Review: ‘DC League of Super-Pets,’ starring the voices of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart

July 26, 2022

by Carla Hay

Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne), PB (voiced by Vanessa Bayer), Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), Chip (voiced by Diego Luna) and Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart) in “DC League of Super-Pets” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“DC League of Super-Pets”

Directed by Jared Stern; co-directed by Sam Levine

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the fictional city of Metropolis, the animated film “DC League of Super-Pets” features a racially diverse cast (white, black, Asian and Latino) portraying talking animals, superheroes and citizens of Metropolis.

Culture Clash: Inspired by DC Comics characters, “DC League of Super-Pets” features a group of domesticated pets, including Superman’s dog Krypto, fighting crime and trying to save the world from an evil guinea pig that is loyal to supervillain Lex Luthor.

Culture Audience: “DC League of Super-Pets” will appeal primarily to fans of DC Comics, the movie’s cast members and adventure-filled animated movies centered on talking animals.

Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon) in “DC League of Super-Pets” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Even though “DC League of Super-Pets” sometimes gets cluttered with subplots and characters, this animated film is a treat that has a winning combination of pets and superheroes. There’s plenty to like for people of many ages. In addition to the appeal of having familiar characters from DC Comics, “DC League of Super-Pets” is a well-cast film for its voice actors, because the cast members bring their own unique flairs to the characters. It’s helpful but not necessary to have knowledge of DC Comics characters before watching this movie.

Directed by Jared Stern and co-directed by Sam Levine, “DC League of Super-Pets” makes good use of mixing zany comedy, engaging action and some heartwarming and touching moments. Stern makes his feature-film directorial debut with “DC League of Super-Pets,” which he co-wrote with John Whittington. Stern and Whittington also co-wrote 2017’s “The Lego Batman Movie.” Where “DC League of Super-Pets” falters is when it tries to cram in certain plot developments to the point where “DC League of Super-Pets” comes dangerously close to biting off more than it can chew. (No pun intended.)

If you have no interest in watching an animated movie about pets and would-be pets of superheroes, then “DC League of Super-Pets” probably is not for you. The world already has more than enough animated films about talking animals. However, “DC League of Super-Pets” mostly succeeds at being entertaining when putting comic book characters in a predictable but dependable story of a group of misfits that become friends while trying to save the world.

“DC League of Super-Pets” begins by showing how Superman (whose birth name is Kal-El) ended up with his loyal Labrador Retriever dog Krypto. Kal-El was born on the planet Krypton. When he was a baby, Krypton went under attack, so his parents put Kal-El on a spaceship alone and sent him to Earth for his safety. Kal-El’s parents Jor-El (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Lara (voiced by Lena Headey) say their emotional goodbye to Kal-El.

Jor-El says, “Krypton is about to die.” Lara adds, “But you, dear son, will live on.” Suddenly, the family’s Labrador Retriever puppy jumps on the spaceship with Kal-El. At first, Jor-El wants to try to get the dog back, but the space ship has already been set in motion. Lara tells Jor-El: “Our boy will need a friend.” Jor-El says to the dog: “Watch over our son.”

Years later, Kal-El is now an adult living in the big city of Metropolis under the name Clark Kent. He’s a bachelor who works as a reporter at the Daily Planet newspaper, but Clark Kent is an alter ego to his secret identity: a superhero named Superman (voiced by John Krasinski), who has super-strength, X-ray vision and the ability to fly. The dog, named Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), is still his loyal companion and knows about the secret life of Superman, because Krypto often fights crime alongside Superman.

Krypto has superpowers that are the same as Superman’s superpowers. And they both have the same weakness: an energy force called kryptonite that can drain their superpowers. Krypto and Superman are a lot alike, when it comes to how they view crime and justice. However, Superman and Krypto are very different when it comes to adapting to life on Earth: Superman/Clark Kent is social with humans, while Kypto is very aloof with other pets on Earth.

An early scene in the movie shows Krypto trying to get Superman to wake up because Krypto wants to go for a walk. But “walking the dog” for Superman really means “flying through the air with the dog.” Krypto often leads the way on the leash. The Metropolis in “DC League of Super-Pets” is designed to look like a modern, well-kept city with many tall buildings, just like in the comic books.

In this version of Metropolis, Superman is such a familiar sight, no one really thinks it’s unusual to see Superman in a park with his dog Krypto. It’s during one of these park outings that Krypto sees that things at home will soon change for Superman and Krypto. Superman/Clark Kent and his Daily Planet journalist co-worker Lois Lane (voiced by Olivia Wilde) are very much in love, and they meet at the park for a date. They show lovey-dovey public displays of affection, much to Krypto’s dismay.

The relationship between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois has gotten serious enough where it looks like this couple could be headed toward marriage. Krypto is jealous and fearful that Superman/Clark Kent will no longer have the time and attention for Krypto if Lois moves in with them. Krypto doesn’t dislike Lois. Krypto just sees her as a threat to the comfortable existence he has always known with Superman/Clark Kent.

As Krypto worries about how his home life will change if Lois moves in, some other pets in Metropolis are worried if they’ll ever have a permanent home. At an animal shelter called Tailhuggers, several pets are up for adoption, but so far, they have no takers. The shelter is run by a bachelorette named Patty (voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown), who is very kind to the pets and keeps them under vigilant protection.

Brash and sarcastic hound dog Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart) is the leader of the shelter pets. Other animals at the shelter are elderly turtle Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne), cheerful pig PB (voiced by Vanessa Bayer) and nervous squirrel Chip (voiced by Diego Luna), who are Ace’s closest friends at the shelter. Also at the shelter is a cat name Whiskers (voiced by Winona Bradshaw), whose loyalty to the shelter pets is later tested.

Ace is anxious to run away from the shelter and is constantly plotting his escape. He tells his animal shelter friends that he knows of a paradise-like farm upstate where they can all go to live freely. One day, Ace actually manages to run away from the shelter, but he doesn’t go far. He’s literally stopped in his tracks by “law and order” Krypto, who uses his superpowers to freeze Ace’s legs to the sidewalk when he sees that Ace is a runaway shelter dog. Needless to say, Ace and Krypto clash with each other the first time that they meet.

Meanwhile, Superman has a crime-fighting incident where he summons the help of his Justice League superhero colleagues: Batman (voiced by Keanu Reeves), Wonder Woman (voiced by Jamila Jamil), Aquaman (voiced by Jemaine Clement), Green Lantern (voiced by Dascha Polanco), The Flash (voiced by John Early) and Cyborg (voiced by Daveed Diggs). Through a series of incidents, all of these superheroes are captured by billionaire supervillain (and longtime Superman nemesis) Lex Luthor (voiced by Marc Maron), who is keeping his captives hidden in a secret lair. Lex also has a cynical assistant named Mercy Graves (voiced by Maya Erksine), who isn’t in the movie as much as she could have been. Mercy’s screen time is less than five minutes.

All of that would be enough of a plot for this movie, but “DC League of Super-Pets” also has a plot about a devious guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon), who manages to escape from a Lex Luthor-owned scientific lab that was experimenting on guinea pigs. Somehow, Lulu gets ahold of orange kryptonite (she’s immune to kryptonite), she develops telekinesis powers, and goes on a mission to prove her loyalty to Lex by trying to destroy the Justice League.

Lulu has an army of former lab guinea pigs to do her bidding. Two of Lulu’s most loyal of these accomplices are mutant guinea pigs that also have newfound superpowers: Mark (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is fiery red and can shoot flames, while Keith (voiced by Thomas Middleditch) is ice-blue and has the ability to freeze things. Lulu also has a plot to (cliché alert) take over the world.

It should come as no surprise that Krypto ends up joining forces with Ace, Merton, PB and Chip to try to save the Justice League and save the world. During the course of the story, certain superpowers are gained, lost and possibly gained again for certain characters. Viewers of “DC League of Super-Pets” should not expect the Justice League superheroes and Lex Luthor to get a lot of screen time, because the movie is more about the pets.

Lulu’s revenge plot gets a little convoluted, but not so confusing that very young children won’t be able to understand. The movie has the expected high-energy antics, with animation and visual effects that aren’t groundbreaking but are aesthetically pleasing on almost every level. Once viewers get used to all the characters that are quickly introduced in the movie, it makes “DC League of Super-Pets” more enjoyable.

The movie has some recurring jokes, such as self-referencing all the movies and licensing deals that come from comic-book superheroes. “DC League of Super-Pets” also has a running gag of guinea pig Lulu being insulted when she’s often misidentified as a hamster. After one such misidentification, Lulu snarls, “A hamster is just a dollar-store gerbil!”

Lulu has some of the funniest lines in the movie. When she sees the DC League of Super-Pets together, she makes this snarky comment: “What is this? PAW Patrol?” And even though Batman isn’t in the movie for a lot of time, he also has some memorable one-liners, which he delivers in a deadpan manner.

It soon becomes obvious that these Super-Pets have another purpose besides saving the world: Each pet will be paired with a Justice League superhero. PB is a big fan of Wonder Woman. This star-struck pig thinks that Wonder Woman has the confidence and independent spirit that PB thinks is lacking in PB’s own personality.

Turtles are known for walking slow, so it should come as no surprise that Merton admires The Flash, whose known for his superpower of lightning-fast speed. Ace sees himself as an “alpha male” who strikes out on his own when he has to do so, which makes Batman a kindred spirit. Chip is attracted to the fearlessness of Green Lantern. As for Aquaman and Cyborg, it’s shown at the end of the movie which pets will be paired with them.

Amid the action and comedy, “DC League of Super-Pets” also has some meaningful messages about finding a family of friends. Ace has a poignant backstory about how he ended up at an animal shelter. Ace’s background explains why he puts up a tough exterior to hide his vulnerability about being abandoned.

Johnson (who is one of the producers of “DC League of Super-Pets”) and Hart have co-starred in several movies together. Their comedic rapport as lead characters Krypto and Ace remains intact and one of the main reasons why “DC League of Super-Pets” has voice cast members who are perfectly suited to each other. Hart is a lot less grating in “DC League of Super-Pets” than he is in some of his other movies, where he often plays an over-the-top-buffoon.

Even though Ace is an animated dog, he has more heart than some of the human characters that Hart has played in several of his mediocre-to-bad movies, Law-abiding Krypto and rebellious Ace have opposite personalities, but they learn a lot from each other in ways that they did not expect. All of the other heroic characters have personal growth in some way too.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is a recommended watch for anyone who wants some escapist animation with entertainment personalities. The movie’s mid-credits scene and end-credits scene indicate that “DC League of Super-Pets” is the beginning of a movie series. It’s very easy to imagine audiences wanting more of these characters in movies if the storytelling is good.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “DC League of Super-Pets” in U.S. cinemas on July 29, 2022.

Review: ‘9 Bullets,’ starring Lena Headey and Sam Worthington

May 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Dean Scott Vazquez and Lena Headey in “9 Bullets” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“9 Bullets”

Directed by Gigi Gaston 

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the West Coast and Midwest of the United States, the dramatic film “9 Bullets” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people, Latinos, Asians and multiracial people) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A former burlesque dancer goes on the run with an orphaned 11-year-old boy, whose family was killed by gangsters.

Culture Audience: “9 Bullets” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching poorly made and implausible crime dramas.

Sam Worthington in “9 Bullets” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Fans of the 1980 crime drama “Gloria” (starring Gena Rowlands in the title role) might be repulsed if they have the misfortune of wasting time watching “9 Bullets,” which is a sloppy and pathetic imitation of that classic movie. It’s not an official remake of “Gloria,” but “9 Bullets” copies so many things about “Gloria,” it’s essentially a rehash of the same story, with names and locations changed. It’s truly unfortunate that “9 Bullets” star Lena Headey has gone from the glory of starring in the Emmy-winning “Game of Thrones” series to diminishing her talent by starring in bottom-of-the-barrel trash such as “9 Bullets.”

Written and directed by Gigi Gaston, “9 Bullets” rips off “Gloria” by having this concept: A “tough woman” with a shady past goes on the run with an orphaned boy, whose family was killed by gangsters because his father betrayed the gang. “Gloria” (written and directed by John Cassavetes) takes place on the East Coast of the U.S., mostly in New York City and briefly in Pittsburgh. “9 Bullets” takes place in the Midwest and West Coast regions of the U.S., with a road trip that goes from California to Utah, Montana and North Dakota. The woman on the run in each movie keeps repeating how much she doesn’t like kids, which is supposed to be the irony when she inevitably develops maternal feelings for the boy who unexpectedly ends up in her care.

In “9 Bullets” (which was formerly titled “Gypsy Moon”), Headey portrays a very jaded and abrasive dancer-turned-author named Gypsy (no explanation is given if that’s her real name or an alias), who lives in Santa Clarita, California. She’s a soon-to-be-retired burlesque dancer because she’s gotten a book deal to write her memoir, tentatively titled “Another Dance.” Throughout the movie, while she’s running for her life, Gypsy keeps her laptop computer with her so she can work on her memoir in between dodging bullets.

The movie’s opening scene shows Gypsy on her house’s front porch while she’s reading the book publishing contract that she’s received in the mail. She looks up at the sky and says, “I promise not to fuck it up this time.” It’s at this point in the movie that you know a loved one in Gypsy’s life has passed away, and she feels a lot of guilt when it comes to that person.

Because “9 Bullets” also tries to make Gypsy look sexy, the movie has her doing “one last performance” at the seedy bar where she works. The movie’s depiction of Gypsy’s burlesque dancing is showing some slow-motion shots of a woman’s barely clad rear end (it could have been a body double) and Headey doing some lackluster walking on a stage in a tacky-looking, tight-fitting outfit. Gypsy thinks that after this last performance, she’ll be leaving behind her life of working in sleazy bars and dealing with criminal losers, so that she can start a new life as a successful author who goes on vacation cruises. But there would be no “9 Bullets” movie if that happened.

On the night of this last performance, Gypsy gets a call from a friend named Ralph Stein (played by Zachary Mooren), who at the moment is frantically speeding down a street in his car, with his widowed mother (played by Marlene Forte) and young adult daughter Caroline (played by Stephanie Arcila) as passengers. Ralph is terrified because he has stolen money from a vengeful gangster named Jack (played by Sam Worthington), who has sent some of his goons to kill Ralph and Ralph’s family. Someone who’s not in the car is Ralph’s 11-year-old son Sam (played by Dean Scott Vazquez), who minutes earlier, got a call from Ralph to start doing the emergency plan that they talked about, in case they need to run for their lives.

Ralph tells Gypsy over the phone that he “messed up” with Jack, and he begs Gypsy to protect Sam if anything happens to the family. As Ralph and his family race to their house to pick up Sam, who is home alone, the car is stopped on a residential street by Jack’s thugs, who shoot and kill everyone in the car. Sam is hiding outside nearby with the family’s pet dog Moses (a Chihuahua mixed breed), so Sam witnesses his family being murdered.

Jack’s murderous henchman are looking for a computer tablet, but they can only find a laptop in the car, so they steal it before driving away. A terrified and sobbing Sam goes back to his house, where Gypsy finds him. Sam tells her what he saw, and they go on the run, with the dog coming along for the ride. (In “Gloria,” the murdered family had a pet cat, but the orphaned boys in both movies have a physical resemblance with dark, curly hair. In “Gloria,” John Adames played the role of the orphaned boy, who was named Phil.)

At first, Gypsy wants nothing to do with taking care of this kid. Sam has a clergyman uncle in North Dakota named Rabbi Stein (played by John Ales), who is resistant to take custody of Sam, because the rabbi says he’s overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of his own kids. And then there’s the fact that the gang is looking to kill Sam too. Rabbi Stein reluctantly agrees to take custody of Sam, but the rabbi says he needs more time to prepare for Sam’s arrival.

It’s just an excuse for this movie to have a prolonged road trip. Gypsy lies to Sam and says that his uncle wants Sam to live with him, but Sam senses that she’s being dishonest. Sam then proceeds to cry, whine and pout for much of the road trip. Gypsy does hardly anything to comfort him because, as she tells Sam repeatedly, she’s not good with kids. But when Sam mentions that he’s a cryptocurrency whiz, suddenly Gypsy finds that this kid can be useful.

This poorly written movie has an odd detour where Gypsy goes to Jack’s mansion, with the intention of seducing him to back off from killing Sam. Gypsy leaves Sam behind in a motel, but she illogically takes Moses the dog with her on this visit. She wants to convince Jack that she doesn’t know where Sam is. This “seduction” is just a thinly veiled reason for “9 Bullets” to have a not-very-sexy sex scene, where Gypsy has nudity, but Jack doesn’t. Typical sexist double standard in a trashy movie.

Jack and Gypsy were in a relationship years ago, but she dumped him because he constantly cheated on Gypsy and was too possessive of her. Jack now tells Gypsy that he wants to get back together with her, but she refuses. It makes absolutely no sense for Gypsy to have the dog with her during this visit. The dog is only there so the movie can have a heinous scene where Jack threatens to steal the dog and kill it after Gypsy rejects him.

Jack is a stereotypical American gang boss in a movie, but Worthington (who’s Australian in real life) struggles with having a convincing American accent. Jack lounges around his house, barks orders at his underlings, and he has at least one female lover who’s willing to do whatever he wants her to do. Her name is Lisa (played by Emma Holzer), who helps take care of Jack’s horses. Later in the story, Lisa has one of the worst-delivered lines in the movie, when she smirks, “Never send a man to do a woman’s job,” after she commits a violent act.

Jack has three main goons doing the dirty work for this assassination. Mike (played by Chris Mullinax), the bossiest one, can be as ruthless as Jack. Tommy (played by Cam Gigandet) is dimwitted and cruel. Eddie (played by Martin Sensmeier) is loyal and has the most compassion out of all the thugs. There’s a scene in the movie where Eddie could’ve easily murdered someone, but he doesn’t. Eventually, Jack goes on the road with his thugs to look for Gypsy and Sam too, because Jack suddenly shows up in a few scenes where he’s with his henchmen in chasing after these two targets.

La La Anthony has an embarrassing and idiotic role in the movie, and her questionable acting skills don’t do much to help. She plays a sassy stripper named Tasmin, who was taking a nap in the back seat of a Porsche SUV when it gets stolen by Gypsy, who foolishly did not see Tasmin when Gypsy stole the car. Tasmin eventually figures out that Gypsy and Sam are in deadly trouble, but Tasmin acts as if it’s completely normal to tag along with these two strangers who have assassins looking for them.

Barbara Hershey has a thankless role as a former Princeton University professor named Lacey, who offers her Utah home as a place for Gypsy and Sam to temporarily hide. How does Gypsy know Lacey? Years ago, Gypsy was a Princeton student until she dropped out for reasons explained when bitter and emotionally damaged Gypsy ends up telling Sam her sob story.

Of course, in a silly movie like “9 Bullets,” Lacey is not quite the mild-mannered retired professor that she first appears to be. Headey and Hershey are accomplished actresses who deserve much better than this dreck, which is filled with plot holes, nonsensical scenes (including one where Jack and his thugs easily let Gypsy get away), horrendous editing, and acting that ranges from mediocre to truly unwatchable. Headey seems to be doing her best to commit to her role as Gypsy, but it’s a lost cause because of the movie’s low-quality screenplay and direction.

And why is this movie called “9 Bullets?” There’s a scene where Sam lectures Gypsy, by saying: “You better let someone love you before it’s too late.” Gypsy replies, “I’m a cat with nine lives. I’ll be fine.” Sam asks, “What does that mean?” Gypsy replies, “It takes nine bullets to kill me.” At 91 minutes long, it takes “9 Bullets” this amount of time to kill any hope of being entertained by a movie that amounts to nothing more than awful and pointless garbage.

Screen Media Films released “9 Bullets” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 22, 2022. The movie is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on June 7, 2022.

2019 Primetime Emmy Awards: presenters announced

September 11, 2019

The following is a press release from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:

The Television Academy and Emmy Awards telecast producers Don Mischer Productions and Done+Dusted announced the first group of talent set to present the iconic Emmy statuettes at the 71st Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 22.

The presenters include:

  • Angela Bassett* (9-1-1 and The Flood)
  • Stephen Colbert* (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
  • Viola Davis* (How to Get Away with Murder)
  • Michael Douglas* (The Kominsky Method)
  • Taraji P. Henson (Empire)
  • Terrence Howard (Empire)
  • Jimmy Kimmel* (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
  • Peter Krause (9-1-1)
  • Seth Meyers* (Late Night With Seth Meyers and Documentary Now!)
  • Billy Porter* (Pose)
  • Naomi Watts (The Loudest Voice)
  • Zendaya (Euphoria)
  • The cast of Game of Thrones: Alfie Allen*, Gwendoline Christie*,
    Emilia Clarke*, Peter Dinklage*, Kit Harington*, Lena Headey*, Sophie Turner*, Carice van Houten*, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau*, and Maisie Williams*

September 17, 2019 UPDATE:

More presenters have been announced for the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards:

  • Anthony Anderson* (black-ish)
  • Ike Barinholtz (Bless the Harts)
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Neighborhood)
  • Max Greenfield (The Neighborhood)
  • Bill Hader* (Barry)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus* (VEEP)
  • Cast of VEEP: Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Clea DuVall, Tony Hale, Sam Richardson, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Sarah Sutherland, Matt Walsh
  • Gwyneth Paltrow (The Politician)
  • Amy Poehler* (Duncanville and Russian Doll)
  • Maya Rudolph (Bless the Harts and The Good Place)
  • RuPaul* (RuPaul’s Drag Race)
  • Lilly Singh (A Little Late with Lilly Singh)
  • Ben Stiller* (Escape at Dannemora)
  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge* (Fleabag)
  • Cast of Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Kylie Jenner

The 71st Emmy Awards will air live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 22, (8:00-11:00 PM ET/5:00-8:00 PM PT) on FOX.

For more information, please visit Emmys.com. Find out Where to Watch.

*71st Emmy Awards Nominees

 

https://www.emmys.com/news/awards-news/emmy-presenters-190911

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