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SUICIDE SQUAD (Blu-ray combo)

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suicidesquadcoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2016, 123 min., Color
Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos
Bonus features: B+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

 Suicide Squad is a high-concept film that asks, What if you plug characters from the DC Universe into the old Dirty Dozen plot? Instead of having a bunch of badasses tackle a war mission, have these imprisoned supervillains agree to work together to foil what is presumably a super-supervillian named the Enchantress in exchange for reduced sentences.

suicidesquadscreen1Sounds fun, right? But while it’s imminently watchable, Suicide Squad isn’t as fun of a ride as Guardians of the Galaxy. It could have been, with more performances like Jared Leto’s and Margot Robbie’s as The Joker and his henchwoman/partner-in-crime, Harley Quinn. Those two really go over-the-top with their roles and push their characters from celluloid right back onto the pages of a comic book, while the rest of the supervillains are played a little straighter . . . perhaps because they weren’t given as meaty (and savory) roles. But I suspect that these two just found inspired ways to play their characters.

As superhero movies go, Suicide Squad is entertaining enough to add to the family video library, but it has one big flaw. The PG-13 rated film takes a full 40 minutes to introduce the characters and basic set-up, and after that, as if making up for lost time, zips along at breakneck speed through the mission itself. What that means, of course, is that family members might squirm a bit in the early going and then sit there with raised eyebrows for the remainder of the film. It can get a little confusing. Then again, so can the set-up. You’ll want to rewatch it just to get a better handle on what’s going on, and to look for things you missed the first time around.

The action takes place after Superman’s death, when Col. Rick Flag suicidesquadscreen2(Joel Kinnaman) takes charge of a team of supervillains assembled by an intelligence officer named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). What’s to keep them from bolting after they’re released? A micro-bomb injected into their necks that can be detonated if they even think about going rogue. But here’s where it gets confusing: one potential recruit is an archaeologist (a girlfriend of Flag) who is possessed by the witch-goddess the Enchantress, and faster than you can drag race a car she turns into a destroy-the-world threat. Meanwhile, The Joker finds a way to disable Harley’s bomb and springs her loose. In a confusing turn of events she ends up joining the original group as they battle the Enchantress . . . though this is no simple good vs. evil confrontation.

Honestly, though the Task Force X team of supervillains includes the pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the mutated Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), assassin Slipknot (Adam Beach), and superthief Captain Boomerang, Suicide Squad is the Batman and Harley show. Some will say it’s hard to top Heath Ledger’s Joker, while others will be suicidesquadscreen3fans of Jack Nicholson or even TV’s Caesar Romero. That’s the way it is when you have multiple actors playing iconic roles. To be able to add something new and still believable to the character is a real feat, and that’s what Leto does here—same with Robbie. You are mesmerized whenever they’re onscreen, and because of them and the action and special effects you don’t mind as much that the plot can seem muddled. In fact, that’s all the more reason to watch it again—though this one is definitely only for teens and older. The Blu-ray comes with an extended cut that adds 11 minutes of mayhem.

Language: One f-bomb and frequent uses of other swearwords and a mention of that term President-Elect Trump used that no one seemed to mind; additional sex talk
Sex: A strip club features dancers in the slightly blurred distance, while Harley gives a tame lap dance to someone and kisses another woman; Deadshot is shown butt-naked in a darkly lit room only briefly
Violence: Shootings and mass destruction, mostly, along with prison torture and plenty of hand-to-hand fighting; the most extreme are a character whose head is blown off and others who are shot in the head point-blank, but with no blood to speak of
Adult situations: Drinking and implied smoking
Takeaway: Letto and Robbie make this film fun to watch, and a little more of that from the other characters and a few more lighter lines would have been a welcome balance to some of the more violent and serious scenes

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (Blu-ray combo)

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x-menapocalypsecoverGrade: B+/A-
Entire family: No
2016, 144 min., Color
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language, and some suggestive images
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features: B-
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

The Marvel Universe is a complicated one, and the X-Men movies are among the more demanding. Viewers are expected to juggle a lot of different characters in various incarnations, and to remember each complicated film as it builds upon the others—nine now, in all. That takes a memory better than mine, which is why I waited to review this until my son took a weekend off from college to visit home again. He’s a big fan and does manage to keep it all straight. We both enjoyed the film, though his verdict was that X-Men: Apocalypse wasn’t as good as X-Men: Days of Future Past—a B+/A- rather than a solid A or A-. Why? Because it did require even more recollection of details from previous films, and the narrative also jumps around more.

I came at it from a slightly different angle. What I do tend to remember are basic plot types, and X-Men: Apocalypse recycles a familiar one: an ancient Egyptian dark force of a “man” is resurrected and seeks to destroy x-menapocalypsescreen2the world and start anew. Whether it’s world conquest or revenge, we’ve seen variations on this theme ever since the first black-and-white presentation of The Mummy way back in 1932. Only this time it’s a mutant, the first mutant, that’s unleashed. As with a film like The Matrix, you may not understand every little nuance of exposition, but Apocalypse proceeds so confidently that you feel assured that it all fits together and makes perfect sense, even if you’re not getting it in the instant. Plus, it’s easy to tolerate any momentary confusion because you’re soaking in the inventive special effects that, conceptually, rank among the best in this series. That’s something my son and I agreed was a major strength, and the sort of thing that will make you want to watch this film over and over. This X-Men is more violent that some of the previous installments, with one of the most brutal scenes the result of a surprise appearance by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

James McAvoy returns as Charles Xavier, aka Professor X, the telepathic genius who started a school for “gifted” teens—that term a euphemism for the catch-all phrase “mutants.” Among those also returning are Michael x-menapocalypsescreen1Fassbender as metal-manipulating Erik/Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as shapeshifter Raven/Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as the super strong Hank/Beast, Evan Peters as the Flash-like Peter/Quicksilver, and Lucas Till as plasma-blasting Havok. Replacing other actors this time around are Lana Condor as Jubilee, Tye Sheridan as Scott/Cyclops, Olivia Munn as Psylocke, and Ben Hardy as Angel. But it’s the new people that will please fans. Oscar Isaac makes a darned good villain as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse, while also new to the series this outing are Kodi Smit-McPhee as the slightly humorous Kurt/Nightcrawler, the weather-controlling Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and super-tracker Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis). On a side note, fans will delight in seeing Stan Lee actually turn expressive in his traditional cameo.

The set-up is, as my son suggests, confusing, but things come more sharply into focus after Apocalypse recruits some mutants—Magneto among them—and begins causing major disruptions around the world. He then kidnaps Xavier, and that launches annother explosive chain of events (pun intended). There are battles in the external world, and battles inside the mind. Through it all, the production values that have helped to make this series so successful are as slick as ever. It’s a long movie, but it doesn’t feel long.

Though Days of Future Past was an unqualified hit with fans and critics, Apocalypse received mixed reviews, mostly because some were wanting director Bryan Singer to make a different film than he did. This is a special effects movie first, and a superhero movie second. But Singer (X-Men, X2, X-Men: Days of Future Past) does a nice job of enhancing the visual effects that drive the film with near-perfect pacing and shots that often mirror character mindsets—as when he launches into a 360 POV shot to capture the aftermath of chaos. And yes, it looks spectacular on 1080p Blu-ray and sounds fantastic with a 7.1 soundtrack.

Ultimately, as with any franchise that has such rabid fans, individuals will have their own favorites. My son liked X-Men: Apocalypse more than X-Men First Class (2011), but not as much as X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). And that sounds about right to me.

Language: One f-bomb that I can recall and only a handful of other swearwords
Sex: n/a
Violence: Multiple decaptiations are partially obscured by a cloud of dust, but there are numerous scenes of combat, a broken leg, psychological paid, and mass destruction of cities seen from a distance
Adult situations: Pretty much everything, including individuals entombed, Han Solo style, as a result of Apocalypse’s power to command sand (an ingredient in concrete)
Takeaway: Marvel and 20th Century Fox really know their audience and continue to crank out installments that please

 

COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE (Blu-ray)

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commandocodycoverGrade: B-
Entire family: Yes
1953, 361 min. (12 episodes), Black-and-white
Olive Films
Not rated (would be G)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Featured audio: DTS 2.0 Mono
Bonus features: n/a
Trailer
Amazon link

Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe probably owes his existence to Flash Gordon.

In the early ‘50s, baby boomers woke on Saturday and Sunday mornings to discover not just cartoons and new programs, but syndicated, recycled black-and-white shorts and serials that were made decades earlier to be shown in theaters—features like The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, and yes, Flash Gordon.

When Republic Pictures noticed that youngsters were hungry for more of the old Flash Gordon serials, they decided to create a TV series that would look like one of those early Flash adventures or several of their own, like King of the Rocket Men (1949) or Radar Men from the Moon (1952). The interesting thing about Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe is that while it commandocodyscreen1looks like an old movie serial, it was made for television, and as such, it lacks the cliffhangers that end every serial. These episodes are more self-contained, despite a narrative arc that also stretches across all 12 included here: Enemies of the Universe, Atomic Peril, Cosmic Vengeance, Nightmare Typhoon, War of the Space Giants, Destroyers of the Sun, Robot Monster from Mars, The Hydrogen Hurricane, Solar Sky Raiders, S.O.S. Ice Age, Lost in Outer Space, and Captives of the Zero Hour.

Though it was made in 1953, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe has the look and feel of the old Flash Gordon serials. Even now, without knowing anything about the production, you’d swear that it was made in the ‘30s. That in itself is an achievement—though Commando Cody doesn’t have the same range or production values. The cast is smaller, the budget isn’t as big, there aren’t as many villains or costumed aliens of different kinds, and the sets aren’t as elaborate.

commandocodyscreen2But Commando Cody is just as campy and still fun. Though it was made for children, many families might enjoy it now because, well, what’s not to like about a man with a bulky metal mask and jet-pack who can fly through the air like Superman? Or hydrogen hurricanes, magno-force rays that can tilt the Earth on its axis, freeze rays that will remind you of playing freeze tag, and a thought-control chair that looks like a cross between a barber chair and an old Victorian parlor chair? Or robots from Mars? Or any number of gizmos and gadgets that might inspire your kids to head for the craft table and make a few of their own. Some of the fun comes from seeing how low-budget and low-tech some of the props are.

It’s hard not to laugh at Commando Cody’s atomic-powered rocket ship, which he unclogs at one point using a plunger-like device, and which has standard-issue office chairs with seat belts. When the camera tilts and the men lean back on their seats to give the appearance of “lift-off,” your family will probably crack up, if yours is anything like mine. And the top-secret headquarters for Commando Cody? You don’t have to look too carefully to see that they filmed it in front of a southern California apartment building complex and just propped a phone and two guards in front of one entrance. It’s funny too to watch Commando Cody leave his “decompression chamber” and walk on top of his stratosphere-bound rocket ship, leaning over an exhaust that looks more like it came from a giant firework pinwheel than a jet-propelled aircraft.

In Flash Gordon, the planet Mongo’s emperor, Ming the Merciless, caused natural disasters all over Earth as a first step toward conquering the planet, and Flash took off in a rocket ship with two others to thwart him. In Commando Cody the plot is similar. Commando Cody (Judd Holdren) is somehow appointed Intergalactic Sky Martial (though it’s unclear who actually appointed him) and his activities are so top secret that even viewers can’t be told. But we do know this: a cosmic ruler from another planet known simply as The Ruler (Gregory Gaye) has spies on Earth who are transmitting information to him and helping him carry out his own plan to conquer Earth. But not if Commando Cody can help it . . . with the help of his assistants Ted Richards (William Schallert) and Joan Gilbert (Aline Towne), with Richard Crane replacing Schallert midway.

The acting, as in most serials and B-movies, is no great shakes, but there’s just enough science fiction in here to make it interesting, and plenty of low-budget props and scenes to make it unintentionally funny. Commando Cody could easily serve as a warm-up for family movie night, with the installments spread out over a dozen weeks as originally intended. Yes, you can watch the episodes on YouTube, which is where the screen grabs come from, but the audio-visual quality on this two-disc set from Olive Films is far, far superior.

THE FLASH: SEASON 2 (Blu-ray)

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flash2coverGrade: B/B+
Entire family: No
2015-16, 1020 min. (23 episodes), Color
Not rated (would be TV-PG for violence)
Warner Bros.
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: B+/A- (four hours worth!)
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Though The Flash is a spin-off from Arrow (another DC Comics television series), the two shows could be from alternate universes—which, coincidentally, is a main plot thread in The Flash: Season 2.

Arrow is dark and TV-14 ultra-violent, but The Flash is tongue-in-cheek and light enough to have some fun with the whole idea of superheroes saving the planet on a daily basis, as if they were lunch bucket-carrying blue-collar workers. Tonally, this TV-PG series comes closer to Supergirl, and together the shows are closer in spirit to the old comic books. The Flash may not be as addictive, but it’s more wholesome fun, and therefore a better choice for families with children ages 9-12 who adore superhero movies and TV shows but aren’t old enough for the raw violence of Arrow.

flash2screen1Though my teenage daughter thinks he’s too nerdy, Grant Gustin seems well cast as Barry Allen, a forensic investigator for Central City police who comes out of a nine-month coma—the result of a particle accelerator explosion—only to realize that he has superhuman speed. Like, if you have a taste for a burrito, he can run to Mexico and back in time to put one in your outstretched hand!

As with most superheroes, Barry doesn’t have a traditional family. When he was younger, he witnessed his mother’s murder by a supernatural power, and was essentially orphaned when his father was convicted of killing her and sent to prison. But Barry knows what he saw, and he’s determined to clear his father’s name and avenge his mother’s death.

Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), the designer of the failed particle accelerator, takes Barry under his wing and gives his condition a name: “Metahuman.” It turns out that there are more metahumans—especially in Season 2, when Barry, aka “The Flash,” meets Jay Garrick, who claims to be The Flash in a parallel world. He got there through a breach, and warns that other metahumans—bad ones like Zoom and Dr. Light—might follow. But there’s no shortage of evil, and this season The Flash also has to face a giant-sized metahuman, Weather Wizard, Captain Cold, Trickster, Killer Frost, the time-traveling immortal Vandal Savage, Reverse-Flash, Tar Pit, Geomancer, and King Shark.

flash2screen2This season characters bounce back and forth between Earth-1 and Earth-2, The Flash investigates the phenomenon of speedsters and, typical of superheroes, at one point he loses his power. Like his female superhero counterpart on the CW he also has a secret crush—Iris (Candice Patton), his best friend and the daughter of Det. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin)—as well as another possible romantic interest (Danielle Panabaker as Dr. Caitlin Snow).

Opinions will vary, but of the CW series our family still considers Arrow to be tops, followed by Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. Though The Flash is loaded with villains and villainy, it doesn’t have the same compelling sequence of events as Arrow. And though the characters are engaging enough, they too fall slightly short of the charisma that we get from Arrow and Supergirl. That is, our family got hooked on Arrow and Supergirl and wanted to binge-watch, but were perfectly happy to watch The Flash like every other TV show.

Language: Squeaky clean
Sex: Nothing at all
Violence: Mostly bloodless, sci-fi battles that aren’t as frequent as on other CW superhero series
Adult situations: Occasional drinking and the death of a parent
Takeaway: It’s hard to pinpoint what makes some shows addictive and others, like The Flash, just pleasant entertainment, but that’s how it played out for our family

EQUALS (Blu-ray)

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EqualscoverGrade: C
Entire family: No
2016, 101 min., Color
Lionsgate
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, sensuality, partial nudity and disturbing images
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in a dystopian romantic drama? Sounds like a surefire hit with teens, doesn’t it? Especially when it’s all about emotions, as Equals is.

Sometime in the far future—far enough to where everyone wears white uniforms and the buildings and residential cubicles are all as sanitized as can be—human emotions and illnesses have been all but eliminated. People go about their sanitized jobs like futuristic zombies or contented cows, until a new disease pops up: SOS (Switched on Syndrome), the stages of which ultimately lead to the afflicted being “put down” in a humane and painless way, though an ubiquitous videoboard and voiceover reassures them that “a cure is coming soon.”

Equalsscreen2When Silas (Hoult) is affected, he goes through treatments. He also suspects that co-worker Nia (Stewart) is suffering from SOS but hiding her symptoms. The main symptom, of course, is that they can feel emotions and therefore notice each other, then feel for each other. A romance grows . . . though unfortunately, not fast enough for most teens.

Therein lies the chief problem. How do you convey a sterile and emotionless environment and a futuristic existence bereft of real meaning without subjecting viewers to stark repetitive images and what feels like real-time boredom? Thirty minutes into Equals our dystopian-novel-loving teen was ready to pull the plug, and I can’t say as I blame her. It’s slow going. What’s worse, though, is that if you’ve seen The Giver, or even Gattaca, you’re already have a slight sense of deja vu. The concept isn’t new or original, and that places a burden on Equalsscreen1director Drake Doremus and his cast to make their version of dystopian disappointment memorable or distinctive it in some way. And I’m not sure that happens.

Doremus seems to wrestle with the sense of inevitability that’s embedded in the film’s plot, determined to shine the spotlight on these ill-fated lovers when what’s more interesting, frankly, are the other patients who have formed both a support group and underground movement to deal with not just SOS but their newfound “knowledge” of emotions that feels a little like the problem Adam and Eve faced after tasting of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

Is Equals stylish? Yes. Is it cold and sterile? Yes. Is it satisfying to watch? Honestly, no . . . though things really pick up in the third act when SOS patients played by Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver both literally and figuratively try to come to the rescue. By then, though, many viewers—young ones especially—might feel a little too zombified themselves to care.

Language: None
Sex: No nudity, but clothing removed and implied coupling
Violence: Nothing much—a body appears to have been the result of a “jumper,” and other references to suicide are made
Adult situations: Other than a frighteningly sterile vision of the future? Nothing much
Takeaway: There had to be a way to tell this story without focusing so much on the mind-numbing sterility of this future world and more on the capacity of the human spirit to rise above such things

LUCIFER: SEASON 1 (DVD)

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Lucifer1coverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2015-16, 566 min. (13 episodes), Color
Warner Bros.
Not rated (would be TV-14 for violence, adult situations, sexual innuendo, and language)
Aspect ratio: Letterboxed widescreen “enhanced” for 16×9 monitors
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Trailer
Amazon link

In the ‘60s, novelty sitcoms like I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched proved that shows with positively ridiculous supernatural premises could still be popular if the situations were interesting enough, the cast likeable enough, and the writing clever enough.

That lesson was not lost on the creators of Lucifer: Season 1, a series that’s based on a character from the DC Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth. Could there be a crazier premise for a male-female police procedural than to pair the real Lucifer (aka Satan, who’s taking a vacation from hell by running a nightclub in L.A.) with a detective who was a former actress known primarily for posing topless in Hot Tub High School?

Tom Ellis stars as the suave ladies man Lucifer Morningstar, who runs a trendy nightclub called Lux. He had grown bored and restless in hell and often did a deliberately poor job of punishing the people who were sent there because his Father assigned him to that as a punishment for his rebellion. All these Lucifer1screen1millennia later he wanted out, so much so that his L.A. vacation turns into a permanent abdication. When he witnesses a murder outside his club, he finds himself becoming curiously involved and decides to help Det. Chloe Decker (Lauren German) by using some of his powers. In Touched by an Angel Michael Landon gave people warm fuzzies; Lucifer has the power to get people to speak the truth about their deepest, most secret desires, and to admit their sinful urges—including, in an opening scene, a cop who decides to take the bribe after Lucifer exposes his loose relationship with the law. He’s like truth serum, and in extreme situations he shows his real satanic form to those he wants to shock.

Now, why would a good, dedicated cop pair up with Satan? Good question, since one would guess the LAPD would have certain rules about a non-force partnership. Though Lucifer Morningstar comes right out and tells her who he is, she thinks he’s speaking metaphorically, until his character and his immortality is gradually revealed to her. His fascination with her is more believable: she’s the only human who is impervious to his powers—which, by mid-season, like Samantha’s nose-twitch and Jeannie’s head-blink, start to get a little old. But the situations and clever writing are enough to compensate.

This first season Chloe and Lucifer investigate the slaying of a movie star’s son, a girl that turns up dead in a football star’s pool, a woman who’s killed at a fashion show, a biker gang that’s into nasty stuff, a murdered therapist, an underground drug ring, the murder of a prominent restauranteur, a philanthropist that was found dead, and a girl who may have been murdered by a group of Satanists.

Rounding out the cast are Scarlett Estevez as Chloe’s precocious daughter, Trixie (“You do know that’s a hooker’s name, don’t you?” Lucifer says upon first meeting her); Lesley-Ann Brandt as Mazikeen (aka Maze), an assistant of sorts who accompanied Lucifer to L.A.; DB Woodside as Amenadiel, Lucifer’s “brother” who is intent on getting him to return to hell; and Rachael Harris as Dr. Linda Martin, whose sessions and relationship with Lucifer will remind viewers of Tony Soprano and his therapist, especially since both men run clubs that are highly sexualized.

Lucifer1screen2Fans of forensic shows won’t be impressed that no attention is paid to that aspect of criminal investigations. Even when we see a body with bruises we just get a coroner’s pronouncement of  “strangulation,” and it’s left to Chloe and Lucifer to find out whether the attacker was male or female, how tall or heavy, etc. And though the writers try to make sense of why and how Chloe is working on her own, it’s not totally clear why, after she clashed with the LAPD over a cop shooting, she’s still able to work on her own while ostracized by her homicide detective ex-husband Dan Espinoza (Kevin Alejandro) and the rest of the detectives. But the show’s writing is clever enough, with laugh-out-loud moments, where you tend to shrug and overlook such things.

Any positive messages that the show might offer (Lucifer’s gradual enlightenment, for example, or anti-bullying, or the always available possibility of reinventing oneself) get lost among the Satanic elements that the writers clearly favored. It’s like a Satanic version of Touched by an Angel meets Remington Steele, with a little Dexter and The Sopranos thrown in for good measure. No wonder the website One Million Moms launched a petition drive to keep the show from airing—though far short of a million signed it by the time the show first aired (165,643). The irony? The show airs on Fox, the network most identified with the GOP and their emphasis on “family values.” Lucifer is a stylish and entertaining show, but it won’t be for many church-going families. It’s also every bit a TV-14 series. Given the soundtrack and special effects, you might want to pick this up on Blu-ray instead. The 5.1 Surround and standard definition, while strong, do have their limitations—especially, with the visuals, in low-light situations.

Language: A bunch of it, mostly male-female slurs like “bitch” or “dick”
Sex: Lots of innuendo, some scantily clad females, implied sexual coupling
Violence: Jerry Bruckheimer produced this, so you’ll see a bunch of crashes and explosions and high-concept stylized violence, some of it bloody
Adult situations: Drug-use, smoking, drinking
Takeaway: Despite the ridiculous premise, Lucifer is surprisingly entertaining

DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW: SEASON 1 (Blu-ray)

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LegendsofTomorrowcoverGrade: B-
Entire family: No
2016, 681 min. (16 episodes), Color
Warner Bros.
Not rated (would be PG-13 for sci-fi/fantasy violence and some sensuality)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Marvel may be masters of the film universe, but DC is holding its own in the battle for small screen supremacy. The latest case-in-point is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the first season of which comes out on Blu-ray and DVD today. While it may not have the charismatic cast of Supergirl, the edgy darkness of Arrow, or the conceptual “coolness” of The Flash, it’s still entertaining—especially if you haven’t had your fill of classic time-travel shows like Quantum Leap.

In the DC Universe, instead of (or perhaps in addition to) a deity there’s an organization known as the Time Masters, whose job it is to manipulate time in order to protect the future. Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) was once one of them, though he goes off on his own time-altering mission after his wife and son are murdered in 2166 by an immortal dictator named Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). Knowing his own limitations Hunter tricks or persuades a mismatched group of special talents to join him:

  • Nuclear physicist Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and his student, Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), who collectively form the character Firestorm, which was introduced on The Flash
  • Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) as Atom, a character introduced on Arrow
  • Kendra Saunders (Clara Renée) and Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel) as Hawkgirl and Hawkman, incarnations of ancient Egyptians who sprout wings as outward manifestations of their inner warriors and who have been reincarnated multiple times, also introduced on The Flash
  • Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), a character with rage issues who’s talked into wearing the White Canary suit (based on a Black Canary character seen on Arrow)
  • Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) as the former Captain Cold introduced on The Flash, a petty criminal
  • Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) as the arsonist Heat Wave, Captain Cold’s criminal partner

LegendsofTomorrowscreen1All of the characters have their moments, but the two that consistently appealed to our family were the petty criminals—perhaps because Purcell and Miller drew on the bond they developed as screen brothers on Prison Break.

The look and feel of this sci-fi/fantasy series comes closer to the 1960’s Irwin Allen TV series The Time Tunnel than it does to any of its current DC cousins—and maybe that was deliberate. The eighth episode, for LegendsofTomorrowscreen2example—in which Jefferson is attacked by bird-like humanoids created by Savage—and the Egyptian flashbacks will have older viewers flashing back to Allen’s campy Time Tunnel and Lost in Space. Like those series, the hand-to-hand battles are clunkier in Legends of Tomorrow, and there are more Power Rangers moments (especially scenes featuring bounty hunter Chronos). The season-long plot also has more of a single trajectory than the other DC television series. In Supergirl there’s an arc that pushes from one episode to the next, but each episode is also different to a degree and self-contained. There’s less of that in Legends of Tomorrow, which relies more on a simple plot for the entire season: stop Vandal Savage and save the future world from destruction.

Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it addictive? Not as much as Arrow, The Flash, or even Supergirl—at least in the early episodes. Give it a chance, though, and Season 1 really picks up during the second half. It gets more complicated, and time travel to 1871 (where they meet Jonah Hex) juxtaposed against a trip to 2147 push the show toward a strong finish.

Language: Nothing bad here
Sex: Kissing and implied coupling, but nothing shown
Violence: The usual superhero/sci-fi/fantasy violence, graphic but without much blood or gore
Adult situations: Nothing besides good vs. evil predicaments
Takeaway: Irwin Allen lives!

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