Criterion Collection Launching Streaming Service as FilmStruck Alternative

Following subscriber pushback regarding the shuttering of Turner Classic Movies SVOD service FilmStruck, The Criterion Collection announced it will launch its own freestanding service in spring 2019 through a special arrangement with WarnerMedia.

Wholly owned and controlled by the Criterion Collection, the independent Criterion Channel will pick up where it left off as an add-on to the FilmStruck service, with thematic programming, regular filmmaker spotlights, and actor retrospectives, featuring major classics and hard-to-find titles from Hollywood and around the world, complete with special features, including  commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and original documentaries.

The venerable library of films will also be part of WarnerMedia’s recently announced direct-to-consumer platform slated to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019. WarnerMedia is shutting down FilmStruck Nov. 29.

WarnerMedia — formed following AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner — announced the pending service “ensures that fans” have access to not only films from the Criterion Collection but also WarnerMedia’s extensive library “in what will be a rich and curated experience, which will further expand the audience footprint for these classic and acclaimed movies.”

Indeed, when news broke about the demise of FilmStruck, no less than Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, among other industry heavyweights, reportedly contacted WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey personally asking about an alternative solution.

Criterion’s new service will continue to produce guest programmer series “Adventures in Moviegoing,” which has featured cinephile luminaries such as Barry Jenkins, Guillermo del Toro, Bill Hader and Mira Nair. Criterion’s monthly 15-minute film school “Observations on Film Art,” “Tuesday’s Short + Feature” and the “Friday Double-Bill” will all be back as well.

Launched in 1984 with the Laserdisc releases of Citizen Kane (1941) and King Kong (1933), The Criterion Collection became known for its special-edition DVD and later Blu-ray Disc releases of restored classic films.

In 2011, Hulu licensed select Criterion titles for streaming, an arrangement  FilmStruck acquired in 2016.

Criterion announced it expects the new service to be available in the United States and Canada at launch, rolling out to additional territories over time.

Fans can sign up for the new service at Criterion.com/channel.

Charter members, following a 30-day free trial, will receive a reduced rate of $9.99 per month or $89.99 per year for as long as they keep their subscription active. Charter members also receive a gift certificate for the Criterion website, a membership card and concierge customer service, including a customer ID and special e-mail address.

The regular post-launch rate will be $10.99 per month or $100 per year.

Universal Unleashes AR Experience With Facebook to Promote ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

To mark the global 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has partnered with Facebook and Messenger to unleash sharable in-store and in-home augmented reality experiences showcasing the film’s dinosaurs.

The AR experiences featuring different dinosaurs from the film will debut Sept. 18 timed to the film’s North American home entertainment launch before rolling out around the world.

It is the first integrated AR experience across the Facebook family of apps — specifically Facebook and Messenger — according to a Universal press release.

“Just as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom expertly transports viewers into an immersive world of discovery and wonder, the new AR offerings in-store and in-home serve to effectively extend that excitement and innovation to our global home entertainment release,” said Hilary Hoffman, EVP, marketing, UPHE. “We are thrilled to have a world-class partner in Facebook to help power these engaging AR experiences and are sure they will captivate and delight Jurassic fans of all ages.”

On the day of the release, participating retailers across 18 countries will showcase, for a limited time, the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in-store displays that will include instructions on how to trigger an AR experience. Shoppers scan a special QR code to launch the sharable AR effect that places the Indoraptor directly in their path. In the U.S. alone, the experience spans more than 17,000 stores across multiple national retail and grocery chains, according to the release.

The in-home experience is activated off of an insert in the product packaging using the Messenger camera. The experience unveils an interactive, baby version of the film’s Velociraptor hero, Blue. The animated Baby Blue can be placed in any environment, and images and video of her can be captured and shared with friends.

Both the in-store and in-home experiences are compatible with iOS and Android devices. Users should utilize the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger apps, according to the release.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second installment in the dinosaur series reboot, has generated nearly $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office to date. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow, the film stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

‘Schindler’s List’ Coming in 4K to Theaters, Home Market From Universal

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of director Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Universal Pictures will re-release the film with picture and sound digitally remastered —including in 4K, Dolby Cinema and Dolby Atmos — for a limited theatrical engagement on Dec. 7 across the United States and Canada.

The remastered film will also be available in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos sound on home entertainment platforms subsequent to the theatrical release.

Schindler’s List, starring Liam Neeson as a German businessman who saves more than 1,000 Jews during the holocaust, won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

“It is difficult to believe that it’s been 25 years since Schindler’s List first arrived in theaters,” said Spielberg in a statement. “The true stories of the magnitude and tragedy of the Holocaust are ones that must never be forgotten, and the film’s lessons about the critical importance of countering hatred continue to reverberate today. I am honored that audiences will be able to experience the journey once again on the big screen.”

“We are proud to bring the remastered Schindler’s List, one of the most important movies of the 20th century, to a new generation of filmgoers,” said Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal, in a statement. “The lesson that one person — during one of the darkest chapters in humankind’s history — can make a difference is as relevant now as ever before.”

In advance of the re-release, free educational screenings of the film — coordinated by USC Shoah Foundation — will be available for high-school educators and their students in selected AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Marcus Theatres, Cineplex, Harkins and National Amusements locations in major markets in North America Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

“As curators of the world’s largest collection of firsthand accounts about the consequences of hatred, USC Shoah Foundation is uniquely positioned to educate and inspire humanity to counter hate through empathy and action,” said Spielberg, who established the Shoah Foundation after his experiences filming Schindler’s List, in a statement. “Those who engage with this eyewitness testimony make deeply meaningful connections, develop critical thinking and empathy, and learn to reflect on the choices they can make to counter hatred.”

The film score by John Williams also will be released by La-La Land Records with never-before-heard material, and the remastered version of Schindler’s List will be re-released in theatres internationally across select territories in early 2019.

USC Shoah Foundation — under its Stronger Than Hate initiative — will work with partner organizations to provide classroom-ready resources through its educational website IWitness to accompany the theatrical and home entertainment releases of the film.

Spielberg’s ‘Hook’ Coming to 4K UHD Oct. 9 From Sony

Hook, Steven Spielberg’s update on the tale of Peter Pan, debuts on 4K Ultra HD and digital in 4K with high dynamic range Oct. 9 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Robin Williams as Peter, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, Bob Hoskins as Smee and Maggie Smith as Wendy, Hook was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1991. The story follows an adult Peter Pan as he returns to Neverland to reclaim his youthful spirit in order to challenge his old enemy Captain Hook, who has kidnaped his children.

Hook has been restored in 4K from the original camera negative, with approval on the 4K HDR master from director Steven Spielberg, according to the studio. It also features Dolby Atmos audio.

Bonus features include 11 never-before-seen deleted scenes.

Ready Player One

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 7/24/18;
Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $137.02 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $34.99 3D BD, $44.95 UHD BD.
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language.
Stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe, Hannah John-Kamen.

In its quote displayed on the cover of Ernest Cline’s nostalgia-inspired novel Ready Player One, USA Today described the book as “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” And despite a significant number of elements changing in the translation from page to screen, that’s an apt description for director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation as well. (Unless you want to subscribe to Red Letter Media’s theory that an episode of “Danny Phantom” serves as a better inspiration, but that’s a conclusion you’ll have to reach for yourself.)

Like the book, the film is a love letter to 1980s pop culture, so it seems apt for Spielberg, whose films helped define 1980s pop culture, would take on the task of directing it. Even more interesting is how Spielberg toned down the references to his own works, not wanting the film to appear too self-serving.

The focus on a very specific slice of the zeitgeist, especially with a story set in 2045, might not seem to make much sense (after all, it’s not as if 1950s pop culture dominates today), but the narrative presents a certain logic as to why this would be the case.

In the world of the film, humanity has become obsessed with a virtual online world called the OASIS, whose creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) grew up in the 1970s and ’80s and was himself obsessed with the pop culture of the era. Upon his death in 2040, he left a series of clues within the OASIS that would lead to three keys that, when collected, would unlock the portal to a golden egg, giving whomever discovers it wealth beyond belief and complete control of the OASIS. Solving the clues requires studying the things that Halliday loved, and thus a resurgence of decades-old pop culture references within the OASIS among those seeking the top prize.

Among the egg hunters (known as “Gunters”) are 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who worships Halliday almost as if he were a god, and the freedom fighter Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), who wants to find the egg to make sure the OASIS doesn’t fall into the hands of the IOI corporation, led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who wants to exploit it by selling ads everywhere.

The film is a fun adventure with some eye-popping visual effects and enough background details to require several viewings to spot them all. And looking beyond the pop culture references, beneath it all is a typical Spielberg parable about the value of teamwork versus the destructive nature of greed, and how it’s not exactly healthy to ignore the real world to spend all your time watching movies and playing video games.

The movie also makes some great use of music, beginning with Van Halen’s “Jump,” a song that resonates throughout the film as the story asks the game’s participants to “take a leap” when it comes to finding a connection with other people.

The Blu-ray includes six featurettes running nearly two hours in total. The bulk of it is the 57-minute “Game Changer: Cracking the Code,” which is the primary behind-the-scenes look, focusing on the writing, casting and filming — much of which involved the actors in motion-capture suits.

That leads into the 25-minute “Effects for a Brave New World,” about creating the digital world of the OASIS as well as enhancing the real-world scenes.

The eight-minute “Level Up: Sound for the Future” deals with the sound effects team led by industry veteran Gary Rydstrom.

Film music fans will enjoy the 10-minute “High Score: Endgame,” about how composer Alan Silvestri, who has worked on numerous Spielberg-produced movies, stepped in to work with director Spielberg for the first time (as longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams was off doing The Post).

Rounding out the bonus materials are the five-and-a-half-minute “The ’80s: You’re the Inspiration,” and “Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure,” in which Texans Cline and Sheridan re-unite in Austin for a fun discussion about the film just before its premiere.

‘Ready Player One’ Hitting Home Video in July

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the sci-fi adventure Ready Player One through digital retail July 3, followed by Blu-ray, DVD, 3D Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and on-demand July 24.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the film depicts a bleak world in the year 2045, when people escape from reality by entering the virtual world of the Oasis. When the creator of the system (Mark Rylance) sets up a contest for the winner to inherit his vast wealth, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his friends set off to conquer the challenges set before them.

“Ready Player One” stars Tye Sheridan (“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Mud”), The cast also includes Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen and Simon Pegg.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Cline and Zak Penn, the film earned $135.3 million at the domestic box office and $577 million worldwide.

The DVD and Blu-ray versions will include the featurette “The ’80s: You’re the Inspiration.”

The Blu-ray editions will also include the featurettes “Game Changer: Cracking the Code,” “Effects for a Brave New World,” “Level Up: Sound for the Future,” “High Score: Endgame” and “Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure.”

The 4K and 3D Blu-ray versions will feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray will also feature Dolby Vision HDR.

The Post

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $81.88 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language and brief war violence.
Stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Bruce Greenwood, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, David Cross, Zach Woods.

Even before seeing the movie, the obvious question surrounding The Post is why the filmmakers would decide to focus a story about the publication of the Pentagon Papers on the efforts of The Washington Post newspaper when the bulk of the material was broken by The New York Times.

After watching it, though, it’s a lot easier to understand some of the reasons director Steven Spielberg guided the film along the approach it took.

For one, there just seems to be much more storytelling to mine from the Washington Post perspective, whereas a Times POV would likely have been a more straightforward legal drama about the relationship between the press and government.

At the time, the Post was still seen as primarily a local D.C. publication without the broad national following it has now. Financially strapped, the paper issued an IPO that could have been threatened by any legal troubles encountered as a result of publishing the leaked documents copied from a classified report that exposed government deception in the conduct of the Vietnam War.

And that’s on top of the expected discussions of the role of journalism in a democracy and defending the First Amendment against government pushback, with the Times included in all those story points anyway.

There’s also an argument to be made that the primary interest of the film isn’t even about the Pentagon Papers to begin with.

Certainly, looking at the film from the prism of the Pentagon Papers as the subject matter makes it seem like it’s the story of a minor newspaper jumping on the bandwagon of a bigger newspaper to gain stature.

But keeping a bigger picture in mind, the film is much more about how the Post rose in prominence under the leadership of publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and that the Pentagon Papers just happened to be the catalyst.

From Spielberg’s perspective, it probably didn’t hurt that this approach also allowed him to devote significant screen time to Graham in depicting the ascension of a female publisher in a man’s world.

Spielberg also seems interested in positioning the film as a prequel of sorts to All the President’s Men, showing how the Post became the paper that drove coverage of the Watergate break-in.

As such, The Post is more fascinating for its procedural aspects and character dynamics for any actual history it’s trying to explore. The film also sees itself as an allegorical commentary on criticism of President Trump’s relationship to the media, and his tendency to label detractors as “fake news,” but these aspects of the film are really only going to appeal to choirs expecting to be preached to. One could be completely oblivious to such perceived messaging and still find the film immensely entertaining. The performances are terrific and the nitty-gritty details of classic print journalism are just fun to see, particularly contrasted with the digital simplicity of today.

The Blu-ray includes a number of good behind-the-scenes featurettes that detail the making of the film and explore the real-life circumstances being explored. This being a Spielberg movie, there’s also a featurette about the music composed by longtime collaborator John Williams, this being their 28th film together.

Amazon Greenlights ‘Cortes’ Miniseries

Amazon Studios March 26 announced greenlighting a four-miniseries based on legendary conqueror Hernan Cortes, starring Javier Bardem and produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television.

Cortes led a rebellious expedition to the heart of King Montezuma II’s Aztec empire, connecting two civilizations for the first time and changing the course of history.

“Cortes” is created and written by Academy Award-winner Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and based on the screenplay by Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday).

Emmy-winning Zaillian, Emmy-winning Darryl Frank and Emmy-nominated Justin Falvey (“The Americans”) are set to executive produce, along with Bardem.

“Cortes’ epic discoveries shaped the world as we know it today, and … we will bring Prime Video members on an exhilarating journey,” Sharon Yguado, head of scripted series at Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “There are few moments in history that shape an entire culture such as Cortes’ story, and this series will be one filled with drama and adventure.”

Oscar-Nominated ‘The Post’ to Hit Digital April 3, Disc April 17

The Post, which earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep), will come out on digital April 3, followed by DVD and 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc April 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film will be available on digital locker service Movies Anywhere.

Based on a true story and directed by Steven Spielberg, the film stars Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee as they wrestle with publishing the Pentagon Papers, government documents revealing secrets about the Vietnam War.

Special features include:

  • “Layout: Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee & The Washington Post” (Blu-ray only), which explores the real-life characters at the heart of the story, Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee;
  • “Editorial: The Cast and Characters of The Post” (Blu-ray only), which covers the casting;
  • “The Style Section: Re-Creating an Era,” about the 1970s style of the film;
  • “Stop the Presses: Filming The Post,” with footage from filming; and
  • “Arts and Entertainment: Music for The Post,” in which Spielberg and composer John Williams talk about their 44-year partnership.