Category: Reviews

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.

Raptor: A Sokol Graphic Novel by Dave McKean

Raptor: A Sokol Graphic Novel by Dave McKean

Now I work in marketing, so I know not to trust marketing copy. (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve gotten something subtle wrong – or something obvious wrong.) But I have to look askance at the insistence of Raptor ‘s descriptive copy of being “Dave McKean’s first creator-owned character.”

I mean, this is still a world in which Cages  exists, right? Surely he didn’t do that as work-for-hire? (If he did, the world of comics is vastly more predatory and horrible than even I thought.) And there are original characters in things like Pictures That Tick  and his smutty book Celluloid , as well. So I wonder if that phrase is just puffery to say “hey, this is important” or if it’s using “creator-owned character” in the specifically comics sense of “a thing we expect to exploit in a lot of media for decades, starting now!”

In any case: Sokol! The sensational character find of 2021! A moody guy in a fantasy landscape who kills monsters, I think (mostly off-page) and then sometimes screws up handling the aftermath, letting the local villagers make things worse than the with-monster status quo!

Oh, and he’s not really the main character of this book, because it’s by Dave McKean, and nothing can be straightforward or not about the creation of art in a Dave McKean book. Arthur, who is some manner of late 19th century gentleman (he doesn’t seem to have to work, or at least doesn’t do anything in the course of this book) and who recently lost his lovely wife Amy, is writing the story of Sokol as a way to break his grief. His brother, Ed, would prefer that Arthur join his occult group instead, for the usual vague focus-your-mind and maybe transform-the-world aims.

The stories of Arthur and Sokol trade space on the page, with McKean’s elegant – sometimes too elegant, since he’s never seen a ten-dollar-word he couldn’t replace with a fifteen-dollar one – prose as captions to give atmosphere and some context to their experiences. It’s still McKean, though, so it’s moody and evocative, with wordless sequences in which dark birds transform into blue women who fuck (?!) one of the main characters in what I hope is meant to be creepy rather than happy.

Raptor is not as clearly about grief as I thought it would be, with Arthur’s mourning so central to it. Sokol does not seem to have lost anything, and his story has nothing to do with loss. The mystic rigmarole also does not seem to have anything to do with contacting the dead: it’s more the 19th century equivalent of aligning one’s chakras and becoming one with the numinous aether.

What we do get is a lot of scenes. Sokol tromps around, and may have been rewritten by Arthur (after meeting Arthur, because it’s that kind of book) to create a better ending to his first major story. (Or maybe this ending will be even worse; such is life.) Ed and Arthur sit around like clubmen discussing Very Serious Things, and stand and declaim at Tarot cards with the rest of the mystic group. There are scenes that are clearly Meaningful and Symbolic and possibly even Mystic themselves. None of this forms a conventional narrative, because Dave McKean.

Frankly, like a lot of McKean’s work, I don’t bother to do all the work to figure out just exactly what it is about. It’s moody and gorgeous and full of fancy words and fine feeling, and that’s fine: it doesn’t need to add up to anything. So I can tell you that I think McKean does intend it all to add up to something, but I could not tell you what that “something” is.

Perhaps the further adventures of this “creator-owned character” will give us all more context.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Bad Machinery, Vol. 10: The Case of the Severed Alliance by John Allison

Bad Machinery, Vol. 10: The Case of the Severed Alliance by John Allison

When last we left the Mystery Teens of Tackleford, at the end of The Case of the Missing Piece , they had mostly stopped solving mysteries, and two of the core girls, Lottie and Shauna, had just fallen out. That’s what the title refers to for this final collection: not the supernatural menace that threatens Tackleford (which is quite real and sinister), but the break between two of the main characters.

This is the tenth and last Bad Machinery collection, The Case of the Severed Alliance . Creator John Allison has a short afterword where he says his original intention was to have one case for each term of the Mystery Tweens/Teens’ seven years at school, which would have been twenty-one books. He gives a few reasons why he only made half that many stories, but I think he quietly missed the most obvious one: time. Allison is a creator whose stories take place in time. He sometimes drops back into the past – the Bobbins flashback series, for example, or, in an odd way, all of Giant Days – but time always passes in his stories, things change, and his characters grow older. The Bad Machinery stories came out about two a year, not three a year, and I think his characters just grew up, in his head, faster than he expected.

The Bad Machinery books are a creative peak for Allison – he’s had several; most people are more familiar with Giant Days – with a big cast well deployed, a complex and quirky world for them to live in and explore, wonderful dialogue on every page, oddball supernatural menaces that lurk deep in the story and only emerge fully near the end, and long rambly plots full of interesting incidents and unexpected moments that all come together for bang-up finishes. These can’t have been easy stories to plot, write and draw; my sense is that Allison is more of a plotter these days than a pantser, but any multiple-times-a-week comic is going to morph and change as the individual installments come out, so I don’t think anything quite ended up exactly the way he expected.

In any case: this is the “teens get jobs” storyline. All six of the main cast are about 15-16 here. Lotty works at the local newspaper, partially to have a work-study arrangement (called “P&Q” here, which is some British term that I don’t think is ever spelled out) [1] and partially because she is frustrated with her lack of movement in her preferred solving-mysteries-as-a-teenage career. (Yes, that is a thing in the Allisonverse, with glossy magazines and gala awards and all. See Wicked Things .) And Shauna is working for Amy Beckwith-Chilton, one of the old-time Tackleford characters, in her antiques shop, along with a young man named Romesh who Shauna found and who has a mystical ability to detect valuable antiquities among junk.

But the story is mostly about the gentrification of Tackleford: the main street is filling up with posh, expensive shops, rents are skyrocketing, houses prices are ditto, and an “Inland Marina” is being built where the kids used to swim in the local river. We also meet Sewerman General Johnson, the tough man who keeps the drains of Tackleford running, and the massive, possibly sentient, Tackleford Fatberg that he’s been trying to break up. Amy and her competitors in the very Lovejoy-esque antiques trade are chasing after the fabled cursed Pearl of the Quarter, a gem of immense power that disappeared at the death of its previous owner Tommy Binks, the man who made Tackleford the modern success it is.

Oh, and there’s something going on with Tackleford’s sister town, Wendlefield, which is as run-down and hopeless as Tackleford is shiny and expensive.

Shauna and Lottie work opposite ends of this mystery – do they eventually come to find it is the same mystery? Are they forced to work together? Is there a shocking confrontation in a half-constructed industrial scene? Has the mystic Pearl been incorporated into some weapon that threatens the whole town? Is there a fiendish villain who must be stopped? Do all of the Mystery Teens, and their new powers and abilities – I’ve neglected to mention that Mildred has been learning to drive a car! – come into play at the end? Is Tackleford saved?

Reader: yes and yes and yes and yes and yes and yes and sort of.

I would not start here, if you haven’t read Bad Machinery. Severed Alliance is wonderful and funny and exciting and marvelous, but it works much better if you know the characters. So find the first book, The Case of the Team Spirit , and start there. But Bad Machinery is awesome; you should read it if you haven’t already. And if you read it online (it was originally on Allison’s site but now lives on GoComics ), it might be time to get the books and read it again.

[1] Utterly nonamusing anecdote: on a call with some Brits this past week, I realized that what Americans call an “intern” (college-age person working in a business for a limited period of time, usually tied to and providing credit for their school) is called an “apprentice” in the UK. This, I think, is a similar issue.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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.

Black Hammer: Streets of Spiral by Jeff Lemire and a cast of thousands

Black Hammer: Streets of Spiral by Jeff Lemire and a cast of thousands

This post may be shorter than my previous diatribes about the wonderful world of Black Hammer, for multiple reasons. One, I’ve said most of the things I could say. Two, this is an odds and sods collection to begin with, so it’s small and random and miscellaneous and will not stand the weight of serious criticism. There may be other reasons as well, but I think those two will do.

In any case, I have written a bunch about the previous Black Hammer books – the most recent was the flashback Black Hammer ’45 , and that one links further back in turn. And, frankly, how much background do you need? This is a pastiche superhero universe, with mixed DC and Marvel influences (Legion of Super-Heroes here, New Gods there), and anyone who knows superhero comics from the second half of the 20th century will find all of it deeply recognizable.

So this is Black Hammer: Streets of Spiral . It was the ninth collection of the series, and the one that gathered all of the loose bits of string to that point: one “Giant-Sized Annual,” in case you thought it wasn’t on-the-nose enough about its obsession with ’70s comics; a one-shot called Cthu-Louise; The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia, a very “Who’s Who”-style compendium of superhero details; and a short story from the Dark Horse Free Comic Book Day issue for 2019. The Encyclopedia was written by Tate Brombal with series-creator Jeff Lemire; Lemire and Ray Fawkes wrote the short story; Lemire wrote the rest solo. Art is by a large number of people:

  • Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Dustin Nguyen, Fawkes, Emi Lenox, and Michael Allred for the Annual
  • Lenox with Dave Stewart (who provided colors for nearly all of these pieces) for Cthu-Louise
  • Fourteen different people for the Encyclopedia, including many of the above
  • David Rubin did full-color art for the short story
And what are these individual stories?

The Annual is one of those standard multiple-artists, multiple-heroes “special” stories, which could be assembled piecemeal, showing the whole team dealing with Problem X individually. As was the case with its models, it doesn’t add up to a whole lot in the end. There is a sub-Starro the Conqueror eyeball/squid thing, which appears repeatedly out of the Random Mystical Zone and which has to be punched back out of the normal world. It is, repeatedly – this is a superhero story, after all.

What what does it all mean, ask our heroes in the end?

Well, probably nothing. In a regular superhero universe, it’s either space-filler or a set-up for a crossover. In Black Hammer, it’s just yet another kind of indulgence.

Cthu-Louise is very familiar; the character (and her father, the former supervillain Cthu-Lou) have appeared at least once before, and the plot beats here are very similar. Louise is a teenager with a alien-god squid head, which makes her unpopular, and she wants to fit in. Eventually, she does.

The Encyclopedia is a collection of pages on all of the major characters that have appeared in the various Black Hammer comics to this point, with first appearances and power levels and known family and all that bumf. It is much odder when it’s about a world created by one guy, in one series of stories, over only three or four years.

And the short story is the most forgettable, functioning mostly as a teaser – well, it was in a FCBD comic, and that’s the whole point of the thing – for both past and (I assume) future Black Hammer stories.

If you like Black Hammer, this is a bunch of minor Black Hammer. If you like vaguely ’70s-esque, vaguely Big Two-ish comics, you will like Black Hammer. And god knows there are more of you out there than I want to believe.

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Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

REVIEW: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

I admit I didn’t really notice Nicolas Cage (then billed as Nicola Coppola) in his debut, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but I quickly became a fan after seeing him in 1984’s underrated Racing with the Moon. Since then, he has made dozens of movies, across the genres, going from romantic lead to tortured lead to action lead and back again.

Despite making all of these films, earning numerous nominations and earning an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and numerous local critics’ awards, Cage has never quite gotten the respect his work deserves. Some of that is because of questionable career choices as well as an outsized public life that has garnered embarrassing headlines and unwanted notoriety.

Along the way, he has become a beloved cult performer, with many enjoying his low budget efforts and others rooting for him to regain his peak performance. With age and experience has come a certain acceptance for his life and he’s come to lean in to the absurdity of his reputation. Which certainly explains his willingness to star in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

, out on disc now from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Written and directed by Tom Gormican, shooting only his second feature, the movie lampoons Cage’s personality as “Nick Cage”, an actor struggling with a stalled career. He has good credits, the requisite ex-wife and daughter, and is haunted by visions of his younger self. It is at this moment when retirement looks inviting but his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) convinces him to take $1 million payday to attend a fan’s birthday party.

This is not just any rich fan; Javi (Pedro Pascal) is a rich fan, whose infectious enthusiasm for Cage’s oeuvre, entices Cage to agree to help shoot a film from Javi’s loose script. To complicate matters, the CIA meets with Cage, informing him that Javi may be a film nerd, but is also an international criminal who likely kidnapped a Catalan politician’s daughter (Katrin Vankova) and they need his help. Agents Vivian Etten (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin Etten (Ike Barnholtz) work to get Cage ready for a new career: spy.

Yes, things are exaggerated and ridiculous but there’s a lot of self-knowing humor and homages to Cage’s career that make this an eminently watchable, fun film. By being a little all over the place, its broadness also diminishes its chance for being a sly sendup of the Cage persona.

The film is now available in a variety of media including the trustworthy 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray, Digital HD code combo pack (always my preference). The 2160p transfer in 2.39:1 perfectly captures the bright sun-kissed shores of Majorca and the rugged Croatian terrain. As good as the 1080p Blu-ray is, you can see improvements in 4K. The Dolby Atmos keeps apace fairly well, making for solid home entertainment.

Given the subject and subject matter, I had hope for more amusing or inventive Special Features. We get Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Gormican and Co-Writer Kevin Etten; Deleted Scenes (4:53), with feature optional Audio Commentary; The Mind (6:38); Glimmers of a Bygone Cage (4:48); Everybody Needs a Javi (4:21); Nick, Nicky, and Sergio (4:33); Second Act Action (6:41); Cages 5 and Up (2:08); and the most engaging, SXSW Film Festival Q & A (15:48).

REVIEW: The Northman

REVIEW: The Northman

There’s much that is fascinating about the Viking culture, largely because of its organized barbarism while feeling incredibly familiar given how much of their legacy has seeped into world culture. Television has certainly explored these people through several series, but it’s been a long time since we had a good, sweeping Viking saga on the silver screen.

Robert Eggers had long been interested in the Viking culture and when he and actor Alexander Skarsgård began discussing working together

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, it became clear that the Vikings were the appropriate subject matter. Like the director, whose work I was unfamiliar with before now, Skarsgård was deeply interested in these people.

Working with historian/writer/poet Sjón, Eggers crafted a story drawn from the actual legends, a tale of revenge similar to the Viking tale that inspired Hamlet. Set in the waning years of the ninth century, The Northman opens with young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak) in a ceremony to prepare him to succeed his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke). The next day, the king is murdered by his bastard brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang) and Amleth flees.

Grown to manhood, Amleth (Skarsgård) is a force to be reckoned with. After an encounter with the He-witch Olga (Ana Taylor-Joy), he learns his mother Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) has married Fjölnir and given birth to his half-brother Gunnar (Elliott Rose). It’s time to go home and set things to right, but it’s an action-packed, violent homecoming.

Toss in Willem Dafoe as the jester and Bjork as a sorceress, you have a strong cast, all of whom rise to the strength of the material, filled as it is with prophecies, magic, enchanted swords, and complex family relations.

The film got terrific reviews but performed poorly at the box office, having more to do with Covid-19 and the economy than its merits. Available now on disc from Universal Home Entertainment, this is a highly recommended viewing experience. You can find it in the usual assortments including the 4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD code combo pack.

The 4K Ultra HD transfer is pristine, perfectly maintaining the color palette with rich blacks. It helps that the film was shot in 4K digital, so everything from skin tones to subtle magical effects are well captured. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also near-perfect, with a terrific sub-woofer beat, underscoring the film. The audio track captures the loud violent clashes and the hushed sounds of the wilderness.

The Special Features are a nice assortment with a recommended Audio Commentary from Eggers, with some nice insights into the production process. Additionally, there are Deleted And Extended Scenes (12:28); An Ageless Epic (11:17); The Faces Of Vikings (10:27); Amleth’s Journey To Manhood (3:56); Shooting The Raid (4:10), with director of photography Jarin Blaschke discussing this complex set-piece; Knattleikr Game (2:42), the violent “ball game” is explained; and, A Norse Landscape (4:43).

Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver

Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver

There is no Saint Cole. No one was ever canonized under that name – there is a Saint Colette, but given the subject of Noah Van Sciver’s graphic novel, there’s no chance that’s the reference meant. It is not the name of a town. It is not metaphorical; there is no one named Cole in the book.

“Saint Cole” is a random squawk, emitted by a minor character whose whole point is that he’s mentally damaged. It is meaningless. I have no idea why it’s the title of this book. There is something vaguely ironic that the story of a man named Joe who is deeply unsaintly is named Saint Cole , but 99% of life is that ironic to begin with. It’s not much to hang a story on.

Saint Cole is the story of an alcoholic, a loser who thinks he isn’t a loser, a bad man who thinks he’s pretty good. I find that I have less and less sympathy for characters like that every year, so I may not be giving Joe his due here.

But, to be honest, Joe isn’t due much. Sure, he works long hours, but he’s a jerk who drinks too much, has no aims or plans, and is unpleasant to everyone around him pretty much continually. Just working hard doesn’t buy you anything.

Joe is a waiter at the restaurant New Yorkies, in some minor city somewhere: it’s roughly walkable, so it’s not deep suburbia, and Joe lives in an apartment with a parking lot. He’s in his late twenties, living with his girlfriend Nicola and their baby son. They’re just barely making it: Joe takes every last shift he can, working every single day, and Nicole stays home with the baby, which Joe resents. Over the course of four days, starting on a Saturday, Joe…well, I shouldn’t give it away. But Joe is a loser and a fuck-up, so he fucks up and he loses things. Take that as read.

Angela, Joe’s mother-in-law, moves in with them on the first day, which adds to the friction. He doesn’t like her, for reasons that don’t seem sufficient. But then, Joe hates just about everyone and everything: he doesn’t seem to need reasons. He’s just that kind of young man, fueled by anger and self-loathing and loathing for everything else in equal measure. Oh, and by alcohol. He’s fueled by a lot of alcohol.

Saint Cole is the story of Joe drinking and then fucking things up, to to give a quick log-line. I called him an alcoholic before, but he really comes across as a drunk: a guy who isn’t compelled to drink; he just drinks because he wants to, and he always wants to drink more. That kind of guy can easily turn into an alcoholic, but I don’t think Joe is there yet.

Yet.

Van Sciver draws this in a mostly indy style, more conventional than I remember his The Hypo  being. It’s all thin lines, lots of details of dingy rooms and sad lives: indy in the matter and the style equally.

I’m not a good reader for a book like this, and I can’t really recommend it. If you like stories of self-destructive losers more than I do, you might take a look. It’s smartly written, it looks good, and Van Sciver tells the story well. But it’s an unpleasant story about an unpleasant man, and all I felt at the end was happy that I didn’t have to spend any more time with Joe.