Before we begin, two things. First: yes, it did take me a very long time to buckle down and watch Justice League. It’s been very hard recently to watch things that don’t get me excited. For example, I have yet to block out the time necessary to consume enough whiskey to make it through The Dark Tower. Second: before anyone starts to make assumptions, I have nothing against the concept of a DC Cinematic Universe. I want a functioning DC Cinematic Universe right alongside the Marvel one that we have. In fact, I started my comic book obsession with DC—with JLA, in fact. So I do not write this from a position of “DC sucks and should be destroyed.” Do not misconstrue.
The much-talked-about problem with Warner Brothers and their DC appendage is that WB does not know what they have, nor do they know what to do with it. They, typical of Hollywood, take all the wrong things from all the right lessons. They make a parade out of flawed syllogisms. For example:
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was dark
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was successful, both financially and critically
Therefore, to be financially and critically successful, a superhero franchise must be dark
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of Animal Kingdom: The Complete Second Season and The Guardian: The Complete Series. The opinions I share are my own.
When you’re in need of some old-school laughs, the Jackie Gleason Show may be just the ticket. Gleason starred as the boisterous working-class “everyman” host of his variety show, which ran from 1952 to 1970 in various forms and included singing, dancing, comedy sketches, and beloved celebrity guests. In 1966 the show broke its 14-year streak of filming in New York in favor of Miami Beach Florida (to accommodate Gleason’s love of playing golf), bringing even more energy and life to what was already a much-loved show. Newly released master tapes from the vaults in South Florida are now available on DVD from Time Life as The Jackie Gleason Show in Color, which features four remastered and never-before-sold episodes along with Gleason and Art Carney in three Honeymooners sketches not seen since their original airing. Featured guests include Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, and Phil Silvers (among several others). The Jackie Gleason Show in Color is currently available on Amazon for $7.30.
If you enjoy irreverent humor and animated antiheroes, you may already be a fan of the three-time Emmy-nominated series Duckman. Duckman, voiced by Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), is a rude and crude private eye who strives to balance his career of solving crimes with being a single dad to his less-than-stellar sons without sacrificing a single opportunity to make a cutting remark or a lewd joke. Now out in a ten-disc DVD set is Duckman: The Complete Series, which includes all four seasons of the show as well as multiple bonus features. Extras include an examination of Duckman’s journey from comics to television, an interactive “Six Degrees of Duckman” feature, video of drawings and animation from the unaired pilot episode, storyboards, pencil tests, and more. Duckman: The Complete Series is now available on Amazon for $22.89, which at a total run time of over twenty-six hours evens out to about 87 cents per hour of content— not a bad deal for old or new fans. (It is good to note that this is a cartoon series aimed at adults, so if you haven’t seen the series yourself, definitely check it out before gifting it to a younger loved one.)
Generally coffee tables are often a monstrous pain. They are clunky, cumbersome and often leave the owner feeling somewhat lacking because there is inevitably too much or too little content.
This brings us to Monument, a massive examination of all things Depeche Mode compiled by German uber-fan and designer Burmeister along with Lange, a fellow fan and historian of youth culture. Together the tandem skillfully walks the tightrope of creating a visual representation of Depeche Mode’s work meshed with informative facts and anecdotes about their history while simultaneously giving passionate fans something special.
More than a scrapbook, it features a concise narrative beginning with their formation in Basildon to the present. Promo photos, album and singles art, press releases and concert posters are nestled alongside a straightforward profile of Depeche Mode, including their creative process for each album, concert video and tour. It also chronicles the departure of band members Vincent Clarke and Alan Wilder within the context of how it affected the band and their development. If that was not enough it also dives into their respective side projects, from Martin Gore’s solo work to Dave Gahan’s involvement in Soul Savers, Wilder’s Recoil and the old school techno collaboration of Clarke and Gore as VCMG.
Originally released in Germany, Monument is equal parts collection, recollection and affection as it chronicles the band’s origins in synth pop to their evolution as post-punk groovesters whose grimy rock driven beats have signified multiple shifts in sound and aesthetic.
Throughout their prolific career Depeche Mode has garnered a rabid fanbase eager to learn as much as they can about them. To that end the book also documents the relationship between the band and their fans via a presentation of nearly every aspect of their catalogue (albums, singles, remixes and promos).
Overall, Burmeister and Lange get the balance right with a stuffed book that goes above and beyond in pleasing both casual fans and serious collectors.
In the celebrated film Cloverfield, the viewer is given a first-person account of a mysterious and terrifying attack on Manhattan by an unknown foe. Action-packed visuals and a heart-racing storyline combine to tell the story of an unexpected and seemingly inescapable apocalypse. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of its original release this year, Cloverfield is now available in a new 4K Ultra-HD / Blu-ray combo pack. The set boasts over an hour of bonus features, including alternate endings and deleted scenes, a “making of” special, multiple featurettes, and audio commentary by director Matt Reeves. Paired with its predecessor is the 4K release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, a psychological thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr., and John Goodman as three (supposed) survivors of an apocalyptic attack that has thrown them together in the latter’s underground bunker. Tensions run ever higher as revelations begin to spark questions about whether the true danger lies inside or outside the bunker, and whether escaping it will mean salvation or death. 10 Cloverfield Lane is also now available in a 4K Ultra-HD / Blu-ray combo pack, with extras that include seven featurettes covering the film’s production (and how it relates to Cloverfield) along with commentary by director Dan Trachtenberg and producer J.J. Abrams. The Cloverfield 4K combo pack and the 10 Cloverfield Lane 4k combo pack are both currently available on Amazon for $26.62.
Turning from apocalyptic damage to damage control, we have Season Five of Ray Donovan. In this season, the elite Hollywood fixer Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) must deal with challenges within his own family as together they charge into unfamiliar territory, including issues of life, love, death, and Parkinson’s Disease. Also starring Susan Sarandon in her recurring role as the incomparable media titan Samantha Winslow, Season Five takes the characters (and the audience) on an emotional rollercoaster not set to stop any time soon. The DVD set of Ray Donovan: The Fifth Season will be released on January 30. In addition to all twelve of the season’s episodes, the set presents almost thirty minutes of special features, including featurettes exploring Abby’s fate, dealing with introducing the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease into the storyline, and other issues from the season, along with commentary on Episode 508 (“Horses”) with Paula Malcomson (Abby) and series showrunner David Hollander. Ray Donovan: The Fifth Season is currently available to pre-order on Amazon for $29.17. Fans who have already watched the season likely have a subscription to Showtime or Amazon Prime with the Showtime add-on option and already have access to the season, but if you’re looking for some background on Season Five’s production (or are looking to gift it to someone), it might be worth checking out the DVD option.
Far from the dark thoughts of cities falling and beloved characters dying is the refreshingly lighthearted second season of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, which was itself an answer to the turmoil of the 1960s. Starring “straight man” Dan Rowan and the endearingly goofy Dick Martin alongside a cast of regulars (including Goldie Hawn, Richard Dawson, Lily Tomlin, and Ruth Buzzy, among others) who would become famous in their own right, the show was a tidal wave of skits, non-sequiturs, rapid-fire one-liners, and just plain silliness. Season Two of the series featured a bevy of epic guest stars, including Jack Benny, Victor Borge, Mel Brooks, Sammy Davis Jr, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hugh Hefner, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart, Tony Curtis, Richard Nixon, and several others. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season is now available in a 7-disc DVD set from Time Life, which includes all twenty-six episodes from Season Two along with interviews from Dick Martin, Gary Owens, and Ruth Buzzi as bonus features. You can currently get the set on Amazon for $26.60.
In yet another example of songs that appear in my iTunes and I have no idea when or how they arrived (I think I acquire music during my “blackouts,” as my therapist calls them), I ran across Solillaquists of Sound. And my reaction is that I’m pissed it has taken me so long to discover these guys. I mean…this is from 2009. There’s just too much music, folks. Everyone just needs to take a break with the making music nonsense because I can’t catch up. Anyway, where was I–oh yes. The song kicks off with Swamburger, continues to kick off, then when Alexandrah fires up about 1:35 in…it’s kind of all over at that point. If you’re not on board at that point, then I don’t know what you want from life, people. The rest of the album, No More Heroes, is more of the same inspired madness. Having seen the music video for this, I’d just like to add that whatever coffee producer DiViNCi enjoys…I want some. Find their site here, their Facebook here, and all their music on their Bandcamp page.
It’s a fire sale at a Books-a-Million that led me to Henry Rollins. I found an audiobook of Get in the Van, his stories from his time with Black Flag. It was on cassette, even. (Kids, ask your parents.) I discovered that Rollins had what would later be used to describe John Wick–“sheer fuckin’ will”–and I have admired that ever since. From there, it only made sense to see him live on stage with a microphone, talking instead of shouting.
If you have never seen Rollins give one of his spoken word shows, I advise you: I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s part storytelling, part stand up comedy, part travelogue and part “meeting down at the docks.” If you only knew Rollins from his time in Black Flag or Rollins Band, you might not ever know that the guy is funny as hell. Not to mention inquisitive, well-read and owner of a well-used passport.
There are many questions I have pondered during my sojourn. Some of them are new, such as “Why was there never a Scooby-Doo Movie where they teamed up with P-Funk?” Some of them are as old as time. Okay, maybe not that old. But this one dates back to the time of Heraclitus.
Rejoice! You have survived 2017! All the natural disasters, all the important people whipping their dick out without permission, and all the bat shittiness from the Orange Julius Caesar. You’re still here. So relax, have a glass of eggnog, and watch a holiday classic. Like The Thin Man, Die Hard, or even Batman Returns. I’m currently waiting for Krampus for our usual round of reindeer games. I’m making some birch switches and Krampus is bringing his manacles. He’s a traditionalist but I’m sure he’ll some of the other… devices I have in store. A silver lining to this year being so evil, it gives Krampus more energy and stamina. He likes it when I wear some scent, especially since we get all sweaty from all the naughty naughty things we do. I’d tell you but Widge gets all sensitive and prudish. So I will tell you about the scents that Black Phoenix offering this Yule season for when you kiss (or other amorous act) Santa Claus. He could use some attention too.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the third title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.
Starting with its premiere feature film Castle in the Sky in 1986, Studio Ghibli has enjoyed decades of producing highly popular anime feature films, including The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, Spirited Away, and the highly celebrated Princess Mononoke, which marks the twentieth anniversary of its release this year. Castle in the Sky follows the adventures of a young boy and girl as they try to protect a magic crystal and find a mysterious floating island all while dealing with pirates, a group of military agents, and a weapon of mass destruction, among other challenges. Another adventuresome pair appear in Princess Mononoke, which tells the story of an unlikely partnership between a cursed prince (Ashitaka) and a feral girl (San / Princess Mononoke) as they join forces in an attempt to stop the destruction of the wild lands. Now out from Viz Media are hardcover picture books of Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke, which feature the stories from the films presented in a family-friendly oversized hardcover format along with easy-to-read text and full-color pictures from the films themselves. Both publications are currently on Amazon: the Castle in the Sky Picture Book (112 pages) is available for $13.59 and the Princess Mononoke Picture Book (232 pages) is available for $20.39.
Out now on 4K Blu-ray are the first four Transformers films, each in a 3-disc combo pack which includes a digital copy and a host of extras. Transformers (2007) features audio commentary from director Michael Bay, a Transformers Heads Up Display, and featurette compilations “Our World” (exploring the world of Transformers), “Their World” (examining the Autobots and Decepticons), and “More than Meets the Eye” (a look inside the desert attack scene, including concept boards), along with some Easter eggs. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) boasts an audio commentary by Michael Bay, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman along with deleted and alternate scenes, Easter eggs, and multiple featurettes (including “Deconstructing Visual Bayhem” with commentary by pre-vis supervisor Steve Yamamoto, “25 Years of Transformers”, and “The Matrix of Marketing”, among many others. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) doesn’t have the audio commentary or Easter eggs featured in the previous two sets but does include multiple featurettes— notable among them are “Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon”, “Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now”, and “The Art of Cybertron.” Rounding out the release is Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), which (like Transformers: Dark of the Moon) doesn’t have audio commentary, Easter eggs, or alternate and deleted scenes. Extras on this one include the behind-the-scenes special “Evolution with Extinction: The Making of Transformers: Age of Extinction” along with some featurettes about the design of the film and the action sequences. You can find the Blu-ray 4K Combo sets of Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, andTransformers: Age of Extinctionon Amazon for $19.99 each.