Monday, 28 August 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow: Season 2

Cast: Victor Garber, Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Dominic Purcell, and Neal McDonough

Creators: Marc Guggenheim, Phil Klemmer, and Greg Berlanti

715 minutes (15) 2016-7
Widescreen ratio 16:9
Warner blu-ray region B

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

A by-product of the DC media franchise, comic-book TV adventure Legends Of Tomorrow follows the relative success of Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, assembling a mixed gang of rogue supporting characters. Recruited for time-travel missions against a super-villain, to save the planet and fix an unstable history troubled by immortal Vandal Savage, who’s conquered the entire world in the future. After defeating their arch-enemy, this epic story continues in Legends Of Tomorrow: The Complete Second Season, beginning with a mystery as their leader Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill, Doctor Who) disappears. The group of ‘outcasts and misfits’ remain together and take over the unofficial police duty against any time-travelling pirates and meddlers. Charting a safe pathway between the chaos theory and domino effects of aberrations in the time-stream, to repair or defend the established timeline - even with guidance from a new historian, is not easy for the fractious crews of time-ship ‘Waverider’.

Although Dr Martin Stein (Victor Garber), one half of nuclear-powered hybrid ‘Firestorm’, assumes command initially, it’s Sara Lance - alias White Canary (Caity Lotz, Arrow) who soon becomes the new captain. Ray Palmer - alias The Atom (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns) has various problems with his hi-tech suit, while thuggish Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) mourns the loss of his partner-in-crime Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller). But the individuals in this crew must be forged into a team capable of saving troubled humanity, and the whole world, from all their fractured yesteryears to the distant future-history. 

In 1942, the heroes save New York from a Nazi nuke and meet the Justice Society for a WW2 mission. In feudal Japan, they tackle the roles of seven samurai protecting a village from a brutal Shogun. In Mississippi during the Civil War they face zombies that bite, although the really hot topic here is rebellion against slavery. Evincing a world-weary heroism that few can match, Lance Henriksen guest stars as Obsidian, last of the JSA in 1987, working at the White House. Always excellent in cowboy movie roles, Jeff Fahey turns up in a wild western where the desperado of death Jonah Hex is found in need of saving from a lynch mob. Along the way, the Waverider irregulars pick-up newcomers including new historian Nate (Nick Zano), who becomes Citizen Steel, and JSA super heroine Amaya - alias Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers). But nearly all trails and clues lead to plots by Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), aided by evil cohorts Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and Eobard Thawne - alias Reverse Flash (Matt Letscher). 

There are visits to Capone’s Chicago in the ‘roaring 1920s’, Washington’s great revolution against British colonial rule, King Arthur’s Camelot where ‘Sara Lancelot’ adds some spice to a classic myth, and Raiders Of The Lost Art suggests that George Lucas directs classic movies to inspire inventors and historians. The brain-washed Rip Hunter is captured, but he takes over Waverider time-ship, and the only way that the crew have of getting their old captain back is to get inside his head with a mind-link. So, after psychic contretemps, the lanky Brit is soon back in charge. A rare space mission intercepts the sabotaged, and hijacked, Apollo 13 mission on the dark-side of the Moon. Can even the legends pull off a lunar rescue to get Odyssey’s crew home safely without any resorting to a Cold Equations sacrificial solution?

The main cross-over storyline links LOT with Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl for a team-up adventure to fight alien invaders the Dominators. Shadowed by men-in-black agents, haunted by absent friends and missing relatives - due to the alternate ‘Flash-point’ world, and afraid of strangers, the various heroes defending the Earth must learn that meddling with timelines for personal gain doesn’t result in a better world.

Finally, got the Spear of Destiny? “Set a course for the Crucifixion.” But, no... They’re off to the French trenches of WW1 on a quest leading to a fellowship with the young Tolkien instead. Doomworld posits absolute victory for the Legion of super-villains complete with clichéd, homicidal monologues. Ultimate iterations of Legends might also be final or fatal versions. Will superheroes die or just fade away? LOT season two is 17 episodes, packed with amusing comic-book sci-fi fantasy sketches and witty genre mash-ups. The show is one of a kind that’s slowly risen to the heights of being the best DC TV series because of its comparative lack of boring soap opera where the story grinds to a halt for supporting players to emote, while details of their sundry relationships are delivered with gratuitous moping about or woolly introspection. Sob stories always spoil the fun. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Supergirl: Season 2

Cast: Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, David Harewood, and Chris Wood

Creators: Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg

968 minutes (12) 2016-7
Widescreen ratio 16:9
Warner blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Richard Bowden

“In order to live, we must keep daring,” Kat Grant advises her protégé Kara Danvers. Unlike DC’s other TV shows, troubled by the muddled plotting of Arrow and soapy skiffy of The Flash, the debut season of Supergirl presented a witty balance of super-heroics and office sit-com. Like Buffy during the 1990s, Supergirl is presented as a role model, but also now a feminist media icon for 21st century TV, and this is tremendous fun, boasting innate charm and genre humour to spare. Some of that goes on in Supergirl: The Complete Second Season, as when departing guest Superman says “to be continued,” and gets away with it. The show delivers topical and relevant stories, while avoiding a blatantly campy attitude towards often light-hearted material.

The kryptonite powered cyborg Metallo is particularly trying challenge for the high-flying heroine. Meanwhile, influenced by her visitor Clark Kent, Kara opts to become a reporter for CatCo magazine, working for news-room editor Snapper Carr, a grouchy kind of Lou Grant as a stickler for top quality journalism, and staunch defender of the Fourth Estate. In the absence of Calista Flockhart’s corporate diva Cat Grant, it’s this revisionist version of Snapper Carr (winningly portrayed by Ian Gomez) who becomes the heart of maturity offering an intelligent perspective for the second season. Despite his on-screen presence in only eight episodes, his grumpy charisma overshadows most of the office scenes, even when he’s off-stage. “A half-truth is a whole lie.”   

Welcome To Earth features ex-Wonder Woman Lynda Carter as the President, offering an ‘alien amnesty act’ to calm immigration problems, while several new ETs appear, with or without any dramatic space-ship arrival events. There are cage fights for alien gladiators, cop cars in orbit, and yet more sci-fi weapons alongside references to the climate change debate, lesbian angst, and questions of moral prejudice or social responsibility, producing unhappy lives with brave smiles.

Contending with a monster called Parasite, Martian mutation, a theft of Kryptonian blood, deportation instead of execution, while alien bounty-hunters are after Supergirl - wanted: dead or alive, our supreme young super-heroine tackles mightier menaces that her lesser costumed colleagues - in TV shows Arrow, and The Flash, are simply unable to overcome. 
The cross-over event for this year is the Dominators alien-invaders storyline that’s out on standalone DVD as Invasion.

The show’s mix of sci-fi themes also has medical a nano-tech manifestation that becomes a weaponised swarm, while guest star appearances as familiar DC characters bring unexpected returns for apparent betrayal, predictable farewells for the common good, and extra-legal shenanigans, in contrast with the dos & don’ts for rom-com dates. Supergirl and some DEO agents confront insidious villainy from the Cadmus cabal that’s led by Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong). Teri Hatcher and Kevin Sorbo play alien parents, the Queen and King of planet Daxam. Unfortunately, there is more dreary soap opera instead of appealing sitcom routines this season, and Supergirl slips down the rating chart. While this remains a better show than Arrow and The Flash, DC comics on TV is now easily dominated by its breakaway adventure series Legends Of Tomorrow.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Resident Evil: Vendetta

Voice cast: Kevin Dorman, Matthew Mercer, and Erin Cahill

Director: Takanori Tsujimoto

97 minutes (15) 2017
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region free  

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton  

“Tomorrow, the world will be a different place.” The cross-genre appeal of Resident Evil is especially impressive in three varied particulars, as it cleverly evokes the burning cities of apocalyptic sci-fi, the sweaty anxiety of haunted house fantasy, and the grisly splatter of dismemberment horror. In this third CG animated feature, the heroes tackle a villain who intends to destroy New York with a new strain of the deadly virus. There’s floppy-haired maverick agent Leon (Matthew Mercer), hard-boiled but sympathetic soldier Chris (Kevin Dorman), and the newcomer is adorably cute professor Rebecca (Erin Cahill), who is not afraid to tell off the boys, and knock sense into their stubborn or selfish attitudes. With a support crew in tow, this trio face the monstrous machinations of Arias, the businessman creating zombies as commercial products - to feed his quest for diabolical vengeance and to fund an apparent vanity for tailored suits, just like a typical James Bond nemesis.

Here, standard displays of action movie hardware (“Dibs on the bike”), and urban scenes are often indistinguishable from live-action counterparts, while the leading players are all depicted via the aid of with state-of-the-art motion capture techniques. Digital characters in this movie are enhanced so that every shrug, twitch, blink, smirk, and small gesture is rendered by digital artists with exquisite care and textured magic. If some minor bouts of stillness and the general lack of micro-expressions might sometimes make the main stars appear wooden in terms of performance values, let us not forget how stoicism and wholly professional calm are also traits of characters in these genre scenarios that are worthy of emulation.

Resident Evil: Vendetta boasts a storytelling verve and chaptering that is well achieved by grimly tragic twists or absurdly comic turns. Shoot ‘em up episodes are de rigueur for this milieu, as are some advanced weapons as tools of the mayhem trade, monsters as a merchandise traffic, and the overtly sexualised, ultra-violent blonde villainess. Solidarity among the survivors is what makes the premise most interesting as it provides a credible humanity in this amoral world of inhumanity to people alongside a worship of wealth and power, clearly reflecting the concerns of 21st century reality. With a plot-line that all but laughs at the anti-vaccine propaganda that seems to be closely related to stupid fears of science and technology, this movie also astutely references The Bride Of Frankenstein as wittily as Frankenhooker did. Where this franchise best helps to redefine the comic-book conventions of protagonist versus antagonist is in its presentation of ultimate showdowns featuring an evil mastermind and superhuman henchman combined into a single menace.      

Disc extras:
  • Filmmaker audio commentary
  • Stills gallery
  • CGI To Reality: The Creature featurette (exclusive to Blu-ray)
  • CGI To Reality: Designing Vendetta featurette (exclusive to Blu-ray)
  • Motion Capture Set Tour with Dante Carver (exclusive to Blu-ray)

Bonus disc exclusive to Blu-ray:
  • B.S.A.A. Mission Briefing: Combat Arias
  • Designing The World Of Vendetta featurette
  • 2016 Tokyo Game Show footage