‘Slaughterhouse Rulez’ to Matriculate to Digital May 17, DVD June 18 From Sony

The dark comedy Slaughterhouse Rulez will graduate to digital May 17 and DVD June 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film takes place at an elite boarding school where boys and girls are groomed for power and greatness. Pupils and teachers become embroiled in a battle with a hoard of subterranean monsters, unleashed from a gaping frack site sinkhole, wreaking havoc on the school grounds.

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Asa Butterfield (TV’s “Sex Education,” Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Finn Cole (TV’s“Peaky Blinders”) and Hermione Corfield (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) star alongside Michael Sheen (TV’s “Good Omens,” “The Twilight Saga”). Simon Pegg (the “Mission Impossible” and “Star Trek” franchises) and Nick Frost (Fighting With My Family, Shaun of the Dead) appear in the film and serve as executive producers.

Sony Releasing ‘Glory’ on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the 1989 Civil War drama Glory on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K digital with HDR July 30 to mark the film’s 30th Anniversary.

Directed by Edward Zwick, the film tells the story of the first all-black volunteer company formed by the Union during the U.S. Civil War. The cast includes Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards and won three, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington, Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

The re-release comes from a 4K resolution scan from the original camera negative, with a 4K HDR master approved by director Edward Zwick, plus a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, as well as the original theatrical audio mix.

Extras include director’s commentary, deleted scenes with commentary, a virtual interactive Civil War battlefield map, the documentary “The True Story Continues,” and the featurettes “The Voices of Glory” and “The Making of Glory.” The 4K disc will include a visual feature-length commentary and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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In addition, Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures will present Glory as part of the year-long TCM Big Screen Classics series. The film will play in more than 600 movie theaters nationwide July 21 and 24. Tickets are available at FathomEvents.com.

Merchandising: Ferrell and Reilly Pairing Is Elementary for Walmart

In a week highlighted by a modest slate of new releases, retailers didn’t put out much in the way of exclusives April 9.

The most notable was Walmart’s tie into Sony Pictures’ new Holmes & Watson and its stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Walmart offered a $22.96 DVD collection of three movies that teamed Ferrell and Reilly: Holmes & Watson, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Otherwise, retailers focused on promoting sales of catalog titles.

Target touted previous seasons of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in the lead-up to the debut of the final season. In addition to DVDs and Blu-rays of the show for as low as $14.99, many Targets have devoted significant space in the collectibles section of the electronics department to “Game of Thrones” merchandise, including new action figures, puzzles, games, plush dire wolves and more.

Best Buy touted previously released Steelbook editions and preorders for upcoming titles such as DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

Best Buy has an exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Warner’s Pandas documentary, due April 16 at $29.99. The film was released widely through digital retailers on April 9.

Sony Marking ‘Ghostbusters’ 35th Anniversary With Steelbook Ultra HD Blu-ray

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment June 11 will release 1984’s Ghostbusters and 1989’s Ghostbusters II in a special limited-edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook with new bonus material. The release marks the 35th anniversary of the original film and the 30th anniversary of the sequel.

The set includes both films on UHD and Blu-ray, plus a bonus disc of new extras. The films were fully restored from original camera negatives and are presented on 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR and Dolby Atmos audio; the Blu-rays feature HD presentations also sourced from the 4K restorations.

New extras from the first film include deleted scenes; the full Ghostbusters TV commercial from the film with outtakes; the film’s 1984 ShoWest exhibitor reel; the original teaser; “A Moment With the Stars” vintage featurette; and a fan commentary.

New Ghostbusters II extras will include a commentary with director Ivan Reitman, star Dan Aykroyd and executive producer Joe Medjuck; the cast on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1989; a vintage promotional featurette; and a rare unfinished teaser trailer containing the full commercial from the film.

The bonus disc will also include a fan restoration of the pitch concept pilot for the animated “The Real Ghostbusters” series.

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Legacy extras include a filmmaker commentary on the first film, a trivia track on the first film, deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos, photo galleries and trailers.

The anniversary celebration will also include a Ghostbusters Fan Fest June 7-8, an international Live Orchestra Tour for the original film throughout 2019, new documentaries and tie-in merchandise, including a Transformers/Ghostbusters crossover comic book.

‘Spider-Verse’ Edges ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ on Disc Sales Charts

The week ended March 23 saw a pair of newcomers in a close race for No. 1 on the national home video sales charts, with Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse outpacing Walt Disney Studios’ Mary Poppins Returns.

Spider-Verse climbed to the top spot of the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart after taking in about $190 million at the domestic box office and claiming the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the 1964 family classic Mary Poppins, sold 90% as many copies as Spider-Verse. It earned $171.9 million in U.S. theaters.

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The previous week’s top seller, Warner’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

Disney’s Animated Ralph Breaks the Internet took No. 4 on both charts in its fourth week.

No. 5 on both charts went to Universal Pictures’ Mortal Engines.

Blu-ray Disc formats comprised 78% of unit sales for both Spider-Verse and Mary Poppins Returns. Of those, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc edition accounted for 16% of Spider-Verse sales, compared with 8% for Poppins.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended March 24, Spider-Verse debuted at No. 1, with Grindelwald slipping to No. 2.

Paramount’s Instant Family held onto the No. 3 spot, while Universal’s Green Book slid to No. 4. Mary Poppins Returns was the No. 5 rental.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 3-23-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 3-24-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 3-23-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 3-23-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 3-23-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 3-25-19

‘Stan & Ollie’ Explores Friends’ Love Story

The comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy — who came to fame in the 1920s — helped make Hollywood the dream factory that it is today.

“They are the ones who created the dream,” said Stan Taffel, president of the classic film festival CineCon and member of the Laurel and Hardy fan club Sons of the Desert.

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Born in the silent era, the performing duo is the subject of Stan & Ollie, coming to Blu-ray, DVD and digital March 26 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film follows the team in the later years of their career as they toured and tried to get a new film project off the ground.

“It’s not about two old time comics and the history of their lives; it is about how you get along in life with the people that you know and you make the best of it that you can, and as long as you have friends you have everything,” said Taffel, who calls the film a “love story” about true friends.

Hollywood historian Stan Taffel discussed the legacy of Laurel and Hardy at the Hollywood Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

It’s a story that hasn’t been fully explored until now, he said at a March 22 presentation at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, appropriately housed in Cecil B. DeMille’s barn, the building that birthed the Hollywood motion picture feature.

“I’m very excited about this film because you really do get to know more of their story,” Taffel said. “Of all of the books and the documents that have been written about these two boys, this film shows an area of their lives that is the least documented of all, the last years of their lives of professional performing. Oliver Hardy was not in good health. Stan Laurel could not secure a contract for them to do more films — the reason, let’s be fair, everybody had their day in the sun and they had their great day in the sun and they still had fans, but Martin and Lewis were the top comedy team at the time that they were touring, and Abbot and Costello were making films, but they weren’t quite as exciting and they had their disagreements. These two gentlemen were the only gentlemen that stayed together.”

As a testament to the affection between the two performers, Taffel noted that Laurel “wrote material for Laurel and Hardy even eight years after Ollie died.”

That connection between the comedy team is the core of Stan & Ollie.

“What this film does, it actually shows two people who really genuinely cared about each other, even at a time when they were not at the top,” Taffel said. “They really showed that Laurel and Hardy were magic.”

Taffel praised the performances in the film, especially John C. Reilly’s transformation into Hardy.

“I actually forgot I was watching John C. Reilly,” he said. Reilly picked up a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. Steve Coogan stars as Laurel.

Taffel runs a “tent” for the duo’s fan club, Sons of the Desert, named after a movie that they made in 1933. Members get together and show old films and imbibe, as Stan Laurel directed in the formation of the group in the mid-60s.

“Every tent of the Sons of the Desert is named after one of the films, so you will find a Babes in Toyland tent, you will find an Another Fine Mess tent, you will find a Big  Business tent. I made our tent Hollywood Party since I moved to Hollywood in 1997,” Taffel noted.

In honor of the home entertainment debut of Stan & Ollie, Taffel led a tour around Los Angeles visiting key movie locations from their films, including the famed Music Box Steps.

He also pointed out the various Laurel and Hardy displays at the museum, including the wax figures of the two and letters that Laurel wrote to Hardy.

It’s just a bit of a peek into a relationship that lasted a lifetime and is portrayed in the film — especially in one pivotal scene when Hardy is ill and can’t perform.

“Stan [Laurel] gets into the bed just to keep him warm and hold his hand and that to me is what that movie is about,” Taffel said. “It’s really about a friendship.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/19/19;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
Box Office $189.87 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine.

One of the Holy Grails of adapting a comic book to film is the idea of evoking the feeling of reading a comic while watching the story play out. Filmmakers have tried different techniques over the years to achieve this, such as brighter colors or hyper-stylized action, to varying effect, with the best results often focusing on just telling the story in a way that brings the spirit of the work into a different medium.

Animation would seem to be closer to the artistic foundations of comic books, but often present challenges of their own.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is probably the closest a movie has come to finding that sweet spot between telling a comic book story while immersing the viewer in the fantastic art that is often unique to the panel-to-panel format.

Its innovative animation style, layering hand-drawn animation over CGI, combined with a thrilling story of self-discovery are just a few of the reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

The film is a deft blending of self-parody with an ambitious attempt by Sony Pictures to explore new aspects of the Spider-Man concept while the live-action version of the character is on loan to Marvel Studios.

In particular, the film is an adaptation of the Miles Morales version of the character, a mixed-race teenager who gains the powers of Spider-Man in an alternate reality in which Peter Parker is killed.

In the film, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), stumbles upon a plot by the villainous gangster Kingpin (Live Schreiber) to open a portal into alternate dimensions in search of replacement versions of his recently deceased wife and son. The plan goes awry when versions of Spider-Man from a variety of realities began to appear, and they team up to help Miles learn how to control his new powers and figure out how to return home before Kingpin’s machine damages the multiverse.

The alternate versions of Spider-Man really let the creative team shine with the parody aspects of the film by introducing characters in a variety of styles. There’s a late-30s Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) who has become depressed after years of being a hero has left his personal life in shambles; there’s Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl version of Spidey; there’s Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black-and-white private detective from the 1930s; there’s an anime version involving a little girl and her pet robot from the future; and there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), essentially Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume.

The combination of the various versions offers not only some of the best laughs ever to be had with a superhero movie, but make for a terrific tribute to what has made Spider-Man such an iconic character over the years. There’s also a post-credits sequence that really takes it up a notch in that regard.

It’s enough to thrill longtime fans of the character, particularly the Miles Morales version, while providing enough nods to the aspects of the mythology that most average viewers would already be familiar with so as not to need to be an avid comics reader to follow along.

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The Blu-ray is loaded with a ton of bonus material, including the new animated short “Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham,” which serves as a prequel to the film in showing us a Spider-Ham adventure that was interrupted when he gets pulled into Miles’ reality.

In addition, there’s an “Alternate Universe Mode” for the movie in which some scenes are replaced with storyboards of earlier concepts, as a way for the filmmakers to ponder how the film could have turned out. It runs about 26 minutes longer than the theatrical cut (which comes in at 117 minutes) and even starts with the Spider-Ham short.

The regular version of the film includes a commentary with the filmmakers, which is a nice guide to how the various creative decisions evolved to get to the final movie, including casting decisions and the re-imagining of certain well-known characters.

Many of the topics are covered in specific featurettes as well.

The eight-minute “We Are Spider-Man” examines the key messages of the film, while the five-minute “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension” deals with the animation style and techniques for adapting the comics.

The 15-minute “The Ultimate Comics Cast” showcases the actors involved in the film and what makes them such a good fit for their characters. The two-part “Designing Cinematic Comics Characters” offers an eight-minute look at the design of the heroes, and five-minutes devoted to the creation of the villains.

“The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge” is a five-minute video that points out some of the references hidden throughout the film, while inviting viewers to look for more.

There’s also the eight-and-a-half-minute “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” the co-creators of Spider-Man who both passed away in 2018. Stan Lee recorded one of his famous cameos for the film.

Finally, the disc includes music lyric videos for two songs, “Sunflower” and “Familia.”

There are also some digital-exclusive bonus featurettes. The three-minute “Another, Another Times Square” provides a primer on the concept of alternate realities, the minute-and-a-half “Meanwhile, in a Gassy Universe” is a juvenile montage of various clips from the film with dialogue replaced by fart sounds (no doubt the work of Spider-Ham).

Vudu has a minute-long “An All-Star Cast” promotional video, while Movies Anywhere provides videos for how to draw Miles and Gwen, about three minutes for each character.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Actioner ‘Miss Bala’ Coming to Digital April 16, Disc April 30 From Sony

The action adventure Miss Bala will shoot to digital April 16 and Blu-ray and DVD April 30 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film earned $15 million in theaters.

Gina Rodriguez (Annihilation,“Jane the Virgin”) plays a young woman caught in the perilous world of a brutal cross-border cartel who finds powers she never knew as she seeks to rescue her friend. Ismael Cruz-Córdova (Mary Queen of Scots) stars alongside Rodriguez as the cartel kingpin, whose growing attraction to his strong-willed female hostage raises the stakes for both as the CIA, DEA and rival cartels close in. The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight).

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More than an hour of bonus material includes eight deleted and extended scenes, wardrobe and rehearsal footage with insights by Hardwicke, and three behind-the-scenes featurettes. In “Gina: The Unstoppable Strength of a Woman,” Rodriguez explains the importance of portraying a strong Latina woman on the big screen. The cast and stunt team explain how they created the action scenes in “The Bigger the Bang: Action on Set.” “The Making of Miss Bala” explains how the story was brought to life from script to screen with a 95 percent Latinx cast and crew. A feature audio commentary includes Hardwicke, executive producer Jamie Marshall, and associate producer Shayda Frost.

Season Four of ‘Better Call Saul’ Coming to Disc May 7 From Sony

Season four of “Better Call Saul” will land on Blu-ray and DVD May 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the critically acclaimed show’s fourth season, the death of Jimmy McGill’s brother catalyzes his transformation into the bigger-than-life legal legend Saul Goodman.  Now, Jimmy steps into the criminal world, putting his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim Wexler — in deep jeopardy.

Bob Odenkirk (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) stars as McGill, Jonathan Banks (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Mike Ehrmantraut, Rhea Seehorn (TV’s “Franklin & Bash”) as Wexler, Patrick Fabian (The Last Exorcism) as Howard Hamlin, Michael Mando (TV’s “Orphan Black”) as Nacho Varga, and Giancarlo Esposito (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) as Gus Fring.

The disc sets contain all 10 episodes and includes cast and crew audio commentaries on every episode, a gag reel, and the featurette “Slippin’ Kimmy,” which explores the complex character Kim Wexler, whose personal and professional triumphs are threatened by the temptation to cut corners. Also included are ten Madrigal Security Training Videos with Mike Ehrmantraut and the short film “No Picnic” featuring fan-favorite characters The Kettlemans. Blu-ray exclusive content includes seven deleted scenes, three storyboard scene comparisons, a directorial walk-through, and two featurettes: “Flashing Forward, Looking Back,” which highlights the show’s use of non-linear storytelling to explore the many layers of Jimmy’s transformation, and “Constructing the Superlab,” which takes an in-depth look at the process of building Gus Fring’s Superlab both on and off-screen.

‘The Natural’ Swinging to 4K Ultra HD From Sony

For its 35th Anniversary, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing the baseball film classic The Natural on 4K Ultra HD disc and in 4K via participating digital platforms June 4.

In the film, Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, who seemingly comes out of nowhere to become a legendary baseball player with almost divine talent. But on his way to stardom in the big leagues, Hobbs’s dreams are shattered when a mysterious woman and a silver bullet end his career prematurely. Sixteen years later, Hobbs finds himself coming back to baseball, seeking to overcome physical pain — and nefarious forces — to lead his team to the pennant.

Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, the film also stars Robert Duvall, Glenn Close in an Academy Award-nominated performance, and Kim Basinger.

The 4K Ultra HD disc includes two versions of the film in 4K with HDR: the original theatrical version and the directors’ cut, each restored from the original camera negative, supervised and approved by director of photography Caleb Deschanel and director Barry Levinson. Both versions of the film also include newly remixed Dolby Atmos audio, along with the original stereo and 5.1 tracks for the theatrical version.

Bonus materials on the 4K UHD include Levinson’s intro to the director’s cut and the theatrical trailer. The blu-ray disc includes the theatrical cut and several featurettes.