There are a few things we can always expect from a Bond film; dramatic plot twists, exotic lands, tense shoot-outs and at least a couple of beautiful love interests. It’s no secret that product placement has come to be interwoven in these themes thanks to brands that are desperate to be associated with the world’s most famous spy. Bond is suave, intelligent and a symbol of masculinity – a perfect character with which to model products that rely on a status of ‘cool’, from cigars or sunglasses to cars and beers. Exactly how well brands benefit from paying millions to promote their products in Bond movies is far from clear-cut, but what is clear is that studios have come to rely on such partnerships to fund the production of Bond movies. Hate it or tolerate it, product placement in the Bond franchise is here to stay.
Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: During a manned mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind by his crew after he seemingly dies in a storm. But when it turns out that Watney has survived, he must use his skills and intelligence to keep himself alive on the barren planet long enough to make contact with NASA and await rescue.
WHY: Although it’s the third film in as many years about astronauts in distress, “The Martian” is a smart, captivating and humorous adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel that covers very different narrative and emotional territory than “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” For starters, it’s a lot more uplifting than most sci-fi fare, eschewing the usual doom-mongering for a story about the power of optimism and perseverance that also doubles as one heckuva recruitment video for NASA. (Who knew science and math could be this much fun?) Matt Damon is perfectly cast as the Everyman astronaut forced to “science the shit” out of his seemingly impossible predicament, while the supporting cast – including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejifor and Jessica Chastain – is absolutely stacked with talent. This is hands down Ridley Scott’s best movie since “Gladiator,” and it owes a lot to Drew Goddard’s screenplay, which takes a lighthearted approach to the high-stakes drama in order to produce one of the most purely entertaining crowd-pleasers in years.
EXTRAS: In addition to a pair of production featurettes, there are some fictional promo videos made for the film and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber security engineer who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is recruited by a mysterious hacker named Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) to help take down an evil corporation that he believes is destroying the world.
WHY: USA Network hasn’t garnered much acclaim with its recent crop of original series, so when “Mr. Robot” debuted last summer to rave reviews, audiences were quick to stand up and take notice. Though the psychological thriller isn’t quite as groundbreaking as many have suggested – largely because its big twists have been executed better before – it gets off to a strong start thanks to Rami Malek’s breakout performance and a solid supporting cast. The hacker elements are really compelling, but once the show starts to dive more into Elliot’s psyche, it begins to unravel. Not only is Elliot an incredibly unreliable protagonist, giving the writers free reign to do whatever they want with little consequences, but the drastic change in direction midway through the season is so sudden that it feels like creator Sam Esmail got impatient allowing the story to develop organically. He burns through nearly two seasons’ worth of story in only 10 episodes, and while some viewers will appreciate that type of gung-ho attitude, a more disciplined approach would have resulted in a more rewarding payoff.
EXTRAS: There’s a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
These days, if you don’t own a Blu-ray player, you’re missing out, especially with a variety of classic movies being offered in high definition for the first time ever. But while we could easily fill several pages with suggestions of great films and cool box sets that deserve a spot on any holiday wish list, we’ve picked some of our favorites released over the past 12 months. If you can’t find anything worth buying here, then chances are that the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like movies.
Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.
Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Trilogy
By this point, you may well be weary of hearing about “Back to the Future,” given how much press the time-travel trilogy received when the first movie hit the big 3-0 earlier this year, but at some point you’ll find yourself wanting to revisit the fun of these three films, and that’s when you’ll want to have a copy of this five-disc set in your collection. In addition to a disc for each of the films, each of which has deleted scenes, “Tales from the Future” documentary segments, audio commentaries and various other bonus material, there’s also a separate bonus disc that includes a variety of additional mini-docs, plus a 2015 message from Doc Brown, two new commercials (one for “Jaws 19,” the other for a Hoverboard), and two episodes of “Back to the Future: The Animated Series.”
The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki
Hayao Miyazaki is one the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animation, boasting a unique style that shines through in every one of his fantastical stories. Though Miyazaki’s films are currently available as individual Blu-rays, this 12-disc box set – which is available exclusively through Amazon – is the first time that they’ve been offered in a single collection. All 11 movies are included, from 1979’s “Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro” to 2013’s Oscar-nominated “The Wind Rises.” In addition, there are several hours of bonus material that are perfect for the Miyazaki admirer, including his 1972 TV pilot for Tetsuya Chiba’s “Yuki no Taiyo,” three episodes of the 1972 anime series “Akado Suzunosuke,” the 90-minute press conference announcing his retirement, and a 37-page collector’s book featuring the essay, “The Great Dichotomy: Looking at the Works of Hayao Miyazaki.” It’s probably not worth the double dip if you already own all of his movies on Blu-ray (especially since the extras from those releases have strangely been removed here), but this box set is a must-have for fans of animation, as well as kids who are beginning to outgrow their Disney and Pixar collections.
As technological advances continue to enrich our lives in many different ways, so one of the most exciting developments has been within the entertainment industry, where technology has made a huge impact. Whether you want to work in the film and video production sector, music and audio recording, or backstage in the theater, you will find that many of the traditional techniques have been supplanted by contemporary systems that are digitized and highly sophisticated. Here are a few tips for getting to know some of the entertainment industries and understanding what you need to achieve in order to work as a technician in them.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to create your own sports livestream event, whether it’s just for watching or to make money from it. Here are a few ways to set it up.
Before you start broadcasting anything, make sure it’s legal to do so. Not all sporting events want you airing their game for others free of charge. And, while everyone loves making extra dough, you’re not going to be making anything if you’re slapped with a fine or a lawsuit from the ballpark or stadium owners.
According to Forbes, the sports industry will grow 4.8 percent annually over the next five years. That’s a huge increase compared to its past growth of 3 percent. Pro sports are growing, but so are amateur and young sports.