Drama ‘Just Mercy’ Coming to Home Video From Warner

The drama Just Mercy, based on a true story, arrives on digital March 24 and Blu-ray and DVD April 14 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) and Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (Ray, Baby Driver, Django: Unchained) and Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12, Captain Marvel) star in the story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan (Jordan) has his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the main testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, as well as overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds — and the system — stacked against them.

The film, which earned $45.1 million at the global box office, is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle, Short Term 12) from a screenplay he co-wrote, based on Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir.

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The cast also includes Rob Morgan (Mudbound, TV’s “Stranger Things”) as Herbert Richardson, a fellow prisoner who also sits on death row awaiting his fate. Tim Blake Nelson (Wormwood, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) as Ralph Myers, whose pivotal testimony against Walter McMillian is called into question. Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman, the district attorney who is fighting to uphold Walter’s conviction and sentence. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Anthony Ray Hinton, another wrongly convicted death row inmate whose cause is taken up by Bryan, and Karan Kendrick (The Hate U Give, Hidden Figures) as Walter’s wife, Minnie McMillian, who stands by her husband.

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Special features on Blu-ray include “Making Mercy,” “This Moment Deserves,” “The Equal Justice Initiative” and deleted scenes. The DVD includes “Making Mercy.”

(UPDATE 3-17-2020: Warner moved up the digital release date to March 17)

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.

‘Creed II’ Stepping Into Retail Ring Digitally Feb. 12, on Disc March 5

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release MGM’s Creed II through digital retailers Feb. 12, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 5.

The sequel to 2015’s Creed and the eighth film in the “Rocky” franchise stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, the icons of boxing who confront their shared legacy when Adonis takes on the son of Ivan Drago, one of Rocky’s greatest adversaries and the man who killed Creed’s father in the ring.

Directed by Steven Caple Jr., Creed II also stars Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby and Dolph Lundgren, who returns to the franchise after playing Drago in 1985’s Rocky IV.

The Blu-ray and DVD editions will include the featurette “The Rocky Legacy.”

The Blu-ray version will also include deleted scenes and the featurettes “From Father to Son, Blood Runs Hot,” “Finding the Authentic” and “The Women of Creed II.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack will offer Dolby Vision HDR.

HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Due June 18 on Digital, Sept. 18 on Disc

Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), will be available for digital download June 18 and on Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 18 from HBO Home Entertainment.

Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic sci-fi novel of the same name, the film depicts a society where books are outlawed and “firemen” have been tasked to burn and destroy any remaining literature, erasing history. The dystopian thriller centers on Guy Montag (Jordan), a young fireman who forsakes his world and struggles to regain his humanity as he battles his mentor, fire captain Beatty (Shannon).

Fahrenheit 451 also stars Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Lily Singh (Bad Moms), Laura Harrier (Spider-Man Homecoming), Martin Donovan (Ant-Man).

Special features include the featurette “Behind the Fire,” in which Jordan, Shannon, Boutella and director Ramin Bahrani discuss Guy Montag’s character evolution and relationships.

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.