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.

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/16/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence, some bloody images, language and partial nudity.
Voices of Elyes Gabel, Diane Guerrero, Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, George Newbern, Daniela Bobadilla, Kevin Michael Richardson, Rom Kenny, Sumalee Montano, Philip Anthony-Rodriguez.

At first glance, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five would seem to be a return to the world of the “Justice League Unlimited” animated series, with the voice casting of Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg and George Newbern as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman respectively.

The film’s aesthetic is based on the series and even the music returns to some of the iconic themes from the show.

The movie’s place in canon is the subject of a discussion in the commentary track, which acknowledges that some continuity issues with the series would have to be dealt with, but that enough time has passed since the final episode to allow for some adjustments if viewers want to make that connection. The decision to use the “JLU” style mostly came down to budgetary constraints, as they didn’t have time to create a new style to differentiate the film from DC Universe animated movie series that share their own continuity, of which this is not a part. Sharp-eyed viewers may notice the movie borrows design elements from other previous DC animated works, such as the “Green Lantern” animated series.

Whatever the case, the movie isn’t written to depend on a connection with a previous work, and is certainly entertaining enough to stand on its own. The movie offers some nice action and a few unexpected surprises, both in terms of references to comic book lore and some genuine laughs stemming from the characters and dialogue. It is a bit harder edge than the “JLU” series as well.

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The story involves the 31st century super team The Legion of Super-Heroes battling three members of the villainous Fatal Five, who want to steal a time machine to go to the 21st century to free the other two members of their team from a prison.

The villains end up making it past the Legion’s defenses, but not before Star Boy (Elyes Gabel) hitches a ride back with them in an effort to stop them.

The wrinkle to Star Boy’s plan is that he requires medicine to maintain his mental stability, and without it he comes across as unhinged to the authorities, who put him in Arkham Asylum.

However, the Justice League uncovers his true identity and recruits him in their effort to stop the Five, whose plan is to kidnap a Green Lantern so they can access the prison to free the two trapped members of their team.

The Green Lantern in this case is Jessica Cruz (Diane Guerrero), who is dealing with anxiety over the stress of being a superhero.

The common bond of mental disorder unites Cruz and Star Boy, as they must learn to overcome their illnesses to become the heroes they need to be.

An eight-minute “Battling the Invisible Menace” featurette further explores the topic of mental illness and its role in the story.

Another featurette, the 15-minute “Unity of a Hero,” focuses on the diversity of characters depicted in the film.

The disc also includes a couple of episodes from previous DC animated series with similar storylines, and a nine-minute preview of the next DC Universe animated movie, Hush, an adaptation of a Batman comic book storyline.

Aquaman

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/26/19;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $334.52 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language.
Stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison.

It’s a bit amazing to think that the Justice League member so often derided as “the one who talks to fish and is useless on land” is now the subject of the highest-grossing movie based on a DC Comics character at the worldwide box office.

Already a regular target of parody shows such as “Robot Chicken,” the Aquaman character was famously used as the centerpiece of a storyline on HBO’s “Entourage” involving a blockbuster movie version directed by James Cameron — poking fun at both Cameron’s penchant for water movies and the idea that anyone would ever make an Aquaman movie.

Well, the real film, directed by James Wan, certainly dispels any notion that Aquaman isn’t suited for the big screen. Coincidentally, with this film and Furious 7, Wan became the only director other than Cameron (with Avatar and Titanic) to guide two films from separate franchises into the global box office’s billion-dollar club.

Jason Momoa takes on the title role, his third film appearing as the character, after a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and an expanded presence in Justice League. His larger-than-life persona and carefree attitude serve the film well by helping the audience accept the bizarreness of the worlds being created without the need to take it too seriously.

Arthur Curry (Momoa) is the product of the unexpected love of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman) who ends up at his shore when she escapes an arranged marriage. Arthur’s unique heritage gives him superhuman abilities, such as strength, invulnerability, the ability to swim fast and a telepathic bond with sea creatures.

With his reputation as a hero established in Justice League, Arthur is sought out by the princess Mera (Amber Heard) to claim the throne of Atlantis from his half-brother (Patrick Wilson), who wants to destroy the surface world.

To do that, he and Mera must embark on a quest to locate a mythical weapon that will allow him to assert his claim as the rightful king of Atlantis.

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The story will draw a lot of comparisons with Black Panther in that both deal with heroes introduced in earlier films, with their own films focused on tying their origins into storylines involving taking control of their hidden kingdoms away from maniacal family members who want to conquer the outside world. Tonally, the film is more like Thor: Ragnarok, which also deals with a battle for the throne of a powerful kingdom. These recent superhero movies have certainly embraced that Shakespearean power dynamics motif lately (which may just speak to how most comic books can be reduced to a few fundamental tropes before all the personality and detail that makes them popular are added).

Aquaman

Between the “Game of Thrones”-esque political intrigue and “Indiana Jones”-style adventure subplot, much of the film’s success owes to its sense of fun and its willingness to depict absolutely anything on screen despite how absurd it is while treating it as epic. Wan fills almost every frame with fantastic imagery awash in vibrant color that really shines through in its high-definition Blu-ray presentation. Many of the scenes look as if Wan pulled them directly from a comic book, and even makes Aquaman’s traditional orange and green costume look cool, which should no doubt please fans of the character.

The Blu-ray includes more than an hour-and-a-half of featurettes detailing all the aspects of the production, from Momoa’s casting, to the stunt work, to the development of the depictions of the undersea kingdoms that comprise the Atlantean realms.

One of the more interesting videos in this regard is the “Kingdoms of the Seven Seas,” a profile of underwater politics hosted by Dolph Lundgren, who plays the ruler of one of them. Between this and his recent turn in a “Rocky” retrospective on the Creed II Blu-ray, Lundgren has been pretty busy on the Warner lot hosting bonus videos.

Another interesting tidbit comes during an analysis of the film’s memorable sequence involving the devolved creatures of the Trench, which plays to Wan’s horror roots. At one point, an excited Wan suggests the Trench should be the basis of its own movie. Unsurprisingly, a Trench spinoff has already been announced.

Finally, the disc includes a three-minute scene from the upcoming Shazam! movie.

‘Justice League’ Comes Together Atop Home Video Sales Charts

Warner’s Justice League led a slew of newcomers that debuted in the top 20 of the national home video sales charts the week ended March 17.

The superhero team-up adventure, which earned $229 million at the domestic box office, came in at No. 1 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc chart.

Slipping to No. 2 on both charts was the previous week’s top seller, Disney’s Thor: Ragnarok, which in its second week sold 44% as many discs as Justice League‘s first week.

Debuting at No. 3 on both charts was Fox’s animated Ferdinand, which earned $83.8 million in U.S. theaters.

Disney’s Coco dropped to No. 4 on both charts in its third week.

Rounding out the top five on both charts was the newly minted Oscar Best Picture winner, Fox’s The Shape of Water.

Other newcomers in the top 10 included Sony Pictures’ Call Me By Your Name at No. 7 overall (No. 6 on the Blu-ray chart), and Universal’s Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya at No. 8 overall (No. 7 on the Blu-ray chart).

Lionsgate’s The Disaster Artist, a comedic re-creation of the making of notoriously bad film The Room, debuted at No. 11 overall and tenth on the Blu-ray chart.

Blu-ray Disc accounted for 70% of total sales for Justice League, which had 12% of its unit tally from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Among the other newcomers, Blu-ray accounted for 59% of Ferdinand unit sales, 66% for The Shape of Water, 55% for Call Me By Your Name, 58% for I, Tonya, and 73% for Disaster Artist.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended March 18, Thor: Ragnarok took over the top spot in its second week, pushing Coco to No. 2.

I, Tonya debuted at No. 3, followed by Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express remake at No. 4 and Paramount’s Daddy’s Home 2 at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 03-17-18
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 03-18-18
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 03-17-18
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 03-17-18
Sales Report for Week Ended 03-17-18

‘Justice League’ Light Show at SXSW

To promote the March 13 Blu-ray release of Justice League, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment created an interactive light display at SXSW within DC’s comic book pop-up shop and Superhero experience. The activation included an interactive sidewalk and holograms that activated with scenes from the movie and corresponding Superhero logos from all six members of the Justice League.

In addition, the nights of Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, the SXSW X DC Experience featured the performance art of Laserman, as the Italian dancer and his partner performed inside a pair of 12-foot crystal spheres and engaged in a choreographed laser-enhanced performance to the Justice League music of Danny Elfman.

 

‘Justice League’ Coming to Digital HD Feb. 13, on Disc March 13

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Justice League on Digital HD Feb. 13, and on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 13.

Directed by Zack Snyder, the film stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. The film grossed $227.5 million domestically and $655 million worldwide.

Justice League is the fifth entry in the shared movie universe of DC Comics superheroes, following 2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016’s Suicide Squad and 2017’s Wonder Woman. A standalone Aquaman film is due later this year.

While fans of the DC movies have been clamoring for an extended cut of Justice League, thus far only the theatrical version has been announced for home video release.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of Justice League will feature Dolby Vision HDR. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray discs of Justice League will feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

The Blu-ray and DVD versions will include 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes: “Road to Justice:” a look at the history of the characters;  “Heart of Justice,” in which the filmmakers discuss the importance of the DC Comics “trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman; “Technology of the Justice League,” a database of the team’s secrets; “Justice League: The New Heroes,” a look at Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg; “Steppenwolf the Conqueror,” about the film’s villain, voiced by Ciarán Hinds; “Suit Up: The Look of the League,” about the costumes; “Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons”; “Scene Studies: Wonder Woman’s Rescue”; “Scene Studies: Heroes Park”; and “Scene Studies: The Tunnel Battle.”

The Blu-ray will also include “The Return of Superman” bonus scenes not seen in theaters.

All the special features can also be experienced using the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App, available for both iOS and Android devices.