Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Viewed – 29 May 2021 Blu-ray

This doesn’t happen very often, does it? A movie getting pretty much re-released that isn’t simply a director’s cut but in fact almost an entirely different movie. I feel I was one of the few that enjoyed the original 2018 version of Justice League, and while I could see the flaws, overall it still did its job. So sitting down to this much expanded, 4 hour version was both exciting and a bit intimidating.

Avengers assem… oh, wait.

The story has a megalomaniac villain called Steppenwolf who is searching for three ancient cubes that once brought together will transform our world, destroying all life in the process. So on learning this Bruce Wayne / Batman rushes to form a team of super-powered heroes in hope of stopping Steppenwolf in his tracks.

Zack Snyder, for some reason delivers this version of JL in 4:3 aspect ratio, and despite black bars either side of the screen, after a while I stopped noticing them. His style is so striking here, and with a muted colour pallet compared to the garish tones of JL 2018, this immediately felt more serious and epic. Much of the humour has been toned down, although The Flash’s wise-cracks remain intact. Also, with so much more time there’s far more emphasis on character, especially that of Cyborg, and at times this can feel very much his story, given the most interesting character ark. Superman’s status of being dead and his eventual resurrection is also packed with emotion. The villain’s motives are also better explained, with the addition of one character this time around filling a Palpetine type role to Steppenwolf’s Vader.

The movie may be over 4 hours long but with how it is split into six parts, and spread over two Blu-rays (I watched it over two nights) it didn’t feel bloated or padded and in fact zipped along at a decent pace with several great action scenes. It never gets as powerful as say, Avengers: Endgame, its central plot feels cliched and Steppenwolf isn’t all that interesting. There’s also some unnecessary sequel-bating here and there, with scenes involving Martian Manhunter and even Jared Leto’s Joker needing to be left on the cutting room floor …. but overall this was still an improved, highly entertaining, visually stunning and satisfying experience.

Verdict: Recommended

Red Sparrow

Viewed – 07 March 2018  Cinema

When Prima Ballerina Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) injures herself during a performance, she turns to her shady uncle on realising the ballet academy are no longer going to fund her accommodation or the care of her ill mother.  So she reluctantly gets enrolled in ‘sparrow’ school where young students are trained to use their minds and bodies as weapons.

Red Sparrow

Once released from the school she gets her first mission and along the way catches the attention of undercover CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who see’s potential in her and attempts to get her to cross over to the Americans.  Lawrence, initially an unusual casting for a Russian character seems to easily deliver a convincing accent and demeanour, whilst using her ‘impossible’ situation to her advantage.  She’s sexy and dangerous and Lawrence nails it in a provocative and daring turn.  Edgerton increasingly an actor I enjoy watching is again very good and perfect support, and add to this a decent turn from Jeremy Irons (another long time favourite) and this makes for an above average thriller.  I liked how the focus was more on psychological manipulation than action, and we may not get car chases or fist fights, but what we do get is much more affecting.  Lawrence may shed more than a bit of clothing but it’s never gratuitous, instead presenting the character’s (and actress’s) obvious good looks and sexuality as a suit of armour throughout.

Director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games) fashions the movie with a careful balance of gritty realism and eye-catching style,  It also doesn’t shy away from the more violent aspects of the subject with gruelling torture and interrogation scenes that pack a punch.   Although it gets rather muddled in the middle of the movie with a side story involving Lawrence’s room-mate, this remained gripping and daring viewing leading to a particularly satisfying conclusion.  An easy recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

Dead Ringers

Viewed – 24 August 2012  Blu-ray

French import release

When it comes to the movies of Canadian director David Cronenberg, his brand of creepy, psycho-sexual horror is certainly an acquired taste, and although branching into the more mainstream of late with movies like A History Of Violence and A Dangerous Method … it was this 1988 drama that really made me a fan.

Brit actor Jeremy Irons stars as twin Gynaecologists Elliot & Beverly Mantle.  Famed throughout the industry, their intensely close relationship is put to the test when they both fall for actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold).  This powerful drama showcases Cronenberg’s fascination with psychology and sexuality and is possibly his most accomplished movie.  Irons’ performance as the two doctors is nothing short of amazing, managing to make both characters very different, and he plays against himself remarkably well.  Cronenberg’s direction is also quite something, managing to disguise the fact he only has one actor playing both roles.  This is aided by brilliant cinematography and eye-catching set design that maintains a cold, unsettling aesthetic.  Bujold is naturally sidelined compared to Irons, and her performance although acceptable is a bit unlikable and annoying.  Yet this is a very powerful and at times, very sad story that handles the subject of mental illness, sibling rivalry and jealousy with intelligence.

Dead Ringers has stood the test of time well, and although some of the effects work and camera trickery is showing its age, and the performances can border on caricature – this remains a thoroughly absorbing and disturbing piece of work.

This recently released French Blu-ray by Filmedia is for the time being, the only version of the movie available in high-definition.  That being said I can confidently recommend this release as the picture quality is immediately impressive for a movie over twenty years old, with clarity, depth and detail obvious throughout.  Colours are very vibrant (especially in the iconic red scrubs operation scenes) and considering this is all in 1080i rather than the industry preferred 1080p, I was still very happy with the presentation.  Sound is delivered in either English 2.0 DTS Master Audio of French 2.0 which  is more than acceptable for this kind of feature.  The movie also has French subtitles that will appear even if you select the English soundtrack, but these can easily be switched off via your remote.  Extras consist of a lengthy documentary exploring David Cronenberg’s movies, with interviews with previous cast members, and there are also featurettes on the effects work as well as a trailer.


(the movie):  5 /5

(the Blu-ray):  4 /5

The Lion King

Viewed – 20 November 2011  Blu-ray

Once upon a time, nobody could touch Disney for feature length animation.  In the early nineties, the house of mouse hit several home runs with Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin and this much celebrated classic.  For a long time, The Lion King was my all-time favourite animated movie.  The epic scale, the timeless songs, the beautiful animation, and the emotional, heartfelt storyline that surely means something to anyone who experiences it.  I haven’t seen the movie since the days of VHS, having missed its run on DVD.  So I suppose it was well overdue I check it out in glorious HD.

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