‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ Movie and 4K/Blu-ray Review

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

Your enjoyment level for “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” will depend on how funny or clever you find its main protagonist, played by Zachary Levi. Personally speaking, he is an actor I’ve never been a fan of, especially in these films.  I found his performance incredibly irritating, silly and annoying. I understand he’s trying to portray a silly high schooler as an adult who is learning how to be mature and deal with his new superpowers.  However, I just found his performance to be very grating after a while. He’s very over the top.  I’m all for a superhero film where they have some fun as it doesn’t have to be so dark and dreary throughout. There is room for every type of superhero film out there, and I fully respect and get that.  However, he is not the right actor for balancing the goofy scenes along with the more serious action sequences.

Our film opens up in a museum in Athens, Greece where two of the three daughters of the Titan Atlas break in to steal the Wizard’s broken staff from the previous film. Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) is trying to keep his family together as he’s about to turn eighteen and is worried he will be thrown out of the house as his foster parents, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), are struggling to keep it all together financially.  He’s also suffering from a case of imposter syndrome. In essence, he’s insecure and also struggling to figure out his place in the world. Can he keep his “Shazamily” of foster siblings together, as they are maturing and developing their own interests and unique personalities?

However, he has to act fast as two of the daughters of the Titan Atlas, played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, have captured his brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) along with a newly repaired Wizard staff.  Early on, they are also dealing with controversy for their crime fighting methods in Philadelphia.  In fact, they are now known as The Philly Fiascos thanks to some of their mishaps, even though their hearts were in the right place. As mentioned previously, the family has a lot on its mind.  For Freddy Freeman, before he was captured, he had a crush on a girl named Anne, played by Rachel Zegler. Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand) is keeping a secret he’s not sure he’s ready to share with the world quite yet.

Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman) is trying to accept growing up while still being a kid at heart. Eugene Choi (Ian Chen) is preoccupied, and Mary Bromfield (Grace Caroline Currey) wants to get into college and is focusing on her studies.  They must come together as a family and put their individual interests aside in order to conquer The Three Daughters of the Titan Atlas. They work better when they are together, but it is important they get on the same page and focus on the task at hand. From here on out, we get a lot of explosions, special effects, bad jokes, and a big finale.  The film was never boring and it kept my attention for its over two-hour running time.  However, it just fell flat for me because of Levi’s performance and just the fact that the film lost its sense of direction near the end and went all over the map.

I’m completely aware that sequels are part of Hollywood when a film is successful, especially when we are talking about a superhero film.  People will flock to them.  There is a built-in audience already.  The “Shazam!” films have been directed by David F. Sandberg, and I was a huge fan of his previous two films: “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation.”  The film looks really good, as he has a keen visual sense.  However, I didn’t feel the heart of the film as much as I would have liked, and it’s a big problem here.  I liked it better than the first one, but when the lead actor is such a ham on screen and so phony and fake with his line readings and performance, it really takes you out of the story. I liked everyone else and thought they did a really good job, but once it becomes a bloated mess and Billy Batson turns into a one-line machine, the film just didn’t work for me.  If you liked the first one, you will like the second one.  If you didn’t, there isn’t anything here that is going to change your mind or convert you to this character and this franchise.

* * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is released on a two-disc 4K and Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action, violence and language. The film comes with a digital copy to be redeemed as well.

Video Info: We are treated to a beautiful Dolby Vision transfer here that really stands out and pops.  The film looks beautiful on 4K, especially the action sequences.  Even though they can be overdone and unnecessary at times, I can admit when they look beautiful. My issue is more of the fact they don’t hold as much weight when the emotional heart of the film isn’t present.  The darks set the mood when it needs to, and the film is also filled with color and light when it calls for it.

Audio Info: The Dolby Atmos track is also really, really good here.  With a film that relies heavily on action, you worry about the film being so loud that it takes you out of the film.  Here, thanks to the Dolby Atmos track, it’s never too loud or soft.  It’s perfect throughout the entire duration of the film.

Special Features:

SHAZAM! Let’s Make a Sequel – featurette

The Rock of Eternity: Decked Out – featurette

The Shazamily Reunion – featurette

The Zac Effect – featurette

The Sisterhood of the Daughters of Atlas – featurette

Pay By Play: Scene Breakdown – featurettes

    Ben Franklin bridge collapse

    Rooftop battle of the gods

    Unicorn ride in Philadelphia

    Epic showdown at the baseball stadium

The Mythology of Shazam! – featurette

Director’s Audio Commentary with David F. Sandberg

Deleted Scenes, Alternate & Extended Scenes

Should You Buy It?

As a 4K disc, it looks and sounds out of this world. I’m a big fan of what Warner Brothers does with its 4K releases. They really place a high importance on giving their big screen movies a proper release on 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.  There are also a lot of special features here, so if you enjoy “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” you will enjoy this disc and its special features. If I’m grading this movie overall, it’s just average.  It was watchable and entertaining at times, but it’s a film I have no interest in rewatching, and I don’t think it will have great repeat value.  There are rare moments where the heart of the film is on display, and I liked those moments. The main struggle here is the balance between comedy, action and drama.  The film doesn’t quite pull this task off successfully during its over two-hour running time.  When it does, it’s good fun.  When it doesn’t, it’s very bland and uninteresting.  This is a film in search of a tone.  If you are a fan of this franchise, you will be happy with the 4K release.  If you are watching this for the first time or didn’t enjoy the first one, this sequel is not going to win you over.

**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.

‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do” It is yet another intense, smart, funny and well-acted journey in this universe created over a number of films.  It really starts and ends with the love between Ed and Lorraine Warren, played perfectly by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The chemistry between the two actors is off the charts. It is so good you would almost believe they are together in real-life. That is top-notch acting. They have also appeared together in “The Nun” and “Annabelle Comes Home.”  The formula works, and I’d be happy with even more “Conjuring” or “Annabelle” films featuring the two of them in the future.

When you have had so many films and various spin-offs, one would imagine they would have run their course by now.  However, this is still a solid flick, even though it is probably the weakest of the three films.  That is not a criticism, as they are all entertaining and enjoyable in their own way.  In “The Conjuring 3” (let’s stick with that title), Ed and Lorraine Warren are overseeing an exorcism of an innocent eight-year-old young boy named David. At this exorcism, his family is there, along with Arne (his sister’s boyfriend) and Father Gordon.  Once this demon starts to really do a number on David, Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) tells the demon to take over his body instead of David, despite Ed telling him it is not a good idea.

Ed suffers a heart attack, which sets him back for a while.  When he finally starts to feel better, he realizes the demon is inside of Arne, and it has to be stopped before more damage is done to other unsuspecting individuals.  He can see bad things around the corner for anyone who is near Arne.  Arne is in danger as well.  Together, as only they can, Ed and Lorraine Warren decide to take this demon down and remove it from the body of Arne and restore some sense of normalcy to all of their lives. Even though they encounter their share of doubters and second-guessers, they know what is really going on and will stick to their beliefs.

Without giving too much away, there is a courtroom element to the film that truly enhances it in a unique way.  It talks about how demonic possession can cause someone to do things they normally wouldn’t do if they weren’t possessed by a demon.  It is almost like the insanity plea a lot of people deal with in the courtroom.  This was a nice touch to the film.  Another thing which is consistent throughout “The Conjuring” films is how they really give you a sense of place and time. This film takes place in 1981, and from the clothes, the music and scenery, you really feel like you are in the early 80’s.  The devil (no pun intended) is in the details with these movies.

The issue with “The Conjuring 3” is the fact it is almost two-hours long.  There are times where the film can feel a little long in the tooth and drag.  It did not need to be this long.  I found myself clock-watching during certain scenes.  Even though I mentioned the devil is in the details, there are some details which can be left out, as not everything needs to be explained to such an extreme degree here.  I’m more interested in the necessary details and the background.  It feels like they are over-explaining things at times to the audience.

Many people ask me after watching one of these films, “Was it scary?” Truth be told, I don’t get scared by movies, really. That is not a knock against the film or any of the people involved in its making.  For me, what makes “The Conjuring 3” an enjoyable watch is the two main actors, their charm and chemistry, the background on these cases (based on true stories) and the way the films are directed and put together. Even though it is the weakest of the three films, it is still an enjoyable ride to take because they take it seriously and put effort into making sure they are producing quality films and not just a sequel for the sake of a sequel.

* * * out of * * * *

Blu-Ray Info: “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do” It is released on a single-disc Blu-Ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film is rated R for terror, violence and some disturbing images. It has a running time of 112 minutes.

Video/Audio Info: The film is presented in 1080p High Definition with audio formats of Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, Spanish and French. Subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Special Features:

By Reason of Demonic Possession-An in-depth look at the true story that inspired the movie

The Occultist-Meet the terrifying new addition to the Conjuring Universe

Exorcism of Fear-Delve into the making of the movie and the chilling exorcism scene that opens the film

DC Horror Presents: The Conjuring: The Lover #1-A Video Comic that goes deeper into the Conjuring Universe.

Should You Buy It?

If you own the “Annabelle” films and the previous two “Conjuring” films like I do, you are going to want to add “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It” to your collection.  There are some really cool special features here that really add a unique backstory to what you have seen in the film.  Also, the opening scene might be one of the best I’ve seen in a horror film in quite some time. Once again, I cannot praise the work of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga enough. They are the heart and soul of the film.  Without them, the story and the intensity simply do not work. They are a couple to root for and a couple that is interested in helping people.  While the running time can stop the film’s momentum occasionally, this is still worth owning and checking out. As long as Wilson and Farmiga keep coming back for these movies and the filmmakers keep finding case files from the Warrens, I’ll keep coming back to watch them.

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

‘Annabelle Comes Home’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

Annabelle Comes Home Blu Ray cover

The following is written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent Tony Farinella.

Annabelle Comes Home” is the third film in the “Annabelle” franchise.  I would rank it as the second best in the series.  My order goes like this: “Annabelle: Creation,” “Annabelle Comes Home,” and “Annabelle.”  When you throw “The Conjuring” universe into it, it can be a little bit more difficult to rank them.  Because of this, I am going to keep it strictly to the “Annabelle” films when ranking them. “Annabelle: Creation” was a prequel, but this one is a sequel to the original “Annabelle” film. Ed and Lorraine Warren take the Annabelle doll home after the destruction she caused in the first film.  They have a room where they keep all of the evil things locked away.  However, Annabelle is so malevolent, a priest comes by the house twice a month to bless the doll.

When Ed and Lorraine Warren go away on business, they need someone to babysit their daughter Judy, played perfectly by Mckenna Grace.  The terror and fear she expresses on her face and throughout the film is simply off the charts.  Judy has a hard time making friends because people think her parents are strange and a little off-kilter because of their profession.  They are Demonologists.  If you are new to this franchise, Ed and Lorraine Warren are real.  As a matter of fact, Lorraine recently passed away, unfortunately.  They are played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, and since the two of them have been playing the couple for so long, their chemistry and timing is just about flawless.

Sadly, they only show up at the start of the film, and they don’t reappear until the end of it.  When they are on screen, the film is really taken up a notch.  There is good news, though, and it is those two terrific actresses Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife who play the babysitter, Mary Ellen, and her best friend Daniela.  When you throw in Grace, you have three young leads who carry the movie throughout its running time.  There is also a love interest named Bob (Michael Cimino) with great comedic timing and a running gag about his name.  They are the ones stuck dealing with Annabelle when she gets released from her glass case.

Annabelle Comes Home photo

Now, a lot of people have a problem with films which have jump scares.  There are a few jump scares in this flick, but they are really built up by the suspense and pacing which is set by director Gary Dauberman.  This is his first time behind the camera as a director, and he shows a sure hand in setting the mood.  The set design is also terrific along with the costume design, as the 1970’s look is spot-on throughout the film.  It is easy to see they spent a lot of time working on getting the little details right as it shows in the final product.  Dauberman has also written “It Chapter 2,” “Annabelle,” “Annabelle: Creation,” and he was one of the writers on the first “It” in 2017. He knows the horror genre, and he knows the “Annabelle” franchise.  He also wrote this film based off a story he created with James Wan.

When all is said and done, this is an entertaining ride.  It starts with the acting, first and foremost, as mentioned.  If the young actors are not up to the task of showing terror and making the audience believe, the film is going to fail.  It falls on their shoulders, as they are put in charge of leading the way when Wilson and Farmiga disappear for a good chunk of the film.  They carry the movie on their shoulders, and they do not disappoint in the least.  They raise the level of the film with their acting.  Casting is so important in a film like this.

Also, Dauberman proves here he should be put in charge of more horror films as a writer and director. He knows how to use silence to his advantage, and he also truly cares about his characters as well.  There is a reason why Annabelle returns. Without giving too much away, many times characters in horror films make poor decisions.  When you find out why Annabelle is unleashed here, you understand it’s for an emotional reason which makes sense.  It is not just a plot device to get her to be part of the film.   I enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought I would with this third installment in this franchise.

* * * out of * * * *


Blu-Ray Info: “Annabelle Comes Home” is released on a two-disc Blu-Ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It also comes with a digital copy as well.  The film has a running time of 106 minutes.  It is rated R for horror violence and terror, although I felt as though it could have been PG-13 as the horror violence is rather tame.

Audio Info: The audio on the film is Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: French 5.1 (Dubbed in Quebec), and Dolby Digital: Spanish 5.1. Subtitles are in English, Spanish, and French.  The film sounds great, and the tension is built up perfectly by the eerie soundtrack without it banging you over the head.

Video Info: The video format is 1080p High Definition 16×9, 2.4:1.  The picture is crystal clear, sharp, and very vivid.  It looks great on Blu-Ray.

Special Features:

Behind the Scenes: The Ferryman/Demon (05:18), The Bloody Bride (02:57), and The Werewolf (03:07):  These are characters which show up throughout the film.  On this special feature, we get to meet the actors who portrayed them and see what they went through in order to get properly prepped with make-up, effects and costumes.  It leaves the audience wondering if any of these characters will be turned into films, which is something the director hints at on these special features. Dauberman and Wan discuss what they were thinking when coming up with the characters together and how the behind-the-scenes team made them into a reality.

The Artifact Room and the Occult (05:07):  This focuses on the infamous artifact room that is in the Warren’s house.  They wanted to add some new artifacts they were not able to introduce in other films, according to Wan.  There are some very cool pieces and Easter eggs they added to the room.

The Light and The Love (04:26):  They talk about the love between Ed and Lorraine, which really is the heart and soul of the film.  While the scares are great and the stories are terrifying, it is Ed and Lorraine who really stand out.  These are two-dimensional human beings played by Wilson and Farmiga, and you can tell they have a lot of love for the real Ed and Lorraine Warren. The chemistry and connection they share on screen is hard to ignore.  There is an element of fun which is really needed in these films without being too cheesy. They talk about how they love being able to play the scary scenes along with the family drama as well.  It’s a good balance.

Seven Deleted Scenes (11:28):  Seven deleted scenes are added here, including an alternate ending.  I thought the running time of the film was just right, and the filmmakers hit all of the right notes.  Most of the deleted scenes are just more time spent with the characters which is fine, but it is not really necessary in the big picture of the film. However, there is one particular scene where Mary Ellen opens up about a near-death experience that is very powerful and should have been used in the film.  The alternate ending is nowhere near as good as the one in the film, so I’m glad they didn’t use it. The alternate ending is very clichéd and predictable.


Should You Buy It?

If you are a fan of “The Conjuring” universe or the “Annabelle” films, you will be happy to know they are still churning out quality movies with great performances and effective scares.  If you take away “The Nun” and “The Curse of La Llorona,” you have three really good movies (“The Conjuring,” “The Conjuring 2” and “Annabelle: Creation”) and two good ones in (“Annabelle” and “Annabelle Comes Home”). I was close to putting “Annabelle Comes Home” in the really good category, but it just misses the mark.  However, it is still a good film and one worth adding to your collection if you own the good movies.  I own five out of the seven films.  There are special features and an alternate ending, but I wish they had gone into more depth with the special features. A commentary track would have been great as well. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, which is always the case with Warner Brothers on their new release films.  This is a day-one purchase for hardcore fans of the franchise or the universe, however you wish to describe it.