Masters of the Universe: Revolution

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of Chris Wood, Mark Hamill, Melissa Benoist, Liam Cunningham, Lena Headey, Diedrich Bader, Gates McFadden, Stephen Root, Griffin Newman, Tiffany Smith, Ted Biaselli, Meg Foster, Keith David, John De Lancie, Jeffrey Combs, William Shatner.

The latest chapter in the “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” saga is a blast of “He-Man” awesomeness that fans of the franchise have been awaiting for nearly 40 years.

“Revelation,” a continuation of the 1980s “He-Man” lore spearheaded by Kevin Smith, offered a nostalgia-driven storyline that updated many of the characters, though some fans complained that He-Man was sidelined in favor of focusing on Teela and her unique destiny in Eternian lore.

“Masters of the Universe: Revolution” should appease the concerns fans had with the “Revelation” by putting He-Man back in the center of the action. When binged, the five episodes of “Revolution” play like an epic two-hour “MOTU” movie.

When tragedy befalls the royal house of Eternia, Prince Adam (Chris Wood) must decide whether the best path forward would for him to assume the mantle of king, or to remain Eternia’s champion in his alternate identity of He-Man. Teela (Melissa Benoist), meanwhile, adjusts to her ascension as the new Sorceress of Grayskull, and sets out to restore Preternia, an afterlife where warriors’ souls can rest in peace. But their plans are once again threatened by Skeletor (Mark Hamill), whose new scheme promises to pave the way for the evil Hordak (Keith David) to invade the planet.

Aside from one extremely boneheaded decision by Prince Adam, there’s a lot here for the franchise’s fans to love, starting with an outstanding guest turn by William Shatner as a key figure in the secret history of Eternia’s royal house.

The references to the original “He-Man” toy line and the Filmation cartoon based upon them fly fast and furious. But the creative team also weaves in elements from other “MOTU” storylines, such as the 1987 live-action film.

It culminates in one of the most satisfying final sequences that a 1980s toy property could possibly yield, while also providing a path for future storylines should Netflix continue the series.

DC League of Super-Pets

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
Box Office $93.6 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action, mile violence, language and rude humor.
Voices of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Keanu Reeves, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Olivia Wilde, Jameela Jamil, Jemaine Clement, John Early, Daveed Diggs, Dascha Polanco, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dan Fogler, Busy Philipps, Keith David, Alfred Molina, Lena Headey.

In the annals of cinema history, DC League of Super-Pets might be the first superhero movie in which the day is saved by the main character’s bowel movement.

The animated movie follows the adventures of Krypto, Superman’s pet dog who traveled with young Kal-El to Earth when both were babies (which would make Krypto really old for a dog, but since he’s an alien dog with superpowers we don’t have to worry about that part). Voiced by Dwayne Johnson, Krypto now helps adult Superman fight crime in Metropolis, but starts to feel left out of Superman’s life due to his relationship with Lois Lane.

Superman (John Krasinski), Krypto and the rest of the Justice League stop Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) from obtaining some orange kryptonite (just go to Wikipedia to look up the history of the colored kryptonites, it’s a whole thing) that would give mortal earthlings superpowers. Unbeknownst to them, the magic rock is instead hauled in by Lulu (Kate McKinnon), an evil guinea pig from Luthor’s lab now living in an animal shelter. While she gains superpowers to aid in her plot for world domination, bringing the kryptonite into the shelter also inadvertently gives the other animals weird powers as well.

Meanwhile, Krypto ends up losing his powers due to eating a piece of cheese containing a piece of green kryptonite (the traditional kind). When Lulu captures Superman and the other members of the Justice League, Krypto is unable to rescue them, so he recruits the superpowered animals from the shelter.

Among them is Ace, a tough dog voiced by Kevin Hart, making this yet another Johnson/Hart collaboration. Since Ace in the comics is traditionally the name of Batman’s dog, it’s not hard to figure out how the plot is going to play out. It all turns, of course, on when Krypto can pass the kryptonite from his system and regain his powers to join the fight.

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DC League of Super-Pets is a vibrant animated adventure that continues Warner’s attempts to branch out its DC Comics characters into other media as it fumbles around with the creative direction of the DC live-action movie franchise (which should get a boost from the elevation of James Gunn and Peter Safran to lead that department). Focusing on the Justice League pets is certainly a novel approach to present the DC world from a different perspective and target the younger demographic, even if it at times seems like a superpowered version of The Secret Life of Pets (also featuring Hart).

Of course, echoing popular trends from similar genres is nothing new, and DC League of Super-Pets is certainly not the most bizarre example of it as far as recent DC adaptations go. That title would have to go to HBO Max’s “Batwheels,” an animated series that brings Batman’s vehicles to life as if they drove in from Disney’s “Cars” movies.

Krypto the Superdog, at the very least, is not a new concept in DC land, having been barking around comics since 1955. His name obviously derives from Superman’s home planet of Krypton, but recent events might conjure up different connotations for it (“Smallville” sidestepped the silliness of It by simply naming the character Shelby instead).

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DC League of Super-Pets comes with extras on Blu-ray and the retail digital version (in the 4K combo pack they are on the regular Blu-ray only).

There are roughly 20 minutes of deleted sequences, presented as storyboards with the original audio temps.

The making of the film is told several short featurettes. The 15-minute “Behind the Super Voices” gives the cast a chance to discuss the film, while the eight-minute “Super-Pets Animation 101” features a discussion from the filmmakers on how they developed the movie, and the seven-and-a-half-minute “The World of Super-Pets” delves into how the film taps in DC Comics history.

Along those lines, the four-minute “Find the Easter Eggs” shows off some of the background references to DC Comics lore.

Rounding out the fun is a seven-minute “How to Draw Krypto” tutorial with animation supervisor Dave Burgess.

Nope

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Universal;
Thriller;
Box Office $123.28 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout and some violence/bloody images.
Stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David.

Comedian-turned-auteur Jordan Peele’s latest foray into metaphorical horror blends sci-fi and Western elements into an engrossing tale of a UFO plaguing a ranch on the fringes of Hollywood.

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Em Haywood, whose family business provides horses for use in Hollywood productions. After the death of their father months earlier due to mysterious debris falling from the sky, the Haywood ranch has been facing financial difficulties, forcing OJ to sell horses to a local Western-themed amusement park owned by former child star Jupe (Steven Yeun), whose biggest claim to fame was appearing on 1990s sitcom that was canceled after its chimpanzee star went on a rampage, destroyed the set and injured several members of the cast.

As the Haywoods struggle to reverse their fortunes, they discover what seems to be a flying saucer that neutralizes electricity when it flies by, often flying low to the ground and consuming everything in sight, horses and people included. Realizing that proof of UFOs could provide the windfall they need, they plot to photograph it by setting up a series of cameras in such a way that not all of them would be fritzed off by the UFO at the same time.

Joined by a local electronics store clerk (Brandon Perea) motivated by curiosity to assist their efforts, they soon start to understand the nature of the mysterious visitor and its role in their father’s death and family’s plight.

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A discussion in the Blu-ray bonus materials labels the film as a combination of Close Encounters and Jaws, which is an apt description given the prevalence of Spielbergian overtones throughout the film. Writer-director Peele himself calls the film a tribute to the oft-overlooked artisans of Hollywood, while also serving as an examination of exploitation and humanity’s addiction to spectacle. The prominent motif in this regard is reflected in the film’s depiction of attempts to placate wild animals for entertainment purposes. Even the horses, long considered a tame companion in mankind’s spread of civilization, can abandon their training and prove dangerous when startled.

Peele’s skill at layering tension draws the audience into the mystery of the flying object alongside the Haywoods, while brilliant sound design and fantastic cinematography enhance the unsettling mood.

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The making of the film is covered in great detail in the hour-long “Shadows: The Making of Nope” documentary included with the Blu-ray. Supplemental featurettes include “Call Him Jean Jacket,” a nearly 15-minute piece about the design and symbolism of the UFO; and the five-and-a-half-minute “Mystery Man of Muybridge,” an examination of the historical reel of a jockey riding a horse that is one of the earliest examples of the potential of film and is one of the central influences of Nope.

Also included is a five-and-a-half-minute gag reel, and five deleted scenes that run a total of nine-and-a-half minutes, though some are more akin to extended sequences with unfinished visual effects.

Catwoman: Hunted

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, bloody images and suggestive material.
Voices of Elizabeth Gilles, Stephanie Beatriz, Lauren Cohan, Kelly Hu, Jonathan Banks, Keith David, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Jonathan Frakes.

The anime-inspired Catwoman: Hunted puts its title character in the middle of a jazzy crime caper, manipulating her way through a cadre of DC Comics characters, none of which is Batman. It’s a fun, sexy ride despite its convoluted plot. And it remembers that there is more than one cat-themed character hanging around the DC universe.

The story involves Catwoman (Elizabeth Gilles) crashing a costume party of gangsters connected to the Leviathan crime syndicate in order to steal a valuable jewel. Though her attempt is eventually thwarted by Batwoman (Stephanie Beatriz), Catwoman is ensnared in a globe-trotting Interpol operation to take down Leviathan’s leadership.

The Blu-ray includes two featurettes. The 19-minute “When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted” is an interesting piece that briefly explores the popularity of Catwoman before diving into how the filmmakers crafted the movie around her. The 40-minute “Catwoman: The Femme Fatale” is a good mini-documentary, originally released online last year, about the history of the character in comics, video games, TV shows and movies, infused with archival interviews with many of the actresses who played her.

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Creepshow: Season 2

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

RLJ/Shudder;
Horror;
$34.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Kevin Dillon, Ted Raimi, Ali Larter, C. Thomas Howell, Iman Benson, Josh McDermitt, Ashley Laurence, Keith David, Ryan Kwanten, Breckin Meyer, Molly Ringwald, Eric Edelstein, Barbara Crampton, Denise Crosby, Justin Long, D’Arcy Carden, Kiefer Sutherland, Joey King, Anna Camp, Adam Pally. 

The Shudder original series “Creepshow” returns with a second season consisting of five new episodes, an animated special and a holiday special.

The anthology-style episodes offer two stories each, except for the season finale, which consists of one single story — “Night of the Living Late Show,” a tribute to classic horror films in which Justin Long plays a man who invents a VR device that allows him to insert himself into his favorite movies. The hourlong Christmas special also presents a single story.

Other highlights include “The Right Snuff,” in which an unhinged astronaut who dreams of surpassing his father’s legacy jeopardizes a meeting with alien life; and “Model Kid,” another vintage-movie tribute in which a kid uses his love of scary movie monster toys to cope with an abusive uncle.

The show’s quaint production values evoke the feeling of 1950s ‘B’-movies, with retro-style practical effects and cheesy-looking monsters.

The Blu-ray also includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes, a WonderCon@Home interview with producer Greg Nicotero and photo galleries, and comes with a nifty comic-book-style episode guide.

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Muhammad Ali: A Film by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

PBS Distribution;
Documentary;
$69.99 DVD, $79.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Narrated by Keith David.

Boxing history meets the civil rights movement in PBS documentarian Ken Burns and his team’s latest sojourn into the historical record, an examination of the life of legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

Presented as four two-hour episodes, Muhammad Ali is an engrossing profile of the man who dubbed himself “The Greatest,” and backed up his claim in the ring. The political aspects of his life amid the racial tensions of the mid-20th century make it easy to see what made Ali an attractive subject for Burns, who often incorporates the history of race relations into the broader context of American History.

The first episode chronicles Ali’s boyhood in Kentucky, when he was known as Cassius Clay. Seeking help after his bike was stolen, young Clay stumbled across a cop giving boxing lessons, sealing his destiny. A sparkling amateur career led to an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960. Turning pro, Ali won his first heavyweight title in 1964.

The second episode finds fame and notoriety catching up to the champ, whose involvement with the Nation of Islam makes him a controversial figure and prompts him to change his name to Muhammad Ali. As he mows down contenders to his title, his biggest foe becomes the U.S. government, as he is drafted to serve in the Vietnam War. His refusal to accept induction leads to a lengthy legal battle, during which he is stripped of his titles and exiled from the sport for three years.

The third disc details his comeback in the early 1970s. As his case makes its way to the Supreme Court, Ali sparks his famous rivalry with Joe Frazier as he embarks on a quest to reclaim his crown.

The fourth disc covers the final years of Ali’s career, his declining health and being embraced as a cultural and sports icon.

While the documentary celebrates the glory of his success, it also takes an unflinching look at his personal life, including a string of troubled marriages, as well as a brazen attitude that didn’t make too many friends.

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Shout! Factory Releasing ‘They Live’ on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Shout! Factory’s horror imprint, Scream Factory, will release director John Carpenter’s They Live on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 8.

The 1988 sci-fi allegory will be available as a two-disc They Live: Collector’s Edition combo pack with the 4K disc and a regular Blu-ray. This marks the first time the film will be available in 4K in North America.

The film stars Rowdy Roddy Piper as Nada, a drifter in Los Angeles who comes across a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see a hidden society of aliens living among humans and systematically taking over Earth by luring society into submission.

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The 4K combo pack will include a new 7.1 Dolby Atmos audio mix, Dolby Vision HDR, and all the previous bonus features from Scream Factory’s 2012 Blu-ray of the film:

  • Commentary with Carpenter and Piper;
  • “Independent Thoughts” — an interview with Carpenter;
  • “Man vs. Aliens” — An interview with actor Keith David;
  • “Woman of Mystery” — An interview with actress Meg Foster;
  • “Watch, Look, Listen: The Sights & Sounds of They Live” — A look at the visual style, stunts and music with director of photography Gary B. Kibbe, stunt coordinator Jeff Imada, and co-composer Alan Howarth;
  • Vintage “The Making of They Live” featurette;
  • Footage from commercials created for the film;
  • Original theatrical trailer;
  • TV Spots;
  • still gallery.

 

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The ShoutFactory.com store also features five exclusive offers tied to the They Live 4K release.

Fans who order the 4K disc (priced at $34.98) directly from ShoutFactory.com will receive an 18×24-inch rolled poster reproduction of the film’s original one-sheet, while supplies last.

ShoutFactory.com also has an exclusive limited-edition NECA 8-inch clothed action figure of Keith David’s “Frank,” who joins Nada in the fight against the aliens. Limited to a run of 4,000 units, the figure will be housed in retro box packaging featuring original theatrical art, and  comes with two accessory machine guns, a purple shirt, khaki pants, and a pair of the special sunglasses. The figure is meant as a companion to NECA’s Nada action figure due in November 2020.

The Frank figure can be purchased on its own for $39.99.

A bundle of the 4K disc, poster and the Frank figure is available for $74.99.

Scream Factory will also have an exclusive 7-inch bubble gum pink vinyl record via Sacred Bones, limited to a run of 2,500 units and featuring music from They Live composed by Carpenter. The ‘A’-side includes the 2017 version of the main title and the ‘B’-side contains a never-before-released recording of “Wake Up” recorded by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies in 2019.

The 4K disc with the poster and vinyl is available for $58.99.

Finally, a deluxe bundle of the 4K disc with the poster, Frank figure and vinyl is offered for $94.99.