Apple TV+ Bows Trailer for Michael Douglas Limited Series ‘Franklin,’ Due April 12

Apple TV+ March 13 unveiled the trailer for “Franklin,” the upcoming, eight-part limited series starring and executive produced by Academy, Emmy and AFI Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Douglas. Led by Douglas in the title role of Benjamin Franklin, “Franklin” will premiere globally on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes on April 12, followed by one new episode every Friday through May 17.

Based on Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff’s book A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, “Franklin” explores the story of the greatest gamble of Franklin’s career. In December 1776, Franklin is world famous for his electrical experiments, but his passion and power are put to the test when — as the fate of American independence hangs in the balance — he embarks on a secret mission to France.

At age 70, without any diplomatic training, Franklin convinced an absolute monarchy to underwrite America’s experiment in democracy. By virtue of his fame, charisma and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers and hostile colleagues to engineer the Franco-American Alliance of 1778 and the peace treaty with Great Britain in 1783.

Many diplomats and historians point to the eight-year French mission as Franklin’s most vital service to his country, with many regarding it as the greatest single tour of duty by an ambassador in U.S. history, as without French aid, America could not have won the Revolution.

The drama also stars Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) as Temple Franklin, Thibault de Montalembert (“Call My Agent!”) as comte de Vergennes, Daniel Mays (“Line of Duty”) as Edward Bancroft, Ludivine Sagnier (“Lupin”) as Madame Brillon, Eddie Marsan (“Ray Donovan”) as John Adams, Assaad Bouab (“Call My Agent!”) as Beaumarchais, Jeanne Balibar (“Irma Vep”) as Madame Helvetius and Théodore Pellerin (“There’s Someone Inside Your House”) as Marquis de Lafayette.

In addition to Douglas, the creative team includes Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer and executive producer Kirk Ellis (“John Adams”) and Emmy, WGA and Pulitzer Prize Award-nominated writer and executive producer Howard Korder (“Boardwalk Empire”). Emmy and DGA Award-winning director Tim Van Patten (“Masters of the Air,” “The Sopranos”) serves as director and executive producer.

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Coma

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/22/23;
Shout! Studios;
Thriller;
$34.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Geneviève Bujold, Michael Douglas, Richard Widmark, Rip Torn, Elizabeth Ashley, Lois Chiles, Hari Rhodes, Joanna Kerns, Tom Selleck, Ed Harris, Phillip Baker Hall, Benny Rubin.

Looking back on Coma, one memory remains undimmed. Chicago newspaperman cum TV personality, Irv Kupcinet was that toddlin’ town’s King of Malapropos. (He made Norm Crosby sound like James Earl Jones.) Not surprisingly, the always alliterative punctilious punctuator had no problem passing Geneviève Bujold’s prenomen through his pursed portal, but damn if he didn’t add the extra “m” to inadvertently (and uproariously) change the name of her latest release to, “Michael Crichton’s Comma.”

With a nod to Francisco Di Leo’s Slaughter Hotel (1971), Crichton and Company welcomed us to Boston Memorial Hospital, “Where the patients check in, but they never check out.” Of the 240 patients who died in the previous two years, 10 were young and admitted for minor surgical procedures. Dr. Wheeler’s best friend Nancy (Lois Chiles) sparks a butt before breaking the news that she’s pregnant. Without her husband’s knowledge, Nancy schedules a routine D&C that leaves her in an irreversible coma. The abortion is filmed straightforwardly and without sensationalism. No questions asked, no judgment passed. But even by 1978’s standards, the authors leaned a bit too hard on the feminist button. Wheeler rebuffs Bellows’ attempt to comfort her with, “You think because I’m a woman, I’m going to be upset.” Well, yes. Gender doesn’t define emotion and the doctor’s professional cool in light of her BFF’s sudden plunge into a state of permanent unconsciousness could have used some massaging.

Writer, director and Harvard Medical School graduate Michael Crichton (Westworld, Physical Evidence) was doing post-doctoral work in San Diego when he met Navy Medical Corps officer/thriller novelist, Robin Cook. To the eye, they seemed a likely pair to translate to screen America’s fear of hospitals. Together they conspired on placing a fresh paradigmatic spin on familiarity breeding contempt. The dialogue is over-rehearsed, with a pronounced clinical ring that strains so hard for factualness that it crumbles under the weight of its own expeditious leanings towards over-authenticity. The script calls for two medical students to observe the lead anesthesiologist so that complex procedures can be broken down and explained to both characters and audience alike. It’s convenient plotting like this that for decades determined the Invaluableness of TV medical dramas.

The novel’s feminist leanings were also tamped down for the screen. (The studio had to be talked out of casting Paul Newman in the lead.) How are we informed that Dr. Susan Wheeler (Bujold), surgery resident at the fictitious Boston Memorial Hospital, is an honest-to-goodness member of the women’s movement? She refuses to fetch a beer for boyfriend and fellow physician Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas). Instead of the little woman who endures her husband’s nightly litany of work-related gripes, roles reverse and Bellows is the little man surviving a relationship that finds him on the receiving end of a succession of barked orders. Bellows is up for the chief resident position, but everything hinges on how well he can keep his gal under control. Surrounded by a coven of sawbones, will Crichton crib from Polanski and have Douglas play John Cassavetes to Bujold’s Rosemary? It’s sad how quickly the strong woman dissolves into a damsel in distress. The second Bellows proves that it was all in her head, a Hallmark greeting card montage signals a return romance.

Richard Widmark kicked off his 30th year in the business playing Dr. George Harris, chief of surgery. Consumed by a wingback chair, Wheeler’s breakdown in Harris’ office is a beautifully staged highpoint. Alas, he acts a wee bit too comforting to be believed, and while the part is small and packs little surprise, he gets the curtain shot. Rip Torn and Elizabeth Ashley pop up as the head harvesters. Ed Harris and Phillip Baker Hall can be spotted in early bits, but it’s a nascent appearance by Tom Selleck that provides the film with its one big unintentional laugh. After Selleck checks out, check out his rag doll replica on the embalming table that changes position from shot to shot. Crichton could have learned a thing or two about dummies and continuity from The Three Stooges. And the mind boggles at the gag potential inherent in the boys running a human brain through a manual deli slicer.

The minimalist-style building that doubled the intimidatory Jefferson Institute, a government sponsored facility for comatose patients, was at the time home to the Xerox Corporation. The film’s money shot — the bodies of 30 or so naked cadavers suspended by piano wire — was filmed at the MGM Studios in Culver City. Victor Kemper (Mikey and Nicky, Slap Shot) took screen credit with Gerald Hirschfeld (Young Frankenstein, My Favorite Year) receiving honorable mention for meeting the lighting requirements needed to illuminate the film’s grand set piece. The question remains, why did visitors have to wear sunglasses when observing where the patients are slung?

As was customary of the day, a TV safe version was filmed so as not to hamstring small screen sales. The film received a ‘PG’ rating for brief nudity. Bujold is seen showering through fogged-up glass doors while the corpses at the Jefferson Institute — cleaned, hung, and ready to be harvested for their organs — dangle au natural. The suspended stiffs totalled 15 actors and an equal number of dummies. Remnants of the sanitized hanging room can be found in the film’s trailer and TV spots, all of which are housed in the supplementary features along with a newly-recorded commentary track with critic and author Lee Gambin and novelist Aaron Dries.

 

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/16/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $213.75 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence/action, and language.
Stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Kathryn Newton, David Dastmalchian, Katy O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, Bill Murray.

With the conclusion of the “Infinity Saga” in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel Cinematic Universe found itself in the unenviable position of having to crawl out from the shadow of the massively successful story arc that dominated its first decade of existence.

For the most part, the films and TV shows following Endgame were standalone adventures, wrapping up loose ends from established characters, or introducing new concepts and characters to the MCU without a clear path as to what the franchise as a whole would be building toward for its next major crossover event.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, while completing a trilogy for the “Ant-Man” sub-franchise of the MCU, was also touted as the first big stepping stone to setting up the next major story arc with the arrival of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a variant of whom was previously seen on the “Loki” TV series.

Kang, whose various iterations from throughout the multiverse seek dominion over all possible timelines, has already been announced as the next major Avengers villain for the upcoming films Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, so establishing him in Quantumania, the 31st MCU movie, was seen as being of vital importance to future storylines of the MCU.

The prospect of such developments would also serve to elevate the importance of the “Ant-Man” movies, where before the character was something of a mid-level player in the MCU. But it also made sense given Ant-Man’s connection to the Quantum Realm, which was previously established to have a role in the MCU’s version of time travel and alternate realities.

With Peyton Reed returning for his third stint as an “Ant-Man” director, the MCU’s choice to write the screenplay was Jeff Loveness, who previously was best known for “Rick and Morty,” a cartoon comedy. And the results are a bit clunky.

While it’s fun to check in again Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka the Ant-Man and The Wasp of the title, and their Ant-Man family — Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the Ant-Man and The Wasp of the previous generation — the arrival of Kang gives the film a much darker tone than the light-hearted heist-movie sensibilities of the first two. The film is missing Michael Peña and the rest of Scott’s X-Con pals, who were a great source of comic relief from the first two movies. Instead, the film has to make due with some superfluous new characters mined from the depths of the Quantum Realm, where the main characters are transported following some misguided experiments.

The film also continues the MCU’s youth movement, with Scott’s now-teenaged daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) becoming yet another hero with a Pym-particle-powered shrinking suit.

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Zipping Scott, Hope, Hank, Janet and Cassie through a portal of visual effects to the Quantum Realm, a fantastical civilization that exists as a hidden layer beneath our own, makes the set-up seem a bit like Tron, though with a world of biological weirdness substituting for the digital frontier.

The premise puts more focus on Janet, who was rescued from the Quantum Realm in 2018’s Ant-Man and The Wasp after three decades of being trapped there, thus making her privy to all its secrets. Her outsized contribution to the story provides credence to the argument that she might be considered The Wasp of the title. The film’s prologue reveals how Janet, just before her rescue, came across a Kang newly exiled into the Quantum Realm, and destroyed his only means of escape. Kang subsequently set up an empire to conquer the Quantum Realm, with Janet joining a resistance movement to his rule.

Thus, Janet and her family join the rebellion against Kang, who is now being assisted by MODOK, a killing machine inhabited by the broken body of Hank’s former protégé and rival, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who was seemingly dispatched to microscopic oblivion by Scott in the first “Ant-Man.”

The visual effects, though colorful and flashy, are omnipresent and a bit overwhelming, while the superimposed face of Stoll onto MODOK’s giant head is just bizarre. The fact that there are so many creatures that live in the Quantum Realm, and so many who look human, just raises questions about what exactly it is, as it seems much more like an alien world than its previous depictions of a sub-atomic netherworld. Humans transported there can now breathe and act relatively normally, though there are at least still mentions of strange phenomena such as a “probability storm” that allows Scott to team up with different versions of himself who exist only as a facet of his potential actions — one of the film’s better sequences.

On the other hand, given that the Pym suits can still shrink and grow relative to what’s considered a “normal” size, it raises the question of if the Quantum Realm actually represents a sub-atomic layer of our world (in which all the characters would already be miniscule), or it’s just another alternate dimension. At one point Scott and Cassie use their suits to become giant versions of themselves, but the abundance of alien-world visual effects around them make it hard to get any sense of scale of how “big” they’re supposed to be.

The setting offers almost no boundaries for the story, aside from the audience’s awareness of the characters, and the performances are all top notch. Rudd is effortlessly likable as Scott Lang, Pfeiffer is commanding as Janet, and Majors is a compelling menace as Kang.

However, a lot of the discussion over the film’s underperformance both critically and financially will likely focus on Loveness’ experience as a screenwriter. This is his first movie, and the fact that he’s already lined up to pen the next “Avengers” films isn’t settling anyone’s doubts about the future of the MCU.

Granted, the studio previously turned over the “Infinity Saga” to a pair of TV comedy writers — the Russo Brothers — and the results paid off, so time will tell. But their first efforts in the MCU, a pair of “Captain America” movies, were far more effective entries in the canon than Quantumania.

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Reed and Loveness provide a feature-length commentary on the Blu-ray and digital editions of the film in which they discuss the storytelling process, and hearing their thought processes of connecting various elements from throughout the “Ant-Man” trilogy should better contextualize the film for a few viewers.

The commentary is the highlight of an extras package that is otherwise rather paltry for a Marvel movie. There are just two behind-the-scenes featurettes: the seven-and-a-half-minute “All in the Family” about the heroic characters of the film, and the 11-and-a-half-minute “Formidable Foes,” about the films’ bad guys.

Also included among the extras are a two-minute gag reel, plus two superfluous deleted scenes running a total of three minutes, with unfinished visual effects.

 

Screen Media Acquires Rights to Michael Douglas Drama ‘Blood Knot’

Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, Nov. 4 announced the acquisition of worldwide rights to the upcoming drama Blood Knot and will have its Foresight Unlimited division launch international sales at AFM.

Blood Knot stars Cameron Douglas (The RunnerIt Runs in the Family) and Academy Award winner Michael Douglas (Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, “The Kominsky Method,” Benjamin Franklin in Paris) with the additional casting of other key roles underway. The film will be directed by Howard Deutch (“Young Sheldon,” “Empire”) and is written by Rowdy Herrington (Road House). Cartel Pictures’ Stan Spry (Creepshow) and Eric Scott Woods (Day of the Dead) will produce with Robert Mitas (“Ratched”). Screen Media’s David Fannon and Seth Needle will serve as executive producers, along with Foresight Unlimited’s Tamara Birkemoe and David Nagelberg.

The film follows a father who invites his estranged son to visit him in Puerto Rico to compete in a father/son fishing competition to try and mend their broken relationship. It is based on the book Looking Through Water by Bob Rich.
 
Blood Knot is a movie about redemption, love and forgiveness, about several generations of a family brought together and torn apart by mystery, murder and true confessions, with a cast led by Michael and Cameron Douglas,” Deutch said in a statement. “I could not be more thrilled to start production on Blood Knot.”

“We’re excited to work with Michael and Cameron and all the immense talent involved with Blood Knot,” said David Fannon, chief acquisitions and distribution officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. “We’ve been big fans of the story since we first read it and can’t wait to bring it to audiences around the world.”
 
The deal was negotiated by Seth Needle on behalf of Screen Media and by Stan Spry on behalf of Cartel.

Apple TV+ Orders Limited Series Starring Michael Douglas as Ben Franklin

Apple TV+ has ordered a new limited event series with Academy, Emmy and AFI Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Douglas set to star in the lead role as Benjamin Franklin.

Michael Douglas will star as Ben Franklin.

From Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer Kirk Ellis (“John Adams”) and Emmy and DGA Award-winning director Tim Van Patten, the series is based on the book A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America by Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff. It is a co-production between ITV Studios America and Apple Studios.

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The drama will explore the story of one of the greatest gambles of Benjamin Franklin’s career. At age 70, without any diplomatic training, Franklin convinced France — an absolute monarchy — to underwrite America’s experiment in democracy. By virtue of his fame, charisma and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers and hostile colleagues, all while engineering the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the final peace treaty with England of 1783. 

Final Season of ‘Kominsky Method’ Available on Netflix May 28

Netflix will release all six episodes from the third and final season of comedy series “The Kominsky Method” May 28.

The show stars Michael Douglas as Sandy Kominsky, a once successful actor who now works in Hollywood as an acting coach. In the third season, Sandy must navigate what aging looks like without his longtime friend Norman Newlander (played by Alan Arkin in the first two seasons

Complicating things is the arrival of his ex-wife, played by Kathleen Turner (who co-starred with Douglas in 1980s films Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile and The War of the Roses). The pair’s famously volatile relationship is further inflamed when she comes to L.A. to spend time with their daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) and her boyfriend Martin (Paul Reiser).

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Lisa Edelstein, Emily Osment, Graham Rogers and Haley Joel Osment reprise their guest starring roles.

The show was created by Chuck Lorre (“The Big Bang Theory”), and executive produced by Lorre, Douglas and Al Higgins in association with Warner Bros. Television. The series’ first season in 2018 won Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series and Best Actor for Douglas.

‘Kominsky Method’ Season 1 on Disc Nov. 19

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release The Kominsky Method: The Complete First Season on DVD Nov. 19. A Blu-ray will be released by Warner Archive.

Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin star in the Netflix series about an acting coach and his agent dealing with aging in Hollywood.

The two-disc set will feature all eight season one episodes.

The show will be available to own through digital retailers Nov. 18.

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Ant-Man and The Wasp

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 10/16/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $216.42 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for for some sci-fi action violence.
Stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas.

The 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe arrived in a somewhat awkward position for the franchise. Coming off the dire circumstances of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp offers more of the lighthearted, fun romp first served up in 2015’s Ant-Man. It’s certainly a shift in tone for dedicated Marvel watchers, but also serves as a satisfactory palate cleanser for the despair that “Avengers” movie dished out.

Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man wasn’t in Infinity War, and this movie delves into what he was up to as Thanos was preparing to battle the rest of the Avengers. Under house arrest as a result of the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Rudd) is once again recruited by the father-daughter science whiz team of Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly), who are now fugitives because Lang used their shrinking technology to help Captain America fight Iron Man.

Hank needs Scott’s help to locate his wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) in the quantum realm, where she vanished 30 years ago after going too microscopic to return. Hope, meanwhile, has become The Wasp, fulfilling the setup from the first film for her to don a shrinking suit of her own.

However, their efforts have attracted some unwanted attention in the form of a criminal (Walton Goggins) who wants to get his hands on their technology, and a girl (Hannah John-Kamen) who needs energy from the quantum realm to reverse the effects of an accident that is causing her to phase out of existence.

Scott, meanwhile, has to avoid getting caught by the authorities by making sure he’s back home before they stop by for an inspection, lest he be sent back to prison for 20 years.

Director Peyton Reed takes advantage of the size-shifting premise to present both some very funny gags and some inventive action sequences. Reed says in an introduction to the film and his feature-length commentary that one of his main goals on the sequel was to really take advantage of the different perspectives that shrinking and growing can offer, much more than he did in the first film.

The film also sets up how Rudd will make his way into the fourth “Avengers” film, leaving even more clues with which fans can speculate about how the whole Thanos saga will be resolved next year.

For the here and now, though, the Ant-Man and The Wasp Blu-ray includes more than 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes with some good insights about establishing the characters in this new story, plus how the production design team mixed practical and CG effects to create sets and sequences that immerse the viewer into a world where the scale of everyday items is often out of whack.

The Blu-ray also includes two deleted scenes running about a minute each, which are interesting on their own but weren’t essential to the overall story. Then there are about four minutes of gag reels, including a minute of Stan Lee’s outtakes trying different lines for his cameo.

The digital editions include an exclusive eight-minute retrospective on the concept artists of the now 10-year-old MCU, plus a minute-long commercial for a company at the center of one of the film’s key running gags. Vudu also offers a two-and-a-half-minute featurette about Reed.