Author: Robert Greenberger

REVIEW: Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season

REVIEW: Sweet Tooth: The Complete First Season

I first discovered Jeff Lemire as an inventive cartoonist was with the Vertigo title Sweet Tooth, and to my delighted surprise, it got turned into an equally enjoyable Netflix series. And now, thanks to Warner Archive, the Complete First Season is now available on Blu-ray.

In a near future, the world has gone to the Great Crumble as a result of a plague known only as the Sick, coupled with the arrival of human-animal hybrids that engendered fear among the survivors. Most people blame these innocent creatures for the plague although there is no direct proof.

Puppa (Will Forte) saw the writing on the wall and went into the wilderness, raising Gus (Christian Convery) for the next decade. When Puppa is killed, Gus goes on the run, encountering the haunted bounty hunter Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). The gruff man wants nothing to do with Gus, seeing him as a nuisance, hinderance, and likely dangerous. Gus’ naiveté, though, turns Jepperd, dubbed the Big Man, into his protector and then friend. They travel together as Gus seeks the woman; he thinks is his mother.

Meantime, we get flashbacks to how hybrids were developed along with other storylines featuring those hunting the hybrids and others protecting their own. There are a lot of characters and backstory to cover in these eight episodes but producer Jim Mickle takes him time so the show never feels rushed.

Convery gives a winning performance and the largely unknown cast does a nice job making oyu feel their anguish, their hopes, and their dreams.

Thankfully, the show has been renewed and you can see for yourself.

The 1080p transfer is nice and clean, making for fine at home watching.

REVIEW: The Munsters

REVIEW: The Munsters

Starting in fall 1964, children across America could watch CBS’ The Munsters but come January 1966, they seemingly all flipped the dial to ABC and Batman. The superhero series’ smash ratings cast a death spell on the humorous take on the classic monsters, with the exaggerated look as perfected by Universal’s horror films of the 1930s. Fred Gwynne was a delight as Herman Munster, paired nicely with Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis. The sitcom transferred traditional family drama tropes to the residents of 1313 Mockingbird Lane and for 70 episodes, it was tremendous fun, revived for wildly successful syndication.

Ever since, there have been revivals in feature films, animated series, and failed attempts at series revivals. Now, here comes director Rob Zombie with his take on the classic characters, largely retaining the look of the original series, but in garish color.

The film, now available both on Netflix and disc from Universal Home Entertainment, lacks the charm of the initial performers and atmospheric black and white look. Over the course of approximately 1:50, we get an origin story for Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips), created by Dr. Wolfgang (Richard Brake), and his idiot assistant Floop (Jorge Garcia). [They appear straight out of the Hammer remake with Brake looking like Peter Cushing.] At the same time, Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie) has been seeking her perfect mate, when she sees Herman on Good Morning Transylvania.

What we know and they don’t until later, is that much as Fritz stole the wrong brain in the 1931 classic, Floop fails to obtain the brain of the second smartest man in the world but has, instead, taken the brain of Shecky, as big a moron as he is. There’s still Grandpa (Dan Roebuck) but added is Lily’s brother Lester (Thomas Boykin), a werewolf.

As the romance heats up, the gypsy witch Zoya (Catherine Schell) conspires to force Lester to have Herman sign over the house to settle his gambling debts. Ho hum.

It’s padded, not terribly funny, and the actors just don’t feel right for their roles. Maybe at half the length, with some judicious editing, it could have been a serviceable pilot for a new series or a special. But it fails as a tribute, a revival, and as entertainment. Perhaps the best parts of the film are the cameos from Cassandra Peterson, as the realtor, and the original stars Butch Patrick (their son Eddie) and Pat Priest (their ‘plain’ cousin Marilyn), who provide voiceovers.

The film, on Blu-ray, looks just as garish as a superior 1080p transfer. It is visually strong and well matched to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless audio track.

The only Special Feature is The Munsters: Return to Mockingbird Lane (1:01:52), a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. This is only for the handful who may have been entertained by the misfire. Zombie provides an audio commentary that attempts to show what he had in mind but failed to execute.

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition

REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition

Batman: The Long Halloween has been embraced as a superb Batman tale, a solid mystery story, and a superlative effort from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. It has remained in print since its arrival in 1996-97. Warner Animation tackled this in 2021, releasing it in two parts, which I liked when I reviewed them here and here.

The parts have now been sewn together into a far more satisfying single volume, upgraded to 4k Ultra HD, which incrementally enhances the overall enjoyment.

The 13-part story is set early in Batman’s career, with Loeb plumbing the Gotham underworld as established by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One. Interfering in Carmine “The Roman” Falcone’s (Titus Welliver) gang operations is the arrival of the Holiday Killer. Tracking him with little effect over the course of a year are Batman (Jensen Ackles) and his grudging allies Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel).

The trail pits the newly minted Dark Knight against his familiar rogue’s gallery with the addition of Solomon Grundy. Along the way, we see Falcone deal with his adult children with varying degrees of success counterpointed by Dent’s strained marriage with his unhappy wife Gilda (Julie Nathanson), and Gordon’s fraying homelife.

The adaptation is one of the more successful ones from the studio and edited together, is stronger. The 2160p is marginally better than the Blu-ray, even with the HDR10 enhancement added. There appear to be numerous banding and compression issues here and in the combined Blu-ray version, also included.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix for both 4K and Blu-ray are perfectly fine, though unexceptional.

The 4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD code combo pack offers one new 4K featurette: The Long Halloween: Evolution of Evil (24:56) with Loeb, screenwriter Tim Sheridan, producers Jim Krieg and Butch Lukic, and others.

The Blupray repurposes older features including


The Long Halloween: Evolution of Evil (24:56)

From the Vault – Batman: The Animated Series: “Christmas With The Joker”, “It’s Never Too Late”, “Two-Face – Part One”, and “Two-Face – Part Two”.

Bottom line: if you don’t have this yet, buy this version for an all-in-one experience. If you have the two parts already, there is nothing to compel you to upgrade.

REVIEW: Jurassic World: Dominion

REVIEW: Jurassic World: Dominion

I remember how perfectly John Williams’ lush score for 1993’s Jurassic Park set the stage for what was to follow. That film was imaginative, funny, scary, and filled with interesting doings. Since then, every sequel has paled in comparison, lifting bits and pieces of the memorable theme and elements from the first film. What filled in the large gaps were just…more. More dinosaurs. More chases. More corporate stupidity. What was a noble, yet misguided plan was undermined by corporate greed, a theme that was exhausted by the time Wayne Knight was devoured.

The Jurassic World reboot with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard was entertaining enough and the CGI improved so we could see more nuance among the species that were now becoming a global ecological threat. Add in some genetic shenanigans with the arrival of Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), you have some new tones to play with.

Director Colin Trevorrow, though, couldn’t keep corporate greed out of the playbook. His Jurassic World, Fallen Kingdom, and now Dominion keep the treadmill spinning without adding enough new and interesting elements to keep things fresh.   

The best thing about Dominion, out now on 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack from Universal Home Entertainment, is reuniting the original three— Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Allan Grant (Sam Neill), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)—with Pratt and Howard. The storylines converge at BioSys, run by New Age CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) who is not exactly greedy but blinded by his ambitions and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

Coming to their aid is mercenary pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) and Ramsey Cole (Mamoudou Athie), Dodgson’s mentee who seems to grow a conscience as the film progresses.

The breathless film features several set pieces but they all have the same tired feel because we’ve seen man versus dino/raptor before. The pacing is such that there seems to be no time for our heroes to eat or sleep, rushing from place to place. Cole magically pops up just as he’s needed which is more plot contrivance than a convincing story.

The best parts have to be Maisie getting to know her birth mother Charlotte (Elva Trill) through video recordings and the subplot involving the raptor Blue and its genetic offspring Beta. So, while it was fun to see the characters mash-up, there was little to show for it. This appropriately rings down the curtain on the franchise (for now).

The film is offered to viewers in its theatrical form along with an extended cut that is about 16 minutes longer with more dino action. Both are looking pretty sharp in the 2160p/Dolby Vision UHD presentation. You definitely appreciate the CGI creatures with this level of color fidelity and clarity. A match or even better is the DTS:X soundtrack, perfectly capturing every gurgle and stomp.

There are just a few featurettes, starting with the 4K short film Battle at Big Rock (10:17), which is a vignette of a family camping where they think the dinosaurs aren’t.

Additionally there is A New Breed of VFX (6:16) and the more interesting Dinosaurs Among Us: Inside Jurassic World Dominion—Together for the First Time (5:26), Underground Dino Market (4:59), Mayhem in Malta (4:32), and Final Night (6:52)—which give you a glimpse into the production.

Scary Real Animatronics is a five-parter that looks at the creature effects in detail: Spit Take: The Return of Dilophosaurus (5:26), Inside the Dimeetrodon (4:38), Creating a Plague (4:30), Passing the Beta (4:19), and Giga-Bite (6:26).

REVIEW: Power Trip

REVIEW: Power Trip

Power Trip

By Jason Young

160 pages/$25/Oldtimes Blue Ribbon Digest

Growing up in the 1970s, comic book readers didn’t have a lot in the way of extensions of their favorite characters. There was the occasional novel and ABC’s Super Friends, but really, little else. As a result, getting new stories or new versions of stories on an album featuring your favorite heroes seemed like manna from Heaven.

Power Records or Peter Pan Records filled that gap, beginning in the early 1970s and petering out in the early 1980s. They may be best remembered for the wonderful art produced for the album covers by Continuity Studios, the outfit run by Neal Adams and (briefly) Dick Giordano. They featured familiar vocal talent and the stories weren’t half bad. They were successful enough that their thirty or so releases were repackaged time and again, eventually eschewing vinyl for cassette tapes to retain the audience.

Jason Young grew up during the era and adores the ephemera surrounding pop culture, so much that he’s research, written, and self-published Power Trip, about the records, and The Wonderful World of Wax Wrappers.

He begins with the company’s history, which surprisingly goes back to 1928 and a plastics company that added Peter Pan Records to their output. By the 1950s, the company began licensing characters suc as Popeye and Betty Boop. By the 1960s, they moved on to super-heroes, producing a fondly recalled Songs and Stories About the Justice League of America.

With the rise of renewed interest in super-heroes, they launched the Power imprint and began licensing Marvel’s key players. Most of the adventures were taken from the comics themselves with some music and sound effects, with a vocal cast led by Peter Fernandez (best known for his work on the name coming to America throughout the 1960s, notably Speed Racer. Soon after DC’s heroes arrived in brand new stories along with the Star Trek, Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999 and other media franchises.

Young provides a page for each release, reprinting the album cover and other material (scans of the original art, source material, back cover, etc.) and a paragraph about the release. I wish he put a lot more effort into the text because information is missing such as which Marvel comic the story was adapted from or who did the voices or even who wrote the scripty (records seem scant but he knows some of this). He mistakenly credits Neal for much of the art when it’s clearly inked by Giordano and in one case mistakenly credits Jim Aparo. He doesn’t connect E. Nelson Bridwell, who scripted a few DC stories, as being from the company. He’s clearly passionate about the records but doesn’t use proper context or comics terminology.

For Star Trek, the fans always took these to task for making Sulu African-American, not Asian; and Uhura went from African to blonde Caucasian. He claims it had to do with likeness rights not being available, which was not a contractual issue back in the day nor can I find corroboration elsewhere for the claim. He also fails to connect Alan Dean Foster, who wrote many of the stories, with his writing the novelization of the animated Series episodes at the same time. Cary Bates and Adams actually wrote one, which is an oddity in itself.

The book is diffuse in organization and inconsistent in writing style and tone. This certainly could have used a matrix showing each story and the many places it was reprinted, the ultimate checklist. It would also have been nice to see more of the interior story pages that made these fun collectibles. The book, while passionate, would have benefitted from more text, a proofreader, and an editor. The 5″x8″ format also doesn’t let the material breathe. Only diehard fans of the material will find this worth the high cover price.

REVIEW: Tales of Great Goddesses: Gaia: Goddess of Earth

REVIEW: Tales of Great Goddesses: Gaia: Goddess of Earth

Tales of Great Goddesses: Gaia: Goddess of Earth

By Imogen and Isabel Greenberg

96 pages/Amulet Books/$14.99

Billed as being similar to the Nathan Hale historic biographies, this new series from Amulet takes a look at the goddesses throughout history. In this, the second offering from the Greenbergs, we get the Greek goddess Gaia. We have her story, including the creation of the world and its inhabitants along with her participation in the battle between the Titans and her offspring, led by her youngest, Zeus.

In a brisk 96 pages, we get her story along with a nice glossary and bibliography so enchanted readers can find more to read.

Today, adult authors have been rewriting the classic Greek tales for modern readers, starting with Madeline Miller’s brilliant Circe. It’s become quite the cottage industry and it makes me realize that despite being the mother of Gre4ek creation, Gaia is a secondary character in her own story and it makes me wish the Greenbergs focused more on her. They pick up after she exists, not at all referencing the chaos that preceded her, and they more or less gloss over the cosmic incest that resulted in other beings of great power that arrived.

We get the various beings she and her son Uranus brought to life, leading to the war between her children and Cronus.

The writing has some snark to it which younger readers will appreciate but they are also expecting her to be the focal point of the narrative and a far more active participant and here the book fails to meet that.

Isabel Greenberg’s art is crude and off-putting and does a disservice to the great beings of myth, from the cyclops to the fifty-headed Hecatonchires (a mere four heads are shown). The review copy was in black and white while the finished work will be in color which may bring more zest to the pages.

There are plenty of interesting goddesses for such a middle grade series and I hope the prominent ones from around the world, not just the more familiar Greek and Norse, get their due in subsequent volumes.

REVIEW: The Lost City

REVIEW: The Lost City

The rom-com was considered a dead genre when it began to consume itself, generating imitations that paled with each iteration, the predictability unable to overcome the star power. There have been a few sparks of life here and there, but as a film genre, it’s more moribund than not.

So, it’s a bit of a surprise to see one of its queens, Sandra Bullock, starring in a glossy, big budget rom-com after moving away from them for so long. Here, she’s a producer and star and at one point considered it dated given the seven years it was in development (never a good sign). She was right, it is dated and somewhat tired and still as predictable as one would imagine. Still, The Lost City is the first of its kind in a while and when it arrived in March, we could all have used something light and dairy.

The film features Bullock as Loretta Sage, a best-selling writer of romances who feels a little bothered that the readers seem to be buying the books not for her prose but for the cover art, featuring model hunk Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum). She is coerced by her publisher Beth Hatten (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) to take Caprison on her latest book tour, something she hasn’t done since her husband died.

While on tour, she is taken by an eccentric billionaire, and criminal, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), who believes her historic research used for the new bool can help him locate an actual lost city where the fabled Crown of Fire is located.

It’s Caprison to rescue but he’s just smart enough to know he can’t go on his own so he recruits a human tracker, Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to help find her. The action and mild hilarity ensue.

Clearly, writers Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee, and Aaron Nee (from a story by Seth Gordon) aspire to be as fresh and quirky, and fun as Romancing the Stone. The Nees also direct and it is certainly visually lush, but they fall short on the freshness. Bullock is fine, Tatum is solid, and Radcliffe is chewing the scenery with a laugh but it’s not marking any new territory in the genre. With so few rom-coms these days, and with Bullock still a crowd-pleasing performer, this is winds up as a slight diversion, a fine popcorn film where only the scenery deserves the big screen. This works just as fine at home.

The film is streaming and available on 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack from Paramount Home Entertainment. Given the lush settings and high gloss the story and cast deserve, the 2160p/Doby Vision UHD disc is superb on every level. It glistens on a home screen so every blade of grass and drop of water is pristine. This is a case where the 4K is markedly improved over the fine Blu-ray. We should be thankful that the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is equal to the challenge.

We have the usual assortment of special features, all in 1080p, none of which are extraordinary. We start with Dynamic Duo (10:42), focusing on Bullock and Tatum; Location Profile (7:09); Jungle Rescue (6:25); The Jumpsuit (3:41); Charcuterie (3:32); The Villains of The Lost City (5:29); Building The Lost City (7:23); Deleted Scenes (8:52 total); and, of course, Bloopers (5:33).

REVIEW: Adventure Game Comics: Leviathan

REVIEW: Adventure Game Comics: Leviathan

Adventure Game Comics: Leviathan
By Jason Shiga
144 pages/Amulet Books/14.99

Jason Shiga has been keeping readers guessing since his first Choose Your Own Adventure book, 2001’s The Last Supper. He’s gone on to produce similar works, including a wonderful maze for the cover of McSweeney’s. He’s back with a new one, Leviathan, aimed for 8-12-year-olds.

This time we’re taken on an odyssey across the Cobalt Isles as you attempt to defeat the dreaded Leviathan. These types of stories are hard enough to do as prose, made more complicated by making these graphics. Each page offers two to four options, keying you to go to the appropriate page. It’s cleverly constructed although you find yourself doing more page flipping than actual reading. This being a hardcover helps with the wear and tear. You may find yourself going back to the same page one once so familiarity can quickly occur.

The two-tone artwork is simple and easy to follow, with just enough detail to differentiate characters and settings. You are certainly not reading this for in-depth characterization and deep lessons on the human condition but it is a fun story with some nice twists and turn, seasoned with some humor.

REVIEW: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Seventh and Final Season

REVIEW: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Seventh and Final Season

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow didn’t start off being an off-the-wall ensemble, but as the various actors’ comedic talents lightened the dire circumstances, the producers pivoted and leaned into the absurdity. As a result, it became one of the freshest concepts on the CW, super-heroic action without as much angst (or shadow). When it worked, it was very entertaining but that came sporadically, oftentimes getting silly when they needed more restraint.

Still, the lovable ever-changing band of heroes has endured through seven seasons and unlike many shows, ended on a high note. All thirteen episodes of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Seventh and Final Season can be enjoyed on the Blu-ray box set from Warner Home Entertainment.

When last we left our stalwart misfits, a Waverider popped into the sky and destroyed the Waverider they were using. Now stranded in 1925, they have to adapt and find a way home. This leads them on a cross-country jaunt to find Dr. Gwyn Davies (Matt Ryan), the inventor of time travel. Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) and Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) are dubbed the Bullet Blondes, sisters in crime, prompting the nascent FBI to chase them, including J. Edgar Hoover (Giacomo Baessato), who turns out to be a robot suggesting something sinister is happening.  They also nicely handle the racism and sexism of the era.

Along the way, everyone gets their moment to shine as being stuck in one time period allows the writers to actually have the characters interact in new ways, deepening relationships. The odd relationship between Nate (Nick Zano) and Zari/Zari 2.0 (Tala Ashe) is resolved in a satisfactory manner. The odd friendship between Spooner (Lisseth Chavez) and Astra (Olivia Swann) is nicely handled. The best addition for this final season is Amy Louise Pemberton finally getting screentime as the AI Gideon made manifest thanks to a magical oops from Astra. Her fish-out-of-water naivete is refreshing. A less welcome addition was the return of Bishop (Raffi Barsoumian), who I just find annoying.

There is a very nicely handled 100th episode, directed by Lotz, that brings back Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée), Jefferson “Jax” Jackson (Franz Drameh), Martin Stein (Victor Garber), Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel), and even Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvil) in a delightful way.

As things begin to wrap up in this short season, we get the sense that the crew was veering away from recognizable DC Comics sources. As a result, Donald Faison turning up as Booster Gold is a nice twist, although I wish more were done with him.

The frustrating part of the final episode is the tag, which leaves things in disarray. A risky gambit from the Berlanti stable knowing the CW was changing and DC’s shows were in danger. Sure enough, the cancellation came weeks after the final episode aired.

The shows look terrific with a solid 1080p high definition transfer with an equally fine DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track so home viewing will be enjoyable. The episodes are supported with the usually funny Gag Reel, some deleted scenes, the 2021 SDCC Legends panel, and a short featurette on the 100th episode.

REVIEW: Batwoman: The Complete Third Season

REVIEW: Batwoman: The Complete Third Season

From the outset, the CW’s Batwoman series was one of the better offerings, thanks to a strong visual sensibility and a winning performance from Rachel Skarsten as the damaged Alice. And like every other Arrowverse show, it threatened to suffer from character bloat by the end of its second season. Thankfully, supernumerary characters and plot points were jettisoned and Javicia Leslie, as Ryan Wilder, made Batwoman her own character after Ruby Rose’s departure.

Season three, therefore, offered a lot of promise and across thirteen episodes we saw the show flirt with good, solid storytelling, too often succumbing to mind-numbing plot holes and illogic. It suffered from being hampered by the idiotic notion that Circe could waltz into the Batcave and make off with Batman’s greatest rogue weapons, all neatly fitting into a duffel bag.

We open with Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) blackmailing Batwoman and Alice into tracking down and recovering these deadly weapons. As a result, the first half of the season has them chasing around to collect things like Mad Hatter’s hat and Mr. Freeze’s gun.

The real drama is the revelation that Ryan Wilder’s birth mother is located and she turns out to be CEO Jada Jett (Robin Givens). They snap and verbally spar with one another until all the rough edges are sanded off and they become allies, even friends, draining the drama. Instead, the season’s real threat comes from her son Marquis Jet (Nick Creegan), who is jealous and unstable, evolving into Batwoman’s Joker. His ultimate threat is straight from the 1989 feature film and pales in comparison.

The problem, of course, is that it reduces the need for Alice to be the crazy one on the show. She, instead, befriends Mary (Nicole Kang) and they go on a road trip as Mary is infected by Poison Ivy and she kills, a traumatic issue that carries her for the remainder of the show.

Supporting everyone while working through his own issues is Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), who desperately wants in on the fun as Batwing but has the psychological block of wanting his dead father’s approval. Also running around is Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), seeking a place post-Crow life, seeking comfort first in Montoya’s arms, then finally getting it on with Wilder, making them a power couple.

There are plenty of interesting moments for each character, but the collective thirteen episodes are more mess than compelling drama. A stronger season arc without the need for a faux-Joker, a corporate battle between mother and daughter overlayed atop a serious threat, would have been far better.

The season ended with a hint of more danger to come but in a wholesale change of direction, the show was canceled along with other DC series. We now have the three-disc Blu-ray set, complete with DVD and Digital HD code courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment.

Every episode is included along with a handful of Deleted Scenes, a short Gag Real, and a featurette: Batwing: A Hero’s Journey.