MGM Inks Distribution Deal With Kaleidescape

Transactional VOD movie service Kaleidescape Nov. 5 announced the availability of select films from Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM). With the addition of MGM’s catalog, Kaleidescape’s 11,000+ titles include most of Hollywood’s top-rated movies, including 88 of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time, according to the service.

Over 100 MGM titles are available now, including The Princess Bride; The Silence of the Lambs; the “Rocky” franchise, including Creed, Creed II and the original Rocky; romantic comedies When Harry Met Sally and Four Weddings and a Funeral; classics Some Like It Hot and 12 Angry Men; actioners Robocop and The Terminator; and Oscar winners Rain Man and Dances With Wolves.

MGM owns one of the world’s deepest libraries of premium film and television content as well as the premium pay television network EPIX, which is available throughout the U.S. via cable, satellite, telco and digital distributors.

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“MGM’s storied catalog is home to some of Hollywood’s most iconic films, and this partnership with Kaleidescape represents a unique opportunity for us to reintroduce audiences to many of our most classic titles at an incredibly high quality, all in the comfort of their homes,” Chris Ottinger, president of worldwide TV distribution & acquisitions at MGM, said in a statement.

“The combination of Kaleidescape’s high-quality playback and metadata-rich movies enables cinema connoisseurs to rediscover and experience some of the greatest Hollywood movies,” Cheena Srinivasan, Kaleidescape founder and CEO, said in a statement.

80-Year-Old ‘Wizard of Oz’ Gets Makeover for 4K

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment hosted a presentation on the studio lot Oct. 28 to talk about the restoration of The Wizard of Oz for the 4K UHD release. The studio went back to the three-strip Technicolor negative to restore the film in 8K, 16 bit resolution for the film’s 80th anniversary release.  The classic debuts Oct. 29 on 4K UHD with HDR, including Dolby Vision, on Blu-ray Disc and digital.

Epix Launching ‘ScreenPix’ Channel Featuring Classic Movies and TV Series

Epix, the pay-TV network owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Oct. 16 announced an expanded carriage agreement with Comcast Cable that will enable the pay-TV operator to deliver Epix’s portfolio of movies and original series to Xfinity subscribers. 

On Dec. 12, Epix will launch ScreenPix, a suite of library channels offering a curated collection of classic movies, uncut and commercial free.  The suite includes ScreenPix; ScreenPix: Action; ScreenPix: Westerns; and ScreenPix: Voices, a channel dedicated to diverse voices.  

“We have a shared commitment to providing viewers an unmatched experience and are excited for Xfinity TV customers to experience Epix’s lineup of new original series and great movies,” Michael Wright, president of Epix, said in a statement.

Beginning with the first quarter 2020, Xfinity subs will have access to Epix original docuseries “Slow Burn” and “Laurel Canyon”; as well as limited series “Belgravia,” from Julian Fellowes and the creative team behind “Downton Abbey.”

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Othe programming includes recently premiered “Godfather of Harlem,” starring and executive produced by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker; season three of “Get Shorty”; “NFL: The Grind,” from NFL Films and hosted by Rich Eisen; as well as recent dramas “Pennyworth” and “Perpetual Grace” and “LTD.”

Epix movies include titles from MGM, Paramount and Lionsgate, including RocketmanTerminator: Dark FateJohn Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum and the upcoming James Bond release No Time to Die.

“Epix has been a great partner, and we are very pleased to deliver its critically acclaimed originals and vast content library to more Xfinity TV customers,” Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast Cable, said. 

‘Daniel Craig Collection’ of Bond Films Shooting to 4K UHD Oct. 22

The Daniel Craig Collection, with four James Bond films starring the actor, will come out on 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision Oct. 22 from MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The collection includes Casino RoyaleQuantum of SolaceSkyfall and Spectre, and features the extended unrated version of Casino Royale and includes select special features on Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Casino Royale features crew commentary, and Skyfall features commentary by director Sam Mendes and commentary by producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and production designer Dennis Gassner.

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Craig is currently in production on his fifth installment as James Bond in the franchise’s 25th feature film No Time to Die, set for U.S. theatrical release on April 10, 2020.

Second Half of ‘Vikings’ Season 5 on Disc Oct. 8

MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release Vikings: Season 5 Vol. 2 on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 8.

In this half-season, Ivar the Boneless’ tyrannical reign as king of Kattegat ushers in a new Dark Age for Scandinavia. And while Bjorn and Lagertha flee Ivar’s murderous forces with Bishop Heahmund, Duke Rollo’s return brings even more upheaval. Meanwhile, Floki battles the elements-as well as his settlers’ thirst for revenge-in beautiful, desolate Iceland. Ultimately, the sons of Ragnar and old sworn enemies must become allies to challenge the despot Ivar, who has declared himself a god. The gut-wrenching action and dramatic plot twists reach a fever pitch as the season unfolds.

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The Blu-ray and DVD will include extended versions of all 10 episodes (broadcast versions are not included with the DVD edition).

Extras include commentaries with creator Michael Hirst and actor Gustaf Skarsgard, deleted scenes, and featurettes “The Epic War of Ragnar’s Sons” and “The King and the Warrior Bishop.”

 

Fighting With My Family

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 5/14/19;
Universal/MGM;
Comedy;
Box Office $22.96 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content.
Stars Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant.

The notion that professional wrestling is “fake” is pervasive enough that most people don’t realize it’s a world just as competitive as any sport. It’s just the indicators of success aren’t strictly focused on the results in the ring.

As is made abundantly clear in the very entertaining Fighting With My Family, while the results of wrestling matches are more or less fixed as a means of storytelling and showmanship, the athleticism on display is just as genuine as any contest where the results aren’t predetermined.

The film tells the story of WWE superstar Paige, who emerged from a family of wrestlers in England to become one of the top female performers in the world’s biggest pro-wrestling promotion.

With her family’s small promotion struggling to get by, Paige (Florence Pugh) and her brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) are invited to a WWE tryout. But when Paige is the only one deemed worthy of potential superstardom, the siblings must come to terms with the notion that one’s dream and one’s destiny might lead to separate paths.

For Paige, that means leaving her family to train in America, and dealing with the hardships of trying to fit in when it seems she doesn’t quite fit in. For Zak, it means coming to terms with the idea that maybe his place isn’t in the spotlight, but quietly working behind the scenes to further the traditions of his family profession.

Fighting With My Family is based on a British TV documentary about Paige and her family and their passion for professional wrestling. Director Stephen Merchant has refocused the story into a rather typical sports movie underdog tale, playing fast-and-loose with the reality it for a more concise narrative.

Vince Vaughn’s character of Hutch Morgan, for example, is a composite of a variety of WWE authorities Paige would have encountered during her training in the NXT developmental program, essentially the minor leagues of wrestling.

The movie also skips over dealing with NXT’s own championship hierarchy, where using it might have giving a better sense of Paige’s progress within the company aside from her reactions to a few contentious exchanges with Hutch, and some encouraging words from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who pops in to play himself.

As such, the film’s climactic result seems a bit forced within the context of the story beats the movie itself has established, a development owing more to being a re-creation of the real event than something the film’s version of events has earned. Merchant’s comedic background serves the offbeat moments of the story well, but he admittedly wasn’t aware of the inner workings of professional wrestling before taking on the task of helming the film, and a few beats focused more on the mechanics of pro-wrestling storytelling might have been warranted.

Still, aided by some great performances by the main cast, the film offers plenty of heartfelt sentiment in celebrating the power of family to fuel the pursuit of a lifelong dream and find comfort and contentment when things don’t always go according to plan.

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Home video extras include nine minutes of deleted scenes, a three-minute gag reel, a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and a three-minute video about training for the physicality in the film. Merchant also provides an audio commentary for the film.

The Blu-ray also features an “unrated director’s cut” of the film, but the alterations are so minor that its inclusion seems like more of a marketing gimmick than anything of consequential artistic value. That being said, based on the few identifiable differences, my preference tends to lean toward the unrated cut, which actually runs three seconds shorter than the theatrical version.

The changes don’t alter the story in any way and consist mostly of alternate takes featuring slightly cruder dialogue to get the same message across.

I’ve managed to identify five alterations:

1) A slightly faster edit for a key joke during the dinner scene of Zak’s girlfriend’s parents meeting his family;
2) The Rock having a slightly different reaction to Paige’s shock at meeting him for the first time;
3) A more grotesque line of dialogue from an audience member reacting to Paige’s first introduction to an NXT crowd;
4) A faster edit of Zak getting into a bar fight; and
5) An obscenity as Hutch is testing Paige’s comebacks to potential crowd insults.

Also note that while Universal is distributing the Blu-ray, the film is an MGM production and thus the digital copy is not compatible with Movies Anywhere, but redeemable only through iTunes.

Tubi Licenses ‘The Apprentice’ Catalog Featuring Donald Trump

Ad-supported VOD app Tubi May 6 announced it has secured streaming rights to all 15 seasons of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that helped put Donald Trump, his family members and Omarosa on the national stage.

Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the final season after Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016.

San Francisco-based Tubi secured the rights from MGM, which created the long-running series from 2004 through 2017.

The debut season of “The Apprentice” premiered on NBC delivering an average weekly viewership of 20.7 million and was one of the network’s most-watched series with adults 18-49. The franchise has broadened globally with over 20 localized versions.

Notable U.S. contestants included Bill Rancic, Piers Morgan, Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins, Leeza Gibbons, Khloe Kardashian, Cyndi Lauper, Lil Jon, Vivica A. Fox and Geraldo Rivera, among others.

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Last month, a New York appeals court ruled Trump could not dismiss a sexual defamation lawsuit filed by former contestant Summer Zervos just because he is President.

“In our quest to democratize content and make more premium content accessible, we are making a big push into the reality television space,” Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi said in a statement. “‘The Apprentice’ is our second big series (after Lionsgate’s ‘Anger Management’) announcement this month, and we will have more in the near future.”

Tubi claims to consistently rank as one of the most-watched apps on platforms such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Android, among others.

Creed II

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/5/19;
Warner/MGM;
Drama;
Box Office $115.7 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality.
Stars Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Russell Hornsby, Florian Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren.

Given the premise used in 2015’s Creed to restart the “Rocky” franchise, this sequel is more or less exactly the movie the series’ fans were waiting for.

The eighth film in the “Rocky” franchise continues the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the young boxer who is still haunted by the legacy of his father, Apollo. Adonis faces a new challenge in the form of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), son of former Russian champion Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) famously defeated in 1985’s Rocky IV.

The fact Apollo died as a result of an exhibition match against Ivan Drago gives Adonis added motivation, as he seeks retribution for his family name. But Rocky doesn’t think the match is worth it, pointing out Adonis has bigger priorities in his life now, such as starting a family with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Creed II

While the film serves as a natural sequel to both Rocky IV and Creed, it borrows a lot from Rocky III in terms of story structure. While much of the plotting fits in well with the “what happens next” soap opera flow of the “Rocky” movies in general, the film is bound together by the motif of legacy, in particular the influence parents and children can have on each other that transcends generations.

In fact, two of the featurettes included with the Blu-ray are built upon this idea. The first is “The Rocky Legacy,” a 15-minute history of the “Rocky” films hosted by Lundgren that examines why the franchise has endured. The second is the seven-minute “Fathers and Sons” featurette, which takes a deeper look at how the desire to build a legacy impacts the characters involved.

Interestingly, the film adds depth to the Drago character beyond his role as the cookie-cutter villain from Rocky IV. He blames Rocky for his loss of stature following their match, and through his son he seeks a measure of revenge as well, against the fighter now seen as Rocky’s protégé.

There’s a six-minute featurette devoted to the casting of amateur boxer Munteanu as the younger Drago, and he certainly casts an intimidating shadow when standing next to Jordan’s Creed (not unlike seeing Lundgren’s towering frame over Stallone 33 years prior).

The six-minute “The Women of Creed II” focuses on the other side of the equation, Thompson as Bianca and Phylicia Rashad as Adonis’ mother representing the impact his professional struggles have on his personal life.

Finally, there are four deleted scenes running a total of 10 minutes, and a couple of them will be of particular interest to longtime “Rocky” fans.

One features the funeral of Spider Rico, who was the first boxer Rocky was seen fighting during a sparring session in the first film back in 1976. This scene adds a bit of context to one of the film’s plot developments.

Another scene serves as an epilogue to the main story, as the characters encounter each other in the locker room after the climactic fight.

While the business of Hollywood is such that it would be unwise to rule out another sequel, the conclusion of Creed II leaves the characters and viewers in a place where it would be a satisfying conclusion to the series if the particulars involved chose to leave it at that.

At least, until 2045, when the next entry sees Mickey’s great-great-grandson challenge the grandson of Clubber Lang to an MMA fight. Stay tuned, fight fans.

FilmRise Inks Streaming Deals with ITV, MGM and Warner Bros.

Ad-supported movie streaming service FilmRise said it has signed distribution agreements for catalog content with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Warner Bros., among others.

Titles include Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, The Terminator, and the original Blade Runner.”

“We are thrilled that the FilmRise Channel has become a major platform where consumers can watch their favorite films and TV shows,” FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher in a statement.

We have formed a stellar line up of programming thanks to our amazing partners,” said Fisher.

The channel can be found on Roku, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, and other connected devices.

 

Operation Finale

Munich meets Argo in this low-key depiction of Israel’s secret mission in the years after World War II to capture Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and bring him to trial for his role in the Holocaust.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $17.61 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some language.
Stars Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent, Lior Raz, Nick Kroll, Haley Lu Richardson, Peter Strauss.

At the end of World War II, as so many Nazi leaders were being captured, or committing suicide to avoid facing justice for war crimes, SS officer Adolf Eichmann managed to flee from Europe.

Widely considered to be one of the major architects of the Nazi Holocaust that resulted in the death of 6 million European Jews, Eichmann was considered a prime target for the Nazi hunters who popped up after the war, though his whereabouts remained a mystery for more than a decade. He was eventually spotted in Argentina, where many former Nazis fled because their ideology meshed well with local political movements at the time.

In 1960, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, organized a secret mission to capture Eichmann and bring him to Israel to stand trial for war crimes.

Operation Finale dramatizes the key events of the mission, though not as intensely as other depictions of Mossad operations on the big screen, such as Steven Spielberg’s Munich.

So much of the story involves characters waiting around and getting the proper paperwork in order — not exactly riveting viewing. As a result, director Chris Weitz puts less emphasis on the process of finding Eichmann and the decision to capture him, and focuses more on the characters involved in the operation, particularly the growing rapport between agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and Eichmann (Ben Kingsley). Fortunately, the performances are strong enough all around to hold audience interest.

One interesting affectation Weitz brought to his handling of the performances was an edict against artificial accents, so the actors use their normal speaking voice regardless of what nationality they are meant to be. It’s a noticeable choice but certainly not as distracting as an actor stumbling through an accent they have no mastery of.

Weitz also rearranges the chronology of events to ramp up the tension a bit, aided by a pulsating musical score by Alexandre Desplat.

In a solo commentary, Weitz says he thought of Operation Finale as a spiritual companion to another Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, which takes place at the same time. As such, he included a brief scene of the Mossad agents hearing a news report over the radio of American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers being captured by the Soviet Union.

Weitz also mentions how the story parallels that of Argo in that it too climaxes with an escape via plane before local enemies can figure out what is going on (in this case, Eichmann’s family and supporters conducting a manhunt to find him after he disappears), and how he went about structuring the sequence so as to avoid comparisons.

The Blu-ray also includes a six-and-a-half-minute “Inside the Operation” featurette about the making of the film with interviews from the cast and filmmakers.

A featurette about the actual events would have been an appropriate inclusion as well, but as long as the film encourages people to look into the real story more, it’s definitely a win for the study of history.

Operation Finale