First Glance: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

James Cameron’s much anticipated sequel to his quintessential blockbuster “Avatar” is finally upon us. A while back 20th Century Studios gave us our first tease. Yesterday they dropped the first full trailer for “Avatar: The Way of Water”, and to no surprise it was a visual showcase more than a story reveal. While many of the effects look amazing, it was hard not to notice the clear CGI in some scenes. Still, for me the biggest question mark is the story. So much about the first film’s narrative felt copied-and-pasted from several other movies. I’m really hoping the new “Avatar” has a fresh story to tell.

In the trailer Cameron again treats us to the glory of Pandora. We see its forests, animal life, and most significantly this time around, its waters. We also see Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana reprising their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri. Set a decade after the events of the first film, we see the couple starting a family and enjoying life on their planet. But we also see the dangers they face just to survive and it’s pretty clear that a greater threat looms in the near distance. Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, and Giovanni Ribisi also return while Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, and Jemaine Clement are among the newcomers. I’m really anxious to see how the $250 million investment turns out, especially 13 years after the original.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” hits theaters December 16, 2022. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

New on Home Video: “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.” Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition

One of my favorite films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival was “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul”, a biting and often hilarious critique of pseudo-Christianity and megachurch corruption. Now Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing this snarky satire home with a brand new Blu-Ray Collectors Edition. The film marks the feature directorial debut for writer-director Adamma Ebo and stars the superbly cast Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown as a megachurch power couple trying to bounce back following a huge public scandal. You can read my full film review HERE.

This new Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition of “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” hit shelves NOVEMBER 1, 2022. See below for a full synopsis and breakdown of the bonus features.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Year: 2022

Rating: R

Runtime: 102 Minutes

Director: Adamma Ebo

Starring: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Hall, Nicole Beharie, Conphidance, Austin Crute, Devere Rogers, Avis Marie Barnes

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is a satirical comedy starring Regina Hall as Trinitie Childs – the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, who together with her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), once served a congregation in the tens of thousands. But after a scandal forces their church to temporarily close, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must reopen their church and rebuild their congregation to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.

AVAILABLE TO OWN NOW ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

BONUS FEATURES:

  • Alternate Opening – Watch the never-before-seen alternate opening for a different take on the beginning of Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.
  • Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes – Watch unreleased scenes from the laugh-out-loud comedy.
    • Showtime
    • Skate Rink
    • Childs in the Attic
    • Trinitie in the Bath
    • Highway Pedestrian Guy
    • Trinitie Bringing Food
    • Trinitie Praying Over Lee-Curtis in Bed
    • Trinitie Sees Sidewalk Woman Again
    • Anita Speaks
  • Gag Reel – A highlight reel of bloopers and outtakes featuring main cast.
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Latin American Spanish
  • Languages/Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 for Feature and Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content) and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)

First Glance: “Savage Salvation”

Robert De Niro plays a small town sheriff in the upcoming crime/revenge thriller “Savage Salvation”. Peculiar title aside, the story looks to cover a lot of familiar crime movie territory. But interesting casting and some potentially good action may make this a pretty fun and gritty feature. It’s directed by Randall Emmett who’s recently been best known for producing the recent wave of direct-to-VOD Bruce Willis movies. Hopefully “Savage Salvation” has a little more to offer.

The trailer sets the story up like this: a former addict named Shelby (played by Jack Huston) is devastated when his fiancé (Willa Fitzgerald) loses her battle to get clean and dies of a heroin overdose. Furious and seeking revenge, Shelby sets out to pay back the drug dealers who supplied her. With the bodies stacking up, a sympathetic sheriff (De Niro) seeks to help Shelby before he takes things too far. Again, several familiar elements to the story, and some of the action looks a little cheap. But hopefully there’s a good enough to story to make it all worthwhile viewing.

“Savage Salvation” opens December 2nd in select theaters and on VOD. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

First Glance: “Plane” (2022)

Let me be honest. There’s nothing about the new trailer for the upcoming flick “Plane” that will have any critic rethinking their awards season ballots. Yet I have to admit, I really get a kick out of these wacky (and sometimes undeniably bad) action romps. And sometimes a little disposable nonsense is all I really need from a movie. Gerard Butler has certainly provided plenty of that in recent years. But to be fair, he does occasionally surprise us with an unexpectedly good movie. That considered, it’s hard to tell where “Plane” will land (see what I did there?).

Make no mistake, the generically titled “Plane” looks absolutely absurd. In it Butler plays a commercial pilot named (and this is such a Gerry Butler movie name) Brodie Torrance. When his plane is damaged during a severe storm, he’s forced to do an emergency landing. The problem is he lands in a territory full of hostile militants who take his passengers hostage. With the help of a federal prisoner (Mike Colter), put on his plane for extradition, Brodie sets out to rescue the passengers as only Gerry Butler can. Silly beyond measure but potentially fun….maybe?

“Plane” hits theaters January 27th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or taking a pass.

New on Home Video: 4K UHD “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979)

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has two Clint Eastwood gems as part of their November home video lineup. The first is a beautiful 4K UHD release of Eastwood’s terrific 1979 prison thriller “Escape From Alcatraz”. Inspired by J. Campbell Bruce’s 1963 non-fiction book of the same name, the film saw Eastwood re-teaming with director Don Siegel in what was a gripping and methodically told story that still holds up well today. You can read my full film review HERE.

This new 4K UHD “Escape From Alcatraz” hits shelves NOVEMBER 8, 2022. See below for a full synopsis and breakdown of the bonus features.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Year: 1979

Rating: PG

Runtime: 112 Minutes

Director: Don Siegel

Actors: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Fred Ward, Roberts Blossom, Jack Thibeau, Larry Hankin

Screen legend Clint Eastwood (Coogan’s Bluff, Dirty Harry) and director Don Siegel (Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled) re-team for their fifth and final film in this fascinating account of the only three men ever to escape from the infamous maximum-security prison at Alcatraz. In 29 years, the seemingly impenetrable federal penitentiary, which housed Al Capone and “Birdman” Robert Stroud, was only broken once—by three men never heard of again.

Eastwood portrays Frank Morris, the cunning bank robber who masterminded the elaborately detailed and, as far as anyone knows, ultimately successful, escape. Patrick McGoohan (Ice Station Zebra, TV’s The Prisoner) is a superb counterpoint as the suspicious warden. Filmed on location in Alcatraz, this gritty and realistic reenactment of a true story has all the power one expects of an Eastwood/Siegel movie. The stellar cast includes Fred Ward (Remo Williams), Roberts Blossom (Deranged), Jack Thibeau (Sudden Impact), Paul Benjamin (Across 110th Street) and Larry Hankin (Running Scared). Screenplay by Richard Tuggle (Tightrope), based on a book by J. Campbell Bruce.

BONUS FEATURES:

DISC 1 (4KUHD): HDR/Dolby Vision Master by Paramount Pictures – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative | NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson | 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 Stereo | Triple-Layered UHD100 Disc | Optional English Subtitles

DISC 2 (Blu-ray): HD Master by Paramount Pictures – From a 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative | NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson | THE GHOSTS OF ALCATRAZ: NEW Interview with Screenwriter Richard Tuggle | TALES FROM THE CELLBLOCK: NEW Interview with Actor Larry Hankin | Theatrical Trailer (Newly Remastered in 2K) | Dual-Layered BD50 Disc | Optional English Subtitles

Huge News: James Gunn & Peter Safran named co-CEOs of DC Studios

In a mind-blowing Tuesday afternoon shocker, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran have been named the heads of DC Studios, a brand-new Warner Bros. division replacing DC Films. The pair will oversee DC’s films, television, and animation going forward. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gunn and Safran will be operating as co-CEOs of DC Studios, with Gunn focusing on the creative and Safran handling the business and production side. However the duties are split up, this is an unprecedented move.

In a statement, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said “DC has among the most entertaining, powerful, and iconic characters in the world and I am thrilled to have the singular and complementary talents of James and Peter joining our world-class team and overseeing the creative direction of the storied DC Universe. Their decades of experience in filmmaking, close ties to the creative community, and proven track record thrilling superhero fans around the globe make them uniquely qualified to develop a long-term strategy across film, TV, and animation, and take this iconic franchise to the next level of creative storytelling.”

In a separate statement Gunn and Safran expressed their excitement saying, “We’re honored to be the stewards of these DC characters we’ve loved since we were children. We look forward to collaborating with the most talented writers, directors, and actors in the world to create an integrated, multilayered universe that still allows for the individual expression of the artists involved. Our commitment to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harley Quinn, and the rest of the DC stable of characters is only equaled by our commitment to the wonder of human possibility these characters represent. We’re excited to invigorate the theatrical experience around the world as we tell some of the biggest, most beautiful, and grandest stories ever told.

It’s still a little hazy as to how this impacts movies already in the works, mainly those outside of the DCEU such as Todd Phillips’ upcoming “Joker” sequel and Matt Reeves’ developing universe revolving around “The Batman”. But one thing is for sure, Gunn has a deep affection for comics and superhero storytelling. And Safran is no stranger to producing big-budgeted superhero franchise movies. Gunn’s brash and more comedy-leaning individual style is reasonably concerning. But there’s no reason to believe he will force that style onto every DC property.

What’s most exciting about the hiring is that DC is all but guaranteed to once again have a vision. Gunn and Safran already have some terrific groundwork laid with the recent release of “Black Adam” and the announcement that Henry Cavill is back as Superman. Stability will do wonders, and Gunn’s enthusiasm is sure to take the DCEU (or whatever it’s going to be called) into some fresh and fun directions. Let’s go!

So what do you think about the big news?