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The One Where Friends Comes to 4K in September
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The One Where Friends Comes to 4K in September

BURBANK, CA (May 30, 2024) – Oh, My Gawd!  In celebration of the 30th anniversary of one of television’s most watched sitcoms, Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment will release FRIENDS: The Complete Series in 4K Ultra HDon September 24, 2024.  This ultimate collector’s set for any FRIENDS fan includes over 110 hours of content – including all 236 original broadcast episodes released for the first time in 4K Ultra HD, plus over 20 hours of extra features including all-new bonus content. Pre-order your copy now.

From Warner Bros. Television, FRIENDS follows the lives and loves of a close-knit group of friends living in New York City: siblings Ross (David Schwimmer) and Monica Geller (Courteney Cox), along with friends Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston).

FRIENDS was created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman and aired on NBC from September 22, 1994 to May 6, 2004. The series was produced by Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, in association with Warner Bros. Television. Throughout its run, the show was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards®, winning six awards including Best Comedy Series in 2002. 

FRIENDS maintains its influence among viewers. Since its launch, the series has been watched over 71 billion times in the United States alone, across all linear & SVOD platforms. On an international level, viewers spent a total of more than 1.4 billion hours with FRIENDS in 2023 across linear and SVOD internationally.

As FRIENDS marks its 30th anniversary this year, the beloved TV series continues to hold an enduring place in popular culture and hearts worldwide. With its witty humor, relatable characters, and memorable catchphrases, FRIENDS transcends generations with its universal appeal, making it a classic that continues to bring joy and laughter to fans around the world.

Series information:

FRIENDS: The Complete Series

Includes all 236 original broadcast episodes from the iconic 10 seasons of the beloved series, plus hours of special features which has been created over the years including two hours of all-new bonus content.

PRODUCT                           

4K Ultra HD  

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, German 2.0 S DD, French 2.0 S DD, Japanese 2.0 S DD, Castilian-Spanish 2.0 S DD

Subtitles: English SDH, German SDH, French, Japanese, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, Complex Chinese

Running time: 236 (30 min) episodes. Over 20 hours of special features, including all-new bonus content

Rated: PG

REVIEW: American Hustle
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REVIEW: American Hustle

David O. Russell was having a moment about a decade back, with a series of releases that Made him a director well worth paying attention to. The highlight was American Hustle, a black comedy focused on crime and corruption. It boasts a strong cast, led by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper, but nearly stealing the show was Jennifer Lawrence, still in the early stages of her career.

The film, out now in a new 4K Steelbook format from Sony Home Entertainment, is well worth a look if you missed it in 2013. A year earlier, Cooper and Lawrence danced their way into our hearts with the charming Silver Linings Playbook, and Russell brought them back for this caper, pitting them against one another.

Cooper is an FBI agent who forces con artists Bale and Adams into creating a sting operation intending to take down the May of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner, before he became the Mayor of Kingstown). Inspired by the real Abscam Operation from the 1970s, this tickled the fancy of filmgoers and the Academy, which bestowed ten Oscar nominations on the movie.

Rewatching it in this lovely 4K high-definition transfer, the movie sparkles afresh with very strong performances. The con seems straightforward until Lawrence’s Rosalyn Rosenfeld begins to stir the pot, confounding her husband Irving (Bale) and delighting the audience. There’s a lot going on, and the film demands that you pay attention. The leads are supported by many familiar faces, from Shea Whigham to Robert DeNiro to the veteran Anthony Zerbe.

Sony did right by the film during its 100th anniversary with a spectacular 4K Dolby Vision, featuring English Dolby Atmos + 5.1 audio HDR and Atmos, so it looks and sounds amazing.

The combo pack includes an excellent Blu-ray edition and Digital HD code. The only new Special Feature on the 4K disc are extended deleted scenes compared with the 2014 digital release. The Blu-0ray retains the previously released special features: Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD): Cry British (4:51), Brick (0:57), Carmine On Stage Singing (1:24), Backhand Like a Whip (2:48), Bad Sign (1:30), Stoop to Conquer (1:34), Live and Let Die (3:26), Evil Ways (4:01), Carmine on the Street (1:11), Richie is Duped (0:47), and Carmine Returns Home (0:54); The Making of American Hustle (HD, 16:35), and Theatrical trailer.

Orson Welles’ Classic The Lady from Shanghai gets 4K Release in July
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Orson Welles’ Classic The Lady from Shanghai gets 4K Release in July

SYNOPSIS
Baffling murders, fascinating plot twists, and remarkable camerawork all contribute to this spellbinding, time-honored film noir written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles. Hired to work on a yacht belonging to the disabled husband of femme fatale Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth), Michael O’Hara (Welles) is an innocent man drawn into a dangerous web of intrigue and murder.

The subject of great controversy and scandal upon its initial release, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI shocked 1948 audiences by presenting Hayworth with her flaming red hair cut short and dyed champagne blonde. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI is now considered vintage Welles, with his famous hall-of-mirrors climax hailed as one of the greatest scenes in cinematic history.

DISC DETAILS AND BONUS MATERIALS

4K ULTRA HD DISC
Feature restored from the original camera negative and presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
English Mono

Special Features:
Commentary with Peter Bogdanovich
A Conversation with Peter Bogdanovich
Theatrical Trailer

CAST AND CREW
Screenplay and Production By: Orson Welles
Story Based on a Novel By: Sherwood King
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders

SPECS
Run Time: Approx. 87 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
4K UHD Feature Picture: 2160p Ultra High Definition, 1.37:1
4K UHD Feature Audio: English, French (PAR), Spanish Mono DTS-HD MA

Young Sheldon DVD Sets Announced
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Young Sheldon DVD Sets Announced

BURBANK, CA – Following an epic two-episode series finale on CBS, fans can now relive the critically acclaimed #1 comedy series with Young Sheldon: The Complete Series.  This comprehensive box set includes all seven seasons along with a brand-new special feature, set to release on DVD this fall.  And for fans eager to round out their collection, Young Sheldon: The Complete Seventh Season will also be coming to DVD. Both titles will be available for purchase online and in-store at major retailers beginning September 24. Pre-order your copy now. 

Young Sheldon: The Complete Series and Young Sheldon: The Complete Seventh Season are also available now to purchase Digitally from Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, YouTube, Fandango at Home, and more.

From creators and executive producers Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, Young Sheldon centers on Sheldon Cooper, a once-in-a-generation mind capable of advanced mathematics and science, which isn’t always helpful in a land where church and football are king. And while the vulnerable, gifted, and somewhat naïve Sheldon deals with the world, his very normal family must find a way to deal with him. For 12 years on The Big Bang Theory, audiences came to know the iconic, eccentric, and extraordinary Sheldon Cooper. This single-camera, half-hour comedy takes viewers through his childhood, as he embarks on his innocent, awkward, and hopeful journey toward the man he will become.

The series stars Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Lance Barber, Annie Potts, Montana Jordan, Raegan Revord, Emily Osment, and Jim Parsons (as the voice of Sheldon). Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro, Steve Holland, Jim Parsons, Todd Spiewak and Nick Bakay serve as executive producers.  Young Sheldon is produced by Chuck Lorre Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.

Young Sheldon has been a consistent ratings winner. It premiered as the #1 new comedy of the 2017-2018 television season and became the #1 comedy in the 2019-2020 season after The Big Bang Theory completed its run. Young Sheldon returned for its seventh and final season on Feb. 15 and remains television’s #1 comedy. 

PRICING AND INFORMATION

Young Sheldon: The Complete Series

Includes 141 episodes from all seven seasons, plus special feature 

PRODUCT                                                      SRP

DVD                                                               $99.99 SRP US ($112.99 in Canada)

Audio: English

Subtitles: English

Running Time: Approx. 2,763 minutes

Rating: PG

Young Sheldon: The Complete Seventh Season

Includes 14 episodes from the seventh and final season, plus special feature 

PRODUCT                                                      SRP

DVD                                                               $24.98 SRP US ($29.98 in Canada)

Audio: English

Subtitles: English

Running Time: Approx. 279 minutes

Rating: PG

SPECIAL FEATURE INCLUDES:

SHELDON’S SECRET ORIGINS AND EASTER EGGS

The cast and producers of Young Sheldon look back on the series’ journey. They share some favorite Easter eggs and Cooper family origins hidden along the way.

Victory Parade by Leela Corman
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Victory Parade by Leela Corman

It can be easy to lose track of just how much work and time goes into a single comics panel – to think of a graphic novel like prose, where you can strike out a line and rewrite it at any time. But comics are much more architected than that, built up in stages, and you can’t build a penthouse unless you have the right foundation.

It’s more obvious with books that don’t tell simple, direct stories – ones where the architecture had to be laid out more carefully, planned more fully, and where the foundation had to be chosen to tell this particular version of all of the possible stories circling in the creator’s head.

I bring this up with Leela Corman’s stunning new graphic novel Victory Parade , because this is not a straightforward book. It’s skips around in time and space – not hugely, but enough that the reader needs to pay attention – and is not telling one single narrative, but a loosely connected skein of stories weaving through an interconnected cast during WWII. It starts in the middle of a situation, and ends without a single big moment, like life.

Victory Parade is mostly the story of three women, of three different ages, starting in 1943 New York. All are Jewish, which is important, alongside a dozen other facets of their personalities and lives that are also important. Rose Arensberg is working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard while her husband Sam is fighting with the Army in Europe – and she’s also sleeping with the maimed veteran George Finlay, who lives in the same building. Her daughter Eleanor has the least to do of the three, as a mostly-innocent primary-schooler. Then there’s Ruth, a Jewish refugee from Germany who has been living with Rose and Eleanor for several years – she came as a young teen, and is now twentyish. 

Ruth is the only survivor of her family, as far as she knows.

Ruth is also pretty enough and young enough that she gets endless attention from men – grasping, crude, horrible attention – and hot-headed enough that she fights back and gets in trouble for it. An opportunity arises for her to use all that as a wrestler, and she takes it, starting to train and fight matches.

Late in the book, we also see Sam – first back from the war, then in flashback, after the liberation of the Buchenwald camp. He’s as admirable or relatable as the other characters: that can be “a lot” or “barely at all,” depending on the reader, of course.

Corman tells these stories on pages that feel smaller, more constrained, than the reader expects – mostly four-panel grids, as if a whole tier was cut off or never existed. Her drawing is organic, her people have sharp, strong faces – none of these people are pretty, but then their world isn’t, either. There are multiple dream sequences, sometimes bursting into waking life, full of violent imagery, particularly severed limbs.

Again, Corman is not telling one story, and there’s no crisp “plot” running from beginning to end. All of these people do things, feel things, worry about things, suffer things. Not all of them make it to the end. And standing behind all of them are the millions who didn’t make it through WWII, both the dead of the Holocaust and the soldiers on all sides doing their best to kill each other. We’re seeing the stories of a few of them: mostly women, mostly in New York, mostly Jewish, mostly survivors. But “surviving” is a moving target; there’s a lot of brokenness that isn’t quite “actually dead.”

Victory Parade has an ironic title: there are few victories here, and no parades. It’s a powerful, deep story that will not tell you how to read it, how to feel about it, or about whom to care the most.

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

Good.: From the Amazon Jungle to Suburbia and Back by FLuX and David Good
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Good.: From the Amazon Jungle to Suburbia and Back by FLuX and David Good

First up, this is not non-fiction; there’s a disclaimer on the copyright page: “This book is a work of fiction inspired by actual events.” It does use the real names of all of the people involved, was written or co-written by the main character, and roughly follows the real history as far as I can determine from news stories and the description of David Good’s 2015 prose memoir The Way Around .

But there’s something constructed at the core of the graphic novel Good.: From the Amazon Jungle to Suburbia and Back  that led to that disclaimer. I don’t know all of the details. But it’s clear that this is not, at its core, true. And that’s a puzzling thing for a book positioned as a memoir.

David Good is the eldest of three children of American anthropologist Kenneth Good and the Yanomani woman Yarima. The elder Good took his first trip into the Amazon rainforest to live with the Yanomani in 1975, and spent much of the next twelve years there, learning the language and being accepted by a local tribe, said acceptance meaning he had to marry a local woman. “Woman” here means maybe 12 when they were married and possibly as old as 16 when the marriage was consummated.

Kenneth and Yarima then lived in New Jersey for a few years – the mid-80s, if I have the sequence right – where those three children were born, while Kenneth was working on his PhD. Yarima was left, while Kenneth worked long hours, in a suburban house with three pre-school children, in an alien culture where she didn’t speak the language well, while she still possibly wasn’t old enough to drink legally. The family returned to the Venezuelan rainforest roughly once a year for a long visit – I’m going to guess each summer, during the long break of the academic year, and possibly partially funded by an ongoing research grant of Kenneth’s – and, one year, for reasons and in a manner that seems to vary somewhat between retellings, Yarima refused to return to America, so Kenneth left her behind and took the children back north.

In Good., this is the dividing line: David Good was five years old when his mother faded back into the jungle instead of getting onto a small plane, and he didn’t see her again until he was an adult. But it’s not clear what Kenneth did, since the Yanomani were still the core of his academic work. Did Kenneth continue his fieldwork, visiting without his half-Yanomami children for the years in between? Did he visit a different Yanomani tribe – maybe the break-up of his marriage soured his relationship with this one?  Or did he just stop doing fieldwork after he got his PhD? None of that is clear in Good., which is the story of the child David rather than the adult Kenneth.

Meanwhile, Kenneth wrote his own book about his experiences, 1991’s Into the Heart . I haven’t seen a clear timeline of this whole thing, but that seems to be fairly soon after Yarima returned to the Yanomani. I’ve seen references to David being twenty-five in 2010, which would put his birth in 1984 or 1985, and make him five around 1989-90. Arguing for a slightly earlier timeline, the repeated “twelve years” of Kenneth’s fieldwork, starting in 1975, could imply the break was around 1987 or 1988. Finally, a 1991 book would have been written at least a year or two before. (I found a NYTimes review of Kenneth’s book, which implies its viewpoint is from before Yarima returned, and which provides more context to Yanomani life.)

That’s the general outline of the story, consistent across what I’ve seen across all three books and various articles. How much, and what parts, of this story as told in Good. are fictionalized, I don’t know. Good. doesn’t make that clear, or explain why it was fictionalized. I haven’t read Into the Heart or The Way Around, both of which were written with collaborators, as Good. was. I suspect that at least part of the fictionalization has to do with the “warlike” nature of the Yanomani people – the first major book about them, from the 1960s, was Yanomama: The Fierce People – and how that violence affected Good’s family, since I’ve also seen references to his mother having been gang-raped during one of Kenneth’s trips away from this tribal group. David Good’s vision of his mother’s people in Good. is entirely positive and sunny and happy: that’s a beautiful vision, and inspires his charitable and other work these days, but no people in the history of the world are perfectly peaceful and happy.

I’ve also neglected to mention David Good’s collaborator on Good., the gallery artist, cartoonist and illustrator who works as FLuX. (From the acknowledgements, I think his real name is John Malloy.) The book doesn’t make their roles clear: the PDF I read has FLuX listed first in the author credit, while covers online have the reverse order. I don’t know if Good scripted the book, or if he met with FLuX to talk through his story and FLuX scripted it, or some more complicated process. Somehow, though, these two men made this fictionalized version of David Good’s story.

I think the fictionalization is to frame it. Most of Good. is told in alternating chapters: the longer ones focus on David, are presented in black and white and heavily narrated in his own voice, telling his story from childhood. In between are color-saturated, wordless short vignettes of Yarima’s life, from her own birth, presenting an idealized vision of a paradisiacal life in the rainforest among a wonderful, loving people. (Until she moves to New Jersey with Kenneth, for a darker interlude that ends with her return to paradise.) As an adult, after a tumultuous adolescence, David seeks out his mother – the narrative doesn’t emphasize this, but it’s notable that it’s another anthropologist, not his father, who helps him get into the jungle and find his mother’s nomadic people – and that heals him and makes everything better. The book ends with a sequence marrying the two art styles, with David’s narration boxes overlaid on the sunny, bright colors of the Yarima sections.

It’s an uplifting story, a lovely one marred only slightly by that lurking question of how fake it is. It’s probably mostly true. And David Good has dedicated his life to good works since then, pursing a PhD based on the Yanomani microbiome and starting a foundation in their name.

I just want Yarima’s real story. This one is clearly fictionalized so far as to be a fantasy. It sounds like Into the Heart also had long sequences ostensibly from her POV that, I suspect, were equally “true.” What I really want to read is what she really thought, what her life was actually like – including the violence of the Yanomani culture that Kenneth Good seems to have made a career out of minimizing (and, to be clear, it also sounds like researchers before him leaned heavily into the “noble savage” myth, going much too far in mythologizing and centralizing that violence). That would take an independent viewpoint – not a man related to her – and will probably never happen.

Good. is fine as far as it goes, and David Good’s story is genuinely inspiring. I don’t fault him or his collaborator for not understanding his mother, a woman from a completely different culture who he knew only as a very young child. But it’s important to be clear on what Good. is and isn’t: it’s a cleaned-up, fictionalized version of this story, from David Good’s viewpoint, presenting him as the hero and savior. That is a plausible reading of the story, admittedly: and much better than plausible if you happen to be David Good. But the Yarima sections of this book are just too cartoony, too kumbaya, to be believable, even if you don’t already know that her people are famous in anthropological circles as “the violent people.”

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

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three Arrives in July
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Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three Arrives in July

BURBANK, CA (May 7, 2024) – Based on DC’s iconic comic book limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, join DC Super Heroes from across the multiverse in the action-packed conclusion of the three-part DC animated film Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three. The eagerly awaited film brings to a close the thrilling trilogy that marks the end to the Tomorrowverse story arc.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the all-new, action-packed DC animated film features some of DC’s most famous Super Heroes from multiple universes, including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, who come together to stop an impending threat of doom and destruction. Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three will be available to purchase exclusively on digital on July 16 and 4K UHD in limited edition steelbook packaging and Blu-ray on July 23.

Fans of this superhero adventure will also indulge in a range of bonus features, including interviews with the filmmakers about how they created a comprehensive universe across seven films.

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part One and Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Two are currently available on Digital, 4K UHD, and Blu-ray.

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three features returning popular voice cast members: Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, The Boys, The Winchesters) as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Emmy winner Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Glee) as Superman & Earth-2 Superman, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta ComptonBlack Adam) as Green Lantern/John Stewart, Meg Donnelly (Legion of Super-Heroes, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,) as Supergirl & Harbinger, and Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia) as Wonder Woman & Superwoman, along with Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, Black Mass) as Lex Luthor.

The star-studded ensemble voice cast also includes Gideon Adlon as Batgirl, Ike Amadi as Martian Manhunter/J’Onn J’Onzz, Geoffrey Arend as Psycho Pirate/Charles Halstead, Troy Baker as The Joker & Spider Guild Lantern, Brian Bloom as Adam Strange & Sidewinder, Matt Bomer as The Flash, Ashly Burch as Nightshade & Queen Mera, Zach Callison as Earth-2 Robin & Robin/Damian Wayne, Kevin Conroy as Earth-12 Batman, Alexandra Daddario as Lois Lane, Brett Dalton as Bat Lash & Captain Atom, John Dimaggio as Lobo, Ato Essandoh as Mr. Terrific, Keith Ferguson as Doctor Fate & Two-Face, Will Friedle as Batman Beyond & Kamandi, Jennifer Hale as Hippolyta & Green Lantern Aya, Mark Hamill as Earth-12 The Joker, Jamie Gray Hyder as Hawkgirl & Young Diana, Erika Ishii as Doctor Light/Dr. Hoshi & Huntress, David Kaye as The Question & Cardonian Lantern, Matt Lanter as Blue Beetle, Liam McIntryre as Aquaman, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams as Dr. Beth Chapel & The Cheetah, Lou Diamond Phillips as The Spectre, Elysia Rotaru as Black Canary & Black Canary II, Matt Ryan as Constantine, Katee Sackhoff as Poison Ivy, Keesha Sharp as Vixen, Jimmi Simpson as Green Arrow, Jason Spisak as Blue Lantern Razer & Hayseed, Armen Taylor as The Flash/Jay Garrick, Gas Soldier & Executioner, and Dean Winters as Captain Storm.

Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three is produced by Jim Krieg and Kimberly S. Moreau and executive produced by Butch Lukic, Sam Register, and Michael Uslan. The film is directed by Jeff Wamester from a script by Jim Krieg. Casting and voice direction is by Wes Gleason. The film is based on characters from DC and the graphic novel “Crisis on Infinite Earths” by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez

Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths—Part Three will be available digitally on July 16 from Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Google Play, Vudu, and more. On July 23, the film will be available on 4K Ultra HD in limited edition steelbook packaging and Blu-ray Discs online and in-store at major retailers. Pre-order your copy now.

Additionally, the Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths Trilogy will be available on July 16 to purchase digitally from Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Google Play, Vudu, and more. It features an exclusive special feature: An Epic Challenge: Crisis in Comics and Animation.

SYNOPSIS:

Now fully revealed as the ultimate threat to existence, the ANTI-MONITOR wages an unrelenting attack on the surviving Earths that struggle for survival in a pocket universe. One by one, these worlds and all their inhabitants are vaporized! On the planets that remain, even time itself is shattered, and heroes from the past join the Justice League and their rag-tag allies against the epitome of evil. But as they make their last stand, will the sacrifice of the superheroes be enough to save us all?​

SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three – Physical and Digital

  • A Multiverse of Inspiration
  • Jon and John: Stewart and Constantine

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths Trilogy (Digital only)

  • An Epic Challenge: Crisis in Comics and Animation 

PRICING AND FILM INFORMATION

Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three

PRODUCT                                                                             SRP

Digital purchase                                                                      $19.99

4K Ultra HD Steelbook + Digital Version*                           $47.99 USA

4K Ultra HD Steelbook                                                          $54.99 Canada

Blu-ray + Digital Version*                                                     $29.98 USA    

Blu-ray                                                                                    $39.99 Canada

Justice League Crisis on Infinite Earths Trilogy

PRODUCT                                                                             SRP

Digital purchase                                                                      $39.99

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

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

Running Time: 98:06

Rated PG-13 for some violence and language.

*Digital version not available in Canada

Roaming by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
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Roaming by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

The publisher says this is an adult book, but it’s about young people (nineteen; at my age nineteen is very young) figuring out what they want out of life and how to live in the world, so it’s at least thematically appropriate for not-quite-adult readers. I’m tagging it thus; complain in comments if you think high schoolers should be shielded from the view of first-year college students traveling to New York, drinking and smoking pot, swearing and causing trouble, staying in hostels and getting busy. (And then I’ll point and laugh at you, because you are just wrong.)

Roaming is the third major graphic novel by cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, after 2008’s Skim  and 2014’s This One Summer . (So we can expect their next book together about 2035, assuming three points can be extrapolated infinitely.) I don’t know how they work together. Jillian is a cartoonist who does other projects all on her own, both writing and drawing. Mariko has written other comics, but I don’t think she draws. So my assumption is the art is all Jillian, but not that the writing is all Mariko. And we all know what they say about assumptions.

It’s set in 2009. Two friends who grew up together in some random Toronto suburb, Zoe and Dani, are meeting up at Newark Airport on spring break, to spend a week together in NYC, after going away to different Canadian colleges for the past year. Zoe is aiming for a STEM-ish degree; Dani is studying art – again, they’re second-semester freshmen, so all of this is new and somewhat tentative.

When they meet in Newark, Dani has brought along a new friend: Fiona, another art student, assured and opinionated and a former New Yorker herself. We think this will be the story of how Fiona’s presence affects Zoe and Dani’s old comfortable friendship, and that’s true…but not in the way we first expect, seeing quiet Zoe react warily to brash Fiona.

It’s organized into five sections, corresponding to the five days. We open with Zoe alone in that airport, and we close on a subway, all three women heading to one last new experience on the day they’ll fly out. And much-too-old me ended the book thinking they’re heading in the wrong direction, even if they do have most of the day, to be sure to get to the airport on time. But that’s old-person thinking; they’re trying to cram as much experience into a few days as possible – to be somewhere they’ve dreamed about for years. So I can worry about them, but I can’t fault them.

The plot is deceptively simple: they wander around the city, doing things – apparently from a list Zoe and Dani worked out ahead of time. Fiona, who was not part of the planning and is vastly less go-along and vastly more opinionated about everything NYC, pushes them in very different directions – not always the ones you’d expect. And Zoe connects with Fiona. And Dani and Zoe talk, eventually, about who they used to be as friends and who they are now after a year away at different universities.

My fingers wanted to type “universes” there. It’s almost equally true. They’re doing different things, living different lives, and we get only snippets of those new lives here – but enough to know they’re as tumultuous and often uncomfortable as most lives. They have idealized visions of each other – their dreams from high school, mostly – and Roaming is, in part, how they learn that they each are not the people they dreamed about being – maybe not yet, or maybe not ever.

What it’s mostly about is circling back to someone who was really important in your life, thinking you can pick right back up where you left off, and you both have changed. You may still be friends, you may still be really close friends, but you’re not sixteen anymore: you’ve both already changed, and you will both keep changing.

And the dialogue is great; true, in that broken, rambling, random way that people really talk. Half-thoughts, cut-off sentences, pasts alluded to rather than detailed. The Tamakis don’t tell us everything about Dani and Zoe, but they tell us what we need to know, and they show us how Dani and Zoe used to be with each other, and how they are now.

This is a lovely book about an important time of life, and an important kind of transition. We all have old friends, and we are all changing, all the time. Even if we’re no longer nineteen, Roaming has a lot to say to us.

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

REVIEW: Madame Web
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REVIEW: Madame Web

Sony has been struggling to find the secret formula to make their Spider-Verse movies satisfy audiences in the same way Marvel Studios has managed for the last decade-plus. Boiled down, it seems to come form a lack of coherent vision and weak scripts.

The critical despair and box office indifference to Madame Web is misplaced because it’s not the worst of the lot, but viewers are clearly tired of Sony misfires, which doesn’t bode well for the forthcoming Kraven.

The incredibly weak script from director SJ Clarkson, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, and Claire Parke mars the potential found deep within the very disappointing Madame Web, out now from Sony Home Entertainment. The basic premise that four women are brought together as part of a woven tapestry of spider-powers is fine, as is importing Ezekiel (Tahar Rahim) from the Spider-Man comics to be the bad guy.

However, the script them all. Cassie Webb (Dakota Johnson) is scarred after her mother, Constance Webb (Kerry Bishé)’s death, hardening herself with a shell of indifference even as she works as an EMT, which requires a desire to interact with mankind. Her only friend, it seems, is Richard Parker (Adam Scott), whose pregnant wife Mary (Emma Roberts) is carrying an unnamed baby boy (Peter, for those who miss the breadcrumbs).

At the same time, Ezekiel, who is responsible for the death of Cassie’s mother, receives the psychic impression that three young women are a threat to his future. He maniacally and one-dimensionally tries to find and kill them to save his life, coming across Cassie, who, as fate would have it, unites the girls.

Cassie’s emergence as a leader and mothering figure for Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced), and Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor), all abandoned by their own parents, could have been a wonderful arc. Instead, she herself abandons them for a week to track the Amazonian spider tribe and learn more about her powers and destiny. We see little of what happens to the girls during this time, which is a wasted opportunity. While a worthy goal, the abandonment derails the core plot. The three teens aren’t deep, with surface personalities that rob the actresses from doing anything meaningful.

And then we get to the climax, which sees cars crash, buildings burn, and Cassie coming into her own. It’s all cookie-cutter and less than original. The potential is squandered from beginning to end, yet another Sony misfire demonstrating that they just don’t know how to make these super-hero movies work. SJ Clarkson’s direction is perfunctory when it could have been revelatory.

The movie is available in all the usual formats, including the reviewed Blu-ray, which has a superb 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer, and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. A digital HD code is also included.

The disc is rounded out with a fine, if unexceptional collection of Special Features including Future Vision (7 Minutes), Casting the Web (9:09), Oracle of the Page (4:54), Gag Reel (4:31), Fight Like a Spider (5:31), Easter Eggs – The Many Threads of Madame Web (3:55), and a single Deleted Scene – You Died (1:00).

Thorn by Jeff Smith
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Thorn by Jeff Smith

It’s always complicated looking at the early stuff. Especially when “the early stuff” hasn’t been publicly available for a few decades, and was very much a trial run for the later stuff, which used a lot of the same elements and ideas in a more coherent, consistent way.

That’s why it took until 2024 for Thorn: The Complete Proto-Bone College Strips 1982-1986  to be published; Jeff Smith knew that as well as anyone, and Bone, even now, is his major work, the core of his resume, and probably still his largest source of income. Add that to any creator’s standard disinterest at looking back at juvenilia, and this is work that could easily have stayed moldering in a vault indefinitely, only to roll out in some posthumous Complete Works or similar exercise.

But, for whatever reason, Smith decided to look back, to clean up, and to publish a comprehensive collection of his earliest major work: it shipped to his Kickstarter backers recently and is scheduled to hit regular retail channels this summer.

It’s a big book: over three hundred pages, on good paper, in a wider-than-tall format suitable for printing strip comics two-up on each page, in a large, clean presentation. And the material is equally comprehensive, with all of the strips Smith did in college – the full run of Thorn from his college paper The Sundial, a short try-out called Mickey & Rudy that ran very briefly during a Thorn hiatus, and a book-formatted one-pager from another campus publication – surrounded by notes, introductions, and other material to put it into context and explain how it all came to be.

So, physically and technically, this is impressive. It’s the best possible presentation for this material, treating it all seriously and presenting it all well and clearly. The material itself if a bit more of a mixed bag, which is what we all assumed.

Thorn was a daily strip – five days a week, during the four quarters of the Ohio State academic calendar – and it has the rhythms of a daily. It wanders, it digresses, it has one-off silliness and gags. Dailies, especially by college students, tend to be “about” everything in their creator’s worlds, almost equally, and that’s the case here. The first two years of Thorn feature a shorter, substantially different version of the main plot from Bone, alongside other material and including topical elements that dropped out of the later comic-book version.

Most obviously, Thorn was a Reagan-era strip. There’s a Reagan caricature that shows up late in the run, and other digs earlier on. Smith has a whole quirky subplot about Thorn’s religious mania, which loosely ties into a storyline about a con-man evangelist – it was the 1980s, and shady evangelists were big in both pop-culture and the real world. There’s also plenty of Cold War material, including a major antagonist – a Russian-accented pig who denies he’s a pig – that dropped out between this version and Bone.

It’s not all successful, or artfully done, but it’s all authentic. Smith was young, working on deadlines, and getting his stuff down on paper to tell stories. Some of the threads don’t go much of anywhere, or are phrased weirdly – the Thorn religious material, and her subsequent feminism, have particularly stilted phrasing a lot of the time, either because that’s how those topics were discussed in Ohio in the ’80s or because that’s how Smith could phrase them for a general newspaper.

The art runs through the same variations, too: some of it is as crisp and clear as early Bone, and some is a lot sketchier, or with half-formed ideas left in the drawing or half-erased. Thorn herself in particular isn’t as pretty as I think Smith wanted her to be: her face is usually an only-slightly-younger version of Grand’ma Ben’s. Or maybe what I mean is that she’s treated as an adult here, and turns into an ingenue for Bone. She clearly does seem to be somewhat surer of herself, and possibly older, here than in Bone.

All of that is reading Thorn with one eye on the future. It’s more difficult to think of it as a thing complete in itself, to imagine how we would look at it if Smith had never reworked this material into Bone, if he’d, for example, done something like RASL or Tuki first in the comics field. That’s also partially because a few years of a daily, even one with a clearly defined central story (at least for those first two years) like Thorn, isn’t generally one thing: it’s a conglomeration of dozens or hundreds of things, one per day, for as long as the strip runs. Dailies generally stop rather than end – even this one, with that clear plotline, kept going almost as long again after the big climax.

Thorn is a fun ’80s-era college strip, and a fascinating signpost on the way to Bone. Smith was a solid artist even this far back, and does at least workmanlike art all of the time, and quite nice art fairly regularly. It’s a quirky, interesting precursor to a major work, and it’s great to see it get published in this definitive edition.

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