JustWatch: ‘The Menu,’ ‘The Last of Us’ Top Weekly Streaming Through Jan. 22

Dark comedy The Menu may have been snubbed by the Oscars, but the Golden Globe-winning movie, co-starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, resonated with consumers as the most-streamed movie for the week ended Jan. 22, according to new data from JustWatch,  which tracks the streaming video habits of 20 million users across 59 markets, including the United States.

Menu beat out Oscar-nominated and perennial chart topper Everything Everywhere All at Once (Paramount+, Prime Video, Showtime), the original 2019 Knives Out movie (Hulu) and fellow Oscar nominated The Banshees of the Inisherin (HBO Max, Prime Video).

Among episodic programming, HBO Max’s “The Last of Us” knocked off longtime chart topper “Yellowstone,” reruns of “That ’70s Show,” and recent hits “The White Lotus” (HBO Max), “Wednesday” (Netflix) and “Your Honor” (Showtime).

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In Bruges

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$39.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use.
Stars Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Thekla Reuten, Zeljko Ivanek, Ciarán Hinds.

Twenty minutes is generally the make-or-break point. If the first reel fails to sink its claws, chances are nothing that follows will compensate for that initial bad impression. Rarely, as in the case of Robert Mulligan’s Bloodbrothers, does a film purposely start on what appears to be unintentionally slippery footing only to turn things around in reel five by artistically justifying the introductory unevenness. As quick as I am to give up hope after a reel, it is even tougher to go for a film that ultimately falls apart in the last 10 minutes. Such is the case with Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges.

After a particularly grueling assignment, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), receive stern warning from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes): “Get the f*** out of London.”

Harry sentences the pair to two weeks in a Bruges hotel where they’re ordered to lay low until he calls with further instructions. Infantile Ray instantly starts climbing walls at the mere hint of transforming their room into a jail cell. Playing against his natural dimwitted impulses, Ray uses the threat of culture as inducement and convinces Ken to take an evening constitutional. During their stroll, Ray is instantly smitten by a woman he spies working on a film crew. Chloe (Clémence Poésy) has the most important job on the production: She supplies drugs to the cast and crew.

Films like Midnight Express, Babel and Manda Bala depict nightmare destinations that act as instant deterrents to tourism. It has been a long time since a film gave me the itch to visit the city in which it was filmed. With its canals, cobbled streets and miles of beautifully preserved medieval architecture, the titular locale seems like a perfect storybook destination. What better place for a couple of hoods to hole up in than the picturesque town of Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium?

Ken is somewhat cultured, as assassins go, and actually enjoys taking in the scenic points of interest. Uncouth boor that he is, Ray gets his kicks by harassing obese tourists. In spite of Harry’s orders to stay in the room and await his orders, Ray refuses to break his first date with Chloe. After the first cocktail together his actions are almost justified. Chloe possesses the perfect blend of mystery, beauty and bad behavior to attract any criminal looking for a down-time diversion.

Even if Ray waited for Harry to call, the results would have been the same. His first contract, a priest in mid-confession, ends with a child accidentally getting caught in the crossfire, a fact that haunts Ray and repulses Harry who has a soft spot for children. Ken’s next assignment is to whack his partner. He trails Ray to a local park where no sooner does he draw a bead on his partner than guilt-racked Ray lifts a gun to his temple. Ken could just as easily let nature take its course, but his fondness for the kid causes Ken to put an “Amen” on both hit and suicide and in doing so, pray that Harry goes easy.

Up until now, much of the comedy flowed naturally from Ray’s ignorant, mean-spirited reaction to his idyllic surroundings. This was playwright Martin McDonagh’s debut, his distinctively cadenced ear for gutter- speak apparent from the get-go. The amount of “c” words strung together in one 30 second scene outnumber most features.

Let’s pause for a few words on the most reviled word in the English language. Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack is the first time I remember hearing a man refer to another man as a “c**t.” Compared to Ken and Ray, Jack sounds like a schoolmarm. The Brits have an affinity for the pejorative that’s unsurpassed. Found on The Tailor of Panama commentary track: director John Boorman professess undying adoration and vows to do whatever he can to keep this “lovely” expletive alive in his dialogue. During an interview with Martin’s younger brother, John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Cavalry), I ask about his fascination with the word. “You see, this is the thing,” he laughs, “In England people use it as a non-purpose word that doesn’t have the weight that it has in America. You come out of the toilet at a bar to find all your friends have left and you say, ‘Where have all those c**ts gone?’” The McDonaghs (and Scorsese and Mamet, etc.) use curse words as a writer could commas to bring a stylistic rhythm to their dialog.

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If you have yet to see the movie it’s best to stop here. The road ahead is paved with spoilers.

Signs of a faltering narrative first appear when Harry’s weakness for children is used as a justification for Ray’s termination. Just because he likes kids shouldn’t automatically render him childlike. Watching Harry self-destruct and rip apart a phone while his family looked on from the dinner table earned a hearty chuckle. But it’s a bit much when, after Ken covers for Ray by telling Harry that his mate is indisposed, the boss’s first reaction is to ask whether he is “making a pee or poo.”

The Boss should have packed lightly; when Harry hits town his excess baggage includes happenstance, convenience, and an unsatisfying climax. A pair of anti-smokers, awkwardly-placed in Act I, return to enact revenge three reels later. Given what we know of him, a pro like Harry would never be so reckless a shot. And either that bell tower had 147 stories or Harry took the 10-steps-down, five-steps-up staircase. Ray has time to jump to his death and deliver a pavement soliloquy while Harry is still running.

In spite of these few gripes, In Bruges is still worth your time if for no other reason than a chance to watch Brendan Gleeson, one of the last great character actors, strut his stuff. Fiennes and Farrell (basically reprising his role from Cassandra’s Dream) are outstanding, but nothing comes close to matching the scene in the tower where Ray, tired of all the double-crossing, simply gives up. In the company of such over-the-top performances, Gleeson wisely underplays at every turn. His maturity and depth of characterization are what engaged and kept me in In Bruges.

The 4K edition includes four featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, interviews with the cast and filmmakers, a gag reel and the film’s trailer.

The King’s Man

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/22/22;
20th Century;
Action;
Box Office $37.11 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material.
Stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joel Basman, Valerie Pachner.

After two movies focused on the adventures of the spy agency known as Kingsman, writer-director Matthew Vaughn explores the origins of the organization in The King’s Man.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, the prequel weaves a clever tale centered on a conspiratorial cartel whose mastermind, The Shepherd, manipulates Europe into the devastating conflict. The cabal consists of several villainous figures from world history during the time period, including Rasputin, Mata Hari and Lenin. The war itself is explained as the extension of a childhood feud between three cousins who would grow to be King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

In an inspired bit of casting, all three rulers are played by Tom Hollander, who previously played George V in the British miniseries The Lost Prince, as well as his great-great-grandfather George III in the John Adams miniseries.

At the center of it all is Orlando, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), a pacifist and humanitarian who vows to use his resources to do what the governments of the world cannot — to expose the hidden villain behind the war and restore a measure of peace.

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Vaughn’s highly fictionalized retelling of World War I is a fun romp through history that incorporates actual events into its greater narrative. While the twists and turns sometimes make for a weirdly paced film, it does offer some thrilling action sequences and eventually gets where it needs to, layering some references to the previous films along the way.

The Blu-ray includes a comprehensive hour-and-a-half behind-the-scenes documentary called “The Great Game Begins.” There’s also a 16-minute breakdown of the silent knife fight sequence that takes place on a battlefield at night.

The 26-and-a-half-minute “Remembrance and Finding Purpose” is a heartfelt look at organizations that help wounded veterans re-adjust to society through art and sport.

Finally, the disc includes the film’s red-band trailer.

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Walmart is selling an expanded 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack with an exclusive DVD bonus disc containing two additional 15-minute featurettes. “Spymaster: Conspiring With Matthew Vaughn” offers the cast singing the praises of their director and his approach to filmmaking, while “Weaponized Cinema: Film Propaganda in World War I” offers a historical look at how film evolved into a political tool during the first World War.

‘The King’s Man’ Due on Digital Feb. 18, Disc Feb. 22

The action thriller The King’s Man will be released through digital retailers Feb. 18, and on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 22 from Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.

Also available digitally and in a Steelbook will be “The Kingsman Collection,” featuring all three films with bonus features together for the first time.

Set during World War I, The King’s Man tells the origin story of the world’s very first independent intelligence agency. As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions across the globe, one man must race against time to stop them.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou and Charles Dance.

Extras include a making-of documentary and several featurettes.

No Time to Die

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/21/21;
Universal/MGM;
Action;
Box Office $158.62 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive material.
Stars Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, Rory Kinnear, Dali Benssalah.

After nearly 60 years of cinematic history, audiences have a certain expectation of what a James Bond movie is supposed to be. No Time to Die defies a lot of those tropes.

The 25th film in the EON Productions Bond canon, No Time to Die serves as a coda to the Daniel Craig era of the character, a five-film arc that began with 2006’s Casino Royale. As such, it plays very much like a series finale, wrapping up a number of loose threads that interconnected the Craig’s films.

Most notably, the film finds Bond with the same love interest from the previous film, a first for the franchise. In this case, 2015’s Spectre had Bond retire from the British Secret Service and run away with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). No Time to Die picks up with their attempts to build a life together, a prospect hampered by her complicated past being the daughter of a top Spectre agent. When Bond assumes she arranged for Spectre to attack him on vacation, he puts her on a train and vows to never see her again.

Cut to five years later, and Bond is living in seclusion in Jamaica (a location iconic to the Bond franchise) when his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) recruits him to help retrieve a missing Russian scientist who is responsible for a biological weapon that can target the DNA of specific bloodlines.

Bond has a run-in with the British agent (Lashana Lynch) who took over his 007 number, and learns the weapon was originally developed by the British government. It has fallen into the hands of a man named Safin (Rami Malek), who wants to use it to cleanse the world of people he considers detrimental to his utopian vision. What’s worse, the answers to retrieve it seem to lie with Bond’s Spectre nemesis Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and Madeleine.

Director Cary Fukunaga has delivered an entertaining Bond adventure filled with splendid action sequences, beautiful visuals and amazing set designs that evoke the great over-the-top villain lairs of yesteryear.

As both a capper to the Craig era and a milestone film for EON, No Time to Die is loaded with references to several previous Bond films dating back to the beginning of the series with 1962’s Dr. No, as well as Bond creator Ian Fleming’s novels. The film draws particular influence from 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, from Hans Zimmer’s terrific score quoting some of its music to Craig uttering the immortal line “We have all the time in the world,” which Bond fans know always foreshadows trouble ahead.

The Easter eggs should provide a serious blast of nostalgia for Bond fans without being distracting for viewers not intimately familiar with the entire history of the franchise.

Craig himself puts a memorable cap on a unique run for the character, in that all five of his films more or less tell a larger story of the life of a British superspy and his complicated love life. One interesting aspect of No Time to Die is that it is almost framed as a story told from Madeleine’s perspective, evoking the essence of Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me novel if not the plot itself.

The experiment of serializing the Bond movies certainly had its ups and downs, with the biggest complaint being that the films were too reliant on tracking Bond through missions that had a personal connection to him, from seeking revenge for fallen lovers to uncovering long-lost family secrets. While in retrospect the Craig saga plays fine for what it is, it’s hard to argue that the two best films in the sequence aren’t Casino Royale and 2012’s Skyfall, the only two films of the five that could be considered standalone adventures. Detractors will say the interconnectedness is just an attempt to modernize Bond by aping the Bourne movies. Fans would just as soon see Bond get back to duty carrying out just protecting the free world with fantastical missions he otherwise has no personal stake in.

While this is Craig’s swan song in the role, the movie does carry on the franchise tradition of promising that “James Bond Will Return,” which begs the question of where the series goes from here. I for one would be interested in seeing the series returning to its roots by going retro with Bond immersed in the Cold War in the 1960s.

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The No Time to Die Blu-ray presentation is a bit unusual in how the extras are presented. The 4K combo pack offers the extras on the 4K disc alongside the film, which the regular Blu-ray that is included has no extras. Most discs typically employ the reverse strategy, with minimal extras on the 4K disc and all of them on the Blu-ray.

The included extras consist of four behind-the-scenes featurettes and the 47-minute Being James Bond documentary that was previously released in the lead-up to No Time to Die and provides an intimate look at Craig’s history with the character. Being James Bond is exclusive to the 4K edition.

The making-of material totals about 35 minutes and gives a succinct EPK-style glimpse at the production. The longest is the 11-and-a-half-minute “Anatomy of a Scene: Matera,” which deconstructs one of the film’s pre-credits action scenes. The six-minute “Keeping it Real: The Action of No Time to Die” focuses on the film’s stuntwork, the eight-minute “A Global Journey” looks at the film’s shooting locations, and the 11-minute “Designing Bond” details the building of the film’s sets and costumes.

The standard Blu-ray combo pack and the DVD editions it seems have the supplements included on a separate bonus disc. Even keeping Being James Bond as a 4K exclusive, it’s only a handful of featurettes that would need to be included so it’s a bit baffling why they weren’t stacked onto the same Blu-ray disc as the film.

Also note that the included digital copy code is listed as redeemable through Apple TV/iTunes, but not Movies Anywhere, as MGM is not a signatory to the digital locker service.

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Paramount Releasing ‘Official Secrets’ in November

Paramount Home Entertainment will release the thriller Official Secrets digitally Nov. 5, and on DVD (with digital copy) Nov. 26.

Keira Knightley stars in the true story of British intelligence specialist turned whistleblower Katharine Gun, who in 2003 received a memo with a directive to collect blackmail-worthy information on UN council members to force the vote for the invasion of Iraq, and decides to leak the memo to the press, igniting an international firestorm.

The cast also includes Matt Smith as Martin Bright, the journalist who broke the story; Matthew Goode as one of Bright’s colleagues; and Ralph Fiennes and Gun’s lawyer.

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Directed by Gavin Hood, the film earned $1.9 million at the U.S. box office.

The digital copy included with the DVD presents the film in high-definition.

‘The White Crow’ Flies to DVD and Digital July 30 From Sony

The White Crow, about the life of legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, will come out on DVD and digital July 30 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes and penned by Academy Award winning screenwriter David Hare, the film follows the dancer from his poverty-stricken childhood in the Soviet city of Ufa, to his blossoming career in Leningrad, to his defection to the West at the height of the Cold War.

Bonus materials include “A Look Behind the Curtain: Making The White Crow,” in which Fiennes, Hare, and the cast and crew discuss the legacy of Nureyev and how the film portrays his larger-than-life character, and a Q&A with Fiennes, Hare and star Oleg Ivenko moderated by Alison Bailes.

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