Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ Now Available for Premium Digital Sale and Rental

The Apple Original Films’ historical drama Napoleon from director Ridley Scott is available now via premium video-on-demand (PVOD) and premium electronic sellthrough (PEST) from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Available as of Jan. 9, the film can be rented for $19.99 or purchased for $24.99 through most major digital retailers, in advance of the film becoming available to stream globally on Apple TV+.

From a screenplay by David Scarpa, Napoleon stars Joaquin Phoenix as the French emperor and military leader. The film is an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby. The film captures Napoleon’s famous battles, relentless ambition and astounding strategic mind as an extraordinary military leader and war visionary.

The two-and-a-half-hour film earned more than $61 million at the domestic box office, $214 million globally.

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/31/23;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $172.14 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD, $44.99 UHD/BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some language and suggestive material.
Stars Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Pom Klementieff, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Greg Tarzan Davis, Cary Elwes.

The last few “Mission: Impossible” movies have pretty much set the standard for espionage actioners the past decade. However, Dead Reckoning, the seventh film derived from the premise of the 1960s TV series, feels more formulaic than the franchise has for a long time.

While it still features some terrific action scenes and excuses for star Tom Cruise to do many of his own stunts, Dead Reckoning offers the thinnest story of the franchise since the third film. Of course, ostensibly all the plots for films such as this are crafted as an excuse to string together a series of action sequences, but the seams for Dead Reckoning are showing a bit more than usual, which isn’t ideal for a film that, at 163 minutes, is not only the longest “Mission,” but also the first half of what is meant to be an epic two-parter.

The antagonist is an elusive artificial intelligence program called “The Entity” that has somehow become sentient. What it ultimately wants to do isn’t exactly clear, but its immediate concern is finding a special key that can apparently be used to gain access to the computer that stores its base code. The key is thus the film’s MacGuffin, the object being sought after by all the major characters that puts them in conflict with one another, from Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, to the Entity’s handpicked mercenary, Gabriel (Esai Morales), and all parties in between, including a thief (Hayley Atwell) in above her head, to CIA operatives tracking Ethan for once again going rogue on a mission.

It’s all well and good, and an entertaining adventure on the whole that looks and sounds great on disc, though some of the character arcs are questionable, and the action beats seem to take more than a few pages from the book of Bond. The finale on board a train is also well realized, though it does bring to mind similarly staged sequences from the film Under Siege 2 as well as the “Uncharted” video games.

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The film’s HD disc configurations include a standalone regular Blu-ray Disc, a standalone 4K Ultra HD disc, and a Steelbook containing the film on both 4K and Blu-ray discs. The only extras included with the film discs are an audio commentary with director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton, and an isolated track of Lorne Balfe’s musical score. The filmmaker commentary is informative but tends to lean heavily toward the technical side.

The Blu-ray, 4K and Steelbook all come with the same bonus Blu-ray of additional extras, amounting to just six short featurettes totaling 31 minutes of behind-the-scenes material. Each of the videos focuses on a different setting or stunt: “Abu Dhabi,” “Rome,” “Venice,” “Freefall” (about Cruise’s well-publicized motorcycle jump off a cliff), “Speed Flying” and “Train.” These are pretty typical of promotional videos for movies such as this, though it is interesting to see some of the raw footage of the action sequences before visual effects were used for things such as removing cameras and replacing motorcycle ramps.

Digital versions of the film also include a nine-minute montage of deleted footage and a 10-minute featurette about editing the opening submarine sequence. Both are available with an optional commentary from McQuarrie and Hamilton.

Without the commentary, the deleted footage plays with a sample of Balfe’s score and no other sound or dialogue, as the footage is offered without any context aside from the viewer’s presumed knowledge of the film itself.

The editing featurette includes footage of the finished scene next to earlier footage and unfinished visual effects to provide some contrast between them as a demonstration of how the post-production process completes a film.

That these two pieces that total just 20 minutes are digital exclusives and weren’t included on the extras Blu-ray is something of a headscratcher, as surely the disc would have room for them given how scant what’s on there actually is.

Drama ‘The Son’ Headed to DVD, Blu-ray and Digital March 28

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the drama The Son on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and digital March 28.

The film stars Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath and Anthony Hopkins.

The drama follows a family as it struggles to reunite after falling apart. It centers on Peter (Jackman), whose hectic life with his infant and new partner Beth (Kirby) is upended when his ex-wife Kate (Dern) appears with their son Nicholas (McGrath), who is now a teenager. The young man has been missing from school for months and is troubled, distant and angry. Peter strives to take care of Nicholas as he would have liked his own father to have taken care of him while juggling work, his and Beth’s new son, and the offer of his dream position in Washington. However, by reaching for the past to correct its mistakes, he loses sight of how to hold onto the Nicholas in the present.

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LGBTQ+ Specialist Wolfe Video Cuts DVD, Blu-ray Disc Deal for Two Bleecker Street Films

Wolfe Video on April 15 announced that it has entered a home entertainment partnership with DECAL for two Bleecker Street films, Harry Macqueen’s Supernova and Mona Fastvold’s The World to Come.

Wolfe Video has already announced a DVD and Blu-ray Disc release date for Supernova on May 18; The World to Come will follow on June 1.

In The World to Come, a 19th century romance set in the American Northeast, Abigail (Katherine Waterston, “Fantastic Beasts” franchise), a farmer’s wife, and her new neighbor Tallie (Academy Award nominee Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman) find themselves irrevocably drawn to each other. A grieving Abigail tends to her withdrawn husband Dyer (Casey Affleck) as free spirit Tallie bristles at the jealous control of her husband Finney (Christopher Abbott). Together, their intimacy beings to fill a void in each other’s lives they never knew existed.

The World to Come had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the prestigious Queer Lion award, before its domestic premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Bleecker Street released the film theatrically on Feb. 12 and digitally on March 2.

The World to Come was directed by Mona Fastvold (The Sleepwalker) from a screenplay by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, and is based on an original story by Shepard. The film was produced by Sea Change Media, Killer Films, and M.Y.R.A. Entertainment, in association with Hype Film, Charades, Yellow Bear Films, Panasper Films Ltd. and Ingenious Media.

The deal was negotiated by Kathy Wolfe and Evan Schwartz from Wolfe Video and Kent Sanderson from Bleecker Street.

“We are excited to partner with the team at DECAL and Bleecker Street for these two special films in the LGBTQ+ genre,” said Schwartz, VP of content at Wolfe Video. “With Wolfe’s home video expertise and long-time presence in the LGBTQ+ community, we believe LGBTQ+ and mainstream audiences will hold a place for Supernova and The World to Come in their physical media collections.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Wolfe on these two beautiful films,” said Kent Sanderson, president of acquisitions and ancillary distribution at Bleecker Street. “They have proven themselves to be leaders in the space and we know that they will help us continue to find new audiences to enjoy Harry and Mona’s work.”

Each DVD and Blu-ray Disc will include behind-the-scenes featurettes, English closed captions, English audio descriptions and Spanish subtitles.

Founded in 1985, Wolfe Video says it is the largest exclusive distributor of lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) films.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 12/4/18;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $220.16 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Alec Baldwin. 

The latest entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise brings together elements from all the movies to craft a top-notch, high-energy action adventure that could go down as a benchmark in the genre.

Central to the film’s success is star Tom Cruise, who took on many of the most dangerous stunt sequences himself. This emphasis on practical stunts lends a verisimilitude other contemporary action movies would be hard-pressed to match, as they so often resort to frenetic editing to mask underwhelming stuntwork or visual effects.

What’s even more remarkable about this is that Cruise is now 56 years old. By comparison, Roger Moore was 58 by the time he walked away from James Bond, when critics were saying he seemed way too old for the part. Even more astonishing, as has been pointed out online, perpetual old guy Wilford Brimley was five years younger in the quintessential senior citizen movie Cocoon than Cruise was in this movie. And yet Cruise shows no signs of slowing down (though a broken ankle during one of his stunts does raise the question of how far is too far).

In Mission: Impossible — Fallout, the sixth film in the franchise based on the classic TV series, Cruise personally executes a lengthy skydiving sequence, pilots a helicopter through a narrow mountain pass and races a motorcycle without a helmet through the streets of Paris. Not to mention his signature running scenes that have become a staple of the franchise. All this comes, of course, after he learned to hold his breath for five minutes for the previous movie.

In Fallout, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has to track down stolen plutonium that got into the hands of terrorists because his personal attachment to members of his team led him to save them instead, compromising the safety of the world (and highlighting a big reason why James Bond usually works alone).

Hunt’s IMF squad is then saddled with a CIA observer (Henry Cavill) as they attempt to recover the plutonium again, which now involves a group that wants to free Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the bad guy from the previous film who ran a covert network of rogue secret agents looking to undermine world governments.

Another subplot deals with Ethan’s relationship with Julia (Michelle Monaghan) from Mission: Impossible III, and how they had to part ways so he could continue to save the world without putting her at risk. (Cleaning up this storyline was one of Cruise’s main goals for the film, he says in the supplements).

What’s clear from the bonus materials is that, aside from the flexibility Cruise doing his own stunts being a huge advantage for the film’s editors, director Christopher McQuarrie and the writers were still making up the story as they were filming (which isn’t unlike Ethan’s methodology for completing the mission).

McQuarrie is the first person to direct a second “Mission: Impossible” movie, and even though this film is very much a direct sequel to his Rogue Nation, he insisted on bringing in a new production team to give the film a different style than his previous work, and the results speak for themselves. McQuarrie’s action is kinetic and thrilling while maintaining a clear sense of space and geography so the audience can easily track where the characters are and what is going on.

A number of the action sequences were shot using Imax cameras, and the Blu-ray aspect ratio adjusts to fill the full screen during these scenes.

The Blu-ray comes loaded with bonus materials, including three audio commentaries — a rarity in a day and age when most new home videos are reluctant to include even one.

McQuarrie is involved in two of the commentaries — sharing one with Cruise and another with editor Eddie Hamilton. The McQuarrie/Cruise pairing, amusingly dubbed “Tom Cruise University” at one point, is more an exercise in self-praise and an affirmation of how much fun they were having crafting the film. The track with Hamilton gets more into the filmmaking process in general.

The third commentary involves composer Lorne Balfe, who discusses his creative process and how he went about incorporating the iconic “Mission: Impossible” theme. Fittingly, there’s a score-only audio option to show off the terrific music.

The disc also includes an introduction of sorts in the form of a PSA-type video with Cruise and McQuarrie discussing motion-smooting settings on new TVs and telling viewers they should turn it off to avoid the movie looking like glossy videotape.

All the featurettes and behind-the-scenes material are on a bonus disc, with the main piece being “Behind the Fallout,” a grouping of seven featurettes that run a total of 53 minutes.

Balfe returns in a five-minute featurette to discuss mixing the music for the foot chase sequence. There’s also a three-minute featurette called “The Ultimate Mission” in which Cruise offers his own reflections on the franchise.

The bonus disc also includes the theatrical trailer and storyboards for several sequences, plus a four-minute montage of deleted scenes, offered with or without the director’s commentary.

The deleted scenes are alluded to frequently in the commentaries, but the montage is mostly just the visuals of the scenes set to music, with minimal sound effects and no dialogue. McQuarrie says he usually prefers not to show deleted scenes but decided to present them in a musical montage as a compromise because he really wanted audiences to see the hard work that went into them.

While a couple work fine without sound, it probably would have been more effective to just present the scenes as a disc typically would, rather than make a music video out of them.

Netflix Releases First Screen Shot of Olivia Colman as the Queen in ‘The Crown’

Netflix July 16 released on Twitter a screen shot of British actress Olivia Colman playing Queen Elizabeth II on upcoming seasons three and four of its immensely popular original series, “The Crown.”

The 44-year-old Colman, who is seen holding a cup of tea, has won three BAFTA Awards, three BIFA Awards, a Golden Globe Award (“The Night Manager”) and has two Emmy nominations in her career.

Season three is currently in production and slated for release in 2019, covering the time period from the early 1960s to 1970s.

The second season, which just received 13 Emmy nominations, starred Emmy nominees Claire Foy (who already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards) as Her Majesty, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, and Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. Kirby, who co-stars with Tom Cruise in upcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout, won a BAFTA TV Award for her role in season two.

Newcomers Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Daniels play Margaret and her husband, respectively, in season three, among other cast changes implemented to better reflect the aging of the show’s principal characters.

Netflix releases second quarter financials today after the market’s close.