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.

 

‘Galaxy Quest’ Limited Edition Steelbook Available Exclusively at Best Buy Sept. 17

Paramount Home Entertainment Sept. 17 is releasing a limited collector’s edition Blu-ray steelbook of Galaxy Quest for its 20th anniversary exclusively at Best Buy.

The sci-fi send-up about aging TV actors who encounter aliens stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Enrico Colantoni, Daryl Mitchell and Justin Long.

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Special features include:

  • “Galactopedia,” on-screen information about characters, ships, aliens and more;
  • “Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest,” with cast and filmmakers discussing the making of the film;
  • “Never Give Up, Never Surrender: The Intrepid Crew of the NSEA Protector,” about the cast;
  • “By Grabthar’s Hammer, What Amazing Effects,” which explores the effects by ILM and Stan Winston;
  • “Alien School—Creating the Thermian Race,” about actor Enrico Colantoni’s process of developing the voice and manner of an alien race;
  • “Actors in Space,” which delves into the psyche of the cast;
  • “Sigourney Weaver Raps”;
  • deleted scenes; and
  • the theatrical trailer.

Drama ‘The Best of Enemies’ Coming to Digital June 18, Disc July 2 From Universal

The Best of Enemies will arrive on digital June 18 and Blu-ray, DVD and on demand July 2 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film stars Academy Award-nominee Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, “Empire”) and Academy Award-winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriVice) and features a supporting cast the includes Babou Ceesay (Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryEye in the Sky), Anne Heche (“Chicago P.D.,” “Aftermath”), Wes Bentley (“American Horror Story,” “Yellowstone”), Nick Searcy (The Shape of Water, “Justified”) and Bruce McGill (Lincoln, “Shades of Blue”).

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The drama centers on an unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater (Henson), an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader who reluctantly co-chaired a community summit, battling over the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C., during the racially-charged summer of 1971. The events that unfolded would change Durham and the lives of Atwater and Ellis forever.

Bonus features include:

  • “Make a Connection,” in which the cast discusses the unlikely friendship between Atwater and Ellis, with clips of past interviews of the film’s subjects;
  • “Ann Atwater,” a behind-the-scenes discussion with Henson and Rockwell about Atwater;
  • “Unlikely Friendship,” an inside look at how 10 days transformed the lives of two people who formed an unexpected friendship; and
  • the trailer.

Eight-Time Oscar Nominated ‘Vice’ Coming to Digital March 12, Disc April 2 From Fox

Vice, which has been nominated in eight Academy Award categories, including Best Picture, will be available on digital (including Movies Anywhere) March 12 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 2 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The dark comedy, which chronicles the life of Vice President Dick Cheney, stars Christian Bale in an Oscar-nominated role as Cheney and co-stars Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. It is directed by Adam McKay.

The film has earned $46.2 million in theaters.

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Bonus features include deleted scenes; the featurette “Gaming the System: The Making of Vice”; “The Music of Power”; and a photo gallery.

‘Woman Walks Ahead’ Due on Disc Aug. 28 From Lionsgate

Woman Walks Ahead, a Western starring Jessica Chastain, arrives on Blu-ray (plus digital) and DVD Aug. 28 from Lionsgate.

Directed by Susanna White (Our Kind of Traitor), and also starring Sam Rockwell and Michael Greyeyes as Chief Sitting Bull, the film tells the fictionalized account of the true-life events of New York portrait painter Catherine Weldon and her time in North Dakota with the Lakota Sioux tribe.

Blu-ray (plus digital) and DVD will be available at $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Special features include deleted scenes and a making-of featurette and an audio commentary with White.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $53.35 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.
Stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Clarke Peters.

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards offers an intense, character-driven examination of the relationship between small-town police and the residents they serve.

Frances McDormand gives a powerhouse performance as Mildred, whose bitterness over the stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder motivates her to rent space on the billboards of the title excoriating the cops for their lack of progress.

This naturally raises tensions in the town, as supporters of the police demand she take the signs down while putting pressure on her friends and family to force her hand.

The police chief (Woody Harrelson), has his own issues to deal with, not the least of which is an alcoholic deputy named Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who is accused of torturing a black suspect in custody during an incident that allegedly happened before the start of the film’s story.

Three Billboards takes a multi-faceted view of cops’ racial attitudes in small-town America, and presents them as people and not as the caricatures some knee-jerk critics of the film would insist upon. Certainly the department must confront its troubled history of race relations, but the situation with Mildred might suggest they’re not great cops in general, or at the very least in over their head on some things.

Dixon, for example, has bigger dreams but little self-awareness, and his racism goes hand in hand with a general attitude of superiority about everyone, no doubt fueled by the toxic influences of his mother. His violent streak even extends to the white kid who sold the signs to Mildred and becomes the subject of a brutal beating in one of the film’s signature sequences — a single take of Dixon walking from the police station across the street to the advertising shop, up the stairs and back to admire the chaos of his handiwork.

Mildred and Dixon represent the opposing forces in the firestorm at the heart of the film, so it comes as little surprise that McDormand and Rockwell were among the most recognized performers of awards season.

The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes running about seven minutes total that aren’t vital to the storylines but do offer some interesting additional character insights.

Also included is a comprehensive half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary in which McDonagh relates how seeing similar billboards on a tour of the American South inspired him to make the film. The featurette also includes a lengthy look at the making-of the single-take fight scene at the center of the film.

Finally, the disc offers McDonagh’s unrelated half-hour 2004 short film Six Shooter, which won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short. The short stars Brendan Gleeson as a man on a train confronted with mortality and the foibles of the human condition.

Best Picture Winner ‘Shape of Water’ Among Oscar Honorees Ready to Score on Home Video

The Shape of Water won the big prize at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony March 4, taking Best Picture among its four trophies, in addition to Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Original Score and Best Production Design. The film is available now digitally and comes to Blu-ray and DVD March 13 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Fox’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Best Actress for Frances McDormand (who previously won 20 years ago for Fargo) and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, available on disc and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, won three Oscars — Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Actor went to Gary Oldman for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, available on home video from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film also won best Makeup & Hairstyling, primarily for the work transforming Oldman into Churchill.

Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for I, Tonya, which was released digitally March 2 and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD March 13.

Pixar’s Coco, available on home video from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Netflix’s Russian-doping documentary Icarus won Best Documentary Feature. It’s Netflix’s second-ever Oscar, after winning Best Documentary Short last year for The White Helmets.

Universal’s Get Out won Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele.

Sony Pictures’ Call Me by Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory, who became the oldest-ever Oscar winner at age 89.

Warner’s Blade Runner 2049 won two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins, his first win in 14 nominations.

Phantom Thread won for Best Costume Design. Universal releases the film digitally March 27 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 10.

A year following one of the biggest snafus in awards-show history, which saw the announcement of the wrong Best Picture winner, the Oscar ceremony offered a measure of atonement for presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (now marking the 51st anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde), who were brought back again to give out the top award of the night. This time things went off without a hitch, no doubt helped by envelopes with the correct categories written on them twice in big bold gold letters.

A complete list of winners is available at Oscars.com.

Oscar Frontrunner ‘Three Billboards’ Set for February Home Video Release

Acclaimed indie film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is slated to hit digital retail Feb. 13 and packaged media Feb. 27 from 2oth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture,  Billboards features Oscar winner Francis McDormand (Fargo) as the defiant mother of murdered girl who erects three local signs with a controversial message seeking justice.

The billboards and McDormand soon come into conflict with local cop (Sam Rockwell) and the chief of police (Woody Harrelson).

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards won four Golden Globes Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (McDormand) and Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell).

In addition to being available on Digital HD through Movies Anywhere and other digital retailers, the movie will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Bonus material includes featurette “Crucify ‘Em: The Making of Three Billboards” and short film Six Shooter.

The disc release comes the week before the March 4 Oscars ceremony.