‘News of the World’ Tops Vudu, FandangoNow Charts

The Tom Hanks starrer News of the World topped the FandangoNow and Vudu charts for the week ended Jan. 17.

Both are transactional VOD services owned by Fandango.

The Western set in the 1870s stars Hanks as an ex-captain from the Civil War who is paid to transport a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Native Americans back home to her family. The title is available as a premium VOD rental, as are all the top three titles on both charts.

Universal’s animated Croods sequel, which became available for premium rental at the services Dec. 17, fell to No. 2 on both charts after a weeks’ long stint at No. 1. In the film, in search of a new home, the Croods encounter the more sophisticated Betterman family. A new threat forces the two families to set aside their differences to avoid extinction.

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Coming in at No. 3 on the Vudu chart was Greenland, available for premium rental starting Dec. 18. The action thriller follows a family who fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.

Taking the bronze on the FandangoNow chart was Promising Young Women, just made available for premium VOD rental. The film follows Cassie (Carry Mulligan), a young woman living a secret double life by night. An unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right wrongs from the past.

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Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Jan. 17, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. News of the World
  2. The Croods: A New Age
  3. Greenland
  4. Fatale
  5. Promising Young Woman
  6. Tenet
  7. Shadow in the Cloud
  8. Songbird
  9. The War With Grandpa
  10. Batman: Soul of the Dragon


FandangoNow’s top 10 titles for the week ended Jan. 17, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. News of the World
  2. The Croods: A New Age
  3. Promising Young Woman 
  4. Fatale
  5. Greenland
  6. Tenet
  7. American Skin
  8. Synchronic
  9. The War With Grandpa
  10. Shadow in the Cloud

Tom Hanks WW2 Flick ‘Greyhound’ Streams July 10 on Apple TV+

The Tom Hanks World War II movie Greyhound will premiere July 10 exclusively on Apple TV+, the tech giant’s subscription streaming service. The Sony Pictures release had been slated to hit theaters on Father’s Day — a strategy scuttled by theater closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Apple last month acquired distribution rights to the movie about a first-time Navy captain tasked with guiding 37 Allied ships across the Atlantic while targeted by German U-boats. Hanks wrote the script based on the novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester. Apple is reportedly investing heavily in original and third-party catalog content to buttress a SVOD platform criticized for lack thereof compared to competitors Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

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Hanks is also working with Apple on the wartime series “Masters of Air.” Apple TV+ launched last Nov. 1 for $4.99 monthly. The service is included free (for one year) with any Apple hardware purchase. Ampere Analysis claims Apple TV+ has 33 million subscribers, which includes free members.

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Apple TV+ Gets Tom Hanks WW2 Movie ‘Greyhound’

Apple TV+ has reportedly secured streaming rights to Tom Hanks’ new World War II naval movie, Greyhound, originally slated to hit theaters on May 8 and then delayed to June 19 from Sony Pictures.

With the exhibition industry shuttered due to the coronavirus, Sony shopped the $50 million budget movie to alternative channels, with Apple reportedly winning the bidding war. The media/tech giant is eager to upgrade a content portfolio that features about 30 original series and scant catalog fare. Apple hasn’t announced a release date for the movie.

Sony retains theatrical distribution rights for Greyhound in China, according to CNBC.

Hanks stars as a U.S. Navy commander assigned to his first war-time mission defending a merchant ship convoy under attack by German submarines in the Atlantic.

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It marks the first Hanks movie to debut in the over-the-top video distribution channel. The Oscar winner, who wrote the screenplay, co-stars with Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan and Elisabeth Shue, among others.

Hanks is no stranger to war movies, including 1998 Oscar winner Saving Private Ryan, and 2001 HBO series “Band of Brothers,” which Hanks helped produce, direct and write.

Warner Bros. Issues Statement on Tom Hanks’ Coronavirus Diagnosis

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, March 11 publicly announced they had been diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the flu-like disease that has stricken more than 125,000 worldwide and killed 5,000.

Hanks and Wilson are in Australia where the actor is in pre-production on a Warner Bros.’ Elvis Presley biopic from director Baz Luhrmann. Hanks plays Presley’s manager, Tom Parker.

In a statement, Warner said it was aware that a “company member” from the Elvis feature film had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the appropriate Australian health agencies to identify and contact anyone who may have come in direct contact with the individual,” the studio said in a statement. “The health and safety of our company members is always our top priority, and we are taking precautions to protect everyone who works on our productions around the world.”

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Warner said the “individual” who tested positive for COVID-19 is currently receiving treatment.

Indeed, Hanks, on his social media platform said he and Rita are following prescribed medical protocols.

“We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires,” he wrote. “Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated.”

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‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Coming to Digital Feb. 4, Disc — Including 4K — Feb. 18

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as the venerable Fred Rogers, will debut on digital Feb. 4, and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Hanks, who picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the role, portrays children’s television icon Mister Rogers of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in this film based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

The film also stars Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood made $60.9 million at the global box office, all but about $300,000 of it in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

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Bonus features on the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD include more than 15 minutes of additional scenes, a blooper reel, an all-new featurette starring Daniel Tiger, filmmaker commentary and a behind-the-scenes look at the film.

Toy Story 4


Street 10/8/19;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

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The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.


‘Toy Story 4,’ From Disney, Pixar, Gets Home Release Dates

Toy Story 4, the year’s No. 4 movie at the box office, will become available for home viewing in October, the Walt Disney Co. announced Aug. 22.

The animated film, with a domestic gross of $425 million, will arrive on digital Oct. 1, with a Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release following on Oct. 8.

The fourth film in the “Toy Story” franchise is a sequel to 2010’s Toy Story 3, which took in $415 million in North American movie theaters. The franchise was launched in 1995 with Pixar’s original Toy Story, the world’s first fully computer-animated feature film. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.

Toy Story 4 features an all-star voice cast that includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves and Joan Cusack.

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The home editions of Toy Story 4 contain more than an hour of bonus features celebrating Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the franchise’s other iconic characters. Extras includes deleted scenes such as an alternate ending; a new featurette that chronicles Woody and Buzz’s friendship through the years; studio stories shared by members of the Pixar team; a nostalgic look back at the creation and first storyboard screening of Toy Story with filmmakers; and a documentary on the pioneering efforts of Pixar artists who created the sets, characters, look and feel of the original film.

In Toy Story 4, Woody (Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s new craft-project-turned-toy Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) calls himself “trash,” Woody decides to teach Forky how to embrace being a toy. But a road-trip adventure, including an unexpected reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts), shows Woody how big the world can be for a toy. New additions to the cast of animated characters include carnival prizes Ducky (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Peele) bring a new level of fun to the film.

The fourth installment in the “Toy Story” series will be packaged several ways for home consumption. Toy Story 4 arrives home a week early on digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD with two exclusive extras, including a deleted scene, “Bonnie’s Playtime.”

A week later, fans will be able to buy physical copies of the film on disc, also in various incarnations: as a 4K Ultra HD combo pack (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital code), a Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital code) and a single DVD.

Also available is a digital bundle of all four films.

From the Earth to the Moon


$39.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated;
Stars Tom Hanks, Lane Smith, Nick Searcy, Stephen Root, Mark Harmon, Tony Goldwyn, David Andrews, Tim Daly, Bryan Cranston, Dave Foley, Paul McCrane, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Cary Elwes, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Brett Cullen, Tom Verica, Tom Amandes, Adam Baldwin, Gary Cole, Dan Lauria, Dan Butler, Joe Spano, Rita Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins, David Clennon, John Slattery, Tchéky Karyo, Jay Mohr.

With shows and movies about America’s space program getting a minor boost from the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the timing was perfect for HBO to finally release 1998’s From the Earth to the Moon on Blu-ray.

The 12-part miniseries is a docudrama covering the inception and implementation of the goals of the Apollo Program to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth, all the way through Apollo 17, the final lunar landing mission.

Even more than 20 years later, From the Earth to the Moon remains one of what I would term the “big three” movie depictions of the space program, along with The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 (a group First Man could have added too had it not been so uninspiring and myopic in its scope).

In fact, the success of Apollo 13 is probably the main reason the miniseries even exists, as it was made under the same production house as the film, with director Ron Howard producing. Tom Hanks, who starred in Apollo 13, also serves as one of the producers of the miniseries, in addition to writing and directing a couple of the episodes. He also serves as a host, providing a brief introduction to each episode.

At the time it first aired, the landmark miniseries was so impactful that it went on to easily capture the Emmy and Golden Globe for Outstanding Miniseries, as well as lay the groundwork for Hanks in 2001 to spin the World War II miniseries Band of Brothers (and, in 2010, The Pacific) out of his time working with Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan.

From the Earth to the Moon is unusual as far as a typical miniseries format goes. Instead of a long narrative broken into chapters, it plays more like 12 mini-movies about specific missions or moments in the space program, each distinct in its style and structure, but designed to fit together to tell the story of project Apollo as a whole. This is accentuated by the fact that, while there are a number of recurring characters throughout the episodes, and most are played by the same actor, there are a few examples where a part is played by someone else. A number of actors from Apollo 13 appear here as well, although in different roles than the film. There are also a few recurring elements to tie the various episodes together, such as Lane Smith playing a fictionalized newscaster in the vein of Walter Cronkite.

While the previous DVDs of From the Earth to the Moon don’t look terrible when upscaled to an HD monitor, a Blu-ray version was still highly anticipated by fans of the show and space enthusiasts alike. However, the product we ended up with has turned out to be something of a mixed bag, for a variety of factors.

Foremost among them was that the show was made in the mid- to late-1990s, on the cusp of the transition to high-definition. As such, the show and its extensive visual effects were originally mastered in standard-definition for the old 4:3 television aspect ratio. Thus, a true high-definition presentation of the miniseries would require a possibly expensive re-construction of the visual effects, which likely explains why the Blu-ray took so long to produce. Episodes weren’t even available through HBO’s on demand platforms until they were remastered.

The upgrade turned out to be somewhat controversial among fans of the show, with HBO opting to create new CGI visual effects in most of the sequences. The new shots are a step up in brightness and clarity, but inconsistent in terms of quality and accuracy compared with the real-life spacecraft. Rather than give the show a modern visual update, the CG team’s goal seems to have been more to re-create the feel of the model shots from two decades ago, which makes them feel a bit hokey in their movements at times.

From the Earth to the Moon was re-framed for 16:9 for its 2005 DVD re-release, and that decision has carried over to the Blu-ray as well. What that means, though, is that some of the top and bottom of the original image has been lost in the re-framing, which doesn’t affect too much of the presentation but does stunt the impact of a couple of shots. The footage has been remastered for HD and the results are mostly beautiful.

However, the footage hasn’t been completely remastered, and there are still a few spots were it shows its age with upscaling on a few of the old VFX shots. At times, these shots are also marred by a visible tracking band as if from an old videotape. Most of the upscaled footage seems to occur where the visual effects were composited with live-action elements (for example, transitions that fade from a person looking at a model to the ship in space, or men looking out windows).

Reconstructing these with new visual effects would have complicated the process of recompositing and editing the remastered footage back together to match what was originally done, so it’s one of those things that’s both easy to gripe over and easy to understand why it wasn’t done, depending on which side the viewer wants to come down on.

Ultimately, it’s better to have the Blu-ray than not, all things considered. For example, outside of how it’s presented in the episodes, HBO still hasn’t done right by the show’s excellent music with a proper soundtrack release. A multitude of composers were used to give each episode its own unique score, but the only official album that has ever been released consists of just the main theme and a handful of vintage songs used throughout the show.

Finally having a digital copy of the show is pretty cool, too.

The only extra carried over from previous DVD releases is a half-hour behind-the-scenes featurette. There’s also a new 11-minute featurette about the remastering process. Most of the lost bonus materials were gimmicky database-type files or videos of speeches that can be pretty easily found online.

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Since the hourlong episodes work fine as standalone pieces as well as within the context of the whole, here’s a capsule review of each one:

1. Can We Do This?
At the height of the Cold War, the need to beat the Soviet Union to the moon requires a rapid expansion of NASA’s manned space program, which kicks off with Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital flight in 1961. The depiction of Shepard’s flight is pretty much the only content repeated from The Right Stuff, as the miniseries was designed to work as a companion to previously released space movies (and establishing Shepard’s flight here becomes important for a later episode). The bulk of the episode is devoted to the Gemini program, with particular emphasis on the Gemini 8 and 12 missions, the latter mostly because it was the final flight before kicking off the Apollo program. Gemini 8, which was also depicted in First Man, was the first docking of two spacecraft, though the mission ended early after a stuck thruster caused a nearly uncontrollable spin that could have killed the crew of Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott. The depiction of the mission here makes it easier to understand what’s going on than the visceral you-are-there approach chosen for First Man. The most memorable shot of the Gemini 8 sequence is a nice pan out of the window that keeps the ship stationary while the background is spinning, but on Blu-ray the shot is hampered both by being cropped for widescreen and because it appears to be one of the upscaled shots, making it a bit fuzzy.

2. Apollo One
This is one of the more dramatic episodes as it deals with the fallout from the deadly Apollo 1 fire in 1967. The death of three astronauts brings a lot of pressure on NASA to justify the pace of the Apollo program, and the political ramifications are enormous, as Sen. Walter Mondale (played by a pre-“Mad Men” John Slattery) would rather direct funds to causes he sees as more worthwhile. We also see the tolls taken on the support teams who have to come to grips with the causes of the fire.

3. We Have Cleared the Tower
Mark Harmon plays astronaut Wally Schirra preparing for the launch of Apollo 7 to put the space program back on track after a year and a half, while a documentary crew chronicles the efforts to make sure the first manned Apollo mission is a success. However, the episode doesn’t stick around for the mission itself, where in real life the crew became sick and irritable and never flew in space again.

4. 1968
The episode departs from a conventional narrative to frame the voyage of Apollo 8, the first manned flight to lunar orbit, as the highlight of an otherwise turbulent year marked by war and assassinations.

5. Spider
The mini-series veers a bit into the more technical aspects of the lunar missions by focusing on the options for flying to the moon and the engineering and construction of the lunar module, culminating in the Apollo 9 and 10 flights to test it out. The opening credits of the episode are accompanied by the theme song for the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson supermarionation sci-fi series “Fireball XL5,” which I mention only as a means to say that the song appears to have been re-recorded for the Blu-ray, possibly as a requirement for the new fuller sound mix. The episode as originally aired and on DVD used the actual theme song from 1962.

6. Mare Tranquillitatis
This episode covers the historic landing of Apollo 11, with training for the mission presented as a flashback framed by a pre-flight news interview from astronauts Neil Armstrong (Tony Goldwyn), Buzz Aldrin (Bryan Cranston) and Michael Collins (Cary Elwes). This episode, along with the Gemini 8 bits from the first one, are likely now to be most compared with the depiction of the events in First Man, and aside from the technical realism of the visual effects I think they compare favorably. The music by James Newton Howard in inspiring and uplifting, and the episode spends a lot more time on the training, particularly in Buzz Aldrin’s ambiguous lobbying to be the first man on the surface and his angst over being relegated to No. 2 (a perceived slight that might still fuel the real Buzz to this day in both his relentless ambassadorship of the space program and a self-promotion streak that has seen him punch landing deniers, shout at the moon on “30 Rock,” and meet Optimus Prime on the big screen). Aldrin is played here by a then-unknown Bryan Cranston before not only “Breaking Bad,” but “Malcolm in the Middle” as well. Also, for all the talk of however First Man did or did not depict the American flag on the moon, it should be noted that this episode ends with the explicit shot of Neil and Buzz planting the flag.

7. That’s All There Is
This is probably my favorite episode, which recounts the mission of Apollo 12 with a lighter tone and a healthy sense of humor. As close to a comedy as the miniseries can muster, the episode is told from the perspective of Al Bean (Dave Foley). His close friendship and rapport with crewmates Pete Conrad (Paul McCrane) and Dick Gordon (Tom Verica) gives the episode a real “good ol’ boys in space” vibe that’s just ends up being a lot of fun. McCrane as mission commander Conrad is the most notable of the miniseries’ casting switches, as old Hanks buddy Peter Scolari played Conrad in the first episode (and was reportedly unable to reprise the role due to scheduling conflicts with his “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” TV series). McCrane’s easygoing irreverence is such a great fit for the episode that it’s hard to imagine Scolari and his more straightman nature having the same chemistry with the other members of the crew here.

8. We Interrupt This Program
Since Apollo 13 had just come out a few years earlier, and was made by the same people, the natural question arose of how the miniseries would handle its retelling of the ill-fated mission. Rather than retread the drama depicted in the film, however, the miniseries focuses on the media coverage of the event. The result is the weakest episode in the bunch, and easily skipped on rewatch. The decision to make the episode more of a companion to the film was really more a matter of necessity, as the Apollo 13 story was pretty definitively told in the 1995 movie (so much so that it’s easy enough to just watch the movie at this point in the miniseries before, or instead of, this episode). The miniseries version has some nice bits of trivia about the mission that the movie didn’t have time to delve into (such as considerations about disposing of nuclear fuel that was supposed to be left on the moon), and it works fine as a standalone dramatic story about the changing nature of the media in the 1970s. But as an episode of a miniseries about the Apollo program, it falters because it ultimately becomes more about the story of a generational rivalry between fictional newsmen (one played by Jay Mohr) using Apollo 13 as the backdrop, instead of the other way around.

9. For Miles and Miles
This is a solid episode about what happened to Shepard after his 15-minute sub-orbital flight and circumstances that led him to command Apollo 14 and eventually walk on the moon (and play golf there, too). Grounded by an inner-ear disease, Shepard takes a behind-the-scenes role at NASA helping other men prepare to fly to the moon, before a groundbreaking new surgical technique gives him the hope of a cure and a shot at his own lunar mission. Shepard is played with gravitas by Ted Levine, aka Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, with the always-welcome Gary Cole as Ed Mitchell, his lunar module co-pilot.

10. Galileo Was Right
Another episode for the science geeks, this one focuses on how astronauts who were pilots by nature trained to be geologists and lunar explorers standing in as the eyes of the scientific community that remained back on Earth. David Clennon gives a standout performance as geology professor Lee Silver, who trains the crew. The emphasis is on the training for Apollo 15, the first mission to use the lunar rover. Of course, left unsaid in the episode and the miniseries is the scandal the crew caused by taking unauthorized postal covers on the mission that were later sold by stamp dealers, leading to their dismissal from NASA.

11. The Original Wives Club
Sally Field directed this detour about the wives of the nine men in the second group of American astronauts, and the struggles of their home lives as their husbands were away training and flying missions (not to be confused with the 2015 The Astronaut Wives Club miniseries that dealt with the wives of the original Mercury astronauts). The wives are constantly dealing with the twin pressures of fame and the potential that their husbands may never come home, a circumstance that becomes all too real in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire. The episode is placed here because it uses a framing device involving Apollo 16.

12. Le Voyage Dans La Lune
The finale is appropriately epic in scope as it breaks from the established format and abandons the Hanks introduction in favor of a documentary-style recap from Blythe Danner. From there, the episode is structured to contrast the innovative French director Georges Méliès (played by Tchéky Karyo) directing his 1902 masterpiece Le Voyage dans la Lune (aka A Trip to the Moon, or the old silent movie that everyone’s seen in which a spaceship hits the man in the moon in the eye) with the Apollo 17 mission, which involved the only trained geologist-astronaut to walk on the moon. Hanks pops up playing Méliès’ assistant. What makes this episode particularly interesting in retrospect is that the Méliès scenes make for a nice precursor to Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film Hugo, which depicts the director as an old man.

The denouement of the episode (and the series) includes some updated visual effects depicting the landing sites after the missions, with all the equipment resting in place. The new effects offer a nice Easter Egg about the Apollo 11 flag.

The miniseries offers a nice recounting of America’s adventures on the moon, but it’s a shame there wasn’t a follow-up that explored some of the other aspects of the space program hinted at in the episodes. Like, maybe what the Russians were planning for their own lunar voyages. Or a companion movie about the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz flights, which marked the real end of the Apollo era.

A depiction of Apollo-Soyuz, a 1975 mission involving craft from the two Cold War powers docking in space, would have provided a particularly apt epilogue given it would have shown Deke Slayton (played by Nick Searcy throughout the miniseries) finally getting into space. This would have paid off one of the most underplayed arcs of the miniseries, as Slayton, selected for the Mercury program but grounded by medical politics, ends up becoming the man who picks the crews, and helps Al Shepard bounce back from a situation not dissimilar to his own.

Even years after the original miniseries, there’s no reason HBO couldn’t do such a follow-up now. After all, it worked for “Deadwood.”

Season 2 of ‘Big Little Lies’ Among HBO’s July 2019 Digital Release Slate

Big Little Lies: Season 2 and Gentleman Jack are among the titles on HBO’s home entertainment slate for digital release in July.

Available July 8 for digital download is Gentleman Jack. Set in 1832 Halifax, West Yorkshire, Gentleman Jack focuses on landowner Anne Lister, who is determined to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, by reopening the coal mines and marrying well. The charismatic, single-minded, swashbuckling Lister — who dresses head-to-toe in black and charms her way into high society — has no intention of marrying a man. The story examines Lister’s relationships with her family, servants, tenants and industrial rivals and, most importantly, would-be wife. Based in historical fact, the real-life Anne Lister’s story was recorded in the 4 million words of her diaries, and the most intimate details of her life, once hidden in a secret code, have been decoded and revealed for the series.

Due for digital download July 22 is Big Little Lies: Season 2, which follows the exploits of a collection of mothers in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, Calif. Everything seems the same. The mothers continue to dote, the husbands support, the children remain adorable and the houses are just as beautiful. But the night of the school fundraiser changed all that, leaving the community reeling as the “Monterey Five” — Madeline, Celeste, Jane, Renata and Bonnie — bond together to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. The new season explores the malignancy of lies, the durability of friendships, the fragility of marriage and, of course, the vicious ferocity of sound parenting. The digital release also includes the behind-the-scenes bonus feature “The Lies Revealed: A Conversation With the Cast of ‘Big Little Lies,’” featuring cast members Meryl Streep, Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern.

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Coming via digital download July 29 is Ramy Youssef: Feelings. In his first HBO stand-up comedy special, Youssef shares candid anecdotes about his life as an Egyptian-American comedian, writer, actor and director. He shares his thoughts on a number of subjects, including the best day of the week to pray, his father’s immigration story and connection to Donald Trump, his complicated love for Lebron James, whether dogs are really man’s best friend, and how sometimes he wishes he had never had sex. The exclusive presentation was taped in front of a live audience at the landmark Chicago Cultural Center

Available now for digital download are Deadwood: The Movie, Warrior and Master of the White Crane Fist.

Continuing the story begun in David Milch’s Emmy-winning HBO series, Deadwood: The Movie follows the characters of the series, who are reunited after 10 years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought. The release includes the bonus featurette “Deadwood: The Unspoken Subject.”

Based on the writings of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, Warrior is a crime drama set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century. The series follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances. After proving his worth as a fighter, Ah Sahm becomes a hatchet man for the Hope Wei, one of Chinatown’s most powerful tongs (Chinese organized crime family). Over the course of the season, Ah Sahm crosses boundaries inside and outside Chinatown.

Directed by Guo Jian-yong, who also directed the first two instalments, Master of the White Crane Fist is set in ancient China during the late Qing dynasty and tells the story of four constables escorting a criminal crossing paths with a theater troupe and a mysterious priest, setting off a series of events that will lead to the murder of a constable. Amongst them is the legendary Master of the White Crane Fist, who will unravel the consequences of greed, revenge, betrayal and opium smuggling.

Available on demand July 23 is the two-part documentary Leaving Neverland, which explores the separate but parallel experiences of two young boys, James “Jimmy” Safechuck, at age 10, and Wade Robson, at age 7, both of whom were befriended by Michael Jackson. They and their families were invited into his wondrous world, entranced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence as his career reached its peak. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 37, and Robson, now 41, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, the documentary crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after both had a young son of their own.

As previously reported, a remastered version of the space program miniseries From the Earth to the Moon will be released digitally July 15 and on Blu-ray July 16, details of which are available here.

HBO Releasing Remastered ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ on Blu-ray

HBO is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with a re-release of its Emmy-winning 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.

The 12-part docudrama told the story of the NASA and the space program in the 1960s and 1970s, from the Mercury and Gemini missions, to the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, the Apollo 11 landing, and the subsequent lunar landings ending with Apollo 17.

The episodes have been remastered for high-definition, and the standard-definition visual effects have been replaced with new CG effects based on reference models from NASA.

The 12 remastered episodes will be available on HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO On Demand beginning July 15, the first time the series has been available through the apps. In addition, HBO2 will air a marathon of the miniseries beginning at 8:45 a.m. July 20, the 50th anniversary date of the Apollo 11 landing.

A Blu-ray edition of the remastered episodes will be released July 16 with Dolby ATMOS audio and an exclusive “Inside the Remastering” featurette.

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The miniseries was produced by Imagine Entertainment following the theatrical success of Apollo 13 in 1995, and went on to win the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries.

Executive producer Tom Hanks hosts the episodes, and the cast includes David Andrews, Adam Baldwin, David Clennon, Gary Cole, Matt Craven, Brett Cullen, Tim Daly, Cary Elwes, Sally Field, Dave Foley, Al Franken, Tony Goldwyn, Mark Harmon, Tom Hanks, Peter Horton, Chris Isaak, Tcheky Karyo, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Ted Levine, Ann Magnuson, DeLane Matthews, Jay Mohr, Elizabeth Perkins, Kevin Pollak, James Rebhorn, Stephen Root, Alan Ruck, Diana Scarwid, Peter Scolari, Nick Searcy, Grant Shaud, Lane Smith, Cynthia Stevenson, Jobeth Williams and Rita Wilson.