The King of Staten Island

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Comedy;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images.
Stars Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Steve Buscemi.

Even at an overlong two hours and 17 minutes, The King of Staten Island is a watchable enough comedy despite director Judd Apatow’s tendencies to overindulge in sentimentality. There are times the film seems almost like a character study, chronicling the story of a family continuing to cope with a tremendous loss a decade earlier, and turning into a personal and heartfelt tribute to firefighters.

The film is loosely based on the life of “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson, who also stars in the film as Scott, a listless 20-something struggling to make something of his life. Davidson’s father was a firefighter killed during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 (his character of Scott is named for his father). In the film, Scott’s father is a firefighter who died in the line of duty years earlier when he and his sister were kids. Now, Scott’s sister is heading to college, while Scott has become a pothead who dreams of being a tattoo artist.

Eventually, Scott’s mother (Marisa Tomei) begins dating Ray (Bill Burr), who also is a firefighter, which upsets Scott, who thinks it’s disrespectful to the memory of his father.But working through his issues with Ray turns out to be cathartic for Scott (just as the making of the film would be somewhat cathartic for Davidson, he relates in the extras).

The film also drifts a bit from reality in the form of a romantic subplot involving Scott’s relationship with Kelsey (Bel Powley) a girl he grew up with, whereas in real life Davidson has plastered the tabloids plowing through several hotties of Hollywood.

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The Blu-ray includes a commentary with Davidson and Apatow, recorded in quarantine, in which they tell a lot of stories about the making of the film, and comparing it to the inspirations from Davidson’s own life.

It’s also interesting to note that even as the film runs long for a comedy, it could have been a lot longer. The Blu-ray and digital extras include more than 15 minutes of deleted scenes, plus a couple of alternate endings, a five-minute montage of alternate takes, and a six-minute gag reel.

More behind-the-scenes material is offered through several short featurettes, including a tribute to Davidson’s father.

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The extras also include a trove of marketing materials, such as the trailer, and several video calls of Apatow and Davidson discussing how to release the film during the pandemic, including telling Burr there’s no premiere party, and promoting the movie on “The Tonight Show.”

‘King of Staten Island’ Available to Own Digitally Aug. 11, on Disc Aug. 25

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release The King of Staten Island through digital retailers Aug. 11, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Aug. 25.

Directed by Judd Apatow, the film is inspired by the life of comedian Pete Davidson, who also stars.

Scott (Davidson) has been a case of arrested development ever since his firefighter father died when he was seven. He’s now reached his mid-20s having achieved little, chasing a dream of becoming a tattoo artist that seems far out of reach. As his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow) heads off to college, Scott is still living with his exhausted ER nurse mother (Marisa Tomei) and spends his days smoking weed, hanging with his buddies and secretly hooking up with his childhood friend Kelsey (Bel Powley). When his mother starts dating a loudmouth firefighter (Bill Burr), it sets off a chain of events that will force Scott to grapple with his grief and take his first tentative steps toward moving forward in life.

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Originally slated for theatrical release, the film was instead released through video on demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The disc and digital sellthrough versions include more than two hours of bonus materials, including alternate endings, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a “Line-o-Rama” compilation, the film’s trailer, “Video Calls,” feature commentary with Apatow and Davidson, and several featurettes:

  • “The Kid From Staten Island” —Davidson and Apatow sit down for a discussion about the movie, their experiences working together, and what it meant to film a movie inspired by Davidson’s life.
  • “Judd Apatow’s Production Diaries” — Apatow speaks to camera, giving the daily “scoop” on set and discussing the scenes at hand.
  • “You’re Not My Dad: Working With Bill Burr” — Apatow discusses how Burr was perfect for the role of Ray Bishop, while Burr discusses his favorite moments acting alongside Davidson and the meaningful relationship that their characters form.
  • “Margie Knows Best: Working With Marisa Tomei” — Apatow describes the honor he had of working with Tomei, who plays Davidson’s fictional mom. Davidson, his real mother, and other cast and crew also describe their reactions to Tomei.
  • “Friends With Benefits: Working With Bel Powley” — Powley describes her friendship with Davidson, getting the role of Kelsey in the film, and what it was like navigating her character’s push and pull relationship with Scott.
  • “Sibling Rivalry: Working With Maude Apatow” — Maude Apatow discusses what it was like playing Claire, a character based on Davidson’s real sister. Also, Pete and Judd discuss the real elements of the brother/sister relationship that are reflected in the movie.
  • “Best Friends: Working With Ricky, Moises, & Lou” — Ricky Velez, Moises Arias and Lou Wilson discuss their characters, the chemistry of Scott’s best friend group, and what it was like working with each other on set.
  • “Papa: Working With Steve Buscemi” — Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, and filmmakers reveal why Steve Buscemi was the perfect man for the part of Papa, and discuss the integral role his character plays in the film.
  • “Friends of Firefighters Stand-Up Benefit” — Watch the benefit comedy show, featuring Bill Burr, Ricky Velez and Lynne Koplitz, that Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson hosted while making the movie. All proceeds went to the Friends of Firefighters organization.
  • “Scott Davidson Tribute” — Pete’s father, Scott, was a member of the FDNY and was tragically lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson and his family, plus former friends and co-workers of Scott, share stories in honor of the man they knew.
  • “Who Is Pete Davidson?” — Pete Davidson’s family, friends, and the filmmakers discuss their hopes of what will come from the release of The King of Staten Island, while Pete and Judd share why it was so important to Pete to make this film.
  • “The Firehouse” — Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson discuss what it was like shooting scenes in a real firehouse and the responsibility they felt to capture the environment authentically.
  • “Pete’s Casting Recs” — Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson discuss how Pete’s decision to cast a large group of his friends was beneficial to achieving the goal of the movie. Plus, Pete’s friends discuss their relationships with Pete and their experiences working on the film.
  • “Pete’s ‘Poppy’ (Grandpa)” — Judd Apatow shares his experiences directing Pete Davidson’s grandfather in his acting debut.

 

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Escape From L.A. — Collector’s Edition

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Action;
$34.93 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and some language.
Stars Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Cliff Robertson, Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell, Valeria Golino, Georges Corraface, Michelle Forbes, A.J. Langer, Peter Jason.

Nowadays, a character such as Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken would be tagged for franchise potential and, if his first outing shows a modicum of success, thrust into a series of sequels (e.g. John Wick). But fans of 1981’s Escape From New York had to wait 15 years before director John Carpenter would bring the character back to the big screen.

Such a gap between sequels might not seem like such a big deal anymore, with studios frequently greenlighting follow-ups to popular movies from 20 to 30 years ago, or longer (case in point, the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick getting made 34 years after the original).

Carpenter and Russell certainly didn’t end their creative partnership following Escape From New York, collaborating on other cult classics such as 1982’s The Thing and 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China (both receiving their own Scream Factory special-edition Blu-rays).

The delay in getting a Plissken sequel off the ground wasn’t for lack of trying. Russell reportedly wanted to play the character again, and a script had been in development since the mid 1980s. The project suffered additional setbacks after the original film’s distributor went bankrupt and rights to the sequel bounced around, eventually ending up with Paramount. (Distribution rights for the original film ended up with MGM, making a DVD bundle of the two films problematic —though perhaps Shout! Factory can remedy that now that it has been able to release both films on separate Blu-rays).

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The film finally hit theaters in 1996, just a year before the “futuristic” setting of the original film, in which Snake had to rescue the U.S. president from the island of Manhattan, which had been turned into a lawless maximum security prison.

The sequel takes the obvious approach to a follow-up to a movie called Escape From New York, and transfers the setting to Los Angeles. Aside from that, the film is essentially a beat-for-beat remake of the first film, with a few details mixed around for good measure. Most of the new characters Plissken meets correspond to characters from the first movie, from the head of the police force that recruits him for an impossible mission, to the leader of the gangs on the prison island where he’s sent.

In the years since Snake’s first escape, a massive earthquake strikes California in the year 2000, causing the greater Los Angeles area to break off from the mainland. A presidential candidate (Cliff Robertson) who happened to predict the disaster is subsequently swept into office, and he oversees a series of Constitutional amendments, including one giving him a lifetime term. He outlaws all religions but Christianity, and anyone who violates the new U.S. moral code is deported to the island of Los Angeles, which is monitored by a national police force.

In 2013, however, the president’s daughter (A.J. Langer) falls in love with a revolutionary, steals a top-secret weapons control system, and exiles herself to the island. When the rescue team fails to find her, the president recruits Plissken, who has experience with this sort of thing (even eliciting a comment from Snake about how familiar it all is).

Plissken has a day to infiltrate the island and recover the weapons system, which is apparently America’s only defense against an imminent invasion from the rest of the world the president has managed to tick off. The invasion will be led by Che Guevara wannabe Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface), who now possesses the weapon thanks to the First Daughter, and plans to use it against the U.S.

So, as with New York, Snake must navigate a series of unsavory characters and dangerous situations to recover the items of national importance and return to the authorities for the cure to the deadly ailment they secretly gave him to motivate him to go on the mission.

Where Escape From New York mostly treats its setting as a generic burned-out urban sprawl, Escape From L.A. puts more emphasis on re-creating the dystopian version of specific recognizable Los Angeles landmarks, and revels in extrapolating a lawless world from a number of L.A. tropes, from a gang of mutant plastic surgeon victims led by a doctor (Bruce Campbell) trying to keep them fresh, to the aging surfer (Peter Fonda) who helps Snake get around town by riding the waves.

And in one of the film’s best gags, a character implies that Disney has somehow gone bankrupt by 2013. In the real timeline, that would have been a year after they bought Lucasfilm.

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Escape from L.A. plays a bit like what Carpenter would have done with the first movie if he had an actual budget to work with. Where the first film felt gritty and was quite effective in making the most out of its limited resources, the sequel seems a bit too polished. The film makes extensive use of computer animation for its visual effects, but they haven’t aged well, looking more like video game graphics than anything that exists in the real world.

Still, its fun to get a sense of the future version of L.A. that Carpenter was going for. The Blu-ray features a new 4K scan of the original negative that makes it easy to enjoy the film’s production design, even if it doesn’t do many favors for the visual effects.

Where the previous Paramount Blu-ray of the film offered no bonus materials, the new single-disc Scream Factory edition presents more than an hour’s worth of newly recorded interviews with some of the cast and filmmakers. They are presented as six separate videos, one for each subject.

Among the actors showcased here are Stacy Keach, who plays the police commander, and Peter Jason, who plays another police official, in addition to Campbell and Corraface. The behind-the-scenes guys include special effects artist Jim McPherson and visual effects artist David Jones. The discussions don’t always stick to Escape From L.A. as the topic and hand and at times veer into the subjects’ careers in general.

Rounding out the package are the trailer, TV spots and a still gallery. While a better offering than the original Blu-ray, it’s a far cry from the two-disc Escape From New York collection that included several audio commentaries and deleted scenes in addition to behind-the-scenes interviews.

Carpenter and Russell reportedly had additional sequels planned, but the underwhelming critical and box office response to Escape From L.A. put an end to that. One potential sequel supposedly ended up being turned into Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

TV Miniseries ‘Lonesome Dove’ Riding to Blu-ray Steelbook July 9 From Mill Creek

The TV miniseries Lonesome Dove is coming in a special edition steelbook Blu-ray July 9 from Mill Creek Entertainment for its 30th anniversary.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Larry McMurtry and set in the late nineteenth century, the sprawling epic of the Old West is the story of the last defiant frontier, a daring cattle drive and an undying love. Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), former Texas Rangers, are partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. He is obsessed with the dream of creating a new homestead. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else. Call’s dream not only drags Gus along in its wake, but also draws in a group of fearless wranglers, trackers and scouts. Through sandstorms, stampedes, bandits, floods and snow, these characters live on to become legends of the great American West.

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Winner of seven Emmy Awards, and one of the highest rated miniseries in television history, Lonesome Dove also stars Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Angelica Huston, Robert Urich, Steve Buscemi, D.B. Sweeney, Ricky Schroder and Chris Cooper.

Special features include a making-of featurette; cast interviews; on location with director Simon Wincer; original sketches and concept drawings; and an interview with McMurtry.

The Big Lebowski: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Comedy;
$19.98 UHD BD, $59.98 UHD BD Gift Set;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality and brief violence.
Stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Sam Elliott, Peter Stormare, Tara Reid.

Throw on a bathrobe, grab some White Russians and get ready to immerse yourself in the off-kilter farce that is The Big Lebowski with a fun gift set containing the film in both glorious 1080p Blu-ray and now 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Wait, you think Lebowski is too much of an insubstantial follow-up for the Coen Brothers following the accolades heaped upon them in 1996 for Fargo? Yeah, well, that’s just like, your opinion man.

What we have here, man, is a Coen classic out of ’98 loosely based on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Pretty far out, right?

Although this is more like an accidental detective story, with The Dude (Jeff Bridges) drawn into a fake kidnapping scheme and doing everything he can to get back to his normal routine blazing up, hitting the bowling alley and immersing himself in the serenity of the lanes. It doesn’t help that his blowhard bestie Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) is hell bent on attacking everything in sight.

So The Dude stumbles through the plot (and life) like a Christ-figure for the modern slacker, sinning for the rest of us and not really giving a crap. Except he cares about his rug, which really ties the room together. And maybe his car, which is pretty thoroughly trashed during the movie.

Is there a deeper meaning to all this? Have the Coens crafted a parable for our two-party system, drawing a line between Walter’s aggressive style and The Dude’s laid-back diplomacy, with their meek pal Donny (Steve Buscemi) serving as the everyman caught in the middle? Is it just a bowling-is-life metaphor, a game of strikes and gutters, ups and downs?

Does it matter?

Maybe there isn’t much of a point beyond embracing the film’s infectious let-it-ride attitude, eminently quotable dialogue, soulful soundtrack and a population of characters who exist in their own little universe all kind of colliding with each other in one big stream-of-consciousness hotbox for the audience to inhale.

As for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the gift set comes in a miniature bowling-ball bag with a nifty miniature bowling-ball pencil holder (the holes in the ball being for the pencils, obviously). Also cool is a glasses polishing cloth styled after The Dude’s rug. The disc case itself comes in a knitted “cozy” based on The Dude’s iconic sweater, which is a nice touch if a bit impractical (the disc case is the same as the standalone 4K Blu-ray combo pack).

The 4K disc contains no bonus materials, which are all on the regular Blu-ray included with the combo pack. That standard Blu-ray is a repackaging of the same disc that was first released in 2011, which itself was a high-def version of the old 10th anniversary DVD. As such, it carries over most of the old extras, such as the tongue-in-cheek intro from a fake film preservationist, a few making-of retrospectives, a video about Jeff Bridges’ on-set photography, and a profile of the annual Lebowski Fest confab.

The Blu-ray also includes an in-movie scorecard for the various Dudeisms and curse words spouted throughout the film; pop-up information for the music as it plays during the movie; and a tame picture-in-picture mode with footage that looks like it was taken from the 10th anniversary interviews. While it would be cool for all these to play out at the same time, they’re on separate tracks so you can only pick one at a time.

You can also play the film with a trivia mode and play against a friend in shouting out the next line of dialogue during certain scenes, though the choice points don’t seem to come up as often as you’d expect.

Not that it matters, since this isn’t really a movie that ever embraced expectations, right? And that, at its core, is what makes The Big Lebowski so special. The Dude abides in any format.

‘The Big Lebowski’ to Abide With Release on 4K UHD Oct. 16 From Universal

The Big Lebowski 20th Anniversary Limited Edition will come out in a 4K Ultra combo pack that also includes Blu-ray and digital (including Movies Anywhere) Oct. 16 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The Coen brothers crime-comedy, starring Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, True Grit), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Argo), Julianne Moore (The Hours, Still Alice), Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Ghost World), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Capote) and John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo), will be released in a set that includes a collectible bag, bowling ball pencil holder, polishing cloth and sweater packaging.

Bonus features include “The Dude’s Life,” in which Bridges, Goodman, Moore, Buscemi and Turturro take a look back at their performances and how their delivery of the Coen brothers’ dialog became classic movie lines; “The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later,” a conversation with the cast about the film’s decade-long reign as a cult classic; “Making of The Big Lebowski”; “The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever’s Story,” an in-depth look at the annual Lebowski Fest, a celebration of The Dude and his world, attended by thousands each year; “Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of The Dude,” a look at some of the Dude’s trippiest fantasies so fans can learn for the first time how these  scenes were created; an interactive map of the locations of The Big Lebowski, then and now; “Jeff Bridges Photo Book,” in which Bridges presents a portfolio of shots taken on the set of The Big Lebowski; and a photo gallery.

Animated ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ to Haunt Fans on Digital Sept. 25, Disc Oct. 9 From Sony

The animated Hotel Transylvania 3 will make its debut on Digital HD Sept. 25, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Oct. 9 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The family comedy has grossed more than $425 million in theaters worldwide.

In the third installment in the series, Mavis surprises Dracula with a family voyage on a luxury, haunted monster cruise ship. The unexpected happens when Drac falls for the ship’s human captain Ericka.

The voice cast includes Adam Sandler (Grown-Ups), Andy Samberg (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers), Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), David Spade (TV’s “Rules of Engagement”), Steve Buscemi (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Keegan Michael Key (TV’s “Key and Peele”), Molly Shannon (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Fran Drescher (TV’s “The Nanny”), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms), Jim Gaffigan (Super Troopers 2) and Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein).

Bonus materials include three sing alongs, “Dennis Had a Giant Dog,” sung by Dennis & Winnie, “Monsters Like to Party Down,” sung by Johnny, and “Oh These Wolf Pups,” sung by Wanda Werewolf; the featurette “Plan Your Own Spook-tacular Sleepover,” with details on snacks to crafts to games; a “Vampire Make Over: Mavis and Drac Tutorial,” about how to turn yourself into Hotel Transylvania 3 characters; “Behind the Screams – The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3,” showing how the characters are brought to life in the recording booth; “Johnny’s Home Movies (Franchise Recap)”; “I See Love Monster Dance Party Dance Along”; “Drac’s Zing-tastic Read Along”; and two mini movies, “Puppy and “Goodnight Mr. Foot.”