Black Panther

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 5/15/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $694 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, 39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture.
Stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis.

Black Panther is a prime example of the effectiveness the superhero genre can have in drawing upon the mythological aspects of comic book storytelling to provide a thought-provoking allegory for modern times that is both powerful and entertaining.

Director Ryan Coogler’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the 18th film to enter the canon) is one of those films that presents a distinct point of view yet is also likely to be differently interpreted based on the mindset of the viewer, to the degree that deciphering its true message should spark a wide array of debates for some time to come. But, at its core, as a character-driven superhero action blockbuster, the film ranks among the most memorable and well-crafted in the genre, with the most pressing factor of its ultimate ranking on any best-of lists likely to be predominately determined by one’s own personal connection to the characters and story.

Not unlike the “Thor” movies, but more compelling and grounded, the story is driven by Shakespearean family drama, in this case centered on the character of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who was introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Picking up from the events of that film, T’Challa must return to his home country of Wakanda to assume the mantle of king.

As the centerpiece of one of the film’s primary motifs of things hiding in plain sight, the tiny African nation presents itself as a poor third-world nation, but in actuality is a technologically advanced civilization fueled by a magical element that crashed into Earth long ago.

T’Challa’s reign is soon threatened by a long-lost cousin (Michael B. Jordan) who grew up in America after a devastating fallout between T’Challa’s father and uncle, and resents that Wakanda never sought to help the global plight of the descendants of Africa.

Black Panther does a good job incorporating traditional African tribal culture and the natural beauty of the continent into a strong “what if” scenario involving a mighty African kingdom that had control of its own resources and avoided the imperialism of the past few centuries.

The film invites comparisons to The Lion King for its rich visual and musical representation of Africa. Yet Coogler is also adept at presenting the sci-fi elements of the story, from Wakanda’s technical marvels and vast cityscapes, to an energizing action setpiece in South Korea.

Black Panther also presents strong representation for women, from the spunky intelligence of T’Challa’s sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who spearheads of the designs of Wakanda’s new technologies; to Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), T’Challa’s love interest and a savvy Wakandan spy; to the fierce Okoye (Danai Gurira), who commands a fighting force of female Wakandan warriors who would give Wonder Woman’s Amazons a run for their money.

The Blu-ray contains a number of good extras aimed at fans of both the film and the comic book Black Panther. Primary among these is a 20-minute roundtable discussion between Coogler, the film’s producers and some of the writers of the “Black Panther” comic book over the past few decades.

Coogler also offers an introduction to the film and an insightful commentary track that imparts some deeper meaning on some of the character dynamics.

The Blu-ray also includes four deleted scenes that expand a few aspects of the story.

In addition, the disc includes 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a two-minute gag reel. There’s also a nine-minute retrospective of the MCU’s 10-year history, plus a two-minute preview of the next film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, which hits theaters July 6.

The digital versions include exclusive Wakandan travel ads, plus a featurette about the fight training for the film’s stunts.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Surges to No. 1 on Disc Sales Charts

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment again claimed the top spot on the national home video sales charts the week ended March 10, this time with Thor: Ragnarok, while five other newcomers also found their way into the overall top 20.

The latest hit superhero film from the powerhouse Marvel Studios unit had earned $315 million at the domestic box office before debuting at No. 1 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc Unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.

The arrival of Thor:Ragnarok pushed Disney’s Coco, from the Pixar Animation Studio, to No. 2 on both charts after it had debuted on top the week before. Coco sold about 39% as many units as Thor: Ragnarok during the week.

Dropping a slot to No. 3, also on both charts, was 20th Century Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express remake.

No. 4 on the overall chart was Lionsgate’s Wonder, followed by Fox’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which rose two spots to No. 5 after being honored with a couple of acting Oscars.

On the Blu-ray chart, Disney’s Lady and the Tramp: Signature Collection slipped to No. 4, while Universal Pictures’ Darkest Hour took No. 5. Wonder and Three Billboards were No. 6 and No. 7, respectively.

The other new arrivals popping into the top 20 were Lionsgate’s Lady Bird at No. 8 (on both charts); Nickelodeon’s Paw Patrol: Sea Patrol, distributed by Paramount, at No. 10; BBC’s Blue Planet II at No. 12 (No. 10 on the Blu-ray chart); a Sony Pictures’ anniversary re-release of the 1982 fantasy epic The Dark Crystal at No. 13 (No. 9 on the Blu-ray chart); and Universal’s The Man Who Invented Christmas, a docu-drama about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol, at No. 20 (No. 18 on the Blu-ray chart).

Notably, Dark Crystal was released for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, with the premium format accounting for 36% of the title’s unit sales. Blu-ray as a whole accounted for 86% of Dark Crystal sales for the week.

Among the other debuting titles, Blu-ray accounted for 83% of unit sales for Thor: Ragnarok, which saw 11% of its total come from UHD Blu-ray.

The comedy Lady Bird had 55% of its sales come by way of Blu-ray, while the documentary series Blue Planet II had 75% and The Man Who Invented Christmas had 46%.

Blue Planet II had 46% of its sales come from the 4K disc format, which is especially significant considering the U.S. HD configurations were either BD- or 4K-only, meaning no future-proofing combo pack containing both formats.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended March 11, Coco took over the No. 1 spot after debuting a week earlier at No. 2, while Thor: Ragnarok had to settle for the second spot in its first week.

The chart-topping duo from Disney defies the usual trend, as Disney titles tend to take a few weeks to build momentum in the rental market as the studio has no distribution agreement with Redbox, leading the kiosk vendor to acquire its copies of Disney films as any consumer would — at retail. This tends to give the advantage to other studios who supply titles to Redbox directly. Indeed, Disney and Redbox are currently engaged in a legal dispute over the right to resell digital copy codes included with the packaged-media copies Redbox has been buying.

Rounding out the top five rentals, No. 3 and No. 4 went to a pair of 20th Century Fox films coming week-long holdbacks at Redbox – Murder on the Orient Express and Three Billboards, respectively.

No. 5 was Paramount’s Daddy’s Home 2, which had been the top rental the previous two weeks.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 03-10-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 03-11-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 03-10-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 03-10-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 03-10-18