Zack Snyder’s Justice League

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Action;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and some language.

Stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Diane Lane, Harry Lennix, Billy Crudup, Willem Dafoe, Joe Morton, Kiersey Clemons, Jared Leto, Jesse Eisenberg, Joe Manganiello, Peter Guinness, Ray Porter, Ciaran Hinds.

The 2017 theatrical version of Justice League foisted upon audiences was undoubtedly a compromised film, the result of a now infamous clash between creative vision and studio sensibilities.

Warner Bros., having been lapped in the superhero shared universe race several times over by rival Marvel, was looking to catch up quickly with its own DC Comics-based franchise. But the studio lost faith in director Zack Snyder, whose efforts in building the universe from the ground up — 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — were met with mixed reaction at best. The studio brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to help “guide” Snyder in completing the third installment of his trilogy, Justice League, which would see Batman and Wonder Woman recruit additional superheroes to help fight an alien invasion.

Snyder, wary of the studio’s attempts to rein him in, ultimately left the film following the death of his daughter — to whom the new longer cut is dedicated.

Whedon, under a mandate to deliver a taut, two-hour action film, re-wrote Chris Terrio’s screenplay and oversaw extensive reshoots that it is clear now were intended to bridge story points between the action scenes that Snyder had shot. Whedon, known for infusing his projects with witty banter and offbeat humor, also added levity to Justice League to the point where it was much lighter in tone compared with the world established in Snyder’s earlier films. Whedon’s version ultimately did the job of telling the story it needed to, but didn’t satisfy many viewers who had bigger expectations based on what had come before.

And thus, the “Release the Snyder Cut” movement was born, fueled by rumors that the studio was sitting on a longer version of the film turned in by Snyder before he left. While Snyder had created a rough cut of the film before most of the visual effects were completed, the so-called “Snyder Cut” of Justice League was hardly in a state to be seen by the public, and thus its release was little more than a pipe dream without a studio willing to dedicate the resources to finish an alternate cut of a film it had already wrote off.

Then came the deep pockets of HBO Max, the new streaming service from Warner’s parent company, which had not only the deep pockets to finish the Snyder Cut, but also the desire to cash in on the hype surrounding it. The cost to complete Snyder’s version was reportedly north of $70 million (the 2017 theatrical release earned $657.9 million globally against a budget that ballooned to $300 million).

The obvious parallel here is with the Richard Donner cut of Superman II, but the Snyder Cut make that project seem like a lark.

Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of Justice League plays like a completely different film, treating the story like the epic the theatrical version showed little interest in being.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Now, admittedly, it’s unlikely that this version of the film, absent studio meddling, would have seen the inside of theaters back in the day either. For starters, a four-hour superhero movie based on Snyder’s take on the characters would have been a big ask of the audience, and he surely would have trimmed it to something in the range of two-and-a-half to three hours, just like he did with BvS (with the longer, better cut available on home video). Certainly, there are several scenes in Snyder’s Justice League that will give it a reputation for indulgence but could easily be cut for a theatrical release, but play better in a streaming format where binging serialized TV shows for six, seven, eight hours at a time (with breaks here and there) is commonplace.

Indeed, the original plan for Snyder’s Justice League was to present it as several episodes, like a TV show, but vagaries in Hollywood contract law supposedly led to the decision to deliver it as a single movie, albeit segmented into six succinctly labeled chapters and an epilogue.

Regardless, the film flows just fine even at four hours, and there is no confusion about what is happening or why the characters are motivated to do what they do. Snyder’s vision is to present the superheroes of today as the modern extension of the legends of old, drawing a direct line between classic mythology and their comic book counterparts.

The big beneficiary of all this is Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, who is given a fully fleshed out backstory that is barely touched upon in the theatrical cut, as well as a full character arc as he learns to accept and understand his powers.

Of course, if Warner had been patient enough to follow Marvel’s formula, Cyborg likely would have gotten his own origin movie before this, negating the need to devote so much screen time to it here. But that’s neither here nor there at this point.

The Snyder Cut is revelatory when compared with the Whedon Cut, which replaced a number of scenes with reshot versions that were similar but not as good, probably to add more of that Whedonesque humor. Fantastic scenes of endearing character interactions that would have added depth and meaning were removed entirely. Instead, Whedon added scenes showing a family imperiled by Steppenwolf’s plan who had to be saved by the League in the final battle. There’s no distracting family in the Snyder Cut, which instead takes the opportunity to foreshadow storylines that were intended for future sequels.

Another change Snyder made was reverting to the musical score by Tom Holkenborg, who continues the musical style established in Snyder’s previous entries. Whedon had replaced it with a more conventional but still serviceable score by Danny Elfman, who reused a number of more iconic themes for the characters from earlier franchises that played on audience nostalgia for the characters as a way to shortcut any development of them as specific to the Snyderverse.

Also, since he’s using his original footage and ignoring the reshoots, Snyder didn’t have to use digital effects to remove the mustache Henry Cavill couldn’t shave off while filming Mission: Impossible — Fallout, famously leading to his awkward-looking mouth in the 2017 version.

Another advantage Snyder’s cut has is that we’ve gotten to explore the DC universe a bit more since 2017, most notably with the 2018 Aquaman movie that really fleshed out Jason Momoa’s character and backstory, and gels nicely with his development here.

Snyder also took the opportunity to fix his presentation of the films’ villains. The CGI for the primary antagonist, Steppenwolf, has been reworked to be much more menacing and looks a lot better. Snyder also gives the audience a chance to see Darkseid, the legendary DC comics warlord who serves as Steppenwolf’s master and was reduced to just one mention of his name in Whedon’s cut.

Steppenwolf’s plan, as in the theatrical cut, is to collect the three “Mother Boxes” on Earth that when united will allow him to re-create Darkseid’s homeworld of Apokolips on Earth. The Mother Boxes were left behind when Darkseid’s first invasion of Earth was repelled thousands of years earlier, and thought lost until Superman’s death at the end of BvS caused them to reactivate, drawing Steppenwolf to them.

We also get an expansion of the nightmare future hinted at in BvS, in which Batman leads a rebellion against a Superman who has become a tyrant ruling over the wasteland Earth has become as a result of Darkseid’s invasion. This particularly impacts the scene of Superman’s resurrection, which plays very differently now that we have the expanded context behind it. Rather than Superman’s revival serving as another plot device in the battle against Steppenwolf, here it is re-framed as a complex ethical question about whether bringing Superman back to life in order to win the battle of today will ultimately lead to the very dystopia his resurrection is meant to prevent — and whether Batman’s desire to atone for his guilt over Superman’s death in BvS is blinding him to this potential outcome.

Follow us on Instagram!

Snyder presents his version in the 4:3 format most viewers will associate with the standard square ratio of classic non-widescreen TVs. That means vertical black bars to the right and left of the movie. While this might look odd to viewers accustomed to widescreen, Snyder’s framing actually presents more of the image as originally filmed. The square frame was chosen with Imax exhibitions in mind, since true Imax screens are higher than a typical theater. A standard “widescreen” print of the film is then made by cropping from the top and bottom of the picture. By eschewing this process, Snyder is instead offering us everything in the frame he shot.

Time will tell if we get any follow-ups to plot points developed in Snyder’s Cut that otherwise fell by the wayside in Warner’s DC universe. But even if we don’t the complete Snyder Cut on its own is a triumph of a filmmaker’s singular vision, and the story surrounding it a fascinating glimpse into the process of the Hollywood machine and the often-conflicting instincts of those in charge of it.

The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc versions offer the film spread over two discs. The first disc of both the 4K and regular Blu-ray versions contains the set’s lone extra: a 24-minute featurette of Snyder reflecting on his experience making his trilogy of superhero movies, and the fan effort to bring it to fruition with his vision of Justice League.

Also, the discs do not include a code for a digital copy of the film, so the digital version remains exclusive to HBO Max. The disc does include an insert with an ad touting HBO Max and the black-and-white version of the movie, Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Justice Is Gray.

Originally published as a streaming review March 18, 2021.

Archenemy

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

RLJ;
Thriller;
Box Office $0.12 million;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Joe Manganiello, Skylan Brooks, Zolee Griggs, Paul Scheer, Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton.

The trippy Archenemy tackles the superhero genre with an approach that would definitely not be considered traditional.

Joe Manganiello plays Max Fist, a homeless drunk who trades fantastical stories of his heroic adventures for booze. Max claims to be an enforcer from a city called Chromium that exists in a parallel dimension where he had superpowers. During battle with his arch-nemesis, he used his powers to punch a hole through space-time that took him to Earth, where his powers don’t work. Now he spends most of his time drinking and punching walls hoping to go home.

He is discovered by Hamster (Skylan Brooks), a wannabe social media influencer who starts posting videos of Max hoping to get more hits.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Flashbacks to Max’s adventures are presented through brightly colored animated segments, which don’t confirm to the audience whether what he’s saying is supposed to be true or not, but they certainly inform on his state of mind.

Hamster’s sister, Indigo (Zolee Griggs) works as a gopher for a local drug kingpin, and finds herself in his crosshairs when a job to collect money from a junkie goes wrong. When she and Hamster are threatened by the drug lord’s goons, Max leaps back into action. However, this attracts the attention of his archenemy, who also is trapped on Earth, but believes the two of them coming together may be the key to unlocking their powers.

The film plays a bit like a low-budget version of Hancock, and works mostly due to Manganiello’s energetic performance. The opening credits offer a definite 1980s vibe with their colorful yet low-key visual effects.

The Blu-ray includes pretty standard a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews from the filmmakers.

Growing Up With Jay and Silent Bob

It’s been more than 25 years since audiences first met Jay and Silent Bob in Kevin Smith’s Clerks, and they’ve remained the same carefree stoners despite their adventures in a slew of the director’s View Askewniverse films, including Chasing Amy, Mallrats and Dogma.

Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Extras Include:
• Cast Interviews
• Kevin & Jay Interview Cast & Crew
• Bloopers
• Hair Reel

In Jay & Silent Bob Reboot — available on Blu-ray (plus digital), DVD, digital and on demand from Lionsgate — the duo confronts their past, as does the film’s director.

“Jay and Silent Bob have given me so much — 25 years of earning off the backs of Jay and Silent Bob in one way or another,” says Smith in the disc extras.

“I get to make a movie where Jay gets to grow up,” he says.

In Reboot, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) confront old friends and foes as they discover that Hollywood is rebooting Bluntman and Chronic, a movie based on them. Thus, they embark on another cross-country mission to stop the madness. The journey includes all-star cameos and appearances from Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Rosario Dawson, Melissa Benoist, Joe Manganiello, Molly Shannon, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Lee, Justin Long and more.

“We follow up on the story of Clerks and see where Dante is in his life,” Smith says in the extras. “We follow up on Mallrats and see where Brody is in his life. We follow up on Chasing Amy and see where Holden and Alissa are in their lives.”

“My character is the same character that I played in Chasing Amy many, many, many years ago,” Ben Affleck (Holden McNeil) says in the extras.

“This is like my little franchise, my Kevin Smith franchise. It’s just like being in another kind of franchise, except they don’t pay you any money,” he joked.

Matt Damon, who played Loki in Dogma, says in the extras the duo of Jay and Silent Bob “just struck a chord.”

“They’re funny,” he says. “You buy into their relationship. They’re two guys you want to go on an adventure with.”

(L-R): Co-stars Treshelle Edmond, Harley Quinn Smith, Alice Wen and Aparna Brielle

For Smith, it’s now a family affair, with his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, playing a central part in Reboot, and other family members making appearances.

“It just became more than I thought it was going to be, and now it’s just this weird statement film,” Smith said. “It turned into this testimony of my life, both personally and professionally. It’s filled with the people I’ve spent my life making pretend beside. It’s filled with my family. At one point, I’m behind my mother and she’s dressed like Silent Bob.”

 

 

JAY AND SILENT BOB IN THE VIEW ASKEWNIVERSE

(Titles available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate)

 

Clerks (1994)

The laid-back stoners make their film debut as supporting characters in this story of a day in the life of convenience store employees Dante and Randal.

Chasing Amy (1997)

The supporting player stoners offer inspiration to comic book artist Holden, who falls for fellow comic artist Alyssa, a lesbian.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

The comic Bluntman and Chronic is based on Jay and Silent Bob, so when they get no profit from the film adaptation they try to wreck it.

Baseball Flick ‘Bottom of the 9th’ Hits DVD Sept. 17 From Paramount

The baseball drama Bottom of the 9th, starring Joe Manganiello and Sofía Vergara, will arrive on DVD Sept. 17 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

The film, from a producer of Creed and Rocky Balboa, is available now on digital and on demand.

In the film, a tragic mistake lands 19-year-old baseball phenom Sonny Stano (Manganiello) in jail before his burgeoning professional baseball career gets off the ground. Twenty years later and fresh out of prison, he works to win back his respect, his family, his lost love and his dream of being a professional baseball player.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The DVD, which also includes a digital copy of the film, takes viewers behind-the-scenes with real-life couple Manganiello and Vergara.

Rampage

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 7/17/18;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $98.58 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 3D BD, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief language, and crude gestures.
Stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Movies based on video games often run into trouble when the screenwriters deconstruct the original premise of the game to the point where it either barely resembles the source material or loses the sense of fun that made the game popular to begin with.

On the other hand, some arcade games have a premise that is so basic that a convoluted screenplay is almost required to translate it into a movie.

Rampage, based on the 1980s Midway smash-em-up game that gave players the option to play as one of three mutant creatures attacking a city, manages to find a balance between the two extremes, using an evil corporation storyline to explain how a gorilla, a wolf and an alligator mutate into giant monsters and lay waste to Chicago.

The film jettisons the game’s notion that there are people who morph into the creatures — an aspect of the game’s constant replayability — in favor of a storyline involving a gorilla expert (Dwayne Johnson) caught up in a corporate conspiracy to weaponize genetic engineering.

The script doesn’t delve too deeply into the tropes it needs to use to get to the meat of what the game is about, and that’s giant creatures attacking everything around them, eating people, destroying buildings and causing all-around mayhem.

Johnson is pretty much settled into his generic action-star persona at this point, to the degree that his character has a name but it doesn’t much matter what it is. This is his third collaboration with director Brad Peyton, following Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas, and the pair demonstrates a reliable confidence in delivering audience-pleasing action that doesn’t rely on over-complicating the storyline.

Likewise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t doing much more than a more benevolent take on his smarmy Negan character that made him a popular mainstay on “The Walking Dead.” But, again, it’s all in service to the central concept of getting the giant animals to a big city and trashing it.

And once they do get to Chicago, oh the destruction is glorious. It almost serves as a preview of the eventual King Kong vs. Godzilla movie. The filmmakers also took care to layer in several subtle references to the game mechanics, as revealed in one of the Blu-ray’s behind-the-scenes featurettes, the six-minute “Not a Game Anymore.”

Other featurettes, running between 10 and 12 minutes each, include a look at the stunts, the designs of the monsters, the attack on Chicago and the development of the Gorilla, George.

The Blu-ray also includes a nearly three-minute gag reel and more than 10 minutes of deleted scenes, including an excised cameo from San Andreas co-star Alexandra Daddario.