Author: Robert Greenberger

REVIEW: Watchmen An HBO Limited Series

REVIEW: Watchmen An HBO Limited Series

watchmen-hbo-300x450-4609033The 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

REVIEW: Harley Quinn: The Complete First Season

Harley Quinn The Complete First Season hits DVD June 2The 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

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

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

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.

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

REVIEW: The Invisible Man

the-invisible-man-300x437-9167505After 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.

Win a 4K, Blu-ray copy of The Invisible Man

Win a 4K, Blu-ray copy of The Invisible Man

The reimagined adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, starring Elizabeth Moss, is now available to watch on streaming services, with the disc edition coming May 26. Our friends at Universal Home Entertainment have provided us with a copy of the $K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD to give away.

In order to win, we want the best, most inspirational (not salacious) use of invisibility. Be creative, have some fun. Your submission must be in by 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, May 26. The contest is open to North American readers only and the judgment of the ComicMix judges will be final.

THE INVISIBLE MAN follows a modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic monster character. Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) slowly begins to rebuild her life after the death of her abusive ex-boyfriend (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). But before long, she begins to question whether or not he is truly gone. In addition to the feature, THE INVISIBLE MAN delivers up twenty minutes of exclusive bonus content, including a chance to better get acquainted with the film’s leading actress: Elisabeth Moss, feature commentary with the writer/director and deleted scenes you won’t want to miss.

Hailed as ‘Certified Fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 91%, THE INVISIBLE MAN stars two-time Emmy®-winner and two-time Golden Globe®-winner Elisabeth Moss (Us, The Handmaid’s Tale). Accompanying Moss is SAG®-winner Aldis Hodge (Black Mirror, Straight Outta Compton), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Haunting of Hill House), Storm Reid (Don’t Let Go, Euphoria). The theatrical version of the film is currently available for early viewing on a wide variety of popular on-demand services as a premium rental offering.

BONUS FEATURES on BLU-RAYTM, 4K ULTRA HD, and DVD:

  • DELETED SCENES
  • MOSS MANIFESTED – Elisabeth Moss describes the physical and emotional challenges she faced while portraying Cecilia, a woman whose truth is constantly questioned by those around her.
  • DIRECTOR’S JOURNEY WITH LEIGH WHANNELL – Director Leigh Whannell acts as a tour guide through principal photography, from day 1 to day 40.
  • THE PLAYERS Filmmakers and cast provide an in-depth analysis of each character and how they interact with the unseen terror of THE INVISIBLE MAN.
  • TIMELESS TERROR – A behind the scenes look at how writer/director Leigh Whannell re-imagined this iconic character through the lens of modern technology and socially relatable themes.
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR LEIGH WHANNELL

THE INVISIBLE MAN will be available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM, DVD and Digital.

  • 4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.
  • Blu-rayTM unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
  • Digital lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.
  • MOVIES ANYWHERE is the digital app that simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Consumers can also redeem digital copy codes found in eligible Blu-rayTM and DVD disc packages from participating studios and stream or download them through Movies Anywhere. MOVIES ANYWHERE is only available in the United States. For more information, visit https://moviesanywhere.com.

FILMMAKERS
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Casting By: Terri Taylor C.S.A, Sarah Domeier Lindo C.S.A, Nikki Barrett C.S.A, C.G.A
Costume Designer: Emily Seresin
Music By: Benjamin Wallfisch
Edited By: Andy Canny
Production Designer: Alex Holmes
Director of Photography: Stefan Duscio A.C.S.
Executive Producers: Leigh Whannell, Couper Samuelson, Beatriz Sequeira, Jeanette Volturno, Rosemary Blight, Ben Grant
Produced By: Jason Blum p.g.a, Kyle Du Fresne p.g.a.
Screenplay and Screen Story By: Leigh Whannell
Directed By: Leigh Whannell

TECHNICAL INFORMATION DVD:
Street Date: May 26, 2020
Selection Number: 61210164 (US) / 61210163 (CDN)
Layers: DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9 2.39:1
Rating: Rated R for some strong bloody violence and language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Run Time: 2:04:20

TECHNICAL INFORMATION BLU-RAY:

Street Date: May 26, 2020
Selection Number: 61210711 (US) / 61210712 (CDN)
Layers: BD-50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2:39.1
Rating: Rated R for some strong bloody violence and language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Run Time: 2:04:12

TECHNICAL INFORMATION 4K ULTRA HD:
Street Date: May 26, 2020
Selection Number: 61210161 (US) / 61210160 (CDN)
Layers: BD-100
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 16:9 2.39:1
Rating: Rated R for some strong bloody violence and language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1)
Run Time: 2:04:12

REVIEW: Nathan Hale’s Alamo All-Stars, Major Impossible

REVIEW: Nathan Hale’s Alamo All-Stars, Major Impossible

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 144 pages, $19.99

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible
By Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 126 pages, $13.99

In 2012, Nathan Hale, the graphic novelist not the dead patriot, began a series called Hazardous Tales, starting with his namesake. Since then, he has released nine volumes, with the tenth due in the fall.

The series spans the years and focuses on the familiar and unfamiliar names throughout American history.  In each case, a trio of spectral figures act as narrator, Greek chorus, and the print equivalent of Statler and Waldorf. We have Hale the colonial hung as a spy, his masked hangman, and a British red coat. In each case, they take the middle ages reader through the story. Hey pause to explain historic figures, details, debunk urban legends, and much more. As a result, they are entertaining and informative in the best sense of both words.

2016’s volume six, Alamo All-Stars, has been turned into a larger-sized new edition with sixteen additional pages tucked in the back. These include photos of artifacts, the real people depicted, and other artifacts along with mini-comics featuring the history the Alamo cat. There’s even a section devoted to Phi Collins and his donating his Alamo memorabilia to the fort.

What most know about the Alamo is the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!”, and legendary figures Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett were present. After that, things get fuzzy, but here Hale walks us through all the players, the shifting alliances, and the eventual establishment of Texas as a state. It was nice seeing a different take on Juan Sequin, the focus of Jack Jackson’s wonderful Los Tejanos graphic novel.

There are frequent pauses for the ghostly trio to provide commentary, sort out rumor from fact, and help us keep track of the various Mexican leaders. I’m not sure how the intended audience will find the book, but I certainly learned a lot from it.

The more recent release gives us something far lesser known. Nicknamed Major Impossible, we are treated to the story of John Wesley Powell, a one-armed explorer who organized an expedition to explore the Green and Colorado rivers by boat, traveling from Wyoming through Utah and the Grand Canyon region of Arizona. The trip had never been done by Americans, well white Americans, and was a harrowing experience for the ten men who set out shortly after the Civil War, to continue mapping the American west.

Again, he carefully takes us through their trials and tribulations, keeping track day by day. There are disastrous choices made, difficult decisions to make, and the unknown around every bend of the rocky terrain. I knew none of this and was interested enough to finish it, thanks to the lively writing and drawing.

Each volume is well-illustrated and presented in muted colors, giving a nostalgic feel to them, and setting one apart from the other. In every case, Hale shows his research cleverly hosted by the Research Babies.

These are recommended from fourth grade up and will make useful tools well into middle school.

REVIEW: Bloodshot

REVIEW: Bloodshot

In 1992, every comics company had a guy with gun – DC’s Deathstroke, Marvel’s Punisher and Cable, Fleetway’s Judge Dredd, and then came Valiant’s Bloodshot.

In the 2010s, every studio needed a comics franchise to exploit for box office supremacy – Warner’s DC, Disney’s MCU, and Sony, not happy sharing Spider-Man with Disney, picked up Valiant’s Bloodshot from the Columbia scrap heap by way of Paramount.

In the intervening years, filmgoers had already been treated to an endless array of gun-toting, cool-looking figures from Neo to John Wick (who just happen to be played by the endlessly fascinating Keanu Reeves).

There was no particular demand for one more, certainly not one played by Vin Diesel whose range goes from A to B. From Pitch Black to Hobbs and Shaw, he’s pretty much the same guy, without the range of roles his rival, Dwayne Johnson, has managed.

So, Sony finally delivers a Diesel vehicle in Bloodshot and it was fittingly met with a giant yawn from general audiences and comics fans alike. Out now on disc and streaming, the Sony Home Entertainment film isn’t bad; it isn’t great either. What’s missing is something that feels fresh, a performance that shows us something different, and a reason to be emotionally invested.

Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is a dead Marine brought back to life thanks to nanotechnology. Fresh from the grave, he intends to kill Martin Axe (Tony Kebbell), the man who murdered his wife Gina (Talulah Riley) before realizing that the man who resurrected him, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), is up to no good (ho-hum). A lot of this smacks more of Deathlok than anything else and even that’s been recycled on television.

We race around the world, we watch him fight people, break things, got injured and regenerate, rinse, repeat.

The debuting director, David S.F. Wilson, was a good choice if you’re into production design and special effects, where the film is at least moderately interesting.  Where the film needed a more skilled director was to work with hack Jeff Wadlow’s screenplay, which he’d been working on for many a year, through several studios before someone wisely brought in Eric Heisserer to finesse it, but it might have been too little, too late.

Wilson doesn’t seem to know what to do with the supporting players including the cyborg jerk Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan) or the possibly intriguing KT, played by Diesel’s Fast & Furious universe costar Eiza González, who acquitted herself nicely in Baby Driver.

Despite the bland script and lackluster direction, Diesel gives it his all and is 100% committed to the part. He just isn’t given anything interesting to do with the character.

The film suffered from bad reviews just in time for the coronavirus to shutter theaters around the world, leaving the film to a streaming fate as it eked out a mere #28 million worldwide against a $45 million budget. Whatever plans there were for a Valiant Cinematic Universe may have become an unintentional Covid-19 victim.

The movie can be found streaming and in the standard 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD flavors. The film itself was reviewed via Moviesanywhere.com and the high definition performance was sharp, clear, colorful, and just fine making the movie look better than it is.

The digital and discs have an assortment of special features that are worth a look only if you liked the feature. There’s R.S.T. HACK: CHAINSAW, a set of four animated shorts (6:20) purportedly revealing classified information on CHAINSAW.

Before Sony enthusiastically provided the cash for the ending, an earlier and less interesting version was shot and is included here with optional commentary (4:26). There are three other deleted and extended scenes: This is What we Fight For (1:22) Why can’t I remember anything (2:50), and Eric Evacuates (:31).

Rounding out the extras are the standard background pieces including Outtakes & Blooper Reel (1:59), Initiate Sequence: Directing Bloodshot (9:16), and Forgotten Soldiers: The Cast of Bloodshot (11:13).