Babylon

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/21/23;
Paramount;
Drama;
Box Office $15.35 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $35.99 UHD BD, $44.99 4K Steelbook;
Rated ‘R’ for strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity, bloody violence, drug use, and pervasive language.
Stars Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, P.J. Byrne, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton, Max Minghella, Rory Scovel, Katherine Waterston, Tobey Maguire, Flea, Jeff Garlin, Eric Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, Spike Jonze.

Just in case the trailers hadn’t fully prepared viewers for what they are in for with Babylon, writer-director Damien Chazelle’s lavish tale of Hollywood excess in the silent-movie era, the film’s opening moments will set a tone that is not for the faint of heart.

In the first scene, a day laborer is sprayed with dung by an elephant he’s helping transport to a fancy party. A minute later, a corpulent attendee of said rave is shown being urinated on during a dalliance with a flapper (a clear reference to the Fatty Arbuckle scandal).

And that’s just the first five minutes of a film whose three-hour runtime will test viewers’ patience as much as its fluidic humor will test their gag reflexes. Babylon is a beautiful paradox of a film in which the glitz and glamour of grand villas, magnificent costumes and epic setpieces are counterbalanced by grotesque orgies, mind-numbing narcotics and underground freak shows.

A former jazz drummer, Chazelle seemed to have a found a nice filmmaking niche at the intersection of music and cinema with films such as Whiplash and La La Land. But then he made First Man, turning the inherently patriotic journey of America’s first voyage to the moon into a depressing treatise on grief. So, who can blame him for going for broke with Babylon?

The film is an Altman-esque portrait of a handful of archetypal characters navigating their way through Hollywood in the late 1920s, when the advent of talkies revolutionized the motion-picture industry. Brad Pitt plays Jack Conrad, an aging star rejected by audiences once they hear him recite the insipid dialogue he’s asked to perform. Margot Robbie is the stereotypical “It” girl who seeks nothing but superstardom and a perpetual party. Jovan Adepo plays a black jazz musician whose career is transformed by shorts of him playing the trumpet, and just as easily curtailed by racist attitudes. The list goes on.

The central thread weaving these stories together is Manny Torres (Diego Calva), as close as a stand-in for the audience there could be for this picture. He’s a Mexican migrant who dreams of working for the studios, and gets his chance thanks to being in the right place at the right time. He quickly rises through the ranks until he learns the quintessential lesson of Hollywood: There is no dream that can’t be shattered by bad timing and loving the wrong person.

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The transition from silents to sound was also the focus of 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain, a film that has had a rather obvious influence on Chazelle’s creative perspectives. He made his grand love story musical with La La Land, and now covers the Hollywood history aspects of Singin’ in the Rain with Babylon. Given there are several direct references to Singin’ in the Rain within Babylon, Chazelle isn’t being subtle with the parallels.

Chazelle’s opus is certainly not lacking for ideas, and as muddled as it is at times, Babylon is long enough to indulge most of them (there’s another nine minutes of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray). The production values are impeccable, the boisterous jazz-infused score by Justin Hurwitz is fantastic, and the character journeys themselves are not altogether uncompelling (one of the film’s better running jokes is that Conrad seems to have a different new wife in every scene).

But these characters aren’t singing in rain. They usually end up dancing in poop and piss and vomit, a visual metaphor for how Hollywood will shit on anyone for the sake of meaningless profligacy.

Dramatizing the days before workplace protections and safety regulations, Babylon depicts people literally dying on sets for the sake of art, an uncontrolled chaos that seems less concerning to the filmmakers of the day than getting the perfect shot before the sun goes down. Characters are less interested in their future well being than in maintaining the delusion that the good times will continue forever. Even when confronted with the reality that all things must end, they are offered the comfort of film itself being the source of immortality, its stars the ghosts of a bygone era.

Of course, there’s a question unspoken by the film that lingers above the overindulgence: Was it worth it? Around 90% of the films shot during the silent era are now considered lost — ghosts with no one left to haunt.

Chazelle skirts this issue with a thesis that the silent era and its response to the advent of sound in films served as an important foundation for the industry to come, and its countless technological leaps forward. And in that regard, he becomes yet another filmmaker presenting an ode to the magic of going to the movies — even the ones that symbolically spray feces on the audience.

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In addition to six deleted and extended scenes, the Blu-ray offers three informative behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 31-minute “A Panoramic Canvas Called Babylon” is a comprehensive look at the production as a whole, supplemented by the three minute “The Costumes of Babylon,” which is self-explanatory, and the two-minute “Scoring Babylon,” about Hurwitz’s Oscar-nominated music.

DC League of Super-Pets

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
Box Office $93.6 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action, mile violence, language and rude humor.
Voices of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Keanu Reeves, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Olivia Wilde, Jameela Jamil, Jemaine Clement, John Early, Daveed Diggs, Dascha Polanco, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dan Fogler, Busy Philipps, Keith David, Alfred Molina, Lena Headey.

In the annals of cinema history, DC League of Super-Pets might be the first superhero movie in which the day is saved by the main character’s bowel movement.

The animated movie follows the adventures of Krypto, Superman’s pet dog who traveled with young Kal-El to Earth when both were babies (which would make Krypto really old for a dog, but since he’s an alien dog with superpowers we don’t have to worry about that part). Voiced by Dwayne Johnson, Krypto now helps adult Superman fight crime in Metropolis, but starts to feel left out of Superman’s life due to his relationship with Lois Lane.

Superman (John Krasinski), Krypto and the rest of the Justice League stop Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) from obtaining some orange kryptonite (just go to Wikipedia to look up the history of the colored kryptonites, it’s a whole thing) that would give mortal earthlings superpowers. Unbeknownst to them, the magic rock is instead hauled in by Lulu (Kate McKinnon), an evil guinea pig from Luthor’s lab now living in an animal shelter. While she gains superpowers to aid in her plot for world domination, bringing the kryptonite into the shelter also inadvertently gives the other animals weird powers as well.

Meanwhile, Krypto ends up losing his powers due to eating a piece of cheese containing a piece of green kryptonite (the traditional kind). When Lulu captures Superman and the other members of the Justice League, Krypto is unable to rescue them, so he recruits the superpowered animals from the shelter.

Among them is Ace, a tough dog voiced by Kevin Hart, making this yet another Johnson/Hart collaboration. Since Ace in the comics is traditionally the name of Batman’s dog, it’s not hard to figure out how the plot is going to play out. It all turns, of course, on when Krypto can pass the kryptonite from his system and regain his powers to join the fight.

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DC League of Super-Pets is a vibrant animated adventure that continues Warner’s attempts to branch out its DC Comics characters into other media as it fumbles around with the creative direction of the DC live-action movie franchise (which should get a boost from the elevation of James Gunn and Peter Safran to lead that department). Focusing on the Justice League pets is certainly a novel approach to present the DC world from a different perspective and target the younger demographic, even if it at times seems like a superpowered version of The Secret Life of Pets (also featuring Hart).

Of course, echoing popular trends from similar genres is nothing new, and DC League of Super-Pets is certainly not the most bizarre example of it as far as recent DC adaptations go. That title would have to go to HBO Max’s “Batwheels,” an animated series that brings Batman’s vehicles to life as if they drove in from Disney’s “Cars” movies.

Krypto the Superdog, at the very least, is not a new concept in DC land, having been barking around comics since 1955. His name obviously derives from Superman’s home planet of Krypton, but recent events might conjure up different connotations for it (“Smallville” sidestepped the silliness of It by simply naming the character Shelby instead).

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DC League of Super-Pets comes with extras on Blu-ray and the retail digital version (in the 4K combo pack they are on the regular Blu-ray only).

There are roughly 20 minutes of deleted sequences, presented as storyboards with the original audio temps.

The making of the film is told several short featurettes. The 15-minute “Behind the Super Voices” gives the cast a chance to discuss the film, while the eight-minute “Super-Pets Animation 101” features a discussion from the filmmakers on how they developed the movie, and the seven-and-a-half-minute “The World of Super-Pets” delves into how the film taps in DC Comics history.

Along those lines, the four-minute “Find the Easter Eggs” shows off some of the background references to DC Comics lore.

Rounding out the fun is a seven-minute “How to Draw Krypto” tutorial with animation supervisor Dave Burgess.

Thriller ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ to Stream on HBO Max Starting Nov. 7

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Don’t Worry Darling will make its streaming debut on HBO Max on Nov. 7.

Available now for premium digital purchase and rental, the film will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 29 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons and Ari’el Stachel.

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The psychological thriller follows Alice and Jack, who feel they are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950s societal optimism espoused by their CEO, Frank — equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach — anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives — including Frank’s elegant partner Shelley — get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All they ask in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. When cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why.

Thriller ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ on Premium Digital Oct. 25, Disc Nov. 29

The psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling will be available for premium digital ownership and rental Oct. 25, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 29 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

The film, directed by Olivia Wilde from a screenplay by Katie Silberman, is based on a story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke and Silberman, and stars Florence Pugh (Oscar-nominated for Little Women), Harry Styles (Dunkirk), Wilde (upcoming Babylon), Gemma Chan (Crazy Rich Asians), KiKi Layne (The Old Guard) and Chris Pine (All the Old Knives). The film also stars Nick Kroll (How It Ends), Sydney Chandler (TV’s “Pistol”), Kate Berlant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Asif Ali (TV’s “WandaVision”), Douglas Smith (TV’s “Big Little Lies”), Timothy Simons (TV’s “Veep”) and Ari’el Stachel (upcoming Respect the Jux).

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In Don’t Worry Darling, Alice (Pugh) and Jack (Styles) are lucky to be living in the idealized community of Victory, the experimental company town housing the men who work for the top-secret Victory Project and their families. The 1950s societal optimism espoused by Victory CEO Frank (Pine) — equal parts corporate visionary and motivational life coach — anchors every aspect of daily life in the tight-knit desert utopia. While the husbands spend every day inside the Victory Project Headquarters, working on the “development of progressive materials,” their wives — including Frank’s partner Shelley (Gemma Chan) — get to spend their time enjoying the beauty, luxury and debauchery of their community. Life is perfect, with every resident’s needs met by the company. All it asks in return is discretion and unquestioning commitment to the Victory cause. But when cracks in their idyllic life begin to appear, exposing flashes of something much more sinister lurking beneath the attractive façade, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and premium digital ownership releases include a making-of featurette and the “Alice’s Nightmare” deleted scene.

Warner’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ Gets Top Weekend Box Office Billing — and Expectations

The theatrical debut of Warner Bros. Pictures/New Lines’ ‘R’-rated thriller, Don’t Worry Darling, is expected to top the North American box office with $17 million to $21 million in ticket sales across 4,000 screens through Sept. 25.

Starring Florence Pugh, Gemma Chan, Chris Pine, Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde, who also directs, the movie has generated strong social media buzz, notably surrounding allegations of a production set romance between Wilde and Styles, among other gossip.

The movie also has some critical buzz for Pugh’s performance. The film reportedly took in more than $3 million in Thursday sneak screenings.

Meanwhile, Disney is re-releasing the original 2009 Avatar in theaters in 3D (i.e., Imax) ahead of director James Cameron’s the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, in December. The original Avatar reportedly generated 80% of its box office revenue in 3D.

The re-release could block last week’s chart topper, The Woman King, starring Oscar winner Viola Davis as a tribal warlord, from grabbing at least the No. 2 position. Initial industry chatter had The Woman King generating more than $11 million in revenue in its sophomore weekend of release, ahead of around $8 million for Avatar. The latter holds the global box office record of more than $2.8 billion in revenue.

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Whip: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Top New Show, ‘Fate: The Winx Saga’ Top Returning Show Anticipated in September

Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” was the top anticipated new show, Netflix’s “Fate: The Winx Saga” was the most anticipated returning show, and Warner Bros.’ Don’t Worry Darling was the top anticipated movie on the Whip Media charts for September.

Dubbed the most expensive TV season ever with a production budget of $715 million, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is a fantasy series based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and is set thousands of years before The Hobbit. The series debuted Sept. 1.

“Fate: The Winx Saga,” season two of which is set to start streaming on Netflix Sept. 16, is a teen drama based on the Nickelodeon animated series. The live-action series follows a group of fairies at a boarding school.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, the psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling stars Harry Styles and Florence Pugh. It follows a 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community.

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TV Time, a Whip Media company, is a free TV and movie viewership tracking app with 21 million global users, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Most Anticipated New Shows for September:

  1. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Prime Video) — Sept. 1
  2. “Andor” (Disney+) — Sept. 21
  3. “Monarch” (Fox) — Sept. 11
  4. “Quantum Leap” (2022) (NBC) — Sept. 19
  5. “The Rookie: Feds” (ABC) — Sept. 27

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for September:

  1. “Fate: The Winx Saga” (Netflix) — Sept. 16
  2. “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu) — Sept. 14
  3. “Cobra Kai” (Netflix) — Sept. 9
  4. “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” (Disney+) — Sept. 28
  5. “Abbott Elementary” (ABC) — Sept. 21

 

Most Anticipated Movies for September:

  1. Don’t Worry Darling — Sept. 23
  2. Hocus Pocus 2 — Sept. 30
  3. Blonde — Sept. 16
  4. Bros — Sept. 30
  5. The Woman King — Sept. 16
  6. Pinocchio — Sept. 8
  7. Do Revenge — Sept. 16
  8. Smile — Sept. 30
  9. The Greatest Beer Run Ever — Sept. 30
  10. See How They Run — Sept. 16

Delta Restoring Same-Sex Love Scenes to ‘Booksmart,’ ‘Rocketman’ In-Flight Movies

Bowing to social media pressure, Delta Air Lines said it would restore same-sex love scenes edited out of two feature-length movies, Booksmart and Rocketman, available on its flights.

“We are immediately putting a new process in place for managing content available through Delta’s in-flight entertainment,” Delta said in a media statement.

Delta’s hub city Atlanta has one of the largest gay populations in the country, including one of the most politically active.

The statement said studios typically provide in-flight movies in a theatrical, original version and an edited version.

“We selected the edited version and now realize content well within our guidelines was unnecessarily excluded from both films,” read the statement. “We are working to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The controversy arose this week after actress Olivia Wilde took to Twitter to voice her surprise that Delta was screening a version of her directorial debut, Booksmart, about two female coming-of-age high school teens, had omitted all gay references.

“Turns out some airlines work with a third-party company that edits the movie based on what they deem inappropriate. Which, in our case, is … female sexuality?” Wilde tweeted Oct. 30.

Separately, Buzzfeed reported Delta had also restored all gay references in Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton.

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“The studio has agreed to provide a special Delta edit that retains the LGBTQ+ love scenes in both Booksmart and Rocketman that will be on our flights as soon as possible,” Delta said. “Currently, we have Gentleman Jack, Imagine Me and You, and Moonlight onboard and countless content in the past that clearly shows it is not our practice to omit LGBTQ+ love scenes.”

Delta Air Lines Accused of Censoring In-Flight Movies

Delta Air Lines is denying it censors pay-per-view movies made available aboard its flights.

The issue emerged on social media this week when actress Olivia Wilde questioned on Twitter why a lesbian sex scene and the words “vagina” and “genitals” had been cut from her directorial debut, Booksmart.

The coming-of-age comedy about two high-school girls (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) attempting to ditch their studious ways is executive produced by Will Ferrell and Jason Sudeikis. It has generated about $25 million at the box office worldwide since its May theatrical release.

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“I finally had the chance to watch an edited version of Booksmart on a flight to see exactly what had been censored,” Wilde tweeted on Oct. 30. “Turns out some airlines work with a third party company that edits the movie based on what they deem inappropriate. Which, in our case, is … female sexuality?”

Olivia Wilde

Similar accusations against Delta surfaced regarding editing out gay references in the Elton John biopic Rocketman and the Chris Rock comedy Carol.

Delta, in a media statement, said it routinely offers edited and non-edited versions of movies on flights. It insisted it does not mandate any “homosexual content” be removed from in-flight entertainment.

“We value our inflight entertainment options as a means to reflect the diversity of the world,” the Atlanta-based carrier stated. “We are reviewing the processes of our third-party editing vendors to ensure that they are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion.”

Booksmart was released into retail channels on Sept. 3 by Disney/Fox Studios.

‘Booksmart’ Matriculates to Digital Aug. 20, Disc Sept. 3 From Fox

The teen coming-of-age comedy Booksmart will come out on digital Aug. 20 and Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 3 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, the unfiltered comedy follows best friends and academic overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who realize they’ve missed out on pretty much all fun during high school. On the eve of graduation, they decide to make up for lost time with one wild adventure. The film also stars Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Billie Lourd and Jason Sudeikis.

Disc bonus features include audio commentary by Wilde, “Booksmart: The Next ‘Best High School Comedy,’” “Pliés and Jazz Hands: The Dance Fantasy,” “Dressing Booksmart,” deleted scenes and a photo gallery.

The film made $22.2 million at the domestic box office.

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Lionsgate Releasing ‘A Vigilante’ on Home Video May 28

Lionsgate will release the thriller A Vigilante on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally May 28.

The film stars Olivia Wilde as a victim of domestic abuse who makes it her mission to help free others in danger.

The film was written and directed by Sarah Daggar-Nickson in her directorial debut. The cast also includes Morgan Spector, Kyle Catlett, C.J. Wilson, Tonye Patano, Chuck Cooper, Betsy Aidemand Judy Marte.

A Vigilante had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 10, 2018, and was released theatrically on March 29, 2019, by Saban Films.

The home video release will include a featurette called “Catharsis: Creating a Vigilante.”

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