Star Trek: Lower Decks — Season 1

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount/CBS;
Animated Sci-Fi;
$27.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $41.99 BD Steelbook;
Not rated;
Voices of Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Eugene Cordero, Noël Wells, Dawnn Lewis, Jerry O’Connell, Fed Tatasciore, Gillian Vigman.

A glimpse into the lighter side of “Star Trek,” “Lower Decks” offers a comedic take on the franchise, using animation in the vein of “Rick and Morty” to present the adventures of the kinds of crew members who usually don’t get much screen time.

The series borrows its concept and name from an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that similarly focused on the lives of ordinary Starfleet officers serving on the lower rungs of the chain of command. It is set aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos, which itself is sort of a second-tier starship, sent in to clean up after better-known ships such as the Enterprise have their fun.

Though set in the “Star Trek” universe, the show is as much a parody of the franchise’s tropes as it is an addition to the canon. The animated aesthetic lets it cheat a bit in that regard, as it gets away with a perspective that would be hard to accept from a live-action “Trek” series. This is essentially “Star Trek” turning a satiric lens on itself much in the same way “The Orville” can only do as an homage.

“Lower Decks” is the brainchild of Mike McMahan, who wrote and produced for “Rick and Morty” and brings much of that sensibility here. The 10 episodes of the first season are peppered with references to earlier “Trek” series, including a number of obscure references to the 1970s animated “Trek” series. The series presents its main characters as essentially fans of ships such as the Enterprise, essentially making them in-universe “Star Trek” fans who get to make fun of the canon even as they actively play around its edges. The meta-commentary reaches its peak in the ninth episode, which is basically just a spoof of “Star Trek” movies, from horn-heavy music to a saturation of lens flares a la J.J. Abrams, presented within the world of the show through the holodeck.

While it’s hard to take the episodes too seriously as legitimate “Star Trek” plots, many of the resultant jokes can be rather funny, particularly to “Trek” fans who have enough knowledge of the franchise to appreciate them. To outsiders, the show would probably seem more like a wannabe “Futurama.” Still, it’s the best “Trek” series of the so-called new era that includes “Discovery” and “Picard,” which isn’t saying much.

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The Blu-ray and DVD editions of the series offer about two hours of behind the scenes material, the bulk of which are presented under the “Lower Decktionary” banner. In total, this is a 10-part documentary that runs about an hour — or, at least, it would be if it were presented in a more logical manner, to borrow a phrase from the Vulcans. Each part of “Lower Decktionary” is presented as a bonus feature with a particular episode — though more often than not the topics reflect the series as a whole and might point to that episode as an example. Also, the video quality of these featurettes is spotty at best, likely owing to editing together interviews from the cast and production team members that was culled from Zoom videos during the pandemic.

There are two additional standalone featurettes. The 24-minute “Faces of the Fleet” focuses on the development of the characters, while the seven-minute “Hiding in Plain Sight” discusses several of the references built into the show.

A couple of the episodes also include deleted sequences in animatic form (sketches rather than finished animation), while a full-length animatic version of the first episode also is available.

Rounding out the extras is a fake trailer for the fake movie at the center of episode nine.

 

‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ Available for Digital Sale Sept. 15, on Disc Sept. 22

Lionsgate will release The Secret: Dare to Dream for digital sellthrough Sept. 15, followed by Blu-ray combo pack (with DVD and digital copy), standalone DVD and VOD availability Sept. 22.

Directed by Andy Tennant and based on the best-selling book by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret: Dare to Dream stars Katie Holmes as Miranda, a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell). A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Josh Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include the featurette “The Secret on Set.”

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The Secret: Dare to Dream

DIGITAL REVIEW:

Available 7/31/20;
Lionsgate;
Drama;
$19.99 VOD;
Rated ‘PG’ for language and an injury image.
Stars Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Celia Weston, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Chloe Lee.

A timely feel-good movie for these uncertain times, director Andy Tennant’s romantic take on the self-actualization best-seller by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret: Dare to Dream stars Katie Holmes as a widowed single mother who is burdened by debt and lives in a crumbling house with her three young kids. Enter Josh Lucas’ enigmatic character, Bray, who literally collides with Holmes’ Miranda and proceeds to fix her car bumper and her roof, rousing a modicum of suspicion and jealousy from her fiancé, Tucker (Jerry O’Connell).

Bray also offers sage words of advice to Miranda and her children, which prompts one of them to ask, “Are you sure you’re not from California?” Miranda, skeptical at first, later concedes to his positive thinking philosophy when she says to him: “I think we collided for a reason.”

Byrne’s book and documentary The Secret delves into the new age belief in the Laws of Attraction: That is, think positively, and positive things will come to you.

As Byrne says: “Joy attracts more joy. Happiness attracts more happiness. Peace attracts more peace. Gratitude attracts more gratitude. Kindness attracts more kindness. Love attracts more love.  Your job is an inside one. To change your world, all you have to do is change the way you feel inside.  How easy is that?”

The movie expands this concept into a story of family, of hope and the notion that if you wish hard enough, you may just get the proverbial pony you’ve always wanted.

Comedy ‘Ballbuster’ Arriving Digitally Aug. 11, on DVD Sept. 8

Indican Pictures will release the comedy Ballbuster through digital retailers Aug. 11, and on DVD Sept. 8.

Jerry O’Connell plays Rich, an entitled all-star basketball icon who is suspended from the league just before the final championship. In order to play in game seven, he has to tour with a charity league team of castoffs, and in the process he encounters the most bizarre on-road experiences, endures hilarious consequences and faces his craziest challenges yet.

The cast also includes Elisabeth Röhm and Luenell.

DVD Extras include the featurettes “Jerry Lowered,” “Jerry Naked,” “Basketball Arena,” “Jerry On Set” and “Luenell Locker Room.”

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Lionsgate to Bow ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ on PVOD July 31

The Secret: Dare to Dream, based on the 2006 best-selling book The Secret, will be released on premium VOD July 31 by Lionsgate.

The film, originally slated for an April 17 theatrical release, will be available to rent at $19.99 for 48 hours.

Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell and Celia Weston and directed by Andy Tennant, The Secret: Dare to Dream follows Miranda (Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (O’Connell). A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.

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The 2006 book by Rhonda Byrne, a global phenomenon that empowered millions to lead happier and more fulfilled lives, has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray; $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for bloody violence, language and some sexual references.
Voices of Matt Ryan, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Taissa Farmiga, Stuart Allan, Tony Todd, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Christopher Gorham, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is among the most brutal superhero movies and animated movies one is likely to encounter.

The film is the 15th and final chapter of the DC Animated Movie Universe, a series of direct-to-video films that started in 2013 with a string of ‘PG-13’ adventures and gradually pushed the envelope into ‘R’-rated territory. This film earns its rating, with multiple scenes of superheroes being dismembered and torn in half.

The film begins with Superman (Jerry O’Connell) urging the Justice League to attack the planet Apokolips to end the threat of Darkseid, who has attempted several invasions of Earth throughout these movies. However, the battle is a disaster for the heroes, who are nearly all slaughtered, with many being turned into cyborg minions of Darkseid’s army.

Cut to two years later, and Darkseid’s forces have conquered Earth and are sucking minerals from the planet’s core. Superman, depowered due to kryptonite poisoning, recruits the few remaining heroes, as well as Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad, on a desperate mission to divide the armies of Apokolips so they have a chance to kill Darkseid.

Key to the plan are John Constantine (Matt Ryan), the practitioner of the dark arts whose magics are needed in the final battle, and Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan), the son of Batman (Jason O’Mara), who has been brainwashed into serving as Darkseid’s chief tactician.

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The filmmakers have pulled out all the stops for this one, producing an animated equivalent of Avengers: Endgame for the DC Comics characters. The film manages to involve nearly every character who ever played a part in one of the movies of the series, even if it’s just a small background cameo.

One of the key strengths of the film is how it serves both as a fitting conclusion to the 15-movie cycle while also working effectively well as a standalone adventure. The extreme circumstances the heroes find themselves in almost qualify the movie as an Elseworlds alternate reality tale, which adds to the fun.

It also helps that the premise gives a lot of the franchise’s quirky breakthrough characters to shine, with Matt Ryan’s Constantine (a role he also plays in live action on “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”) is practically an institution at this point, and always a sure bet to carry the story to where it needs to go.

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The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with executive producer James Tucker, directors Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker.

The disc also includes a good 15-minute featurette about the comic book history of Darkseid, plus a few bonus cartoons.

There are also previews for other DC Universe animated movies, including the upcoming Superman: Man of Tomorrow.

The Blu-ray also includes the 16-minute animated short film DC Showcase: Adam Strange, a gritty mini tale for the classic character (voiced by Charlie Weber) who finds himself trapped on a mining colony after his homeworld is invaded. Unable to return to his family and unaware of their fate, he finds himself scorned as a drunk, but must rise to defend the people who would cast him aside when they are attacked by a horde of deadly insects. It’s a decent update to the character.

Gravitas Ventures Acquires Rights to ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream,’ Partners with Lionsgate and Roadside on Release

Gravitas Ventures has acquired all North American rights to The Secret: Dare to Dream, the feature film inspired by Rhonda Byrnes’ bestseller, from tri-G Films, and has partnered with Lionsgate and sister company Roadside Attractions for all U.S. theatrical, home entertainment and television distribution.

The film is slated for an April 17 theatrical release.

Starring Katie Holmes (All We Had, Logan Lucky, The Gift) and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, What They Had, “Yellowstone”) with Celia Weston (Knight and Day, The Intern) and Jerry O’Connell (“Billions,” Stand by Me) and directed by Andy Tennant (Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama), The Secret: Dare to Dream centers around Miranda Wells (Holmes), a hard-working young widow struggling to raise three children on her own. A powerful storm brings a devastating challenge and a mysterious man, Bray Johnson (Lucas), into her life.  In just a few short days, Bray’s presence re-ignites the family’s spirit, but he carries a secret — and that secret could change everything.

“We’ve had the good fortune to digitally distribute the documentary version of The Secret for more than a dozen years and we’re confident that The Secret: Dare to Dream is coming at the perfect time,” said Gravitas Ventures’ president Michael Murphy in a statement. “Audiences will love this feel-good movie. Partnering with tri-G founder Joe Gelchion, author Rhonda Byrne, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions on the feature film is a dream come true for us.”

“When we first screened The Secret: Dare to Dream, we saw the potential to tap into the empowering movement Rhonda Byrne established with her book,” said Lionsgate EVP of strategic planning and business development Geobert Abboud in a statement. “It is an iconic property with an uplifting message and a global fanbase, and we’re very excited by the opportunity to bring it to audiences next year.”

“It is no secret that Rhonda created a juggernaut with her book in 2006 and we are thrilled to bring the film not only to her devoted fans but new audiences as well in April 2020,” added Roadside Attractions’ co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff in a statement

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“From the day I launched tri-G, I was committed to being involved with projects that carried a message of hope and inspiration to all viewers of all ages,” said tri-G’s Joe Gelchion in a statement. “The Secret: Dare to Dream is exactly one of those movies. It’s an honor and blessing to be part of this.”

The 2006 book by Byrne has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and has appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

Sony Releasing ‘Stand By Me’ on 4K Blu-ray Aug. 27

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the 1986 coming-of-age movie Stand By Me on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Aug. 27.

Directed by Rob Reiner and based on a Stephen King short story, the film stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell as a group of friends searching for a dead body in the woods. The cast also includes Kiefer Sutherland.

Newly scanned from the original camera negative in 4K and presented with high dynamic range, Stand By Me also includes a new Dolby Atmos immersive audio mix and both the original theatrical mono audio and the 5.1 remix.

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In addition to the archival special features on the combo pack’s standard Blu-ray disc — including a reunion commentary, director’s commentary and making-of featurette — the 4K disc includes never-before-seen deleted and alternate scenes.

Animated ‘Batman: Hush’ Due July 20 Digitally, Aug. 6 on Disc

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Batman: Hush, the next installment of the DC Universe line of animated movies, digitally July 20 and on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and the DC Universe streaming service Aug. 6.

An adaptation of a popular comic book storyline from 2002 and 2003, the film centers on a shadowy new villain in Gotham City known as Hush who uses Batman’s rogues gallery to attempt to destroy his crime-fighting career, as well as Bruce Wayne’s personal life, which has become complicated by a relationship with Selina Kyle, the alter ego of Catwoman.

Batman: Hush is the 35th film in the DC Universe animated movie brand and the 14th film in the DC Animated Movie Universe, a shared continuity started by Son of Batman and Justice League: War.

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The voice cast includes Jason O’Mara as Batman, Jennifer Morrison as Catwoman, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane, Rainn Wilson as Lex Luthor, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Jason Spisak as Joker, Peyton List as Poison Ivy (reprising her role from the “Gotham” TV show), Peyton R. List as Batgirl, Geoffrey Arend as the Riddler, Sean Maher as Nightwing, Maury Sterling as Thomas Elliot, Bruce Thomas as Jim Gordon, Adam Gifford as Bane, Sachie Alessio as Lady Shiva, Stuart Allan as Robin, James Garrett as Alfred, Hynden Walch as Harley Quinn, Chris Cox as Scarecrow, and Tara as a reporter.

The home video release will include the “DC Showcase” animated short Sgt. Rock, based on DC Comics’ gritty World War II hero.

Other extras include the featurette “Batman: Love in Time of War,” about the relationship between Batman and Catwoman; audio commentary executive producer James Tucker, director Justin Copeland and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker; a preview of the upcoming animated movie Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, starring Rosario Dawson; and the episodes “The Underworld Underground Caper” and “Partners in Peril” from the 1968 animated series “The Batman/Superman Hour.”

Reign of the Supermen

Completing the adaptation of the classic 1990s “Death of Superman” comic books, Reign of the Supermen pays off the storyline began in last year’s The Death of Superman with some solid action sequences and some nice character moments that will be appreciated by fans of the DC Universe animated movies.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/29/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action violence.
Voices of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cress Williams, Cameron Monaghan, Patrick Fabian, Tony Todd, Charles Halford, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Nyambi Nyambi.

As the second part of a two-film event, Reign of the Supermen provides a worthy conclusion to the storyline set up in last year’s The Death of Superman.

Six months after Superman seemingly died stopping an alien monster from destroying Metropolis, four new heroes have arrived in the city to claim the legacy of the Man of Steel. And since Superman’s body disappeared from his tomb, there’s some discussion in the media as to whether one of these new heroes actually is Superman.

The most likely candidate is the Cyborg Superman, who claims his robotic appearance is due to a Kryptonian healing technique.

Another candidate is the mysterious Eradicator, who isn’t big into sticking around and talking after eliminating the bad guys.

A third is Superboy, who is working for Lex Luthor as part of his efforts to rehabilitate the city. Lois Lane discovers he’s a clone of Superman created by Lex to fill the void left by the original Superman with a hero Lex can control.

And finally, there’s Steel, who isn’t a clone or robot or anyone claiming to be Superman, but a man in a super-powered suit with a rocket-powered hammer. He’s basically a Superman-inspired version of Iron Man (with a little Thor’s hammer mixed in).

As Lois continues to investigate what’s really going on, the Justice League’s launch of their new orbital headquarters is interrupted by an alien attack that only raises the stakes in discovering the true nature of the impostor Supermen.

Reign of the Supermen is not as character driven as its predecessor, but still offers some impressive action sequences, especially when the various Supermen have to fight each other. And there are some nice touches that play off moments from several of the previous DC Universe movies.

In fact, this probably should have been the basis for a Man of Steel sequel in the live-action DC films had they not muddled their Justice League storylines in their crash course attempt to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen are distinct on their own, they also fit together nicely as a nearly three-hour epic, which is how they were shown in some Fathom events screenings prior to the disc release. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Warner release a Blu-ray that edits them into a single film, as was done with The Dark Knight Returns a few years ago.

The Reign of the Supermen Blu-ray offers an interesting 16-minute featurette about Lex Luthor that analyzes some of his best-known character traits and what makes him a good Superman villain. The disc also includes episodes from “Superman: The Animated Series” and “Justice League Unlimited” that deal with similar subject matter as the movie.

Finally, there’s a 10-minute preview of the upcoming animated movie Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, which appears to be a tie-in with the “Justice League Unlimited” continuity and style, and not a continuation of the DC Universe animated continuity (though Reign of the Supermen does provide a post-credits tease for where its storyline could be headed next).

Reign of the Supermen