What If…?

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of Jeffrey Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hayley Atwell, Lake Bell, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Hemsworth, Kurt Russell, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson.

This Disney+ animated series explores what could have happened to the Marvel Cinematic Universe had certain moments gone differently.

The nine episodes are narrated by Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher, an omniscient being of immense power who observes the various worlds of the multiverse (which was supposedly created by the events of “Loki”).

Most episodes offer the creators a chance to indulge themselves with references to the comics they couldn’t make before, or just have fun with character confrontations that haven’t been seen before (such as an epic battle between Thor and Captain Marvel when the Asgardian wants to turn Earth into a 24-hour party planet).

The first episode offers a fun twist on Captain America: The First Avenger, as Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) ends up as the super soldier, while still-skinny Steve Rogers gets a massive Iron Man-type suit of armor.

Another episode is a dark tale about a man’s inability to let go, as it shows how dangerous Doctor Strange can be if he turns his powers toward selfish interests.

Other episodes feature alternate versions of The Avengers, and of course there’s an episode (based on a popular comic book storyline) that basically turns all the heroes into zombies.

Among the most bittersweet episodes are those that feature Chadwick Boseman in his final performances as T’Challa, recorded prior to his death from cancer. One speech in particular hits hard as he discusses the afterlife as a new beginning.

The animation style is crisp and colorful, though not always the best in capturing the appearance of the actors who play them in live-action.

Overall, the show is mostly a love letter to longtime MCU fans, who should appreciate the mostly fun but often dark chance to see the franchise in a different light.

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‘The Protégé’ Due on Digital Sept. 21, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 19

The action thriller The Protégé will come out on digital Sept. 21 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray combo pack, DVD and on demand Oct. 19 from Lionsgate.

The story of a deadly assassin out for vengeance stars Michael Keaton, Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Patrick.

In the film, rescued as a child and raised by legendary assassin Moody (Jackson), Anna (Maggie Q) was trained to become the world’s most skilled contract killer. When Anna learns that Moody has been brutally killed, she vows revenge. On the murderer’s trail, Anna is entangled with an enigmatic hit man (Keaton) and, as their confrontation turns deadly, the loose ends of a life spent killing weave themselves ever tighter in this action-thriller from the director of Casino Royale.

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The Protégé home entertainment release also includes two behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary from director Martin Campbell, and a previously unreleased deleted scene. Hosted by Campbell, “Scars of the Past: Making The Protégé” offers an inside look at the making of the film. “Anna vs. Rembrandt” focuses on the chemistry between Maggie Q’s and Keaton’s characters.

‘Ragtime’ Coming to Paramount Presents Blu-ray Line Nov. 16

Director Milos Forman’s epic Ragtime arrives for its 40th anniversary in a limited-edition two-disc Blu-ray as part of the Paramount Presents line on Nov. 16 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel, Ragtime tells the story of disparate characters in New York City in the early 1900s. From the emerging New York suburb of New Rochelle to the flashy spectacle of Atlantic City, a family faces racial tensions, scandals and violence that will test everything they believe in. With music by Randy Newman, the film stars James Cagney, Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn, Elizabeth McGovern, Kenneth McMillan, Pat O’Brien, Donald O’Connor, James Olson, Mandy Patinkin, Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Samuel L. Jackson, Norman Mailer and John Ratzenberger.

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The film has been remastered from a 4K film transfer and is presented in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of the film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. The two-disc Blu-ray includes a newly discovered director’s cut workprint version of the film (along with the theatrical version), deleted and extended scenes, a look back at Ragtime with Larry Karaszewski and screenwriter Michael Weller, access to a digital copy of the theatrical version, and commentary by Forman and executive producer Michael Hausman.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/17/21;
Lionsgate;
Action Comedy;
Box Office $37.74 million;
$29.96 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual content.
Stars
Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman.

The sequel to 2017’s The HItman’s Bodyguard, like its predecessor, is an affable actioner that coasts on irreverent humor and a solid cast that appears to be having fun with the proceedings.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard looks in on disgraced personal bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is having nightmares about Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), the notorious hitman from the first film he was tasked with protecting against agents of a European despot he was set to testify against.

As a result of those events, Bryce has been refused recertification by the bodyguard licensing agency, and is instructed by a therapist to take a long vacation to put thoughts of violence behind him. His sabbatical to a tropical beach is short-lived, however, when he is recruited by Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek, who gets to expand her small role from the first movie) to help rescue her husband from an international cartel.

Extracting him embroils the trio in a larger plot involving a Greek shipping magnate and criminal mastermind (Antonio Banderas) who seeks revenge against the European Union for imposing economic sanctions on Greece.

As pressure on them mounts from the Interpol agent (Frank Grillo) overseeing the operation, Bryce turns to his stepfather (Morgan Freeman) for help, which only gets them into more trouble.

Another subplot involves Sonia and Darius trying to have a baby, but her loyalty is called into question when it turns out she and the tycoon used to be an item.

What the film lacks in subtlety it makes up for with inventive mayhem and bloody action juxtaposed by the odd couple relationship between the Kincaids, who seem to enjoy unleashing casual violence on their enemies, and Bryce, who insists on tackling the mission without killing anyone or even using a gun.

As with the first movie, the breezy attitude of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard makes it a fun diversion, but it’s unlikely to have much staying power after the credits roll.

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The Blu-ray includes a five-minute gag reel and several good bonus featurettes, including the nine-minute “Ryan, Sam, Salma: One F’d Up Family,” the seven-minute “Gone Soft: The New Michael Bryce,” the eight-minute “#stuntlife” and the four-minute “On the Set of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

The 4K disc has the same extra content as the regular Blu-ray disc.

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Batman: The Long Halloween — Part Two

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/10/21;
Warner;
Animated;
$34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for some violence and bloody images.
Voices of Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera, Billy Burke, Katee Sackhoff, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, Fred Tatasciore, Alastair Duncan.

The second half of The Long Halloween delivers a satisfying conclusion to the animated adaptation of the famed 1990s Batman comic book story.

In Part Two, Gotham’s mob bosses struggle to maintain control of their traditional criminal enterprises as Gotham City continues to be overrun by costumed supervillains in the wake of Batman’s rise as the city’s protector. Picking up from the post-credits scene of Part One, Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff) has enthralled Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles) into signing over his assets to mafia kingpin Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver), but the scheme is thwarted by Catwoman (Naya Rivera). Meanwhile, the serial killer known as Holiday continues to wage war on Gotham’s crime families, leading to rampant speculation over the murderer’s true identity.

When suspicion falls upon district attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), a surprise attack leaves him physically scarred, transforming him into the villainous Two-Face, and sealing the fate of Gotham’s future once and for all.

Part Two is darker and bloodier than the first half, with graphic animated violence throughout.

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Neither of the Blu-rays for parts one or two includes a featurette about the source material, which is pretty common for the DC Universe animated movies, so perhaps one is being saved for the upcoming 4K Blu-ray that combines both halves into a single longer film, which is slated for next year.

The Part Two Blu-ray does include featurettes about several earlier DC movies, plus a 10-minute preview of the upcoming Injustice animated movie based on the video game about DC heroes fighting each other.

The Blu-ray also includes the excellent two-part “Two-Face” episode depicting the villains origin on “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Also included is the 15-minute DC Showcase animated short Blue Beetle, which is a hilarious homage to the style of superhero cartoons from the 1960s and ’70s, even down to the goofy theme song. The story involves Blue Beetle (Matt Lanter) investigating a villain who uses soda to brainwash people into becoming his henchmen.

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‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Shooting to Digital July 23, Disc Aug. 17

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, the sequel to 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard, arrives on digital July 23 and on 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD and on demand Aug. 17 from Lionsgate.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman.

It earned $38 million at the domestic box office.

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The world’s most lethal odd couple — bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) and hit man Darius Kincaid (Jackson) — are back. Still unlicensed, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid (Hayek). As Bryce is driven over the edge by the volatile spouses, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman (Banderas).

Special features include featurettes, a gag reel and theatrical trailers.

‘Unbreakable’ Headed to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Digital Sept. 21

The 2000 sci-fi drama Unbreakable will arrive on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc and digital for the first time Sept. 21 from Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition will also be released as a limited-edition Steelbook available only at Best Buy stores that consumers can preorder beginning Aug. 10.

In the film, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, after David Dunn (Bruce Willis) emerges from a horrific train crash as the sole survivor — and without a single scratch on him — he meets a mysterious, unsettling stranger (Samuel L. Jackson) who believes comic book heroes walk the earth, and whose sinister, single-minded obsession will impact David’s life forever.

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Bonus features include deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a look at comic book artistry and leading artists, a scene from a film Shyamalan made as a child, and animated storyboard and final scene comparisons of the train sequence.

‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ a ‘Hit’ at Weekend Box Office

Lionsgate’s action comedy The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard overcame poor reviews, topping the domestic weekend box office through June 20 with a projected $11.7 million in ticket sales across 3,331 screens. The pandemic-delayed sequel to the 2017 original, featuring the return of Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayak, plus newcomer Antonio Banderas, has generated $17 million since sneak peek showings on June 15.

The movie edged out Paramount Pictures’ enduring A Quiet Place Part II, which generated an estimated $9.4 million, down slightly from the previous weekend when it upset Warner Bros. Pictures’ In the Heights in box office revenue. A Quiet Place Part II has now topped $125 million, making it the top-grossing movie domestically in the pandemic era.

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Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway rounded out the podium with an estimated $6.1 million, bringing the sequel’s total to more than $20 million.

Warner’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It continues to have legs, generating $5.1 million and $53.6 million since its debut three weeks ago. Disney’s Cruella also took in $5.1 million to being its gross above $64.7 million — a notable tally considering the movie is available as a $29.99 Disney+ add-on.

Finally, Heights saw its box office decline to $4.2 million, bringing its total to just shy of $20 million after two weekends. The movie is also streaming on HBO Max.

Weekend Box Office Preview: Can ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Find His ‘Quiet Place’?

NEWS ANALYSIS — From the trailers, previews and press images, Mexican actress Salma Hayek makes a lot of noise in Lionsgate action comedy sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which generated $3.9 million in early domestic screenings entering the Father’s Day weekend.

Wife’s Bodyguard, which brings back the first movie’s stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, is the lone new entry to U.S. theaters through June 20, and is projected to generate from $8 million to $11 million in revenue across 3,321 screens — underscoring the reality that while movie theaters have largely returned to full capacity, moviegoers remain cautious.

Will it be enough to unseat Paramount Pictures’ post-apocalyptic sequel A Quiet Place: Part II — the John Krasinski-directed follow up to his 2018 sleeper hit co-starring his wife Emily Blunt? A Quiet Place Part II, which is projected to sell more than $9 million in ticket sales this weekend, last week rebounded in its third week of release to upset Warner Bros. newbie In the Heights with $12 million in ticket sales compared to $11.5 million for Heights.

Based on Lin-Manuel Maranda’s Broadway musical, Heights is concurrently streaming on HBO Max.

Indeed, Disney/Pixar Animation Studios’ new movie release Luca is bypassing theaters and debuting exclusively on streaming platform Disney+.

Shawn Robbins with Box Office Pro expects the impact to be minimal based on historical comparisons of streaming debuts in tandem with major theatrical releases as many have often co-existed.

“It will be intriguing to see if that impacts [Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway] and other family holdovers by any significant amount,” Robbins wrote in a blog post.

The relative weekend box office lull — estimated to decline nearly 19% from June 13 — portends the anticipated theatrical rush for Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga on June 25. The ninth installment of the venerable fast car franchise has already generated $270 million at the global box office.

This weekend holdovers include Warner’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It; Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway; In the Heights (Warner); Walt Disney Pictures’ Cruella; Universal Pictures’ Spirit Untamed, and MGM/United Artists’ Wrath of Man, among others.

‘Saw’ Spinoff ‘Spiral’ Soars in Weekend Box Office Derby

Lionsgate’s horror thriller Spiral, a new chapter in its successful “Saw” franchise, cut its way to the top of the domestic weekend box office with a projected $8.7 million in revenue across 2,811 screens from May 14 to 16. The movie, starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella as law enforcement officials on the trail of a grisly killer, added an additional $3.3 million internationally.

The weekend gross underscored ongoing sluggishness among domestic movie theaters operating at 65% seating capacity to an unsure consumer during a pandemic. Spiral’s opening weekend paled in comparison to the previous “Saw” movie, 2017’s Jigsaw, which grossed $16.6 million in its opening weekend. The amount was still good enough to drive the franchise near the $1 billion threshold in total box office.

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Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man dropped to No. 2, generating $3.7 million in ticket sales; $14.6 overall. When factoring in another $7.1 million in the film’s Chinese debut; $13.5 million internationally, the Guy Ritchie-directed vigilante actioner has generated $56 million in revenue.

Angelina Jolie’s actioner, Those Who Wish Me Dead, debuted No. 3 with $2.8 million across 3,188 screens. The paltry opening was driven by limited marketing and mixed reviews, suggestingmore viewers might be willing to stream the title concurrently on HBO Max.

Other movies playing in the U.S., included former Funimation chart topper Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, with $1.85 million in ticket sales, $42 million total domestically. Rounding out the Top 5 was Disney’s venerable Raya and the Last Dragon, which generated another $1.72 million, $46.1 million since its theatrical debut.