Oppenheimer

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $325.37 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Kenneth Branagh, Benny Safdie, Jason Clarke, Dylan Arnold, Tom Conti, James D’Arcy, David Dastmalchian, Dane DeHaan, Alden Ehrenreich, Tony Goldwyn, Jefferson Hall, David Krumholtz, Matthew Modine, Scott Grimes, Jack Quaid, Christopher Denham, Olivia Thirlby, Gary Oldman.

Director Christopher Nolan’s meticulously crafted Oppenheimer is a bit of a throwback to the kinds of epics stocked with all-star casts Hollywood used to pump out in the 1950s and ’60s.

Yet this biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, labeled by history as the “father of the atomic bomb,” is also distinctly Nolan, marked by his penchant for nonlinear storytelling and pushing the boundaries of traditional filmmaking. It’s a testament to Nolan’s skill as a director that he’s able to craft a riveting character drama from what is essentially three hours of people just talking to each other.

Based on the book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Oppenheimer frames the story of its title subject through the proceedings of two political hearings. One, set in 1954, finds Oppenheimer (longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy) attempting to restore his security clearance in the face of efforts to silence him from influencing nuclear policy. The other, set in 1959, focuses on the Senate confirmation hearing of Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.), a former member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission who sheds light on Oppenheimer’s ouster.

Nolan uses similar points of discussion from the testimony given at both events to explore Oppenheimer’s life through flashbacks depicting the young scientist’s study of physics in Europe and his efforts to expand the field of quantum mechanics research in the United States.

Oppenheimer is poised to pioneer the study of black holes when World War II breaks out, and he is recruited by Gen. Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to head the Manhattan Project to create an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany.

Scenes stemming from Strauss’ point of view are presented in black and white and meant to convey a more objective reality, while scenes in color represent Oppenheimer’s perspective and a more subjective interpretation of events.

The highlight of the three-hour film is obviously the middle section depicting the creation of the atomic bomb, with Oppenheimer and Groves bringing many of America’s top minds to a makeshift town in the New Mexico desert in order to turn theory into reality, culminating in the Trinity test.

Oppenheimer, however, is constantly dogged by earlier associations with left-wing causes, and friendships with a number of Communist Party members and Soviet sympathizers, that will ultimately be used as a sledgehammer against him.

Nolan in the Blu-ray bonus features describes the film’s structure as moving from the beginning of the hero’s journey, to a heist movie (the recruiting of a team for a caper of sorts), to a courtroom drama.

Through Murphy’s transformative performance, Oppenheimer comes to life as a man constantly struggling to balance the accolades of his historic achievements with the moral weight of their implications.

The last hour of the film depicts this sort of tug-of-war between America’s efforts to maintain nuclear superiority in the face of Russia developing the technology, and Oppenheimer’s desire to pursue international policies to contain the genie he helped escape from the bottle.

Nolan famously shot the film using large-format Imax cameras, and the results are evident in a pristine 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation. The 4K and Blu-ray disc versions of the film take advantage of this with a variable aspect ratio that shifts between a letterboxed 2.20:1 image and an immersive 1.78:1 that occupies the entirety of a big-screen TV. The DVD and digital presentations are locked at a consistent 2.20:1 ratio.

Sound is booming but dialogue is easy to understand despite most scenes taking place in a conversational tone.

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The 4K and Blu-ray combo packs include a bonus disc containing nearly three-and-a-half hours of supplemental material, led by the seven-part “The Story of Our Time: The Making of Oppenheimer” behind-the-scenes documentary.

Clocking in at more than 72 minutes, the program offers a comprehensive look at the making of the film and the exquisite level of detail employed by Nolan in re-creating the period settings, for the most part. Of note, the set of Oppenheimer’s office includes the actual clock he had in his real office, and scenes taking place at the Oppenheimers’ home were filmed at their actual house in Los Alamos. Nolan was also keen on using practical in-camera effects as opposed to CGI, which lends to the film’s air of authenticity.

The seven featurettes are also available with digital copies of the film. The remaining extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray.

The eight-minute “Innovations in Film” focuses on the use of 65mm to shoot the picture, delving into the cinematography and editing challenges presented. Of note, the production had to invent black-and-white 65mm film stock to achieve the film’s visual style. There’s also a segment on how the film was prepared for digital projection and home video, with the digital version of the film being carefully rendered to match the look and feel of the 70mm Imax presentation.

For some comparisons of the different presentation styles of the film, there’s a full package of the film’s trailers, including an Imax trailer that displays footage from the film in the square Imax ratio, plus the five-minute promo video that played during the early summer. The footage in these trailers isn’t as refined as the film presentation, which demonstrates how much care went into making the film look the best it can be.

A 35-minute “Meet the Press” episode features a Q&A from July 15, 2023, featuring Nolan, author Bird, physicist and Nolan science advisor Dr. Kip Thorne, current Los Alamos director Dr. Thom Mason, and physicist Dr. Carlo Rovelli. It’s an interesting discussion about the relationship between science and policy, and includes some tidbits about how Nolan the screenwriter went a bit deeper than the book in depicting the Strauss confirmation hearing by digging up the actual transcripts.

Rounding out the extras is the hour-and-a-half To End All War: Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb, a great biographical documentary about the real Oppenheimer that gives a better context to the events depicted in the film. Seeing the copious footage of the soft-spoken Oppenheimer — he comes across as a bit of a professorial Mr. Rogers — really crystalizes how much Murphy was able to embody him in his performance. This is the kind of bonus feature more movies about real events should include on home video but just don’t anymore.

Josh Hartnett Thriller ‘Ida Red’ Available on DVD Jan. 4

The crime thriller Ida Red will be released on DVD Jan. 4 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The film is already available for digital purchase and on demand.

In the film, crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Oscar winner Melissa Leo) turns to her son Wyatt (Josh Hartnett) to pull off one last heist to get out of prison. But with the FBI closing in, Wyatt must choose between family and freedom.

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In addition to Leo and Hartnett, the film also stars Sofia Hublitz, William Forsythe, Deborah Ann Woll, George Carroll, Mark Boone Junior, Beau Knapp and Frank Grillo.

Wrath of Man

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/13/21;
Warner/MGM;
Action;
Box Office $27.4 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual references.
Stars Jason Statham, Scott Eastwood, Andy Garcia, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Laz Alonso, Chris Reilly, DeObia Oparei, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan.

Jason Statham’s fourth film with director Guy Ritchie is a brutal revenge thriller that uses a time-shifting narrative to maintain the mystery of its characters’ motivations and true identities.

Statham plays the newest employee of an armored truck company that is frequently targeted by a highly armed squad of thieves. His co-workers don’t think much of his icy demeanor until he single-handedly takes out a gang of attackers, which earns him the respect of his colleagues.

Yet it soon becomes clear he has another agenda, which relates to avenging one of the victims of the heist that opens the film — fantastically depicted in a single take from inside the van.

Ritchie, who also co-wrote the screenplay, which is based on the 2004 French film Cash Truck, directs with his usual flair for kinetic and brutal action, resulting in several extended shootouts that will leave the audience wondering who to trust.

The Blu-ray has contains no extras.

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Guy Ritchie’s ‘Wrath of Man’ Due on Digital June 29, Disc July 13

The revenge heist film Wrath of Man is coming to digital June 29 and DVD and Blu-ray July 13 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Director Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Gentlemen) teams up with Jason Statham (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, the “Fast & Furious” franchise) for a story about a mysterious security guard out to settle a score. The film is Ritchie’s fourth directorial collaboration with Statham.

In the film, mysterious and wild-eyed, a new security guard for a cash truck surprises his co-workers when he unleashes precision skills during a heist. The crew is left wondering who he is and where he came from. Soon, the marksman’s ultimate motive becomes clear as he takes dramatic and irrevocable steps to settle a score.

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The actioner, based on the 2004 French film Cash Truck, also stars Scott Eastwood (The Fate of the Furious, Pacific Rim: Uprising), Andy Garcia (The Mule, Oceans Thirteen), Holt McCallany (Three Kings, Fight Club), Jeffrey Donovan (Hitch, Sicario, TV’s “Burn Notice”), Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down), Laz Alonso (Avatar, “Fast & Furious”), Chris Reilly (TV’s “Game of Thrones”), Raul Castillo (television’s “Looking”), DeObia Oparei (television’s “Game of Thrones,” Moulin Rouge!) and Eddie Marsan (The Gentlemen, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows).

‘Most Wanted’ Due on Blu-ray and Digital Sept. 22

The drama Most Wanted will come out on Blu-ray and digital Sept. 22 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The film is already available on demand.

Inspired by a true story, the film follows an investigative journalist (Josh Hartnett) who unravels a twisted case of entrapment in which Daniel (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, is forced into a dangerous drug deal against his will and is sentenced to 100 years in a Thai prison.  As Daniel endures torture and abuse, the journalist must track down the shady undercover cops benefiting off the conspiracy, while also fighting for Daniel’s freedom.

The film is written and directed by Daniel Roby.

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‘You Should Have Left,’ Three Other New Releases Debut on ‘Watched at Home’ Chart

The DVD and digital release of You Should Have Left sent the psychological thriller from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment soaring up the weekly “Watched at Home” chart to debut at No. 2.

The film, from Blumhouse Productions, stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda as a couple seeking a restful vacation in a remote home in the Welsh countryside. Their retreat soon turns into a terrifying nightmare when reality begins to unravel, dark episodes from the past resurface, and a sinister force in the house refuses to let them leave.

Another Universal-distributed film, DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, remained in the top spot on the chart for the week ended Aug. 1. It’s the animated sequel’s fifth consecutive week at No. 1 on the “Watched at Home” chart, which tracks transactional video activity compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

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Scoob!, which debuted at No. 2 the previous week in the wake of its release on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD and DVD, slipped to No. 7. Scoob! was available for streaming on the new HBO Max SVOD service prior to its release on physical media.

Paramount’s three seasons of “Yellowstone” again rounded out the top five, in the same spots as the prior week: season one at No. 3, season three at No. 4, and season two at No. 5.

Aside from You Should Have Left, three other new films, all released through digital retailers only, entered the “Watched at Home” top 20 the week ended Aug. 1. The Rental, an IFC Films drama about two couples on an unnerving weekend getaway, debuted at No. 8. Most Wanted, a Paramount Home Entertainment crime drama starring Josh Hartnett as an investigative reporter probing a heroin bust orchestrated by dirty cops to frame an innocent man, bowed at No. 10. And Warner’s Deep Blue Sea 3, a shark tale starring Tania Raymonde (“Lost,” “Goliath”) entered the “Watched at Home” chart at No. 11.

  1. Trolls World Tour (Universal/DreamWorks)
  2. You Should Have Left (Universal)
  3. Yellowstone: Season 1 (Paramount)
  4. Yellowstone: Season 3 (Paramount)
  5. Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount)
  6. The Outpost (Screen Media)
  7. Scoob! (Warner Bros.)
  8. The Rental (IFC Films)
  9. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
  10. Most Wanted (Paramount, 2020)
  11. Deep Blue Sea 3 (Warner)
  12. The High Note (Universal)
  13. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
  14. Force of Nature (Lionsgate, 2020)
  15. Bloodshot (Sony)
  16. Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner)
  17. The Invisible Man (Universal)
  18. Fantasy Island (Sony, 2020)
  19. Bad Boys for Life (Sony)
  20. Birds of Prey (Warner)

 

Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended Aug. 1.

‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

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The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.