‘DC League of Super-Pets’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

DC League of Super-Pets” is a film which, on paper, sounded like it would be an enjoyable and entertaining animated film for families to enjoy on a rainy day.  I was especially drawn to the cast of the film, which features such actors as Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Natasha Lyonne, Keanu Reeves and Olivia Wilde. However, this feels more like a 10 to 15 animated short than it does a feature length film.  There isn’t a lot of material for the actors to work with here as far as the story is concerned.  It also appears that some of the actors are phoning in their voice performances.

The film opens up by introducing the audience to Superman (John Krasinski) and his best friend, Krypto, a Labrador Retriever, voiced by Dwayne Johnson.  They do everything together, including their daily walk-o’clock.  Krypto, however, is starting to become jealous when he notices that Superman is spending an awful lot of time with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), and worries he will be left behind.  After all, who is Krypto going to watch The Great British Bake off with?  He’s feeling left out and drowns his sorrows with ice cream and Taylor Swift songs to deal with the pain.  Meanwhile, Superman is hoping to get a buddy for Krypto, so he doesn’t depend on him so much.

While looking for a friend for Bark Kent (Krypto’s day-to-day dog persona), he stumbles into a shelter with a variety of animals, such as a boxer named Ace (Kevin Hart), PB, a potbellied pig, voiced by Vanessa Bayer, a turtle voiced by Natasha Lyonne, and a red squirrel voiced by Diego Luna. The one bad egg in the bunch is a hairless Guinea pig named Lulu, who has been under the guidance of Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). She was a test subject at LexCorp, and now has evil powers of her own, which help her capture The Justice League.  It is up to all of the animals to work together in order to save The Justice League and stop Lulu.  They now have superpowers of their own which they must harness for good in order to restore peace.

This should have been a film which hit just the right notes in terms of appealing to young kids and also having some adult humor as well.  There is adult humor here, but it feels very on-the-nose and not at all natural or organic.  All of the flying around mixed with the superhero powers makes the film feel very tedious to sit through at times.  There is a story behind Ace becoming a shelter dog that adds some layers to his character, and there are also individual moments in the film which are funny and work within the structure of the film.

Overall, though, I can’t imagine too many kids getting all of the adult jokes which are forced into ‘DC League of Super-Pets” periodically.  I also can’t picture parents or adults enjoying the stuff intended for kids.  The film ends at around 95 minutes even though it has a 105-minute running time.  It still felt too long, and I found myself clock-watching.  It’s a case of a film where they thought as long as they had the right voice actors and the DC name attached to it with pets, they were good to go.  They didn’t take the time to actually craft a script which was worthwhile, interesting or well-developed.  They got lazy when it came time to putting the screenplay together.

I had high hopes for this one, but in the end it fell flat.  What is most frustrating about “DC League of Super-Pets” is the potential that can be seen here for a good movie.  There are some backstories and relatable moments which work quite well, but they are not consistent enough throughout the course of the film. It’s an example of an average movie with good scenes sprinkled throughout.  There is a good movie waiting to come out, but it never fully gets on track because of mediocre writing, lackluster voice work and a very lazy plot.  This is a film with a ton of potential which could have been one of the better animated films of the year, but is instead instantly forgettable.  It’s truly a shame, as this is one of the best casts I’ve ever seen for an animated film.  They should have utilized this cast and gave them interesting things to say in a comedic fashion.  Kevin Hart is subdued and for good reason (when you discover his character’s backstory), but no one really stands out here.  Kate McKinnon even seems to be reaching here.

* * out of * * * *

4K/Blu-ray Info: “DC League of Super-Pets” is being released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  The film is rated PG for action, mild violence, language and rude humor.  It has a running time of 105 minutes.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info: The 4K of the film is very bright and colorful.  I will say this—the 4K looks simply stunning with its vivid colors. Certain animated films really pop on 4K HDR, and this is one of them.

Audio Info: The Dolby Atmos track is also on point throughout the film, as it never gets too high or too low, even during the action scenes.  It’s just right. Subtitles are included in Canadian French, English and Latin Spanish.

Special Features:

How to Draw Krypto

Behind the Super Voices

Super-Pets Animation 101

Find the Easter Eggs

The World of Super-Pets

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

I think it’s safe to say from reading my review that the answer is no.  I felt very bored and disinterested while watching “DC League of Super-Pets.”  As stated in my review, the plot is run-of-the-mill and the characters are so underdeveloped. I love animals, as my wife and I have four of our own.  I know they are animated here, but still; they can be cute and funny in animated form.  Another problem with this film is you know certain actors are voicing the parts.  When you can clearly notice their voices, that’s a problem. It means they haven’t really allowed themselves to get into character fully.  Instead, they are simply reading lines right in front of them without any change to their delivery or speech. This is an average film.  It’s a one and done film for me.  For everyone else?  I can’t recommend you check it out, even as a rental.  The film looks and sounds great, but that isn’t enough to make it worth watching or owning.

**Disclaimer** I received a copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.

Joker Movie and Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit Correspondent Tony Farinella.

If you had told me “Joker” would be the best film of 2019, I would have looked at you a little funny.  Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of comic book or superhero movies.  I understand I’m in the minority here as they are extremely popular and make billions of dollars.  Personally speaking, I find them hard to get into, and I have difficulty suspending my disbelief in certain cases.

So, what is different about “Joker?”  Well, it does not play like a comic book movie.  Instead, it plays more like a character study and drama as we learn how the Joker became the Joker, and it does so in a way which is unnerving, challenging and brutally blunt.  That is how I like my movies.

Joaquin Phoenix should win an Oscar for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck, and he might be well on his way after winning a Golden Globe.  He lost a lot of weight for this performance, but it’s more than just the physical transformation.  It’s also the looks he gives and the emotional power he brings to the role.  Now a lot of controversy surrounded this film when it was released as people were worried the tone and nature was going to inspire other people to behave in a similar fashion as the Joker.  One interviewer even asked Joaquin Phoenix a question about the film potentially inspiring mass shooters.

Now I understand we live in sensitive times, and I am very aware and respectful of other people’s feelings.  A lot of bad things have happened over the past two decades, and we can’t ignore any of that.  However, when it comes to blaming video games, television or pop culture for these things, I find it is a rather far-reaching theory.  Film can be used in certain instances as a way to entertain, educate and inform us.  “Joker” is merely commenting on what is happening in the world today, and this is even though it is set in 1981.  You can’t help but see the parallels between what is happening in the film and what is happening in the world right now.  After all this time, there is still a marked division between the haves and have-nots.

Arthur is down on his luck in life even though he is trying his best to put on a happy face.  He lives with his sick mother (Frances Conroy), who is obsessed with Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen).  She used to work for him and keeps writing him letters, hoping he will respond and help them out.  When Arthur is out on the streets twirling signs as a clown, he gets beat up by a group of young punks, and it appears no one has much sympathy for what he endured.

He can’t catch a break with his therapy sessions either as he feels as though his therapist is not really listening to what he has to say. People also judge or feel uncomfortable around him because he has a condition where he has uncontrollable laughter, sometimes in inappropriate moments.   He’s on a number of medications (seven in fact), but none of them seem to be making him very happy.

Every night, he watches the Murray Franklin Show with his mother. Robert De Niro plays Murray Franklin, the wisecracking late-night talk-show host. Arthur hopes to one day be on the show as a famous stand-up comedian.  It is his dream. The film does a great job of showing how someone on that many medications can have severe side effects and difficulty figuring out what is reality and what is fiction.  I enjoyed the fact the film did not spoon-feed everything to the audience.  In many cases, you are not sure what is really happening or what is in Arthur’s head. The film tackles how difficult it is to get the proper funding for mental health treatment.  It is about someone who has been completely ignored and rejected by society.

Arthur is doing his best to put on a happy face, but the world around him is getting more and more out of hand each and every day.  Whenever he turns on the news, there is another gruesome or horrible story.  It makes him wonder what his purpose in life is and what is going to become of him.  How will he survive in this world?  He’s doing everything he believes to be right and fair, but the world is spitting him up and chewing him out.

This is when the real Joker is revealed after Arthur’s had enough and can’t take it anymore.  It’s up to the audience to decide what it all means and what’s the truth of the matter. Even Thomas Wayne can be looked at as a Trump-like figure if you want to go there.  I picked up on certain things I felt director Todd Phillips was sprinkling in throughout the movie, but I don’t know his true intentions.

“Joker” is the best film of 2019 much to my surprise.  It is supremely well made, intense, and it left me wanting more.  The film does leave the audience with more questions than answers, but this is a good thing.  We don’t need everything tied up together at the end of the film.  This is not that type of movie.  A lot of critics have compared it to 1970’s cinema and also “The King of Comedy” and “Taxi Driver.” It is the kind of film which is most definitely worth watching again and again because there is a lot to digest and unravel.  The musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, which also won at the Golden Globes, really sets the dark tone and mood of “Joker.”

Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as Arthur Fleck/Joker.  Without him, this film does not work.  I have not seen a performance which stayed with me like this in a long time.  At times, he’s sympathetic, and you feel empathy for him.  At other times, you are disgusted by his actions and his behavior.  This is not a one-dimensional character.  This film took a lot of balls to make, and it also took a lot of balls on the part of Phoenix to make the choices he made in this film.  “Joker” is a masterpiece of cinema, and it is easy to see why it is the first R-rated film to make one billion dollars at the box office.

* * * * out of * * * *

______________________________________________________________________________

Blu-Ray Info: “Joker” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 122 minutes and is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images. It comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital code as well.

Video Info: “Joker” is released on 1080p High-Definition on an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  The film looks absolutely perfect on Blu-ray.  It has an old-school look to it while also looking crystal clear at the same time, which is exactly what the film needed to look like.

Audio Info: The audio for the film is presented in Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, English Descriptive Audio, and Dolby Digital: English, French, and Spanish.  Subtitles are also in English, French, and Spanish.  The audio is superb.  Once again, the score by Guðnadóttir is hauntingly eerie, and spot-on for the film.

Special Features:

Joker: Vision & Fury

Becoming Joker

Please Welcome… Joker!

Joker: A Chronicle of Chaos

Should You Buy It?

In the end, what Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix pulled off in “Joker” is simply stunning and mesmerizing.  This is not hyperbole here.  This film and everyone who participated in it deserves all of the praise they have received.  It is also great to see appearances by Marc Maron, Brian Tyree Henry and Bryan Callen sprinkled into the film along with a very stellar supporting performance by Robert De Niro.  It would have been nice to see more of Zazie Beetz in the film, but she does a lot with her limited screen time. She’s a pivotal part of the movie, especially the more you think about it.

A lot of people can probably relate to how Arthur feels and everything he is going through in life.  Of course, you don’t agree with his actions in the film, but you can understand it in the context of the film and this character’s state of mind.  That is the important thing to remember here—this is a film.  No one should ever go out and do any of this. I have to make that crystal clear.

You should buy this film as soon as you can! This is the kind of film you want to add to your collection because it is only going to get better with age.  It is an adult drama/character piece which is perfectly done.   The special features are a little light in terms of length, but maybe that was done on purpose.  The filmmakers don’t want to show all of their cards.  This film comes highly recommended from yours truly. It blew me away in the cinema, and I had the same reaction watching it at home.

‘Sword of Trust’ Thrives On the Energy of its Cast

Sword of Trust movie poster

While driving over to a screening of “Sword of Trust.” I ended up in a fender bender which succeeded in ruining my mood for the rest of the day. As a result, I came into this movie wondering if I could look at it objectively as my mind kept going back to the unfortunate incident, and I was fuming at how I could not change what just happened. Well, it’s a good thing I waited a couple of days to write this review on it as my mind is clearer than it was previously. “Sword of Trust” at times feels like a half-realized film, but I did enjoy it and admired the intent of its filmmaker and cast to give us something character driven in a time when cinema is still infinitely dominated by superhero and comic book movies.

We meet Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary (Michaela Watkins), a loving couple who arrive in Alabama to collect Cynthia’s inheritance from recently departed grandfather. They both think they will gain ownership of his home, but they discover it is wrapped up in reverse mortgages which means the bank owns it and is not about to give it up. Don’t you love that? Even if you read the fine print, you and your family members can ever so easily get screwed out of home ownership as greed remains king.

Anyway, Cynthia instead inherits a Civil War era sword, and it comes with a set of letters which prove that it was the South which actually won the Civil War. As a result, the two take the sword to the nearest pawn shop which is run by the cantankerous curmudgeon Mel (Marc Maron) who is quicker to cheat his customers out of the best deal possible for his own capitalistic gains. However, when his man-child employee Nathaniel (Jon Bass) stumbles across a You Tube video in which an overzealous conspiracy theorist appears more than willing to pay thousands of dollars for Civil War artifacts, these two men quickly become very interested in selling this sword to the highest bidder.

I enjoyed how the characters in “Sword of Trust” show themselves to be more capitalistic than they initially realize. Mel initially shuts down Cynthia’s and Mary’s attempt to sell him their sword, but when he shows a renewed interest in it, the two women are not about to be cheated out of any money. Unlike certain people, they refuse to believe Paramount Pictures has yet go profit on the Eddie Murphy comedy “Coming to America,” and they are not about to be swindled out of any substantial profit they are entitled to.

From there, the story moves in unpredictable directions as these four characters attempt to sell the sword to those conspiracy theorists, and I had no idea of where things were going to go which made this film especially entertaining. Considering the depressing rise in white supremacy in the United States of America, I started to believe “Sword of Trust” would descend into an abyss of racism, greed and selfishness. Does it? I refuse to say.

What I can tell you is “Sword of Trust” deals with characters who are more like us than we may initially realize. As they are driven to an undisclosed location in the back of a truck with no windows, they come to reveal things about themselves which no one is quick to another without some level of trust. This scene made me like this movie even more as these characters could have easily been passed off as types instead of individuals who slowly reveal share who they really are to complete strangers.

Directing this movie is Lynn Shelton who co-wrote the screenplay with Mike O’Brien, and she allowed her cast to improvise in a way which has us wondering how everything will turn out. “Sword of Trust” looks to be a cinematic experience we have seen far too many times beforehand, but it is filled with humanity and some strong laughs throughout. Even though it may very well get swept away by the latest summer blockbusters such as the live-action version of “The Lion King,” I think it is worth checking out for those who are looking for something a little different.

All the actors really commit to the material, and it is great fun to watch Watkins and Bell work off of one another throughout. It’s also fun to watch Bass fumble about as Nathaniel, a man-child who has made the mistake of believing in the wrong things to where his mind threatens to be permanently warped. Then again, his character does represent a growing portion of Americans who have somehow led themselves to believe the earth is flat (newsflash, it isn’t).

But the real star by far of “Sword of Trust” is Marc Maron. I have become a big fan of his after watching his IFC show “Maron” and listening weekly to his podcast “WTF.” Having seen and heard him in various formats, it is tempting to say he is simply playing a version of himself as Mel, but that isn’t really fair. Just watch as he tries to keep his guard up when his ex-girlfriend Deirdre (played by Shelton) visits his store; his inability to say something right away speaks volumes. Whether it is that scene or the one in the back of the truck, Maron has proven himself to be a strong actor as he is able to say many things without uttering a word, and it is an example of why he is having a career renaissance which has allowed him to star on the Netflix series “GLOW” and have a co-starring role in the upcoming film “The Joker.”

In addition, Maron also provides the music for this film, and his guitar helps to illustrate the complicated lives of each character and of the absurdity of their current predicament. Whether or not it will have you crying out “Boomer lives” while in the movie theater is another story.

“Sword of Trust” isn’t a great film, but it is an entertaining and absorbing one which I admired. Its resolution is a little pat, and some of the character twists feel a little too manipulative and fly in the face of easy logic, but I did admire what each cast member was able to bring to the material, and their performances alone make this worth a look.

It’s sad to see movies like this get such a short shelf life. Character driven motion pictures are not as prevalent in today’s cinematic landscape as they once were. I am always waiting for things to circle around back to where these kinds of movies will become more popular again, but it looks like we still have a long, long way to go to get there. Still, we have filmmakers like Lynn Shelton around who continue to buck the Hollywood trends, and this is better than nothing.

Now, back to my damaged car… Dammit.

* * * out of * * * *

“Sword of Trust” will be playing at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles, California thru July 25, 2019.