, somewhere vaguely Western European. Given that the creators – co-writer Roxanne Moreil and writer/artist Cyril Pedrosa – are French – you could call it a fantasy version of France, and not be far wrong.
In the manner of fairy tales, there is no wider world: we don’t know what countries border Antrevers, and it doesn’t matter. This kingdom is the world of the story; everything will happen within it.
Antrevers has been getting poorer and life harder for a generation or so. Crops are not as fertile, life is not as easy. Again, trade and development are left unmentioned: this is a single kingdom in a static, medieval world. The nobles have been increasing taxes to maintain their position; the peasants have been complaining, and starting to rebel, in turn. Repression of those peasants has been ramping up, under Louys de Vaudemont, one of the most powerful nobles.
The old king has just died. If his name was thrown out, I didn’t catch it. He leaves an aged wife – also left unnamed, and her exact title after his death is vague, too – and two children. There’s a younger son, but his older sister, Tilda, is expected to inherent – this is not a world with a Salic Law, I suppose.
Tilda is our main viewpoint character: a bit headstrong, determined to use her authority and power to make life better for the entire kingdom, to reverse the downward slide of all of Antrevers. To that end, she has been talking about shaking up the power of the nobles – not eliminating that power, probably not even curtailing it that much, but putting some royal limits on what nobles had gotten used to doing unfettered. She is young and energetic and sure she is right. She will learn others are equally sure of their rightness
We enter this world like diving into a pool: Pedrosa’s first few pages are full-bleed, with bright colors, single images in an illustrative, almost impressionist style filling our vision. He mostly settles down to bordered panels after that, but breaks out the full-page art for major moments: this is a visually stunning book. He brings all of the fairy-tale energy and life of his earlier Three Shadows, combining it with the mastery of color and space he showed in Portugal.
Similarly, Moreil and Pedrosa introduce us to a group of peasants first: our story may be mostly among the powerful, but it’s about all the people of this kingdom. From there, the narrative makes its way to court and Tilda, as she meets faithful retainer Lord Tankred and the young swordsman Bertil, who may also have been a childhood playmate of hers. The three of them are soon traveling together, for reasons I don’t want to spoil, but you can guess at how the old nobles are reacting to Tilda’s impending coronation.
Tilda looks to gather allies: we’ve heard a lot about “the Peninsula,” and she heads there, to rendezvous with Lord Albaret, who she knows is loyal to her. They will find other places along the way, particularly a hidden community of women – something like a secular nunnery, or sanctuary – as the story circles around the ideas of governance, power, and noblesse oblige. Tilda has good intentions, but do revolting peasants want any Queen, even a fairly benevolent, forward-thinking one? And can Tilda conceptualize a government without someone like her ruling it by decree?
On top of all that, this is a fantasy story. There is some power that Tilda will find, at the end. She also has visions throughout: visions that make her weak, shattering her normal life and making her collapse, visions of war and fire and danger, in which she is an imposing, commanding figure.
This is Book 1. It ends on a cliffhanger, after more than two hundred pages. But the story, I’m told, ends in the second book, which is out now. I can’t tell you about that book yet – I need to find it now, myself – but I can tell you the first one is compelling and gorgeous and all-enveloping and amazing.
Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital Best Buy Exclusive SteelBook® Street Date: 4/19/22 SRP: $27.99
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION Writer-director Drew Goddard’s wicked and twisted horror-thriller, The Cabin in the Woods, arrives April 19 on 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital Best Buy Exclusive SteelBook® from Lionsgate.
Produced and written alongside Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woodsfeatures Kristen Connolly (The Happening, The Bay, Revolutionary Road), Chris Hemsworth (TheAvengers, Thor: Ragnarok, Snow White and the Huntsman), Anna Hutchison (Robert the Bruce, Encounter, Vengeance: A Love Story), Fran Kranz (Mass, The Village, Training Day), Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Brooklyn’s Finest), two-time Oscar®-nominated actor Richard Jenkins (2017, Best Supporting Actor, The Shape of Water; 2008, Best Actor, The Visitor) and three-time Primetime Emmy® Award winner Bradley Whitford (2019, The Handmaid’s Tale; 2015, Transparent; 2001, The West Wing). The Cabin in the Woodswill be available on 4K Ultra HD™ + Blu-ray™ + Digital SteelBook® for the suggested retail price of $27.99.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS A rambunctious group of five college friends steals away for a weekend of debauchery in an isolated country cabin
, a group of technicians in a control room are scrutinizing, and sometimes even controlling, every move the terrified kids make! With their efforts continually thwarted by an all-powerful “eye in the sky,” do they have any chance of escape?
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Drew Goddard & Writer-Producer Joss Whedon
We Are Not Who We Are: Making The Cabin in the Woods
Primal Terror: Visual Effects
An Army of Nightmares: Makeup & Animatronic Effects
The Secret Secret Stash
CAST Kristen Connolly The Happening, The Bay, Revolutionary Road Chris Hemsworth The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok, Snow White and the Huntsman Anna Hutchison Robert the Bruce, Encounter, Vengeance: A Love Story Fran Kranz Mass, The Village, Training Day Jesse Williams Grey’s Anatomy, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Brooklyn’s Finest Richard Jenkins Oscar®-nominated for The Shape of Water, Oscar®-nominated for The Visitor, Step Brothers Bradley Whitford Primetime Emmy® for The Handmaid’s Tale, The West Wing, and Transparent
Last column, I wrote about the first five minutes of the “Pilot” episode of For Life in which we learned that Aaron Wallace was framed, unjustly convicted of being a drug kingpin, then, while still serving life sentence, became a licensed attorney in New York who practiced from prison. I explained how that would have worked. It wouldn’t.
I figured the show couldn’t possibly make another mistake until after its first act break. I was wrong. As I continued watching
, I learned it had made another mistake in those first five minutes. Then yet another in its sixth.
Aaron had filed a new trial motion on behalf of Jose Rodriguez. Six years earlier, Jose was dating Molly Davison, a 15-year-old girl from a “good family.” In shows like this that’s code for she was white and privileged. Molly’s parents didn’t approve of the relationship. Ultimately, Jose broke up with Molly.
She kept calling him. After Jose turned 18, Molly called and said if he came over one last time, she’d be alright. He went. They had sex. Jose fell asleep. When he woke up he found a suicide note from Molly in the bedroom and found Molly in the living room, overdosed on drugs she had purchased from Freddy Dawkins.
At Jose’s trial, Molly testified she never wrote the suicide note, which had disappeared. Freddy testified Jose, not Molly, bought the drugs. Jose was convicted of attempted murder, for supplying the drugs that almost killed Molly, and statutory rape, because, as the show put it, “in the state of New York, [sex between] an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old is considered statutory rape.”
Except, it isn’t.
New York is one of several states that has what’s commonly called a “Romeo and Juliet” exception to its statutory rape law. That’s not something people who are barred created for people who quote the Bard. It’s an exception that applies to sex acts between teenagers so that consensual sex between people who are between 15 and 21 isn’t a felony. At best it’s a misdemeanor. Sometimes it isn’t even a crime at all.
, found in Article 130 of the New York Penal Laws, require a defendant to be older than 21, if his or her partner is between the ages of 15 and 17 for the crime to be statutory rape. As Jose was 18 and Molly was 15, Jose didn’t commit statutory rape.
The crime that comes closest to applying to sex between an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old is NYPL § 130.55, sexual abuse in the third degree. It’s a misdemeanor, not a felony. And it has an affirmative defense built into it that applies if the defendant is less than five years older than his or her partner and said partner is older than 14. Molly was 15. Even under the new math 15 is older than 14. As Jose was only three years older than Molly, the affirmative defense should have kept Jose from being convicted of even this crime.
But he was convicted, because he had to be convicted for the story to work. After all, who ever heard a lawyer arguing that a client who wasn’t convicted of anything should get a new trial?
Jose was also convicted of attempted murder. Let’s go back to the trial to see how Aaron got Jose out from under that conviction.
In the new trial motion, Aaron argued Freddy had changed his account and now said Molly purchased the drugs. At some point, off camera, the court granted the motion. Now we didn’t see either Aaron’s motion or his argument in favor of the motion, still I can state with some degree of confidence that the trial court would not have granted it. See, later in the episode, Aaron talked to Freddy Dawkins in prison about how he was going to testify. Which means Aaron didn’t have Freddy’s testimony locked down and wasn’t sure how he’d testify.
A new trial motion based on changed testimony would have to have some evidentiary supplement attached to it to satisfy the court that the witness was actually going to offer different testimony. Say a sworn affidavit from Freddy detailing what his new testimony would be.
No judge would grant a motion for a new trial, possibly ending the defendant’s conviction and hefty sentence, because defense counsel supposed a witness was going to change his testimony. You can’t end a sentence with a supposition.
After Jose testified in the new trial, Aaron announced he intended to call Freddy Dawkins and the police officer on the scene who saw Molly’s suicide note. (Wait, Jose’s first lawyer knew about this police officer and didn’t call him in Jose’s original trial? First, said attorney didn’t argue the Romeo and Juliet exception, then failed to put on a key exculpatory witness. Just how bad was this attorney on a scale of zero to absolute zero?)
That’s when assistant district attorney Dez O’Reilly went to work. He exerted pressure on Freddy, and Freddy recanted his earlier recantation. Ah the old recant the recantation trick. Both on TV and in real life recantations of recantations have more frequency than a short wave radio. Dez also arranged for the bus transporting Aaron and Jose from the lock-up to the courtroom to reroute and deliver them last instead of first. By the time they got to court, the police officer who was to testify was gone. He was working an undercover case and that two hour morning slot was his only window to testify.
, we didn’t see Dez doing these things, so we don’t know he did them. But from the smirk he had on his face, we know he did them.
The next thing we knew, Aaron and Jose were back in prison. As there was more trial later in the episode, the court must have continued it. I don’t know why didn’t the judge go on with the trial after Aaron learned he had no witnesses? It was only 11:00 a.m., plenty of time for something.
Even if the judge pulled a Perry Mason – noting that it was nearing the noon hour then recessing until 2:00, so Perry could use that recess to set up his last ditch legal trick/miracle – the trial should have resumed later that day. Here, and for no reason, the judge must have continued the case to another day, because Aaron needed more than a two-hour lunch break for his last ditch legal trick/miracle.
After all, it takes time to fabricate evidence.
Aaron called his wife on his hidden cell phone and had her purchase a box of the same note paper Molly used for her suicide note. While Aaron’s wife was traveling to the prison to deliver the paper, Aaron wrote an “anonymous” letter to himself on a prison typewriter. Then Aaron got the note paper his wife brought him and took it, along with a note that Molly sent Jose while he was in prison and Jose himself, to an inmate who was a forger. Jose had memorized Molly’s suicide note. He dictated it to the forger, who forged Molly’s handwriting on a duplicate suicide note. Next Aaron went to someone in the prison kitchen who treated the note with chemicals and heat to age it and remove the fingerprints. (Or something like that, the show wasn’t real clear what was going on here.) Then Aaron went back to his wife in visitation and gave her the fabricated suicide note and the cover letter. She mailed them back to Aaron. That Aaron could organize all this on such short notice was amazing. That the letter actually got back to him in time was incredible. That he got away with this all stretches credulity farther than Plastic Man in a Cat’s Cradle.
The cover letter Aaron wrote purported to be from a anonymous police officer who had responded to Molly’s overdose and said he found the suicide note at the scene and kept it for some reason even though he had been instructed to destroy it, then, years later, sent it to Aaron because of a guilty conscience. At Aaron’s request, the court called Molly for the express purpose of corroborating whether the note included in the latter was the actual suicide note she wrote.
Aaron had Molly read the note in open court. Then he asked her “Are those the words you wrote to Jose the day you overdosed?” Molly confirmed that those were the words she wrote but said the note she was holding was not the note she wrote.
Aaron asked Molly where the original note was. She said her parents destroyed the note than coerced her to lie about Jose so that she wouldn’t be arrested for buying drugs.
And in the very next scene, Jose was released and cleared and everything was good.
Except, of course, for the fact that Molly was prosecuted for perjury and her parents prosecuted for suborning perjury and destroying evidence.
No, that probably didn’t happen. Remember the Davisons were a “good family.” So they probably didn’t suffer any consequences more severe than those that would have been leveled by a young Bob Barker.
But what about Aaron? Didn’t he face disciplinary actions for knowingly presenting falsified evidence to the court? I’d like to say I don’t know. Even though I didn’t watch any more episodes of For Life, because of my research for these columns, I know what happened in them. If you’re good, I’ll tell you about them later.
, Spider-Man: No Way Home continues to set records, recently toppling Avatar and is now headed for home viewing. The disc release boasts some 80 minutes of bonus material, details below.
For the first time in the cinematic history of Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero’s identity is revealed, bringing his Super Hero responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. When he enlists Doctor Strange’s help to restore his secret, the spell tears a hole in their world, releasing the most powerful villains who’ve ever fought a Spider-Man in any universe. Now, Peter will have to overcome his greatest challenge yet, which will not only forever alter his own future but the future of the Multiverse.
4K ULTRA HD, BLU-RAY™, AND DIGITAL • Bloopers & Gag Reel • Alternate Reality Easter Eggs • 7 Behind the Scenes Featurettes • Action Choreography Across the Multiverse • A Multiverse of Miscreants • A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland • Enter Strange • Graduation Day • Realities Collide
, Spiders Unite • Weaving Jon Watt’s Web • 2 Special Panels: • The Sinister Summit – Villains Panel: Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Foxx sit down for a roundtable discussion of their sinister characters. • A Meeting of the Spiders – Heroes Panel: The Heroic Spider heroes sit down for a roundtable discussion on Peter, Stunts, and skintight suits. • 3 Stories From The Daily Bugle • Spider-Menace Strikes Again • Spider Sycophant • Web of Lies • 2 Stunt Scenes Previsualization • Apartment Fight • Shield Fight DVD • 2 Behind the Scenes Featurettes o A Spectacular Spider-Journey with Tom Holland o Graduation Day
CAST AND CREW
Directed By: Jon Watts Written By: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers Produced By: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal Executive Producers: Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, JoAnn Perritano, Rachel O’Connor, Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, with Marisa Tomei
Runtime: Approx. 148 minutes Rating: PG-13: Sequences of action/violence, some language and brief suggestive comments 4K UHD: Feature: 2160p Ultra High Definition / 2.39:1 • English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French (Doublé au Québec), Spanish, English & French (Doublé au Québec) – Audio Description Tracks 5.1 Dolby Digital Blu-ray™: Feature: 1080p High Definition / 2.39:1 • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French (Doublé au Québec), Spanish, English & French (Doublé au Québec) – Audio Description Tracks 5.1 Dolby Digital DVD: Feature: 2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen • Audio: English
BURBANK, CA (February 22, 2022) – Warner Bros. Animation continues to glean beloved characters from DC’s robust library for the popular DC Showcase line of animated shorts, this time opting to elevate Constantine, Kamandi, The Losers, and Blue Beetle in the 2021-2022 compilation release, DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery. The R-rated shorts collection will be available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Blu-ray (USA $24.99 SRP; Canada $29.99 SRP) and in 4K on Digital starting May 3, 2022.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and inspired by characters and stories from the iconic DC Universe, the all-new quartet of DC Showcase shorts are produced by Rick Morales (Mortal Kombat Legends franchise, Injustice). Jim Krieg is producer, and Sam Register is executive producer.
While Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!, The Losers and Blue Beetle have all appeared as enhanced content on past DC Universe Movies, the extended-length Constantine – The House of Mystery makes its public debut as the anchor for this dynamic shorts compilation.
Matt Ryan (Constantine, Legends of Tomorrow) reprises his live-action and animated role as the Hellblazer himself in Constantine – The House of Mystery. In the all-new short
, John Constantine wakes up in the eerie House of Mystery with no recollection of how he got there. Fortunately, Zatanna and his friends are all there. Unfortunately, they have a bad habit of turning into demons and ripping him to shreds, over and over again! Camilla Luddington (Grey’s Anatomy) and Ray Chase (Licorice Pizza) reprise their roles from Justice League Dark: Apokolips War as Zatanna and Jason Blood/Etrigan, respectively, while Robin Atkin Downes (The Strain) and Damian O’Hare (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) reprise their roles from Constantine: City of Demons as Negral and Chas, respectively. In addition, Grey Griffin (Scooby-Doo franchise) and Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Longmire, Young Guns) join the cast of the short, which is directed by Matt Peters (Injustice) from a script by Ernie Altbacker (Batman: Hush).
Also included in the animated shorts collection are:
KAMANDI: THE LAST BOY ON EARTH!
Directed by Matt Peters (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) from a script written by Paul Giacoppo (Young Justice, Star Wars: Resistance), Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! was initially released as a bonus feature on Justice Society: World War II in Spring 2021. Jack Kirby’s beloved DC comic creation features the last civilized teenage boy on a post-apocalyptic Earth ruled by talking animals. In this short
, Kamandi and his friends Prince Tuftan of the Tiger Kingdom and humanoid mutant Ben Boxer are kidnapped by a gorilla cult dedicated to finding the reincarnation of their god, The Mighty One. Golgan, the cult’s leader, puts Kamandi’s team through a series of deadly tests to find if any of them know the secret of The Mighty One. The thriller features the voices of Cameron Monaghan (Gotham, Shameless) as Kamandi, Steve Blum (Star Wars: Rebels, Cowboy Bebop, Naruto franchise) as Golgan & Tuftan, Adam Gifford (Masters of the Universe: Revelation) as Zuma, and Armen Taylor (Justice Society: World War II) as Ben Boxer.
The legendary rag-tag team of World War II outcasts – Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, “Mile-a-Minute” Jones, rookie Gunner and Sarge – find themselves marooned on an uncharted island in the South Pacific that is completely overrun with dinosaurs! Their would-be ally on this deadly mission, the mysterious and beautiful Fan Long of the Chinese Security Agency, tells them their job is to rescue the scientists that have been sent to study a time/space anomaly. Perhaps… but what is her mission? Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Book of Boba Fett) leads the cast as the mysterious Fan. Along for the journey is Dean Winters (John Wick, 30 Rock) as Captain Storm, Dave B. Mitchell (Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms) as Gunner & Sarge, Eugene Byrd (Bones, Arrow) as Mile-a-Minute Jones, and Martin Sensmeier (Westworld, The Magnificent Seven) as Johnny Cloud. Initially included as a bonus feature on Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, The Losers is directed by Milo Neuman (LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash) from a script by Tim Sheridan (Batman: The Long Halloween).
Sufferin’ Scarabs! Silver Age Blue Beetle is back! And had he ever starred in a 1960s Saturday-morning limited-animation cartoon with its own jazzy earworm of a theme song, it would have been just like this short! Welcome to the adventures of Ted Kord, alias the Blue Beetle, as he teams up with fellow Super Heroes Captain Atom, The Question and Nightshade to battle that nefarious finagler of feelings, Doctor Spectro. Matt Lanter (Timeless, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 90210) stars as Blue Beetle alongside Jeff Bennett (Johnny Bravo, Curious George) as Captain Atom & Pops, Ashly Burch (The Ghost and Molly McGee) as Nightshade, David Kaye (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe) as The Question, and Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as Dr. Spectro. Originally attached to Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two, Blue Beetle is directed by Milo Neuman (Freedom Fighters: The Ray) from a screenplay by Jennifer Keene (Phineas and Ferb) based on a story by Jeremy Adams (Mortal Kombat Legends franchise).
Launched in 2010, DC Showcase was originally comprised of four animated shorts: The Spectre (2/23/2010), Jonah Hex (7/27/2010), Green Arrow (9/28/2010) and Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (11/9/2010). An additional short, Catwoman (10/18/2011), was attached the following year to the release of Batman: Year One. For 2019-2020, DC Showcase returned with five shorts: Sgt. Rock (8/6/2019) Death (10/22/2019), The Phantom Stranger (3/17/2020), Adam Strange (5/19/2020), and the interactive Batman: Death in the Family (10/13/2020).
DC Showcase: Constantine – The House of Mystery – Special Features
Blu-ray and Digital
DC Showcase: One Story at a Time (New Featurette) – Since the 1993 debut of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Warner Bros. Animation has revolutionized and mastered the feature film world with their critically successful DC Universe Movies and DC Animated Movies. In 2010, the creative team hit upon the idea of presenting some of the more under-utilized DC characters in shorter stories – and thus
, the DC Showcase was born. The shorts program has provided a fertile venue for creators and animators to explore the vast array of DC’s diverse heroes, worlds and universes, and gives audiences a taste of their infinite possibilities. Featuring some big names as well as the deeper cuts, these short films reflect different styles and sensibilities, and are inspired by renown creators like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Alan Moore. This documentary takes a look at the roots of DC Showcase – from Catwoman and Sgt. Rock to Death and Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam, as well as the current quartet of shorts. Included are interviews with producer Rick Morales and directors Matt Peters & Milo Neuman as they explore the featured heroes and villains, the comics that inspired them, and these adventures’ place in the bigger picture of the DC animated universe.
Once upon a time, Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons produced a cheeky series called The Secret Service, which got turned into a fun film called Kingsman. While the comics remain fun reads, the film series has deteriorated when left entirely in Matthew Vaughn’s hands. He’s good filmmaker as witnessed by Kingsman and the underrated Stardust. But
, the tone and satire of the spy genre that infused the comic is missing, especially from the prequel installment The King’s Man.
Out now from 20th Century Home Entertainment, the film failed to engage audiences when it was released during the holiday and has appeared on streaming and disc in rapid fashion. What this portends for the series remains classified.
, we get a sense of how the independent covert intelligence agency got started, born in the wake of tragedy. Orlando (Ralph Fiennes, Duke of Oxford watches helpless, as his wife Emily (NAME) is gunned down on a visit to a concentration camp in South Africa. He is left to raise his young son
, honoring her dying wish that he never see war again. Raised in a rarified cocoon by manservant Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and nanny Polly (Gemma Arterton), Conrad (Harris Dickinson) craves to see the world and join the military.
In time, he discovers Orlando, Shola, and Polly have been covertly gathering intelligence as Europe moves toward The Great War, pitting cousins King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas (all Tom Hollander) against one another. Events propel father and son into action, testing their bonds as the world teeters on the edge of chaos.
There are definitely some fun moments such as the network of servants and household staff around the world that share information, feeding Polly (Arterton, who may be having the most fun), who synthesizes the information for Orlando. But they are overshadowed by the over-the-top antics of Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and a collection of cardboard villains led by The Shepherd. a shadowy figure who is anything but menacing. (And sharp-eyed viewers will figure out his identity.) The notion that Mata Hari (Valerie Pachner) seduced Woodrow Wilson for the Shepherd to blackmail is an absurdity.
The action is fine as it is but doesn’t get the heart stirring. The characters are predictable and two-dimensional and newcomer Dickinson can’t keep up with the stellar cast, which also includes Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, and Daniel Brühl. Vaughn and co-writer Karl Gajdusek are at fault here. Vaughn’s direction is fine but not enough given the weak material he created.
The film is out in the usual formats including the sturdy Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo Pack. The 1080p transfer is perfectly fine for home viewing in 2.39:1. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is excellent.
There are a handful of perfunctory Special Features including Recreating the Trenches (2:17); A Generation Lost (11:22); Oxfords and Rogues (18:33); All the World’s a Stage (26:41); Instruments of War (17:01); Fortune Favors the Bold (11:46); and Long Live the Kingsman (4:11).
Students of history know that 355 was the code name assigned to a woman who spied on behalf of George Washington, during the war for independence. We never learned who she was and the digits have been immortalized in pop culture ever since. Most recently, it was appended to the female empowerment action film The 355
, she pitched it to Simon Kingberg as they were shooting X-Men: Dark Phoenix and it should have been out in 2021, but you know, Covid-19. The movie is overall an entertaining enough experience but its overall laziness in design and execution makes it a lesser effort.
While it’s nice to see operatives from CIA, MI6, Germany’s BND, China’s Ministry of State Security, and Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorateavoid political considerations to band together, the film also takes a very cynical approach to their efforts. We have several members of these agencies betray their principles and oaths
, endangering the entire world. The MacGuffin in this case is a hard drive containing a one-of-a-kind piece of software that can pierce any firewall and seize control of nuclear missiles, electric grids, etc.
We have CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Chastain) betrayed by her best friend and new lover, Nick (Sebastian Stan), which means the harddrive is in play. Mace crosses paths with German agent Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) who are rivals who beat one another until they find common cause. NID’s Luis Rojas (Édgar Ramírez) seems to have taken for himself, which means psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz) is sent into the field for the first time to retrieve it. When it goes into the wild, Mace recruits MI6’s Khadijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o), now out of the game, to aid her since she understands the enormity of the threat.
In time, they form bonds and kick ass. The MacGuffin continues to move from hand to hand, country to country until it is in Shanghai, up for auction which brings in Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan). Then things continue to unravel and go boom.
What’s missing here is a true sense of surprise. The agents are types, not characters, their dialogue and personality quirks perfunctory rather than refreshing. Kingberg cowrote this lackluster script with Theresa Rebeck and they seemed to be filling out a Bingo card.
Don’t get me wrong, the action is swell and the set pieces are well worth watching, with the leading ladies doing most of their own stunts, but after a while, it feels tired. Details are missing, questions at the end are left unanswered and the denouement is dissatisfying. Worst of all, they never connect the title to the team of women.
The film is out in the usual packages including the trusty Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD Combo Pack. The movies looks great, the 1080p transfer nicely capturing the colors and details. The lossless Dolby Digital audio track does a fine job capturing the explosions, dialogue, and score.
The film’s special features include two Deleted Scenes (6:19); Chasing Through Paris (4:57); Action That Hurts (5:26); Reconstructing Marrakesh (5:33); Chaos at the City of Dreams (3:50). Two VFX Breakdowns (2:12, 2:43).
I had the wrong idea about this book. I feel like I say that a lot in this blog, but why not say it if it’s true? We all come into new experiences with expectations and ideas, and we’re all wrong a lot of the time. There’s no shame in saying so.
I expected Good Night, Hem to be a standalone graphic novel about Ernest Hemingway. Since it’s by the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, I thought there might be a genre element of some kind, or that it might be told slyly in some other way: I didn’t expect a straightforward biographical story.
I wasn’t far wrong, but I’d forgotten that Jason had already written about Hemingway and his Paris circle of the 1920s in The Left Bank Gang– well, sort-of, since those characters had the names of the Lost Generation circle but were comics creators planning a bank robbery. And I didn’t know that Good Night, Hem is also a sequel to The Last Musketeer , since Athos is a major character here.
So, to sum up: Good Night, Hem is not really a sequel to the previous Jason book in which “Ernest Hemingway” appeared, but it is a sequel to a completely different Jason book that was not about Hemingway. This is par for the course for Jason: you don’t go to his books for straightforward and obvious.
, but three loosely linked shorter stories: one in Paris and Spain in 1925, when Hemingway is inspired to write The Sun Also Rises; one in Paris and other points in 1944, where Hemingway is inspired to lead a group of young Frenchmen (are they supposed to be writers? I’m not sure) to train, airdrop into Berlin, and capture Hitler to end the war early; and a short coda set in Cuba in 1959, where Hemingway muses on Athos, their combined histories, and life in general.
So it is largely about Athos, in a sideways, Jason fashion. Hemingway is the focal character, but Athos is more interesting and harder to understand – the story is told from Hemingway’s viewpoint, but it’s largely about Athos (except that odd middle section).
I also think Jason’s books have gotten less dense recently: he switched from a mostly nine-panel grid to a four-panel grid, so each page has bigger, more open panels with less action and dialogue. On the other hand, I don’t have the books in front of me to check, but I also think his recent books are longer – so I may be saying they have about the same amount of action, but spread out onto more pages, so it feels longer and more relaxed.
What happens? Well, the first section is pretty straightforward and relatively close to history, only with the addition of an immortal musketeer in the group going to Pamplona: it’s focused, like Sun itself, on the sexual tensions within the group, and adds to them by having Athos and Hemingway be essentially doppelgangers. (Not that Jason has that many character types to begin with, so this may be lampshading in his part.)
The second section is an old-fashioned nutty Jason story, along the lines of I Killed Adolph Hitler, in which completely crazy, impossible things are presented straightforwardly and just happen anyway.
And the ending is, again, more of a coda, summing up Hemingway’s view of Athos and cataloging all of their interactions. (He also inspired The Old Man and the Sea!)
I didn’t think this completely came together as one thing – the middle section is too different in tone, style, and concerns – but all of the pieces are good, and all show Jason doing good work in his mature style. I wouldn’t pick this up as a first Jason book – Hitler or the newer Lost Cat or maybe Werewolves of Montpelier are better choices to start – but it’s a fine continuation.
 No good link for that book: it was the first Jason book I read, in March of 2009 when I was an Eisner judge, so I stuck it in the middle of a massive post covering the 94 books I read that month.
, wild-card CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Jessica Chastain) joins forces with rival German agent Marie (Diane Kruger), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), and skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz) on a lethal mission to retrieve it. The unlikely team must also stay one step ahead of a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan), who is tracking their every move as the action rockets across the globe.
BONUS FEATURES on BLU-RAYTM, DVD AND DIGITAL:
CHASING THROUGH PARIS – Cast and filmmakers discuss the first day of shooting on THE 355 and how the choreographed chase sequence through the Parisian arcade set the tone for the entire production.
ACTION THAT HURTS – A behind-the-scenes look at the stunts featured in the film’s centerpiece action sequence.
RECONSTRUCTING MARRAKESH – From footage of construction to a set tour with Production Designer Simon Elliott, we’ll come to understand why the cast was so blown away by the accuracy of the Moroccan set.
CHAOS AT THE CITY OF DREAMS – Cast and filmmakers deconstruct the film’s final set piece, from exploding ceilings to major shoot-outs, to the ultimate show-down fight between Jessica Chastian’s and Sebastian Stan’s characters.
THE 355WILL BE AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY™, DVD AND DIGITAL.
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Film By: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Binbing Fan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, with Édgar Ramirez and Sebastian Stan
Casting By: Avy Kaufman
Music By: Tom Holkenborg
Costume Designer: Stephanie Collie
Production Designer: Simon Elliott
Editors: Lee Smith ACE, John Gilbert ACE
Director of Photography: Tim Maurice-Jones BSC
Executive Producers: Esmond Ren, Wang Rui Huan, Richard Hewitt
Produced By: Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael, Simon Kinberg
I cannot prove that this book originated as a story pitch for The Incredible Hulk, sometime in the dim misty past. But I fervently believe it, and that’s what matters in the world today, right?
Monsters is a massive graphic novel written and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith; he apparently has been working on it, off and on, for thirty-five years. (I didn’t hear a word about it until it was published; I’m not clear if he worked on it quietly the whole time or if he had mentioned it and I just never heard.) It aims to be a serious book
, but it has an inherent pulpiness that drags it back down over and over again, and a loose-limbed structure that introduces its own issues.
For most potential readers, the big point is that it contains over three hundred and sixty pages of BWS art, some of those among the best in his career. It’s all also entirely in his mature style; there’s no visual indication in this book that it took four decades to make. So this is a visually stunning book: BWS has been a great craftsman of comics pages for about fifty years now (counting from his game-changing stint on Conan), and this is a major, major milestone in any appreciation or evaluation of his career.
The story though, does feel like a lightly warmed-over Hulk story. There’s a monster: gigantic, almost indestructible, mentally tormented, uncommunicative. There are evil scientists (some of them, inevitably, Nazis) and almost-as-evil military types. There’s abuse from a father in the past. There’s an escape, under gunfire, from a military base, the monster hiding out with a helper in an isolated house with military choppers angrily buzzing overhead, and a shoved-in “power of public opinion” moment that nearly gets lost.
There’s also a major thread about supernatural powers, which are not terribly well defined and seem to be able to do whatever the story needs them to do. (Not to save their owners from death, admittedly, but being dead doesn’t slow possessors of “the shine” anyway.)
It’s all told in more-or-less straightforward comics, but it’s not particularly well-structured for the length. All of these pages, all of these moments, could have formed a stronger story if corralled somewhat more tightly, reorganized a bit, and if BWS or an editor had imposed a stronger structure on the story. (This, though, would have meant redrawing or reworking some number of pages – probably including some from thirty years before. That may have not been plausible.)
Instead, the story meanders, telling us one thing and then another, adding layers and depths as it goes – but in a fashion that leads this reader to suspect it happened as BWS worked on the pages, and that he didn’t go back to integrate his new ideas into old pages. One particularly egregious example: one character barges in
, declaring that he’s the Governor of this state, and is accepted as such….but he admits, a hundred pages later, that he was just pretending. Now, in this world, the Governor of a state is a public figure, and everyone knows who that guy is. So this is just not a ruse that can actually work.
The Nazi, who is basically the main villain, is unavailable for the big ending, so he gets understudied by a military guy – who, humorously to me, is actually named Ross, as if that was the only word remaining from the Hulk pitch.
It’s all set in the late ’40s (mostly 1949) and 1964-65, but only the furniture (cars, hairstyles, WWII uniforms) makes it feel like a period story. I suspect there are multiple expressions used in dialog that are anachronistic; this feels like a contemporary story told in a different time to make the Nazi/WWII connection make sense.
All in all, this has pretty much exactly the strengths and weaknesses of a book that a respected but idiosyncratic creator worked on quietly and alone for decades: it looks great, it has a lot of good ideas and moments, the characterization is excellent. But it’s also lumpy, with a structure that feels like a sequence of pages in the order that the creator thought of them rather than the order that would best serve the story, and later revelations that are not adequately set up. It’s good, but you can see the better book that it should have been.