The Super Mario Bros. Movie

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Animated;
Box Office $572.97 million;
$34.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action and mild violence.
Voices of Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Keegan-Michael Key, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kevin Michael Richardson, Khary Payton, Charles Martinet.

Most movies based on video games tend to be unsatisfying because the process of Hollywood writers digesting the essence of the game for mainstream audiences usually makes the final product unrecognizable to the games’ fans.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie bucks that trend by essentially just putting a video game on the big screen. The film takes iconic elements straight from several video games connected to the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise and condenses them into a single narrative. And in doing so, the film isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is — an adaptation of a series of video games about a pair of plumbers fighting a fire-breathing turtle king in a land of magic mushrooms.

It gets away with such a distillation because the animation lends itself to the bright flashy visual splendor of the games and doesn’t create an expectation of realism, which is the trap most game adaptations fall into. The 1993 live-action version of Super Mario Bros., for instance, was an unmitigated disaster because it reinterpreted the concept into an action sci-fi movie.

The animated version features brothers Mario and Luigi (voiced by Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) struggling to establish their own plumbing business when by happenstance they find themselves sucked through a pipe into a fantasy realm of strange creatures where the laws of physics no longer apply. When Luigi is captured by Bowser (Jack Black), Mario teams with Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) to rescue him and prevent the king of the Koopas from dominating the magical realms.

Everything in the fantasy kingdoms works just like it does in the video games, with power-ups that give characters boosts in strength and speed that come from floating bricks with question marks on them. The film doesn’t dwell on why everything looks like it does from the video games because it’s easy enough to accept that the Mario Bros. have simply been sucked into Nintendo World.

From there, the film features a ton of references to various “Mario” properties over the years, from his 1981 debut in Donkey Kong to Mario Kart, more than enough to satisfy most fans of the games. For older fans, there’s a reference to the rap intro of the 1989 “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” starring Capt. Lou Albano, so what’s not to love? The score is even design to incorporate beloved musical themes from the “Super Mario” games, which only adds to the nostalgia factor.

And since the Mario Bros. have had a ubiquitous presence in pop culture for the past 40 years, being a hardcore fan of the games isn’t a requirement to enjoy what turns out to be an entertaining movie in general.

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The “Power Up Edition” Blu-ray includes a number of fun featurettes about the making of the film.

The 18-minute “Getting to Know the Cast” offers several vignettes profiling the voice actors and the roles they play. The 27-minute “Leveling Up: Making The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a six-part look at the production, which was overseen by Nintendo to make sure it didn’t stray too far from its video game roots; included is a look at various Easter Eggs in the film, particularly to some of the non-“Mario” Nintendo games referenced.

The seven-minute “The Super Mario Bros. Movie Field Guide” features various cast members explaining elements from the game depicted in the film, while the three-minute “Leadership Lessons” has Anya Taylor-Joy describing five lessons that make Peach an effective princess for her people.

Rounding out the package is a sing-along music video of Jack Black singing Bowser’s song “Peaches.”

In the 4K combo pack, the full extras are included on both the 4K disc and the regular Blu-ray.

Comedy ‘About My Father’ Headed to PVOD June 16

The comedy About My Father arrives on premium VOD June 16 from Lionsgate.

Comic Sebastian Maniscalco both co-writes and stars in the comedy, which also stars two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (The Irishman, Raging Bull) as an outspoken Italian father who joins a weekend getaway with his son’s fiancée’s (Leslie Bibb, Iron Man) family. The film also features Anders Holm (TV’s “Workaholics”), Brett Dier (TV’s “Jane the Virgin”), David Rasche (TV’s “Succession”) and Kim Cattrall (TV’s “Sex and the City”). 

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In the film, Sebastian (Maniscalco) is encouraged by his fiancée (Leslie Bibb) to bring his Italian hairdresser father Salvo (De Niro) to a weekend get-together to meet her wealthy and eccentric family (Anders Holm,  David Rasche, Brett Dier, and Kim Cattrall). As the weekend turns into an outrageous clash of cultures, Sebastian and Salvo discover that the great thing about family is everything about family.

HBO Max Orders Chuck Lorre Comedy Series ‘How to Be a Bookie’

HBO Max has given a series order for the new comedy “How to Be a Bookie” from Emmy nominees Chuck Lorre (“The Kominsky Method,” “The Big Bang Theory”), Nick Bakay (“Mom,” “Young Sheldon”) and Warner Bros. Television.

Actor/comedian Sebastian Maniscalco (The Irishman, Green Book) is set to star in the single-camera series, which has received an order for eight episodes.
 
Lorre and Bakay will co-write and  serve as executive producers along with Maniscalco and Judi Marmel. Warner Bros. Television, where Lorre and his Chuck Lorre Productions are under an overall deal, is the studio. “How to Be a Bookie” marks Lorre’s first series for HBO Max.
 
In the series, a veteran bookie struggles to survive the impending legalization of sports gambling, increasingly unstable clients, family, co-workers, and a lifestyle that bounces him around every corner of Los Angeles, high and low.
 
“It’s very exciting to have the next comedy series from Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros. Television,” Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO, HBO and HBO Max Content, said in a statement. “We have been fans of Sebastian’s for several years and look forward to what these brilliant comedic voices put together for HBO Max.”
 
“It’s an absolute dream to work with Sebastian Maniscalco — whom I’ve been a fan of for years,” Lorre said in a statement. “To have my first project at HBO Max with such an incredibly gifted comedian and alongside Nick Bakay is the trifecta. I can’t wait to get started.” 

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“I’m thrilled that ‘How to Be a Bookie,’ from Chuck Lorre and Nick Bakay, and starring Sebastian Maniscalco, one of the greatest stand-up comics working today, is moving forward at HBO Max,” Channing Dungey, chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group, said in a statement. “This smart, subversive, and hilarious series will be the next great comedy on HBO Max, continuing the successful partnership between Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions.”
 
“It’s an incredible honor to be working with someone of Chuck’s pedigree and along with Nick Bakay,” Maniscalco said in a statement. “They’ve put together a truly remarkable script. And now to be in the family with Warner Bros. Television and HBO Max, who are putting out some of the most compelling stories on TV and streaming, I just couldn’t be more excited.”

Green Book

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/12/19;
Universal;
Comedy;
Box Office $78.32 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $39.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.
Stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Dimiter D. Marinov, Mike Hatton, Sebastian Maniscalco, Iqbal Theba.

Sometimes there is great value to be found in a straightforward story, simply told. It’s a lesson the filmmakers behind Green Book learned well, with the film taking home the Oscar for Best Picture at the recent 91st Academy Awards ceremony.

The win caused somewhat of a whirlwind of criticism regarding the film’s soft-shoe approach to dealing with racism in the 1960s, but that might stem from overanalyzing the film’s intentions — it exists as a way for co-scripter Nick Vallelonga to pay tribute to his parents.

The film tells the story of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a New York club bouncer with shady connections who is hired by African-American pianist “Doc” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) to serve as a driver and bodyguard on a two-month concert tour of the Deep South in 1962.

Given the racial attitudes prevalent at the time, they must rely on the Green Book, a guide for black travelers to find lodging, restaurants and other business that would serve them. At several stops, Doc is denied service at the very restaurants where his musical talents are being celebrated, which only goes to highlight how dumb the segregationist attitudes were on the surface of it.

Doc himself is cold and aloof, and doesn’t identify with his cultural heritage. Tony is a stereotypical New York Italian thug who isn’t the most eloquent in terms of speech or thought. Along their journey they’ll learn to let go of some of the preconceptions each had about what the other represents to them.

In using the road trip format, the film establishes itself as an acting showcase for its two leads, and they deliver spectacularly with mesmerizing performances and infectious chemistry. Ali’s supporting actor Oscar for the role is well deserved, while Mortensen’s multiple nominations throughout awards season speak to the quality of his work as well.

Watching their interactions is the primary reason to pick up the Blu-ray, since the bonus material is rather thin, comprising just three short featurettes.

First is the four-minute “Virtuoso Performances,” a look at Mortensen and Ali’s approach to their roles. Next is the five-minute “An Unforgettable Friendship,” in which the filmmakers discuss the real-life relationship between Doc and Tony, which is interesting in light of the very public disagreement the Shirley family has had with how the movie portrays it. Finally, there’s the four-and-a-half-minute “Going Beyond the Green Book,” which focuses on the significance of the book that inspired the title of the film.