Category: Reviews

REVIEW: Superman: Red Son

REVIEW: Superman: Red Son

REVIEW: Superman: Red SonThe best of DC Comics’ Elseworlds stories where when the writers challenged the conventional wisdom, upending how we envisioned our heroes. Among the more celebrated of these stories was Mark Millar and Dave Johnson’s Superman: Red Son, imagining the Kryptonian rocket ship landing in Soviet Russia, not Kansas.

It has long been on people’s wish list for adaptation as either a live-action or animated feature. Those wishes have finally been granted in one of Warner Animation’s more successful adaptations. The film is out now from Warner Home Entertainment in all the usual formats including the popular 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD combo.

Superman (Jason Isaacs) arrives in the late 1930s and by the time his powers begin to manifest with his adolescence, we’re on the tail end of World War II and the arrival of Joseph Stalin’s (William Salyers) Iron Curtain. With a super-powered loyalist, Stalin manages to exert even greater influence over his people and the world at large. America may have introduced the atomic bomb, but they were clearly behind in the super-powers arms race. Presidents began to rely on brilliant industrialist Lex Luthor (Diedrich Bader) to close that gap. He’s encouraged by his reporter wife Lois Lane (Amy Acker).

Superman: Red Son review: A refreshing revisionist rendition of a Russian Man of SteelThe timeline is altered from our world since Stalin died in 1953 but is still alive when the planet was being orbited by multiple Russian satellites. When the Man of Steel arrives in America to save it from a failed Russian satellite, he is shown proof of Stalin’s atrocities, including an underground slave labor camp for political dissidents, including his childhood friend Svetlana Winter Ave Zoli). In his anger, Superman kills Stalin and tries to do the right thing, further spreading the Communist ideal to countries around the world.

In time, he and Princess Diana (Vanessa Marshall), ambassador from Themyscira, form a friendship where she checks his idealism with doses of realism. Over the years, he grows more strident and blindered, eventually costing him her loyalty. Other dissidents arise, including Batman (Roger Craig Smith), but the bigger threat to his rule is the extraterrestrial Brainiac (Paul Williams), which shrinks Stalingrad before he subdues and seemingly reprograms the alien tech to do his bidding.

Human nature has proven Communism to be an unattainable goal and here, even a super-powered idealist cannot make it work. He is opposed by Democratic ideals, positioned here as the one true form of government; a facsimile made from his DNA, and that pesky Bat. Everything builds up until there’s betrayal, realization, catharsis, and genuine heroism.

Batman Kills More People in New Superman: Red Son ClipIt’s an exceedingly well told tale thanks to a solid script from J.M. DeMatteis and strong direction from Sam Liu, who finally has tempered some of his action excesses in favor of better character moments. Frequent composer Frederik Wiedmann turns in an excellent score.

The UHD’s 2160p transfer is visibly superior to the Blu-ray (not that its bad), but the color palette is well-captured here. This gray world is nicely depicted and looks terrific.  The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track captures the booms, sound effects, and music quite well.

The Special Features have fallen into a predictable pattern. We start off with another wonderful installment of the DC Showcase shorts. Here we have a Phantom Stranger (15:07) installment, set in the psychedelic era, just when the feature was being revived by DC. Then we have the routine look at the story underlying the Elseworlds tale: Cold Red War (16:57) as Dave Johnson, Mike Carlin, Sam Liu and others from the crew talk about the source material. Thankfully they also brought on screen several people to address the real history, including history professors Miriam Neirick, Ph.D. and Michaela Crawford Reaves, Ph.D.

Additionally, there’s a useful, abbreviated motion comic (6:03) version of the graphic novel and Sneak Peek: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (10:23), which is being billed as the final installment in this incarnation of the animated continuity.

The disc is rounded out with older previews and the two-part Justice League episode “A Better World”.

REVIEW: Titans: The Complete Second Season

REVIEW: Titans: The Complete Second Season

REVIEW: Titans: The Complete Second SeasonDC Universe’s Titans series is maddeningly uneven. Its second season, out now on disc for those unwilling to buy the service, is perhaps slightly better than its inaugural outing but it’s still a mess.

Let’s start with the fact that everyone behind the camera doesn’t understand Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), so they depict him as bitter and angry, lost and without a clear sense of self. He was never like that in the comics and this is jarring and not terribly well thought through. During the season he is haunted by the vision of Bruce Wayne (Ian Glen), who seems far less brooding than one would expect an aging Batman to be.

The final episode shot for season one is used to open season two as Dick, Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), Hank Hall (Alan Ritchson), Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), Kory Anders (Anna Diop), Jason Todd (Curran Walters), and Rachel (Teagan Croft) face off against Trigon (Seamus Dever). Once his threat is easily dispatched, the team go their separate ways for most of the season.

Titans in the comics, whether under Bob Haney, Marv Wolfman, or Geoff Johns, worked best when they were together, loving, laughing, and fighting as a surrogate family unit. Instead, we have multiple storylines going on that allows them to introduce Conner Kent (Joshua Orpin), Deathstroke/Slade Wilson (Esai Morales), his son, Jericho (Chella Man), and daughter, Rose (Chelsea Zhang). Slade wants revenge against Dick for Jericho’s injuries while Rose was sent to infiltrate and betray the team in a variation of the classic storyline “The Judas Contract”.

It never quite gels and comes together as it needs to although Dick finally forges his Nightwing identity, just in time for a member of the team to be needlessly killed. There are times I think the best character in the show is Krypto, who never gets enough screen time.

A third season is in the works and one can hope they learn their lessons and grow rather than retreat.

The 1080p transfer is crisp which is good considering how dark the series is, even in daytime. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is a match if not a touch better so you’re in for a good viewing experience.

The 13 episodes are accompanied by one Special Feature: Jason Todd – Fate by the Fans (11:52), which examines the disastrous call in stunt that doomed Jason Todd to a grisly death in the best-selling “Death in the Family” storyline from 1989.

REVIEW: Frozen II

REVIEW: Frozen II

REVIEW: Frozen IIBetween Walt Disney’s death in 1966 and 1988’s released of Oliver and Company, the namesake company’s animated output was stale, unimaginative, and paralyzed by execs whose manta was “What would Walt do?” Then came a second Golden Age of animation and generations have been entertained anew as they embraced bolder storytelling, more diverse characters, and even CGI versus cel animation.

And yet, I wonder how Walt would have felt about sequels. The direct to video sequels to films like The Lion King were sheer cash grabs and diluted the core properties. He would have been pleasantly surprised at how good the Pixar sequels to Toy Story have been. But, would he have approved a Frozen II? We’ll never know and it had to be a risk to bring a second adventure to the big screen considering the phenomenal success of the 2013 original.

Thankfully, the current team didn’t rush out a hasty sequel to squeeze every last nickel from their audience. Instead, they took their time to ensure a sequel was strong enough to handle the pent up expectations. There was no way the sequel, out now on disc from Disney Home Entertainment, could measure up but one would have hoped for something with a bit more zest.

The movie is pleasant enough as it builds on the world established in the original, giving us insight to the politics that beset Arendelle, which Else (Idina Menzel) now governs. She hears a call, one last heard in childhood, that brings her to the mythic forest. Accompanied by Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), the adventure begins. They find a misty barrier and once they pierce it, they find Arendelle’s long lost warriors, including Mattias (Sterling K. Brown). Secrets are revealed, the true nature of the conflict with Northuldra included, and the Queen must sort things out.

There are gasps and guffaws and the overall story is a good one, just not great and far from magical. Partly it’s familiarity, and partly there was no way they could live up to the anticipation.

The 2160p is a step above the Blu-ray but not enough to justify the extra cost (the combo pack here is your friend). Colors and details are crystal clear, the animated figures move fluidly and the effects are strong. Both 4K and Blu-ray come with DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 or Dolby Atmos track and they both sound strong, but could be better.

The Special Features are usually where Disney shines, especially for their younger viewers but here it’s all just so ordinary. The 4K disc merely contains the movie with a karaoke-style lyric track. The rest are on the Blu-ray and there are plenty:

Outtakes (2:26) from the voice recording sessions; Did You Know??? (4:27), The Spirits of Frozen 2 (12:02), Scoring a Sequel (3:49); Deleted Scenes (17:58) with Director Chris Buck and Writer/Director Jennifer Lee introductions; Deleted Songs, including “Home” (4:22) and “I Wanna Get This Right” (6:24); two Gale Tests (3:56); “Into the Unknown” (3:07) seamlessly intercut in 29 Languages, which inspired the wonderful piece we see at the Academy Awards; Music Videos: “Into the Unknown” (Panic! At the Disco Version) (3:16) and “Lost in the Woods” (Weezer Version) (3:06).

REVIEW: Knives Out

REVIEW: Knives Out

­After a lackluster summer where there were far more misses than hits, audiences were hungry for something fresh, something different. Lionsgate met that need with the surprise hit, Knives Out, which is out now on disc.

It’s a contemporary take on the kind of murder mysteries Agatha Christie made a career out of and like the film adaptations of her works, this comes with a stellar cast. Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed the feature, serves up an incredibly enjoyable tale, letting familiar performers work outside their familiar character types.

We have world-famous author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) and his immediate family gathering for an 80th birthday party, but by midnight, he’s dead with all four children suspects in the crime.

Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and a trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), perhaps the weakest written characters in the film, have been taking statements and investigating but seem to be getting nowhere. Sitting quietly in the shadows, observing is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a private investigator mysteriously hired to ferret out the real killer.

Could it be Harlan’s daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), or her husband Richard (Don Johnson) or even Richard’s ne’er-do-well son Hugh Ransom (Chris Evans)? Maybe it was Harlan’s son Walt (Michael Shannon) or his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome), or Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette), the widow of Harlan’s deceased son Neil. Or we could skip a generation and cast a jaundiced eye at Walt and Donna’s alt-right son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Joni’s daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), or even Harlan’s elderly mother Wanetta (K Callan).

Helping fill in some of the gaps while hiding secrets of her own is Harlan’s nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), who the family treated as one of their own until their true selves were teased out through Blanc’s questioning.

We get plenty of flashbacks until the truth is revealed to the audience and then the fun begins with the weakest car chase of all time, projectile vomiting, and plenty of scenery-chewing. A great time can be had with this delight of a film.

Johnson clearly had fun crafting this and his cast gave it their all, turning de Armas, next seen with Craig in No Time to Die, into the current It Girl. The box office success h meant work already has begun on a new Blanc mystery to solve.

The film is out on a variety of formats including the Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 works fine and only the most discerning may quibble at some of the color changes. Really, it looks fine and the Dolby Atmos audio track is crisp and clear.

I wish the special features were a little more special but they’re okay. We have In Theater Commentary with Rian Johnson, Deleted Scenes (4:57) complete with optional commentary from Johnson; Making a Murder (1:54:07), a fine behind-the-scenes look; Rian Johnson: Planning the Perfect Murder (6:17); Director and Cast Q & A (42:09) derived from a 2019 screening in Westwood, California; Marketing Gallery, three Trailers, viral ads for Thrombey Real Estate (00:34), Blood Like Wine Publishing (00:56), and Flam (00:34); and Ode to the Murder Mystery (1:43).

REVIEW: Swamp Thing: The Complete Series

REVIEW: Swamp Thing: The Complete Series

REVIEW: Swamp Thing: The Complete SeriesI was just the right age for Swamp Thing when he shambled into comics back in the early 1970s. I had years of super-heroes committed to memory so I was primed for something different. Along came Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s creation and it dealt nicely with familiar horror tropes but with enough of a twist to feel different along with continuing characters and exquisite artwork.

The arrival of Swamp Thing on DC Universe was equally well-timed in that we’ve had plenty of super-hero films and live-action television so it was a welcome addition to their initial lineup. Then came the news that there was trouble on the set, the series order was cut, then canceled after one ten-episode season. We were left with plenty of unfulfilled potential.

For those who missed out on the show, Warner Home Entertainment has released Swamp Thing the Complete Series in a fine Blu-ray package. I need to stipulate that one of the executive producers and writers of the show is Mark Verheiden, a long time friend so I am biased. Where I am not biased is in saying this is incredibly superior to the Wes Craven films and USA series from the 1990s.

The show takes its cues from the Wein/Wrightson stories but has totally reimagined the characters and settings, adding in other characters from across the DC Universe. Let’s start with Alec Holland (Andy Bean) as a disgraced scientist having worked for Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), who is a cross between Lex Luthor and Huey Long in this version. He and his wife Maria (Virginia Madsen) still mourn the loss of their teen daughter, harboring blame on Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed), who left town as a result. She now works for the CDC but when things go wonky in Marais, Louisiana comes home to investigate.

We have Holland becoming the Swamp Thing (Derek Mears), who is horrified at his transformation and slow to learn his abilities. His is being hunted, though, by Holland, who recruits Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand), who subsequently becomes the Floronic Man, and Lucilla Cable (Jenifer Beals), the local top cop, and her son, Matt (Henderson Wade).

As much as this a horror/supernatural show, it is told through the prism of a soap opera with various entanglements complicating motivations and subsequent actions. Sometimes this provides for interesting drama, and other times is a distraction. Additionally, Nimue Inwudu, a.k.a. Madame Xanadu (Jeryl Prescott) is underused and Daniel Cassidy/Blue Devil (Ian Ziering) feels tacked on and his role may have suffered from the truncated episode order. We even get the Phantom Stranger (Macon Blair), who needed more to do.

Len Wiseman, from the Underworld franchise, and James Wan are among the executive producers and each brings their own approach to the storytelling, so we have plenty of gory, horrific set-pieces. The swamp setting and small rural town are nicely depicted and the shadows help with the mood. As a result, the 1080 dpi transfer was vital in capturing the colors and shades, and they do a fine job here, so you avoid getting lost in the muck.

All ten episodes are included with no special features, which is a disappointment, but the series is well worth watching for fans. It’s also reassuring all is not lost as we saw Swamp Thing both before and after the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. One can hope we get a chance to revisit Earth-19.

REVIEW

REVIEW: Parasite

REVIEWParasite has been the critical darling since its unanimous win of the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and this weekend took a Best Screenplay award while it stands a chance at winning the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars. It has also been nominated or including Best Picture and Best Director.

I don’t get the fuss.

The film, out now on disc from Universal Home Entertainment, is a South Korean production cowritren, co-produced, and directed by Bong Joon-ho. While it appears on the surface to be a story about a low-income family struggling to survive, it addresses class distinctions and demonstrates the lengths to which people will go in order to live. Apparently, the parents, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), and Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), and their teen children Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), go from temporary job to temporary job, barely able to cover food and rent. We see them ineptly folding boxes for a pizza restaurant, reflecting their haphazard approach to improving their situation.

Providence arrives in the form of Ki-woo’s friend, who is about to study abroad and tells him to be his replacement as English tutor to sophomore student Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so), eldest child to a wealthy family. No sooner does Ki-woo get the job then he and his sister launch a plot for the entire clan to infiltrate the upscale home, each taking over a job and pretending not to be related to one another.

In surprisingly short order, the plan works and all four now serve as tutors, driver, and housekeeper for Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his seemingly clueless wife Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong). The daughter is a gifted artist but cynically suggests the youngest child, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun) needs expensive Art Therapy, which she would happily provide.

Rather than explore the class differences and the interactions between counterparts, Joon-ho can’t make up his mind as to what tone to strike. The family, once desperate, become sarcastic, displaying their poor manners and taking full advantage of the Parks’ largesse rather than cultivate their roles to ensure longevity. While Mr. Park opens up a bit about his wife’s shortcomings, Mrs. Park offers nothing but effervescence and Ki-woo’s romance of someone far younger is just icky. About the only thing the Parks find odd is a certain odor from the newly hired quarter, something the son notices first and then bothers Mr. Park. While the family recognizes the need to change soaps for each, they never seem to do so since the odor, a metaphor made manifest, remains a plot point.

As if he ran out of material, halfway through the film briefly becomes a farce as we learn the previous housekeeper has been hiding her husband in the hidden underground bunker. She begs Chung-sook to keep their secret and keep feeding the man, who apparently is being hunted by loan sharks for unpaid debts. When the impostors are revealed, things threaten to spiral out of control.

Events build with less logic in each passing scene, such as a rainstorm that backs up the sewers, ruining the impostor’s apartment, climaxing at an impromptu garden party where farce gives way to thriller and violence replaces plot. Some revelations are preposterous with an over-reliance on Morse Code.

What should have been everything the critics said Parasite was, this is a poorly plotted, underwritten and flatly performed production that doesn’t deserve the heaps of praise it has garnered. Decide for yourself.

The film’s digital production means the resolution of 6.5K and finished at 4K looks stunning in 1080p. It is evenly matched with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, which comes in Korean, requiring you to use English subtitles.

For a film that’s a critics’ darling, the sole special feature offered is Parasite — Fantastic Fest 2019 Q&A with Joon Ho (19:03), nowhere near enough to explain what was on his mind.

REVIEW: Terminator: Dark Fate

REVIEW: Terminator: Dark Fate

Apparently, not even James Cameron can salvage The Terminator franchise. Returning to his 1984 creation with Terminator: Dark Fate, he made the bold (and probably correct) decision to jettison everything that happened after the first sequel. Recognizing that all subsequent stories have failed to recapture the thrills of these two, he decides to wipe the board clean and upend all the audience expectations.

Cleverly, he picks up with clips from Terminator 2: Judgment Day then makes a clean break by having John Connor shot dead, creating a branching timeline that prevented audiences from knowing what came next. However, what we discover is that Skynet may not exist, but Legion, an equally vile AI, has taken control and is sending their version of Terminators — Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) — after the next “savior”, a young woman Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). In the end, its different but startlingly familiar.

Apparently, in Cameron’s mind, mankind is destined to self-destruct, with just bleak prospects for survival. Still, humanity remains an indefatigable force, both today and tomorrow. Much as young Sarah Connor had no clue what was happening, neither does Dani as the Rev-9 blows away her father and targets her at work. After a car chase, it seems ready to eliminate her when up pops the weathered Sarah (Linda Hamilton).

And if we get Sarah back, you can bet we’re getting the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and we do in one of the more interesting interpretations we receive.

The problem, though, is that it’s Sarah, Dani, and T-800 versus the unstoppable Rev-9. We’ve seen all this before and by film’s end, the future hasn’t been altered. In fact, the new characters added here are pretty much disposed of, leaving us with Sarah, lonely, grieving, and angry.

It’s certainly pretty to look at and Director Tim Miller keeps the action moving at a nice clip. There are way too few scenes that let the characters actually breathe and talk to one another, depriving us of the emotional connection to them, notably Dani, whose interactions with Sarah could be a cautionary tale.

The film is out from Paramount Home Video in the usual assortment of packages including the 4K Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and Digital HD combo. Here, the film benefits from being seen in the 2160p Dolby Vision configuration with very sharp images throughout. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is excellent.

The film’s special features, though, are lackluster. These can all be found on the Blu-ray disc and are more perfunctory than fascinating. We start with Deleted and Extended Scenes (8:54) including I Need Your Car, Internet Café, Augmentation Volunteer, The Crossing, Alicia Confronts Sarah, and Let Me Save You. You get some of the necessary backstory to reimagining the franchise in A Legend Reforged (20:11), as Miller and Cameron look at the process. Then there is World Builders (32:46) which explores the special effects process and location shooting in Spain. Dam Busters: The Final Showdown (8:30) looks at the climactic battle. There’s another VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly (2:33) which briefly looks at the future sequences.

REVIEW: The Many Lives of James Bond

REVIEW: The Many Lives of James Bond

The Many Lives of James Bond
By Mark Edlitz
Lyons Press, 300 pages, $27.95

Now that No Time To Die’s April release feels imminent, now may be a good time to catch up on some past James Bond history. Always remember that the past is prologue for the James Bond series. Prolific interviewer Mark Edlitz is back, this time with the recently released book The Many Lives of James Bond.

James Bond has been explored in just about every manner imagined and yet, Edlitz comes through with a collection of discussions that is unique in its breadth. Subtitled “How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy”, he offers insights from not just the actors, but the directors, songwriters, novelists, artists, designers, and more.

The book is broken into five parts: Bond on Film, Bond in Print, Being Bond, Designing 007, and Bond Women with an appendix on the Quotable Bond. It’s interesting to read how directors Martin Campbell, Roger Spotiswoode, and John Glen each saw the elite spy and the challenges of maintaining the nearly 60-year-old franchise’s consistency.

Edlitz nicely looks under rocks and deep into the shadows to bring little known aspects of the legacy to light. For example, did you know Big Band leader Hoagy Carmichael was Fleming’s model for the look? His son, Hoagy Bix Carmichael, shared some anecdotes. Similarly, there are quotes from Bob Holness, who portrayed Bond on a South African radio adaptation of Moonraker in the 1950s.

The print section shines a little-seen spotlight on the novels that followed Ian Fleming’s death as Anthony Horowitz dishes on dealing with the film producers and Eon Productions while John McLusky reviewed his work on the British comic strip, and Mike Grell recounted his work on writing and drawing a Bond adventure for Eclipse Comics.

Several of the actor interviews may seem familiar if you had read Edlitz’s 2015 How to be a Super-Hero which takes a similar in-depth and out of the box approach to the subject. While he couldn’t get to Sean Connery directly, Edlitz has a long piece with Glen A. Schofield who clues us in on what it was like to work with Connery, who recorded Bond’s voice for the video game From Russia with Love which has proven to be the actor’s final time in the role.

Lan Wood represents all the women who wooed and were wood by the spy while Lisa Funnell, who edited For his Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond is on hand to take the long academic view.

Being an unauthorized book, Edlitz is limited in illustrations using a handful of fair use images and a series of adequate illustrations from Pat Carbajal.

The nice thing about a book like this is you can read an interview or two and come back for more, a very nice way to pass the winter until the new feature arrives.

REVIEW: Young Justice: Outsiders

REVIEW: Young Justice: Outsiders

Young Justice has two overlapping, somewhat rabid, fan followings. First, there are those who delighted in Peter David’s energetic take on the young adult team, which led to the animated series on Cartoon Network.

In the hands of former DC assistant editor Greg Weisman, Young Justice developed a very unique voice of its own, carving an animated continuity all to itself, enjoying two seasons on cable before vanishing. Weisman, Brandon Vietti, and their team were rehired by DC Universe to produce a 26-episode third season, dubbed Young Justice: Outsiders, which aired in two sections throughout 2019.

The entire season is now a four-disc Blu-ray set from Warner Archive so if you don’t want to spend for the service, you can see what you’ve missed. We pick up some two years after season two and Meta-human trafficking is rampant, with the people turned into WMDs. Meanwhile, the UN in their infinite wisdom imposes strict guidelines that prompt many of the heroes to quit the Justice League.

The animation looks about as good as we got the first two times around along, on a par with some of the direct-to-video offerings from Warner Animation. They also took the time to rethink the looks of several characters, redesigning Arrowette, Thirteen and Spoiler.

So, who are the Outsiders? Promo art told us they would be Tigress (Stephanie Lemelin), Black Lightning (Khary Payton), Superboy (Nolan North), Katana, Geo-Force (Troy Baker), Forager (Jason Spisak), Halo (Zehra Fazal), Metamorpho and Nightwing (Jesse McCartney), a very mixed bag.

The team, which has continued to morph throughout the seasons, remains although the first episode shakes up the status quo so they’re still active as is the League and even Infinity, Inc.

Many characters have entirely different personalities, relationships, and professions from the comics so you do need to be somewhat steeped in the 2010-13 series to make sense of where things stand. For example, good old Lex Luthor is now UN Secretary-General, which explains why he’s made it tough on the JL.

There is plenty of episode to episode continuity with the usual assortment of prolonged fight scenes and explosions. Overall, though, the pacing works nicely and there are good character bits throughout the season.

The writing is also good, especially with so many previous people coming back, including, thankfully, Peter David, who continues to entertain with these heroes. His “Triptych” dwells on Aquaman and Atlantis, things he knows well. Weisman and company have mined the comics continuity with abandon, including obscure people like Bash Bashford (Troy Baker), created by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown, and Wally Wood in an issue of Superboy back in1969. Weisman even plunders other animation as he uses Queen Perdita (Ariel Winter), who he created for DC Showcase: Green Arrow and has her date Gar Logan.

Watching these, you come to appreciate how the creators judiciously took advantage of the non-commercial arena, streamlining the stories without need for mini-cliffhangers to insert commercials, along with the slightly more mature themes and approaches to the characters. Things wrap up well enough although the final episode drops a Legion Easter Egg and we now know work is proceeding on the fourth season.

The fourth disc has a Bringing Back Young Justice with Whitney Moore: five Behind-the-Scenes features – Inside the Writer’s Room, The Animation Process, Voice Recording, The Post-production Process, and Recording Doom Patrol Go! – that first appeared on the streaming service, totaling over 48 minutes.

REVIEW: Lucy in the Sky

REVIEW: Lucy in the Sky

REVIEW: Lucy in the SkyIt has been an exceptionally disappointing year for smart, serious science fiction on the screen. In a short period, we had the crash and burn of Ad Astra and Lucy in the Sky, the latter of which has been made available for streaming by Fox Home Entertainment ahead of its inevitable release on disc.

Where Noah Hawley’s Legion was a surreal character study that got you involved with the characters, this film, co-written with Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi, keeps every character at arm’s length. We open with mission specialist Lucy Cola in space and follow her re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Clearly, like so many real-world astronauts, the experience was deeply affecting, but unlike the others, she is now forever altered and no one notices. Those closest to her, such as her husband Drew (Dan Stevens) and grandmother Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn), seem oblivious.

At NASA, her psychiatrist Will Plimpton (Nick Offerman) and colleague Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm) suspect something’s off, but the former does little about it while the latter embarks on a torrid affair with her. He’s been to space and becomes the only one she even attempts to articulate how being among the stars has altered her perceptions.

Over time, Lucy begins spiraling out of control with minimal efforts to help her, while Mark gives up on her in favor of Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz), an astronaut/rival. All of which builds up to Lucy being denied a return to space so stalks Mark accompanied by her niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson.

The back half of the film is heavily influenced by the 2007 incident that saw Capt. Lisa M. Nowak arrested after attacking Colleen Shipman, an Air Force captain she saw as a romantic rival.

Across the 2:05 of the running time, we don’t get to know any character with any depth nor do we sympathize with Lucy as reality slips from her grasp. There’s a sterility to the storytelling that leaves you looking at your watch and wondering who thought this was a good way to make a film.

Kudos to Hawley and cinematographer Polly Morgan for playing with the aspect ratio, making it an actual part of the story, honing in and out of Lucy’s perceptions.

The streaming edition was reviewed and looks just grand on your home television screen. The film is accompanied by four Deleted Scenes (9:47), one of which attempted to show another side of Lucy and one which gave Mark some character. There are four other pieces — Directors Journey (5:12), Creating Magical Realism (6:50), Making Space (5:42), Lucy Cola (4:15) – are all too short and all too on the surface to be involving or help explain how this misfired.