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.

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

‘Hell Fest’ on Digital Dec. 21, Disc Jan. 8

Lionsgate will release the horror movie Hell Fest through digital retailers Dec. 21, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 8.

The slasher film deals with a group of friends being hunted by a serial killer during a horror-themed Halloween event at a local amusement park. The cast includes Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Tony Todd.

Hell Fest earned $11 million at the domestic box office.

The disc includes a “Thrills and Kills: Making Hell Fest” featurette and the film’s trailer. The 4K Blu-ray includes Dolby Vision HDR.

Scream Factory Sets ‘Candyman’ Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for Nov. 20

Shout! Factory will release a two-disc Blu-ray collector’s edition of 1992 cult hit Candyman Nov. 20 through the indie distributor’s Scream Factory horror imprint.

The thriller follows a graduate student (Virginia Madsen ) whose research summons a legendary spirit (Tony Todd) who haunts a notorious housing project. Written and directed by Bernard Rose, executive produced by Clive Barker, and with music by Philip Glass, Candyman also stars Xander Berkeley and Kasi Lemmon.

The Blu-ray set includes both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film, with a new 2K restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative. The new scenes for the uncut version are high-definition inserts sourced from an archival film print.

New bonus material with the theatrical cut includes audio commentary with Rose and Todd, and another commentary with authors and horror experts Stephen Jones and Kim Newman. The theatrical cut also includes two previously released commentaries.

Additional new extras include the featurette “A Story to Tell: Clive Barker’s ‘The Forbidden,’” with writer Douglas E. Winter discussing Clive Barker’s seminal Books of Blood and Candyman’s source story, “The Forbidden”; and “Urban Legend: Unwrapping Candyman,” a critical analysis of the film with writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes.

The Blu-ray also includes new interviews with Todd, Madsen, actors Kasi Lemmons and DeJuan Guy, production designer Jane Ann Stewart, and the film’s makeup artists.

Legacy extras include “Sweets to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos” featuring filmmaker and cast interviews; 2014 interviews with Barker and Todd; storyboards; and promotional material. The Blu-ray also includes a BD-ROM screenplay.

Bram Stoker’s ‘Shadowbuilder’ Due on Blu-ray for First Time Aug. 28 From MVD

MVD Entertainment Group will release the Bram Stoker horror story Shadowbuilder for the first time on Blu-ray Aug. 28 as part of its MVD Rewind collection.

Shadowbuilder front cover

In the film, a demon is summoned to take the soul of a young boy, who has the potential to become a saint. If the demon succeeds, it will open a doorway to hell, blazing a terrifying trail of destruction, possession and mayhem and destroying humanity. The fate of the world hinges on the final outcome of a renegade priest’s battle with the soul-eating Shadowbuilder.

The cast that includes Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), Leslie Hope (Crimson Peak), Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead) and Tony Todd (Candyman).

Shadowbuilder reversible cover art

Bonus materials include the original 2.0 stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray); audio commentary from director Jamie Dixon; a new “Making of Shadowbuilder” featurette with director Jamie Dixon, writer Michael Stokes, and stars Andrew Jackson (The Shadowbuilder) and Todd (Covey); a new “Shadowbuilder: Visual Effects” featurette; a new “Shadowbuilder: Kevin Zegers” featurette; reversible, two-sided artwork; Spanish subtitles; the original theatrical trailer; and a collectible poster.