‘Waterworld,’ Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ on Tap in January from Arrow and MVD

The Kevin Costner dystopian tale Waterworld, Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, and the blacksploitation classic Willie Dynamite are among the films coming to Blu-ray in January from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Willie Dynamite debuts Jan. 8. Director Gilbert Moses balances action and social commentary in this story of Willie Dynamite (Roscoe Orman), the flashiest pimp in New York, who sports a personalized purple-and-gold Cadillac and eye-catching clothes. Dynamite wants to be No. 1, but he has the police, the D.A., fellow pimps and a tough-talking social worker on his tail. The score by J.J. Johnson features Motown legend Martha Reeves. Special features include “Kiss My Baad Asss,” a guide to blaxploitation hosted by actor and musician Ice-T and featuring interviews with Richard Roundtree, Melvin van Peebles, Isaac Hayes and others; the theatrical trailer; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips; and for the first pressing only, a fully illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Cullen Gallagher.

Jan. 15 comes Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro’s (The Shape of Water) gothic romance Crimson PeakMia Wasikowska stars as an aspiring author struck by family tragedy. The film also features Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston. Special features include audio commentary by co-writer and director Del Toro; “The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak,” a newly edited, feature-length documentary with cast and crew interviews and extensive behind-the-scenes footage; a previously unseen Spanish-language interview with Del Toro; “A Primer on Gothic Romance,” in which the director and stars talk about the key traits of gothic romance; “The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak,” in which the cast and crew talk about the film’s use of color; “Hand Tailored Gothic,” a featurette on the film’s costumes; “A Living Thing,” a look at the design, modelling and construction of the Allerdale Hall sets; “Beware of Crimson Peak,” a walking tour around Allerdale Hall with Hiddleston; “Crimson Phantoms,” a featurette on the film’s ghosts; a newly filmed interview with author and critic Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the tradition of gothic romance; “Violence and Beauty in Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films,” a new video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger; deleted scenes; original trailers and TV spots; a double-sided, fold-out poster; four double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions; limited edition packaging newly designed by Crimson Peak concept artist Guy Davis; and a limited edition 80-page, hard-bound book featuring new writing by David Jenkins and Simon Abrams, an archival interview with del Toro, and original conceptual design illustrations by artists Guy Davis and Oscar Chichoni.

Also due Jan. 15 is the horror film The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, from Italian director Luciano Ercoli. The twisting tale takes viewers through a triangle of friendship, sex and murder. Special features include new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine; “Private Pictures,” a newly-edited documentary featuring archival interviews with actress Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli, and new interview material with writer Ernesto Gastaldi; “The Forbidden Soundtrack of the Big Three,” a new appreciation of the music of Forbidden Photos and 1970s Italian cult cinema by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon; “The Forbidden Lady,” a Q&A with actress Dagmar Lassander at the 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films; original Italian and English theatrical trailers; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Michael Mackenzie.

Jan. 22 comes the Costner actioner notorious for its expensive budget, Waterworld, a dystopian tale about Earth being completely submerged in water. The new release features a 4K restoration and three cuts of the film, including the extended U.S. TV cut that runs 40 minutes longer than the theatrical release. Other special features include six collector’s postcards; a double-sided fold-out poster; a limited edition 60-page book featuring new writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, archival articles and original reviews; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper; “Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld,” a new, feature-length, making-of documentary including cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; an original archival featurette capturing the film’s production; “Global Warnings,” in which film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically aware Hollywood blockbusters; a production and promotional stills gallery; a visual effects stills gallery; and original trailers and TV spots.

Disney Creating Star Wars, Marvel Series for Streaming Video Service

Disney’s Lucasfilm unit is in development on a second “Star Wars” live-action series for Disney+, the over-the-top subscription streaming video service launching in 2019.

The series will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Diego Luna will reprise the role of Andor, which he originated in the 2016 movie.

The spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. A release date has yet to be announced.

Disney+ is also creating (through Marvel Studios) a live-action series based on Loki, the god of mischief, to star Tom Hiddleston.

The new projects join a slate of movies and series planned for Disney+ that includes new stories set in the worlds of Pixar’s Monsters Inc., Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” and “Star Wars.”

Earlier this year, Lucasfilm revealed that Emmy-nominated producer/actor Jon Favreau would write and executive produce “The Mandalorian” for Disney+.

The live-action series, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, is currently in production with a lineup of directors that include Deborah Chow (Marvel’s “Jessica Jones”), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Dave Filoni (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars,”Star Wars Rebels”), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok).

Lionsgate Bringing ‘Early Man’ to Disc

Lionsgate will release the stop-motion animated film Early Man on digital May 15, followed by Blu-ray, DVD and on demand May 22.

From the Aardman animation studio, the prehistoric romp tells the story of Dug the caveman and his goofy friends who challenge invaders to a game of soccer in order to win back their home.

The film, which earned $8.3 million at the domestic box office, features the voice talents of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams and Timothy Spall.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include the featurettes “Before the Beginning of Time: Creating Early Man,” “Nick Park: Massaging the Funny,” “The Valley Meets the Bronze” and “Hanging at Aardman Studios: A Workshop Exploration.”

    

Thor: Ragnarok

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 3/6/18;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $314.97 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch.

As with any movie franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become adept and finding formulas that work and sticking to them.

As a case in point, the first two standalone “Thor” movies are generally regarded as among the weaker of the Marvel films. It’s not that they’re bad per se, it’s just that they really didn’t establish themselves much beyond a general space-fantasy epic that connected to elements of the larger Marvel films. As a character, Thor worked better in the “Avengers” films, when he had other heroes to play off of and the films could take advantage of his other-worldly nature for moments of levity and comic relief.

Over the course of 10 years, the MCU as a whole has tended to take itself less seriously, embracing the sense of fun that a comic book movie franchise should have without sacrificing the emotional connection the audience needs to have with its characters.

One of the major contributors to this change in attitude since the second “Thor” movie landed in 2013 was the arrival of two “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, which are not only the most comedy-driven of the Marvel films, but they also tread in the cosmic setting that should have been Thor’s bread and butter. Ant-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming further demonstrated that the MCU could embrace a lighter tone while still remaining true to the source material and the overarching storylines being established for the crossover films.

So, it should really come as no surprise to see Thor: Ragnarok really deconstruct the elements of the MCU’s success, what has worked for Thor in the past, and let director Taika Waititi throw them into a blender to whip up his own unique cocktail for a hilarious big screen comic book thrill ride.

The secret ingredient, as far as Waititi is concerned, it seems, is a healthy pinch of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia, as Thor is essentially re-imagined as a Saturday morning cartoon hero akin to “He-Man” accompanied by a rockin’ techno-synth soundtrack, (from Mark Mothersbaugh, whose name popping up in the credits as the composer certainly elicits a “yeah, that makes sense” reaction).

Waititi does a masterful job of re-focusing the efforts of the “Thor” films while both wrapping up previous storylines (without much fuss) and positioning the characters for the next big crossover, Avengers: Infinity War, which arrives April 27.

Thor himself is now much more irreverent, with the script playing to Chris Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents. As for finding others for Thor to play with, this film offers a brief encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, but really hits a home run by pairing Thor with Hulk, taking advantage of a long-running rivalry between the two characters. A battle between Thor and Hulk in the gladiator pit of an alien world (inspired by the popular “Planet Hulk” comic book storyline) perfectly positions this film as a counterpoint to Captain America: Civil War, in which neither character appeared (as they were off conducting adventures in space, it would appear).

Thor’s only fighting Hulk, though, in order to escape from confinement and recruit a team to take back Asgard from his sister, Hela, the goddess of death. Hela (Cate Blanchett in a juicy performance that borders between menacing and sexy) had been imprisoned by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for being too cruel, but manages to escape to claim her father’s throne.

The setting of the gladiator planet lets the filmmakers indulge themselves in the colorful renderings of legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby’s designs, and also provide an excuse to just insert Jeff Goldblum into the film (as the Grandmaster of the games) and allow him to just be his zany self, much to the delight of the audience.

The film is a visual spectacle, reminiscent of cult favorites such as Flash Gordon or Heavy Metal, and would be a spectacular showcase for home theater 3D effects were the format not being phased out (at least in the United States. All-region 3D Blu-rays are available from overseas markets such as Europe and Australia).

The home video offers extensive bonus materials, with some exclusive to the digital versions.

The highlight of the presentation on all platforms is probably the six-minute “Team Darryl” short film, the third installment in a spoof series about Thor’s roommate on Earth. This time, with Thor off the planet, Darryl’s new roommate is the Grandmaster, and any excuse for more Goldblum in any setting is a good one.

Also included are about 40 minutes of behind the scenes featurettes, with a three-minute video about the Thor-Hulk relationship presented as a digital exclusive. Other featurettes profile the new female characters, and look at many of the new elements this film brings to the franchise. There’s also a five-minute appreciation of the 10th anniversary of the MCU.

Offering digital exclusives is fine in this case, since the disc comes with access to the digital copies, but the extras are structured differently depending on where you try to watch them, particularly where the deleted scenes are concerned.

On disc, the deleted scenes are pretty straightforward, offered one at a time. Many of them are extended sequences from an earlier conception of the film before story elements were streamlined. So the glimpse of that alternate version is fascinating on its own. The deleted scenes run about 15 minutes, compared with less than six minutes on the disc.

Note that Vudu presents the deleted scenes as a single featurette with them strung together, ending with the fun Easter Egg reference to another Marvel movie that has created some online buzz.

Lastly, there’s an introduction and solo commentary by Waititi, in which he offers a few insights about the making of the film, but mostly maintains the jokey nature he often displays in public. He describes many scenes with tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, hypes up his own skills as both a director and actor, and spends considerable time allowing his young daughter onto the microphone and reacting to her rather than what’s on the screen. No doubt fans of Waititi’s brand of performance art will eat this up, but for general MCU fans, it seems like a missed opportunity to offer a good, in depth discussion about the film.