Death on the Nile (2022)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/5/22;
20th Century;
Mystery;
Box Office $45.43 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, some bloody images, and sexual material.
Stars Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright.

The end of the 2017 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express featured famed fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) summoned to Egypt to handle another murder case, seemingly teasing Christie’s Death on the Nile as a potential sequel.

Well, Branagh does return as Poirot and as director for Death on the Nile, but it ends up not following up on that tease. Instead, it’s three years later, 1937 (the year Christie released Nile, incidentally), and Poirot is mentioned as having solved that case in Egypt, which ends up being unrelated to the new storyline.

After beginning with a flashback to World War I that depicts an origin story for Poirot’s famous mustache, the film finds the detective returning to Egypt for a bit of a vacation, where he ends up as a guest to the wedding party of Linnet and Simon (Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer). The couple have invited some friends on a swanky cruise down the Nile, and enlist the aid of Poirot in keeping an eye on Jackie (Emma Mackey), Simon’s former fiancée who has taken to stalking the couple out of jealous rage for being spurned for the wealthier Linnet.

When a string of murders do take place onboard the ship, Poirot is hard-pressed to stop them, though he is keen on solving them, which does beg the question of why the killers insist on continuing with their plans even knowing that a world-class sleuth is accompanying them and he always solves the case. Maybe they’re just masochistic for the challenge of stumping him.

Anyway, Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green have tweaked the source material a bit to give the story a more modern feel despite its period setting, swapping the race and gender of a few characters, such as making the romance novelist character from the book into a touring jazz singer and budding love interest for Poirot.

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Beautifully shot and visually exquisite on HD and Ultra HD displays, Branagh imbues the film with an impeccable sense of style, staying true to the spirit of the original novel while peaking behind the mustache at what makes Poirot tick.

The Blu-ray includes nearly 40 minutes of behind-the scenes featurettes that offer some good insights into the making of the film. The 15-and-a-half-minute “Death on the Nile: Novel to Film” examines the collaboration between the filmmakers and Christie’s estate to bring the latest adaptation of her book to life, while the six-minute “Agatha Christie: Travel Can Be Murder” takes a look at some of Christie’s inspirations for setting the book in Egypt. “Design on the Nile” is an 11-minute featurette about the creation of the costumes and sets for the film, highlighted by a tour of the river yacht at the center of the story. The five-and-a-half-minute “Branagh/Poirot” focuses on Branagh’s talents as a director while also starring in the film.

Rounding out the extras are eight deleted scenes that are pretty interesting and run about 10 minutes in total.

‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,’ ‘Robocop’ on 4K Among Titles Due in April From Arrow and MVD

Six titles, including two new box sets and three 4K Ultra HD releases, are available in the April lineup from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, from legendary Shaw Brothers’ director Lau Kar-leung, makes its American Blu-ray debut April 5. In the film, General Yeung Yip and his sons are ambushed and brutally attacked, leaving Yip and all but two of his sons killed or captured. One son, Yeung Chiu (Alexander Fu Sheng), returns home to his mother and sisters. The other son, Yeung Dak (Gordon Liu), goes to live in a monastery where he develops the eight diagram pole fighting technique. After one of their sisters is captured, Dak is driven with anger to return home and exact his revenge. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter was one of the last great martial arts epics to be released by the famous Shaw Brothers studio. However, the film is also remembered for the great tragedy that struck during filming. Star Fu Sheng tragically died in a car accident midway through production. As a result, Kar-leung reworked the final half of the script, turning it into the ultimate action spectacular as a tribute to his young star. This Arrow release features a brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative and comes loaded with bonus content.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available on 4K Ultra HD April 12. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars alongside an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Helena Bonham Carter and Ian Holm in this cinematic telling of the influential gothic tale. At the turn of the 19th century, scientist Victor Frankenstein (Branagh) is determined to conquer human morality. His attempt at playing God results in the creation of a hideous monster (De Niro). The film earned an Oscar nod for Best Makeup and seven nominations at the Saturn Awards. Arrow brings the film to 4K for the first time with a brand new restoration from the original camera negatives. The release includes a slate of new special features, including a documentary on the origins and evolution of the Frankenstein story. 

April 12 also marks the release of Robocop in a limited edition 4K Ultra HD steelbook. This sci-fi classic, about a terminally injured cop (Peter Weller) that returns to the line of duty as a cyborg advertised as the future of law enforcement, introduced Hollywood to the wild world of director Paul Verhoeven. The film is making its global debut in 4K, with a restoration approved by Verhoeven. Included in this limited edition release are both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film.

On April 19, Arrow will release Rogue Cops & Racketeers: Two Crime Thrillers by Enzo G. Castellari on Blu-ray. One of the most influential Italian genre directors of all time, Castellari made a name for himself helming titles such as Keoma and The Inglorious Bastards. Arrow presents two of Castellari’s action-packed titles in one set. First up, is 1976’s The Big Racket, in which a gang of goons attempts to bring an Italian city to its knees by extorting money from local shops and bar owners. Unfortunately for them, Inspector Palmieri (Fabio Testi) is on the scene. The film is notable for a death-defying stunt that sees Testi trapped in a car that goes tumbling down a ditch. Rounding out the set is Castellar’s The Heroin Busters. Testi returns, this time as an Italian police officer that goes undercover to bring down an international heroin smuggling ring. While on the job, he and a hot-tempered Interpol agent (David Hemmings) working the same case, butt heads. The limited-edition two-disc set includes brand-new 2K restorations for both films, new audio commentary tracks and new interviews.

Arrow will release their second set of Claude Chabrol films on April 26 with Twisting The Knife: Four Films by Claude Chabrol. This four-disc set brings together four films from the later part of Chabrol’s career starting with 1997’s The Swindle. In that film, Victor (Michel Serrault) and Betty (Isabelle Huppert) are a pair of small-time scam artists that travel in their camper van from business convention to business convention robbing unsuspecting businessmen. Betty sets her sights on something more ambitious and convinces Victor to take on a mark with a potential payday of 5 million Swiss francs. The pair soon realize they’re in over-their-head and must fight for their lives. In The Color of Lies, a 10-year-old girl is found murdered in a small town. René (Jacques Gamblin), her art teacher, is the last one to see her alive and instantly becomes a prime suspect. Chabrol partnered with Huppert once more for the 2000 psychological thriller Nightcap. Huppert stars as Mika, owner of a Swiss chocolate company and the first wife of renowned pianist André Polonski (Jacques Dutronc). After André’s second wife dies, he remarries Mika. Soon an unsuspecting visitor arrives, bringing with her revelations of foul play and long-hidden family secrets. The final film on the set is 2003’s The Flower of Evil, in which a wealthy family living in Bordeaux sees their perfect life come crashing down when the wife of the family, Anne (Nathalie Baye), decides to run for mayor. A political smear campaign reveals secrets of an old murder scandal that threatens to bring the family down. The Flower of Evil was nominated for Best European Film at the 18th annual Goya Awards. Bonus content on the set includes new 4K restorations; new audio commentary tracks; new interviews; and an 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by Sean Hogan, Brad Stevens, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Pamela Hutchinson.

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The month comes to a close on April 26 with the 4K Ultra HD upgrade of Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys. Set in a future world that is ravaged by disease and death, the film stars Bruce Willis as a convict sent back in time to find the original virus and help develop a cure. Brad Pitt earned an Oscar nomination for his turn as Jeffrey Goines, a mental patient with environmentalist and anti-corporatist views. This new release comes with archival bonus content and a limited-edition illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and Ian Christie.

Disney Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Death on the Nile’

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution has set home release dates for Death on the Nile, director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s acclaimed 1937 novel.

The murder mystery, which grossed a disappointing $41 million in North American theaters, will be released through digital retailers on March 29, the same day it begins streaming on HBO Max and Hulu, followed by an April 5 release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

Death on the Nile has been praised by critics for its cinematography,  storytelling and ensemble cast that includes Branagh as Hercule Poirot, Tom Bateman as Bouc, Annette Bening as Euphemia Bouc, Russell Brand as Dr. Bessner, Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian, Dawn French as Bowers, Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle, Rose Leslie as Louise Bourget, Emma Mackey as Jacqueline de Bellefort, Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne, Jennifer Saunders as Marie Van Schuyler and Letitia Wright as Rosalie Otterbourne.

In the film, Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s spectacular Egyptian vacation aboard a river boat becomes a terrifying search for a murderer after a picture-perfect couple’s honeymoon is cut tragically short. 

Bonus content on the home editions include four documentaries, including one on the making of the film, and deleted scenes, although Disney cautions bonus features will vary by product and retailer.

 

‘Death on the Nile’ Tops Sluggish Super Bowl Weekend Box Office

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ theatrical interpretation of the Agatha Christie novel Death on the Nile is projected to top a sluggish North American box office with an estimated $12.8 million across more than 3,200 screens. The movie directed by Kenneth Branagh, who co-stars alongside Gal Gadot, among others, generated an estimated $33.5 million worldwide.

The opening for Nile is less than half of the opening of Branagh’s previous run as Inspector Hercules Poirot in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, which generated $28.6 million across its opening weekend, and $353 million worldwide through its theatrical run. That release did not have to contend with competing pandemic concerns and the Super Bowl.

Regardless, the Nile is a win for AMC Networks, which owns licensing rights to the Agatha Christie library following its acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment.

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The film also bested Jennifer Lopez/Owen Wilson’s new rom-com release Marry Me, which is projected to track just $8 million across 3,642 theaters ($16.5 million worldwide). Affecting the box office as well was the film’s concurrent availability on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service.

Paramount Pictures’ second-weekend release of prankster movie Jackass Forever is projected to finish No. 2 with an estimated $8.3 million; $37.4 million worldwide. Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home added another $7.1 million in ticket sales and is expected to surpass James Cameron’s Avatar for No. 3 on the all-time North American box office chart.

Meanwhile, among this week’s Best Picture Oscar nominations, director Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza is expected to take in around $920,000 in ticket sales, easily topping Focus Features’ Belfast with less than $300,000. Other nominees, including King Richard, CODA, Dune, Don’t Look Up, The Power of the Dog, and Nightmare Alley are streaming on HBO Max, Apple TV+, Netflix and Hulu, respectively. West Side Story is coming to Disney+ in March.

‘Belfast’ Available for Digital Purchase on Feb. 8, Disc and VOD on March 1

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has set home release dates for Belfast, the critically hailed drama from director Kenneth Branagh.

The film will be available for digital purchase on Feb. 8, followed by a March 1 release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and VOD.

Belfast revolves around one boy’s childhood amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s. Buddy’s family lives in a largely Protestant district with a few Catholic families, but one day his community and everything he thought he understood about life is suddenly turned upside down. Buddy’s family gets caught in the mayhem and must decide to stay or leave the only place they have ever called home. Through it all, his passionate parents (BAFTA Award winner Caitríona and Jamie Dornan) and quick-witted grandparents (Judi Dench and CiaránHinds) keep the joy alive through music and the magic of movies in a story that reminds us that no matter how far you go, you never forget where you came from.

The disc and on demand releases come with all-new bonus content including an alternate ending featuring Branagh, deleted scenes, and featurettes about Branagh’s vision, the characters, and filming locations, plus personal childhood memories from the cast.
 
Belfast also stars Colin Morgan and Jude Hill in his feature film debut. Winner of more audience awards than any film this year, Belfast has been nominated for over 195 awards, including 11 Critic’s Choice Awards and a total of 13 Best Picture nominations as well as PGA and DGA Awards nominations for Branagh.
 

 

Tenet

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
Box Office $57.9 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some suggestive references and brief strong language.
Stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Martin Donovan, Clémence Poésy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh.

Christopher Nolan’s films often employ time-shifting narrative techniques that challenge the viewer to pay attention in order to be rewarded with a compelling entertainment experience.

With Tenet, is it possible that Nolan has crafted such a bizarre premise that even his smartest fans will have trouble wrapping their heads around it?

If there were a movie or TV show in which the characters were watching a “Christopher Nolan-style” movie, and then the makers of that program had to create a fake film to both represent and satirize a Nolan movie, something like Tenet is probably what they would come up with.

The story involves a CIA agent (John David Washington) who finds himself caught up with a super-secret organization on a mission to stop World War III from being started by enemies from the future who are able to invert the entropy of objects so that the travel backwards in time. The main enemy in the present is a Russian oligarch (Kenneth Branagh) who wants to assemble a device that will wipe out time itself, causing a paradox.

A common trait to Nolan’s films is how much they seem to be meta-commentaries on the art of filmmaking, and Tenet is no exception. In addition to the editing techniques that alter the flow of time much like the way a viewer can jump around a movie using a home video player, Washington’s character is referred to only as “The Protagonist,” a word that literally the word that means the main character of a story.

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At its simplest level, the film could be described as a time travel spy thriller, but that does little to convey just what a viewer is in for. Characters fight other characters who move backwards through the scene, then discover inversion machines that allow them to revisit earlier scenes, forcing characters in two different time frames to interact with each other, culminating in one of the most cinematically engaging, if utterly nonsensical, battles one is likely to witness.

Unlike Nolan’s earlier movies, such as Memento, Inception or Interstellar, where the time-shifting techniques have a certain logic to them, the exposition in Tenet would seem to defy all sense of rationality, yet they still work within the confines of the story as long as one doesn’t think about it too hard.

When a scientist character in the film trying to explain inverted time tells the hero, “Don’t try to understand it … just feel it,” she’s basically giving instructions to the audience, too.

And that’s pretty much the only way a viewer can make sense of what’s going on — by not trying to. Just enjoy the film in the moment, accept the notion that the characters have a handle on it, and take it in as an expression of pure cinema.

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There have been some grumblings about the sound mix favoring background noise and music to the point of making the dialogue hard to hear, and requiring subtitles, but I was able to make out what the characters were saying just fine. Perhaps it’s just a factor of getting used to it after multiple viewings.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive, multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary that runs about an hour and 15 minutes and covers the production from Nolan’s conception of it, to casting it, to crafting the action scenes, to post-production, editing and music. Viewers who’ve just watched the film and are still trying to make sense of it can take some satisfaction in seeing the stunt coordinator breaking his brain trying to conceive of how to depict a fight between two characters moving in opposite directions through time, and know they aren’t alone.

‘Artemis Fowl’ to Debut on Disney+ June 12

Disney’s Artemis Fowl will debut on the Disney+ streaming service June 12.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on a series of young adult fantasy novels, Artemis Fowl follows the journey of 12-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), who seeks to find his missing father in a supernatural world.

The cast also includes Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Josh McGuire, Nikesh Patel, Adrian Scarborough, Colin Farrell and Judi Dench.

“Artemis Fowl is a true original. In challenging times, a 12-year-old criminal mastermind is one heck of a traveling  companion,” Branagh said in a statement. “Smart, funny and cool as mustard, he’ll take you to new worlds, meet unforgettable characters, and mix magic with mayhem. His own family is everything to him, and (although he’d never admit it), he’d be as proud as I am that families around the world will now be able to enjoy his first amazing screen adventures together, on Disney +.”

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Disney previously announced it was canceling the planned May 29 theatrical release of Artemis Fowl in light of the coronavirus pandemic and would instead debut the film on Disney+.

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Disney Cancels ‘Artemis Fowl’ Theatrical Run In Lieu of Disney+ Launch

Disney has elected to cancel the planned theatrical release of Artemis Fowl on May 29 and will instead debut the film on the Disney+ streaming service.

Studios have been scrambling to reschedule their film slates as theaters have closed and potential audiences are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Many films, such as Disney’s Onward, Universal’s The Invisible Man and Warner’s Birds of Prey, have already been released early through digital platforms after a protracted theatrical run.

Fowl becomes the third film slated for the big screen to forgo theaters completely. Paramount sold comedy The Lovebirds to Netflix, and Universal will make the animated sequel Trolls World Tour available directly through digital retailers April 10.

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Disney pushed back the rest of its theatrical slate, including Marvel’s Black Widow and The Eternals, and the adventure films Mulan and Jungle Cruise, back several months to a year.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and based on a series of young adult fantasy novels, Artemis Fowl had experienced a number of delays already, having been pushed back from its original Aug. 9, 2019 theatrical date.

The film follows the journey of 12-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), who seeks to find his missing father in a supernatural world.

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Industry observers had been skeptical of Fowl’s commercial prospects, especially given that its story is similar to 2018’s A Wrinkle in Time, another Disney adaptation of a YA sci-fi/fantasy book. A Wrinkle in Time underperformed at the box office, failing to recoup its budget with a global box office tally of just $132.7 million.

The budget for Artemis Fowl was reportedly in the $125 million range, shifting the film from a potential theatrical disappointment to a big-budget digital original that can be used to market the fledgling streaming service. The Disney+ release date of Artemis Fowl has not yet been announced.