‘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.

‘A Good Person’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

I’m an emotional, sensitive and empathic person, and I tend to seek out films which will make me think, move me to tears and tell a narrative that resonates with me.  However, I have a good barometer for films that are trying too hard to tug at my heart strings and doing just a little too much to get an emotional reaction out of me.  When you try to watch a movie or two a day, you can usually figure out which direction a movie is going to go either from its trailer or by where the film is taking its audience. “A Good Person,” directed by Zach Braff, started out incredibly promising until its wild and heavy-handed third act.

“A Good Person” stars the always lovely and talented Florence Pugh as Allison, a young woman who is about to get married to the love of her life, Nathan (Chinaza Uche).  They are the perfect couple and the film opens with their engagement party where they are at their happiest.  But then things spiral out of control for Allison when she gets into a car accident with her fiancé’s sister and husband in the car. She took her eyes off the road for one second to check Google Maps, and while she survived, they both perished.  This sends her down a path of becoming addicted to OxyContin to deal with the physical and emotional pain of the car accident.

Allison cuts her hair one day and is making rash and impulsive decisions in her life, which worries her mother, played by Molly Shannon.  She hits up an old friend for pills, former classmates, and even curses out the pharmacist.  Finally, she decides to go to a meeting, which is being led by Simone (Zoe Lister-Jones). While there, she runs into Nathan’s father, Daniel, played by Morgan Freeman.  Allison is hesitant to stay, as she knows the pain and hurt she caused his family, but he insists that she stay.  Daniel has his hands full as he’s a recovering alcoholic who is now in charge of taking care of his granddaughter, Ryan (Celeste O’Connor), after her parents were killed in the car accident.

The best thing about “A Good Person” is the back-and-forth interactions between Pugh and Freeman.  When you have actors of this caliber, it’s best to just stay out of their way and let them do their thing.  Freeman plays an ex-cop who never really knew how to be there for his son Nathan growing up.  He used to beat him, which has caused a lot of trauma and resentment in Nathan toward his father. The two of them barely speak and don’t have much of a relationship.  For Allison, she’s trying to deal with the grief and guilt of what she has done to Daniel, as she has taken his daughter away from him.  However, he could use some help when it comes to figuring out how to talk to a sixteen-year-old teenage girl about safe sex when her parents are now deceased.

I really enjoyed the first hour and a half of “A Good Person.”  I thought Pugh really, really went for it with her performance.  She’s an actress who really immerses herself in her characters.  Physically and mentally, this is a fantastic performance.  She looks, sounds and acts like an addict. Freeman is also very good, as he usually is, at portraying many different emotions throughout as he’s trying to be a grandfather, deal with his own demons, and also forgive Allison.  Thanks to the two lead performances and a fast-moving plot, I was really enjoying “A Good Person.”  Sadly, the film takes a wild and crazy turn in the third act, which really sent things spiraling off the rails.

Yes, this is a drama, and you expect certain emotional moments and sequences to be displayed on screen.  In “A Good Person,” it felt forced and like writer/director Braff had an idea for a movie and the right cast, but didn’t know what to say at the end or how he wanted to end it.  Instead, it turns into a cheesy soap opera, and he, sadly, wastes the performances of his two leads and his supporting cast.  The film is also about 15 to 20 minutes too long.  Once again, the drama felt forced at the end and it seemed like they were really trying for an emotional and powerful ending.  Instead, I could see right through the fact they were trying to make me feel something instead of letting it happen organically.  The film didn’t need to try so hard and throw so much into the last 30-40 minutes of the film.

* * out of * * * *

Blu-Ray Info: “A Good Person” is released on a single-disc Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It is rated R for drug abuse, language throughout, and some sexual references. The film has a running time of 128 minutes.  It comes with a digital copy of the film as well.

Video Info: The 1080p High-Definition transfer is very, very solid.  It’s a clean looking film with a green tint that really translated itself well to the material. Visually, Zach Braff did a great job behind the camera.  It’s his script which really needed work.

Audio Info: The DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 audio track is also really good for this film.  I did feel like Zach Braff relied on music a little too much throughout the course of this film to get the audience to feel something. I enjoy music in a film, but it needs to be properly placed and not shoved down our throats. There is also a Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio track. Subtitles are included in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:


Should You Buy It?

It’s always disappointing when I want to like a movie and don’t.  I know this might sound like a rather simplistic approach to film viewing, but I had high hopes for this one. I’m still a huge fan of 2004’s “Garden State,” and I think Zach Braff is a talented director.  When it comes to his writing, I think he can be a little too earnest.  He means well and his heart is in the right place, but sometimes it just seems like he can’t keep himself from going a little too far. I didn’t hate the film and I enjoyed a good portion of it, but it was just a little too sappy for me which is saying something. The film looks and sounds good on Blu-ray, so it’s not a huge disappointment they didn’t give it a 4K release.  There are no special features on this disc at all.  I think it’s worth watching for the performances of its two leads, but I don’t think it’s a film you need to own.  If you see it on Max or at Redbox, it’s worth watching.  However, this is not a film I need to watch again. This is a case of two performances which deserved a better script.

**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 Wrath of Becky’ Fearlessly Outdoes the Original

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

I vaguely remember watching 2020’s “Becky” when it was released through various digital platforms.  Besides the brutal violence and seeing Kevin James as a Neo-Nazi, the film didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me as a viewer. When I heard they were going to make a sequel, “The Wrath of Becky,” I was intrigued for two reasons: Lulu Wilson and Seann William Scott.  Wilson is a tremendous young actress who shows maturity beyond her years, and Scott has shown a knack recently for playing chilling and unsettling villains.  I figured it was worth giving it another go around, and I’m happy to report “The Wrath of Becky” is lightyears better than the first film.

When the film introduces us to Becky a few years later, she has an edge to her after the traumatic events of the previous film.  She’s sarcastic, matter-of-fact, and she doesn’t suffer fools lightly.  She has been bounced around from group home to group home. Eventually, she decides to rent out a room with an older African-American woman who takes in strangers and is dealing with her own sense of loss. Her name is Elena, played by Denise Burse. One night while waitressing, Becky runs into a group of men who call themselves the Noble Men.  They are a white supremacist militia group with bad intentions.  After she spills coffee on one of them, they follow her back to Elena’s house, where they proceed to kill Elena and take Becky’s dog Diego.

Now, Becky is looking for two things: revenge and to get her dog back. The film uses an interesting technique where it will show the audience a violent sequence of what she is hoping to do, and then what she actually does. They use voiceovers for this as well, which was a nice touch.  She communicates with the audience and lets us know what she’s thinking.  They don’t overdo this, thankfully.  The Noble Men are brought back to the house of one of their leaders named Darryl, played brilliantly by Seann William Scott.  Scott and Wilson are the stars here, and Scott knows how to be unnerving and very intense without trying too hard. I remember him in a film called “Bloodline,” and he crushed it in that film.  He’s really, really good at playing these low-key, calm, and sadistic villains.

The rest of the group consists of DJ (Aaron Dalla Villa), Anthony (Michael Sirow), and Sean (Matt Angel). Twig (Courtney Gains) is already with Darryl at the house.  They have members all over the world, and they are looking to take down Senator Hernandez (Gabriella Piazza) at an upcoming town hall event.  First, they have to deal with extreme girl scout Becky, and she is not one to back down from a fight, especially since they have her dog and they killed the one living person in the world she actually liked.  From here, it’s a rather straight-forward film with Becky taking on these misogynist, hateful, and narrow-minded men.  The characters are a little too on the nose at times, politically, but it works as a film like “The Wrath of Becky” is one where you are going to sit back and watch Becky destroy bad people in creative and brutal ways.

The film is not shy about its violence.  It really goes for it.  As with any sequel, especially one which relies on violence, they really up the ante here.  They were also smart enough to keep the film under 90 minutes.  We are reintroduced to Becky, find out what she’s up to, meet the villains, and then it’s time for the mayhem.  It’s a formula, yes, but it’s a formula that works because Wilson is terrific at playing Becky.  She’s a badass chick and easy to root for as the heroine.  She also has a worthy adversary in Seann William Scott. The scenes with the two of them together are just brilliant.

In the end, you know what you are getting with “The Wrath of Becky” and what you have signed up for as an audience member.  I could have done without the dog being involved, not because it offended me, but because it seemed to take a page out of other films, most recently “John Wick.”  We have seen people try to avenge their dog when it has been captured or killed. The ending seems to hint that there might be another film or two still left in the “Becky” franchise. If they keep the budget low and stick to one location, which is basically what they did here, I see no reason why they can’t continue to make more of these films. Wilson is a star, and she deserves her own franchise. I look forward to seeing her take on more villains portrayed by quality actors in the future.

Should You See It?

The film is being released on May 26.  I know there are a lot of movies to choose from at the box office right now.  “The Wrath of Becky” is a nice change of pace, though, from the usual fare of blockbusters and franchises.  It’s bloody, gory and very, very entertaining.  As stated in my review, this film knows what it needs to do, it stays out of the way of its actors, and it’s a ton of fun. I truly enjoyed seeing Lulu Wilson and Seann William Scott in a battle of wits.  It’s way better than 2020’s “Becky,” as it moves at a faster pace, gets right to the meat of the matter, and it doesn’t hold back with its violent, in-your-face approach.  I think it would be a lot of fun to watch on the big screen.  It’s in limited release, but you can find it at a theater near you.  I don’t think you will be disappointed if you enjoy blood, guts and have a sense of humor.

* * * out of * * * *

‘Superman’ Five-Film Collection on 4K Review

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

The idea of being a superhero is something which appeals to people all across the world.  They want the chance to start out as an ordinary individual and transform themselves into something special and magical.  1978’s “Superman” is a perfect example of this, especially with its leading man, Christopher Reeve.  It’s an iconic role and performance which continues to stand the test of time.  It also achieved the rare feat of being both a financial and critical success.  When that happens in Hollywood, everyone is pleased as punch. It’s the magic formula Hollywood is always trying to achieve as they want to do quality work which is meaningful to an audience while also making a lot of money.

There are so many things which make “Superman” great.  Of course, as mentioned previously, you have the tremendous performance by the late, great Christopher Reeve. However, you also need a really, really effective villain, and it’s hard to find a better Hollywood villain than the legendary Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.  He oozes with charisma, personality, and you love to root against him. As far as the supporting cast, it is filled with some of the greatest working actors and actresses in Hollywood history, such as Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder, Glenn Ford, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, Jack O’Halloran, Maria Schell and Sarah Douglas.

It also doesn’t hurt when you have a director like Richard Donner behind the camera as well.  He knows how to pace the film, allow his actors room to breathe, and he is also respectful of the source material. There was also the magnificent score by the iconic John Williams. When you have all of the right pieces in place like Donner did such as the script, the actors and the budget, you have to stay on track and basically not screw it up. He was just the right man for this big budget affair.  During its release, it had the highest budget for a film at the time, coming in at $55 million.  It’s funny to hear that number now, considering how much budgets have increased in Hollywood since then.

What speaks to me about the first “Superman” film is the idea of having a double life and people not knowing who you really are.  During the day you are Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter, but you also have the ability to be Superman.  It shows we all have something special inside of us.  It is up to us to really find that, harness it, and use it for good.  Superman is your all-American, clean cut, good guy.  He’s very likable and effortlessly charming.  On paper, this idea might sound ludicrous, but because the filmmakers took it seriously and had the right actors and participants involved, they really had lightning in a bottle.  Even to this day, the film holds up incredibly well.  When you see the special effects, they were really ahead of their time and they helped pave the way for a lot of the effects we see today, only they are now taken up a notch. Most importantly, this film has a big heart and a big soul attached to it. This is why the film is beloved by so many.

With this tremendous release from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, we are also treated to “Superman II” in two different versions. We get the original theatrical cut by Richard Lester and the Richard Donner Cut on 4K. To this day, people still debate which version they like better and which is more worth watching.  If you ask me, it’s best to watch both versions.  I see things in Donner’s film I like more than in Lester’s and vice versa, but overall, I felt like Lester’s version was a much more polished, easy to follow, and complete film. Donner’s version is flawed with moments of greatness, and it deserves to be seen. Thanks to this set, you can watch both versions, which, as stated previously, I highly encourage you to do as I love a good film discussion.  Film is subjective and there is really no right or wrong answer. 

In “Superman II,” Mario Puzo is back once along with fellow screenwriters, David and Leslie Newman, again with a really good story, and this is a great thing for the audience.  All three really know how to flesh out a story and create unique and interesting characters. It doesn’t hurt when you have actors like Beatty, Kidder and Hackman completely invested in the material. While not as good as the first one, and it’s rare for a sequel to be as good as its predecessor, it’s still a very, very good movie. There is some great humor here, and even in a superhero movie where the stakes are high and we are in a fictional world, some levity is very much appreciated!  Sometimes it is nice to have a different vision and a new voice in a franchise while also staying true to what made the first film successful.  Richard Lester was not put in an ideal situation, but he made it work, and you have to give him credit for that.

By “Superman III,” it seemed like the magic was starting to disappear, and they totally shifted the focus of the franchise into a campy, goofy and comedic realm which really rubbed audiences the wrong way.  I understand they were going for something different, and they brought in Richard Pryor, but the script, the jokes and the material are just really, really bad. There is no denying that Pryor is a funny man with great comedic timing, but his abilities didn’t lend themselves to this film franchise. Overall, “Superman III” was doomed because of behind-the-scenes issues, script issues, and a film in search of the right tone.  The filmmakers seemed to have lost the plot all together as well as their love for the character and the franchise.  When a franchise has success, many times it is how the filmmakers handle that success which defines how it will carry on and continue.  It is clear they didn’t know how to handle success here.

It didn’t get any better with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” It was so poorly made and received that they didn’t make another Superman film until 2006. As is often the case with sequels, they went cheap.  Even though Hackman returns and Kidder receives more screen time, this film was dead on arrival.  The plot is incoherent, messy, and just plain dumb.  It was a cash-grab sequel, and when you are focused on money over quality work, you end up with “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”  It’s a very frustrating film and incredibly hard to follow. As you can see with the “Superman” franchise, you have the law of diminishing returns.

4K Info: The “Superman” 5-Film Collection 1978-1987 is in a terrific box set with all the films getting their own individual dual 4K case which also includes a Blu-ray version of the them. I was really happy they didn’t stack the discs in the set here, as that is always a pet peeve of mine. I was also very happy they gave each film its day in court with artwork and its own individual dual case. “Superman” was previously released on 4K, but this is the first time the other four films have been released in this format.  You also a digital code for all of the films as well.

Video Info: If you already own the first “Superman” 4K, please know they have not added anything new to it here.  It’s the same “Superman” 4K that had been released in its standalone edition.  That being said, it’s hard not to be stunned and blown away by the beautiful Dolby Vision look of the original film.  I had not previously owned the first “Superman” film, so I had no qualms about there not being anything new here. It’s just something to keep in mind for those who already own it on 4K. Overall, this is far and away the best these five films have ever looked on home video.  They look sharp, clean and free of grain or mess. They have cleaned these films up very, very nicely.  I was very impressed with these transfers. Warner Brothers has really been knocking it out of the park with their releases this year during their 100-year anniversary celebration, and this “Superman” box set is no exception.

Audio Info: We are treated to Dolby Atmos on all five films which is fantastic news!  I am a huge fan of Dolby Atmos, and the sound is such a vital part of these films.  The audio sounds crystal clear, concise, and it comes in at just the right pitch without being too loud or in-your-face.  I’m always happy when I can leave it on one volume setting and still get the same impact throughout. That was the case with all five films. They also all come with subtitles in French, English and Spanish as well.

Special Features:

“Superman: The Movie” Special Features:

  Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spangler

  The Making of Superman – vintage featurette

  Superman and the Mole-Men – vintage featurette

  Super-Rabbit – 1943 WB cartoon

  Snafuperman – 1944 WB cartoon

  Stupor Duck – 1956 WB cartoon

  TV Spot

  Teaser Trailer

  Theatrical Trailer

‘Superman II” Special Features:

    Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

    The Making of “Superman II” – 1980 TV Special

    Superman’s Soufflé – Deleted Scene

    First Flight

    Fleischer Studios’ Superman vintage cartoons:


        The Mechanical Monster

        Billion Dollar Limited

        The Arctic Giant

        The Bulleteers

        The Magnetic Telescope

        Electric Earthquake


        Terror on the Midway

    Theatrical Trailer

“Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut” Special Features:

    Commentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz

    Introduction by Richard Donner – featurette

    Superman II: Restoring the Vision – featurette

    Deleted Scenes

        Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head North

        Lex and Ms. Teschmacher Head South

        The Villains Enter the Fortress

        He’s All Yours, Boys

        Clarke and Jimmy

        Lex’s Gateway

    Famous Studios vintage cartoons:



        Eleventh Hour

        Destruction, Inc.

        The Mummy Strikes

        Jungle Drums

        The Underground World

        Secret Agent

“Superman III” Special Features:

    Commentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler

    The Making of “Superman III” – 1983 TV Special

    Deleted Scenes:

        Save My Baby

        To the Rescue

        Making Up

        Going to See the Boss

        Hatching the Plan

        The Con

        Rooftop Ski

        Boss Wants This to Go

        Superman Honored

        Gus’ Speech

        Hanging Up on Brad

    Theatrical Trailer

“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” Special Features:

    Commentary by Mark Rosenthal

    Superman 50th Anniversary Special – 1988 TV Special

    Deleted Scenes:

        Clark’s Morning

        Jeremy’s Letter

        Superman’s Visit

        Nuclear Man’s Prototype

        Metropolis After Hours

        Lex Ponders

        Flying Sequence (Extended Scene)

        Battle in Smallville

        Battle in the U.S.S.R.

        Nuclear Arms Race

        Superman’s Sickness

        Red Alert

        By My Side

        Lark and Lacy Say Goodbye

        No Borders

    Theatrical Trailer

Should You Buy It?

Last time I checked, this set is going for about $90, which is a great price for five films. Granted, you are really paying for “Superman,” “Superman II” and “Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut,” so you need to own all of the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films if you are a completist like myself. I’ve heard a lot of people in the film community complain about some of the special features from other releases not being included on this set but they are included in the other Blu-ray releases.  This did not bother me as there are still plenty of special features to shift through here. I’m happy they included the Blu-ray discs for all of the films and didn’t just include the 4K’s.  The good films in this franchise leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  When films make me feel this way and put a smile on my face, I’m a happy camper.  There is also something to enjoy about the total and complete absurdity of the bad films as well.  If you have a sense of humor and come in with the right mindset, you can enjoy them on the level of they are aiming at.  All the films come with Dolby Atmos tracks, which is a great perk.  My one minor nitpick is the fact that not all these films include Dolby Vision except for the first one.  However, in 2023, when physical media is hard to come by in stores but very much appreciated by us hardcore film historians and lovers, I don’t want to be too overly critical or negative over the little things.  Warner Brothers and other studios are really going all out to preserve important pieces of cinematic history.  We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  This set comes highly recommended, and I enjoyed revisiting these films in 4K.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for these films, Christopher Reeve’s performance, and the intense feelings of happiness and joy the first two (three if you are counting the Richard Donner cut) films brought to me. You can’t put a price tag on that. This set comes highly recommended!

* * * ½ out of * * * *

**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.

‘Creed III’ Movie and 4K UHD Review

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

I saw “Creed III” in theaters when it came out in March, and I walked away very impressed by the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan. Even though we were only three months into the new year, I felt it was an early candidate for one of the best films of 2023. I enjoyed his creative and inventive approach to filmmaking, the tremendous acting throughout the film, and the way it was paced just perfectly.  Here we are, almost half-way through the year, and I feel even stronger about “Creed III.”  It really surpassed any and all expectations I had for the film, and it also shows the “Rocky/Creed” franchise is in very good hands. Much like the “Scream” franchise did with “Scream 6,” it proved you can leave a key player or two from the franchise behind and not miss a beat if you have your heart in the right place, a good script, and you forge your own path while also remembering the pulse of the franchise.

I think by now it is common knowledge that Sylvester Stallone is not in “Creed III.”  Stallone expressed his reasons why in interviews, and while I would have enjoyed him in this film, even if it was only in a minor role, I can’t say he was missed.  I say this as a huge fan of Stallone and his contributions to the “Rocky/Creed” franchise.  It says more about the fact that Jordan took the bull by the horns and really ran with it when it came to “Creed III.”  He’s in front of and behind the camera here, and from what he showed me as a director, I can’t wait to see what he does with his next project.  He has a keen visual sense and tremendous style without losing the heart and emotional weight of the film.

“Creed III” opens by showing us a young Adonis Creed hanging out with his friend from his group home, Damian Anderson.  They are like brothers to one another, and Damian looks out for Adonis.  Damian is on the rise as a young up and comer until he finds himself in prison for pulling out a gun while defending a young Adonis.  Adonis ran away and never faced any jail time.  Damian, on the other hand, spent almost two decades in prison and saw his chance go by the wayside.  Adonis is ready for retirement after winning his final fight and leaving as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.  He’s now a family man with a beautiful house, wife, and young daughter.

Adonis is also running his own gym with the help of Little Duke (Wood Harris) and helping promote a fight for the world heavyweight champion Felix “El Guerrero” Chavez (José Benavidez Jr.) against Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu).  On his way out of the gym one day, he runs into Damian (Jonathan Majors) who is out of prison and looking to make up for lost time.  He wants to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world, as he was a top prospect and a Golden Gloves champion before he ended up in prison. Adonis agrees to let him hang around the gym and spar with Felix, but he feels uneasy about having him around and wonders what his true intentions are, especially after all these years.

As a matter of fact, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad) is not too keen about Damian being around, as she remembers some of the trouble he and Adonis would get into as youngsters.  Adonis is also dealing with parenthood as his hearing-impaired daughter Amara, played perfectly by Mila Davis-Kent, is having trouble expressing herself in school. When she is being bullied by another student, she resorts to violence instead of working things out in a more peaceful way.  This is very troubling to her mother Bianca, played by the lovely Tessa Thompson. She is looking to raise their daughter to express her emotions in a more productive way instead of resorting to violence.  For Bianca, she’s been adjusting to her career as a producer. While she enjoys it, she also misses performing and doing her own thing.  However, she must also be protective of her hearing as she doesn’t want to cause further damage.  She’s also noticing Adonis is pulling away from her and that something is bothering him.  It’s clear he has unresolved guilt and anger from his past with Damian. Until he deals with those feelings, he will never be able to move forward in his life and will be stuck in the past.

I have to give major credit to the women of “Creed III” from Rashad to Thompson to Davis-Kent. They are attempting to help Adonis see the forest from the trees and learn that it’s okay for him to open up about his past and talk about his regrets and his pain.  It’s not good for him to bottle it all up inside.  The two main male characters played by Jordan and Majors are also terrific together on screen. Jordan is fantastic at expressing his emotions on his face and not overacting.  That being said, he knows when to tap into an emotion, anger, and turmoil when the scene calls for it. His facials here are terrific, and he knows how to tap into whatever the screenplay needs out of him. Majors reminded me and others of a young Mike Tyson. He will do whatever it takes to win, and he is physically imposing and carries a tremendous presence on screen.  When he’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him.

 For a film which is nearly two hours long, there is rarely a dull moment.  There is something dramatic which occurs in the film (no spoilers) that seemed to get glossed over and moved on from very quickly. It seemed rather unnecessary, and that is my only gripe with the film.  As with any “Rocky” or “Creed” movie, the best scenes are not in the ring.  The best scenes are the characters talking to one another, figuring out their inner conflict, and dealing with the past and the present.  Yes, it’s a boxing movie, but the boxing ring serves as a therapeutic canvas for them to work out their pain.  That being said, the boxing scenes are beautifully shot and are the best kind I’ve seen in a boxing film in a long time. Jordan makes some really interesting choices as a director, and they worked out perfectly for him.

“Creed III” is a feel-good film with a big heart behind it.  It has a great soundtrack with some real bangers on it.  It also has some fantastic acting from everyone in the cast.  There isn’t a bad performance to be found here.  The stakes also seem very high throughout.  There is an urgency here. For a first-time director, this is a very, very impressive debut.  I can see them carrying on the “Creed” franchise with Jordan working both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera.  He really hit a home run here, and I loved this movie from start to finish.

 * * * ½ out of * * * *

4K Info: “Creed III” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It is rated PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language. It has a running time of 116 minutes.  The 4K combo pack also comes with a digital code for the film.

Video Info: I loved the way this film looked in 4K.  Warner Brothers has become one of the top studios for 4K releases, and they do not disappoint here with “Creed III.”  I’m always happy when a film gets the Dolby Vision treatment, and this film is spectacular looking. We get a detailed, clean, and smooth look with dark darks to set the mood for the emotional trauma Creed is dealing with inside of him.  This film really, really pops on 4K.  Dolby Vision and Warner Brothers are always a match made in heaven.  I truly was impressed by this 4K transfer and how it lends itself to the film.

Audio Info: More good news—we also get a Dolby Atmos track! For a film like this with great music and intense boxing action, you have to have a good Atmos track.  The Atmos track makes the film sound absolutely perfect.  Warner Brothers really did the right thing by “Creed III,” and I’m very thankful for that.

Special Features:

 Michael B. Jordan: In the Ring/Behind the Camera – Featurette

There’s No Enemy Like the Past: Donnie and Dame – Featurette

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

If you saw it in theaters like I did, I’m happy to report it holds up very, very well on a second viewing.  It’s one of the reasons why I love to watch a movie in the theater and then at home.  It’s two totally different viewing experiences, and you pick up on certain things you might have missed initially.  It was actually better on a second viewing.  I highly recommend you pick this film up on its release date on 4K.  It is truly the best way to watch this great film.  With Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, Warner Brothers really did a magnificent job of putting this film together for a great home-viewing experience.  The supplements are a little light, and I would have liked a commentary with director/actor Michael B. Jordan, but still, this is a day-one purchase. I’m not sure how the rest of the year will play out, but this film is still one of the best of 2023, in my opinion.  I loved the powerful performances, incredible emotion, ingenious boxing sequences, and how much fun this movie was. I highly recommend “Creed III” as a movie to proudly own on 4K.  You won’t be disappointed.

 **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.

‘Magic Mike’s Last Dance’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

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

I thought the first two “Magic Mike” films served two different purposes, but they were entertaining and fun in different ways.  The first “Magic Mike,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, was more artistic and character driven.  It was a good film with great performances and cinematography. In “Magic Mike XXL,” we got some comedic touches to the material, and it was a charming and fun journey.  “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” features style but very little substance and almost none of the charm of the second film.  Instead, we are left with a film which really serves no purpose. I really hope it is Magic Mike’s last dance because what else is left to explore with this franchise at this point?

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has fallen on hard times after his furniture business went under because of the pandemic.  He is now a bartender in Miami and trying to keep a low profile.  It’s not that he is ashamed of his past, it’s just that he is looking to leave it behind and move forward. While bartending, one of Mike’s former clients recognizes him, but she plays it cool because she is with her husband.  This information gets passed onto Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) who offers him $6,000 for a dance.  He initially asked for $60,000, but they were able to settle on $6,000.  After he dances for her, she offers him a chance to earn that $60,000 in London, but she leaves out the details.

MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE Copyright: © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Caption: (L-r) SALMA HAYEK PINAULT as Maxandra Mendoza and CHANNING TATUM as Mike Lane in Warner Bros. Pictures musical comedy “MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

While in London, we discover Max is in the middle of a divorce and is now in possession of the Rattigan Theatre. She wants Mike to choreograph dance elements into “Isabel Ascende,” a play which was being run there before she arrived and shut it down.  When Mike and Max come together, they come up with the idea of incorporating erotic dance into the production in a way which will spice things up around town.  This, however, does not come without problems from her ex-husband, Roger (Alan Cox).  Max believes Mike can find a way to put something magical out there, even if it is for only one night, as he really made an impression on her back in Miami with his dancing.

One of the biggest problems with this film is the fact it does not feature the previous crew of dancers such as Kevin Nash, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez. They are only shown here on a brief Zoom call, where Mike promises to get them their money back after the furniture business they invested in with him went out of business.  The film was really missing their presence and chemistry together as a group.  Overall, the film does have some great dance numbers, especially the one in the beginning between Mike and Max and some big numbers at the end.  It is everything in the middle which just seems unnecessary and unimportant to the viewers.

I liked the chemistry between Tatum and Hayek Pinault. I wanted their relationship to develop more on screen from a character perspective instead of just being a physical attraction. I thought her personal assistant, Victor (Ayub Khan-Din), had some great one-liners and used his screen time wisely. More of his character would have been appreciated. Max’s adopted daughter, Zadie, played by Jemelia George in her first film role, also showed tremendous timing and screen presence.  There is a genesis for an entertaining film here, but at nearly two hours long, it’s a real slog to sit through from start to finish. The first two films were better than I expected them to be, but this one is a drag.  There is not a lot of enjoyment to be had here as this sequel is really flat and uninspired.

* * out of * * * *

Blu-ray Info: “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It has a running time of 112 minutes and is rated R for sexual material and language. This combo pack comes with the Blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy of the film as well.

Video Info: The 1080p High-Definition transfer looks really, really good here. I’ve always been a big fan of the look and feel of Steven Soderbergh’s films, and this is no exception here. It has a crisp, clear look, but it also knows when to light up during the dance numbers.  This is a really, really good-looking Blu-ray.

Audio Info: The DTS-HD MA: English 5.1 audio transfer is also top notch with flawless sound.  It also comes on the following audio formats: Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

Magic Mike’s New Moves

Deleted Scene

Should You Buy It?

I understand they wanted to do something different with the third film. They took it to London and added Hayek Pinault. They had good intentions here.  After all, this is Tatum’s baby, and he’s a producer on the film.  However, they left behind the boys from the first two films, and they are such a big part of this franchise. They added the flavor and the fun factor.  The film also takes itself too seriously with these voiceovers which come across as too self-important.  There are good intentions here, as I mentioned, but the execution is very poor. There is no meat on the bone with the screenplay here. I did not feel like I knew any of the other dancers all that well, and I wanted to know more about Hayek Pinault’s character besides the fact she is getting divorced from a wealthy businessman.  If this is on HBO one night, you can check it out.  I would not go out of my way to see it or buy it.

**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.

‘Rebel Without a Cause’ Movie and 4K Review

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

James Dean only made three major motion pictures in his short career: “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant.”  Unfortunately, he tragically passed away in a car accident at only twenty-four-years old.  He will always be remembered as one of the greatest “What ifs?” in Hollywood history.  However, when people say the name James Dean or think of the man, they think of how naturally cool he was and how he was able to connect with a younger audience that was yearning to be seen and heard.  Dean had the ability to speak their language and get across that intense emotion and pain on screen.  Perhaps no film of his does a better job of this than “Rebel Without a Cause,” which still holds up incredibly well today.

The film is set in Los Angeles during the mid-1950’s, and as soon as the audience sees Jim Stark (James Dean) on screen, they know he is troubled and dealing with a lot of issues at home.  It is one of the reasons he is arrested for public intoxication.  His father, Frank (Jim Backus), is trying to connect with his son and be there for him, but Jim doesn’t exactly look up to him.  He sees the way his father is afraid of his wife, Carol (Ann Doran), and how she bosses him around.  Quite frankly, he doesn’t see his father as much of a man. While Jim is showered with material items, he is looking for something more out of his parents, and they are unable to provide that because they are always bickering with one another.  His mother’s solution to their problems is to always move to a new city.

No matter where they live, Jim never truly feels like he fits in or is living an authentic life. There is a tremendous line in the film from Jim Stark which sums up his feelings on life, “If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused and I didn’t have to feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?”  Even though he might partake in bad behavior, Ray (Edward Platt), a police officer in the juvenile unit, sees something in Jim and wants to help him and make sure he stays on the straight and narrow. Ray knows it’s not easy considering the life Jim has at home with his parents.  On the surface, everything looks fine and dandy with his parents.  Jim, however, sees through the façade his parents show to the world, and he is not buying it. As his friend Plato puts it, Jim is sincere.

There are two other kids he connects with through the juvenile ward in prison and at Dawson High, and they are Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood).  Plato has mental health problems and is without a family or friends.  Jim is his friend, though, and Plato looks up to him as a father figure.  Judy is dealing with problems at home as well, as her father is not too happy with the fact his sixteen-year-old daughter is growing up.  He calls her a tramp and is disconnected from her.  The three of them form a tight bond and kinship after some time. One of the other kids at Dawson High, Buzz (Corey Allen), is looking to make life a living hell for Jim, first by challenging him to a knife fight and then to a dangerous game with fatal consequences.  This does not end well for Buzz, and it leaves Jim with some serious questions about what is the right thing to do in the aftermath of this accident. When he looks to his parents for advice and guidance, they give him answers which are not in line with Jim’s strict moral code of what is right and wrong.

Buzz’s gang is looking for revenge against Jim, and they are also concerned about the consequences they might face from the police. This whole ordeal brings Judy, Plato and Jim closer together, as they all share a common bond: feeling misunderstood from the world that has been presented to them by their families.  Plato has been left behind.  Yes, he gets money, but Plato would trade it all for the love of his parents instead of living with a caregiver.  Judy wants her father to understand she is growing up and not his little girl anymore, and he is fighting this at every turn.  With Jim, he has no respect for a father with no backbone and a controlling mother.  Together, they have their own little family, and it is quite beautiful to see as an audience member.  It reminds me of the old saying, “Friends are the family you choose.” This is a very powerful motion picture in so many ways, and it really struck a chord with me considering the lack of understanding and involvement my parents had in my own life growing up.

If you love acting as much as I do, you will love the acting of Dean and Wood as they are so tender and gentle together on screen.  If Dean had lived a lengthy life, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he would have been the next Marlon Brando.  Even though he is playing someone who is cooler than the other side of the pillow, he is also vulnerable, sensitive and relatable without ever coming across as weak.  He is simply human. Wood, in addition to being a real Hollywood beauty on screen, is tough but sweet, and she and Dean work perfectly together.  There is a scene where they are talking about love, and the way she is rubbing her chin on his face is simply beautiful and movie magic.

As soon as I finished this movie, I couldn’t wait to sit down on my laptop and start writing this review.  It was a film I had not seen in ages, so I felt like I was watching it for the first time.  It is directed by one of my favorite directors, Nicholas Ray, whose films include “In a Lonely Place,” “Bigger Than Life” and “They Live by Night.”  “Bigger Than Life,” in particular, is one of my favorite films of all time.  It deals with the side effects of medication that was way ahead of its time.  The films I’ve seen of Ray’s have all left me speechless as a viewer.  I give a slight nod to “Rebel Without a Cause,” but “Bigger Than Life” is also a really, really good film which I recommend you check out as soon as possible as it is part of the Criterion Collection.  With “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Bigger Than Life,” I almost feel like Nicholas Ray is speaking to me directly.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Rebel Without a Cause” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  It is rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements and has a running time of 111 minutes.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info:  This is another fantastic release from Warner Brothers as they dig deeper into their rich history of classic films for their 100th year anniversary. The film is simply electric on Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range. There were scenes here and there which looked a little grainy, but they were cleaned up quickly and did not linger, so they were not massive issues. James Dean and Natalie Wood look GREAT on 4K, and the film itself is a stunner with rich, vivid colors which pop off the screen.

Audio Info:  Thankfully, we are treated to a great Dolby Atmos track with this 4K release, and I am really happy about that because out of the three films I received to review (“Rebel Without a Case,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Maltese Falcon”), this film was my favorite, and it received the best audio track. All of the sizzling dialogue is on display here, and it really pops with the Dolby Atmos track. Subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish as well.

Special Features:

Commentary by Douglas L. Rathgeb

“James Dean Remembered” (1974 TV special)

“Rebel Without a Cause: Defiant Innocents” (featurette)

“Dennis Hopper: Memories from the Warner Lot” (featurette)

Screen Tests

Wardrobe Tests

Deleted Scenes

Should You Buy It?

HECK YES!! If you have never seen any of James Dean’s films, this is the place to start, without question.  As a matter of fact, after watching “Rebel Without a Cause,” I bought “Giant” on Amazon, as I want to own as many of Dean’s films in 4K as possible. I am such a fan of actors who put so much of themselves and their histories into their films.  I didn’t know a lot about Dean’s backstory, but I knew he used a lot of his childhood to tap into this performance.  It shows in each and every scene as he is so raw, real and vulnerable for the camera. He likes the camera, and the camera likes him.  This film perfectly captures the disconnect between teenagers and their parents during this era without ever being preachy or too on-the-nose.  It hits all the right notes.  The late, great Natalie Wood is also a movie star on screen.  I am such a fan of this period of Hollywood where actors were taking chances and putting their blood, sweat and tears into their performances.  The film comes with the previously released Blu-ray special features, so there is not anything new as far as documentaries on Dean. The Dolby Atmos track is a very nice touch and, despite a few rough patches, the 4K video transfer is just about perfect. It is a red-hot movie in 4K, and I loved getting to watch it in this format. This is a day-one purchase without any hesitation, whatsoever.

**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 Maltese Falcon’ Movie and 4K Review

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

The Maltese Falcon” is a film I imagine I will enjoy a lot more on a second viewing, as this was my first time watching it. The reason I say this is because there are a lot of moving pieces in this film, and it is never boring.  However, at times, I found myself trying to follow the story and the plot instead of being as immersed in the story as I would have liked to have been.  Many people have called it the first-ever film noir.  Film noir is a genre that Humphrey Bogart excelled in throughout his career.  He had a rough look and a gruff voice.  He wasn’t going to take any nonsense from anyone, and no matter how dire a situation was, he always seemed to know what was going on, and he was not going to be rattled by the circumstances around him.

Humphrey Bogart plays a private investigator named Sam Spade.  He is in business with his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan).  One day, a woman walks into their office by the name of Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor), claiming her sister ran off from New York to San Francisco with a man named Floyd Thursby.  She is hoping that Spade and Archer can help her find her sister.  Archer agrees to look into it, but he ends up dead along with Floyd Thursby.  This captures the attention of Sam Spade, who is beginning to wonder the validity of her story.  Before long, he discovers that her real name is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

Throughout all of this mystery and intrigue, Sam finds himself in the crosshairs of Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who offers Sam some money for a highly valued falcon statue.  There is also a young man named Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) who is keeping his eyes on Sam along with Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), a rotund money man who will stop at nothing to get his hands on this bird. Throughout all of the twists and turns, Sam isn’t sure who to believe, who to trust, and who is telling the truth. He stays in control and makes smart decisions, even when people are pointing their guns at him or he’s suspected of murder by the police.

One of the strong points of “The Maltese Falcon” is the running time. At 100 minutes, there is not a dull moment in the film.  It is paced perfectly and directed with great skill by John Huston. It has the look and feel that one would expect from a film noir.  You have your femme fatale in Mary Astor.  She’s brilliant here, as she’s able to go from vulnerable and naïve to cunning and savvy in the blink of an eye. Of course, you have Bogart, who made a living in Hollywood playing this type of character.  Guys liked and respected him, and women were drawn to his tough exterior. As mentioned earlier, he is always able to stay level-headed, even in life-or-death circumstances.  He still seems to know what to do and what to say to get himself out of a jam.

In the end, I respected and admired “The Maltese Falcon” as a film.  I can’t say I enjoyed it a ton because of the storytelling.  It’s not an overly complicated film, but at times, there are too many twists and turns happening at once.  That being said, I think the more I watch this film, the more I will enjoy it and have a better understanding of everything.  Because of the deception happening on screen and characters coming and going, it’s not that it was hard to follow, it’s more that I was keeping up with the plot instead of getting lost in it. I look forward to watching this film many more times in the future, as I think I will gain an even greater appreciation for the skilled acting and directing on display.

* * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “The Maltese Falcon” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film has a running time of 100 minutes.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film. As far as the film’s rating, it is not rated, but that is not because it’s a raunchy film. It was released in 1941 and is very tame.

Video Info:  Ultra High Definition HDR always stands out on older films.  A lot of movie buffs like to talk about how older films are enhanced by a 4K transfer, and that is certainly the case here. From the swift movements of the characters to the deep blacks, this is a stunning transfer of a black and white film. Right now, 4K is doing some truly amazing work with classic Hollywood films.

Audio Info: The film is presented on the following audio formats: DTS-HD MA: English 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital: Spanish. Subtitles are included in English and Spanish as well.  The audio is crisp, clear, and all of the great dialogue you would expect from a film noir is easy to digest while watching this film.

 Special Features:

 Commentary by Humphrey Bogart Biographer Eric Lax

“Warner Night at the Movies”

“Sergeant York” Trailer

“New Highlights of the Roosevelt Churchill Parley” (newsreel)

“The Gay Parisian” (1941 WB short)

“Meet John Doughboy” (1941 WB cartoon)

The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird

Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart

Breakdowns of 1941 (WB short)

Make-up Tests

2/8/43 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast

9/20/43 Screen Guild Theater Broadcast

7/3/46 Academy Award Theater Broadcast


1936 “Satan Met a Lady”

1941 “The Maltese Falcon”

Should You Buy It?

I don’t feel like I am really giving this film the credit it deserves, but keep in mind, this was my first time watching it.  I have always been a big believer that you need to watch a great film a few times in order to fully appreciate it.  It doesn’t always strike on the first chord.  There is a lot to like, especially the acting and the pacing of the plot, but the story took me out of it at times.  With all of that being said, if you are a fan of “The Maltese Falcon,” you owe it to yourself to buy it on 4K.  It looks fantastic here in black and white and in high dynamic range with its 4K transfer.  It’s such a moody film noir that truly gets a boost from 4K.  The special features are transferred over from the previously released Blu-ray, so if you are looking for anything new here, you are not going to find it, but I don’t expect anything new from a film that was released in 1941 as most, if not all, of the actors have passed away.  If you are a first-time viewer like myself, I still think you should buy it as you will get the slipcover and might enjoy it more than I did.  If you love the film and have seen it many times, you will enjoy it even more on 4K. I look forward to seeing what else Warner Brothers is going to be releasing throughout the year during their 100th year anniversary.

**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.

‘Cool Hand Luke’ Movie and 4K Review

WRITER’S NOTE: The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

When I think of a movie star, I think of someone who possesses the “it factor” and stands above the rest of the pack.  Paul Newman was a movie star, and I would argue it was never more prevalent than in the film “Cool Hand Luke.”  Of course, many can talk about his mesmerizing performances in films such as “The Verdict,” “The Hustler,” “Slap Shot” or “The Sting.”  However, in “Cool Hand Luke,” he burns up the screen and you can’t take your eyes off of him.  It’s such a minimalistic performance, but it is captivating, spellbinding and intense.  There is no wasted moment or line of dialogue from this legendary actor here.  When I think of Newman, I think of this film.

After World War II, Luke (Paul Newman) finds himself knocking over parking meters while under the influence of alcohol, which lands him a two-year stay in prison.  Upon entering the chain gain of prison, Luke keeps to himself, but he has this unique and magnetic presence about him without even trying to do anything out of the ordinary. There is an aura about him which keeps people interested in him and talking about him.  There is a story behind the man, but the film allows those layers to unfold throughout.   Many of those working on the chain gang in this prison camp seem to fall in line and follow orders.  Luke, on the other hand, is not a fan of authority. He likes to ruffle their feathers, especially when it comes to Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward) and the Captain (Strother Martin).

He endears himself to his fellow prison mates by playing cards, trying to escape, and even having a contest where he says he can eat fifty eggs in an hour.  They start to see hope and light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Luke.  As the title says, he is cool.  Every little thing about him is cool and laid-back.  Even when his attempts to escape don’t go as planned, he flashes that famous Paul Newman smile with those baby blue eyes and rolls with the punches.  He refuses to be defeated or get angry about his situation.  Instead, he is looking for solutions.  One of his closest friends there is Dragline, played by George Kennedy, in an Academy-Award winning performance.

Throughout the prison, we also see legendary actors such as Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton, which I really appreciated as I’m a huge fan of their careers. Director Stuart Rosenberg knows how to show the mundane of prison life without ever making it feel boring or uninteresting.  Much like Newman, he doesn’t waste a single scene or shot here.  Everything here has a rhyme and a reason to it. The film has a lot of outdoor scenes, and they look absolutely stunning in 4K.  This is truly one of the best-looking 4K films I’ve watched in a while.  The sunshine and the light symbolize what Luke brings to the prisoners.  He lets them know there is more to life than digging ditches.

I don’t think the anti-hero has ever been portrayed as well on screen as it is here by Newman.  The fact he’s not trying to be liked is what makes us, as an audience, like him even more.  It’s all natural.  This is a man who is in prison along with a host of prisoners that have done various crimes.  They admit that.  The film is able to make us like all of them, Dragline especially, and really root for them to get out from under the thumb of this rigid prison and its rules.  In many ways, I feel like “Cool Hand Luke” was a film in 1967 that was ahead of its time.

There are so many great quotes from the film that I could spend a good portion of my review reciting them. I’ll stick to the famous one, which is, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” This quote was also used in the opening of the Guns N’ Roses song “Civil War”.  This film is a powerful masterpiece.  As someone who is a big believer in anti-establishment and someone who doesn’t always like to play by the rules, “Cool Hand Luke” is a film which resonated with me. You might knock Luke down and you might have him on the ropes, but he is not going to go down without a fight.  He is also going to smile in your face, no matter what happens to him or how much you push him.  He’s never going to lose that smile.

* * * * out of * * * *

4K Info: “Cool Hand Luke” is released on a two-disc 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. The film has a running-time of 126 minutes and is rated PG.  Keep in mind, the ratings system was run much differently during this time.  It’s not an overly violent film, and I don’t recall a ton of curse words in it.  It also comes with a digital copy of the film.

Video Info: “Cool Hand Luke” never looked bad on Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range.  The film looks stunning and crystal clear.  As I mentioned, a good portion of the scenes take place outside, and it’s a colorful and bright looking film without being too bright where it’s going to hurt your eyes.  They did a tremendous job of cleaning this picture up, as I loved every second of this beautiful transfer.  I tip my cap to the fine folks over at Warner Brothers on this one.

Audio Info:  The same can be said for the audio which comes on DTS-HD MA: English 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital: Spanish and French. Subtitles are also included in English, Spanish, and French.  The audio is crystal clear throughout, and all of the tremendous dialogue can be heard without any issues whatsoever.

Special Features:

Commentary by Historian/Paul Newman Biographer Eric Lax

A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke


Should You Buy It?

You are buying this for the movie itself as well as the audio and visual aspects that Warner Brothers have put together for this tremendous release. You are not buying it for the special features, which I’ve talked about in previous reviews.  I’m a big believer in preserving film history, and I love that it is the 100th anniversary of Warner Brothers because they are digging deep into their archives with releases of some of the greatest films ever made.  They are also taking the time to make sure they are seen and heard in the highest video and audio quality possible.  They are not just upgrading these films to re-release them.  They are making sure, as a viewer, you are not only going to enjoy a classic film, but that you are going to enjoy it in 4K with a transfer worthy of the film itself.  Because of this, it is up to us, as film collectors and lovers, to support and purchase films like “Cool Hand Luke” on 4K.  It ensures us that we will get more great physical media releases in the future. I can’t recommend this film and this visual presentation any further. Buy it right now!

**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.

‘Rocky: The Knockout Collection’ 4K Review

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

When it comes to the genre of underdog sports films, they don’t make them any better than the original “Rocky.”  It was a film that came along at the right place at the right time and with the right actor.  After all, Sylvester Stallone was the writer of the original “Rocky” script, and he demanded to star in the film even though the studio wanted a big name.  Stallone was unknown at the time. It’s been 47 years since “Rocky” came out, but its staying power will last forever.  It is why I was extremely pleased to hear Warner Brothers was going to be releasing a collection of the first four “Rocky” films in 4K and in a set. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year so far.

Many of you who are reading this review might be asking, “Where is ‘Rocky V?’ What about ‘Rocky Balboa?’ The ‘Creed‘ movies?” I heard rumblings that there are possible director’s cuts coming out for “Rocky V” and “Rocky Balboa.” As far as the “Creed” movies, I would imagine they will get a separate release, as they are part of their own universe. Now with all that out of the way, this review is going to focus on the first four “Rocky” movies and how they are available on 4K for the very first time.

The original “Rocky,” released in 1976, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won Best Picture.  When revisiting the film, which I’ve seen a number of times, it is easy to see why it has such staying power.  It starts with the relationship between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and a shy young woman named Adrian (Talia Shire) who works at a pet store.  For my money, “Rocky” is a love story, first and foremost, and it is a sports movie second. The interaction Rocky and Adrian have with one another in his apartment is one of the most tender and genuine love scenes I’ve ever seen on film.

Rocky Balboa is a local southpaw boxer in Philadelphia where he makes little to no money, and he takes a lot of abuse in the process.  He also collects for a local loan shark named Tony Gazzo, played by Joe Spinell. He hangs out at a local pub with his friend Paulie (Burt Young), who also happens to be Adrian’s brother.  Paulie isn’t always the easiest guy to get along with, but Rocky is a very patient and understanding individual.  As a matter of fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t like Rocky.  It’s a well-known fact these days that Stallone was not someone the studio wanted to portray Rocky.  However, the script was written by him, and he knew this character inside and out. He went on to write and direct “Rocky II, III and IV” which are also included in this set, along with “Rocky Balboa.”

That’s the beauty of this film.  Stallone was an underdog actor at the time he sold his script, and the film is about an underdog boxer who is given a chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), after Creed’s original opponent ends up injured.  Creed, being the shrewd businessman that he is, figures it would be a great idea to give an underdog a shot at the title in order to create a marketable gimmick and make some money. Rocky Balboa knows this is his chance to prove he can go make something of himself and stand out as a winner.  He is trained by the cranky yet seasoned Mickey (Burgess Meredith), who is finally willing to give Rocky a chance. The two of them joust verbally back-and-forth with one another for some great comedic relief.

In “Rocky II,” Rocky is dealing with life after the big fight with Creed.  Even though he didn’t win, he went the distance with the champion which shocked the world.  He lasted all fifteen rounds and lost based on the decision of the judges. Regardless, many people think Rocky was the true winner of the fight.  He has to figure out how to live a normal life now that he’s a well-known figure not only in Philadelphia, his hometown, but around the world as well. He starts to do commercials and even ends up with a manual labor job, but he realizes his true calling is as a boxer.

Apollo Creed also has a score to settle with Rocky.  He wants to knock him out and prove to the world and himself that he’s truly the world heavyweight champion. Creed wants to show everyone that what happened in their previous fight was a fluke.  Rocky, on the other hand, might go blind if he gets in the ring again after what happened in their last fight. He took quite a beating, but he came back for more.  He knows he’s a fighter, and he knows the risks, even though he has to think of Adrian now and their child. Mickey has devised a plan for Rocky which he thinks will allow him to win the fight and protect his eyes at the same time.

In “Rocky III,” Rocky is forced to handle success.  He learns that Mickey has been protecting him from the really good fighters out there because he wants to keep him safe and look out for him. This causes Rocky to feel like a paper champion and question his manhood.  There is also a tough challenger coming for him by the name of Clubber Lang (Mr. T) who is hellbent on embarrassing Rocky in the ring and becoming heavyweight champion of the world.  This time, though, he has a new trainer in Apollo Creed.  Rocky once again must learn a new fighting style: it is one based on endurance and speed. Clubber Lang is bigger and stronger than Rocky, so it will take everything Rocky has in him in order to defeat him.

Rocky IV” is where it gets very interesting, as there are two cuts of the film featured here on one disc. There is the original “Rocky IV” theatrical cut and also “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago,” which is the ultimate director’s cut.  This time, Rocky finds himself having to fight his biggest opponent yet in Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who is a foot taller and thirteen years younger than him. He also must train in Russia as the fight will be taking place there on Christmas Day.  Rocky will not only train like he never has before, but he will have to win in enemy territory against “The Russian,” as he’s referred to many times throughout the course of the film.

I didn’t want to give four full-length reviews for these films, as I imagine almost anyone reading this has seen and knows them fairly well, much like myself.  If I were to give my ranking of the films featured in this set, I would go with the original “Rocky” as the best, “Rocky II” as the second best, “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago” as the third best, and “Rocky III” as the fourth best.  I would really advise you to check out the ultimate director’s cut of “Rocky IV” over the theatrical cut.  It’s only two minutes longer, but the film is more serious, intense, and flows in a much more effective manner.  It’s all in the tone of the film, and I loved the tone of the ultimate director’s cut.  It really gave me a new appreciation for the fourth “Rocky” film.

As soon as this set arrived, it only took me two days to go through all four films.  It was truly a treat to revisit them.  I understand why they released these four films in a set together.  It makes sense after watching them.  You can also buy them as standalone steelbooks at your local Best Buy, but I believe they have different release dates.  This set is out right now and while it is far from perfect, I’ll explain why later, if you are a “Rocky” fan, you have to buy this set for your collection.  The original “Rocky” will always be a great, great piece of cinematic history. The second film is very, very good as well.  The third one is good, but not great.  “Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago” is also much improved with the ultimate director’s cut.

4K Info: “Rocky: The Knockout Collection” is released on 4K from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  This set features five discs. The first three films are on their own individual discs and “Rocky IV” has the theatrical cut and the ultimate director’s cut on it.  There is also a Blu-ray disc of special features.  The set also comes with a digital code to have all of them in your digital library on 4K. “Rocky” has a running time of 119 minutes, “Rocky II” has a running time of 120 minutes, “Rocky III” has a running time of 100 minutes, and “Rocky IV” has a running time of 91 minutes (theatrical cut) and 93 minutes (ultimate director’s cut). All the films are rated PG. The set comes in a flipper case with a thick cardboard slipcover, so the discs are not stacked on top of each other and can be flipped through with their own slot.  On one hand, I would have loved it if they released these films in four separate cases with slipcovers in a box set.  However, for space reasons, this set works for me as it’s easy to put on the shelf with all four films together on five discs (including the Blu-ray special features disc) in a single set which isn’t much bigger than your average 4K film with a slipcover. All of the films come with Dolby Vision as well, which I was VERY happy with as a 4K collector.

Video Info: Let’s talk about the look of these films.  The original “Rocky” is probably the worst looking film out of the bunch.  I say this because of the age of the film and its low budget.  It doesn’t look awful or terrible, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be a film that looks spectacular or blows you away. There is noticeable grain here, but in many ways, it adds to the gritty nature of the original film.  That being said, if you are looking for a major upgrade with the first film on 4K, you probably are going to be disappointed.  “Rocky II” looks very, very good.  It’s a clean transfer which is smooth looking and crystal clear.  The boxing scenes, in particular, look the best I’ve ever seen them look.  This is when you can see the Dolby Vision and the HDR really, really stand out. This is a major upgrade. For “Rocky III,” the transfer is above average.  It’s better than “Rocky,” but it’s not as good as “Rocky II.”  There was noticeable grain, but it didn’t have the same old-school charm as the original look of the film. The best-looking film out of the bunch, far and away, is “Rocky IV.”  I wish the majority of the films looked like this.  This counts for both the ultimate director’s cut and the theatrical cut.  You can see everything on their faces, and they really cleaned up this film.  It looks beautiful and modern.

Audio Info: The following audio formats were used: English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/Spanish/French Dolby Digital, and 2.0 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. I’ve read from a lot of people online that are unhappy with how the films sound. Personally, I don’t think the audio issues are as bad as advertised, and the problems don’t take away from the viewing experience. At times, the films can fluctuate in audio, but the dips are not that frequent.  They are here and there throughout the four films. Truth be told, I would not have ever noticed these issues unless they were pointed out to me. Overall, though, I think it’s much to do about nothing.

Special Features:

“Rocky” 4K Special Features:

Audio Commentary featuring Sylvester Stallone.

Audio Commentary featuring John G. Avildsen, Irvin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, and Garrett Brown.

Audio Commentary featuring Lou Duva and Bert Sugar

Bonus Features Disc:

The Making of Rocky vs Drago: Keep Punching

8mm Home Movies of Rocky

3 Rounds with Lou Duva

Steadicam: Then and Now

Staccato: A Composer’s Notebook

The Ring of Truth

Tribute to Burgess Meredith

Stallone Meets Rocky


* * * ½ out of * * * *

Should You Buy It?

This set was delayed in getting to me as it had a street date of February 28th, and I imagine a lot of that had to do with people complaining about the audio issues. I’m not a film snob by any means, but I am very particular about the audio and visual quality of 4K releases, as I’ve invested heavily into the 4K format.  With all that being said, the pros outweigh the cons.  Yes, not all of the films look great, but this is the best they have ever looked, with “Rocky II” and “Rocky IV,” in particular, looking fantastic.  Yes, the audio is problematic at times, but it’s not so noticeable that it impacted my ability to hear the films or enjoy them.  Right now, the set is going for about $53 plus tax, and I think for four films in 4K that are hugely popular, it’s a good value for the price. I would say this set is imperfectly perfect, as I enjoyed watching the films and the quality of them when they were flying on all cylinders.  For film fans or Rocky fans, I think there is A LOT more to like than dislike with this collection. You can buy this set with confidence and try to ignore all of those folks out there who are analyzing every little detail to death. I think people are getting way too particular with 4K films, and this is coming from someone with high standards. The key is watching and enjoying the films with quality video and audio, and I felt I was able to do that more often than not. As far as the films themselves, many would argue these are the best films in the franchise, so it’s fine that “Rocky V” and “Rocky Balboa” are not included.  “Rocky Balboa” is enjoyable nostalgia, and I imagine it will get a proper 4K release along with “Rocky V” at some point. As I often bring up, the special features are old special features. It’s hard to get people to sit down and do special features anymore, I feel like. At the end of the day, buy this set and enjoy it!

**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.