Nobody

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/22/21;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $26.1 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use.
Stars Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon.

Bob Odenkirk makes for a likeable but unlikely action star in Nobody as an unassuming family man pushed to the limit.

Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) seems like a typical suburban husband and father stuck in the daily routines of his boring job. However, the monotony masks a deep-seeded rage that lingers from a mysterious past that he thought he left behind but always suspected would catch up to him.

After he interrupts burglars robbing his house, he puts his skills to use tracking them down hoping to recover his daughter’s kitty-cat bracelet. This sets off a chain of events in which Hutch’s frustration boils to the surface, drawing him into a confrontation with a deadly Russian gangster as he seeks any excuse to unleash his repressed fury.

As a man with a dangerous past trying to live a normal life but drawn back to a world of violence, Hutch shares a lot of traits with John Wick, which shouldn’t come as much surprise given that the Nobody screenwriter was “John Wick” creator Derek Kolstad.

The two characters even face off with Russian baddies, though that may be more a matter of happenstance since the script originally called for Korean gangsters before director Ilya Naishullar signed on and, since he’s Russian, felt more comfortable depicting his own countrymen as the villains.

The end result is a gritty yet effective actioner highlighted by some brutal close-quarters fight sequences.

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The genesis of the story, according to the bonus materials, came from Odenkirk, who looked back at the traumatic experience of his home being robbed in real life and wondering how someone with explicit combat training would have handled it. The project itself came about because Odenkirk hoped to leverage his popularity from “Better Call Saul” into a modestly budgeted action movie that would center on him as the unassuming hero — an intended departure from his comedic background.

This breaking from expectations also led to the casting of Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s shotgun toting father, a retired former FBI agent who eventually gets drawn into his son’s street war, as does RZA as Hutch’s adopted brother.

These facets of the production’s history are discussed at length by Odenkirk in a commentary track shared with Naishullar, and in several of the behind-the-scenes featurettes. Naishullar also goes solo on a second commentary that goes more into his own personal reasons for making the movie.

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Among the featurettes are the four-minute “Hutch Hits Hard,” about Odenkirk’s training for the role; four “Breaking Down the Action” featurettes totaling about 19 minutes, focused on the bus fight, a home invasion sequence, a car chase and the final battle; and the 13-minute “Just a Nobody,” which covers the origins and making of the story, most of which is also discussed in the commentaries.

The Blu-ray also includes five minutes of deleted scenes.

The 4K disc includes the same extras as the regular Blu-ray.

Total Recall

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/8/20;
Lionsgate;
Sci-Fi;
$22.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshell Bell, Roy Brocksmith.

The latest edition of the 1990 sci-fi classic offers a new Ultra HD transfer and some engaging new retrospective bonus features that should please fans.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story ‘We Can Remember it for You Wholesale,” the film that eventually became Total Recall went through dozens of script revisions before ending up in the hands of director Paul Verhoeven, who had just had a massive success in the sci-fi/action genre with RoboCop.

At one point Richard Dreyfuss was attached to star, playing a meek accountant who awakens hidden memories that he is, in fact, a deadly secret agent. When Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on, the character was changed to a construction worker, as the writers felt a character played by the famed muscle-man would not be believable having a number-crunching desk job. (Interestingly, four years later in True Lies Schwarzenegger would play a secret agent pretending to be a boring family man.)

Verhoeven’s version, set in the late 21st century, involves Schwarzenegger’s Doug Quaid attempting to break from the monotony of his life by visiting Rekall, a company that specializes in implanting memories of exotic vacations. However, Quaid’s attempts to implant a trip to Mars seems to trigger a dormant memory that he’s actually a spy named Hauser working with a revolutionary movement at the colony on the red planet. The unsurfacing of these memories prompts the Martian administrator (Ronny Cox) to send a security team to subdue Quaid, who manages to stay one step ahead thanks to clues his alter ego left himself, but who also wonders if this whole adventure might be nothing more than a dream.

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Even after 30 years, the film holds up as a pulse-pounding actioner with sumptuous visuals, snappy quips and a fair share of laughs.

The film is filled with over-the-top violence, a particular trait of Verhoeven’s style. Ronny Cox, who was so effective as the heavy in RoboCop, takes on a similar role here. Legendary tough guy Michael Ironside, who plays the leader of the hit squad after Quaid, had been in line to play RoboCop before dropping out, Verhoeven said, but ended up working with the director here, as well as in 1997’s Starship Troopers. Meanwhile, Sharon Stone, a mainstay of bit parts throughout the 1980s, got a lot of attention playing Quaid’s supposed wife, leading to Verhoeven casting her in his 1992 thriller Basic Instinct, a role that would catapult her to superstardom.

According to Verhoeven on the film’s commentary, a planned sequel to Total Recall would have adapted Dick’s Minority Report and involved Schwarzenegger leading a team of psychics — mutated Martian colonists — to prevent crimes before they happen. Eventually Minority Report ended up a standalone movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise.

The 30th anniversary Blu-ray set of Total Recall features a new 4K transfer by StudioCanal overseen by Verhoeven. The image retains a fair amount of grain to retain that film look, while giving the color palette a bit more pop, particular the extensive use of red on Mars.

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Among the extras carried over from earlier home video presentations are a 23-minute featurette about the film’s innovating visual effects, which won a Special Achievement Academy Award (meaning it received so many more nominations than any other film that there was no point in actually voting for a winner along with the other categories). Also included are a vintage eight-minute making-of featurette that seems to have been produced to promote the film’s original theatrical release, and a 30-minute “Imagining Total Recall” behind-the-scenes featurette that first appeared on the film’s 2001 DVD.

Also carried over from that original DVD is Verhoeven’s commentary, which he shares with Schwarzenegger, making for an accent-heavy affair as they discuss the film’s development, its production tricks, story points, and working together.

Newly added for this Blu-ray release are the new hourlong documentary Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood, about the history of the film’s production company — a fun look back at some of the biggest action blockbusters of the 1980s and ’90s.

Also new is the 21-minute Open Your Mind: Scoring ‘Total Recall,’ a featurette in which several music experts discuss Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score for the film. Finally, there’s the eight-and-a-half-minute “Dreamers Within the Dream: Designing Total Recall,” a look at the production design of the film from concept sketches to final product.

Not making the cut this time around from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases is a half-hour Verhoeven interview, Rekall vacation vignettes, photo gallerys, storyboard comparisons, and other featurettes, including “Visions of Mars.”

Top Gun

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Action;
$14.99 Blu-ray, $22.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Rick Rossovich, James Tolkan, Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan.

The new Blu-ray editions of 1986’s Top Gun were clearly timed to coincide with what would have been the theatrical release of the film’s long-awaited sequel. However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down theaters, Top Gun: Maverick was pushed back six months to Dec. 23.

The new Blu-ray does include a trailer for the new film, plus a new six-minute “The Legacy of Top Gun” featurette in which Tom Cruise and some of the filmmakers behind the sequel discuss the impact of the director Tony Scott’s original, which has become an iconic depiction of fighter aircraft combat action. The film still holds up well (despite some cheesy over-the-top machismo that is part of its charm).

Of course, the other thing the film is well known for is its beach volleyball scene that has fueled the film’s reputation as a homoerotic fantasy. The volleyball scene has become so intrinsically associated with the film that a recent board game based on the film lets players either try their hand at the airplane combat of the famed Top Gun dogfighting school, or simulate the volleyball game.

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The bright, vivid image of the new Blu-ray transfer shows off every detail, to the point where it’s impossible not to notice how almost everyone is sweating profusely in practically every scene (it must be hot on those airplanes and carriers). The disc also brings out the film’s legendary soundtrack in a 5.1 mix that perfectly services the action.

The other extra listed as new for this edition is the five-part half-hour retrospective “On Your Six: Thirty Years of Top Gun.” It’s filled with great stories about the production ( such as Scott getting a Navy captain to turn an aircraft carrier around in order to get the perfect lighting from the sun). It was obviously filmed a few years ago, since this year is the 34th anniversary of the film, and Cruise talks about having just read an early draft of the sequel screenplay (the same sequel that is now finished and waiting to hit theaters).

The Blu-ray also includes all the bonus material from previous releases, including a commentary with the filmmakers and naval experts; storyboards; vintage interviews; four music videos (which have not aged particularly well); an earlier behind-the-scenes featurette from the 2008 Blu-ray; and an interesting look at the real Top Gun school, also from 2008.

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