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack but none of the bonus features, which are on the regular Blu-ray Disc included with the combo pack.

Fox Releasing ‘Deadpool 2’ on Home Video in August With Extended Cut

The ‘R’-rated superhero comedy Deadpool 2 will be released through digital retailers Aug. 7 and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Aug. 21 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds as the merc with

a mouth, earned more than $314 million at the domestic box office.

In addition to the theatrical cut, the digital and Blu-ray editions will include the Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut, which will include an additional 15 minutes of action and jokes.

The Blu-ray editions will include an audio commentary on the theatrical version from Reynolds, director David Leitch, and co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

Additional Blu-ray extras include a gag reel, deleted/extended scenes, a stills gallery and several featurettes:
• “Until Your Face Hurts: Alt Takes”
• “Deadpool’s Lips are Sealed: Secrets and Easter Eggs”
• “The Most Important X-Force Member”
• “Deadpool Family Values: Cast of Characters”
• “David Leitch Not Lynch: Directing DP2
• “Roll with the Punches: Action and Stunts”
• “The Deadpool Prison Experiment”
• “Chess with Omega Red”
• “Swole and Sexy”
• “3-Minute Monologue”
• “Deadpool’s Fun Sack 2”

Fox will be taking preorders for the Blu-ray at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International July 18-22, and will hold a world premiere screening of the”Super Duper Cut” at 9:30 p.m. June 21 at the Horton Grand Theatre in San Diego, in addition to several additional Deadpool 2 promotional activities.