The Mix : What are people talking about today?

REVIEW: Toy Story 4

REVIEW: Toy Story 4

REVIEW: Toy Story 4

There was a lot of sturm and drang at Pixar before they committed to making Toy Story 2, afraid their golden child might be ruined by a lackluster sequel. Not to worry, it was charming and a box office hit. They wisely waited until they had the exact story to tell for Toy Story 3, a film who’s ending never fails to elicit a tear or two for my long-ago childhood.

At first, we were dealing with Woody (Tom Hanks) coming to grips with his human, Andy, seeming to prefer the new, shiny Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Then there was a little matter of Andy aging out and what that meant for the toys. They’re meant to be cherished, not neglected, so the passing of them to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) was a perfect touch.

But Bonnie is not Andy and her tastes are her own. She’s younger, of almost an entirely different generation, and Woody is left to wonder what is his role today? These existential issues are nicely played from beginning to end in the charming Toy Story 4, out now on disc from Disney Home Entertainment.

Bonnie is ready for school and Woody, always looking after the toys and his human, feels a responsibility to be there for her. No need, it turns out, as her kindergarten orientation gave her the opportunity to create her own toy, turning an ordinary spork into her new playmate, Forky (Tony Hale). Its problem is that Forky believes it was meant to be used once and disposed of, not loved. Once again, Woody feels responsible for keeping Forky from suicide and ruining Bonnie’s budding school career.

When the family goes on a road trip, things get complicated as a visit to an antique store introduces Woody to Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a girl’s doll created with a defective voice box and relegated to a shelf. She and her Jerry Mahoney-like dummies sweet-talk and entrap Woody, in order to obtain the thing she feels would make her desirable. Forky winds up a hostage so it’s Woody to the rescue, aided by Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who vanished years before and wound up in the store, a toughened go-it-alone figure.

Some of the action sequences in first-time director Josh Cooley’s hands are overdone at the expense of the menagerie of toys having anything useful to do. Instead, the thematic focus is entirely on Woody and his place in this strange new world. He does what he does and along the way, recognizes its time for the next chapter of his life. The ending makes sense and works emotionally even if we take our sweet time getting there.

The film has been released in a variety of formats including a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD code combo pack. The 1080p high definition transfer captures the colors nicely and we can marvel at how far the CGI animation has come since the first film (1995). The Blu-ray defaults to the DTS-HD HR 5.1 audio track although you can easily upgrade to the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Both sound just fine, if not perfect.

The combo pack comes with two Blu-ray discs with Special Features on both. The first, with the film, also offers up Bo Rebooted (6:21); Toy Stories (5:38) as cast and crew reminisce; and Audio Commentary with Cooley and Producer Mark Nielsen. The second disc contains Let’s Ride with Ally Maki (5:41), the voice of Giggle McDimples, goes in the recording process; Woody & Buzz (3:35); Anatomy of a Scene: Playground (9:31); Carnival Run (1:00); View from the Roof (0:29); Toy Box (13:00), introducing Gabby Gabby, the Vincent dummies, Forky, Duke Caboom, Ducky & Bunny, and Giggle McDimples; Deleted Scenes (28:00), Introduction, Scamming Playtime, Bo Knows Hippos, Desperate Toys, Knock-Offs, Recruit Duke, and She’s the One.

REVIEW: The Death and Return of Superman

REVIEW: The Death and Return of Superman

REVIEW: The Death and Return of Superman

The Doomsday Saga sprawled across the four monthly Superman titles for the better part of a year, clearly too long to successfully adapt as part of the DC Animated Universe series of films. When The Death of Superman was announced, everyone knew a second film would follow and sure enough, viewers were treated to The Reign of the Superman. The 1992-93 storyline was streamlined and revised to be fit into the animated continuity, so characters who weren’t around at the time, are here now.

Warner Home Entertainment has edited the two films together into a 2:46 and has released it as The Death and Return of Superman released in a variety of formats including the nifty 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition Gift Set (4K, Blu-ray, Digital HD, and a Steel action figure). The 4K gift set comes with Superman: Doomsday as a bonus 4K disc.

As noted in reviews of the two films, it does a reasonable, but not perfect, job of taking the serialized story and putting it all together. Lex Luthor gets played up more than he deserves and the Justice League’s core heroes have a far more prominent role. The “replacement” heroes – Steel, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator – are all here for good or ill, adding new players for future films.

As one would expect, the excellent voice cast is back including Jerry O’Connell’s Superman, Rebecca Romjin’s Lois, and Rainn Wilson’s Luthor, supported by Jason O’Mara (Batman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), Shemar Moore (Cyborg), Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), Matt Lanter (Aquaman), Christopher Gorham (The Flash), and Nyambi Nyambi (Martian Manhunter). They are joined by Cress Williams (Steel), Cameron (Superboy), Patrick Fabian (Hank Henshaw), and Charles Halford (Eradicator).

In the edit, some dropped sequences are back, helping seamlessly meld the two into one, despite an unavoidable shift in tone given the Man of Steel’s prominence only in the first half and the void he left subduing the second.

It’s faithful enough and satisfying enough to own. As for which version to buy (or give, after all, the release is timed for holiday giving), the Blu-ray 1080p is just fine both visually and aurally. The 4K is nicer but not enough to justify the cost, unless you really want the Steel figure or find a good sale..

Thankfully, there’s a nice new special feature, Long Live Superman (45:57), with co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee joined by creators Denny O’Neil, Jerry Ordway, Jon Bogdanove, Brett Breeding, Neal Adams, and Danny Fingeroth discussing his history and enduring appeal. The celebration includes commentary on Action Comics #1000 and footage from the Fleischer cartoons, George Reeves television series, first Chris Reeve film, and various DCAU films.

Carried over from the previous editions are The Death of Superman: The Brawl That Topped Them All, Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis, and six episodes from various series: Legion of Superheroes, “Dark Victory: Part 1-2”; Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal”, Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky”.

Wayne D. Chang: Judging “Joker” on Its Merits

Wayne D. Chang: Judging “Joker” on Its Merits

There are several ways to look at Todd Phillips’ 2019 movie Joker. It is obviously grounded in DC Comics’ vast history, however it is not what most comic book aficionados would consider a “comic book” movie. Yes, it is set in Gotham City. Yes, there are references to Arkham Asylum as well as characters like Thomas Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, and even a young Bruce Wayne. However it would be grossly unfair to judge this movie as a Batman movie or even consider it in the same frame of mind as the introduction of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman or Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight (and hinted at the end of Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins). Both movies featured The Joker as the villain, and there was a clear relationship between him and Batman, but as I suggested, this does not appear to be a typical comic book movie.

For the record, I have not actually seen “Joker” yet. I am basing this op-ed piece on what news is currently available, video clips, trailers, etc. This piece may be flawed, but it is my opinion, and you are welcome to take exception with it if you choose to do so.

We see Arthur Fleck as someone akin to Arthur Miller’s “Willy Loman” in Death of a Salesman – a man of little perceived significance and yet to come to terms with who he is. Arthur Fleck is the kind of guy who gets the crap beat out of him in viral videos. He is a stand-up comedian who has had more bombs than Dresden. From what we see of him, there is a slow progression into madness or at the very least, we see him come to terms with his madness and rebirth as the Joker, something more than a stage persona. Arthur Fleck has accepted this as who he is as he becomes visible to a wider audience thanks to an appearance on “Live with Murray Franklin.” The fact that “Murray Franklin” is played by no less than Robert De Niro lends a gravity to what could have been a simple comic book movie, but even saying that is doing a gross disservice to Joker. The movie is a love note to Martin Scorsese’s 1982 masterpiece The King of Comedy.

Joker is as Warner Bros Publicity has stated, “a cautionary tale.”

So far Joker has enjoyed unprecedented critical acclaim and response from international film festivals, however it has also endured pre-judgment from comic book fans who are quick to dismiss it as NOT a comic book movie. A friend of mine was excited to see this when the teaser first hit social media, however recently he said he wouldn’t bother seeing it as it was not in his estimation a legitimate telling of the origins of the Joker as generations of comic books, TV shows, cartoons, and movies have portrayed it. There was Alan Moore & Brian Bolland’s timeless Batman: The Killing Joke (from which Joker seems to draw inspiration). There is also the older story element of Batman chasing a man in a red hood who falls in a vat of chemicals. Being immersed in chemicals apparently rendered this man’s hair green, his face white, and his lips red giving Gotham City the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker. While the red hood was not integral to the Joker’s origin in some cases, Batman was, and in the case of  The Dark Knight, the Joker existed as a response to Batman establishing a symbiotic relationship.

A lot of dissatisfaction from comic book aficionados seems to come from the basic question of “Where’s Batman?” It is bad enough that adaptations of stories sometimes play fast and loose with established mythology, and some fans seem quick to voice that they’re not going to see Joker. I confess that I was one of these fans, however after deeper consideration, dismissing Joker as not a Batman movie would be just the same as what happens to Arthur Fleck in the movie – dismissing him as insignificant. Joker appears to be a frighteningly intimate portrayal of a man’s descent into madness and embracing it as others have not accepted him or his true nature. As such, I could easily see how this could and should receive massive amounts of critical success, however it is not what I would consider or accept as a comic book movie or a Batman story. Perhaps this version of the Joker would appear in an adaptation of DC Comics’ Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that certainly would be interesting, but I have reservations about that. It would be better to judge this as a character study.

Review: Graham Nolan’s “Monster Island” 20th Anniversary Edition

Review: Graham Nolan’s “Monster Island” 20th Anniversary Edition

I’ve recently spent some time in the Syracuse University Archives researching old comic strips. It turns out they have an incredible collection of original artwork by top tier comic artists – everyone from Hal Foster to Frank Robbins.  It’s quite a thrill and every time I view these originals I feel like a kid who’s successfully raided the cookie jar – and got away with it.

That’s how the new Monster Island book made me feel.  You might remember Graham Nolan’s independent comic from about 20 years ago.  It was a kick to follow along as two military folks fight their way across an island full of monsters.  And it’s not Frankenstein or the Wolfman – these are monsters in the classic Kirby-Atlas Comics or Godzilla-TOHO studios mold. Big and scary and nutty and goofy and fun. My kinda monsters.

You’ve seen this format before. Scott Dunbier and IDW have essentially created the category we all call Artist’s Editions. These books are shot from the original pages complete with production notes, blemishes, corrections and handwritten scrawls. Reading one of these is the closest most of us will ever come to holding the original art in our hands for one sitting.

Graham Nolan is a strong artist, and he’s also a strong storyteller. He’s got a vibrant visual sense (I’ve been a fan since the old Hawkword series) and here, as the writer, he’s able to introduce big concepts and keep the story moving, all the while helping readers get to know the cute couple at the center of the story.

This volume is even more fun as it includes extras. Some as you’d expect, like the character sketches, are wonderful and whimsical. Of note are the comic strip versions of Monster Island. Years ago, Graham Nolan had repackaged the strip to sell to a newspaper syndication. His efforts never went anywhere (it’s a shame, as this thriller lends itself to this format), but it did lead to him getting the gig penciling the Phantom for several years.

The story is fun, but beyond that, I find Nolan’s efforts inspirational. He comes across as the kind of guy who has a vision and puts in the hours to see if he can make it a reality.

Kudos to him -and I am sure he has inspired up and coming creatives over the years.

Farscape The Complete Series on Blu-ray Celebrates 20 Years

Farscape The Complete Series on Blu-ray Celebrates 20 Years

SYNOPSIS

Astronaut John Crichton assumes he’ll be home in time for dinner. But a freak accident during an experimental space mission catapults him across a thousand galaxies to an alien battlefield. Suddenly, he’s trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology – a battle that 20th century sci-fi pop culture never prepared him for. Hunted by a merciless military race, Crichton begins his unforgettable quest for home. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of this groundbreaking, epic sci-fi adventure that has become a fan favorite around the world.

 
BLU-RAY BONUS MATERIALS

  • Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars 2-part Finale Miniseries
  • Audio Commentaries
  • Archival Documentaries, Featurettes and Inside Looks
  • Behind-the-Scenes Interviews
  • Deleted & Director’s Cut Scenes
  • Alternate Version of the Season 2 Premiere
  • TV Promos
  • AND MORE!

CAST AND CREW

Creator: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Executive Producers: Rockne S. O’Bannon, Robert A. Halmi, David Kemper, Brian Henson, Richard Manning
Cast: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Gigi Edgley, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Lani John Tupu, Jonathan Hardy
 

SPECS

1080p 1.33:1 / 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
5.1 DTS-HD MA English Audio

47 Meters Down: Uncaged Dives for Home

47 Meters Down: Uncaged Dives for Home

SANTA MONICA, CA (September 25, 2019) – The fear goes deeper in this thrilling, must-see underwater sequel when 47 Meters Down: Uncaged arrives on Digital 4K Ultra HD October 29 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand November 12 from global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B). Starring Sophie Nélisse (The Great Gilly Hopkins), Corinne Foxx (Beat Shazam), Brianne Tju (Light as a Feather, iZombie), Sistine Rose Stallone (Entertainment Tonight), Khylin Rhambo (Teen Wolf, Ender’s Game), Nia Long (Empire, Are We There Yet?), Brec Bassinger (Bella and the Bulldogs), and John Corbett (The Silence), the terrifying, claustrophobic film has everything you could want from a killer shark movie.
 
Directed by Johannes Roberts and written by Roberts and Ernest Riera, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged follows the diving adventure of four teenage girls exploring a submerged Mayan city. Once inside, their rush of excitement turns into a jolt of terror as they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly great white sharks. With their air supply steadily dwindling, the friends must navigate the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out of their watery hell.
 
Take home 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and immerse yourself in the underwater world with exclusive special features, including audio commentary with writer-director Johannes Roberts, producer James Harris, and writer Ernest Riera; as well as the “Diving Deeper: Uncaging 47 Meters Down” featurette. The Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.
 
BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Johannes Roberts, Producer James Harris, and Writer Ernest Riera 
  • Diving Deeper: Uncaging 47 Meters Down

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2019
Title Copyright: © 2019 The Fyzz Facility Film 11 Ltd
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: PG-13 for creature related violence and terror, some bloody images and brief rude gestures.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 90 Minutes
BD Format: 1080P 23.98 High Definition 16×9 (2.40:1) Widescreen Presentation
DVD Format: 16×9 (2.40:1) Widescreen Presentation
BD Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Descriptive Audio
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio

The Handmaid’s Tale S3 Takes a Stand on Nov. 19

The Handmaid’s Tale S3 Takes a Stand on Nov. 19

LOS ANGELES (September 25, 2019) – The third season of the Emmy®, Golden Globe® and Peabody Award-winning series, The Handmaid’s Tale, is driven by titular handmaid June’s (Elisabeth Moss) resistance to the dystopian regime of Gilead, in which she finds herself once again after opting not to flee to Canada with her baby at the end of the second season. Now, she will struggle to strike back against the regime despite overwhelming odds. This season there are startling reunions, betrayals and a journey to the terrifying heart of Gilead that will force all of the characters to take a stand, guided by one defiant prayer: “Blessed be the fight.”
 
After two intense seasons, the women of Gilead are ready to strike back at the twisted fundamentalist regime that rules Gilead. They’re armed with a plan and will band together to pull off a bold and daring attack. With an exclusive bonus feature entitled “Power Play: Gilead’s Women Fight Back,” get a look at how these women have come into their power and what this means for the future of Gilead. Serena Joy is done trying to be the dutiful wife and goes against her husband (and Gilead) in order to get what she truly wants (her daughter Nicole) and June is done playing by Gilead’s rules. She has made alliances with her new Commander and the Martha network in order to save the children living in Gilead.
 
Season three includes Emmy® Award winners Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford who won in the Guest Actress and Guest Actor categories for their performances in season two. The third season also welcomed Commander and Mrs. Winslow to the series, played by Christopher Meloni (Syfy’s Happy!, Law & Order: SVU) and Elizabeth Reaser (The Twilight Saga and Easy), joining series regulars Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella and Samira Wiley.
 
The third season of The Handmaid’s Tale is executive produced by Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Elisabeth Moss, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Eric Tuchman, Mike Barker, John Weber, Frank Siracusa, Sheila Hockin, Yahlin Chang and Kira Snyder. The Handmaid’s Tale is produced by MGM Television and internationally distributed by MGM.
 
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Blu-rayTM & DVD Bonus Features

  • Power Play: Gilead’s Women Fight Back

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 Blu-rayTM Specifications
Street Date:                 November 19, 2019
Screen Format:           16×9, 2.00:1
Audio:                         English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:                     English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French
Total Run Time:          Approx. 659 mins
 
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 DVD Specifications
Street Date:                 November 19, 2019        
Screen Format:           16×9, 2.00:1
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1              
Subtitles:                     English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French
Total Run Time:          Approx. 659 mins

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hits Homes in time for Halloween

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark hits Homes in time for Halloween

SANTA MONICA, CA (September 24, 2019) – Get ready to be absolutely terrified when Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark arrives on Digital October 22 and on 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand November 5 from global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B). The highly anticipated film adaptation of the iconic book series brings the thrills and chills of some of Alvin Schwartz’s scariest stories to life.
 
Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is produced by Academy Award® winner Guillermo del Toro (2017, The Shape of Water, Best Director), with screen story by Guillermo Del Toro and Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan, written for the screen by Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman, and directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Trollhunter). The film stars Zoe Margaret Colletti (Annie, Wildlife, Rubicon), Michael Garza (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Wayward Pines, Timeless”, Dean Norris (Breaking Bad, Claws,” Scandal), Lorraine Toussaint (Selma, Into the Badlands, Orange is the New Black), Austin Zajur (Fist Fight, Wonder Pets!, Kidding), and Natalie Ganzhorn (The Stanley Dynamic, Make it Pop).
 
It’s 1968 in America. Change is blowing in the wind…but seemingly far removed from the unrest in the cities is the small town of Mill Valley, where for generations the shadow of the Bellows family has loomed large. It is in their mansion on the edge of town that Sarah, a young girl with horrible secrets, turned her tortured life into a series of scary stories, written in a book that has transcended time. For a group of teenagers who discover Sarah’s terrifying home, the stories become all too real in this spine-tingling film.
 
Take home Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and immerse yourself in the terrifying world with exclusive special features, including six featurettes on the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital releases and two featurettes on the DVD looking at the development of the creepiest creatures in the film, as well as the process of taking these classic tales from page to screen!  Experience four times the resolution of full HD with the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes Dolby Vision, bringing entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality. When compared to a standard picture, Dolby Vision can deliver spectacular colors never before seen on a screen, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker.
 
 The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $42.99, $39.99, and $29.95, respectively.

 
4K UHD / BLU-RAY / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  •  “The Bellows Construct” Featurette
  • “Creature from the Shadows” Featurette
  • “Mood Reels” Featurette
  • “Behind-the-Scenes Trailers: Set Visits” Featurette
  • “Dark Tales” Featurette
  • “Retro Horror” Featurette

 
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

  • “Dark Tales” Featurette
  • “Retro Horror” Featurette
REVIEW: Anna

REVIEW: Anna

Luc Besson captured my attention with Léon the Professional in 1994 and since then, I’ve wanted to love everything he’s done, but the man is incredibly inconsistent so it’s as if every other film is worth a look. However, he hasn’t really scored since 2014’s Lucy. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a pretty misfire and now we have Anna.

The film, out now on disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, is another in a long line of admirable female empowerment tales. His French action-thriller has its moments, and a (literally) cheeky performance by Helen Mirren, but has a low-budget look and feel that never goes beyond the surface so every single character feels one-dimensional.

We are introduced to the latest find, Sasha Luss, a willowy blonde who can kick ass but pales in comparison to the far superior Atomic Blonde. At first, she is a down on her luck girlfriend to a drug dealing moron, but then gets recruited to work for Russian Intelligence, where she is trained to deadly perfection by Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans), who then convinces KGB chief (or something, its unclear) Olga (Mirren) to take and use his new weapon.

Where the film succeeds best is its frequent time-bending storytelling so you only think you know what’s going on before they rewind and fill in some vital gaps. As a result, the story evolves and can intrigue you, but its utter vapidity and absurdness, staggers the imagination. Olga sends her into the field for a test with an unloaded gun and then we have the first of several high-octane set pieces that are too broad and comical to be taken seriously.

Along the way, she wearies of the life, and preferring to stay in at home with her model girlfriend Maud (Lera Abova) or find a way out of her career as a killer, undercover as a fashion model. She crosses paths with CIA officer Leonard Miller (Cillian Murphy) and he may offer her a ticket to paradise. Or not.

There’s a drabness to the photography, adding to a somber look with just flashes of color, usually Anna in various states of dress or undress. With the characters incredibly underwritten, a solid cast is given little to do except go through the paces and tick off the check marks. The action is either okay or over-the-top, unremarkable all around.

Such a weak state of affairs may explain is worldwide bomb at the box office, grossing under $30 million after a summer in theaters.

The film was released in an assortment of formats including Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. Shot digitally, the native 2K high definition transfer is perfectly fine if as unexceptional as the film itself. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is up to the task for every punch and tire squeal.

There are a handful of average special features including Dressing a Doll: The Costumes of Anna (8:06); Anatomy of a Scene: The Restaurant Fight (6:41); Unnesting a Russian Doll: Making Anna (13:57); and Constructing the Car Chase (5:40).