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Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Mar. 12

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2019

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

March 12, 2019: Green Book, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Green Book

Academy Award nominee for his roles in Captain Fantastic and Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen, and Academy Award winner for Moonlight, Mahershala Ali, star in Green Book, a film inspired by a true friendship that transcended race, class, and the 1962 Mason-Dixon line. When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on The Green Book to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

For starters, this movie won three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ali), Best Original Screenplay) so it should probably be seen for that reason alone! Say what you will about the film’s simplistic handling of complex themes, but Green Book is a highly engaging buddy comedy-drama with stellar performances and some strongly-edited narrative momentum. While it doesn’t cover a lot of new ground when it comes to racial examination in cinema, Green Book remains an admirable slice of history wrapped up in an entertaining and accessible little package.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•Virtuoso Performances– Go behind the scenes with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as they discuss their characters and the lengths they went to accurately portray them.
•An Unforgettable Friendship – Cast and filmmakers discuss the friendship between Don Shirley and Tony Lip.
•Going Beyond the Green Book – Filmmakers and cast discuss the significance of The Green Book.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

It’s definitely dense – crammed with exposition and complex character history – but the second installment in the Fantastic Beasts series is still full of wonder and whimsy plus marks a more mature approach to storytelling in the Wizarding World, as the original fans begin to grow up. The visual effects are exceptional and director David Yates (a Potter veteran behind the camera) once again brings his technical mastery to the forefront. While it may stumble a bit in the storytelling department, The Crimes of Grindelwald ultimately rewards the patience of franchise fans and leaves plenty of intrigue for what’s to come.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed
•Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life
•Distinctly Dumbledore
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: The Return to Hogwarts
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: Newt’s Menagerie
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: Credence, Nagini and the Circus Arcanus
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: Paris and Place Cachée
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: Ministere des Affaires Magiques
•Unlocking Scene Secrets: Grindelwald’s Escape and the Ring of Fire
•Deleted Scenes

The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Rise up! In Nickelodeon’s newest animated series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Raph, Leo, Mikey and Donnie are becoming the heroes they are destined to be… But nothing can prepare them for what they face on – and below – the streets of NYC where they discover a hidden mystical world and wield brand-new, powered-up weapons. The Turtles face formidable foes, battle bizarre mutants, wrestle a heavyweight champ, and still make time for the best pizza in the city!

This is a snazzy new series for the TMNT lover in your life that is full of dynamic action, vibrant animation, great world-building, and crazy creatures. It’s a worthy reboot that brings some new flavour to the beloved property.

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Mar. 5

Thor Diakow | posted Tuesday, Mar 5th, 2019

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

March 5, 2019: The Favourite, Creed II, Instant Family.

The Favourite

SYNOPSIS: In early 18th-century England, a frail Queen Anne (Golden Globe® Winner Oliva Colman) occupies the throne, and her closest Friend, Lady Sarah (Academy Award® Winner Rachel Weisz), governs the country while tending to Anne’s ill health and volatile temper. When new servant Abigail (Academy Award® Winner Emma Stone) arrives, Sarah takes Abigail under her wing as she cunningly schemes to return to her aristocratic roots, setting off an outrageous rivalry to become the Queen’s favourite.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•Deleted Scenes
•The Favourite: Unstitching the Costume Drama

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this should have won Best Picture at the Oscars. Yorgos Lanthinos’ brilliant and bizarrely beautiful period piece takes a conventional costume drama and injects it with style and humour to spare. The trio of leading ladies (Colman – who won the Best Actress Oscar -, Weisz, and Stone are in top form and each bring a distinct performance to their respective roles and they get strong support from an excellent Nicholas Hoult. The Favourite is sheer cinematic perfection right down to the acting, writing, direction, production design, and score; simply put, it’s one of 2018’s finest films and gets better with each viewing.

Creed II

SYNOPSIS: Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. “Creed II” is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.

While the first Creed was a tough act to follow, this sequel deftly manages to capture some magic from its predecessor, while skillfully taking the complex characters in new directions. The subplot focus on the infamous Drago family should delight fans of the original Rocky movies as the narrative carves out a unique niche for the legacy and moves the story forward into a new generation. While it may lack some of the dramatic heft of the first film, Creed II ultimately proves to be a worthy bout.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•From Father to Son, Blood Runs Hot
•Finding the Authentic
•The Women of “Creed II”
•The Rocky Legacy
•Deleted Scenes
•The Rocky Legacy

Instant Family

SYNOPSIS: When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must hilariously try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family. INSTANT FAMILY is inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director Sean Anders and also stars Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro and Margo Martindale.

This is a sweet and endearing little family film that may have passed many by at the local cineplex but makes for a great addition to anyone’s home viewing library. Wahlberg and Byrne make for a cute couple and Isabela Moner once again proves to be one of today’s most talented rising stars. While the movie’s approach is a tad schmaltzy and the plot slightly simplistic, Instant Family is a well-intentioned dramedy with an admirable core message and plenty of laughs (and even a few tears).

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Feb. 26

Thor Diakow | posted Wednesday, Feb 27th, 2019

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

February 26, 2019: A Star Is Born, Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Little Mermaid: Anniversary Edition.

A Star Is Born

SYNOPSIS: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga fuse their considerable talents to depict the raw and passionate tale of Jack and Ally, two artistic souls coming together, on stage and in life.  Theirs is a complex journey through the beauty and heartbreak of a relationship struggling to survive. In this new take on the iconic love story, four-time Oscar nominee Cooper (“American Sniper,” “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) makes his directorial debut, and also stars alongside multiple award-winning, Oscar-nominated music superstar Gaga in her first leading role in a major motion picture. Cooper portrays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers and falls in love with struggling artist Ally. She has given up on her dream to become a successful singer until she meets Jack, who immediately sees her natural talent. The film also stars Andrew Dice Clay, with Dave Chappelle and Sam Elliott. In addition to playing Ally, Gaga performs original songs in the film with Cooper, which they wrote with a handful of artists, including Lukas Nelson, Jason Isbell and Mark Ronson. The music is original and all vocals for the movie were recorded live during filming.

While I still have a soft spot for the 1954 Judy Garland version of this cinematic story, the fourth iteration of the classic romantic drama gets a modern makeover with stellar results. With keen direction from first-timer Bradley Cooper, crisp cinematography by Matthew Libatique, and crackling chemistry courtesy of Lady Gaga and Cooper himself (pulling double duty), A Star Is Born is a grand and sweeping bittersweet love story, full of epic performances and swoon-worthy romance.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
•Jam Sessions and Rarities
-“Baby What You Want Me To Do”
-“Midnight Special”
-“Is That Alright”
•The Road to Stardom: Making A Star Is Born
•Music Videos
-“Shallow”
-“Always Remember Us This Way”
-“Look What I Found”
-“I’ll Never Love Again”

Ralph Breaks the Internet

SYNOPSIS: In the hilarious, highspeed sequel to 2012’s Oscar®-nominated “Wreck-It Ralph,” video-game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) risk it all by traveling to the expansive, fast-paced world of the internet in an action-packed attempt to save Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush.

Ralph and Vanellope are back and the results are awesome! This follow-up to the first colourfully wacky flick manages to carve out an even more poignant story that challenges the lead characters, examines our culture’s obsession with the Internet, and also provides loads of laughs. The animation is simply stunning, the chase sequences are thrilling, and Ralph Breaks the Internet proves lightning can strike twice when is comes to animated adventures with heart. Plus the Disney princesses steal the show!

BONUS FEATURES:
Blu-ray/Digital
•How We Broke the Internet –Go behind the scenes at Walt Disney Animation Studios to get an in-depth look at how the filmmakers brought a world to life that billions of people visit every day but never actually see – the internet. Take a front-row seat as the team reveals the inspirations for the story and what it took to bring it to the screen. Discover all that went into developing the characters of the film including netizens like KnowsMore as well as characters like Double Dan. See the lengths the team took to create the car chase scenes in Slaughter Race and much, much more.
•Surfing for Easter Eggs – Surf the web for the near-countless Easter Eggs, inside jokes and references hidden throughout the movie.
•The Music of Ralph Breaks the Internet – Take a look at the music of Ralph Breaks the Internet with appearances by Imagine Dragons, Julia Michaels, Alan Menken, Sarah Silverman and more.
•Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes with intros from directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston. Scenes include Into the Internet, Opposites, Domestic Hell, Bubble of One & Recruiting “Grandma.”
•BuzzzTube Cats – Many videos were created by the animators to fill the screens of the Internet world…and lots of them are of cats! Check out the BuzzzTube to watch this hilarious cat compilation.
•Music Videos – “Zero” by Imagine Dragons and “In This Place” by Julia Michaels.
Digital Exclusive:
•Baby Drivers – Slaughter Racing School – Take a spin behind the wheel with the artists behind Ralph Breaks the Internet as they go to race car driving school.
DVD
•Music Videos – “Zero” by Imagine Dragons and “In This Place” by Julia Michaels.

The Little Mermaid: Anniversary Edition

SYNOPSIS: In honour of its 30th anniversary, two-time Academy Award®-winner (Best Original Score and Best Original Song “Under the Sea,” 1989) “The Little Mermaid,” dives into the highly celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection with all-new bonus features and a sing-along mode. The magical, musical tale of mermaid princess Ariel is shore to make a splash with all generations when it comes home for the first time Digitally in HD and 4K Ultra HD.

Another Disney classic (this one celebrating 30 years!) comes home with a spiffy new package, loaded with insightful behind-the-scenes tidbits. Take a nostalgic journey under the sea once again with this epic tale and then take a deep dive into the absolutely phenomenal bonus features to learn about its enduring legacy and how the movie came together. A must-have for any Disney film collector!

BONUS FEATURES:
Blu-ray/Digital
•Sing-Along Mode – Sing along to the movie in this  sing-along version of the film.
•Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies Song – From the voice of a mermaid to the tunes of a muse, the music of Alan Menken has scored the soundtrack for some of Disney’s most iconic leading ladies. Join Alan, Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas Singing Voice), Lillias White (Calliope) and Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel) as we celebrate the music of their films in honour of the one that started it all … “The Little Mermaid.”  In this discussion, the ladies will share their memories of musically creating their characters with Alan, discuss what it means to be part of the Disney Princess/leading lady legacy and create new memories as they sing with Alan around a baby grand piano.
•“What I Want From You…Is YOUR VOICE” – Enter the recording studio and get an inside look at the cast of “The Little Mermaid” in their original recording sessions.
•Stories From Walt’s Office – Gadgets & Gizmos – Like Ariel, Walt Disney was a collector of many different things from miniatures to early mechanical characters that inspired the invention of audio-animatronics. We take a look at some the collections that Walt kept in his office in the third episode of this series.
•#TreasuresUntold – Join Ruby Rose Turner and Olivia Sanabia from the Disney Channel Original Series “Coop and Cami Ask the World” as they take a deep dive to explore some hidden treasures and fun facts about Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
•DCapella “Part of Your World” Music Video

•Classic Bonus Features – revisit four exciting bonus features from previous releases including:
-Deleted Character: Harold The Merman
-Under The Scene: The Art Of Live Action Reference
-Howard’s Lecture
-Audio Commentary With Ron Clements, John Musker and Alan Menken

Digital Exclusives
•“Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective – Songwriter Alan Menken and Jodi Benson, the acting and singing voice of Ariel, sing the epitome of Disney “I Want” songs “Part of Your World” and discuss its impact since it was first heard 30 years ago.
•Classic Bonus Features – Over 3 additional hours of previously released classic bonus features including Deleted Scenes, Easter Eggs, Music Videos and more!

Thor’s Blu-ray/DVD Reviews: Jan. 22

Thor Diakow | posted Friday, Jan 25th, 2019

Hit the movie titles for trailer links.

January 22, 2019: First Man, The Hate U Give, Johnny English Strikes Again.

First Man

Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen and from visionary filmmaker Damien Chazelle, FIRST MAN is the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight. A visceral and intimate account told from Armstrong’s perspective, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on Armstrong, his family, his colleagues and the nation itself—of one of the most dangerous missions in history. The critically acclaimed FIRST MAN comes from legendary executive producer Steven Spielberg (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Schindler’s List) alongside fellow executive producers Adam Merims (Baby Driver, Straight Outta Compton) and Josh Singer (The Post, Spotlight) with a screenplay by Singer allowing audiences to relive the historic achievement in human history that has never been told cinematically. Filled with outstanding performances from an all-star cast led by Gosling and Foy alongside an incredible roster of supporting talent including Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, “Friday Night Lights”), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Mudbound), Corey Stoll (“The Strain,” “House of Cards”), Pablo Schreiber (Skyscraper, “Orange is the New Black”), Christopher Abbot (“The Sinner,” Whiskey Tango Foxtrot),  and Ciarán Hinds (“Game of Thrones,” Tinker Tailor Solider Spy).

First Man is a remarkable cinematic achievement that may become more appreciated as the years go by. The sheer technical aspects, mixed with the meticulous historical details, and stunning emotional journey are masterfully conjured by director Damien Chazelle and the rest of the cast and crew. In addition, the bonus features add some fascinating insights which further the appreciation for this marvelous movie.

Bonus Features:
-Deleted Scenes
-Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
-Preparing to Launch – It’s difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey of Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
-Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
-Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
-Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
-Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
-Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN.
-Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN.
-Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross

The Hate U Give

Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer.  Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right. THE HATE U GIVE is based on the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller by Angie Thomas and stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr, with Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Issa Rae, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, Common and Anthony Mackie.

Topical themes and sensational performances collide in this powerful drama. The film is anchored by the tremendous talents of rising star Amandla Stenberg and grounded by solid work from Russell Hornsby and other veterans. The Hate U Give also benefits from an intelligent script and sensitive direction, resulting in one of the more resonant films of last year.

Special Features:
Extended scenes:
-Maverick and Seven Protecting Their Home
-Uprising
-Seven’s Graduation
Featurettes:
-Starting a Conversation
-The Talk
-Code Switching
-The Heart of Georgia
-Thank U Georgia
-Audio Commentary by George Tillman, Jr., Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Angie Thomas and Craig Hayes

Johnny English Strikes Again

Rowan Atkinson returns as the much-loved accidental secret agent in Johnny English Strikes Again. When a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, the country’s only hope is called out of retirement. English’s new mission is his most critical to date: Dive head first into action to find the mastermind hacker. A man with few skills and analogue methods, English must overcome the challenges of modern technology—or his newest mission will become the Secret Service’s last.

Full of mediocre jokes, Johnny English Strikes Again manages to coast on the charms of its main star, alongside a talented ensemble cast, and some decent sight gags. The predictable pratfalls eventually grow tiresome but it does contain sporadic doses of laughter.

Special Features:
-The Comedy Genius of Rowan Atkinson
-A Cast of Characters
-The Johnny English Legacy
-Virtual Reality Johnny English Style
-The Gadgets
-The Cars
-Locations and Design
-Feature Commentary with Director David Kerr

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