Boom! Sleepy Hollow Comic Preview
September 12, 2014

In advance of their Sleepy Hollow comic miniseries, due in October, Boom! Studios has put together some five-page comic short stories featuring the characters. The first is about Ichabod Crane and his time in battle, and the second focuses on Abbie’s sister Jenny Mills, the one that spent time in an asylum.

Boom! Sleepy Hollow comic

Boom! says “The shorts will eventually be collected into a printed version but are only available digitally for now.” These are written by Mike Johnson and illustrated by Matias Bergara, and they’re the first two of five planned. Follow the Boom! Tumblr to see the rest. The coming miniseries will be by Marguerite Bennett and Jorge Coelho.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 2 Now on Blu-ray
September 9, 2014

Out today on Blu-ray is the complete second season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. This follows, of course, Season One, which came out at the end of last year.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 2 on Blu-ray

All 26 episodes are included, as listed below, on two discs in widescreen HD. Guest stars this season include Aquaman, the Flash, the Justice Society, Justice League International, and the Super Batman of Planet X (voiced by Kevin Conroy). Best of all, the episodes are presented in the producer’s preferred order for the first time — including “The Mask of Matches Malone!” in the correct aspect ratio!

We previously reviewed the first half of these and loved them.

Disc One Disc Two
  1. Death Race to Oblivion!
  2. Long Arm of the Law!
  3. Revenge of the Reach!
  4. Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!
  5. The Golden Age of Justice!
  6. Sidekicks Assemble!
  7. Clash of the Metal Men!
  8. A Bat Divided!
  9. Super-Batman of Planet X!
  10. The Power of Shazam!
  11. Chill of the Night!
  12. Gorillas In Our Midst!
  13. The Siege of Starro! Part 1
  1. The Siege of Starro! Part 2!
  2. Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster!
  3. The Last Patrol!
  4. The Mask of Matches Malone!
  5. Menace of the Madniks!
  6. Emperor Joker!
  7. The Criss Cross Conspiracy!
  8. Plague of the Prototypes!
  9. Cry Freedom Fighters!
  10. The Knights of Tomorrow!
  11. Darkseid Descending!
  12. Bat-Mite Presents: Batman’s Strangest Cases!
  13. The Malicious Mr. Mind!
Arrow Season 3 Trailer Promises Brandon Routh
September 8, 2014

Arrow Season 3 launches on the CW on October 8, and here’s the trailer.

Clearly, I have some catching up to do when Season 2 comes out on DVD on September 16, since I have no idea which guy on the motorcycle is flirting with Felicity. Oliver, I guess, since he’s kissing her later.

Anyway, Black Canary returns, yay, and even more exciting is the introduction of Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer, whom we comic fans know as the shrinking Atom. (I’ve been rewatching Chuck, where Routh has a substantial role in Season 3, and it’s quite impressive. I’m glad he’s into doing geek roles.) Plenty of action coming, too.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Out on DVD Tomorrow
September 8, 2014

Thinking back, Captain America: The Winter Soldier just might be my favorite Marvel superhero movie. Sure, it isn’t on as huge a scale as The Avengers and it doesn’t have the wackiness of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it also doesn’t have the sexism of the latter or the yet-another-dark-villain of either. So overall, it’s more balanced, less of a guilty pleasure and more just pleasure.

Out tomorrow on home video is the movie, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, and Sebastian Stan in a story of betrayal and friendship. Man, that sounds sappy, doesn’t it? But those are the themes that make me want to see the movie again, those questions of who can be trusted. Here’s a trailer for the Blu-ray release:

The Blu-ray includes making-of featurettes, commentary, deleted scenes, and bloopers, while the single-disc DVD has one featurette and deleted scene.

I am disappointed that Disney has cut back on its packaging. For a release-day price of about $20, you used to get a combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD (and originally, a digital copy). Now, to get a variety of formats, you have to upgrade to their 3-D package, which for most people, is a waste, since I don’t know anyone that watches 3-D at home. For $20, you only get a single Blu-ray disc. I suppose that’s the main way I’m going to watch the film anyway.

Young Justice on Blu-ray
September 7, 2014

I was given a chance to check out the release of Young Justice on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive. I hadn’t gotten into the show the first few times I tried it, but I wanted to give it another shot, for two reasons. I knew it got better later, and sometimes, knowing exactly how a series played out — in this case, that there was no finale, just cancellation, after only two seasons — can set expectations more appropriately.

Young Justice on Blu-ray

There are two Blu-ray discs in the case, each with 13 episodes, no extras. Each disc has almost five hours of content, broken up as:

Disc One Disc Two
  1. Independence Day
  2. Fireworks
  3. Welcome to Happy Harbor
  4. Drop Zone
  5. Schooled
  6. Infiltrator
  7. Denial
  8. Downtime
  9. Bereft
  10. Targets
  11. Terrors
  12. Home Front
  13. Alpha Male
  1. Revelation
  2. Humanity
  3. Failsafe
  4. Disordered
  5. Secrets
  6. Misplaced
  7. Coldhearted
  8. Image
  9. Agendas
  10. Insecurity
  11. Performance
  12. Usual Suspects
  13. Auld Aquaintance

It’s basic superhero adventure with generic, competent animation. (The Blu-ray looks fabulous, though, crisp and clear.) The kids are exaggerated teens — impulsive, grumpy, over-confident — which likely made them sympathetic to the young male audience the show was targeting. (Reportedly, the show was cancelled in part because the emotional content meant it appealed too much to girls.) The team is made up of Aqualad (the most sensible and de facto leader), Kid Flash (humor relief), Robin, Superboy (an angry Superman clone discovered and rescued in the first two episodes), Miss Martian (introduced at the end of episode two), and Artemis (who first appears in episode six, without much background, just that she’s Green Arrow’s niece).

Miss Martian is interesting, because as the niece of the Martian Manhunter, she plays the naive “I don’t know much about Earth” role. The others get upset when she doesn’t know how things are done here, demonstrating their youthful lack of empathy. Her role also makes it clear that the boys are there to instruct her, keeping her as an apprentice even though her mental powers make her as strong as any of them. I also wish Artemis had been given more of an introduction episode. She just shows up and she’s on the team because one of the older heroes says so.

The second disc, at least, was new to me, as well as the last episode of the first. That’s when Captain Marvel starts hanging out with the team, Superboy gets a wolf-dog, and we learn more about team mentor Red Tornado. Plus, young Zatanna makes an appearance. I also was thrilled when, in the last few episodes, Rocket (and Icon) show up.

The stories are mostly about fighting, with a strong undercurrent of Superboy looking for acceptance and friendship, both of which he won’t admit he needs. The whole thing feels angry — about the kids not yet being accepted as full heroes and about them not wanting the rules and advice they’re given. That makes fighting a sensible response, to get out that aggression, but the result is a show that I’m still not that interested in.

But then, I’m clearly not the target audience. The tone of this series, and its approach to guest stars, is in line with many of the DCU original animated films — darker and with less humor than I like in my superheroes. Instead, there’s an undercover prison infiltration, an attack on an armed base of militants, an alien invasion to stop, and other types of genre stories that aren’t normally seen in kids’ cartoons. This is in keeping with a lot of other DC-related products, from comics to movies. There’s no joy or happiness in these stories. It’s deadly serious, so no one can laugh at the viewers for liking it.

A teen boy will likely find this much more interesting, particularly as it expands into the DC universe, with other heroes appearing. This set makes it easy to do a marathon and sink into their world for a nice long time. I did like Black Canary as the team’s fight trainer, especially when she shows Superboy it’s not about power, but what you do with it. (The studio provided a review copy.)

TCM Launches Pre-Code Focus Today
September 5, 2014

I’m a huge fan of Pre-Code movies, those films put out from 1930-1934, before Hollywood became subject to the Hays Code to maintain morality in its films. These early films tackled difficult subjects for a radically changing culture — the Depression was in effect, people were still arguing about what movies “should” be, sound films were relatively new, and morality, particularly as demonstrated by moviemakers both off- and on-screen, was a matter of much debate. Or, alternately, they showed more skin and/or violence than middle American morality protectors were comfortable with. Or both.

My favorites of the type are those that explicitly tackle how men and women should relate. Many of the women in these films have their own careers and their own ideas, and they battle against double standards while acknowledging they like sex — or at least are willing to participate in it for their own reasons.

Every Friday in September, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is spotlighting Classic Pre-Code Movies, a wonderful festival and a perfect subject for the channel.

TCM Friday Night Spotlight Classic Pre-Code

Unfortunately, I’m late talking about this, so you’ve already missed the marvelous Ex-Lady (1933), in which Bette Davis doesn’t believe in marriage, so she wants to live with her boyfriend instead. And Female (1933), in which the underrated and powerful Ruth Chatterton runs a company, sleeps with young executives, and drops them quickly as soon as she’s done. (Or, if you have an iPad and a cable company that supports the Watch TCM app, you can catch them for another week.)

Many of these films have a tacked-on “happy” ending in which the women come to realize the virtue of marriage and settle down. But before that conventional, often abrupt, resolution, it’s great fun to see the variety of roles and lifestyles portrayed.

Still coming up (in an hour!) is the wonderful introductory documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin, and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (or it’s airing again in two weeks). Must-watches tonight are two of the most well-known and potent Pre-Codes: Baby Face (1933) and The Divorcee (1930).

Theresa Harris and Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face

Theresa Harris and Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face

Stanwyck gets her first job tip from a friendly cop in Baby Face

Stanwyck gets her first job tip from a friendly cop

In Baby Face, Barbara Stanwyck works her way out of poverty and a background of abuse by sleeping with a succession of banking executives. Literally, she works her way up, with the camera zooming into successively higher floors of the company’s skyscraper. Has one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, as she’s showing off her cache of jewelry and stock certificates to her maid: “That’s half a million dollars. Someday, I’ll have the other half that goes with it.”

Norma Shearer in The Divorcee

The Divorcee — can you tell the movie is about sex?

Norma Shearer, party girl, in The Divorcee

Norma Shearer, party girl

In The Divorcee, Norma Shearer deals with her husband’s straying by having her own affair, which he finds unforgivable. She then sets off to become a European adventuress. The title is a giveaway, as we’re talking about a time when divorce itself was scandalous.

Lots of athletics in Search for Beauty

Lots of athletics in Search for Beauty

Later tonight/tomorrow morning, there’s another kind of Pre-Code, the “look at that skin on the screen!” kind. Search for Beauty (1934) is about a con artist putting out a “health and beauty” magazine that’s just an excuse for naughty pictures. Two Olympians (young Buster Crabbe and Ida Lupino) are roped into being front figures, and there’s a lot of exercising in skimpy, near-see-through outfits. Fun comeuppance for the exploiters, too.

These films are also available on DVD in these excellent collections:

Forbidden Hollywood Volume 1 cover Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2 cover Pre-Code Hollywood Collection cover
Baby Face The Divorcee Search for Beauty

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