Unfrosted

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some suggestive references and language.
Stars Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, Peter Dinklage, Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond.

Jerry Seinfeld fingered political correctness as the blame for the current deluge of comedians edging away from satirical edginess. When it came time for the corporate spokesperson for American comedy to do something to brighten the landscape by staging a mordant blitzkrieg of his own, he played patty cake when a melee was in order. I must confess to having never seen an episode of “Seinfeld.” It has nothing to do with the show or its star — Jerry Seinfeld’s appearances on Carson and Letterman were tight, easily relatable, and frequently hilarious sets of observational stand-up. The arrival of VCRs on the scene soon enabled anyone with a video store membership and/or cable box to become their own programmers, forever relegating network television to the dustbin of antiquity. When a comedian directs, I’m there. Unfrosted is his first shot behind-the-camera on a feature-length narrative. As a director, Jerry Seinfeld is an exceptional stand-up.

To say the film is loosely based on the war between American cereal conglomerates (and Michigan neighbors) Post (Amy Schumer) and Kellogg’s (Jim Gaffigan) to come up with a fruit-filled, toaster-ready breakfast cake is putting it mildly. Anyone familiar with the TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas can close their eyes and hear the voice of the cartoon’s star, Thurl Ravenscroft, playing in their head. He also provided the voice for venerable cartoon cereal big-cat, Tony the Tiger. Ravenscroft no sooner conceived of Tony’s “They’re Gr-r-reat!” catchphrase than he did cream depilatory. The slogan had been in place before Thurl’s trilled “r’s’” thrilled their way through a 50-year run as Kellogg’s sepulchral-throated breakfast food mascot. A Life Magazine ad features none other than Groucho Marx being upstaged by the Sugar Frosted Flakes pitchman’s tagline, “You bet your life they’re Gr-r-reat!” All of this took place almost a decade before the narrative kicks off in 1963. 

But wait. There’s more! The attention to period detail is abysmal. The Oscar Mayer hot dogs packaging on display bore little resemblance to their 1963 predecessors. Ditto the whoopie cushions — What? No “Poo! Poo!” — that appear to have been plucked off a Party City pegboard by a plucky production assistant. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Wooly Bully” are both featured prominently on the soundtrack even though neither song existed in 1963. A reference to Ravenscroft’s (Hugh Grant) “Burger King crown” is a cute but factually bankrupt notion, seeing how the first BK franchise didn’t open until 1963. If one is paying more attention to anachronisms, whizzing past like a picket fence in a hurtling roadster, than they are storytelling, the filmmakers aren’t doing their job.

Seinfeld told Entertainment Weekly his aim was to make the anti-Barbie. The Mattel-a-thon was the biggest moneymaker in Warner Bros. history while the box office cereal killer Seinfeld envisioned never materialized. (In that sense, he met his goal.) Rather than setting his sights high on the smash hit of all time, Seinfeld would have been better served by taking a nod from John Lee Hancock’s Ray Kroc biopic The Founder, a film so meticulously plotted and researched, one could learn how to build a fast food empire strictly by paying attention.

The list of cameo appearances — Thomas Lennon, Bobby Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond — read like SNL opening credits. Also joining the fun with very little to do are Max Greenfield, Hugh Grant, Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, Cedric the Entertainer, Adrian Martinez, James Marsden, Maria Bakalova, and Peter Dinklage. A Godfather-esque meeting of the five cereal families — Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker, Ralston Purina and General Mills — that must have sounded so funny on paper, never stood a chance under Seinfeld’s freshman lens. In the least, Barbie had a consistent visual style, limited though it might be, and a corporate history to fall back on. Unfrosted’s eagerness to play fast and loose with the truth is the film’s biggest drawback. I spent the better portion of three hours reading up on Kellogg’s and 90% of what passed my eyes bore greater comedic interest than any of the word association nostalgia soup Seinfeld and his trio of writers serve up. Seinfeld even has the gall to rip off Albert Brooks’ oracular lip-moving ventriloquist routine right down to naming the dummy Danny.

Perhaps the subject would have been best suited to animation. The only reason Battle Creek Michigan sticks out in my brain is through the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that date back as far as my memory. Kellogg’s sponsored cartoon superstars Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Snagglepuss, while Post represented Ruff and Ready, the Flintstones (Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and Dino) and the Rubbles (Betty, Barney and Bamm-Bamm). Imagine a “Roger Rabbit” frame up between the two factions of H/B heavyweights that results in an animation studio civil war. Anything would have been funnier than the cow farts and a stock Nazi buffoon that’s enough to place even the most woke audience in a somnambulistic coma.

 

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

4K ULTRA HD REVIEW:

Street Date 2/13/24;
Lionsgate;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $166.35 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong violent content and disturbing material.
Stars Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera, Jason Schwartzman, Burn Gorman, Fionnula Flanagan, Viola Davis.

The world established in 2012’s The Hunger Games and its sequels offered a lot of fertile ground for a prequel. The dystopian setting of that first film gave viewers a look at the 74th iteration of the Hunger Games, the ritual competition that forced children from the districts of the future nation of Panem to fight to the death as a warning to never wage war against the Capitol.

While it would be interesting to learn more about the cataclysm that led to the collapse of civilization and the rise of Panem and the Districts. This isn’t that story, as it begins in a war-ravaged Panem just before the creation of the Hunger Games as an institution. But it’s also not the story of the first Hunger Games, as the movie jumps from the opener of two children trying to survive a dystopian hellscape, to a decade later and the kids having grown up into a slightly less-dystopian world on the verge of the 10th Hunger Games.

One of the kids is the 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, the future president of Panem played in the earlier movies by Donald Sutherland. He’s played here by Tom Blyth, and this is his story.

The young Snow is depicted as a student eager to restore his family’s fortunes, but his efforts are stymied by the academy’s dean, Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), creator of the Hunger Games, which in their earlier years are seen as too barbaric to be embraced by the residents of Panem. Highbottom wants the students to mentor the tributes at the next games, and hopes to humiliate Snow by assigning him Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), whose prospects for winning aren’t great since she’s from the poverty-stricken District 12. A folk singer with a penchant for eccentricity, Lucy Gray has herself been set up, forced to serve as tribute as the result of a feud with a local mayor’s daughter.

Convinced that leading his tribute to victory is key to a substantial cash prize, Snow embraces his task, going so far as to present a series of recommendations for improving the spectacle of the games to Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), the mad scientist in charge of implementing the competition. Her lab is filled with the kind of bizarre creatures that become a staple of the later games.

In working with Lucy Gray to prepare her for the games, Snow begins to fall in love with her, setting off an unexpected chain of events that begin to forge the man destined one day to ascend to his own ruthless reign.

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The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes serves as an entertaining companion piece to the original “Hunger Games” movies, which began to falter toward the end as a victim of their own success, as the young adult books upon which they were based and subsequent movie adaptations spawned a tiring trend of dystopian fiction involving teenage warriors of the future.

The focus on Snow puts a new spin on the familiar, and it’s interesting to see an earlier version of the games set in a simple arena, rather than the elaborate landscapes into which they evolve. It’s also a bit remarkable that the Blyth’s performance manages to make Snow, through his relationship with Lucy Gray, a sympathetic character for the audience to root for, in contrast to the villain we know he becomes.

The film switches gears a number of times as Snow learns how to maneuver through the games and their aftermath. The prologue, which was no doubt effective in the book version, feels a bit extraneous considering its details could have been explained through some quick exposition or flashback, and excising it might have shaved a few minutes off the film’s long two-and-a-half hour run time.

However, from the production design of the Capitol to the camera-friendly landscapes of District 12’s wilderness, the film looks great in its Ultra HD disc presentation. The 4K and Blu-ray discs both contain the same slate of bonus materials.

The details of the making of the film are covered in an extensive eight-part documentary that itself runs two-and-a-half hours, while the film includes a feature-length commentary track from director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.

Also included is Zegler performing “The Hanging Tree” song, and a letter to fans from Suzanne Collins, author of the “Hunger Games” novels, heaping praise upon the film.

 

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/1/23;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $140 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD, $44.99 UHD/BD Steelbook;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
Stars Anthony Ramos, Dominique Fishback. Voices of Peter Cullen, Ron Perlman, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Yeoh, Pete Davidson, John DiMaggio, Liza Koshy, David Sobolov, Colman Domingo.

Despite being released in theaters backed by a massive promotional campaign, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts has the feel of one of those direct-to-video sequels studios like to pump out in an effort to extend the life of a well-worn franchise.

That’s not to say the film isn’t competently made or entertaining for what it is, for it’s certainly a serviceable diversion if someone has a couple hours to kill. But Rise of the Beasts definitely feels formulaic in the way it pares down the essence of the Michael Bay “Transformers” films — both in setting up action sequences and introducing new toys Hasbro can sell.

This is the seventh live-action movie based on Hasbro’s “Transformers” toys, and by now it’s pretty clear that the deeper mythology that sustains the various cartoons and comics based on the property is more of a lark for the film versions. In lieu of sustained storylines, the films pick and choose a handful of characters to introduce alongside stalwarts such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, who end up teaming up with some unassuming humans to fight a handful of bad guys for some object that usually turns out to be crucial to the survival of the Transformers race.

For Rise of the Beasts, the filmmakers turned to inspiration from the 1990s “Beast Wars” line, which featured robots transforming into wild animals rather than cars and trucks and planes. The Maximals, which are basically a race of animal Autobots (ie the good guys) are being hunted by the minions of the planet-chomping Unicron, who needs something called a “transwarp key” to have access to the entire universe so he can eat anything he wants. In the battle that starts the film, set thousands of years ago, the Maximals escape with the key and hide it on Earth, trapping Unicron in a secluded section of the galaxy. Naturally, Unicron’s hunters find the key on Earth, leaving the Autobots to team with the Maximals to stop them from summoning the planet-killer.

The main action of Rise of the Beasts takes place in 1994, making it a sequel to the 1980s-set Bumblebee, and a prequel to Bay’s five films that seemed to become more bloated and mind-numbing as they went on. In terms of continuity between the films, however, the “Transformers” movies are about as consistent as the “X-Men” films, so trying to connect all the dots is mostly going to be a wasted effort.

The 1990s setting serves mostly as an excuse for director Steven Caple Jr. to indulge in the music and fashion of the period setting. Otherwise, the setting is rather superfluous to the storyline.

The primary humans helping the Autobots are Noah (Anthony Ramos), an unemployed former soldier, and Elena (Dominique Fishback), a museum intern who studies ancient artifacts. After being recruited to the Autobot cause through happenstance, they learn the missing key and the Maximals are in Peru, setting the stage for the final battle to prevent Unicron from destroying Earth. Lessons of teamwork abound, while Prime (voiced once again by Peter Cullen) learns he can trust humans.

Since most of the “Transformers” movies have involved Bumblebee’s friendship with the primary human characters, he gets sidelined this time around while Noah is paired with Mirage, a wisecracking Porsche voiced by Pete Davidson. The basic character dynamics are the same, though.

Fans of the franchise should get a tickle from various easter eggs and sly references, but shouldn’t expect more than surface-level nostalgia from seeing a handful robots that bear the names of characters they grew up with. From a technical standpoint, the visual effects are pretty good, and the film looks great in 4K, particularly when the setting shifts to the luscious green mountains and forest of South America.

Home video extras include more than 73 minutes of behind-the-scenes material spread across nine featurettes. It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it’s interesting to see how some of the visual effects were done.  

Also included are seven deleted and extended scenes running nearly 14 minutes in total, including alternate opening and ending scenes, and extended action sequences with unfinished visual effects.

On disc, both the 4K and Blu-ray discs contain the extras. However, the 4K and Blu-ray versions are offered as standalones with digital copies, not combo packs, except for the limited-edition Steelbook that has both 4K and Blu-ray discs in it.

Oscar-Lauded ‘Cyrano’ Headed to Blu-ray and DVD April 19

Cyrano, nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD April 19 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

A re-imagining of the timeless tale of a heartbreaking love triangle, the film follows Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage), who dazzles with both ferocious wordplay and brilliant swordplay but is convinced that his appearance makes him unworthy of the love of his devoted friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). Roxanne has fallen in love at first sight with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).

Special features include a making-of featurette.

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Shout! Factory, IFC to Issue ‘Three Christs’ on DVD, Blu-ray Disc June 16

Shout! Factory and IFC Films have set a June 16 release date for Three Christs, an American drama directed, co-produced, and co-written by Jon Avnet and starring Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins, and Bradley Whitford.

The film will be issued on both Blu-ray Disc and DVD, and can be pre-ordered now on ShoutFactory.com.

The 2017 film, based on Milton Rokeach’s nonfiction book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, is set in 1959 and follows the story of Dr. Alan Stone (Gere), a psychiatrist who arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with the belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated with empathy and understanding rather than confinement and electroshock therapy.

As his first study, he takes on a particularly challenging case of three men — Joseph (Dinklage), Leon (Goggins), and Clyde (Whitford) — each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping to get them all in the same room to confront their dillusions, Dr. Stone begins a risky yet unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved profoundly changed.

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Three Christs originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2017, and went on to a limited theatrical release. It became available on video-on-demand (VOD) on Jan. 10.

Game of Thrones: Season 8

DIGITAL REVIEW:

HBO;
Fantasy;
$19.99 SD; $26.99 HD;
Not Rated.
Stars Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson, Iain Glen.

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” is certainly its most divisive, setting off a wave of Internet debates as to whether the final run of episodes was worthy of the extensive storytelling that had been laid out before.

Much of the ire seems to be focused on the creative decisions made by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in mapping out the final story arcs of the various characters once they no longer draw from the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin, which formed the basis of the first five seasons.

A noticeable shift in the show’s pacing occurred in season six, once it was clear they had to create their own after reportedly receiving outlines from Martin about how he envisioned the saga more or less ending up. After season six, it was announced the show would wrap up in 13 episodes split into two seasons, with seven in season seven and six in season eight.

In hindsight, the argument goes, this timeline was insufficient in setting up the character development needed for the plot twists of the final episodes, leaving the final storylines feeling rushed while retroactively weakening the earlier seasons by both devaluing their story development and making it clear (particularly to readers of the novels) where the show missed opportunities to lay the foundation for the plot points the writers eventually decided to pursue.

The series has spent seven seasons seemingly maneuvering every character into two factions. One is the army gathering at Winterfell to fight the Night King and the White Walkers. This is the faction commanded by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, who joined forces last season. However, their truce may be complicated by the lingering truth of Jon’s true heritage, which could present an obstacle to Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile. Queen Cersei has fortified her hold on King’s Landing through an alliance with Euron Greyjoy’s fleet and a mercenary army.

The first two episodes deal largely with various characters reuniting, setting the stage for the battle against the Night King, which takes place in the third episode. The final episodes involve the battle for King’s Landing and its aftermath.

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So, is the final season as problematic as the darkest corners of the Internet would make it out to be? Well, mostly no, but a little bit yes.

The ire seems to fall into two categories. The first, as mentioned, is the show rushing to get to the end. The second is the specific outcomes for some of the characters, which may have differed a bit from what some of the more entitled fans envisioned in their heads.

As to the second point, such is often the refrain of toxic fandom, and seems misguided. The character arcs themselves are fine and completely understandable, particularly when it comes to the most divisive of the individual stories, that of Queen Daenerys and her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne on behalf of her family.

The show has always been an examination of the dangers of tyranny and absolutism, even when the results of such governance may seem beneficial. The cycle of inherited power is itself the problem, not the potential for harm a new ruler may bring.

That being said, it’s hard to disagree that the final march to the end was a bit rushed, and perhaps could have used a few episodes to show events for the characters to experience that might reinforce their motivations in the final battles.

The final season is fine as it is, as easy as it is for fans to pick it apart, and will likely come to be better regarded once absorbed into the bulk of the show as fodder for binge viewing. While the asinine suggestion of fan petitions to “remake the season with competent writers” is beyond the realm of credibility, it’s hard not to at least entertain the idea of filming a few more episodes of material to expand on the character development, then re-editing them into the final couple of seasons (though, realistically, that ain’t happening either).

The show’s critics are also quick to overlook the many strengths of the final season, which offers some of the most stunning visuals of the series. This includes the purposefully dark and moody third episode, which uses its nighttime setting to great effect give viewers the same sense of unseen dread the characters would experience in fighting off wave after wave of undead armies.

There was some concern about the cinematography being too dark upon its initial airing, but this isn’t much of a problem with the digital HD presentation.

The other aspect of concern in fan circles were all the memes pointing out Starbucks cups and plastic water bottles left on the set for key scenes. The prominent coffee cup was subsequently digitally erased from episode four, but a few water bottles spotted under the chairs in the “Council of Lords” scene in the finale were still visible in the digital copy of the episode, at least within the first few days of its digital release. It will certainly be something to keep an eye out for in the eventual Blu-ray release that should arrive in a few months.

The digital package of the final season also includes a four-minute production featurette, a 17-minute profile of a key season from the third-episode battle, and The Last Watch, the feature-length documentary chronicling the making of the show’s final season that provides an enlightening look at the filmmakers and craftsman who brought it all together.

‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Winter Passing’ and ‘Resurrecting the Champ’ Among Star-Studded Films Joining MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection is adding five films from Yari Film Group to its lineup on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

Due June 25 are Resurrecting the Champ, Winter Passing and The Illusionist.

Resurrecting the Champ, directed by Rod Lurie (The Contender), stars Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett with Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer and Peter Coyote. In the film, sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett) wants nothing more than to discover a story great enough to make headlines. When he meets Champ (Jackson), a former boxing champion living on the streets, he knows he has a shot to save them both. Recording his newfound friend’s tale of triumph and defeat, Kernan gets his story and his fame. But as Champ’s tale falls under more scrutinizing eyes, Kernan learns what truly makes a story great is the quality of the man behind it. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from Lurie, a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Winter Passing is an offbeat film about homecoming and reconciliation that features Zooey Deschanel, Will Ferrell, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Dallas Roberts, Michael Chernus, Anthony Rapp, Sam Bottoms and Rachel Dratch. When a book editor (Madigan) offers to buy the love letters of Reese Holden’s (Deschanel) parents, she returns home to recover them, only to find her widowed dad (Harris) golfing upstairs, sleeping outside and living with roommates — a pretty grad student (Amelia Warner) and a quirky wannabe musician (Ferrell). Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

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The Illusionist stars Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton along with Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In the film, acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession and the city’s chief inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. As the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet. Bonus material includes a feature audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, “The Making of the Illusionist” featurette, the “Jessica Biel on the Illusionist” featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Taking 18 years from the start of production to theatrical release, Shortcut to Happiness finally makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD July 16. Originally titled The Devil and Daniel Webster, the film was to be the directorial debut of Alec Baldwin. With the film plagued by investor problems and rumored creative differences, Baldwin had his director credit removed from the film and replaced with the pseudonym Harry Kirkpatrick. Producer Bob Yari rescued the film from bankruptcy court and finished it without Baldwin’s participation. It received limited theatrical screenings in 2007. Years later, it aired on Showtime and Starz channels. Set in New York’s literary world, Shortcut to Happiness is a contemporary re-telling of the classic short story ”The Devil and Daniel Webster,” starring Baldwin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kim Cattrall, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Poehler and Darrell Hammond. It follows Jabez Stone (Baldwin), a down on his luck writer who sells his soul to the devil (Love-Hewitt) in exchange for fame and fortune. When things don’t turn out as planned, Stone ultimately decides that he wants his old life again and enlists the help of Daniel Webster (Hopkins) in order to win his soul.

Finally, Sept. 17 comes Find Me Guilty from director Sidney Lumet (Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon). Vin Diesel stars with Peter Dinklage, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Linus Roache in this true story. When police arrest 20 members of the Lucchese crime family, the authorities offer Jackie Dee DiNorscio (Diesel) a bargain: a shortened prison term if he’ll testify against his own. But the wisecracking DiNorscio has other ideas. Refusing to cooperate, he decides to defend himself at his own trial and proceeds to turn the courtroom upside-down, culminating in one of the most shocking verdicts in judicial history. Bonus material includes the “A Conversation with Director Sidney Lumet” featurette, the original theatrical trailer and three TV spots.

‘My Dinner With Hervé’ Available on Digital From HBO

My Dinner With Hervé is available now on digital from HBO Home Entertainment.

The film explores the unlikely friendship between struggling journalist Danny Tate (Jamie Dornan) and Hervé Villechaize (Peter Dinklage), the world’s most famous French dwarf actor.

The story unfolds over one wild night in Los Angeles — an encounter that has life-changing consequences for both men.

My Dinner with Hervé also stars Golden Globe nominee Mireille Enos (The Killing), David Strathairn (Lincoln), Andy García (Ocean’s Eleven), Harriet Walter (Succession) and Oona Chaplin (“Game of Thrones”).

Amazon’s ‘Mrs. Maisel,’ HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Lead Way at 70th Emmys

For the second year in a row, a show from a streaming service won the Emmy for best series in its category.

While last year Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won Outstanding Drama Series, this year it was Amazon Video taking the top prize in the Outstanding Comedy Series category with the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“Maisel” ended up with eight Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Rachel Brosnahan as the title character, and Outstanding Supporting Actress for Alex Borstein (who won another Emmy this year for her voiceover work on Fox’s “Family Guy”).

The 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced Sept. 17 at a televised ceremony in Los Angeles and at the Creative Arts ceremony a week earlier.

Netflix and HBO ended up tied as the top networks with 23 wins apiece.

Outstanding Drama Series again went to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” this time for its seventh season, which is readily available for digital download or on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Game of Thrones” previously won the Best Drama Series Emmy in 2015 and 2016 for its fifth and sixth seasons, respectively, but a quirk in its production meant the show didn’t air during the 2017 eligibility period, opening the door for “Handmaid’s Tale” to win last year.

“Thrones” won nine Emmys this year, including Peter Dinklage winning his third trophy for Outstanding Supporting Actor for the role of Tyrion Lannister (previously won in 2011 and 2015).

FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story won seven Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series. The nine-episode miniseries is available for digital download.

Among some other notable categories, HBO’s “Barry” (on DVD Oct. 2) won Outstanding Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, respectively. Matthew Rhys won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for the sixth and final season of FX’s “The Americans,” coming to DVD Oct. 23 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Claire Foy won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing Queen Elizabeth II in the second season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” And Thandie Newton won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for season two of HBO’s “Westworld,” which will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 4 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

For a complete list of 2018 winners, visit Emmys.com.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $53.35 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.
Stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Clarke Peters.

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards offers an intense, character-driven examination of the relationship between small-town police and the residents they serve.

Frances McDormand gives a powerhouse performance as Mildred, whose bitterness over the stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder motivates her to rent space on the billboards of the title excoriating the cops for their lack of progress.

This naturally raises tensions in the town, as supporters of the police demand she take the signs down while putting pressure on her friends and family to force her hand.

The police chief (Woody Harrelson), has his own issues to deal with, not the least of which is an alcoholic deputy named Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who is accused of torturing a black suspect in custody during an incident that allegedly happened before the start of the film’s story.

Three Billboards takes a multi-faceted view of cops’ racial attitudes in small-town America, and presents them as people and not as the caricatures some knee-jerk critics of the film would insist upon. Certainly the department must confront its troubled history of race relations, but the situation with Mildred might suggest they’re not great cops in general, or at the very least in over their head on some things.

Dixon, for example, has bigger dreams but little self-awareness, and his racism goes hand in hand with a general attitude of superiority about everyone, no doubt fueled by the toxic influences of his mother. His violent streak even extends to the white kid who sold the signs to Mildred and becomes the subject of a brutal beating in one of the film’s signature sequences — a single take of Dixon walking from the police station across the street to the advertising shop, up the stairs and back to admire the chaos of his handiwork.

Mildred and Dixon represent the opposing forces in the firestorm at the heart of the film, so it comes as little surprise that McDormand and Rockwell were among the most recognized performers of awards season.

The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes running about seven minutes total that aren’t vital to the storylines but do offer some interesting additional character insights.

Also included is a comprehensive half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary in which McDonagh relates how seeing similar billboards on a tour of the American South inspired him to make the film. The featurette also includes a lengthy look at the making-of the single-take fight scene at the center of the film.

Finally, the disc offers McDonagh’s unrelated half-hour 2004 short film Six Shooter, which won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short. The short stars Brendan Gleeson as a man on a train confronted with mortality and the foibles of the human condition.