View From the Couch: DC League of Super-Pets, Scream 2, etc.
View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD.
View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD.
Scream 2 (Photo: Paramount)
By Matt Brunson
(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)
DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS (2022). Say this for the animated DC League of Super-Pets: It’s at least superior to practically every DCEU installment to date (this includes Zack Snyder’s 16-hour cut of Justice League, both Suicide Squads, and any entry with Henry Cavill, but not, of course, the first Wonder Woman). Nevertheless, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, the co-stars of Central Intelligence, doubtless had to lower theirs considerably to take part in a tired superhero tale in which the heroes happen to be animals. Johnson voices Krypto, who joins forces with another dog, Ace (Hart), and various other critters (turtle, squirrel, pig) to rescue Superman (John Krasinski), Batman (Keanu Reeves), and the rest of the Justice League from a power-hungry guinea pig named Lulu (Kate McKinnon). In the plus column, the vocal work is robust, the origin stories of Krypto and Ace pack some punch, and select quips hit the spot. On the negative side, the animation is functional rather than inspired, the supporting characters are mostly frenzied rather than funny, and the storyline feels like a rejected Justice League script rewritten for their pets. On balance, it’s recommended for small kids, less so for their adult companions.
In related super-mutt news, Warner and DC have also just released Krypto the Superdog: The Complete Series on DVD. This set contains all 39 episodes of the Cartoon Network show that aired 2005-2006. Each half-hour episode consists of two separate vignettes, and, unlike other Superman animated series, this show seems aimed squarely at the wee ones.
Extras in the 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Code edition of DC League of Super-Pets include a trio of making-of featurettes; deleted scenes; and a look at all the film’s Easter Eggs.
FACING NOLAN (2022). I’m always wary whenever a nonfiction biopic is produced by the subject in question, as more controversial or unsavory details are often minimized or outright ignored (see: the Mike Tyson-produced Champs). With this documentary about baseball legend Nolan Ryan, the suspicion is amplified, with Nolan himself serving as an executive producer. In this case, though, any worries prove to be much ado about nothing. While the film makes a half-hearted attempt to paint an overall picture of the life of Ryan, it’s clear that director Bradley Jackson never had any intention of presenting a warts-and-all portrait — instead, the movie remains dedicated to Ryan’s achievements as a pitcher, with a look at love of family to fill in the margins. This covers the star’s 27 years on the diamond, playing for the New York Mets, the California Angels, the Houston Astros, and the Texas Rangers. Nolan holds a whopping 51 MLB records, and while some would not be coveted by anyone (most career walks, most stolen bases allowed), the vast majority are reflective of his astonishing career: most strikeouts, most no-hitters, longest career, and many, many more. The baseball players interviewed are a personable lot, and many amusing stories are shared. Adding a more personal touch to the film, Jackson stays away from anything controversial (such as the Ryan family’s recent backing of certain fascistic politicians) and chooses to focus on Ryan’s one true love, Ruth — she’s the other half of a relationship that began as a high school romance, turned into marriage in 1967, and continues to go strong to this day.
Blu-ray extras include a Q&A session with Ryan and archival clips.
FRANKENWEENIE (2012). In a staid American suburb, young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is devastated when his best friend in the world, his faithful dog Sparky, is struck and killed by an automobile. Nothing can lift him out of his gloom until his science teacher shows the class how electricity can temporarily reanimate a dead frog. Working from this idea, Victor manages to revive Sparky, a joyous reunion marred by the fear and stupidity of Victor’s neighbors. Tim Burton remade his own live-action short from 1984 as a stop-motion animation feature — since the original ran just 30 minutes, the challenge was in expanding the story to 90 minutes without making the new material feel like extraneous filler. Working from Burton’s original idea, scripter John August largely succeeds. The character of the science teacher, a bit player in the original, is given stature and presence: Looking like Vincent Price (Burton’s horror-film hero) and speaking in a thick European accent provided by Martin Landau, he’s the story’s most entertaining figure. The stop-motion animation looks especially crisp in the film’s black-and-white world, and it adds an extra degree of spookiness to the more eccentric supporting characters. But there’s nothing spooky about Sparky, the amiable canine who, even after being brought back from the grave, seeks only to play with — and love on — his owner. Dead or alive, he’s the beating heart at the center of this alternately amusing, alternately poignant but perpetually inventive work that nabbed a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination.
Frankenweenie is available as a Disney Movie Club exclusive and comes with a glow-in-the-dark case. (Nonmembers still have the movie available to them through Disney’s 2012 Blu-ray edition.)
PLATOON (1986). Writer-director Oliver Stone’s Platoon may not be the best Vietnam war film ever made — I still prefer both Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket by a healthy margin — but I wouldn’t care to argue with any veteran who states that it’s the most honest depiction of that insane skirmish. Stone, himself a decorated vet, channeled his experiences into the character of Chris (Charlie Sheen), an idealist who drops out of college and volunteers for combat duty in Nam. The tour of duty is arduous, exhausting and terrifying, yet the real battle Chris confronts is the one between the two sergeants vying for his loyalty: the hardened, hate-filled Barnes (Tom Berenger, imaginatively cast against type) and the heroic, humanistic Elias (Willem Dafoe, ditto). Stone’s dialogue often falls heavy on the ears — Chris’ voiceover narration particularly contains some genuine clunkers — but his ability to place us thick in the hostile jungle environment is extraordinary. The impressive cast contains a handful of rising stars, most notably Forest Whitaker and a 23-year-old Johnny Depp. Nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Supporting Actor bids for both Berenger and Dafoe), this won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.
Extras in the 4K UHD + Blu-ray set include audio commentary by Stone; audio commentary by military advisor Dale Dye (who after this enjoyed his own lengthy Hollywood career as an actor, appearing in Casualties of War, Mission: Impossible, Saving Private Ryan, and about 50 other movies); and deleted scenes.
SCREAM 2 (1997). In Scream 2, there’s a scene in which several college students discuss whether any sequel has been superior to the original (as expected, the two usual suspects, The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back, are floated). I daresay this second chapter in the popular slasher series deserves to be in the conversation. Overrated to the nth degree, 1996’s Scream took the “movie within a movie” meta concept and ran with it, resulting in an obnoxious and not particularly clever flick. Scream 2 follows the same template, but its meta-ness isn’t quite as pronounced, its returning central characters — Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers, and David Arquette’s Dewey Riley — build upon their considerable audience goodwill (even if Sidney does cause the deaths of two innocents), and a couple of set-pieces attempt to accentuate suspense rather than slaughter. Still, too much genre formula remains, and some of the performances grow awfully silly. Liev Schreiber is good as Cotton Weary, the man who was falsely accused of being the murderer in the first film and who now wants his 15 minutes of fame, and the cameo by Luke Wilson made me chuckle.
Extras in the 25th Anniversary Limited Steelbook Edition (complete with 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and Digital Code) include audio commentary by director Wes Craven, producer Marianne Maddalena, and editor Patrick Lussier; a making-of featurette; deleted scenes; outtakes; and the music videos for Master P’s “Scream” and Kottonmouth Kings’ “Suburban Life.”
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022). The latest at-bat in Marvel’s shaky Phase Four, this often plays like a Thor: Ragnarok revival, only with a reduction in laughs and charm. Because Ragnarok’s director and co-writer Taika Waititi is again on board, this is perhaps to be expected. Christian Bale, who would doubtless bring his standard commitment and intensity to a Sprite commercial, creates a memorable villain in Gorr, whose status as “The God Butcher” means that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is on his hit list. Thor receives unexpected assistance from his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who’s enjoying a temporary status as Mighty Thor (basically the “she” version to Thor’s “he”). The nyuks in Thor: Love and Thunder are fast and furious but not always funny, with too many forced errors on Waititi’s part as co-scripter. The emphasis on Thor’s comedic chops are so pronounced, in fact, that they turn his character into something of an insensitive clod. (Faring better in the humor sweepstakes is Russell Crowe, with a boisterous turn as a smarmy and self-centered Zeus.) Aside from the plot thread involving Gorr, Waititi’s overreliance on guffaws comes at the expense of any gravitas. His balancing act was more accomplished in Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit — here, he’s too often like the most obnoxious drunk at the party, putting a lampshade on his head while everyone else just wants to sit back and enjoy themselves.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Waititi; deleted scenes; and a gag reel.
Review links for movies referenced in this column:
Casualties of War
Justice League (2017)
The Suicide Squad
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
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