Greenland

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/9/21;
Universal/STX;
Thriller;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of disaster action, some violence, bloody images and brief strong language.
Stars Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, Hope Davis, David Denman, Andrew Bachelor.

The excellent Greenland plays like a cross between Deep Impact and 2012, but manages to be better than both by stripping away the traditional trappings of the disaster film genre. Where most films about a potentially world-ending event would focus on the people trying to prevent it, or how it impacts a wide variety of stock characters, Greenland stands apart by personalizing the doomsday scenario to its effect on a single family and their efforts to survive it.

Gerard Butler (who in 2017 starred in the lousy Geostorm as one of the people trying to stop the global disaster) plays John Garrity, a building engineer who is estranged from his wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), with whom he has a 7-year-old son, Nate (Roger Dale Floyd).

The news is buzzing with reports of a comet field passing close near Earth, and when a smaller fragment is projected to hit the middle of the Atlantic, several families, including the Garritys, hold parties to watch it.

However, the fragment misses the mark and ends up wiping out Central Florida instead. In the confusion, the Garritys receive a message from the government to head to a military base for transport to a shelter, leading to one of several heartbreaking scenes as they leave the other families of the neighborhood behind.

Soon the news turns much more grim. The comet field is larger than anticipated and will slam into Earth over the next few days, culminating with the impact of a giant comet bigger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

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Those familiar with the general framework of these kinds of disaster films can guess what happens next, as similar depictions of the breakdown of society in the face of extinction have been the subject of many a project, but as noted earlier, the ones that seem most similar to the story of Greenland are 1998’s mostly well-regarded Deep Impact, about society preparing for a comet impact, and 2009’s awful 2012, an action spectacle about various people trying to reach shelters to survive a global disaster.

Director Ric Roman Waugh for the most part eschews the big-budget visual effects sequences these kinds of movies have become known for, instead focusing on the humanity of the situation, reminding us what it means to be a family when times get tough.

John, Allison and Nate make it to an airbase, but their plans to board a plane hit a snag because Nate is diabetic, and the military doesn’t want to take sick people. When the base is overrun by a mob, John is separated from Allison and Nate, and separately they begin to make their way to a fallback meeting place — a ranch in Kentucky owned by her father (Scott Glenn).

Through their journeys we get street-level experiences of the societal impacts of the global disaster, from gun-toting gangs taking over stores, to desperate strangers trying to steal John’s travel credentials or kidnap Nate to further their own survival plans. By keeping the focus on a single family, the audience feels every moment of heartbreak and triumph.

Ultimately, John, who learns he was selected because his profession was deemed desirable to rebuilding the world, gets word of private planes smuggling people to the shelters, which the U.S. military has built in Greenland, and becomes determined to get his family there.

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The film is beautifully shot, from simple shots of the comets haunting the night sky, to the devastating effects their impacts have on the landscape. It’s a bit surprising the film isn’t being made available on a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in its U.S. retail debut.

The Blu-ray includes a smattering of extras, including a simple, one-minute featurette called “Humanity” in which the filmmakers and cast discuss the movie.

A bit more substantial are a couple of deleted scenes and the film’s original ending, which run a total of about five minutes. Each includes an optional introduction with Waugh discussing why they didn’t make the final cut. The original ending is a bit more hopeful, which didn’t sit too well with test audiences, leading to the final version that takes a bit of a cue from 2012, but not in a bad way.

The best extra is the commentary with Waugh and producer Basil Iwanyk, in which they discuss the whole process of making the movie and conveying the motifs they wanted to explore with it.

 

Gotham: The Fifth and Final Season

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Morena Baccarin, Chris Chalk, Cameron Monaghan, Shane West.

Also available with
Gotham: The Complete Series
$99.99 DVD, $112.99 Blu-ray

The “Gotham” in this final batch of episodes is a far cry from the series that debuted in 2014.

In its early episodes, the show took on more of the feel of a traditional police procedural, focused on the early career of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who would eventually become the police commissioner of Gotham City in the Batman comics. His first case would be to investigate the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Gotham would also be plagued by mob violence, while versions of other Batman characters would appear as well as a nod to the comics.

This early approach didn’t catch on with viewers, as the show suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, as it wasn’t quite sure if it wanted to be a cop drama, a Batman origin story or a gritty crime saga. The richness of the Batman mythos was too tempting to leave on the table, so even the more absurd aspects of the comic books began to seep onto the show. Eventually, the series focused on what fans liked about the early episodes, and embraced the often bizarre and macabre nature of the various villains in Batman’s rogues gallery, evolving into a deliciously wacky pastiche of a typical comic book adaptation.

It’s as if the producers fused the dark noir of the Batman films with the campiness of the 1960s series to craft a truly unique spin on the character’s canon. There are certainly more than enough references to earlier Batman TV series and movies.

No comic book storylines were off limits, even if they didn’t necessarily fit the timeline from the comics. For example, in the comics, Bruce Wayne doesn’t learn about the conspiratorial Court of Owls until well after he becomes Batman, but they appeared on the show during the second season, when Bruce is just a kid, nudging him toward his eventual destiny.

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In the fifth season, the series was inspired by the “No Man’s Land” storyline, in which a series of disasters isolates Gotham from the rest of the country, forcing its remaining citizens into a sort of post-apocalyptic gang society (elements of the storyline also inspired The Dark Knight Rises). As the various characters continue to push toward their eventual destinies in the comic books, with some eccentric detours, of course, the show also introduces its version of Bane (Shane West), who arrives pre-mask as an old Army buddy of Gordon who arrives to help restore order to the city.

In the end, the series is an interesting take on the Batman mythology, which some fans may enjoy for its embrace of the spirit of the characters, while others might find it deviates too much from the canon they’re used to in the comics.

The fifth season Blu-ray includes a number of interesting featurettes in addition to the final 12 episodes. There are six minutes of deleted scenes and several featurettes.

Most relevant to the show is the 16-minute “Modern Mythology” featurette, in which the cast and producers look back on the show and how it put the pieces in place to move Bruce Wayne toward becoming Batman.

There’s also a one-minute promotional featurette called “Gotham’s Last Stand,” and a highlight reel from the show’s panel at the 2018 New York Comic Con, which turns out to be surprisingly spoiler-heavy considering it took place before the final season aired.

More interesting is a 38-minute featurette called “Villains: Modes of Persuasion,” a documentary about the mindset and psychology of comic book villains in general, with a particular focus on the villains from various DC Comics inspired TV series such as “Gotham,” “Arrow” and “Supergirl.” It’s a blatant cross-promotional tool, but an effective one.

Deadpool 2

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Action Comedy;
Box Office $318.37 million;
$29.99 DVD; $34.99 Blu-ray; $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.
Stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Shioli Kutsuna, Eddie Marsan, Rob Delaney.

In the age of the superhero movie, you can always count on Deadpool to take the utter piss out of the genre — and in doing so, provide a bit of the counter-balance to how seriously some of the films take themselves.

Sure, movies like “Ant-Man” or “Guardians of the Galaxy” might lighten the mood a bit with some jokes and irreverent characters, but Deadpool takes it to that next level, where there is no reference that can’t be made, and no gag that is out of bounds.

And what makes it work is that, just like the comic books that inspire it, the “Deadpool” movies are also the very thing they are making fun of — intense action, complicated plots, larger-than-life characters. It’s just a healthy dose of meta-humor can go a long way in setting it apart.

In this second film, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself trying to protect a mutant teenager (Julian Dennison) from a mutant from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) who wants to kill him before the kid fully unleashes his powers and becomes one of the world’s greatest villains.

To do that, and with the X-Men not available (thanks to one of several hilarious cameos), Deadpool forms X-Force, a team of marginal superheroes to help him rescue the kid and change the future.

With David Leitch taking over directing duties, the action is much more intense than the first film, and without the structural limitations of needing to tell Deadpool’s origin story, the script this time out doesn’t feel the need to follow any rules. (For example, with Brolin also playing Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, you can bet Deadpool 2 isn’t going to let that one slide without a comment).

Part of what makes the humor so effective is the commitment the filmmakers make to the material, putting absurd characters in the middle of a serious situation. The highlight is a pitch-perfect parody of a James Bond opening title sequence, complete with a haunting ballad sung to the hilt by Celine Dion.

The Blu-ray includes a 15-minute longer “Super Duper $@%!#& Cut” that, based on what some of the filmmakers say during the bonus materials, seems like it could have been the original version of the movie before it was trimmed for time and softened up a bit to hit the ‘R’ rating. This version has more violence, more guns, alternate jokes and some different music in parts. It’s an intriguing version but not a fundamentally different film.

The Super Duper cut is included on its own disc with no extras, as all the bonus materials are included with the disc containing the theatrical cut. And, as with the first film, the extras are a trove of Deadpool material from a hilarious marketing campaign.

This section includes several promotional spots and all the trailers, plus some international pieces such as Deadpool offering free tattoos to attendees of a Brazilian comic book convention. There are also a few music videos, including for Dion’s title-sequence tune, and a stills gallery.

The disc also offers a three-minute gag reel and a couple of deleted scenes, including the oft-mentioned scene in which Deadpool embarks on a quest to kill Baby Hitler (also included in the Super Duper cut).

The theatrical cut comes with a great audio commentary with Reynolds, Leitch, and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick, who collectively discuss structuring the story and why they chose to include the gags that they did.

Finally, the Blu-ray includes about 75 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

“Deadpool Family Values: Cast of Characters” is a 15-minute profile of the characters; “David Leitch Not Lynch: Directing DP2” is a 12-minute look at the new director’s influence on the film and cast; “Deadpool’s Lips Are Sealed: Secrets and Easter Eggs” is a 13-minute look at how the film maintained secrecy while including a ton of surprises for fans; “Until Your Face Hurts: Alt Takes” is nine minutes mixing some of the alternate line readings with interviews about what makes a “Deadpool” film such a lively set; “Roll With the Punches: Action and Stunts” is a seven-minute look at the film’s action scenes; “The Deadpool Prison Experiment” is an 11-and-a-half examination of the film’s scenes set at a prison for mutants; “The Most Important X-Force Member” is a two-minute profile of Deadpool’s new pal Peter; “Chess With Omega Red” is a minute-long revelation of one of the other prisoners; “Swole and Sexy” is a two-minute profile of some of the film’s other characters; and “3 Minute Monologue” offers two minutes of Brolin’s ruminations as he gets into his Cable makeup.