Fast X

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/8/23;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $145.96 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $34.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Rita Moreno, Leo Abelo Perry, Jason Statham, Jason Momoa, Charlize Theron.

As over the top as Fast X may be, at least they don’t go into space this time. New franchise director Louis Leterrier brings the action back down to Earth a bit while finding new ways to push the audiences’ suspension of disbelief to its limits.

As shown in the bonus material, Leterrier seems excited for the chance to put his stamp on a franchise that has had a tenuous relationship with verisimilitude for a number of films, if only for the excuse to bring to life action concepts ruminating in his head since he was a child.

The story stems from the events of Fast 5, which set the stage for the series’ outlandish change of course with its ridiculous heist climax featuring two muscle cars dragging a multi-ton vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The villain of Fast 5 was killed during that final chase, and 10 years later his son, Dante (Jason Momoa), wants revenge.

Setting out with the flamboyancy of a 1960s Batman villain, Dante must first level-up his resources in order to go toe-to-toe with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, who since that film have morphed from simple street racing hustlers to global secret agents. To demonstrate how dangerous he is, the film has him take over the high-tech operations of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the villain of the last couple of “Fast” films, and arranges to split Team Toretto apart on different missions. From there Dom and his family are subjected to an elaborate series of death traps around the world designed to make them suffer until he can maneuver them into one final improbable battle.

Almost lost among the spectacle is that the massive cast has managed to bring together two actors who have played Aquaman — in addition to Momoa, there’s Alan Ritchson, who portrayed the master of the sea on “Smallville,” on hand here as an Agency supercop whose skepticism of Team Toretto’s loyalties provides another wrinkle to the plot.

This film was touted is the beginning of the end for the franchise, as the first part of a grand finale for the characters, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film ends with a series of cliffhangers and teases for more movies to come.

Still, as exhausting as Fast X can be at times, it can at least be admired for the sheer audacity of the stunts we are expected to believe are happening within the realm of a real physical world. The mayhem looks great in 4K, though the vivid explosions and the exploits of Dom’s seemingly indestructible super-car tend to verge on the cartoonish side.

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In addition to a solo commentary from an enthusiastic Leterrier, the Blu-ray also includes a five-minute gag reel, two forgettable music videos, and nearly 75 minutes of informative (but repetitive) behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The general making of the film is covered in the 35-minute “This Is Family.” Additional featurettes include the 13-minute “Xtreme Rides of Fast X” that profiles the vehicles in the film (which are actually described as the superhero suits to the films’ characters); the seven-minute “Belles of the Brawl” that looks at how the women of the film prepared for their action scenes; the five-minute “Tuned Into Rio” looks at the film’s connections to Fast 5; The two-minute “Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome” focuses on the actor’s role in the franchise, his stunts and a key sequence set in Rome; the three-minute “Little B Takes the Wheel” takes a look at Leo Abelo Perry joining the franchise as Dom’s son; and the minute-and-a-half “A Friend in the End” looks at the film’s post-credits sequence.

Finally, there’s a nearly eight-minute segment of Leterrier breaking down specific action scenes.

WWII Film ‘Come Out Fighting’ Headed to DVD and Blu-ray July 4

The World War II film Come Out Fighting, inspired by the story of the 761st Tank Battalion known as “The Black Panthers,” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc July 4 from Screen Media.

In the military adventure, a small, specialized squad of U.S. Army African American soldiers are sent on an unofficial rescue mission behind enemy lines to locate their missing commanding officer. The squad, upon battling their way through the German defenses, encounters more than it bargains for when it locates a downed U.S. Army fighter pilot. With the help of their friends at the 761st tank battalion, known as “The Black Panthers,” the squad must find a way to survive and make it back in one piece.

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Written and directed by Steven Luke (Operation SeawolfBattle of the Bulge: Winter War), the film stars Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight), Tyrese Gibson (“The Fast and Furious” franchise), Kellan Lutz (“The Twilight Saga”), Hiram A. Murray (Operation Seawolf) and Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV).

 

Morbius

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/14/22;
Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $73.79 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language.
Stars Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson.

For its latest attempt at an expanded “Spider-Man” cinematic universe that doesn’t seem to have Spider-Man in it, Sony has once again turned to a character that seems more akin to a horror movie villain than the protagonist of a superhero movie. But just because Venom manages to attract an audience doesn’t mean the formula can be applied to just any of Spidey’s historical comic book baddies who became antiheroes after catching on with audiences. And so we are presented with the tale of Morbius the Living Vampire.

The thing about comic books is, that while sometimes a character becomes iconic, more often than not they are pretty goofy, rising to a level barely above cult status if not altogether forgotten. Back in the day, when publishers needed stories to tell about the popular ones, any number of bizarre concepts were introduced into the monthly books, just to see which ones might stick.

Morbius was introduced into “Spider-Man” comics back in the early 1970s as essentially a costumed villain version of Dracula for Spidey to fight.

Interspersing strange characters and fantastical adventures with more-serious fare could hardly be considered unusual for the comic book page. At one point, Marvel Comics actually made Dracula and Godzilla part of its canon when it had the rights to them. Heck, Spider-Man even crossed paths with The Transformers at one point.

The point being, it’s easy enough for a comic book to get away with these things. Translating them credibly into live-action is quite another feat.

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Morbius tells the story of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant scientist with a crippling, unspecified blood disorder. He creates a serum for his affliction by splicing genetic material from bats into human DNA, temporarily curing his condition but giving him an insatiable thirst for human blood, without which his sickness returns. Morbius quells this thirst with a form of artificial blood he created.

In becoming a pseudo vampire, he gains the abilities of echo-location, superspeed and flight.

This basic premise could be the setup to any number of low-budget direct-to-video horror movies. But in those, the mad scientist would transform into the killer, only to be opposed by a love interest or fellow scientist, or maybe even a superhero, in some parable against technology run amok.

This being a Spider-Man movie without Spider-Man, and being called Morbius, the story has to find some way to make Morbius the hero. So, we get the benefactor of his research, a childhood pal named Milo (Matt Smith) with the same disease. He also cures himself with the serum, but gives into his bloodlust, killing innocents to maintain his power. This brings him into conflict with Morbius, who vows to stop him. And yet another comic book movie in which the bad guy is a mirror to the good guy.

There’s no message here, just an attempt to get more characters from the page to the screen in the hopes of future movies. Hence a pair of end-credits sequences that feel tacked on and, ultimately, pointless, given how poorly the film fared at the box office.

In addition, the attempt to ground Morbius’ powers in science rather than the supernatural just raises more questions that would just be answered by the nature of comic books themselves on the page, but are rather glaring in live-action outside the context of the source material. The serum granting bat-like powers is one thing, but why do the characters look like they are dissolving when they move fast? Last I checked, real bats couldn’t teleport. It does make for some funny gags about vampire lore, however.

Ultimately, Morbius is a creature of two genres, catering unsatisfactorily to both of them — too grim for comic book fare, and too beholden to the superhero formula for a vampire story.

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The Blu-ray includes a handful of extras, mostly behind-the-scenes featurettes totaling about 25 minutes. These are pretty typical for this kind of movie, mostly involving the filmmakers discussing the stunts and visual effects. There’s also a two-and-a-half-minute blooper reel, a two-and-a-half-minute look at comic book references in the film, and six minutes of promotional materials, including a three-minute recap of the press tour and a funny 36-second spoof of detergent ads.

F9: The Fast Saga

Universal;
Action;
Box Office $173.01 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, and language.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron.

By continuing the trend of its predecessors, the latest entry in the “Fast & Furious” franchise is a contender for one of the most absurd movies of all time. In addition to the franchise’s repeated assaults on the laws of physics, F9 adds long-lost family members and yet another character’s return from the dead.

Marking the 20th anniversary of The Fast and the Furious, F9 is the 10th film in the franchise, but the ninth in the main storyline, with 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw being a spinoff. It also features the return to the director’s chair of Justin Lin, who previously directed the third through sixth entries. Lin had previously directed the 2002 crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow, which could be considered the unofficial 11th film in the franchise as it introduced the character of Han (Sung Kang), who went on to appear in all of Lin’s “FF” movies and makes his return here, bringing the franchise’s main arc full circle as it prepares for its finale.

The story finds Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) living in seclusion with his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and son, but he’s called back into action when it turns out his brother, Jakob (John Cena) is the leader of a clandestine group trying to steal a device that can hack into every computer on the planet. So the usual “FF” gang reunites for another round of car chases, explosions and quips from Tyrese.

The screenplay injects some pathos into the mix by exploring the sibling relationship between Dom and Jakob, in the form of flashbacks to when they were teenagers and their father was killed in a race, for which Dom blames Jakob. The flashbacks account for the “saga” aspect of the title as the film tries to connect nearly every character and plot thread from all the earlier films.

Once upon a time, these were movies about thieves in a street racing gang before it became about international missions to save the world. Now the characters are basically acknowledging they’re in a movie, joking about how they always survive against impossible odds, and pointing out the structure of the plot as a reason to switch sides for a third-act swerve.

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The film’s home video editions include a director’s cut that runs about six minutes more and improves the movie with important character moments, as well as another scene in Cardi B’s cameo.

Lin provides a good commentary track in which he discusses his return to the franchise, his desire to provide some weight to whatever drama exists in the franchise’s margins, and hints at future revelations.

The Blu-ray also includes a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel and more than 70 minutes of comprehensive behind-the-scenes featurettes.

There’s also a three-and-a-half minute featurette on the “Justice for Han” movement that influenced the film, and the fun four-and-a-half-minute “John Cena: Supercar Superfan,” in which the wrestler-turned-actor shows off several high-performance cars, including some used in the film.

The 4K disc contains the same bonus content as the regular Blu-ray.

 

 

‘F9: The Fast Saga’ Racing to Digital Sept. 7, Disc Sept. 21

F9: The Fast Saga, the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, will come out with a new director’s cut on digital Sept. 7 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 21 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film has generated more than $600 million worldwide.

The release features the original theatrical version, the director’s cut and more than an hour of exclusive bonus content, including a behind-the-scenes look at the stunts and cars and a gag reel.

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In the film, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) thought he’d left his outlaw life in the rear-view mirror, but not even he can outrun the past. When his forsaken brother Jakob (John Cena, Bumblebee) unexpectedly resurfaces as an elite assassin, the crew comes back together to help Dom confront the sins of his own past and stop a world-shattering plot.

Franchise veteran Justin Lin, who helmed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the series, returns to the director’s seat for F9.

F9 also stars returning franchise cast members Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang, with Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron.

Cop Thriller ‘Black and Blue’ Due Digitally Dec. 31, Disc Jan. 21

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the action-thriller Black and Blue through digital retailers Dec. 31, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Jan. 21.

The film is about a rookie cop (Naomie Harris) who inadvertently captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing that the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the one person from her community who is willing to help her (Tyrese Gibson) as she tries to escape the criminals out for revenge and the police who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage.

The cast includes Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott and Beau Knapp.

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Extras include deleted scenes; a “Line of Fire” featurette in which director Deon Taylor discusses his vision for the film, how it implements body cameras and what sets it apart from other police-lead thrillers; and a “Be the Change in the Big Easy,” in which Harris and Gibson discuss their roles, filming in New Orleans and the poser of unspoken words.

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‘I Am Paul Walker’ Coming to Digital Nov. 30, DVD Dec. 4 From Virgil Films

Virgil Films will release I Am Paul Walker, a documentary exploring the life and legacy of the actor, on digital Nov. 30, for the five-year anniversary of his death, and on DVD Dec. 4.

I Am MLK Jr DVD Wrap

The film explores the short life of the Southern California native who cut his teeth as a child actor before breaking out in the blockbuster “Fast and Furious” movie franchise. It features interviews with those who knew him best both professionally and personally, using an extensive archive of rarely seen candid video and still photographs provided by family and friends of the late actor. I Am Paul Walker also explores Paul’s private side, including his devotion to his family, his fascination for surfing and auto racing, his passion for marine biology and sharks, his dedication to humanitarian work through his NGO Reach Out Worldwide, and his love for his daughter.

The film features interviews with Tyrese Gibson, Rob Cohen and Wayne Kramer.