Thor: Love and Thunder

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/27/22;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi Fantasy Action;
Box Office $ 343.15 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, some suggestive material and partial nudity.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Christian Bale, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe.

Imagine a story that tackles subjects such as cancer, religious fundamentalism and child endangerment, tied together by a tongue-in-cheek intergalactic Viking adventure, and you’ll get some sense of the wacky roller coaster ride that is Thor: Love and Thunder.

Taika Waititi returns to the director’s chair after injecting his signature irreverence into 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, and tries to make Love and Thunder a similarly breezy, lighthearted romp. However, the darker themes this time around end up clashing with an abundance of jokes and situational humor, leading to some jarring tonal shifts as the film progresses through its various plot points. Then again, the guy who won an Oscar for writing a movie about a German boy who has Hitler as an imaginary friend probably thought he could pull it off. Or maybe he just felt like making a two-hour video tribute to his favorite band, Guns N’ Roses.

To be fair, the degree the film works at all can be attributed to Waititi’s skills as a storyteller and his ability to keep such disparate elements from spinning out of control. It certainly has its moments and the cast seems to have had a good time making it. However, the biggest strength of the film is not its story but its visual splendor. Thor: Love and Thunder looks spectacular, from colorful costumes to and exotic locales, to a surrealist black-and-white realm of shadows and monsters (which were designed by the children of the filmmakers, according to Waititi).

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Picking up from where we last saw him in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but finds himself consumed with self-doubt.

He gets a chance to snap back into action when he learns that deities throughout the universe are being slaughtered by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who declares his next target will be the Asgardian refugees now living on Earth.

Upon his return, Thor learns that his former love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), has now gained her own Thor powers thanks to a newfound ability to wield his old hammer. Her transformation into “Mighty Thor” temporarily protects her from stage four cancer, but also negates any treatments her mortal self is receiving, so the illness becomes more aggressive each time she transforms back.

When he can’t defeat the combined forces of the two Thors, Gorr ends up kidnapping the children of Asgard. So Thor, Jane, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Waititi) embark on a mission to enlist the help of Zeus (Russell Crowe), free the children and defeat Gorr once and for all.

It’s definitely the kind of plot that makes more sense to those who have been enmeshed in the MCU for a while. The screenplay adapts a few different story arcs from the “Thor” comics, so reaction to the film may tend to vary based on the viewers’ familiarity with the source material — those who just follow the MCU versions of the characters might enjoy it more, as hardcore fans of the comics usually get more annoyed by changes made in translating a story from page to screen.

Of course, even from the perspective of the continuing adventures of Thor and his supporting cast in the movies, things feel a bit off. It’s nice to see an attempt at resolving the Thor/Jane relationship after she was absent in Ragnarok, and the New Asgard scenes have some fun references in them. But the ending feels like it was constructed in order to fulfill a number of contractual obligations to most of the main actors.

Love and Thunder is a bit of a milestone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Thor becomes the first character to score a fourth solo movie. But as the 29th MCU film, it continues the franchise’s general malaise since Endgame, meandering through an undefined bigger picture while the most-lasting impact of recent entries has been the introduction of numerous children and young adult heroes to seemingly serve as the next-generation of the Avengers when the storylines eventually come to a head again.

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The Love and Thunder Blu-ray includes a standard set of bonus materials (The 4K disc has no extras on its own — they are contained on the regular Blu-ray in the combo pack).

The highlight is a commentary track from Waititi, who reveals all sorts of fun information about the film and kicks up the hijinks when he’s joined by his two young daughters.

Behind-the-scenes information is also presented in three short featurettes: the eight-minute “Another Classic Taika Adventure,” about Waititi’s return to the franchise; the six-minute “Shaping a Villain,” about Bale’s performance; and the five-and-a-half-minute “Hammer-Worthy: Thor and Mighty Thor,” about Portman’s return, and her and Hemsworth’s preparations for the physicality of their roles.

In addition, there are four deleted scenes that run just under eight minutes in total that provide some additional if superfluous context for scenes that are in the final film.

Rounding out the extras is a three-minute gag reel.

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Due on Digital Sept. 8, Disc Sept. 27

Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder will hit digital retail channels on Sept. 8, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 27. The movie, co-starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, will also stream on Disney+ Sept. 8.

The movie generated more than $738 million at the global box office, including $333 million in North America.

Thor: Love and Thunder finds the God of Thunder (Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — one of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

Directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), from a screenplay by Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Thor: Love and Thunder was produced by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Brad Winderbaum.

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Bonus Features

  • Gag reel includes fun outtakes on set with the cast and crew
  • Audio commentary by director/writer Taika Waititi.

 

Featurettes

  • “Hammer-worthy: Thor and The Mighty Thor” traces Hemsworth and Portman’s journeys to becoming Thor and The Mighty Thor, respectively. The costars speak about the preparation behind embodying their legendary roles and describe how they combine their unstoppable forces.
  • “Shaping a Villain” introduces Love and Thunder’s primary antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher (Bale). Shining a light on the man who brings the character to life, this piece highlights his recruitment and process. Then fellow cast and crew reveal personal anecdotes.
  • “Another Classic Taika Adventure” looks back on Taika Waititi’s journey taking over the Thor franchise and reinventing the God of Thunder. Revisit the moment Taika was announced as the new custodian of Thor and follow Taika through the production of Thor: Love and Thunder.

 

Deleted Scenes

  • Looking for Zeus — Thor, Valkyrie and Korg run into a few characters while seeking an audience with Zeus.
  • Wasting Time — Star-Lord and Mantis convince Thor to help their cause.
  • A Safe Vacation — A nonchalant Thor chats with a panicked Star-Lord and Mantis in the middle of chaos. An explosion thrusts Korg into the scene.
  • Fighting For You — Zeus gifts Thor a special tool after overhearing a heartfelt conversation.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/26/22;
Disney/Marvel;
Action Fantasy;
Box Office $411.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language.
Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Xochitl Gomez, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams.

Now deeply entrenched in its fourth phase, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is meandering a bit. While the first phase established a core group of heroes, and phases two and three built up to the battle against Thanos, phase four seems to be about introducing a new generation of Avengers to carry on in the aftermath of that fight.

Thus, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the 28th MCU film, features the debut of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenager from a parallel reality who has the power to travel between the worlds of the multiverse. Living out her own personal version of “Sliders,” America accidentally opened a portal that caused her and her parents to be lost in separate worlds. Unable to control her powers, she continues to search for her parents and find a way home.

But wait, this is a Doctor Strange movie, isn’t it? The movie begins with America being pursued by a malevolent force that wants to steal her power. Defending her is an alternate reality version of Strange, as they seek a magical artifact that will defeat their attacker. When their quest seems hopeless and Defender Strange is killed, she manages to end up in the MCU, where our Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) carries on her fight.

Hoping to recruit some magical reinforcements, he turns to Wanda Maximoff, who is in a self-imposed exile following the events of “Wandavision” in which she dealt with the grief of Vision’s death by turning a small town into a sitcom reality and giving herself two sons, ultimately learning that she’s the embodiment of an ancient force called the Scarlet Witch.

Strange gets more than he bargained for asking for Wanda’s help, leading him and America on a world-hopping adventure that gives the film a chance to indulge the audience with all sorts of fun cameos.

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Given that Strange had just appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which offered its own dalliance into the multiverse, the natural assumption going in would be that this movie’s story would have carried on from those events, but Strange’s experiences with the multiverse in these consecutive appearances are largely just coincidental.

Still, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is fun for what it is, a mostly standalone adventure infused by director Sam Raimi with a strong dose of horror elements and some imaginative uses of the premise (though not using it quite enough), before finally giving way to some awkward post-credit sequences to set up future movies.

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The Blu-ray includes a fun and informative commentary from Raimi, writer Michael Waldron, and producer Richie Palmer, as they discuss the challenges of making the film and other possibilities for the story.

Also included are three short behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 11-minute “Constructing the Multiverse” is a general retrospective on the making of the movie with interviews from the cast and filmmakers; the three-and-a-half-minute “Introducing America Chavez” focuses on the origins of that character and bringing her to life; and the five-minute “Method to the Madness” explores Raimi’s impact on the film.

Rounding out the extras are a two-and-a-half-minute gag reel, and three deleted scenes that run a total of about three minutes — one is a flashback to Strange’s days as a surgeon, while the other two expand on Bruce Campbell’s guest appearance as a street vendor.

 

‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Set for Disc Release July 26

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution will release Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray July 26. The film will be available for digital purchase a month earlier, on June 22, the same day as its previously announced premiere on the Disney+ streaming service.

Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Doctor Stephen Strange, Marvel’s master of the mystic arts, fresh off helping Spider-Man deal with an incursion of alternate realities in Spider-Man: No Way Home. In Multiverse of Madness, he meets America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a teenage girl from a parallel world who has the power to travel between the multiverses. But she is being pursued by an entity who seeks to control her power, leading Doctor Strange to vow to protect her. However, when he turns to fellow magic user Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) for help, he discovers a danger he never expected, sending him on a journey through parallel realities to protect his charge.

The film also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams, and was directed by Sam Raimi. It has earned $391 million at the domestic box office, and $912.6 million globally.

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The home video editions will include an audio commentary by Raimi, screenwriter Michael Waldron and co-producer Richie Palmer, plus three featurettes:

  • “Method to the Madness” — The film’s production team and other Marvel employees discuss their love of Raimi and all the details of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that make one of his quintessential films”.
  • “Introducing America Chavez” — A profile of the character from the comic books, and the actress who plays her.
  • “Constructing the Multiverse” — Waldron delves into the challenges of crafting the story.

 

Also included will be a gag reel and three deleted scenes:

  • “A Great Team” — a journalist questions Doctor Strange’s integrity;
  • “Pizza Poppa” — a street vendor played by Bruce Campbell is relieved when a spell cast by Doctor Strange ends;
  • “It’s Not Permanent” — Bruce tries to accuse Doctor Strange of being an imposter.

 

Availability of the bonus materials with the digital version will vary by retailer.

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Study: Phase 4 of Marvel Cinematic Universe Least Favorite

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the least-favorite MCU phase so far, according to critical scores identified in a new study.

The findings come from the Critic Ratings Study, which analyzed the film ratings across three popular review platforms — Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb. 

The study found that films and TV shows featured in Phase 4 — starting with “WandaVision” and running through to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — are proving the least popular with fans so far, when compared with Phase 3, Phase 2 and Phase 1.

In fact, when compared to Phase 3 of the MCU (starting with Captain America: Civil War and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home), Phase 4 has reported a 22% drop in ratings. 

Still, Phase 4 includes the highest-rated MCU film so far, Spider-Man: No Way Home (8.8/10), but it’s Eternals that pulls the average score down considerably as the lowest-rated film in the MCU to date (5.7/10). 

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Of the TV shows included in Phase 4, the highest-rated was “WandaVision,” while fans weren’t so keen on “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” or “Hawkeye.”

MCU Phases, best to worst:

  1. Phase 3 (Captain America: Civil War to Spider-Man: Far From Home)
  2. Phase 2 (Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man)
  3. Phase 1 (Iron Man to Marvel’s The Avengers)
  4. Phase 4 (“WandaVision” to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)

 

Phase 3 was the highest-rated period of Marvel films, with each film featured reporting an impressive average critic score of 7.9/10. 

Highest-rated MCU films, by cumulative IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home (8.8/10)
  2. Avengers: Endgame (8.6/10)
  3. Iron Man (8.6/10)
  4. Avengers: Infinity War (8.5/10)
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy (8.5/10)

‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Moves to No. 1 on Redbox Disc and Digital Charts

Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home took over the No. 1 spot on both Redbox’s disc rental chart and the Redbox On Demand chart the week ended April 17.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe entry has earned more than $804 million at the domestic box office. It had been No. 6 on the digital chart a week earlier.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s animated sequel Sing 2 dropped to No. 2 on both charts after two weeks in the top spot.

Paramount’s Scream relaunch dropped a spot to No. 3 on the disc rental chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at Redbox’s more than 40,000 red kiosks, and No. 6 on the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks digital VOD and sellthrough transactions.

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The No. 3 digital title was Paramount’s Infinite, a sci-fi film with Mark Wahlberg.

No. 4 on both charts was Universal’s Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson comedy Marry Me, while No. 5 was Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended April 17:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home — Sony Pictures/Marvel
  2. Sing 2 — Universal
  3. Scream (2022) — Paramount
  4. Marry Me — Universal
  5. Ghostbusters: Afterlife — Sony Pictures
  6. Death on the Nile — 20th Century
  7. The Matrix Resurrections — Warner
  8. Last Looks — RLJ
  9. Venom: Let There Be Carnage — Sony Pictures
  10. The Requin — Lionsgate

 

Top Digital (VOD + Sellthrough), Redbox On Demand, Week Ended April 17:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home — Sony Pictures/Marvel
  2. Sing 2 — Universal
  3. Infinite — Paramount
  4. Marry Me — Universal
  5. Ghostbusters: Afterlife — Sony Pictures
  6. Scream (2022) — Paramount
  7. Clifford the Big Red Dog — Paramount
  8. Venom: Let There Be Carnage — Sony Pictures
  9. Death on the Nile — 20th Century
  10. Dog — MGM

 

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Spider-Man: No Way Home

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 4/12/22;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $803.82 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99, Blu-ray, $45.99 UH BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire.

The story of Spider-Man: No Way Home hinges on a plot device that could have been one of the greatest surprises in cinematic history. Instead, it was one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles alongside current Spider-Man Tom Holland to fight a variety of villains from all the “Spider-Man” movies since the first film in 2002.

It wasn’t as if Sony’s marketing department didn’t try to keep it quiet. Images of the multiple Spider-Men were omitted from trailers, and Garfield resorted to blatantly lying in interviews in which he said he wasn’t involved, despite all the widespread rumors to the contrary, and in some cases photographic evidence.

Of course, the momentary shock value for such a reveal can only add so much to the viewing experience, and the film’s immense box office fortunes don’t seem to have suffered in the least. And knowing of the eventual Spidey super team-up doesn’t detract at all from the emotional resonance that elevates Spider-Man: No Way Home into more than just a fantastic superhero action movie.

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The film is the 27th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and picks up immediately following the events of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is publicly identified as being the masked webslinger.

As his life spirals out of control due to people knowing that he’s Spider-Man, Peter asks his Avengers cohort Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to reset everyone’s memories so they don’t remember his secret anymore. But the spell becomes unstable and breaks down the barriers between different realities, drawing in villains such as Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Sandman from the Sam Raimi-directed movies, and Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Lizard from the “Amazing Spider-Man” films.

Rather than send them back to their universes only to die fighting their versions of Spider-Man, Peter endeavors to cure them first, a decision that backfires and results in profound tragedy.

However, the spell also brought Maguire’s and Garfield’s Spideys from those universes, giving Holland’s Spider-Man the allies he needs to stop the team of villains from doing more damage. It feels a lot like one of those “Doctor Who” anniversary specials in which previous versions of the Doctor joined the current one for a grand adventure.

The film works as a celebration of Spider-Man and his legacy in film, tying together the entire franchise in a way that not only continues the development of Holland’s Spider-Man, but also enriches the story arcs of Maguire’s and, especially, Garfield’s.

Spider-Man: No Way Home looks amazing, with several instantly iconic sequences, and seamless visual effects that really make it seem as if Molina and Dafoe were just plucked out of the earlier movies and placed into this one.

Another standout is the musical score by Michael Giacchino, who not only continues to develop the progression of his themes from the first two MCU Spidey movies, but gets to reuse his Dr. Strange themes as well. As if those weren’t enough, he also incorporates some of Danny Elfman’s themes from the Maguire films, and the late James Horner’s wonderful theme from The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s leitmotif on overdrive.

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The Blu-ray includes a solid hour-and-a-half of bonus materials, including seven behind-the-scenes featurettes. The six-minute “A Spectacular Spider-Journey With Tom Holland” tracks the journey of its star since he joined the MCU, while the seven-minute “Graduation Day” looks at the evolution of all the recurring characters. The five-minute “Enter Strange” examines the wizard’s role in the story, while the six-and-a-half-minute “Action Choreography Across the Multiverse” looks at the film’s stunt work. The eight-minute “Realities Collide, Spiders Unite” looks at how the film’s legendary team-up came to be, while the seven-minute “Weaving Jon Watt’s Web” focuses on the director’s experiences making the three MCU “Spider-Man” films.

The best extras are two panel discussions with the cast. The nine-minute “The Sinister Summit” features the villains of the film — Dafoe, Molina and Foxx. But the main event is the seven-and-a-half-minute “A Meeting of the Spiders” with Holland, Garfield and Maguire discussing their camaraderie.

A nearly five-minute featurette informs viewers of many of the references to previous Spider-Man films and comics that have been layered into the film.

Another fun inclusion are three in-universe story videos about Spider-Man from TheDailyBugle.net, running a total of about four minutes.

There are also two videos comparing the stunt previsualization with the final result, running three-and-a-half-minutes.

A section of promotional materials includes three short clips: Holland and co-star Jacob Batalon taking a lie detector about their experiences on the film, running two minutes; a minute clip of Holland’s press tour to Paris; and a minute of the filmmakers raving about the benefits of filming in the state of Georgia.

Rounding out the extras is a four-minute bloopers/gag reel.

In the 4K combo pack, all the bonus materials are on the Blu-ray disc. The 4K disc doesn’t include any extras.

Several Newcomers Can’t Displace ‘Eternals’ From Top Spot on Disc Sales Charts

Despite a crop of major movies arriving on DVD and Blu-ray during the week, Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ Eternals retained the top spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc rental chart the week ended Feb. 26.

It’s the second-consecutive week on top for Eternals, which tells the story of a group of aliens that have been protecting and guiding human civilization for thousands of years.

The week’s top newcomer among the four films that debuted among the top 20 disc sellers was from another Disney-owned studio, 20th Century’s The King’s Man. Director Matthew Vaughn’s prequel to his previous “Kingsman” actioners depicts the creation of the title spy organization during World War I. It earned $37 million at the domestic box office and sold about 75% as many copies during the week as Eternals.

A Best Buy-exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc collection of the three “Kingsman” movies was No. 36 overall and No. 17 on the Blu-ray Disc chart, and accounts for another 8.4% of The King’s Man sales compared with Eternals.

The second newcomer in the top 20 discs, at No. 5 overall and No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart, was Lionsgate’s American Underdog, a biopic about Kurt Warner’s improbable rise to winning a Super Bowl and becoming an NFL Hall of Famer. It earned $26.5 million from U.S. theaters and hit shelves a week after Warner’s former team, the Rams, won the latest Super Bowl.

MGM’s newly released House of Gucci disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment bowed at No. 6 on both charts after earned $53.8 million at domestic theaters. The film stars Lady Gaga and Adam Driver as members of the Gucci fashion empire whose inability to navigate tricky family politics gets them embroiled in a murder plot.

The fourth newcomer to enter the week’s overall top 20 disc sellers was the Universal female-driven espionage thriller The 355, which came in at No. 8 overall and No. 9 on the Blu-ray chart. It earned $14.6 million at the domestic box office.

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The Blu-ray Disc chart also saw Shout! Factory’s newly released 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of the 1980 horror film Alligator crack the top 20 there at No. 13. It was No. 24 on the overall disc sales chart.

Rounding out the top five on both charts, Disney’s Encanto dropped to No. 3 on the overall chart and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart, while Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife was No. 4 overall and No. 3 on the Blu-ray Disc chart.

Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 59% of first-week standalone The King’s Man unit sales, with 38% from regular Blu-ray and 21% from 4K. American Underdog had 55% of its sales come from HD formats, with 53% from regular Blu-ray and 2% from the 4K combo pack. House of Gucci had 53% of its sales from Blu-ray, and The 355 had 54%; neither were released on 4K disc.

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The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Feb. 27 had House of Gucci debut in the top spot, followed by American Underdog at No. 2.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife slid to No. 3 after three weeks in the top spot.

Eternals entered the rental chart at No. 4 after a week-long delay of availability at Redbox rental kiosks, while The 355 debuted at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 2-26-22
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 2-27-22
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 2-26-22
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 2-26-22
Sales Report for Week Ended 2-26-22
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 2-28-22

Eternals

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/15/22;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi Action;
Box Office $164.87 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for fantasy violence and action, some language and brief sexuality.
Stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård.

For 25 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gradually adapted disparate concepts from various comic books that wouldn’t seem to mesh in a live-action setting and somehow made it seem to it together cohesively.

But the 26th film, Eternals, pushes the boundaries of the franchise’s formula so far that it almost seems too bizarre even for the MCU. Following the massive “Infinity Saga,” Eternals is something of a restart for the MCU, telling a story that challenges what audiences already knew about it.

Based on characters from Jack Kirby, who had a knack for outlandish cosmic adventures, Eternals tells the story of 10 alien heroes sent to Earth thousands of years ago to protect humanity from predators called Deviants. They were sent on this mission by Arishem, a god-like being called a Celestial who tells them that allowing life to flourish on Earth is the key to the creation of a new Celestial who will in turn go on to create new stars and planets.

These concepts aren’t presented metaphorically. The Celestials are shown as literally creating new stars and solar systems and constructing the cosmos as if it were a Lego playset.

Having aided in the development of human civilizations since the dawn of written history, the Eternals survive into modern times awaiting news that they can return home, despite seemingly defeating the Deviants hundreds of years prior and having gone their separate ways to integrate into humanity. However, when the return of the Deviants seems to portend apocalyptic news for Earth, the Eternals must reunite to stop them once again.

The Eternals themselves each have unique powers reflective of archetypal superhero abilities: flight, super speed, super strength, energy blasts, etc.

Director Chloé Zhao, coming off an Oscar win for Nomadland, has crafted a beautiful-looking comic book movie that honors Kirby’s legacy. The story, on the other hand, is often ponderous on the verge of being dull, as if the MCU suddenly decided to get so pretentious about its own success that it’s trying to win a dare about its ability to put anything on screen.

A big problem is that in trying to be its own thing and setting up a bold new direction for the MCU, Eternals raises a lot more questions than it answers about how it fits in with the previously established storylines. Why the Eternals didn’t intervene in the battle against Thanos, for example, gives rise to a tepid explanation at best. A bigger issue fans might have is, when the Earth is seemingly endangered, why the Eternals alone must deal with it without a single one of the remaining Avengers turning up to investigate what is going on.

And it’s not as if audiences don’t know those other heroes are still hanging around out there, since the MCU has already presented other movies and TV shows about what some of the established characters have been doing following Avengers: Endgame. These projects, owing to dealing with the more familiar aspects of the MCU, have been better received by fans, with the massive success of the 27th MCU film, Spider-Man: No Way Home being the epitome of that. One can only imagine Eternals being better received over time as its revelations about the history of the MCU begin to bear fruit.

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The Blu-ray and digital editions include a smattering of extras, starting with four deleted scenes that total about six minutes but don’t really add much to the story.

The making of the film is covered in the eleven-minute “Immortalized” featurette, supplemented by a commentary with director Chloé Zhao and visual effects supervisors Stephan Ceretti and Mårtin Larsson that provides an insightful look at the technical craft employed in making the film.

Less useful is the five-minute “Walks of Life” featurette in which the filmmakers and cast pat themselves on the back over the diversity of the cast, gushing over having a superhero team that reflects the demographics of the modern world despite the characters being aliens who are thousands of years old.

Rounding out the package is a two-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

Hawkeye

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton, Fra Fee, Brian d’Arcy James, Aleks Paunovic, Piotr Adamczyk, Linda Cardellini, Simon Callow, Vera Farmiga, Alaqua Cox, Zahn McClarnon, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio.

With 2021 bringing both a Black Widow movie and a six-episode limited series about Hawkeye, each of the original six Avengers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have finally received their own solo project.

Given how much the stories of Black Widow and Hawkeye are intertwined, it makes sense for the movie and show to arrive within months of each other, as the show carries on a pretty important story thread from the film.

Hawkeye picks up several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as the world has more or less returned to normal following the final battle to defeat Thanos. The archer Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), is vacationing with his family in New York just before Christmas. But his past comes back to haunt him when a black market auction gets a hold of the outfit he wore as Ronin, the persona he adopted to hunt down criminals who survived Thanos snapping half the population away when Clint’s family did not.

Caught up in the plot is Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a world-class archer in her own right who worships Clint and hopes to become an Avenger like him some day (and is known as the second Hawkeye in the comics). The local mafia comes to believe Kate is Ronin and responsible for attacking them, so they start to hunt her down, forcing Clint to protect.

It turns out Kate’s mother (Vera Farmiga), CEO of a security firm, has her own connection to the local crime lords, which embroils Clint and Kate in a murder mystery that only complicates his efforts to get back to his family by Christmas.

Hawkeye takes a couple of episodes to find its footing, but by part three has all the pieces in place for a solid action-adventure, fueled by the tremendous chemistry between Renner and Steinfeld, as well as a strong supporting cast and a few notable guest stars from other Marvel properties.

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