Jojo Rabbit

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Comedy;
Box Office $33.31 million;
$29.99 DVD, $37.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language.
Stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates.

Writer-director Taiki Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit delivers what may be the most concise cinematic spoof of the Nazis since Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

The film has drawn some controversy for its flippant portrayal of the Nazi regime, but its dark humor succeeds mostly in demonstrating how irrational Hitler’s racial philosophies were. At its core, Jojo Rabbit is a screed against idolizing charismatic government figures who demonize others for personal power.

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Based on Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, the film tells the story of a 10-year-old German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who wants nothing more than to serve the Third Reich. Jojo has an imaginary friend in the form of Hitler (played with over-the-top aplomb by Waititi himself in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator), who constantly spouts Nazi talking points as motivation. At a Hitler youth camp, however, Jojo ends up accidentally blowing himself up with a grenade, scaring his face and rendering him unsuitable for most military duties other than running errands around the city as it prepares for the coming Allied invasion.

As Jojo recovers, he hears strange noises in his home and discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the attic, though he comes to realize he can’t turn her in for fear of the trouble it would bring his mother (Scarlett Johansson), though she is fervently anti-Nazi and a supporter of the resistance.

Inspired by an offhand comment by his youth squad’s commander (Sam Rockwell), Jojo studies the girl, hoping to write a book to help Nazi officers better recognize Jews in their mission to remove them from Germany. Some of the tropes spouted by Jojo and the officers in his company rival Borat in their absurdity. Over time, of course, Jojo ends up developing an affection for the girl.

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Focusing the film through Jojo’s perspective allows Waititi, who ended up winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, to maintain a lighter tone for most of the story while veering into the more serious aspects of the subject matter when necessary, leading to a film that is both funny and emotionally affecting.

Waititi’s offbeat brand of comedy carries over into the Blu-ray’s bonus materials, particularly a very funny commentary track in which he starts off discussing the film by himself, but tires of that so he begins calling members of the cast to talk to about their experiences in making the film. It ends up being an interesting spin on the typical template for dispersing information in a commentary.

For a more traditional glimpse behind the scenes, there’s a half-hour featurette that delves a lot into the performances, sets and costumes.

The Blu-ray also includes nine minutes of deleted scenes, which is mostly extra footage of Waititi doing his shtick as Hitler, plus a three-and-a-half-minute outtakes reel.

Vudu, as it tends to do, offers a two-minute “Taika Talk” featurette with footage culled from other videos.

 

‘Cats’ Dancing to Digital March 17, Disc April 7 From Universal

Cats, the film adaptation of the hit Broadway show, will come out on digital March 17 and Blu-ray and DVD April 7 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Director Tom Hooper reimagines Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical in the film starring James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson and introducing Royal Ballet principal Francesca Hayward. The film also includes a cast of dancers showcasing styles from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street dance to tap.

The story follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles that must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle Life.

The film made $71.9 million at the global box office.

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Special features include:

  • “Making Music,” in which the stars of Catswill talk about Andrew Lloyd Webber, who conceived the musical almost 40 years ago, and how his music has stood the test of time;
  • “Singing Live,” in which talent and filmmakers explore what it was like to sing, dance, and act for live performance in front of the camera;
  • “Cat School,” a step behind the scenes to watch as the cast speak about their experiences learning how to move and embody their roles as felines;
  • “Making Macavity,”  in which viewers navigate through an immersive 360º video as the conniving cat duo, Idris Elba and Taylor Swift, master the iconic “Macavity” musical number;
  • “9 Lives: The Cast of Cats,” following the cast on set among the worlds that the filmmakers brought to life at Leavesden Studios;
  • “The Dancers,” a featurette about the dancers in the filmwith host “Frankie” Hayward of the London Royal Ballet;
  • “The Art of Dance,” about choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler work on the film;
  • “Scaling Up,” about how the film is scaled 2.5 times to that of the human perspective;
  • “A Director’s Journey,” with cast and crew talking about Hooper; and
  • “A Little Magic.”

 

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Amazon Prime Video Secures Distribution With Altice European Subsidiaries

Amazon (and Amazon Prime Video) may be available in the U.K., France, Germany and Italy via the Internet. Now, the No. 2 SVOD service behind Netflix has secured direct access deals with pay-TV operator Altice Europe.

The Dutch-based owner of New York-based Cablevision, inked a deal with Prime Video to make the latter’s content directly available via set-top boxes of SFR in France and Altice units in Portugal, Israel and the Dominican Republic, among others.

SFR will be the first of Altice operations and the first operator in France to have the Prime Video app within its LaBox SFR Fibre, SFR Box Plus and SFR Box 8 set-top boxes.

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Subs will have access to Amazon Originals “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Good Omens,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Grand Tour,” “The Boys,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “American Gods” and the highly-anticipated “Carnival Row,” an American neo-noir fantasy Web television series with Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne launching this fall.

SFR customers will also have access to local Originals like Jérôme Commandeur: Tout en douceur and Raphael Varane: Destin de Champion, and popular French and Hollywood movies.

A large selection of titles on Prime Video are available in Ultra High Definition (UHD) and HDR.

The deal furthers Altice’s strategy combining third-party over-the-top online video apps and services with its own content and TV functionality in an integrated experience. The launch will commence after the arrival of Amazon Alexa within SFR Box 8.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Amazon to deliver its highly-popular content, including Amazon Originals and Exclusives, directly to our consumers,”Alain Weill, Altice Europe CEO, Altice France Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We know our customers want to see their favorite shows and programming on their big screen at home, and our collaboration with streaming services like Amazon continues to make that happen.”

Indeed, earlier this month, Mexico’s Totalplay became the first SVOD service in Latin America to offer direct access to Prime Video.

Amazon is also bowing its first original series in Australia with “LOL: Last One Laughing,” starring Rebel Wilson.

Amazon to Produce First Australian Original Series With Rebel Wilson

Australian actress, writer and producer Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, The Hustle, Isn’t It Romantic) has signed on to host and executive produce the first Australian Amazon Original series “LOL: Last One Laughing.”

The comedy-variety series, produced with Endemol Shine Australia, will feature a star-studded cast of 10 Australian comedic actors and stand-ups competing to make each other laugh first. The final comedian left standing will win the grand prize of $100,000 (Australian).

The six-part series will premiere exclusively on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories in 2020.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Prime Video family of creators and talent,” said Wilson in a statement. “I’ve already had the chance to work with Alexa — she’s great — and on Audible, so working with Prime Video seemed like an obvious choice. I can’t wait to see what these talented Australian comedians come up with and how far they’ll go to take home the prize.”

“LOL: Last One Laughing” follows the format of the Amazon Original series from Japan, “Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental,” produced by and starring comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto. The format was also launched in Mexico with comedian Eugenio Derbez as host. The series in Japan and Mexico are currently on their seventh and second seasons, respectively.

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“We’re excited to bring ‘LOL: Last One Laughing’ to our Prime members in Australia and around the world,” said James Farrell, head of international originals for Amazon Studios, in a statement. “Customers in Japan and Mexico have told us they love ‘Documental’ and ‘LOL: Last One Laughing.’ Australia was an easy choice as the next country to bring this to and Rebel Wilson was at the top of our list to host and star. We think our Prime members are going to love it.”

Comedy ‘The Hustle’ Coming to Digital Aug. 6, Disc Aug. 20 From Universal

The Rebel Wilson-Anne Hathaway comedy The Hustle will arrive on digital Aug. 6 and Blu-ray, DVD and on demand Aug. 20 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film stars Academy Award winner Hathaway (Ocean’s 8, The Devil Wears Prada) and Wilson (Isn’t It Romantic, Pitch Perfect) as two scam artists from different worlds who join forces to take down the dirty rotten men who have wronged them. Josephine Chesterfield (Hathaway) is a glamorous, seductive Brit who defrauds gullible wealthy men. Penny (Wilson) amasses wads of cash by ripping off her marks in neighborhood bars. Despite their different methods, both are masters of the art.

The film earned $35.1 million at the box office.

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Bonus features on Blu-ray and DVD include:

  • “Hitting the Mark,” revealing the plans behind the film, from Hathaway’s initial discussions with Jac Schaeffer and Wilson about updating the story for a modern era to director Chris Addison’s collaboration with the cast to craft the comedy on set;
  • “Comedy Class,” exploring the different comedic styles of the actors;
  • “Con Artists,” about the artists behind the camera, costume designer Emmer Fryer and production designer Alice Normington;
  • and feature commentary from Addison.

‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Flies to Top of FandangoNow Chart

The animated How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 5.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Universal film, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, made $160 million at the box office. The “How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy” came in at No. 9, showing there was strong interest in the franchise for the week.

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Landing at No. 2 was the Warner romantic comedy sendup Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson. Wilson and Anne Hathaway star in the current theatrical release The Hustle, which perhaps boosted interest in the Wilson title.

Universal’s Glass, from filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, came in third on the FandangoNow chart, while Universal’s Fighting With My Family, a wrestling story starring Dwayne Johnson, landed at No. 4.

In the No. 5 spot was Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 5 were:

  1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World *
  2. Isn’t It Romantic *
  3. Glass *
  4. Fighting With My Family
  5. Cold Pursuit *
  6. Aquaman *
  7. Serenity
  8. The Mule *
  9. How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy *
  10. Arctic *

 

*Available in 4K

Warner Releasing ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ Digitally April 30, on Disc May 21

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the comedy Isn’t It Romantic digitally April 30, and on Blu-ray and DVD May 21.

The film stars Rebel Wilson as an architect who is knocked out while being mugged and wakes up to discover she’s the leading lady in a romantic comedy. The cast also includes Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine and Priyanka Chopra.

The film earned $47.6 million at the domestic box office.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include an “I Wanna Dance!” featurette. The Blu-ray will also include deleted scenes.