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.

Kino Lorber Launches 2022 Disc Slate With Thriller ‘This Game’s Called Murder’

Kino Lorber is kicking off the new year with the Jan. 18 Blu-ray Disc-only release of the 2021 thriller This Game’s Called Murder, with a cast that includes Ron Perlman, Natasha Henstridge, Vanessa Marano and James Lastovic.

Directed by Adam Sherman, the film is a dark comedic tale of murder, greed and betrayal in the eccentric Wallendorf family. Mr. Wallendorf (Perlman) is a women’s footwear designer with a sadistic streak. His wife (Henstridge) is his equal in conniving and brutality, while their troubled daughter Jennifer (Marano) is a social media celebrity trying to figure out her love life and world domination at the same time. “The Wallendorfs are power-crazed sociopaths, and This Game’s Called Murder exposes their most outré transgressions with shocking savagery,” according to a press release.

Bonus features include interviews with Perlman, Henstridge, and Marano.

Monster Hunter

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Action Fantasy;
Box Office $15.1 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $40.99 UHD BD;

Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of creature action and violence throughout.
Stars Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung, Ron Perlman.

Seeing how Monster Hunter is based on a video game and stars Milla Jovovich, it’s not hard to guess the director would likely be Paul W.S. Anderson. And like most of his films (Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator), Monster Hunter is a slick-looking production light on story and heavy on action. Think of it as Stargate mixed with Tremors.

Jovovich (who is married to Anderson in real life) plays the captain of a United Nations unit searching for a lost patrol in the desert. They get hit by a sandstorm that sends them through a portal to another world where they encounter the missing patrol, wiped out. They soon discover this new world is populated by deadly giant monsters that start attacking them, but they find help in the form of a hunter (Tony Jaa) who knows how to fight the creatures. He survived an attack on his vessel, essentially a clipper ship that sails the sand dunes as if they were water, that left him not knowing if anyone else from his crew survived.

And the movie doesn’t get much more complicated than that. They fight a variety of monsters and come to the conclusion that the realm to Earth has to be protected lest any number of dragon-type monsters cross over.

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Anderson, a self-professed fan of the video game who has apparently been trying to make this movie for 10 years, says in the bonus materials that his primary goal was to include as many familiar elements from the game as possible. Most of the featurettes are geared toward how the production went about doing that, with the intent of making a movie that fans of the game franchise will enjoy.

The eight-minute “The Monster Hunters” showcases the film’s cast; the seven-minute “For the Players: Game to Screen,” provides a look at how closely the visual effects and design elements of the movie match the costumes, characters and creatures of the video games; and “Monstrous Arsenal” is a five-minute look at the weapons used in the film.

The Blu-ray also includes two deleted scenes running a total of three minutes. Both are one of the military officers trying to tell a bad joke.

The 4K disc includes all the same bonus materials as the regular Blu-ray disc contained in the combo pack.

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Video Game Adaptation ‘Monster Hunter’ Available Digitally Feb. 16, on Disc March 2

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Monster Hunter via digital sellthrough Feb. 16, and on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 2.

Based on the popular video game series, the film stars Milla Jovovich as Capt. Artemis, whose unit is caught in a sandstorm that transports them to a world ruled by dangerous and powerful monsters. As they fight to survive, they encounter the mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa) whose unique skills allow him to stay one step ahead of the powerful creatures.

The cast also includes Tip “T.I.” Harris, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Josh Helman, Jin Au-Yeung and Ron Perlman.

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Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Monster Hunter earned $11.1 million at the domestic box office.

Home video extras include deleted scenes and the featurettes “The Monster Hunters: Cast and Characters,” “Monstrous Arsenal: Weaponry in the Film” and “For the Players: From Game to Screen.”

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‘Hell on the Border’ Arriving on Home Video Feb. 11 From Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the Western Hell on the Border on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and through digital retailers Feb. 11. It is currently available on demand.

Based on a true story, the film follows Bass Reeves (David Gyasi), aided by his trusted journeyman (Ron Perlman), on his quest to bring a deadly outlaw (Frank Grillo) to justice and become the first black U.S. Marshal in the Wild West.

Reeves is often cited as one of the real-life inspirations for the Lone Ranger. The legend of Reeves also plays a role in HBO’s recent “Watchmen” TV series.

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The Hell on the Border cast also includes Chris Mullinax, Jacqueline Fleming, Gianni Capaldi and Zach McClarnon.

The disc includes a commentary with writer-director Wes Miller and camera operator Ronald Bourdeau.

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