I think I see your problem. You have this list. It’s a list of people you need/want to buy a Christmas gift for. The trouble is that they’re into home theatre, and you don’t know Star Trek from Star Wars. You couldn’t tell a Wolf Man from a Wolverine. And you always thought that Paranormal Activity was something too kinky to talk about. Fortunately, Upcomingdiscs has come to the rescue every Christmas with our Gift Guide Spotlights. Keep checking back to see more recommendations for your holiday shopping. These gift guides ARE NOT paid advertisements. We take no money to publish them. When it comes to getting the current shows out in high definition, no one does it better than Warner Brothers. I am impressed each year with the number of shows they release on Blu-ray every year. Readers to this site know what I’m talking about. If you have TV fans on your list who also are fans of sci-fi and horror, these are the best sets to get this holiday season. Below you’ll find some excerpts from our reviews. I’ve put it all in one place to make your shopping experience easier. I know how little time you’ve got with a lot of shopping to do. Don’t forget to use one of our links if you get them from Amazon. It’ll help keep us going another year.
The Flash Season 1:
“I don’t know where you came from. I don’t know your name. But I have seen you do the impossible to protect the city I love. So for those of us who believe in you and what you’re doing, I just wanna say thank you.”
But we know who he is, don’t we? He’s Barry Allan, and this isn’t even his first live-action series. I’m not sure if many of you remember the 1990 show that starred John Wesley Shipp as The Scarlet Speedster. That show was a little more camp than the hero shows of this decade. That doesn’t mean that Warner forgot about it or the legion of fans who loved the show. They’ve taken a rather unprecedented move of incorporating characters and actors from that series and bringing them into this latest version of the hero on television. John Wesley Shipp now plays Barry’s father, while Mark Hamil returns to play The Trickster just as he did in 1990, complete with footage from that show to tell us of his earlier antics. Finally Amanda Pays returns in a couple of episodes as Dr. Tina McGee, who was Shipp’s partner in the first show and now reprises the character in a rather different role.
Jesse L. Martin is one of the best television has to offer. He brings the authority from Law & Order and mixes in the kinds of things necessary for a hero show. His very presence on the show lends a great deal of gravitas to the whole thing. He is the anchor to reality that allows us to take the leaps of faith we need to to accept the extraordinary aspects of the show. Each time the show appears to be “out there”, Jesse Martin brings it all into sharp focus. I’m not sure any of this works without him. It was the best casting choice made on the series.
This show does indeed exist in the same universe as The Arrow. Characters cross over a few times with visits from Felicity, Palmer, and Oliver. Detective West will spend an episode in Starling City where he’ll interact with Detective Lance and Laurel. They might exist together, but these are two very different shows. The Flash is much brighter with far more humor involved. The Arrow is a dark show with an almost monochrome city, while The Flash is extremely colorful and bright. We’re talking both mood and visual atmosphere here. They make rather nice bookends with some overlap in the middle.
The show builds its pace and stakes toward a pretty thrilling finale. You get all of the elements you might remember from the comics. There’s time travel and even an appearance by Grodd. That one I found particularly satisfying. You will find the entire season satisfying, and I suggest you get your hands on it in a flash.
Gotham Season 1:
Gotham City. You know the name just as you know the names of Metropolis and Smallville. These are important places in the DC comics universe that have existed as part of modern American mythology since the 1930’s. Warner Brothers has decided to tackle Gotham in much the way it spent 10 years bringing us to Smallville. But there is a decided difference to be found here. Smallville was indeed the origin story of Superman, and while the obvious answer might be that Gotham serves the same role for Batman, I found that to be a bit of an oversimplification. This is not the origin story for Batman, and while many of the future major villains from that universe take their first baby steps here, this is not their origin story either. This is an origin story for the city of Gotham itself. Unlike many heroes, Batman was a product of his environment. This is the story of how one city devolved so badly that a hero like Batman was necessary. What we see taking shape here is a place where a certain Dark Knight can thrive and spread his wings.
That means the city itself is the most important character of the show. To make that effective over a season of stories, the city must be created with a kind of style and atmosphere that would set it apart. While there are certain aspects of this Gotham City that owe to Tim Burton’s style that set the mood for the first four films, there are also aspects of Nolan’s gritty city here as well. It’s at once familiar, but this is also unlike any city you’ve seen on television before. It exists out of place or time. There are cell phones, but not really computers. Detectives look through old newspaper stories on microfilm projectors. Some of us remember the days you had to do that at your local library. The cars are mostly from the 1970’s, while the building decor and costumes appear more at home in the 1940’s. It’s an industrial city, but one where whatever industry once thrived here has long gone away. For something conceived in the original four-color world of comic books, this is a dark and colorless place for the most part. The only thing that’s missing is the “abandon hope all ye who enter” sign at the city limits.
Of course, the real future villain is the one that this story centers on. That is Oswald Cobblepot, and we all know him better as The Penguin. I have to say that Robin Lord Taylor is nothing short of phenomenal as the super-villain-to-be. This is one of television’s best bad guys in a long time. He has managed to take such an iconic character but make it somehow uniquely his own, from the subtle characteristics to the use of his facial expressions. This is also Gordon’s real entry point into the seedy side of Gotham. He was supposed to kill Penguin to show his loyalty to Don Falcone. Of course, he doesn’t, and the ramifications for this whole universe are unimaginably huge. It’s as much of a turning point for the Batman mythos here as the killing of the Waynes themselves.
One of the wonders of this world is how well these eccentric characters fit into this world. It’s not a world of superpowers or meta-humans, at least not yet. These are very human villains with amazing elements that make them twisted enough to complete this montage that is Gotham City.
Arrow Season 3:
“My name is Oliver Queen; after five years in hell, I have come home with only one goal, to save my city. Now others have joined my crusade. To them, I’m Oliver Queen. To the rest of Starling City, I’m someone else. I am something else.”
That someone, that something more …that something else is the DC Comics character Green Arrow. Not to be confused with the same-colored Hornet or Lantern. In season 2 Oliver Queen finally shed the name and reputation of the Hood or Vigilante. He vowed not to kill, and he no longer has the list to guide him. His job now is to go after any bad guys in Starling City. In season 3 that job will get a lot harder to do while still keeping his vow. You can say that things get a lot more personal and that season 3 of The Arrow is all about family. And, you can bet that not everyone is getting out alive. Those who remain will be forever changed. That much is certain.
The season has one of the best story builds of the show’s three-year run. Ra is a great character and an unusual situation where the hero is fighting not the villain so much as becoming the villain. When things finally converge for the last few episodes it is a pretty thrilling ride indeed.
Production values are another place this series shines. They’ve done a tremendous job of creating an atmosphere that immerses you into this particular corner of the DC universe. The city is often rainy, and most of the action happens in the night. There’s a gritty underbelly to this place that’s mostly found in the city’s poor area known as The Glades. It’s this economically-challenged location where Oliver puts his lair beneath his sister’s nightclub. The action is filmed almost in a documentary style. All of this lives in a stark contrast to the glitzy world many of our characters live in during the daylight.
The Vampire Diaries Season 6:
For most of our characters, the season begins pretty much in real time from the season 5 finale. There is a spell keeping magic out of the city limits of Mystic Falls, and that means no vampires or supernatural beings can cross into town. Elena is taking pre-med courses at college, mostly because it gives her access to the hospital’s blood bank. Stefan is supposed to be out looking for a witch powerful enough to bring back Bonnie and Damon after they were trapped destroying “the other side”. It’s an act that brought some others over from the dead, including now-vampire Alaric and Enzo. In reality, however, Stefan has given up and is working as an auto mechanic for 200 bucks a week. Jeremy is hitting the bottle because Bonnie told him she was going to die over the phone. Tyler is trying hard tot to reignite his curse that will once again make him a werewolf. It’s been a busy summer in Mystic Falls and its outskirts. And that’s just the beginning.
Elena, Tyler, and Jeremy are all leaving the show as well. I think it will only make the show better. The best moments were the brothers or Damon and Bonnie. I think the show runners are discovering new possibilities, and we’ve now seen the genesis of that play itself out.
It’s not one of the best seasons for The Vampire Diaries. There are some wonderful character moments, to be sure, but the focus appears to be missing as story threads meander and get lost along the way. It appears possible that most of the resources have gone to The Originals, which absolutely shone this season. The show will have to change and find a new focus, or I expect the upcoming season to be the last. With so many characters departing there is a very good opportunity here to retool the show a bit. It’s my hope that we’ll see that soon as the seventh season begins.
The Originals Season 2:
“Once upon a time, there was a majestic king, who lived with his noble brother in a colorful kingdom where music and art were celebrated. The king did not foresee having a child, but he lived in an enchanted land where all things were possible. In time, he was blessed with a beautiful baby daughter for whom he wished only peace and happiness. Still, the king had demons who pursued him.”
If you’re a fan of The Vampire Diaries, you need no introduction to Klaus Mikaelson and his family of original vampires. They were cursed by a powerful witch, their mother, to live forever as vampires. Klaus was her bastard son and also a werewolf. His cruelty and brutality are a millennium-long Grand Guignol of the most graphic kind. Can you build a spinoff show around a creature who has pretty much been the vicious villain of the mother show? That was my biggest question going in. The answer was a very resounding yes.
The Originals is actually an example of the way things work thanks to the internet. These days fans can actually have some kind of relationship with the actors and showrunners of a series. The concept began when fans first saw the potential of a series for the original family. They began to create fan trailers and fan fiction that centered around them. Not willing to let a good opportunity pass them by, Joseph Morgan and Claire Holt started to fan these attempts. They would re-tweet/post/hashtag them. They made sure that the powers that be were inundated with the idea. The campaign worked, and what might be a big loss for The Vampire Diaries became a huge chance for a show that I consider to be much better than what it came from. My previous reviews are a testament to how much I’ve liked The Vampire Diaries, but this stuff is far more compelling indeed.
“There was a ruthless beast who wanted to take the kingdom for her own. Armed with a pack of untamed creatures, she drove the other magical beings from the land. And there was a wicked sorceress with enchanted stones that weakened the king on every full moon. Seeing the shadow his enemies cast upon his home, the king was driven to send his beloved princess away, convincing all who remained that she was forever lost. The king, in his sorrow, turned away from the world. The castle closed its doors and the kingdom fell. Some say that the only light that shines in the castle illuminates the shadow of the once mighty king in the room meant for his child. But as the ruthless beasts took rule over the fallen king’s realm, little did they know that he and his brother would not rest until their enemies were vanquished. For they believed that one day, they would heal their kingdom and bring their princess home. So that she might live happily ever after.”
That’s as good a recap and setup as you’ll find for the new season of The Originals.
“Being diabolical has its perks.”
Joseph Morgan is an incredible talent that inhabits the body of Klaus in a manner that’s a little scary to think about. Yet no villain truly sees themselves as the bad guy, and we do get to see some of the humanity in Klaus. He cares for his family even when they disappoint him. He actually believes his rule will be best for the other people living here. He loves the city itself. Morgan allows us to see all of these emotions working just under the surface. Can an immortal be afraid? Regretful? Hurt? Morgan answers all of these questions with a huge amount of talent on display.
Supernatural Season 10:
“‘Tis the season for Demon Dean.”
It’s almost like some twisted holiday season. Each season finds the Winchester Brothers in some way divided following an apocalyptic event. The world might be saved once again, but Either Dean or Sam is in Hell or Purgatory. One might be living in an alternate reality or just in a coma. This season starts with the tradition very much alive as the Mark of Cain has finally turned Dean into a demon, albeit one who loves to do bad karaoke. His partner in crime isn’t his brother Sam, but the King Of Hell himself, Crowley. What a jolly mess this has turned out to be. Now we have another full season on Blu-ray to try and work this thing out. But can Dean be returned to human form, and can the Mark of Cain be removed without… you know… starting another apocalypse? Probably not, but at least the ride ought to be a blast…sometimes literally. It’s Supernatural, and it’s a milestone 10th season, and it’s available now.
“We’ll have fun, fun, fun till your Daddy takes the black eyes away.”
As much as I quickly missed the Demon Dean/Crowley moments, I was rather pleased to see most of this season return to the kind of shows that keep me coming back for more. I don’t know if I’m a typical fan, but I’ve always liked the show when it got back to the roots of Dean and Sam hunting down creatures and such. The big end-of-the-world stuff was never my favorite aspect of the show. If you’re like me, you’ll find little of that kind of thing until the cliffhanger where Dean has a real chance of losing the Mark. But as Once Upon A Time has told us ad nauseam, magic comes with a price, and it appears this one is going to be global.
It’s a pretty solid season for a show entering its 11th season this year. Both Castiel and Crowley have been great in expanded roles over the last couple of seasons, and there’s hope for more, although the finale doesn’t look good for Castiel at all. We’ll have to wait for next season to find out. Yeah, they’re playing with us a little but come on, “Who doesn’t like a little torture?”