Bumblebee

 BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/2/19;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $127.2 million;
$29.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $34.99. UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi action violence.
Stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Glynn Turman, Len Cariou. Voices of Dylan O’Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen.

It’s hard to deny that the five live-action “Transformers” films have just about worn out their welcome even among the most avid fans of the franchise and toy line on which it’s based. With the movies for the most part having devolved into spectacles of mind-numbing action, incomprehensible plotting, unrecognizable characters and a jumble of references to the iconic “Transformers” lore established in the old cartoons and comic books, it was clear a change in direction was in order.

Bumblebee, directed by stop-motion animation veteran Travis Knight, is just the creative spark the franchise needed to re-connect with the audience, returning to the basics of the brand’s premise without over-complicating the story with an abundance of jokey characters and a fetish for the military industrial complex.

As the sixth live-action “Transformers” film, Bumblebee could be seen as either a prequel to the other five, or as a reboot, depending on what direction producers decide to take it in the future. There are obvious references to the other films embedded throughout, so if further movies didn’t materialize then it plays pretty well as a prequel, with some mental gymnastics employed to explain away moments where the story seems to completely ignore what has been established in the earlier films.

It’s somewhat evident that an earlier iteration of the movie was meant to more closely align with Bay’s world, particularly since a comic book prelude released before the film depicts Bumblebee working with the British secret service in the 1960s, playing off his involvement in World War II in the fifth film. Bumblebee, on the other hand, shows him landing on Earth in 1987, which isn’t necessarily inconsistent, but raises a few questions. An alternate opening sequence — included among the Blu-ray’s 19 minutes of deleted scenes — is a bit more vague about Bumblebee’s arrival on Earth.

So, in the same vein as X-Men: First Class, it wouldn’t be surprising if future sequels didn’t bother connecting to the existing continuity, though, recently one of the film’s producers indicated future installments would lean more toward the Bay continuity after all.

Bumblebee plays like a throwback to a 1980s Steven Spielberg movie, while the story is somewhat of a gender-swapped version of the set-up to the 2007 film, in which Shia LeBeouf came across Bumblebee in a used-car lot.

Fleeing from the Decepticon conquest of his home planet of Cybertron, Bumblebee crashes on Earth and loses his memory. Having taken on the disguise of a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle, he is discovered in a junkyard by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a mechanically inclined rebellious teenager looking for meaning in her life following the sudden death of her father. She repairs Bumblebee and learns that he’s an alien robot with the ability to transform into a car. And he’s being pursued by the U.S. military and Decepticon bounty hunters. With Charlie’s help, Bumblebee starts to regain his identity enough to remember the mission given to him by Autobot leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to protect Earth from the Decepticons so the Autobots can use it as a base to regroup.

The film comes to life with seamless visual effects that look great on Blu-ray, and a soundtrack peppered with some of the top hits of the 1980s.

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The girl and her living car angle might also bring to mind Herbie: Fully Loaded, which itself was an attempt to freshen up a shopworn franchise. For the most part, though, Bumblebee offers up a good chunk of the kind of “Transformers” fun that fans have been waiting to see since the 1980s, particularly the battles on Cybertron.

The Blu-ray also comes with a mini-comic featuring Bumblebee’s next adventure, in which he tussles with another Decepticon who has come looking for him. One of the extras on the disc is a motion comic containing this story with an extended ending that more explicitly ties Bumblebee to the events of the first Bay movie.

The disc also contains 10 minutes of outtakes, a four-minute profile of various “Transformers” characters with their “Generation One”-inspired designs, and 47 minutes of decent behind-the-scenes featurettes.

‘Transformers’ Spinoff ‘Bumblebee’ Due Digitally March 19, on Disc April 2 From Paramount

Paramount Home Media Entertainment will release the latest live-action “Transformers” movie, Bumblebee, through digital retailers March 19, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray April 2.

The film from director Travis Knight follows an earlier mission of the Autobot warrior Bumblebee, sent by Optimus Prime to protect Earth  from the Decepticons following the fall of Cybertron. Damaged in battle and unable to remember his true identity, he forges a friendship with Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager trying to find her place in the world who discovers and repairs the battle-scarred robot after finding him in 1987 disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. Meanwhile, a military group led by Agent Burns (John Cena) makes a pact with Decepticon bounty hunters to seek out any Autobots seeking refuge.

The film earned $125.9 million at the domestic box office.

The digital and Blu-ray releases include Sector 7 Adventures: The Battle at Half Dome, a new motion comic following Bumblebee on his next adventure. The Blu-ray combo packs will include an exclusive printed version of the new motion comic for a limited time.

The motion comic is part of the “Sector 7 Archive” along with “Agent Burns: Welcome to Sector 7.”

Other Blu-ray and digital extras include deleted and extended scenes, including the original opening sequence; outtakes; a “Bee Vision” look at Generation 1-inspired Transformers characters on Cybertron; and several “Bringing Bumblebee to the Big Screen” featurettes, including “The Story of Bumblebee,” “The Stars Align,” “Bumblebee Goes Back to G1,” “Back to the Beetle” and “California Cruisin’ Down Memory Lane.”

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital releases will feature Dolby Vision HDR and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for home theaters.

Hasbro Movie, TV Streaming Deals Soften Toys R Us Revenue Loss

Entertainment licensing of TV shows and movies proved a fiscal lifeline for venerable toy maker Hasbro.

The company Oct. 22 reported third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) net income of nearly $264 million, about equal to net income of $265.5 million during the previous-year period. Revenue fell 12% to $1.56 billion from $1.79 billion last year.

Revenue loss was in large part due to lingering effects of the shuttering of major retailer Toys R Us, ongoing changes in consumer shopping behaviors and foreign exchange — the latter having a negative impact of $32 million, or 2% of Q3 revenue.

Hasbro managed to offset the declines in part to the entertainment and licensing segment, which saw revenue increase 45% to $84.8 million compared to $58.4 million in 2017. Operating profit increased 99% to $33.7 million, or 39.7% of net revenue, compared to $16.9 million, or 28.9% of net revenue, in 2017.

Segment revenue benefited from a multiyear digital streaming deal for Hasbro television programming and revenue from the 2017 My Little Pony: The Movie.

In addition, the adoption of new accounting rules concerning revenue from contracts favorably impacted the timing of revenue recognition in the quarter. Higher revenue and a favorable mix, coupled with cost reductions, drove higher operating profit and operating profit margin in the quarter.

Brand revenue decreased 5% to $847.7 million, due in part to My Little Pony and Transformers: The Last Knight theatrical releases occurring in 2017.

Last November, Paramount Pictures and Hasbro updated a pact to produce and distribute content based on Hasbro brands, as well as original stories. The companies have partnered on five “Transformers” movies to date, as well as two “G.I. Joe” films, and the first “Transformers” spinoff, Bumblebee, slated for theatrical release on Dec. 21.

The movie co-stars Oscar-nominee Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and John Cena (Blockers), and is directed by Travis Knight.

“Global retailers have ambitious programs this holiday season … including programs behind our feature film, Bumblebee,” CEO Brian Goldner said in a statement.

“Hasbro remains in a strong financial position, including good operating profit margins, $907 million in cash and quality inventory to support our business this holiday season,” added CFO Deborah Thomas. “As we manage through a very disruptive environment, the strength of our brands and our business allows us to continue to invest to drive profitable growth in future years.”