The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 18, 2020 DVD and BD releases of S1 of the CBS All-Access original series "The Twilight Zone" proves once again that CBHE, All-Access, and this site are of the same mind; we all want to keep the Silver (and Golden) Age of Television alive in the public consciousness.
This joint effort includes recent (ongoing) (reviewed) CBSHE releases of the classic 20-season western "Gunsmoke" and (reviewed) releases of the All-Access original series "Star Trek: Discovery." One need not be a rocket scientist to predict that CBSHE will release DVD and BD sets of "Picard" S1 from All-Access this summer.
"Zone" premiering on All-Access on April 1, 2019 further proves that that streaming service pays the classics the respect to which they are entitled.
The press materials for our topic du jour expertly convey the style and the substance of this "Zone" from producer/narrator Jordan Peele, whose Oscar and Emmy bring him halfway to being an EGOT. "Originally airing from 1959 to 1964, "The Twilight Zone" became a worldwide phenomenon as it used socially conscious storytelling to explore the human condition and culture of the times. The godfather of sci-fi series, the show explored humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices in meatphoric ways that conventional dramas could not."
"Point of Origin" perfectly conveys the above and shows how Team Peele keeps things fresh. Ginnifer Goodwin of "Once Upon A Time" delivers an Emmy-worthy performance as a one-percenter "Real Houswife" who stands by as her South-of-the-Border maid/nanny gets dragged off by immigration. The subsequent insult to that injury relates to the Goodwin character bragging to her fellow Stepford Wives that she tried to fend off the feds.
A portion of the rest of the story is that Goodwin finds herself caught up in the same system as her mother's little helper; in true "Zone" fashion, twists galore ensue.
We get an even stronger "Zone" vibe in "Replay." This variation of "Groundhog Day" has the black mother of an incoming college freshman use a "Warehouse 13" caliber enchanted camcorder to repeatedly turn back time to find a way to avoid a fatal encounter with a racist Virginia state trooper, The final showdown is an awesome melange of the '60s-era Civil Rights Movement and the 21st-century power of social media. The sad overall commentary is that not every segment of American society has come a long way, Baby.
The following "Zone" trailer reinforces that this is your granddady's series but that Millennials will like it as well.
S1 E1 is a variation on the Billy Mumy OS classic "It's a Good Lfe" that revolves around the Mumy character banishing anyone who offends him into "the cornfield." The update has a struggling comedian develop the power to "Wonderful Life" anyone whom he desires out of existence; of course, he goes a little power mad. The standard (but always extraordinary) episode-ending twist is straight out of the OS.
The inarguably most entertaining S1 episode also has a strong "Village of the Damned" vibe with equally heavy overtones of "The Omen" and the AWESOME 1968 cult classic "Wild in the Streets" about a post-adolescent rock star running for president with ultimately SPECTACULARLY trippy "Zone" style results. The variation in "The Wunderkind" is that John "Harold" Cho plays a George Stephanopolous clone who ends up running the presidential campaign of 11 year-old Oliver Foley (Jacob Tremblay of "Room").
The first note as to "Wunderkind" is that it reinforces that Tremblay, who shines in "Room," has a long successful career ahead of him. The second note is that the "Wild" style music-video that CBSHE includes in the copious special features is a set highlight. On a more general note, this episode is a "Zone" style fable that reminds viewers of the evils as to electing a ego-maniacal celebrity president.
Arguably, no "Zone" rebooot would be complete with a version of the William Shatner classic "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet." This time, the gremlin is inside the plane; the lesson in this one with heavy shades of "Lost" and lesser ones of "The Lord of the Flies" is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
The season-finale is a perfect example of going out of an apt note. In the event that this is the end of the story, it concludes the series with a wonderful bang. In the event of a second season, which is the case, it leaves us wanting more.
It initially is business as usual, including Peele (per usual) stepping into the narrator shoes of Serling. Things take a meta left turn as it is revealed that Team Peele is filming a "Zone" episode. The focus then shifts to a current writer/childhood OS fan finding herself sucked into the series' titular dimension. The ONLY disappointment is that the identity of the titular Blurryman is so predictable that "Scooby" fans could deduce who is the "villain."
The aforementioned plethora of extras include behind-the-scenes features on each episode and the series itself. We also get "Remembering Rod Serling," which puts the OS in wonderful perspective.
The morale to all this is that they CAN and SHOULD make 'em like they used to.
UPS, rather than ET, is behind this post on the Lionsgate S11 V2 DVD of the History Channel series "Ancient Aliens" coming after a review of the S12 V1 DVD set; the first S11 V2 DVD set got lost in transit.
The primary concept of the "Ancient" documentary series is that brothers from other planets visited Earth during the dawns of numerous civilizations. More recent incidents, such as the Roswell crash, supplement the speculation as the events from the era of pyramids and cave drawings.
The S11 V2 set starts out strong with a "very special" 90-minute episode titled "Earth Station Egypt." Excitable manchild/"Ancient" co-executive producer/believer Giergio Tsoukalos avidly goes where very few modern men have gone before to share evidence that the Egyptian gods and pharaohs either are aliens or are the result of visitors from other planets who score while visiting here. This, along with theories regarding the building and the purpose of the pyramids. closely parallels the lore of the cult classic "Stargate" sci-fi television franchise.
Egypt even more closely channels "Stargate" in specifically arguing that the aliens from that era used wormholes (aka stargates) for their commute.
S11 V2 E2 "Island of the Giants" (aka Sardinia) is a crossover; Marty Lagina of the (reviewed) History series "The Curse of Oak Island" takes a break from his years' long Canadian treasure hunt to join Tsoukalos for a European vacation. The common elements of their series extend beyond sharing a network; Emmy-winner Kevin Burns is an executive producer for both programs.
Tsoukalos and Lagina visit enormous tombs, discuss why no one has found the bones of behemoths, and otherwise offer proof as to Cyclopi once inhabiting the island for the benefits of the human inhabitants.
S11 V2 E6 "They Came From the Sky" focuses on terrestrials and extra-terrestrials using asteroids to transport tech. and organic manner. An aspect of this is terra-forming and the possibility that man evolves from Uncle Martin, rather than from Bonzo.
The next episode "The Artificial Human" more fully brings us back to "Stargate" themes. This study of artificial intelligence includes speculation as to the existence of self-replicating robots that are capable of duplicating at will. Speaking of Will, "Artificial" includes several clips of the current Netflix remake of the '60s sci-fi classic series "Lost in Space."
Things are taken further as to theorizing that humans are very life-like robots.
Other notable episodes in the S11 V2 set include one on alien abductions and one "Stargate" themed one that speculates as to the US and Russia colluding regarding preparing for first contact; that one looks like a job for the Space Force.
As the handful of posts on "Ancient" sets state, the credibility of this series includes the odds being against Earth being the only advanced planet in the universe. Believing that ancient structures and images are closely connected to aliens and that octipi are aquamen from another planet requires even more faith.
The Mill Creek Entertainment December 10, 2019 Blu-ray and steelbook Blu-ray CS sets of the 1967-68 series "Ultraseven" arguably is the best entry in the MCE very-strong series of "Ultra" releases. It is inarguable that this collection with spines that form a combined image will make the day of any fanboy (and the inner 12 year-old lad in everyone else) that finds it under the tree a in a couple of weeks. This will even be more so, as MCE shares, when Marvel launches "Ultraman" comics in 2020.
One aside is that (like he other MCE "Ultra" releases), the "Ultraseven" BD looks and sounds amazingly pristine. MCE also maintains the "Ultra" tradition of a booklet that almost goes to infinity and beyond as to supplementing detailed episode synopses with things such as monster and tech. profiles.
A second aside is that the "Ultraseven" theme is ultra addictive. You WILL find yourself shouting "SEVEN, SEVEN, SEVEN."
Although subsequent series (such as the reviewed "Ultraman GEED" and also reviewed "Ultraman Orb) offer copious "Power Rangers" style fun, "Ultrasevn" has a more mature and less frantic tone. It clearly reflects recognition that the (reviewed) "Ultraman" fanbase is becoming a little older.
The lore of "Ultraseven" is that our hero is a scout from the Land of Light in Nebula M78 who comes in peace at a time that the natives of many other planets are actively working to invade Earth. The latest nefarious scheme takes a page out of the scifi cult classic of the era "Mars Needs Women" by seemingly randomly beaming up humans while they are engaged in their daily routines.
A page out of "Batman" '66 comes when two members of the elite Ultra Guard of the Terrestrial Defense Force have just roared their version of the Batmobile out of their version of the Batcave when they almost rundown Dan Moroboshi, who (unbeknownst to his new friends) is our essentially robot in disguise.
Dan helping the men avoid a potential alien probe leads to this stranger quickly joining the band as he seventh member of the Ultra Guard. Of course, Dan covertly reverts to his true form at the 11th hour.
The next episode is one of two early ones with a Trojan Horse theme. It has a guard member return from an outer space mission only to soon discover that the man in their midst is an alien plant.
The fifth episode has the "Lost in Space" style villain-of-the-week get inside the head of a world-class scientist who is en-route to TDF headquarters to provide a tech. upgrade. The Cold War era fun extends beyond this automaton figuratively leaving the base with its pants down. He manipulates the team into thinking their member with the best chance of saving them is an alien spy.
All of this leads to the exciting two-part series finale with the spoiler title "The Biggest Invasion in History." Although he is in a highly vulnerable state, Dan insists on continuing to fight the good fight and push his limits beyond his endurance. Of course, our team (and fans) still get a Tokyo ending.
As indicate above, "Ultraseven" keeps the fun coming without resorting to stereotypical Japanese Jerry Lewis style overreactions and bumbling. The tight-knit Ultra Guard has that designation for a reason and are much more "Top Gun" than "F Troop,"
Lionsgate timely released "Ancient Aliens" S12 V1 on November 19, 2019 less than a week after the November 15, 2019 broadcast of the final episode of that season of that still-going-strong History Channel documentary series. This release also is the latest "Aliens" one (including a reviewed epic 10th anniversary set) from Lionsgate.
As prior posts on these releases note, the best broad perspective with which to view these episodes is that no one has proven that aliens capable of visiting Earth do not exist. Narrowing in, an inquiring mind that wants to know should consider that the odds are not in our favor as to our blue marble being the only planet in the universe (or even our galaxy) regarding factors converging in a way that an "advanced" civilization develops.
The final perspective is the importance of remembering that there is your side, the side of the other guy, and the truth.
This set starts out very strong with the season-premiere "Return to Antarctica" episode. The experts and the witnesses who discuss theories as to what lies beneath the thick ice layer that encases the ground of that continent evoke strong thoughts of both the equally intriguing sci-fi television franchise "Stargate" and the cult-classic John Carpenter film "The Thing."
Much of theme of this one is that the brothers from another planet use concealed artificial caverns for ingress and egress to secret bases. A Navy veteran shares his accounts of seeing UFOs and of rescuing a petrified research team ala the chum in "Thing."
One of the more entertaining recounts in "Antarctica" is of a three-way dogfight between Allied, Axis, and alien flying machines. This is part of a segment on Hitler looking to the stars for an edge.
"The Badlands Guardian" centers around the titular Canadian geoglyph and has a similar theme of exploring below the surface as "Antarctica." The idea is that this huge image of a what may be an indigenous person, an alien, or a love child of the two is intended for use by spacecraft. This ties into the regular "Aliens" theme that all humans may be descendants of beings from other planets.
"Element 115" is another strong entry; this one largely focuses on the Roswell crashes. The main expert this time is a scientist who asserts that the titular element is of alien origin and allows for space travel. The rest of the story is that the US is working to adapt that technology. Engaging analysis of footage from the US military supports the theory that such a craft exists.
"The Star Gods of Sirius" focuses on beings from the "B" star making contact in ancient times to help us advance. Once again, artifacts are shared for the purpose of supporting that theory.
Further entertainment comes in the form of exploring under the sea, asserting that there is more to the Mayans than meets the eye, and showing similarities between Druids and Mormons as to the origins of their beliefs. This evolves to episodes that assert that aliens are skilled geneticists.
The good news for believers regarding all this is that it supports their beliefs; the good news for agnostics is that it is acknowledged that somethings are tough to explain; the good news for everyone else is that "Aliens" is highly entertaining and is well-produced.
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate November 19, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of (reviewed) "Ultraman Orb: Series and Movie" and topic du jour "Ultraman GEED: Series and Movie" continues the "be true to your school" MCE principle of faithfully continuing to make entries in a franchise available, Today's releases follow October 2019 MCE DVD and BD sets (including AWESOME steelbook BDs) of (reviewed) "Ultra Q" and (reviewed) "Ultraman." This is not to mention an MCE steelbook of sci-fi classic "Mothra" from the good folks who produce the "Ultra" titles.
Watching all four "Ultra" series in Blu-ray removes any doubt that the pristine (often vivid) images and crystal-clear sound of that format is worth the upgrade from DVD. However, consistent experience with MCE allows confidently stating that those "Ultra" versions also are well remastered.
Like all good sci-fi and offerings that keep franchises alive, "GEED" does not break what does not need fixing. It also borrows elements from the genre to which it remains completely faithful.
The highly flawed but most relatable "GEED" perspective for American fanboys is that "GEED" is a mash-up between the "Power Rangers" and the current "The Flash" series. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The strong "Rangers" elements begin with the action sequences that almost universally pit comically odd and large monsters against one or more (often equally large) hero in "Rangers" style armor. The similarities extend to heavy doses of Japanese style juvenile comic relief. There are prat falls, excessive demonstrations of fear, and live-action anime antics galore.
"Flash" elements begin with our adorkable 20-something hero Riku Asakura initially having moderate meta abilities that he does not understand. He, ala Luke Skywalker, soon learns that his parentage blesses him with special powers that destine him for greatness.
The first member of Team GEED is cowardly snail-like alien Pega. Pilot episode developments lead to these friends/roommates discovering an advanced underground command center ala the headquarters of the titular "Torchwood" in that Doctor Who spin-off. This soon becomes their home with the help of their Gideon-style AI friend REM.
The "Rangers" aspect of "GEED" is especially strong in early episodes in which a possessor of a "little star" attracts the monster of the week by publicly displaying the power that that celestial object bestows on that chosen one. This leads to Riku transforming into the titular hero to come to the aid of the threatened innocent. This, in turn, culminates in the star transforming into a "super capsule" that Ultraman GEED adds to his utility belt as a tool against current and future evil.
These early episodes also have Riku assemble his avenging team of close friends that mostly are close to his own age. A strong "Flash" aspect of this is the group is his essential foster sister, who works for a covert "Men in Black" organization that eliminates alien threats with extreme prejudice. That woman reminding her potential rival of childhood shared baths with Riku shows the depth of her feelings for the group leader.
Bumbling corporate drone family man Leito "Cisco" Igaguri provides wonderful old-school elements and much of the aforementioned hilarity. Ala the "Ultraman" origin story, Leito severely injuring himself in a selfless heroic act is the start of a beautiful (and highly symbiotic) relationship with Ultraman Zero, who less selflessly needs a meat suit,
Leito is a classic Clark Kent down to the dorky horn-rimmed glasses. He stumbles and stutters through his daily routine until looming danger requires that this lovable humble shoeshine boy transforms into champion of justice Underdog.
The "GEED" film for the ones-season series follows the sci-fi spirit of seven seasons and a movie. This well-produced film provides copious "GEED" and Ultraverse lore. We see how it all began, witness one character have a change-of-heart, and have the treat of all of our heroes getting their chances to shine. This is not to mention Riku essentially hanging up his cape after an existential crisis that includes self-doubt after failing a "chosen one" test.
All of this tying into a literal earth-shattering threat and the Ultraverse version of The Green Lantern Corps helping out is a nice bonus. Of course, an epic final battle ensues.
The moral to this tale as old as time is to respect the voice of experience. The real-life Team Ultra has been doing their thing for 50 years when they produce this latest (but hopefully not last) entry in the franchise. They always do it right and are experts at respecting the past at the same time that they keep things fresh.
Mill Creek Entertainment once again proves itself to be a fanboy god by separately releasing DVD and Blu-ray sets of "Ultraman GEED" and our current topic "Ultraman Orb" (2016) on November 19, 2019. These come on the heels of MCE October 2019 "Ultra" releases that are the topics of prior posts that can be found in the MCE section of this site.
Part of the genius of these "Ultra" series, which relates to the genius of their American cousins "Power Rangers" series, is that that they purposefully target actual 12 year-old boys and the inner 12 year-old boy in all of us. This consists of bright-and-bold action, truly hilarious broad comedy, and always bringing something new to the table while incorporating fresh elements. This is why this 50 year-old franchise (ala "Scooby-Doo") still is growing strong.
Speaking of "Scooby," our central group of "meddling kids" investigate and report on X Files under the name "Something Search People." The game of three is easy as to this group in that one definitely would want to marry level-headed tomboy/den mother Cap, "mate" with adorable excitable boy Jetta, and snuff the brains/mad scientist of the operation Shin.
Unbeknownst to the gang to varying degrees for varying periods, their buddy Gai is the titular main man this time; his old-school elements include relying on a power surge that last for three minutes to rise to the occasion and vanquish the evil alien monster that is the threat of the week. Suffice to to say that the source of his needed boosts are elemental.
Gleefully evil arch-nemesis Juggler contributes ample amounts of campy fun. Not having watched every "Orb" episode precludes stating whether Juggler ever actually steals candy from a baby.
"Orb" evokes thoughts of the Ted Turner ecotoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." The comparison begins with the elements of wind, fire, earth, and water separately being key aspects of the first several episodes. These begins with a variation of the films "Twister" and "The Wizard of Oz" as to the SSP crew getting caught up in a tornado in which they witness a battle between the monster behind that destructive force and a robot-like man whom they come to know as their superfriend.
The "fire" episode is one of the most clever and dramatic. Ultraman temporarily saves the day as to a "second sun" that is massively speeding up climate change. This leads to his crashing to earth and convalescing with more than a little help from his friends. A cute and funny epilogue has Jetta getting worked up over a universal sin of a roommate only to quickly find that the culprit is honorable.
The "water" episode is a pure delight. The foul brother from another planet in this one is making water supplies incredibly malodorous. Jetta finds this out the hard way while taking a shower. Very family-friendly hi-jinks in a Japanese bath house provide additional charm.
The lore-establishing episodes lead to a delightful tale in which an alien lures a clueless Cap into a trap that is designed to capture her friend Kai.
All of this culminates with the "Orb" movie that fulfills its duties to be even bigger and bolder than the series and to include an epic battle that results in an equally spectacular finale. An especially Scooby aspect this time is that much of the action centers around a mysterious mansion that provides the setting for a classic Scooby style chase through rooms and hallways.
That home plays a key role in an Earth-threatening plot by an evil alien sorceress, who essentially wants her precious. Juggler also plays a key and somewhat ambiguous role in the form of often doing the right thing while asserting that he is doing so for the wrong reason.
Our other key player is an Ultraman who has a "Tron" like existence in that he is living in the most advanced Gameboy ever. He sets much of the above in motion by seeking out the SSP team because of their association with Gai.
One of the most exciting scenes involves a revelation to which the boys have an infectious reaction.
The enthusiasm and skill with which the cast and crew produce these adventures make what could be cheesy effect and wooden acting a true delight that does the "Ultraverse" proud.
CBS Home Entertainment gives folks who do not subscribe to CBS All Access a chance to watch the subject of the massive recent buzz from the Trekverse by releasing "Star Trek: Discovery" on DVD, Blu-ray, AND Blu-ray steelbook on November 12, 2019.
The excitement relates to the Discovery crew encountering the Enterprise and Captain Christopher Pike assuming command of the former. This plays a role in a search for Spock (who may have acted out of concluding that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few).
One spoiler is that "Trek" deity Bryan Fuller exceeds all high expectations as to all the above and so much more; seeing the tech. of this show set 10 years before the OS period being so much more advanced, brighter, and bolder than that as to the exploits of Team Kirk remains mind bobbling.
The following trailer for "Discovery" S2 highlights the feature-film production values, the aforementioned OS elements, and the underlying mission that drives much of the action. This is not to mention a taste of the charm and broad appeal of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets.
S2 begins with things being relatively back to normal after the S1 parallel universe adventures, conflict with the Klingons, and copious ship-board drama. Things change on receiving a distress signal from the Starfleet flagship Enterprise. Although the ensuing rendez-vous alters the execution of Pike taking charge, this ties into prior unfortunate circumstances leading to Pike being the new boss. Subsequent unfortunate circumstances lead to Pike staying in charge longer than initially anticipated.
These events set the stage for Discovery to take the lead in investigating the phenomenon of seven signals briefly appearing and heralding (pun intended) the arrival of a mysterious entity dubbed The Red Angel. Early indications, including separately finding a crashed Starfleet ship in dire need of aid and a group of humans being rescued and relocated far, far, far from home in the distant past of 2053, are that the angels provides what is needed ala the sapceship Destiny in the "Stargate: SGU" television series.
This presumed guardian also leads the crew to the especially alien homeworld of Commander Saru, who is fresh off a identity-changing incident. This trek involves both a family reunion and unvcovering a hidden historical truth.
Team Fuller expertly builds on this solid foundation by expanding on the themes of the series and the larger "Trek" lore. Much of this revolves around the relationship between Spock (who actively affirms that he likes science) and his adopted sister Discovery First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). S2 provides Burnham massive closure and related inconvenient truths. The lifting of childhood guilt that has haunted her to her present provides little solace.
Arguably the best treat revolves around the Pike lore; a sort of a homecoming awesomely ties into OS even more spectacularly than the "Trials and Tribble-ations" episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The "previously on" episode-opening segment on this "Discovery" outing is must-see.
We also get heavy shades of "Terminator" as to Team Pike undertaking numerous "Trek" style life-threatening missions so that the universe can avoid a dark fate. These heroics involving copious amounts of time-travel and physics for dummies further elates the hearts of trekkies and trekkers alike.
The plethora of special features include two separate "Short Treks" that separately feature Saru annoyingly cheerful and flaky Ensign Sylvia "Neelix" Tilly. We also get "Star Trek: Discovery: The Voyage of Season Two," "Enter the Enterprise," and "The Red Angel."
The insufferable Tilly warrants special notice in that she reflects an element of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." That series has the almost as loathsome teen genius/Class-A dork Wesley Crusher, who provides real-life adolescent misfits of science a role model. Tilly serves the important role of inspiring awkward science geek girls to pursue their dreams despite the social cost of doing so. Like Crusher, Tilly is a valued (and surprisingly liked) member of the Discovery crew.
Mill Creek Entertainment provides a chance to see a prequel done right as to the October 29, 2019 Blu-ray release of "The Thing" (2011), which is an awesome homage to the 1982 John Carpenter cult classic of the same name. As the "must-see" bonus feature "'The Thing' Evolves" clearly shows, the filmmakers meticulously follow the principle of the devil being in the details to the extent of recruiting actors in Norway to play the crew of the Norwegian research station around which this origin story is centered.
MCE deserves an even more hearty slap on the back for the expert job producing the BD. The panoramic opening shots of snow and ice are almost blinding, and the sound is so crisp that you will hear and feel every crack of ice. This is not to mention the depth of these and all other shots.
Our story begins with our modern-day Vikings searching for the source of a mysterious signal; discovering in one of the worst possible ways that a long-buried alien spaceship is the culprit figuratively (and almost literally) is the tip of the iceberg. These scientists learn that the last visitor from a distant planet to exit the craft left the door open.
Finding that careless individual encased in ice leads to paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) coming to the great white north because she thinks that it is a beauty way to go. Her companions include boyfriend Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) and his boss,
Jubilation soon turns to horror as our international group of friends soon become chum for the titular monster. Ala "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the ability of the brother from another planet to replicate and possess any living organism both creates reasonable paranoia and complicates the task of putting the genie back in the bottle,
Much of the rest of "Thing" takes on a perverse "Tom and Jerry" theme as the roles of hunter and hunter frequently shift. Inarguably the best scene in this film with award-worthy effects involves showing the extent to which the big bad is a karma chameleon. A still functional detached limb doing its thing at PRECISELY the right moment alone is worth "the price of admission."
This mayhem and increasingly frayed nerves related to it becoming increasingly clear that no one may be whom he or she seems to be leads to an inevitable "Alien" style showdown. The epilogue that plays out during the closing credits provides the missing link between the prequel and the main event.
The epilogue to this post is that the prequel provides valued closure more than 35 years after the release of the original. It also shows that classic scifi is timeless in style and substance.
Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the (reviewed) mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these scifi classics is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of "Ultra" programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Man" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Man" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"ULTRAMAN, a giant alien from the Land of Light in Nebula M78, enters Earth's atmosphere in pursuit of an escaped space monster. In the skies above Japan he accidentally crashes into a Jet VTOL piloted by Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (SSSP), an international research and defense agency that protects the world from monsters and aliens of all shapes and sizes.
To save Hayata, Ultraman merges his life force with the dying human and vows to stay and fight for peace on Earth. Now, whenever the Patrol faces a threat too great for them to handle, Hayata transforms into Ultraman to save the day!
ULTRAMAN was Tsuburaya Productions' first color series, a sci-fi action adventure drama that dominated the ratings during its initial 1966-67 broadcast run in Japan. The show was quickly licensed for release in America, airing in syndication for nearly two decades. Colorful, fast-paced, and packed with memorable heroes, creatures and incredible special effects, ULTRAMAN was the foundation for a phenomena that continues to this day."
Part of the rest of the story is that the Energizer bunny has something that the arguable father of the red power ranger lacks; the latter runs on a battery that only gives him three minutes worth of power.
The pilot of "Man" establishes the aforementioned lore AND reflects the cartoonish influence of "Batman" '66. A group of Japanese campers has the first of two close encounters of the second kind when they see a glowing blue object plunge into the nearby lake.
The incident prompts Hayata to pilot the aforementioned aircraft that looks like it is straight out '60s animation scifi series "The Thunderbirds." This leads to the game-changer mid-air collision,
Ala "Superman" and virtually every other superhero franchise, Ultraman comes on the scene at the eleventh hour and puts right what once went wrong.
The aptly titled second outing "Shoot the Invader" is even more comical; the ET with 'tude this time this a lobster on 'roids who seems to have a common ancestry with '60s superhero Multiman in that he can project several images of himself.
First contact gets off to a hilariously bad start, and things go downhill from there. The gist is that Earth gets a taste of being the planet chosen for the site of a civilization do-over.
"Science Patrol, Move Out" awesomely pays homage to "Q" (and "Godzilla") by having the intrusion of the "civilized" world on the natural one literally awaken a sleeping giant. The literal big bad this time enhances the threat by having very effective camouflage and by feeding on electricity.
Particular relevance this time is MCE releasing "Man" a week after a California electric company purposefully leaves a big chunk of that state in the dark for an extended period in order to achieve a greater good.
All of this lead to the epic 39th episode with a title that is a blatant spoiler. This one hits the trifecta of explaining a broad category of real-life unusual occurrences, having the heroes scramble to protect Earth from a seemingly undefeatable force, and providing sensational in both senses of the word conclusion to the series.
The most cool thing about "Man" is that is shows the beginning stages of the evolution of the "Ultra" franchise. The most cool thing about MCE is that it is making at least the next several stages of that progression coming out in the not-too-distant future.
Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the (reviewed) follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these series is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them out to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Q" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Q" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"After co-creating the iconic movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra for Toho Studios, special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya launched his own company, Tsuburaya Productions. The first production under his new label was ULTRA Q, a 28-episode series that brought the theatrical spectacle Tsuburaya had become known for to television.
The black & white sci-fi drama focused on Mainichi Shimpo photojournalist Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai, Ultraman), Hoshikawa Airlines pilot/SF writer Jun Manjome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo), who partnered to investigate mysterious events occurring in and around Japan. These phenomena often involved aliens and giant monsters, many of whom would return in future Ultraman shows and movies.
One of the most expensive TV programs produced in Japan up to that time, ULTRA Q was a ratings smash that paved the way for Tsuburaya Productions' first color series... ULTRAMAN!"
A "True Tokyo Story" aspect of "Q" from the aforementioned booklet is sure to delight at least one teen Swedish girl. We learn that the original title of this series is "Unbalance" and that it is intended to show how Mother Nature fights back when man disrupts the balance between the natural and the industrialized worlds.
On a more relatable note to mainstream North American audiences, "Q" evokes strong thoughts of the original "Twilight Zone" and the (black-and-white) first season of "Lost In Space" before the influence of "Batman" '66 makes the latter far brighter and more campy. This element of east meets west extends beyond all three series including exposition (and context) providing narration.
The look and tone of "Q" is very similar to that of "Zone" and "Space." The production techniques show that Irwin Allen of "Space" fame and his brother from another continent Tsuburaya are of one mind.
The aptly titled "Defeat Gomess" starts "Q" on a terrific note that reflects a timely "television killed the movie star" vibe by having a well-executed "Godzilla" theme. This story begins with construction of a train tunnel giving the titular beast both a rude awakening and an exit strategy.
This adventure includes a "little child" shall lead them element that is prominent in "Q" and "Man." A young boy takes an "it takes a Klingon to defeat a Klingon" attitude by being instrumental in inviting the arch-foe of Gomess to the party. The rest is pure scifi history.
Speaking of "Trek," "Q" (no relation) regularly having a boy hero seems to inspire a prominent feature in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of countless expressions of intense disdain for prodigy Wesley Crusher prompted a friend to agree but note that Wesley allows tween boys to fantasize about being respected members of the Enterprise crew.
"Q" next takes a wonderfully goofy turn in "Goro and Goro." This one has a monkey whisperer do his thing when a science experiment gone awry causes a simian to become a (non-grape) great ape, The humanitarian outcome is a nice alternative to having the "monster" plummet from a skyscraper.
The ironically titled "Gift From Space" has our not-so-favorite Martians respond to rocket scientists boldly going where no man has gone before. There never has been a more clear example of Yankee, go home.
The fun continues with variations of "The Thing" and "The Little Shop of Horrors" (complete with a vampire plant that literally can be thought of a a big prick). This leads to an imminent explosion of Mt. Fuji involving a bear boy and another slumbering monster whom the misdeeds of man has awoken.
"Q" wraps this up several episodes later with a "Dr. Who" style adventure involving a train that can travel through time and space. The "Zone" style destination in a land that is free from the consequences of incidents that shows what fools these mortal be.
The kicker to all this there is much more to discover and adore about "Q" and the entire franchise. MCE deserves high praise for doing such an exceptional job making this possible.
[Editor's Note: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.]
The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment October 1, 2019 separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of S1 of DC Universe streaming service series "Doom Patrol" nicely reminds us that the range (and legacy) of the DCU extends beyond the broadcast network friendly exploits of the Arrowverse shows, Common executive producer Greg Berlanti clearly lets his inner excitable inner boy out to play in "Patrol."
As an aside, the Warner Brothers section of this site has posts on the recently released WBHE BD sets of the 2018-19 seasons of every Arrowverse series except for "Legends of Tomorrow."
The following DCU trailer for "Patrol" offers a good primer on the lore of the series and nicely conveys its awesomely quirky vibe. It additionally reinforces that spending a few extra dollars to opt for Blu-ray over DVD is well worth it.
The mandatory starting point is that "Patrol" is tailor-made for a streaming platform, which presumably can push the FCC decency standards even further than premium networks such as Showtime and HBO. One of numerous examples is that the f-bomb seems to be weapon of choice of the misfits of science that comprise the titular team.
The central premise is a wonderful mash-up between the Sci-Fi Channel series "Sanctuary," which stars Amanda Tapping of the "Stargate" universe as a woman who looks very good for her age and uses her enormous mansion to shelter and aid all sorts of disfigured and/or meta entities, and "X-Men." The wheelchair-bound men-of-letters scientist/protector is Niles Coulder/Chief (Dalton, Timothy Dalton).
The central motley crew that struggles with their meta and their human elements evokes thoughts of the castaways on "Gilligan's Island" to the extent that both have a movie star in their midst. The members of both Team Gilligan and Team Coulder all have significant flaws but remain highly loyal to their "family" with whom a series of unfortunate circumstances have thrown them.
Former NASCAR star Cliff Steele/Robotman (Brendan Fraser) can be considered the brains of the organization in that this man whose War of the Roses with his equally toxic wife ultimately leads to his vital organ being implanted into a metallic body. His related angst includes not having been a good father to his young daughter and his effort to re-establish a relationship with her.
Next up is dashing closeted gay test pilot Larry Trainor/Negative Man (Matt Boomer). His "something extra" is a space being who inhabits him but goes solo when his services are needed. Larry still struggles with his love for a male member of his flight crew (insert your own cockpit joke here) and more generally with being restrained from being true to himself.
The aforementioned B-movie actress is Rita Farr/Elasti-Woman (April Bowlby); varying percentages of her body become a disgusting blob.
Last but not least is woman of 64 meta-personalities Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero). Jane often lacks any control when a resident of the "underground" portion of her mind exerts herself. Each of these temporarily dominant personalities comes with a special power that she does not necessarily use for good, rather than for evil.
The new kid on the block who fills the role of DCU star "slumming" with the B team is Vic Stone/Cyborg (Joivan Wade). Cyborg and his Dad/mechanic have a history with Coulder that leds to Cyborg playing the role of nerd who tries to assume leadership of the class when the teacher leaves for an extended period.
As arch-villain Mr. Nobody/Eric Morden (Alan Tudyk) states in his frequent (and witty) narration, he plays the necessary role of bad guy. The exceptional talent of Mr., Nobody to simultaneously gleefully play mind games and wage psychological warfare makes him a formidable foe and a source of intense entertainment for those of us who do regularly relive our worst moments.
This extended discussion of the intriguing lore of "Patrol" leads little time to share the wonderfully surreal S1 events .
The band being assembled leads to an ill-advised field trip to the nearby town; Mr., Nobody subsequently captures old foe Coulder and imprisons him in a form of phantom zone. The search of the gang for their leader includes a (non-sexual) disgusting encounter with a donkey, a visit to an incredibly accepting (but shifting) talking street, the evil research facility known as The Ant Farm. and a visit to what can be considered the Justice League predecessors The Justice Society of America,
Our folks who simply want to avoid their own demises also come up against a wonderfully warped cult that is going to use a (presumably) virgin sacrifice (who presumably reeks of Axe body spray) to bring about end times. They further must go "Magic School Bus" to enter the mind of Jane to return her to a relative state of normalcy.
This is not to mention The Brotherhood of Evil and the Bureau of Normalcy (nee the Bureau of Oddities) creating trauma and drama.
Things really get weird in the final S1 episodes. Our thoughts of suicide squad learn that Chief is the source of much of their discontent and has an "Alice in Wonderland" style ulterior motive for his outward peace, love, and understanding. This leads to a showdown with a true survivor and a sidekick with a "Princess Bride" style vendetta.
Much of the group being in "Wonderland" state at the end of S1 sets the stage for a spectacular S2.
WBHE supplements all this with unaired scenes, a gag reel,m and an entertaining "Come Visit Georgia" PSA that shows how the versatility of the Atlanta area makes it a good place for location filming.
The theme of learning from history so as not to repeat it being very prominent in the 1989-93 NBC cult-classic sci-fi action-adventure series "Quantum Leap" makes it aptly significant as to the Mill Creek Entertainment Blu-ray CS set of this series.
This begins with the MCE release aptly putting right what once went wrong as to the individual DVD sets of "Quantum." As hologram assistant/best friend Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) to brilliant physicist/hero Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula "Star Trek: Enterprise") would say, the earlier sets are caca. The images of this major-studio release of this modern series is painfully grainy to watch. The images and sound in the Blu-ray set conversely are "mahvelous, simply mahvelous."
The comparable shelf space required of the DVD and the BD sets also favor the latter. MCE, which separately packages each season of "Quantum" in this set, makes it compact while still leaving ample room to take each individual season out of the stylish cardboard box in which they are contained.
The final comment regarding physical media relates to a major annoyance regarding streaming services. The real possibility that any service will pull the plug on any series before you can "catch them all" favors being able to pull a marathon (rather than binge) worthy show off the shelf.
One of many notable elements of "Quantum" is that it learns from history by paying homage to '60s TV scifi god Irwin Allen of "Lost in Space" fame. Allen follows up "Space" with the 1966-67 ABC series "Time Tunnel." That one centers around a secret government time-travel project in the desert going horribly awry in a manner that (mostly) throws the two heroes around in history as their guys (and girls) in the chair try to pull them back home. Their adventures include being on the Titanic and having an unforgettable adventure at the Alamo.
The variation in "Quantum" is that Beckett heads up the titular research project in the desert in the not-to-distant future; an amusing aspect of this is that the "Quantum" team visualizes a '90s that is even more bright, neon-infused, and futuristic than the '80s.
As the voice-over narration that opens every "Quantum" episode explains, Beckett (who is an Indiana farm boy with an August 8, 1953 birth date) theorizes that one can time travel within his or her own lifetime. The glitch this time is an unknown entity (perhaps God) or force hijacks Sam on his inaugural leap.
This abduction establishes the pattern of Sam "leaping" into the body of an innocent or not-so- innocent in order to put right what once went wrong. This may involve preventing a murder, stopping someone from making a decision that greatly negatively impacts his or her life, etc.
A handful of these episodes center around real-life incidents, such as the death of Marilyn Munroe and the assassination of JFK. Related good fun comes ala Sam inadvertently putting ideas in the heads of younger versions of future real-life celebrities. A prime (pun) intended example leads to a classic "Rocky" scene.
The rest of this lore is that the future tech. allows Al to use a research-center imaging chamber in his present to appear as a hologram that "only Dr. Beckett can see or hear." This state also prevents this resource regarding emergencies, medical or otherwise, from physically making contact with anyone or anything.
The typical episode pattern is that a disoriented Sam "leaps" into the body of the current person of interest sometime in the period of the aforementioned lifetime. Al then fairly literally pops in with at least at little information about the owner of the meatsuit that Sam currently occupies. Regarding this, it can be someone of any age or gender and once is a chimp. This exposition includes at least some speculation regarding why the powers-that-be have thrust Sam into that situation.
Much of the relatable fun comes from Al sharing changeable statistics regarding the outcomes in response to action and non-action by Sam. A purely hypothetical example is an 75.8 percent chance that an actor will be cast in the role of a lifetime increasing to 88.1 percent after middle-aged Sam in the guise of a 20-year old studio page sneaks the headshot of the actor into the file of the producer of the film.
Watching most of the fan-favorite episodes of "Quantum" for this post has made this "mission" especially fun. These include the JFK one, which is a two-parter that has Sam "leaping" into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at several significant times in the life of that historic figure. A bonus this time is the psyche of Oswald repeatedly taking dominance over that of Sam, who almost always remains in the driver's seat while "possessing" someone.
The S3 season premiere is a two-parter that has Sam first "leaping" into his teen-age self just before Thanksgiving. Although his mission is to correct his own mistake and win the big game so that his high-school coach goes onto bigger and better things, Sam is the hijacker this time. The wrongs that he tries to put right include three tragedies that will befall his family in the next few years. This adventure continues when Sam "leaps" in the body of a man who is a member of the band of brothers of the older brother of Sam.
An especially fun one aptly has Brooke Shields play a literal debutante heiress in an episode that is a mash-up of "Blue Lagoon" and "Swept Away." The Shields character is about to enter an essentially arranged marriage when the ship on which she is travelling sinks. This "princess" finds herself being one of two stranded castaways with a Greek greasy dirty sailor who worked in the engine room of the ship and currently has a physicist controlling his life. The rest of this story is that Sam must put the life of the pretty baby in his charge back on track.
The series finale hits the trifecta of including big reveals, bringing back old friends, and providing closure while leaving the door open for more adventures. The conclusion this time does scream for five seasons and a movie. The irony here is that the wrong of "Quantum" missing the milestone of 100 episodes by three never gets righted,
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.]
The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment September 17, 2019 separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Supergirl" S4 brings us 3/4 of the way toward completing these releases of the 2018-19 seasons of the CW Arrowverse series ahead of their (mostly) October 2019 season premieres. "Supergirl" S4 follows the (reviewed) sets of "The Flash" S5 and (reviewed) "Arrow" S7. The September 24, 2019 releases of "Legends of Tomorrow" S4 completes this run.
The reasons for springing for the BD sets extend (except as to "Legends") beyond those versions including the epic three-part "Elseworlds" episode that introduces Batwoman to the Arrowverse ahead of her 2019-20 series. Past lack of buyer's remorse validates that spending a few extra bucks to get the deeper and richer color and sound of BD is well worth it; this is not to mention BD being less prone to the ravages of time and repeated viewings than DVD.
"Supergirl" always has been more closely aligned in lore and tone with "Flash." On-screen, this relates to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) of the latter introducing Superman cousin/reporter/covert government operative Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist) to the Arrowverse. Further, both series skew younger in cast and target demographic than "Arrow." Off-screen, Gustin and Benoist (who have sung separately and together in their current series) are former Gleeks,
Further, "Flash" and "Supergirl" both revolve around boys and girls with something extra on both sides of the law. These problems and solutions mostly are aliens on "Supergirl," and mostly Spider-man style meta-humans who accidentally acquire special abilities on "Flash."
Conversely, most of Team Arrow and their foes are more like Batman in that they use advanced tech. in their efforts to put their well-honed skills to good (or bad) use.
The underlying debate on whether aliens, most of whom can easily send us muggles crying home to our mommies, in "Supergirl" S4 parallels the underlying theme in "Flash" S5 regarding how to handle a "cure" that makes a meta like other boys, The options there are to completely suppress the cure, make it mandatory, or give metas the freedom of choice.
As a side note, both "Supergirl" and "Flash" also have an annoyingly cartoonish "Scrappy-Doo" style/outcast character who fails in his mission to provide comic relief, "Flash" compounds the error as to acrebic scientist Harrsion Wells by making the current incarnation of him stereotypically French,
"Supergirl" has a kinder and gentler version of Brainiac, whose voice and misunderstanding of life on that alternate earth are inconsistent with his supposed intelligence, The writers mercifully limit a quirk as to referring to classic films to a few episodes To expand on a reference to the game of three in the "Flash" post, neither Wells nor "Brainy" would fare well regarding that diversion.
A real-world analogy in these series by openly homosexual executive-producer Greg Berlanti is gay rights. One aspect of this real-world non-issue is the "threat" that LGBTQ folks pose to "normal" people. An element of this in the entire Arrowverse and our reality is that most of the "villains" can "pass" for "normal."
Everything regarding this in "Supergirl" S4 ties to the Children of Liberty, lead by Agent Liberty (a.k.a. former US history professor Ben Lockwood) which loosely can be described of as a human-rights organization. The analogy as to this group that aggressively supports a "send her back" policy is to the related issues of immigration and refugees. This encompasses "them" coming to "our" country where they take jobs from "real" Americans and cause extensive physical destruction. We further see how these negative experiences can radicalize folks who previously largely avoid the maddening crowd.
The Children's campaign to repeal the federal Alien Amnesty Act does mirror a theme in "Arrow" S7. The legislative effort there is to outlaw vigilante activities of Team Arrow that supplement formal law-enforcement work.
An early "Supergirl" S4 episode begins to eliminate confusion as to that season seemingly not addressing the S3 cliffhanger. The final scene in the season finale has our heroine landing in what seems to be eastern Europe. The additional S4 exposition is that this individual can be considered a version of a bizarro Supergirl.
More exposition regarding all this comes roughly 3/4 into S4 with the heavily anticipated first appearance of Jon Cryer as "Super" nemesis Lex Luthor, Fanboys will remember Cryer as gonzo Lex Luthor nephew Lenny in "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace."
Aside from this introduction of a major DCU character into the Arrowverse series, the coolest thing about having Lex Luthor join the party is seeing late in the game how he orchestrates so much from the sidelines throughout the season. His "great escape" is another highlight.
All of this leads to season finale that includes an extended thrill-a-minute climax. The cliffhanger hits a high note by (ala "Arrow") bringing back a central "Elseworlds" element and keeping fanboys on the edge of their futons until the October 6, 2019 S5 season premiere.
The bigger picture is that S4 arguably is the best "Supergirl" season. It has streamlined characters, made Kara far less awkward and geeky "Ugly Betty" like, and has stronger story arcs.
The biggest picture is that the latest batch of Arrowverse seasons supports what fanboys have known for decades; comic books are about much more than men (and women) flying around in Spandex.
The plethora of S4 extras include a presentation of highlights from 2018 Comic-Con panels of Arrowverse series, a (Blu-ray exclusive) feature on "Elseworlds," a look at DCU super villains, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. The deleted scenes run from the sublime to the ridiculous, and the gag reel shows which cast member is most prone to cursing.
The true-to-comic-book spirit of "SHAZAM!" makes it by far the best entry in the current round of WB DCU superhero movies. This light-hearted romp is a wonderful diversion from the (often poorly acted and produced) dark live-action and animated fare with beyond gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity that the House that Jack built is churning out these days for far more profit than fun.
The following YouTube clip of a "SHAZAM!" trailer perfectly illustrates to Millennials and Gen Zs that this movie is their daddy's (or grandddaddy's) superhero flick. These kids also learn that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that.
The simple but brilliant concept of the source material that director David F. Sandberg and writer Henry Gayden expertly adapt to the big screen is that 14 year-old Billy Batson is the chosen one who transforms into he whose "marvelous" name that shall not be spoken and back to his original form by uttering the titular acronym. This largely is the only similarity between this film and the (reviewed) 1974 live-action Saturday-morning series of the same name.
Zachary Levi of the 2007-12 action-comedy series "Chuck" (five seasons! and a movie?) releases his inner-Bartowski in playing this half-man half-boy champion. He proves once again that he is adept at playing a lovable loser nerd who must adapt to a super-powered new normal. This one can be consider Chuck vs. The Seven Deadly Sins.
The most general thought regarding this tale of a boy who goes from being a delinquent foster child to becoming a mighty superhero in a 'verse in which The Justice League really is fighting for truth, justice, and the American way is that is akin to the limited appeal of another boy hero.
Wil Wheaton coming up in conversation a few years ago prompted my remarking that I hated his smug young teen genius (with shades of Hamlet) character Wesley Crusher on TNG. I mentioned as well that i considered it absurd that the highly skilled and equally experienced Enterprise crew members gave that arrogant punk a respected seat at the table. The wisdom of my not foolish friend was that young teen boys that watched the series fantasized about being Wesley. A desire for candor requires confessing to shouting "SHAZAM!" and hoping for the best when watching the '74 series as a young boy.
A more obvious comparison is to the 1988 blockbuster comedy "Big" in which Tom Hanks plays a tween who (presumably on a Friday) magically transforms into an adult. "SHAZAM!" makes one blatant homage to the film and another more subtle one. The confession this time is admitting to still saying "I want to be big" every time that I pass a Zoltar fortune-telling machine.
The '80slicioiusness continues with "SHAZAM!" having strong shades of the cult-classic action-comedy TV series "The Greatest American Hero." This early example of the importance of RTFM centers around the Mr. Kotter of the '80s Ralph Hinkley being the chosen one whom "little green guys" give a super suit. The primary idea is that these brothers from another planet being confident that Hinkley realizes that with great power comes great responsibility make him their guy.
Much of the humor in "Hero" relates to the titular Reagan-era Cold War Captain America both discovering the extent of his abilities and learning how to control them. "SHAZAM!" honoring this legacy extends beyond a very "Hero" like montage.
These fanboy homages begin with the opening scenes. The identified year of 1974 works very well for the 2019 theatrical release in which our time is identified as "the present;" however, this will seem more odd as time goes by. it is even odder later in the film to see a single school that apparently goes from grades 1-12 in the same building.
Fourteen year-old Thaddeus "Lex" Sivana is sitting in the backseat of the family sedan as his father (John Glover of "Smallville") is driving the boy and his older brother over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house. Dad (channeling his best Lionel Luthor) and the older sibling are engaging in their usual practice of berating the backseat boy when Thad finds himself transported to a spooky cave.
Ala "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Thaddeus meets the weakening ancient guardian of the "grail." Unlike Indie, Thaddeus does not choose wisely. He then is thrust back to his reality, where he quickly sets incidents in motion that do nothing to endear himself to his father and his brother.
The copious discussion of the proud history behind "SHAZAM!" precludes going much deeper into the plot of the film. Suffice it to say that Shazam and now-Dr. Sivana ultimately find themselves in an extended clash of the titans. The Team Shazam that our hero assembles to help fight his battle will come as no surprise to folks who are familiar with earlier incarnations of our central figure; this approach also is familiar to fans of Team Bartowski.
The team building, as well as the central plot, reinforces the "anyone can be a hero" theme of a film from a competing 'verse. It additionally reflects the "friends and family" aspect of admission into Mormon heaven and avoiding spooky Mormon Hell.
Those who agree that "Aquaman" stinks worse than three-day-old fish will find glee in a "SHAZAM!" stinger.
Lionsgate boldly goes where no man has gone before regarding separate DVD and Blu-ray April 9, 2019 releases of the recently concluded first season of the History Channel sci-fact docudrama series "Project Blue Book." The accolades for this Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future," "Forest Gump," "Contact") program about the real-life X-Files of Air Force Captain Michael Quinn and astrophysicist college professor Dr. J. Allen Hynek include Forbes magazine naming it one of the 10 most anticipated series of 2019.
The following YouTube clip of a "Project" trailer provides an excellent sense of the theme of this program that revolves around investigating reports of visitors from other planets. It also illustrates the strong production values that leave the laughably badly made recreation specials of the '90s in the dust. This high-quality video and audio call for buying the Blu-ray set, which looks very good when watched on a Sony 4K set and using a 4K player.
The broadest appeal of this series relates to it being a melange of two cult classics. The most obvious comparison is to the still-going-strong '90s Fox series "The X Files" that begins with true-believer FBI agent Fox Mulder teaming up with civilian medical doctor Dana Scully. Their investigations of initially (and sometimes permanently) unexplained occurrences generally parallel those of Quinn and Hynek. Additionally, both sets of odd couple partners come to like and respect each other.
The second cult classic is the Showtime series "Masters of Sex." The comparison regarding that one begins with both it and "Project" being set in the '50s. The similarities continues with the odd couple being based on a true-life team. "Masters" is a docudrama of the professional and the personal relationships of human sexuality researchers Masters and Johnson, and "Project" is based on the actual investigations of Hynek.
Also akin to "Masters," we get both a detailed look at the home life of a lead and a sense of the period. Hynek spouse Mimi is a stay-at-home wife and mother. Her son Joel is a young boy, who is obsessed with Flash Gordon and other sci-fi of the day.
Like Mrs. Masters, Mimi is dealing with the new normal of her husband being away more than he is home and becoming proportionately emotionally distant. On a grander scale, Mimi must contend with the fallout (pun) intended associated with the escalating Cold War. These new aspects of her life converge in ways that include her hands-on approach to building a bomb shelter.
We get a touch of both the beginning of the women's liberation movement and the FX series "The Americans" in the form of modern-woman neighbor Susie Miller. Susie is strong, independent, and ruthless. She also successfully manipulates Mimi in the course of covertly keeping tabs on Allen,
Other nefarious types include Army officers both with a horse in the race and a desire to keep the truth from getting out there. These include a secret missile program and experimentation on Army rangers. Related Soviet activities and a nefarious cigarette-smoking man provide additional intrigue.
If the dynamic between Quinn and Hynek evolves to the sexual element of the relationships between Master and Johnson and Mulder and Scully, one can image that it will be the most highly rated episode of the entire series.
Many of the 10 S1 episodes will seem very familiar to Xphiles., The pilot (no pun intended) revolves around an Air Force top gun who learns of the futility of engaging a U.F.O. in a dogfight. We also get separate incidents in which small-town folks experience seeing lights in the sky over the woods at night and having close encounters with the pilots of those craft. One of these incidents being a literally cruel hoax also reflects "Files." This is not to mention the Foo Fighters showing up.
All of this culminates in sightings over Washington, D.C. of which Hynek receives advance notice, Plausible Soviet denial helps the plot thicken ahead of a 2020 S2 premiere.
Warner Archive greatly fulfills its mission to keep the great films of the past in present consciousness with the March 26, 2019 well-restored DVD release of the highly political 1929 sci-fi silent-talkie hybrid "The Mysterious Island." The melange of intertitles, limited dialogue, and rousing music in this film made two years after "The Jazz Singer" alone makes it a missing link that every cinephile should add to his or her collection.
The strong pedigree of this one begin with "Island" being based on a novel by sci-fi pioneer Jules Vernes. The cred. continues with Hollywood royalty Lionel Barrymore starring as island-owner/dedicated scientist Count Dakkar.
Writer-director Lucien Hubbard (whose credits include the recently reviewed Archive release "The Star Witness") goes beyond doing both his source material and his star proud. The wonderfully surreal story, elaborate sets, and creative effects evoke strong vibes of movie-magician George Melies, who arguably is best known for the camptastic 1902 silent "A Journey to the Moon."
The political commentary in "Island" begins with opening scenes of the very Russian-looking peasants of the kingdom of Hetvia fleeing vicious soldiers riding on their mighty steeds. The action soon shifts to the underground facility on the titular landmass.
Dakkar is giving then-ally Baron Falon (Montagu Love) both a tour and a narrative of the vision of Dakkar. This dream includes using a almost-completed submarine to take a (perhaps 20,000 leagues) voyage to the bottom of the sea. The primary objective of the trip is peaceful first contact with the evolved sea-monkey type creatures that Dakkar theorizes live under the sea. Another way of looking at this is that Dakkar wants to see if it truly is better down where it is wetter.
Conflict commences when Falon shares his aspiration to become the new leader of Hetvia; his desire to make the submarine a primary aspect of his today Hetvia, tomorrow the world plan fully puts him at odds with Dakkar.
More social commentary enters the picture in the form of the guy who kisses the girl. Nicolai Roget (Llyod Hughes) is a project engineer and the love interest of Dakkar sibling Countess Sonia. The problem is that not everyone approves of a romance between a royal and a commoner.
The plot thickens on Falon leading an attack on the workshop and using not-so-friendly persuasion to get his former friend to be his ally. Fully engaging Sonia in this effort and ultimately forcing her to join her in a joy ride proves that he truly is neither noble nor a gentleman.
The fun truly begins when Nicolai and Dakkar take off in pursuit of their foe. This leads to dire straits for all concerned in a truly magical undersea world. Highlights of this extended climax include a baby alligator with wonderfully campy prosthetics. Of course, this could be a croc.
The broad appeal of all this is the aforementioned blend of perfect elements. We get to see the result of people putting their hearts and souls into a dream project long before the advent of CGI.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.]
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2018 first season of the SyFy network series "Krypton" shows that this series clearly is a production by fanboys for fanboys. The even better news is that this show is as highly entertaining to those of us in the middle range of the Kinsey Scale of Superman fandom as to the folks at either more extreme end.
Creators DCU veteran David S. Goyer and "Stargate" veteran Damian Kindler reach well across the aisle in setting this Superman prequel a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, They also reflect the British reasoning that creating a handful of excellent episodes each season is better than offering a larger number of mediocre or bad ones.
This love of the art is clear from the opening shot of the titular planet brightly red aflame ahead of the global destruction that makes the last son of that world the man whom he is today. What we see when the action shifts back a couple of centuries before that apocalypse further demonstrates that this is a true labor of love,
The opening comments in the entertaining and the informative 2017 ComicCon panel on "Krypton" that is a home-video bonus feature aptly gives props to the feature-film quality cinematography. An amusing remark notes that the action occurring in such a foreign setting precludes merely shooting outside the police station down the street.
These elements additionally REQUIRE buying "Krypton" in Blu-ray; playing it in a 4K player and watching it on a 4K Sony set makes you feel as if you are there. As an aside, being a cheap bastard in buying the fourth season of the CW DCU series "The Flash" on DVD after buying the other three on Blu-ray is a deep regret. It does not look nearly as good despite giving it the same 4K treatment as "Krypton."
The final diversion into Blogland before returning to the proud tradition of this site playing it straight relates to enhanced viewing pleasure. Getting the review BD set on that Friday facilitated a marathon (rather than binge) watching session that night. That evoked fond memories of going to the home of friends virtually every Friday night in the early 2000s to eat take-out and watch "Stargate" series or other SyFy series of that era.
The following YouTube clip of a "Krypton" S1 trailer provides a good sense of the lore of the series. It also highlights the talents of dreamy theater-trained star Cameron Cuffe, who plays literal granddaddy of Kal-El Sig-El.
Our story begins 14 cycles (my people call them years) before the present of "Krypton." Kal-El greater-great grandfather scientist Val-El is on trial for heresy in the form of asserting that Kryptonians are not alone in the universe. A young teen Sig-El watches as his grandfather who increasingly evokes thoughts of Obi Wan Kenobi literally must walk the plank.
All this (and most of out story) occurs in the then-domed (rather than bottled) city of Candor. The rigid hierarchy of that society has the ruling class of ranked families, all of which lead a particular segment of society such as the military and the sciences. The hoi polloi are unranked people who generally live a deprived existence.
14 cycles later, a 23 year-old unranked Sig-El is in the middle of a brawl at the bar at his buddy Kem. One game-changer is a heroic act by the grandfather of a Justice League member gets him reranked into the "noble" house of Vex he also finds himself facing a marriage of apparent convenience to Nyssa-Vex.
A CW element enters the picture in the form of this engagement occurring at a time that Sig-El is getting busy with Lyta-Zod. Even someone unable to solve "Scooby-Doo" mysteries can figure out the rest of the story when Superman nemesis General Zod enters the picture. That development further enhances the Shakespearean vibe of this series that already looks and feels like a story from the mind of The Bard.
Another important element of the season-long story-arc comes in the form of easy earth-boy Adam Strange beaming in with a warning from our time. He delivers an essentially "your children need your help" message to Sig-El. This gist of this news is that a earth-based threat from the future is traveling to the "Krypton" present on that planet to prevent Kal-El from being born.
Meanwhile, DCU villain/collector of planets Brainiac is headed straight for Krypton; Team El is aware both that the scheme of that evil alien is to literally rip Candor from the face of Krypton and that the very reasonable objectives of Sig-El and Strange are mutually exclusive.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of Shakespeare-style drama around the aforementioned three leading families of Krypton. This includes an aptly major and potentially bloody vexing rift between the fiancee of Sig-El and his future father-in-law. This is not to mention an "its complicated" relationship between the three generations of Zods.
As if that is not enough, another Superman villain is a player. That reflects the philosophy of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" that contending with Klingon enemies requires having a Klingon directly fight on your side.
The bigger picture is that the inter-woven threads above and other related aspects of "Krypton" both keep the action non-stop and provides high-quality plots that reflect the awful truth that most solutions rarely are easy. This particularly has an O'Henry element in this cerebral series.
The copious extras in addition to the Comic Con panel include a "making-of" feature, a "Life on Krypton" bonus, deleted scenes, and a gag reel. A cutting-room scene between Nyssa-Vax and Seg-El is particularly note-worthy.
'Rick and Morty' S1-3 DVD & BD: Emmy-Winning 'Back to Future' and 'Futurama' Mash-Up Is Fanboy Fantasy
The Adult Swim/Warner Brothers separate February 12, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of S1-3 of the Swim series "Rick and Morty" provides a chance to ensure that you "get some" on Valentine's Day from the fanboy in your life. Discovering the full-sized collectible poster is even more exciting than finding a toy in a cereal box.
This brainchild from Dan Harmon of "Community" fame and Justin Roiland of the kinder and gentler ready-for-primetime Cartoon Network series "Adventuretime" essentially transports Doc. Brown and Marty McFly from "Back to the Future" to the more subversive and surreal world of once Cartoon Network staple "Futurama." The strong "screw you, Leonard" vibe of "Rick" provides much of the fun.
A weekly mission substitutes for the concept of a delivery on "Futurama." The concept of benign or hostile aliens threats bringing mankind on the brink of destruction remains the same, IMDb describes "Rick" in more general terms by stating that it is about "the exploits of a super scientist [Rick] and his not-so-bright grandson [Morty]." Roiland successfully pulls off a MacFarlane by voicing both leads.
The Ricktastic accolades begin with a 9.3 IMDb rating and a 97-percent Rotten Tomatoes result. IMDb also lists "Rick" as the Number 9 Top-Rated Show; "Seinfeld" and "The Twilight Zone" do not make the Top 10. The 14 official wins include the 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
The its funny because its true concept of "Rick" is that Rick Sanchez is a brilliant inventor but a barely functional alcoholic and lousy grandfather and father; this is not to mention a largely unrepentant scoundrel who would sell his mother just for the fun of it. His two creations that primarily facilitate the aforementioned escapades with emotional dim-bulb Morty are a flying car that is capable of space flight and a portal gun that creates wormholes to other dimensions.
The rest of the story is that S1 begins a year after Rick moves in with daughter/horse surgeon Beth Smith (Sarah Chalke of "Roseanne" and "Scrubs.") The abandonment issues of Beth are behind condoning her father repeatedly causing destructive chaos in their home and even more frequently putting her son and other family members (including herself) in harm's way.
The dysfunction continues with wimpy unemployed advertising guy Jerry (Chris Parnell) showing that the mushy apple does not fall far from the worm-infested tree. Hilarity often ensues as Rick gleefully emasculates the purported man of the house. We also are regularly reminded that our not-so-happy-couple results from a portal-gun wedding after Jerry knocks up Beth with oldest sibling/typical big sister Summer (Kelsey Grammer daughter Spencer Grammer).
The bigger picture is that "Future" fans will see elements of the McFlys from that franchise in the Smiths. A related cool note is that a comment by Roiland in a two-part "Origins" home-video special-feature notes that he gives Morty at least a semblance of testicles to avoid him entirely being the bitch of his grandfather.
This family dynamic provides the fodder for the best "Rick" episodes. A personal fave has Rick bringing Beth and Jerry to an alien marriage-counseling center. The therapy there includes outfitting each spouse with a device that physically manifests the image that that person has of his or her significant other.
Hilarity ensues with Jerry conjuring a vicious heartless monster version of Beth, and she shows that she views her husband as a slug. Those creations breaking loose and wreaking havoc is not even the end of the story. The Smiths are left to fend for themselves against their own worst enemies. The outcome that reflects that love conquers all is not much kinder or gentler.
A similar episode has Rick paying the price for extreme measures to avoid a family counseling session, Suffice it to say that he finds himself in a constant pickle while proving that he remains a bad ass regardless of what he faces.
We also get Rick and Morty dropping off Dad at a very customized alien daycare center, the family surviving by discovering that any happy memory is false, and an especially hilarious Christmas episode in which Jerry learns that his parents have a new special friend; the fact that his dad primarily is a spectator further reflects the dynamic of our central family.
Another highlight takes the hackneyed concept of a love spell gone wrong to an awesomely extremely perverse level. Rick trying to help Morty "court" dream girl Jessica quickly gets out of bounds to the extent of creating an aforementioned world-threatening sitch. The manner in which Rick resolves this is one of the most dark and cynical in television history; it also reminds us that everyone is disposable.
Roiland and Harmon also especially delver regarding the season-ending cliffhangers. This begins with an S1 season finale that has Rick and Summer gang up against Morty to throw initially separate wild parties while the 'rents are away. Suffice it to say that rowdy teens and quirky aliens have plenty in common.
This leads to Rick using his tech. to provide plenty of time to rebuild the house before Jerry and Beth walk in the door; the rub is that squabbling that skips a generation brings the entire universe on the brink of destruction.
The S1 finale also sets the stage for the epic S2 season-ender. The family attending a wedding with a tie to the aforementioned festivities leads to one of many cases in which it seems that Rick will be held accountable for his crimes against humanity and seemingly every other species in parallel dimensions. This leads to a hilarious battle of wills in which Rick once again shows that lacking much of a conscience while also not hesitating to exploit the vulnerability of an enemy is effective. It also allows this madman with an evil mind to face off against his foes that comprise the Council of Ricks.
The epic S2 season-finale has the president (who clearly is not Trump) call in Rick and Morty to exterminate an alien in the White House. Rick adopting an extreme "Screw you, Leonard" attitude of course makes a bad situation much worse. We simply will need to wait for the S4 premiere sometime in 2109 to see how things fully shake out.
The copious home-video extras extend well beyond the aforementioned "Origins" feature. We get commentary and animatics for every episode, deleted scenes, a look at Parnell rocking it during a recording session, and other treats.
The prominent aspect of time travel in the Virgil Films documentary "Outatime: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine" excuses writing about the July 2016 DVD release of this film in February 2019. The starting point (no pun intended) is the Unreal TV post on the FANTABULOUS limited-edition Flux Capacitor Blu-ray set of the "Back to the Future" Trilogy.
The below YouTube clip of a trailer for "Outatime" wonderfully expresses the infectious and/or highly relatable elan of the restoration team. This is especially true regarding those of us adequately ancient to get hooked on the "Future" franchise during the initial releases of the films.
The relevant detour into Blogland begins with being relatively bored when a friend invites me to see "Future" at a second-run theater. The exceeded expectations are indescribable.
The noteworthy memory regarding "II" relates to needing roads where I am going to see it on the premiere date. Said driving surfaces being very snowy and icy to the point of still going despite repeatedly skidding out and getting stuck in snowbanks greatly speaks to the love of the franchise. The strong reaction (complete with a hand gesture) to the cliffhanger at the end also reflects the extent of the obsession with the adventures of the original "Rick and Morty."
This equally entertaining and educational documentary begins with a behind-the-scenes look at the role of the car/time machine in the films; this goes on to the tragic tale of Universal Studios initially leaving the flagship "A" car completely exposed to the elements for years and then not doing much better by merely putting it under a carport. This mistreatment exposes the car to weather-related harm and pilfering by fans. Literally leaving the key in the ignition is a Biff move.
The most interesting talking head from this portion of "Outatime" is the '90s-era studio portrayor of time-machine inventor Doc Brown. This eye witness provides an awesome "you are there" perspective; this is not to mention his perfect impression of the unique voice of that character.
This background information sets the stage for the central story of the film; Project head/compulsive taskmaster Joe Walser and his volunteers have one year to restore what is beyond a s**tbox to perfect working condition. Walser DEMANDING even that screws that no one will see and that aluminum tubing that hugs the car be 100-percent authentic illustrates his virtually impossible standards and the incredible tolerance of his crew. One can be certain that no strawberries are pilfered in the course of this project.
Much of the humor of the film relates to a strong sense that Walser should surrender regarding some battles. This includes having the team strip black paint off a once-silver piece of the car. Using the original paint to restore the "factory" appearance of the part is within the realm of reasonableness; having the unpaid workers with a challenging deadline remove the black paint is one of many instances in which one wonders if Walser constantly washes his hands and regularly worries if he has turned off the lights and unplugged the iron before leaving home.
Fanboys also will rejoice regarding the active involvement of "Future" co-writer and producer Bob Gale; his important contributions include using his star power to persuade fans with "borrowed" parts to donate them to the cause. Though the "owner" of a critically important component of the DeLorean pulls the phallic move of making Team Walser literally bid on that part, a not-so-guilty confession is that the group would have been SOL if your not-so-humble reviewer had anything from the car.
One of the more insightful segments relates to the fan favorite "Mr. Fusion" component. We learn about the legacy of Universal sloppily improvising after the original prop goes missing. The rest of the story is the amusing manner in which the team improvises after the fan who has this piece of film history does not return it.
The suspense throughout "Outatime" extends well beyond whether our band of brothers can recover the original components or perfectly replicate them; we get caught up in them meeting their deadline just as much as we root for Marty McFly to get the DeLorean up to the magic 88 m.p.h. in time, The modern quest being a real story creates a possibility of a lack of a Hollywood ending.
The copious DVD bonuses include filmmaker Steve Concotelli hosting the world premiere of "Outatime" at a place with a strong connection to the "Future" franchise. We also get deleted scenes and an epilogue to the restoration story.
The Warner Archive leitmotif to which the January 22, 2019 Archive Blu-ray release of the 1959 movie "The Giant Behmoth" belongs is '50s sci-fi. Although very entertaining based on its own merits, the so-bad-they're-good stock footage and special effects greatly add to the enjoyment of watching this one. Further, the Blu-ray remaster of this low-budget cult classic looks and sounds good.
The addition of "Behemoth" to the Archive catalog follows the (reviewed) Blu-ray release of the Howard Hawks mainstream classic "The Thing From Another World." These releases (and similar fare) facilitate recreating the awesome Saturday afternoon marathons at movie theaters. Watching the films back-to-back on the evening of a horrible day was exactly what the cinephile ordered.
The following YouTube clip of a Archive highlight video of "Behemoth" showcases the aforementioned effects that make the production values of the live-action Saturday-morning series "Land of the Lost" seem like something from a Merchant-Ivory film. A related depicted element is the cool way that "Behemoth" recreates the vibe of the WWII-era blitz.
This "Godzilla" begins with Yank Steve Karnes in King Robert's Court to lecture on little-considered fallout from A Bombs; his topic is how the radiation affects sea life but does not specifically address fish developing a third eye. This scene is particularly notable for a clever narrative technique that identifies Karnes.
Karnes is about to leave England for his home turf when a news report of sea monster who is far from lovin' and laughin' his life away prompts this science guy to head to the coastal scene of the crime. One of the coolest scenes from this portion of the film is discovering a radioactive element in a dissected fish.
Finding radiated Nemo allows narrowing the search for the titular sea monster. Rather than using a dory, our team boards a helicopter to search the targeted area of ocean. The arguably best effect ensues in the form of the Biblical beast swimming just below the surface. This scene arguably inspires similar moments in the awesome Brit series "Primeval" and "Primeval New World" that have prehistoric creatures respectively terrorizing England and Vancouver.
The same in-the-know viewers who yell "don't go in there" during horror movies surely predict that the plan to lower the helicopter to get a better look is a fatal mistake. They may as well have had Henry Blake on board.
The behemoth going on land and leaving behind physical evidence of (presumably) his presence leads to bringing in paleontologist Dr. Sampson. Sampson is a somewhat absent-minded professor who steals every scene in which he appears.
The conclusions of Samson being spot-on does not prevent mayhem that arguably is the most hilariously cheesy scene in the film. Our monster attacks a ferry full of passengers with extreme prejudice,
All of this leads to a literal plan-of-attack that finds the proper balance between ridding the U.K. of the terrible lizard and taking a scorched-earth approach. The ensuing action revolves around getting the rampaging beast to take his medicine.
Hilarity and drama ensue in equal measure as the potential saviors strive to complete their mission; consensus regarding this effort avoids any barney.
As indicated above, the silliness of "Behemoth" provides roughly 90-minutes of unreal entertainment. Ambiguity regarding whether this big guy is a teenage mutant sea creature or a long slumbering dino who is awoken provides a good discussion topic.
Seeing truly is believing regarding the pristine Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1951 Howard Hawks sci-fi classic "The Thing From Another World." The legacy of this tale of a broccoli from another planet terrorizing a group ar the actual Santaland includes the equally classic 1982 John Carpenter film "The Thing."
As indicated above, the video of this crystal-clear remaster of this '50s flick is amahzing. The same is true regarding the audio.
Hawks clearly shows his well-known diversity by hitting a home-run with this one that goes beyond sci-fi to also be a military buddy comedy, a romcom, and a morality tale.
Our story begins with jovial Air Force Captain Patrick Hendry (character actor Kenneth Tobey) joking with his crew and with newspaperman Ned Scott (character actor Douglas Scott) at an Anchorage Air Force base. In a manner that is particularly familiar to fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Team Hendry soon is called in to investigate a weird occurrence at a North Pole research center; Scott convinces the crew to let him tag along.
The humor continues with the flyboys and what passes for ground control at the North Pole making light of hazardous landing conditions. One spoiler is that the plane and all souls safely land.
The "rom" element soon enters the picture in the form of awesomely named office worker Nikki Nicholson; Nicholson portrayor Margaret Sheridan is known as the equivalent of a Hitchcock blonde in the eyes of Hawks (pun intended).
The onscreen chemistry and bantering between Tobey and Sheridan help elevate "Thing" from merely being kiddee matinee fare. Sheridan receiving top billing over Tobey, Nicholson being the one to hit it and quit it (and leaving a hilarious "Dear John" letter) in the relationship, and the nature of playful light bondage clearly define that dynamic.
The sci-fi element heats up on the newcomers learning that a UFO has crashed landed and is frozen beneath the ice; discovering the titular alien (James Arness of "Gunsmoke") at the Roswell North site compensates for a glitch while recovering the craft.
The sci-fi staple of a fatal mistake this time consists of bringing this outer-space equivalent of Encino Man inside to slowly thaw him. Inadvertently expediting this process allows the accidental tourist to explore his new surroundings sooner than expected. Suffice it to say both that first contact does not go as planned and that the man with that duty may as well have been wearing a red shirt.
The most awesome thing about this new threat is that it FINALLY introduces real conflict in the film; Dr. Arthur Carrington (character actor Robert Cornthwaite) plays the dual roles of "The Professor" who by far is the smartest guy in the room and the dick who regularly clashes with Hendry. The disagreement relates to accepting the reality that you need to crack a few skulls to make a scientifically important omelet.
An early detection system provides our group an advantage in its effort to find and neutralizes this threat with a somewhat plausible basis for lacking any emotion or compassion. However, this proves to be little help regarding the final mano a mango battle.
This confrontation at the North Pole really going south at one point adds good suspense that contributes to the classic status of the film. A mix of humor and potential for peril enters in the form of speculating about a previously unconsidered advantage of the rampaging rutabaga.
The bigger picture is whether mere mortals can defeat a creature that is bigger, stronger, smarter, and lacks any regard for human life. This provides the rest of the human population reason to anticipate fairly literally becoming cattle.
The epilogue to all this is that "Things" hits all the right notes and speaks to everyone.
CBS Home Entertainment continues serving Trekkers and Trekies alike very well regarding separate November 13, 2018 Blu-ray & DVD of "Star Trek: Discovery" S1. This release joins a complete set of CBS releases of every "Trek" series; it also allows those of us who either prefer physical media over streaming and/or do not subscribe to CBS All-Access to check out this neo-modern take on Trek complete with cursing, nudity, and an openly gay couple.
Seeing open hostility among crew members is equally awesomely honest and refreshing. Although "Discovery" definitely is not your daddy's Trek, he will enjoy it.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Discovery" highlights the darker and more atmospheric elements of the series that distinguish it from other Trek series. That is not to say that there are not shiny happy Starfleet personnel and tech.
One of the numerous nice things about "Discovery," which occurs a decade before the original series ("OS") and a century before "The Next Generation" ("TNG,"), is that the confusing and arguably flawed first two episodes lead to a series that a greater percentage of Trek fans can enjoy and embrace.
The pilot is rather difficult to follow. It opens with literally and figuratively dark scenes featuring aliens that do not look familiar to Trek fans. We quickly determine that this species is Klingon. It is not explained why they do not look anything like the Klingons from the "OS" era or those of the "TNG" period.
The action alternates between the activities of the Klingons and the crew of a ship that creates more confusion by not being named "Discovery." This is not to mention the opening credits including the names of everyone's favorite "Rent" boy Anthony Rapp and others even those they do not appear until the third episode.
A HUGE frustration regarding the first episode is that those of use who are not fluent in Klingon must have the subtitles on to understand what members of that species are saying; the problem is that subtitles remain on when the Starfleet personnel speak English; this requires turning the subtitles on-and-off. This flaw is corrected by the second episode,
Then-second-officer Michael Burnham is at the center of the action and remains there throughout S1. She is serving on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, which investigates damage to a Federation satellite on the edge of Federation space. This soon leads to Burnham taking action that escalates The Klingon War that has a prominent role in Trek lore.
The response of the Klingons incorporates an aspect of their culture that also is well-known to Trekkers and Trekkies. This leads to a battle that leads to a real game-changer for Burnham.
Burnham becoming the Tom Paris of "Discovery" on boarding the titular vessel is only the tip of the iceberg regarding her. Aspects of the life of Burnham that make her unique warrant a strong comparison to Spock and a lesser similarity to Worf and Seven of Nine. This relates to the role of Burnham regarding an aspect of Vulcan culture that also pops up in Trek series; this is not to mention an amusing "Dad always liked you best" element in her history.
"Discovery" definitely looking more advanced than the Enterprise that Kirk commands 10 years later alone is puzzling. This ship having tech. that is beyond that of the Enterprise of Picard 100 years later truly is surprising.
On the subject of comparisons, Trek vet and current guiding force Bryan Fuller provides plenty of Easter eggs and other nods to the franchise lore. This includes one well-known character being a regular, a list of prominent captains having familiar names and a lesser-known one, and an OS villain plaguing Discovery captain Gabriel Lorca.
On the subject of Lorca, Fuller further strays from traditional Trek lore by making this space cowboy less heroic and likable than his past-and-future- peers. He is almost perpetually grumpy and even less respectful of Starfleet rules and principles than the other guys on their best days. In fairness to this fearless leader, he is not himself these days.
Lorca gets his Picard moment in the form of extreme torture at the hands of an enemy. Both incidents even involve weaponizing light.
Fuller goes further in populating the crew with folks who are even more quirky than those of other Trek ships. This begins with literal space cadet Sylvia Tilly. Her overall unduly gleeful manner and extreme candid chattiness create an incorrect assumption regarding her referring to her "special needs" in her first scene.
We also get First Officer Saru, who is alien with a prey mentality literally encoded into him. In addition to being physically one of the most odd characters in Trek lore, his version of a spidey sense makes him fascinatingly unique.
Rapp plays Lt. Paul Stamets, who seems to have a mood to match every occasion. His uniqueness extends beyond developing a way-cool ability early in the season to being the first openly gay Trek character. His cute and charming relationship with ship doctor Hugh Culber make them the best-ever Trek couple.
Fuller again sticks to the script by having the Discovery chief security officer meeting a violent end setting the stage for the predecessor of this individual. In this case, it is dashing tall, dark, and handsome Ash Tyler. Tyler just as aptly has something in common with Voyager security chief Torres.
The adventures of this gang are even more serialized than those of a couple of season of the "Enterprise" gang. They simultaneously are contending with open warfare with the Klingons and both trying to properly utilize the unique tech. of their ship and to contend with friendly and not-so-friendly attempts to obtain it.
Highlights include trekking to a parllel universe and contending with evil twins sans goatees. The season finale is just as special by paying homage to "Enterprise."
The numerous bonuses include several "making-of" features, a season recap, and promos.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1956 CinemaScope scifi film "World Without End" once again proves the Archive commitment to releasing DVDs and Blu-rays that fit in awesome leitmotifs. In this case, it is bright and bold CinemaScope scifi B flicks.
The recently reviewed Archive Blu-ray release of "The Queen of Outer Space" starring Zsa Zsa Gabor is another member of the low-budget sci-fi movies section of the seemingly endless Archive catalog. Of course, these releases make a great double-feature gift for fans of good bad '50s scifi movies. A related note is that the back-cover liner notes for "World" state that it is the first CinemaScope scifi thriller.
Warner does its usual excellent job remastering both "World" and "Queen" for Blu-ray. The flawless images are crystal clear and incredibly vivid; the audio literally would allow hearing a pin drop.
The numerous similarities between "World" and "Queen" are attributable to Edward Bernds directing both; he pulls double duty as writer on "World." A synopsis of the films is that red-blooded American astronauts crash their ship and get tangled up with space babes. This screams for a book on the psyche of Bernds.
One difference is that "World" has more of an Irwin Allen feel than "Queen." This begins with a strong lost in space vibe, continues with stronger camaraderie among the macho men leads, and includes the stronger cheesy creature element.
The four astronauts in "World" are on a data-collecting mission when a freak storm near Mars causes their ship to go wildly out-of-control. They awaken to find their vehicle stuck in the mother of all snow banks.
The formulaic fun begins with the quartet discovering a massive spider web and soon wrangling with the not-so-sweet Charlotte who is its creator. The manner in which the group fends off this comical mutant establishes their approach to defending themselves from every savage foe.
The next adventure is straight out of "Queen." The men in both cases pay the price for lacking the foresight to assign someone to stand watch while the others sleep in their alien environment. The rude awakening in "World" comes courtesy of mutated cavemen.
The ensuing cat-and-mouse game results in the astronauts seeking refuge in a cave; that temporary refuge becomes more permanent on this tactic leading to the group entering the fortified underground world of the civilized inhabitants. This leads to reveals regarding where the space travelers have landed in time and space.
The honeymoon period quickly ends on the guests learning that their very timid hosts are unwilling either to help them repair their ship or use the resources that allow establishing an outpost on the surface. The aforementioned eye candy is some consolation; the new arrivals being far more macho in mind and body than the wimps who rule the place further enhances their status.
Of course, things soon come to a head in a manner that requires that every male man up. This initially leads to a wonderfully campy power struggle. This results in which is a happy ending on the surface (pun intended) but is horribly wrong from a more enlightened 21st-century perspective.
The happy ending for us higher beings is that Archive allows us the treat of a "World" and"Queen" double feature. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
The bad news is that the 1956 scifi horror thriller "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" being a prominent topic in film study and political science courses precludes giving the Olive Signature division of Olive Films October 16, 2018 Blu-ray release of this classic due regard. The first good news is that the copious in-depth and insightful bonus features do show "Body" proper regard and give current students a good shot at boosting their grade at least a notch.
Audio commentary by "Body" stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter (and by Gizmo's birth dad Joe Dante) further enhances the Signature release of the film.
The second good news is that the recently beefed-up Olive Films section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes reviews of other cult classics that Signature has shown tremendous love. The first releases are the 1952 classic Western "High Noon" and the more campy 1954 Joan Crawford Western "Johnny Guitar." This collection including the lesbiancentric 1996 neo-noir film "Bound" demonstrates the range of Signature,
"Body" is based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. The aforementioned special features shows how this tale of the fruit of seeds from outer space replacing ordinary townfolks in a '50s Everytown U.S.A. speaks to (hilariously named) producer Walter Wanger. We additionally get the perspective of director Don Siegel.
As the oft-mentioned extras remind us, one aspect of "Body" that makes it notable is being the first in a long series of "pod people" films that still entertain movie goers and provide sitcom writers who are desperate for a Halloween episode script fodder for a dream-sequence. However, this does not prevent Siegel and his team from borrowing from "Citizen Kane" and many other classics.
Just as "Kane" opens with the death of the titular William Randolph Hearst pod person and goes on to portray the key events in the life of the clone, the first scenes in "Body" show a crazed and disheveled Dr. Miles J. Bennell (McCarthy) restrained in a hospital and ranting about the titular offensive. This leads to a psychiatrist agreeing to hear his story in order to calm him down.
"Body" then depicts an equally standard opening scene; we see a train pull into the station at Santa Mira, California. The protagonist (Bennell) disembarks and meets his nurse. The audience learns on the ride to the office both that Bennell has good-natured arrogance and that he is returning from a two-week trip to a medical conference. Bennell learns that chaos in the form of people flooding his office with claims of replicas replacing locals has erupted in his absence,
The mystery deepens when Bennell finds his office empty and all seeming quiet on this western town front. Things get more interesting when Becky Driscoll (Wynter), with whom Bennell has an "its complicated" past, shows up after an extended absence, This reunion leads to a joke about divorce that is shocking for the '50s but very funny in 2018.
The initial investigation by those "meddling kids" Bennell and Driscoll bears little fruit until they experience a major breakthrough. This phase of the investigation ultimately leads to hot pursuit of Bennell and Driscoll that includes era-apt propaganda in the form of coaxing the couple by telling them that they will be much happier if they no longer think or feel.
The bonus regarding this is that falling asleep creates a significant risk of a fate different then death, Seeing Bennell being particularly clever in evading his former friends and neighbors is another aspect of "Body" that distinguishes it from other '50s scifi fare.
The quality continues to the end; the opening scenes establish that Bennell does not lose his humanity. However, suspense remains whether "Abner" believes "Gladys" that "witches" are among us. The outcome demonstrates why "Body" has endured so long.
The final mention of the numerous short documentaries and related material in the Signature release is that the filmmmakers never divulge their intents regarding "Body" being right or left-wing propaganda. That ambiguity adds to the fun of the film and reminds us of a kinder and gentler (although equally paranoid) era,
'Queen of Outer Space' Blu-ray: Zsa Zsa Gabor Dispels Myth Men Are From Mars and Women From Venus Do Not Want Them
Warner Archive belatedly goes to camp in releasing the 1958 CinemaScope film "Queen of Outer Space" on September 25 2018, rather than during the summer. The better news is that this wonderful blend of '50s kiddie matinee serials and "Star Trek" OS (in addition to a strong dose of the Hanna Barbera cartoon "Josie and the Pussycats") is well worth the wait. Further, the literally and figuratively alien landscapes and the bright and bold (pun intended) "Trek" style clothes and interiors look fabulous in Blu-ray.
The lack of references to probing Uranus or other mentions of that planet is the only one of two disappointment regarding "Queen." The second letdown relates to star Zsa Zsa Gabor, who is well known for slapping a police officer in 1989, not slapping any of the men in the movie.
It is hoped that feminists take the amusing chauvinism of the era in context. The literal battle of the sexes and the humor related to the titular monarch and her subjects being voluptuous females are very amusing from the perspective of someone watching the film 60 years after the release.
Knowing that a JOKE that we get a look at a Hillary Clinton administration is sure to cause great offense reflects that our time lacks a sense of humor regarding many topics. Archive deserves tremendous credit for not slapping (no pun intended) the same "reflects the less-enlightened society of the time" disclaimer on "Queen" that are placed on some DVD sets of vintage cartoons.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Queen" includes every element described above. The video being standard-def. and seemingly not remastered highlights the awesome job with the Blu-ray version.
The kiddie-matinee vibe begins when Captain Nel Patterson (Eric Fleming who is born on the Fourth of July), de facto second-in-command Lieutenant Mike Cruze (cartoon voice actor and comic character actor Dave Willock), and hunky womanizing Lieutenant Larry Turner get the grunt duty of providing harmless middle-aged Professor Konrad Uber service to the "Deep Space Nine" space station regarding which he literally and figuratively is a principal architect. This occurs in the far-off future of 1985.
The Saturday afternoon at the movies sense continues with the cheesy effects associated with our quartet approaching the aforementioned space station while that facility is under attack from a ray. That beam hitting its mark destroys the station and makes the ship the next target.
The aim of the weapon of mass destruction ultimately being true disables the ship and has it crash in one of the best comically low-budget special-effects scene in "Queen." The men soon determine that they are on Venus.
A literal rude awakening occurs when a group of women dressed in knockoffs of '60s-era Starfleet uniforms captures the men and takes them to their titular leader. One spoiler is that no red skirt is harmed in the filming of this scene,
The glee of our testosterone-fueled heroes on finding themselves the only males among a group of space babes lessens on learning that the queen has made Venus a true matriarchy and comes to the table with an actual feminazi attitude of extreme prejudice regarding earth in general and men specifically. Her policy is to eliminate the threat of the men and their planet before they can attack.
The literal saving grace of the skipper, the first mate (and the professor) is the character whom Gabor portrays, Talleah is a scientist who is among a group that does not consider men evil per se and does not advocate blowing up a planet as a preventative measure. The potential for offensive humor this time relates to the opening to comment that Talleah and her followers advocate a coup d' tata.
These covert agents aid and abet the enemy noncombatants in a manner that will put the bubble-gum chase music from "Josie" and "Scooby-Doo" in the heads of every child of the '70s. A scene in which the pursued and the pursuing duck in and out of doors in a long hallway is especially awesome in this regard.
This leads to the inevitable Venusian standoff. Our bros and their hos face off against the ruling party. Suffice it to say that that outcome involves very masculine behavior. The epilogue perfectly reflects the time and shows that Kirk is not the only pig in space.