The Suicide Squad

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/26/21;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $55.8 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Taika Waititi, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Jennifer Holland, Sylvester Stallone, Dee Bradley Baker.

Writer-director James Gunn’s subversive follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad resets the franchise by embracing the absurdity inherent in comic book movies.

Like its predecessor, The Suicide Squad is based on the DC Comics series about a team of supervillains who are blackmailed into conducting black ops for the American government through the threat of an explosive chip in their head. The 2016 edition, while a financial success, was panned by critics and audiences after it was infamously re-edited by a trailer company into essentially a series of vignettes set to popular music, trying to capture some of the magic that made Guardians of the Galaxy work so well.

So, for the sequel, DC just brought in Gunn, writer-director of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. The hire came shortly after Gunn was fired by Marvel over some questionable tweets in his past, only to be re-hired for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which he’s working on now.

The Suicide Squad is just another example of why he’s such a good fit for these kinds of movies: a keen understanding of the source material, and a willingness to poke fun at it without undermining the credibility of the story. Here, Gunn assembles a team of some of the silliest comic book concepts ever created, gives their characters emotional depth, and makes it all work.

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This is one of the bloodiest comic book movies ever made, but also one of the funniest, with Gunn expertly finding the balance between the two extremes, beginning with an absolutely insane opening sequence that will leave audiences without a clue of what to expect from this movie.

The story involves the team heading to a tropical island to dispose of a top secret project before the new military dictatorship can expose U.S. involvement in its development. Idris Elba grounds the mission as Bloodsport, a weapons expert. He has a bit of a rivalry with the team’s other weapons expert, Peacemaker (John Cena), as they try to outdo each other running up the movie’s body count. With his earnest penchant for killing anything that stands in his way to achieve “peace,” Peacemaker would seem to be Gunn’s metaphor for American foreign policy (though Gunn found the character appealing enough to write an eight-episode TV spinoff about him, set to debut on HBO Max in 2022).

Other standouts on the team include King Shark, literally a walking, talking man-eating shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone; Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), who uses her deceased father’s technology to control the minds of rats; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), who was experimented on by his mother with an interdimensional virus that gives him the power to expel dots of deadly energy; and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), one of the few holdovers from the first movie, along with team commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government agent who will detonate their heads if they disobey her.

Like the first movie, the sequel has plenty of songs, but thanks to Gunn, they are well integrated into the structure of the film, rather than seemingly played at random.

The Suicide Squad is fun, vibrant and visually distinctive like a graphic novel come to life, though its hard-‘R’ sensibilities may not appeal to everybody.

The Blu-ray edition of The Suicide Squad comes loaded with hours of insightful bonus material about the making of the film, including a good solo commentary with Gunn.

There are also about 17 minutes of deleted scenes that don’t amount to much, so it’s easy to see why they were cut.

Also included are three fun retro trailers done in the style of 1960s war movies, 1970s horror movies and 1980s buddy cop movies.

The regular Blu-ray Disc of the film contains all the extras. The 4K disc includes just the commentary and one featurette, a seven-minute breakdown of Harley Quinn’s violent escape sequence.

Originally published as a streaming review Aug. 9, 2021.

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

The Death of Superman

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 8/7/18;
Warner;
Animated;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 Blu-ray gift set, $39.99 UHD BD.
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action including some bloody images.
Voices of Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Jason O’Mara, Rosario Dawson, Shemar Moore, Nathan Fillion, Matt Lanter, Christopher Gorham.

The Death of Superman packs a punch, in more ways than one.

The latest entry in the DC Universe brand of animated superhero movies is one of the more faithful representations of its source material, resulting in one of the most emotionally resonant movies based on a comic book in quite some time.

The Death of Superman is based on the legendary 1992-93 storyline that saw Superman sacrifice himself to save Metropolis from an unstoppable alien entity called Doomsday. Subsequent storylines dealt with Superman’s return amid the arrival of four new heroes each claiming the legacy of the Man of Steel, but that’s the subject for the next DC Universe movie, Reign of the Supermen.

The “Death of Superman” has provided inspiration for several adaptations over the years, most prominently in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (though the subsequent Justice League movie ignored most of the comic book’s storyline for his resurrection). A highly condensed version of the death and return arcs formed the basis of the first DC Universe animated movie, Superman: Doomsday, back in 2007.

And while Superman: Doomsday remains among the best-selling of the DC animated movies, it’s also regarded as something of a lost opportunity to really dive into the juiciest aspects of the storyline, given how much of it was altered to fit into the limited running time of a single movie. The Death of Superman does much to rectify that.

The new film is a continuation of a continuity that has established within the DC Universe films the past few years, allowing this film to build upon pre-existing character relationships. However, Superman was mostly a background player among an ensemble in those, so this is really the first of the sub-group to really give the character his due.

The movie begins with Superman, in his guise as Clark Kent, fumbling through a newfound love affair with Lois Lane, and getting relationship advice from, of all people, Wonder Woman, who had dated Superman in one of the earlier films.

The screenplay by Peter Tomasi is filled with wonderful insights about the Lois and Clark relationship as it explores the challenges of finding love when one is living a double life to conceal superpowers, as well as the tug-of-war between being a hero for the public and enjoying a private life.

There are also fun nods to other movies featuring the characters, such as Wonder Woman joking about an uptick in her popularity in the past year, and references going as far back to the 1978 Superman movie and its own iconic portraying of Superman’s courtship of Lois Lane.

The effectiveness of the story is given considerable weight by a great voice cast led by real-life husband-and-wife Jerry O’Connell as Superman and Rebecca Romijn as Lois (whose natural chemistry comes through despite the two not recording their lines together).

Rainn Wilson also has some fun in his portrayal of Lex Luthor, who is maneuvering in the background to understand what makes Doomsday tick even as Superman and the Justice League give their all to stop the monster’s rampage.

The film’s efforts to layer in its character dynamics pay off with a terrific climactic fight between Doomsday and Superman, who is all that stands in the creature’s way when the rest of the Justice League can’t stop it.

The Blu-ray includes a 16-minute featurette called “The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All,” a good retrospective about the original comic book storyline involving many of the creative minds behind it, intercut with an analysis of the fight itself.

There’s also a 10-minute preview of the Reign of the Supermen movie due next year.

Finally, the Blu-ray includes the “Legion of Superheroes” certoon series two-part episode “Dark Victory,” which incorporated some ideas from the “Death of Superman” storyline.