Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Fantasy;
Box Office $ 95.85 million;
$34.98; $39.98 Blu-ray; $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some fantasy action/violence.
Stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Victoria Yeates, Mads Mikkelsen.

The third “Fantastic Beasts” movie will be of most interest to hardcore “Harry Potter” fans but won’t warrant much more than a casual glance to the majority of viewers.

Continuing the storylines from the first two “Fantastic Beasts” films, Secrets of Dumbledore finds the villainous Grindelwald scheming with corrupt forces within the hierarchy of the wizarding world in the early 1930s to clear his name of any crimes so he declare himself a candidate to lead the International Confederation of Wizards.

That Grindelwald is now played by Mads Mikkelsen highlights a couple of controversial casting choices that loom over the film. Mikkelsen is fine in the role, having replaced Johnny Depp, who was forced to step away due to legal troubles relating to his marriage to Amber Heard. Yet one of the central characters remains being played by Ezra Miller, whose own bizarre PR nightmares have been lighting up entertainment news channels as of late.

Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), knowing Grindelwald’s plan to declare war against the Muggles, the non-magical side of humanity, recruits a team led by franchise regulars such as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and their Muggle pal Jacob (Dan Fogler) to prevent his election. Dumbledore himself cannot move against Grindelwald directly since the two were once lovers who made a blood pact to prevent one from attacking the other.

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Given the worldwide stakes and wizarding politics involved just raises more questions about why these “Potter” prequels are still focused on Newt and his circle of friends instead of, say, Dumbledore himself. But since they continue to carry the “Fantastic Beasts” title, Newt’s adventures they shall remain, and the screenplay (from “Potter” creator J.K. Rowling herself), endeavors to populate the screen with as many “fantastic beasts” as it can. Central to the storyline this time is a mythical Chinese deer-like creature called a qilin (pronounced like “chillin’) that can peer into a person’s soul and detect their goodness. Grindelwald wants to capture one that he can manipulate into convincing the world’s magic users that he is most worthy to rule them.

This then makes Newt, as the world’s leading magizoologist, an ideal choice for uncovering Grindelwald’s plan. Naturally, he spends most of his time trying to free his brother from a German magic-prison, while Dumbledore confronts Credence (Ezra Miller) about his true heritage as a member of the Dumbledore family.

The new creatures for the film are inventive and realized with some dazzling visual effects, but at this point it seems like these films just conjure up random creatures to give them whatever abilities are needed to either move the plot along or create a funny scene.

While Rowling allegedly had five of these prequel movies planned, this third one wraps up enough of the ongoing storylines just in case diminishing box office returns don’t convince the studio to move ahead with the final two.

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The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes totaling just over seven minutes, mostly offering more world-building but not necessary for the plot.

The bulk of the extras are nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes, consisting of 10 different videos that might do a better job of explaining what is happening in the movie than the movie does on its own.

The seven-minute “Dumbledore Through the Ages” looks at the character’s history throughout the “Wizarding World” films, while the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Dumbledore Family Tree” examines Dumbledore lineage, and the four-minute “A Dumbledore Duel” looks at the making of a battle between Albus and Credence.

The five-minute “Newt in the Wild” looks at the film finding ways to return the character to his roots of studying and helping magical creatures, while the six-and-a-half-minute “Even More Fantastic Beasts” looks at how the creatures in the film were brought to life.

“The German Ministry of Magic” is a five-minute featurette about the production design for a key location in the film, while the five-minute “The Candidates’ Dinner” looks at the filming of a sequence there, while the five-minute “Erkstag Jailbreak” focuses on the prison set.

The six-minute “The Magic of Hogwarts” offers the cast and filmmakers a chance to opine on the chance to revisit the iconic Hogwarts school for wizards as seen in the other films.

Finally, the six-minute “Battle in Bhutan” focuses on crafting the climactic confrontation between all the characters.

On the fun side, “Magical or Muggle” is a four-and-a-half-minute game in which the cast members get to guess if a nonsensical term refers to something magical or not.

Rounding out the extras is “The Secrets of ‘Cursed Child,’” a five-minute promotional featurette about the “Harry Potter” stage production that serves as a sequel to the books and is the movie adaptation most “Potter” fans want at this point, rather than more “Fantastic Beasts” installments.

In the 4K combo pack, all the extras are on the regular Blu-ray, not the UHD disc.

Jude Law Starrer ‘The Nest’ Gets May 18 Blu-ray Disc Release From Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory in conjunction with IFC Films has announced a May 18 home release date for The Nest, an atmospheric drama from director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) about how obsession with social status can lead to disaster.

The film will be available on Blu-ray Disc and may be ordered in advance now directly from the indie distributor’s website at ShoutFactory.com.

The film follows the story of an ambitious British entrepreneur and former commodities broker named Rory (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes) who persuades his American wife Allison (Carrie Coon, The Leftovers) and their children to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his England. Sensing opportunity, Rory rejoins his former firm and leases a centuries-old country manor, where he plans to build a stable for Allison’s horses. Soon the promise of lucrative new beginnings begins to unravel, and the couple must face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.

Bonus features include an “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette in which director Sean Durkin and lead actor Jude Law break down a key scene from the drama, and the theatrical trailer.

Nominated for two 2020 Gotham Awards, the film premiered on Jan. 26,  2020 at the Sundance Film Festival and received a limited theatrical release in the United States and Canada last September.

Gattaca

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Sci-Fi;
$24.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for brief violent images, language and some sexuality.
Stars Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin, Jude Law, Loren Dean.

In revisiting Gattaca, it’s easy to see why the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. The retro-futuristic look of the film and its haunting score are truly extraordinary and still impress more than two decades after its initial 1997 release.

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show), Gattaca’s story, set in an indefinite future time period, also hold ups well. The issues the sci-fi thriller explores are perhaps even more relevant today. Ultimately, it poses the question: What makes us, genes or guts?

The film centers on Vincent (Ethan Hawke), an “in-valid,” or genetically inferior “God child,” whose parents chose not to use genetic means to make a baby. Saddled with a heart condition, among other “defects,” Vincent decides to take a “borrowed ladder” by assuming the identity of a member of the genetic elite to pursue his goal of traveling into space with the Gattaca Aerospace Corp. (The name “Gattaca” cleverly features the letters in the genome sequence.) Thus, through a financial arrangement, he uses the name and genetic material of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), who is confined to a wheelchair. All seems to be going well until a week before his mission, a murder marks Vincent as a suspect. With investigators in pursuit and a love interest (Uma Thurman) beginning to suspect his deception, Vincent sees his dream beginning to unravel.

The 4K edition has been remastered from the original camera negative, and the crisp picture nicely renders the effect of the small skin cells and strands of hair falling onto surfaces, littering the workspace and threatening to give Vincent away. It also makes more vivid the graphic lines of the concrete and glass architecture. (The film was shot in part at Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1960 Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, Calif.) The 4K treatment does justice to the lasting, timeless beauty of this film.

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Sony is releasing the title in a Steelbook combo pack that includes a regular Blu-ray and digital copies of the film in addition to the 4K disc, which does not include extras. Extras on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, a blooper reel and the featurette “Welcome to Gattaca.”

Woody Allen’s ‘A Rainy Day in New York’ Due on Digital and Disc Nov. 10

Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York will come out on VOD, digital, DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 10 from MPI Media Group and Signature Entertainment.

The film stars Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, Jude Law, Diego Luna and Liev Schreiber.

The film tells the story of college sweethearts, Gatsby (Chalamet) and Ashleigh (Fanning), whose plans for a romantic weekend together in New York City are dashed as quickly as the sunlight turns into showers. The two are soon parted, and each has a series of chance meetings and comical adventures while on their own. Over the course of a day in New York, Ashleigh discovers she might not be who she thought she was and Gatsby learns that while you only live once, once is enough if you find the right person.

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Captain Marvel

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/11/19;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $425.98 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.
Stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg.

The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, is the most entertaining backstory for a pager you’re likely to see.

First and foremost, the film answers the question of who Nick Fury was contacting in the post-credits sequence of Avengers: Infinity War as half of all life in the universe was turning to dust as a result of Thanos’ snap. And in doing so, it provides the introduction of a key hero who would otherwise be considered little more than a deus ex machina in Avengers: Endgame.

The film serves as a prequel for the rest of the MCU (aside from the World War II setting of Captain America: The First Avenger), and its 1995 setting is a big indicator of what direction the humor and soundtrack are going to go.

It starts off as something of a space opera, shades of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” focused an alien task force that includes the warrior Vers (Brie Larson). The team is helping the Kree Empire (the blue aliens seen in other MCU movies and the TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) fight a war against the shape-shifting Skrulls.

When a mission goes awry and Vers finds herself captured by the Skrulls, she escapes to Earth, where the Skrulls are searching for a mysterious power source.

After encountering S.H.I.E.L.D., she learns she is really Carol Danvers, a human test pilot believed killed several years before in a crash that in actuality was an attack that left her with superpowers and no memory of her previous self.

Carol’s abilities in the film have been frequently compared with a hero from” rival DC Comics: Superman, which is interesting considering that Danvers” is also the last name of Supergirl’s human alter ego. She also wouldn’t even be the first Captain Marvel to be compared with Superman — that would be the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel from the 1940s that was eventually acquired by DC Comics and renamed Shazam to avoid confusion with the Marvel Comics version of the character. (That the Shazam! movie would finally hit screens just a month after Captain Marvel is one of cinema’s great coincidences.)

Captain Marvel attempts to fiddle with the tropes of the superhero origin story by using a flashback mystery structure, which is a nice exercise in technique even if Vers’ true identity will only be a mystery to anyone who hasn’t seen the film’s trailers beforehand or has any passing familiarity with her comic book history (or has already seen the movie, of course). There are other surprises to be had and some subversion of expectations, which balances it all out.

It’s a perfectly entertaining adventure that doesn’t rise beyond more than mid-level Marvel at best (which in the greater scheme of things is still pretty good). It has fun filling in some pieces of the larger Marvel franchise, though it could use a lesson in subtlety.

The film is at its strongest when it involves Carol on her mission, be it as part of the Kree Starforce, or paired with the younger version of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, effectively de-aged by the magic of computers) in a kind of buddy cop movie.

The film is ultimately a piece of bright, cheery fun that will light up HD TV screens with warm colors and the kind of razzle-dazzle we’ve come to expect from Marvel’s cosmic adventures.

This was also the first MCU movie released after the death of Marvel legend Stan Lee, and contains one of his best cameos in the franchise, calling back to what he was actually up to in 1995. That’s in addition to the touching opening tribute that presents the Marvel Studios logo with video from his various cameos over the years.

These are the only tributes to Stan Lee on the Blu-ray, though, as there isn’t a separate bonus feature devoted to it, aside from a mention in the commentary track from co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Otherwise, the commentary is a fairly typical back-and-forth in which they discuss various behind-the-scenes challenges, story points and their enjoyment of working with certain actors.

The movie also comes with an optional two-minute introduction by the directors.

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The Blu-ray includes a two-minute gag reel, nine minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, and six behind-the-scenes featurettes that total about 24 minutes of viewing time.

The seven-minute “Becoming a Super Hero” and three-and-a-half-minute “Big Hero Moment” deal with Larson taking on the role and the significance of having a superhero movie fronted by a female lead, while “The Dream Team” is a three-minute video about the directors.

“The Skrulls and the Kree” offers a three-and-a-half-minute primer on the primary conflict of the film.

The three-and-a-half-minute “The Origin of Nick Fury” gets MCU stars from other movies to discuss his character’s appearance over the years.

Finally, there’s “Hiss-sterical Cat-titude,” a tongue-in-cheek three-and-a-half-minute propaganda video about the cat named Goose that serves a central role in the story.

The digital copy of the film includes a seven-minute visual effects featurette, and a five-minute exploration about crafting an action scene for a Marvel movie. There are also galleries of set photos and concept art.

Vudu has an additional digital exclusive, a three-minute vignette called “Her Story,” which seems like a promotional piece cobbled together from video used in the other featurettes.

Warner Releasing ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ Digitally Feb. 15, on Disc March 12

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald digitally Feb. 15, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 12.

The film is the 10th entry in the “Wizarding World” franchise, a sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a prequel to the “Harry Potter” films.

The Blu-ray and the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack will include a digital download of an extended cut of the film with more than seven minutes of additional footage.

The film was written by “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. The story involves Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruiting Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to stop the threat of the recently escaped magical criminal Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) from raising an army of pure-blood wizards to rule over non-magical beings.

The cast also includes Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo and Poppy Corby-Tuech.

Crimes of Grindelwald earned $158.5 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include an audio introduction by Yates, deleted scenes; the featurettes “J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed,” “Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life” and “Distinctly Dumbledore”; and “Unlocking Scene Secrets” featurettes including “The Return to Hogwarts,” “Newt’s Menagerie,” “Credence, Nagini and the Circus Arcanus,” “Paris and Place Cachée,” “Ministere des Affaires Magiques” and “Grindelwald’s Escape and the Ring of Fire.”

The 4K edition will feature Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.