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.

Jakob’s Wife

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

RLJ;
Horror;
Box Office $0.03 million;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, C.M. Punk.

Scream queen Barbara Crampton plays a meek housewife who literally grows some fangs in the bloody Jakob’s Wife.

Crampton plays Anne, wife of local pastor Jakob (Larry Fessenden), who begins to strain against the mundane routines of their marriage. Her passions are rekindled by a visit from former flame Tom (Robert Rusler), particularly when their attempt at a tryst is interrupted by a vampire attack.

The vampire, known as The Master (Bonnie Aarons), brings Anne under her thrall, giving her a newfound sense of confidence and rebellion, worrying Jakob.

Anne also takes on the bloodlust of the vampire, leading to some remarkably gory sequences of bodies spraying blood as major veins and arteries are punctured at feeding time.

There’s also an effective sequence involving a dentist’s UV teeth-whitening device, which causes Anne’s face to catch on fire due to her starting to take on the classic primary vampire weakness of an allergy to sunlight.

Jakob’s Wife should prove a pleasing diversion for horror fans looking for a late-night distraction. It’s hard not to think someone on the creative team wasn’t a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” when piecing this script together, given that Anne was Buffy’s middle name, and the Master was the name of the vampire villain of the show’s first season.

The Blu-ray includes a brief five-minute making-of featurette as well as more than 13 minutes of deleted scenes.

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‘Underworld’ Film Collection Coming to 4K Oct. 26

The Underworld 4K Ultra HD Collection will be released on Oct. 26 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The limited-edition gift set includes all five vampire films on 4K Ultra HD disc with high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos audio.

The films will also be available digitally in 4K with HDR.

The collection includes Underworld (in both theatrical and extended versions), Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Underworld: Awakening and Underworld: Blood Wars, as well as hours of standard-definition and HD bonus content for all five films, including the “Underworld: Endless War” animated shorts.

Chronicling the eternal battle between vampires and Lycans, the series stars Kate Beckinsale as the vampire Selene.

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Update (9/10/21): Date changed from Oct. 5 to Oct. 26.

‘Meet the Blacks 2’ Home Release Dates Announced

Lionsgate will release the comedy-horror sequel The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital purchase Aug. 10. It will be available for rental July 9.

The film is a sequel to the 2016 film Meet the Blacks, which is a parody of The Purge.

Mike Epps reprises his role as Carl Black, now a best-selling author after surviving the events of the first film. He moves his family back to his childhood home in Atlanta, where the neighborhood seems to attract strange activity after dark, and his freaky new neighbor Dr. Mamuwalde (Katt Williams), may be a vampire pimp.

The cast also includes Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb, Alex Henderson, Lil Duval, Andrew Bachelor. and Tyrin Turner.

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Directed and co-written by Deon Taylor, the film earned more than $2.5 million during a limited theatrical run.

Extras include audio commentary with the cast and filmmakers; bloopers; deleted scenes; and the featurettes “The House Next Door: Meet the Dope Cast” and “Hidden Empire: Paving a New Way.”

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Lionsgate Releasing ‘Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat’ on Blu-ray Aug. 17

Lionsgate will release the 1989 horror-comedy Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat on Blu-ray Disc through its Vestron Video collector’s series Aug. 17.

Seeking atonement for centuries of human carnage, Count Mardulak (David Carradine) has instructed Purgatory’s vampire residents to slather on SPF 100 sunblock, pursue daytime activities and drink only synthetic blood. But some vampires don’t agree with Mardulak — they want real blood, even if it means a vampire civil war. The cast also includes Bruce Campbell, Maxwell Caulfield, Morgan Brittany, Jim Metzler, John Ireland, Deborah Foreman and M. Emmet Walsh.

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The Blu-ray edition also includes a digital copy of the film. Extras include a commentary with director Anthony Hickox and cinematographer Levie Isaacks; isolated score selections and audio interviews with music historian Randall Larson and producer Jefferson Richard; the theatrical trailer; a still gallery; and several featurettes:

  • “Wild Weird West” — An interview with director Anthony Hickox;
  • “Bloodsuckers From Purgatory” — An Interview with special makeup effects creator Tony Gardner;
  • “Memories of Moab” — An interview with actor Bruce Campbell;
  • “A Vampire Reformed” — An interview with actor David Carradine;
  • “A True Character” — An interview with actor M. Emmet Walsh.

 

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Netflix’s Jaime Foxx Vampire Comedy Series Names Ensemble Cast

Netflix has named additional cast members for new original comedy series “Day Shift,” about a San Fernando Valley pool cleaning business owner (Jaime Foxx) who moonlights as a vampire killer after hours.

Cast members include Dave Franco (The Disaster Artist, The Rental), Natasha Liu Bordizzo (The VoyeursThe Society) Oliver Masucci (Dark, Enfant Terrible), Steve Howey (“Shameless”) and C.S. Lee (“Dexter,” “Nora From Queens”).

The series will be directed by first-time helmer JJ Perry, whose credits include second-unit direction and stunt coordination for Fast & Furious 9The Fate of the Furious, Bloodshot and the “John Wick” franchises.

The series is written by Tyler Tice with current revisions by Shay Hatten (John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, and upcoming films Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead for Netflix, and John Wick: Chapter 4).

Foxx, along with Datari Turner; Peter Baxter (Q: Inside the Storm), will executive produce. Show producers include Chad Stahelski (“John Wick” Franchise) and Jason Spitz for 87Eleven Entertainment, and Shaun Redick (Get Out, BlackKklansman) and Yvette Yates Redick (Malicious) for Impossible Dream Entertainment.

Netflix has not announced a series release date.

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Dave Franco, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Oliver Masucci, Steve Howey, C.S. Lee

 

MVD to Bow Arrow Video’s ‘Vigil,’ ‘The Addiction’ on Blu-ray June 26

MVD Entertainment will release a pair of films on Blu-ray Disc from Arrow Video June 26.

Vincent Ward’s directorial debut, Vigil, is a New Zealand film that was the first from the country to screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. It follows an 11-year-old girl attempting to get over the death of her father who is determined to protect her family from a mysterious stranger that she believes to be the Devil.

Special features include:

  • a new appreciation by film critic Nick Roddick, recorded exclusively for this release;
  • an on-set report from the long-running New Zealand television program “Country Calendar”;
  • an extract from a 1987 Kaleidoscope television documentary on New Zealand cinema, focusing on Vigil and Vincent Ward;
  • the theatrical trailer; and
  • for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Carmen Gray.

 

Also due is the 1995 Abel Ferrara black-and-white vampire film The Addiction. In the cult classic, philosophy grad student Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is bitten by a vampire and must learn to come to terms with her new lifestyle, which now features a frequent craving for human blood. The film has undergone a new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films, approved by Ferrara and director of photography Ken Kelsch.

Special features include:

  • audio commentary by Ferrara, moderated by critic and biographer Brad Stevens;
  • “Talking with the Vampires” (2018), a new documentary about the film made by Ferrara especially for this release, featuring actors Christopher Walken and Lili Taylor, composer Joe Delia, Ken Kelsch and Ferrara himself;
  • a new interview with Ferrara;
  • a new interview with Brad Stevens;
  • “Abel Ferrara Edits The Addiction,” an archival piece from the time of production;
  • the original trailer;
  • a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain; and
  • for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by critic Michael Ewins.