Morbius

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/14/22;
Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $73.79 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language.
Stars Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson.

For its latest attempt at an expanded “Spider-Man” cinematic universe that doesn’t seem to have Spider-Man in it, Sony has once again turned to a character that seems more akin to a horror movie villain than the protagonist of a superhero movie. But just because Venom manages to attract an audience doesn’t mean the formula can be applied to just any of Spidey’s historical comic book baddies who became antiheroes after catching on with audiences. And so we are presented with the tale of Morbius the Living Vampire.

The thing about comic books is, that while sometimes a character becomes iconic, more often than not they are pretty goofy, rising to a level barely above cult status if not altogether forgotten. Back in the day, when publishers needed stories to tell about the popular ones, any number of bizarre concepts were introduced into the monthly books, just to see which ones might stick.

Morbius was introduced into “Spider-Man” comics back in the early 1970s as essentially a costumed villain version of Dracula for Spidey to fight.

Interspersing strange characters and fantastical adventures with more-serious fare could hardly be considered unusual for the comic book page. At one point, Marvel Comics actually made Dracula and Godzilla part of its canon when it had the rights to them. Heck, Spider-Man even crossed paths with The Transformers at one point.

The point being, it’s easy enough for a comic book to get away with these things. Translating them credibly into live-action is quite another feat.

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Morbius tells the story of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant scientist with a crippling, unspecified blood disorder. He creates a serum for his affliction by splicing genetic material from bats into human DNA, temporarily curing his condition but giving him an insatiable thirst for human blood, without which his sickness returns. Morbius quells this thirst with a form of artificial blood he created.

In becoming a pseudo vampire, he gains the abilities of echo-location, superspeed and flight.

This basic premise could be the setup to any number of low-budget direct-to-video horror movies. But in those, the mad scientist would transform into the killer, only to be opposed by a love interest or fellow scientist, or maybe even a superhero, in some parable against technology run amok.

This being a Spider-Man movie without Spider-Man, and being called Morbius, the story has to find some way to make Morbius the hero. So, we get the benefactor of his research, a childhood pal named Milo (Matt Smith) with the same disease. He also cures himself with the serum, but gives into his bloodlust, killing innocents to maintain his power. This brings him into conflict with Morbius, who vows to stop him. And yet another comic book movie in which the bad guy is a mirror to the good guy.

There’s no message here, just an attempt to get more characters from the page to the screen in the hopes of future movies. Hence a pair of end-credits sequences that feel tacked on and, ultimately, pointless, given how poorly the film fared at the box office.

In addition, the attempt to ground Morbius’ powers in science rather than the supernatural just raises more questions that would just be answered by the nature of comic books themselves on the page, but are rather glaring in live-action outside the context of the source material. The serum granting bat-like powers is one thing, but why do the characters look like they are dissolving when they move fast? Last I checked, real bats couldn’t teleport. It does make for some funny gags about vampire lore, however.

Ultimately, Morbius is a creature of two genres, catering unsatisfactorily to both of them — too grim for comic book fare, and too beholden to the superhero formula for a vampire story.

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The Blu-ray includes a handful of extras, mostly behind-the-scenes featurettes totaling about 25 minutes. These are pretty typical for this kind of movie, mostly involving the filmmakers discussing the stunts and visual effects. There’s also a two-and-a-half-minute blooper reel, a two-and-a-half-minute look at comic book references in the film, and six minutes of promotional materials, including a three-minute recap of the press tour and a funny 36-second spoof of detergent ads.

Last Night in Soho

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Horror;
Box Office $10.13 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg.

Viewers heading into director Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho expecting to soak in more of his unique style and penchant for classic rock might be in for a bit of a shock when he veers a seemingly mundane story about a girl struggling with college life into an intense psychological horror film.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) heads to London to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. New to the big city, she finds comfort in her love of the music and aesthetics of the 1960s — imparted unto her by her late mother. After a personality clash with her roommate, she decides to rent a room from an elderly woman (Diana Rigg) whose rustic style and strict moral code seem to suit Eloise just fine.

However, Eloise soon begins to have vivid dreams in which she lives in the 1960s as an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose own ambitions are quickly shattered when she’s pimped out by her potential manager (Matt Smith) to fulfill the sexual desires of potential benefactors.

When Eloise encounters landmarks from her dreams in real life, she begins to suspect she’s experiencing visions of events that really happened, and uncovering the mystery of what happened to Sandie consumes her life — even as those around her suspect she may be falling victim to the same mental illnesses that eventually led her mother to commit suicide.

The film starts innocently enough, with Eloise being something of a stand-in for Wright in terms of wanting to live in an idyllic version of the 1960s. Eloise’s seeming descent into the madness of reliving the tragedy of Sandie, however, makes for a very disturbing journey when all is said and done.

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The Blu-ray offers some rather extensive extras, including a number of in-depth behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 10-minute “Meet Eloise” focuses on McKenzie’s character and performance, while the nine-minute “Dreaming of Sandie” focuses on the performances of Taylor-Joy and Smith. The eight-and-a-half-minute “On the Streets of Soho” delves into filming on location in the real Soho neighborhood of London, while the 12-and-a-half-minute “Smoke and Mirrors” and the 11-minute “Time Traveling” focus on the film’s visual style, visual effects and re-creating the vibrant energy of the 1960s.

Also included are four animatic versions of sequences, running 13 minutes, plus hair and makeup tests, lighting and VFX tests, and some interesting footage of the rehearsal and filming of one of the film’s key dance sequences.

Viewers should also enjoy the two detailed commentary tracks, one with Wright and co-writer Kristy Wilson-Carnes, which is focused more on story development and the ideas that influenced the film, and a second with Wright alongside editor Paul Machliss and composer Steve Price, which offers more technical details.

In addition, there are six deleted scenes that run a total of just over nine minutes.

Rounding out the set are some of the film’s trailers and a five-minute music video of Taylor-Joy singing a slow-tempo version of the 1964 Petula Clark song “Downtown.”

Paramount Releasing ‘Official Secrets’ in November

Paramount Home Entertainment will release the thriller Official Secrets digitally Nov. 5, and on DVD (with digital copy) Nov. 26.

Keira Knightley stars in the true story of British intelligence specialist turned whistleblower Katharine Gun, who in 2003 received a memo with a directive to collect blackmail-worthy information on UN council members to force the vote for the invasion of Iraq, and decides to leak the memo to the press, igniting an international firestorm.

The cast also includes Matt Smith as Martin Bright, the journalist who broke the story; Matthew Goode as one of Bright’s colleagues; and Ralph Fiennes and Gun’s lawyer.

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Directed by Gavin Hood, the film earned $1.9 million at the U.S. box office.

The digital copy included with the DVD presents the film in high-definition.

Netflix Launching Third Season of ‘The Crown’ Nov. 17

Netflix Aug. 12 announced it would begin streaming the third season of critically-acclaimed original series, “The Crown,” on Nov. 17 — five days after the launch of Disney’s branded subscription streaming service.

The newest edition of the Royal drama, which features Oscar winner Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II (replacing Claire Foy) and Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”) replacing Matt Smith as Prince Philip, is set in the 1960s.

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The series, which won Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and Screen Actors Guild awards, resumes as England wins the 1966 World Cup soccer competition, the arrival of The Beatles and cultural revolution of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

The series also stars Helen Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Ben Daniels as Lord Snowden.

Netflix Releases First Screen Shot of Olivia Colman as the Queen in ‘The Crown’

Netflix July 16 released on Twitter a screen shot of British actress Olivia Colman playing Queen Elizabeth II on upcoming seasons three and four of its immensely popular original series, “The Crown.”

The 44-year-old Colman, who is seen holding a cup of tea, has won three BAFTA Awards, three BIFA Awards, a Golden Globe Award (“The Night Manager”) and has two Emmy nominations in her career.

Season three is currently in production and slated for release in 2019, covering the time period from the early 1960s to 1970s.

The second season, which just received 13 Emmy nominations, starred Emmy nominees Claire Foy (who already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards) as Her Majesty, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, and Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. Kirby, who co-stars with Tom Cruise in upcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout, won a BAFTA TV Award for her role in season two.

Newcomers Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Daniels play Margaret and her husband, respectively, in season three, among other cast changes implemented to better reflect the aging of the show’s principal characters.

Netflix releases second quarter financials today after the market’s close.