Shazam! Fury of the Gods

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/23/23;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $57.64 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $39.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action and violence, and language.
Stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Rachel Zegler, Grace Caroline Currey, Ross Butler, Ian Chen, D.J. Cotrona, Jovan Armand, Meagan Good, Faithe Herman, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Marta Millans, Cooper Andrews.

If ever there were a poster child for a studio undercutting its own IP, it’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

It’s not that it’s a bad film — it’s fun and highly entertaining. But in the leadup to its theatrical release, the newly constituted Warner Bros. Discovery announced plans to reboot the entirety of the DC Comics film franchise — of which the sequel to 2019’s well-regarded Shazam! was a part. On top of that, the character’s historic comic book arch-nemesis, Black Adam, got his own solo movie just a few months earlier, amid widespread rumors that its star, Dwayne Johnson, was so adamant about downplaying any connection to Shazam that he nixed any potential crossover cameos.

Such PR negativity so dampened enthusiasm for any remaining DC sequels still tied to the old continuity that the studio’s marketers decided to spoil one of the film’s major cameos in a TV spot in a desperate attempt to reignite fan interest. It didn’t work, with Fury of the Gods generating about one-third the box office of its predecessor four years earlier.

The pandemic probably didn’t help matters either; taking two years off the timeline of when a potential sequel could come out doesn’t do any favors to maintaining audiences’ familiarity with a relatively niche character in the DC Comics canon.

The shame of it is, this is a decent, if imperfect, sequel to one of the more irreverent superhero properties to hit the big screen in a while.

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Picking up a couple years after where the previous film left off, Shazam (Zachary Levi), the adult superhero form of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), is joined by his family of foster brothers and sisters in a full-fledged superhero team of kids who turn into adults imbued with the powers of the mythological gods when they say the word “Shazam.” And they are apparently horrible at it, being lambasted in the media for causing more harm than they try to prevent. On top of that, Billy’s best friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is having too much fun in his superhero form (Adam Brody), often going on solo adventures to the chagrin of Billy.

In the midst of the Shazam Family trying to find its balance, a trio of sisters visits Earth from the Realm of the Gods in order to reclaim the Shazam powers, which they say were stolen from them by the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who gave Billy his powers in the first film. The Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler) also seek the means to restore life to their own realm through a golden apple hidden somewhere in the Rock of Eternity, which happens to be the Shazam Family’s headquarters.

To force Shazam’s cooperation, the Daughters kidnap Freddy and remove his powers, having retrieved the magical staff that empowered the team in the first film. But they imprison Freddy in the same cell as the Wizard, and the interplay between Grazer and Hounsou as the pair plot their escape is among the film’s best material.

The sisters also encase Shazam’s home city, Philadelphia, in an impenetrable magic dome, which at least explains why other DC heroes aren’t getting involved in the fight. One downside to storytelling in a shared universe is that if the villain’s plot registers on a global scale, it raises the question of why the other established heroes of the franchise aren’t all showing up to try to stop it as well (a prime example of this is Marvel’s Eternals, in which the potential destruction of the Earth apparently drew the curiosity of zero Avengers).

To save Freddy, free the city and prevent the Daughters’ from unleashing monsters upon the Earth, Billy must figure out how to retrieve the staff and return the sisters to their realm.

Levi continues to have all the fun as a teenager inhabiting a middle-aged adult’s body, though he seems to be even more immature as Shazam than the teenage Billy, who is nearing 18 and demonstrates more self-awareness than his adult self. The film at least has other characters call out how Shazam’s shtick is getting old, pointing out that the “S” in his name is supposed to represent Solomon’s wisdom — a trait he has been lacking thus far.

Also a bit weird is that the film has retained all the adult/kid cast from the first film, with the exception that Grace Caroline Currey is now playing the adult hero version of Mary in addition to her younger form. The filmmakers cite the character now being over 18 as the reason for the change, as Michelle Borth played the older form of Mary in the previous film. It’s a bit weird visually just compared with all the other characters changing actors in their superhero forms (especially considering they reshot a flashback to the first film, but used Currey instead of Borth, and this film’s updated costume designs). As the film establishes that both Billy and Freddy are about to turn 18, this logic would have Angel and Grazer playing their own Shazam versions in any future installments instead of Levi and Brody, which doesn’t seem a likely direction for the filmmakers to go in (not that any more sequels are likely forthcoming given this film’s dire box office pronouncements).

However, the film’s best running gag, at least for anyone with an appreciation for comic book history, involves the Shazam Family trying to figure out superhero names, since they can’t just introduce themselves as “Shazam” without turning their powers on and off. That’s because their superhero names in the comics were variations of Billy’s original alter ego — Captain Marvel, a moniker now controlled by DC’s rival, Marvel Comics, thanks to a complicated legal history.

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The film looks great in 4K and on Blu-ray, filled with some dazzling visual effects and an amazing array of mythological creatures with designs that draw inspiration from Ray Harryhausen.

The disc and digital editions of the film offer a number of good bonus materials. In the 4K combo pack, all the extras are on the regular Blu-ray, not the 4K disc.

Both the Blu-ray and 4K disc do offer an informative commentary track with director David F. Sandberg, who discusses how the production sidestepped a number of challenges in the visual effects and editing of the film.

Sandberg refers to a lot of material cut out of the film, many of which are included among the deleted, alternate and extended scenes, 29 of them totaling 31 minutes.

The Blu-ray also includes more than an hour of making-of featurettes.

The primary behind-the-scenes video is the 25-minute “Shazam! Let’s Make a Sequel,” which offers a nice overview of the production in general. The four-minute “The Zac Effect” focuses on the film’s star and his impact on the film, while the five-minute “Shazamily Reunion” shines a light on the other members of Team Shazam, and the eight-minute “Sisterhood of Villains” details the creation and portrayal of the Daughters of Atlas. “The Rock of Eternity: Decked Out” is a nearly six-minute featurette about how the Shazam Family have decorated their lair. The five-minute “Mythology of Shazam! Fury of the Gods” chronicles the real Greek myths that inspired much of the film’s premise.

Rounding out the extras is “Shazam! Scene Deconstruction,” a 10-minute video about the making of five action sequences.

 

Promising Young Woman

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/16/21;
Universal;
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Dark Comedy;
Box Office $5.5 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use.
Stars Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Sam Richardson, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Adam Brody.

Striking right at the core of gender relations brought to the fore by the #MeToo movement, Promising Young Woman is a relentless revenge thriller that expertly walks a line between dark comedy, tragedy and drama led by a beautifully nuanced performance from Carey Mulligan, who just received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for it.

Emerald Fennell (who served as showrunner on “Killing Eve” and plays Camilla on “The Crown”) received three well-deserved Academy Award nominations for her directorial debut (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) for this story than broaches a wrenching subject while keeping the audience laughing and gasping on a roller coaster journey through one woman’s pathos and secret fury. (The film also received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing for a total of five noms.)

Promising Young Woman follows Cassie (Mulligan), a former medical student who was headed for success until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future. By day a young woman going nowhere as a barista, by night Cassie lives a secret double life. An unexpected encounter with an old classmate gives her a chance to avenge the wrongs of the past.

At turns a horror story, a romantic comedy and a tragedy, the film plays with familiar tropes in the narrative and film history of male-female relations and power dynamics. With a hot score and vibrant, eye-popping art direction, set design, costumes and makeup, it’s a truly unique film that defies categorization. Dark comedy elements provide levity, but the film also takes a deep dive into the characters’ multiple facets. As noted in the bonus features, the film portrays men who think of themselves as “good guys,” while doing morally questionable, even horrible things. Then there’s Cassie, an engaging, attractive and smart avenging angel/devil who leaves emotional turmoil in her wake. This tension between the light and dark side of humanity allows the actors to explore a layer cake of emotions and elicits some truly great performances.

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Bonus features include three featurettes: “A Promising Vision,” in which Fennell discusses her inspirations for creating the film; “Two-Sided Transformation,” a look at Mulligan in the role of Cassie and how filmmakers used wardrobe, hair and makeup to express the balance between light and dark; and “Balancing Act,” in which cast members discuss their unexpected reactions to the careful balance of levity and tragedy in Fennell’s take on female revenge.

There’s also a commentary with Fennell, who provides a detailed explanation of key elements in the film, including set design, framing, and makeup and costume choices. As do the best commentaries, Fennell’s leaves viewers with a greater appreciation for the artistry and thought process behind this complicated film and makes a second pass through Promising Young Woman with commentary well worth the time.

‘Kid Detective’ Coming to Disc and Digital Jan. 19 From Sony

The dark comedy The Kid Detective will come out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital Jan. 19 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

A once-celebrated kid detective (Adam Brody, TV’s “The O.C.”), now 31, continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity. Until a naïve client (Sophie Nélisse, The Book Thief) brings him his first adult case — to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend.

The film also stars Tzi Ma, Wendy Crewson and Sarah Sutherland.

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‘Brady Bunch’ Celebrates 50 Years With Comprehensive DVD Collection June 4

CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment will mark the 50th anniversary of “The Brady Bunch” with a new DVD boxed set containing almost every “Brady” TV show and movie spinoff.

The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection arrives June 4 as a 31-disc set and includes The Brady Bunch: The Complete Series, The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series, the complete runs of spinoffs “The Brady Brides” and “The Bradys,” the TV movie A Very Brady Christmas, the 1995 theatrical remake The Brady Bunch Movie and its two sequels, and the behind-the-scenes docudrama Growing Up Brady.

Created by Sherwood Schwartz, “The Brady Bunch” told the story of a family brought together when a woman with three daughters married a man with three sons. The sitcom premiered on ABC on Sept. 26, 1969 and ran for five seasons, comprising 117 episodes.

The animated spinoff “The Brady Kids” ran for 22 episodes on ABC in 1972 and 1973. Produced by Filmation, the series unsurprisingly featured the whacky adventures of the Brady children.

“The Brady Brides” was a spinoff that ran on NBC in 1981, featuring the lives of newlyweds Jan and Marcia and their husbands, who agreed to live together to save money. The series began with a reunion movie, The Brady Girls Get Married, which is presented on disc in its TV movie format (it was broken up into four sitcom episodes in its initial airing), and was followed by six additional episodes. Incidentally, this TV movie is the only time the original cast reunited in its entirety after the original series ended (subsequent reunions featured at least one of the Brady daughters replaced with a different actress).

The Bradys next reunited in the 1988 CBS reunion TV movie A Very Brady Christmas, which proved popular enough to warrant a spinoff called “The Bradys,” which ran for six episodes in 1990 in an hourlong drama format.

The 50th anniversary collection represents the first DVD releases for “The Brady Brides” and “The Bradys.” The “Brady Brides” disc includes a “Move It” sales presentation.

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The 1995 theatrical adaptation The Brady Bunch Movie, featuring a new cast with cameos by original cast members, spoofed the show by transplanting the family into the 1990s, though they acted as if it were still the 1970s. It was followed by the theatrically released A Very Brady Sequel in 1996 and the TV movie The Brady Bunch in the White House in 2002.

Finally, the collection includes Growing Up Brady, a 2000 NBC TV movie based on the book of the same name by Barry Williams, who played Greg on the show. The movie chronicles some behind-the-scenes stories about the creation of the show and its run. It featured Adam Brody as Williams, and future “The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco as Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia.

The collection does not include the infamous “The Brady Bunch Hour,” a nine-episode ABC series that ran in 1976 and 1977 and starred most of the original cast in character hosting a variety show (needless to say, it is not considered part of the “Brady” canon). The replacement of Eve Plumb as Jan with a different actress was famously spoofed in the “Spin-Off Showcase” episode of “The Simpsons.”