Fast X

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/8/23;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $145.96 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $34.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Rita Moreno, Leo Abelo Perry, Jason Statham, Jason Momoa, Charlize Theron.

As over the top as Fast X may be, at least they don’t go into space this time. New franchise director Louis Leterrier brings the action back down to Earth a bit while finding new ways to push the audiences’ suspension of disbelief to its limits.

As shown in the bonus material, Leterrier seems excited for the chance to put his stamp on a franchise that has had a tenuous relationship with verisimilitude for a number of films, if only for the excuse to bring to life action concepts ruminating in his head since he was a child.

The story stems from the events of Fast 5, which set the stage for the series’ outlandish change of course with its ridiculous heist climax featuring two muscle cars dragging a multi-ton vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The villain of Fast 5 was killed during that final chase, and 10 years later his son, Dante (Jason Momoa), wants revenge.

Setting out with the flamboyancy of a 1960s Batman villain, Dante must first level-up his resources in order to go toe-to-toe with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, who since that film have morphed from simple street racing hustlers to global secret agents. To demonstrate how dangerous he is, the film has him take over the high-tech operations of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the villain of the last couple of “Fast” films, and arranges to split Team Toretto apart on different missions. From there Dom and his family are subjected to an elaborate series of death traps around the world designed to make them suffer until he can maneuver them into one final improbable battle.

Almost lost among the spectacle is that the massive cast has managed to bring together two actors who have played Aquaman — in addition to Momoa, there’s Alan Ritchson, who portrayed the master of the sea on “Smallville,” on hand here as an Agency supercop whose skepticism of Team Toretto’s loyalties provides another wrinkle to the plot.

This film was touted is the beginning of the end for the franchise, as the first part of a grand finale for the characters, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film ends with a series of cliffhangers and teases for more movies to come.

Still, as exhausting as Fast X can be at times, it can at least be admired for the sheer audacity of the stunts we are expected to believe are happening within the realm of a real physical world. The mayhem looks great in 4K, though the vivid explosions and the exploits of Dom’s seemingly indestructible super-car tend to verge on the cartoonish side.

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In addition to a solo commentary from an enthusiastic Leterrier, the Blu-ray also includes a five-minute gag reel, two forgettable music videos, and nearly 75 minutes of informative (but repetitive) behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The general making of the film is covered in the 35-minute “This Is Family.” Additional featurettes include the 13-minute “Xtreme Rides of Fast X” that profiles the vehicles in the film (which are actually described as the superhero suits to the films’ characters); the seven-minute “Belles of the Brawl” that looks at how the women of the film prepared for their action scenes; the five-minute “Tuned Into Rio” looks at the film’s connections to Fast 5; The two-minute “Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome” focuses on the actor’s role in the franchise, his stunts and a key sequence set in Rome; the three-minute “Little B Takes the Wheel” takes a look at Leo Abelo Perry joining the franchise as Dom’s son; and the minute-and-a-half “A Friend in the End” looks at the film’s post-credits sequence.

Finally, there’s a nearly eight-minute segment of Leterrier breaking down specific action scenes.

Universal’s ‘Fast X’ Speeds to $319 Million Global Theatrical Opening, Despite Slower Domestic Debut

Universal Pictures’ Fast X, the 10th installment in the primary “Fast & Furious” speeding cars action franchise, generated more than $67 million in projected North American ticket sales in its theatrical debut through the weekend ended May 21. Globally, the Vin Diesel-led movie topped $319 million, the sixth highest in the post-pandemic era, and much-needed considering the movie’s reported record $340 million production budget.

At the same time, the North American tally looks to fall slightly short of previous franchise release F9, which generated more than $70 million in its opening weekend debut in 2021. In fact, Fast X looks to finish behind 2017’s The Fate of the Furious ($98.8 million), Furious 7 ($147.2 million), Fast & Furious 6 ($97.3 million), 2011’s Fast 5 ($86.2 million), and 2009’s Fast & Furious at $71 million. The movie does surpass the $60 million opening box office for 2019 spin-off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Not surprisingly, Universal is looking at the global picture, including more than $250 million in foreign ticket sales, excluding Canada.

“What a tremendous global debut for this incredible, unique franchise,” Jim Orr, president of domestic theatrical distribution, said in a statement. “Audiences were revved up to see their beloved Fast family back in theaters with all the spectacular action and familial themes that resonate so well across the globe.”

In addition, the movie easily held off previous box office No. 1, Disney/Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which saw another $32 million in ticket sales to up its North American box office past $267 million, and $659 million globally.

Rounding out the podium: Universal’s animated behemoth The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which added almost $10 million in revenue despite being available in the home to buy or rent digitally priced from $24.99. The movie has now surpassed Disney’s Incredibles 2 as the No. 3 all-time grossing animated movie with $1.24 billion in ticket sales. Super Mario Bros. remains the top-grossing North American release in 2023 with almost $550 million in revenue.

Universal’s box office presence continued with Book Club: The Next Chapter adding $3 million in ticket sales, upping the sequel’s total past $13 million, still behind its reported $20 million production budget.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ supernatural horror film Evil Dead Rise sold another $2.3 million worth of tickets to up the scratched HBO Max original movie’s global tally past $140 million worldwide.

Finally, Lionsgate’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret generated $1.3 million to up its North American total near $19 million. John Wick: Chapter 4 took in an estimated $1.3 million to up its North American tally past $185 million. And Lionsgate’s World War II drama Sisu added $171,600 in ticket sales to up its domestic tally past $7 million.

80 for Brady

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Comedy;
Box Office $39.33 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for brief strong language, some drug content and some suggestive references.
Stars Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field, Tom Brady, Billy Porter, Harry Hamlin, Guy Fieri, Alex Moffat, Rob Corddry, Glynn Turman, Ron Funches, Bob Balaban, Jimmy O. Yang, Matt Lauria, Sara Gilbert, Sally Kirkland, Andy Richter.

On the roster of wackiest sports comedies in cinema history, there have been films about field-goal kicking mules, dogs playing basketball, and angels providing supernatural guidance to baseball teams. So the premise of four old ladies taking a road trip to see Tom Brady play in the Super Bowl would hardly scratch the surface.

80 for Brady chronicles a weekend in the lives of four friends — Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field — as they attempt to crash Super Bowl LI in Houston. The game has a special significance to them as they are huge devotees of Tom Brady, having accidentally stumbled upon the game in 2001 in which the Patriots were playing the Jets and Brady had to come in off the bench to take over for an injured Drew Bledsoe. The moment inspired Lou (Tomlin) in her battle against cancer, so the quartet made rooting for Brady a weekly tradition.

After 16 years, however, Lou fears the cancer may have returned, and hits upon the idea of visiting the Super Bowl as one last great adventure. Lou surprises her friends with tickets to the big game she says she won in a radio contest, and the trip is on.

The concept was inspired by a real-life group of Patriots fans called the “Over 80 for Brady” club, with the idea for a film based upon them being pitched by one of their grandsons.

Sports enthusiasts in the audience might recall that Super Bowl LI, played in 2017, was the game in which the Atlanta Falcons held a commanding 28-3 lead before Brady led the Patriots to a comeback win to claim the NFL championship. That’s the backdrop for 80 for Brady, which is essentially the story of Super Bowl LI by way of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, as the ladies find themselves involved in all sorts of mischief during the festivities leading up to the big game, putting themselves in a position to alter the course of sports history.

It’s all an amusing bit of fluff that gives four iconic Hollywood actresses another chance to command the screen and have a lot of fun doing so. The project also let Tomlin and Fonda continue their collaborative streak that began when they started production on “Grace and Frankie” in 2014.

As if feeding off that vibe, there’s a music video on the Blu-ray for the song “Gonna Be You” written by Diane Warren, performed by Tomlin and Fonda’s old 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton alongside Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan and Debbie Harry — a lineup of music legends to parallel the group from the film.

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The Blu-ray is loaded with a ton of behind-the-scenes material, starting with the nearly 14-minute “The Game Plan: Making 80 For Brady,” which offers a general look at the production. The nine-minute “The GOATs: Jane, Lily, Rita & Sally” focuses on the main cast, while the seven-minute “The Visiting Team: Meet the Supporting Cast” gives their co-stars a chance to discuss the fun they had making the movie. There’s also a four-minute “80 For Brady: Play-By-Play” roundtable discussion with some of the actresses, hosted by Billy Porter.

On the sports side of things, the six -minute “The Largest Comeback in Super Bowl History” looks at the real-life game at the center of the film.

Rounding out the extras are three deleted and extended scenes totaling about four minutes of material.

Paramount to Bow ’80 for Brady’ for Premium Digital Purchase and Rental March 7

Paramount Home Entertainment will release the comedy 80 for Brady for premium digital purchase (PEST) and rental (PVOD) March 7.

Inspired by a true story, the film follows four best friends (played by Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field) living life to the fullest when they take a wild trip to the 2017 Super Bowl LI to see their hero Tom Brady play.

The film also stars Tom Brady, Billy Porter, Rob Corddry, Alex Moffat, Guy Fieri, Harry Hamlin, Bob Balaban, Glynn Turman, Sara Gilbert, Jimmy O. Yang, Ron Funches and Matt Lauria.

Special features on digital include “The Game Plan: Making 80 for Brady,” a sneak peek at the making of the film; “The GOATs: Jane, Lily, Rita & Sally,” an ode to aging, the power of female friendship, and how wisdom surpasses youth; “The Visiting Team: Meet the Supporting Cast,” featuring Sara Gilbert, Billy Porter, Jimmy O. Yang, Harry Hamlin, Guy Fieri, and Patton Oswalt for behind-the-scenes interviews; “The Largest Comeback in Super Bowl History,” in which Tom Brady and his teammates relive their epic comeback; extended and deleted scenes; “80 For Brady: Play-By-Play,” a roundtable play-by-play with host Billy Porter; and the “Gonna Be You” music video, featuring Dolly Parton, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, and Debbie Harry for the song written by Diane Warren.

80 for Brady will also be available in a two-movie collection with Book Club for digital purchase at a special price starting March 7. It arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD May 2.

West Side Story (2021)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/15/22;
Disney/20th Century;
Musical;
Box Office $38.32 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, strong language, thematic content, suggestive material and brief smoking.
Stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Josh Andrés Rivera, Rita Moreno.

Director Steven Spielberg tries his hand at filming a feature-length musical for the first time in his career with a fresh adaptation of the acclaimed 1957 stage version that played on Broadway.

The play, based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, was famously adapted into a film version in 1961 that won the Oscar for Best Picture, so there were serious doubts over whether a modern remake was even necessary.

Spielberg, though, grew up with the music of the original stage version, and felt a 60-year gap between the films was enough time to justify his own take on the material.

The original version, conceived of by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents, modernized Shakespeare’s famed love story to be about rival street gangs in New York in the 1950s — the Jets, who were white Americans, and the Sharks, who were Puerto Rican. Their power struggle is complicated when a Jet named Tony falls in love with Maria, sister of the head of the Sharks.

Rather than re-modernize the play modern day, Spielberg is faithful to the 1950 setting, going so far as to shoot it on film in a way that just looks like it could have been shot back then.

While respectful of the 1961 version directed by Robbins and Robert Wise, Spielberg embraces the cinematic nature of the story’s gang war to great effect, with impeccably staged musical numbers that don’t detract from the romantic nature of Tony and Maria’s story, or the violent backdrop of the life-and-death battle to control the streets.

Ansel Elgort makes for a fine Tony, while newcomer Rachel Zegler carries the day as Maria. Rita Moreno, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for playing Maria’s friend Anita in the original film, returns to the cast in a reworking of the Doc character that serves as a mentor to Tony.

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The Blu-ray includes a thorough 96-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that is broken up into smaller featurettes that cover individual topics such as costumes, sets, and the staging for several of the songs, which have been slightly rearranged to heighten the emotional impact of the story.

Some of these making-of segments include one of the last interviews with Sondheim, who died aged 91 in November 2021 just days before the new film’s premiere.

Disney Sets Transactional Home Release Dates for ‘West Side Story’ Remake

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution will release Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic 1961 musical West Side Story through digital retailers March 2, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray two weeks later on March 15

As previously announced, the 20th Century Studios production be available for streaming on Disney+ and HBO Max starting March 2 as well.

West Side Story, which is nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, tells the tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. The remake stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); with Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works); and introducing Rachel Zegler (Maria.) Moreno also serves as one of the film’s executive producers. 

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The film’s creative team includes Kushner, who also served as an executive producer; Tony Award winner Justin Peck, who choreographed the musical numbers in the film; Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and Grammy Award winner Gustavo Dudamel, who helmed the recording of the iconic score; Academy Award-nominated composer and conductor David Newman, who arranged the score, Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori, who supervised the cast on vocals; and music supervisor Matt Sullivan, who serves as executive music producer for the film.

Extas include various making-of documentaries under the banner “The Stories of West Side Story,” including a look at the actors who play rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets, and a tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics to the film’s musical numbers. Bonus features on the digital editions vary by retailer.

Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ to Stream on Disney+, HBO Max Starting March 2

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-lauded musical feature West Side Story will debut on Disney+ in the United States and most international countries on March 2. 

It will also reportedly stream on HBO Max in the United States.

The film will launch in Taiwan on March 9 and Japan on March 30 on Disney+.

In addition, the ABC one-hour special “Something’s Coming: West Side Story — A Special Edition of 20/20” is available to stream on Disney+ now.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose) and 11 Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (DeBose, Rita Moreno), West Side Story is the winner of three Golden Globe awards — Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy; Best Actress, Musical or Comedy (Rachel Zegler) and Best Supporting Actress (DeBose). The film has also received nominations from the DGA (Spielberg), PGA (Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger), WGA (Tony Kushner) and SAG (DeBose for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role) and has been named one of the year’s top 10 films by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review, the latter having voted Rachel Zegler Best Actress of the Year.

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Directed by Spielberg from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner, West Side Story tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. This reimagining of the musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); with Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works); and introducing Rachel Zegler (Maria). 

‘West Side Story’ Projected to Lead Slow Weekend Box Office

Director Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story is expected to top the North American weekend box office through Dec. 12.

With just one other new release, STX Films’ National Champions, 20th Century Studios’ Story, which has generated positive buzz for Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1957 original Broadway musical, hopes to take advantage of a weekend box office lull before the Dec. 17 debut of Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home. That latest superhero actioner has equaled (or broken) most exhibitor’s advance ticket sale records.

West Side Story was filmed in 2019 and set to be released in 2020 until the pandemic shelved the release. The tragic teenage love story that emerges against the backdrop of a racial turf war features a notable appearance by Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar playing Anita in the original 1961 movie. Moreno, who was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, turns 90 tomorrow (Dec. 11).

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Meanwhile, returning box office contenders include Disney’s Encanto, Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife, United Artists’ House of Gucci, Fathom Events’ Christmas With The Chosen: The Messengers, Marvel Studios’ Eternals, Sony Pictures’ Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, and Paramount Pictures’ Clifford the Big Red Dog.

All are projected to top National Champions, the topical sports drama about a star college football quarterback who encourages a strike by his teammates before the National Championship game in protest over the exploitation of student-athletes in the multi-billion-dollar industry that is NCAA Div. 1 football and basketball. The movie is executive produced by Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who appears in the film.

Netflix Blows Lid Off Hollywood’s Female Age Ceiling

Hollywood’s age cap on conventional female attractiveness has always been unfairly low when compared to male actors. Netflix appears to be disrupting this industry norm as well.

It just launched a 13-episode reboot of Norman Lear’s long-running 70s-80s sitcom, “One Day at a Time,” co-starring 87-year-old Rita Moreno as an “old-school” Cuban-born mom who hardly looks or acts her age.

The SVOD behemoth earlier this month bowed season four of acclaimed comedy, “Grace and Frankie,” co-starring timeless Jane Fonda (who just turned 80) and 79-year-old Lily Tomlin. Both actors shine with their 77-year-old male counterparts, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

But they’re all “teens” compared to Betty White, who at age 96 has inked a deal to reprise her role in a reboot of “The Golden Girls.” The original 80s series co-starred Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan, all of whom have died.

It’s a strong statement in an industry obsessed with youth and millennial indifference toward tradition. A Time magazine study found female actors’ careers peak at age 30 in the number of roles available, compared to age 46 for male actors. The study found that while Sandra Bullock generated more paying roles (14) than George Clooney (2) at age 29 – at age 38, Clooney generated 11 roles compared to six for Bullock.

To watch Moreno guest-star on an episode of “Grace and Frankie” is to watch time stand still. In a career that spans almost 70 years, Moreno held her own among strong personalities Fonda, Tomlin, Marsha Mason (75) and Swoosie Kurtz (73).

Indeed, series creator Marta Kauffmann (“Friends”) has made a point to comedically showcase yesterday’s female (and male) stars coming to grips being seniors in a tech-savvy age — a dilemma no one can escape.

But will Hollywood take note?

Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says that while Netflix is again pushing the envelope, he believes Fonda, Tomlin, Moreno and White are outliers in an industry still preoccupied by youth.

“The biggest appeal of age is relatability to the target audience, so I presume these actors resonate with a demographic that Netflix is trying to capture,” Pachter said.