The War With Grandpa

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $18.39 million;
$22.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor, language, and some thematic elements.
Stars Robert De Niro, Oakes Fegley, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Laura Marano, Poppy Gagnon, Cheech Marin, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour.

Based on the children’s novel of the same name by Robert Kimmel Smith, The War With Grandpa is an odd little comedy that seems more mean-spirited than it turns out to be.

Robert De Niro stars as Ed, who moves in with his daughter (Uma Thurman) after an accident. When he’s given the room of his grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), this upsets the young lad. And since he’s just learning about the U.S. Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence in school, he sends a note to grandpa declaring war unless his room is returned.

Grandpa has a few chuckles with his pals over the note, but doesn’t take it too seriously, prompting Peter to escalate things to a full-on prank war.

Ed, understanding his grandson’s frustration but egged on by his friends, pulls Peter aside and they work out a series of rules for when and where they can prank each other — the most important one is not letting Peter’s parents or other siblings find out about it — so it never gets beyond harmless fun.

That is, until Peter’s younger sister has a Christmas-themed birthday party that gives the filmmakers all sorts of excuses for mayhem.

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 The War With Grandpa is filled with occasional laughs and should serve as a nice diversion for families looking to pass the time. In addition to the pretty standard back-and-forth prank format, the film also heavily relies on a “Family Guy”-style flashback structure — in which a character brings up something that happened, prompting the film to cut to a scene of the humorous incident occurring.

There’s also some clever stuff about the generational technology gap, as grandpa can’t figure out how phones and automated checkout machines work, while the Jenny the youngest granddaughter keeps asking if Ed wants to watch a movie on the tablet she’s always toting around.

The Blu-ray presentation doesn’t include any extras.

‘War With Grandpa,’ ‘The Craft: Legacy’ Debut Today on Blu-ray Disc, DVD

A week after its digital debut, Universal Pictures’ The War With Grandpa becomes available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 22.

Also new to Blu-ray Disc and DVD, in a slow week for new releases, is Blumhouse’s The Craft: Legacy, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The War With Grandpa stars Robert De Niro as a recently widowed grandfather who moves in with his daughter (Uma Thurman), forcing his sixth-grader grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), to begrudgingly give up his bedroom. To get his room back, Peter stages an assortment of inventive pranks, only to find Grandpa is an expert at payback — and soon the two are engaged in an all-out “war.” The War With Grandpa is based on Robert Kimmel Smith’s children’s book of the same name. The cast also includes Rob Riggle, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour, Laura Marano and Christopher Walken.

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The Craft: Legacy is a continuation of the 1996 film The Craft, in which aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers. The film is written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and stars Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale, On the Basis of Sex), Gideon Adlon (The Society, Blockers, The Mustang), Lovie Simone (Selah & the Spades, Greenleaf), Zoey Luna (Pose, Boundless) and Nicholas Galitzine (Cinderella), with Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny.

The film debuted on PVOD Oct. 28. Bonus materials on the newly released Blu-ray Disc and DVD include two featurettes and four alternate scenes with an introduction from the director.

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Arriving Dec. 22 on DVD only are Paramount Home Entertainment’s Jiu Jitsu and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Kajillionaire.

The Nicolas Cage actioner Jiu Jitsu follows an ancient order of Jiu Jitsu fighters who face a vicious race of alien invaders in an epic battle for the survival of Earth. The film also stars Alain Moussi, Frank Grillo, Rick Yune, Marie Avgeropoulos, Juju Chan and Tony Jaa.

The Miranda July-directed comedy Kajillionaire, from Focus Features, stars Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins as con artists who for nearly three decades have trained their only daughter, portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood, in the art of thievery as well. After recruiting a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) during their next heist things take a bizarre turn.

‘Tenet’ Arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD; Other New Home Releases Include ‘War With Grandpa,’ ‘Echo Boomers,’ ‘Infidel’

Warner Bros.’ Tenet, the closest thing to a theatrical blockbuster  since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, becomes available on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 15.

Despite the raging virus, the film was released theatrically over the Labor Day weekend and wound up generating around $50 million in domestic ticket sales, a far cry from what had been expected for the high-profile  espionage thriller from The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan.

Also newly available for home viewing is the Universal Pictures comedy The War With Grandpa, starring Robert De Niro, which becomes available Dec. 15 through digital retailers such as FandangoNow, Redbox On Demand, Google Play and Microsoft a week ahead of its Dec. 22 disc debut.

Tenet stars John David Washington as a secret agent, known as “the Protagonist,” who manipulates the flow of time to stop a third World War. The film’s international ensemble cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

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The War With Grandpa stars De Niro as a grandfather who tangles with his grandson over rights to the young boy’s room after he moves in with his family. The film also was released theatrically amid widespread closures and restrictions and pulled in around $18 million in the United States and Canada.

The week’s slate of new home releases also includes Warner’s The Wolf of Snow Hollow, on DVD and Blu-ray Disc (with digital code); Paramount’s Echo Boomers (DVD + digital); and Universal Pictures’ Infidel (DVD and Blu-ray Disc).

Written and directed by, and starring, Jim Cummings, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a reimagining of the werewolf legend about a small-town sheriff who, while struggling with family problems and a lackluster department, is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring on the full moon. The cast also includes Riki Lindhome, Jimmy Tatro, Marshall Allman, Chloe East, Annie Hamilton and the late Robert Forster in one of his final roles. The Blu-ray and DVD include the featurette “The Story and the Genre.” The Blu-ray also has the featurettes “The Impetus,” “Working With Jim Cummings” and “The Design of the Werewolf.”

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Echo Boomers is a crime thriller about a recent college graduate (Patrick Schwarzenegger) who leaves school in debt and is pulled into a criminal underground operation with a group of modern-day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and give to themselves.

Infidel is a thriller about an American journalist (Doug Rawlins) who is kidnapped while attending a religious conference in the Middle East and held hostage by the Iranian regime, which accuses him of espionage. His wife (Claudia Karvan) takes matters into her own hands and tries to find her husband and bring him back home.

‘War With Grandpa’ Arriving Digitally Dec. 15, on Disc Dec. 22

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release The War With Grandpa through digital retailers Dec. 15, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Dec. 22.

Based on Robert Kimmel Smith’s children’s book of the same name, the film follows a series of escalating shenanigans that ensue when a recently widowed grandfather (Robert De Niro) moves in with his daughter (Uma Thurman), forcing his sixth-grader grandson, Peter (Oakes Fegley), to begrudgingly give up his bedroom. To get his room back, Peter devises a series of increasingly elaborate pranks, but Grandpa won’t go without a fight, and soon the friendly combatants are engaged in an all-out war.

The cast also includes Rob Riggle, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour, Laura Marano and Christopher Walken.

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‘Buddy Games,’ ‘Iron Mask’ Top Slate of Thanksgiving Week Disc and Digital Releases

The Paramount Pictures comedy Buddy Games, the Arnold Schwarzenegger fantasy adventure Iron Mask, and the fifth season of popular TV series “Better Call Saul” top the slate of new disc and digital releases available for home viewers beginning Nov. 24.

Also newly available to buy or rent: the Martin Scorsese mob film The Irishman and Paramount’s Fatman, a black comedy starring Mel Gibson.

Buddy Games is being released through digital retailers and on DVD.  The film follows six lifelong friends who have a five-year falling out. Bob (Josh Duhamel), aka “The Bobfather,” reunites his pals for the Buddy Games, a competition of absurd physical and mental challenges with the chance to win a $150,000 pot. The determined dudes fight, claw and party for the big bucks in this bro-fest featuring Dax Shepard (CHiPs), Olivia Munn (Office Christmas Party) and Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”).

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Lionsgate is bringing Iron Mask to Blu-ray Disc and DVD four days after the film was released through digital retailers. Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan face off against each other in battle. In order to save his homeland from certain doom, a kung fu master (Chan) must escape from the maniacal James Hook (Schwarzenegger) to send his daughter a secret talisman that will allow her to control a massive and mythical dragon. The globe-trotting tale — ranging from the impenetrable Tower of London to the fabled Silk Road and China’s Great Wall — also stars Rutger Hauer in one of the screen icon’s final performances.

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“Better Call Saul” is the critically hailed prequel to “Breaking Bad.” In season 5, which Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing Nov. 24 on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) begins practicing law under the name Saul Goodman. Extras on the Blu-ray and DVD include cast and crew commentaries on all 10 episodes, a gag reel, Mesa Verde Bank and Trust TV spots, Kim’s ethics training videos, and a “Crystal Balls” featurette. The Blu-ray also offers deleted scenes and assorted featurettes.

The Irishman, which earned a slew of Oscar nominations after debuting on Netflix in 2019, is being issued as a two-disc Blu-ray Disc and DVD set by Criterion. The film stars two well-known alumni of previous Scorsese gangster films, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, as well as Al Pacino, who left his mark on the genre with his portrayal of Michael Corleone in the three “Godfather” movies. De Niro stars as Sheeran, the “Irishman” of the title, a truck driver who gets drawn into the mafia as an enforcer. He eventually becomes a trusted ally of Teamster president Hoffa (Pacino), a friendship that comes to a head when Hoffa’s actions run afoul of the mafia’s leadership.

Fatman stars Gibson as a frustrated Santa Claus who is targeted by a rich kid who received a lump of coal for his selfishness. The kid hires an assassin to kill Santa.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

The Irishman

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/24/20;
Criterion;
Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive language and strong violence.
Stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Graham, Harvey Keitel.

Lest anyone accuse Martin Scorsese of glamorizing gangsters, he presents The Irishman, a screed against the criminal lifestyle.

The film is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, a recounting of the life of mafia hitman Frank Sheeran, the man who claims to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, the union boss whose disappearance in 1975 became one of the 20th century’s great mysteries.

The subject matter is fodder for Scorsese, who assembles a cast of mob-movie all-stars to deliver another highly entertaining trip into the inner workings of the criminal underworld. This includes usual Scorsese collaborators such as Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who was coaxed out of retirement to appear). It is somehow also the first teaming of Al Pacino with Scorsese despite both being famously associated with the mafia movie genres.

The film, which earned a slew of Oscar nominations after debuting on Netflix in 2019, is lengthy at three-and-a-half hours, but is briskly paced enough to hold one’s attention. Of course, the nature of home video also allows viewers to pause the movie whenever they want, giving Scorsese plenty of leeway to indulge himself.

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De Niro stars as Sheeran, the ‘Irishman’ of the title, a truck driver who gets drawn into the mafia as an enforcer. He eventually becomes a trusted ally of Teamster president Hoffa (Al Pacino), a friendship that comes to a head when Hoffa’s actions run afoul of the mafia’s leadership.

The extended running time not only allows the audience time to get to know the characters, but it also allows Scorsese to hone in on an aspect of criminal life that wasn’t central to his earlier works in the genre: What happens to the violent gangsters who manage not to get killed and end up growing old? Was their life of crime still worth it once they realize what they had to leave behind to achieve it?

As if to carry the point home, Scorsese makes a point to pause the introductions of several minor characters to display an on-screen graphic describing their fates, which usually involves a horrific, violent death.

On the subject of aging, the film famously made extensive use of de-aging visual effects software in order to allow the elderly stars to play the younger versions of their characters since the film spans several decades. Scorsese in the Blu-ray’s bonus materials says the technology was vital to his deciding to direct the film, as he didn’t want to have to cast younger actors for the earlier scenes and only work with De Niro for half the movie. The results are subtle if not always perfect, but they don’t hamper the effectiveness of the film at all.

Because of the film’s length, Criterion has made the Blu-ray of The Irishman a two-disc set, with the entirety of the movie presented as the only content on the first disc. All the bonus materials are on the second disc and they do a good job of taking viewers behind the scenes of the film. Both discs come in a handsome fold-out slipcover with some beautiful painted artwork of De Niro and Pacino, plus a booklet with an essay about the film.

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In addition to the film’s trailers, the extras include a 36-minute “Making The Irishman” featurette that covers all the aspects of the production.

Film history fans will get a kick out of the 19-minute “Table for Four” featurette, a roundtable conversation between Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci as they discuss their careers and how they came together for this movie.

Also interesting is the 21-and-a-half-minute “Gangsters’ Requiem,” a video essay about the evolution of Scorsese’s career and how his previous works are reflected in The Irishman.

A five-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” video features Scorsese providing commentary on the Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night scene.

The film’s visual effects techniques are expanded upon in the 13-minute “The Evolution of Digital De-Aging as Seen in The Irishman” featurette, which was originally a Netflix promotional piece.

Finally, there are a couple of archival videos that the filmmakers used in re-creating historic events: a six-minute interview with an elderly Sheeran, and a 17-and-a-half minute news profile of Hoffa by David Brinkley in 1963.

Criterion Releasing Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 24

The Criterion Collection Nov. 24 will release Blu-ray Disc and DVD editions of director Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed mobster epic The Irishman.

The three-and-a-half-hour movie, which earned 10 Oscar nominations but didn’t win any, stars Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, a former hitman and union truck driver who reflects on his life in organized crime in the mid-20th century, from his involvement with Philadelphia mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) to his association with Teamsters union head Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), and the rift that forced him to choose between the two.

The movie arrives on disc a year after its debut on Netflix, sporting a new 4K digital master approved by Scorsese, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

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Extras include a newly edited roundtable conversation among Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino and Pesci originally recorded in 2019; a new documentary about the making of the film; a new video essay written and narrated by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about The Irishman’s synthesis of Scorsese’s singular formal style; “The Evolution of Digital De-aging,” a 2019 program on the visual effects created for the film; archival interview excerpts with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and International Brotherhood of Teamsters trade union leader Jimmy Hoffa; the film’s trailer and teaser; plus an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien.

Criterion previously released disc versions of Netflix originals Roma and Marriage Story.

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Apple TV+ Inks Movie/TV Production Deal With Martin Scorsese

Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese has signed a production deal with Apple TV+ to create original movies and TV shows for the subscription streaming video-on-demand platform.

Scorsese’s last film, The Irishman for Netflix, was nominated for numerous industry awards without winning anything despite a cast featuring Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro  and Al Pacino.

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The Apple deal, which follows a similar deal with Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, means Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon, starring DiCaprio and De Niro, will stream on the platform following a theatrical debut sometime in 2021.

Apple has sought to significantly up its content profile since launching Apple TV+ on Nov. 1, 2019. The $4.99 monthly service has inked separate deals with Idris Elba and Ridley Scott, in addition to deals with Sesame Workshop and Peanuts brands.

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Shout Select Releasing ‘Deer Hunter’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray May 26

Shout Select, the premium imprint of indie distributor Shout! Factory, will release The Deer Hunter on 4K Ultra HD disc for the first time May 26.

The Deer Hunter: Collector’s Edition two-disc combo pack will present the 1978 Best Picture Oscar winner on both a 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray Disc loaded with bonus features including new interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

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The film follows a group of Pennsylvania steelworkers from their blue-collar lives, hunting in the woods of the Alleghenies, to the hell of the Vietnam War. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage and Meryl Streep.

In addition to Best Picture, the film won Academy Awards for director Michael Cimino, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Walken, Best Sound and Best Film Editing.

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Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs will include audio commentary by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and journalist Bob Fisher.

The Blu-ray will also include new interviews with Savage, actress Rutanya Alda, producer Michael Deeley, post-production supervisor Katy Haber and Universal Marketing executive Willette Klausner. Other extras include an interview with film critic David Thomson, deleted and extended scenes, a theatrical trailer, radio spots and a still gallery.

Fans who preorder the combo pack from ShoutFactory.com will also receive an exclusive 18x 24-inch poster, while supplies last.

Joker

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/7/20;
Warner;
Drama;
Box Office $333.5 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.
Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Douglas Hodge, Josh Pais, Leigh Gill.

In DC Comics, the Joker has been Batman’s primary nemesis for 80 years, and part of the reason he remains such a fascinating character is the mystery surrounding his origins and motivations.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been versions of a Joker origin story over the years, most often tailored to a specific story being told. There just hasn’t been a definitive one as clean as his counterpart’s, the boy who grew up to fight crime after the murder of his parents. The tale of the Joker is often messy and contradictory, which only adds to his intrigue and popularity.

With the movie aptly named Joker, director Todd Phillips brings a new interpretation of the character. The script by Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver is mostly a gritty, disturbing character study about what could push a man to reject society and embrace chaos; calling it Joker, as Phillips admits in the bonus materials, just gives comic book fans an excuse to see it.

But that’s not quite a fair assessment, as the story, while not directly adapting any of the myriad source material available, does touch upon several classic elements associated with Joker and Batman from the comics, particularly the notion that all it takes is “one bad day” to push a man over the edge.

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The film is anchored by Joaquin Phoenix’s immersive performance as Arthur Fleck, an anti-social, mentally ill loner and aspiring stand-up comedian who fantasizes about being accepted by a society that has little use for him. The film is set in 1981 in a moody version of Gotham City that threatens to burst at the seams at any moment, as corrupt bureaucrats leave public services underfunded while the wealthiest citizens, including Thomas Wayne, seem to have no interest in alleviating the tension.

While the story takes some violent turns and the film has courted controversy with its disturbing tone and sympathetic portrayal of a homicidal iconoclast, it nonetheless became a massive it. The film’s version of its title character has struck a nerve, becoming something of an anti-establishment champion of the downtrodden.

Phillips himself as even hinted that maybe Fleck isn’t the villain who ultimately confronts Batman, but is more of an inspiration for whomever that may be. But that’s a debate for fans and potentially a sequel that was never intended but may become a reality due to the film’s success.

Even so, there’s no requirement that this version of Joker be tied to any of the other versions of DC characters being displayed on the big screen at the moment. The look and style of the film is heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese crime dramas of the 1970s and ’80s, particularly Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, which is perfectly in line with graphic novels that reimagine characters in different settings, something DC’s Elseworlds imprint did all the time. So, this movie is basically just what if the Joker were a Scorsese antihero.

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The bonus materials for his initial home video release of Joker are somewhat sparse given its impact. The primary extra is “Joker: Vision & Fury,” a pretty good 22-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with many of the filmmakers and cast discussing how they sought to present their distinct vision of the character and his circumstances.

The other three featurettes are short highlight reels. “Becoming Joker” is a minute-and-a-half montage of Phoenix test footage; “Please Welcome … Joker!” is a nearly three-minute compilation of alternate takes of Joker’s entrance onto the late-night talk show that plays a central role in the story; and “Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos” is little more than a three-minute slideshow of photos from the movie.

A commentary with Phillips is available exclusively through copies of the film on iTunes, which owners of the Blu-ray can access as a result of the Movies Anywhere redemption code included with the disc.