Author: Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger is best known to comics fans as the editor of Who's Who In The DC Universe, Suicide Squad, and Doom Patrol. He's written and edited several Star Trek novels and is the author of The Essential Batman Encyclopedia. He's known for his work as an editor for Comics Scene, Starlog, and Weekly World News, as well as holding executive positions at both Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
REVIEW: Pennyworth: The Complete Second Season
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REVIEW: Pennyworth: The Complete Second Season

It’s pretty impressive that Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, who twisted Gotham into a funhouse mirror image of the comic book source material, got invited to do it a second time with their Epix series Pennyworth, purportedly the origins of Alfred. But which Alfred? And for which version of Batman?

Pennyworth: The Complete Second Season, with Covid-19 interruptions, finally arrived at the end of 2020 and is now available on a two-disc Blu-ray set from Warner Archive. You can decide for yourself if the series needed its connections to the Batman mythos, needed to exist at all or is entertaining. As with Gotham, the chaotic and uneven storytelling continues here in this weird, alternate reality of the world.

While it looks like the 1960s, the politics of England is decided more fascistic, and lots of secret organizations are having a secret war with the kingdom’s fate at stake.  In the first season, it was the SAS is battling the Raven Society for control of the country, with the good guys getting help from the No Name Society. We pick up a year later and everyone has received a promotion with the Ravens now the Raven Union and the No Names have taken a new title: the English League which sounds like a soccer club.

Alfred (Jack Bannon) has had father issues in print and onscreen, but here the stakes are higher with his father trying to kill the queen, forcing the son to kill the father. Already unsure of who he is and what he really wants, this act has rattled Alfred, who spends a lot of season two adrift. Things don’t get better when his lover Esme (Emma Corwin, now an Emmy nominated actress for her superior work on The Crown) is killed and he takes up with the wife (one-time Huntress Jessica De Gouw) of his former captain, Gulliver “Gully” Troy (James Purefoy). He, therefore, wants to flee the bleak London future and find the funds to emigrate to Gotham City.

Newly arrived from Gotham to work with the League are Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and Martha Kane (Emma Paetz), bringing us closer to the birth of the Dark Knight and Alfred becoming the noble butler. But first, they have to fight for seven episodes and what could have been entertaining Moonlighting banter, the awkward writing robs us of a good thread. By season’s end, they marry and, surprise, have a baby girl, not baby Bruce.

There’s a lot of aimless plotting going on as if they didn’t know they had eight episodes to work with and carefully plot everything out. By bringing in Thomas, Martha, and Lucius Fox (Simon Manyonda), too much bat-mythos is entering Pennyworth threatening to derail its ability to surprise us. Mostly, the big arc is dealing with Project Stormcloud, a “terror bomb” that smacks of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. It’s mostly Alfred and Dave Boy (Ryan Fletcher) versus Colonel John Salt (Edward Hogg) with the bickering Americans in the background.

As with the wretched Gotham, all sorts of storytelling possibilities are ignored in favor of frenetic pacing and lapses in story logic. In theory, a third season may happen and may find a new home at HBO Max, but no announcements have been made.

The 1080p high-definition transfer is perfectly fine with solid DTS-HD audio. The discs do not have any special features.

REVIEW:  Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
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REVIEW: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Reviewing any adaptation requires two trains of thought: is it a good representation of the source material, and is it a good story standing on its own. Frankly, I don’t play video games or watch much animation these days, so in watching the 4K Ultra HD release of Sony’s 2005 Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, I had to view it as a story only.

I do know how wildly successful and popular the Final Fantasy franchise has been through the years and apparently this seventh iteration was a real big deal once upon a time. So, I’m told the film begins where the game left off which means it has to recap enough for those, like me, new to this, and fast enough so as not to bore the diehard fans.

Apparently, the film left something to be desired and the 100-minute film was beefed up with more material and it’s this “Complete” version we have, now running 2 hours 6 minutes. That’s a good thing since this takes some getting used to. Apparently, the evil Sephiroth tried to suck the soul out of the planet, only to be defeated by Cloud Strife, but not before the major city of Midgar was destroyed. Now, two years have passed and our protagonist is asked to aid the world once more in defeating the antagonist, who has managed to send his spirit into the terrible trio of Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo.

There’s fighting, magic, meaningful exchanges, and action. Does it make a whole lot of sense to someone new to the franchise? No, not really. Too many elements show up without context so it’s a nicely produced CGI animated feature that doesn’t work for outsiders. Watching it can feel endless for those not in the know and for those familiar with the franchise, I’[m told this is a very strong, successful entry.

The film is released in a combo pack containing the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD code. The anime CGI animation is quite strong with striking visuals. The 4K version is stronger than the Blu-ray, especially with the color grading, but both have a relatively weak source material to work from given the film came out 15 years ago. As a result, there are some transfer issues, more notable in the Blu-ray than the 4K so it’s nice to have both. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese track is excellent, superior to the English track.

This is not exactly the prettiest movie ever made considering the inherent source flaws, the animation detail which is well below modern standards, and the bleak color spectrum content, but Sony appears to have done everything within its power to make this look as good as it can. Mild adds to sharpness and a fairly good HDR color grading run have improved the look of the movie a good bit over Blu-ray but do be aware that the steady stream of aliasing remains for the duration.

There are no new features, but the 2009 Blu-ray release’s special features carry over intact. These include Legacy of Final Fantasy VII (6:38);  Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII (23:55); Reminiscence of Final Fantasy VII Compilation (29:43); On the Way to a Smile-Episode: Denzel (28:07), an OVA focusing Denzel, set between the game and the film; Sneak Peek at Final Fantasy XIII (7:12); five trailers for Advent Children Complete.

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1
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REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1

Warner Animation has been more miss than hit when adapting long comic book serials into a 90 minute or less feature film. Thankfully, they finally learned the lesson and are adapting Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s thirteen-part Batman: The Long Halloween into two films. The first part is out tomorrow and I am quite pleased with it.

The overarching plot has to do with the serial murders of people connected to crime boss Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver) as the triumvirate of Commissioner Gordon (Billy Burke), District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), and Batman (Jensen Ackles) all occurring on holidays. The hunt of the Holiday killer propels events as each attempt to thwart the next killing fails, leaving the good guys reeling and Falcone scared.

Set early in Batman’s career, a recurring theme is his lack of skill and experience as a detective. This is hammered a little too hard and neglects the years Bruce Wayne spent training before returning to Gotham City to assume the guise of the Dark Knight.

The adaptation, written by Tim Sheridan and nicely directed by Chris Palmer, is more faithful than its predecessors while still modifying events, none of which are objectionable. There is a lot of duality seeded throughout but my favorite are the subplots contrasting the marriage of Jim and Barbara (Amy Landecker) Gordon (complete with young Babs and James Junior) with that of Harvey and Gilda (Julie Nathanson) Dent. Another nice touch is the stirring romance between the bat and the cat, as Selina Kyle (Naya Rivera) gets more screen time.

Loeb has a formula for Batman stories which started here, stretching out a story to ensure each key member of the rogues’ gallery gets used to help spur sales. But, as we see so many of them locked up in Arkham Asylum, it feels overstuffed considering where we are in the Caped Crusader’s career. And the extended use of the Joker (Troy Baker) begins to feel like padding, slowing the actual mystery. Instead, I would have preferred seeing more of Gordon and Batman sifting through the clues with Julian Day (David Dastmalchian), better know as Calendar Man.

An interesting point is raised that the Gotham underworld is under attack, not from Holiday, but from the increasing number of crazed villains drawn to the city or its protector.

The suspects are nicely given their moments, notably Carmine’s son Alberto (Jack Quaid) and rival Sal Maroni (Jim Pirri). Others are mentioned but we don’t get to them until part two. Speaking of which, we end the film on a fine note, not a cliffhanger, but questions left to solve and the viewer eager for part two, scheduled for digital download on July 27 and on disc August 10.

The look is wonderfully atmospheric and the thick outlines of the characters actually work given the subject matter. The action sequences are thankfully not overblown and the Batmobile gets some nice moments. All of this is well-supported by Michael Gatt’s score.

The movie is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD and looks just terrific on disc, with a good, solid color scheme, and no obvious errors. The key extra contained on the disc is the most disappointing DC Showcase offering of the lot. Sheridan utterly fails in adapting The Losers, a collection of World War II heroes who lost their solo strips. Rather than give us an interesting, character-based story about heroism and loss during the war, we get the trite visit to Dinosaur Island. Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner, Sarge, and Pooch are joined by the token Henry “Mile-a-Minute” Jones, and the Chinese Special Agent Fan Long. It’s such a wasted opportunity.

Sadly, there is nothing else of note other than the obligatory Sneak Peek of Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two (9:10). The disc is rounded out with From the Vault – Batman: The Animated Series: “It’s Never Too Late” (22:24).

REVIEW: Minari
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REVIEW: Minari

The America we know today is a country founded by generation after generation of immigrants, coming from pockets around the world. By the late 19th century, enough people had heard that this new country was a land of opportunity so countless families uprooted themselves and found their way here to start afresh.

In that way, the Yi family is no different than any other, making their story in Minari a universal one. The much-lauded film, out on disc and streaming from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, is both broad in scope and incredibly personal. The Yis came over from South Korea, first settling in California, but as we meet them, are relocating to Arkansas. Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) sees his future in the fifty acres of farmland he has purchased, not in the manufactured home on wheels that houses his wife Monica (Han Ye-ri), Anne (Noel Kate Cho), and ailing David (Alan Kim).

They are isolated with no neighbors and live far from the handful of other Koreans in the area, all of whom seem to work for a chicken company. The adult Yis sort chicks by gender, saving the females to become McNuggets while the bored children try to stay busy. As tensions and debt mount, Jacob agrees to bring Monica’s mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) to America to watch the children. She’s a character, playing cards, cursing, and incapable of cooking or baking, earning her the criticism from David that she’s not a “real” grandmother.

Jacob is trying to grow Korean vegetables recognizing there is a growing market as 30,000 countryman immigrate to America every year. But, like Job, the odds remain forever stacked against him. He is so desperate to succeed in America that he treats his marriage and his family as secondary matters.

The one who seems to suffer the most is Anne, on the cusp of adolescence, she is the one relied on to keep an eye on everyone else. She lacks friends and the ability to be a kid, doing her best, and only occasionally showing her frustration.

Writer/Director Lee Isaac Chung is fascinated by the experience and initially wanted to adapt Willa Cather’s My Antonia but relented when the estate protected the authpr’s desires not to have her work used in other media. He turned inward, using his personal experiences to craft this original tale. It is filled with small touches that only someone who’s been there would know, the stress, the isolation, the lack of connection.

He is commended for not painting the white folk in the story with one brush. Instead, the community seems welcoming. Jacob bonds with Will Patton’s devout Christian Paul, who helps him get the farm up and running. On the Sabbath, he is seen carrying a large wooden cross, which he says is his church, and speaks in tongues, but is not insulted for his beliefs.

This was a small film, easily overlooked any other year. Thankfully, it shone brightly with little competition. As a result, it won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance. It went on to earn six Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Yeun), and Best Supporting Actress (Youn), with Youn winning for her performance. The film also won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and another half-dozen BAFTA nominations.

The Blu-ray release has a fine 1080p transfer in 2.39:1. The film’s soft cinematography, with hazy Arkansas summer air, is well captured. The film has English subtitles for the colloquial Korean moments and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is perfectly adequate for home viewing.

The single disc features Audio Commentary with Chung and Youn which is worth a listen for additional insights. There is also the basic background piece Sowing Seeds: Making Minari (13:25) and some Deleted Scenes (3:18). There is also a Digital HD code included.

REVIEW: Shrek 20th Anniversary Edition
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REVIEW: Shrek 20th Anniversary Edition

The best thing about Shrek when it debuted 20 (yikes!) years ago was that it brought a fresh take on traditional fairy tales and got a generation of children to understand that there were more ways to tell these classic stories than the Disney way. The humor here was contemporary and original while still respecting the lessons these were designed to convey.

Now, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its release, Universal Home Entertainment has spruced up the original film for its 4k Ultra HD debut. It comes in a combo pack with the Blu-ray disc and Digital HD code.

It’s still funny, with Mike Meyers affecting a fine Scottish accent for the title character, paired with Eddie Murphy’s memorable Donkey along with Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad), and Vincent Cassel as Monsieur Hood. To protect the swamp home of the ogre and its other denizens, Shrek takes on the evil Lord, rescues the princess, and a fine time is had by all. The music sells itself and there are funny moments throughout, still making me laugh.

While the CGI animation hasn’t aged as well as some other productions, Shrek is still good to watch and Universal gets credit for cleaning it up as best it could for both the 4K and Blu-ray discs. The color balance is nicely improved along with the depth of field.

The DTS:X Master Audio soundtrack is perhaps stronger, so you can enjoy the music, dialogue, and sound effects.

Given the film’s smash success, it spawned several sequels (none yet in 4K) in addition to television shorts, music videos, and related fun. Much of it can be found on the two Blu-rays discs in the set. There is actually no new content produced for the anniversary edition, just collecting previously released material. You can decide for yourself if the upgrade in the film itself is worth the investment.

On the 4K Ultra HD disc, you can find several of the original Blu-ray features:

  • Shrek’s Interactive Journey: 1
  • Spotlight on Donkey (11:37).
  • Secrets of Shrek (3:50):
  • Deleted Scenes (8:01).
  • Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party (2:51).
  • Baha Men “Best Years of Our Lives” (3:08).
  • Smash Mouth “I’m a Believer” (1080p, 3:15).
  • Shrek The Musical: “What’s Up, Duloc?” (3:56).
  • Audio Commentary: Directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and Producer Aron Warner.

On Blu-ray disc 1:

  • The Animators’ Corner
  • Shrek’s Interactive Journey
  • Spotlight on Donkey (11:38)
  • Secrets of Shrek (3:52)
  • Deleted Scenes (8:01).
  • Audio Commentary: Directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and Producer Aron Warner.
  • Shrek, Rattle & Roll:
    • Swamp Karaoke Dance Party (2:53),
    • Baha Men “Best Years of Our Lives” (3:08)
    • Smash Mouth “I’m a Believer” (3:15)
    • Shrek The Musical: “What’s Up, Duloc?” (3:57)
    • DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox (1080p)

On Blu-ray disc 2:

  • Swamp Karaoke Party (2:51)
  • Far Far Away Idol (9:00)
  • Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos (13:06)
  • Shrek’s Halloween Favorites:
    • The Ghost of Lord Farquaad (12:34)
    • Scared Shrekless (25:30)
    • Thriller Night (6:08)
    • The Pig Who Cried Werewolf (6:49)
  • Shrek’s Holiday Favorites:
    • Shrek the Halls (28:02)
    • Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular (6:39)
    • Shrek’s Yule Log (30:19)
  • The Adventures of Puss In Boots:
    • Hidden (23:04)
    • Sphinx (23:04)
    • Brothers (23:04)
    • Dutchess (23:04)
    • Adventure (23:02):
REVIEW: Justice Society: World War II
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REVIEW: Justice Society: World War II

Comic fandom has crossed so thoroughly into the mainstream, that mass media is proving elastic enough to encompass what was previously considered the obscure. Case in point, the just-released Justice Society: World War II direct-to-video film. Here is a story focused on the first comic book team that finally gets the spotlight after making cameos and guest appearances on animated and live-action television productions dating back to Smallville.

I personally love the JSA and was thrilled they were getting a film of their own. Unfortunately, the finished product is not the JSA we know, nor is it a particularly good piece of storytelling. Producers Butch Lukic and Jim Krieg apparently started this project as a Wonder Woman in WW II story that morphed and was appended to the parallel worlds concept.

We start on what we presume is the DCAU world as Flash (Matt Bomer) comes to aid Superman (Darren Criss) but clearly, it’s not our familiar world because there is no JLA. As the Scarlet Speedster tries to save Superman from a kryptonite missile fired by Brainiac, he winds up piercing the dimension veil to find himself not only on a parallel world but back in time.

He arrives in Europe as Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru), Hourman (Matthew Mercer), and Flash (Armen Taylor), follow Wonder Woman’s (Stana Katic) lead. The initial battle sequence shows exactly why super-heroes didn’t directly engage against the Axis forces. The war would end in days not years.

Along the way, the modern-day Flash is slow to figure things out and the others view him askance until his older counterpart offers up the multiple worlds theory and then he’s one of them. Tagging along is a war correspondent, nicknamed Shakespeare, but it is actually Clark Kent, but a man whose adoptive parents, the Kents, died young and he was raised in an orphanage with a jaundiced view of using his powers for a humanity that has not been kind to him.

And of course, there’s Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), the audience’s human connection to the story. Here, he’s accomplished and heroic, but hopelessly devoted to Wonder Woman, proposing to her daily. He’s probably the best thing in the film.

As we shift into the second half of the film, the real threat is presented in the form of The Advisor (Geoffrey Arend), who has taken mental control of that world’s Aquaman (Liam McIntyre). He’s out to conquer all, which is a brutal way to end the global conflict. At least it’s a threat worthy of super-heroes. So, as we build to the climax, there’s death, destruction, and lots of predictable moments.

Along the way, the heroes are never given a chance to be developed as characters. Audiences are left wondering as to the cherry-picked nature of the team, why this Canary has the sonic scream, why does Jay Garrick know about the Speed Force but Barry, who comes across as a dim bulb, does not. Of all the JSA characters present, the one receiving the worst treatment was Doctor Fate (Keith Ferguson).

Director Jeff Wamester and screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin & Jeremy Adams could have done so much more with the source material, but what is presented here is soulless and unsurprising. The animation looks more limited than usual, which takes away from the enjoyment.

The 1.78:1 high-definition film looks sharp with good colors in what is a generally muted palette, bringing the horrors of war nicely to life. The video is nicely complemented by the audio.

Thankfully, the Combo Pack (4K, Blu-ray, Digital), comes with the far superior DC Showcase: Kamandi (18:03), which faithfully adapts Jack Kirby’s adventure series. Visually, the Kirby designs come to life and the story feels like Earth After the Great Disaster.

The director, producers, and screenwriters sit around congratulating themselves in Adventures in Storytelling (30:04), where they explain their choices and touch on the ideas they brought to the production, but it didn’t translate from idea to execution anywhere near as well as they think.

We also have Sneak Peek: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1 (10:29) which is being touted as being the most faithful adaptation from a comic story. It certainly looks great with strong visuals and an interesting voice cast including the late Naya Rivera as Catwoman.

Finally, only available on disc is the From the DC Vault: Justice League: “Legends, Part One” and “Legends, Part Two”.

REVIEW: Batman: Soul of the Dragon

REVIEW: Batman: Soul of the Dragon

REVIEW: Batman: Soul of the DragonBatman was enjoying a renaissance as the 1970s dawned. Freed from its ties to the ABC series, editor Julius Schwartz worked with writers Frank Robins and Denny O’Neil on rejuvenating the Darknight Detective, returning him closer to his pulp-roots.

In short order, O’Neil would rise to become the premier Batman scribe of the era to be followed by a notable stretch as his editor from 1986 through the early 2000s. His impact is immeasurable. On the side, though, he aspired to be a prose writer as well and among his works from that period was a collaboration with cartoonist Jim Berry on the 1974 novel Kung Fu Master, Richard Dragon: Dragon’s Fists (1974) under the pseudonym “Jim Dennis.”

As the Martial Arts craze was beginning its descent, DC Comics optioned the novel and had O’Neil write and edit the adaptation as Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter. There, he introduced readers to Dragon, Ben Turner, O-Sensei, and most importantly, Lady Shiva.

All of the above explains why the latest DCAU release, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, is as much a celebration of that bygone era as it is a tribute to O’Neil. In this original story, now available on disc from Warner Home Entertainment, we have a reality where Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli), training to become a hero, spends time in Nada Parbat. There, under O-Sensei’s (James Hong) guidance, he works alongside Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Turner (Michael Jai White), Shiva (Kelly Hu), Jade (Jamie Chung), and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox).

Each is there for a different reason, and while they train together, they’re not precisely close allies. Jagger betrays them all when he attempts to open the gates O-Sensei has been guarding, killing Jade in the process. The demon Nāga is nearly freed, and four of his servants escape until the O-Sensei sacrifices himself.

In time, each goes their way, with Wayne returning to Gotham City and donning the cape and cowl as Batman. When Dragon, now a spy, turns up in his penthouse, we discover that ancient evils are being stirred up, so it’s time to get the gang back together. Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton) is now the leader of the Kobra cult, determined to obtain the Soul Breaker from Shiva and free Nāga.

All the tropes from the martial arts films of the era are brought into play, from the music to the fight sequences, to the threat itself. Dragon here is redesigned from Caucasian to a stand-in for Bruce Lee, the clear master of the era. The film is a joy to watch, the action swift but not without letting the characters have their moments. Screenwriter Jeremy Adams does a superb job with this homage.

In the Batman: Raw Groove featurette, producer Bruce Timm discusses the notes from DC that their early drafts were too much Bruce Wayne and not enough Batman. That complaint still applies to the finished product. As he fights in costume, he stands out as an anomaly. Had Turner donned the Bronze Tiger mask, things might have felt more even-handed. Still, it’s just a quibble.

The 4k Ultra HD 2160p is pristine, capturing the colors and shades perfectly. The Blu-ray companion disc in the Combo Pack is equally good at retaining the palette and details. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is fine, if unexceptional.

There is just one original featurette here, but it packs some great material. Batman: Raw Groove (30:30) uses a pair of historians — Cal Lutheran history professor Dr. Michaela Crawford Reaves—to tee-up the context of the era, the rise of action films, and connecting the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts genres in ways I hadn’t previously considered. There is a good assortment of film clips from the Warner catalog to illustrate the points (although it should be noted, nary a clip of Lee, the father of it all, is present). Additional detail comes from Martial Arts History Museum President Michael Matsuda before filmmakers Timm, Jim Krieg, and others chime in.

Producer Jim Krieg’s Far Out Highlights (18:03) shows him at his 70s cheesiest, giving a far more personal perspective on the era and the resulting tribute film.

Sneak Peek – Justice Society: World War II (8:07) shows Krieg making his Walter Winchell impression as he introduces audiences to the first animated feature to spotlight the first team of heroes, apparently using the Silver Age Flash as the audience’s conduit to these bygone heroes. It looks to be fun.

Rounding out the Blu-ray disc is From the DC Vault (44:41) – Batman: The Animated Series: “Day of the Samurai” and “Night of the Ninja.”

REVIEW: Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas

REVIEW: Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas
By Sam Maggs and Kendra Wells
160 pages, Amulet Books, $12.99/$21.99

Sam Maggs has carved out a fine career writing imaginative young adult fiction and graphic novels. Here, she teams with artist Kendra Wells to tackle the two best known female pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They are sailing the high seas along with Calico Jack and having a grand old time.

There’s a four-page text section discussing the historic facts behind the pirates and its makes far more interesting reading than the simplified tale presented ahead of it.

Being a pirate wasn’t easy and it was harder for women. In both cases, Bonny and Read had to discuss themselves as men to fit in, with all the complications attendant to that. At the time, Bonny had left her husband and married Jack, only to fall for Read, thinking she was a he. After that, speculation remains whether or not there was bisexual hanky-panky going on.

Instead, we get a 16 year Bonny, plucky as all get out, who captains her own ship and goes on adventures with Jack and later meets Read. The British navy are seen as a mere impediment, a distraction from their adventuring.

The plot has many a side trip and we get contemporary social outrage over injustices that were normal life of the day, so you’re constantly taken out of the story.

The characterizations are 21st century, dialogue complete with emojis, and everything sanitized for your reading pleasure. This commits the same sin as Cleopatra in Space does, using the names for identification but none of the actual person.

Wells’ art is also too simplified so it’s hard to tell teens from adults. There’s too much Manga to the faces and none of the grit and texture of life aboard a pirate ship. That said, the color is nice and many of the pages are well designed.

While fanciful and colorful, this is a misfire on many levels and can’t be recommended.

REVIEW: Love and Monsters

REVIEW: Love and Monsters

2020 felt like a disaster movie made real, as we hunkered down from the pandemic, watched racial strife and political shenanigans raise the stakes, all culminating in a universal desire to either end the year quickly or calla do-over. Set against the claustrophobia of being trapped at home, Paramount Home Entertainment gave us Love and Monsters, featuring the remaining five percent of humanity, living underground because the surface was no longer safe.

Good timing. On the other hand, the film has been in development since 2012 and was scheduled for release right as the world shifted on its existential axis. Paramount decided to push it out in the few theaters open and then make it available for streaming or, as of tomorrow, on disc.

Most apocalyptic films are dour and depressing, aimed at adults, or filled with adolescent wunderkinder rising against adversity, aimed at tweens and teens. This film, though, might be the apocalyptic film for the whole family.

Meet Joel (Dylan O’Brien), one of the survivors, but not good enough to hunt and gather, but is relegated to being the cook, a necessary but unglamorous role. He misses his Aimee (Jessica Henwick), his girlfriend, while everyone else in his group has paired up. Chatting by radio just isn’t working for him. Miserable and in love, he decides to brave the elements and go in search of her.

Now, the world changed after we obliterated an oncoming asteroid, without factoring in how the fallout would alter the ecology. Animals, fish, birds, and insects all grew to mammoth proportions and mankind was no longer atop the food chain. Instead, they fell to the bottom as their ranks were depleted by the hungry hungry wildlife.

So, it’s no fun, but thankfully Joel encounters Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who guide him. Nothing is as it appears from here on out and while predictable in places, it’s also heartwarming and fun. The overall story is fine, not demanding too much of its audiences, which we definitely could use.

The film is available in the usual assortments including the $k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD combo pack. The 1080p transfer is excellent and there is enough of an improvement in the 2160 Dolby Vision edition to appreciate the subtleties that are brought out. The colorful world benefits from the Ultra HD. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack complements it nicely.

There is a perfunctory assortment of extras on the Blu-ray disc including seven deleted scenes (11:50), Bottom of the Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters (7:43), and It’s a Monster’s World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape (7:04).

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

The names of the legendary animators of the 30s and 40s have faded with time, except to the connoisseurs and collectors, which is a shame. Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Tex Avery should be as well known as respected as is Walt Disney, though these days, the latter is better known as an entrepreneur than an animator.

This is why we should love and support Warner Archive, for gathering the forgotten but still vital cartoons of the past and making them available in contemporary forms, which brings me to the just-released Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2. One a single disc we have 21 cartoons to enjoy, most of which hold up extremely well.

Avery, to those who recognize the name, certainly know him for his work on Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Bugs Bunny. But, after he moved to MGM, he continued to offer up side-splitting entertainment with characters such as the sexy Little Red Riding Hood and her leering adversary the Southern Wolf (voiced by Daws Butler).

Here, he worked with writers Heck Allen and Rich Hogan and their efforts hold up. Droopy Dog and Spike are also represented here. Standouts include “Cuckoo Clock”, “Magical Maestro”, “One Cab’s Family”, “The Cat That Hated People”, and “The First Bad Man”. Given changing social mores, the disc comes with a disclaimer that the disc is intended for Adult Collectors and may not be suitable for children to which I say, phooey.

The digital transfer is far from perfect and may disappoint those used to pristine high def reproductions of work. Sadly, a fire in the 1960s destroyed many negatives, limiting what could be used to make these discs and future ones. Clearly, the source material was in rougher shape and the best efforts were no doubt taken. That said, the color saturation is fine and screens well on a television screen. As I understand it, the source material was varied to generate the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, but they do a nice job so audiophiles may be the only ones troubled.

Nicely, there is a nearly hour-long Tex Avery: King of Cartoons documentary.

List of Shorts:
1. Little Rural Riding Hood
2. The Cuckoo Clock
3. Magical Maestro
4. One Cab’s Family
5. Cat That Hated People
6. Doggone Tired
7. The Flea Circus
8. Field And Scream
9. The First Bad Man
10. Out Foxed
11. Droopy’s Double Trouble
12. Three Little Pups
13. Dragalong Droopy
14. Homesteader Droopy
15. Dixieland Droopy
16. Counterfeit Cat
17. Ventriloquist Cat
18. House Of Tomorrow
19. Car Of Tomorrow
20. Tv Of Tomorrow
21. Farm Of Tomorrow