‘Dark Phoenix’ Coming Home in September

X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be available through digital retailers Sept. 3, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Sept. 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The final installment of Fox’s “X-Men” franchise produced before the studio’s acquisition by Disney stars Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence.

The story involves Jean Grey (Turner) being transformed by a dangerous power during an X-Men mission into space.

The film earned $65 million at the domestic box office.

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The Blu-ray and digital editions include deleted scenes. The Blu-ray and digital copies from iTunes and Movies Anywhere will offer optional deleted scenes commentary by writer-director Simon Kinberg and producer Hutch Parker.

Other extras include feature commentary by Kinberg and Parker, the five-part documentary “Rise of the Phoenix: The Making of Dark Phoenix,” and the featurette “How to Fly Your Jet to Space with Beast”

Digital versions will also include a scene breakdown of the 5th Avenue Sequence.

‘Captain Marvel’ Soaring to Digital May 28, Disc June 11 From Disney

Captain Marvel will fly to digital in HD and 4K Ultra HD (including Movies Anywhere) May 28, and land on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray June 11 from Disney, Direct to Consumer and International.

The home release dates were revealed during the May 8 espnW Summit NYC, at which Marvel Studios hosted a Captain Marvel panel.

The film, which has surpassed $1 billion at the box office worldwide, chronicles the origin story of the female superhero.

The release includes featurettes that highlight the transformative journey of Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and her character’s impact on audiences around the globe; the influence of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) on significant events within the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the pairing of directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; the ongoing conflict between the Skrulls and the Kree; and the talent behind the feline named Goose. Viewers also gain access to six deleted scenes, director commentary, a gag reel, and never-before-seen concept art and production photography.

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The digital release includes two exclusive features, including a behind-the-scenes visit with the visual effects team and an inside look at the team effort that goes into an action sequence in a Marvel Studios film.

At the panel, Marvel also unveiled a new trailer.

Netflix Continues Marvel Housecleaning, Cancels ‘Daredevil’

Faced with the impending launch of a rival Disney streaming service next year, Netflix appears to be eager to get out of the Marvel business.

The streaming service pioneer Nov. 29 canceled “Daredevil” after three seasons, the third of its shows based on Marvel Comics to get the axe in the past two months.

Netflix Oct. 12 canceled “Iron Fist,” followed a week later by “Luke Cage,” which it canceled the same day as the premiere of the third season of “Daredevil.”

The rapid elimination of its Marvel-based properties has led to increased speculation that Netflix was washing its hands of the franchise as Marvel owner The Walt Disney Co. prepares to launch its own direct-to-consumer video service, Disney+, late next year.

“Daredevil” had been the flagship of a heralded distribution deal between Disney and Netflix announced in late 2013 that would see the production of four series based on Marvel characters set in the same cinematic universe as the “Avengers” films.

The show, which premiered in 2015, focused on blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who used his acute senses to fight crime as a vigilante on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.

“Daredevil” was followed by “Jessica Jones,” about a super-powered NYC private investigator; “Luke Cage,” which focused on the bulletproof hero of Harlem; and “Iron Fist,” about a wealthy heir who returns to New York after a long absence having gained mystical martial arts abilities.

After a second season of “Daredevil” in 2016, the four title heroes joined forces in 2017 in the miniseries “The Defenders.” In 2017 “Daredevil” spun off “The Punisher,” about a veteran seeking revenge for the death of his family. “Jessica Jones” received a second season early in 2018.

The series were produced for Netflix by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.

“Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” were both given two seasons on Netflix. While the first season of “Iron Fist” was generally derided by fans, its second season was praised as a positive turnaround by most critics, although its cancellation wasn’t seen as much of a surprise given lingering animosity toward the show. The elimination of the better-received “Luke Cage” was more eye-opening to industry observers, with the lack of renewal of “Daredevil” leaving little doubt as to the eventual fate of Netflix’s remaining Marvel shows.

A second season of “The Punisher” has completed production and is expected to debut early next year. A third season of “Jessica Jones” is currently in production.

Netflix never formally renewed or canceled the “The Defenders,” though in September it rebranded its “Defenders” Facebook page into “NX,” a label more encompassing of Netflix’s wider array of genre-based properties. Many fan sites interpreted this move as a sign that no further crossover adventures were in the works, especially since the first “Defenders” miniseries garnered a lukewarm critical reaction (its 77% Rotten Tomatoes critics score was the lowest of any of the preceding seasons, save for “Iron Fist,” and ranks it eighth among the 11 Marvel Netflix seasons).

Rotten Tomatoes listed the third season of “Daredevil” as the best-received Marvel Netflix season in terms of both critic (94% positive) and fan (96%) response since the first season of “Daredevil” three years ago (which earned 99% and 96%, respectively).

Global data measurement firm Parrot Analytics reported that “Daredevil” was the No. 4 most in-demand show in terms of online activity the week ended Nov. 24, more than a month after its third season debuted. However, Business Insider Nov. 28 speculated that the fate of “Daredevil” was uncertain, despite a #RenewDaredevil Twitter campaign advocating a fourth season, citing data from consumer-insights company Crimson Hexagon claiming interest in all the Marvel shows was down significantly since the franchise debuted.

At the same time, Netflix has been putting more emphasis on its own proprietary content, rather than licensing shows from third parties, as they do with Marvel.

In a statement to Deadline, Netflix stated that it was “tremendously proud” of the third season of “Daredevil” and felt “it best to close this chapter on a high note.”

Netflix also hinted that more adventures of Daredevil could eventually materialize in other mediums: “While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.”

What form this may take remains to be seen, given the apparent creative split between Marvel Studios, which handles the films, and Marvel Television. Disney+ has confirmed a new series based on the “Thor” and “Avengers” villain Loki, and rumors are swirling about additional series based on film characters such as The Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Falcon, the latter two being sidekicks of Captain America. But these series would be handled by Marvel Studios and its executive producer, Kevin Feige, and not Marvel Television.

The 2015 separation of Marvel’s film and TV divisions left many fans wondering about how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television incarnation would remain. Thus far, MCU-set TV shows such as the Netflix group, ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Freeform’s “Cloak & Dagger” have referenced events from the films, but have not received reciprocal acknowledgement from any of the movies (though the Russo Brothers did acknowledge discussions about the feasibility of using characters such as Luke Cage in Avengers: Infinity War).

With Marvel Studios seemingly handling the Marvel programming on Disney+, industry observers have expressed skepticism about the pending service’s willingness to pick up Marvel Television productions that have already been canceled by other networks.

 

Sony Plans to Inject ‘Venom’ Into December

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Venom through digital retailers Dec. 11, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 18.

Based on the popular Marvel Comics character, Venom tells the story of Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a broken man whose life is turned around when he becomes host to an alien symbiote that gives him superpowers. The cast also includes Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and Woody Harrelson.

The film has earned $211.7 million at the domestic box office and more than $822.5 million worldwide.

Bonus material will include a “Venom Mode” with pop-up trivia about the film; deleted and extended scenes; the featurette From Symbiote to Screen, about the history of the character; several behind-the-scenes featurettes; a featurette about hidden references in the film; pre-visualization versions of key scenes; a music video for Eminem’s “Venom”; and a preview of the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, with a music video for “Sunflower” from Post Malone and Swae-Lee.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray will include Dolby Vision high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos sound.

Thanks, Stan Lee, and Excelsior!

Stanley Martin Lieber, otherwise known to the world as Stan Lee, passed away Nov. 12 at the age of 95.

In the 1960s, he helped grow Marvel Comics into one of the two major comic book publishers (alongside DC Comics), having a hand in the creation of such characters as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor, The Fantastic Four and The X-Men. Lee wrote for “Captain America” in the 1940s and helped resurrect the character in the ’60s as a member of The Avengers.

His work in the genre helped spur a turn toward more-thoughtful, message-driven comic book storytelling based on the humanity of his characters. Spider-Man was plagued by the same problems as other teens. The X-Men were a metaphor for the Civil Rights movement. Iron Man became an alcoholic. And so on.

In his later years, Lee became an icon of the comic book industry and an ambassador of the medium like no other, always greeting fans with an enthusiastic smile and delighting crowds with the recitation of his catchphrase, “Excelsior!,” a Latin word that translates to “ever upward.”

While he stepped back from a creative role at Marvel, he remained connected to the company as Chairman Emeritus, while also working on new superhero projects on his own. In this capacity, he made countless appearances at comic book conventions and served as executive producer for many movies and TV shows based on Marvel Comics properties.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created.  A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, in a statement posted on the Disney website. Disney bought Marvel Comics in 2009.

In the past two decades, Lee’s frequent appearances in Marvel films helped expand his legend further. His cameos became a staple of the genre as audiences began to keep an eye on where he would show up next.

In 2005’s Fantastic Four, Lee appeared as mailman Willie Lumpkin, the first time he played a character he created. And his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe became so popular that they spawned a fan theory that he was actually a supernatural observer for a celestial race known as The Watchers, an idea that finally took root in 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

But his ubiquitousness was not limited to Marvel movies, including notable guest spots in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, “The Simpsons,” “Heroes,” “The Big Bang Theory” and, most recently, voicing himself in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, his first cameo for a project based on rival DC. He also reportedly recorded a voiceover cameo for Disney’s upcoming Ralph Breaks the Internet.

His cameos became such a calling card of his that there’s now a separate Wikipedia page dedicated to tracking all of them.

From 2006 to 2007, Lee hosted the Sci-Fi Channel reality competition show “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?,” in which contestants would dress up as superheroes of their own creation and perform tasks to be judged by Lee.

In 2012 Lee’s life story was the subject of the documentary With Great Power … The Stan Lee Story, re-released on DVD last year by Well Go USA.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee twice for various projects about 10 years ago, and he was never shy about his love of comic books, superheroes and the storytelling potential they represented. He even joked about setting up a “Stan Lee for Hire” billboard in Hollywood in hopes of getting more offers for cameos.

Lee’s most recent Marvel cameo came in Sony’s Venom, and he reportedly already shot a cameo for the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. We don’t yet know to what capacity, if any, Lee would have appeared in the 2019 MCU films Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, or even Fox’s latest “X-Men” chapter, Dark Phoenix, though those films will almost certainly be dedicated to his memory.

In the meantime, as long as we are graced with the thousands of comic books, characters and stories that represent Stan Lee’s enduring legacy, there can never be “’Nuff said.”

Excelsior.

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

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

The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds as the merc with

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Releasing First ‘Big Hero 6: The Series’ DVD June 26

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will release the first DVD volume of episodes from Disney Channel’s “Big Hero 6: The Series” June 26.

The show, a follow-up to the 2014 animated movie, details the continuing adventures of tech genius Hiro Hamada, his robot companion Baymax and their friends, who form the superhero team Big Hero 6, loosely based on the Marvel Comics property of the same name.

The series began with the 44-minute special Baymax Returns Nov. 20, 2017, with subsequent episodes on the Disney Channel beginning June 9.

The first DVD collection, Big Hero 6: The Series — Back in Action, includes Baymax Returns and the episodes airing through June 23: “Fred’s Bro-tillion,” “Issue 188,” “Big Roommates 2,” “Failure Mode,” “Muirahara Woods” and “Food Fight.”

The DVD also includes six bonus shorts: “Baymax and Hiro,” “Baymax and Wasabi,” “Baymax and Go Go,” “Baymax and Fred,” “Baymax and Honey Lemon” and “Baymax and Mochi.”

Thor: Ragnarok

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 3/6/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $314.97 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch.

As with any movie franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become adept and finding formulas that work and sticking to them.

As a case in point, the first two standalone “Thor” movies are generally regarded as among the weaker of the Marvel films. It’s not that they’re bad per se, it’s just that they really didn’t establish themselves much beyond a general space-fantasy epic that connected to elements of the larger Marvel films. As a character, Thor worked better in the “Avengers” films, when he had other heroes to play off of and the films could take advantage of his other-worldly nature for moments of levity and comic relief.

Over the course of 10 years, the MCU as a whole has tended to take itself less seriously, embracing the sense of fun that a comic book movie franchise should have without sacrificing the emotional connection the audience needs to have with its characters.

One of the major contributors to this change in attitude since the second “Thor” movie landed in 2013 was the arrival of two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, which are not only the most comedy-driven of the Marvel films, but they also tread in the cosmic setting that should have been Thor’s bread and butter. Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming further demonstrated that the MCU could embrace a lighter tone while still remaining true to the source material and the overarching storylines being established for the crossover films.

So, it should really come as no surprise to see Thor: Ragnarok really deconstruct the elements of the MCU’s success, what has worked for Thor in the past, and let director Taika Waititi throw them into a blender to whip up his own unique cocktail for a hilarious big screen comic book thrill ride.

The secret ingredient, as far as Waititi is concerned, it seems, is a healthy pinch of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia, as Thor is essentially re-imagined as a Saturday morning cartoon hero akin to “He-Man” accompanied by a rockin’ techno-synth soundtrack, (from Mark Mothersbaugh, whose name popping up in the credits as the composer certainly elicits a “yeah, that makes sense” reaction).

Waititi does a masterful job of re-focusing the efforts of the “Thor” films while both wrapping up previous storylines (without much fuss) and positioning the characters for the next big crossover, Avengers: Infinity War, which arrives April 27.

Thor himself is now much more irreverent, with the script playing to Chris Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents. As for finding others for Thor to play with, this film offers a brief encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, but really hits a home run by pairing Thor with Hulk, taking advantage of a long-running rivalry between the two characters. A battle between Thor and Hulk in the gladiator pit of an alien world (inspired by the popular “Planet Hulk” comic book storyline) perfectly positions this film as a counterpoint to Captain America: Civil War, in which neither character appeared (as they were off conducting adventures in space, it would appear).

Thor’s only fighting Hulk, though, in order to escape from confinement and recruit a team to take back Asgard from his sister, Hela, the goddess of death. Hela (Cate Blanchett in a juicy performance that borders between menacing and sexy) had been imprisoned by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for being too cruel, but manages to escape to claim her father’s throne.

The setting of the gladiator planet lets the filmmakers indulge themselves in the colorful renderings of legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby’s designs, and also provide an excuse to just insert Jeff Goldblum into the film (as the Grandmaster of the games) and allow him to just be his zany self, much to the delight of the audience.

The film is a visual spectacle, reminiscent of cult favorites such as Flash Gordon or Heavy Metal, and would be a spectacular showcase for home theater 3D effects were the format not being phased out (at least in the United States. All-region 3D Blu-rays are available from overseas markets such as Europe and Australia).

The home video offers extensive bonus materials, with some exclusive to the digital versions.

The highlight of the presentation on all platforms is probably the six-minute “Team Darryl” short film, the third installment in a spoof series about Thor’s roommate on Earth. This time, with Thor off the planet, Darryl’s new roommate is the Grandmaster, and any excuse for more Goldblum in any setting is a good one.

Also included are about 40 minutes of behind the scenes featurettes, with a three-minute video about the Thor-Hulk relationship presented as a digital exclusive. Other featurettes profile the new female characters, and look at many of the new elements this film brings to the franchise. There’s also a five-minute appreciation of the 10th anniversary of the MCU.

Offering digital exclusives is fine in this case, since the disc comes with access to the digital copies, but the extras are structured differently depending on where you try to watch them, particularly where the deleted scenes are concerned.

On disc, the deleted scenes are pretty straightforward, offered one at a time. Many of them are extended sequences from an earlier conception of the film before story elements were streamlined. So the glimpse of that alternate version is fascinating on its own. The deleted scenes run about 15 minutes, compared with less than six minutes on the disc.

Note that Vudu presents the deleted scenes as a single featurette with them strung together, ending with the fun Easter Egg reference to another Marvel movie that has created some online buzz.

Lastly, there’s an introduction and solo commentary by Waititi, in which he offers a few insights about the making of the film, but mostly maintains the jokey nature he often displays in public. He describes many scenes with tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, hypes up his own skills as both a director and actor, and spends considerable time allowing his young daughter onto the microphone and reacting to her rather than what’s on the screen. No doubt fans of Waititi’s brand of performance art will eat this up, but for general MCU fans, it seems like a missed opportunity to offer a good, in depth discussion about the film.