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: Wonder Woman The Complete Collection
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REVIEW: Wonder Woman The Complete Collection

REVIEW: Wonder Woman The Complete CollectionIn 1974, I was 16 and curious to see ABC try once again with super-heroes. One fine Tuesday night, I sat at and watched Wonder Woman, horrified at the liberties taken in the backdoor pilot. Cathy Lee Crosby didn’t have the looks or the costume and the most interesting thing about this was Ricardo Montalban as the heavy.

The network somehow still saw the potential in the character and commissioned a more faithful pilot, this time with a comics-accurate costume and perfect casting in Lynda Carter. In the hands of former Batman scribe Stanley Ralph Ross, the show felt right. ABC agreed and a series of Wonder Woman shows were filmed, set in World War II.

This was the beginning of the jiggle era of television, as prime time was filled with busty, often braless actors and they pandered to the women’s movement with female-led shows that didn’t fulfill their promise. Led by Charlie’s Angels and Wonder Woman, ABC favored lip-service to genuine characterization and action over good storytelling. As a result, we have a Wonder Woman series that is fondly recalled more for a catchy theme song and pitch-perfect lead than a good show.

I’m reminded by all this through the Wonder Woman The Complete Collection being released tomorrow for the first time on Blu-ray. Across ten discs, we get all sixty episodes along with special features ported over from the previous DVD release. These include pilot commentary from Carter and Executive Producer Douglas S. Cramer, Season Three commentary from Carter and three featurettes: “Revolutionizing a Classic: From Comic Book to Television”, “Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon”; and “Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Feminist Icon”.

Let’s start with the good news. The remastering makes everything bright and shiny. A series that is colorful in terms of look and performance sparkles. If you haven’t watched the show before or want an upgrade, this affordably priced set is a good investment.

Although the series looked more like the comics, and the pilot, set on Paradise Island, looks very much like Harry G. Peter envisioned. Ross should have brought in more of the villains. One of the joys of the Batman show was, of course, the recurring foes. Other than Baroness Paula Von Gunther (Banacek’s Christine Belford), her rogues are absent. Dr. Poison, Dr. Psycho, and others should have been considered.

On the rare instances that the show revisited Paradise Island, it’s interesting to see the variety of actresses to portray Queen Hippolyta (Cloris Leachman, Carolyn Jones, and Beatrice Straight). We also get a very young Debra Winger as Wonder Girl, oddly named Drusilla, and having zero connection to the Teen Titan.

Instead, we remain in Man’s World as Diana Prince and Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner), and company battled the Axis menace wherever it reared its ugly head. They were accompanied by General Blankenship (Richard Eastham) and Corporal Etta Candy WAAC (Beatrice Colen), no longer an overweight sorority girl, because back then, all women had be more average in appearance.

When the series shifted to CBS after one season and set in modern day, it was played far straighter with Waggoner now playing Trevor’s son and no one thought it icky both men romanced the Amazon Princess. Blankenship and Etta were gone, replaced with the colorless Joe Atkinson (Norman Burton).  He was gone after nine episodes and Trevor and Diana got promoted, with Atkinson replaced by Eve (Saundra Sharp) as Steve’s assistant. The international espionage angle made it closer to network’s other dramas, reducing its uniqueness.

Like Batman, the final season was the nadir, with a disco beat added to the theme and the stories getting weaker. It proved to be an anomaly on a network schedule that was heavy with cops and family dramas, no other CBS show was led solely by a woman (apparently only the purview of sitcoms). For comic fans on a lonely Friday night, 1978-79 was terrific with Wonder Woman followed by The Incredible Hulk.

Pay attention to the final three episodes, which was an attempted reboot of sorts, but not good enough, airing months after the season officially ended. The overall tone and approach are a marked improvement.

The series rewatch is fun just to catch the guest stars, young and old, some of whom I haven’t seen on anything in ages. There’s Roy Rogers, Gary Burghoff, Red Buttons, Ed Begley Jr., Ron Ely, Dick Gautier, Batman alum Frank Gorshin and Roddy McDowall, Russell Johnson, Gavin MacLeod, and Eve Plumb and her Brady dad Robert Reed. There’s even Martin Mull as the Pied Piper, although this isn’t the Flash’s opponent.

All three seasons ran at a time when all television was vilified for its glorifying of violence, which meant the super-heroics had to be toned down. Fewer punches and more bending of steel. Coupled with the surface female-empowerment, the show did what it could but failed to rise above its competition.

Still, at a time when no one was trying live-action heroes, this was diverting enough. It unfortunately was also the template for the shows that followed, picking up the title character and ignoring the four-color elements that made them so successful (see CBS’ concurrent Spider-Man).

The show is loved for its unique place in pop culture and this collection is a loving tribute. I just wish it featured the strong hero her creator, William Moulton Marston, envisioned, and the times allowed for far better writing.

IAMTW Announces 2020 Scribe Award Winners
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IAMTW Announces 2020 Scribe Award Winners

IAMTW Announces 2020 Scribe Award WinnersThe International Association of Media Tie-In Writers announced their 2020 Scribe Award winners yesterday. Normally announced during Comic-Con International, this year’s pandemic forced the organization to make a virtual announcement.

Additionally, novelist Jean Rabe was the latest tie-in author to earn a Faust Award, making her a grandmaster of tie-in fiction.

ADAPTED NOVEL–GENERAL & SPECULATIVE
Alita: Battle Angel by Pat Cadigan — Winner
Batman: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips
Doctor Who: Scratch Man by Tom Baker and James Goss
Godzilla: King of the Monsters by Greg Keyes

AUDIO DRAMAS
Diary of River Song – Concealed Weapon by Scott Handcock
Doctor Who – Companion Chronicles – Daybreak by John Pritchard
Doctor Who – 10 Doctor Adventures – The Creeping Death by Roy Gill — Winner
Torchwood – Sargasso by Christopher Cooper
Warhammer – Watcher in the Rain by Alex Worley

GRAPHIC NOVEL
Blade Runner 2019: Los Angeles by Michael Green and Mike Johnson –Winner
Doctor who—the Thirteenth Doctor: Old Friends by Jody Houser
Pet Noir by Anne Toole, Christie Yant, and Pati Nagle
Star Trek—Year Five: Valentine’s Day Special by Paul Cornell
The Wrath of Fantomas by Olivier Bouquet

ORIGINAL NOVEL–GENERAL
The Bitterest Pill by Reed Farrel Coleman — Winner
Murder, My Love by Max Allan Collins
Murder, She Wrote: A Taste For Murder by John Land

ORIGINAL NOVEL SPECULATIVE
Batman, The Court of Owls by Greg Cox — Winner (tie)
Firefly, The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove
Star Trek TNG, Collateral Damage by David Mack — Winner (tie)
Star Trek Discovery, The Enterprise War by John Jackson Miller
Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
Warhammer, The Red Feast by Gav Thorpe

SHORT STORY
Deadlands Straight Out of Tombstone: “Cookie” by Shane Lacy Hensley
Tales of Basil and Meobis Fresh Hells: “Cutter & Razz” by Chris A. Jackson — Winner
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: “The Girl’s Best Friend Matter” by Bobby Nash
Lethbridge-Stewart, the HAVOC Files: “Pure History” by George Ivanoff
Dragonband, Women of the Crystal Coast: “The Queen Slayer” by Jean Rabe

YOUNG ADULT & MIDDLE GRADE
Battletech: Rogue Academy – Iron Dawn by Jennifer Brozek
Halo: Battle Born by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: The Midnight People by John Peel
Warhammer Adventures: Attack of the Necron by Cavan Scott — Winner
Warhammer Adventures: City of Lifestone by Tom Huddleston

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REVIEW: LEGO DC: Shazam! – Magic and Monsters

In the right hands, the original Captain Marvel should be a children’s staple because the premise is so catchy for young readers: a young orphan is introduced to a wizard who bestows upon him the power of the gods. With one magic word, Billy Batson is transformed to Captain Marvel although these days, the legal gods insist he has to be named Shazam, which is also the name of the wizard.

Thanks to the success of the 2019 feature film, the Big Red Cheese gets the brick treatment in the just-released LEGO DC: Shazam! – Magic and Monsters, a charming film that properly brings the hero to his audience. There’s no doubt the creators have found the essence of the hero, as they have similarly done with great success across the pop culture spectrum. Here, we get the origin story and soon after, Shazam (Sean Astin) is invited to join the Justice League – Superman (Nola North), Batman (Troy Baker), Wonder Woman (Grey Griffin), Green Lantern (Cristina Milizia), the Flash (James Arnold) — where he frets about them thinking less of him for being an actual kid.

As one would expect, his two greatest nemeses – Doctor Sivana (Dee Bradley Baker) and Mister Mind (Johnny Rees) – show up to spoil the fun and provide the impetus for action and mayhem. Their plan has the tried and true formula of reducing the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes to children, so Billy/Shazam gets to lead the way, proving his virtue. And with a Black Adam film in the offing, this is a perfect place to introduce him, voiced by Imari Williams, to the viewers who will want to see Dwayne Johnson as Teth-Adam. To take on the JL, an impromptu Monster Society of Evil is assembled with Dummy (Taylor), Oom (Tatasciore), and Crocodile-Man (Baker). This is a take on the hero his crank cocreator, C.C. Beck, would likely approve of.

These films are great fun thanks to the tone and the jokes which range from the obvious for the little viewers to the groaners for adults, making this a worthy family-friendly film for all. The filmmakers know how to make things interesting and feel fresh while providing us with clearly recognizable takes on the heroes and villains. There’s self-aware humor, loving satire, and outrageous humor along with thrills. Heck, even Lobo (Fred Tatasciore) makes an appearance.

In many ways, the 81-minute movie, written by Jeremy Adams and directed by Matt Peters, is more consistently entertaining than many of the animated original films from their sister division at Warner Bros.

The film comes in a nice Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo, and the box set has a limited edition Shazam mini-figure. The only bonus features are from Teen Titans Go! — “Little Elvis” (which guest-stars Shazam) and Unkitty! — “Spoooooky Game”, and “Pool Duel”.

REVIEW: Watchmen An HBO Limited Series
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REVIEW: Watchmen An HBO Limited Series

REVIEW: Watchmen An HBO Limited SeriesThe notion of bringing Watchmen to premium cable was an enticing one, as people anticipated a more nuanced, expansive take on the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons maxiseries. Then, we were staggered to discover that producer Damon Lindelof intended on going forward in time and exploring what came next.

With some trepidation, we watched when the series debuted last year, but our fears were quickly erased. Regina King was someone new, the world, drastically different while remaining familiar enough. And then when we see Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) and later, Doctor Manhattan (Abdul-Mateen II), it felt just fine.

We open with a jarring reminder of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma race riots that, just last week, is finally getting addressed with recommendations for overdue reparations to descendants. The racial tensions evident here are projected decades ahead, to a time after Ozymandias failed to scare the world straight as seen in the climax of the graphic novel.

Throughout the nine episodes comprising the sole season of the show, out now on Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment, we bounce around time and space, telling multiple stories, all exploring themes of isolation, power, and redemption. Lindelof and director Nicole Kassell give us a nuanced, textured production that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

While the graphic novel was intended as Moore’s last word on super-heroes, a meditation on how a world would really work with super-powered folk walking the streets, here, Lindelof explores what comes next, how masked vigilantes were banned, and the police gained even more authority over daily lives. How does one serve and protect in a post-super-hero world? First, to protect their identities from the chance of reprisal, the cops now wear masks.

Our titular character is Angela Abar (King), dressed all in black and kicking ass as Sister Night. She and her fellow Tulsa officers, including the wonderful Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson), are now engaged in battle with the white supremacist Seventh Kavalry, improbably inspired by Rorschach, which goes to show that even in our fantasy fiction, things rarely seem to change.

In time, we come to understand that the original Hooded Justice (Jovan Adepo) was among the first to experience the racial violence of the day. As an aged figure (Louis Gossett Jr.) he provides a link to the original costumed champions that arguably began a cycle still being played out.

This is a world where Vietnam, not Washington D.C. or Puerto Rico became the 51st state and a reality where Robert Redford has served as President since the 1970s. When the violence gets out of hand, Washington sends in Laurie Blake, the former second Silk Spectre, played well by Jean Smart.

Meantime, the isolated/imprisoned Ozymandias is scheming. His threat simmers throughout the series. On the other hand, when we bring Doctor Manhattan back to Earth, his role feels disproportionate to his powers, accepting things as inevitable as opposed to knowing the odds and refusing to change them. His love for Angela is tender and provides the series with some heart and soul.

Much as Lindelof wonderfully pulled off on Lost, here, he devotes entire episodes to single characters without interrupting the overall flow of the story. Our understanding of them enriches the overall experience.

The occasional squid rain is a lovely callback to the source material. This raises the question of how comprehensible is this show if you have not read the original graphic novel or watched Zack Snyder’s mostly successful film adaptation. I would say it works well enough that the series stands on its own but is better for having known what came before.

The episodes look fine in the 1080p transfer, retaining clarity of color and sharpness in the dark shadows of night where a lot of the action occurs. The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track is up to the task of hearing the whispers and rustle of capes.

All the HBO special features are ported over to the disc including two new ones: Immortal Vigilante – Hooded Justice and Adrian Veidt: The Colossal King. The others include Watchmen: Unmasked, 2019 New York Comic Con Watchmen: Masked and Dangerous, Watchmen S1: Trailer, Character Trailers: Sister Night, Blond Man and Looking Glass, Becoming Sister Night, Notes from the Watchmen graphic novel artist Dave Gibbons, Rorschach featurette, Watchmen: Alternate History, It’s Raining Squids, Squid Shelter with Tim Blake Nelson, Andrij Parekh on Directing, Sadiqua Bynum runs, jumps and falls for Sister Night, Anatomy of a Fight Scene, and Glimpses – The Visual Effects of Watchmen.

REVIEW: Harley Quinn: The Complete First Season
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REVIEW: Harley Quinn: The Complete First Season

REVIEW: Harley Quinn: The Complete First SeasonThe live-action and animated originals found at DC Universe go where Marvel’s Netflix series chose not to dwell. While the twisted characters are as dark, the language and violence go further, with even more overt sexuality.

While it has an appeal with live-action, seeing this with Harley Quinn is disturbing. Seeing her animated form cavort through corpses, mass destruction, and friendship reminds us of her WB debut on Batman: The Animated Series, over 25 years ago. So, the first season of the new show, out now on disc from Warner Archive, is aimed at those who grew up with her, not their children.

Everyone is foul-mouthed and the gratuitous violence and mayhem seem to be the animators’ way of showing that they can do it rather than a story’s need for it. Most of the R-rated material is unnecessary and distracts from what is the show’s strength: its characterization.

Long before Margot Robbie was emancipated in February’s Harley Quinn film, the cartoon Harley (Kaley Cuoco) opened her show by breaking up with the Joker (Alan Tudyk), urged on by her gal pal, Poison Ivy (Lake Bell).

Harley wants to be a member of the Legion of Doom, but Mr. J explained sidekicks weren’t welcome. Nor were partners. Her desire forms the spine for the season, as well as evolving her relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime, culminating in a solid showdown finale.

There are plenty of other Gotham figures appearing throughout the series, from a horribly mischaracterized Commissioner Gordon (Chris Meloni) to a fun Riddler (Jim Rash) and tragic Clayface (Tudyk). Even JLA foe Queen of Fables (Wanda Sykes) makes an appearance. And yes, of course, the Dark Knight (Diedrich Bader) himself is a frequent guest as doe members of the League.

The thirteen twenty-two-minute episodes come from executive producers Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey, whose NBC series Powerless was short on funny, which may explain why the funny here is so uneven.

Harley Quinn season 2, episode 9 live stream: Watch onlineThis is about Harley’s growth as a woman; a strong, capable woman charting her own destiny. She has outgrown the Joker’s psychological hooks and has clear goals for herself. The buddy-buddy relationship with Poison Ivy becomes something more in the second season, streaming now. Those who remember her as the dependent, damaged lovesick companion clearly haven’t paid attention to her New 52 comics incarnation or the alterations seen in the feature films.

The trick has been keeping her likable enough for us to root for her and here, the writers have done a fine job. Aided by Cuoco’s assured delivery, this is a Quinn who stands up herself and is ready to commit larceny, carnage, and other crimes to achieve her goals.

Ivy, though, isn’t what we have come to expect. She’s not the ecoterrorist nor is she the gay best friend as she embarks on a heterosexual romance for a while, something that bothers both viewer and Harley.

The character designs are familiar enough and you can quibble with the appearance of some. This Joker seems to be bits and pieces from other incarnations and not to my liking but most of the others, from Batman to Aquaman to Riddler, are just fine. The animation itself is stiff and somewhat limited – the animated features spoiled us. These are certainly watchable and at times fun, but I expected a lot more.

The episodes are on two DVD discs with no special features.

REVIEW: Jaws 45th Anniversary Edition
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REVIEW: Jaws 45th Anniversary Edition

Summer has always been peak movie season and there certainly have been major releases before 1975. But a combination of elements came together in a perfect storm of entertainment that created something new: the summer blockbuster. You start with a stellar adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel in the hands of a young, still-developing but promising director in Steven Spielberg, a strong cast anchored by Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, and a fresh score from John Williams. Altogether, Jaws burst into the American consciousness. It rewrote the rules for Hollywood success, rules that only recently have been challenged.

Universal Home Entertainment is releasing a 45th anniversary edition, coming to 4K Ultra HD for the first time, complete in a combo pack with Blu-ray and Digital HD. The limited-edition packaging includes a lenticular cover and a 48-page booklet with a fine overview.

I am among a handful of Americans left to have never seen the film before now. One of the first things I noticed was that the film luxuriates in al the little touches, the background conversations, leisurely aspects of American summer, and variety of types. We’re welcomed into the community of Amity, which could be Anywhere, USA. Then, once the horror is revealed, the focus shifts to the trio of unlikely allies.

Spielberg lets the tension build with the first few shark incidents while letting the scenes play out. The longer scenes and tight editing combine to draw you in, and keep you glued to your seats. Verna Fields was a brilliant editor, and her touch missed; while Williams, two years pre-Star Wars, reminded us of the importance of the score. Both earned Academy Awards for this picture.

While I mentioned the trio at the to of the cast, they are surrounded by a really strong support team led by Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb (who co-wrote the script with Benchley), and Lorraine Gary. Scheider represents the audience, learning about the predator and coming to grips with the deadly threat, the everyman trying to do the right thing while dealing with the political and economic pressures brought on by the Mayor (Hamilton).

With Bruce the shark (the name given to the semi-successful mechanical version) as the real antagonist, Shaw’s Quint brings us to the darkness within the ocean and ourselves. His work was always strong and the 1970s was his heyday (The Strong, Jaws, Robin and Marion, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3).

There is so much I knew about the film before sitting down with it, I was concerned it would spoil the experience. Not so, for there is much I never had seen before. There is obvious loving care taken the producing this new disc with a stellar 2160p/Dolby Vision UHD transfer. The first thing you notice is the grain, something immediately connoting age these days, but you quickly adjust and appreciate the clarity. This is a leap beyond the previous Blu-ray disc. It is accompanied by a fine Dolby Atmos soundtrack, letting you enjoy Williams’ work all over again. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is equally good.

The 2012 special features are included here including The Making of Jaws (2:02:48), The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws (1:41:06), Jaws: The Restoration (8:29), Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (13:33), From the Set (8:46), and Theatrical Trailer (3:15). The Blu-ray contains Storyboards, Production Photos, Marketing Jaws, and Jaws Phenomenon.

We are reminded again how producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown took a chance on Spielberg, against Universal’s instincts and scored beyond anyone’s imagination. With summer upon us, and new films hard to find, this is a good time to revisit the one that started a trend.

REVIEW: The rest of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
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REVIEW: The rest of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

In time for the digital streaming release of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, I had the chance to see a digital version of the film which I reviewed here.

Warner Home Entertainment sent out the 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD combo pack for further examination. The feature itself is just lovely to watch on 4K, both audio and video are superb.

The real fun this time are the Special Features starting with the DC Showcase: Adam Strange (16:05). J.M. DeMatteis wrote a fine tale, tragically updating the story of the archeologist who found himself becoming the hero of distant Rann. We see Adam (Charlie Weber ) on Rann, too late to stop a Thanagarian attack that seemed to kill his wife, Alanna. A Zeta beam transports him back to an asteroid mining colony located cheekily in Space Sector 24601, where he succumbs to despair and alcohol. Until… It’s an interesting take on the concept although it has zero bearing on the comic (Adam is a blond!).

We then have Darkseid: New God / Evil Classic (14:57) as the creative team and others, notably Jack Kirby’s former assistant Mark Evanier, pay tribute to Darkseid, Kirby’s greatest contribution to DC in the 1970s. Other contributors include directors Matt Peters and Christine Sotta, DC Daily host Hector Navarro, and executive producer James Tucker.

The Audio Commentary – Directors Matt Peters and Christine Sotta, executive producer James Tucker, and screenwriter Ernie Altbacker talk the freedom being in the “Tuckerverse” and wrapping this reality, created all the way back in the Flashpoint film. There are interesting insights and anecdotes.

Sneak Peek: Superman, Man of Tomorrow (8:35) previews the next animated entry, coming later this year.

From the DC Vault – Justice League Action: “Zombie King” and “Abate and Switch” and Teen Titans: “Nevermore”.

Definitely not an entry point so if you liked the series of interconnected films, this is for you. Others can wait for the next standalone.

REVIEW: Silicon Valley: the Complete Sixth Season
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REVIEW: Silicon Valley: the Complete Sixth Season

Silicon Valley was a wonderful sitcom for HBO that carefully traced and satirically commented on the tech boom. In our world, the companies were filled with geeks, nerds, and weirdos who were suddenly making millions off bits and bytes. There are the outsized figures who become household names and the financiers hoping to catch a rainbow. So, of course, it was an ideal setting for a series and it managed six seasons, despite interruptions and real-world distractions.

And here we are at the end. Warner Archive has just released Silicon Valley: the Complete Sixth Season on DVD. While the show was about technology and corporate America, it was also, at its core, about friends so it’s no surprise that through the start of Pied Piper through the final episode we still have Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh Chugtal (Kumail Nanjiani).

We pick up at a pivotal time for tech as Congress has seemingly woken up to their existence and we find Facebook, Google, Amazon, Pied Piper, and their archnemesis Hooli speaking to a Senate Committee about data mining. It’s timely and important to see them playing with the big boys. Despite Richard’s protestations that Pied Piper would never collect user data, he is disabused of the dream when Colin (Neil Casey) confirms that it is exactly what they’re doing. And we’re off.

They have a bigger operation, newer, shinier offices, more people to run things, but the focus rarely strays from the core cast, and that’s as it should be.

Reflecting the tense mood of the times, as people cast a jaundiced eye on the big tech, we could enjoy the antisocial gaffes, childish pranks, and antics of this crew. As the season progresses, we watch the growing influence and value of Artificial Intelligence, especially as Pied Piper comes up with something that is huge. So huge that AT&T wants it but as they learn the lesson that so many science fiction movies and novels have explored for decades, once AI gets smarter than humans, there’s trouble on the horizon.

As a result, the final two episodes raise moral and ethical issues that truly challenge our team and we can see that despite all that has happened, Richard and Gilfoyle remain true to themselves. In a final bit, similar to the coda at the end of The Deuce, which ran concurrently, we jump ten years into the future to learn what becomes of everyone. It’s prescient and feels just right.

A lot of the credit goes to the cast, but they were selected by Mike Judge, who created and produced the series along with Alec Berg, joined this season by Clay Tarver as co-showrunner. The writing has always remained sharp, occasionally inspired.

These seven episodes nicely round out the series. The DVD transfer is perfectly fine if unspectacular and there are no special features included with this.

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REVIEW: The Deuce: The Complete Third Season

As a teenager, I walked the streets of Times Square, warned about its squalid, sordid nature. It was clear from the movie marquees that porn was readily available along with peep shows and prostitutes were visible on many street corners.

HBO’s The Deuce filled in the gaps in my knowledge by exploring what went on inside those buildings as it expertly showcased the pimps, prostitutes, porn producers, and mobsters whose lives were inextricably intertwined along with the politicians, cops, and reporters on the fringes. From David Simon, George Pellicanos, and Richard Price, they brought their expert eye and storytelling skills to the three seasons, covering 1971-1985.

The Deuce: The Complete Third Season is now out on DVD from Warner Archive and gives us a chance to reflect and salute the show. Produced by and starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, she inhabited Eileen “Candy” Merrell as a hooker who aspired to more and set against the rising tide of feminism in American society, did whatever it took to become her own director, creating a sub-genre of “smart” porn. We watch her hustle to raise the funds and coax her cast, including Lori Madison (Emily Meade), into doing more than moan on command. As Eileen fought for everything, including the price of her relationship with her son, Lori skyrocketed to fame and fortune, then became a tragic figure.

Female empowerment grows throughout the series, notably with Abigail “Abby” Parker (Margarita Leieva), an upper-class college grad who winds up tending bar and getting deep into the left-wing politics of the day. Similarly, there’s Ashley (Jamie Neumann), a prostitute who transformed into an activist. Their stories are as compelling and vital as are the ones surrounding sex, drugs, and crime.

While their story was one pillar, so too was the story of twins Vincent and Frankie Martino (James Franco), one determined to keep the sordidness at arm’s length until he could go legit, while the morally-challenge other went for the quick buck regardless of consequences. Both worked for Rudy Pipilo (Michael Rispoli), the mob’s capo responsible for the sex industry. Their interactions build to a series of, ahem, climaxes this season which shows how insidious the business was regardless of how the financial model changed.

By jumping from 1977 to 1984, where most of the season is set, we watch the arrival of the video cassette recorder, transforming how porn was made, distributed, and consumed. After all, as has been proven time and again, porn is always on the leading edge of new technology with its purveyors among the earliest adopters. It’s interesting to watch as people scramble to adapt, adopt, and profit. Some are good at it, others feel left behind.

In a coda to the final episode, we jump to 2019 and there’s Vincent, seemingly the sole survivor, the winner after walking a tightrope for decades. He’s alone and seemingly adrift ina world he no longer recognizes as he strolls Times Square, now awash in garish lighting to appeal to tourists as the ghosts of all he knew and loved to keep him company.

The eight episodes are on DVD and look just fine, if not as crisp as the original cable broadcast. They are accompanied by the short feature Setting the Scene: 1985 along with the Inside the Episode discussions that ran with the original 2019 broadcasts.

REVIEW: The Invisible Man
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REVIEW: The Invisible Man

REVIEW: The Invisible ManAfter its creative misfires reviving their classic monsters, it is understandable audiences were cautious about Universal’s latest offering, The Invisible Man. Thankfully divorced from that shared universe, this retelling of the H.G. Wells tale stakes out new ground thanks to surehanded direction and a stellar performance from Elisabeth Moss. The film was one of the few bright spots in the abbreviated 2020 film season and is out now disc from Universal Home Entertainment.

The novel was a product of its time, the science fuzzy enough to be accepted by the genteel readership, the thrills delivered through its gripping third-person narration, a change of pace for Wells, who was rapidly becoming the father of science fiction with his works. There, Griffin altered his physiology to become invisible but grows mad with his attempts to find a way to reverse the process. As serialized, it was a ripping yarn that has been endlessly adapted ever since.

Here, as written and directed by Leigh Whannell, the focus is shifted from the tragic figure to a potential victim. Rather than a science fiction or horror tale, this becomes a psychological thriller, leaving audiences wondering through its 2:04 running time whether the title character is real or a figment of her fractured imagination.

Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) is trapped in an abusive relationship with the unpleasant Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), until she enacts a long-gestating plan to run away. After nearly failing, she finds sanctuary for a fortnight with her old friend Detective James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is suffering a horrible case of PTSD, so frightened of the outside that the concept of seeking professional help (or a restraining order) is beyond her.

Freedom is dangled before her when word is received that Adrian is dead. But is he? Soon, she begins hearing things, seeing things, feeling things that suggest she is being tormented by Adrian but is invisible to the eye. In time, her nerves frayed, her manic tone suspects, she tries to convince James Adrian is back, invisible, and seeking revenge for leaving him. James is concerned and her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) suspicious of her.

Things build, the tension building with a quickening pace and you can see for yourself what happens next. It is a contemporary spin, for sure, with more a strong dose of female empowerment. While Hodge and especially Rain are underutilized, the film is really Moss’ and she owns it, bringing all her gifts to bear.

The film is out in the usual formats including Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD.  The 1080p transfer is very strong which is essential when the visual details count. The colors are sharp and the lowly lit scenes easy to follow. Even better is the Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

The Special Features are the usual assortment starting with a solid Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Leigh Whannell and followed by nine Deleted Scenes (13:24); Moss Manifested (3:54); Director’s Journal with Leigh Whannell (10:51); The Players (5:24), and Timeless Terror (3:04).

Given our limited theatrical choices in the months ahead, you would do well to catch this one.