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Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition Coming in September
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Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition Coming in September

BURBANK, CA – No tricks, just treats for Dark Knight fans as Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition – the complete mystery with added mature content – comes to 4K for the first time ever. The R-rated, feature-length animated film will be available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack (USA $34.99 SRP) for the first time ever, as well as on Blu-ray+Digital (USA $24.99 SRP), Blu-ray (only available in Canada, $29.99 SRP) and Digital starting September 20, 2022.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and the late Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition begins as atrocious serial killings on holidays in Gotham City send The World’s Greatest Detective into action – confronting both organized crime and a unified front of classic DC Super-Villains – while attempting to stop the mysterious murderer. Batman: The Long Halloween was originally released as a two-part film, and both films still stand at 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, The Boys, Batman: Under the Red Hood) leads a star-studded Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition cast as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne alongside the late Naya Rivera (Glee) as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Jupiter’s Legacy) as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Billy Burke (Twilight, Revolution, Zoo) as Commissioner James Gordon, Katee Sackhoff (The Mandalorian, Battlestar Galactica, Batman: Year One) as Poison Ivy, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Bosch: Legacy, Deadwood) as Carmine Falcone, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Dune, Ant-Man) as Calendar Man & The Penguin, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Young Justice) as The Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor, Transparent) as Barbara Gordon & Carla Vitti, Jack Quaid (The Boys, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Oppenheimer) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (American Dad!, Family Guy) as Solomon Grundy, Alyssa Diaz (The Rookie, Ray Donovan) as Renee Montoya, and Alastair Duncan (The Batman, Batman Unlimited franchise) as Alfred. In addition, Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain, Constantine: City of Demons) voices both Scarecrow & Thomas Wayne, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Disenchantment) is the Mad Hatter, Laila Berzins (Genshin Impact) is Sofia Falcone, Jim Pirri (World of Warcraft franchise) is Sal Maroni, and Zach Callison (The Goldbergs, Steven Universe) is Young Bruce Wayne. Additional voice work was provided by Gary LeRoi Gray, Rick Wasserman, Frances Callier and Greg Chun.

Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) directs Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition from a screenplay by Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen). Producers are Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Kimberly S. Moreau (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Butch Lukic (Justice Society: World War II, Superman: Man of Tomorrow) is Supervising Producer. Executive Producer is Michael Uslan.Sam Register is Executive Producer.

Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition Special Features

4K, Blu-ray and Digital

BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN – EVOLUTION OF EVIL (New Featurette) – The mystery surrounding the Holiday Killer shrouds Gotham in a sinister darkness forcing Batman to stop the villain’s assault on the city.  This is a comprehensive look at The Long Halloween with original writer, Jeph Loeb, and filmmakers.

BASICS

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack  $34.99 USA

Blu-ray + Digital $24.99 USA

Blu-ray $29.99 Canada

4K/Blu-ray Languages: English, Spanish, French

Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

Running Time: 2 hours, 48 minutes

Rated R for violence and bloody images

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

Battle of the Super-Sons Details Revealed
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Battle of the Super-Sons Details Revealed

BURBANK, CA (June 30, 2022) – Legacies must rise to unearthly challenges as the children of Batman and Superman are charged with saving their famous fathers – and the world – in Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons. Warner Bros. Animation’s first-ever all-CG animated, feature-length film will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack (USA $29.99 SRP; Canada $34.99 SRP), Blu-ray (USA $24.99 SRP; Canada $29.99 SRP) and Digital on October 18, 2022.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the PG-13 rated Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons begins as 11-year-old Jonathan Kent discovers he has superpowers, thrusting the half-Kryptonian into the complicated world of Super Heroes and Super-Villains – who are now under attack by a malevolent alien force known as Starro! It’s a race against time as Jonathan must join forces with assassin-turned-Boy-Wonder Damian Wayne to rescue their fathers (Superman & Batman) and save the planet by becoming the Super Sons they were destined to be!

Jack Dylan Glazer (Shazam!, Luca, It) and Jack Griffo (The Thundermans) lead the voice cast as Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne, respectively. The supporting cast features Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: The Long Halloween) as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Travis Willingham (Critical Role, Sofia The First) as Superman/Clark Kent, Laura Bailey (The Legend of Vox Machina, Naruto: Shippûden) as Lois Lane, Darin De Paul (Overwatch, Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge) as Lex Luthor & Starro, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as Green Arrow & Penguin, Zeno Robinson (Big City Greens, Pokémon) as Jimmy Olsen & Melvin Masters, Nolan North (Uncharted video game franchise, Young Justice, Pretty Little Liars) as Jor-El, and Myrna Velasco (DC Super Hero Girls, Star Wars Resistance) as Wonder Girl & Lara.

Matt Peters (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) directs Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons from a script penned by Jeremy Adams (Mortal Kombat Legends franchise). Producer is Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham By Gaslight) and Supervising Producer is Rick Morales (Injustice, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders). Executive Producer is Michael Uslan. Sam Register is Executive Producer.

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons – Special Features

4K, Blu-ray and Digital

Rival Sons: Jonathan and Damian (New Featurette) – Legacies collide as Jonathan Kent and Damian Wayne set aside their differences, forming an unlikely alliance to save the world.

BASICS

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Combo Pack          $29.99 USA

Blu-ray + Digital                                                         $24.99 USA

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Combo Pack                         $34.99 Canada

Blu-ray                                                                        $29.99 Canada

4K/Blu-ray Languages: English, German, Spanish, French

Blu-ray Subtitles: English, German, Spanish, French

Running Time: 79 minutes

Rated PG-13

Naomi: The Complete Series Comes to Disc in August
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Naomi: The Complete Series Comes to Disc in August

BURBANK, CA (June 28, 2022) – Catch up on the latest DC drama created by Oscar® nominee/Emmy® winner Ava DuVernay when Naomi: The Complete Series arrives on Blu-rayTM and DVD August 23, 2022 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Featuring all 13 riveting episodes from the series along with never-before-seen special features, Naomi: The Complete Series is priced to own at $29.98 SRP for the DVD ($39.99 in Canada) and $39.99 SRP ($44.98 in Canada) for the Blu-ray, which includes a Digital Copy (US Only). The show is also available to own on Digital via purchase from all major digital retailers and is streaming on HBO Max.

Based on the critically acclaimed comic series from Brian Michael Bendis, Jamal Campbell, and David F. Walker, Naomi follows a teen girl’s journey from her small northwestern town to the heights of the DC Multiverse. When a supernatural event shakes her hometown to the core, Naomi sets out to uncover its origins, and what she discovers will challenge everything we believe about our heroes. 

Naomi: The Complete Series stars Kaci Walfall as Naomi, Cranston Johnson, Alexander Wraith, Mary-Charles Jones, Mouzam Makkar, Daniel Puig, Camila Moreno, Will Meyers, Aidan Gemme, and Barry Watson. The series is executive produced by Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship. Paul Garnes also serves as an executive producer.

BLU-RAY & DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Naomi: From Page to Screen
  • A Hero Will Rise: Kaci Walfall
  • The Adaptation of a Hero

13 ONE-HOUR EPISODES

  1. Don’t Believe Everything You Think
  2. Unidentified Flying Object
  3. Zero to Sixty
  4. Enigma
  5. Shadow Ridge
  6. Homecoming
  7. I Am Not a Used Car Salesman
  8. Fellowship of the Disc
  9. Keep Your Friends Close
  10. Fallout
  11. Worst Prom Ever
  12. Ready or Not
  13. Who Am I?

DIGITAL 

Naomi: The Complete Series is currently available to own on Digital. Digital purchase allows consumers to instantly stream and download to watch anywhere and anytime on their favorite devices. Digital movies and TV shows are available from various digital retailers including Prime Video

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, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and others.  

BASICS

Street Date: August 23, 2022

BD and DVD Presented in 16×9 widescreen format

Running Time: Feature: Approx. 547 min

Enhanced Content: Approx. 22 min

BLU-RAY

Price: $39.99 SRP ($44.98 SRP in Canada)

3 Discs (3 BD-50s)

Audio: English 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH

DVD

Price: $29.98 SRP ($39.99 SRP in Canada)

3 Discs (3 DVD-9s)

Audio: English 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH

REVIEW: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
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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
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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
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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. 

Hearts at Sea by Pedrosa
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Hearts at Sea by Pedrosa

Jean-Paul is living in some minor city in France, probably near the German border. He works in his family’s business – something to do with handcrafted wooden toys – and is old enough to have struck out on his own or aimed at his own goals in life. But that has not happened: he’s quiet, and solidly under the (comfortable, friendly, but still smothering) guidance of his mother. His friends seem to be all connected to the business, his life is quiet and circumscribed, there’s no sign he’s ever had a girlfriend or lover despite endless fantasizing about a woman he meets while jogging every day.

One day he snaps, for no obvious reason. He’s supposed to do yet one more thing for his mother and the business, but, instead, goes off on a cruise. It’s not clear where the boat is going – my guess is out in the Atlantic, maybe to the Canaries or Azores? but it could also be the Mediterranean. It’s sunny and warm, and he’s part of a group of mingling singles, which he does not fit into at all.

Hearts at Sea  was (Cyril) Pedrosa’s first solo bande dessinee, published in 2006 after a few collaborative works and a few years in the animation mines. It’s remarkably quiet and assured, entirely focused on Jean-Paul though viewing him entirely from the outside in a naturalistic way. We can assume Pedrosa sympathizes with Jean-Paul – that’s why he’s telling this story, right? –  but we never get into Jean-Paul’s head or entirely understand him.

But then, do we ever understand anyone? I don’t know if I could honest say I understand myself.

This is Jean-Paul’s story, in one album-length book. It takes him from that point where he’s clearly unhappy in his life, and unsure what to do, through an eventful cruise – though not eventful in any of the ways he probably fantasized or hoped for; he’s not good at interacting with other people and not entirely clear on what he wants or how to get it – and to the point where he makes a major life decision at the end.

So it’s a low-key story, entirely on an interpersonal level. There is some action; single cruise ships do lend themselves to some activities, particularly those fueled by intoxicants. But it’s, in the end, a story about people, and mostly this one person.

Pedrosa did bigger stories after this, and became even more assured – Three Shadows, which I still think is a masterpiece, came immediately afterward – but this shows well his strengths. There’s the rumpled people, the precise colors, the creased and individual faces, the occasional visionary sequences, and the deep understanding of people. It was a fine start

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, and it’s still a fine book.

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