Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/12/24;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $124.44 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language and sci-fi violence.
Stars Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Randall Park, Temuera Morrison.

Director James Wan’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom represents the end of the road for the so-called DC Extended Universe. Not that you’d know it from the film itself, which makes no references to the larger franchise, even as the world is threatened to such a degree that the Justice League would probably get involved.

The film is a direct sequel to 2018’s Aquaman, and even accounts for the fact that it’s been five years since that film was released. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), aka Aquaman, splits his time between saving the world, serving as king of Atlantis, and raising his baby son alongside his wife, Mera (Amber Heard). However, Atlantis is threatened by a revenge-minded Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who has spent years search for it only to discover a lost kingdom where he finds a powerful trident that infuses him with the essence of an ancient warlord.

When Black Manta seizes control of an ancient power source that destroys Earth’s atmosphere and mutates living creatures, Aquaman seeks help from his half-brother and former rival to the throne, Orm (Patrick Wilson).

What unfolds is essentially a buddy cop movie with Aquaman as the wise-cracking hotshot and Orm as the serious and mannered sidekick. Their relationship is pretty much the best part of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays pretty fast and loose with the fantastical nature of the Atlantean mythos, which serves as a handy excuse for some flashy and colorful visual effects.

Fans who enjoyed the first Aquaman will no doubt enjoy this continuation the most, as the two films present a nice little duology that isn’t too dependent on the larger context of the now-defunct DCEU.

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The film’s Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD disc presentation includes about an hour of behind-the-scenes material in the form of seven featurettes that are pretty typical for this kind of thing. The primary making-of featurette is the 21-minute “Finding the Lost Kingdom.” The 10-minute “Aquaman: Worlds Above and Below” looks at creating some of the new locations in the film; the six-minute “Necrus: The Lost Black City” focuses specifically on the hidden civilization buried beneath Antarctica, while the eight-minute “Escape From the Deserter World” examines the sequence in which Aquaman frees Orm from his sandy prison, and the four-minute “Brawling at Kingfish’s Lair” showcases an undersea pirate haven. The 10-minute “It’s a Manta World” focuses on the villain, while the two-minute “Oh TOPO!” delves into the expanded role for Aquaman’s octopus sidekick, TOPO, and the four-minute “Atlantean Blood Is Thicker Than Water” spotlights Arthur and Orm’s unique bond.

These extras are also available through most digital platforms, some of which also offer Aquaman Through Fire and Water, a seven-minute motion comic that serves as a loose prequel to the film.

‘Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom’ to Start Streaming on Max Feb. 27

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will make its streaming debut on Max on Feb. 27, more than a month after its PVOD bow (Jan. 23) and two weeks before its arrival on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (March 12).

The DC superhero sequel earned $378.3 million at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing DC film of all time.

Once again directed by James Wan, who also helmed the original, Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom features Jason Momoa returning as Arthur Curry/Aquaman. Other returning cast members include Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman.

In the film, Black Manta (Abdul-Mateen II), having failed to defeat Aquaman the first time but still driven by a desire to avenge his father’s death, will stop at nothing to take Aquaman down. This time Black Manta is more formidable than ever before, wielding the power of the mythic Black Trident, which unleashes an ancient and malevolent force. To defeat him, Aquaman will turn to his imprisoned brother Orm (Wilson), the former king of Atlantis, to forge an unlikely alliance. Together, they must set aside their differences in order to protect their kingdom and save Aquaman’s family, and the world, from irreversible destruction.

Prime Video to Premiere Nicole Kidman in ‘Expats’ on Jan. 26

Prime Video has announced that “Expats,” a six-part limited series directed by Lulu Wang and based on the novel The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee, will premiere Jan. 26.

“Expats” stars Nicole Kidman alongside Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, and Jack Huston. Kidman and Wang also serve as executive producers on the series. The series’ feature-length penultimate episode will have its European premiere screening at BFI’s London International Film Festival on Oct. 9.

Set in 2014 Hong Kong, “Expats” centers on three American women — Margaret (Kidman), Hilary (Blue), and Mercy (Yoo) — whose lives intersect after a sudden family tragedy. The series interrogates privilege and explores what happens when the line between victimhood and culpability becomes blurred. Tee plays Margaret’s husband, Clarke, and Huston portrays Hilary’s husband, David.

Wang serves as a creator, director, and writer for “Expats.” Wang also executive produces the series with Daniele Melia for Local Time. Kidman serves as an executive producer for the series with Per Saari for Blossom Films, along with Australian screenwriter Alice Bell, the first writer onboarded to the series. Theresa Park for Per Capita Productions and Stan Wlodkowski also serve as executive producers. Vera Miao, Gursimran Sandhu (Game of Thrones), and author Janice Y. K. Lee served as writers on “Expats,” with Bell and Wang.

Nicole Kidman Joins Paramount+ Original Series ‘Lioness’

Oscar and Emmy Award winner Nicole Kidman is set to star in and executive produce the upcoming Paramount+ original series “Lioness.”

Kidman joins previously announced cast members Zoe Saldaña and Laysla De Oliveira for the new espionage series from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan. “Lionsess” is based on a real-life CIA program and follows Cruz Manuelos (De Oliveira), a rough-around-the-edges but passionate young Marine recruited to join the CIA’s Lioness Engagement Team to help bring down a terrorist organization from within. Saldaña will play Joe, the station chief of the Lioness program tasked with training, managing and leading her female undercover operatives.

Kidman will play Kaitlyn Meade, the CIA’s senior supervisor who has had a long career of playing the politics game. She must juggle the trappings of being a woman in the high-ranking intelligence community, a wife who longs for the attention she herself can’t even give and a mentor to someone veering suspiciously close to the same rocky road she’s found herself on.

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“Lioness” will also star Jill Wagner as Bobby, a CIA Special Activities Division operative; Dave Annable as Neil, Joe’s husband and the father of their two daughters; LaMonica Garrett and James Jordan as Tucker and Two Cups, respectively, both experienced CIA Special Activities Division operatives on Joe’s team; Austin Hébert as Randy, a tech specialist in charge of surveillance; Hannah Love Lanier as Kate, Joe and Neil’s daughter; Stephanie Nur as Aaliyah, the daughter of a billionaire businessman with ties to terrorism; and Jonah Wharton as Tex, another member of Joe’s team.

The series is being produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios exclusively for Paramount+. Kidman will serve as an executive producer under her production company, Blossom Films. In addition to Sheridan and Kidman, other executive producers include Saldaña, David C. Glasser, Ron Burkle, Bob Yari, David Hutkin, Jill Wagner, Geyer Kosinski, Michael Malone and John Hillcoat.

The Northman

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $34.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Oscar Novak, Björk.

Director Robert Eggers’ The Northman provides him a nice opportunity to deliver a Viking history lesson. Not through the film itself, which is basically Hamlet by way of Conan the Barbarian, but through a commentary track in which he points out where historical research influenced the story and look of the film.

He also spends a surprising amount of time in the commentary picking apart things he doesn’t like about the film that he wishes he could have done in better in hindsight. So, points for honesty.

The Northman is a grimy tale of revenge set in the 10th century, and is based on the Scandinavian legend of Amleth — the same stories that also provided the source material for Shakespeare’s Hamlet (or, as Ethan Hawke helpfully points out in the bonus materials, The Lion King), for those so inclined to notice a few similarities in the plot.

In the film, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a Viking prince who, as a boy, was forced to flee his kingdom after witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle (Claes Bang), who subsequently also married his mother (Nicole Kidman) in seizing the throne. Growing up as a Viking warrior known as a berserker, Amleth vows revenge against his uncle, participating in raids on isolated villages until he gets a chance to strike.

He eventually learns his uncle was deposed and is living on a farm in Iceland. Amleth makes his way to the island, where he encounters a young sorceress named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), who agrees to aid him as part of a prophecy.

Impressively shot with some well-staged action sequences, the film is dark and bloody, though watching it after the commentary will probably take some of the edge off it.

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The Blu-ray includes about 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that delve further into the Viking lore that influenced the movie.

The 12-minute “An Ageless Epic” focuses on the film’s story and historic accuracy; the 11-minute “The Faces of Vikings” explores the characters; and the five-minute “A Norse Landscape” shows off the film’s locations and set design.

Getting into more specific aspects of the film, the four-minute “Amleth’s Journey to Manhood” looks at the filming of a ritual early in the story; the four-minute “Shooting the Raid” deals with the film’s approach to action through the shooting of a centerpiece sequence; and the three-minute “Knattleikr Game” discusses an ancient game that is played at a key point in the plot.

Finally, there are nine short deleted scenes that run a total of about 13 minutes, most of which are inconsequential extensions to scenes in the movie.

Viking Saga ‘The Northman’ Headed to Digital June 6, Disc June 7

The Viking saga The Northman will be available on digital with exclusive bonus content June 6, and on 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition, Blu-ray Collector’s Edition and DVD June 7 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), the film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Claes Bang and Björk.

In the film, after witnessing first-hand the murder of his father, a Viking prince (Skarsgård) devotes his life to avenge his father’s death, save his mother and reclaim his kingdom.

Bonus features include nine deleted and extended scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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‘The Northman’ Among Trilogy of New Releases at the Domestic Weekend Box Office

In the typical lull before the opening of what is expected to be a monstrous blockbuster, Disney’s May 6 release of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse, three niche films are battling it out at the North American box office this weekend.

The showdown is something of a test to see whether smaller films can still draw audiences to theaters, amid lingering hesitancy from the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of new movies on streaming services.

The Northman, a Viking epic from Focus Features and New Regency Pictures, stars Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe, and was directed by Robert Eggers, who previously won praise for the horror films The Witch (2015) and Lighthouse (2019). The Northman has already been hailed for its production values — not surprising, given its estimated budget of up to $90 million — and enjoys an 88% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Friday (April 22) morning. The film also earned just under $1.4 million in Thursday night previews, more than the two other new releases, Dreamworks Animation’s Bad Guys (just under $1.2 million) and the latest Nicolas Cage film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent ($835,000), from Lionsgate.

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Bad Guys is an animated family film with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%. The film marks the directorial debut of Pierre Perifel and is based on the children’s book series of the same name by Aaron Blabey. The voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, and Anthony Ramos. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed Bad Guys as “a great-looking film with terrific performances, some lovely messaging and a steady parade of solid laughs — some the kids will enjoy and just as many targeted squarely at the grown-up kids in the audience.”

And The Unbreakable Weight of Massive Talent is a satire with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 89%. Cage plays a fictional version of himself, who has to accept a $1 million offer to attend a not-quite-right superfan’s birthday party. To make things worse, he’s recruited by a CIA operative (played by Tiffany Haddish) and is forced to channel his own iconic characters to save the proverbial day.

All three films are projected to finish behind two big-budget, high-profile holdovers: Warner Bros. Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third installment in the “Harry Potter” spinoff franchise, which opened to $43 million over the Easter weekend, and Paramount Pictures’ Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which generated $30 million its sophomore weekend. The film’s total domestic take, according to Box Office Mojo, is nearly $129 million.

Samba TV: Viewers Covet Fictional Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz Movie Over Real-Life Doc

New data from Samba TV finds that viewers seem more interested in Being the Ricardos than the actual ones.

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem’s fictional portrayal of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the real-life married couple behind the iconic “I Love Lucy” TV series, is more popular among Amazon Prime Viewers than the “Luci & Desi” documentary from actor-comedian Amy Poehler. Both programs are exclusively available on the streamer.

“Lucy & Desi” was seen by 230,000 U.S. households from its premiere on March 4 through March 10, according to Samba TV, which tracks linear and streaming viewership across its addressable footprint of 46 million opted-in devices worldwide. That’s less than a quarter of the households that watched Being the Ricardos, which was seen by 1.1 million U.S. households during its Dec. 21 – 27, 2021 debut.

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The U.S. audience for “Lucy & Desi” skewed wealthy ($200,000+ +16%), female (+9%), older (65-74 +33%), and white (+15%).

The audience was similar to Being the Ricardos, where U.S. households with older viewers over-indexed compared to overall viewership, 55-64 (+14%), 65-74 (+23%), 75-100 (+22%). Households with white viewers also over-indexed (+12%).

“I Love Lucy” ended its national broadcast run 65 years ago.

Female-Driven Anthology Series ‘Roar’ Debuts on Apple TV+ April 15

The female-driven anthology series “Roar” will debut globally with all eight episodes on Apple TV+ April 15.

Based on a book of short stories by Cecelia Ahern, the series is the first to be released under “Roar” creators and co-showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive’s (“Glow”) overall deal with Apple TV+. It stars Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Meera Syal, Fivel Stewart and Kara Hayward.  

“Roar” offers an insightful, poignant and sometimes hilarious portrait of what it means to be a woman today, according to the Apple TV+ release. Featuring a unique blend of magical realism, familiar domestic and professional scenarios, and futuristic worlds, the eight stories mirror the dilemmas of ordinary women in accessible yet surprising ways.

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In addition to starring, Kidman executive produces alongside Per Saari and their Blossom Films. Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Allie Goss executive produce on behalf of Made Up Stories. Author Cecelia Ahern executive produces through Greenlight Go. and Theresa Park executive produces for her Per Capita Productions. “Roar” is produced for Apple by Endeavor Content.

Samba TV: 1.1 Million Amazon Prime Households Stream ‘Being the Ricardos’

Being the Ricardos, the Amazon Studios’ biopic written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, about the relationship between “I Love Lucy” stars Lucille Ball (played by Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javiar Bardem), generated more than 1.1 million Prime Video households in its first week of release (through Dec. 26), according to new data from Samba TV.

The data firm tracks more than 46 million opted-in televisions globally, including 28 million in the U.S.

With the “I Love Lucy” comedy series originally airing in the 1950s, the Prime Video demo skewed older than normal, with U.S. households aged 55-64 (up 14%), 65-74 (up 23%), 75-100 (up 22%) among the streamers. White households also over-indexed (up 12%) as well.

In international markets, 29,000 U.K. households watched the movies, 3,000 German households, and 6,000 Australian homes watched the film during the same period.

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